Ran Lahav is a philosophical practitioner and philosophical counselor with a PhD in philosophy and MA of psychology from the University of Michigan. For more than 20 years he has been working extensively with individuals and groups, organizing workshops and conferences, and writing. He now lives quietly in rural Vermont, USA, and occasionally emerges for philosophical activities around the world.

THE SENSE OF THE SACRED IN PHILOSOPHY

Sacred-field
Philosophical Contemplation is not just an intellectual exercise. When we contemplate a text or an idea, we must be able to appreciate what is precious, even sacred. The word “sacred” might create resistance and objections. Sacredness is often associated with religion, and we certainly don’t want to turn philosophy into religious dogmas and rituals, holy books and powerful institutions. Philosophy, by its very nature, must be a free exploration. But religion has no monopoly over sacredness. The ...
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Contemplating in the Queen's palace

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Before we start with philosophical contemplation, we must prepare ourselves to encounter what is precious, profound, even sacred. We are going to meet inner reality – the Queen, so to speak – and before we enter her palace we should prepare our mind and heart and body. We must push aside our agendas and worries and forget our needs for satisfaction and entertainment. In the Queen’s palace, we must be serious – not serious as opposed to smiling, but serious as opposed to trivial, careless, unfocu...
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Retreat of Philosophical Contemplation (Italy, August 2017)

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A RETREAT OF PHILOSOPHICAL CONTEMPLATION Near Torino, Italy, Wednesday August 30 – Monday, September 4 Come and leave at your own free time. Free participation (except for food). All are invited, especially those with some philosophical background .   LOCATION : Near the town of Coazze, near Torino, Italy. You can arrive by car or by train (we will pick you up from the train station).   LANGUAGE : Simple English.   PARTICIPATION : No payment, except for food. (Socrates did not ask...
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WHEN VAGUE WORDS ARE MORE PRECISE THAN ANALYSIS

Forest-sunlight
Sometimes, when I silently contemplate on a philosophical text, an inspired thought rises in my mind, like a bubble from the depths of a lake. It whispers in me a precious idea, pregnant with meaning, often vague, its words elusive as music, but full of promises about hidden horizons. The tender intensity tells me that something of significance is being voiced now. A contemplative idea is not a piece of data, it is not a precise statement.   And afterwards, when I try to define this contemp...
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THE MUSIC OF REALITY AND OF IDEAS

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In philosophical contemplation, we don’t try to reach a conclusion. We contemplate an idea or a text, and we don’t wait for a bottom line, we don’t expect a product – a final decision, an answer, a theory, a statement. This might sound surprising. “If contemplation doesn’t give us any conclusion,” one might say, “then what is it good for? Why bother with contemplation if it doesn’t give us any answer? This is poetry or music, not philosophy!” And indeed, philosophical contemplation is a little b...
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CONTEMPLATION - Letting the depth speak through us

Depth-Noam-Lahav
What does “contemplative philosophy” mean? How can philosophy be contemplative? Philosophy is a search for the fundamental principles of life and the world, the deepest truths, the ground, the essence. It investigates the basis of reality (or a slice of reality), especially human reality. This is what virtually every philosopher did throughout history. Even philosophers who were relativists or skeptics, even they searched for the most basic principles of reality, although they found them to be r...
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Being a Wave in the Ocean - Philosophical Contemplation

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A philosophical theory cannot touch human reality in the same way that human reality is real for me. Reality is real to me not as a theory. If I want to understand human reality as fully and deeply as I can, I must go beyond theories. I can use philosophical theories as a tool to help me on my way, but at some point I must also transcend them.   A little wave cannot capture the ocean with its theories, but it can understand the ocean in other ways. It can “resonate” with the ocean just as I...
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How Philosophy is Changing my Life

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Philosophy has changed my life because for me, philosophy is not just abstract ideas. Abstract ideas can make me think abstract thoughts, but not much more. Philosophy can change life because philosophy is also an attitude. Or, maybe we should say: Philosophy CAN be an attitude. It CAN involve not just my thoughts, not just my smart words, not just my intellect, but the depth of my being. This is an attitude of opening myself to the vast ocean of reality – not trying to capture it with my little...
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ON DEEP THINKING

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ON DEEP THINKING (Miranda and her Philosophical Trio)   “Yesterday,” Miranda tells Linda, “I had a strange experience reading the philosophical text you gave us. A marvelous experience. I’m not sure how to understand it.” Linda looks at her with her little smile. “Tell us about it, Miranda.” “Well,” Miranda replies, “it’s hard to describe. You know, every morning I start my philosophical reading with a few minutes of silence, and then I read a few sentences from the text very, very slowly.”...
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Miranda and her Philosophical Trio (Chapter 7)

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PHILOSOPHY AND THE MANY VOICES OF LIFE Every day, Miranda takes a few minutes to contemplate on a philosophical text. This morning she contemplates on a text by the Swiss thinker Max Picard [See Agora’s “Topics” page, August 2015, PhiloPratice.org]. After a short centering exercise, she reads a couple of paragraphs very slowly, attentively, without judgement or opinions, opening herself to possible insights. Several words attract her attention, and she gently turns her attention to them: "Speech...
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MIRANDA AND HER PHILOSOPHICAL TRIO (Chapter 6)

MIRANDA AND HER PHILOSOPHICAL TRIO (Chapter 6)
THE “LANGUAGE” OF MY YEARNING In the days that follow the Philosophical Trio meeting [see previous chapter], Miranda is full of thoughts. The Trio had identified several concepts in Miranda’s way of thinking, and now she keeps thinking about them: - Below or above the floor of life - The dark basement - Dark prison - Grave - Disconnection from life - Away from life These concepts are new to her – before the meeting she had never thought about them. And yet, she recognizes them. They resonate wit...
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MIRANDA AND HER PHILOSOPHICAL TRIO (Chapter 5)

MIRANDA AND HER PHILOSOPHICAL TRIO (Chapter 5)
MIRANDA DISCOVERS NEW MEANINGS After Miranda tells her Trio friends about her “bubble” of insight (See previous chapter), Linda, the philosophical facilitator, suggests thinking about this insight with the help of a philosophical text. She goes to the pile of papers on her desk, and comes back with three copies of a one-page text. The page is from the book Way to Wisdom by the German thinker Karl Jaspers (1883-1969), an important existentialist philosopher and psychiatrist. (See Agora, Topics, D...
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MIRANDA AND HER PHILOSOPHICAL TRIO (Chapter 4)

MIRANDA AND HER PHILOSOPHICAL TRIO (Chapter 4)
LETTING OUR BABY-IDEAS GROW For several days, Miranda continues thinking about the insight she had while contemplating on Bergson’s text. [See Chapter 3]. Bergson’s image of leaves on the water suggested to her that she is living on the surface. She wants to change herself, but she doesn’t know how. Many confused thoughts pass through her mind, and she is eager to share them with Linda and David. The day of the Philosophical Trio meeting finally arrives, and Miranda is delighted to meet her two ...
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Miranda and her Philosophical Trio (Chapter 3)

Miranda and her Philosophical Trio (Chapter 3)
Chapter 3: MIRANDA DECIDES TO CHANGE In the morning, after breakfast, Miranda sits in her armchair, holding a page in her hand. This is what Linda, the philosophical facilitator, had asked them to do this week – to reflect every morning on a text by the French philosopher Henri Bergson (See the text on AGORA’s “Topics” page, July 2015). David tried to object. “But Linda, every morning? I am a working man!” “We are all busy, David,” Linda replied, “but five-ten minutes every morning is all we nee...
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Philosophy is not about truth (John Powys)

Philosophy is not about truth (John Powys)
For me, philosophy is not about discovering THE TRUTH. Philosophy is about giving voice to the many different voices of life and reality. So last night I was delighted to find the following passage in the masterpiece novel Wolf Solent by John Powys (1872-1963), the English philosopher and novelist (page 79):   “I’m afraid I’m hopeless expressing myself”, she said. “I don’t think I regard philosophy in the light of ‘truth’ at all”. “How do you regard it then?” …”What I mean to say is,” she w...
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Invitation to a Philosophical-Contemplative retreat in Italy

Invitation to a Philosophical-Contemplative retreat in Italy
Invitation to a unique retreat of philosophical-contemplation In the spirit of silence, reflection, and philosophical togetherness   Liguria (northwest Italy) between April 28-May 2   Come and leave at your own free time Free participation (except for your food)   Interested in philosophical reflection and contemplation? Interested to explore the power of philosophy to touch us and inspire us?     If so, you are invited to a philosophical-contemplative retreat in It...
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Miranda and her Philosophical Trio (Chapter 2)

Miranda and her Philosophical Trio (Chapter 2)
It’s the second weekly meeting of the Philosophical Trio, and Miranda is glad to see again her two new companions. Linda, the philosopher and facilitator, invites David and Miranda to share their experiences from last week’s reading of Martin Foss’ text on death (AGORA, October 2016). “Like you told us,” David says, “I read every day a couple of sentences from the text. But I couldn’t connect to it at all. I was depressed most of the week. I had a huge fight with me girlfriend, and she left me. ...
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Miranda and her Philosophical Trio (Chapter 1)

Miranda and her Philosophical Trio (Chapter 1)
Miranda is sitting alone in her room, holding the philosophical text which her philosophical practitioner had given her. Today, like always, she is extremely busy – work, family, cleaning, buying – but she is forcing herself to devote five minutes to do her philosophical “homework.” She is in a new philosophical group, a “Philosophical Trio.”   Last week, Miranda had a shocking realization: that she had become an “automatic working machine” as she called it. She works all the time, like a r...
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Precious texts on Agora

Precious texts on Agora
I look at Agora’s “Topics” section – it has so many beautiful philosophical texts from 2500 years of Western philosophy. I go through the monthly pages, month by month, and I see texts by famous philosophers and forgotten philosophers, poetic philosophers and logical ones, ancient thinkers and modern and those in between, spiritual thinkers and materialist thinkers, abstract theoreticians and intuitive ones, mainstream and revolutionaries. Each text is a precious diamond, shining with new surpri...
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Philosophy and self-transformation

Philosophy and self-transformation
Throughout history, many important Western philosophers discussed how philosophy can help transform our lives. Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Spinoza, Rousseau, Nietzsche, Bergson, and many many others – they all believed that philosophy is not just for intellectual interest. They believed that philosophy can help to change us – to make our life fuller, wiser, deeper, more meaningful. I wrote about it in detail in my book "Stepping out of Plato's Cave," so I will not repeat it here. But how come my phi...
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Why is "Deep" so important?

Why is "Deep" so important?
In my book Handbook of Philosophical Companionships (2016), I say: “ We contemplate because we treasure profound ideas and profound understandings in togetherness. We cherish the profound, just as in music we cherish the beautiful, and in cooking we cherish the tasty. Profoundness is, so to speak, the ‘beauty’ or ‘tastefulness’ of philosophical contemplation .” (Chapter 1, page 4) One might say that I am “obsessed” with profoundness, or depth. Why? My basic intuition is this: When I think and ph...
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What is deep?

What is deep?
We often say: "This is a profound idea," or "She was lost in deep thoughts," or "It touched me deeply," or "He is a profound person," or "She had a deep spiritual experience," or "He is deeply attached to his mother," or "We were in deep trouble," or "I was deeply disturbed," and so on. What does "deep" (or "profound") mean? Strangely, there are almost no philosophical discussions about the concept of "deep." Philosophers have discussed many, many concepts - courage, virtue, power, games, the su...
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