Self-reflection

Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.)

concentration of our heart I, 71
intuitive reflection II, 414, 420
reflection I, 59 (on law-Idea)

NC II, 553-54 (transcendental reflection)

Self-consciousness I, 26
II, 408, 414, 415,424 (transcendental), 491NC II, 19 (humanistic self-consiousness gets dispersed in the diversity of meaning); 539 (self-consciousness operative in all human experience); 560 (all human experience is rooted in the transcendent unity of self-consciousness)Het transcendentale critiek van het wijsgeerig denken,” Philosophia Reformata 6 (1941), 1-20, at 15: Self-consciousness is unbreakably bound with consciousness of our Origin.
Self-knowledge I, 8 (philosophic), I, 9 (philosophic), 26 (know myself), 32
II, 424, 491-96NC I, 51 (Socrates: “know thyself”), 55 (self-knowledge is rooted in the heart; empirical fact that self-knowledge is dependent on knowledge of God), 86 (truly critical self-reflection must break through the theoretic horizon in order to gain religious self-knowledge),NC II, 4 (self-knowledge transcends theory), 323 (self-knowledge dependent on knowledge of God), 489 (real self-knowledge), 491-92, 560
Self-reflection I, 14 (philosophic), I, 19 (immediate revelation), 39 (on Ground-Idea), 51-53, 61, 135 (religious self-reflection)
II, 409, 485, (transcendental), 494, 497NC I, 5 (must transcend limits of philosophical thought), 7 (Philosophical self-reflection), 15 (truth of the radical concentration point is immediately evident), 86 (truly critical self-reflection must break through the theoretic horizon in order to gain religious self-knowledge), 90, 165NC II, 316 (lack of religious self-reflection due to apostasy), 474 (on the modal aspects as being or own), 486 (religious self-reflection on our part with Christ), 491 (self-reflection), 553 (transcendental reflection); 554 (transcendental self-reflection; humanism’s dogmatic rejection of religious self-reflection), 596 (critical transcendcental self-reflection),

Dooyeweerd emphasizes the importance of religious self-reflection. Most philosophers dogmatically reject this kind of “religious self-reflection.” These philosophers want to save at all costs their Archimedean point in transcendental thought. But a truly critical epistemology depends on self-reflection on the cosmonomic Idea from which the thinker starts (NC II, 491).

True knowledge of the cosmos is bound to true self-knowledge, which is bound to true knowledge of God (NC II, 560).

Dooyeweerd says that our self-knowledge exceeds the limits of theoretical thought and is rooted in the “heart” (NC I, 55). Our experience is rooted in self-consciousness (NC II, 560). This self-reflection is the only way leading to the discovery of the true starting-point of theoretical thought (NC I, 51). Dooyeweerd cites the maxim of Socrates: “Know thyself” (NC I, 51). He also says that there was “great promise” in Kant’s search for a a starting point for his theoretical philosophy which would be raised above the special synthetic points of view.

For it is indubitable that our theoretical thought, so long as it is fixed on the different aspects of reality, is dissipated in a theoretical diversity. Only in the way of knowledge of itself can human consciousness concentrate on a central point where all the aspects of our consciousness converge in a radical unity. The ancient Greek philosophers knew this very well. Socrates already laid it down that self knowledge is the key to all philosophy. But here arises a new problem, which we may formulate thus:
(4) How is self-knowledge possible, and of what nature is this knowledge?
Kant did not wish to abandon the theoretical point of departure. “Introduction to a Transcendental Criticism of Theoretical Thought,” Evangelical Quarterly 19 (Jan 1947) 42-51, at 48.

Self-reflection is a way that we know the relation between our supratemporal selfhood and its expression within temporal reality. In self-reflection, we know the modal functions as “our own.” (NC II, 474).

For Dooyeweerd, our experiential knowledge of the self has a “religious” nature that transcends theory (NC II, 4). It is religious because it involves the center of our existence, the supratemporal heart, and our heart in turn is dependent on and refers to our Origin, God. Knowledge of our selves is dependent on our knowledge of God. This is shown in the Biblical Revelation of our creation concerning our creation in the image of God. Our self-knowledge is a central knowledge. It is rooted in the heart, the religious center of our existence (NC I, 55).

When we interpret these statements in a nondual fashion, they are truly surprising. We do not have true knowledge of ourselves nor of the cosmos unless we have true knowledge of God. We do not see the world as it truly is. True knowledge of cosmos is bound to true knowledge of self which is bound to true knowledge of God (II, 492 ). The starting point of all special synthetic acts of thought must be sought by looking away from the “Gegenstände” of our knowledge and exercising self-reflection (NC I, 45). We realize that the aspects are cosmically our own; they have no meaning apart from their religious root.(II, 409; NC II, 474).

We need to practice this “religious self-reflection,” a “self-knowledge that transcends theory,” to gain knowledge of our true nature as image of God” and as “religious root of creation.” When we try to be something in ourselves, this image of God is “wiped out.” (NC I, 4 ft 1)

In true knowledge of God and of ourselves, we also obtain cosmological self-consciousness. This is a consciousness of ourselves as supratemporal beings with temporal functions in a temporal reality that has its existence in humanity as its supratemporal root.

Religious self-reflection is not at all the same as reflexive thought. See my article, Principles and Positivization: Dooyeweerd and Rational Autonomy.” But neither is religious self-reflection the seeking of some supposed “pure consciousness,” for that is also an idea that Dooyeweerd rejects. We are conscious of our acts originating in our supratemporal selfhood and being expressed within time. The two are always found together, so it is wrong to speak of a pure consciousness that is not expressed in time (at least in this dispensation, where we are bound to a temporal body).

Dooyeweerd rejects any mysticism that divorces itself from the temporal world. He is opposed to any idea of a ‘supernatural’ cognition (NC II, 561-563). He also rejects any mysticism that fancies itself above God’s law (NC I, 522). Mysticism is not something other than nature, but rather an insight into the true nature of reality. In the true religious attitude, we experience things and events as they really are, pointing beyond themselves to the true religious centre of meaning and to the true Origin (NC III, 30). I believe that this true religious attitude is itself a kind of mysticism, especially when we consider how it relates to the experience of our supratemporal heart, to which we are related in our intuition.

Self-Reflection in Comparative Mysticism

There has been very little discussion by followers of Dooyeweerd of the nature of this self-reflection. Can we make any comparisons to Ramana Maharshi’s method of Self-Inquiry? I am not suggesting there are no differences. But sometimes we can be helped to understand our own religious tradition by examining it from a different perspective. Ramana emphasized the importance of reflection on our selfhood; such reflection is not rational reflexive thought, but neither is it meditation in the sense of seeking some kind of trance.

Hart correctly points out that Dooyeweerd does not advocate viewing philosophy itself as meditation:

Philosophy is a strictly theoretical discipline for Dooyeweerd. It is a theory directing the entire theoretical enterprise to the integral, coherent totality from which all theory abstracts. So philosophy is not visionary meditation. (“Dooyeweerd’s Gegenstand Theory of Theory,” Legacy, 161)

Hart’s statement fails to recognize the religious self-reflection that takes place prior to any theoretical or philosophical activity. And Hart fails to take into account the need for all theory to return to a synthesis with our supratemporal selfhood and so move beyond the thoeretical. In that way, all theory is for Dooyeweerd essentially religious in nature. Theoretical thought, in its concentric relatedness to our selfhood (the religious root, the religious concentration point of our entire temporal existence) and to God (as the absolute Origin of all things) is “an act of an unmistakably religious character (Encyclopedia (2002), 44. Also Center and Periphery: The Philosophy of the Law-Idea in a Changing World, Philosophia Reformata 72 (2007) at 17).

There is a kind of meditation that is prior to philosophy. This is what Dooyeweerd refers to as ‘religious self-reflection.’ This religious self-reflection is dependent on the working of God’s Word in us:

…als het gaat om de waarachtige gods- en zelfkennis, dan moeten we zeggen: er is geen theologie ter wereld en geen wijsbegeerte ter wereld, die de mens dat bij kan brengen. Dat is de onmiddelijke vrucht van de centrale werking van Gods Woord zelf in de gemeenschap van de Heilige Geest, in het hart, de radix, de worteleenheid van het menslijk bestaan. “Centrum en Omtrek van de Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee in een veranderende wereld” Jan 2/64. Cited in Verburg, 413.

[And concerning true knowledge of self and of God, we must then say: there is no theology in the world and no philosophy in the world that can bring us to this kind of knowledge. It is the immediate fruit of the central working of God’s Word itself in the community of the Holy Spirit, in the heart, the radix, the root unity of our human existence.]

Dooyeweerd emphasizes the importance of “self-reflection” and of attaining “cosmic consciousness.” Cosmic consciousness is not given by theory. It is true that Dooyeweerd’s idea of self-reflection is not that of meditation, at least not in the sense of seeking a pure consciousness that is totally psychical in nature. But both Dooyeweerd and Ramana Maharshi emphasize the importance of going to our central heart experience. And they both emphasize that self-knowledge is reached neither by meditation nor by theory. The experiential knowledge of the self transcends theory. Even if it is not meditation, it is religious self-reflection that goes beyond theoretical Ideas. Our true self-knowledge transcends theory (NC II, 4). Self-knowledge exceeds theoretical knowledge and is rooted in the heart or the religious centre of our existence (NC I, 55). The “earthly” cosmos is transcended by Man in his full selfhood where he partakes in the transcendent root (NC II, 593).

The knowledge concerning God, wherein religious self-knowledge lies enclosed, is thus primarily not obtained in a scientific or theological way.

True self-knowledge means a turning of the personality, a making alive in the fullest sense of these words. It is a restoration of the horizon of our experience, which again allows reality to be understood perspectively in the light of truth. This is not with a mystical so-called supernatural cognitive ability, but in the horizon that God in His order of creation has set for human experience. This perspective had been darkened and distorted by sin, because it had been closed up to the light of Divine Revelation. (II, 495)

Self-Consciousness in Baader

Baader says that self-consciousness is not itself the root, but the first growth from the root. The root itself grounds everything. He cites Eckhart and Boehme in support (Philosophische Schriften I, 290).

He quotes Eckhart that our knowledge of God is dependent on God’s knowledge of us: the eye with which God sees me is the same in which I see God, because it is one to know God and to be known by God. (Philosophische Schriften, II, 76).

Susini comments that in Baader, consciousness Consciousness is the result of a gift. It is a finden, not erfinden (creation) (I, 60) Consciousness demands reflection; like a mirror that reflects the light, but is not the source itself of the light; there is a return to the being that is conscious. Returning to oneself, re-finding consciousness, implies the possibility of losing it. Consciousness can be given or taken away.

Wie nemlich das Sichbewusstseiende sich in jenem Reflex findet (als Sich gegeben) nicht erfindet (VII, 31 note; Susini, 65)

Just as a being who is conscious of himself finds himself (in the sense of being given to himself), but not of constructing himself.

Revised Oct 28/08