© J. Glenn Friesen 2003-2008
Glossary of Terms
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.
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. A Response to Michael J. DeMoor." 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.
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:
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 1964 Lecture, 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:
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).
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.
Revised Oct 28/08