I have some new ideas, or, perhaps, some new ideas about how to approach old ideas. But they need some firming up.
I finally decided the best way is to work them out, out loud. Because working out the ideas is part of the point of the process. Maybe part of becoming enlightened is working out what you think enlightenment is. It might even be, when you have a completely clear idea of what enlightenment is, you are enlightened.
But when you pull apart the myths, strange idealisations, misidentifications of otherwise ordinary experiences, or the occasional outright pathology, is anything even left? Do we just have to do a practice to figure out what the practice is supposed to accomplish?
But if you don’t actually begin with a clear idea, then how do you even know what you’re practicing? It’s kind of like those philosophical disciplines where they spend almost all their time just trying to define what it is they are even talking about. Epistemologists study ‘knowledge’, but cannot agree on what knowledge is. That doesn’t seem to stop anyone from talking about ‘knowledge’ and using ‘knowledge’ in all kinds of contexts, though. The idea seems to be that if you become more familiar with the thing you are doing, you can do it better. But, the issue remains, better at what…?
It’s a paradox that is sometimes called the problem of the criterion: you can’t really develop a clear criterion for something until you have a clear-cut example of it, but how do you identify a clear-cut example of something if you have no criterion for it? Usually, you start with something that seems intuitively right, then apply some logic to it. You identify the contradictions and pull them apart, you refine the object of study at the same time as you refine the method of studying it.
So maybe it’s like that. Maybe we are trying to define something we are already intuitively familiar with (or, at least, feel like we are), and trying to get ourselves a better handle on it. Maybe we are already enlightened–we just need to know what that means, so we can do it better. Become more enlightened.
First steps. Careful steps.