The Doubt Experience

Buddha meditates on suffering

The universal or philosophical theology of the Maieutics School is based on two basic philosophical experiences. These are experiences that seriously challenge man to think differently about reality. Thus, these two experiences form the ground for philosophizing.

The first philosophical basic experience is the experience of doubt. Although this does not have to lead to philosophical reflections immediately, if it is intense, it can. The Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle already speak of wonder (thaumatzein) in this respect, while later the famous French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) even elevated doubt to the methodical starting point of his thinking. We see something similar happening to countless other thinkers, both in the West and in the East. In India, for example, accor-ding to Buddhism, the experience of doubt is the experience of suffering (duhkha), while in China the experience of doubt presents itself as a social crisis (from the so-called Warring States period) and in Japan as a cultural crisis (mappo).

For modern people, the doubt experience can be explained through concrete examples from everyday life. It can be seen as an experience in which one notices more than average that the world, including oneself as part of it, is finite. Every human being goes through such an experience from time to time. Already a cold or flu point out our physical limitations, but also the experience that something fails (a job, relationship, experiment or business) or an experience of betrayal (by someone we trust) can expose the fragility of life. In a broader sense, the doubtfulness of existence becomes apparent at the time of wars and natural disasters, where violence and death predominate. Both small and large(er) catastrophes can lead people to start asking philosophical questions, wondering about the finite nature of their own existence and from there about the relativity of the world as a whole.

Wilhelm Weischedel

The Maieutics School takes the experience of doubt seriously, because through it an essential aspect of the condition humaine comes to the fore. Thus, if we want to understand humans and even the world better at all, we cannot escape the experience of doubt. The German philosopher Wilhelm Weischedel (1905-1975) in particular has given a broad picture of the nature of the experience of doubt (Erfahrung der radikalen Fraglichkeit) in his main work Der Gott der Philosophen.

The Totality Experience

Herman Berger (De Bezieling)

The second basic philosophical experience that forms the starting point for the Maieutics School is noticeably less profane than the experience of doubt and therefore not immediately recognizable for everyone. It concerns the totality experience – a term introduced by the Dutch metaphysician Herman Berger (1924-2016), among others.

Raymond Moody (Wikimedia Commons)

During the totality experience one often discovers that one is not identical to the physical body. The actual ‘I’ is spiritual and resides in what could be called a higher dimension. The consciousness at that time is much greater than the consciousness we usually possess. Sometimes one meets deceased loved ones and beings of light. At this deeper, metaphysical level of existence one learns that all separate beings are interconnected and therefore there is no real distinction between people, animals and things, but rather a unity or totality. This exceptional experience is a kind of mystical experience and can in principle happen to anyone. A well-known variant is the so-called near-death experience (NDE). Since the seventies of the 20th century, starting with the American philosopher and psychiatrist Raymond Moody (*1944), this experience has been the subject of scientific research on an international scale – in the Netherlands mainly by cardiologist Pim van Lommel (*1943). As a result, we now know quite a lot about it.

Pim van Lommel (Wikimedia Commons)

Often during and also after a totality experience one starts to evaluate the life lived. As a result, concrete life often takes on a different meaning. One often changes jobs, interests, friends and even partners. One begins to think more intensely about life and consequently becomes interested in philosophy and science, so that the totality experience, like the experience of doubt, also becomes a kind of motor behind philosophizing. Therefore it too is a real, philosophical foundational experience.By far the most important lesson learned from the totality experience is that everything consists of and arises from love. Love, therefore, turns out to be much more than just a human emotion. The primordial principle (archè) which traditional theology calls ‘God’ is a reality which in ordinary language can best be described as Unconditional Love.

The Relationship between the Experience of Doubt and Totality

According to the Maieutics School, both philosophical foundational experiences stand in a dialectical relationship, with the doubt experience representing the aspect of the question and the totality experience representing the aspect of the answer. The first experience exposes (earthly) finitude in all its ferocity and with it all the existential questions that finitude raises in many different situations. The second experience, on the other hand, shows that finitude is in reality part of an infinite realm, in which Unconditional Love reigns. In the end, nothing and no one is lost. The meaning of earthly life is to manifest our unconditionally loving nature (after all, we are all children of the primal principle) on earth in physical form and in as many ways as possible.

The Maieutics School wants not only to introduce this theologically comprehensive per-spective to people, but also to elaborate it in all kinds of forms – through the aforementioned core tasks. That is its mission. For, as stated, its vision is the creation of a harmonious society, based on the primal principle of Unconditional Love.

Dr. Lani Leary about her NDE