British philosopher Colin Wilson died December 5. I hadn’t heard of him until the news of his death. Then I found an essay Wilson wrote for the July/August 2006 issue of Philosophy Now, entitled “Phenomenology as a Mystical Discipline.”
Wilson’s discussion of Immediacy Perception and its relation to Meaning Perception struck me with wonder. Immediacy Perception is our awareness of what’s directly in front of us; it’s what we’re looking at or focusing on right now. Meaning Perception is our feeling about what’s happening before us, its significance beyond this moment, and our spiritual connection to it.
Our greatest insights, Wilson argues, occur when both types of perception converge. He writes of the English poet Rupert Brooke who “on a spring morning… sometimes walked down a country road feeling almost sick with excitement.” Brooke was amazed by what he saw on his walk and by the creative act of Seeing. Wilson describes such moments—“looking at things as if they possessed hidden depths of meaning”—as mystical.
It’s like viewing family photos, studying the smile on each face before me, and recognizing the power of love. Or walking up my driveway on a cold night, the habit of reaching for my keys rendered almost magical when recalling the comforts of home.
This, to me, is philosophy in action. When I pull back the curtains of existence—defying all the worry, pain and sadness—I long to see the light behind my world and all the meaning emanating from it.