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Possible connection between skepticism and ancient meditation


Senior Member
Nov 6, 2021
Basic Beliefs
Generally, I am rooted in both ancient Epicurean and ancient Pyrrhonist sentiments, although I am somewhat sympathetic toward the intentions behind ancient Cynicism.
Religion itself is really rooted in ancient attempts to learn a good way of life, and even though time has distorted them into a complex system of folklore interwoven with sundry philosophical ideas, some good and some terrible, I think that all philosophical and religious ideas really come, at heart, from the same source: we just want to live a good life, and in this, I believe that we skeptics can find common ground with religious people. It might even be good for us to look upon our skepticism itself as a form of spirituality in its own right.

I am thinking about the Pyrrhonist approach to eudaimonia, which was based on using epoché in order to obtain a state of ataraxia.

To start to put this into English, eudaimonia is an ancient concept that was close to meaning, "being emotionally well-adjusted," though it would translate more close to literally into "being in good spirits." There were many different approaches, in the ancient world, to being emotionally well-adjusted, and since there was not yet a discipline called psychology, there was really a richer variety of different ideas about what we would now call psychology. Nothing had really been proved to be silly and harmful, so a mixture of crackpot theories were intermingled with ideas that are still revolutionary, today. The influence of the Pyrrhonist school of thought on the eventual development of scientific thinking should give us the impression that any supporter of scientist should view Pyrrhonism with at least a detached sort of curiosity.

Epoché is like a general sort of agnosticism, not just about spirituality but about everything not known: the idea was that if you did not have enough evidence on hand to form a conclusion that you were happy with, then you should permit an unknown to remain an unknown. The curious thing about the concept is that it seems to be based on abstention from judgment, and this strikes me as incredibly similar to mindfulness training. This would be a flimsy theory in isolation, but bear with me.

The use of epoché in the pursuit of ataraxia, which just means "tranquility," is the reason why I argue that epoché might have either a convergent or familial relationship with mindfulness training techniques. While it is flimsy, on its own, to argue that epoché resembles agnosticism and therefore abstention from judgment, the fact that the Pyrrhonists were using it in the pursuit of tranquility makes it sound almost like they were practicing some form of meditation that they found to be beneficial to keeping them in good spirits (eudaimonia), so there must have been either a convergent or familial relationship between Pyrrhonism and the modern schools of meditation that are used for the pursuit of tranquility.

Someone could still argue that my case is really far-fetched, assuming that we did not know whether or not the ancient philosophers ever traveled in Asia or even knew what was going on in Asia. One that knew little of history might argue, "We do not even know for sure if those people were fully aware that there was very much of a world beyond the Sea of Marmara, so how can we really believe they knew about Asia at all?" but this would reflect a profound ignorance about how well-traveled the most educated ancient Greeks really were. In fact, the ancient Greeks had colonies as far west as Marseilles, France, as far north as the Crimean Peninsula, and as far south as ancient Egypt, possibly even forgotten colonies in Ethiopia. Ancient Greek mercenaries are known to have worked as far south as Sudan while serving under the ancient Egyptian king, Psamtik II. It is also well-understood that the most educated ancient Greeks traveled extensively in the Neo-Assyrian Empire, the Achaemenid Empire, and India, and as a matter of fact, they first discovered the ancient gymnosophists, a monastic order that practiced an absolutely animalistic degree of asceticism in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, during their travels in India. Rather than being a parochial and benighted people, the ancient Greeks were really profoundly worldly individuals that had exposure to wide-ranging ideas. Ancient Greek philosophy and Taoism and Buddhism were all born within reasonably close temporal proximity to each other, so it is really more difficult to argue the case for convergence: the case for convergence really requires greater imagination if we take into account the important intelligence that those ancient peoples all interacted with each other extensively and frequently, rather than being absolutely isolated from each other, and while the case for convergence is still remotely possible and must not be dismissed out-of-hand, the argument for dismissing the alternative explanation, based on interaction effects, is really profoundly weak: we know that these ancient people interacted with each other and exchanged ideas, and cultural appropriation requires substantially less imagination, out of ancient minds, than independently arriving upon a similar idea in isolation.

Based on all of this intelligence and postulation, we could theoretically argue that skepticism itself is really related to ancient meditation. In fact, our skepticism might actually give us a sort of comfort for the same reasons why mindfulnes training helps people that suffer from chronic pain: by training ourselves to abstain from reaching for answers that are not really there, such as the answer to the nonsensical question "What is it like to be dead or to not exist?" we can focus on dealing with things that we actually do have the power to understand and examine, such as the lives we are already living. This is not intended to dismiss curiosity, but instead, it is an encouragement to engage our curiosity in the pursuit of knowledge that we actually do have the capacity to obtain, rather than hopelessly spinning our wheels over things we cannot really obtain knowledge about. By liberating ourselves from the need to find answers to "great unanswerable questions" that are indeed unanswerable, we can give our curiosity about the world free rein. A skeptic is not lacking in curiosity about the world, but we really feel like a kid in a candy store when it comes to the pursuit of knowledge. By letting go of that which we cannot really have, we can feed our curiosity on that which is more accessible.

We eat well even during famines because we bothered to learn about the seemingly endless variety of things that we can sustain ourselves upon, and others go hungry even during times of abundance while trying to squeeze milk from a pebble. Even in the gloomiest of blighted forests, we find truffles and morel mushrooms growing everywhere we go, so we may feast like faerie kings. It is by letting go of the unobtainable that we recognize how much we truly have. This is a land of milk and honey.

The practice of skepticism is not merely a denial of the existence of a divinity, then, but it is an ancient philosophy that teaches us a path by which to embrace life. Skepticism is therefore its own kind of spirituality, and it may be every bit as ancient as any other spirituality. Our roots are as deep as the Way.

I therefore argue that my skepticism is not really an absence of religion, but in a way, skepticism is a central part of my religion. It's not just about being right, but it is a part of how I seek a sense of inner peace. It's as important to me as prayer is for others.
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Diabetic retinopathy and poor eyesight. Typos ...
Nov 10, 2017
Basic Beliefs
Mediation has no substantive definition and common practice. Mediation, concentration, and contemplation can be seen as different.

The word meditation has become so overused as to be cliche.

To me sketicim has always been a p[art of wetern recorded thought and philospfy.

I would say Buddha was a skeptic. Something is known to work by trying it and seeing hye results in yourself.

Philosophical skepticism (UK spelling: scepticism; from Greek σκέψις skepsis, "inquiry") is a family of philosophical views that question the possibility of knowledge.[1][2] Philosophical skeptics are often classified into two general categories: Those who deny all possibility of knowledge, and those who advocate for the suspension of judgment due to the inadequacy of evidence.[3] This distinction is modeled after the differences between the Academic skeptics and the Pyrrhonian skeptics in ancient Greek philosophy.

Philosophical skepticism is distinguished from methodological skepticism in that philosophical skepticism is an approach that questions the possibility of certainty in knowledge, whereas methodological skepticism is an approach that subjects all knowledge claims to scrutiny with the goal of sorting out true from false claims. Similarly, scientific skepticism differs from philosophical skepticism in that scientific skepticism is an epistemological position in which one questions the veracity of claims lacking empirical evidence. In practice, the term most commonly references the examination of claims and theories that appear to be pseudoscience, rather than the routine discussions and challenges among scientists.[5]

Today I equate skepticism to evidence based science. It is not just about deities, ut is much broader than that.

My formal response is not that god does not exist which I can not prove, it is that there is no objective evidence that can tested and validated.
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