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  • Writer's pictureAmir Freimann

Exploring subjective exeprience

Subjective experience is, by one definition, characterized by being known only to the experiencing subject and discloseable only by reflection or introspection and first-person reporting.

A question I've been thinking about, related to my research on Living Transcendence is this: Can we know what one's experience is when they are not reflecting on it and reporting about it?

Many spiritual exemplars that I interviewed said that they were aware of the divine / absolute Reality / unified field / limitless context, and/or felt love / joy / bliss all the time. Yet, they become aware that that's their experience only when they turn their attention to it or reflect on it.

When I asked one of them how he knew what his experience was during the in-between times, he gave the metaphor of knowing that you can speak when you are silent. You don't have to speak in order to know that you can speak.

Others suggested that the fact that they are aware of that expanded / unified experience the very instant they turn their attention to it gives them that impression.

But can we (including the person him- or herself) know anything about a one's subjective experience during those times when one is not contemplating or reflecting on their experience?

I thought of two related examples: PTSD and being in love.

• PTSD: Some people diagnosed with that disorder exhibit its symptoms all the time. They can be identified as having PTSD by an outside observer.

• Romantic love: I heard from a friend that when her son fell in love for the first time, at the age of 11, he initially told her that he was feeling strange, confused and emotional; only some time later they realized that it was because he fell in love with a girl at school. Along the same line, the Little Prince said that "If you love a flower that lives on a star, it is sweet to look at the sky at night. All the stars are a-bloom with flowers…"

Based on these two examples, can we think of a way of corroborating / triangulating spiritual exemplars' claims about their experience by observing their mannerism, their interactions with their environment, certain physiological parameters? Or will those observations only teach us things that are peripheral to the experience and not about thei experience itself?

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