Nietzsche says we should live life as an experiment. Life is a series of experimental questions ideas and trials. Success and failure are just results of the investigation. What do you think?
“A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions ― as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche (1)
This quote prompts several comparisons and questions. Nietzsche’s concept of actions as questions and experiments is similar to detachment in Buddhism.
Why Live Life as an Experiment?
What is a “thinker?” The term “freethinker” was first used by William Molyneux. He used this term to describe John Toland in a letter to John Locke in 1697. in which the former called John Toland (1670–1722) “a candid freethinker.”
Mr. Toland (2) was a prolific writer of over 30 books. He was one of the first to use satire to deconstruct the ideology of Christianity.
The Buddhist path of detachment is the idea of observing thoughts and emotions. It doesn’t mean a Buddhist doesn’t care about things. It is the perspective that helps us see the value of everyday life. They use concentration and meditation to achieve this perspective.
The Buddhist practice of detachment is similar to the Indian perspective of “witnessing.” Here you bring the silence of the transcendent into the default states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping. Bringing the 4th state of the transcendent from meditation to the waking state produces a 5th state of witnessing. In the partition, you experience reality from two separate planes inside and above the body. So, it is a physical experience of detachment, observing, and participating in the action.
How Nietzsche came to this revelation is unknown. He aptly describes the practice of detachment and witnessing from the Western perspective of scientific inquiry. All three positions explain the same phenomena.
There are many advantages to gaining this type of insight into life. If you see life as experimental questions ideas and their results, then you can evaluate and adjust your thinking and actions to produce the best possible outcomes. Or, you can test the boundaries of thoughts and actions to see how far you can go.
This way of thinking keeps you from taking a position. When you “take a position,” you automatically feel the need to defend it. Thus, you are more judgmental, less open-minded.
Experimental Questions Ideas and Trials
If one views life as a grand experiment, then the outcome of your decisions becomes the result. The answer is not a judgment of good or bad, and it is simply a result. Living your life from this philosophical point of view removes you from the constraints of cultural norms and expectations.
Suppose you try something, like high jumping. You set the bar at a specific height. Then you step back far enough where you can run and jump. You mark the ground where you start. Then you run and attempt the jump.
Were you successful or not? If you were, why? If you weren’t successful, why not? So, you ask yourself some questions about the factors that make a jump a success or failure. You keep a record of your achievements and failures. Is the running speed a factor? What about where you started the jumped? Was your fatigue a factor, that is, were you more successful at the beginning of your attempts or didn’t this matter?
Using The Scientific Methodology
The freethinker approach is the scientific method. Here, the researcher conducts tests using a structured methodology. Then formulates conclusions based on the results of the experiments. It contrasts with cherry-picking data to fit a preconceived conclusion? What do you think? Again, we’d have to agree.
“All sciences are now under the obligation to prepare the ground for the future task of the philosopher, which is to solve the problem of value, to determine the true hierarchy of values.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
The scientific method (1) is a well-established systematic approach. It’s the standard for investigating things. This process follows six steps:
4) Form a hypothesis to explain what you observed and measured
5) Test the theory
6) Modify the theory based on the test
It’s the process of arriving at conclusions based on data. Those seeking the truth use this process in every legitimate science. Each test expands knowledge. New instruments enable us to observe more.
“Whereas the man of action binds his life to reason and its concepts so that he will not be swept away and lost, the scientific investigator builds his hut right next to the tower of science so that he will be able to work on it and to find shelter for himself beneath those bulwarks which presently exist.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
Attempting to find out something is the essence of spiritual exploration. So, the above quote aligns nicely with our approach. Spiritual exploration is the use of processes for exploring consciousness.
Inner work is a way of questioning our awareness and experimenting to see what is in the psyche. When we explore other states of consciousness, we are, in effect, experimenting. When we meditate, it is a way of asking questions about awareness’s boundaries. When we meditate, we are experimenting with consciousness. There are several types of seated and moving meditation that accomplish these changes.
“Science is about finding ever better approximations rather than pretending you have already found the ultimate truth. A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
Now let’s move the high jumping example into the realm of meditation. What do you consider to be a successful session? Perhaps it’s the absence of intrusive thoughts. So, you keep a record of your meditation in your journal.
What time of day did you meditate. What was your day like before you sat down to meditate? What was your state of mind before meditating? Do you do anything to prepare to meditate? Do you always prepare the same way? By asking these questions, you see that you want to know what helped make your meditation a success; you need to track what happened before the session. Otherwise, you’ll be guessing at what factors affect the success of your meditation.
Why then don’t more people live life as an experiment of consciousness? The reason is that each society has rules it wants us to follow. These boundaries of thought and behavior ensure we stay within the scope of the culture. Success and failure are both predictable outcomes within each society.
Burning people you think are Witches is still something that some believe is appropriate. So, the practice of Witchcraft has negative consequences. In some parts of the world, people seen as undesirable can be tortured and killed. Not only is this type of crime accepted, but it is also supported and celebrated. The same rules apply to people who have alternate lifestyles regarding sexual preference.
Success and failure are predictable outcomes of the culture. If you color within the boundaries, you receive rewards. But, if you color outside the lines and you face harsh consequences.
Living Life as Questions and Experiments
If we are to approach life as a grand experiment, we should learn to use the tools for experimentation. There are several methods that most people can use. They don’t require the use of advanced mathematics, statistics, logic, or philosophy. Here’s a list of these tools and a brief description.
Actions as experiments and questions also include the effects of several critical thinking tools. A comparative analysis is an excellent example of this kind of process. This process is a scientific approach to comparative religious study. This process enables you to confront the boundaries of their own beliefs by comparing them with other systems’ components. The study of logic and mathematics also expands our awareness.
“The tragedy is that we cannot believe the dogmas of religion and metaphysics if we have the strict methods of truth in heart and head, but on the other hand, we have become through the development of humanity so tenderly suffering that we need the highest kind of means of salvation and consolation: whence arises the danger that man may bleed to death through the truth than he realizes.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
Viewing life as questions and experiments gives you a unique perspective. It leads to the path of exploration, and it’s one way to describe spiritual exploration. This quest is what Joseph Campbell calls the Hero’s Journey. (3) This journey involves several processes we call spiritual technologies.
What are Spiritual Technologies?
Spiritual technologies are what we call ancient methods for developing human potential. Put another way; they are processes for expanding awareness and consciousness.
Another critical point is that these processes stand up to the science test, being repeatable and measurable. Anyone who can follow a process can learn them. It’s like baking a cake. If you follow the directions, you get something delicious. We call the practice of these processes Spiritual Exploration.
There are many ways to list these tools. We like this simple method. And, it’s important to note some of these could easily be in more than one category:
1) The first toolset we recommend is the study of Logical and Rational Thinking Skills and its companion tools, 10 Common Logical Fallacies, and Spiritual Axioms. These tools will help sharpen your ability to discern fact from fiction.
3) Progressions of seated meditation are the heart of the learning practice ranging from a basic Two-Step Beginning Mediation through Mindfulness Meditation, Japa Meditation, to more advanced Siddhis of Patanjali. Meditation is vital to our overall health.
5) Pathways to expand and explore awareness are also an integral part of the path. It includes methods for Lucid Dreaming, Exploring Memories, Creating a Memory Palace and the Shamanic Journey, or Guided Meditation.
6) The sixth category is healing modalities, such as Reiki and Shiatsu. Healing is a necessary function of life. So, it’s only natural to share this energy.
Seeing life as a series of experimental questions ideas and trials gives us the “big picture” perspective needed to understand the results. It helps us to grasp the value of each moment, each experiment of consciousness.
(1) Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality
(2) John Toland (1670–1722) Wikipedia
(3) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia