On the Veiling and Unveiling of Experience: A Comparison Between the Micro-Phenomenological Method and the Practice of Meditation

Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 52 (1):36-77 (2021)
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Abstract

Both Buddhist meditation and micro-phenomenology start from the observation that our experience escapes us, we don’t see it as it is. Both offer devices that allow us to become aware of it. But, surprisingly, the two approaches offer few precise descriptions of the processes which veil experience, and of those which make it possible to dissipate these veils. This article is an attempt to put in parentheses declarative writings on the veiling and unveiling processes and their epistemological background and to collect procedural descriptions of this veiling and unveiling processes. From written and oral meditation teachings on the one hand, micro-phenomenological interviews applied to meditative experience and to themselves on the other hand, we identified four types of veiling processes which contribute to screen what is there, and ultimately to generate the naïve belief in the existence of an external reality independent of the mind: attentional, emotional, intentional and cognitive veils. The first part of the article describes these veiling processes and the processes through which they dissipate. It leads to the identification of several “gestures” conducive to this unveiling. The second part describes the devices used by meditation and by micro-phenomenology to elicit these gestures.

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Claire Petitmengin
École Normale Supérieure

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