233 – “Life Feels Itself” …

I do not remember exactly where I first read that “Life feels itself”, but I do remember how those three words seemed to carry more meaning than an entire philosophic theory. So I looked into Wikipedia trying to locate the source. What I found was information about a man, the French philosopher Michel Henry (10 January 1922 – 3 July 2002), whose phenomenology had the soundest understanding of Life I have ever encountered. Michel Henry was not only able to see beyond the walls of pre-conceived notions, but affirmed the capacity of the human mind to feel, to love, to experience itself as one of Life’s manifestations.

What follows are selected portions from Wikipedia’s information on Michel Henry’s phenomenology (link to entire information below).

“The work of Michel Henry is based on Phenomenology, which is the study of the phenomenon. The English/German/Latinate word “phenomenon” comes from the Greek “phainomenon” which means “that which shows itself by coming into the light”.

“The object of phenomenology is not however something that appears, such as a particular thing or phenomena, but the act of appearing itself.

“Henry defines life from a phenomenological point of view as what possesses the faculty and the power “to feel and to experience oneself in each point of its being”. For Henry, life is essentially force and affect; it is essentially invisible; it consists in a pure experience of itself which perpetually oscillates between suffering and joy – “Suffering and joy belong to the essence of life, and they are the two fundamental affective tonalities of its manifestation and – self-revelation.

“Thought is for him only a mode of life, because it is not thought which gives access to life, but life that allows thought to reach itself.

Life feels itself and experiences itself in its invisible interiority and in its radical immanence.[1]

“Two modes of manifestation of phenomena exist, according to Henry, which are two ways of appearing: “exteriority”, which is the mode of manifestation of the visible world, and phenomenological “interiority”, which is the mode of manifestation of invisible life. Our bodies, for instance, are in life given to us from the inside, which allows us, for example, to move our hands, and it also appears to us from the outside like any other object that we can see in the world.

“The “invisible”, here, does not correspond to that which is too small to be seen with the naked eye, or to radiation to which the eye is not sensitive, but rather to life, which is forever invisible – No-one has ever seen a force, a thought or a feeling appear in the world in their inner reality.

“Western philosophy as a whole since its Greek origins recognizes only the visible world and exteriority as the sole form of manifestation.

“Henry rejects materialism, which admits only matter as reality – “He equally rejects idealism, which reduces being to thought and is in principle incapable of grasping the reality of being which it reduces to an unreal image, to a simple representation. For Michel Henry, the revelation of the absolute resides in affectivity and is constituted by it.

“The deep originality of Michel Henry’s thought and its radical novelty in relation to all preceding philosophy explains its fairly limited reception. It is however a philosophy that is admired for its “rigor” and its “depth”. But his thought is both “difficult” and “demanding”, despite the simplicity and immediacy of its central and unique theme of phenomenological life, the experience of which it tries to communicate. It is the immediacy and absolute transparency of life which explains the difficulty of grasping it as a thought: it is much easier to speak of what we see than of this invisible life, which fundamentally avoids being seen from the outside.

“Life loves itself with an infinite love and never ceases to engender itself.

“Life is nothing but this absolute love that religion calls God.”

Yet science, enslaved by a methodology that demands a measurable proof to endorse a theory, fails to see that we are the immensurable proof of Henry’s phenomenology: We love, feel, and experience ourselves; we are Life trying to understand itself.



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[1] The doctrine or theory of Immanence holds that the divine (the living Cosmos) encompasses or is manifested in the material world. (parenthesis is mine)

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