You don't have to presuppose that they exist. You can simply observe their comings and goings. It will take a lot longer but it is still possible. You become the observational instrument to see if those characteristics do, in fact, exist.
The critical tools of modern philosophy has been disconnected from direct experiences for this, so it's not as useful as you think it is. At least, not until you have direct realizations.
Where I've found them useful is when (1) you experience said insights, (2) you're off the cushion and trying to integrate them into your daily life and habits. I've also found that " they have to rely on the cognitive, social and philosophical resources of their time and place." is not as big of an influence as you think it is. (And the reverse is true: you experience how modern critical tools have their own built-in biases). But if you have not had experienced for yourself, then I'm not going to be able to persuade you to that view.
I would love to hear philosophers frame these experiences having first experienced these themselves. Otherwise, there's no point. I am, in fact, going to engage a philosophy friend in a discussion after he participates in a few shamanic ceremonies. That will be interesting.
Thanks for your reply. Going on a vipassana retreat and participating in a shamanic ceremony are definitely things I'd like to do at some point. All of my investigations have been solitary, for the most part, so I am ignorant of the collective side of things. (as a nerd, I am generally ignorant of the collective aspects of life anyway!)
I think if meditators were to study continental philosophy in particular, they would find many fruitful parallels to concepts in Eastern thought. Phenomenology involves examination of arising phenomena in a similar fashion to mindfulness, though I don't think it is ever as clearly explained. There is within it an attempt to overcome the subject-object distinction, and to re-frame the relationship between scientific objectivity and the lived experience of the human life-world. Unfortunately it is also some of the most impenetrable stuff ever written!
>>I've also found that " they have to rely on the cognitive, social and philosophical resources of their time and place." is not as big of an influence as you think it is.
I will take you up on that, but it might take me a few years. :)
Oh yeah! Though my knowledge of Western philosophy is shallow, I know there are not only parallels, there are outright convergences. The key is in the experience.
I see this in all the wisdom traditions, so that includes a reading of Jewish, Christian, and Islam.
Check out Terrance McKenna some time if you haven't. There is in which he does a trialogue with Rupert Sheldrake and Ralph Abraham. While I don't precisely agree with some of McKenna's comments on religions, his works are excellent sources of questions. :-D