As I see it, philosophy ought to make you sane, not crazy. As the Greek-derived word suggests, it ought to bring wisdom (sophía) into your life. But who nowadays does philosophy in this old-fashioned way?
Modern academic philosophy, with its focus on hermeneutical exegesis and logical analysis, would have puzzled and perhaps saddened the ancient sages. As they would see it, philosophy is an aid to self-transformation and inner freedom. If it does not have this practical purpose, it is only an exercise in abstract conceptual thinking. With my apology to any professional philosopher who might have stumbled upon this blog, those sages have my vote of confidence. In them I see true philosophers deserving of the Greek name.
If you want to know philosophy, then, study the ancient Greek and Indian philosophers. Let a little of their wisdom rub off on you. By no means all of their ideas are convincing, or they would not contradict each other. But their wisdom will challenge your own jungle of loosely connected ideas. It’s best not to deny that you have a mostly subconscious system going. In the average person, these ideas consist principally of stereotypes, prejudices, preconceptions, and ad-hoc “theories.”
You “know” that there definitely is or definitely is not a God, and you “know” how evolution works, or doesn’t. You also “know” what men and women are like and how various ethnic groups behave. Matter rules. Mind doesn’t matter or, conversely, only mind matters. Philosophy is nonsense. Yoga is fantasy. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. And so on. It’s a useful exercise to jot down all the ideas that you entertain.
Then go ahead and read some books on philosophy—I double dare you—and see how the ideas that govern your life match up with the consciously formulated, properly inspected notions; to be sure, they might still be only half baked, but they were formulated in full consciousness. This comparison might rattle your conceptual cage a bit, but if you are into personal growth and self-transformation, this is the right sort of gorilla. The darn philosophers might spoil your comfortable life yet, which I would applaud.
The best course of action, however, is to study—and not merely read—the great masters of wisdom and open yourself up to a whole range of new ideas. Discover for yourself what makes sense and how you can apply this wisdom. That’s the beginning of a philosophical life. The rest is part of the consensus trance, otherwise called “the big snooze.”
If you are already one of the self-transcending, self-transforming minority, then congratulations. Now you can work on waking up as a fully compassionate Yoga sage! What are you waiting for?