John Vervaeke’s Awakening from the Meaning Crisis

Notes and Comments

Pleasure of Doubt

Twitter: @PleasureOfDoubt

(Use the outline on the left-hand panel to quickly find your desired episode.)

These are notes for John Vervaeke’s Awakening from the Meaning Crisis youtube series.

My comments are in brackets.

Episode 7 - Aristotle’s World View and Erich Fromm

  • Aristotle concerned with change. Understood in terms of growth and development.
  • A used the concept of form, change - something is being informed? Wood potential table or chair then wood acts as table or chair.
  • A’s idea of wisdom as a virtual engine
  • Wisdom the cultivation of a virtual engine actualize your potential
  • Moving through hierarchy as actualization.
  • To be wise is to cultivate a character to rationalize self reflection, self-actualization. Fulfills humanity.

(I really do like Aristotles version of actualization of a potential as a conceptual approach to thinking about potential. My objection to it is only if we’re taking it literally. So it’s pretty useful as a framing of what we’re doing).

  • 4:15. socratic challenge: what are you doing to cultivate your character?

(there are things I do such as this process right now. But then there are other ways that I know I don’t - or at least I struggle with it much more even though I want to. And I feel guilty or ashamed or weak when I give in.)

  • living up to potential, ascending the hierarchy
  • A interested in rationality - axial revolution idea 2nd order thinking. Can reflect and self-correct. Hallmark of rationality - core idea is capacity to reflectively reason self- capacity for illusion and error and self correction

(This is a really interesting take on rationality that I don’t think we talk about much - at least I haven’t seen it brought up when talking about rationality. I like this addition. We can talk about the base ability to analyse logically, but key is the ability to re-analyze, self-reflect, and correct. If one doesn’t do that analysis in that way they aren’t being rational)

  • 6:15: being in contact with reality.  That’s the core motivation with rationality. The desire to come into as deep a contact with reality as possible by those means that are as reliable as possible.
  • What is it to truly know something? We have got a view in which we conceive of knowing that we can accurately give a description of something. Challenge: who knows better what a chair is- someone who can describe it or make it?
  • Some say person who describes can’t really understand, if can make it grasp something more. If can cause X to be, then you deeply understand it.
  • What does the maker have that the descriptor doesn’t have? The structural formation. Chair maker has the idos - like an architect with a blueprint.
  • Can use that idos to actualize the chair
  • To know something is to possess the same idos as it.

(though it’s a scale, we can know things at different levels)

  • actualizing the same form. When I know something there is conformity- I share the same form of it

(here I think we’re getting into metaphorical again. It’s a useful concept, but I don’t think it matches reality. We don’t actually share a form.)

  • could cause it to be.
  • Shape is not the same thing as form. Can use shape for an analogy of form.
  • Can conform to the cup to interact with it. When you know something, your mind is in conformity with it
  • A had no distinction between knowing and being. - A would say changing my structure by picking up the cup. Changing my being not just knowing. Changes structure and functioning of being.
  • Charles Taylor: talk about conformity theory as contact epistemology. To know something is to contact with it
  • Participatory knowing.
  • Differing from descriptive knowing, generate propositions about the thing.
  • Intimate connection between mind and reality.
  • 14:30: not separate from it and merely pointing at it by words and propositions.
  • If in conformity of the world, my patters of intelligibility- how I make sense of things - same pattern by which thing are organized
  • After we’ve done all that second order thinking, rational reflection, once we get to edits we can be confident iwhen we’ve made sense of things the pattern in our mind is the same as the pattern in the world
  • 17:15: ex. Interesting in Susan, talking to Tom. T says I think S likes you. You like S. Don’t want to leap in. So say wait, I saw you last night, you were drunk. Tom says, I heard before drunk. Ask questions…make sure, relevant organ of cognition functioning normally, make sure environment not distorting conditions, intersubjective agreement then once get there can have significant confidence in conformity with reality
  • Still do it now. Something plausible and practical. That’s how we make sure we’re in touch with things.
  • What is the structural pattern of the world when I’m making sense of things?
  • How does it look to us? Seemed that we’re at the centre in A’s time
  • Things moving around us
  • He has geocentric worldview
  • Why do things move?
  • Idea that things move for the same reason we do: when push on a table, feels like table moving against me. When lift pen and drop, looks like it moves itself to get back there
  • A’s idea everything made of elements, earth, water, air and fire
  • Natural motion, internal drive, everything trying to get where it belongs, moving on purpose. Meaningful view of things
  • Just like us, doing things to get where we belong
  • Worldview: being/knowing. Conformity theory, geocentric
  • Bonding between understanding of understanding and understanding of the world
  • His view makes sense of what he sees around him. This view external world is an arena: know how can act in it
  • Know where belong, performance, know how to be involved, how to act, can conform
  • This how become an agent: to be an agent is to be capable of pursuing goals. Organize cognition and behaviour to fit the environment
  • agent/arena coupling so can meaningfully interact with the world
  • Each determines the other
  • Co-identification: we do this all the time. Always assuming an identity, assigning an identity to everything around me

(abstract concepts)

  • Always assigning an arena and assuming agency - existential mode
  • Process by which coidentifying agency and arena. Get coherent and functioning worldview
  • Meta-meaning relations: if do not have the agent/arena relationship none of particular actions have meaning. If put tennis player in the football arena it’s absurd. Unless the coupling works, individual actions and projects of meaning don’t work. This mode makes possible an entire system of meaning.

(Going to have to think about this, sounds good).

  • doing it right now, assumed a particular identity, assigned an identity to prof, very important: existential mode meta-meaning instance of enacting world-view relationship

(interesting: don’t need to actually know how it all works, but to have something that fits for you - does it therefore matter if the view is correct? What would make it matter?)

  • 36:15: Worldview Attunemwnt: existential mode have to fit into process of worldview attunement. Will be like the tennis player in the football arena. Experience existence as absurd.
  • This matters: one of the ways in which meaning crisis manifests is that think their existence is absurd
  • Gives ways in which co-creating with the world the agent-arena relationship
  • Powerful: he’s given us a way, a language of articulating a connection bwtween project of intellectual understanding the world and our existential project that we fit in and belong in a meaningful fashion
  • For many of us today we don’t find that clear consonant connection, we have scientific worldview, but doesn’t give existential guidance. Doesn’t tell us how to make our lives meaningful
  • Term: for talking about worldview constant attunement, agent-arena relationships unfolding naturally, constantly unfolding deep connectiveness, between intellectual and existential - nomological order
  • This what makes the universe lawlike. Cosmos for us: best attempts to understand world and existentially live within it. When it breaks down get absurdity lose sense of how fit in and belong
  • To have a meaningful life is to have one that is situated in a nomological order, consonant with our best scientific understanding
  • 41:30: mindfulness revolution:
  • Meditation and contemplation: India. Axial revolution there: Buddhism
  • Complex topic, not going to do it all at once.
  • Buddha the embodiment of axial revolution in india
  • coinage, literacy,
  • Buddha: all of these figures, Socrates, Jesus, Buddha, what’s the historical - separate historical from legacy largely can’t do. Can’t say with certainty this is what he was doing. Not going to try and separate myth from history - because that’s how they make impact on west.
  • When born, father had sages come to birth, foretold that the boy had one of 2 futures, either great kind, or important religious figure. King chose king. Decided to remove all the things that might trigger religious life. Gave all the benefits of power and prosperity. Never saw anything distressing. Everything he wanted.
  • Myths are attempts to engage with patterns:
  • Palace represents Fromm: existential mode. Palace mythological way to get you to activate in your memory a particular existential mode
  • Two modes we all face:
  • Having needs: having mode - met by having soemthing. Categorizing things efficiently, controlling them effectively. Understanding is categorical. Put things in the right category. Here’s a cup. Improves ability to hold things. Oriented towards me for effective control. Need to have water. Categorizse world and manipulate and control it very important
  • I - it fashion; it is an identity something has when belongs to a category: rely on intelligence to control and manipulate things to achieve solving my problems.

(very important: abstract concept)

  • Nothing wrong with having mode.
  • Being needs: being mode
  • Needs met by becoming something. Need to become mature. Need to become virtuous. Developmental needs. Fromm: because of that, have to have a particular kind of meaning for existence,. Relating to the world expressively
  • When in love with someone, engaged in being need: trying to become something, meet the needs of meaning, and maturity, growth and development
  • Mutual development, reciprocal realization

(really interesting: this is what I’m describing in my method of commuynication: working together to learn together, work through problems together, understand one another)

                        - don’t understand categorically but expressively

(When we’re communicating with others as Us/THEM it’s categorical: you are a liberal, or conservative, atheist, christian - we put one another in boxes and treat them as opponents. Not people that we’re trying to understand and grow together)

                        - I thou relationship, not I it

                        - trying to make meaning

        - to live in the palace is to try and live everything in the having mode. Modal confusion: serve a lot of market interests if can meet being needs in the having mode.

  • make love, have sex. Modal confusion. Deep existential confusion
  • Then needs not met so try to do more. More cars, more sex. The more corporate world can induce modal confusion the more can sell. Being in the palace is a myth for modal confusion.
  • Story continues, leaves the palace in a way that teaches us something about overcoming modal confusion.

Episode 9 - Insight

  • Study of mindfulness is misleading because it starts with feature list and leaves out the eidos: the structural functional organization
  • present, not judging, insightfulness, increase equanimity
  • Traits can cultivate.
  • part/whole relationship
  • Replace the language of trining with language of explaining
  • Ask what does it mean to be present. Concentration.
  • Noted that took us into paying attention, tuning optimization]
  • Attention not very well served by spotlight metaphor
  • attention: optimizing different focus
  • Understanding of attention that could capture that its an optimization strategy linked to a response to modal confusion and alleviate suffering therein
  • Cognitive unison: investigate more concretely what that might mean.
  • Attention has a structure: Polanyi
  • Tapping experiment:

(Cool effect, attention shifting, can feel things didn’t feel before. Similarly in meditation can suddenly hear the ticking of a wall clock, sound was always there, but never heard it)

  • important structure. Not completely unaware of probe, but not aware of it, but aware through it. Through the probe, aware of the cup.
  • Aware through this, aware of this. Like probe is transparent. Cup opaque.
  • Analogy: glasses are like framing. Transparent. Looking through them, but can redirect my awareness to look at them. Transparency to opacity shift.
  • Transparency to opacity shift: implicit awareness of probe, aware through probe, of focal object: focal awareness vs. Explicit awareness
  • Attention is structuring phenomena; from to, from subsidiary awareness to focal awareness, but can shift, step back, and back, from probe, to fingers, to sensations, stepping back,
  • Whole time was looking at cup looking through all that. Spotlight metaphors missing all that layered recursive stuff going on.
  • Can go back and forth: opacity to transparency shift
  • Attention doing that all the time, shifting.
  • What you’re seeing is how many processes being coordinate, integrated together to optimize and prioritize this particular object, scene, situation.
  • Tend to use in out metaphor for this.
  • When I was knowing cup through probe, indwelling the probe. Participating in how the probe is being with respect to the cup. Not knowing the probe, knowing through the probe, integrated with it and through it.
  • Like vision integrated with the glass lenses.
  • Also works with technology and psychotechnology. Literacy: don’t look at it much, look through it.

  • 16:00: THE CAT: read first one as H and another as A - fits in one
  • Letters are the feature, the word is the overall structure
  • Problem: in order to read the word must read each letter, but to figure out the letter must read the word
  • Attention is simultaneously going up from the features to the structure (eidos) and down from the words to the letters -
  • (is it attention though? Or unconscious? )
  • Mindfulness has to do with making use of all this complex dynamical processing - mindfulness optimizes them in some way.
  • Transparency to opacity shifting: always direction that matters - stepping back and looking at, indwelling and looking out into the world
  • Can also go up and down from features to gestalt
  • Nothing is inherently a feature - letter is feature in the word, word is feature in the letters
  • Operating in highly integrated fashion


(Reminds me of that meme where so long as the first and last letter are correct the other letters can be mixed up and can still read it.)

  • break up the whole finger into parts, scaling up and scaling down of attention
  • Vipassina:
  • pay attention to breath but tell them pay attention to feelings in abdomen - what they are doing is trying to maintain and renew interest and make it salient to themselves
  • Not looking through sensations looking at them.
  • Stepping back and looking at, breaking the gestalt into its features, that’s what do in meditation
  • Meditation means to move towards the centre
  • Why does this help cause insight.
  • Contemplation
  • In the west often confuse meditation and contemplation - not synonym
  • root is temple, latin word from part of the sky look up to see signs from the gods
  • Theory: try to see more deeply into reality - meditation is scaling down, contemplation scaling up

  • 27:45:  9 dot problem: have to break up the gestalt, and also de-automotize cognition. Take stuff that normally happens unconsciously and bring it back into the conscious: do that by making a transparency opacity shift.
  • Normally automatically sensing through probe but can shift and be aware of the probe
  • Break up the inappropriate frame, deautomatise cognition by scaling down.
  • Can improve ability to insight if can do chunk decomposition (breaking the gestalt) and constraint relaxation (deautomatising cognition)
  • Scaling down helps to break up chunks, and deautomitse - but not enough. Have to break up the gestalt but also make a better frame: have to take what’s in the background and look for deeper broader patterns - scale back up.
  • Have lots of evidence that one of the ways to improve ability to be insightful if can complete patterns in a kind of leaping. Take picture out of focus and refocus them mentally
  • Both make better, but both make worse: if just scale up: immediately project square and lost. If just scale down choke oneself.
  • (See this a lot in discussions: you have people who focus mainly on the micro level and people who focus on the macro level - but for a well-rounded analysis you need to look at both the tree level and the forest level. Often people don’t reconcile the two: they have their forest view and don’t adjust when the trees don’t align. The layers of abstraction must be consistent with one another - if they aren’t we have to rethink it. )

  • have to do both: don’t want the strings too tight or too loose. Want to train people in both skills and to flow between them. Coordinate and get the right degree of attentional engagement most fitting to the world.
  • Mindfulness not just with meditation
  • 8 fold path: trained in meditation and contemplation and flow between them.
  • When scale down making mind less representational, less inferential. Gaining awareness of problem framing, making more insightful.
  • What if just scaled down and scaled down: get a mystical experience: pure consciousness event.
  • Meditation like doing reps: building ability.
  • Went back in layers - work back to just being conscious not conscious of anything

(This is an interesting suggestion and I’m curious as to what this experience is. What does it mean to be conscious but not OF anything? Consciousness tends to imply having an experience. He still calls it an experience. So SOMETHING is being experienced.)

  • what if really scale up: see everything as interconnected and permanent..feel at one. Super flow state, deeply at one with everything. Resonant at-onement.
  • Explains why people get into these mystical experiences
  • We want both at the the same time.
  • Third state: the state that matters: the state of non-duality.
  • As inhale scale up - trying to get onement, as breathe out trying to get to pure consciousness event: often have to do that for years
  • What can happen is can have the third type of mystical; includes both at the same time, awareness deeply to depths of consciousness and reality, all at once. Prajna state: state of non-duality wisdom

(But is it true, does it matter?)

  • this is what can lead to insight: the guts and grammar of agent/arena relationship. So can see connectedness between the two. Capacity for insight into existential modes of being. This is how can remember the being mode. Can have fundamental insight.
  • This is what buddy experienced: his innovation was to join vipassina and meta together: experienced enlightenment. Awakening.
  • Walking down the road: visage has changed. In the flow state. I am awake.
  • Sati: remembered the being mode. Not an insight about this or that problem, but fundamental insight into what it means to be a human being. Optimizes entire being. Fundamental transformative experience.
  • Why do people pursue altered states of consciousness, psychedelic. Why so powerfully important.
  • Awakening metaphor: in contrast to sleeping. Dream state: seems real but when wake up realize it wasn’t real. Normally when have an altered state wake up point at it and say that’s not real. Sometimes people have experiences and say that was more real. And this is less real

(does that mean its real? Does it matter? What if its just our brain functions temporarily remapping, producing really cool experiences. Does it matter if that’s all it is?)

  • access to the real world: but why is it more real. Back to the cave.
  • Going to change myself and change my world to try and recapture, remember that really real. Start to transform their whole lives.
  • Quantum change theory; bad name, good theory

(Should look this up)

  • how is it that these experiences have such authority
  • At the core of world religions

(Is this evidence that its not real? That religions have sprung from cool brain states)

  • had an significant increase in meaning of life

(if meaning of life improved, does it matter if its not real? What does real mean?)

  • experiment work

(Should look up Vervake’s work)

  • doesn’t matter what the content of the experience is: but somehow optimizing capacity to make sense - both inwardly and outwardly
  • Similar claims in all mystical traditions
  • Seem to be deep truths about the nature of mindfulness and attention, can significantly alleviate existential stress

(This is why it may not matter if its true. Allevaites anxiety.)


Fig wasp

Episode 10 - Consciousness

  • last week: Mindfulness can bring about insight not just into a single problem but a modal insight, a systematic insight that is fully transformative of the agent/arena relationship and relieve existential distress
  • Two kinds of attentional scaling: transparency/opacity shift, breaking gestalt into features and scaling up
  • mindfulness: scale down, break down inappropriate framework. Also scale up train making better framing
  • Optimize by flowing between the two, can optimize capacity for more comprehensive insight
  • Progena:  non-duality, dissipate modal confusion, realness, increase meaning and life

  • Transformative Experience: LA Pauls

Alterred State of Consciousness:

  • hard problem of consciousness
  • Not going to talk about that but looking at some of the form and function of consciousness
  • Two questions:
  • What is consciousness: how does it emerge out of the brain
  • What is the function of consciousness
  • No consensus on what consciousness does.
  • Don’t know your consciousness the way that you know other things. Just know you’re conscioussness. Knowing and being are the same. You participate in your consciousness
  • What does it do?
  • Not obvious. Do most things without conscioussness. No conscious awareness of what brain is doing that allows to generate speech.
  • What is consciousness for, what does it do?
  • Not going to answer these comprehensively: hard problem of meaning is the goal here
  • Work on consciousness points to why C is valuable

Global Workspace Theory:

  • C functions like the desktop of a computer
  • Have desktop and files, can activate file and bring it into desktop, pieces of information broadcast back to you and can broadcast back to the files
  • All unconscious processing in brain, retrieve it to working memory, activate it so pieces can work together, then broadcast it back to existing files
  • Don’t want all files active at same time b/c that’s disaster
  • What to bring them to mind when relevant, transform them, then broadcast them back
  • Baars: paper
  • Idea that architecture helping to solve the “frame problem” - helping to zero in on relevant information.
  • 3 areas where huge issue:
  • All information available in this room astronomically vast, can’t make use of all of it, have to select what info make use of
  • Huge information in my memory, have to select from all of that.
  • Have to put pieces of information altogether
  • C helping to zero in relevant info out there, in the brain, and put them together.
  • C associated with working memory which is associated with function
  • Help realize, actualize relevant information
  • Will come back to this

Neuroscientific account

  • correlation with brain activity
  • Activity seems to be involved when people chunk information or insight
  • Boren-Seth model

Integrated Information Theory

  • Tononi, about the nature of C
  • C is how powerfully integrated pieces of information are in brain
  • More tightly integrated more powerful processing
  • Why is it doing this? Proposes like a Turing test for C, can test by giving it anomalous pictures and see if they don’t make sense
  • Tracking how much picking up on the patterns in the world, making sense of the world
  • Trying to track the complexity of the world
  • Main function of IIT: allow to determine if pieces of information are relevant to one another and relevant to you

  • Not saying any relevance realization is C
  • But C is to coordinate attention and other related abilities of awareneesss to optimize how insightfully insight the world
  • Can reduce C when problem well defined, no high degree of novelty or insight
  • Don’t know if its a complete account of the function of C but a part of it
  • Insight is like a flash, brightening of C
  • Explains why may want to alter state of C, alter what I find relevant and salient

Putting it together:

  • Matson: sizing up
  • Salience
  • : picking out out of all the things could be picking out some features (featurization)
  • foregrounding: foreground some of what is around you, the rest is backgrounded. Goes both ways. Take them in Gestalt those features, create a figure - figure it out - make it stand out even more  - more salient, also configuring it together
  • Figuration: also feeds back
  • Framing: framing problems
  • Very complex dynamical system at work
  • C creates a salience landscape: some things rising up out of unintelligibility as features that get forgrounded and configured, frame problems around them, attention shifting
  • Highly textured/flowing salience landscape. That’s what it’s like to be here right now
  • If get too close lose the gestalt, if too far lose the details: want to get an optimal “grip” on it.
  • Optimizes between gestalt and feature, taking salience landscape

(This episode more about framing and providing language for what we’ve already concluded: that need a balance between gestalt and features)

  • grip: metaphorical contact, where I can place things, this is movable
  • Salience landscape gets you in contact, then optimal gripping get info affordances. Agent/arena: I am a grasper and this is graspable.
  • I am presenting myself to it and it is presenting itself to me
  • Sizing up: Presence Landscape: whole affordance network laid out for you
  • flow: need to track the differences between correlational and causal patterns
  • Depth landscape: C is figuring out the causal patterns and not just correlational.
  • 2 year old and spoon: drop it over and over, because trying to use salience landscape to use affordances. The spoon is graspable. Transform salience landscape into presence landscape into a depth landscape
  • Getting a deep understanding interjectionally with the spoon
  • This is what C is doing for you. Helping zero in on relevant information

(This is the argument against pre-suppositionalism. My argument with Sye Ten B on how why we trust our senses - based on empirical experience. Why we trust won’t fall through the earth).

  • shifting dynamically, how you and what’s salient are being co-identified in agent/arena and tracking the Casal patterns, connect with the guts of the world

(Course it seems to do more than that)

  • if transform my C transforming all this: salience landscape, presence landscape and depth landscape

(So is it more about different perspective? Is that about truth? Does it entail truth? Which model of truth: affects how we interact and see ourselves, maybe function better, more self-realized?)

  • the patterns going to track, the kind of agent going to be, kind of arena in going to be transformed.

(Interesting, the arena is a mental construct here, it’s not the bare physical pieces, it is how we perceive it.)

  • not an insight IN C, its an insight OF C
  • Radical transformation of all landscapes
  • Systematic insight
  • Goes back to Piager, childhood development
  • As the child is to the adult, the adult is to the sage
  • 5 candies experiment with 4 year olds. Two layers of candies, bottom one is more spread out. Ask which row they want. Counted, know there are the same amount. All the kids pick the bottom row. Bunch of errors.
  • Used to pay attention to what the kids got right, but thought might be a pattern in the errors
  • Contraints operating in the child’s cognition
  • Maybe could understand development on how constraints are shifting.

(Interesting though that there’s a strong physical link there. The kids literally aren’t capable of that deeper understanding based on their current physical development now. The pathways aren’t formed. Meditation has been found to reinforce certain neural pathways. Does give you better - or different - ability to process. Interesting physical/mental relationship).

  • Kids picking lower row because it takes up more space. Space variable super salient to them. Only picking up on that. Adults also make salient that the extra space is non-candy space so not relevant.

( a robot could be programmed to make the same inference, he’s saying our C helps us do this.)

  • we see through this illusion. Our salience landscape trained to see these multiple variables at the same time.
  • Zero in on the relevant information in the relevant way
  • Super-salience triggers bullshitting and self-deception - if can change salience landscape don’t fall prey to the illusion and don’t behave foolishly
  • Kids make a system of errors, salience landscape not sufficiently cultivated.

(But is there a difference between what one considers relevant and what one SHOULD consider relevant. In practice we all tend to focus on subtly or non-subtly different relevances. Left/Right is a prime factor in this. Working together to share what we’ve picked up helps us spot all of them. I guess cultivating mindfulness helps us do it ourselves, but maybe there are pros to just focusing on one or the other so long as we come together or trade off (like why I don’t want my preferred party in power all the time)

  • 33:50; what if has systematic insight of C, change salience landscaping. See through illusion and into reality.

(Is any change in salience landscaping good? How do we know that our new perception is seeing through the illusion)

  • even as adult falling for systematic illusions not aware of. Only become aware if change the 3 landscapes systematically. Systematc improvement in insight is to be wise.
  • Significance landscape: Systematically tracking presence in depth so can wisely zero in on the relevant information and make life more meaningful. Protects from BS,  allows to see through illusion and into reality and afford you having things more present to you
  • More comprehensive flowing relationship with reality

(but still have to double check)

Alterred States of Consciousness

 - 36:50: altered states of consciousness have potential to create insight of C, but also screw up salience landscape make more prone to BS

  • Most altered states do that. But certain altered states do the opposite feel like changing systematic insight - it all makes sense now

(But is “feels like” a key word here?)

  • why is that altered state more real? Really real. And this state less real. Why feel like woke u37:30: Set up the problem. We know that many people experience higher states of C, reliably  what is characteristic of these states find it to be really real, arena and agent. That’s the way the world really is and who I really am. So much so that I’m going to transform my everyday experience. Mutual more realness
  • AS prompts to change, need to have that
  • Willing to transform everything to get back to that really real world and self
  • Problem of the Ontonnormativity: Ontology: structure of reality. Normative: when things placing demand on you to be better
  • AS challenging you to change because presenting more realness.
  • Historically important and pervasive: Steve Taylor waking from sleep
  • Newberg: how enlightenment changes your brain
  • Range in intensity: 30-40% of the population

(Seems high?)

  • psychedelic experience can produce deeply transformative mystical experince.
  • Problem: transformative experience people undergo seem driven and justified by this more realness. Justify the transformation. Religions have this. Come down to this claim: I had THIS and it justifies what I’m telling you.

(getting at the questions I asked above)

  • problematic because in contrast to how we see most of our other Alterred states.
  • Why do reject dreaming as unreal: when in the dream it seems real. When come out pattern in dream don’t cohere to rest of life
  • intelligibility plato: more intelligible something is, more real it is. Dream doesn’t fit in so less real
  • Real: pattern of intelligibility with the widest scope: makes the most sense of experience
  • But: in higher state of C its the reverse: single experience, doesn’t cohere with rest of life, and challenges rest of life.
  • Difference so great that instead of rejecting it, reject everyday experience
  • What’s going on?
  • Does this without providing new content: ineffiable can’t put into words, trans-rational, can’t explain.
  • No content, and temporary but we treat it the opposite of most AS
  • Should be the states we most reject. But we promote them as really real, and reject everyday experience
  • Core of axial revolution
  • Way it is still informing cognitive grammar, and informing existential way of being
  • Know that AS can bring about developmental improvement, but how?
  • Can we give an adequate explanation of AS?
  • People’s lives do get better, Not making it up

(So maybe it’s not about truth? It’s about  making our lives better)

  • have to solve this problem. Make some progress on it:
  • Descriptive explanation - cognitive brain processes, explain the phenomenological
  • Explain why people feel it being more real, feels justifies empowers and motivates them to transform - psychological
  • Prescriptive account: is it actually a legitimate thing? Do they provide a rational explanation and guide to the transformation
  • Are they actually philosophically justifiable or just an illusion? Is it rationally justifiable
  • Prescriptive account must integrate with the descriptive to be coherent.
  • Descriptiove account best way is to do a cognitive science approach: plausibly trying to integrate different levels in the analysis
  • Good account of cognitive processes in the mind, information processes at work, draw on AI and machine learning.
  • Draw on neuroscientiifc accounts of what’s happening in the brain
  • Going to try and give this account. Though not going to argue these states give us any special knowledge - not about changing evidence, shouldn’t use them as a way of challenging scientific claims/ that’s a mistake many make. People think the whole point of cognition and rationality is to get better beliefs and shown more to it\

(This is really interesting. Getting at its not just about truth. Want to see where he’s going with this)

  • when child stops falling prey to illusiion, no new facts been discovered. What changed was not knowledge but wisdom.
  • Pursue idea that higher states of cognition are rational not because give us new knowledge (people come out with opposite conclusions) knew God, knew no God -= content diametrically opposite. Dyametrically opposite claims
  • What’s changing is not the content is your functioning. Gaining wisdom. Gaining skills of significance landscaping, radically transform existential mode

(So its how we opearate, how we feel. )

  • buddha didn’t answer metaphysical questions

John: leaves out intentionality, feeling of directing things. Consciousness can be passive, it’s a thing happening rather than being directed. Searle: asking of C that is about directing, have intentions about what doing,

Episode 11 - Higher States of Consciousness, Part 1

  • 2 modes of being in Buddha: having mode and being mode.
  • Modal confusion and overcoming it.
  • Mindfulness: intentional scaling. Increase cognitive flexibility, capacity for insight.
  • idea that people have alternative state of C that see as more real - problematic because tend to judge realness by how well we get an overall coherence in our intelligibility
  • Instead of rejecting AS as illusory, reject everyday experience as illusory
  • Ability to transcend through illusion to get connected to what is real = wisdom
  • Connectedness to reality = regard one’s life as authentically meaningfu
  • Want a theory that is both prescriptive and descriptive
  • In higher state feel deep connection to reality and radically change their lives.
  • descriptive; Need to give account of psychological processes, informational, and brain processes
  • prescriptive: why it should be considered rationally justifiable: can we see why these states should be listened to when they claim to give access to deeper reality.

Descriptive Explanation:

  • 5:20: what does it feel like to be in such a state
  • 3 components:
  • How is the world being experienced
  • How is the self being experienced
  • How is the relationship between self and world=


  • Ppl report world seems extremely clear to them and makes sense to them in a way that it hasn’t before
  • perceptual: seen as bright, things are shiny (glory) - feature ppl report in flow experience
  • expansion of vision (aware of the world) but also capture finite features
  • Insight: seeing into reality
  • Increased sense of making sense of things
  • 8:23: World both intricate and interesting, beautiful
  • World is alive, pregnant with energy and significance
  • Notion of oneness. Deep and profound integration.
  • Self: report profound sense of peace (Plato)
  • Profound joy: (lost sense of what this word means): joy not just fun or pleasure: positive emotion have when experience a deep connection to what is good
  • Fundamental change in sense of self:
  • Normal sense of self disappeared: self-consciousness, autobiographical sense of self disappear
  • Remember my true self, what I really am
  • Change in energy and vitality
  • Insight and understanding
  • Relation:
  • Deep at oneness, participating in the reality, sharing identity to it
  • (Aristotle conformity theory of knowing: identification with reality)
  • So profound and transformative - say connection is ineffable - so if no declarative content why considered so loaded with signature of ultimate reality

  • disrupt normal cognitive functioning and alter state of consciousness
  • Can be long term/short term
  • Long term strategy: Buddha: 6 yrs of meditation and contemplation
  • Short term disruptive strategy: fasting, sexual and sleep deprivation, drumming, chanting - disrupt normal level of cognitive, psychedelics

(heh, would like 14:45: Disruptive Strategies:

to try psychedelics but have no idea how to even get them)

  • Combinations of these strategies can be good
  • Have to do a lot breaking frame before can make a new frame
  • Experiment:
  • Yadin 2017: 69% reported ontonormativity, was actually predictive of improvement across many dimensions of life: family health, sense of purpose, spirituality, will, release from anxiety and fear of death
  • decentering: when ppl describe these experiences, shift from egocentric to allocentric - speaking more from 3rd person perspective
  • Can describe my motion egocentrically: to the right of me, left of me
  • Allocentrically: where I am vis a vis north poll
  • Much less egocentrically oriented
  • Salience of reality capable of eclipsing narcissistic glow of own ego
  • Release from imprisonment, BS, of own egocentric perspective
  • Do you sometimes wish to be free from the super-salience of your own ego:

(We should talk about this on stream: what does it mean?)

20:45: Insight:

  • sense of what’s relevant/important been alterred. Radically make sense, conherence, underlying intelligible pattern: predictive of experience of meaning in life
  • Samantha Henzelman:
  • Give ppl a bunch of scene’s that make sense to them, ask them how meaningful their lives are, will rate their lives as more meaningful
  • The act of finding coherence helps make their lives more meaningful
  • Act of making sense, elevates the sense of how meaningful lives are
  • If were to have an insight that would give even more sudden increase in sense of meaning in life, and what if it’s in flow - going to be even more enhanced

(Note again the cautious use of language: the sense of meaning of life. Again, does the truth of it matter if life is better?)

  • Radical sense of deep intelligibility of the world and yourself in both directions at same time. Profound sense of increased meaning and life.
  • If it actually does guide you in improving life then will give confidence on the path

Flashes of insight:

  • Tobolinsky: insight is a fluency-spike
  • fluency is general property of all cognitive properties
  • How easy it is to process information
  • How accessible it is, how well system zeroing in on the relevant information
  • When fluent processing information efficiently
  • Insight experience = sudden spike in influency, start to judge the information processing therein as likely more real.

(Again subjective language. Is he foreshadowing that it’s only a feeling and not real or just building suspense?)

  • part of evolutionary heritage - fluency heuristic good strategy, in real world situations if pressing fluently picking up on the real patterns
  • flow: insight cascade
  • Picking up on bigger patterns that not consciously aware of

(Again: how do we know they are real patterns vs. Illusory. Humans are good at spotting patterns that aren’t there)

Continuity Hypothesis: (29:00)

  • continuity hypothesis: want scientifically plausible explanation when someone claims enlightenment
  • Want good explanation and good justification for why should follow and be guided
  • CH: Vervaeke’s own hypothesis though Newberg came up with one
  • Fluency -> enchanted insight -> enhanced flow -> enhanced mystical experience -> transformative experience
  • Same machinery being used but being progressively exacted into more and more powerful processing that can afford rationally justified guidance into kind of transformation
  • If seeking to cultivate meaning, awaken from the meaning crisis we are seeking one of these experiences
  • Newberg says if have a lot of little insights will lead to transformative experiences - more practicing mindfulness, more can prime the pump
  • Help explain what’s going on
  • In flow: we know there has to be a relevant expertise: flow state where skills can meet the demands of the situation. If don’t have the relevant skills can’t get into flow state.
  • ask: what’s flowing in these higher states of consciousness? What expertise using: fundamental expertise, central to everyday experience making sense of the world
  • Ponty, Dreyfus, Charles Taylor


34:45: Optimal Grip What process being optimized?

  • Optimal grip: harkens back to conformity
  • When try to perceive an object, don’t remain static, move around the object until get to a place where trade-off relationship: can see as many details as possible (zooming in), also the gestalt (overall thing). Move cup around for best optimization for my needs between overall and grasp of details
  • Dynamic balance between them
  • Martial arts: want to get the right flow over the person, takes practice, sense of whole body but can zero in on details.
  • Own body: take a stance: optimal sense of whole body but also details of where fingers are, joints doing what can do
  • Do this cognitively
  • categorization: talk about cat or dog not usually level up to mammal, though might zero down to cocker spaniel. But usually default to basic level: cogntively optimal grip

(theme always comes back to scaling up and down)

  • As go higher up get more abstract, when go down get too specific.
  • Have to practice optimal grip
  • First date: try and get a sense of the person, trying to get an optimal grip on the other person
  • advice: look into her eyes, but not too much.
  • Do it without thinking: ex: how close to stand to someone. Depends on context and person, most of us have that skill

Proposal: 43:50:

  • what if got into a flow state about ability to optimally grip the world.
  • What if made it really challenging, disrupt normal framing and open up and zooming in: see the world in a grain of sand
  • What if had optimal grip but not on just one object, but a dynamic flowing on the world and itself. Optimally gripping reality, deep conformity.
  • What’s happening in a higher state of consciousness is people are flowing to get OG on world and themselves
  • Disruptive strategies essential to insight: mindfulness break frame. Also naturally disposed to do this: mind wanders: Zak Irving: expert on mind wandering
  • MW enhances capacity for insight. Distracts you from how framed a situation, then return. It helps disrupt framing so can break frame and make new frame
  • ex; go and sleep on it, take a walk
  • If give person problem and introduce noise moderate amount can lead to insight

(explains why often listen to music when studying - but I noted back in university that music without words worked better for me. Though I don’t really enjoy it otherwise I found myself studying a lot to trance music or classical  Music with words was often too distracting. No music was too quiet. But trance put me in a studying zone)

  • When brain engaged in insight: shift btw lett and right hemispheres

(Tyler probably interested in this)

De-automatization (48:30)

  • 9 dot problem: automatically unconsciously formulated it as a square and connect the dot problem, which blocks you from solving it
  • To get out of that had to de-automatize cognition
  • Disruptive strategies increase the variation in processes
  • When increase variation can get more awareness of what is invariant.
  • As move around object, lots of stuff changing, but shape the same
  • Two kinds of invariants:
  • Good invariants: opening up variation pick up on bigger patterns that are changing that are real patterns in the world. More in contact with what’s really going on. Tells us what’s more real - real patterns
  • Bad invariants: ways in which formulating problems that are blocking you from solving problem.
  • Notice invariants heuristic: across different problem formulations that are failing: what am I not changing in all of these failures? Often what not changing is what need to change.

(seems like a useful tool. But missing the bad invariant of picking up a pattern that’s not really there. )

  • What if have a whole system of errors?
  • Systematic errors
  • Developmental change when have systematically penetrative insight, find nexus of errors so can massively intervene on themselves
  • That’s what can happen during enlightenment experience
  • Opening up the variation massively, can connect to what’s real, be more connected to world
  • Get below ways holding back own development
  • Radical developmental change
  • wisdom: seeing through illusion

(But how know actually seeing through the illusion and not just a useful illusion?)

 - do not believe in the two-world mythology of the axial revolution but don’t want to abandon the psycho-technology

Episode 12 - Higher States of Consciousness, Part 2

  • possibility of enlightenment, and plausibly accessible
  • Higher states of consciousness might provide a means for:
  • Radical self transformation
  • Self transcendence
  • Enhanced inner peace
  • Connectedness to reality
  • Still needed today even if no longer need the mythology
  • How do we vouchsafe the value
  • Properties:
  • Bright
  • Comprehensive and detailed
  • Interesting
  • World in a grain of sand
  • Highly intelligible
  • Beautiful
  • Pervasive sense of oneness
  • Self at peace
  • Joy
  • Deep remembrance of deep and authentic self
  • Connectedness btw self and the world as one
  • Sense of achieving identity at one with the oneness
  • Ineffable
  • What might be going on:
  • Continuity hypothesis: same machinery in the fluency of reading, to moments of insight, flow, then quantum change, deep transformative experience
  • What’s going on is something like state of flow, but expertise skill of getting optimal grip on the world
  • People getting flow state in ability to optimally grip on the world
  • Disruptive stategies:
  • So central to insight
  • Can acquire them them mindfulness psychotechonlogy
  • Reveals invariants - both good (get to the see the patterns remaining unchanged through all the variation - that’s what science does) try to find the real patterns that are invariant
  • Science increase the variation to find the invariant
  • But also bad invariants: helping to reveal all the ways in which systematically misframing.

(Includes seeing patterns not there)

  • like child going through developmental stage, systematically misframing reality, find nexus point -  insight not just an intervention in the problem but of a whole class of problems.
  • Igor Grossman: Decentering strategies: relevant to bringing about wisdom
  • Solomon effect:
  • Get ppl to find a messy problem, stuck in. Often interpersonal problem.
  • Describe it from ego-centric perspective. Remain stuck
  • Get the person to redescribed the problem from the 3rd person perspective: decanter: break frame. Realize the way been blocked.
  • Have central insight on how to resolve the problem

(This seems potentially really useful as a prompt when stuck on any problem.)

  • Systemiticity of error of egocenticity: systematic error
  • Like being asleep, wake up have systematic change in consciousness
  • Getting transformation, intervention in systematic error; powerful decentering
  • Can also be traumatic/terrifying
  • Pursuing it in an auto-didactic fashion very dangerous: tend to get into echo chambers, vicious circles of egocentric entrapment.
  • Monkey trying to get out of pitch: keeps using hands, feet getting stuck until hunter comes and kills it.
  • decentering: can alleviate that: but if still pursuing this as an isolated individual, then think about how ill-prepared, unskilled, untutored and ego-centrically trying to confront this radical transformation
  • Poor idea take psychedelics without a committed community to guide
  • Don’t have institutions for wisdom
  • Buddha did do it as individual: deserve admiration but should not take from that some kind of promotion of north american individualism, Buddha made clear that sanga necessary.

(So what does that mean? I shouldn’t pursue this on my own? I’m taking same Harris course, I’ve done some mindfulness courses, but nothing indepth. I shouldn’t continue without seeking out a whole community or instructor? Is that practical?)

  • radical recentering, can afford wisdom
  • Participatory change: alters machinery of the self; alters character\
  • Reciprocal revelation: world revealing itself
  • Love is mutually accelerating disclosure
  • Mutual conforming engenders love.

(Hmm, link to USvsTHEM. The more we conform to one another the more our natural distrust falls away.)

  • knowing by loving

16:30 Cognitive Science:

  • Humphrey 2015: one of functions of self is to act as glue.
  • By making things relevant to myself, make them relevant to each other and glue them together.
  • Complexifying, processing
  • Self = systematic set of functions that’s integrating. Complexifying together
  • Powerful machinery of complexification of information and information processing can be exacted: turn the machine whereby integrate yourself and turn it on the world
  • Glue things together and exact it on the world
  • Machinery that’s self-focussed could be used to achieve deeper understanding of world
  • Novak:
  • What seems to happen is all machinery bound up in ourself turned onto the world. That’s why the world comes alive
  • Imagine intimacy have of self-knowledge turned on the world

(interesting: do we really know ourselves?_)

  • radical decentering is doing that.
  • Time, effort, processing and skill structures built into our ego can be exacted to disclose the world
  • Coupled with radical sense of moving into being mode, and remembering who and what we really are.
  • Can understand at psychological level

Information Processing:

  • look at machine learning, AI: trying to make machines to understand the world
  • Use of disruptive strategies there.
  • Woodward: 2014: introduced randomization into neural network
  • Train them to learn themselves
  • Have to introduce noise into these networks: essential aspect of self-optimization process

(That’s amazing)

  • problem face is always sampling from the world: pattern in my experience, want to know if that pattern is in the world or not
  • Statistics: how do I know if the patterns in my sample is the same as my patterns in the world
  •   representative sample
  • Often what will happen with neural network is they will overfit for the data

(that’s what we do)

  • too tightly pick up pattern in the data that doesn’t generalize to the world
  • Data compression: line of best fit: trying to find the function that will generalize, true of the population
  • The networks track a function that perfectly tracks sample, butt doesn’t generalize
  • Throw noise into system: disrupt the processing a lot, prevents from overfitting to the data, allows to compress and find the real invariants

(have no idea why this works)

  • don’t want to underfit: won’t pick up patterns at all

(Humans naturally overfit - don’t optimize pattens)

  • have to have disruptive strategies set within powerful pattern detection.
  • That’s what’s seeing in people who pursuing these higher states of consciousness

(But again: how do we know they are seeing the real invariant pattern?)

The Brain: (29:00)

  • what’s going on in the brain?
  • See increased activity in frontal and parietal areas: most associated with general intelligence: ability to make sense and get general grip on world: see these areas get hyperactive, then hypoactive - huge increase then huge decrease
  • Enhanced activity in thalamus: areas that tries to integrate all kinds of different information together
  • Greater the disruptive shift, more powerful the awakening experience is
  • insight: initially bring the machinery to bear to frame it, then have to massively disrupt it, and break it, then system re: self organizes
  • Psychedelic experiences: Metastability state in the brain doing this complexification.
  • Normally brain integrating or segregating. But with psicilibin brain is simultaneously integrating and segregating - massively complexifying
  • Integrating and differentiating
  • Complexification gives emergent functions
  • Can do many different things but don’t fall apart
  • Way grow and self-transcend is by complying
  • Allows you to see the world (massive integration) in a grain of sand (massive differentiation)
  • Need to place in the proper sapiential context. Traditiion, institutions, committed community to cultivating wisdom

Prescriptive Argument:

  • Why should we listen to people who have been in this state?
  • Why justification to transform life?
  • Are these states actually good guides for transformation?
  • Plausibility:  central to notion of how real things are
  • Highly probable : not using this sense
  • Makes good sense: using this one. Stands to reason. Should be taken seriously
  • Most of the time can’t base actions on certainty but plausibility
  • 26:20: He’s doing work on this.
  • To make something plausible:
  • trustworthiness: regard particular proposal or construct as trustworthy if produced by many independent but convergent lines of evidence.
  • ex: regard as more real something that coming from multiple sense: if can only see it: illusion, but if can see it and touch it and smell it chances illusion diminished
  • Not certainty but trustworthiness.
  • Reduces probability that self-deceived
  • But not certainty: schizophrenia - hard to convince them not real
  • numbers: help us increase trustworthiness of the data
  • Model Elegance: that can apply to many domains
  • Like taking a martial stance, can quickly adapt it to many situations
  • Elegance for power, multi-aptness
  • Fluency:  has to be higher fluent to me, internalized
  • Balance: between convergence and elegance
  • If have a lot of convergence without much elegance: trivial: not powerful, don’t transform
  • Little convergence with a lot of promise of power: farfetched: conspiracy theories
  • Want backward and forward commitments to match: only move powerfully forward when have a lot of trust in the model
  • When have deep convergence, elegance and efficient fluency - profound
  • Brain performing an evaluation of the plausibility of processing when in a HSC
  • Strategies for reducing bias: 
  • deautomatization, de centering, fluency in processing
  • State that you’re in is the state of flowing optimal grip
  • Intrinsically valued
  • Finding nexus for development, finding the systematic error
  • Complexification of processing, emergent new functions
  • New abilities

(I’m a big fan of reducing bias: but again another one is often applying strategies to control for subjectivity. It still feels like its a feeling)

  • Brain in state where getting information where saying this processing is deeply trustworthy,
  • Deeply fluent, deeply powerful so profoundly plausible

(except that it’s all internal, usually we compare to outside world to check reality)

  • not certainty, but plausibility is what have to rely on

(I agree, certainty is out. But again - it’s all internal. So why are we considering it plausible?)


  • science doesn’t give you certainty. Gives self-correcting plausibility
  • Don’t test every hypothesis - ridiculous, absurd, don’t deserve to be taken seriously - implausible
  • science: control for alternative explanations: inference to the best explanation.
  • Infinite number of possible explanations - explanation only as good as the plausible alternatives that you beat
  • Plausibility judgments
  • HSC is optimization of processing -> brings about state of high plausibility -> relying on processes that are fundamental
  • Have to get optimal grip before can judge what it is
  • HSC: indispensability: optimal in terms of best possible functioning to you
  • Fundamental prior to all cognitive processing
  • Great guides on how to transform yourself. How to cultvate wisdom
  • But sometimes come back from these states and make bizarre statements about the world: the propositions people generate from this are useless. Often contradictory.
  • Isn’t about propositional knowing but participatory transformation
  • About getting wise practices, wise transformations

(but how do we know we are more wise in these states? Or more optimal. Or seeing real patterns? If they have contradictory and incompatible ideas of what is real, and wisdom is being more connected to reality, how can we say they are more wise. It seems more to be about a prescription for increased mental well-being - but that doesn’t necessarily have to be linked to reality. )

  • want to take the wisdom from HSCs and get it into rational discourse with an independently established metaphysics by science and philosophy
  • When we can put those two together have properly salvaged what these HSC can afford for us.
  • Don’t confuse the rationality of wisdom and the rationality of knowledge

(Not sure he expects us to get this yet or if that is what we nail down next lecture. I feel like I have a hint of it but it hasn’t settled in yet.)

Episode 13 - Buddhism and Parasitic Processing

  • Last time:
  • Finished cognitive scientific exploration higher states of conscious
  • Psychologically accurate description of higher states of conscious
  • State of consciousness where getting flow state improving optimal grip, optimizing our performance for making sense of things and enhancing our overall capacity for learning.
  • Justification for these states being guidance for transformation of life. Give brain state that is highly optimized, giving sense of plausible grip on the world. Foundational for us.
  • While doesn’t give good theories/propositional claims, these states do justify their claim to give us guidance. Rational in sense of wisdom.

3:00: Buddha

  • Buddha awakens, fundamental transformation in how understands the world, and himself
  • Deep remembering (sati) seeing through the modal confusion
  • Remember being mode, and transcend systematic illusion, also see the pronouncements he made through this state.
  • West often misunderstood Buddha
  • Stephen Bachelor: recommend his works
  • Buddhism without Beliefs, After Buddhism
  • Argues we face interpretation crisis when trying to understand Buddhism.
  • Suggests must interpret Buddhism from within a tradition. Not about altering belief, it’s about:
  • Transformation
  • Participatory knowing
  • Fundamentally altering agent/arena relationship and existential modes
  • So need to be within a practice. Understood from within.
  • Problem is that’s myopic. Many buddhist traditions. To claim that that particular interpretation is sole pathway to interpreting buddhism narrow minded. Subjective and biased
  • Alternative: outside any tradition such as academic study of Buddhism
  • But often don’t engage in practices. Lose objectivity if get too close.
  • Objective account.
  • Similar to problem that Socrates faced:
  • Transformative relevance.
  • Attempt to get at the truth.
  • Buddhism is about both of these: Trying to find transformatively relevant truths.
  • 10:00: How?
  • Interacting with the meaning crisis in society.
  • Break out of all of this
  • Tries to see where each fixated: argues this will become myopic if becomes fixated on particular propositions - fixated on beliefs.

(Interesting parallel to the discussions going on twitter between Atheists and Theists. Often really focussed on beliefs but not as much focussed on the role that religion plays. That it DOES something to people that goes beyond their mere beliefs.)

  • Buddhism without beliefs: fixed on trying to understand Buddhism as a set of beliefs. Gotten so used to this way of thinking, that these axial legacy traditions are to be understood as creeds, as systems of belief
  • Ideologies are attempts to create meaning but fail for deep reason because meaning making machinery not occurring at level of propositional knowledge, beliefs
  • proposes: need to look at buddhism existentially
  • Beyond belief: transforming states of consciousness, transforming self
  • 4 noble truths understand as things that can help afford kind of transformations talked about - reenact the buddha’s enlightenment.
  • Should call them the 4 Ennobling Truths, Vervake says call them the 4 Ennobling provocations: trying to provoke such change

4 Noble Truths/Provocations: 16:15

  • Standard Way:
  • All of life is suffering:
  • technically false
  • Suffering is comparative term.
  • more: All is threatened by. Not a metaphysical interpretation
  • Suffering: original meaning is “insane” but come to synonymous with “angry”
  • Anger if extreme can render temporary insane temporarily “mad”
  • Suffering = pain, but that’s not what the word means: it means “to undergo” to lose agency. Can suffer pleasure, so much pleasure lost control of the situation
  • Not just “pain”: loss of agency
  • parable: monkey gets stuck in pitch then gets killed. Not pain, but entrapment

(This rings true. When I feel like I am suffering its like being caught in a wave. Feel helpless, lost. Part of therapy is focussed on taking back control and agency. We have these cognitive distortions when depressed. CBT focuses you to not just be carried along by the wave but to stop, analyze and possibly change the direction)

  • Taste of freedom
  • Provocaation: All of life is threatened with losing freedom/agency.
  • Dukkha: like a wheel off its axis. As wheel turning destroying itself. Out of joint, as moving destroying itself.

(This hits true too: Self-destruction is huge part of depression/suffering)

  • Ex: Pattern in cognitive processing: processes that make you adaptively intelligent also make vulnerable to self-deceptive and self-destructive behaviour

(Just being “smart” doesn’t entail you escape suffering. In fact, I think it could enhance the chance of it. Ability to think fast also the ability to distort fast. Or to get caught up in thoughts. Overthink things)

  • event happens, interpret as bad. Brain always trying to anticipate other such events
  • Can’t take in all the events in environment. Use heuristics, zero in on relevant information
  • Representativeness heuristic: judge how probable an event is by how salient/proto-typical it is.
  • Availability heuristic: judge how probable event is by how easily can imagine another event occurring
  • Adaptive: in a bad state because something bad happened, encoding specificity: when sad difficult to remember events in which happy and easy to remember events in which sad

(oooh boy! That’s depression!)

  • memory stores the state you were in: way to help remember is to get back in the state was in
  • Experiment: group A and B remember words, A does 2nd test in the same room, B in another room. A will do better.
  • Adaptive: Brain fits you to the environment
  • Bad thing happened, salient, so judge more probable happen again
  • Confirmation bias: adaptive strategy, look for info that supports current belief. Finding disconfirmation takes too long, complex.
  • So in memory look to confirm memories that highly probable
  • Can mislead - ex: plane crash think probable even though low, but get into car (death machine)
  • But can’t do without them: adaptive.

(So this is one thing that’s important in our internet debates. Pointing out things like confirmation bias is a big part of debate. But many people treat it like a character flaw. It’s not. It’s baked into human nature. Like Vervaeke says: it’s adaptive. It has its users. But it can also lead us astray. Worth keeping in mind in your next discussion)

  • Judge the probability to be great - happens automatically. Imagine if had to do it all consciously -too much. Need cognition to be self-organizing.

(So in our analysis we can disrupt these biass)

  • 32:30: Effect of judgement on you is not emotionally neutral: Anxiety
  • Anxiety: lose cognitive flexibility
  • Framing becomes very narrow, limited rigid, ability to solve problems goes down.
  • Make lots of mistakes and FAIL -> increases anxiety, reinforces bad events happening, then gather in mind as “I’m doomed!”, become fatalistic. Start to interpret regular events as bad.

(Oooooh boy, this hits me hard. I suffer from depression and anxiety and all of this rings REALLY true. Very helpful model.


  • Whole thing feeds on itself. Very things that make you so intelligently adaptive: zero in on relevant information, makes it salient, fit you to environemt, all these things ALSO make you vulnerable to self-destructive/self-deceptive behaviour THAT’S WHAT IT MEANS TO SAY THAT ALL YOUR LIFE IS THREATENED BY DUKKHA

(BAM! This hits home. But it makes me wonder: we tend to think of anxiety/depression as a modern day problem. Was it as prevalent back in Buddha’s day or are we retrofitting?)

  • Not that everything do is painful and distressing, its that every process makes vulnerable to self-deceptive/self-destructive processing: Parasitic processing. (35:18)
  • Not just bad events. All kinds of spirals.
  • Depression Schema:
  • Parasitic processing: like a parasite: takes up life within you and it takes life away from you. Causes you to lose your agency. Causes you to suffer.
  • Capacity of brain to be self-organizing/heuristic using, to create complex systems has a downside.  Know when you’re in one of these spirals. But knowing doesn’t do anytihng. It’s self-adapting. Can adapt and preserve itself as try to destroy it. Trying to avoid you being destroyed but words against us. Perennial threat 
  • 38:00 Mark Lewis: dynamical processing. Addiction.
  • Addiction: loss of agency: way diagnose them is by how dysfunctional they become.
  • If stops from pursuing goals want to do in life.

(Used to have bad Twitter addiction!)

  • loss of agency
  • Mark Lewis: says standard model of addiction incorrect: That have chemical dependency, leads to overwhelming need for it. Sounds common sense but false.
  • Can get addicted to processes that have no biochemical basis (gambling).
  • Most people spontaneously give up addiction in 30s. Selection bias b/c focus on those who get trapped.
  • Soldiers in Vietnam getting addicted to opiods, then come home and  vast majority spontaneously stop using is when come back.
  • When in Vietnam had identity (solider) and arena (war), back home citizen, country. Relationship between agency and arena alterred.
  • Reciprocal Narrowing: drug use associated with particular agent/arena relationship. Coidentification: always asusming/assigning identity. Lose cognitive flexibility, number of options in the world start to decline, lose variability for agency, as get tighter, narrower, less flexible agency. Reciprocally narrow, so no options for who you can be and how the world can be. Learned, participatory leaning of loss of agency.
  • If there is a sprial down, must be a spiral up. Agent/arena expanding. Move towards enlightenment.

(If this is true that’s huge. It would seem to apply to depression/anxiety as well. But it sounds daunting).


  • Parasitical processing and reciprocal narrowing reinforcing each other.
  • That is Dukkha
  • No matter where turn, this is always threatening. Can’t run away from it.

(All of this hits home very hard. It reflects my experience. But it is SO hard to overcome. Which suggests following the 4 noble truths could help with this. But again, seems so daunting!)

  • That’s what the buddha meant.

46:15: How do we address this?

  • aYou should feel threatened! Then starting to enact the process to moving towards enlightenment.

(I don’t need to wonder, I’m living it!)

  • suffering caused by desire. Leads to all kinds of problems. Weird loops.
  • 2nd noble truth: Desiree leads to suffering. Better way: Realise that Dukka can be understood:  attachment: sense of narrowing of the world so that agency and options are lost.
  • 3rd noble truth: sensation of suffering is attainable. Better way: realize that can recover your agency - can use the same machinery to anogically leave the cave. Can use it to reduce capacity for self-deception
  • Psycho-technology: practices - cultivate a counter active dynamical system that is operating for you
  • Keep on falling into the same cycles. But what if could create dynamical system that interacts simultaneously across the system? Didn’t just operate at level of belief but operates at level of states of consciousness and character.

(this is what I have trouble with in therapy. I easily get the intellectual points that are being made. I understand where I’m being self-destructive. But that knowledge doesn’t help avoid the patterns. The solution being presented here is to dive into all of this. Again: seems daunting, but maybe could be life-altering).

  • that’s what the Buddha offered: 8 fold path: counteracts parasitic processing and does reciprocal opening beyond the ego self and beyond the everyday world
  • Why it’s represented by an 8 spoked wheel. Self-organizing system, that rolls itself
  • Each part interdependent.

8 fold path:

  • To say there is “right” means there is incorrect. Means Right-handedness. Means getting an optimal grip.
  • 1st 2 about cognition. Next 3 about character. Last 2 about consciousness.
  • Anagogic awakening.
  • Trying to show us that higher state of consciousness set in context of helping us do important transformations:
  • Remember being mode.
  • Get out of modal confusion.
  • Counteract parasitical processing and reciprocal narrowing.
  • Open up to self transcendence in a reliable and powerful way.
  • We should be encouraged (enact the courage)

Episode 14 - Epicurians, Cynics, and Stoics

  • Awakening experiences can alleviate:
  • modal confusion,
  • parasitic processing,
  • reciprocal narrowing,
  • all the many of the ways in which we fundamentally lose our agency in the world in a self deceptive and self-destructive manner.
  • Moving to after the axial revolution in the west.
  • Aristotle’s disciple: Alexander the Great

2:20: Alexander the Great

  • World conqueror. Creates empire, takes the greek way of thinking throughout known world. Reestablishes the pre-axial world. Line between being a human and a god is blurred. Creates myth as god-man.
  • Twisting of the world: Alexander represents return to pre-axial way of being, and a disruption to the world
  • World of Aristotle vs. World of Alexander
  • Hellenistic era: after Alexander dies, divide into 4 smaller empires.
  • Aristotle’s world:
  • Live in a polis: city-state
  • Know the other citizens face to face
  • Developing democracy
  • Participating in government in direct manner, live near it, know the people involved, everyone speaks your language
  • Polis is such a tight relationship between agent and arena, ostracization terrible punishment
  • Hellenistic world:
  • Smashes all that.
  • Greek culture distributed into Africa, the levant, Asia, Asia Minor, to border India
  • Means that people being moved and shuffled around, belong to far-flung empires.
  • Live far from government, don’t participate, don’t know people in it
  • People near you might not lived near you for that long.
  • Different languages and gods
  • Connections lost
  • experiencing: Domocide: destruction of home
  • Physical or cultural domocide.
  • No deep connections to one another, feel insignificant
  • Age of anxiety.
  • Art changes: more frenetic, more realisitc, organized around extremes and tragedies.
  • Greek culture spread and thinned. Loses its depth
  • 11:00: change happens
  • Syncretism: religions that integrate several cultural deities together
  • Elevation of mother-goddesses: Isis, when feel a loss of home, nothing means more than mother, so look to divine mother makes feel at home

(12:00) Hellenistic Philosophy:

  • Hellenistic meaning crisis
  • Up to now main thing wisdom trying to deal with is foolishness. But that’s not enough now.
  • Epicurus:
  • “Call no man a philosopher who has not alleviated the suffering of others”.
  • Therapeutic aspect of wisdom. About relieving the anxiety and suffering of the hellenistic era.

(But wasn’t Buddha ALL about that too? Why would he have such a focus on suffering if there wasn’t a lot of it going on. I suspect it was just different suffering)

  • New metaphor: physician of the soul: cure you of existential suffering. This becomes crucial
  • Many new philosophical schools (Epicurians and Stoics) try to exemplify Socrates.


  • Represent secular alternative in midst of still very religious world
  • Diagnose main problem: fear

(I can identify with that!)

  • Paul Tillich: The courage to be: distinction between fear and anxiety

(I’d agree with that too)

  • Often mix up fear and anxiety.
  • anxiety:
  • distressed,
  • loss of agency,
  • nebulous sense of threat
  • Ok in everyday discourse but polar differences:
  • Fear:
  • Observable direct threat
  • I know what to do - may fail, but know
  • Anxiety:
  • Threat is nebulous: not quite sure what the threat is,
  • Don’t know what to do
  • When have existential issues often suffer anxiety
  • Epicurians: we suffer because we can’t manage our anxiety
  • 18:45: we don’t control our imagination and our thinking so we suffer from anxieties that cripple our ability to get a grip on the world
  • Many people have anxiety about death.
  • Often use existence of death to say life essentially meaningless. terrifying.
  • We know if expose people to triggers about their mortality they become cognitively rigid. Get locked down
  • Can: pursue immortality: religions often this. He thinks this is a doomed strategy. Mind emergent from brain overwhelming evidence. Brain dies, conscious dies with it.
  • Epicurians: another strategy: rather than try to achieve immortality can you radically accept your mortality?
  • Not nonexistence that find terrifying. Not terrified about what happened before you existed. Is it the loss? That’s equivocal. Do mean reduction or the absence? But can’t experience total loss: “Where I am death is not”. If aware still losing then still alive - so can’t be that.
  • What about partial loss? Losing some of your agency. Fear of loss of capacities while dying. But do that all the time.
  • Epicurians say: Afraid of losing what’s good.
  • Pay attention to the things that give you the most meaning.
  • What is it that gives you most meaning?
  • Things lose:
  • Fame
  • Fortune
  • Wealth
  • But then say: those don’t give the most meaning in life.
  • Epicurians: Thing gives meaning is friendship. Meaningful relationships. To pursue wisdom and transcendence.
  • Any of the pain suffering from the loss of those other things manageable.
  • They ask: do you really want immortality?

(good question for the group)

  • What really afraid of is losing agency which identified with their things. But that’s not where ultimate happiness lies.
  • When you die, then doesn’t matter to you.
  • Tried to get people not be anxious about the gods.
  • Epicurious not quite an atheist. Said gods are irrelevant.
  • Shouldn’t be anxious about them and their nebulous threat.

(christianity makes it less nebulous. Real threat).

  • Engaged in practices where constantly train in being able to accept your mortality

Application to Us:

  • One of things wisdom practice should do is to help respond to our mortality.
  • Alternative therapy for dealing with anxiety: learning HOW to LIVE in the acceptance of your mortality.

(Interestingly, anxiety about death has little to do with my anxiety and suffering..)

  • Vervaeke: doesn’t think fear of mortality really is the right diagnosis

(I agree!)

  • They are right that period of chaos and Domocide exacerbate, making us feel more vulnerable, makes mortality more salient.
  • But another school gets a better understanding of what was going on with Hellenistic period.

30:15: Stoicism:

  • Ancestor of cognitive therapy
  • Cognitive therapy comes directly out of stoicism
  • Way WE trying to deal with issues of anxiety/depression crisis (Indeed!) putting into practice things from Stoics
  • Different diagnosis and prognosis
  • Stoics: we’re suffering from a kind of anxiety/suffering/loss of agency but they have a diff. interpretation.
  • history:
  • Socrates, Plato, Antistenes
  • Antisthenes asked what learned from Socrates: learned how to converse with himself.
  • Doesn’t mean just talking to oneself, internal voice (that’s what often goes seriously awry in anxiety/depression)
  • Antisthenese: learned to do with himself what Socrates did with him

(I like to think I do this kind of internal dialogue as well)

  • Socrates turned into systematic set of psycho-technologies, internalize into metacognition
  • Plato: argumentation
  • Antisthenes: the actual confrontation was more important.

(I’ve found this myself: I figure things out in dialogue often better than just on my own - unless I frame it in a dialogue myself. It probes me in different way. I love the socratic method)

Diogenes and the Cynics

  • Diogenes: epitomizes confrontation
  • He gets in face in a way to try and provoke you to realizations
  • Tries to create shock experience to challenge you to radically change life
  • Trying to hone in on being as provocative as possible.
  • Ex: Man with the lamp, wondering about. Diogenes walking into marketplace with lamp. Looking. Looking for one honest man. Everyone got pissed off with him.
  • Pissed because they know he’s right
  • Diogenes does other things: masturbated in public
  • Cynics: living like a dog. Diogenes lived in a barrel.
  • Alexander: visted Diogenes: “I can give you half the world, what do you want” - “Can you move a little to the left, you’re blocking my sunlight”
  • Why? What is going on? Cynics had idea that what causes us to suffer is what we set our heart on.
  • When we set our hearts on the wrong things, those things will fail us, that’s how suffer
  • Came to the conclusion that what hellenistic period showing us, many of the things take for granted not fundamentally real. No staying power. Man made. Not permanent. Historically dependent
  • What should we do?
  • Learn how to set heart on the kind of things that are not manmade, not contingent, will not be swept away by events.
  • 1) laws of the natural world - live like an animal, wants to live as much by natural law, not man-made law. Doesn’t want to take part in cultural values, those will end. If set heart upon them, heart will be broken.

(Course, have less suffering, but may also have less joy)

  • Not man-made so won’t disappear
  • 2) Moral laws: what is a proper way to be a good human being.
  • Try and make a distinction between moral principles that are not-culturally based and culturally based purity codes
  • Guilt vs. Shame;
  • Guilt: destress at having broken moral principle
  • Shame; distress at having broken cultural purity code
  • ex: if pants fell down feel shame, violate cultural code. But not immoral. Not wrong. No guilt, but shame
  • May be made to feel ashamed even if think morally right: ex: supporting blacks during civil rights movement.
  • Purity codes keep categorical boundaries, make a culture in a particular historical period run the way it’s running
  • Tied up in the power structure.
  • ex: drink water, no distress. What if collect saliva in mouth, spit into the cup. Gobs of it. Swirl it around, then drink it. Now think EWWW. But if mix water in mouth fine with that. If saliva comes out, repellent. Purity code: this its the boundary of john, pieces of John should not come out into the world
  • Bed, unmade, leaving impression behind
  • Often confuse purity code with moral code. Confuse disgust reaction with moral judgement that should be based on reason and evidence.
  • ex: don’t want to see parents having sex. EW. Not a moral argument. In a similar way, may not want to see two men having sex - but not a moral judgment on my part. Often persecute gays because confuse purity code disgust reaction with legitimate moral argument
  • Diogenes trying to get you to pull apart the moral code from the purity code
  • Alexander offers power and fame: all the things Cynics say are no good. Man-made, human defined. Heart will be broken.
  • Set heart on what won’t get broken.
  • Powerful provocative way to enact Socrates: realize what set heart on. Reflect on what doing


  • Zeno influenced by Cynics, but liked Plato’s arguments
  • Connections between ability to reflect and reason.
  • Integrate rational argumentation and reasoning of Plato with provocative aspects of cynics
  • Would walk up and down, teaching new integration: Stoicism
  • Cynics: not enough on process. Too much on what attaching heart to, not the process of attachment itself.
  • Particular cultures in history are variable but being social isn’t.
  • People are inherently social
  • Not what set heart on, it’s how set heart.
  • Hallmark of rationality is learning not to focus just on the products of cognition but find valuable and pay attention to the  processes


  • Process of setting heart: co-identifcation. Process by which agent arena relationship set up. Assume and assign identity. Do it unconsciously.
  • That process is where identity formed.
  • If mindlessly coidentify mar that process. Open to all kinds of distortion, self-deception, distortion.
  • Need to pay attention to this process. How we’re assuming and assigning identities/
  • Strengthen agency in the threat of domiciled.

Topics to talk about:

  • Difference between fear and anxiety
  • Role of fear/anxiety in suffering
  • Does the prospect of your death cause you anxiety?
  • Do you really want immortality?
  • Roie of the mother goddess.
  • Vervaeke’s atheism
  • Confrontation vs. Argument
  • Cynics: When we set our hearts on the wrong things, those things will fail us, that’s how suffer
  • Guilt vs. Shame

Episode 15 - Marcus Aurelius and Jesus

  • Last episode: domicide, deep lack of connectedness to one’s home. What happens is a change in the cultivation of wisdom
  • Wisdom takes on therapeutic dimension - cure anxiety
  • Epicurians: diagnosed the problem anxiety of the period as being caused by anxiety about one’s own mortality. How did they respond to that?

(didn’t do this last week: this week should go around talking about our views on accepting own mortality)

  • prescription: acceptance own mortality
  • About experiencing partial loss - remedy - focus on elements constitutive meaningful happieness, philosophically informed friendship
  • Cynics: confrontation and provocation - distinction between morality codes and purity codes - don’t want heart broken on man made impermanent cultural systems and values
  • Zeno: argumentation and confrontation: particular cultures are contingent, being social is not
  • Must realize how we are setting our hearts - pay attention to the process rather than the product
  • Epicureans trying to get insight, changing the meaning of mortality
  • Most of us let this process go by mindlessly - assigning identities
  • Stoics: bring process of co-identification, assuming roles of agency, assigning identities bring co-determination of agency/arena into our awareness


  • Prohoche: pay attention: pay attention to this process
  • Difference between the modal meaning and the event
  • Core of current psychotherapy- distinguish between event and meaning give the event
  • Meaning isn’t part of the event at all
  • If keep them fused will become confused. The only way can alter the meaning is to alter the event. But can’t always do that.
  • Don’t have as much control as think you do
  • Epictus: stoic philosopher. Manual for living: core of wisdom is knowing what’s in your control and what’s not in your control. Stop pretending things that are in your control are not.
  • Existentially con-fused
  • Erich Fromm: directly influenced from Stoics
  • Having mode: controlling things. Have to control water, food, air, shelter. But most pertinent needs not met from exercing control, but met by enhancing meaning.

(This is a theme I’ve been seeing in this series. Vervaeke’s position seems to be that we cannot simply choose to resolve this modal confusion. We don’t have control of that. We can do things, exercise certain practices, that put us in a position of having those insights that will result in change. Insight is more than just intellectually understanding. It is grasping - which is more of a feeling I think)

  • We don’t let kids do certain things because they are not allowed to move in that arena. Maturity is an existential meaning.
  • If don’t know how to separate meaning from the events liable to be modally confused. Pursue maturity by trying to have a car, to be in love by having sex
  • But doesn’t work, can’t exercise as much control over the world to stabilize the meaning
  • Setting hearts on things and heart is going to be broken.
  • Anything can fall prey to this.
  • Have to practice bringing into awareness the distinction between events and the meaning of events.

(How about an exercise: let’s do this now. Let’s draw our attention to what we’re doing right now, having this podcast and separate the meaning from the event.)

  • Often act as if have no control over the meaning, then focus on trying to control the event - and have less control than realise. Pull the two apart. Recalibrate your sense of control and identity. Have more control over meaning than realize or practice, way less control over events than realize or practice.

How do you practice that? (15:00)

  • Prochiron: the practice: ready to hand. Remembering (Sati), remembering in a way that brings skills and activities to bear in a modally existential sense
  • Practice psycho-technologies to get them internalized.
  • Moment to moment practices:
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
  • Not meant to create beliefs for us. Writing for himself. Designed to bring into awareness the co-identifcation process and co-transform the meaning of the world as distinct from attempting to control and manipulate the world by accruing power and fame

(Meditations available from Gutenberg:

  • “possible to be happy, even in a palace”
  • He doesn’t leave the palace
  • Practices:
  • Objective seeing: “conceive as sex as the friction of two patches of skin and the production of a sticky fluid”
  • Realize the event of sex as distinct from all the meaning we pour into it.
  • Stoics: Get a cup you really like, very familiar, then smash it. Then remmeber the distinction between the meaning and the thing. Practice it with little things. Then can do it with larger things.
  • Premeditatio:
  • When kissing your child tonight. Tell yourself, I may lose him to death tonight. Have tremendous control of the meaning you and so making together. Little control over his mortality.
  • We have entire genres that distort and refuse to gather the meaning and the event; romantic comedies: teach us that the narrative meaning that we assign to things is aligned with the way the world is unfolding.
  • Tragedies to compensate for that.
  • But that’s not how it works.
  • Beyond Fate: Margaret Viser: lost the meaning of a word.

(Beyond Fate:

  • Lost the meaning of fate. Associate with mortality. But the root of the word. Talking about the way things are fated to happen through own causal necessity
  • When fuse meaning and event together become subject to the fatality of all things. If forget it suffer when it comes apart.
  • Fate - death - that’s where meaning and events come apart.

The view from above: (26:45)

  • Solomon effect: moving from first person perspective to third person perspective. Viewing some situation and immeshed in it.

(I should go back through all the notes and start putting together a checklist of the practices he talks about to start employing them more regularly)

  • Situated the event within toronto, within all of canada, within the whole world, within the whole world in all of time. What happens when do that.

(We could do this exercise)

  • alters the arena. Sense of self being radically transformed. Can become more flexible, rational, etc.
  • Control level theory: bunch of practices designed to get you to bring into awareness this process of meaning making and to give discernment to pull apart the meaning from the event.
  • Most therapy is about getting people to see this. Change sense of self so move off of so much trying to change events can’t control to cognitively reframing the meaning. The identity, participatory meaning, existential mode.
  • Takes practice

Internalizing Socrates: 29:45

  • Trying to do with yourself what socrates did. Get people to stop and be Socratic with themselves.
  • Ex: depression. Not talking about rumination. “Everything I do is a failure”, they say: “Everything?” What do you mean?
  • Often don’t have the internal Socrates: oh wow, you;’re making such powerful claims, you must know and understand. But it’s not what actually mean. May believe.
  • Can keep on challenging what we mean. Ask ourselves questions.
  • Bullshitting ourselves. Motivation and arousal way ahead of understanding. The meaning and event are confused together.
  • By doing this transform capacity to interact with the world.

Alter sense of identity: (33:30)

  • What if alter sense of mortality.
  • What would do? Do all the things want to do? How long? Then what do? More meaningful things. Then what? Then What?
  • Would get bored
  • Stoic idea: as long as formulating identity horizontally, unending duration to life. Going to fail. But even if gave it to you going to fail.
  • What want is Vertical depth of life. Live life as fully as possible.
  • Marcus Aurelius: Everyone dies but not everyone has lived: Not about gusto. Not the having mode, self-transcendence, being mode.
  • What do identify with? Vertical or Horizontal. If identify with vertical and get sense of fulness of being.
  • Even if it lasts a moment that;’s enough.
  • Not about duration but quality.
  • If can achieve that in this moment, right here right now, then I’m done.
  • Stoic’s answer:
  • We can come to realize that I can realize more control over meaning making. One thing that is always good to have: wisdom: have identity in the depths, not historical identity. Would be fulfilled life.
  • Vervaeke: personal:
  • at physiological level avoids death. Do not want to live forever.

(I agree. Would be eventually unbearable)

  • In some ways, tired of life. Tired of ways in which been foolish. Immoral. Let myself and others down.  Letting that bear through eternity don’t want that.
  • But: have I seen glimpses of depth? Yes. He has.
  • When people get that depth, lose fear of mortality.
  • We do not have to look to asian history for the psycho-technologies of self-transcendence - western heritage has it too
  • Can do it within a scientific worldview

End of the Hellenistic Period: (43:15)

  • Hellenistic period comes to an end with return to a world empire. Going to be informed by axial revolution but return to pre-axial world. Man can be a god because wield so much power.
  • Within that empire, all these philosophies find home. Even the emperor himself exemplar of legacy of axial revolution.

Ancient israel: (44:30)

  • Israel conquered by Roman Empire
  • Christianity informed by the axial legal of ancient Israel moving from land of slavery to promised land. Real world is the future. God is the open creator. Participatory knowing, involvement in the course of histotry. Sometimes trespass, fall offcourse, have to be redeemed, brought back on course, speak God’s attempt to get back on track with making the future. Co-creating with God. The open future, to bring about a promised land of human beings.



  • jewish man. Millions believe he was literally God.
  • He disagrees but is respectful of this fact. Not trying to give final version of this. But to try and explain what Jesus did to that Israelite axial legacy.
  • Battles of who Jesus was and did not something going to try and resolve here.
  • Kairos: perspectival participatory knowing, knowing exactly the right time to shift the course of events.
  • Ex: romantic relationship: kiss: if get timing right course of relationship alterred. Your and her identity changed.
  • Israelite: whole nation, God intervene Kairodically at certain moments in history.
  • Christianity: propose radical idea that God’s creative Logos - the Word he speaks through the prophets. Same Word he speaks things into existence. Word makes Kairos possible for us. Formative principle. Underlying structure.
  • God’s capacity for producing Kairos through Logos, been incarnated in a particular individual. Jesus is the ultimate Kairos.

(So from this perspective Jesus is Kairos whether or not he’s actually the Son of God - because he certainly was an intervention that caused a radical shift in identity)

  • Ultimate turning point. Represents is personally. Because he is a person, you can identify with him and that Kairos can take place in you personally. Similar to Socrates personalizing axial revolution.
  • You too can experience a profound Kairos.
  • Radical Metanoia: radical shifting. Close to awakening.
  • Meta - beyond - Noia: awareness.
  • Radical transformation of what it’s like to be you.
  • Jesus incarnates the principle by which can intervene in own personal history such that will have a new mind, new heart, new modal existence. Born again.


  • What could so radically transform my salience landscape? Love
  • We use one word to refer to so many things: I love peanut butter, I love my son, I love a good game. Are they the same?
  • We think that love is an emotion. NO! Modal way of being.
  • Loving someone can be expressed by being sad when gone, happy when there, jealous.
  • Modal way of being. Agent/Arena relationship.

(That makes sense. It is an agent/arena relationship that produces a whole host of emotions)

  • Jesus seems to incarnate as a Kairos to change the hisotory of world, and your own: different kind of love: Agape:
  • Eros: love seeks to be one with something. One with nature, or one with a cookie by eating it. Having sex.
  • Philia: love satisfied through consummation. Seeks cooperation. Reciprocity. Love friends because in reciprocity with them.

(That’s the love I push!)

  • Agape: love of parent for child. Don’t try and consume child. Not friendship.
  • You love it, not because can consume or be one with it, or reciprocity. Love it because turn a non-person into a person.
  • Depend on Agape. Because people loved you as a person that you became the person you are.
  • Jesus: offering that love for all. Why Christianity will take Roman Empire culturally.
  • Agape: can take all the non-persons, we will turn you into persons. Persons that belong to the kingdom of God.

Episode 16 - Christianity and Agape

(I’ve been working this past week on exercise of separating meaning from event: swimming)

  • Jesus: How what he did contributed to our understanding of wisdom and meaning.

(The point is that religious or not we can appreciate the role these religions have played in providing a sense of meaning. This no doubt contributed to their staying power and highlights that we would benefit from secular institutions that provide similar roles)

  • Kairos: turning point in the course of history.
  • Israelites: psycho-technology of understanding history as a cosmic narrative in which crucial turning point.
  • Jesus saw himself as a source of Kairos.
  • Seems he had sense of himself as deeply participating in how God influencing course of history.
  • Exodus God creates in an open future. People identify, loving it, participating in its flow. Jesus felt especially deep participation.
  • Reciprocal revelation: participate in culture, language, history, know this by way in which self is fundamentally transformed
  • Love:  deeply transforms who we are
  • Love:
  • Eros: love of being one with something - drinking water, sex, consumptive
  • Philia: love of cooperation, work together
  • Agape: love of creation, love God demonstrates to humanity, God is creating the future, makes people possible. Agape creates persons. Parent loves a child. By loving that non-person, you create a person. God-like ability
  • Agape: radical transformation: metanoia: radical turning. Salience landscaping. Fundamentally turning, altering whole orientation. My personal Kairos.
  • Jesus teaching this and exemplifying it.
  • Before, we are receivers of Agape, transformed into a person.
  • Gain our sense of self, and ability to reflect on oneself through how reflected in other people
  • Born out of an agapic love
  • From the child’s perspective, they are consuming the love that the adult giving them. Becoming one with it. Egocentric.
  • Freud: our relationship to our parent in that sense is erotic, consuming them. Becoming one with them. Don’t think it’s sexual ,but insight there.
  • From parents perspective, not egocentric.
  • Good parent: no longer the centre of salience landscape. Child is. Absolutely dependent on you.
  • Turning from egocentric to being centred on someone else.
  • Jesus offering a teaching so that all people could experience this, in terms of a relationship with God. We become vessels through which Agape creates other human beings.
  • John: understand capacity for radically transforming people, so they are conduits of God-like process. Agape is God.
  • Participate in Agape, in so far as you help other people come to person-hood through you.
  • Radical idea: psychotechnology, grammar for how to transform, allow to conquer Roman Emnpire. Offer all the non-persons a process by which they become persons: women, widows, sick, poor, weak, non-male roman citizens. All receive the opportunity of a radical transformation.

Sacrifice and Forgiveness: (15:00)

  • Agape has a sacrificial element. Give yourself before the person earns.
  • I’m giving up, making myself an affordance for your transformation from non-person to person
  • Forgiveness: central
  • Forgive other people - experience agape from God to the extent we forgive other people
  • We have trivialized it. Not just saying sorry. Doesn’t depend on contrition.
  • All agape love is forgiving love, because given before earned it.
  • Individuals can redirect their own history, experience their own Kairos
  • Born again: radical transformation of entire orientation, entire way of being


  • Death of Jesus profound effect on some christian movements
  • Death exemplifies the sacrificial forgiveness at the core of Agape
  • Enables people to internalize sacrificial love, empowers them to transform other human beings
  • Resistance to Jesus movement and to Jesus: may have been angering and upsetting a lot of people
  • Saul

Saul (21:15)

  • Jew and Roman citizen
  • Had been wars between romans and jews. Tense relationship.
  • Integrated these two aspects of his personality together through commitment to law.
  • Sees the followers (initially called the followers of the Way): Jesus is the way in which can experience the Kairos of Metanoia and be forgiving and for giving agape to others.
  • Saul sees these people as threatening to Jewish heritage and Roman order. Persecutes early Christians
  • There when Steven, first Christian martyred. Stone him.
  • Gets a writ to travel to Damascus, to round up Christians for prosecution.
  • On the road: transformative experience. Myth: presenting a profound pattern.
  • Struck by bright light (metaphor enlightenment). Radical super salience. Struck to the ground. Voice says: Saul why do you persecute me. Says “who are you lord?” Sense confronting something more real than himself. Voice said I am Jesus.
  • He’s blinded by light. Plato - blinded by the light.
  • Engenders in Saul deep inner conflict. How can it be that he’s had this awakening experience, from the very being he was persecuting? How reconcile.
  • Travels to Antioch. Taken in by the people was going to persecute. Forgiveness.
  • His sight is restored.
  • He’s at war with Agape itself, and we all are.