Awakening From the Meaning Crisis by John Vervaeke, Ep. 37 — Reverse Engineering Enlightenment: Part 2 (Summary & Notes)

“I’m trying to get a balance between respecting where we really are and what our situation really is, and respecting all of the tremendous heritage and legacy that has been given to us.”

  • [Vervaeke first recaps much of what was covered in the previous lecture, 0:00–18:17]
  • “I’m trying to get a balance between respecting where we really are and what our situation really is, and respecting all of the tremendous heritage and legacy that has been given to us.”
  • parasitic processing. A prototypical example of a counteractive dynamical system for responding to the dynamical system of parasitic processing is the cultivation of the Eightfold Path in Buddhism (usually represented by an eight-spoked wheel.)
  • modal confusion. An example of a counteractive dynamical system for responding to the dynamical system of modal confusion is the cultivation of sati: practices that are designed to evoke deep remembrances of the ‘being’ mode.
  • reflectiveness gap. An example of a counteractive dynamical system for responding to the dynamical system of the reflectiveness gap is the cultivation of the flow state.
  • absurdity/clash of perspectives. An example of a counteractive dynamical system for responding to the dynamical system of absurdity is the cultivation of scantia intuitiva (Spinoza), or prajna (Buddhism). We will get to these later.
  • anxiety. An example of a counteractive dynamical system for responding to the dynamical system of anxiety is the cultivation of inner dialogue. “Internalizing the sage.”
  • alienation. An example of a counteractive dynamical system for responding to the dynamical system of alienation is the cultivation of communitas. The sense of connectedness to others, exemplified in the Authentic Discourse movement. (A.D.)
  • existential entrapment. An example of a counteractive dynamical system for responding to the dynamical system of existential entrapment is the cultivation of gnosis, which gives you access to higher states of consciousness (H.S.C.)
  • All of the above 3 categories of dynamical systems and counteractive dynamical systems have to be contained within a wisdom framing. i.e. What can we now think about the idea of wisdom, given all the current work within psychology and cognitive science? “We need to have a cognitive style in which the amelioration of self-deception and the affordance of self-optimization are paramount.”
  • The end goal of all this is to try to reverse-engineer enlightenment, instead of seeing it as an obscure state surrounded by mystique and nostalgia.
  • Dealing with parasitic processing. Something like the Buddhist’s Eightfold Path. A set of practices that are interdependent, mutually supporting, and “self-rolling” (i.e. a self-rolling wheel). In a sense they “take on a life of their own.” (See the Buddha’s metaphor of the goldsmith: “O monks and wise men, just as a goldsmith would test his gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it, so must you examine my words and accept them, not merely out of reverence for me.” Only a fluid ecology of looking, heating, and shaping allows the gold to become well-shaped — “wieldly” — but each by itself cannot.) Cultivating a set of practices/psychotechnologies that have complementary relationships to each another, organizing them together, that can operate in many ways and many levels of our cognition, consciousness, and being.
  • Dealing with modal confusion. We talked about this re: mindfulness practices & other practices from stoicism can help us to remember sati — the “being” mode.
  • Dealing with the reflectiveness gap. Taoism is the “religion of flow” in many ways: the yin/yang, out/in, etc. Set up the conditions that allow and afford flow, and also wisely cultivate flow (where and when).
  • Dealing with absurdity. Cultivate a state of non-duality. Recognition that your attention is both bottom-up from the features and top-down from the gestalt, and the way you are related to the world is one in which you can be co-creating. (Spinoza talks about this kind of knowing in Ethics: the premises are like the letters, which roll up into arguments which are the words, and then up to the overarching meta-arguments which are the sentences. Your attention is also multi-layered in this way. This multi-leveled knowing is what he called scantia intuitiva) The Buddhists refer to this as prajna: a kind of self-liberating state of wisdom. Deeply looking both into yourself and out of yourself into the world, and the recognition that these are ultimately the same perspectives. Notice that there is no argumentative response to absurdity, since what drives absurdity is perspectival clash and not arguments.
  • Dealing with anxiety. Anxiety is this nebulous sense that something is wrong, and involves inner conflict. Identifying with the “inner sage” and fostering that dialogue within ourselves involves both internalizing the perspectives of others but also indwelling: perceiving things the way the inner sage does, i.e. “seriously play” at being the sage. (What Would Jesus Do?, What Would Socrates Do?, etc.) To — as Antisthenes said he learned from Socrates — converse with yourself. To enter into Platonic dialogue with yourself.
  • Dealing with alienation. This takes us to something called communitas: communing with others in a large group; a shared spirit. It’s a way of getting collective flow going in which you feel like there is real communication between people and a shared identity of sorts.
  • Dealing with existential entrapment. Gnosis. We talked about this, and its relation to higher states of consciousness. Gnosis needs an open-ended, ongoing mythos that the gnostics talked about.
  • Next time we will start talking about the overall framing of this — how we cultivate the individual psychotechnologies + how we constellate the ecology of those in a state of enlightenment within a “wisdom” framing.

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