Awakening From the Meaning Crisis by John Vervaeke, Ep. 39 —The Religion of No Religion (Summary & Notes)

“We need to do something like what religion used to do. We need a comprehensive set of psychotechnologies that are set within communities and practices that allow for the comprehensive transformations of consciousness, cognition, character, and culture, in a way that is analogous to religion.”

(In case you missed it: Summary & Notes for Ep. 38:

  • “We need to do something like what religion used to do. We need a comprehensive set of psychotechnologies that are set within communities and practices that allow for the comprehensive transformations of consciousness, cognition, character, and culture, in a way that is analogous to religion.”
  • A religion that is not a religion. Many people are trying to take a stab at this (see below, List of Books in the Video)
  • Religio vs Credo. Credo means “I believe” i.e. propositional knowing. and as the ‘having’ mode has ascending, the having of propositions that are asserted (willful assertion) has become dominant. We’ll talk about this set of things as “credo dominance.”
  • The functionality of credo dominance involves indispensable mythos. People having paradigmatic statements and pictures that become indispensable to them. (Which is not to confuse indispensability with metaphysical necessity, or to confuse need with authority.)
  • signal detection theory: argues that we’re always facing perennial problems when we’re doing information processing; there’s simultaneously too much information but often inadequate information. “The information is simultaneously overwhelming and partial.” Also often ambiguous — unclear if you’re being misled by similar but different information, etc.
  • signal is information you want/need. noise is information you do not want.
  • There is always a significant overlap of the population of events that have signal you’re looking for with the population of information that is noise.
  • e.g. You’re a gazelle and you hear a noise in the bush. That could be important signal, i.e. information you want because it’s information telling you that a leopard is near. Or, it could be noise (in this technical sense) in that it’s just a rustle of leaves caused by the wind, which is irrelevant to you.
  • What is irrelevant to you might be signal for someone else, or something else. And so, being signal and noise is a matter of relevance realization.
  • You might think new information could be used to solve the problem and clear up the distinction, but any new information added will suffer from the same problem of overlapping signal + noise. (This is ultimately why one can never achieve true certainty, etc.)
  • Also, the more you regress and try to signal about the signal about the signal… the more time you’re taking, and often time is an important constraint.
  • So there is a sense in which any act of perception is a risk. Is a gamble.
  • The tradeoff that needs to be made is the criterion, the decision point (remember that decision means ‘to cut’). To exclude everything on one side of the set of information as noise and treat the other as noise. The problem is if you set this criterion too far then you miss — you exclude — a lot of valuable signal.
  • There are 2 kinds of errors: you can miss signal, you can mistake noise for signal. One or the other, depending on the context, can be the more dangerous or less desirable tradeoff. So your setting of the criterion needs to be flexible, and deeply contextually sensitive and situationally aware. “This is why perspectival knowing is so crucial.”
  • One cognitive scientist (Lau) says that one of the functions of consciousness is to set the criterion for perception.
  • What does this have to do with credo? “Credo is setting the criterion on religio.” What behaviors are really putting me into contact with religio, and what is malfunctional?
  • One way to do this is to take an absolutist approach and say there is a final, conclusive way/place to set the criterion, which is a perilous thing to do. This would misunderstand the functionality of setting the criteria (remember that it needs to be flexible, context-dependent etc. in order to be optimal)
  • Credo should always be in service of religio. A religion that’s not a religion should, when it’s crafting its mythos, always understand the mythos as being beholden to the 3 levels that we’ve been talking about: unconscious (where most of RR is taking place, and the grounding of participatory knowing), conscious (where salience landscaping takes place, and the level of perspectival knowing and what makes possible procedural knowing), and cultural (the level of distributed cognition where we try to communicate/connect/share, where the machinery of mythos takes place and propositional knowing occurs. “Credo in service of religio”)
  • What this should be doing is cultivating an ecology of psychotechnologies. And we need a meta-psychotechnology to move us out of the intuitive construction into the more explicit construction of psychotechnologies, which is a collective effort but deeply connected to individuals cultivating the meta-virtue of wisdom.
  • (Vervaeke will explore the nature of this meta-psychotechnology in a forthcoming series)
  • What might it be to create an open-ended credo? Think of something like Wikipedia as an analogy. The way it’s generated, maintained, and revised is in a collective, cooperative fashion.
  • This is not some sort of utopic vision, the point is that people are already doing this, trying to create ecologies of practices, ways of talking to each other and setting the criterion, making use of the internet/social media… and these could be appropriated to help create this religion that is not a religion.
  • By the end of the 1990’s there grew of a number of theories and work around wisdom, either philosophical theories (which makes sense, philo-sophia means ‘love of wisdom’) or psychology theories, but also (in 1999) an attempt to try to find a convergent theme between the two.
  • Ultimate they found that at the core of wisdom, where both sets of theories converge, is seeing through illusion (self-deception) and into reality (or at least something more real).
  • James P. Carse — The Religious Case Against Belief
  • Roberto Mangabeira Unger — The Religion of the Future
  • Alain de Botton — Religion for Atheists
  • Arthur Versluis — The New Inquisitions: Heretic Hunting and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Totalitarianism
  • Robert J. Sternberg — Wisdom: Its Nature, Origins, and Development
  • Robert J. Sternberg & Jennifer Jordan — A Handbook of Wisdom: Psychological Perspectives
  • Michael Ferrara & Nic M. Weststrate — The Scientific Study of Personal Wisdom: From Contemplative Traditions to Neuroscience
  • Robert J. Sternberg & Judith Glück — The Cambridge Handbook of Wisdom



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Mark Mulvey

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