Leo's Blog: Infinite Insights
Miscellaneous bits of wisdom about personal development, philosophy, epistemology, nonduality, life purpose, psychedelics, etc. Published randomly throughout the week.
Insights here are meant to be quick and half-baked. Consider these food for thought.
I've deliberately disabled comments to keep the blog streamlined. If you want to discuss any of the blog posts, you can do so here: Actualized.org Forum
Shawn Thornton was a regular artist until he got diagnosed with cancer of the pineal gland. Apparently a rare case. After which he started to experience spontaneous, DMT-like spiritual imagery which transformed his art. His work became filled with mythological themes and symbolism, exhibiting many classic spiritual and New Age tropes.
Take a look at some of his amazing work:
Makes you wonder that there's more to spirituality than just enlightenment.
This is in regards to the Intro To Systems Thinking video.
After learning about systems thinking you might feel like, "Oh man... But how can I — this one small individual — fight against such overwhelming forces like global warming or terrorism or corruption in politics? It seems hopeless. Just a pipe dream."
Or you might get the bright idea to go rally people to some kind cause. Like... "Come on guys! Let's go save the whales. We gotta burn those evil whaling ships to the ground! Get off your lazy asses, we gotta act now!"
NO! NO! NO!
That's the wrong approach. You must begin by turning inwards. You begin by recognizing that all our collective problems are actually rooted right inside of you! How are you contributing to global warming? How are you contributing to corruption in politics? How are you contributing to terrorism? That's where you start! And you better fucking believe that you're contributing directly to these problems. That right there is whole the problem! See?
Trying to fix these problems by rallying people to some cause is actually part of the problem. Because it externalizes the problem so nobody bothers asking the really important question: How is my being in the world creating all the evil I see around me?
Here's the paradox of systems thinking: we need more people to be socially conscious, but the only way to do that is get more people to turn inward. Systems thinking might seem like it's asking you to orient outward (because the focus is on solving external problems like global warming or terrorism) but solving these problems first requires a radical turning inward. So you must turn inwards first, master your self and your understanding of systems, then you will turn outwards and transform the world in a responsible manner.
There can be no meaningful transformation of the world without a personal inner revolution. This is where most revolutionaries go wrong. If you just try to overthrow the government or start some kind of political action group, you will fail, because you lack the requisite inner development to lead such a group in a conscious and responsible manner. Your actions will also be misguided because you misunderstand the root problems. Your personal weaknesses and corruption will undermine you. If you start a movement without first expanding your own consciousness, you will deepen the problem because you will just spread ignorance.
An ignorant person cannot help spreading ignorance. This is a certainty. No ifs about it. Notice that this has been a huge trap across the centuries. When someone starts a movement without first taming their ego, the movement always backfires and leads to great evil. Closely study the development of religions, cults, Nazism, Marxism, anti-communism, existentialism, nihilism, post-modernism, Scientology, evangelical missionaries, the PUA community, Alex Jones, etc. All of these movements were created by people who haven't mastered their own egos, and therefore they spread ignorance in the name of doing social good, actually creating the very same evil they are trying to stop.
The source of all evil is personal ignorance. Evil is not created with evil intentions. Evil is created with good intentions. The better you think your intentions are, the more evil you will create in the world, the more ignorance you will spread, because you will think you're right, leaving no room for self-reflection. Evil is just a lack of self-reflection. That is all. So watch yourself!
Also, systems thinking is not just about manipulating systems. Many of the lower Spiral Dynamics stages like Red, Blue, and Orange can manipulate systems very successfully. A mob boss is very good at ruthlessly pushing through his egoic agenda. This is not systems thinking. This is shameless egotism. Systems thinking requires that you start to step outside your self-centered view of the world. You have to be conscious enough to step outside your own value system, and genuinely care about other beings besides your self and your tribe.
Stop using success, wealth, or fame as measures of systems thinking. Just because some businessman has made billions of dollars and has 10 luxury cars and a trophy wife, does NOT make him a systems thinker. Just the opposite in fact. It's really easy to make money in a ruthless, unecological manner by exploiting a system. That is NOT systems thinking. That's unchecked stage Red or stage Orange egotism.
If you feel that your perspective of the world is THE TRUTH, you're not at stage Yellow.
It's very difficult to describe psychedelic effects to someone who's never experienced them. But here's an attempt:
(Above: VERY similar to how mushrooms look at higher doses. The whole room distorts.)
(Above: VERY similar to medium-dose LSD/AL-LAD. I've seen tree bark move just like this, with stronger neon colors.)
(Above: I haven't experienced Breathing like this myself, but probably would at higher doses of LSD/AL-LAD.)
(Above: I haven't experienced this one myself. But seems in-line with LSD/AL-LAD.)
(Above: VERY similar to recognition of Absolute Infinity on 5-MeO-DMT. The fabric of reality become infinitely recursive. This is how Nothingness/God feels to me.)
(Above: VERY similar to recognition of Absolute Infinity on 5-MeO-DMT. The fabric of reality become infinitely recursive. This is how Nothingness/God feels to me.)
(Above: Very similar to LSD, AL-LAD, Mushrooms, 2C-B at the peak. Although not this vivid at low/med doses. Maybe it would look this vivid on a really high dose.)
(Above: I haven't experienced this effect myself, but read about it in trip reports.)
(Above: I haven't experienced Tracers like this myself, but commonly reported on various popular psychedelics.)
(Above: VERY similar to the patterns I usually see on mushrooms, LSD, AL-LAD, and 2C-B.)
(Above: Similar to very strong LSD.)
(Above: VERY similar to how I've seen pine tree bark on AL-LAD.)
(Above: Haven't experienced this effect myself, but people report it.)
(Above: This one resembles the faint geometric patterns I see on 5-MeO-DMT on the carpet, but in real-life the patterns aren't so opaque, just a light overlay.)
A monk is just an applied metaphysician.
When the ancient Greeks built their temples, they would use wood scaffolding to aid in construction. But the scaffolding was then burned or buried. The Greeks didn't go around saying, "Look how wonderful our scaffolding is! Come, heathens... prostrate yourselves before our mighty scaffolding!"
It's really important to understand what Actualized.org content is. It's just mental scaffolding. It's a functional stepping-stone which you use to improve your life, and then you throw it away. You do not worship the scaffolding, you do not cling to preserving it, you do not confuse it with reality itself. The scaffolding does not have to be perfect to get you there. In fact, the scaffolding is often makeshift, crude, and ever-evolving.
My videos, insights, and frameworks have zero ideological purpose. I am not here to convince you of anything or to have you believe my worldview. My worldview is that there are no true worldviews. And even that must be recognized to eat itself.
Understand that concepts like "life purpose", "Zen devilry", "spiral dynamics", "no free will", or "taking full responsibility", are all limited things. They are not really true. They are just ways of guiding you. All of these concepts and models break down at the edges. None of them are watertight, nor are they meant to be. This impulse to construct a watertight model of reality is misguided, demonstrating a deep ignorance of the dangers of mind. That's not what Actualized.org is doing, nor should that be what you're doing. The ideas I share with you are tools. We are using illusion to fight illusion. In my sharing this knowledge, I put an emphasis on practicality. If a concept gets you to think and act in a certain way — gets you moving towards growth — then it is doing it's job. And at some point you will outgrow it, replacing it with more sophisticated scaffolding. In this manner you will inch your way up until most of the old scaffolding looks juvenile, ridiculous, and false.
Having this "scaffolding attitude" is very important because it creates a buffer for inaccuracies and incompleteness. If you're smart, you should have wondered by now, "But Leo... what if you're mistaken about your position on free will? Or death? Or God? Or knowledge? Or the differences between men and women? Won't that bring your whole system down?" This is a good concern. Which is why I don't take any positions. If it seems like I take firm positions in the videos, that's largely done: 1) for entertainment, 2) for the functional need of manipulating you out of your rut, 3) because the very nature of successful communication requires the speaker to sound confident and knowledgeable, making it appear as though the speaker holds a firm position.
Precisely because I expect tons of falsehood and delusion in this whole process, I've gone to great lengths to adopt a self-correcting epistemic attitude which gracefully handles inaccuracy, delusion, and falsehood. And my focus has been deliberately set on real-world growth, not building and defending "a system". You need to do the same yourself. If you adopt a pragmatic, "scaffolding attitude", all the inaccuracies will become irrelevant in the long-run. It's sorta like the scientific method. You rely on the method to weed itself of bullshit. I study hundreds of perspectives and theories, many of which are filled with falsehoods, but it doesn't matter because all of it is held as "just scaffolding". But this self-purifying mechanism will only work if you're seriously adopting the "scaffolding attitude." As soon as you start to cling to any one of the perspectives you've learned, you're screwed.
The genius of this method — if you actually do it — is that it allows you to play all the world's perspectives and theories against each other, without getting caught in the crossfire. The only thing you need to do to make it work is avoid taking firm positions on anything. Then you can mingle with many contradictory perspectives and glean whatever pragmatic gold each has to offer.
My aim is not to "be right", but to grow and learn.
That's how I think about this whole process. I take this pragmatic stance in order to avoid the evils of ideology. Ideas are never to be worshiped or held as absolute or important. When working with concepts, the greatest danger is starting to believe your own conceptual bullshit. The better your concepts fit together — the more cohesive your system feels — the more likely you are to start to hold it as The Truth — as really really important. But all this really means is that you've succeeded in finding a way to buy into your own monkey-mind. The harder your mind works, the more likely it is to find a way to crown itself king. The danger of this cannot be overstated. This dynamic works in subtle and sneaky ways, which is why we must always remain on-guard. I am not just talking about this happening to "others", like some religious fundamentalists. No! No! No! I mean it's happening to you right now! You're falling into this trap, no matter how good you tell yourself you are. Intelligent, secular, scientific, and rational people are MORE susceptible to this trap, not less. You're extremely susceptible.
Notice that a lot of what my videos do is merely point out dynamics, patterns, themes, techniques, and overlooked aspects of your life. In so doing, your circle of understanding expands because things are pointed out which you can no longer honestly ignore. In this, there's nothing to believe per se. A lot of this is totally obvious stuff which you've simply never noticed before.
The great thing about holding something as scaffolding is that you don't have to revere it and you don't feel the need to prosthelytize or defend it. You also don't waste time debating it. You just apply it, or don't.
If you want to think of Actualized.org theory as a series of kicks in the ass to a stubborn donkey, that's about right. As the donkey, you don't say, "Those kicks sure are the Truth!" No, those kicks don't even have to be self-consistent or logical. You can be kicked to go left, you can be kicked to go right, and you can be kicked just for fun ;)
Many of the things I say are designed to manipulate you out of complacency or ignorance. You should take these sayings as seriously as necessary to break out of your stupid ways. But no more seriously than that.
Reality is the most efficient simulation of itself.
Take a moment to think about this. Because it's utterly profound.
Imagine you wanted to simulate all of reality in a computer — a programmer's wet dream. Seems reasonable at first glance: let's just keep building larger and larger computers, filling them with ever-more complex physics equations, more and more decimal points, and eventually we'll get there.
But, notice, it's actually impossible. Why? Because eventually we'd need a computer the size of all of reality in order to hold all the elements we're simulating. But then where would its mechanism be located? Outside of reality? No, clearly not possible. Inside of reality? Also not possible because then some part of reality would have to be reserved for the location of the mechanism, which would be un-simulated. The computer's CPU, RAM, and circuitry — no matter how efficient — would need to be occupying some part of reality. Notice that to simulate reality as a whole, your simulation must also simulate itself, ad infinitum. So your simulation must be smaller than reality itself.
Imagine we make our simulation, but it runs on a magical computer. This computer is magical because it has no mechanism. Which means it doesn't even exist! So we just have pure simulation occurring in a sort of vacuumless vacuum without any hardware. Well... Ta-da! That's reality! You're in it right now!
Reality is the ultimate simulation. It's an instantaneous, effortless, complete simulation of everything possible, afloat in a vacuumless vacuum. It's completely direct, which means — and here's the really mindblowing part — that the simulation has no mechanism! It's so efficient, the middleman — the computer — isn't needed. The "computer" in which reality runs is literally void! Reality just simply is itself. "Ising" is the magical computer.
This is the essence of mysticism. And it actually squares quite nicely with logic. Logic should tell you that you cannot fit a superset inside a subset, and that everything must have at least one unknowable mystical source, because explanation always relies on at least one ungrounded and irreducible thing. Turns out that reality as a whole is that one irreducible, unexplainable thing. But interestingly, this one thing turns out to explain itself perfectly by virtue of it being Absolute Infinity, beyond which nothing can be, because it already is everything possible.
The most astonishing thing about reality is that it has no rules or limits at its outer-most edge. It knows itself simply by being itself, not by some indirect mechanism like computer hardware clumsily shuffling around bits. That's simply not needed. Although this seems impossible, you have to remember that reality is the ultimate tyrant. It can do whatever the fuck it wants because there is nothing outside to stop it. Which means that it is not subject to the laws of physics or mathematics or even logic. Which means it is not a mechanical system, it's a magical system. Not metaphorically magical, but actually magical.
Rational people struggle to understand this because they think that admitting the magic of reality's being conflicts with the physical sciences. But there is no conflict. When we say that reality is magic, we don't mean that you cannot calculate the trajectory of a rocket using Newtonian mechanics, or that microwave ovens work by voodoo. We mean the very existence of reality as a whole is magic. We mean that science will never, ever, ever, ever, ever account for reality's being mechanically. Because the ultimate mechanism of reality is instantaneous being, or Absolute Infinity. That's what it is! No symbols, ideas, equations, models, or simulations — no matter how detailed or complex — will ever be Absolute Infinity. Only one thing can be Absolute Infinity, and that's all of reality as a whole. You can use science to explain fragments of reality, but you cannot use science to explain reality as a whole, because in order to do that, you must BECOME reality as a whole — which ceases being science, because science is a part, not a whole. Science is like a computer simulation. It needs space within reality to run, so it will always remain a subset of reality.
Get it? The logic of it is quite basic.
A perfect simulation or model of all of reality is simply the same thing as reality itself. What makes simulations and models useful in the first place is that they are only partial. You wouldn't know what to do with the whole if you had it. It's too much.
Imagine you go to the ATM to withdraw some money. The ATM has two buttons: 1) $500 dollars, 2) infinite dollars. You think, "Infinite dollars?!!! Wow! Sounds great!" So you press button #2. Except you don't realize that infinite dollars means that so many bills will pour down from the sky that all your bones will be crushed, and your family half-way around the world will also get crushed as the whole Earth becomes covered with bills out to the edge of the universe, until the entire universe collapses into one super-massive black hole.
Hey! Maybe that's how the Big Crunch happens? So please, contain your greed.
The more I trip, the more I understand why most people doing psychedelics are misusing them so badly. One of the reasons is, they make it a social activity.
No! No! No!
I am a firm believer that psychedelics must be done solo. It's a totally different experience when you have someone else around. Even just a trip sitter. That social contact will disturb your journey. These folks aren't merely "just a trip sitter", or merely a source of distraction, they are your umbilical cord. Even though you might feel like you're being responsible by having a sitter, the fact is, you're afraid to really face yourself, to enter the belly of the whale. In the belly of the whale, where you must face all your inner demons, and ultimately your own death, no one can help you. You are truly alone. Just having someone there to talk to will significantly change the dynamics of your trip.
This is not to say that I'm advocating doing large doses of psychedelics by yourself in a frenzy of macho chest-beating and bravado. No, that sort of arrogant approach will definitely get your ass handed to you.
If you're doing psychedelics for the purposes of the deep existential contemplation — like I do — then you must go it all alone. No distractions, no social nonsense, just you alone in a room facing the Truth. And you must even make sure that you do not allow yourself to distract yourself during the trip. Running around, doing silly things outside, watching cartoons, etc. makes for good fun, but it doesn't get to the rock bottom of things. It's not contemplation. Contemplation isn't flashy or fun. You just sit on your couch, or lie on your floor, ponder, and muster the courage to surrender to Truth.
Now, some will say that this is irresponsible and reckless; trip sitters are necessary for safety. Look... What I'm talking about here is real spirituality, not recreational tripping. Real spirituality is hardcore stuff. Way more hardcore than people realize. It MUST involve facing your deepest shadow, insanity, and even physical death. If it didn't, what would it be worth? It would not address the deepest existential issues we care about. All those issues are directly tied to your deepest fears, and your deepest fear of all is physical death. Saying, "I want to do spirituality but I don't want to face my fear, I don't want anything 'bad' to happen to me", is ridiculous.
Of course what I am talking about here is hardcore and involves a degree of danger. It also requires a high degree of maturity, humility, and wisdom to execute correctly. It also requires methodical research and patient testing. The psychedelic spiritual path is definitely not for everyone, not for teenagers, and not for fun. I'm talking about an ancient methodology which goes back tens of thousands of years. The oldest of all spiritual traditions: shamanism. The shaman ventures — alone — into uncharted territory. When the shaman eats an unknown berry or mushroom, it could kill him. He's not playing around. He knows his life is on the line. Which is why he treats nature and plants with humility and respect.
So ditch your friends and trip sitters, and start to actually contemplate on your trips.
Warning: Misusing this advice could be psychologically destabilizing and even fatal. If you are not serious, mature, wise, and mentally stable, then do not do it. You could really hurt yourself.
Note: I would still use a trip sitter if I was doing a psychedelic like Salvia, which results in loss of motor function, or a deliriant like Datura. Substances like these can be extremely dangerous without assistance.
Note: When solo tripping, you need to start with very small doses and weigh them very accurately. Treat each new substance like a total unknown. Do not mix substances. Do not take weed or alcohol. Always use test kits on each new batch. Don't get complacent. Expect that even a "party drug" can kick your ass.
According to research cited by Stan Grof, about 30-50% of substance addicts (alcohol, hard drugs) are really just seeking a nondual experience.
That's why you're doing the alcohol or drug. It gives you a simulated pseudo-spiritual experience of unity. It blots out egoic consciousness. But you don't know this because you haven't actually experienced real unity, and you don't yet understand what consciousness is. So you keep hitting that bottle or pipe but it never scratches that mystical itch.
You got the right idea, but you're going about it the wrong way.
To get drunk on God, your mind has to be ultra-sober. That's what meditation, pranayama, clean eating, etc. is for. Your mind has to be attuned to the subtle. But you keep feeding it the gross.
Which is also why 5-MeO-DMT, LSD, and Ibogaine prove so effective for hard addiction recovery. They show you the real deal. They show you the subtle.
Which is why Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, included LSD as one of the most important components of recovery. Until of course the government banned it. Ever since, AA has been de-fanged.
If you're saying to yourself, "Yeah, Leo, but I'm not a drug addict! How does this help me?" Oh, yes you are! You're just addicted to something a little more subtle or culturally acceptable. Nevertheless, the underlying dynamic with you is just the same. What you seek is nonduality. Because it's the greatest thing ever. Nothing else is even remotely close. But you don't know it yet. You have to take my word for it.
Please! For fuck's sake, if you are pursuing enlightenment, take the time to thoroughly educate yourself about it. Do the necessary reading! I see too many people cluelessly stumbling into this path, clearly not having done any serious reading or research. This is extremely foolish and dangerous. This path is WAY too tricky. It has way too many traps.
There's no excuse for incorrect theory nowadays with Amazon and the internet.
Read at least 20 books about enlightenment. Make sure you include a broad cross-section of teachings, including: Buddhism, Yoga, Tantra, Sufism, Advaita Vedanta, Zen, Dzogchen, and modern secular teachings. With most emphasis and priority given to modern secular teachings.
This is a very practical matter. You buy 20 books, take them in your hands, and read the shit out of them, with pen in hand for plenty of underlining. And No... watching videos on YouTube does NOT count as reading a book! You sneaky weasel.
Don't let people — like the annoying Neo-Advaitan's — mislead you into thinking that enlightenment is simple, and therefore you have nothing to study. Enlightenment is both simple and extremely complex and nuanced. There is TONS of practical stuff to study about it. If there weren't, we wouldn't have so many spiritual books, texts, and traditions. There is more to study than you will have years in your life.
If you are too lazy or too stubborn to read at least 20 diverse books on this subject, you have no business pursuing enlightenment. You will likely be more harmed than helped by it. You need to understand enough to be able to diagnose your own sticking points.
I exclude Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam because these teachings tend to be overly ideological, indirect, and misleading. Don't be hurt by this. My concern here is practicality, not equality. The fact is, these 4 traditions have become very diluted and distorted, to dangerous levels. Although I encourage you to study them at some point just so you have a full appreciation of the world's mystical traditions.
If you need book ideas, my book list has close to 40 great selections. And I'll be adding more in the future.
"Below is a video made in a user-testing lab in rural Pakistan, featuring a man in his 20s. He has used a feature phone but never a smartphone. He’s given a simple-sounding task: Go to Google and search for the the name of your favorite actress. Watch the video. Watch it all."
This is much more than just a case study for web and UI designers. This bespeaks a profound epistemic issue: nothing about reality is ever obvious! Nothing!
- Nothing in design
- Nothing in science
- Nothing in mathematics
- Nothing in technology
- Nothing in art
- Nothing in logic
- Nothing in the humanities
- Nothing in metaphysics
- Nothing in epistemology
- Nothing in philosophy
- Nothing in religion
- Nothing in social systems
- Nothing in language
- Nothing in culture or social custom
- Nothing in life
Anything you assume to be self-evident or obvious about reality was acquired. You had to learn it. Often through great struggle and confusion. Even something as simple as 1+1=2 had to be indoctrinated into you. At some point in your life it wasn't obvious at all. It made no sense why reality ought to be characterized in that particular yet arbitrary way.
Hell, the fact of existence itself was non-obvious to you at one point. Can you recall?
All manner of delusion is possible when this point isn't fully appreciated. And it's really hard to appreciate the full depth of this point. Which is why we have so much delusion.
Credit: Smashing Magazine