Leo's Blog: Infinite Insights — Page 11
The best way to hide a thing, is in plain sight.
I love examples of how something can be hidden in plain sight. A sleight of hand so obvious, you smile when you see it. Nowhere does this apply more than with spirituality.
When people first start to learn about spirituality they tend to fall into one of two traps:
- Spirituality is just a bunch of fairy tale wishful thinking
- Spirituality is some exotic set of otherworldly experiences
In both cases, nothing could be further from the case. Spirituality is about becoming conscious of reality exactly as it is, but at a deeper dimension. In Zen, they like to say: Nothing is hidden.
What rationalists and "skeptics" who poo-poo spirituality don't understand is just how significant a simple shift in perspective can be. Nothing has to change about the facts on the ground, so to speak. All that needs to change is your perspective and your entire world flips upside down. But this is the pity of materialistic thinking. It's mesmerized by the gross, superficial dimension of reality. People who are used to thinking in materialistic ways expect spirituality to be a gross, materialistic sort of thing. As though if the facts on the ground don't change, it doesn't matter. That's the huge oversight! Spirituality is SUBTLE! It's seamlessly interleaved into the gross. Like a beautiful chameleon in the rainforest, lost on the tourist.
To illustrate this point, take a look at these stereograms. Cross your eyes as you stare at them to spot the hidden object inside.
Did you see it?
Notice that none of the facts changed, but the shift in perspective you experienced was very significant and real. It's like you discovered a new dimension to reality. And it was right there the whole time! Hidden, but not really hidden.
What if — right now — there was something equally obvious about your perception of reality that's been hidden in plain sight your whole life? What if people have been pointing to it for 2,000 years, but you've kept saying, "You must be crazy! There's nothing there to see."
Enlightenment is like that. It's a shift in perspective, not a change in personality or behavior, as people often confuse. The lesson here is never to underestimate just how significant a "mere" shift in perspective can be. Perspective is everything.
Distillation of alcohol wasn't invented until the 12th century, in southern Italy.
Without distillation, there's no high-proof alcohol. No vodka, no rum, no whiskey, no scotch, no tequila, nor gin. The most you can get through basic fermentation techniques is 15% alcohol content. Not strong stuff.
But the ancient Greeks and Romans tell stories of how their wine was so strong it could drive a grown man to madness, or even death from over-consumption.
But how is this possible? Especially given that the ancient Greeks and Romans diluted their wine heavily with water?
Maybe those were just tall-tales?
Turns out that the Greco-Roman notion of "wine" was a lot more than just fermented grape juice. Their wine was infused with various exotic psychoactive herbs, including things like mandrake, henbane, datura, belladona, and psilocybin mushrooms! Alcohol was probably far from the main active ingredient. Ancient wine was more like liquid mushrooms! No wonder it could drive people to madness.
Just goes to show, A) how pussified modern culture is, B) how careful we have to be about defining our terms, and C) how careful we have to be about seeing the world through our limited cultural norms.
Wine ain't what it used to be. What the ancients lacked in technology, they made up for in spirit.
Credit: Gordon Wasson, Albert Hofmann, Carla Ruck — The Road to Eleusis
I want to suggest that you shoot yourself in the foot WAY MORE than you think.
I've spoken of this concept of "backfiring mechanisms" before in my previous videos. It's a really important feature of complex systems — like societies, or human beings.
But I want to bring this point home, because it can feel too abstract.
To help you become more aware of this, watch the following funny videos. But as you do, instead of just laughing away and calling those people dumbasses — like every other viewer does — I want you to reflect it back on yourself. Think of this as a metaphor for EXACTLY how your life functions! Bring to mind all the ways in which you experience psychological backfiring. Notice that the way your life functions isn't much different than what you see in the videos below.
But remember to stay aware as you watch!
It ain't as funny when it's your life.
To further clarify, the most important backfiring mechanisms are not material, physical, or external. Rather, they have to do with the inner workings of your mind:
Your modes of thinking, your emotional reactions, your fears, your motivations and values, your habitual patterns, your beliefs and justifications, your paradigms of reality, etc.
As a simple example, how might valuing sex or money or security backfire? As a more advanced example, how might valuing spirituality or enlightenment backfire?
As a general rule of thumb, once a system reaches sufficient complexity, the greatest danger to its survival becomes a backfiring of itself. A sort of collapsing under its own weight. Which is why to reach the greatest heights requires shedding egoic material, or purification to the point of nothingness or spirit. The word "spirit" connotes lightness of mechanism, and this is a good pointer of what you should be working towards. To be conscious, is to be able to see how a mechanism truly works, and its backfire potential.
Imagine you were designing a conscious robot. Notice that in the beginning, from the robot's "point of view", none of following exists:
- A sense of self
- A sense of other
- A sense of world
- A sense of space being 3-dimensional
- A sense of time
- A sense that there exists an "external" world out there, beyond the robot
- A sense of clearly delimited objects or "things"
- A sense of death
- A sense of meaning of any kind. No judgments of good, bad, healthy, unhealthy, right, wrong, pretty, ugly, etc.
- A sense of big vs small, up vs down, thin vs thick, etc.
- A sense of logic or rationality
- A sense of personal story or life narrative
- A sense of life at all
- A sense of vision
- A sense of feeling
- A sense of hearing
- A sense of location
- A point of view
The robot would have zero sense of any of this! Meaning... the most self-evident aspects of reality which we consider "essential" to how we understand reality, would be utterly absent.
There doesn't even exist a point of view!
In other words, all of these "essential" aspects are NOT as essential as we like to believe.
All of these things which we take as a given as humans, have to be constructed! They are not givens or fundamental aspects of reality AT ALL! They must be created. As for HOW are they created? Well... that's another matter. One that humanity isn't evolved enough yet to answer. It's reasonable to suspect that there are probably many different ways to create them, be it via a human body/mind organism, or a robot/cpu machine, or something entirely alien to our imagination. But the important point is to see that they were created. This means we cannot take them as absolutes, or indubitable or self-evident truths.
What would be it like if you regressed to the point of view of this robot, before anything about reality was a given?
Or, imagine how else the robot's basic map of reality might work. What if there are an infinite number of ways to "see" reality?
Imagine that 10,000 years from now humans create a robot who can see in 4-dimensions, has 3 totally new forms of perception currently unknown to us, and doesn't have a sense of location, or rationality, or clearly delimited "objects". Imagine what it would be like to be that robot! What kind of consciousness would it have? And what would that say about your notions of what reality is?
Best psychedelic substances worth exploring:
- Mescaline HCL
- 4-HO-DMT (Psilocin)
- Bufotinine (5-HO-DMT)
Questionable ones (due to addiction potential, overdose potential, or health risks):
- DXM, MXE
- Nitrous Oxide
- Amanita Muscaria
- Datura (stay away!)
- Iboga (clinical use only)
Note: This doesn't mean I've tried all these and suggest you take them! No, this is merely a wishlist based on my research.
I briefly talked about this concept of a "meta-source" my latest video, but then I started to wonder: Isn't every source a meta-source? Isn't every source/teacher influenced by many sources itself?
This seems to be the case. But then what do I mean by meta-source?
While it's true that every source has been influenced by many sources itself, there is an important difference. Some sources actively pull from much more diverse sources than others. Some teachers have clearly gone out of their way to study and integrate 100s of very diverse, high quality meta sources, while others have not. Some teachers take on the attitude of seeking out diverse sources to broaden their base of knowledge and experience, whereas other teachers are more insular, sticking to a narrower range of material. And this makes a big difference. You can usually FEEL when a teacher is REALLY going out of his way to collect new sources, vs a teacher who is perfectly comfortable following whatever he already knows.
So what I mean by meta-source, is a source who values big-picture understanding and who recognizes the importance of seeking out 100s of very diverse sources, especially meta-sources. So in effect, when you learn from this kind of teacher, you're getting a synthesis of many meta-sources, because this guy has done what you're doing: he's synthesized many sources who have themselves synthesized many sources. So you're getting a meta-meta-source.
Now, does this make the meta-source error-proof? Certainly not. Treat the meta-source just like how you'd treat a regular source. Don't put too much blind faith in him. He is, after all, synthesizing all this information through his own cognitive filters. Those filters might greatly distort or dilute the original sources.
There is also a danger if you ONLY pull from meta-sources. Some teachings a very deep and technical. If you get a meta-source glossing it over for you, you'll miss the core of the teaching. So the ideal is to that you rely both on meta-sources, which will tend to be more generalist, and plain old sources, which will tend to be more specialist.
And of course, verify it all yourself through direct experience and filtering it through your intuition.
The key question for ideologues and rationalist arguers is this:
What are you doing to avoid the trap which everyone falls into, which is this: "I'm right, you're wrong"?
What are you doing epistemicly to avoid this trap?
Has it become obvious to you yet that everyone thinks they're right while thinking the other side is wrong?
Don't you see that this whole thing — from the meta-perspective — is just a game?
You're stuck playing the "I'm right! You're wrong!" game and you don't even realize it.
Wouldn't it be wiser to buck this trend and stop playing of the game altogether? Then you'd REALLY be different!
Can't you see that everyone who plays the game loses? Even when you "win" the game, you lose!
The most cliche thing every human being does is think he is right. If you can permanently disrupt this deep-seated habit of the mind, you will have succeeded in something remarkable. This is the only true way in epistemology. And the paradox is, in order to communicate it to you, I have to frame it as, "I'm right, you're wrong." But don't let that paradox throw you off. It actually proves the point. The heart of epistemology must always remain uncommunicated. Words can point the way, but you have to make that final leap to comprehension.
This one is tricky. Can you see what is being pointed it?
Winston Churchill is said to have said: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."
In the same vein, I wanna say:
Seeking is the worst trap there is, except for not-seeking.
One reason that religion persists is because it provides genuine psychological benefits to the practitioner. It is the original self-help. To those skeptics who dismiss religion so quickly by saying, "But it's just a bunch of fairy tales" — the only way you can say that is because you lack experience with it, and so you misunderstand it. You misunderstand it, but not in the way you think. The reality is, there's no way in hell a collection of purely fabricated stories could survive for such a long time. Religion survives because it WORKS!
It's because it works that it becomes a problem. It's because it works that people aren't so eager to abandon it as your models would predict. People feel the positive effects and get seduced into thinking that everything in the religion is true because of the psychological or spiritual benefits they feel. And then that is take as evidence of the religion's exclusivity: "My religion must be true because look! Look at all these great benefits to my life!"
The problem is not that the benefits are not real — they are REAL! The problem is that the benefits are not exclusive — but people hold them as exclusive. This cannot be seen without a more experienced, more cosmopolitan meta-perspective. It's not possible to see the universal psychological and spiritual principles at work in a religious tradition without practice and study of other traditions and non-religious self-help techniques. If you do undertake such a study, you will see the common threads unpinning all traditions, from Mormonism to Islam to Judaism to psychoanalysis to Yoga to Scientology.
But the false exclusivity that many religious adherents subscribe to becomes a huge burden. Religion becomes dangerous when it feeds tribalism. ANY ideology becomes dangerous when it feeds tribalism. And virtually all ideologies do!
How many ideologies or religious traditions say: "We don't care which other traditions you study or practice. In fact, let us help you study the vast diversity of ideas available in the psycho-spiritual marketplace."?
Ha! Good luck finding an ideology like that!
How can we tell if an ideology is dangerous? Very simple. Just ask, "Is it feeding tribalism? It is putting itself on a pedestal?" Is it encouraging tolerance and unity with self and other, or separation of self from other?
"Sometimes learning a fact is enough to make an entire series of corroborating details, previously unrecognized, fall into place." — Jorge Luis Borges
A quote I feel I was looking for for at least a decade, without knowing I've been looking for it.
And yet, here it is!
It perfectly describes the subtle phenomena of intuition developing a bigger picture "behind-the-scenes". Intuition is like magic. It's capable of creating these spontaneous assemblages of big picture understanding, as long as you take care to feed it lots of diverse raw data. I've wanted to articulate this phenomena for a long time but wasn't sure how to put my finger on it. What amazed me was that Borges articulated it within a single sentence!