Ep. 35 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - The Symbol, Sacredness, and the Sacred



my notes

  • Sacred: Gertz: homing against horror, Otto: puts in contact with the numinous- exposes us to what is horrifying. Awe with a little more (humiliation) to give us humility. As we feel that sense of expansiveness with awe that we are limited creatures
  • These two aspects of sacredness can be seen within the machinery of RR:
    • Worldview attunement: form of meta meaning/meta assimilation → compression integration
    • Confronting the numinous in awe/horror. Horror is about the confrontation which demands unanswerable, unachievable, accommodation
  • Sacredness is to play with the machinery or RR as found within the primordial aspects of religio: advantageous to us b/c foundational to our agency, to the world, as an arena for our action, capacity for self-transcendence, etc.
  • We often do this serious play by engaging in symbolic behaviour


  • Symbol: bridge between
    • Meta accommodation
    • Metta assimilation
  • Symbol has a participatory aspect to it as opposed to signs
  • Metaphor: profound → pervasive in our cognition and highly functional

  • Participatory relationship: able to play with exaptation (acquire functions not originally evolved)
  • Symbol allows to hold in mind something that normally can’t hold in mind
  • Can activate the machinery, go back through it: have a symbol of a scale for justice: can just think that, or perspectivally engage in balancing. My capacity for balance has been exapted to find complex contingency relationships between any areas of my brain
  • Neuroscience: cerebellum about balance, but also cognitive functions. Cerebellum picks up on areas of the brain that are correlated together, find patterns of contingency and dependency between them.
  • Can activate my cerebellum, that machinery to practice the skills of being more just - that allows to participate in the processing that will ablee to cultivate the skills that will make me just and will ground my conception of justice
  • Allows me to deeply participate in justice through the symbol

  • Quickly without thinking, which one is booba and which one is kiki? - experiments overwhelmingly star one is kiki, other is booba

(I put the star one as booba - but mostly because I heard it the first time as “boomba” which reminded me of an explosion, and it looks more like an explosion)

  • Do a whole bunch of associations - this is sharp looking so feels more like kiki
  • This playful but can activate this machinery for purpose. Have to participate in it, live with the symbols. Savour it.
  • Jonathan Pageot: work on the symbolic world, remember the symbolic aspect of our existence, get us to savour the symbolic
  • Symbols have a capacity to put ourselves in a relationship with something. Symbol is transforming me in a powerful way. Reconfiguring my machinery so I am capable of interacting with the world. Look through the symbol, realize, and make more justice.
  • Ex: meditating, following breath
    • Focusing on breath helps to scale down my attention
    • What can happen, is can become sensitized to how much in process my mind is
    • I think of my mind as a thing, container with thoughts, etc. when practice watching breath start to realize that’s not it, mind is a fine-grained process. Pain isn’t a thing. There is “paining”. Different layers, all these things happening. More a verb than a noun. Participate in it, more than have it.
    • Breath becomes participatory symbol of the impermanence of things. How much they are interconnected and flowing.
    • That can have an impact on sense of self. That maybe I am more impermanent and interconnected.
    • Can also scale up. See how all of reality is impermanent and interconnected
  • Polanyi:
    • Ex: patriot looking at flag.
    • When looking at flag, all the subsidiary awareness being integrated into focal awareness
    • Look at the flag, not because interested in the using the flag, using it symbolically. Integrated different parts of myself together
    • Focusing attention on flag, but actually interested in playing with the process
    • Contemplating the flag, bringing up emotions, associations, and integrating them together - becoming more patriotic, participating in patriotism
  • Breath:
    • Looking at breath, but point is to integrate all my processing together
    • Breath can also suddenly disclose reality to me. Reveal an aspect of reality
    • Inherent interest: subsidiary elements; integrating them together.
    • Can get an insight. Suddenly reveals impermanence, interconnectedness, now interested in the breath
    • Can resonate between these, move more deeply
    • As see more deeply into the object, draws me in, more powerful integration, which coordinates cognition so that can see more deeply
  • Symbols are capable of affording anagoge, capacity where have inner optimization, see more deeply into the thing, which leads to more deeper optimization
  • Activate all this machinery then look through it.
  • See things didn’t see before. That the scales are never stable. Scales are off. Justice is a process, not a thing.
  • Like when the mother has the bidirectional insight, transframing about daughter in law
  • Music:
    • Listening to music. Focusing on it but not trying to get behind it. Way integrated onto the music is crucial. But aspects of music disclosed to you, which changes how can understand and experience the music

Mystery and Symbols

  • Symbols put in confrontation with what is mysterious
  • Frame - then have frame you aspire to. Need something to reach in the frame, but can’t be entirely captured by the frame. Drives to expand the frame. Both activate and draw beyond yourself.

  • Symbol has to reach into your worldview, but want to be in another worldview, find it viable, something transgressive, shakes things up, puts you into all this machinery move to an become capable of dwelling within that more expansive worldview
  • Symbols are
    • Ecstatic:
      • Helps you stand beyond yourself. My world is being opened up, and I’m being transformed to fit that expanding world
    • Participatory
    • Integrative: integrating you together, new world together, integrating both together in an integrative fashion
      • Ex: Christians see the cross: start to become a different person, and disclose to us parts of reality that wouldn’t normally have in mind, like suffering. Can draw us in, integrates more powerfully.
      • If willing to seriously play with the symbol I will start to be transformed in a coupled fashion to my world that perhaps Christiantiy becomes viable to me.
    • Complex:
      • Multifaceted.
      • Radically reconfiguring salience landscape, connecting things don’t normally connect together
    • Symbol trying to set you in motion. To do this:

* Trying to do something epic
  • Transjective: between two worlds. The world you’re in, the framing you’re in, and the world you’re aspiring to
  • Transgressive:
  • Trigger transframing
  • Transformative
  • How does this relate to Sacredness?


  • Mythos:
    • Always deeply connected to ritual
    • Ritual: enactive analogy, enactive anagoge. Process by which try and activate the machinery of transformation
    • Patterns of interaction
    • Symbols → story (perspectival participatory knowing. Story connects to ritual so can enact it
  • When have a mythos about religio such that can activate religio and seriously play with it, to enhance its capacity: that’s sacredness
  • Can use mythos for other patterns that we care about
  • When we want to activate, accentuate, articulate religio itself we rely on mythos to do it: our relationship to religio is one that can only be born symbolically, b/c of the primordial participatory nature of religio
  • Mythos → Religio → RR
  • RR is intrinsically interested in itself:
    • Self-organising, self-transcending, self-correcting process
    • Part of its structural design
    • Can use mytho to activate religio, and find that deeply interesting to do - going to find it all deeply meaningful
  • Have a way of talking about a lot of the aspects of sacredness
  • The essence of sacredness is in the sacred

The Sacred

  • The sacred takes us back to the metaphysical proposal: what ultimately generates the experience of sacredness is something that has an absolute value because it has a particular metaphysical status - super naturalSupernatural: above nature, aboveness makes it inherently valuable to us, therefore find it sacred because of its absolute value
  • Carries with it a particular way of understanding the process of meaning making. To claim that ultimately there are things that are always of relevance to us.
  • Claim that there is an essence to relevance

(this can’t be true. RR is intelligence, what is relev

ant to us depends on intelligence)

  • He says this is ultimately a mistake. Because there is no essence of relevance.


  • There is only the ongoing process of RR
  • Nothing other than itself that is intrinsically interesting to RR
  • Salience machinery can lead you to kill yourself, own existence no longer salient to you. Not absolute
  • Notion of sacredness seems to be a category mistake. That there is something, someone, some place that essentially, absolutely, is relevant. That is to misunderstand the nature of relevance
  • Confuse the products of RR with the process of RR
  • That is a hallmark of the way we make mistakes. We focus on the product not the process

(think of spiritual experiences.)

  • Gnostics: constantly inventing new myths in the mythos sense. They saw the relationship to sacredness as an evolving one, supposed to be always launching into transframing
  • Suggests another way of understanding sacredness without needing the supernatural as a category?
  • Maybe it means a significant transformation of what supernatural means
  • There’s an inexhaustibleness to this process. Sense in which reality can continue to disclose itself to us. Combinatorially explosive.
  • The process is constantly evolving, RR
  • What if sacredness is not about finding the completion but an experience of the inexhaustibleness of reality, and the inexhaustibleness of the RR machinery and its response to reality

(This clicks with me to some extent. I’ve always been more interested in method than what we finally land on for our beliefs. It’s about the journey not the destination. )

  • Ex: for hm Plato is sacred
    • Doesn’t mean he has unquestionable authority
    • What happens is he reads Plato gets insight, has impact on him, then go out in the world, then that understanding transforms me. I engage and become.
    • Then return to Plato. See in plato what didn’t see before. Reached deep into him.

(this is similar to how I don’t mind retreading old ground in discussions. I think, so long as we are open, that we continue to see new things when we engage in these discussions (though can’t just be spouting talking points - have to be really engaging with the other side)

(Isn’t this a way that theists and nontheists can come together to read these holy books?)

  • Gnosss: constantly finding Plato to be an inexhaustible fount of transframing, ongoing, filled with developmental wonder.
  • But he’s not supernatural, or absolute
  • Don’t think he can give a final definition of what is relevant.
  • Again and again see through it and the world reaches back to me
  • Even Nietsche if stare long enough into the abyss, stares back into you (though problematic grammar of inverting Christanity)
  • Trying to suggest that the idea proposed about what sacredness is can be connected to an alternative proposal to what the Sacred is:
  • Sacred is the transjective relationship between the combinatorially explosive nature of reality
  • The reality is ultimately a no-thingness. No-thing that can frame. Will always transcend your framing - linked to the no-thingness of yourself. The “I” that can never be captured. The ongoing never ending process of RR
  • Deep non-logical identity between these two.

  • Deeply coupled at the primordial levels of religio
  • The inexhaustible that powers the experience of sacredness in a deeply profoundly participatory fashion.