Ep. 36 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Religio/Perennial Problems/Reverse Eng. Enlightenment



my notes

  • Symbols are a participatory act, that participation has a connection to activation of profound kind of metaphor, reaching back through our exaptation and reactivating that material so we can re-exact our cognitive process, re-understand some aspect of reality
  • Deeply participatory, transformative thing that we do
  • Symbol: hold something in mind so we can see more deeply into it, be more in contact with it
  • I am transformed so I can see through the symbol to reality, and that reality speak through the symbol to me to get an anagogic flow
  • Becoming deeply integrated, world becoming disclosed, that mutual reciprocal realization feels like love coupling to reality
  • Symbols are designed to get me into a trajectory of transframing, open up the world, and grow me so can be in that larger world
  • Symbols are ecstatic, participatory, integrative, disclose the complexity of the world in a coordinated, complex fashion
  • Symbols as mythos: symbol and story together, ritual, mythos enacted
  • Can use mythos to activate, accelerate, appreciate religio
  • Religio is inherently valuable because it is constitutive of our ability to value anything else or interact with anything we consider valuable
  • RR is at the heart of religio, and is structured to function by being interested in itself, correcting itself.
  • Proposed that when using the symbol to get us to play with the machinery of sacredness/the higher order RR in sacredness
  • Proposed that the Sacred - is not supernatural,
  • Proposed something wrong about trying to essentialize sacredness in the sacred, that it is essentially relevant to us.
  • RR is not about detecting something that is inherently relevant in the sense that it absolutely commands our attention. Relevance has no essence
  • Relevance functions by evolving
  • Idea of sacredness as the inexhaustible aspects of this reality
  • Turning kant on its head.
  • This reality is always a source of wonder, not because there is an object that has a claim on me as the source of wonder, every object, everything is combinatorially explosive. There is a no-thingness to reality because everything is combinatorially explosive to what it is.
  • My processing has a no-thingness to it to - the “I”
  • The process of RR is ongoing, inexhaustible, can’t stop
  • Vast-emptiness
  • So can return again and again and again to the world. There is the real potential in the world of sacredness

Indispensable Mythos

  • Why is it that we might get this way?
  • Particular mythos/symbols indispensable for people, to activate, appreciate, accelerate my religio
  • Because of way in which RR machinery is evolving, because of the kairos that is always a part of my ongoing religio - even saying “my” is wrong. Don’t possess it.

(Seems to be suggesting that any mythos will do. The good news about this is that it lets us focus on what the mythos is doing and not on whether it represents the “truth”. Can any mythos help us participate and evolve?)

  • May say only through this mythos do I get the access I need to articulate my religio
  • Think that’s a plausible hypothesis.
  • Makes sense to say that given how this person’s evolved fittedness unfolded and the particular timing, the historical context, that only this mythos gives them the access they need.

(seems to be saying that some people may just gel with one mythos (ie: a religion). And that’s ok. Doesn’t entail other mythos’ aren’t as valid.)

  • Maybe it’s a Christian/Hindu mythos. That mythos is indispensable to them.
  • We shouldn’t confuse indispensable to an individual/group, psycho-cultural indispensability with metaphysical necessity.

(yep! That’s what I thought he’d say. Well - not using those words! )

  • Ex: english is indispensable to me. Can’t get along without it. Doesn’t mean that english is metaphysically necessary. Not some final complete absolute version.

(great analogy!)

  • Continually evolving as a language to stay in touch with the world.
  • Sacred =/ Supernatural

  • Shouldn’t imply it adheres to a supernatural entity or thing
  • Reasonable alternative to understanding sacredness
  • If we could give up the confusion of confusing indispensability with metaphysical necessity, identifying the sacred as supernatural, we would not have to be committed to a two worlds mythology.
  • This is the first step in the response to the meaning crisis: understand the machinery of connectedness, and understand it in a way that allows us to disconnect it from a metaphysical essentialism/supernatural, and two-worlds mythology, instead understand it in a fashion that is completely integrated with science.

(but what about the people who do believe in the supernatural? Has he established this as the exit from the meaning crisis?

  • This account situates us within scientific world-view, while also giving us a way:
    • Of talking about experiencing sacredness
    • Deep connectedness
    • Deep self-transcendence
    • Deep transformation
  • Still needs to do a lot more work: needs to show this model of RR does address the historical issues.

(heh, he answered the question - he hasn’t established it yet)

Historical Factors

  • Need to respond to these historical factors, rearticulate worldview, get back that sense of deep connectedness, sacredness, deep connectedness that affords satisfaction of our sense of being in contact with the world, affords self-transcendence, affords meaning and life in a profound way
  • Structural functional analysis of meaning making disclosing that machinery of meaning making, also is the machinery that is going awry when people are experiencing a sense of meaninglessness
  • Machinery that makes you adaptive is the machinery that makes vulnerable to self-deception/self-destructive

Perennial Problems

  • Machinery of RR that makes all the deep connectedness possible for us, can also go horribly wrong.
  • Argues that all cultures/all people as participants in their culture, across time/place/history are prone to perennial problems: ways in which the machinery of RR can drive them into meaninglessness and despair
  • Inherent in adaptive machinery are inescapable vulnerability that can deeply undermine our religio (the agent/arena relationship) such that we experience meaninglessness, absurdity, alienation, etc.
  • Perennial because inherent in the machinery
  • Cultures developed psycho-technologies to help alleviate the suffering from the perennial problems.
  • Ex: buddhism
  • Practices for cultivating wisdom and pursuing enlightenment/salvation
  • Meaning crisis emerges when historical factors have undermined a world-view/tradition, ecology of practices, psycho-technologies, cognitive cultural grammar that people have created in order to respond to the perennial problems
  • We need to do two things:
    • Use that machinery to give a response to the historical factors
    • Take the machinery of RR, religio, sacredness use it to talk about how we can address the perennial problems
  • Want to reverse engineer enlightenment:
    • What are the perennial problems?
    • What are the processes we can use to address the perennial problems
  • Enlightenment is the set of practices that ameliorate the perennial problems and alleviate us from the distress and the suffering that they inflict upon us
  • To awaken from the meaning crisis not just to have a theory, but to have an understanding that helps afford and facilitate the process of transformation that we need to undergo to awaken from the meaning crisis
  • Goal to present way we can respond to how the PP might be gnawing away at the fabric of meaning in our lives
  • Take that and situate it into the account of sacredness and RR and show how fits into our scientific worldview
  • Then we have a way of awakening from the meaning crisis. Not as an absolute answer but to get the process started

Functional Structural Developmental aspects of RR/Religio Going Awry

  • Functional aspects:
    • RR: goes awry:
      • Self organizing → Parasitic processing. Complex patterns of self-deception and self-destruction
      • Self identification → modal confusion
      • Self-reflection →
        • Frankfurtz: wanton: being that acts completely impulsively, lose agency, because instincts in conflict. Have to step back and reflect. Coordinate and integrate
        • Reflection reduces wantonness
        • Ex: when thirsty, see the world thirstily. Can do a transparency/opacity shift. Can focus on thirst. Now not driven just by thirst but perhaps by curiosity. Start to gain some relief from the compulsion, immediacy of my thirst
        • If don’t do any self-transcendence awash in impuliveness, as move up, self-transcend, regain agency
        • Reflectiveness gap. If keep opening it up don’t keep gaining agency, get to problem of Hamlet: always reflecting, reflecting on his reflection, always stepping back and looking at - becomes incapable of acting. Tremendous powers of reflection, becomes disconnected from motivational machinery of connection to the world. Loses agency
        • Gain agency but if push too far, then lose it.
        • How much need to be is contextual
        • How do I optimize this? Get the emersion of the wanton, the flexibility and self-corrective capacity of Hamlet.
        • Trade-off between stepping back and looking at cognition to monitor it, and stepping through to intervene in the world

(Yeah, I can get stuck in the Hamlet problem.)

  • Structural:
    • Meta-meaning of agent arena relationship:
      • Absurdity: when connectedness between you and the world is lost (can be pushed into horror)
      • Anxiety: when connectedness between you and yourself is lost
      • Alienation: connected between you and other people is lost
      • All of those show up in domocide (loss of agent-arena relationship)
  • Developmental:
    • Existential inertia: trapped in a worldview and can’t get out of it.
      • When you need to move between worldviews, make a worldview viable that you’re not currently in. Need for anagoge.
    • Existential ignorance: indecisive, don’t know what going to lose if go through with transformation.
    • Gnostics: existential entrapment


  • Thomas Nagel: the Absurd
    • Absurdity is at the level of perspectival participatory knowing
    • We behave as if absurd is a result of our inferential processing
    • Ex: what I do now doesn’t matter, because won’t make a difference to people a million years from now. Doesn’t work: if what’s happening now is irrelevant a million years from now, their opinion of me is irrelevant to me.
    • If I make no difference to them they should make no difference to me
    • If existed for millions of years would make it more meaningful? Or more absurd
    • If smallness in reality makes feel absurd, would life be more meaningful if blew up to the size of a galacy?
  • Susan Wolf:
    • sense of being bigger is a metaphor to being connected to something larger than oneself, and that’s a metaphor for being connected to something that has value independent of my valuing it (core of sacredness)
  • Absurdity: Nagel: the arguments are after the fact expressions of absurdity not before the fact generators of absurdity
  • Arguments are ultimately invalid so not generating absurdity
  • RR is below propositional knowing
  • Nagel:
    • Ex: everyday absurdity: T on the phone, nervous going to tell S that he loves her, anxious about it, might lose friendship, might gain a lover. Dials, hears phone picked up. Says don’t say anything:I love you! Then hears the machine come on. Leave a message at the tone.
    • Funny and sad.
    • Humor can overlap with absurdity. Play with perspective
    • Clash of perspectives: T’s perspective, within his perspective his action is deeply meaningful, but machine gives an impersonal mechanical perspective where his actions make no sense. Have no meaning
    • Absurdity is a clash of perspectives. Perspectival clash may not be resolved with humor, raw clash of perspectives, experience just the incoherency, loss of connectedness
    • Can become horror, this perspective that I’m looking at from the perspective of all of time and history, what I’m looking at here can be undermined
  • What do we need to do?
    • Can see how all of this machinery is ways in which the adaptive nature of religio/RR is also making us prey to vulnerable, to losing our agency, suffering distress, to experience horror, meaninglessness, absurdity being trapped. Deeply confused. Overwhelmed by parasitic processing.
    • These are perennial problems.
    • Can’t jump over our own shadows.
  • Next time, can we use the same machinery and see how we can engineer a comprehensive response to all of these PPs.
  • Any developmental change, development of our perspectival participatory and procedural knowing, that affords a response that ameliorates and alleviates the PPs is a good candidate for enlightenment
  • Instead of making enlightenment this unachievable superlative that only super human beings in the distant past can achieve - what’s the use of that?
  • Let’s make enlightenment is the developmental process that gives us reliable amelioration and alleviations of the PPs