Ep. 11 - 12 Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Higher States of Consciousness Parts 1 and 2

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Seems that I can’t include links but here are my notes from Episode 11:

Vervaeke Episode 11

  • 2 modes of being in Buddha: having mode and being mode.
  • Modal confusion and overcoming it.
  • Mindfulness: intentional scaling . Increase cognitive flexibility, capacity for insight.
  • idea that people have alternative state of C that see as more real - problematic because tend to judge realness by how well we get an overall coherence in our intelligibility
  • Instead of rejecting AS as illusory, reject everyday experience as illusory
  • Ability to transcend through illusion to get connected to what is real = wisdom
  • Connectedness to reality = regard one’s life as authentically meaningfu
  • Want a theory that is both prescriptive and descriptive
  • In higher state feel deep connection to reality and radically change their lives.
  • Need to give account of psychological processes, informational, and brain processes
  • prescriptive: why it should be considered rationally justifiable: can we see why these states should be listened to when they claim to give access to deeper reality.

Descriptive Explanation:

  • 5:20: what does it feel like to be in such a state
  • 3 components:
    * How is the world being experienced
    * How is the self being experienced
    * How is the relationship between self and world
  • Reports:
    * Ppl report world seems extremely clear to them and makes sense to them in a way that it hasn’t before
    * perceptual: seen as bright, things are shiny (glory) - feature ppl report in flow experience
    * expansion of vision (aware of the world) but also capture finite features
    * Insight: seeing into reality
    * Increased sense of making sense of things
    * 8:23: World both intricate and interesting, beautiful
    * World is alive, pregnant with energy and significance
    * Notion of oneness. Deep and profound integration.
    * Self: report profound sense of peace (Plato)
    * Profound joy: (lost sense of what this word means): joy not just fun or pleasure: positive emotion have when experience a deep connection to what is good
    * Fundamental change in sense of self:
    * Normal sense of self disappeared: self-consciousness, autobiographical sense of self disappear
    * Remember my true self, what I really am
    * Change in energy and vitality
    * Insight and understanding
  • Relation:
    * Deep at oneness, participating in the reality, sharing identity to it
    * (Aristotle conformity theory of knowing: identification with reality)
    * So profound and transformative - say connection is ineffable - so if no declarative content why considered so loaded with signature of ultimate reality

14:45: Disruptive Strategies:

  • disrupt normal cognitive functioning and alter state of consciousness
  • Can be long term/short term
  • Long term strategy: Buddha: 6 yrs of meditation and contemplation
  • Short term disruptive strategy: fasting, sexual and sleep deprivation, drumming, chanting - disrupt normal level of cognitive, psychedelics

( heh, would like to try psychedelics but have no idea how to even get them)

  • Combinations of these strategies can be good
  • Have to do a lot breaking frame before can make a new frame
  • Experiment:
    * Yadin 2017: 69% reported ontonormativity, was actually predictive of improvement across many dimensions of life: family health, sense of purpose, spirituality, will, release from anxiety and fear of death
    * decentering: when ppl describe these experiences, shift from egocentric to allocentric - speaking more from 3rd person perspective
    * Can describe my motion egocentrically: to the right of me, left of me
    * Allocentrically: where I am vis a vis north poll
    * Much less egocentrically oriented
    * Salience of reality capable of eclipsing narcissistic glow of own ego
    * Release from imprisonment, BS, of own egocentric perspective
    * Do you sometimes wish to be free from the super-salience of your own ego:

( We should talk about this on stream: what does it mean?)

20:45: Insight:

  • sense of what’s relevant/important been alterred. Radically make sense, conherence, underlying intelligible pattern: predictive of experience of meaning in life
  • Samantha Henzelman:
    * Give ppl a bunch of scene’s that make sense to them, ask them how meaningful their lives are, will rate their lives as more meaningful
    * The act of finding coherence helps make their lives more meaningful
    * Act of making sense, elevates the sense of how meaningful lives are
  • If were to have an insight that would give even more sudden increase in sense of meaning in life, and what if it’s in flow - going to be even more enhanced

( Note again the cautious use of language: the sense of meaning of life. Again, does the truth of it matter if life is better?)

  • Radical sense of deep intelligibility of the world and yourself in both directions at same time. Profound sense of increased meaning and life.
  • If it actually does guide you in improving life then will give confidence on the path

Flashes of insight:

  • Tobolinsky: insight is a fluency-spike

    • fluency is general property of all cognitive properties
    • How easy it is to process information
    • How accessible it is, how well system zeroing in on the relevant information
    • When fluent processing information efficiently
    • Insight experience = sudden spike in influency, start to judge the information processing therein as likely more real.

( Again subjective language. Is he foreshadowing that it’s only a feeling and not real or just building suspense?)

* part of evolutionary heritage - fluency heuristic good strategy, in real world situations if pressing fluently picking up on the real patterns
* flow: insight cascade
* Picking up on bigger patterns that not consciously aware of

( Again: how do we know they are real patterns vs. Illusory. Humans are good at spotting patterns that aren’t there)

Continuity Hypothesis: (29:00)

  • continuity hypothesis: want scientifically plausible explanation when someone claims enlightenment

  • Want good explanation and good justification for why should follow and be guided

  • CH: Vervaeke’s own hypothesis though Newberg came up with one

  • Fluency -> enchanted insight -> enhanced flow -> enhanced mystical experience -> transformative experience

  • Same machinery being used but being progressively exacted into more and more powerful processing that can afford rationally justified guidance into kind of transformation

  • If seeking to cultivate meaning, awaken from the meaning crisis we are seeking one of these experiences

  • Newberg says if have a lot of little insights will lead to transformative experiences - more practicing mindfulness, more can prime the pump

  • Help explain what’s going on

  • In flow: we know there has to be a relevant expertise: flow state where skills can meet the demands of the situation. If don’t have the relevant skills can’t get into flow state.

  • ask: what’s flowing in these higher states of consciousness? What expertise using: fundamental expertise, central to everyday experience making sense of the world

  • Ponty, Dreyfus, Charles Taylor

  • 34:45 : Optimal GripWhat process being optimized?

    * Optimal grip: harkens back to conformity
    * When try to perceive an object, don’t remain static, move around the object until get to a place where trade-off relationship: can see as many details as possible (zooming in), also the gestalt (overall thing). Move cup around for best optimization for my needs between overall and grasp of details
    * Dynamic balance between them
    * Martial arts: want to get the right flow over the person, takes practice, sense of whole body but can zero in on details.
    * Own body: take a stance: optimal sense of whole body but also details of where fingers are, joints doing what can do
    * Do this cognitively
    * categorization: talk about cat or dog not usually level up to mammal, though might zero down to cocker spaniel. But usually default to basic level: cogntively optimal grip
    * As go higher up get more abstract, when go down get too specific.
    * Have to practice optimal grip
    * First date: try and get a sense of the person, trying to get an optimal grip on the other person
    * advice: look into her eyes, but not too much.
    * Do it without thinking: ex: how close to stand to someone. Depends on context and person, most of us have that skill

Proposal: 43:50:

  • what if got into a flow state about ability to optimally grip the world.
  • What if made it really challenging, disrupt normal framing and open up and zooming in: see the world in a grain of sand
  • What if had optimal grip but not on just one object, but a dynamic flowing on the world and itself. Optimally gripping reality, deep conformity.
  • What’s happening in a higher state of consciousness is people are flowing to get OG on world and themselves
  • Disruptive stategies essential to insight: mindfulness break frame. Also naturally disposed to do this: mind wanders: Zak Irving: expert on mind wandering
  • MW enhances capacity for insight. Distracts you from how framed a situation, then return. It helps disrupt framing so can break frame and make new frame
  • ex; go and sleep on it, take a walk
  • If give person problem and introduce noise moderate amount can lead to insight
  • When brain engaged in insight: shift btw lett and right hemispheres

De-automatization (48:30)

  • 9 dot problem: automatically unconsciously formulated it as a square and connect the dot problem, which blocks you from solving it
  • To get out of that had to de-automatize cognition
  • Disruptive strategies increase the variation in processes
  • When increase variation can get more awareness of what is invariant.
  • As move around object, lots of stuff changing, but shape the same
  • Two kinds of invariants:
    * Good invariants : opening up variation pick up on bigger patterns that are changing that are real patterns in the world. More in contact with what’s really going on. Tells us what’s more real - real patterns
    * Bad invariants: ways in which formulating problems that are blocking you from solving problem.
    * Notice invariants heuristic: across different problem formulations that are failing: what am I not changing in all of these failures? Often what not changing is what need to change.

(seems like a useful tool)

      * What if have a whole system of errors?
      * Systematic errors
      * Developmental change when have systematically penetrative insight, find nexus of errors so can massively intervene on themselves
      * That’s what can happen during enlightenment experience
            * Opening up the variation massively, can connect to what’s real, be more connected to world
            * Get below ways holding back own development
            * Radical developmental change
            * wisdom: seeing through illusion

( But how know actually seeing through the illusion and not just a useful illusion?)

  • do not believe in the two-world mythology of the axial revolution but don’t want to abandon the psycho-technology

Here are my notes from Episode 12:

Vervaeke Episode 12: Higher States of Consciousness, Part 2

  • possibility of enlightenment, and plausibly accessible
  • Higher states of consciousness might provide a means for:
    * Radical self transformation
    * Self transcendence
    * Enhanced inner peace
    * Connectedness to reality
  • Still needed today even if no longer need the mythology
  • How do we vouchsafe the value
  • Properties:
    * Bright
    * Comprehensive and detailed
    * Interesting
    * World in a grain of sand
    * Highly intelligible
    * Beautiful
    * Pervasive sense of oneness
    * Self at peace
    * Joy
    * Deep remembrance of deep and authentic self
    * Connectedness btw self and the world as one
    * Sense of achieving identity at one with the oneness
    * Ineffable
  • What might be going on:
    * Continuity hypothesis: same machinery in the fluency of reading, to moments of insight, flow, then quantum change, deep transformative experience
    * What’s going on is something like state of flow, but expertise skill of getting optimal grip on the world
    * People getting flow state in ability to optimally grip on the world
  • Disruptive stategies:
    * So central to insight
    * Can acquire them them mindfulness psychotechonlogy
    * Reveals invariants - both good (get to the see the patterns remaining unchanged through all the variation - that’s what science does) try to find the real patterns that are invariant
    * Science increase the variation to find the invariant
    * But also bad invariants: helping to reveal all the ways in which systematically misframing.

( Includes seeing patterns not there)

  * like child going through developmental stage, systematically misframing reality, find nexus point - insight not just an intervention in the problem but of a whole class of problems.
  * Igor Grossman: Decentering strategies: relevant to bringing about wisdom
          * Solomon effect:
          * Get ppl to find a messy problem, stuck in. Often interpersonal problem.
          * Describe it from ego-centric perspective. Remain stuck
          * Get the person to redescribed the problem from the 3rd person perspective: decanter: break frame. Realize the way been blocked.
          * Have central insight on how to resolve problem
  * Systemiticity of error of egocenticity: systematic error
  * Like being asleep, wake up have systematic change in consciousness
  * Getting transformation, intervention in systematic error; powerful decentering
  * Can also be traumatic/terrifying
  * Pursuing it in an auto-didactic fashion very dangerous: tend to get into echo chambers, vicious circles of egocentric entrapment.
  * Monkey trying to get out of pitch: keeps using hands, feet getting stuck until hunter comes and kills it.
  * decentering: can alleviate that: but if still pursuing this as an isolated individual, then think about how ill-prepared, unskilled, untutored and ego-centrically trying to confront this radical transformation
  * Poor idea take psychedelics without a committed community to guide
  * Don’t have institutions for wisdom
  * Buddha did do it as individual: deserve admiration but should not take from that some kind of promotion of north american individualism, Buddha made clear that sanga necessary.

( So what does that mean? I shouldn’t pursue this on my own? I’m taking same Harris course, I’ve done some mindfulness courses, but nothing indepth. I shouldn’t continue without seeking out a whole community or instructor? Is that practical?)

  • radical recentering, can afford wisdom
  • Participatory change: alters machinery of the self; alters character\
  • Reciprocal revelation: world revealing itself
  • Love is mutually accelerating disclosure
  • Mutual conforming engenders love.

(Hmm, link to USvsTHEM)

  • knowing by loving

16:30 Cognitive Science:

  • Humphrey 2015: one of functions of self is to act as glue.
    * By making things relevant to myself, make them relevant to each other and glue them together.
    * Complexifying, processing
    * Self = systematic set of functions that’s integrating. Complqxifying together
    * Powerful machinery of complexification of information and information processing can be exacted: turn the machine whereby integrate yourself and turn it on the world
    * Glue things together and exact it on the world
    * Machinery that’s self-focussed could be used to achieve deeper understanding of world
  • Novak:
    * What seems to happen is all machinery bound up in ourself turned onto the world. That’s why the world comes alive
    * Imagine intimacy have of self-knowledge turned on the world

(interesting: do we really know ourselves?_)

  * radical decentering is doing that.
        * Time, effort, processing and skill structures built into our ego can be exacted to disclose the world
        * Coupled with radical sense of moving into being mode, and remembering who and what we really are.
  • Can understand at psychological level

Information Processing:

  • look at machine learning, AI: trying to make machines to understand the world
  • Use of disruptive strategies there.
  • Woodward: 2014: introduced randomization into neural network
  • Train them to learn themselves
  • Have to introduce noise into these networks: essential aspect of self-optimization process

( That’s amazing)

  • problem face is always sampling from the world: pattern in my experience, want to know if that pattern is in the world or not
  • Statistics: how do I know if the patterns in my sample is the same as my patterns in the world
  • representative sample
  • Often what will happen with neural network is they will overfit for the data

(that’s what we do)

  • too tightly pick up pattern in the data that doesn’t generalize to the world
  • Data compression: line of best fit: trying to find the function that will generlize, tru of the population
  • The networks track a function that perfectly tracks sample, butt doesn’t generalize
  • Throw noise into system: disrupt the processing a lot, prevents from overfitting to the data, allows to compress and find the real invariants

( have no idea why this works)

  • don’t want to underfit: won’t pick up patterns at all

( Humans naturally overfit - don’t optimize pattens)

  • have to have disruptive strategies set within powerful pattern detection.
  • That’s what’s seeing in people who pursuing these higher states of consciousness

( But again: how do we know they are seeing the real invariant pattern?)

The Brain: (29:00)

  • what’s going on in the brain?
  • See increased activity in frontal and parietal areas: most associated with general intellgence: ability to make sense and get general grip on world: see these areas get hyperactive, then hypoactive - huge increase then huge decrease
  • Enhanced activity in thalamus: areas that tries to integrate all kinds of different information together
  • Greater the disruptive shift, more powerful the awakening experience is
  • insight: initially bring the machinery to bear to frame it, then have to massively disrupt it, and break it, then system re: self organizes
  • Psychedelic experiences: Metastability state in the brain doing this complexification.
  • Normally brain integrating or segregating. But with psicilibin brain is simultaneously integrating and segregating - massively complqxifying
  • Integrating and differentiating
  • Complexification gives emergent functions
  • Can do many different things but don’t fall apart
  • Way grow and self-transcend is by complying
  • Allows you to see the world (massive integration) in a grain of sand (massive differentiation)
  • Need to place in the proper sapiential context. Traditiion, institutions, committed community to cultivating wisdom

Prescriptive Argument:

  • Why should we listen to people who have been in this state?
  • Why justification to transform life?
  • Are these states actually good guides for transformation?
  • Plausibility: central to notion of how real things are
    * Highly probable : not using this sense
    * Makes good sense: using this one. Stands to reason. Should be taken seriously
  • Most of the time can’t base actions on certainty but plausibility
  • 26:20: He’s doing work on this.
  • To make something plausible:
    * trustworthiness : regard particular proposal or construct as trustworthy if produced by many independent but convergent lines of evidence.
    * ex: regard as more real something that coming from multiple sense: if can only see it: illusion, but if can see it and touch it and smell it chances illusion diminished
    * Not certainty but trustworthiness.
    * Reduces probability that self-deceived
    * But not certainty: schizophrenia - hard to convince them not real
    * numbers: help us increase trustworthiness of the data
    * Model Elegance: that can apply to many domains
    * Like taking a martial stance, can quickly adapt it to many situations
    * Elegance for power, multi-aptness
    * Fluency: has to be higher fluent to me, internalized
    * Balance: between convergence and elegance
  • If have a lot of convergence without much elegance: trivial: not powerful, don’t transform
  • Little convergence with a lot of promise of power: farfetched: conspiracy theories
  • Want backward and forward commitments to match: only move powerfully forward when have a lot of trust in the model
  • When have deep convergence, elegance and efficient fluency - profound
  • Brain performing an evaluation of the plausibility of processing when in a HSC
  • Strategies for reducing bias:
    * deautomatization, de centering, fluency in processing
    * State that you’re in is the state of flowing optimal grip
    * Intrinsically valued
    * Finding nexus for development, finding the systematic error
    * Complexification of processing, emergent new functions
    * New abilities
  • Brain in state where getting information where saying this processing is deeply trustworthy,
  • Deeply fluent, deeply powerful so profoundly plausible

( except that it’s all internal, usually we compare to outside world to check reality)

  • not certainty, but plausibility is what have to rely on

( I agree, certainty is out. But again - it’s all internal. So why are we considering it plausible?)


  • science doesn’t give you certainty. Gives self-correcting plausibility
  • Don’t test every hypothesis - ridiculous, absurd, don’t deserve to be taken seriously - implausible
  • science: control for alternative explanations: i nference to the best explanation.
  • Infinite number of possible explanations - explanation only as good as the plausible alternatives that you beat
  • Plausibility judgments
  • HSC is optimization of processing -> brings about state of high plausibility -> relying on processes that are fundamental
  • Have to get optimal grip before can judge what it is
  • HSC: indispensability: optimal in terms of best possible functioning to you
  • Fundamental prior to all cognitive processing
  • Great guides on how to transform yourself. How to cultvate wisdom
  • But sometimes come back from these states and make bizarre statements about the world: the propositions people generate from this are useless. Often contradictory.
  • Isn’t about propositional knowing but participatory transformation
  • About getting wise practices, wise transformations

( but how do we know we are more wise in these states? Or more optimal. Or seeing real patterns?)

  • want to take the wisdom from HSCs and get it into rational discourse with an independently established metaphysics by science and philosophy
  • When we can put those two together have properly salvaged what these HSC can afford for us.
  • Don’t confuse the rationality of wisdom and the rationality of knowledge

(Not sure he expects us to get this yet or if that is what we nail down next lecture. I feel like I have a hint of it but it hasn’t settled in yet.)

John’s notes for lecture 11:
Many (2/3rds) of those that have these HSC speak less egocentrically, and more allo-centrically.
22, people primed with having to make sense of connected scenes or images, correlates with them describing their lives as meaningful. Making sense>meaingful life.
25, the fluency of the information taken in increases the trust of that information.
31, the same machinary is being used for the chain of fluency>insight>flow>mystical experiences>transformative experiences, It’s just being progressively exapted to perform better.
The more lower-level experiences you prctice, the more likely you’ll exapt your senses to be able to reach a higher-level experience.
40, the optimal cognintive grip of the world is using the categories that are broad enough to share with others, but not too broad to lose the details.
44, HSC (he puts forward) is the proficiency (for flow states) on being able to ‘optimally grip’ reality.
47, mind-wandering allows us to break our framing and make a new frame.
53, the more I vary what I’m doing (the more noise I let in), the more I’m being made aware of what’s NOT changing. By finding out what’s invarient, I also find out what’s more real.
55,Children will consistently make the same types of errors (length supersalience), and an insight of growing up for them will be the recognition of the systemic flaw of how they go about each of these problems.’
56, By add varience you can both get a clearer understanding of whats more real by what doesn’t change, but also can pinpoint where you’re making systematic errors.

John’s notes from lecture 12:
9, having people re-describe the problem from a 3rd-person perspective allows them to frame it without the personal-attachment blocking them normally. break frame and re-center. The solomon-effect, because it makes you more wise.
11, autodidacts tend to become entombed in echo-chambers, like a monkey grabbing something most salient to it and becoming trapped.
13, Having a wisdom-tradition to help guide you through a psychedlic experience can be crucial, for just using your own individualistic framework could have you extrapolate out too far from a sample size of 1.
16, one of the functions of ‘self’ is by making things relevant to yourself, you can also make them relevant to each other, and ‘glue’ them together. (linking of positive attribution in behaviourism.)
19, mystical experiences change all this energy and focus directed inwards to be looked outwards to gain a much greater clarity.
22, adding noise to neural-networks is crucial.
26, by adding noise and reducing info, you can better reach a generalized model that can be applicable over multiple scenarios besides that single one.
27, ‘disruptive strategies, set within powerful pattern-detection.’ (also why these HSC need to be interpreted within a wisdom-tradiotion, because the hypersalience from the individual can be set against these highly generalized pattern-detections.
37, Having multiple independent sources indicating the same thing gives you greater ‘plausibility’ of that thing being real, or reliable. (it reduces the probability that you are being deceived)
41, needs to be something arrived at by multiple sources, and applicable in multiple domains.
43, Convergence, Fluency, and elegance >☐<
45, your brain is getting into a state of saying its processing is deeply trustworthy, deeply fluent, deeply powerful. Therefore: profoundly plausible.
47, Science isn’t believe in because it doesn’t give us certainty or facts, but because it gives us self-correcting plausibility.
49, ‘the best explanation’ is only as good (or better) than the other hypotheses that it beats. Science relies upon having alternate hypotheses that it beats.
51, —He’s really focused on making sure people undersatnd the necessity for wisdom traditions guiding the HSC, interesting.
52, The hsc are not about propositional KNOWING or knowledge, it’s about participatory transformat and the achievement of wise practices. Do not confuse wisdom and knowledge.

I’ve just bumped your trust level on here, so it should be resolved.