Ep. 9 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Insight

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Lecture here:

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Book: Michael Polanyi’s books
Book: The problem of pure consciousness (Mysticism and Philosophy) by Robert Forman
Meditation practices: Vipassna, Metta, Tai Chi Chuan
Where to get the training that Vervaeke has in various meditations?

Type of states for insight:

  1. Pure consciousness (scaling down)
  2. Resonant at-onement (scaling up)
  3. Prajna (balance)

Post meeting notes
Is well being purpose of life? If attachment leads to suffering then does being attached to meditation as cure for suffering will lead to eventual suffering?

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My Notes:
(Sorry, no timestamps)

  • Scaling down a problem can improve your insight ability by removing a bad frame.
    but it can also mess up your problem-solving by focusing on yourself and choking.
    Scaling up a problem can improve your insight by giving you a broader frame to view the problem through.
    But it can also mess you up by locking you into a frame that inhibits the solution to the problem.
    So what do you want to do? you want to train people in both of these skills so that the two are working against each other to get you the right point of engagement with the world.
    scaling all the way down leaves you without any awareness OF anything, simply awareness
    scaling all the way up brings you to a point of understanding the world at large.
  • There’s a third insight that can be gained when having a deep understanding of the grammar underlying both. Where your pushing to the depths of knowing the agent, and the depths of knowing the arena, and the relationship shared between the two.
  • When asking Siddhartha of what identity he has, he instead answers with the way of being that he embodies. ‘I am awake.’
  • Sometimes people after having gone through a state of consciousness say that their previous state was more real than this one, for it gave them a broader grasp of even this world. and they wish to remember that feeling and modify themselves so as to achieve that
  • This is an important phenomenon that is important and widespread. Where those that have regular experiences of flow relate their lives as being more meaningful.

My Notes: (bracketed comments indicate my thoughts to myself.)

Verveake Episode 9

  • Study of mindfulness is misleading because it starts with feature list and leaves out the eidos: the structural functional organization
  • present, not judging, insightfulness, increase equanimity
  • Traits can cultivate.
  • part/whole relationship
  • Replace the language of trining with language of explaining
  • Ask what does it mean to be present. Concentration.
  • Noted that took us into paying attention, tuning optimization]
  • Attention not very well served by spotlight metaphor
  • attention: optimizing different focus
  • Understanding of attention that could capture that its an optimization strategy linked to a response to modal confusion and alleviate suffering therein
  • Cognitive unison: investigate more concretely what that might mean.
  • Attention has a structure: Polanyi
  • Tapping experiment:

(Cool effect, attention shifting, can feel things didn’t feel before. Similarly in meditation can suddenly hear the ticking of a wall clock, sound was always there, but never heard it)

  • important structure. Not completely unaware of probe, but not aware of it, but aware through it. Through the probe, aware of the cup.

  • Aware through this, aware of this. Like probe is transparent. Cup opaque.

  • Analogy: glasses are like framing. Transparent. Looking through them, but can redirect my awareness to look at them. Transparency to opacity shift.

  • Transparency to opacity shift: implicit awareness of probe, aware through probe, of focal object: focal awareness vs. Explicit awareness

  • Attention is structuring phenomena; from to, from subsidiary awareness to focal awareness, but can shift, step back, and back, from probe, to fingers, to sensations, stepping back,

  • Whole time was looking at cup looking through all that. Spotlight metaphors missing all that layered recursive stuff going on.

  • Can go back and forth: opacity to transparency shift

  • Attention doing that all the time, shifting.

  • What you’re seeing is how many processes being coordinate, integrated together to optimize and prioritize this particular object, scene, situation.

  • Tend to use in out metaphor for this.

  • When I was knowing cup through probe, indwelling the probe. Participating in how the probe is being with respect to the cup. Not knowing the probe, knowing through the probe, integrated with it and through it.

  • Like vision integrated with the glass lenses.

  • Also works with technology and psychotechnology. Literacy: don’t look at it much, look through it.

  • 16:00: THE CAT: read first one as H and another as A - fits in one

  • Letters are the feature, the word is the overall structure

  • Problem: in order to read the word must read each letter, but to figure out the letter must read the word

  • Attention is simultaneously going up from the features to the structure (eidos) and down from the words to the letters -

  • (is it attention though? Or unconscious? )

  • Mindfulness has to do with making use of all this complex dynamical processing - mindfulness optimizes them in some way.

  • Transparency to opacity shifting: always direction that matters - stepping back and looking at, indwelling and looking out into the world

  • Can also go up and down from features to gestalt

  • Nothing is inherently a feature - letter is feature in the word, word is feature in the letters

  • Operating in highly integrated fashion

( IIT)

( Reminds me of that meme where so long as the first and last letter are correct the other letters can be mixed up and can still read it.)

  • break up the whole finger into parts, scaling up and scaling down of attention

  • Vipassina:

    • pay attention to breath but tell them pay attention to feelings in abdomen - what they are doing is trying to maintain and renew interest and make it salient to themselves
    • Not looking through sensations looking at them.
    • Stepping back and looking at, breaking the gestalt into its features, that’s what do in meditation
    • Meditation means to move towards the centre
  • Why does this help cause insight.

  • Contemplation

    • In the west often confuse meditation and contemplation - not synonym
    • root is temple, latin word from part of the sky look up to see signs from the gods
    • Theory: try to see more deeply into reality - meditation is scaling down, contemplation scaling up
  • 27:45: 9 dot problem: have to break up the gestalt, and also de-automotize cognition. Take stuff that normally happens unconsciously and bring it back into the conscious: do that by making a transparency opacity shift.

  • Normally automatically sensing through probe but can shift and be aware of the probe

  • Break up the inappropriate frame, deautomatise cognition by scaling down.

  • Can improve ability to insight if can do chunk decomposition (breaking the gestalt) and constraint relaxation (deautomatising cognition)

  • Scaling down helps to break up chunks, and deautomitse - but not enough. Have to break up the gestalt but also make a better frame: have to take what’s in the background and look for deeper broader patterns - scale back up.

  • Have lots of evidence that one of the ways to improve ability to be insightful if can complete patterns in a kind of leaping. Take picture out of focus and refocus them mentally

  • Both make better, but both make worse: if just scale up: immediately project square and lost. If just scale down choke oneself.

  • ( See this a lot in discussions: you have people who focus mainly on the micro level and people who focus on the macro level - but for a well-rounded analysis you need to look at both the tree level and the forest level. Often people don’t reconcile the two: they have their forest view and don’t adjust when the trees don’t align. The layers of abstraction must be consistent with one another - if they aren’t we have to rethink it. )

  • have to do both: don’t want the strings too tight or too loose. Want to train people in both skills and to flow between them. Coordinate and get the right degree of attentional engagement most fitting to the world.

  • Mindfulness not just with meditation

  • 8 fold path: trained in meditation and contemplation and flow between them.

  • When scale down making mind less representational, less inferential. Gaining awareness of problem framing, making more insightful.

  • What if just scaled down and scaled down: get a mystical experience: pure consciousness event.

  • Meditation like doing reps: building ability.

  • Went back in layers - work back to just being conscious not conscious of anything

( This is an interesting suggestion and I’m curious as to what this experience is. What does it mean to be conscious but not OF anything? Consciousness tends to imply having an experience. He still calls it an experience. So SOMETHING is being experienced.)

  • what if really scale up: see everything as interconnected and permanent…feel at one. Super flow state, deeply at one with everything. Resonant at-onement.
  • Explains why people get into these mystical experiences
  • We want both at the the same time.
  • Third state: the state that matters: the state of non-duality.
  • As inhale scale up - trying to get onement, as breathe out trying to get to pure consciousness event: often have to do that for years
  • What can happen is can have the third type of mystical; includes both at the same time, awareness deeply to depths of consciousness and reality, all at once. Prajna state: state of non-duality wisdom

( But is it true, does it matter?)

  • this is what can lead to insight: the guts and grammar of agent/arena relationship. So can see connectedness between the two. Capacity for insight into existential modes of being. This is how can remember the being mode. Can have fundamental insight.
  • This is what buddy experienced: his innovation was to join vipassina and meta together: experienced enlightenment. Awakening.
  • Walking down the road: visage has changed. In the flow state. I am awake.
  • Sati: remembered the being mode. Not an insight about this or that problem, but fundamental insight into what it means to be a human being. Optimizes entire being. Fundamental transformative experience.
  • Why do people pursue altered states of consciousness, psychedelic. Why so powerfully important.
  • Awakening metaphor: in contrast to sleeping. Dream state: seems real but when wake up realize it wasn’t real. Normally when have an altered state wake up point at it and say that’s not real. Sometimes people have experiences and say that was more real. And this is less real

( does that mean its real? Does it matter? What if its just our brain functions temporarily remapping, producing really cool experiences. Does it matter if that’s all it is?)

  • access to the real world: but why is it more real. Back to the cave.
  • Going to change myself and change my world to try and recapture, remember that really real. Start to transform their whole lives.
  • Quantum change theory; bad name, good theory

(Should look this up)

  • how is it that these experiences have such authority
  • At the core of world religions

( Is this evidence that its not real? That religions have sprung from cool brain states)

  • had an significant increase in meaning of life

( if meaning of life improved, does it matter if its not real? What does real mean?)

  • experiment work

( Should look up Vervake’s work)

  • doesn’t matter what the content of the experience is: but somehow optimizing capacity to make sense - both inwardly and outwardly
  • Similar claims in all mystical traditions
  • Seem to be deep truths about the nature of mindfulness and attention, can significantly alleviate existential stress

( This is why it may not matter if its true. Allevaites anxiety.)

Here’s my notes from Episode 10.

Episode 10 Vervake Notes: Consciousness

  • last week: Mindfulness can bring about insight not just into a single problem but a modal insight, a systematic insight that is fully transformative of the agent/arena relationship and relieve existential distress

  • Two kinds of attentional scaling: transparency/opacity shift, breaking gestalt into features and scaling up

  • mindfulness: scale down, break down inappropriate framework. Also scale up train making better framing

  • Optimize by flowing between the two, can optimize capacity for more comprehensive insight

  • Progena: non-duality, dissipate modal confusion, realness, increase meaning and life

  • Transformative Experience: LA Pauls

Alterred State of Consciousness:

  • hard problem of consciousness
  • Not going to talk about that but looking at some of the form and function of consciousness
  • Two questions:
    • What is consciousness: how does it emerge out of the brain
    • What is the function of consciousness
    • No consensus on what consciousness does.
  • Don’t know your consciousness the way that you know other things. Just know you’re conscioussness. Knowing and being are the same. You participate in your consciousness
  • What does it do?
    • Not obvious. Do most things without conscioussness. No conscious awareness of what brain is doing that allows to generate speech.
    • What is consciousness for, what does it do?
  • Not going to answer these comprehensively: hard problem of meaning is the goal here
  • Work on consciousness points to why C is valuable

Global Workspace Theory:

  • C functions like the desktop of a computer
  • Have desktop and files, can activate file and bring it into desktop, pieces of information broadcast back to you and can broadcast back to the files
  • All unconscious processing in brain, retrieve it to working memory, activate it so pieces can work together, then broadcast it back to existing files
  • Don’t want all files active at same time b/c that’s disaster
  • What to bring them to mind when relevant, transform them, then broadcast them back
  • Baars: paper
  • Idea that architecture helping to solve the “frame problem” - helping to zero in on relevant information.
  • 3 areas where huge issue:
    • All information available in this room astronomically vast, can’t make use of all of it, have to select what info make use of
    • Huge information in my memory, have to select from all of that.
    • Have to put pieces of information altogether
  • C helping to zero in relevant info out there, in the brain, and put them together.
  • C associated with working memory which is associated with function
  • Help realize, actualize relevant information
  • Will come back to this

Neuroscientific account

  • correlation with brain activity
  • Activity seems to be involved when people chunk information or insight
  • Boren-Seth model

Integrated Information Theory

  • Tononi, about the nature of C

  • C is how powerfully integrated pieces of information are in brain

  • More tightly integrated more powerful processing

  • Why is it doing this? Proposes like a Turing test for C, can test by giving it anomalous pictures and see if they don’t make sense

  • Tracking how much picking up on the patterns in the world, making sense of the world

  • Trying to track the complexity of the world

  • Main function of IIT: allow to determine if pieces of information are relevant to one another and relevant to you

  • Not saying any relevance realization is C

  • But C is to coordinate attention and other related abilities of awareneesss to optimize how insightfully insight the world

  • Can reduce C when problem well defined, no high degree of novelty or insight

  • Don’t know if its a complete account of the function of C but a part of it

  • Insight is like a flash, brightening of C

  • Explains why may want to alter state of C, alter what I find relevant and salient

Putting it together:

  • Matson: sizing up
  • Salience landscape: picking out out of all the things could be picking out some features (featurization)
  • foregrounding: foreground some of what is around you, the rest is backgrounded. Goes both ways. Take them in Gestalt those features, create a figure - figure it out - make it stand out even more - more salient, also configuring it together
  • Figuration: also feeds back
  • Framing: framing problems
  • Very complex dynamical system at work
  • C creates a salience landscape: some things rising up out of unintelligibility as features that get forgrounded and configured, frame problems around them, attention shifting
  • Highly textured/flowing salience landscape. That’s what it’s like to be here right now
  • If get too close lose the gestalt, if too far lose the details: want to get an optimal “grip” on it.
  • Optimizes between gestalt and feature, taking salience landscape

( This episode more about framing and providing language for what we’ve already concluded: that need a balance between gestalt and features)

  • grip: metaphorical contact, where I can place things, this is movable
  • Salience landscape gets you in contact, then optimal gripping get info affordances. Agent/arena: I am a grasper and this is graspable.
  • I am presenting myself to it and it is presenting itself to me
  • Sizing up: Presence Landscape: whole affordance network laid out for you
  • flow: need to track the differences between correlational and causal patterns
  • Depth landscape: C is figuring out the causal patterns and not just correlational.
  • 2 year old and spoon: drop it over and over, because trying to use salience landscape to use affordances. The spoon is graspable. Transform salience landscape into presence landscape into a depth landscape
  • Getting a deep understanding interjectionally with the spoon
  • This is what C is doing for you. Helping zero in on relevant information

( This is the argument against pre-suppositionalism. My argument with Sye Ten B on how why we trust our senses - based on empirical experience. Why we trust won’t fall through the earth).

  • shifting dynamically, how you and what’s salient are being co-identified in agent/arena and tracking the Casal patterns, connect with the guts of the world

( Course it seems to do more than that)

  • if transform my C transforming all this: salience landscape, presence landscape and depth landscape

( So is it more about different perspective? Is that about truth? Does it entail truth? Which model of truth: affects how we interact and see ourselves, maybe function better, more self-realized?)

  • the patterns going to track, the kind of agent going to be, kind of arena in going to be transformed.

( Interesting, the arena is a mental construct here, it’s not the bare physical pieces, it is how we perceive it.)

  • not an insight IN C, its an insight OF C
  • Radical transformation of all landscapes
  • Systematic insight
  • Goes back to Piager, childhood development
  • As the child is to the adult, the adult is to the sage
  • 5 candies experiment with 4 year olds. Two layers of candies, bottom one is more spread out. Ask which row they want. Counted, know there are the same amount. All the kids pick the bottom row. Bunch of errors.
  • Used to pay attention to what the kids got right, but thought might be a pattern in the errors
  • Contraints operating in the child’s cognition
  • Maybe could understand development on how constraints are shifting.

( Interesting though that there’s a strong physical link there. The kids literally aren’t capable of that deeper understanding based on their current physical development now. The pathways aren’t formed. Meditation has been found to reinforce certain neural pathways. Does give you better - or different - ability to process. Interesting physical/mental relationship).

  • Kids picking lower row because it takes up more space. Space variable super salient to them. Only picking up on that. Adults also make salient that the extra space is non-candy space so not relevant.

( a robot could be programmed to make the same inference, he’s saying our C helps us do this.)

  • we see through this illusion. Our salience landscape trained to see these multiple variables at the same time.
  • Zero in on the relevant information in the relevant way
  • Super-salience triggers bullshitting and self-deception - if can change salience landscape don’t fall prey to the illusion and don’t behave foolishly
  • Kids make a system of errors, salience landscape not sufficiently cultivated.

( But is there a difference between what one considers relevant and what one SHOULD consider relevant. In practice we all tend to focus on subtly or non-subtly different relevances. Left/Right is a prime factor in this. Working together to share what we’ve picked up helps us spot all of them. I guess cultivating mindfulness helps us do it ourselves, but maybe there are pros to just focusing on one or the other so long as we come together or trade off (like why I don’t want my preferred party in power all the time)

  • 33:50; what if has systematic insight of C, change salience landscaping. See through illusion and into reality.

( Is any change in salience landscaping good? How do we know that our new perception is seeing through the illusion)

  • even as adult falling for systematic illusions not aware of. Only become aware if change the 3 landscapes systematically. Systematc improvement in insight is to be wise.
  • Significance landscape: Systematically tracking presence in depth so can wisely zero in on the relevant information and make life more meaningful. Protects from BS, allows to see through illusion and into reality and afford you having things more present to you
  • More comprehensive flowing relationship with reality

(but still have to double check)

Alterred States of Consciousness

  • 36:50: altered states of consciousness have potential to create insight of C, but also screw up salience landscape make more prone to BS
  • Most altered states do that. But certain altered states do the opposite feel like changing systematic insight - it all makes sense now

( But is “feels like” a key word here?)

  • why is that altered state more real? Really real. And this state less real. Why feel like woke up?
  • 37:30: Set up the problem. We know that many people experience higher states of C, reliably what is characteristic of these states find it to be really real, arena and agent. That’s the way the world really is and who I really am. So much so that I’m going to transform my everyday experience. Mutual more realness
  • AS prompts to change, need to have that
  • Willing to transform everything to get back to that really real world and self
  • Problem of the Ontonnormativity: Ontology: structure of reality. Normative: when things placing demand on you to be better
  • AS challenging you to change because presenting more realness.
  • Historically important and pervasive: Steve Taylor waking from sleep
  • Newberg: how enlightenment changes your brain
  • Range in intensity: 30-40% of the population

( Seems high?)

  • psychedelic experience can produce deeply transformative mystical experince.
  • Problem: transformative experience people undergo seem driven and justified by this more realness. Justify the transformation. Religions have this. Come down to this claim: I had THIS and it justifies what I’m telling you.

(getting at the questions I asked above)

  • problematic because in contrast to how we see most of our other Alterred states.
  • Why do reject dreaming as unreal: when in the dream it seems real. When come out pattern in dream don’t cohere to rest of life
  • intelligibility plato: more intelligible something is, more real it is. Dream doesn’t fit in so less real
  • Real: pattern of intelligibility with the widest scope: makes the most sense of experience
  • But: in higher state of C its the reverse: single experience, doesn’t cohere with rest of life, and challenges rest of life.
  • Difference so great that instead of rejecting it, reject everyday experience
  • What’s going on?
  • Does this without providing new content: ineffiable can’t put into words, trans-rational, can’t explain.
  • No content, and temporary but we treat it the opposite of most AS
  • Should be the states we most reject. But we promote them as really real, and reject everyday experience
  • Core of axial revolution
  • Way it is still informing cognitive grammar, and informing existential way of being
  • Know that AS can bring about developmental improvement, but how?
  • Can we give an adequate explanation of AS?
  • People’s lives do get better, Not making it up

( So maybe it’s not about truth? It’s about making our lives better)

  • have to solve this problem. Make some progress on it:
    • Descriptive explanation - cognitive brain processes, explain the phenomenological
    • Explain why people feel it being more real, feels justifies empowers and motivates them to transform - psychological
    • Prescriptive account: is it actually a legitimate thing? Do they provide a rational explanation and guide to the transformation
    • Are they actually philosophically justifiable or just an illusion? Is it rationally justifiable
    • Prescriptive account must integrate with the descriptive to be coherent.
    • Descriptiove account best way is to do a cognitive science approach: plausibly trying to integrate different levels in the analysis
    • Good account of cognitive processes in the mind, information processes at work, draw on AI and machine learning.
    • Draw on neuroscientiifc accounts of what’s happening in the brain
    • Going to try and give this account. Though not going to argue these states give us any special knowledge - not about changing evidence, shouldn’t use them as a way of challenging scientific claims/ that’s a mistake many make. People think the whole point of cognition and rationality is to get better beliefs and shown more to it\

( This is really interesting. Getting at its not just about truth. Want to see where he’s going with this)

  • when child stops falling prey to illusiion, no new facts been discovered. What changed was not knowledge but wisdom.
  • Pursue idea that higher states of cognition are rational not because give us new knowledge (people come out with opposite conclusions) knew God, knew no God -= content diametrically opposite. Dyametrically opposite claims
  • What’s changing is not the content is your functioning. Gaining wisdom. Gaining skills of significance landscaping, radically transform existential mode

( So its how we opearate, how we feel. )

  • buddha didn’t answer metaphysical questions