Ep. 38 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Agape and 4E Cognitive Science | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 38 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Agape and 4E Cognitive Science".


Note: This transcription is split and grouped by topics and subtopics. You can navigate through the Table of Contents on the left. It's interactive. All paragraphs are timed to the original video. Click on the time (e.g., 01:53) to jump to the specific portion of the video.


Intro (00:15)

Welcome back to Awakening from the Meaning Crisis. So last time we were taking a look at the perennial problems that are endemic to us precisely because of the functioning and structuring and development of our adaptive religio, the very processes that make us intelligently adaptive also make us vulnerable to self-deceptive, self-destructive behavior. And I propose to you that we can address parasitic processing with a counteractive dynamical system. We can address motor confusion by the cultivation of sati. We can address the reflectiveness gap by the cultivation of flow. We can address absurdity by cultivating prajna. We can address anxiety by cultivating inner dialogue, by internalizing the sage through a process of internalization and indwelling that allows us to identify with the sage. We can address the process of alienation through the cultivation of communitas. And I mentioned to you some new sets of communal psycho-technologies that are emerging and people who are trying to develop thinking about how to make use of authentic relating, circling, trying to break through our current cultural grammar to a form of authentic discourse and relating. So that's on offer. And that we can respond to existential entrapment by the cultivation of gnosis which can be empowered by a core capacity for realizing higher states of consciousness. So what you have is basically a higher state of consciousness that is empowering gnosis. And that is of course set within. Part of gnosis as you remember I argued is it has to be set within a proper ritual context, etc. I remind you all of that. And that this is being used to cultivate and of course is being reflectively transformed by a counteractive dynamical system that is going to of course get you sets of practices for cultivating sati, cultivating flow, cultivating prajna, cultivating communitas, cultivating inner dialogue, etc. When this is set within a wisdom framing, which... so that comprehensively the person is developing interlocking sets of virtues for addressing self-deception and for affording self-optimization. And this results in a reliable response of amelioration and alleviation of the perennial problems. I would say that's enlightenment. At least the enlightenment that I'm trying to reverse engineer. The components can each ultimately be explained and understood by our best cognitive science, I believe. At least I've given you reasons that we can rationally hope that. What of course needs to be done is to still try and articulate wisdom from a scientific perspective. And of course that is one of the most exciting things that's happening right now. Something that I am privileged to participate in. All of the ongoing scientific work, even neuroscientific work on what does wisdom mean and how can we cultivate it. And there's just so many people. And we're going to talk about that at length. But we need to do something else because we need to talk about the way in which this whole project, as I said, can be delegitimized, undermined, eroded if these whole sets of practices can't be situated within an encompassing and welcoming world view. So having an ecology of psycho-technologies for addressing the perennial problems is necessary, but of course not sufficient for responding to the mean crisis.

Ecological Philosophy And Love

Ecology Steps (05:33)

I've been encouraged by meeting so many people that are trying to set up, I keep worrying about it, I want my language to be responsive to the creativity of these individuals. They're trying to create these ecologies of psycho-technologies.

Michael Nations (06:10)

I've talked to Rafe Kelly for example. He's done some amazing work on trying to bring together aspects of parkour, the martial arts, people doing something like the circling practice. And again, create this ecology of practices. I've talked to Michael Nathan. He's trying to integrate ideas about the training and cultivation of wisdom into the training of martial arts in order again to try and realize an ecology of practices for responding to the meaning crisis. And so there's many people out there already doing this. I want to indicate that I'm pointing to something that people are already doing. I'm not trying to take credit for it, but I'm hoping that, and I'm getting some supportive feedback, that the work I'm doing here with you of trying to articulate that can help facilitate these groups and help them coordinate and communicate and potentially commune with each other in a mutually beneficial fashion. So a couple more things. We need to go back to this.

How do I Respond to Loss of 3 Order & Loss of Worldviews Metaphysically? (07:13)

We need to talk about the integration with the historical forces because there's a particular issue that comes to the fore. So this is the plan for going forward. Let's talk about the interaction between the historical forces and the perennial problems. And let's talk about more explicitly, can we respond to the loss of the three orders and the worldview misattunement? And then what that would look like. And again, I'm not proposing to found. I'm trying to just talk about what I see emerging and hopefully give some suggestive steps towards can we get that religion that's not a religion? And then put that into dialogue with other people who have engaged in similar projects, people like Tillich and Young and Corbin and Barfield. And so that we've got at least, I hope, a very rich dialogue with a lot of momentum to it for trying to get to this religion that's not a religion. Okay. So the historical forces, the loss of the three orders, let's remember this. And why it matters. So you've lost the three orders. We've lost the nomological. And the nomological basically gives us this deep sense of coherence and connectedness. That is so central. We know from our current work on meaning in life, we lost the normative order. Which gives us, I would argue, that sense of significance, depth that we get through self-transcendence. And of course we've lost the narrative order, which gives us a sense of purpose or direction. And then as we've lost this, we have a worldview again in which we don't belong, in which our projects don't belong, etc. And of course that will interact with, it will exacerbate any attempts that individuals or groups have in addressing perennial problems. And when you get that going, that's when the meaning crisis really bites you individually. It really gnaws at you as a person or as a community or as a group. Now I want to talk about first of all this interaction because it brings up a particular problem. And here again I'm going to point to the seminal work of Wolf on her book on Meaning in Life and Why It Matters. So I was interviewed by Leandro on a podcast, "Manifested Well-Being."

What Does Love Really Mean? (10:39)

And then he then later recently interviewed Wolf and her work on Meaning in Life. So I recommend you going to that to take a look at her work, also reading her book. Now if you remember, she says that Meaning in Life is ultimately about a kind of deep connectedness that we want. So we have all these metaphors. We want to be connected to something larger than ourselves, bigger than ourselves, etc. And that's what makes our life meaningful. And of course it's this notion of connectedness. But she says those are metaphors. They're what I would call their symbolic expressions. What people are really saying is they want this. She talks about it this way. And think about how this just sings to everything we've been doing here. We want subjective attraction to find salient, right? And to be drawn into, we want subjective attraction to, that meets to, that connects with, that conforms to objective attractiveness. So notice here, you notice here, of course, the transjectivity here, that it's actually in here that the meaning is to be found. And notice also the connectivity and how much this is, the relevance realizing, the deep connection, the deep caring, the deep involvement, the deep participation. So that all lines up. But then, of course, and here's where this and this interact, right? What happens is, she says, "Ah, because of this, we know there's no such thing as this." We know there's no such thing as this. The scientific revolution and the law, there's nothing that is objectively attractive. This is a particular grammar, right? This is the grammar again that, you know, there isn't, there's nothing, there's no meaning or relevance in this thing, in itself. This is ultimately sort of a Kantian argument. And Will sort of leaves it there. She does allude to ways in which we can bullshit ourselves. We can pretend we have objective attraction just by finding a group of people who agree to value the same things we do. And that is a kind of bullshitting because the salience of the group is actually masking whether or not it's given us what we're looking for. And she criticizes all of those attempts, I think, quite rightly. And that's where she sort of leaves it, at least when I read the book. I don't know of more recent work. She's got an answer to it. So, work I'm doing with Thalia Brantidis, Jinsun Kim, Philip Risowick, we're really trying to say, is there a way of addressing this problem using the current cognitive science, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, etc. I won't keep saying everything that's in cognitive science, you know, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, machine learning. Can we use all of that, the best of that, to address this issue? So, notice that, again, this issue is an issue in which historical forces prevent sort of the fundamental legitimation of the whole project that we would try to use to address the perennial problems. Okay, so, what can we think about this? Well, part of it is, I think, to ask if, do we need things to be objectively valuable? So, what that means is that things would have a value independent about how I would value them, or how you would value them. And there's a particular move that you can make that doesn't require that the thing has objective value, right? Instead, you could think about the set of characteristics that need to exist in order for meaning to be created. So, what I'm trying to point you towards, and we have to go very delicately, right? I'm trying to point you towards that it's actually the transjectivity of the relationship that we need. And we don't really need objective attractiveness. That's not quite right. So, let's think about this. Relevance realization is inherently interested in itself because, as I've argued, that's constitutive of it being a self-organizing, self-correcting, self-optimizing, self-developing, evolving process. Relevance realization is not something in me. It's not something in the world. It emerges in the affordances that are co-created by the world in myself. It's bidirectional in that fashion. So, what I need to be connected to, I would argue, is I need to be connected to finding, I need to be connected to those conditions that afford relevance realization itself. Those conditions that satisfy my inherent valuing of the relevance realization process itself. So, what does that mean? What that means is I ultimately want to care about the conditions that afford meaning-making itself. Those conditions are universal in a sense. Not in the sense that they are the same environmental conditions or the same psychological, but the same set of conditions that make possible and afford meaning-making itself. Now, this sounds all very abstract, and now I want to try and turn it around, and this is something that I'm arguing for, that when we care to create the conditions of meaning-making because we find them inherently valuable, because that is constitutive of our capacity to be agents and to value anything else. When we're doing that, what we're actually engaging in is agape. Agape is to love for its own sake the process of meaning-making, and the process of meaning-making is the process of being a person, ultimately. This is agape. That's why, of course, the things that contribute most significantly to meaning in life is our sense of being connected to other people agapically. What I'm saying to you is that there is a way of responding to this, which is the cultivation, the realization, the appreciation of agape. And you say, "But there's no objective value to meaning-making." Of course there isn't, but it's not subjective or arbitrary. It is transjective, and it is, in that sense, transcendental, in a Kantian sense. What I'm involved with are the very conditions on the possibility of meaning-making itself. So to agapically love people, of course, is not just to be directed at that body and mind. It's to be directed at their conditions, their community, their environment, their development, their education. That's agape. That exists independently of me, of you, of us, of a group, because agape precedes, permeates, and follows us. So part of what it means, therefore, and of course this is also part of the tradition, but it becomes especially pertinent for us. Part of how enlightenment has to be for us is that whatever machinery we craft together for addressing the perennial problems has to be integrated, grounded in an agopic way of being.

The Francis Doubleside on the Project (21:26)

And that, of course, makes sense too. If you think about being within the being mode, having an "I thou" relationship, etc., we have to care about the conditions that make any caring possible. So part of what we need to do is to address this issue with agape, the cultivation of agape. I think we should ultimately see agape as our deepest appreciation for the caring that is intrinsic, constitutive to the relevance realization that makes both the agent and the arena possible. Is that pointing to something that, in the physics of reality? No. But it is pointing to something that is romantically dwelling within my subjectivity? No. It's pointing to caring about something that is inherently transjective and has a value independent of my valuing of it, because my valuing of it does not constitute it into existence. I emerge from it and participate in it. I am not the source or maker of it. What about the historical factors, the historical forces? So we've lost the three orders. We can, I would argue, we can make use of what's happening in third generation COG-Sci, 4E COG-Sci. In conjunction with the theoretical machinery you've been developing on the cognitive scientific side of things to address that. The way I want to do this is I want to make use of an article by Francisco Varela. This is not me saying that I think that everything that Varela has to say or all of his particular theories are right or something like that. But Varela is one of the founding figures of third generation 4E COG-Sci. Of course that work has been developed significantly since him and that's why it's important to only see him as a founding figure, not as the final figure. The seminal work of Evan Thompson. If you want to see these ideas taken into a depth, get Evan's book, "Mind and Life." It's just fantastic. We talked about this, the deep continuity hypothesis and how it re-situates us into an order. Because there's a continuity between the principles of cognition and the principles of biology and then the principles of dynamical self-organizing physical systems. But I want to pick up on this because I want to pick up on something that he said because he writes this piece and it's sort of simultaneously argumentative and autobiographical. He wrote it in 2000. It's in a book called "The Psychology of Awakening." He talks about what he calls "steps towards a science of interbeing unfolding the Dharma implicit in cognitive science." So he relates the following thing. He was trying to, he'd been asked to write an article about, and around 2000 is when third generation COG-Sci was really starting to develop. And he was asked to write an article, sort of, "What are the main insights or claims about this?" And I want to go through that and sort of unpack them a bit and then also unpack the elements. So sort of, "What are the insights of third generation COG-Sci?"

The Doubleside Story Three Generations of CO IA Science (26:45)

And I have been trying to exemplify them for you. I've been trying to exemplify them in all of the lectures throughout the whole of the series, but especially since episode 25. Third generation COG-Sci. And unpack the four E's. I actually think they're sort of five E's, but what's also called five E, cognitive science. And how does it address the three orders? As he was doing this, what kept happening to him is, as he kept articulating to himself the insights that were central to cognitive science, he found that he was constantly saying things that he found consonant with the Dharma, the central teachings of Buddhism. So he found this deep resonance between the science and a particular path about whereby individuals and communities actually cultivate meaning, wisdom, etc. So he lists the first one, and this is one of the four E's of cognitive science, the issue of embodiment, that we're deeply embodied. So here's a quote from that 2001 article. "Mind is not program, software, or rule-bound manipulation of symbols." He means symbols in the mathematical sense, not in the spiritual sense we've been developing here. "Mind is not program, software, or rule-bound manipulation of symbols. Instead, the mind arises through immediate coping with the world." So the idea here is that we understand intelligence, and this is something I've been trying to articulate, we understand intelligence as our coping with the world, the way we are evolving the sensory motor loop so that we deal with the problems at hand that directly afford our interaction with the world at large. He uses the word "coping" because he's trying to get us out of a fascination and a fixation with our capacity for theorizing, not because he thinks that theorizing is wrong, or that would be a self-contradictory act, he's offering a theory. But he's trying to get us to remember the other kinds of knowing, and the way in which ultimately to be a general problem solver, to be an intelligent cognitive agent, is to have this ongoing evolving fittedness, the coping with my immediate interaction with the world, and that this is the defining features he would argue, and I would agree, with being a cognitive agent. And he calls that embodiment, many people might see that, Evan Thompson, as enactment. So there's a bunch of these "e's" here, there's embodiment. Other people might say what Varela is talking about there is embeddedness, the way we are embedded. Inactive, this is Evan Thompson's idea that cognition isn't inherently something we enact, right? Extended, that our cognition is not in our head, but it's extended through our interactions with the world, through our psycho-technologies, through distributed cognition. Those are the four "e's". Whether or not we should pin this specifically to this, or maybe it overlaps with some of these other ones, that's fine. We're going to see more of this with Varela anyways. But notice what this is about. The embodiment is about the idea that there is a deep continuity between your most abstract cognitive abilities and your most embodied sensory-motor action. I've tried to argue that you can see this in the following way, that your cognition is ultimately dependent on, grounded in, the relevance realization, and the relevance realization is ultimately grounded in your bio-economy. Your body is not some clay that you drag around in our Cartesian fashion. Your body is a bio-economy that enacts logistical norms of efficiency and resiliency that constrain your cognition so that it continually evolves its fittedness to the world. There's a deep continuity between cognition and biology. And of course, the biology is deeply embedded. You are engaging in what biologists talk about as continual niche construction.

Niche Construction (33:14)

So the new biology that's emerging, I'm privileged to know, and I get to interact with Dennis Walsh here at the University of Toronto. If you want to see some people that are doing the cutting-edge work on the philosophy of biology, take a look at Dennis's work and the work of other people. There's an anthology, I think -- I'm trying to remember what it's called -- I think it's criticizing or reflecting on the grand synthesis, the synthesis between Darwinian evolution and Mendelian genetics. I'll get the right book panel to come up. But there is this idea about the importance of processes like niche construction for understanding evolution. And the idea here is -- and you see how I've been making use of this -- there's the organism and the environment. And the idea is the organism is shaping the environment, shaping and selecting the environment, and the environment is shaping and selecting the organism. And so the organisms get involved with affecting the environments so that it is conducive to their way of being, but they also evolve both biologically and behaviorally to exploit and make good use of that changed environment. And you've got this transjective, evolving loop going on, niche construction. We do this, of course, on a broad scale through culture because what culture is is we do this thing where we massively shape the environment and then massively shape ourselves to fit that environment. So culture is about both fitting people to an environment and fitting the environment to the people in this ongoing fashion. And so that takes us right into this notion, of course, that we are deeply embedded. We're deeply embedded.

Embodiment leads to deep embedding (35:12)

So embodiment leads to -- and there's some people that argue that embeddedness sort of reduces to embodiment. Roland seems to be arguing that in one of his books on the new science of the mind. But anyways, the idea here is the deep continuity. We are deeply embodied. We are deeply embedded. Now notice how that is going -- it's undermining the way in which Descartes severed everything. And if -- so this is obviously a species of niche construction, a comprehensive one. And if this, as I've tried to argue, can even tell us something important about consciousness, both its function and its phenomenology, then we can seriously respond to Descartes and say, "No, no. The mind and body are not disconnected. They are in a deep continuity. And the mind and the world are not disconnected. They are in a deep continuity of embeddedness and inactive processing." So what's the second insight that Varela brings up? Emergence, which is -- like it's a major term now. And this is something that has been invoked throughout this series. The idea that a system -- especially if the system is self-organizing, it can produce properties as a system that the component parts can't possess. And so the idea is the mind in this sense emerges out of the embodied, embedded brain coupled to a living environment. I've tried to give you ways of understanding that emergence and how it is reflected in your spirituality by your capacity for self-transcendence and how that could be understood, at least in part, a significant part, by the complexification that is inherent in your relevance realization machinery in your religio. So what does this mean for us?

Emergence through complexification (38:05)

This means that we are starting to get something like a vertical dimension back to our ontology. Not a two worlds vertical dimension, but the idea of emergence through complexification of things like biology. So you've got self-organizing things. And they already -- so what processes -- like the processes -- combustion is self-organizing. A tornado is self-organizing. Erosion is self-organizing. Evolution is self-organizing. And the thing is, particular kinds of self-organization, like evolution, can produce things that are more than self-organizing. They are self-making. This is Varela's notion of an auto-poetic system. There's lots of controversies around this, and I don't think it solves everything that Varela thinks it solves. But it is definitely the case that, unlike a tornado, I am a self-organizing thing that self-organizes such that I seek out those conditions that protect and promote my agency. And then, of course, the self-making things. They can become more than just self-making things. They can become self-identifying things. You can become a reflective self-making thing. You can become aware of, come to some understanding and appreciation of your self-making, of the way in which you are inherently developmental. Because that's what we're talking about when we talk about development, the way in which you're self-making.

Normative order is backed by metaphor (40:11)

And then you can interact with that in ways that I've tried to show you. And so on and so forth. And so self-transcendence. And notice what's happening here. A normative order is being given a metaphysical backing. Now, I want to come back later towards the end of the series and talk about this bottom-up emergence. And does it need to be complemented by a metaphysical idea of a top-down emanation? And what might that mean? And I'm going to be very tentative about that because this is something that is really trying to break free from some of the deepest grammar that has gotten us into the meaning crisis. But right now I'm going to continue with Varela. Okay, so you've definitely got emergence. What's the third one? Right? So there's all these "E's." So he's got embodiment, which is shared with 4E cognitive science. And I think whatever you think about some of his claims about auto-puistas and others, he helped to really bring this to the fore for current cognitive science. And this is now informing experimental psychology. We're seeing how much your embodiment affects your cognition. And then he gave, the next one was, emergence. And then the third one is emotion. And this is really interesting because the deep divide between emotion and reason, a divide that I think is enshrined, ossified in our cognitive grammar, and the ongoing battle between the empiricists and the romantics, between John Locke and Rousseau, is being addressed. And we went back to this. And so we can think of the work of Damasio here and Descartes' "Ero."

Emotion and emotion (42:33)

And we talked about this. And now you see this. Damasio was basically showing that people without emotion, even though all of the calculative machinery may be operating normally well, means these people that, you remember in Descartes' error, that although all the calculative machinery is operating well, they're disconnected from their emotions, they are incapacitated as cognitive agents. Why? Because without emotion, without the caring that is integral to relevance realization, remember what Reid said, that we're different from computers, that we have to care about emotion. And why do we, sorry, we have to care about information. Why do we have to care about information? Because we ultimately have to take care of ourself, because of the kind of beings we are. When you don't have that, you face combinatorial explosion. There's a deep interconnection between being embodied, being a relevance realizer, and having emotions.

Caring & Coping (43:57)

Emotions is the way in which relevance realization is brought up into the level of your salience landscaping. And what emotions do is they craft your, they shape and sculpt the salience landscaping, such that an agent-arena relationship becomes obvious and apparent to you. When you're angry, you assume a particular role, you assign a bunch of identities, and it's obvious to you what you should be doing. I would make this prediction, that as we move towards making, and we're going to come back to this issue, about artificial general intelligence, as we move towards making artificial general intelligence, we more and more, we're already having to give these machines something deeply analogous to attention, and we're going to, I would predict, have to give them something analogous to emotion. So, I think it's better to talk about this. I would put the two together, right? That within religio, you always have caring coping. And that's the core of your cognitive agency. The emotion also carries up to the relationship, and of course, this goes back to Agape, that emotion is how we coordinate the attachment, I don't mean it in the Buddhist sense, I mean in the psychological sense, the attachment relationships between individuals, such that we create persons, that we create persons who are capable of dwelling within and coordinating their efforts within distributed cognition. We create persons within communities of persons that shape themselves, their community, and their world to fit together in an ongoing agent arena fashion. The last, it points to, is kind of excellence. This has to do with connections between third generation 4E cognitive science, dynamical systems, self-optimization, and an aspect of psychology that has become known as positive psychology.

Neuroscience, Ideology And Narrative

Why neuroscience studies how the mind breaks down but not how it excels (46:57)

Positive psychology is a way of doing psychology that is complementary to our standard way. Our standard way of doing psychology is to see how things break down, how they fall apart. I'm not trying, I believe most people in positive psychology are also not trying to dismiss or debunk or any crazy thing like that, sort of standard psychology. Standard psychology studies the mind by how it breaks down for two very good reasons. One is by studying how it breaks down, we can analyze it and we can thereby understand its parts and how they might be working together. Also, by understanding how the mind breaks down, how the psyche breaks down, we can potentially therapeutically and pedagogically intervene to fix it, repair it, therapeutic intervention, therapeutic and pedagogical intervention. That's very noble and I'm not trying to diss that in any way. But what positive psychology says is you shouldn't study the mind only in terms of how it breaks down. You should also study the mind in terms of how it excels beyond the norm. How do all the pieces fit together in a way, see your brain is a machine of machines that can make itself into a new kind of machine. How can the brain put, how does the brain, the embodied, the inactive, embedded brain, body, sensory motor loop, mind, how does it transcend itself? How does it excel? How do, how, we should study individuals who have optimized their cognition better than the norm. Because here's the idea, very often you can only understand something deeply, not only in terms of its parts and how it breaks down, but you can only understand in terms of the whole and how it excels because that reveals properties and powers that you don't see in the norm. And so positive psychology studies things like happiness, meaning in life. Importantly, and this is where 4E Cog Sci and positive psychology really come together, wisdom. Wisdom is the term we give for people who are excellent in their cognitive capacities, for coping and caring, and for, I would argue, responding to issues of self-deception, helping people deal with the perennial problems of human existence. And so this becomes a topic, a topic to which we are going to shortly turn. Because, as I argued, in the end we need an account of wisdom, both for cultivating the perennial problems and also for how to make the best use of this science. It's one thing to have the knowledge that's coming from this science, but we need the wisdom of how to use it best, how to understand it and use it best. The deep continuity and emergence and development, they give us back a nomological order. We see how we fit in, how we belong.

Accounting for the fundamentalism of Ideology and Behavior (51:26)

And we see how our meaning making belongs, fits in. We see a normative order, we see what it is to self-transcend. We have to do more on this, especially with the topic of wisdom, but how it is we can cultivate enlightenment, how it is we can respond to the perennial problems. How it is that we can bring about the best internal optimization, the best external reciprocal realization, how we can afford it, anagoguing. I think this brings with us, brings with it an important point. This is the work of Goodenough, which is a perfect name, and her work on the sacred depths of nature. And she talks about how as a scientist, and she's trying to recover the sacred depths of nature's sacredness, awe and wonder in a way that helps her cultivate wisdom. And of course transcendence is integral to this. And she talks about that we, and you can see what she's doing, she's trying to challenge the fundamental grammar that we've inherited from the axial age. She talks about a new sense of transcendence. Instead of transcendence above, which of course invokes the two worlds mythology, what she talks about is we need this new sense, transcendence into, transcendence into the depths of nature. Transcendence I would also argue, and I don't see her as opposed to this, I see her actually enacting it, transcendence into the depths of the psyche, and the two deeply integrated and coordinated together in reciprocal realization.

Narrative and theocracy (53:34)

Remember, the opposite of reciprocal narrowing, the reciprocal opening up, the mutual disclosing, which is experienced as a kind of love. Transcendence into. So the one that remains, the order that remains unconnected for us to this argument, is the narrative order. Because the narrative order points us towards a T-loss, a cosmic T-loss, and evolution and relevance realization are non-teleological, they're open-ended. So if we're looking to find something that will bring back the narrative order in that sense, I don't think we can find it. But perhaps we should think differently about the narrative order. Perhaps we should think of the narrative order now as more to do with Gnosis. We should think of it as an open-ended optimization, an open-ended optimization. And that we may have indispensable need for symbols and stories to afford that, but we do not need to think of those symbols and stories as existing independently in the structure of reality. We certainly don't want to get back to utopic visions or their antithesis in nostalgic visions, because both of those have been the source of a lot of suffering and distress. Is it possible, because you see this in Stoicism, you see this in Buddhism, you see this in Taoism, is it possible to move to a post-narrative way of being, in which we are concerned not with our historical narrative, our horizontal identity, but we're concerned with the depths to which we are capable of living? That perhaps what we need is not a grand purpose, a narrative of a grand purpose that is connected with the history of the cosmos.

Post-Narrative Discussion

The post-narrative (56:27)

Perhaps instead we can move to getting beyond a narrative way of conforming to reality, to a post-narrative, the kind of experience people have in higher states of consciousness, where the narrative drops away and nevertheless they experience themselves as deeply connected, deeply at one, with themselves and with reality. This seems to have given their life, these moments, a significance to it. Again, there's no mystery to these higher states of consciousness, because there is no theoretical mystery, because there's a cognitive continuum from fluency to insight, we're just exacting the machinery over and over again to flow, to mystical experiences, to mystical experiences that drive transformative development, the higher states of consciousness. We'll take a look at this proposal, drawing this all together, coming back to the talking about the religion that is not a religion, to setting up the discourse with people like Tillich and Barfield and Jung and Corbin. We also need to come back and take a look at the cognitive science of wisdom, because all of this is being done within a wisdom framing, a wisdom that captures the excellence which was the fourth insight of Varello. Thank you very much for your time and attention.

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