Religion, Myth, Science, and Truth
February 24th, 2018
Themes: * Material reality versus the nature of being. * Carl Jung and John Boyd regarding information, reality, orientation, and never having the ability to explain a system by looking into it because the nature of learning about the system changes your orientation. * Seeking truth versus the other thing that is explained. * Ideas have people versus people having ideas (from Carl Jung) * Fractal localism and why the little actions matter
The Buttress of Truth
One of the things that Jung recognized was that the core doctrine of Christianity, in some sense, is the truth buttresses you most thoroughly against the vicissitudes of being. That’s your salvation, the truth, the spoken truth. Christians say, "if you believe in Christ you’re saved." What do you believe exactly? Christians say Jesus Christ is the son of god and they believe that. Just because you say that does not mean you believe that at all. Saying it has no bearing on what you believe. The question is: How do you act? And the fundamental question under all that is "Is your speech true?"
There are two things you can do with it?
The first way. You can manipulate reality so that it does what you want it to do. And that’s the sort of speech that people use when they’re trying to get what they want. They just hypothecize what they want based on some theory and they try to manipulate the world until they get that thing. But that is an unsatisfying venture. And often when they do get it, it is not good anyways. And it involves a falsity of speech. (Adversarial way of living — archetypical, lie at its core).
The other way. Try to say what you mean and think and perceive as clearly as you possibly can — always — and see what happens. Now, the story that underlies Christianity — and it is not only Christianity — is that. The rule is live in accordance with the truth and see what happens.
Sermon on the Mount: Set your sights on allegiance to god (whatever the highest value is), act in a manner to it concordant to that (that’s your goal), then pay attention to the here and now, your best strategy for the future. People will say, "Well, prove that!" Well, that is when the questions starts to get existential. You cannot prove it. You have to try it. That’s like Kierkegaard’s leap of faith. You cannot prove it works until you try it (any then you can only prove what does not work).
Sidebar Commentary: "Technology is hell and how to transcend it". Moral structures have been put off by the rational intellect. Seth, the evil figure throughout history, is always hyper-rational. Thor's brother Loki is always hyper-rational and manipulative. And the reason for that is the intellect of God's highest angel, which is Lucifer, falls in love with his own creations — making totality is out of its own creations. Once there is totality, there is no room for the transcendent. Once there is no room for the transcendent, there is no God and that is Satan's error. And everything turns into hell.
The human path is about encountering chaos and defeating it. And that is the snake. That also points to its deep evolutionary roots. What do you do with chaos monsters? You can kill them or you can get their gold. And that is a better answer because there is information in chaos and we are information scavengers. And that is our niche (scavenging information). Outside of what we know is information. And you might die trying to retrieve it.
Darwinian vs Newtonian
The only sense in which truth exists: Mythological and religious stories are true in the sense that they instruct action in a way, in the Darwinian sense, that is true. If you are Darwinian then that is the only sense in which truth exists. That is the problem with modern science. You are either Newtonian or Darwinian. If you are Newtonian when you’re a reductionist.
We don’t even know how stuff at the quantum level is going to end up being. And we do not even know what that means for thinking. We do not even know how to organize our thoughts in accordance with those presuppositions. Darwin trumps Newton.
Dawkins is a rationalist and thinks he is a Darwinian. Dawkins has Darwinism painted on Enlightenment rationality. He just thinks he Darwinian.
The enlightenment is really thin paint on a mile deep piece of rock. It’s nothing. One of the things I really like about reading Jung is that Jung tracks the development of thought say, back 10,000 years. That is a 10,000 year span of history. That’s a long time. And it is not, compared to 300 million years!
Rationality is a powerful partial form of truth. But to say it is absolute truth well, then that depends on what you mean by truth. And that is where it starts to go back into the Darwinian issue, which is there is only one way you can define truth in relationship to finite beings. It is true enough. True enough for what? True enough so that you survive and reproduce.
Emergence of Truth from Contests
We do not contend with protons and atoms. We contend with the will of other people and nature. That is why a reduction a strategy, or a Newtonian strategy, does not work. What works is action; thinking action works through action you then figure out the truth, and the truth is what allows you to survive and reproduce. And there are truths on a spectrum. Some truths work most of the time, some truths work only in certain scenarios, and some truths work relatively often.
Sidebar Commentary: John Boyd’s conflict explains truth.
Stories tell you how to act. But they also tell you how to model the nature of being. We learn to act before we learn the rules on how to act (e.g., children)
Moses is law observer not law giver (i.e., Moses observed conflict, where laws then adjudicate conflict in a way that works for both parties in a conflict).
Ancient Jews and Taoists do not want you to confuse the image with the thing, confusing the phenomenon with the thing (my problem with Plato’s Forms). The ancient Israelites never said who God was; they just said. "Look the hell out; if you deviate from the path then you are going to get flattened."
It is very hard to be coherent when you were trying to be inclusive.
Sacrifice is the human discovery of time.
The civilized person is a person who is capable of deferring gratification. Try to take a bone away from a dog and say to the dog, "we will give you the bones later". No, the dog wants the bone now.
In learning and interaction with reality, it is hard to keep to a linear track. This is another problem with this kind of material. The process of coming to terms with this material is a circumambulation, a continual wandering around a center. And you sort of specify the center almost by inference. This is what makes Jung very difficult to read because everything that he says is dependent on all the other things he said.
Sidebar Commentary: You see this in wrestling and martial arts. There is no linear progression. There is a sort of circumambulation. You start with a kind of like a small circle to begin with, and then a bigger circle, and then a bigger circle. So I could get all the elements trained in a simple way, and then make it a little more complex, and then a little more complex. And that seemed to work to some degree.
There are alternative ways of laying out your initial presuppositions about the nature of reality. Then one would say "why should I except that"? Well. I cannot show you why until you accept it because I can’t walk you through the argument (the fundamental problem with martial arts and mastery). It is a paradigm problem fundamentally. Another way to do it is through concentric circles.
Social science is shallow. We don’t dismiss the capacity of science to produce useful information. But I am also terrified of it. There is no reason to be so optimistic about scientific truth.
There’s Nothing Rational About Rationalists
Another thing I have noticed about the rationalists — the empiricists are also in the same corner — is that they always make the assumption that if we transcend our historical religions then we will no longer be religious and what we will be is rational. You are out of your mind if you think that. Why? It’s like, well, how do you account for the emergence of new age philosophy? It’s like, if you want incoherent, just take a wander through that desert. If you blow out these carefully constructed historical frameworks, what you get is rampant and insane Protestantism. It is the idea that people will magically become Newton because we have blown out the substructure of morality. That’s so absurd that that’s the sort of thought that I think is motivated. There is a reason to believe that because who the hell would believe that? But you do know not know anything about people if you believe that.
Religious and Darwin Principles
You can reduce religion to sort of Darwinian principles. You can sort of destroy it that way. Or you can expand your notion of Darwinism so that actually encompasses genuine phenomenon of religion. That is way more interesting. But the problem is, which is also the reason why people won’t read Jung, first he is very difficult and second terrifying. It is terrifying to read. His grasp over the development of ideas spanned 10,000 years. It puts the enlightenment thinkers to shame.
If you start grappling seriously with the idea that ideas have people instead of people having ideas that forces you to reevaluate the entire nature of your being.
Which ideas have you and where are they suggesting that you go? That like the Greek god idea. We are the playthings of the gods. Dawkins already knows about Memes but these are meta-memes. So let us not be too incautious about who is in control here…
Imagine you develop a nihilistic philosophy that is predicated on rationalism. Great. But why? Who is behind that? You? Yeah right. No way. One thousand other people would not think the same way if it was only you. You are just in its (nihilisms') grip. What is it up to? It is up for the betterment of humanity. Maybe. But I would not bet my life on it.
Jung and Alchemy
When Jung wrote about alchemy, his writings are incredibly opaque. You can understand these writings if you start from the presupposition that the matter that alchemist were studying were not matter. It was information. If you are studying information, you cannot study it objectively, precisely, because as you study the information then you get informed and that changes you
Sidebar Commentary: The more you look into a system the more your orientation into that system becomes "off", "stale", "old". It is an example of entropy. This is John Boyd… Boydian way of looking at it.
The problem with studying best kind of thing is that you cannot study it without being changed. Because if you’re not changed by studying it, you’re not studying it. You’re no anthropologist who’s outside of this. You can’t be. Because if you’re outside of it, you don’t understand it. Because if you understand it, then you’re not the same person anymore. So you can’t keep it at bay.
Sidebar Commentary: This is also partly why Jung is so terrifying. He challenges you in a way that exposes your self-consciousness. You have to come to terms with your own consciousness.
Religion and Snowmobiles
INRA (Jesús Christ King of the Jews). Occult interpretation: All nature is renewed by fire (everything burns down before there is new growth).
If you study religion properly then it will demolish your personality. The personality that is you is like the dead branches on a Pinetree. You might be clinging to them because they are all dead branches but first of all you should let go of them. Second, you should let them burn off. Then you may think, well, I do not want them to burn off because that is me. Well, true. It is a false you that you are clinging to. That does not mean you want to be burned up in the flames. So, to study this material properly is to be burned up in the flames. And, there is no escaping that.You are just not in it if that does not happen.
Sidebar Commentary: If you are not being changed by your observations, then your orientation does not improve. John Boyd… Boydian way of looking at it.
One of the things I realize when studying this (religion — the great myths — and having it demolish your personality) is that virtually all the things that I said was a lie. By lie I mean it was manipulative, it was unclear, it was vague (that was often motivated), or it was a false attempt to gain dominance status which is typical of someone who is intellectual. For example, "I’ve got these ideas, I taken them from places, and now I can use them as status weapons."
Sidebar Commentary: Art of the Advantage.
This is what people do when they’re trying to win an argument. That’s all lies.
First of all, the first thing you realize is how much you "are not". You are not Nietzsche. You have your experiences, your claim to reality, and it’s often pretty thin. But the development of authentic speech is worth the price that you have to pay for it. But you just can’t stay detached from this. This is not the phenomenon to study. It’s the basis of being.
Sidebar Commentary: You need to build snowmobiles — albeit be careful not to distort the structure of reality (e.g, the "intersectionalist movement).
Why do religions perpetuate and why do they seem to exist in a way that a rationalist would deem objectionable? The rationalist assumes that it’s not "him". It’s like, OK. Let’s have some evidence. Well, we can fly to the moon. Fair enough. That’s one form of evidence. How long has this been working? 200 years. OK. Let’s iterate it for a million years and see what happens. Right. And you can object to that because you can say, well, who knows where the future will lead, and so on. But my point is that — well, again, what you assume to be true structures your argument. And you have to assume something to be true because you don’t have infinite knowledge. So you make that initial choice. Why? Well, it might be because you’re a true truth seeker. Well, I would be careful about making that claim right because you’re probably not. So then, who are you? You are motivated by something you are not aware of. And saying to yourself that you are seeking truth is a lie. Because you might be motivated by terrible things that you are not aware of.
Sidebar Commentary: There is a bit of "initial conditions" to this and then "fractal localism" that comes out of it. The initial conditions have been set and then you let the game play out over time.
Jung and the Shadow, and Metaphors
All those parts of you that were not fully developed and are mad about it because you are trying to kill them. And all those storehouses of lies and deceptions that you have manage, and all the things you have left undone, and the motivations for doing all that… that is the shadow. The shadow is rooted in hell and this is not exactly a metaphor.
It is not obvious what is a metaphor. Does heaven exist? Depends on what you mean. I think people get glimpses of it all the time. Those are the times in your life when the meaning shines through. That is place when the meaning shines through. If you conceptualize things as four-dimensional, this place shifts with time. So we’re actually sitting in a multitude of places here. Now and then, that place configures itself, so that it’s as perfect as it can be.
So people are incautious about their discussions of what constitutes real. They do not even notice their own experience. Have you ever been to the underworld? You have been there whenever things have falling apart in your life. The underworld is the chaotic state that exists before order is constructed.
The reason people cannot see the connection between their experience and these earlier mythological representations is because people are being anachronistic stick and and reinterpreting mythological representations as if they are scientific theories. Naive scientists. Really what they were doing is coming up with images to explain things that they could not otherwise represent but were real in terms of their lived experience. Was a chimp a naïve scientist? They were not concerned with material reality. They were concerned with the nature of being.
Some people believe that philosophy lost its way with the Greeks; with Plato, when things became rationalized. Our ancestors were phenomenologists. They were accounting for their landscapes. They are the geography of being. There is a place you go when everything falls apart. When things fall apart what do you do? Most people to think of when things falls apart as a place. People live in it!
All you have to do is look at it on the street. Some people are so much in hell that you walk around them and do not look at them. Why? "I do not want to go there". And this is an expression in English encoded in a way we think. It’s encoded in the way we think, it’s a slice of space time. It’s not just the street, it’s the being of the street.
Low Resolution for Managing Complexity
Complexity management theory. How we compartmentalize reality is not really a given. We do it on the fly. And you do it for pragmatic reasons. What you do is you look for the simplest possible and least energetic way of conceptualizing the current situation so that the next thing you want to do happens. It’s something like that. And I like to think about it in terms of resolution, because I think resolution is a really useful idea. Most of our representations of reality are extremely low resolution — it is pragmatic. It is good enough. Do not make it anymore complex than it has to be.
We are always trying to manage complexity. The representation we use… for example, an image or heuristic is a low representation of the reality behind the image. Another example, You are sitting there. Well, I cannot see your back from your front. I cannot see your family. I cannot see your culture. I cannot see your education. I cannot see the biosphere that you are an embedded part of. I cannot see any of your substructures. But they are all there. They are just as real as the thing that I see. They are causally implicated in everything that you do.
Take another example. You are in an interview. We both have agreed to the interview and to us it is sort of a game. What if you decide to just turn left and expose all your complexity. Well, that is chaos. I assume further that are are in an interview and I find it boring, I am hoping that you turn left a little bit to make it more interesting. But not too much. I want bite size pieces that will make it interesting but it won’t terrify me.
There are horrors that exceed death by order of magnitude. Not everything is should be contending with mortality. There are ways of living that are worse than death. And that is why people commit suicide. Living in hell is worse than death.
So obviously, hell is worse than death given how I described it earlier. So it is not death that is the problem. It is complexity that is the problem; it is that things are beyond us. And because of that, they always exceed what our models tell us they are going to do. Or, they always transform themselves in some ungainly way so that we don’t get what we want. So then the question is, well, how do you best deal with complexity? The reason why truth is so useful is generally it reduces complexity.
And the reason I think truth is so useful is because generally it reduces complexity. Deceptions, they grow. They’re like hydras. So don’t do that.
Redemption and Truth as Motifs for Merging Myths
Maybe there is a universal mythology that envelops all religions and people, but the values and the particular embodiments of mythology that people have grown up with are often very different. And these can clash. They clash tribally. I don’t mean in the clash of civilizations sort of overblown way. But I’m just saying on a pragmatic level, people are often operating in different psychological space.
To some degree, the issue is whether or not you can negotiate. Because a society, a multicultural society, we are in many ways dependent on negotiation. And here is another sort of axiom. It is like tyranny, slavery, and negotiation. Those are your options. You want to be a tyrant? Fine. You want to be a slave? That’s an option. But if you do not want to be either of those, you negotiate. OK. So how do you negotiate? Well, partly, you pay attention. So you listen.
And here is another way to think about it, just like the totalitarian assumes that what he does will redeem him. It is sort of the basis of terror management theory in some sense. What you know protects you and keeps you safe. OK. And so you want to tighten that up and you want to make it rigorous and you don’t want anything to exist outside of it. OK. So in some ways, you worship the great father. That’s a way of thinking about it.
Here is another way of thinking about it. What you do not know will redeem you. Why? Because you do not know what you do not know. Is that enough? Well, that depends on if the quality of your life is what you want it to be, really, then what you know is enough. But the probability of your life being what you really wanted to be is really low. That is because you are still prone to all types of suffering and ignorance. And you could face that forthrightly. This is something that they did not do in the Soviet Union because they said, "my quality of life is great and I know and we know everything we need to know" when in reality it was abysmal, murderous, treacherous, and deceitful. It was horrible. They told themselves lies. If you said that you were suffering then you were a traitor. So, you are suffering and you cannot even admit it.
If you assume that what you do not know is redemptive, then you can listen. You never know, that person might know something you don’t know. And that might be a useful something. There is a presupposition: You have to be willing to meet that person in the space between cultures. And you have to be able to operate in the space between cultures. That is part of the hero myth.
If you are a hero of the right form then you know how to operate in a space between cultures. So, how do you operate there? What makes cultures rich? Trust. What makes trust possible? Honesty. You want natural resources? There’s nothing more valuable than trust and honesty.
Why is the world poor? Corruption, that’s why. Almost all the poor countries are corrupt. Now, you might say, "Are the Western countries so uncorrupt?" They’ve got their problems. But generally, the answer is they’re not corrupt. In the West, the default is "you will not screw me." That means I can trust your persona. If the default is "you will screw me", then I am a barrel of snakes and you are a barrel of snakes, and we will never get anywhere.
The Little Things Matter
The particular’s matter. Start with the relationship with yourself. Start fixing the little micro lies that you leave laying everywhere.
Prematurely trying to do too much happens when you do not really understand where the problems are. Ask yourself is that really the problem and what it is doing that will actually make things worse?
Sidebar Commentary: The problem with social justice warriors, nonprofits, and multinational corporations.
You have to pick the right-size problem. Start with little weights. And that is how you build confidence anyway. It is an inoculation to solving your problems. You may think that it’s trivial. In no way is it trivial. You have no idea where cleaning up your relationships might do. You know how horrible things can be if you do things wrong. You do not know how great things will be if you do things right. So just try. See what happens.
Speak carefully. Very carefully. And do not care about the consequences. It is not that they do not matter but I am not speaking to produce a consequence. I am just trying to say what seems to me to be the case. It is insanely, practically useful and it opens doors it otherwise could not be opened.
Select the domain in which you can act. Straighten it up first and transform things a bit. Put your house in order. Then you can start to put your town in order — or maybe your street, or maybe your neighbor. Start where you can start. It is not waving a placard in the street. It is what you do when no one is watching. I don’t think there is anything more powerful than that.
Sidebar Commentary: The problem with social justice is that it is, from what I gather, an activity in virtue signaling. It analogous to praying in public vs. praying in private. Fix up what you can fix up, and see what happens. Act locally, think locally. Think about the consequences of your actions. This is, again, fractal localism.
Scene from Classical Mythology, possibly Ceryx and Alcyone by Charles Meynier. In Greek mythology, Alcyone or Alkyone and Ceyx were a wife and husband who incurred the wrath of the god Zeus.