What follows is a transcript for the podcast Homegrown Humans – Roger Walsh, M.D. Ph.D. DHL. – Integral Psychology – Hosted by Jamie Wheal.
Topics within the interview include the following:
- Exploring somatic, emotional, mental, and spiritual intelligence
- How spiritual practices help us maintain radical hope
- The four enemies of knowledge
- Three constructive actions to respond skillfully to stress
Has Civilization Over Shot the Golden Age?
Jamie Wheal: I am overjoyed to welcome our guest, Dr. Roger Walsh. A dual MD, PhD. A teacher, one of the founders of the transpersonal psychology movement, a multiple author. Perhaps best known for his books, Essential Spirituality and The Spirit of Shamanism, among many others. And then also the host of a recently launched podcast. Roger, can you just give us the quick intro to that, it’s title, it’s topics and where to find it?
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Let’s see the title is Deep Transformation: Self-Society-Spirit, and the podcast basically is oriented in that direction. We really look interested in how do we transform ourselves most deeply in order to meet the world and the needs of our time, how to contribute as effectively as possible, and how do we become what we need to be at this extraordinary time?
Jamie Wheal: Beautiful. Thank you. Well, bottom line, thank you. Thank you for coming and welcome to Homegrown Humans.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Thank you, Jamie. It’s always a delight to dialogue with you. So I’m looking forward to this.
Jamie Wheal: For listeners and just to ground this, because people are… it’s such a fame/likes/scale/views kind of emphasis these days, and so you might not be aware of Roger’s life, career, body of work. But you need to know that he has been one of the foundational voices in the evolution of psychology beyond its kind of Freudian, Jungian, Adlerian boundaries and into sincerely exploring with rigor and discipline the notions of what are transpersonal states. What happens when we go beyond ourselves, our fixed ego identities and where can we take it from here?
So just a huge, huge hat tip. You’ve been an influence on my thinking and my learning for a couple of decades. And just want to underscore that for any listeners who are maybe inspired from this conversation to go into your body of work because that MD PhD plus sincere embodied practitioner yourself. That’s a fairly rare combination, right? Somebody who has both got clinical and academic experience and background, and then also has done the work and then has also contributed to the conversation, the movement. So a huge bow and appreciation for everything you are and have done.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Thanks so much, Jamie. Unfortunately it is rare for academics and researchers to be deeply involved in spiritual and transformative practices. They’re two different worlds, but hopefully we can bring those together more.
Jamie Wheal: Great. Well, if it’s cool, I’d love to just jump in the deep end, which is that, it feels like in the last few years, and certainly you could say the wheels began coming off in 2016 with the U.S. Election and Brexit. Then they came all the way off with COVID and quarantine and lockdown and our kind of collapses in meaning, shared reality, epistemology, you name it. And I think particularly with the rising drumbeat of concern with ecological sustainability, meta crisis, not just one thing, but lots of things, geopolitics, macroeconomics, ecology, sustainability, democracy, you name it. I think more and more people are saying, wait a second. Are we sailing off a cliff? Were we on the right track and really sort of questioning what, for most of the second half of the 20th century and the first decade, at least of the 21st was almost an unquestioned sense of we’re on the happy track of progress.
And you can say the apotheosis, that the high point of that was the Ted Talk era, where everything was breathy new discoveries and making the world a better place and exponential change, the techno utopian vibes of Silicon Valley, the Hans Rosling stuff on hey, doom and gloom shows up in the news, but reality is everything’s getting better. Steven Pinker was clearly, has been a very prominent voice of that, the Harvard linguist. And your long term friend, Kevin Wilber and his contributions in integral theory, right?
I mean, one of the main things of integral theory, particularly for the progressive left was saying, hey, this kind of retro, some of saying, we’ve overshot, and we need to go back to the land. We need to decommodify. We need to get out of technology and progress. We need to go back to your indigenous wisdoms and those kinds of things. And integral theory was quite a strong voice countering that. It was saying, hey, don’t, don’t mistake, fleeting high points of shamans and sages for the overall level of reality or level of culture, civilization, lived experience of the past. And the way out is through. The way out is forwards, it’s always forwards.
And then you kind of had Yuval Harari coming out with Sapiens about five years ago. And that was one of the first high brow, in the sense of Oxford professor historian, that kind of stuff, takes on dusting off the retro romantic. And Harari and several others of that time period started saying, hey, action… Basically digging up what was probably your wheelhouse, right?
It was that sixties, seventies era anthropology of: Hey, hunter gatherers were supposed to be scrapping around for bugs and berries. The reality is they only spent a third of their time providing for their basic needs. They spent two thirds of their time kicking it; telling stories, shooting the shit, making art and crafts and this and that. And wasn’t that the better era. Harari in a weird way to me, that was completely unchallenged by popular readers, people just lapped up Sapiens, which I thought historiographically was riddled with question marks. Places to slow down, being, “are you sure?”, because I remember his chapter four where he tells the Edenic story of neolithic. Everything was groovy. And then he accelerates the tape. You go from 300,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago where the shit hits the fan proverbially, right?
And then we get into the agrarian era. We get the advent of patriarchy. We get decreased nutrition. We get the advent of slavery. We get command control, bureaucratic structures. And that’s the beginning of the end. And that’s chapter four in Sapiens, if anybody’s listening along at home. And I flipped to the back of the book, I’m like, wait a second. Because that was my field in grad school as well. So I was saying, wait, what is he saying? He’s making all sorts of bald assertions. And I was like, I must have missed what’s happened in the field in the last 10 years, went to the back of the book and his entire chapter four where he goes from 300,000 years or at least a 100,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago, there’s not a single footnote. That entire chapter of Sapiens is an op-ed. And you’re just like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. But that is now sort of permeated the contemporary conversation. Right?
So, many, many people… And then at the same… I don’t know if you saw that book, which was questionable anthropology also, but it was a Sex at Dawn which came out. It was Chris Ryan. It came out about ten years ago-
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Didn’t know that one, I didn’t.
Jamie Wheal: It was, in a nutshell it came the tone validating the polyamory movement. Because it was basically like chimps bad, bonobos good. Women are lusty and promiscuous and that’s the way it always used to be. It was ever thus and now we get to be bonobos again. In a really, really rough gloss. So, my point being is that just in the last decade, we’ve had a rise in popular scholarship that is starting to say, perhaps there was a golden age in the past and we’ve overshot the mark. So classic Rousseaunian retro romanticism in some respects. And we’ve also been wrestling in our face in the last five years or so, with increasingly hard to refute evidence that this civilization may not be on a sustainable path.
So help me. And what are your thoughts on understanding, arguably the transpersonal, psychological developmental models of where we’re always evolving to increased complexity versus none of that really holds water if we snuff it.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yeah. To put it mildly. And I’ll just say, I didn’t even finish Harari’s book. I got so upset with it. So I’m glad that one of us did. And it’s rather painful to see the extent to which claims like that, broad, sweeping claims are acceptable. And of course we can see the appeal of simple ideas. They just appeal. They’re simple, they’re clear. They explain lots of things. You don’t have to have complex question marks, et cetera. But stepping back, I have grave trouble with any claims about this is the way things, or this is the way it’s not going: up, down, sideways. Because as far as I can see, there are so many conflicting currents moving in so many different directions that you have to decide on what parameter you were talking about, what phase for what duration in what subgroup, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
And so the degree to which one can make these sweeping generalizations to my mind. Well, frankly, my reaction is somewhere between nausea and a sense of craziness. So I think that you mentioned Ken Wilber and I’m definitely a friend and a fan of Ken’s work. I think it’s brilliant. I think he’s got the biggest mental map or conceptual map we have of our time. And one of the things I keep saying to him is, I don’t think the world is as clear as your mind. The trouble with maps is that maps simplify by necessity. Otherwise, they’re not useful. But the downside of that is, the map is not the territory, the old saying of Korzybski goes.
So my first general comment to what you’re saying, I’m not comfortable with any of these simple maps. I think if we’re to be more accurate and ultimately more contributory, we’re going to have to get more specific, more detailed and more nuanced. And be a little more humble in our claims and sit in the reality of absolute mystery that, at bottom, all is mystery and here’s our best guesses.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I mean the image to me and I don’t know when or how it came to me, but it was sort of that it was… I think it was probably studying John Gray’s work at London School of Economics. I don’t know if you know John Gray’s stuff, but he wrote, this is a book I’m forever name checking, but it’s Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia. And he basically just points out how the redemption curve of a fundamentally, a rapture ideology is so deeply rooted in the Western tradition. It’s the Hebraic alpha and omega. The idea of that kind of transition from indigenous and even agrarian cyclical time to a linear time that there was a beginning and there’s going to be an end, right?
And that the Platog is fucking bog standard, is incredibly repetitive. Which is an Edenic, initial state. A fall from grace, a redemptive moment, right? Whether that’s Jesus and rolling back the stone or second comings or whatever it would be, and then a happily ever after. And just saying that is so hard wired into the Western mindset and ethos, that it is a deep narrative structure and we pretty much pour anything and everything into it, including communism. There was just that same exact arc minus a God. We were workers and we were agrarian, we were farmers, whatever. Then along came capitalism, industrialism. That was the fall from grace, proletariat worker’s paradise. Same exact pattern. And that’s fine, you know, neat historical tidbit. But accept that we are seeing it again with Web 3.0, you’re seeing it again with crypto. You’re seeing it again with the psychedelic Renaissance. You’re seeing it with any proposed solution pretty much these days.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And also makes sense in what we now know about the psychology of narratives. And that there’s a limited number of narrative scripts that we seem to run through our minds and run our minds around and by. And one of them, as you mentioned, is the redemptive script. Things are okay. Things got bad. I did bad, but there’s hope. And here’s the answer. Here’s the solution. There are other narratives scripted. Yeah. I think you’re right. I think that this is some deeper psychological structure around which we can mold any number of different content.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. Well, so here’s the thing that blew my mind and I’d love your thoughts on it. Right. So, so we get that. I mean, I’m making a shape, I’m making a curve with my hand here, for those of you just listening to the audio, but that idea of that’s the hockey stick, right. We’re here. And then, and then it goes up like a ski jump. Right. And then I was just wondering, I was like, oh, well, what if, because we’re all experiencing accelerating change, you look around and you’re like, that’s truthy, that feels real. And if you take a look at almost any metric of contemporary civilization, things trundle along pretty much flat lining, and it could be for 10,000 years or a hundred thousand years, population levels, et cetera, et cetera, poverty, all these things. And then, 1850s, up it starts. 1900s, 1950s starts hitting the steep wall of the curve and everything goes up into the right.
And I was wondering, that seems incontrovertibly true in some levels, because we’ve all been experiencing it and everything from population from 1 billion to 8 billion. All that stuff is incontrovertibly asintotic, it’s that exponential curve. But what if you just pan back a bit and if you’re like, we are in the near of that curve, or even already climbing the steep wall, like almost like a skateboarder on a half pipe, but what if you pan back further and that’s actually just the arc of a circle and we’re actually in a larger cyclical loop?
So are we in times arrow? Progressing to some apotheosis or culmination like Francis Fukuyama’s End of History kind of ideas, is there a steady state or an endpoint? Is there a teleological thrust to where we’re going? Or if you actually just pan back, are we that little ant on a curve, but that curve actually circles back around. And we’re actually in a larger arc of cyclical history and whether that’s Hindu mythologies and Kali Yugas or Hopi prophecies, or Steve Bannon’s favorite, The Fourth Turning. Are we actually grist for the mill on a bigger cycle, or are we on a trajectory for escape velocity out of the historical constraints of human consciousness and culture?
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yes. Lots of good ideas there. First off, we need to acknowledge that the technology for the first time has introduced an exponential change factor. All the other changes throughout history have been, if you look at cultural or evolution, they have been incremental, but they haven’t been exponential. And so that’s a whole new factor.
And there’s been this tendency to draw the curves, as you said, showing the hockey shape, the stickers going up. Oh, it’s exponential. But that’s clearly not the end of the story. And step back as far as you want, we don’t know what the shape is going to be. Is it going to be a standard ecological shape is it going to be a standard ecological population, explosion and crash? Is it going to be a big bang of some kind? We have no idea on what the larger picture is, but the one thing we probably do really want to introduce here is, to a significant degree, the shape of that curve or the nature of that geometry is going to be a function of our choices. And so it’s going to come back to us. The shape is not necessarily preordained. It’s a function of our choices, our values, our priorities, and our awareness and consciousness. And we come back to the idea we’re in a race between conscious and catastrophe. So…
Jamie Wheal: I haven’t heard that nice [crosstalk 00:27:53], consciousness and catastrophe.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. That’s the way it seems to me anyway. We really are, or between me and the other major parameter, I think of us as our capacity for growing wisdom to balance out the extraordinary technological advances, which are increasing exponentially versus our psychological growth, skills and capacities and technologies, which are increasing literally. So if we look say at wisdom, we’re also in a race between sagacity and catastrophe. But bottom line, it’s up to us. The curve is not preordained.
Can we Hold Both the Existential Threats in Combination With the Potentials and Capacities Available to Us?
Jamie Wheal: Just unpack that for us. I mean, is that how you have always felt, is it a sort of increasing wrestling with the what appear to be inevitable consequences of our oversights and excesses right now? How have you gone from, let’s say the seventies to the nineties, or even to the early two thousands. If you think of Ray Kurzweil, if you think of Peter Diamandis, some of the folks that are like, “It’s just hockey sticks up and to the right, everything is being virtualized, the cost of everything is developing down towards free. We will have holodecks making whatever we want, we will upload our consciousness”. We’re pointing very quickly towards the metaverse and the current conversations, but have you tempered any sort of transpersonal optimism, or sense of heady possibility with any sort of increasingly sober sense of both the consequences and even the potential likelihood of overshoot or collapse? How do you hold it?
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Well, I would say that developmentally for me, the tension has been perennial. Way back in the eighties, one of the first books I wrote was on The Psychology of Human Survival. At that time, it was the height of the cold war and there was every chance we would blow ourselves up, and there still is, of course. And that’s just one of the many threats we’re facing. I would say the change now is that the number of threats that are evident and that are really in our face has increased. So to me, it’s always been the extraordinary challenge of holding both the existential threats that we are now creating for ourselves in combination with the potentials and capacities that are available to us. And on another dimension, our spiritual nature, which I’ve spent 40 years exploring pretty deeply and seems remarkable.
The theme is, for example, in Stealing Fire of… What are our potentials? We don’t even really know what our potentials are. So I’ve been for a long time interested in how do we hold all these and the not knowing. And so in one sense, it feels like my maps have changed, but the challenge remains the same. And to step back and look at it just psychologically, what I see is that we are prone, as you’ve said, to simplify into a single narrative, but even more so to simplify from one perspective. And as I look at psychological-
Jamie Wheal: Can you just tease those things apart? Cause I think you mean something there and I don’t want it to get missed, not just a narrative, but a single perspective within that narrative. What does that mean to you?
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. I take perspective as a viewpoint or a vantage point; a place from which to look. And from a particular place to look, you can spin out narratives, you can spin out theories, you can have emotional reactions, et cetera. So those are different contents or effects of the perspective, the starting point, the place from which we’re looking. And people looking at development look at various parameters, but for me, it seems like the capacity to adopt more than one perspective.
In fact, the capacity to hold multiple perspectives is one of the key developmental factors. And there are various skills, perspectival skills that we as individuals and as a culture need to develop. First off, the capacity to take multiple perspectives, the capacity for a perspectival fluidity; to move between multiple perspectives. The capacity for increased perspectival span; the capacity to step back and develop meta-perspectives and meta-meta perspectives. So there’s a whole range of capacities that just as far as I can see, never get talked about. And I don’t know why, because it seems like it’s so crucial by a factor that underlies and is behind and prior to many of the other issues and dimensions that are often looked at, narrative being one example. Does that make sense?
The Argument That We’re Not Actually Perceiving Base Reality
Jamie Wheal: Yeah, absolutely. But here’s my thing. And I mean, some of this just can be the ongoing post-mortem on integral theory and its collapse and/or wobbliness, those kind of things. But also, I find myself spending a lot of time talking with clever people, which I’m really excited by, at first and then I often end up frustrated and disappointed by the end of the conversation. And I was just thinking of, there’s a fellow of Donald Hoffman, who’s a neuroscientist, UC Irvine, and he gave that largely circulated Ted Talk on constructed reality, the idea that we’re not actually perceiving base reality. He uses the analogy of the screen on our desk, home screen on our computers with all the apps on icon and the idea that there’s a little folder in the lower right corner where I click to go and find my word document, but it’s not really there.
And what’s actually happening is the computer is transistors and precious metals and an LED screen and all that kind of stuff. And his point is that we are fundamentally engaged in a representational reality, versus a base reality. And his point, it gets sort of into information theory, is that base reality is just kind of ‘zeros and ones’ information. But the piece that I want to run past you as a question mark on clever people these days and on infinite perspectivality. We can always slice and dice it, we can always put in another quadrant, we can always do another line in level, we can always add another bit to our maps, is he ran evolutionary game theory models. I don’t know if you track that. But he was basically like, “Hey, what does evolution select for?”
Does it select for perceiving an apprehending truth in its most comprehensive form? Or does it select for survival fitness? And in all of his game theoretical models that they ran again, and again, and again, it was something like that, if I select for fitness, my ability to get mine now, whatever that would be, whether that’s sex and reproduction or whether that’s money, food, power, whatever it would be, I am actually better adapted. So actually evolution favors delusion, like self-oriented, effective delusion versus comprehensive rocking of all the fundamental nature of being. And my first thought was, that explains how, or at least one of the factors, of why wisdom’s been captured in the spiritual marketplace these days. If I look sexy in Lululemon pants, and I’ve got a quarter of a million followers on Instagram, you are more likely to come to my retreat.
That could be somebody who’s holding it down. Some lineage teacher living in a cave or a monastery, or some incredibly profound teacher, but they either don’t know how to play the current social media influencer game, or just massively disinclined to. And they may be holding gems of wisdom, but they are maladapted for selective fitness. Whereas the people who are like, “yeah, I’m going to flaw spirituality, and I’m going to piggyback off Maryanne Williamson in the course of miracles or I’m going to do some derivative shit, but I’m going to wrap it in ego-based desire. You can use this secret to make millions of bucks. And here I am in my Airbnb mansion in Bali,” right? That is actually privileged, where actually all the clever people these days who can map and see everything are basically just going to get steamrolled.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yeah. Well, many things in what you said, Jamie, first off, I would just want to step back and say, I have problems with running human nature through any one lens, I know you do too. So the idea that evolutionary game theory explains it all. When I know you didn’t say that, but Hoffman and others seem to doesn’t do it for me. Doesn’t acknowledge the multidimensional nature of our being the multi-level nature of our being, et cetera, et cetera. And it has a materialistic worldview underpinning, and those findings need to be held within whatever larger context we adopt and take into account. So there’s a simplistic choice of, “okay, well, I don’t believe, I’m a spiritual person. I don’t believe in evolutionary theory.”
Well, good luck because we are clever chimps on one hand, but we’re not only clever chimps. So I guess what I’m trying to point to is the necessity for always being willing to do not only deduction or abduction, but what we might call [preduction 00:43:01] that is look at our presuppositions and keep looking at those. And anyone can do deduction, preduction is much more important and much rarer. And so the pushing towards looking at our assumptions always seems a key factor, if we really to get out of the whatever net we are in,
Jamie Wheal: Would you say, by the way that preduction, as you’re describing it is analogous to Chris Argyris’ single, double, triple loop learning is triple loop learning comparable to preduction?
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. That’s a good question, you probably know that better than I do. I’ve been trying to track down a really good description definition of that. It seems like those concepts are very wishy-washy as far as I can see. To me they make total sense that in each case in it’s a stepping back and it could be a kind of preduction, although I hadn’t put those two together. So thank you. What would you say?
Jamie Wheal: Well, if anybody’s not familiar with Chris Argyris who was a famous Harvard Business School Professor, and I think he wrote the notions of single loop learning as just me hot stove, ouch! Double loop learning is actually thinking about my thinking or learning from past experience and then triple loop learning could be thinking about the waste; I think about my thinking, [inaudible 00:44:25] which sounds like you’re getting somewhere in that same neighborhood of what you’re describing.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yeah, triple loop and to the extent one can even hold the possibility of [inaudible 00:44:36] the loop is a making, what was the process, the content of analysis now.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, and so I just jumped to Instagram spirituality as an example of selection for fitness, not selection for truth. The other one that comes to mind is sort of the asset casualties of your generation. So folks that went so deeply into multiperspectival awareness, that they then became maladapted for holding down a job on Monday morning, managing life, those kinds of things. What’s your sense? Some of this could just be contextual or in a Western market based economy et cetera, et cetera, where we have to kind of sing for our [Stupas 00:45:32] versus where Tibetan Lamas in a monastery where people bring us food or Ramakrishna, blissed-out on God consciousness and just shepherded into the Kali temple and looked after.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yes. In faith, yeah. And I think you’re pointing to some of the principles of development, which aren’t spoken about so much, there’s you in your recent book, “Recapture the Rapture” gave a lot of attention to inducing various rapture states. And that’s a really important first step, not so often talked about is the integrative process, which is really just not dealt with so much or in spiritual texts and history, but to have an [inaudible 00:46:27] state, it’s relatively easy with contemporary practice and certainly very easy with pharmacological aids to integrate those into one’s being, first is a developmental process and that seems to be underplayed. And it’s a multi-stage process. It’s first off-
Jamie Wheal: Wait, did you say it’s relatively easy, but also underplayed, meaning like we could do it, but we’re not necessarily devoting enough tension to doing it?
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. No, sorry. I was saying, I obvious wasn’t clear. I was saying that the state induction or of the insights can be relatively easy, but the further stage of integrating them into one’s life and wellbeing is an ongoing challenge. And as we know you look at the some of the temples in Japan, the two lion like figures on each side, they’re sometimes said to represent confusion and paradox, and the person who would have wisdom has to pass through both. And so there’s an initial destabilizing stage in psychological growth.
In fact, if you remember Castaneda from many years ago, the four traps of a person of knowledge, first was fear, second interesting was power, because you do some practices you get some power and I’ll jump to the final one which was giving up with old age or sickness and just taking it easy. But then third one was what was most interesting third trap of a person of knowledge is clarity. Clarity because when you are clear, you have a map of the way things are and that’s which you have to give up in order to move to the bigger, more comprehensive, more integrated map. We tend to think of confusion as a problem, but it can and it often is, yet it can also be the doorway, the luminal phase between the new inside or state and the subsequent integration that’s essential.
Jamie Wheal: Okay. Look. So now you’ve done a bunch of things which are worth unpacking, right? So you said, so I’m assuming this was a Zen temple, is that?
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yes. Zen temples of Japan?
Jamie Wheal: Yeah, okay. So confusion, you said and paradox, right? And then you went back to [inaudible 00:49:08] doesn’t remember [inaudible 00:49:09] Don Juan, he was the wily nominal like fringe anthropologist from UCLA wrote those books. They were the huge thing in the early seventies and then revealed to be largely made up. But on the other hand of the wisdom, the insights seem like they’re durable. They were legit even though we wrapped it in some [inaudible 00:49:27] imagining,
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yes, [Michael H. 00:49:29] the anthropologist said, “I know Castaneda as well as anyone. And I don’t know whether he was making these things up or not, but if he did, he’s a genius.”
Jamie Wheal: Yeah, exactly. And of course these days in the post-truth era, every Netflix special there’s one on the inventing Anna, which was this Anna Delvey who was some huge con artist in the New York society scene. And now it’s like every single one of these things are true except for all the bits that are made up and like that. And then there are other ones that [inaudible 00:49:56] with such and such and such and such a mostly true story or a true story based… Like everybody’s playing with [inaudible 00:50:03] truths these days. And no one wants to be bound any longer by what’s truthy true versus imaginable true. But can you just go back and restate the four things that Carlos Castaneda said about the four hangups of knowledge.
The Four Enemies of Knowledge
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Four tips of a person of knowledge were first fear and fear is something we all run into when we go beyond our current ways of understanding, challenge ourselves, open to new possibility, new perspectives, it’s disorienting and it’s fearful. Second one is power because as you do practices, you do begin to develop various capacities and powers and insights, a little more in vulnerability to other people’s maneuvers and you see through the things they’re trying to do, et cetera, et cetera. The one I jumped to next was the last, the fourth, which was he labeled it old age, but something a little broader, that is the capacity. When one is not feeling well, when and one is not at one’s best to give in to just not to continue growing basically that’s the trap.
To stop and rest where you are, it’s the Buddhist equivalent of the heaven realms. We’re having a nice time why go further? But the third one is the really interesting and for us at the moment, and that one is clarity. Clarity as a trap it’s just so counter-intuitive. And yet once you understand it makes total sense, and it becomes a really valuable reframe on both clarity and confusion, not knowing. There are different kinds of confusion. One is just not having enough information or being overwhelmed, but another is the recognition of, “oh, there’s more input than I can currently make sense of.” But one thing one learns after you’ve been into that experience enough is, if I sit with the confusion and the not knowing and the overload long enough, the mind has its own integrative and healing capacities. If we treat the mind, just open to it, and trust the mind turns out to be self-healing, self-actualizing, self transcended. So we just have to sit with our confusion and we’ll begin to integrate in useful healing ways.
Jamie Wheal: So paradox and confusion are the two pillars of the temple and fear and clarity, or at least two of the four of Castaneda. And to me that speaks directly to something I’ve been seeing lately. And I don’t know if this has been true in your will. Maybe you’ve just got enough seasoned friends and colleagues that are not falling for this, but for me, at least on the talking head, intellectual dark web, X-Risk, podcast, circuit of things.
I’m seeing a surprising number of people facing the paradox in the confusion of our current world, perhaps experiencing a certain amounts of fear as to “what the fuck is going on?” Or “what do we do now?” Going to clarity. They’ve actually, they collapsed the waveform. They sort of cease to be willing or able to tolerate the paradox and the confusion and they’ve now got a dog in the fight. I’m now convinced that… And to your point about there are no singular narrative coming back to your critique of Harari, right? What’s going on with COVID? What’s going on with lockdowns? What’s going on with New World Order? What’s going on with governments? Who are they? What’s really, really going on right now?
But what I have been shocked actually by people that I admire, people that I respect, people that I look to triangulate through this landscape. And they are sort of sliding off that convexity, into the tank or the ditch. And they are sort of like, now they know what is really going on and they will describe it almost as the scales have fallen from my eyes or it’s the extreme version is being red pilled, but people are sort of doing that. And I am like, how have you given up, holding the paradoxes? How have you given up fine grain, particular evidence based analysis for this seemingly false certainty that almost borders on hubris of like, I know what is going on right now. Are you experiencing any of that?
Three Ways we Can Respond More Skillfully to Stress
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yes. And I do not find it so surprising because one of the things we know very clear from psychological research is that under stress people tend to regress psychologically. And when they are regressed, literally the visual field tends to contract, the perspective tends to shorten, the development tends to shrink from a worldcentric too ethnocentric to egocentric. What is in it for me? How can I ensure my family’s survival, etc. And simplicity. A search for what is the one simple thing that explains it all. And so yes, one would like to think that smarts would be an antidote to this, but as we know then often not. And the question then becomes, given that people tend to regress under stress. And given we as a culture and a planet are facing and are going to be facing increasing degrees of stress.
In some cases, the likes of which we haven’t seen, what can we do to help people respond more skillfully? And there are three things that can be done to help people under stress respond more or skillfully effectively. One is to give them a framework for understanding this, and it not a simple one, one answer explains it all thing, but some constructive framework. And I talk generally first we can get into details later, if you wish second is to point a way out, you have to give some hope to the person. And the third is here’s what you can do. Here are some possibilities for constructive action that you can undertake.
Jamie Wheal: So, the number two pointing the way out, you’re saying it’s necessary, but not sufficient. Point three, you actually need something practical, something the kind of classic. What I, what can I do on Monday morning? What’s my step towards fulfilling number two.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yeah, those are the three characteristics we know help people respond in less regressive, more constructive ways to major stresses and challenges. So, I think that speaks to some of the things that those of us who are, deeply concerned about these issues need to be doing. We’re in, as many people have pointed out, you included a time of competing narratives, competing myths, or between myths, whatever you want to frame it. And what are the most constructive Frame, not only stories and narratives, but worldviews and perspectives we can offer. And what are some of the suggestions that could be made for why there’s still hope if we hold, there is, and third, what are some things that each of us can do?
Jamie Wheal: I’ll tell you what you want to play that game. Let’s just play that game. Right? So, you’ve given us a beautiful frame. And I would imagine for anybody listening, they’re probably, Hey, thank God. Like some, version of why this isn’t just pile driving me into the ground of nihilistic despair, because I find myself in, public commentary often dismantling what appear to be flimsy and sufficient. Nostrums, sort of, false cures basically. Right? Which leaves me if, like if you track the semantic analysis of whatever, the last several years of me saying things out loud, many of them, 80% of them are critical in dismantling of contemporary hockey stick, utopian stories simply because I just keep seeing those things, and it feels like a, almost an unconscionable is a bit moralistic, but certainly an inefficient waste of our time if we’re getting sucked into the is just so stories because the redemption curve is almost always some deus ex machina redemption, everyone will do MDMA and then we’ll all heal all of our childhood trauma and then right.
And then we’ll all figure it out and solve the planet. Or we will all do by my NFT all upload to the web three. And it won’t be mean and nasty Facebook anymore. These are almost just family dynamic. Like they’re sort of amazingly weak sauce.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. You have admitted quantum physics will save us.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. Any number of these things. Right. But they all, once you see the pattern, you can’t unsee it and it ruins you for polite conversation. Cause you’re like, oh, there’s just another one. It’s this is just another costume party of the same of the same structural dress up, and I think you, and I might have talked about this last time, but Zach Stein, mark Gaffney, some of the other folks that we know have, dived into that, the Hebrew and even capitalistic tradition of that pre tragic, tragic, post tragic, that idea of that’s the installment process. We go from thinking, everything’s going to work out the pre tragic to then getting running into the brick wall of it. Couldn’t just be regular old life or it could be our existential meta crisis.
And now you are in the throes of the tragic and that either drops you to your knees or particularly led by demagogues, right. And falseness size back to the pre tragic. Like you can have everything you wanted and it’s somebody else’s fault that you didn’t get it, but now we’re going to rally, or you make that move to the full installment of post tragic. And that’s anything from MLK and Gandhi and Sacha Ghai and soul force. You can also, I think ascribe that to any of the diaspora communities, just people from the Roman gypsies to the Kurds, to the Ashkenazi Jews, people who have dealt with intergenerational suffering and they’ve had to wrap their heads around that. And how do we keep on keeping on, all the way in the east to the [inaudible 01:01:35] right.
Of the, [inaudible 01:01:38] dialogue, which was you can’t, you have to abandon your cherished outcomes, AKA the pre tragic, I’m going to be the hero and win the day, look wrestle with the tragic. I’ve gotten, here’s this grand battle in my family’s on both sides and I’m going to be a king slayer, one way or the other to the post tragic, which in the Gita, as you know deeply is that sense of your redemption lies in the fulfillment of your DOMA, the thing that’s yours and yours alone to do. But you have to abandon your cherished outcomes.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yes.
Jamie Wheal: Right. And then even the, and then a contemporary example, just cause if anybody’s tracking this, this important, I would suggest, which is, here’s how you have to, we have to be able to get out of bed on the Monday morning. We have to have that option two and three, which is what is, here’s a model pre tragic, tragic post tragic. Here’s the, what was your middle one? Your middle one was here’s the way through.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Oh, yeah. Here’s hope. There’s hope. Here’s why there’s hope.
How Spiritual Practices Can Help us Maintain Hope During the Current Meta-Crisis
Jamie Wheal: Yes. Here’s a path for hope. And then a way three is what is some version of at least an initial roadmap. Here’s how we get going.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yeah.
Jamie Wheal: Right. And, and then
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Here’s what you can do.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. And, then obviously the contemporary Western version of all, this is the Admiral Stockdale, Jim Stockdale, Stockdale paradox from Vietnam POWs, which was.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. [crosstalk 01:03:01]Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jamie Wheal: The people who survived pow camp were the ones who were ruthlessly realistic about current reality and endlessly optimistic about the long term. Right.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. I didn’t, I didn’t know that’s beautiful to know.
Jamie Wheal: Isn’t It? You know? Cause I mean that was lived experience. He’s like, the pessimist died in the camps, but so did the optimist because when the optimistic things didn’t come and went the dates when we were going to get released or salvation didn’t come, they had nothing left. They had nothing left. Oh, okay. And so that was, Jim Collins famously popular as this in his, was it good to great? I think it was probably good to great that book. I mean, and I didn’t realize at the time I was like, oh, the Stockdale paradox of Vietnam POWs is really, really spitting distance to the teachings things at the Gita. Right. Right of redemption lies in our DOMA, not in our cherished outcomes. And I think that’s a reason why the Gita became, cause it’s a, so we had left field text, right.
To show up with throw, Emerson, MLK, lots of, contemporary or modern transformational leaders. Right. Who at some point they probably had a Pre tragic vision of what they were doing. We’re going to throw off the yoga British colonialism, or we’re going to end segregation in the U.S. Or whatever it would be. And then ran into the tragic of like, this is the cluster fuck. And I’m effectively being dragged into [inaudible 01:04:21]. There’s no way through this, and all my cherished outcomes are, just trashed. Where do I go from here? And that Gita, Stockdale paradox kind of lifeline, which is, abandon your cherished outcomes, [crosstalk 01:04:40] keep going anyway.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yes. And I think you’re pointing to actually what I take Jamie to be one of the most appropriate or applicable spiritual practices for our time. And you’re effectively talking about calm yoga, and there are within the Hindu tradition there four Maji yogas, there’s the yoga of love or Bhakti, there’s Jnana yoga, which is the yoga of wisdom or insight. There’s Raja yoga, which is the yoga of meditation and practice. But this Karma, yoga and Karma yoga is the yoga of work and action in the world, as the yoga, in which we use what we are doing in the, of our work, our calling as our spiritual practice and in its simplest forms, you just laid it out. It’s a threefold process. One offers whatever action or work one’s doing to Brahman or to God, or to a higher source, some transpersonal source.
One does the work as impeccably as one possibly can. And here’s the knife edge while simultaneously releasing attachment to the outcome. And as that simultaneous releasing attachment to the outcome, which is the Razor’s edge, which undercuts the egocentricity and hope and fear, and the very factors you spoke to and stock tail, and what allows people to survive some of those camps. But it’s that three, and it sounds very simple until of course has with all practices you start to and do it. And then of course it turns out to be, oh, there’s a little more to this than I thought, but it’s a very powerful practice. And it’s particularly appropriate to our time and to activism or contribution in such an extraordinarily challenging and potentially very dark times where we can’t be sure of the outcome. We can’t be sure that anything we do will actually ensure the survival of our species or the ensure the survival of our democracy, or maybe even keep ourselves alive for another decade.
But as you said, there is a form of vitality of it comes from knowing that doing one’s work for the work itself is enlivening. And there’s also a release of dis of despair and attachment and depression. If one is able to do one’s best and simultaneously release the attachment. So for many reasons, I’m a fan of all multiple varieties of spiritual practices. My late wife Francis won, used to call me spiritually promiscuous, which is true. It was a form of promiscuity she could handle. So it’s okay. So, but I do think there’s a real value of karma yoga in our time and for anyone who isn’t in a monastery, if you are engaged in life and you have a desire and aspiration and commitment to waking up growing up, learning, and, becoming, living the fullest life one can, then one needs to be a Karma Yoga. And it’s also the best practice simultaneously for, to underlie and contextualize one’s activism.
Jamie Wheal: Hmm. Yeah. And I mean, and also, right, just, just to kind of translate that into sort of Western language, some, ethic of care and concern and service, right?
Exploring Christianity Across Developmental Stages
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yes.
Jamie Wheal: I mean, and something that I noticed, cause I’ve been baffled by, but also tracking. The incredible booming rise of megachurches in the west and especially in America, but now Australia, Europe, other places as well. And, and I kept, I’ve kept on wondering like, why is it that those incredibly retro theologies, right? Even if they get wrapped in, Jesus rock and jumbotrons and snazzy jeans and sneaker game, and all the things that current mega churches are doing, how are they booming? I mean, we’ve got one, we’re here in Texas, it’s Austin, but it’s still Texas.
And, at the corner of our street, we’ve seen this church go from a church to a K through 12 school, to a coffee shop, to additional buildings to this whole campus and doing aggressive roll ups of all the other underperforming churches in the entire area. So now that’s central broadcast hub for things that are going off in half a dozen other locations. So now it’s a, you have to get a special ticket just to get into the main auditorium where the actual event is going down and, they’ve got the cops stopping traffic for them on Sundays, and the parade of just high dollar Suburbans and four by fours and all, you’re like, Jesus Christ literally.
You know, this is Texas wealth and power made manifest. And I was thinking, oh, okay. So the church always did this, right? Because, in either the Roman Catholic church, that land holdings in Europe, they were always baller or power players. But I think that something that’s happened in the megachurch era and it’s a uniquely American thing that’s metastasized, which is not only did they say pass the collection plate and chip in, because it’s your immortal soul, that’s the value prop, right?
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Right.
Jamie Wheal: But now they completely abandon Christian charity and service what you were describing as karma yoga. And they fucking mutated it into prosperity gospel, which is now, here’s the law of threefold return in every hundred you put in you’re, you can imagine you’re supposed to get 300 back and it’s looped back to egoic material gratification. You’re not trans migration of souls. Right. [crosstalk 01:10:37] So we’ve, we’ve created this bastard and this obviously shows up in the new age as well, right. Where absolutely explicitly and without shame or apology, the intention of higher development is to get you more of what you want in this life.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Well, I, except I would say that the purpose of the enterprise, not necessarily of higher development, and I think, but, and I think there’s also a key thing there in that. I personally don’t believe you can understand religion without understanding two things. One is states of consciousness and the other is developmental stages. And there’s a religion for every developmental stage. And there are religious forms and expressions for each, each of the major states of consciousness, or at least I should better say there are traditions all for each of the major states of consciousness. So, but until you understand those, I don’t think you can understand religion. So, the fact that, [crosstalk 01:11:40].
Jamie Wheal: Well, give us some examples of that. Because that’s a beautiful, I mean, I agree and I’m thinking instantly of Jim marian’s putting on the mind of Christ, right? Where he overlay Christianity across developmental stages. And if anybody, by the way is either recovering Catholic or Christian or in your own personal practices or trying to wrestle with weird intrusions of crystic, archetypes and mythology by all means. And, but we’re reversed because you don’t want to be one of those Jesus freaks, it’s seriously considered checking out, putting on the mind of Christ, because it’s a neat book for or people to find their way back into the levels of awareness you’re talking about.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Exactly. And I agree completely and I would want to simplify and say, that was one of the major divisions is between conventional religion and contemplative religion and the conventional religion centers around a narrative. And if you believe the narrative you save and if you don’t believe it, you’re damned and your job is if you believe it, then your job is to help other people believe it. And or if they really don’t accept it, then maybe get rid of them. The contemplative religion is a psycho technology for training the psyche, the heart to cultivate states of mind and qualities and virtues to essentially recapitulate the recognition and realization of the founders. So there, those are two radically different kinds of religion and our culture has no understanding of them whatsoever or no understanding that there’s a contemplative form.
They now actually I’m being a little extreme. The culture is beginning to wake up and to use the framework that you and I have both appreciated a lot that comes from some anthropologists, our culture is shifting from a monophasic to a polyphasic culture. Monophasic cultures drive their understanding of ourselves and reality from predominantly a single state of consciousness. Usually the waking state polyphasic cultures draw their understanding of human nature and from multiple state stream yoga, meditative, contemplative, trans, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And we, our culture beginning in the sixties has begun the slow, somewhat turbulent transition from a monophasic to a polyphasic culture or actually been in a minority because 90% of the world’s cultures, according to the anthropologist version on, have institutionalized older states of consciousness. But Western culture has been one of the very few that has, or the one of the minority that hasn’t, and we’ve been transition once you see that you can make a lot of sense of things like the turbulence of the 60s and understand where the introduction of psychedelics came, how that catalyze that and led to the influx of Eastern traditions and then the revival of our own Western contemplative practices, et cetera.
So, that’s all to say that the megachurches make sense once you appreciate that, most of the majority of the population is doing conventional, ritualized practice centered on a narrative. And that narrative is often in the service of ego that the, that the mythological churches and not just Christianity serve in large part to strengthen and support the current narrative rather than to undercut and transform the so
Jamie Wheal: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. And there’s, there’s just some interesting things for, for listeners to unpack, which is if, if, let me, let me run this past you and see if this tracks, which is that polyphasic cultures who had a wide range of both neurophysiological states and the psychological interior experiences that accompany them were to traditionally typically indigenous right slash traditional. Then you get the Western enlightenment. You get, I think therefore I am Western empiricism five senses if I can’t measure it’s not real monophasic Western culture. And then you were saying with the advent of the 60s, et cetera, where kind of experiencing that kind of return of dionysian to blend with the Apollonian, that notion of like stage experiences being, keys to the kingdom and what does the at least the possibility of a postmodern polyphasic culture look like? Cause we haven’t had one of those yet. Does that track? Okay.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yeah, that makes total sense. And you’re right. We a whole new era in so many ways and so many dimensions, but one of them is we haven’t had a large number of contemplatives with access to technology. We haven’t had people who are trying to express their understanding through say, social media, et cetera, make use of these tools. And part of the integration of our times is not only mastering certain contemplative practices and disciplines and training accessing to different states and perhaps moving up a developmental stage. It’s also the process of integration, but the process of integration now is more complex because now it requires meshing with a culture and a technology that’s far more sophisticated and differentiated in complex than any we’ve had in history.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. And the first thing, when you say traditional religion and most people can think of, kind of Waspy or Catholic locked down really dull unimaginative and non transcendent religiosity or social compliance. Like I show up in church, it smells and bells, we kneel, we sit, we pray, we do the thing. We go home. And it’s mostly social club slash you know, notion of belonging. And that’s the equivalent I think, to sort of monogamy as bed death. You’re like, oh yeah, of course that’s old, boring doll religion. And, of course all those religions are declining. They’re the bed right now. The only ones that are winning quote unquote in the battle of hearts and minds are Pentecostal evangelicals, because they’re kicking out the jams. Right. And you realize, oh wait, so we’ve now got access, access to state priming.
Meaning can you put people in a non-ordinary state is, I would say a ubiquitous, social and now commercial technology. And, if anybody hasn’t seen the righteous gemstones on HBO, it’s a hilarious parody. John Goodman, the actor, as well as Danny McBride who writes it. it’s basically a three generation evangelical megachurch family and they just take the piss out of it, but do it sincerely. it’s not a sort of smug, looking down on that world it’s kind of within the world. And one of the things you noticed is that those jumbotrons Jesus rocker, megachurches save the bangers, they save their absolute kick out the jam, maximum euphoric songs, their praise music for the time the collection plate goes around. Oh right. So you get people in maximal state feeling the holy ghost feeling and being absolutely encouraged to reach into their wallets and give for Jesus.
And at the same time, Tony Robbins does I, the identical movement, which is whip people into a frenzy right before, or the upsell. So you have this co-optation of what could have been numinous transpersonal, non dual, bodhisattva like states or whatever it is geared straight in, right to late stage capitalism and the mechanisms. And obviously our, colleague Alan Combs, did a great job of talking about, Hey states and stages. Like you can access a state from a different level of development.
And I think what we’ve got is, we’ve got an awful lot of people, quite consciously from a traditionalist point of view, but a kind of, a contemporary traditionalism, AKA that megachurches accessing states, right? To grow their money, to grow their income versus collection place. And you’ve got all the personal growth, new age, seemingly secular folks also becoming masters of state priming, right. To do much of the same. So the states in and of themselves don’t seem to be sufficient to break the choke hold of egoic consciousness or consumer capitalism. So what, what’s the way through there, because like if they, if that can’t do it, we’re stuffed. I mean, I don’t know if we’ve got other options.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Well, and I’m glad you said the, that states themselves are not sufficient. I think that’s a very, excellent phrasing. Cause certain first off we need to, again, draw model distinctions. There are any number of ordered states and some of them are more conducive to fostering purification, to use an old-fashioned word. The cultivation of virtues and capacities, and to moving… fostering psychological development. So, first off we need to, may have that differentiation. But clearly there are some states which are historically and contemporarily and I think, we can say phenomenologically for some of us who played with them. They do conduce towards say altruism, and compassion, and love, and the desire to contribute. And they’re temporary states as you pointed out in your books. Something more has to be done. They have to have… and the challenge is to transform transient states into enduring traits, and peak experiences into personality, and older states into older state into different stages. So, and that is really challenging.
And Houston Smith, the great religious scholar said it beautifully said “the challenges to transform flashes of illumination into abiding light”. And that’s a challenge. And I often think that it’s as much a challenge. A lot of us with the exception of things like psychedelics you have to a fair bit of work to reliably and induce profound older states, but it’s just as challenging to transform the older states into older traits. And it’s just as challenging to use those traits to foster, maybe moving up a developmental stage. So it’s a lot of work, so the states are conducive, but as you said, they’re not sufficient. And so how do we make use of those? And traditionally the idea was you need a pallet of practices to induce, not just states, but various capacities and various virtues. And you went through traditionally mysticism was the first stage of purification and purgation then the stage of illumination and then the stage of the spiritual life bringing that into life or back to integrations, we’ve been talking about. So lots of parameters to be considered here.
Why We Need a Combination of Somatic Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual Intelligence
Jamie Wheal: Well, let me run this past you, since we’re just on this topic and we’re riffing on the mono and polyphasic things, because for me as I became increasingly under convinced that developmental stage group, vertical development was actually doing nearly as much as we had hoped. I knew lots of clever people that would shit the bed when it came to stressful situations, knew lots of clever people that were maladapted for fitness and survivability, all those kinds of things. I’m under convinced that simply scoring that on a recent metric of how complex my linguistic sense making was really indicated much of anything, including just you just get increasingly sophisticated, passive, aggressive, happening at those levels, so you’re like, okay, yeah, it would be really neat if everybody just transformed into body surface but I just, I’m not seeing that.
So something that we’ve shared with our community in that I want to run this past you is my sense of, what is a more practical, functional, definition of basically 21st century Western enlightenment is basically a facility across a polyphasic spectrum. So the ability for me to match my state the task at hand, right? So I can be expensive in non-dual if I’m on a mountaintop. I can be ruthless and focused if I’m in a street fight. I can be nurturing if I’m cuddling a child. I can be those things and I can make those adjustments seamlessly, fluidly and appropriately. And that to me feels like, at least for me, a more practical working definition of what does it mean to be an integrated human. I’m not positing a subject object split. There’s some happy hill for me to climb. And once I get there I’m dissolved of all these challenges. I get roots to me in the human condition, but it basically just says, am I showing up in the appropriate neurophysiological and psychological condition to match that, does that track for you?
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yeah. In several ways, I think what you’re talking about in the traditional terms, and I think particularly of Confucianism here is the practical wisdom which was defined as appropriateness. And that’s the core concept underlying the idea of practical wisdom in Confucianism. And I think it’s a very important idea. And what you are suggesting is appropriateness is not just an action, but actually being able to have sufficient mental fluidity to be able to match one’s state of mind and being to the task and to have the skills to be able to do that is no, in fact…
Jamie Wheal: And somatic intelligence as well, right? Not just…
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Somatic emotional, mental, and spiritual, all of the ones. I think you used the word being. And I would very much agree with that, and as far as I can see one of the hallmarks of successful or effective psychotherapists teachers, et cetera, is flexibility. And I think that’s just…, we teach so much about the way to be as a teacher, as a this or that, but the much more important the ways, the range of ways, and the capacity for being flexible and appropriate. So though, all of which is a skill unto itself, it’s what is skill to learn, to be learn multiple states or multiple skills. It’s another skill to learn, which is appropriate. And it’s another skill to have the fluid to be able to apply them. So there’s multiple skills underlying what you’ve said. I would suggest that what you are pointing to is not so much psychological development, as developing capacities at one’s current developmental stage.
And I certainly wouldn’t want to equate, and I know you weren’t though, may have been the implication and that smart is any indication of developmental stage. And unfortunately we know that’s not true. We’ve seen it enough. And another key dimension, which we haven’t talked about much here, but which is absolutely crucial, which underlies so much of the issues we’ve discussed is intention. And that out of intention come so much and the refining and honing and purification of one’s intention and the up leveling of it, and the development of it just seems a crucial aspect. And as you point out, it’s very easy to use older states and various practices, even which in themselves may have a bent or a preelection towards transcendence and towards fostering development. It’s very easy to subvert them to go centric uses. But, so the question is the con, and I think the idea of the…, just take a moment and say, there are a couple of kinds of questions.
There are knowledge questions. Is it raining outside, look outside the window, answer no into question, but there are wisdom questions which are, which are more like cons, they have a potential each time you ask them to take you deeper into the question, deeper into yourself and deeper into reality. And so the question of what’s my intention and what I want to be my intention, those are wisdom questions, which ideally will be asking for the rest of our lives. And the answers we give will really shape and direct our lives and our destiny. And so I just want to put in a big plug for ongoing attention to our intention.
Jamie Wheal: Well then that feels, that loops. I mean, I’m still thinking of your Zen pillars of confusion and paradox and the power, the seduction of power and the seduction of clarity and custom artist stuff. Because that to me, the intention right now does feel like it is still in the feathering of my egoic rational, separate identity, consumer nest. I want more cool shit for me to see and be, and have. And so if my intention in seeking any of these states and going in scraping the shelves of the spiritual market place for all the whiz bang gadgets and gizmos is still about me, it’s still about self grand indictment. It feels like we’re going to get these strange results.
These results that are divorced from the karma yoga, divorced because am I right in reading that you could make a case that the inquiry of intention is at least addressed by karma and yoga in service of, right versus for me. Do you want to, we’ve got maybe another five to 10 minutes. I’d love to just keep chatting with you infinite amount of things for us to touch base on, but act to the notion of here’s a path, here’s the model, here’s a frame for the situation. Here’s a reason to hope. And then here are steps to take.
My personal sense is the frame of looking at this meta crisis is in any linear, this generation terms, I’m not seeing any indicators of us not heading to a hard landing. All the hopes and all the hand ringing and the pleading. And we’ve still got time. If only we act now or like the silver lining to this ridiculously grim climate report is we have the information if we only start now, the trend lines just don’t seem to be especially encouraging. And that’s before really we’re even wrestling with any of the material challenges, we’re still sort of debating this. We can see the horizon line of Niagara falls, we’re in our little wooden barrel. And we’re like, no, but we haven’t yet had impact. Right? So impact is TBD. But my sense of the hope is the idea that us as Western monophasic rational individuals probably won’t get ours.
We may not everything that we want as far as happy resolution in our lifetimes, right? But that notion of radical hope, which you and I have spoken of Jonathan Lear’s work at University of Chicago, is that sense of, we need to expand our timeframes, because if it’s just me, mine and now, which is how we’ve been conditioned as consumers to think we’re all going to be off and distraught, potentially just suicidal. Because if we don’t get ours, we’re conditioned to believe it’s a total fail versus is what we talked about. Those diaspora communities, intergenerational hope, radical hope is something we keep for the future. And then that sense of, can we expand our reason for being, why do I do the hard things, right? What is my karma yoga?
Can we actually create, re implement, a trans generational karma yoga, I’m doing this with my children’s children. So some version of, arguably like that’s spell bunk seed bank, right? For seeds, for heirloom seeds, that idea of, we are going to create a bunker of light, right? They’re, we want to make art. We want to leave artifacts. We want to keep the flame alive. It’s a little bit like Hanukkah for Jews, that sense of, we’re going to return to the rituals, we’re going to retell the tales. We’re going to remember our ancestors and we’re going to pass this forward for our descendants. To me, that feels like an essential buffer for maintaining hope, radical hope, at a time when lots of our hopeful hope will probably just be ripped through our hands in the slipstream. How does that sound to you?
The Need to Maintain Radical Hope and a Bunker of Light for Future Generations
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yes. Is a short answer. And in particular, what you pointed to was of moving to a larger goal than just ourselves. Moving to effectively a service goal. And it’s very clear, meaning and purpose comes requires having a perspective and aspiration larger than oneself. Although it’s otherwise it’s not enough to sustain us in the long term. So that, and there are lots of frameworks we can hold here. And the question and, I could give my own framework, the big meta perspective, but I’d also encourage anyone to look for themselves as to what’s the largest meaning structure that they can hold for this. For myself, just to mention one, you mentioned going, taking a big picture perspective, look at a Toby Survey of world history.
And the fact, civilizations are complex things and entropy is never ending and takes a lot of work and ingenuity to keep us first to create a civilization and then to keep it going. And there are always challenges and Toby’s recognition was that there are always what he called challenges and responses. And the response, if a civilization is to thrive, it always comes from [inaudible 01:36:08] accounting. Anyway, from what he called a Creative Minority. As far as I can see a creative minority does three things, first it recognizes the challenge way ahead of most people, then it comes up with some sort of one or more possible solutions and then third perhaps most challenging is inspiration and inspiration can take a lot of work as we are seeing. Just trying to wake people up to the reality of the challenges we’re facing.
So one big picture context is, wait a minute, this situation we’re facing is in some ways absolutely unique, we’ve never had nuclear weapons. We’ve never had potential global, global ecological collapse. And yet in another, there’s one more cycle of a recurrent story. And we know from history, what it takes in terms of the general principles. Okay. So that’s one big picture context, one possible hope. Well, you can look at this from any number of perspectives, from it’s all doom and gloom to adapt to. We got to adapt to a going under to bunkerism, to techno utopianism. And we’re going to solve it all with the next technology or we can sit in the fire of not knowing and the mystery and say paradox in the confusion, thank you.
We do not know how this is going to turn out, but we do know it’s going to be up to us. Okay. So what can I do? And then it’s, the what can I do? It’s really essential to recognize that whenever we come up with a big social global problem, it’s what it always comes down to. If we’re going to be really constructive and at tributaries, what can I do? It’s like, it’s we start off with, well, they should do that and they should do this, but it always comes down to if we’re going to be effective, what can I do? And it’s really important to recognize that what can I do is not a standard question. It’s a wisdom question. And it’s a wisdom question we have to live with and ask ourselves repeatedly time and time again, because there’s no one final answer. It keeps changing as we keep changing. And if we keep asking a question, it will grow us and our answers will become more effective and as you said, more appropriate. So that’s one context for how to approach this, the challenges we’re facing.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. Yeah. I’m on this intermittent search for what is my, basically Occam Razors minimum ontology or metaphysics? Like what do I think? What is the absolute parsimonious, the minimalist least bells and whistles way of describing reality as close to reality as possible. So I have to wrestle with the fewest error messages, and what I was, one of the pieces to it is thinking on the metaphysics side to me, I think like all I need to know all, I have the only article of faith I need to get up out of bed and to act for a life is, do I believe that a little more goodness, truth and beauty in the world, in the universe is better than a little less.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yes.
Jamie Wheal: And given all the chaos, all the uncertainty, all the futilities, all the everything. If I sit like that’s my one article of faith, which is it’s worth trying, because I think a little more love is better than less than I have my reason for being. And I was actually on a hike with a friend last week, got down to some Creek here in Austin, which we always loved to go and sit by. And he was, “Hey, what are you doing? What are you thinking these days? What are you up to”? And I was, well, honestly, I’ve given up, I’ve given up on trying to move the needle on society, civilization where we are, et cetera. But I’m just doubling down on feeding up holly I’m doubling down on observing and celebrating and participating in the beauty of this earth because it is still going off.
Even if we are reading doom and gloom reports and wheels off situations like the sun comes up, the sun goes down, there are shooting stars and planets, there are beautiful, there are beautiful expressions of life on this earth and they’re still happening every day. And right now, at least for me, I’m choosing that country skiing I’m choosing, right, the chance to be connected to these things and have my heart filled. And my sense was a look if all the linear grot charts and graphs go off the cliff and that’s pretty grim, then in some respects, there is important acceptance of those things, which leads me with nothing else to do, but feed the holy in Martin Prechtel’s term, right? The idea of, can I bear witness to this ongoing mystery?
And the interesting thing is that paradoxically, if all those linear material things go off the cliff, so we’re on that level of reality. But the only thing that might save us is some, is some numinous transcendent, catalytic event then actually weirdly me and or anybody else, all of us feeding the holy is actually going to be one of those things that’s keeping that doorway open to grace. That’s what leaves space for grace. So it’s not necessarily retreat resignation. So crawling up my own, whatever it is, it’s actually, no, we are, we are tending the gate, right. To leave space for grace, to your point about what you said something about leaving markers for hope, right, right, right. Making up, basically making up, if you think of Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind, if you think of all the songs that accompanied all the civil, I don’t think the civil rights movement could have worked.
I don’t think those marches would have been, would’ve been functional if they hadn’t had the songs to sing across the Selma bridge. Right. So making art, right. Bearing witness and that’s what leaves the space for grace. That’s the place where radical hope. And it may not, if not, and it’s MLK’s last speech the night before he was shot, right. That there is a mountain, how long, not long, I may not get there with you. Right. But I’m going to keep on testifying. Right. And the hopes that one of us someday does, and the…, I didn’t even realize this, this just came out in a conversation a few months ago. But to me, The Lord of the Rings is the most badass example of this. Like the same way that like Admiral Stockdale embodies the bug of Agis teachings.
You’re like, oh, the Lord of the Rings. If you think about it, Gollum is this slippery, slimy little thug, right, bent to darkness and Photo, Bill, they all want to kill him at some point. So do the door. So do the elves. And Gandalf said “hold off, hold off, he may have yet some still some pop to play”. Right. So there’s compassion, right? So goodness, truth and beauty, there’s the exercise of compassion without knowledge of outcome. And then the ending at Mount doom is so beautiful, right? Because Gollum and he’s wrestling with Smeagol, he’s going back and forth. Do I come back to the better angel level that my nature am I reduced to the dog and he’s constantly battling. And the PA Hollywood answer would be, he becomes Smeagol, he’s redeemed by the loving compassion. He’s actually not.
He actually reverts back to his darkest nature and grabs the my precious bite it off photo. So he is back into his darkness. Right. But in the biting of the ring and grabbing it, he is actually what takes it into Mount Doom and accomplishes the great work. Right. But he wouldn’t have been able if the original compassion, the leaving space for grace, without knowledge of outcome hadn’t been in place. So in some respect, love, wins the day, even though it was greed and darkness that threw the switch.
So my sense is in the leaving space for grace, it’s not just catchy because it rhymes. It’s that sense of like we, man proposes, God disposes, right? Thomas a Kempis said “that we can’t control this”, but it, and basically the outcomes are almost certainly not going to be linear. They’re not going to be, I attempted to do this thing. And this thing worked and saved the day it’s going to be orthogonal. It’s going to be ricochet shots and bench shots and unintended consequences. But if we give up on holding for the light, if we give up on feeding the holy, then the race is surely lost. Right. But if we, if we can bear witness without attachment to outcome, but with radical hope that it will ultimately make the difference one day someday, somehow that we have a shot at this.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. Yes. Beautiful. Beautifully said. And in what, in that sense, the shot is no matter what the outcome, we follow our ideal, the choice we have, the fundamental choice we’ve made and going back to what you started with, you talked about a minimalist metaphysics that is, each of us found a world view on a presupposition. And part of growth is bringing that those presuppositions and to awareness. And one of the most fundamental presuppositions is to reduce suffering, to foster the good, the good, the true, and the beautiful and that alone, as you said, that can be, that can be the foundational motive out of which a life can and meaning, and purpose can on which it can be founded. And all of which is within, as you were pointing to in the story, the not knowing the mystery, it’s all within mystery and yet we choose.
Jamie Wheal: Beautiful. So, so, so the TLDR of that is love conquers all parentheses., it just might take a while.
Roger Walsh, MD. Ph.D. And it might not happen, but we don’t know. And it’s up to us.
Jamie Wheal: Beautiful. Beautiful.
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