Brooke Sprowl

How to Leave the Matrix

how-to-leave-the-matrix-blog

If you’re reading this you probably already know, your inner revolution will not be televised. But in so many ways, even those of us on the path are still the products of our cultural programming.

Our ideational landscape, our media, and everyone around us are loudly and constantly broadcasting their conditioned beliefs about reality. 

Amidst the din of these perpetual implicit and explicit messages, we can’t help but begin to see the world through our self-imposed limitations. As a result, we quickly begin to believe this conditioning is objective reality. 

But it’s actually the Matrix

When we internalize our culture’s programming, we self-select experiences within a restricted paradigm. This reinforces its apparent reality because we never bother to truly test the edges.

Our limiting beliefs become a self-validating framework that keeps us imprisoned and alone in a seemingly cold, unfeeling world. 

I felt that way for a long time: a disembodied mind in a disconnected world of dead matter. 

I had no idea that I had been taught to perceive things that way, and that the programming was mediating my day to day experience of the world. 

Even though I had glimpses of something more––moments when I saw the orchestration, interconnection, and deeper meaning––I didn’t know how to trust them or integrate them in a way that endured.

I rationalized my spiritual experiences as flights of fantasy or evolutionary quirks, distrusting my deeper intuition that the vastness of the cosmos and human experience could not ultimately amount to meaningless matter. 

How could our individual lives be so meaningful if the totality of the universe was ultimately void and meaningless? 

I knew intuitively that the individual parts of the universe could not amount to less than the whole. 

While a part of me believed this was true, I doubted my own deep sense of the world. My programming was still running the show. 

It took a long time for me to begin to trust the still, small voice of my inner knowing. It felt like a whisper in comparison to the shouting voices of culture and conditioning. 

But over time I began to see a theme. I never regretted anything when I made choices with my intuition, no matter what the outcome was. I only regretted the choices I made when I brushed my inner voice aside and rationalized it away. 

The more I began to rely on my intuition, the more the old programming started to fall away and the more I began to experience the expansive reality I always believed was possible. But this was not an easy or linear process. 

Each moment, trusting that inner voice felt like jumping off a ledge without seeing what was beneath. 

Until you jump, you don’t actually know if you’re going to survive the fall. Trusting ourselves is an act of faith and is the foundation of an authentic spiritual life. 

But it requires us to repeatedly “jump” without knowing where we’re going to land. It’s a terrifying process that requires us to continually face our own annihilation and lay our ego-based conceptions at the altar to be sacrificed again and again. 

That is the art of surrender.

Leaving the Matrix can be a deeply destabilizing and brutal process: rebirth always requires a kind of death. That’s why most people don’t do it. 

That’s also why courage is not the only thing we need on this path. It equally requires us to be gentle and patient with ourselves as we emerge into a new paradigm and find our bearings. 

Our nervous systems aren’t always fully equipped to navigate what we face when we leave the Matrix: It’s strangely overwhelming and scary to believe our deepest hopes and dreams might actually be possible. 

Learning to trust our own perceptions of reality while simultaneously being willing to lay them on the altar is one of the most vital processes we undertake as humans on the path to self-liberation. 

It is a dance between deepening our ability to trust ourselves while also being ever-willing to let go of what we think we know so we can upgrade our internal operating systems each time we reach the next level of the game. 

This means listening to our own internal voices, watching what happens, and integrating what we find. With each round, we must shed what is false and live into a deeper truth, which requires ever increasing courage and strength. 

As we engage in that ongoing process, we begin to discern our authentic intuition from our conditioned perceptions and we start to wake up.

Failure to engage in that process––whether in the form of either unchecked hubris or pathological self-doubt––is what keeps us stuck in a warlike battle with our own psyches. 

This leads us to go around in circles, unsure of which voice to listen to, because we haven’t practiced the process that forges self-trust. 

And that is also the root of self-doubt, which is at the heart of so many psychological, spiritual, and societal problems. 

In this week’s episode of Waking Up, my guest, cognitive science researcher Dr. John Vervaeke and I explore topics such as the fundamental nature of reality, non-dual awareness, the practice of overcoming self-deception, transjectivity, relevance realization, self-transcendence, complications of AI, and the necessity of a spirituality that is scientifically rigorous. 

Check it out here:

0:01

[Music] welcome to on living my name is Brooke

0:07

Sproul and today we have a very special guest a personal hero of mine Dr John vervaki John welcome thank you Brooke

0:15

it’s a pleasure to talk with you again I really enjoyed our last conversation a lot I did as well

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as well we get started on that thank you I’m um I’m John rovicky I’m a professor of cognitive psychology and cognitive

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science at the University of Toronto I’m also the author of a YouTube series

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called Awakening from the meeting crisis I also have an ongoing dialogical series

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called voices which were vaky and I also do a bunch of uh Standalone series called the cognitive Science Show on the

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nature of the Consciousness the nature of the self often with I think every time with Greg Enriquez and usually somebody else

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um and I um and so I do a lot of work um using cognitive science to bridge between

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the scientific world view and uh spirituality the pursuit of meaning the cultivation of wisdom and how people are

1:07

trying to respond to the meaning crisis yes and John ‘s well instrumental in my personal

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Spiritual Development and so I’m eternally grateful to you for just the concepts ideas and the work that you’ve

1:19

done that has helped guide my process and and inquiry so I’m so honored to be speaking with you today

1:26

um one of the things that struck me from our last conversation was something you said about mindfulness you said

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mindfulness is frame awareness that allows us to get an optimal grip on our

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temporal spatial and social awareness yes so talk about what optimal grip means

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uh so optimal grip is a notion uh from Marlo Ponte and uh he talks about the

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fact that whenever we’re trying to pay attention to something and perceive it

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or conceive it I’ll use a perceptual example um like like say here’s my phone right

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um there it what we’re always doing is we’re trading off between things uh so for example there might be I need maybe

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there’s a scratch on my screen I need to be really close right and I zoom in on a feature but then I lose the ability to

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sense the whole if I pull back because I want to see the whole phone I may not be able to read what’s on the screen and

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right and so I’m constantly toggling between them depending on the relevance to the frame I’m in and remember the

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frame your mental framing is what you’re ignoring is irrelevant what you’re what you’re bringing into awareness as

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relevant and you’re constantly uh toggling between all these various trade-offs think about all the different

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aspects of this all the different distances you could look at at all the perspectives you could take on it

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um all the ways you can imagine using it and what your cons constantly doing is you’re trading between all of those in a

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way that’s relevant to your framing of the situation which is how you’re making what you’re trying to find how you’re

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trying to make sense of the situation and so you’re always trying to get an optimal grip so in mindfulness what you

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do is normally we’re not aware of that mental framing it’s transparent because you’re becoming aware of it and that

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right by stepping back and looking at it in meditation and then seeing if you can see a new in contemplation and you’re

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toggling between those right looking through your glasses and looking at them to try and get sort of an optimal grip

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translucency so that you’re well fitted to uh the world you’re in in a particular situation around and there’s

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usually almost always those three dimensions uh the temporal the spatial and the social

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beautiful yeah understanding framing has been a really important part of my

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Awakening and understanding that our sense of separation from the world is actually a frame a perceptual frame a

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conceptual frame that has been in in essence indoctrinated into us since the

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Cartesian Revolution can you talk a little bit about that yes um so before the Cartesian

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Revolution we had uh what what is called a contact epistemology we had the idea

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that when we know something we are we’re coming into some kind of cognitive contact with it

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um and then with the Cartesian Revolution following upon Copernicus and Kepler there was the idea that we’re

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actually trapped behind sort of how we’re framing the world and we’re

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representing uh we’re trying to get representations from inside our frame about outside the world

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um and and and link up that way now um what Descartes did was he took

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that division that that sort of replacement of contact with pointing a representation and he

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made it into two Realms the inner subjective realm and the external objective realm and then the project has

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been well how do we possibly connect subjectivity and objectivity together and this has been very very problematic

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and it hasn’t stayed as sort of a philosophical idea or problem within Ivory Towers it has permeated the

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culture because people are really wrestling with how how does how does

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this scientific model of the world and my inner experience how do they possibly

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mesh and work together I feel very disconnected from myself from other people from reality and so that’s the

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Cartesian framework that we’re bound up in right and Descartes did that for very good reasons uh he’s not malevolent and

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tribalicious but nevertheless we come to a place where I think the science broadly construed to include philosophy

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and other things has uh there’s been a long-standing recognition that we have

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to overcome this divide in some important way right and what are the practices that help you overcome this uh

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frame this divine well I mean the one practice is is sort

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of phenomenological philosophy uh where you’re trying to practice phenomenology

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you’re trying to really get into the the structures of your experience when you’re making sense and you know and and

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and see what’s actually at work so for example when you do that and this this is influenced by Marlo Ponte and my my

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uh my friend and colleague Evan Thompson uh when you do this you realize the body

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has a very special place um so for example your body is both an

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object like all the other objects uh but it’s also you and it’s part uh right of

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who and what you are and and what’s really weird about the body is whenever you’re touching

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something you’re also being touched uh and so what you realize is wait I’m

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living this in my body and my body is neither cleanly objective nor cleanly subjective and so

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what I want to do that that phenomenology brings that into awareness and then I want practices that really

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bring that to life like Tai Chi Chuan uh in which I’m moving my body in a mindful fashion I’m getting into the Flow State

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I’m feeling very connected and I’m both touching and being touched because when you move for example when you’re when

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you when you take a like even if you hold your arm you hold your arm in tai chi in a way that it’s both a weapon and

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a sensor and you’re simultaneously feeling as well as projecting uh like

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projecting Force um so uh and of course doing the the meditation and the contemplation which

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constantly make you aware of the fact that actually these two are deeply

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linked my my contemplative awareness into the world and my meditative

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awareness into myself continually uh reflect each other and are shaping each

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other and like even think about in meditation you go into a space inside your head which of course is not a

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literal space you’re inside some space and that’s because you’re internalizing the world but when you’re in there you

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also get right you get aware of right how how that world is being shaped for

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you and and so you internalize the world but you also indwell the World by how

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you fit yourself to it and so the meditation and the contemplation make you aware of it most importantly perhaps

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our dialogical practices biological practices make you aware of the reality of other Minds that are shaping

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information separate from you and really make you beholden to the fact that the

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objective and the subjective are deeply into penetrating in something like dialogue so those are some of the practices that help do that how does the

8:35

last thing you said relate to what you defined as transjectivity lasts in our last conversation ah so

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that’s a very important point I think the if you take seriously the the idea

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that the world is intelligible um you realize that that intelligibility

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isn’t like a property of you subjectively or just of the world objectively but how you’re bound to the

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world so intelligibility is very analogous to biological adaptivity if

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I’m adapted to my environment as an organism the adaptivity isn’t in me or in the environment it’s how we’re fitted

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together so that I can live Intel intelligibility is the same kind of affordance it’s how my mind and the

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world are fitted together so that I can think where think doesn’t just mean run things in my head but also move around

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and navigate my environment and uh catch a football Etc and so the idea is is

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that intelligibility like adaptivity is neither subjective or objective but binds them together which is

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transgactivity and the reason why you want to think about this is without intelligibility there’s no realness and

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intelligibility is ultimately transgactive and also uh not only intelligibility but in truth truth is

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neither subjective nor objective but precisely how the subjective and objective are bound together in a

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transgative fashion and this of course was made uh very famous by uh Heidegger’s notion of alothea and so the

10:07

these these practices this is an argument that Clark makes and his amazing book explore Explorations and

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metaphysics these dialogical practices make you directly aware of transjectivity at the heart of

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intelligibility at heart at the heart of adaptivity you the way you are in

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reality and how reality is making demands and calls on you and you come to realize that this transgender transient

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activity is more primary than the subjective or the objective because it is what grounds both and grounds the

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relationship between both of them and and dialogical practices are a flowing

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and Powerful enactment of this um and how does that relate then that

10:48

sort of reminds me of the idea of non-goal awareness yes yes I think

10:54

I know I’m not claiming that everybody who talks about non-duality is doing this but I think when we get so when you do the meditative and contemplative

11:00

practices and then you do them in a in an alternating self-organizing dialogical fashion then you can they can

11:07

break like almost like stereoscopic Vision you go from meditation and contemplation into this

11:13

non-dual and I think what the non-dual is why it’s experienced they’re so real and so profound is it’s it is the ground

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of adaptivity intelligibility of subjectivity and objectivity of Truth so

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it it it’s it strikes people as uh uh profoundly more real because I think

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they’re actually getting a disclosure of Transit activity which is primordial

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can you define trans activity so transjectivity is that which is

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neither subjective nor objective but is between them and beneath them and is the

11:49

grounding source of both of them and their possible relationship to each other

11:55

that’s quite profound um well I I hope so

12:00

um I I I’m not claiming that’s my idea in total I mean I I coined the turn and

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I’ve been working on it but many people in 4E cognitive science are talking this way and and the notion goes back to

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people like Marlo Ponte the way the body is transgactive uh JJ Gibson and the

12:17

notion of perceptual affordances the walkability of the floor the graspability of the cup

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um so it’s got significant provenance and I think It ultimately goes back uh to a neoplatonic understanding of

12:30

cognition and and as you said I think also in eastern Traditions that also get access to non-duality that’s what it’s

12:37

pointing non-duality is non-duality is the realization of realization which is

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itself inherently transjective um wow and uh there’s something I wanted to run

12:49

by you that’s sort of related to what we’re talking about I heard in an interview once that Consciousness is a

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fundamental uh ontological substrate of reality and for me that has really profound kind of day-to-day implications

13:03

if it’s true I was curious if you’d given that any thought I’ve given that a lot of thought I’m going to be talking

13:08

to Donald Hoffman on Sunday and uh uh now I actually I actually uh reject that

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notion that Consciousness is fundamental um I think that Consciousness is inherently transjective

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um I think part of the problem we understand Consciousness is in here um where Consciousness is properly

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between you because we could we tend to concentrate on introspective Consciousness as somehow prototypical of

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Consciousness um where of course your conscious you’re conscious of me right now which isn’t

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introspective it’s it’s prospective right in an important way and of course your conscious of the past which is

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neither in you nor in front of you but some somehow behind you and so uh

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I think of Consciousness as a higher order form of this more basic

13:59

process of relevance realization I have a lot of argument for this I just uh for people are interested I have three

14:06

questions about Consciousness the video that I recorded at the Consciousness and conscience conference where I bake this

14:12

argument about I think that your core cognitive ability is this relevance realization ability a lot of it’s going

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on unconsciously for example you’re somehow picking up on relevant

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sounds and making relevant Connections in memory so that the noise is coming out of my face hole are becoming ideas

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in your mind and you have no idea no awareness of how that’s happening there’s all this relevance realization

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going on and but some of it comes into your working memory and working memory

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is itself organized in order to be a a higher order relevance filter the point

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of working memory this is Lynn hash’s work a colleague of mine at U of T is working memory which is where you’re

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holding things in mind it’s also designed to screen out irrelevant information and enhance relevant

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realization but I think when the unconscious relevance realization comes into working memory and we get this we

15:06

get how attention Shines on things and makes them more Salient and we get all

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those connections between how we’re sizing things up and how we have a perspectival awareness of them I think

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that that’s what Consciousness is when you make consciousness of fundamental property you then face really difficult

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problems of okay if Consciousness is a fundamental property and all of these things have Consciousness it’s obviously

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not the Consciousness that I have right now the reflective self-aware Consciousness that’s bound to my fluid

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intelligence and allows me to do insight and to experience Wonder that’s clearly not happening in the chair or the sofa

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so then I have the problem what’s the relationship between the universal Consciousness and my Consciousness and

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that doesn’t seem to be any better than what’s the relationship between my Consciousness and a non-conscious

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reality there’s a longer argument there and I don’t want to burden you with it but I think what people are

16:05

I think people are genuinely arguing that like Bernardo Castro look like have a lot of respect for

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um but I think when people say that it means something really powerful to them I think what they’re more likely saying

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is consciousness is starting to disclose to them the fundamental transjectivity

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the non-duality and that is uh is is fundamental see if you think the

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non-duality is fundamental then Consciousness can’t be fundamental this is platinus’s point because

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Consciousness is inherently dualistic I’m conscious of that there’s a subject

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and an object in Consciousness and when so if you think that reality is

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fundamentally non-dual what you’re probably saying about Consciousness I I’m trying to be I’m being presumptuous

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here but it’s something like oh I’m now conscious of like non-duality I’m conscious of

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transjectivity and in that state you can actually enact that you can move into a

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state of non-dual consciousness but that doesn’t mean that reality as

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non-dual is also conscious I would argue sorry that was a long answer to a really thorny question I hope it made at least

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wasn’t just garbled nonsense not at all it takes me back to what you said about intelligibility though and I wondered

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does the fact that the universe is intelligible mean that it has some kind

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of intelligence and then how does that relate to what we’re just talking about in terms of Consciousness right so I

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think that’s a good question uh and again I would say that you have to think of the the transgative relation of

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intelligibility is primary and then there’s two poles to it one poll is intelligence and the other

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is uh like this structure uh the order that also

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grounds and makes intelligibility possible and we the problem is we tend to use the word intelligibility for both

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of those the relation and the fact a property of the world so I’m trying to

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be a little bit more careful because I make that mistake too and I’m trying to say there’s intelligence and there’s intelligibility and then there is the

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logos of the world right there’s a structuring of reality that makes it

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capable of generating intelligibility in partnership with intelligence

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yeah and that’s where there feels it feels like this relationship between Consciousness though and existence and

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there’s a way in which things are all interdependent yes and objects are in some way and I don’t understand this at

18:49

all really but what it seems what seems to be true based on some of the kind of quantum physics stuff is that there’s a

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way in which we we don’t exist without the world and the world doesn’t exist without our Consciousness on some level do you believe that

19:03

there’s a way in which that makes sense and then there’s a way in which you have to be very careful about it uh because

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you don’t want to say things like and um you know that well that means the

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world didn’t exist when there was no human beings and that’s quantum physics does not want to argue that most Quantum

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physicists would say no that that doesn’t make any sense so we’re the quantum mechanics has to be integrated

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with the best cosmological explanations we have the big bang relativity uh Etc

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and so you don’t want to say that the Universe can’t pre-exist human consciousness this is another reason why

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I don’t think Consciousness is fundamental um but you you do want to say things like Consciousness again it’s it’s not

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here and and pointing to something there it’s bound up with it like my hand is

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when it like my hand takes the shape of and so Consciousness is in that sense

19:59

disclosing properties of the world and of the universe that otherwise would not not be disclosed and so while we might

20:06

not take up very much quantitatively in the universe we’re very small compared to all the all the stuff

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we’re qualitatively really important because we have this capacity through our Consciousness and our intelligence

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to disclose properties of the world that are not otherwise disclosable

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we actualize the universe qualitatively in a really powerful and important way

20:29

that’s beautifully put and and so how does that relate to your relationship

20:34

with spirituality and the Divine and kind of your meaning and purpose in life

20:39

so I I mean I I agree with Arthur Brooks Lewis that neoplatonism is sort of the

20:45

uh spiritual backbone of the West and Thomas plant that it was the the lingua

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Franca philosophy uh of the Silk Road integrating East and West

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um and so for me um I I think that if you take a look at how

21:04

cognition and Consciousness are fundamentally operating that gives you sort of a grammar of how we make sense

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of things and what that you then in a choice you you say that

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fundamental grammar either fits something a fundamental grammar in reality they co-participate in the same

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grammar or they’re they’re orthogonal to each other or separate from each other if you take the second and there’s a

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much longer argument about this so I’m just can we get just you’re sort of Trapped in sort of solipsism the only mind you

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could possibly know that exists is yours your in skepticism you can’t really know anything about the world and this is a

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radically impossible like thing to live you’ll just be performative contradiction moment after moment or you

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can say no no no there is some fundamental and here I’m doing it again the contact epistemology there’s there

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there are some fundamental co-shaping and co-participating between

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the grammar of intelligence and the grammar of the world such that intelligibility is always possible and

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then once you have that view you get the sense of how we can be we can re-see

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ourselves as radically connected to reality and that as we move through

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levels of intelligence and Consciousness we are correspondingly disclosing levels

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of reality and that that means not only are we

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woven together in contact with we’re not alienated from uh reality we are in a

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transformative relationship with it we can right we can Ascend we can move up

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in a by cooperating correctly with the world if I can put it that way we can

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move up these Mutual disclosures of levels of the self and levels of reality

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and I think that’s the fundamental project of of spirituality and I think

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there’s important ways in which that’s analogous to you know uh Traditions from the East that are

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similarly as comprehensive like Zen the way Zan integrates taoism and Buddhism and Shinto but I won’t make that second

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argument but the basic idea is once you get this view

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um then you can well think about that think about when you that the levels of the self and the

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levels of the other are participating each other and they’re disclosing more and more of each other and you’re

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getting deeper and deeper and more real well that’s love that’s love that’s what love is it’s

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this mutually accelerating disclosure self-transcendence the other is is also being a fort right so you can fall

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deeply in love with reality again um and that to me I think is the heart

23:59

of spirituality now if you could do that in a way that is philosophically intelligible and scientifically

24:05

legitimate then I think you have powerful resources for responding to the meaning crisis

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yeah I think of it as in conversation or in a dance with life yes yes

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and there’s a way in which we’ve been taught to see the universe as this dead

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material meaningless world and a genuine encounter with spirituality opens up

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this you know it almost reminds me of like the personal relationship with God

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idea Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah from Christianity which I actually hate because I didn’t experience it like that

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I experienced it as this like anthropomorphized uh God this this yeah in my head you know that old saying what

24:50

was it uh I realized I was God because I realized I was praying and I was just talking to myself it was like that was

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my experience of it was having a conversation with some intellectualized kind of um Bible in infused uh

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caricature of uh an anthropomorphic God in my head but the personal relationship

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with God in this sense or with with reality with life with the universe is

25:17

this experience of partnership and conversation with the sort of imaginal Realm yes yes so talk about the imaginal

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realm and are you how familiar are you with humans work I do a lot of work on the imaginal I’m both uh the sense drawn

25:31

from Corban and more recently from a a very similar distinction by Cool Ridge

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and others um but also it’s in in IBN Arabi and it’s a a central part of the neoplatonic

25:43

tradition so the imaginal is the use of images but

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unlike the imaginary where what you’re doing is taking yourself away from reality like when I ask you to

25:56

imagine a sailboat and ask you are the sails up or down right there’s no sailboat there’s no but if if I’m trying

26:03

to teach you Tai Chi and I say like relax your arm but imagine there’s water

26:08

flowing through it a very powerful and then and then you use that tongue as

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right the kind of force rather than locked Force that’s imagination for the sake of

26:21

enhancing your perception putting you getting you to realize subtle patterns getting you to reframe and reorient

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right and this is the kind of imagination that kids use when they when they pretend to be Superman they’re not

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picturing something in their head they’re they’re they’re trying to project the the the perspective of

26:40

Superman so that they can see patterns in the world and themselves and become more heroic for example right so that’s

26:47

that’s one so the imaginal is the using imagery that way and then what you’re

26:52

the patterns you’re in particularly um trying to focus on within sort of the

26:59

spiritual use of the imaginal is the those patterns that integrate not only

27:05

that they do they integrate the subjective and the objective like I just said but they also integrate the

27:10

intelligible and the sensible they enter they integrate that which is what the

27:16

level of the space in which we are conceiving reality and the space in which we’re perceiving reality so that

27:22

they mutually make sense and are connected with each other and so for

27:27

example uh Plato said you can’t come into the academy unless you can do geometry now

27:34

people don’t unders fully understand that because we have other domains of

27:40

math other than geometry there is nothing in math in the ancient world other than geometry so no and notice

27:47

what a geometrical figure is it’s sensible but you don’t think that geometrical figure is actually what a

27:53

triangle is because it’s not right that there’s the perfect triangle you can almost hear Plato here that’s conceptual

27:58

the perfect circle the triangle with all those Eternal truths there’s the sensible thing here the sensible world

28:05

and that you they they they are co-present within the practice of

28:11

geometry this is why geometry was sacred in the ancient world and that’s an imaginal practice and it’s a way of

28:16

bridging propositional thinking and non-propositional thinking binding the subjective so the the horizontal and the

28:24

vertical dimensions are properly integrated in the imaginal and how does the imaginal relate to

28:32

positive psychology and and those kinds of practices says so I mean no not enough people are

28:40

talking in positive psychology about the imaginal um that’s something I’m trying to redress

28:46

um insofar as positive psychology is oriented towards how we Excel beyond the

28:51

norm rather than how we break apart in the pathology and we’re talking about things like wisdom and

28:56

self-transcendence the imaginal plays a critical role in the cultivation of

29:02

wisdom because of the way it binds things the imaginal is the enacted symbol on symbolon means to bind things

29:09

together so that they they so the possibility of contact Conformity

29:14

transformation are all made possible so the imaginal plays a pivotal role in the

29:20

cultivation of wisdom in the affordance of self-transcendence when you are binding yourself to your future self and

29:25

aspiration I want to be more like Socrates with and that’s a symbol on but you’re there’s an imaginal there

29:32

Socrates is taking on an imaginal role for you so that you can bind yourself to your future self so you can realize

29:38

those patterns and I’m using realize that both sense will become aware and actualize right make real suck that

29:46

you’re using Socrates imaginately in order so that you can come into a real relationship with your future self and

29:52

pick up on those patterns in your behavior that are going to get you there as opposed to those ones that are going to divert you the imaginal plays a

29:59

significant role in any aspirational project any transformational project any

30:04

cultivation of wisdom or virtue I’m so curious about your take on like the Joe dispenzas and the Bruce Wilson’s of the

30:11

world in terms of you know they’re kind of in that new AG um if you you know mind over matter if

30:16

you can kind of you can kind of heal yourself and I I kind of struggle in with with those thinkers because on the

30:23

one hand I know there is a power that we have right we know the mind can’t I know

30:28

that we have the capacity to go beyond our ordinary limitations and and part of that is through the power of the mind

30:34

and what we believe is true and how what we believe is true informs what we create and what we do and yet at the

30:41

same time there’s a lack of rigor it seems in some of those yeah some things that make me question the

30:47

validity so I’m curious about your take and your experience in that for me

30:55

and and this is a platonic stoic Buddhist Taoist thing to say where

31:00

there’s not very many things that I can do but spirituality is inseparable from the cultivation of wisdom

31:07

and wisdom is essentially about overcoming self-deception

31:13

and that means adopting a lot of rigorous practices and

31:20

this is ultimately what we how we should understand rationality rationality isn’t

31:25

logic um it’s it’s sometimes you use logic in order to be rational rational is how can

31:31

I reliably and systemically and systematically overcome self-deception um and then wisdom is how can I do that

31:38

across all the kinds of knowing across all of the domains of my life that binds this objective and the objective binds

31:45

the intelligible and the sensible so it’s this very power I gotta remove all this self-deception and enhance all this

31:51

connectedness that takes tremendous rigor it takes tremendous you know it it

31:57

takes a tremendous amount of being able to subject your ideas to rigorous

32:05

argumentation empirical investigation um so while I don’t think science can

32:11

generate a spirituality nor do I think science is conducive of wisdom I think anybody who’s trying to be wise who’s

32:19

not taking advantage of this powerful machine for overcoming self-deception

32:26

right so we that’s what science is it’s a family of methods for overcoming how we deceive ourselves that’s what it is

32:32

and if you disconnect your project from this very powerful engine

32:38

your ability to cultivate wisdom I think must necessarily be seriously truncated

32:44

and you’re going to make yourself prone to all kinds of self-deception that can only be caught by uh you know a certain

32:52

kind of scientific and rational rigor I want to repeat I’m not saying that science can give you wisdom nor am I

32:57

saying that science is spirituality but I’m saying the spirituality that ignores or tries to take place orthogonal or

33:04

independent from scientific and rational criticism I think it’s ultimately going

33:09

to be the disset by all kinds of self-deception uh and I think you’re

33:15

going to eventually and psychologically you’re going to make yourself more and more vulnerable to all of the

33:21

pathologies that follow from self-deception your spirituality is going to degrade I guess probably into

33:28

spiritual bypassing in which you’re using spiritual experience to ignore the

33:33

epistemic and moral demands that rash that that reality can rationally make upon you

33:39

um rationally ratio properly proportioning yourself to reality right

33:45

um and so yeah that’s my criticism of all of that that’s the issue I have with some of the

33:52

positive psychology slash more particularly New Age practices while they can be really valuable for me

33:58

they’re not valuable without the complementary Shadow work the bottom up the healing the you can’t simply because

34:06

because there is a bypass there’s an override that’s actually a form of denial right but there is a way in which

34:13

they can be valuable in context of a more honest inquiry and self-examination

34:19

what are some of your favorite positive psychology techniques

34:25

um so I mean um the POS like the the most important positive psychologist for me is Chick

34:31

sent Mahi um and his work on Flow and I think you know I think he he’s one of the people

34:37

that made positive psychology sort of possible and so for me uh and see I both

34:43

scientifically study flow like what’s going on in flow and then of course I do all these flow practices taoism is the

34:49

philosophy religion of how to get into the Flow State and transfer it to as much of your life at as many levels of

34:55

your psyche as you possibly can that’s taoism in in a sentence and so

35:02

um for me the practices that help me get more reliably into the Flow State and

35:09

more systemically and systematically transfer it to many domains of my life and many levels of my psyche but that’s

35:16

and that’s what I mean by a ritual is something that where you get a way of fitting the world right uh using

35:25

imaginal practices that transfers broadly and deeply into your life and

35:32

deeply and broadly into your psyche and um Tai Chi Chuan for example does that

35:39

so whenever uh I you know the any of the the

35:45

whenever positive psychology is talking about um you know ways of enhanced getting

35:50

into the Flow State things like that um that’s something I take up so I would

35:56

say to you and I I don’t mean this to sound sort of like koi I was like

36:02

I think things like touch each one are actually superlative positive psychological practices because they

36:08

have this is a well worked out tradition of a very sophisticated ritual that is

36:15

designed to be practiced in a way within a framework that gets you into the Flow State and helps you transfer it broadly

36:21

and deeply both without and within and so for me and it’s amazing uh you know

36:28

just get just get people more reliably into the Flow State and also in a way that

36:34

transfers broadly right within and without and a lot of their hunger for

36:42

meaning and connectedness and well-being will be addressed will be addressed

36:47

right so I’ve studied with the flow research Collective are you familiar with Stephen Cutler’s work no it is is

36:54

it connected to Jamie wheel’s work or anything no they they did co-author a

36:59

book and they worked together originally I’ve worked with Jamie as well but um the flow research Collective Stephen

37:04

Cutler he’s done some work on a lot of different things but particularly flow Neuroscience he does some really uh

37:10

incredible training programs uh and he also has written books on kind of impact

37:15

and social change in terms of you you know entrepreneurship and how we can create abundance for the world and

37:22

things like that and one of the concepts that they talk about they talk a lot about chicks at me high but they also

37:28

talk about having your massively transformative purpose as their kind of word for that that higher purpose in

37:34

life that allows us to really you know as we talked about uh in our last

37:39

conversation are alluded to is a Step Beyond self-actualization into

37:44

mental health Transcendence right we cannot really actualize our potential as humans and enter into our highest

37:51

possibilities without serving something Beyond ourselves and That’s essential to

37:56

entering into flow is knowing what our purposes and sort of orienting every aspect of our lives uh toward that

38:04

higher purpose and I think that for me when I have that sort of North Star and

38:10

everything’s pointing in that direction it allows my life to unfold in this way

38:15

that is kind of self uh perpetuating energizing motivating uh because it’s

38:23

not just about me the self-indulgent you know project of Happiness yeah you know

38:29

reaches you know a sort of resounding thud you know I think I think there’s a

38:35

real uh I mean we we need to care for our own well-being And yet when we

38:42

become so self-focused uh there’s something missing in our essential Humanity it seems

38:49

well I agree with you I mean one of your one of our driving meta drives is any in

38:55

addition to any in in addition to for anything in addition to us at making us

39:01

happy we need it to be real we need it fundamentally to be real if I can show you that your source of

39:07

Happiness involves some kind of fraud or deception or Illusion that will completely undermine your happiness

39:13

um and so I I I think it’s important that we are connected so when people

39:21

talk about purpose they think they’re talking about everything that’s needed for meaning in life but meaning in life

39:27

that that the sense that your life is worth living even though it’s filled with frustration and failure and

39:33

futilities and right and the need for forgiveness and all that kind of stuff the beset human beings meaning in life

39:39

is my life is worth it even though all of this but purpose is only one of the

39:45

four dimensions that gives you meaning in life there’s also intelligibility uh there’s also a sense of depth of

39:51

realness and then there’s mattering which is a sense of connectedness to this intelligible realness and mattering

39:59

is more important than Purpose By the way it looks like in the reader’s research you need to be connected to something Beyond yourself that has a

40:07

reality and a Value Independence of your egocentral perspective I often give this test to people I’ll say if you want to

40:12

know what your meaning what’s giving you meaning in life ask yourself this what would you want to

40:19

exist even if you didn’t and then you know what you are connected

40:25

to that has a reality and a value beyond your own egocentric existence and you in

40:31

the degree that you’re connected to those things that answer that question is it which you find your life

40:36

meaningful Iris Murdoch I love this quote she said love is when you what love is when you first recognize that

40:43

something other than yourself is real um and so that kind of the way you are

40:48

connected and she doesn’t mean romantic love I mean she’s not excluding it that’s the that’s another problem with

40:53

her culture we always hear romantic love when we hear the word love right um but you know when you when you really

40:59

love a work of art there’s a great piece of music and you feel that reciprocal opening between you

41:07

and it and you feel that depth and you feel like everything is making more sense and you would want that piece of

41:12

music to exist even if you didn’t right that’s what I’m talking about I’m talking about that that connectedness

41:19

and you’re right I think I think we we don’t want to have we

41:25

don’t have to we don’t we we don’t want to have disparate fragmented centers of connectedness we want them to all be

41:31

connected to each other um and and so many philosophical

41:37

traditions Neil platonism it’s the one taoism it’s the Dao Buddhism it’s shinyata Buddha nature right uh

41:44

Christianity it’s God of course Judaism and Islam Etc and so right this sense of that the

41:53

thing we should matter this is politics idea of ultimate concern we should be ultimately concerned with what is

41:58

ultimately real we should try what we most want to matter to is what is most

42:04

real and we want to be most connected to what is most real and so

42:10

I think what you said plugs into that perfectly the problem we have I would

42:16

say and I think you’re trying to address this given our previous conversation is we’ve lost a language that resonates for

42:25

most people for how to enact what we were just talking about we have older languages from the religions that don’t

42:31

that really don’t Vibe for most people uh we have we have met we have Arcane

42:36

metaphysics from New Age people and other things that that just don’t take because they don’t connect us up uh with

42:43

you know our rationality so our job part

42:48

of our job and you know and I think you’re undertaking it is how do we get how do we get the language and the

42:56

practices that allow people to do what I just said in a way that’s both

43:01

intellectually respectable scientifically legitimate and yet deeply personally existentially meaningful to

43:08

them part of my you know work was how do I

43:16

find a language that is both meaningful and uh and non-dogmatic non yes that was

43:24

free of the baggage of this this old religion but it’s also rigorous yes you

43:30

you know you’re just sort of like you there’s a systematic aspect of your

43:35

thinking and how you’re organizing it and it’s principled and it’s intelligible and it makes sense this is

43:42

also an important feature of what you’re doing I would argue when we talked about meaning I was wondering if the

43:48

experience of meaning is related to an optimal grip across different domains of

43:53

Our Lives I totally think so so this is this is sort of uh John raviki’s

43:59

particular uh uh scientific theoretical hobby horse I think

44:05

um that capacity for relevance realization is our fundamental religion or fundamental

44:11

binding to reality it’s our cognitive adaptivity like I said and that sense of being bound and connected to reality is

44:18

that the core of our cognitive agency and therefore whenever we are doing things that

44:25

we get a sense are enhancing that connectivity to ourselves to each other to the world and thereby causing our

44:33

cognitive agency to flourish we experience that as meaning in life I think that that’s my central argument

44:39

um yeah and and I think it’s mine as well because that’s really what emergence is is you know here’s what happens when we

44:46

bring all of the domains of Our Lives into Integrity balance and wholeness there’s an optimal grip that allows us

44:53

to navigate the world more accurately like the map is more matched to the territory that’s this kind of I think

44:59

your definition of relevance realization and kind of coming into greater contact with Ultimate Reality in a way and then

45:06

the meaning that’s forged as a result of this uh this ability this this

45:13

Attunement to reality in a new way yeah I mean so we have

45:20

exactly we have metaphors of orientation and navigation uh we we you used your

45:26

North Star we’re properly oriented this is you know this is like our fundamental uh relevance realization and then we

45:34

know how to navigate which is we know how to have a fluid evolving optimal grip on the terrain so that we can move

45:42

with right with the guidance of our orientation we can move competently

45:48

through the terrain of reality and of course I’m trying to speak metaphorically but well the point the

45:54

the actual cognitive scientific point is that that that that capacity for

45:59

physical orientation and physical like perceptual optimal grip and sensory

46:05

motor navigation optimal grip of your environment that’s actually exacted up into conceptual space and how you make

46:13

sense of things so it yeah it’s about it’s it’s about

46:19

um giving people those two dimensions of optimal grip the

46:25

orientation which is like sort of your metal optimal grip it’s where you place yourself so you have access to multiple

46:31

kinds of optimal grip and then you you you stitch them together with the orientation as you navigate uh through

46:38

your life and through your world and that’s my definition of character right is the meta process we own that helps us

46:45

navigate excellent excellent and in a way it’s not separate from maybe an old

46:51

idea of the Soul right yes it I I mean I think I think character properly

46:58

understood the way you’ve talked about it and as that which allows us sort of to integrate and track the through line

47:04

of reality so that we’re more and more um optimally gripping it in touch with

47:10

it and it’s touching us when we say optimal grip you have to understand it’s both ways it’s not just you grabbing

47:16

it’s also the world has the capacity to grab you moments of beauty moments of Truth moments of astonishing goodness

47:22

you want you you want both right um and yeah I I think that idea I mean

47:30

it certainly goes back to Aristotelian Notions of the soul and character and the Soul are deeply interwoven together

47:37

um and I it also picks up on a certain neoplatonic ideas of the Soul what if

47:44

you could see with the soul is a ghost inside of you then it doesn’t really Jive but if you think of it more as you

47:50

know you have all of these disparate faculties and your work speaks to this and they’re all typically fragmented but

47:57

just like just like I can find the through line of all the aspects of the thing right somehow I’m showing you all

48:03

these different aspects and they’re not identical to each other but yet they all hang together there’s a through line and

48:08

the through line is not an aspect and the through line goes beyond any uh also all the aspects you’ve seen because

48:13

there’s many more aspects you haven’t seen just like there’s a through line of things I think there’s a through line of the psyche

48:19

um and I think that’s what we’re talking about uh about a soul and when the through line of the psyche can track

48:26

right the through line of reality that I think that’s when people are properly in the spiritual domain

48:32

and it brings me back to uh you know the conversation we had last time about emergence and you know emergence from

48:38

the biological level event as you define obviously the simultaneous

48:44

differentiating and integrate yeah exactly that’s such a you know in a way it’s a

48:51

contradiction but that’s where the thing opens up yes in that uh in that space

48:56

and that feels like it’s not only true at a biological level but that feels like the essence of spirituality which

49:01

is why you know I talk about emergence in my work as a it’s like this integration and you know this this

49:08

simultaneous honing in and opening up and that’s what’s so clearly

49:14

that’s right and that those that’s exactly the opponent process that’s

49:19

going on within relevance realization your attention is doing it now it’s opening up with mind wandering default

49:26

mode Network the task mode network is then selecting it opens up and selects and oh and so what you’re doing is

49:31

you’re constantly differentiating and integrating differentiating and integrating you’re complexifying your cognition so that it can more and more

49:38

conform to the complexity of the world exactly can you define relevance realization for

49:45

those in my audience who aren’t familiar with your work so relevance realization is the process

49:50

by which you zero in on relevant information so the the problem that’s facing you and all

49:57

cognitive dimensions of domain is there’s way too much information available to you there’s way too many

50:04

ways in which you can combine the information combine your actions and what you do is you intelligently ignore

50:10

and it sounds like a Zen Cohen you intelligently ignore most of the information so most of your viewers were

50:16

probably not thinking or aware of their right uh big toe until I said that

50:22

because it’s been backgrounded there right and they’re not they haven’t been thinking about Australian kangaroos

50:28

until I said it right and so all of the information in your memory all the information in the world all the ways

50:33

that can be combined is overwhelming this is the central problem facing artificial intelligence how do you

50:38

ignore most of that information zero in on the relevant information so I use the

50:45

word realization I got this use from nishitani because it means both to become aware and to have something be

50:51

real so you’re making aspects of the world you’re disclosing aspects of the world you’re connecting yourself to

50:58

certain realities in the world real patterns at the same time you’re realizing right so it’s becoming aware

51:04

so it’s realizing in the sense of becoming aware and actualizing and so

51:10

this is the core ability uh that I argue is at the center of both intelligence

51:16

and consciousness and how is that related to the frame question the frame problem is exactly the problem

51:23

of uh of relevance realization this is right um so the original example of the frame

51:30

problem is uh well original presentation is Dan Dennett uh he talked about so

51:37

we’re going to make it we’re going to make an artificial intelligence and we’re going to make an agent agents are different from things that

51:43

just be everything behaves this pillow behaves if I punch it it index so agents

51:48

are things that not only behave what they could do is they can detect the consequences of their behavior and then

51:55

alter their behavior in order to achieve certain goals so that’s an agent okay so we make this robot we’re going to make

52:01

it give it a very simple task it’s going to find energy sources which are batteries and then take them to another

52:06

safe location take them to a safe location where it can consume the battery this is analogous to you and

52:13

food you typically don’t eat your food where you first encounter it you usually take it to some place or you have

52:19

special places uh set up for it okay so this robot comes along and it finds a

52:25

nice juicy battery sitting on a red wagon and it determines that if it pulls the wagon the battery will come along

52:31

that’s the intended consequence yay unfortunately there’s a lip balm on the wagon as well and it an unintended side

52:39

effect is that the bomb comes along and blows that up and then we go oh stupid us we have to make the robot not only

52:46

pay attention to its intended effects but all the unintended side effects so we make a new robot we put it into the

52:53

same situation it comes up to grab the wagon and then it’s just calculating and calculating for the rest of Eternity

52:59

it’s like why what’s going on there because it’s calculating all the unintended side effects if it pulls the

53:04

wagon the battery comes along that’s the intended effect but the front one wheel the freight the right front wheel goes

53:10

through more than 30 degrees of Arc the left front wheel goes through more 30 degrees of our the left back wheel the

53:16

right wheel the grass underneath the wheels is being indented the air patterns around the wagon are being

53:22

slightly altered the position of the wagon with respect to Jupiter is being changed with respect to Mount Everest

53:28

it’s being changed and you go oh my gosh the number of side effects is

53:34

astronomical so this is what you now have to do how

53:40

do you zero in on the relevant side effects and

53:45

what people attempted to say well it’s obvious that’s the problem that’s the result of relevance

53:52

realization relevance realization makes things obvious to you so that you are a good Problem Solver obviousness is not a

53:59

physical property here’s 17 grams of obviousness right it’s like you’re giving that ability to find things uh

54:06

sorry I’m preventing you no it’s Opera it’s Opera right like that’s Peterson’s argument it’s like built into the

54:12

structure of our nervous system to uh ascertain what’s what’s most meaningful

54:18

what’s most relevant yes failing aunt and so we take it for granted we don’t recognize that if we’re creating a

54:23

machine for example we have to we have to attend to it it’s so obvious because

54:29

it’s inbuilt but it’s not actually obvious objectively but it’s built into our neural structure and such is that is

54:35

that am I understanding that yes you’re understanding it very well and and trying to build machines that can

54:42

instantiate that ability it we still haven’t done we still haven’t accomplished that we’re making a little

54:48

bit of progress people in AI are concerned about is that that’s right machines that are you know that where we

54:55

fail to attend to some fundamental the important uh irrelevant detail and that

55:02

somehow that causes them to destroy the world not because they’re smart and Machiavellian and develop this Consciousness I think that’s another

55:07

question about whether they can actually develop a sensory perceptual or experiential qualitative experience but

55:15

uh the idea that maybe even without that there could be this a way in which

55:21

um you know there are these unintended side effects and they could destroy the world just through kind of a simple

55:27

glitch in our inability to know what what not to to attend to or what what uh

55:33

what to leave out I think that’s well said um it’s so just Affinity it’s called the

55:39

frame problem because you have to somehow put a frame around right the situation that you’re

55:47

understanding your interpretation of the situation that excludes all the irrelevant but only and includes only

55:52

the relevant the problem is nothing is intrinsically relevant or irrelevant right this glass is relevant to me right

55:59

now it’ll be irrelevant to me an hour from now right right and so there’s no

56:04

property you can point to and say always pay attention to that property and this is why it’s so really hard and what’s so

56:11

fascinating about you and I as we do this we’re doing it right now and it’s

56:16

not only at the guts of something that technical like AI I argue it’s at the guts like this is this is so primordial

56:24

and it’s so powerful about your connectedness it’s also at the guts of your spirituality

56:34

yeah and I think the friend or or the framing effect is one of the most

56:40

kind of practical ways to engage with self-transformation is just simply

56:46

reframing our problems and the ways that we look at life it’s an idea that I’ve developed in my work it’s I call it the

56:52

reflection principle this idea that everything we suppose is outside of us it’s an external problem actually

56:57

reflects uh something within a psychologically and spiritually that if reframed can be uh used as a lesson to

57:06

help us transcend and move beyond our our current limitations so that’s an

57:11

example of a way of a of a conceptual frame that can be used in service of

57:17

personal transformation so I’m noticing it’s uh we’re kind of at the end of our time but any any final words you’d like

57:24

to to share or or leave our audience with uh no I mean I I I other than I want to

57:31

thank you for this I I always enjoy our conversations I’ve enjoyed both of them so far I I really think what you’re

57:37

doing is important work um and um I guess maybe if I could say a final

57:45

parting thing is we have to stop thinking about science

57:50

and spirituality as oppositional or we will not solve the meaning crisis we

57:56

have to move to it and what and we’ve been showing how that’s possible in our conversation we have to move to a an

58:03

integration of Science and spirituality and I I recommend that it’s analogous to the concepts of

58:10

intuition metacognition in my work right the spirituality experiential intuitive

58:17

realm of life and then the metacognitive the kind of science uh ability to look

58:23

at examine um determine the validity of that process yeah is is this are you really

58:31

attending to reality in which science can be the process by which we affirm

58:38

the reality of spiritual consciousness rather than either at all rather than

58:43

them being at odds with it I couldn’t have said it better well thank you John it’s a great honor

58:49

to speak with you always um thank you so much for your time and your support thank you so much Brooke it was a great

58:54

pleasure and please uh check out John’s work on YouTube he’s an incredible thinker he has an incredible body of

59:01

work um John verbaki’s uh YouTube channel and the the meeting crisis particularly is his sort of Signature

59:07

Series so uh if anyone’s interested in and really understanding this in a much uh deeper and more systematic way I

59:14

highly recommend his work there thank you [Music]

59:30

thank you

Writer Bio

Brooke Sprowl is the Founder of My LA Therapy, a concierge therapy practice, and My Truest North, a cross-disciplinary coaching and consultancy firm specializing in mission-driven entrepreneurs seeking greater integrity, spiritual awakening, and deeper ways to actualizing their higher purpose through collective service. With 15 years of clinical experience as an individual, couples, and family therapist, she is trained in a wide-range of approaches, from evidence-based therapy practices to peak performance and flow neuroscience techniques. Brooke is also the host of the podcast, Waking Up with Brooke Sprowl. She is passionate about writing, cognitive science, philosophy, integrity, spirituality, effective altruism, personal and collective healing, and curating luxury, transformational retreat experiences for people who are committed to self-discovery and using their unique gifts in service of the world.

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