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EPISODE RELEASED 1st JULY 2024

HOW HAVE WE ENDED UP IN A MEANING CRISIS AND WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS? WHY IS EMBODIMENT IMPORTANT TO KNOWING? WHY IS AN ECOLOGY OF PRACTICES PART OF THE SOLUTION? 

 

Today we have the growing issue of The Meaning Crisis to discuss, and the embodied practices that could offer a few solutions. This conversation is a part 2, following directly on from Episode #51, where John and I talked about Collective intelligence, and how the evolution of distributed cognition has led to homo-sapiens being such effective collaborators; and how the collective knowledge and wisdom is distributed throughout our society and passed on to later generations. It was so fascinating that we didn’t have time to connect the sheer power of our collective intelligence, to today’s discussion about what John has dubbed The Meaning Crisis. 

We come back to the importance of our propensity for self-transcendence, and the correspondent risk of self-delusion; how important a sense of the sacred is to our sense of meaning in life, to our mental health; then we zoom in on the importance of a range of embodied practices that John calls an ecology of practices, like Chi Gong, circling, flow states and meditation to re-discover lost forms of knowledge and embodied cognition that John thinks can bring us back from the brink of self delusion and self destruction.

 

There is of course only one polymath who can speak about so many things and connect them all, like a ninja of the mind as one listener called him, the Cognitive scientist and philosopher John Vervaeke. Vervaeke is the director of the university of Toronto’s Consciousness and Wisdom Studies Laboratory and its Cognitive Science program, where he teaches an Introduction to Cognitive Science and The Cognitive Science of Consciousness. 

Vervaeke has taught courses on Buddhism and Cognitive Science in the Buddhism, Psychology, and Mental Health programs for 15 years. He is also the author and presenter of his much loved YouTube series “Awakening from the Meaning Crisis” and ‘After Socrates.’

 

What we discuss:

00:00 Intro

06:15 Self-transcendence VS self-delusion.

07:45 The ‘frame’ problem, the need to ignore many things to attend to the ‘salient’ ones.

12:30 The history of meaning in the west.

17:00 The history of religion and philosophy: connectedness across generations.

20:00 Pre-agricultural sacred practices and rituals.

22:30 The upper palaeolithic transition - the artistic, technical, and symbolic.

24:30 The axial revolution - numeracy, literacy and democracy.

27:30 The ‘2 world’ mythology revolution - the natural and supernatural.

29:30 The scientific revolution - the collapse of the 2 world mythology.

31:20 The impossible promise of scientism - that one day everything will be explained by science.

38:00 The difference between wisdom and knowledge.

43:00 Participatory knowledge - graspable, shapable knowledge.

45:00 Gnosis - embodied knowledge.

49:30 The importance of the sacred to meaning.

54:00 Maladaptive replacement of religion with consumerism.

57:45 A relationship with the transcendent - needs met by ‘becoming’ something.

59:00 Becoming mature is about facing reality.

01:01:00 Loss of epistemic humility.

01:04:00 Loss of wonder and its replacement with the spectacular.

01:05:00 Humility + Wonder = reverence.

01:06:09 The disappearing of traditional men’s roles.

01:17:30 The changing of women’s roles.

01:23:50 Direct embodied experience over just intellectual knowledge.

01:26:00 An ecology of practices - there is no single panacea practice to develop wisdom.

01:30:20 Dialogical over monological reasoning - we don’t become wise in isolation.

01:33:40 Flow States and the lowering of the ego mind.

01:38:00 Circling: Listening as an intentional action not a passive waiting to speak.

01:41:30 Meditation helps break mental frames.

01:46:40 The lowering of the Default Mode Network, associated with narrative ‘self’, in this ecology of practices.

01:50:20 Tai Chi and Qigong. 

01:53:45 ‘Transjective’ embodiment  - your mind is between you and the world rather than within you.

 

References:

John Vervaeke, “Awakening from the meaning crisis”, You Tube lecture series.

Karl Jaspers - Bronze Age collapse to Axial revolution, 1949 article

Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems

Elisabeth Oldfield - ‘The Sacred’ podcast.

‘Soul Heal’ film, Jose Enrique Pardo, with James Hollis, a film about healing the issues of men

Flow states

The Circling Institute

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