John Vervaeke - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Episode 1 - Introduction - Summary


The following are my main takeaways from the video, quoting and paraphrasing the content.

Introduction

The normal solution rate, with the best therapy, for people with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is about 20%. Introducing psychedelics into the therapy can get the healing rate up to 80%.

wisdom is about realizing (in both senses of the word: becoming aware and making real) meaning in life, in a profound way.

Main questions:

psychedelic experiencesmystical experiencesawakening experiences.

mystical experiences are more important and transformative.

awakening experiences are radical transformations in people’s sense of self and reality. People come back saying that that was more real than this, and their lives get better after such experiences.

Ignorance is a lack of knowledge. Foolishness is a lack of wisdom.

People use this word meaning as a metaphor. They mean there is something in their lives that is analogous to how a sentence has meaning. The pieces stick together in some way. They make an impact in your cognition and connect you to the world in some way.

knowing has multiple meanings:

psychedelics transfer these other kinds of knowing.

Upper Paleolithic Transition

Biologically, as a species, we existed since 200000 BP.

At some point, around 40000 BP, there was radical change.

People started making art, sculptures, cave paintings, music.

There was significant enhancement in their cognition. First use of calendars, symbolic representation of the phases of the moon and the passage of days, keeping track of time to enhance hunting abilities. Developed projectile weapons, think spears with bone tip.

Throwing is a deep idea in your cognition. Working on a project. There is an object, which means throwing against. I am the subject, which means throwing under.

Way before the internet networked computers together, culture networked brains together, in order to provide some of our most powerful problem solving abilities.

There was a near-extinction event. We started trading to have access to resources from different environments.

We started to develop three types of rituals: trade rituals, initiation rituals and shamanic rituals.

trade rituals have the function of enhancing our ability to come into communication and relationships of trust with individuals that we do not personally know.

That is why you still do stuff that makes no sense. You meet somebody and you stick out your hand and they grab it, and then they move it up and down. This is to show you have no weapons, this is to allow the person to touch you, feel how tense, etc.

mindsight is the ability to pick up on other people’s mental states. This increases your ability to pick up on your own mental states.

initiation rituals are designed to show our commitment to the group. Often require risk, threat, sacrifice. You have to improve your ability to regulate your emotion.

decentering is to let yourself be in the hands of other people, a non-egocentric perspective.

exaptation is an evolutionary mechanism.

For example, using your tongue to speak. Tongues did not evolve for speech. If they did, all the animals who have tongues would be speaking at you. They evolved to move food around your mouth and they are poison detectors. The tongue was exapted for speech.

Analogously, the brain develops a mechanism to do one thing, and then reuses the mechanism to do something completely different.

shamanic rituals are a cultivated practice for altering consciousness that taps into and exapts the enhanced mindsight. They were the best healthcare available, for a long time. Probably played a significant role in the software change in the brain during this period.

technology is the systematic use of a tool. A physical tool fits your biology and enhances it.

You are a natural born cyborg. Your brain has evolved across several species to use tools. When you start using a tool, even for a short period of time, your brain will start to model the tool as part of your body. That is why you can do weird things like when you are parking your car and can feel where the edge of your car is.

A psychotechnology fits your brain and enhances how it operates.

For example, literacy. You are not born literate. You are born linguistic, learning how to talk. For most of our history we were completely illiterate. Literacy is a standard set of tools that standardizes how you process information. I can write stuff down and come back to it later. I can take my brain now, and link to it back then, and in the future, networking all those instances together. I can also network my brain with your brain.

shamanism is a set of psychotechnologies for altering your state of consciousness and enhancing your cognition. The shaman will often engage in things like:

A shaman is typically trying to disrupt the normal ways in which you are finding patterns in the world.

For example, the nine dots puzzle, which requires thinking outside the box. In order to get an insight you have to disrupt your framing. What is involved here is knowing how to go outside the box, how to alter your attention, how to change your perspective on what is salient to you, what is relevant or real to you.

shamanism is a set of disruptive practices and attentional practices that are designed to disrupt every day framing so that the shaman can get enhanced insight (e.g. in the environment, into other people).

The word shaman means one who knows, one who sees, one who has insight. shamans are considered wise people. The word wizard means a wise person.


Next: episode 2.