John Vervaeke - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Episode 9 - Insight - Summary


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

Being Present Brings Insight

Experiment: probing a cup with a pen, with closed eyes.

You can be aware of the cup through the pen. So the probe is transparent to you, and the cup is opaque. Or you can be aware of the pen through your fingers. Or you can be aware of your fingers through your feelings.

You can be aware through your glasses (transparent), or you can be aware of your glasses (opaque).

This also works with psychotechnologies. For example, you can integrate literacy with your cognition so well that you don’t look at literacy very much, you automatically look through it.

attention is flowing in and out with transparency and opacity shifting. Subsidiary / implicit awareness vs focal / explicit awareness.

Experiment: read “THE CHT” written with bent H letters that look closer to A letters.

The letters are the features and the words are the gestalt. In order to read the words you must read each individual letter, but in order to disambiguate each letter you must have read the whole word.

attention is flowing up and down between feature and gestalt.

mindfulness optimizes the attention processes.

scaling up is moving from feature to gestalt and moving from opacity to transparency.

scaling down is moving from gestalt to feature and from transparency to opacity.

meditation means moving towards the center.

vipassana meditation: people train by paying attention to the feelings and sensations that are being generated in their abdomen as they breath, and breaking their gestalt into features. This is scaling down. Normally we do not pay attention to our sensations, we pay attention through our sensation to the world.

contemplation comes from temple, which comes from a part of the sky that you look up to, to see the signs from the gods. contemplation is to look up towards the divine. contemplation emphasizes scaling up.

There are two moments to having an insight:

mindfulness is teaching us to appropriate and train a flexibility of attentional scaling so that we can intervene effectively in how we are framing our problems and increase the chances of insight when it is needed.

pure consciousness event is a kind of mystical experience you can have when you scale down all the way. You are not conscious of anything, you are just fully present as a consciousness.

resonant at-onement is a mystical experience you can have when you scale up all the way. See everything as interconnected, flowing, impermanent. Create overarching gestalt, so overarching that it includes and encompasses you. A super-flow state, in which you are deeply at-one with everything.

state of non-duality (prajna) is a third kind of mystical experience that includes both pure consciousness and resonant at-onement at the same time. Fundamental insight into your existential modes of being. One way to get into this is state is to repeatedly scale up as you inhale and scale down as you exhale.

Normally when we come out of an altered state of consciousness (e.g. being drunk) we say that it was not real. But sometimes, the opposite occurs: people say that the altered state was more real, and this makes them radically transform their whole life.

Most of the world’s religions that emerged at the Axial Revolution are predicated on the idea that there are higher states of consciousness that should empower, challenge and encourage us to engage in radical transformation. 30 to 40% of the population has experienced these events and found them deeply meaningful.


Next: episode 10.

Previous: episode 8.