Analects

analects

noun, pl

a collection of ideas, extracts, or teachings;

marginalia

noun, pl

notes one makes in the margins;

In order to choose our ideologies, we must first explore them. With a background in brain science and the sciences of mind, the analects are my explorations into how ideas become ideologies become the actions we take. The marginalia are my shorter notes on content around the web.
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Spiritual Architecture

stuff On those things greater than ourselves

From rational to woo: Why a Silicon Valley culture that was once obsessed with reason is going woo. The appetite for this at the executive level of large companies is also surprisingly high. But also, motivated by reasonable critiques. See also (here) objectivity obsession.

“It turns out that, like, intuition is incredibly powerful … an incredibly powerful epistemic tool,” he said, “that it just seems like a lot of rationalists weren’t using because it falls into this domain of ‘woo stuff.’”

they’re also far more likely to embrace the seemingly irrational — religious ritual, Tarot, meditation, or the psychological-meets-spiritual self-examination called “shadow work” — in pursuit of spiritual fulfillment, and a vision of life that takes seriously the human need for beauty, meaning, and narrative.


filed under:

collective-architecture

economy-of-small-pleasures

gratification

narrative-culture

on-(un)happiness

on-aesthetics

on-culture

psychologia

somatic-architecture

spiritual-architecture

A history of toad magic.


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gratification

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

psychologia

spiritual-architecture

An example of how we construct our reality.


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animal-sentience

betterment

neurotypica

on-the-nature-of-things

on-thinking-and-reasoning

psychologia

somatic-architecture

spiritual-architecture

Let me ruin fairy circles for you: “plants on the circle’s periphery were outcompeting the grass inside the circle for water”.


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animal-sentience

connection

on-aesthetics

on-the-nature-of-things

somatic-architecture

spiritual-architecture

The fake neuroscience of God. A neurosurgeon-cum-prophet tells of heaven after a near death experience. The legitimacy of the account relies entirely on his authority as a doctor, but he talks about nothing but anecdote. And as the reporter reveals, even that is flimsy. The best part is when the Dalai Lama, a co-speaker at an event attended by the neurosurgeon makes the aside:

that Buddhists categorize phenomena in three ways. The first category are “evident phenomena,” which can be observed and measured empirically and directly. The second category are “hidden phenomena,” such as gravity, phenomena that can’t be seen or touched but can be inferred to exist on the basis of the first category of phenomena. The third category, he says, are “extremely hidden phenomena,” which cannot be measured at all, directly or indirectly. The only access we can ever have to that third category of phenomena is through our own first-person experience, or through the first-person testimony of others.

“Now, for example,” the Dalai Lama says, “his sort of experience.”

He points at Alexander.

“For him, it’s something reality. Real. But those people who never sort of experienced that, still, his mind is a little bit sort of…” He taps his fingers against the side of his head. “Different!” he says, and laughs a belly laugh, his robes shaking. The audience laughs with him. Alexander smiles a tight smile.

“For that also, we must investigate,” the Dalai Lama says. “Through investigation we must get sure that person is truly reliable.” He wags a finger in Alexander’s direction. When a man makes extraordinary claims, a “thorough investigation” is required, to ensure “that person reliable, never telling lie,” and has “no reason to lie.”

It does seem rather unlikely that God would be a butterfly, even without investigation.


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gratification

narrative-culture

on-the-nature-of-things

on-thinking-and-reasoning

spiritual-architecture

successful-prophets

How to become wise. Insights from eastern traditions (by a white person?)—a trite trope, but some interesting insights.


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betterment

on-(un)happiness

on-therapy

on-thinking-and-reasoning

psychologia

somatic-architecture

spiritual-architecture

thought-architecture

How to be a happy nihilist

Let me demonstrate with a game, ‘spot the meaningless meaning’. Next time you’re at the supermarket, pharmacy or really any non-enlightened space of commerce, pay attention to what the products are attempting to offer. One might expect a barrage of quality and utility assurances: ‘these chickpeas are low sodium’, ‘this facemask is non-irritating’. But, increasingly, aspirations are higher. A chocolate bar isn’t skim (skimmed) milk powder and sugar, it’s a chance to create an intergenerational family moment. A lipstick isn’t a bullet of colour to light up a drawn face, but a weapon of radical self-expression. Rather than informing a population of philosophically fulfilled, elevated beings, the ubiquity of all this bite-sized meaning has had an adverse effect, fuelling our familiar, modern malaise of dissatisfaction, disconnection and burnout. The fixation with making all areas of existence generically meaningful has created exhausting realities where everything suddenly really, really matters.

and

The broadest explanation of nihilism argues that life is meaningless and the systems to which we subscribe to give us a sense of purpose – such as religion, politics, traditional family structures or even the notion of absolute truth itself – are fantastical human constructs

and

When promoting nihilism as the antidote to the commercialisation of meaning, I tend to meet the same repeated questions: if there’s no point, then why do anything? Why get out of bed? Wash your hair? Treat another person with kindness? Not fall into a quivering heap? … when you stop focusing on a greater point, you’re able to ask simpler but more rewarding questions: what does happiness look like right now? What would give me pleasure today? How can I achieve a sense of satisfaction in this moment? Most of the time, the answers aren’t complex. They’re small delights already at hand – time spent with loved ones, a delicious meal, a walk in nature, a cup of coffee.


filed under:

betterment

economy-of-small-pleasures

on-(un)happiness

on-emotion

psychologia

somatic-architecture

spiritual-architecture

Tree thinking. Cute article with much poetic and tangential speculation on the relationship between trees and humans.


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animal-sentience

betterment

connection

on-aesthetics

on-thinking-and-reasoning

psychologia

somatic-architecture

spiritual-architecture

Brain states as a clue to transcendence. Phrased as how spiritual retreats achieve this, but equally can be viewed as pointers to achieving it elsewise.

Summary, the ingredients that characterise the experience are:

  1. Intensity. Emotional, I assume as characterised by limbic system. See also the amygdala is not the fear centre.
  2. A sense of oneness or unity. Associated with decrease in associative cortex, which puts your senses together. Likely the same thing that explains the mushroom unity effect—mushrooms increase connectivity which similarly affects how associative cortext puts your senses together. Up or down, you want less of a neural representation of you-ness.
  3. A sense of clarity. Before and after. The neural explanations for this doesn’t seem very thoughtful.
  4. A sense of surrender. Also not thoughtful, neurally, but see also speaking in tongues where I talk a little about this.
  5. Transformation as a result of the experience. Essentially, this seems like intense practice (probably deliberate practice).

filed under:

betterment

gratification

neurotypica

on-the-nature-of-things

on-thinking-and-reasoning

spiritual-architecture

God in a meritocratic society. Interesting thoughts that generically apply to a secular, materialist state. I’m not sure the meritocracy is the most relevant part.

the meritocracy’s anti-supernaturalism: The average Ivy League professor, management consultant or Google engineer is not necessarily a strict materialist, but they have all been trained in a kind of scientism, which regards strong religious belief as fundamentally anti-rational, miracles as superstition, the idea of a personal God as so much wishful thinking.

Thus when spiritual ideas creep back into elite culture, it’s often in the form of “wellness” or self-help disciplines, or in enthusiasms like astrology, where there’s always a certain deniability about whether you’re really invoking a spiritual reality, really committing to metaphysical belief.


filed under:

cognitive-karstica

gratification

narrative-culture

on-aesthetics

on-thinking-and-reasoning

spiritual-architecture

Neuroscience shows that spiritual experiences are correlated with brain states that we can all aim for, religious or not. See also speaking in tongues.


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betterment

economy-of-small-pleasures

gratification

neurotypica

on-the-nature-of-things

on-thinking-and-reasoning

psychologia

spiritual-architecture

successful-prophets

The root of time itself is in fertile nothingness: how ancient Chinese Daoism shatters our illusions about time and being.


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betterment

narrative-culture

on-the-nature-of-things

on-thinking-and-reasoning

spiritual-architecture

On spiritual exercise for wellbeing.


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gratification

on-(un)happiness

on-being-fruitful

psychologia

somatic-architecture

spiritual-architecture

On Zen kōans: a good video on the unsolvable riddles some Zen buddhists use to achieve transcendence.


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betterment

gratification

on-(un)happiness

on-thinking-and-reasoning

psychologia

spiritual-architecture

A paean to pigweed, a modern saint.

As we seek to survive in an age of ecological collapse and cultural chaos, perhaps it is to the weeds we should look for advice. I think of Pigweed, invading Europe as Europe colonized America. As Europeans took over America, Pigweed flowed back on the ships, into the countries that were invading its original ecosystem. It performed a reverse colonization. Pigweed originally only from the Americas is now dispersed across Europe and Asia. Pigweed says plant me in disturbed landscapes, dirty soil, chemical sludge. Plant me where the pain lives and I will learn how to survive. I will learn how to turn this poison into greenery, into stalk and seed and a tap root so long and sturdy it is almost a sword, capable of sucking up water not available the shallow rooted soy and cotton plants. My body needs to learn how to adapt to an increasingly chaotic environment. It needs a saint that teaches me how to get I touch with the wily, cunning knowledge of place. My saint is a seed on the wind. A vegetal plague. Pigweed.


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gratification

narrative-culture

on-(un)happiness

on-aesthetics

on-being-fruitful

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spiritual-architecture

Machine in the ghost.

the central cultural conflict for religion in this century … [will not be] the old touchstones that configure ideological divisions between the orthodox and heterodox, the mainline and the fringe, conservatives and liberals, with arguments about abortion, birth control, gay rights and so on dominating our understanding of cultural rift … By the end of the century, there could very well be debates and denunciations, exegeses and excommunications about whether or not an AI is allowed to join a Church, allowed to serve as clergy, allowed to marry a biological human … ‘AI may be the greatest threat to Christian theology since Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species.’ … it could equally be argued that, just as evolutionary thought reinvigorated non-fundamentalist Christian faith … so too could artificial intelligence provide for a coming spiritual fecundity

Particularly poignent given the recent obsession with ChatGPT.


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animal-sentience

gratification

on-culture

spiritual-architecture

successful-prophets

I often paraphrase myself, something like:

The Rarámuri believe that each moving body part has a unique soul, from the joints of the fingers to the ‘heart’ and the ‘head’. These souls, or ariwi, must be cared for lest they become sick and the body begins to fail. Similar ideas pervade many health traditions. Today we would call these things organs, or cast our net wider perhaps and include other systems like the microflora of our bodies.

But, it’s actually quite difficult to reference this, because the book that taught me this is old and obscure.

Then I realised I have a way of doing that—just do a marginalia. So here is the marginalium.

I’ve included a link to the archive.org book. It’s fascinating. The part about ariwi is not long, but it stuck with me.

William L. Merrill, Rarámuri Souls

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gratification

narrative-culture

on-(un)happiness

on-culture

on-the-nature-of-things

on-therapy

somatic-architecture

spiritual-architecture

A loose reflection on the meaning of ritual. Is pour-over coffee not a ritual, purely because it’s not coercive? Seems wrong. Rituals are just some established format for a ceremony. Rituals being deployed to reify power is simply a use-case?


filed under:

cognitive-karstica

gratification

narrative-culture

on-(un)happiness

on-the-nature-of-things

spiritual-architecture

Manipulating light can induce psychedelic experiences. The ‘ganzflicker’, someone one learns about it Cognition 101, but no one told me how universal or powerful it could be.


filed under:

betterment

neurotypica

on-aesthetics

on-the-nature-of-things

spiritual-architecture

The neural correlates of near death experiences. Like I point out in my article on speaking in tongues, it always seems like news that the brain produces states that reflect experiences. But that’s its job. I suspect that whatever happens after life is not going to be so easily describable as those who experience near death articulate, nor indeed do I think that these experiences represent some sort of inter-plane travel. But similarly, I don’t think this is an argument against it. Merely that (surprise) the brain maps experiences.


filed under:

betterment

neurotypica

on-the-nature-of-things

somatic-architecture

spiritual-architecture

On applying Quakerism to the Effective Altruism movement (?) for betterment. More broadly a case for religion as a framework for doing good.


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connection

on-culture

on-ethics

on-leadership

spiritual-architecture

successful-prophets

The Tale of Richard Hoskins: A Life Most Cursed. Sort of makes a disorganised skeptical foray into an edge case of trauma-related gender dysphoria, but don’t let that distract you. A fascinating story of a man.

It’s hard to imagine what a modern curse would look like today, how that would affect your life, but the story of criminologist and religious scholar Richard Hoskins comes as close as we might possibly get. His tale is one of almost unbelievable sorrow, witchcraft, murder and adventure, the kind of life one associates with an era gone-by.


filed under:

cognitive-karstica

connection

gratification

on-(un)happiness

on-therapy

psychologia

somatic-architecture

spiritual-architecture

A fun enough comparison of the new LoTR series and Western (US) culture. The really interesting part is a series of quotes though:

As Durkheim and other sociologists have argued, we can never really remove the sacred from life. We can only change what we hold sacred. As historian Eugene McCarrher explores in ‘The Enchantments of Mammon’, in much of the world capitalism has come to replace religion.

As summarised by Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins in The Nation, McCarrher argues that ’the mysteries and sacraments of religion were transferred to the way we perceive market forces and economic development… a “migration of the holy” to the realm of production and consumption, profit and price, trade and economic tribulation. Capitalism, in other words, is the new religion, a system full of enchanted superstitions and unfounded beliefs and beholden to its own clerisy of economists and managers, its own iconography of advertising and public relations, and its own political theology.“


filed under:

accidental-civilisation

cognitive-karstica

connection

economy-of-small-pleasures

on-culture

spiritual-architecture

thought-architecture

Words to describe the heart.

The “torment of a tight spot” (amhas) … The “conceit of self-loathing” (omana) … the … delight that flows from being free of regrets (pamojja)

and so on. Fun.

Maria Heim

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gratification

on-(un)happiness

on-aesthetics

on-emotion

psychologia

somatic-architecture

spiritual-architecture

Solving Bauman’s ‘liquid modernity’ with commitment.

In a culture addicted to endless choice, vows offer a higher freedom.

Forms of modern life may differ in quite a few respects – but what unites them all is precisely their fragility, temporariness, vulnerability and inclination to constant change. To “be modern” means to modernize – compulsively, obsessively; not so much just “to be,” … but forever “becoming,”

A vow is a declaration not of independence but of a bond. When we vow, we are giving up our future freedom … Our liberty is given us so that we in turn can freely dedicate ourselves to something greater.


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betterment

cognitive-karstica

gratification

on-(un)happiness

spiritual-architecture

successful-prophets

Taleb on Christianity. Interesting ideas on the moral authority of religion as bound up in the mystery of the thing. There is an adage, ‘beauty is truth’. Perhaps things are less true when they are less beautiful and they are less beautiful when we can understand them better.

Effectively, Catholicism lost its moral authority the minute it mixed epistemic and pisteic belief –breaking the link between holy and the profane … For once religion exits the sacred, it becomes subjected to epistemic beliefs.


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accidental-civilisation

collective-architecture

gratification

on-leadership

on-politics-and-power

psychologia

spiritual-architecture

successful-prophets

On the value of religion for liberalism:

Anti-anti-theism helps to protect liberalism from jejune invocations of ‘utilitarianism’ and from an anti-spiritualism that can hardly uphold the dignity of the human person


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accidental-civilisation

betterment

cognitive-karstica

collective-architecture

gratification

on-leadership

on-thinking-and-reasoning

spiritual-architecture

Why bother reading the bible?

Ari Lamm

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accidental-civilisation

betterment

cognitive-karstica

economy-of-small-pleasures

gratification

narrative-culture

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

spiritual-architecture

wealth-architecture

There must be something outside of us that can sustain objects when we are not perceiving them, and account for the regularity of our perceptions. But this needn’t be a god in any recognizable sense. It need not be omnibenevolent, omnipotent, or omniscient. There is no reason it must contain desires, intentions, or beliefs, or even be an agent. What’s crucial for ensuring the persistence and stability of the cake closed in my fridge is simply that there be a unified experience that encompasses all aspects of it.


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animal-sentience

connection

on-the-nature-of-things

spiritual-architecture

Is Politics Filling the Void of Religion?

this type of politics involves ideas of morality, of the saved and unsaved—and also that, in a positive way, it offers moments of transcendence and “unselfing.”


filed under:

cognitive-karstica

connection

on-culture

on-thinking-and-reasoning

spiritual-architecture

Detailed article on the ‘origin’ of the two-spirit concept in Native American culture. Interestingly, it claims that the concept is largely a product of the white LGBT movement, attempting to lend historical credence to their own way of being. Not particularly surprising, given Native Americans are an incredibly diverse group—assuredly not sharing the same concepts of sexuality. Similarly assuredly some groups had much more fluid sexual dynamics than the rigid masculine/feminine dichotomy, so we probably shouldn’t lose sight of that either. I am left to wonder about how legitimate complaints of ‘cultural appropriation’ apply to the adoption by a group of a modern concept.


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betterment

collective-architecture

narrative-culture

on-attraction-and-love

on-culture

spiritual-architecture

The long history of association between God and unusual smells.

some scholars believe that the English language suffered from the “cultural repression and denigration of smell” during the Enlightenment, as improvements in hygiene and objections to “superstition” transformed the lived environment into one less sensorially confrontational.


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connection

on-politics-and-power

psychologia

spiritual-architecture

successful-prophets

God without god:

There must be something outside of us that can sustain objects when we are not perceiving them, and account for the regularity of our perceptions. But this needn’t be a god in any recognizable sense. It need not be omnibenevolent, omnipotent, or omniscient. There is no reason it must contain desires, intentions, or beliefs, or even be an agent. What’s crucial for ensuring the persistence and stability of the cake closed in my fridge is simply that there be a unified experience that encompasses all aspects of it.


filed under:

connection

on-the-nature-of-things

spiritual-architecture

The logical mystic—on Witgenstein’s Tractictus:

Simply, the truly religious was outside of speech. It could only be “shown” – and, as he puts it in Tractatus, “what can be shown cannot be said.”

To call a religious belief or practice “false” is, to use a basic philosophical term, to commit a category error. Truth and falseness belong to the sorts of “facts” which make up the world, the meaningful propositions of language. Religious belief – the mystical – is not a fact of this sort, and therefore to submit it to the truth tests of propositional logic is incorrect.

My work consists of two parts; that presented here plus all I have not written. It is this second part that is important.


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gratification

narrative-culture

on-thinking-and-reasoning

psychologia

spiritual-architecture

An article from the 60’s on LSD and the ‘third eye’, or more accurately, the role of serotonin in psychedelic states.

the mystery of the LSD-serotonin antagonism persisted. Serotonin is not an unusual chemical in nature; it is found in many places–some of them odd, like the salivary glands of octopuses; others ordinary: it abounds in plants; bananas, figs, plums are especially rich in it. What was it doing in the brains of humans? What was its evolutionary history? In 1958 a Yale Medical School professor of dermatology named Aaron B. Lerner published a paper on the pineal gland which placed this elusive substance in some vague kind of historical perspective and provided for it a real functional role in the brains of mammals.

Did you know Scott Alexander was back?

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gratification

neurotypica

spagyrica

spiritual-architecture

Ethical astrology:

Astrological forecasting tends to describe the future more thematically or archetypically than concretely, and the vast majority of astrological prediction today falls into this category … Horoscopes work this way

Astrological prediction, wielded gently and skillfully, can help to “spot the meaning and the movement [going forward] by looking to what is different,”

The downside to the immense meaning-making potential of astrology? It renders the practice vulnerable to misuse by uncareful types with dubious commitment to honorable behavior.


filed under:

gratification

on-ethics

on-therapy

psychologia

spiritual-architecture

On Ernst Junger and his war-time diaries and a descent into magic.

Ultimately, he was far too Right-wing to accept Nazism

Jünger comes uncannily close to Jung throughout the book: he records strange omens and premonitions, claims that certain generals of his acquaintance are imbued with the power of prophecy, records strange synchronicities and deploys obscure alchemical metaphors. As the diaries go on and Germany’s fortunes worsen, the magical element begins to predominate.


filed under:

on-(un)happiness

on-culture

on-ethics

spiritual-architecture

The deterministic view of free will always seems to cause such furore, forgetting that whether free will exists or not, this world is so intractably complex that for almost all practical purposes, it doesn’t matter.


filed under:

betterment

on-the-nature-of-things

psychologia

spiritual-architecture

at once an ethical retreat and an opportunity to recalibrate the economy … ethics and exchange were logically linked, though the governing principle was reciprocity, not accumulation

Anthropological case study for the lockdown as a ‘spiritual and economic reset’ from an Indonesian community who would voluntarily retreat every couple of years. Similar ideas to this more modern-focused take


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betterment

gratification

on-(un)happiness

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

spiritual-architecture

wealth-architecture

taking steps is easy, standing still is hard


filed under:

betterment

on-emotion

somatic-architecture

spiritual-architecture

Beliefs may withstand the pressure of disconfirming events not because of the effectiveness of dissonance-reducing strategies, but because disconfirming evidence may simply go unacknowledged

A rebuttal to the classic ‘cognitive dissonance’ account of why believers continue to believe after the failure of a prophecy. In this case, the culture makes the failure less salient. One wonders whether this kind of surrender to a culture that protects you from dissonance is not simply another mechanism for reducing cognitive dissonance.


filed under:

connection

on-thinking-and-reasoning

psychologia

spiritual-architecture

successful-prophets

cults involve the social recognition of a leader’s charisma [which though it] can be sincere, it can also be hypocritical or deceptive … cult artifacts make recognition of the leader’s charisma normative, and thus transform it into authority … Insofar as people follow the social norm to worship or venerate the leader then the leader will have some charismatic authority, regardless of whether this recognition is sincere or not.

Successful prophets are successful when the people transform flattery into ritual. This is the basis of the cult leader’s charismatic authority, not the actual charisma of the leader.


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connection

on-culture

on-leadership

on-politics-and-power

spiritual-architecture

successful-prophets

for many of those who self-identified as “evangelical,” it is not just about devotion to a local church, but to a general orientation to the world.

The article highlights the enmeshing of US conservatism and religiosity. But the trend of religiosity becoming more political than spiritual is a cycle as old as time. The Roman state, the Chinese mandate of heaven, the European wars. Why is it surprising that structured spirituality (how people should live) aligns with structured politics (how decisions are made about how people should live)?


filed under:

on-politics-and-power

spiritual-architecture

wealth-architecture

Radicalization isn’t really the product of the ‘radicaliser’, but the culture the radicalised are opposed to.


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spiritual-architecture

successful-prophets

In mice and one person, scientists were able to reproduce the altered state often associated with ketamine by inducing certain brain cells to fire together in a slow, rhythmic fashion. “There was a rhythm that appeared, and it was an oscillation that appeared only when the patient was dissociating,” says Dr. Karl Deisseroth


filed under:

neurotypica

spiritual-architecture

The book of the Revelation of John, a messiah figure in his own right prior to his allegiance to Jesus, maps a pattern of predicted apocalypses that both preceded and succeeded him.


filed under:

on-leadership

spiritual-architecture

successful-prophets