How to leave the matrix

What is the true nature of reality?

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. 

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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. 

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Trust your inner voice

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. 

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Join us for a transformational retreat designed to cultivate awe, beauty, and present moment awareness.

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. 

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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. 

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That is why I’ve been inspired to curate a once-in-a-lifetime experience centered around reclaiming soulful living by cultivating childlike wonder, laughter, and play.

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:

Listen to this podcast on:


[Music] welcome to on living my name is Brooke


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


linked my my contemplative awareness into the world and my meditative


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


that the world is intelligible um you realize that that intelligibility


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


world so intelligibility is very analogous to biological adaptivity if


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


of adaptivity intelligibility of subjectivity and objectivity of Truth so


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


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


can you define trans activity so transjectivity is that which is


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


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


that’s quite profound um well I I hope so


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


is consciousness is starting to disclose to them the fundamental transjectivity


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


is uh like this structure uh the order that also


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


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


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


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


capable of generating intelligibility in partnership with intelligence


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


to disclose properties of the world that are not otherwise disclosable


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


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


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


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


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


Franca philosophy uh of the Silk Road integrating East and West


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


levels of intelligence and Consciousness we are correspondingly disclosing levels


of reality and that that means not only are we


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


argument but the basic idea is once you get this view


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


material meaningless world and a genuine encounter with spirituality opens up


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


tradition so the imaginal is the use of images but


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


together so that they they so the possibility of contact Conformity


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


significant role in any aspirational project any transformational project any


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


and wisdom is essentially about overcoming self-deception


and that means adopting a lot of rigorous practices and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


and if you disconnect your project from this very powerful engine


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


um rationally ratio properly proportioning yourself to reality right


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


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


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


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


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


what are some of your favorite positive psychology techniques


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


imaginal practices that transfers broadly and deeply into your life and


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


so whenever uh I you know the any of the the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


connected to each other um and and so many philosophical


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


you know our rationality so our job part


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


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


intellectually respectable scientifically legitimate and yet deeply personally existentially meaningful to


them part of my you know work was how do I


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


particular uh uh scientific theoretical hobby horse I think


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


physical orientation and physical like perceptual optimal grip and sensory


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


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


um giving people those two dimensions of optimal grip the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the biological level event as you define obviously the simultaneous


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


astronomical so this is what you now have to do how


do you zero in on the relevant side effects and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


parting thing is we have to stop thinking about science


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


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


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


intuition metacognition in my work right the spirituality experiential intuitive


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


highly recommend his work there thank you [Music]


thank you

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Author Bio
My LA Therapy - Brooke Sprowl (slider)

Brooke Sprowl is an industry-leading expert and author in psychology, spirituality, and self-transformation. Her insights have featured in dozens of media outlets such as Huffington Post, Business Insider, Cosmopolitan Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Spectrum One News, Mind Body Green, YourTango, and many more.

As the founder and CEO of My LA Therapy, she leads a team of 15 dedicated therapists and wellness professionals. Brooke has been a featured speaker at prominent universities and venues such as UCLA School of Public Affairs, USC, Loyola Marymount University, the Mark Taper Auditorium, and Highways Performance Gallery, to name a few. 

With a Master’s degree in Clinical Social Welfare with a Mental Health Specialization from UCLA, a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from USC, and certifications in peak performance and flow science from the Flow Research Collective, Brooke has helped hundreds of prominent leaders and CEO’s overcome anxiety, relationship difficulties, and trauma and reclaim a sense of purpose, vitality, and spiritual connection. 

With 15 years of experience in personal development and self-transformation as a therapist and coach, she has pioneered dozens of original concepts and frameworks to guide people in overcoming mental health challenges and awakening spiritually.

Brooke is the host of the podcast, Waking Up with Brooke Sprowl. She is passionate about writing, neuroscience, philosophy, integrity, poetry, spirituality, creativity, effective altruism, personal and collective healing, and curating luxury, transformational retreat experiences for high-achievers seeking spiritual connection.