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Tue, 05 Dec 2023
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


The competency crisis is upon us

© Getty Images
Colliding Futures
The glue of expertise that held our complicated social machinery together is coming apart, yet we continue to shift more and more responsibility to failing institutions. The outcome won't be pretty.

Our current managerial elite predicates its rule on the notion of expertise. Americans once believed that "popular will" granted a ruling class legitimacy, but that story has been replaced with one of scientific knowledge and credentials.

The modern political formula frames the world as a complex series of interconnected scientific disciplines that, if managed with a high degree of proficiency, can yield incredible material abundance and miraculous technological innovations. Competency is the key to utopia. Those who are able to obtain prestigious credentials gain the right to rule due to their unparalleled ability to manage complex systems.

But a fundamental shift in our political formula has put the system on a collision course with disaster.

Comment: It was never a matter of 'if', but 'when'. That marker has passed.


On free will, ChatGPT4 blows away atheist Sam Harris

Sam Harris
Several months back, someone emailed me the following:
I nominate Sam Harris for YouTube's prize for "Person with the Best One-Liner Joke except for the fact that he was being serious," for his remark in a 2012 speech: "Tonight, I want to try to convince you that free will is an illusion." [The actual quote used the word "hope" in place of "want to try," but the gist is the same.]
Sam Harris made this remark a few minutes into the following YouTube video:

Yes, the irony here is palpable, and I've long been critical of Harris's view of free will as an illusion (see especially my book Being as Communion).

But rather than refute Harris by pointing out why his statement scores high on the irony meter, I thought I'd ask ChatGPT to do it for me. Here was my prompt to ChatGPT4:
Consider the following scenario: A well-known atheist, who has a doctorate in neuroscience, is about to present a lecture to a university audience on the connection between mind and brain, and in particular on the topic of free will. This atheist, whom we'll call Sam, begins his lecture with the following statement: "Tonight, I want to try to convince you that free will is an illusion." Please comment at length on the irony of this statement.

Comment: Using a language learning model to point out the irony of arguing against free will is quite apropo.

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MindMatters: Psychedelics, Sobriety, and Altered States: Processing Reality with John Buchanan

john buchanan
What do altered states tell us about the nature of consciousness? And what can philosophy tell us about altered states? John Buchanan has spent his life trying to find the answers. His book, Processing Reality: Finding Meaning in Death, Psychedelics, and Sobriety, details the story of his history of experimentation and addiction, his path to sobriety, and the insights he has gained into the nature of human experience and consciousness.

A synthesis of Whitehead's process philosophy and Grof's transpersonal psychology, Buchanan's ideas provide a framework for understanding not only the nature of the psychedelic experience and other altered states, but also the nature of consciousness itself and the structure of the cosmos.

See our previous interview with John here.

Running Time: 01:40:46

Download: MP3 — 138 MB


Children may be 'evolutionarily primed' to need more than 2 parents

tribe forest
© Nikhil Chaudhary
A Mbendjele camp in the Congo rainforest.
The childcare system of a contemporary hunter-gatherer community suggests a major pitfall of the nuclear family, and it could hint at why so many parents in wealthy, Western nations feel burned out.

A team of researchers, led by evolutionary anthropologist Nikhil Chaudhary from the University of Cambridge, argues that children may be "evolutionarily primed" to expect more attention and care than just two parents can provide.

Investigating the culture of Mbendjele hunter-gatherers, who live in the northern rainforests of the Republic of Congo and subsist on hunting, fishing, gathering, and honey collecting, researchers found a widespread caregiving network.

Comment: With collapsing birthrates, broken homes, and an atomised, disconnected population, one could say that there's aready sufficient evidence that WEIRD societies run contrary to the innate needs of human beings.

Black Magic

An Initiation into the Reality of Evil

Clark Rockefeller  Christian Gerhartsreiter  psychopath murderer
© Mike Adaskaveg/AP
The man who calls himself Clark Rockefeller at his arraignment on kidnapping charges on Sept. 29, 2008, in Boston.
How Walter Kirn's encounter with psychopathy changed his worldview

For twenty years German immigrant Christian Gerhartsreiter pretended to be a Rockefeller. He befriended novelist and essayist Walter Kirn, who ended up writing a memoir about their friendship, and how it all fell apart: Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade, published in 2014.

I hadn't heard of the story until watching this interview with Kirn.

When talking about Gerhartsreiter, he says something very revealing. It's an experience many have upon an encounter with evil. When the psychopathic mask falls, when you get a glimpse of the reality behind the carefully crafted PR image, it can change your worldview. Kirn shifted from what we might call a "common psychological worldview" into one more objective, more in line with reality in all its complexity — and with hints of the "supernatural."

Comment: More background on Christian Gerhartsreiter :

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MindMatters: Five Myths about Evil: Setting the Record Straight with David Abramowitz

david abramowitz
Are all psychopaths serial killers? Is authoritarianism only found on the political right? Are we all equally capable of evil? Does power really corrupt absolutely? And is evil really "banal"?

Join us today as we discuss the biggest myths about evil with David Abramowitz, the nature of psychopaths and ponerology, and how McGilchrist's brain-hemisphere research fits into the picture.

David Abramowitz has a background in finance and accounting, but an experience with a psychopath set him on a path to research the topic for the next decade. He has read nearly everything there is to read on the subject, and describes a type which he has termed the "passive-parasitic" psychopath. These are the so-called successful psychopaths, the ones you'll find on Wall Street and in Washington. And they're the reason for much of today's pathological political climate.

Running Time: 01:30:06

Download: MP3 — 124 MB


Israel's Biblical Psychopathy

netanyahu torah israel gaza
© TV7 Israel News
Benjamin Netanyahu
I am tired of reading that Netanyahu is a psychopath. He most certainly is not. I see no reason to consider him, or any other Israeli leader, as psychopaths in the psychiatric sense. They have a collective psychopathy, which is a very different thing.

The difference is the same as between a personal neurosis and a collective neurosis. According to Freud, religion (and he meant christianity) is a collective neurosis. Freud did not mean that religious people are neurotic. On the contrary, he observed that their collective neurosis tends to immunize religious people from personal neurosis.[1] I do not subscribe to Freud's theory, I just need his backing to introduce my own theory: Zionists, even the most bloodthirsty of them, are not individual psychopaths; many of them are loving and even self-sacrificing persons within their own community. Rather, they are the vectors of a collective psychopathy, which means a special way (we may call it inhuman) by which they collectively see and interact with other human communities.

This is a crucial point, without which we can never understand Israel. Calling their leaders psychopaths is not helpful. What we need is recognize Israel as a collective psychopath, and study the origin of this unique national character. It is a matter of survival for the world, just as it is a matter of survival for any group to recognize the psychopath among them and understand his patterns of thinking and of behavior.

Eye 2

Evil only comes where it's invited: Tracking ponerogenesis in history and Israel-Palestine

jack nicholson the shining psychopath

Jack Nicholson in The Shining (1980).
When you act like a psychopath, you clear the way for actual psychopaths.

Too many people believe in a cookie-cutter account of human nature, that everyone is basically the same, basically good underneath it all, and that we all have an equal capacity for evil. While this is untrue, there is a decent percentage of the population that has the capacity to act like a psychopath, if only for brief moments, or in certain contexts. Unlike a psychopath, however, they may come to feel some degree of remorse about it.

If you open your newsfeed tomorrow to read some story about a murder in which the victim was found mutilated, castrated, his skin flayed and limbs dissected, your first thought might be that some new Jeffrey Dahmer or Richard Ramirez is on the loose. But it's also possible the murder victim is the new Dahmer/Ramirez, responsible for a string of child kidnappings, rapes, and mutilations, and a local posse of vengeful locals finally caught up with him. Cruel and unusual punishments are not always out of the norm when we think the person really deserved it. An eye for an eye, and all that.

But that's an extreme example. There are subtler ones. Public relations, for example, is an exercise in functional psychopathy. The goal of PR is literally to create a publicly acceptable persona or cover story, a mask of sanity for public consumption. The bigger the discrepancy between image and reality, the bigger the lie, and the closer one comes to psychopathic levels of manipulation and impression management.

Pumpkin 2

Halloween parable

© unknown
The Dead Rise on John Street
"We are at an inflection point, a threshold, where weak, brittle, effete personality structures are a threat to human civilization." — JD Haltigan on X
You might have noticed that the massive investment in Halloween yard shrines by families growing broke in America reflects the ghoulish convergence of malevolent events undermining and overtaking what used to be normal life in this land. Nothing is normal anymore. The groaning mummies, howling werewolves, and shrieking skeletons are trying to tell us something.

The message might be: detach from reality long enough and death comes creeping 'round your door. You see where consensual madness has gotten us? Believe enough things that are not true and nemesis comes roaring in, all fangs and claws, to gleefully shred you. So. Maybe it's time to stop believing things that are not true.

Start with the first principle of US life in our time: that anything goes and nothing matters. This proposition has ruled for as long as most of us can remember. Consequence was exiled on Main Street so you can get away with anything now — until you discover that, somehow, everything is broken. Your livelihood is broken. Your community is broken. Your household is broken. Your car is broken. Your children are broken. Your health is broken. Your faith is broken. Your country is broken.

Here's a first principle worth considering: court death and it will oblige you. Granted, there is a certain libido for nonexistence in the human psyche because life is so hard sometimes that you yearn to be relieved of it. But not everyone in America seeks to walk that way. Probably fewer than half of us. So why do we allow that other half to drag us to the bone orchard? Do you see what it means to get your mind right when times get hard and the path is uncertain?


In Memoriam: Pierre Lescaudron

à bientôt

Pierre Lescaudron
We are deeply sad to announce that a core member of the Sott.net and Cassiopaea.org team, Pierre Lescaudron, has passed from this life, leaving us, and all of you who knew and loved him, feeling a profound loss.

From the day he joined our team some 14 years ago and literally up until the day he chose to pass, Pierre was a charming, positive, dedicated and insightful contributor to our work, both online and in the real world, where he served as a skilled mentor to many.

Pierre reserved his greatest enthusiasm and effort for his attempts to better understand the fundamental nature of our reality, the hidden history of our planet and what essential part we, as human beings, play in the 'grand scheme' of things.

While Pierre's list of achievements are too many to detail in full here, the following provides a sample of his work and commitment.

Bonne route Pierre, et à bientôt!