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Comments on universal logos and mystery

UPDATE 2022-02-16 13:41 +0200: Watch the new video on Ataraxia, moderation, and mysticism.

The following is an exchange of views with Dragos Iorgulescu which took place in the comments’ section of my video about Cosmos and Logos (2022-02-05). I am publishing it with permission.

Dragos Iorgulescu

Thank you for such a well-defined and structured presentation! This gets additional “brain cogs” spinning, and it’s all too rare these days to experience this after a YouTube video.

Indeed, our anthropocentric view of the world seems to play a major role in developing our religious instinct (a term coined by some scholars, but met with disapproval by theologians - since they object to such an approach towards religion), “clinging” to eventual remnants of our current perceived state that would live on forever into some sort of Afterlife. Maybe the fact that we share the same preservation instincts as all other life forms is another manifestation/argument/proof of the Logos? We might not have noticed any religious practices among animals (thus believing they have no concept of death or life cycle), even though it has been caught on camera that families of elephants encountering remains of other elephants (bones in a “graveyard” area, for example), would stop, touch and be still in their presence in a contemplation-like state. But it feels like we all embody the same fundamental laws, as does everything else in the world (the laws of physics are also a valid attribute to take into consideration), and this should apparently be enough to make us feel less alone, more meaningful and devoid of destructive thoughts & resentment (on a global scale, from a more generic social perspective, if you will). I can’t help but wonder where do we go wrong in that respect? What is it that drives humans away from purely perceiving life for what it really is towards visceral fighting and constantly dreaming up plans of reciprocal destruction (both figuratively & properly speaking) and also manifest genuine ignorance towards everything else that makes up the world we live in?

Found your channel about one year ago, but only recently subscribed and started paying close attention to your efforts. Since I’m a “tech guy” fond of Linux & Unix systems, your bspwm videos got my attention at first. Then I got curious about emacs (heard of it, of course, but never thought of trying it out) and it seems things are getting interesting as I learn new ways of doing daily work. Intriguing, optimized and efficient ways, to be fair. You seem to involuntarily steer me towards exploring captivating paths, leading only by personal example.

Wishing you all the best from Bucharest, Romania!

Thank you Dragos for taking the time to share your thoughts!

The laws of physics are definitely a part of this. And yes, other animals have the propensities you have described: there are lots of stories where we can clearly tell that the animals are closer to us than we think. Whatever differences must be of degree.

To broaden the subject a bit from the specifics of religiosity, and speaking from experience, I have seen it with dogs who mourn the loss of one of their own. Or a dog that understands when it is separated from its human. A few years ago I had to stay in Germany for a few months: when I returned my dog was so happy that he ran around the area (a mountain) barking in joy, as if to inform everyone of the good news—I have never seen anything like it (and my dog is not overly expressive).

Furthermore, I have seen how trees have notions of society and solidarity. For example, I sometimes spot small trees that grow under the shadow of larger ones: they cannot get direct exposure to the Sun themselves so they must be fed by the elder trees. Plus we know of symbiosis or synergies between trees and mycelium (related to mushrooms) and bushes and insects. They all understand sophisticated concepts such as separation of concerns and division of labour. Maybe they don’t reason about them the way we do, yet they still behave in accordance with them.

Speaking of trees, if the ground under the tree has collapsed, forcing it to lean sideways, you can observe how the tree understands what the potential—the potential!—problem is: if it continues to grow on a straight line, it will eventually collapse under its own weight. What it does instead is channel its vitality skyward, so it redirects to new branches. The old ones which once looked towards the sky but now point sideways slowly wither away. This is effectively the same as “course correction”, which shifts the balance of the tree towards the new equilibrium.

If they have evident embedded knowledge of such concepts, can they have knowledge that is communicated and recalled at future points? And can they think of their past and project into the future? If not, why not and are we certain of it?

To your question about where we go wrong (which I will elaborate in a future video). Humans have several facets to their existence. We analyse them, without implying that they have a standalone presence: there is the mind or reason, the body with its mechanisms and propensities, the emotions. These are all interdependent: subsystems of the supersystem we understand as “the human organism” (which itself is a subsystem of the ecosystem, etc.). The mind is affected by the body, such as how we cannot think effectively when we are sick. The body influences emotions, just like how malnutrition or poor sleep keeps us demotivated and can contribute to depression (among others). The mind triggers emotions, such as how a philosophical thought brings excitement, which then has a noticeable effect on the body where, for example, we can no longer sleep and suddenly have the energy and desire to think things through. And so on.

My point with this is that we have a fourth facet as well which is not as developed as the others (the body is the most developed, as it is almost mechanistic): this fourth facet is our mystical side (see definition below). Without training, we are guided by the instinct of self-preservation so we are naturally disposed towards egocentrism: the body conditions us. But as we learn about the world, as our reason takes form and our emotions can be aligned with our overall mental/physical state, we understand that we are not the epicentre, neither individually nor collectively: we are all parts of a greater whole. Humans, other animals, plants, planets, particles… All are parts of the greater whole. In this sense, the mystical is that aspect of our self which, paradoxically, helps us escape from the perception of selfhood as self-centred-ness: it lets us see the bigger picture, if you will.

[ “Mystery”, “mysticism”, etc. do not mean “strange” or “secret”, but that which involves “introduction to” (i.e. “knowledge of”) a given theme. In this case the oneness of the world. Sure, without knowledge something will appear strange or obscure, but the nuance matters because it is not inherently strange/obscure—we just lack an understanding of it. “Myth” is related to “mystery” but more on that later. ]

Wars but also everyday squabbles are reducible to egoism (without discounting the importance of political/social/economic/historical analysis). Those who can see the bigger picture understand that there are alternatives. There is a political extension to this, but let’s leave it for another time.

As for the Linux/Emacs stuff, I keep hacking every day. I will also give a talk at LibrePlanet 2022 but more on that when the time nears.

All the best from the mountains of Cyprus!