comment by toonalfrink ·
2018-04-22T22:32:10.706Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I've lived in a buddhist monastery for 3 months and attended 5 ayahuasca ceremonies, so I feel called upon here. I haven't written anything before because I couldn't justify any of the insights I've had, even though some part of me "knows" this stuff is true. I haven't arrived at a full model either, so here's some notes that you shouldn't take too seriously.
Spirituality is a toolbox for emotional intelligence, and it's primary goal is inner alignment, or alignment of your subagents. It's winning coordination games with all the parts of you that represent different needs.
The opposite of inner alignment is cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the sum of activity of all those subagents that are trying to push the world into a state they're 'attached to'. When cognitive dissonance flares up we notice, but there is also a continuous subconscious process of dissonance going on, eating our attention.
From what I know from cognitive neuroscience, presumably these are parts of your brain representing certain needs. They're activated by your map matching a state they don't agree with, and your prefrontal cortex is inhibiting them. The part of the PFC that does inhibition also does working memory, so you function less well if there is more dissonance going on.
Arriving at increasingly strong inner alignment is actually a fully automatic process. It's just that it doesn't execute as long as our working memory is being used for something else. If you're not occupied with trying to achieve all kinds of worldly goals like money and impact and status, all kinds of insights bubble up to the surface that help you relieve dissonance in some way.
This process is especially active during REM sleep, meditative states, and on psychedelics. Ever noticed how a night with more dreams is more restorative?
Temples are optimized for completely reducing distractions so that this dissonance-relieving process has more space to do it's magic. You do exactly the same stuff every day, and 6 hours of that is sitting on a pillow explicitly killing your daemons. It's all about freeing as much working memory as possible.
To give an idea, here's a few examples of insights I had when I was there:
- Suppression of feelings: some feelings are hidden. They influence your behavior and require effort to continuously suppress. Suppressing feelings also forces you to ignore data and makes you unable to actually get to the root of the problem. Pica is often a result.
- Pleasure vs happiness: pleasure is a form of happiness that is associated with change, usually through some sort of action. It is necessarily short-lived. Happiness itself need not depend on pleasure, for some happiness is based on things that are stable. While there are a thousand shards of pleasure, the things that lead to eudaimonia seem few and simple. It seems to me that things that give pleasure are rarely, if ever, necessary conditions for happiness.
- Worth indifference: Perceiving yourself as worth more than others leads to mania and burnout. Perceiving yourself as worth less leads to not living up to your potential. perceiving differences of worth leads to bad coordination in general.
- Inner trust: Imagine you're a subagent that is tasked with physical care. You have limited information. All you can see is the state of your physical body, and you have limited tools. You regulate your energy levels and thus have some veto power over the agent. Now imagine you see your physical state deteriorating quickly with no clear reason. What do you do? You pull the emergency break. That's burnout. An emergency break because you neglect your physical body.
- "mental" problems: Try not to define your problems in terms of affective states. Those are only a manifestation of the problem. Real problems don't exist in the map, only in the territory. Happiness is the belief that your terminal goals are fulfilled. If you strive to be happy, you strive to believe that your terminal goals are fulfilled. When happiness is your terminal goal, it becomes self-reinforcing. But you have other terminal goals, and if you strive to believe they are fulfilled, this is in contradiction to the litany of tarski. Therefore happiness is not our (correct) terminal goal, but then what is? And how stable is it?
(That last one has become a meme at the Home Bayes (our local rationalist association). We call it "don't shoot the messenger". If you're having emotional problems, give the emotion personhood and take it's message seriously. Only then will it take you seriously. Powerful stuff)
I also became sort of a negative utilitarian, in the sense that I learned that happiness is merely the absence of dissonance. It's not an active process, just the background of suffering. Increasing your working memory by relieving dissonance makes you both happier and more rational.
The latter only to the extent that you preserve your utility function, which is just one of those processes that cause dissonance.
Again, this model is a work in progress.Replies from: Elo
↑ comment by Elo ·
2018-04-23T00:46:02.038Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
You are the first person that I have seen suggest that spirituality is emotional intelligence. But that makes a lot of sense.
Especially when trying to sort out the spirituality of disciplined masters of their craft (swordsman, martial artists, artists/performers, flow states) and how that marries to religious spirituality.
In Daniel Goleman's book "emotional intelligence, he describes a Physiological link between physical states (breathing, posture, hr) and emotion. And as a two way street.
If we continue that link, physical discipline IS emotional management IS spirituality.
Also I never paired cognitive dissonance with agent disagreement. No idea why. Seems obvious now.
Are you all up proposing that spirituality is aligning the parts of us? There's a discussion in Judaism where they talk about the animalistic self and the spiritual self. Which seems to confuse things compared to "spirituality is emotional alignment". Thoughts?
Replies from: toonalfrink, Chris_Leong
↑ comment by toonalfrink ·
2018-04-23T09:33:00.849Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Re animalistic self vs spiritual self: I'm confused too. I'd just label them as two subagents, but then why call one spiritual.
Perhaps you could say that spirituality is about giving the spiritual subagent more space by aligning other subagents with it.
Maybe the spiritual self is not a subagent but the agent, constituting of a subset of your subagents that are already aligned.
There was a study where people that recited religious memes had a lot more willpower (they held their hands in ice water much longer).Replies from: Elo
↑ comment by Elo ·
2018-04-23T20:35:06.965Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I once participated in an ice water test. I maxxed out on the timer because I felt like it. Thinking that's a willpower test is really not great science, "put your hand in the ice bucket for as long as you like", "what's the max time?" it really wasn't an effective measure and I hope I didn't break their experiment.
Specifically this is about encouraging people to choose the spiritual pull over the animalistic pull. Not alignment but rather choice.
Although I personally suspect that your options for congruence include picking one, picking the other or trying to find alignment.
↑ comment by Chris_Leong ·
2018-04-23T02:16:54.767Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
"There's a discussion in Judaism where they talk about the animalistic self and the spiritual self" - That sounds roughly like the id and the super-ego in Freudian terms (though he also includes an ego)