The main path to nothingness is via the edict by Benedictus Spinoza, a Jewish philosopher in Amsterdam who had been excommunicated by his own community, had lost his job and was grappling with his own inner conflicts in his desperate attempts to understand God and his alleged relationship with people. So Spinoza was in a very bad place, and he said the only way to survive is to never judge, to just try to understand. Said Intellighe was his motto in life.
Spinoza is considered one of the main philosophers, one of the greatest philosophers to have ever lived.
And today we are going to discuss the next step in attaining nothingness, and we're going to do this via two texts.
One text was written by a woman pretending to be a science fiction writer, a very interesting story. She and her husband committed suicide, they committed suicide, once they had both contracted terminal disease.
But prior to this tragic event, she had contributed greatly to science fiction. She had won numerous awards, like dozens of awards and such. Everyone thought she was a man, but actually she was a woman. Her real name was Alice Sheldon, and her name was James Tiptree.
And I'm going to read to you a section, segment from a collection of posthumous collection of her writings titled Meet Me at Infinity.
But before that, I'm going to read to you a segment from one of the most important books ever published in psychology, written by Oliver Zuck.
And even before that, I'm going to make a comment which may lead us inexorably to these two texts.
I mentioned Spinoza and his motto, try to only understand, don't judge. I recommend to you to use what we call chair work.
Chair work is a technique in psychology.
Try to put yourself in other people's shoes. Try to do that, even, and especially, if these people hurt you, disrespected you, humiliated you, damaged you, attacked you, harmed you, in any way, shape or form.
Chair work simply means putting yourself in an empty chair and then pretending to be someone else.
You pretend to be your mother, you pretend to be your father, you pretend to be someone who was very significant in your life and has passed away. You pretend to talk to your peers, influencers, and so on.
So chair work is a very, very flexible and transient technique.
And I suggest to you to use this technique as a way to review your life, your priorities, your inner dialogue, and to obtain proper attribution.
Take a segment of your inner dialogue. For example, I am a victim and he is an abuser. That's a narrative that keeps playing in your mind if you are prone to victimhood, to a victimhood stance.
So put yourself, think of yourself, put yourself in the empty chair and think of yourself as the abuser.
What could have been his motivation? Could he have acted out of fear as a way to reduce his anxiety?
Don't justify the abuse. Chair work is not about justifying anything. It's not about accepting unacceptable behavior. It's not about invalidating your experience. It's not about breaching your boundaries. It's not about negating and vitiating your identity who you are. It's not about countermending or undermining your values.
Chair work is about enhancing your capacity to empathize, enhancing your understanding that everyone abuses and victims, good people and bad people. Everyone has a common shared template.
And if you tap into this template via the chair work, it's a great comfort.
You also come to understand when you tap into this template, you come to understand that a lot of what you had thought, a lot of what you had seen, a lot of what you had experienced was a confabulation, was reframing, recasting, false memories, wrong, an attempt to defend and to justify.
You will discover, for example, that you engage consistently in splitting. We all do. Splitting is an infantile primitive defense mechanism where we divide the world into black and white, good and bad, evil and good.
We tend to think of the world in terms of a morality play. We have these inculcated beliefs, stories really, fairy tales of good prevailing over evil or even of the very existence of good and evil.
Life, true life, especially human psychology, the human psyche, the soul, if you wish, they're much more complex. They're much more nuanced. They're much more in shades of gray and you need to relax your attitude.
You need to merge in. You need to accept. You need to integrate yourself or reintegrate yourself with reality and with life and not by classifying, by categorizing, by judging, by opinionating, not by being.
We identify, especially in Western civilization, we identify being as separating in individual separation, individuation. It's supposed to be a phase in the growth, the personal growth and development of every human being.
If we fail to separate an individual, we are failures, psychological failures, we are mature, we're children.
You need to overcome this highly Western and very new perception of personality, of an atom, atomization. There's an atomization of everything. There's atomization in physics. There's atomization in chemistry. We atomize the universe.
We tend to break everything to pieces, to elements, to elementary particles. And we try to do this with human psychology as well.
And that impacts adversely and very badly on our ability to relate to other people and to heal because there's only one form of healing relating to other people.
If you fail to relate to other people, you never heal. Nothingness. Nothingness is not about vanishing, not about disappearing. On the very contrary, nothingness is about reasserting your self, not the self that you were given by society via the process of socialization, not the self that your parents told you you should have, not the self that was imposed on you by peers, peer pressure, peer group, groupthink, conformity or else, not the self that is the outcome of fear and anxiety about being shunned or excommunicated or ostracized if you don't, not the negative fear, not the negative identity by contradiction to others, by comparison to others, not relative positioning. Nothing within context. Nothingness is about asserting your self.
But how would you know what is you and what is not you? How would you know what is locally produced and what is being imported from China? How would you know where you stop and the world starts? How would you establish healthy boundaries via chairwork?
Chairwork by ironically, paradoxically, chairwork by allowing you to be someone else makes it much clearer to you who you are.
It is only by being able to shape shift and transform and become everyone, including your abuser, including people you hate, that mysteriously your identity merges, purified, unadulterated, clear as the day.
And this is precisely what the old sages were advising. They said, love thy neighbor as you love yourself. They didn't mean be an idiot. They didn't, their message was not be an idiot. Their message was if you love your neighbor as you love yourself, you will finally realize what and who is your self.
If I become my abuser for 10 minutes and then exit, become an exit, and these are the two vectors, becoming and exiting. If I become my abuser for 10 minutes by the time I exit his identity, I exit his mind, I know damn well where he ends and I begin. Who is he and who I'm not?
It is not atomization, but on the contrary, becoming crystal clear about your identity via integration, via empathy.
Let me try to give you a metaphor. It's like Indra's net. Indra's net has many beads. When you pick up one bead, the whole net moves. Every bead moves the whole net. It's like the butterfly effect. A butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo. There's a hurricane or tornado in Florida. Everything is interconnected, catastrophe theory, chaos theory. This is systems theory. These are well established disciplines in mathematics and physics, not in the non-sciences. It's a scientific fact.
So by integrating yourself, you become such a bead. You become a node in the network.
But being a node in a network, being a bead in Indra's net does not mean that you are indistinguishable and does not disempower you. You define your identity as a bead or as a node, and it empowers you to the maximum because when you lift yourself, you lift the entire world. You lift Indra's net. You change the network. Change the network by becoming the network.
Chairwork allows you to step into other people's being, existence, separateness, distinguishability, core identity. And by being other people for a while, you become a better you, a more defined you, more demarcated you, more delineated you.
Chairwork. Go online. Read about it.
This is the next step.
And now, as promised, I would like to start by reading you a segment, a series of segments from a book that had transformed my life.
The book is titled The Man Whom He Stook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales. It was written by the late lamented Oliver Sacks, a psychiatrist, psychologist and psychiatrist.
And these segments describe people with Kossakoff Syndrome.
Kossakoff Syndrome is the end result of unbridled alcoholism, when the brain is damaged to the point that it cannot form continuous memories and therefore has no continuous identity.
And so these people are trying to compensate for their lack of identity. They live in a state of vanishing, not nothingness, vanishing.
And listen how they are trying to recreate their identity and their continuity by generating confabulated memories.
It tells you a lot. It tells you a lot about the connection, the inevitable inexorable, ineluctable connection between memory, identity, continuity and ultimately nothingness.
I will not be explicit in analyzing these two texts because I will do this in the next video.
But I want you to listen very carefully.
Oliver Sacks. To be ourselves, we must have ourselves, possess, if need be, repossess our life stories. We must recollect ourselves, recollect the inner drama, the narrative of ourselves.
A man needs such a narrative, a continuous inner narrative to maintain his identity, his self. The narrative need, perhaps, is the clue to Mr. Thompson's desperate tale telling his verbosity.
Mr. Thompson in the book has Korsakov Syndrome, the damage to the brain from alcoholism. Deprived of continuity, of a quiet, continuous inner narrative, Mr. Thompson is driven to a sort of narrational frenzy, hence his ceaseless tales, his confabulations, his mythomania, unable to maintain a genuine narrative or continuity, unable to maintain a genuine inner world. Mr. Thompson is driven to the proliferation of pseudo-narratives, in a pseudo-continuity, pseudo-worlds, people by pseudo-people, phantoms.
What is it like for Mr. Thompson?
This is chair work. What is it like for Mr. Thompson? Superficially, Mr. Thompson comes over as an ebullient comic. People say he is a riot, and there is much that is farcical in such a situation which might form the basis of a comic novel. It is comic, but not just comic. It is terrible as well.
For here is a man who, in some sense, is desperate, in a frenzy.
The world keeps disappearing, losing meaning, vanishing, and he must seek meaning, make meaning in a desperate way, continually inventing, throwing bridges of meaning over abysses of meaninglessness, the chaos that yawns continually beneath him.
But does Mr. Thompson himself know this? Does he feel this?
After finding him a riot, a riot, loads of fun, people are disquieted. They are even terrified by something in him.
They say he never stops. He is like a man in a race, a man trying to catch something which always eludes him.
And indeed, Mr. Thompson can never stop running, for the bridge in memory, in existence, in meaning, is never healed, but has to be bridged, has to be patched every second. And the bridges, the patches, for all their brilliance, fail to work because they are confabulations, fictions, which cannot do service or reality, while also failing to correspond with reality.
It is very reminiscent of our narcissism.
Does Mr. Thompson feel this? Or again, what is his feeling of reality? Is he in a torment all the while, the torment of a man lost in unreality, struggling to rescue himself but sinking himself by ceaseless inventions, illusions, themselves quite unreal?
It is certain that he is not at ease. There is a tense, taut look on his face all the while, as of a man under ceaseless inner pressure, and occasionally, not too often, or masked if present, a look of open, naked, pathetic bewilderment.
What saves Mr. Thompson in a sense, and in another sense, damns him, is the forced or defensive superficiality of his life, the way in which it is in effect reduced to a surface.
Brilliant, shimmering, iridescent, ever-changing, but for all that, a surface, a mass of illusions, a delirium without depth, and with this, no feeling that he has lost feeling, for the feeling he has lost, no feeling that he has lost the depth, that unfathomable, mysterious, myriad-level depth which somehow defines identity or reality, and this strikes everyone who has been in contact with him for any time, and under his fluency, even his frenzy, there is a strange load of feeling, that feeling or judgment which distinguishes between real and unreal, true and untrue, important and trivial, relevant or irrelevant, though in his case, one cannot speak of lies, only of no truth.
What comes out torrential in his ceaseless confabulation has finally a peculiar quality of indifference, as if it didn't really matter what he said, or what anyone else did or said, as if nothing really mattered anymore.
There is another Cossack of patient, his name is William. Sacks describes him.
But for William, with his brilliant brassy surface, the unending joke which he substitutes for the world, which if it covers over a desperation is a desperation he does not feel.
For William, with his manifest indifference to relation and reality caught in an unending verbosity, there may be nothing redeeming at all. His confabulations, his apparitions, his frantic search for meanings being the ultimate barrier to any meaning.
Paradoxically then, William's greatest gift for confabulation, which has been called out to leap continually over the ever-opening abyss of amnesia, William's greatest gift of confabulation is also his damnation.
If only he could be quiet, one feels, quiet for an instant, if only he could stop this ceaseless chatter and jabber, if only he could relinquish the deceiving surface of illusions, then, ah then, reality might seep in. Something genuine, something deep, something true, something felt could enter his soul.
For it is not memory which is the final existential casualty here, although his memory is only devastating. It is not memory only which has been so altered in him, but some ultimate capacity for feeling which is gone.
And this is the sense in which he is de-souled.
Our efforts to reconnect, William, all fail, even increase his confabulatory pressure, but when we abdicate our efforts, we let him be.
He sometimes wanders out into the quiet and undemanding garden which surrounds the home. And there, in the garden's quietness, he recovers his own quiet.
The presence of others, other people, excite and rattle him, force him into an endless frenzy of social chatter, a veritable delirium of identity making and seeking. The presence of plants, a quiet garden, the non-human order, making no human demands upon him, allow this identity delirium to relax, to subside.
And by their quiet, non-human self-sufficiency and completeness, they allow him a rare quietness and self-sufficiency of his own by offering a deep, wordless communion with nature itself.
And with this, the restored sense of being in the world, being real. All this offering is beneath or beyond all merely human identities and relations. This was Oliver Sacks, the book that drove me to transition from physics and economics into psychology.
And now I would like to read to you a long section from this book Meet Me at Infinity by James Tiptree.
James Tiptree was actually a woman, Elis Shandor, I told you in the beginning. She talks about death.
Some of us go gentle into the good night, the sheep, the golden yearsies, stoic, flat, puzzled voices, interminably pointing out the missing limbs, the hospital horrors. The Winnebago trailers trundling at 35 miles per hour, the wallet full of grandchildren, the gardens, the handicrafts, the pills, the comfy void.
Or you have the fighters. You see them, the ones that do get back in shape, the ones that play tennis through their 40s, they marry new women in their 50s and they crack up their planes in their 60s and they go on talk shows in their 70s and they marry teenagers in their 80s. Think young, rage, rage against the failing of the night, Dean Martin.
Only they talk about it. Oh God, do they talk about it. Ever hear a 20-year-old boast about playing three sets of tennis? At 50, they do. They make whooshing backhand gestures and tell about the old serve. I won't even go into their sex talk bag. That's damn all they talk about, the ones that think young, pathetic.
Man, there has to be another way. Of course there is one other way.
The people so interested in something outside themselves that they don't even notice. The scythe cutting them. I just saw an old plant hybridizer. His legs won't work. His retinas are falling out. So he can only see a pinhole.
But he crawls, crawls over 15 acres of seedling rows, weeding and feeding and squinting at the new ones every year and breeding more.
Some biologists and artists are like that. Tiptree Sr. was sort of like that too. Maybe I will be like that.
But I think there's another way still. I don't know exactly what it could be, but years ago I got a hint out of Gandhi's autobiography.
The idea of stages beyond stages of life. New, interesting stages. The first ones aren't new, of course. Youth, the gonad time, the exploding time. Fucking and loving and running around experiencing the world and rebellious theories may be brilliant in science.
Next comes full body middle age, full energy drive, adrenaline, skills, strong loving but wary ego. Building time, building family, movements, anything. Money power status time. Christ was 32, remember?
The thrill of ICANN, full involvement, goes on for a while. Nothing new yet.
But the next stage, that's new. In our culture there is no next stage, no map, no idea beyond holding on, repeating what you did.
I have a friend in his 70s starting his fourth family.
But suppose there is a last metamorphosis. Not holding on, letting go. Migrating inside yourself, inside yourself, into some last power center where you never really lived before. Changing forward one last time.
You can, you know? Even if your first stages came to nothing, even if sex was a puddle and status was a joke, that's all over now. Time to move on.
Well, I don't really know how, but here's what I think.
Turn in your buttons. Say goodbye. Take up the holy beggar's bowel and go out, free, alone, literally or mentally. Go out in search of something. Call it the bow tree. Call it the invisible landscape of reality or wisdom or union with the cosmos or yourself, whatever.
Because you're different, you know? When you're old enough, you really are free. Your energy is not only less, it is different.
It's in, if you've done it right, it's in a different place. Your last, hottest organ.
That old force that drove your gonads first, that spread out to power your muscles and hands and appetite and will. Where is the last fortress of this force in your brain?
In your brain.
Let me explain.
Your brain really is hot, you know? The hot under the belt is nothing, tepid, tepid, compared to the hot between your ears.
Your brain uses 24% of your oxygen in every breath. And it's working every minute, changing, packing, adding, cramming itself full.
You've been using it, of course, nobody drives his brain faster than an 18-year-old mathematician. But it's an empty brain. That's why the geniuses of the empty sciences are so young. They can twist that thin brain into fantastic patterns.
Physics, for example, requires complex patterns of relatively few data. Other sciences require more data, but the patterns get simpler. And that's why good anthropology and psychology tends to come from older people, like me.
At 40, the brain is getting packed with data, but it's still a driven brain. It's harnessed to life's goals, winning a campaign, running a farm. By the time you get 60, I think, which is my age, by the way, I'm 60. By the time you get 60, the brain is a place of incredible resonances. It's packed full of life, histories, processes, patterns, half glimpse analogies between myriad levels, a ballad crystal world or a crystal world place.
One reason old people reply slowly is because every word and every cue wakes a thousand references.
What if you could free that? What if you could open it? Let go of ego and status. Let everything go. Smell the wind. Fill with your dimming senses for what's out there growing. Let your resonances merge and play and come back changed, telling you new things.
Maybe you could find a way to grow, to change once more, this time inside, even if the outside of you is saying what what and your teeth smell.
But to do it, you have to get ready years ahead. Get ready to let go. Get ready to migrate in and up into your strongest keep, your last window out. Pack for your magic terminal trip. Pack your brain. Ready it.
Fear no truth. Load up like a river steamboat for the big last race.
When you go down river, burning it all up, not caring, throwing in the furniture, the cabin, the decks, right down to the waterline, caring only for that fire carrying you where you've never been before.
Maybe, somehow, one could.
July 8th, 1973.