Religion for the Nonreligious

This post was originally published in late 2014, but it’s probably the post I think about the most today. And it’s highly relevant to the beast of a post I’m working on now (like it is for many other posts).

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The mind…can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven. ― John Milton

The mind is certainly its own cosmos. — Alan Lightman

You go to school, study hard, get a degree, and you’re pleased with yourself. But are you wiser?

You get a job, achieve things at the job, gain responsibility, get paid more, move to a better company, gain even more responsibility, get paid even more, rent an apartment with a parking spot, stop doing your own laundry, and you buy one of those $9 juices where the stuff settles down to the bottom. But are you happier?

You do all kinds of life things—you buy groceries, read articles, get haircuts, chew things, take out the trash, buy a car, brush your teeth, shit, sneeze, shave, stretch, get drunk, put salt on things, have sex with someone, charge your laptop, jog, empty the dishwasher, walk the dog, buy a couch, close the curtains, button your shirt, wash your hands, zip your bag, set your alarm, fix your hair, order lunch, act friendly to someone, watch a movie, drink apple juice, and put a new paper towel roll on the thing.

But as you do these things day after day and year after year, are you improving as a human in a meaningful way?

In the last post, I described the way my own path had led me to be an atheist—but how in my satisfaction with being proudly nonreligious, I never gave serious thought to an active approach to internal improvement—hindering my own evolution in the process.

This wasn’t just my own naiveté at work. Society at large focuses on shallow things, so it doesn’t stress the need to take real growth seriously. The major institutions in the spiritual arena—religions—tend to focus on divinity over people, making salvation the end goal instead of self-improvement. The industries that do often focus on the human condition—philosophy, psychology, art, literature, self-help, etc.—lie more on the periphery, with their work often fragmented from each other. All of this sets up a world that makes it hard to treat internal growth as anything other than a hobby, an extra-curricular, icing on the life cake.

Considering that the human mind is an ocean of complexity that creates every part of our reality, working on what’s going on in there seems like it should be a more serious priority. In the same way a growing business relies on a clear mission with a well thought-out strategy and measurable metrics, a growing human needs a plan—if we want to meaningfully improve, we need to define a goal, understand how to get there, become aware of obstacles in the way, and have a strategy to get past them.

When I dove into this topic, I thought about my own situation and whether I was improving. The efforts were there—apparent in many of this blog’s post topics—but I had no growth model, no real plan, no clear mission. Just kind of haphazard attempts at self-improvement in one area or another, whenever I happened to feel like it. So I’ve attempted to consolidate my scattered efforts, philosophies, and strategies into a single framework—something solid I can hold onto in the future—and I’m gonna use this post to do a deep dive into it.

So settle in, grab some coffee, and get your brain out and onto the table in front of you—you’ll want to have it there to reference as we explore what a weird, complicated object it is.

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The Goal

Wisdom. More on that later.

How Do We Get to the Goal?

By being aware of the truth. When I say “the truth,” I’m not being one of those annoying people who says the word truth to mean some amorphous, mystical thing—I’m just referring to the actual facts of reality. The truth is a combination of what we know and what we don’t know—and gaining and maintaining awareness of both sides of this reality is the key to being wise.

Easy, right? We don’t have to know more than we know, we only have to be aware of what we know and what we don’t know. Truth is in plain sight, written on the whiteboard—we just have to look at the board and reflect upon it. There’s just this one thing—

What’s in Our Way?

The fog.

To understand the fog, let’s first be clear that we’re not here:

Evolution

We’re here:

Evolution Plus

And this isn’t the situation:

consciousness binary

This is:

consciousness spectrum

This is a really hard concept for humans to absorb, but it’s the starting place for growth. Declaring ourselves “conscious” allows us to call it a day and stop thinking about it. I like to think of it as a consciousness staircase:

big staircase

An ant is more conscious than a bacterium, a chicken more than an ant, a monkey more than a chicken, and a human more than a monkey. But what’s above us?

A) Definitely something, and B) Nothing we can understand better than a monkey can understand our world and how we think.

There’s no reason to think the staircase doesn’t extend upwards forever. The red alien a few steps above us on the staircase would see human consciousness the same way we see that of an orangutan—they might think we’re pretty impressive for an animal, but that of course we don’t actually begin to understand anything. Our most brilliant scientist would be outmatched by one of their toddlers.

To the green alien up there higher on the staircase, the red alien might seem as intelligent and conscious as a chicken seems to us. And when the green alien looks at us, it sees the simplest little pre-programmed ants.

We can’t conceive of what life higher on the staircase would be like, but absorbing the fact that higher stairs exist and trying to view ourselves from the perspective of one of those steps is the key mindset we need to be in for this exercise.

For now, let’s ignore those much higher steps and just focus on the step right above us—that light green step. A species on that step might think of us like we think of a three-year-old child—emerging into consciousness through a blur of simplicity and naiveté. Let’s imagine that a representative from that species was sent to observe humans and report back to his home planet about them—what would he think of the way we thought and behaved? What about us would impress him? What would make him cringe?

I think he’d very quickly see a conflict going on in the human mind. On one hand, all of those steps on the staircase below the human are where we grew from. Hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary adaptations geared toward animal survival in a rough world are very much rooted in our DNA, and the primitive impulses in us have birthed a bunch of low-grade qualities—fear, pettiness, jealousy, greed, instant-gratification, etc. Those qualities are the remnants of our animal past and still a prominent part of our brains, creating a zoo of small-minded emotions and motivations in our heads:

normal animal brain

But over the past six million years, our evolutionary line has experienced a rapid growth in consciousness and the incredible ability to reason in a way no other species on Earth can. We’ve taken a big step up the consciousness staircase, very quickly—let’s call this burgeoning element of higher consciousness our Higher Being.

Higher Being

The Higher Being is brilliant, big-thinking, and totally rational. But on the grand timescale, he’s a very new resident in our heads, while the primal animal forces are ancient, and their coexistence in the human mind makes it a strange place:

animal + higher being

So it’s not that a human is the Higher Being and the Higher Being is three years old—it’s that a human is the combination of the Higher Being and the low-level animals, and they blend into the three-year-old that we are. The Higher Being alone would be a more advanced species, and the animals alone would be one far more primitive, and it’s their particular coexistence that makes us distinctly human.

As humans evolved and the Higher Being began to wake up, he looked around your brain and found himself in an odd and unfamiliar jungle full of powerful primitive creatures that didn’t understand who or what he was. His mission was to give you clarity and high-level thought, but with animals tramping around his work environment, it wasn’t an easy job. And things were about to get much worse. Human evolution continued to make the Higher Being more and more sentient, until one day, he realized something shocking:

WE’RE GOING TO DIE

It marked the first time any species on planet Earth was conscious enough to understand that fact, and it threw all of those animals in the brain—who were not built to handle that kind of information—into a complete frenzy, sending the whole ecosystem into chaos:

chaotic brain

The animals had never experienced this kind of fear before, and their freakout about this—one that continues today—was the last thing the Higher Being needed as he was trying to grow and learn and make decisions for us.

The adrenaline-charged animals romping around our brain can take over our mind, clouding our thoughts, judgment, sense of self, and understanding of the world. The collective force of the animals is what I call “the fog.” The more the animals are running the show and making us deaf and blind to the thoughts and insights of the Higher Being, the thicker the fog is around our head, often so thick we can only see a few inches in front of our face:

fog head

Let’s think back to our goal above and our path to it—being aware of the truth. The Higher Being can see the truth just fine in almost any situation. But when the fog is thick around us, blocking our eyes and ears and coating our brain, we have no access to the Higher Being or his insight. This is why being continually aware of the truth is so hard—we’re too lost in the fog to see it or think about it.

And when the alien representative is finished observing us and heads back to his home planet, I think this would be his sum-up of our problems:

The battle of the Higher Being against the animals—of trying to see through the fog to clarity—is the core internal human struggle. 

This struggle in our heads takes place on many fronts. We’ve examined a few of them here: the Higher Being (in his role as the Rational Decision Maker) fighting the Instant Gratification Monkey; the Higher Being (in the role of the Authentic Voice) battling against the overwhelmingly scared Social Survival Mammoth; the Higher Being’s message that life is just a bunch of Todays getting lost in the blinding light of fog-based yearning for better tomorrows. Those are all part of the same core conflict between our primal past and our enlightened future.

The shittiest thing about the fog is that when you’re in the fog, it blocks your vision so you can’t see that you’re in the fog. It’s when the fog is thickest that you’re the least aware that it’s there at all—it makes you unconscious. Being aware that the fog exists and learning how to recognize it is the key first step to rising up in consciousness and becoming a wiser person.

So we’ve established that our goal is wisdom, that to get there we need to become as aware as possible of the truth, and that the main thing standing in our way is the fog. Let’s zoom in on the battlefield to look at why “being aware of the truth” is so important and how we can overcome the fog to get there:

The Battlefield

No matter how hard we tried, it would be impossible for humans to access that light green step one above us on the consciousness staircase. Our advanced capability—the Higher Being—just isn’t there yet. Maybe in a million years or two. For now, the only place this battle can happen is on the one step where we live, so that’s where we’re going to zoom in. We need to focus on the mini spectrum of consciousness within our step, which we can do by breaking our step down into four substeps:

substeps

Climbing this mini consciousness staircase is the road to truth, the way to wisdom, my personal mission for growth, and a bunch of other cliché statements I never thought I’d hear myself say. We just have to understand the game and work hard to get good at it.

Let’s look at each step to try to understand the challenges we’re dealing with and how we can make progress:

Step 1: Our Lives in the Fog

Step 1 is the lowest step, the foggiest step, and unfortunately, for most of us it’s our default level of existence. On Step 1, the fog is all up in our shit, thick and close and clogging our senses, leaving us going through life unconscious. Down here, the thoughts, values, and priorities of the Higher Being are completely lost in the blinding fog and the deafening roaring, tweeting, honking, howling, and squawking of the animals in our heads. This makes us 1) small-minded, 2) short-sighted, and 3) stupid. Let’s discuss each of these:

1) On Step 1, you’re terribly small-minded because the animals are running the show.

When I look at the wide range of motivating emotions that humans experience, I don’t see them as a scattered range, but rather falling into two distinct bins: the high-minded, love-based, advanced emotions of the Higher Being, and the small-minded, fear-based, primitive emotions of our brain animals.

And on Step 1, we’re completely intoxicated by the animal emotions as they roar at us through the dense fog.

animals in fog

This is what makes us petty and jealous and what makes us so thoroughly enjoy the misfortune of others. It’s what makes us scared, anxious, and insecure. It’s why we’re self-absorbed and narcissistic; vain and greedy; narrow-minded and judgmental; cold, callous, and even cruel. And only on Step 1 do we feel that primitive “us versus them” tribalism that makes us hate people different than us.

You can find most of these same emotions in a clan of capuchin monkeys—and that makes sense, because at their core, these emotions can be boiled down to the two keys of animal survival: self-preservation and the need to reproduce.

Step 1 emotions are brutish and powerful and grab you by the collar, and when they’re upon you, the Higher Being and his high-minded, love-based emotions are shoved into the sewer.

2) On Step 1, you’re short-sighted, because the fog is six inches in front of your face, preventing you from seeing the big picture.

The fog explains all kinds of totally illogical and embarrassingly short-sighted human behavior.

Why else would anyone ever take a grandparent or parent for granted while they’re around, seeing them only occasionally, opening up to them only rarely, and asking them barely any questions—even though after they die, you can only think about how amazing they were and how you can’t believe you didn’t relish the opportunity to enjoy your relationship with them and get to know them better when they were around?

Why else would people brag so much, even though if they could see the big picture, it would be obvious that everyone finds out about the good things in your life eventually either way—and that you always serve yourself way more by being modest?

Why else would someone do the bare minimum at work, cut corners on work projects, and be dishonest about their efforts—when anyone looking at the big picture would know that in a work environment, the truth about someone’s work habits eventually becomes completely apparent to both bosses and colleagues, and you’re never really fooling anyone? Why would someone insist on making sure everyone knows when they did something valuable for the company—when it should be obvious that acting that way is transparent and makes it seem like you’re working hard just for the credit, while just doing things well and having one of those things happen to be noticed does much more for your long term reputation and level of respect at the company?

If not for thick fog, why would anyone ever pinch pennies over a restaurant bill or keep an unpleasantly-rigid scorecard of who paid for what on a trip, when everyone reading this could right now give each of their friends a quick and accurate 1-10 rating on the cheap-to-generous (or selfish-to-considerate) scale, and the few hundred bucks you save over time by being on the cheap end of the scale is hardly worth it considering how much more likable and respectable it is to be generous?

What other explanation is there for the utterly inexplicable decision by so many famous men in positions of power to bring down the career and marriage they spent their lives building by having an affair?

And why would anyone bend and loosen their integrity for tiny insignificant gains when integrity affects your long-term self-esteem and tiny insignificant gains affect nothing in the long term?

How else could you explain the decision by so many people to let the fear of what others might think dictate the way they live, when if they could see clearly they’d realize that A) that’s a terrible reason to do or not do something, and B) no one’s really thinking about you anyway—they’re buried in their own lives.

And then there are all the times when someone’s opaque blinders keep them in the wrong relationship, job, city, apartment, friendship, etc. for years, sometimes decades, only for them to finally make a change and say “I can’t believe I didn’t do this earlier,” or “I can’t believe I couldn’t see how wrong that was for me.” They should absolutely believe it, because that’s the power of the fog.

3) On Step 1, you’re very, very stupid.

One way this stupidity shows up is in us making the same obvious mistakes over and over and over again.1

The most glaring example is the way the fog convinces us, time after time after time, that certain things will make us happy that in reality absolutely don’t. The fog lines up a row of carrots, tells us that they’re the key to happiness, and tells us to forget today’s happiness in favor of directing all of our hope to all the happiness the future will hold because we’re gonna get those carrots.

And even though the fog has proven again and again that it has no idea how human happiness works—even though we’ve had so many experiences finally getting a carrot and feeling a ton of temporary happiness, only to watch that happiness fade right back down to our default level a few days later—we continue to fall for the trick.

It’s like hiring a nutritionist to help you with your exhaustion, and they tell you that the key is to drink an espresso shot anytime you’re tired. So you’d try it and think the nutritionist was a genius until an hour later when it dropped you like an anvil back into exhaustion. You go back to the nutritionist, who gives you the same advice, so you try it again and the same thing happens. That would probably be it right? You’d fire the nutritionist. Right? So why are we so gullible when it comes to the fog’s advice on happiness and fulfillment?

The fog is also much more harmful than the nutritionist because not only does it give us terrible advice—but the fog itself is the source of unhappiness. The only real solution to exhaustion is to sleep, and the only real way to improve happiness in a lasting way is to make progress in the battle against the fog.

There’s a concept in psychology called The Hedonic Treadmill, which suggests that humans have a stagnant default happiness level and when something good or bad happens, after an initial change in happiness, we always return to that default level. And on Step 1, this is completely true of course, given that trying to become permanently happier while in the fog is like trying to dry your body off while standing under the shower with the water running.

But I refuse to believe the same species that builds skyscrapers, writes symphonies, flies to the moon, and understands what a Higgs boson is is incapable of getting off the treadmill and actually improving in a meaningful way.

I think the way to do it is by learning to climb this consciousness staircase to spend more of our time on Steps 2, 3, and 4, and less of it mired unconsciously in the fog.

Step 2: Thinning the Fog to Reveal Context

Humans can do something amazing that no other creature on Earth can do—they can imagine. If you show an animal a tree, they see a tree. Only a human can imagine the acorn that sunk into the ground 40 years earlier, the small flimsy stalk it was at three years old, how stark the tree must look when it’s winter, and the eventual dead tree lying horizontally in that same place.

This is the magic of the Higher Being in our heads.

On the other hand, the animals in your head, like their real world relatives, can only see a tree, and when they see one, they react instantly to it based on their primitive needs. When you’re on Step 1, your unconscious animal-run state doesn’t even remember that the Higher Being exists, and his genius abilities go to waste.

Step 2 is all about thinning out the fog enough to bring the Higher Being’s thoughts and abilities into your consciousness, allowing you to see behind and around the things that happen in life. Step 2 is about bringing context into your awareness, which reveals a far deeper and more nuanced version of the truth.

There are plenty of activities or undertakings that can help thin out your fog. To name three:

1) Learning more about the world through education, travel, and life experience—as your perspective broadens, you can see a clearer and more accurate version of the truth.

2) Active reflection. This is what a journal can help with, or therapy, which is basically examining your own brain with the help of a fog expert. Sometimes a hypothetical question can be used as “fog goggles,” allowing you to see something clearly through the fog—questions like, “What would I do if money were no object?” or “How would I advise someone else on this?” or “Will I regret not having done this when I’m 80?” These questions are a way to ask your Higher Being’s opinion on something without the animals realizing what’s going on, so they’ll stay calm and the Higher Being can actually talk—like when parents spell out a word in front of their four-year-old when they don’t want him to know what they’re saying.2

3) Meditation, exercise, yoga, etc.—activities that help quiet the brain’s unconscious chatter, i.e. allowing the fog to settle.

But the easiest and most effective way to thin out the fog is simply to be aware of it. By knowing that fog exists, understanding what it is and the different forms it takes, and learning to recognize when you’re in it, you hinder its ability to run your life. You can’t get to Step 2 if you don’t know when you’re on Step 1.

The way to move onto Step 2 is by remembering to stay aware of the context behind and around what you see, what you come across, and the decisions you make. That’s it—remaining cognizant of the fog and remembering to look at the whole context keeps you conscious, aware of reality, and as you’ll see, makes you a much better version of yourself than you are on Step 1. Some examples—

Here’s what a rude cashier looks like on Step 1 vs. Step 2:

cashier

Here’s what gratitude looks like:

gratitude

Something good happening:

good thing

Something bad happening:

bad thing

That phenomenon where everything suddenly seems horrible late at night in bed:

late night

A flat tire:

flat tire

Long-term consequences:

consequences

Looking at context makes us aware how much we actually know about most situations (as well as what we don’t know, like what the cashier’s day was like so far), and it reminds us of the complexity and nuance of people, life, and situations. When we’re on Step 2, this broader scope and increased clarity makes us feel calmer and less fearful of things that aren’t actually scary, and the animals—who gain their strength from fear and thrive off of unconsciousness—suddenly just look kind of ridiculous:

animals clump

When the small-minded animal emotions are less in our face, the more advanced emotions of the Higher Being—love, compassion, humility, empathy, etc.—begin to light up.

The good news is there’s no learning required to be on Step 2—your Higher Being already knows the context around all of these life situations. It doesn’t take hard work, and no additional information or expertise is needed—you only have to consciously think about being on Step 2 instead of Step 1 and you’re there. You’re probably there right now just by reading this.

The bad news is that it’s extremely hard to stay on Step 2 for long. The Catch-22 here is that it’s not easy to stay conscious of the fog because the fog makes you unconscious.

That’s the first challenge at hand. You can’t get rid of the fog, and you can’t always keep it thin, but you can get better at noticing when it’s thick and develop effective strategies for thinning it out whenever you consciously focus on it. If you’re evolving successfully, as you get older, you should be spending more and more time on Step 2 and less and less on Step 1.

Step 3: Shocking Reality

I . . . a universe of atoms . . . an atom in the universe. —Richard Feynman

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Step 3 is when things start to get weird. Even on the more enlightened Step 2, we kind of think we’re here:

happy earth land

As delightful as that is, it’s a complete delusion. We live our days as if we’re just here on this green and brown land with our blue sky and our chipmunks and our caterpillars. But this is actually what’s happening:

Little Earth

But even more actually, this is happening:

IDL TIFF file

We also tend to kind of think this is the situation:

life timeline

When really, it’s this:

long timeline

You might even think you’re a thing. Do you?

Thing

No you’re a ton of these:

atom

This is the next iteration of truth on our little staircase, and our brains can’t really handle it. Asking a human to internalize the vastness of space or the eternity of time or the tininess of atoms is like asking a dog to stand up on its hind legs—you can do it if you focus, but it’s a strain and you can’t hold it for very long.3

You can think about the facts anytime—The Big Bang was 13.8 billion years ago, which is about 130,000 times longer than humans have existed; if the sun were a ping pong ball in New York, the closest star to us would be a ping pong ball in Atlanta; the Milky Way is so big that if you made a scale model of it that was the size of the US, you would still need a microscope to see the sun; atoms are so small that there are about as many atoms in one grain of salt as there are grains of sand on all the beaches on Earth. But once in a while, when you deeply reflect on one of these facts, or when you’re in the right late night conversation with the right person, or when you’re staring at the stars, or when you think too hard about what death actually means—you have a Whoa moment.

A true Whoa moment is hard to come by and even harder to maintain for very long, like our dog’s standing difficulties. Thinking about this level of reality is like looking at an amazing photo of the Grand Canyon; a Whoa moment is like being at the Grand Canyon—the two experiences are similar but somehow vastly different. Facts can be fascinating, but only in a Whoa moment does your brain actually wrap itself around true reality. In a Whoa moment, your brain for a second transcends what it’s been built to do and offers you a brief glimpse into the astonishing truth of our existence. And a Whoa moment is how you get to Step 3.

I love Whoa moments. They make me feel some intense combination of awe, elation, sadness, and wonder. More than anything, they make me feel ridiculously, profoundly humble—and that level of humility does weird things to a person. In those moments, all those words religious people use—awe, worship, miracle, eternal connection—make perfect sense. I want to get on my knees and surrender. This is when I feel spiritual.

And in those fleeting moments, there is no fog—my Higher Being is in full flow and can see everything in perfect clarity. The normally-complicated world of morality is suddenly crystal clear, because the only fathomable emotions on Step 3 are the most high-level. Any form of pettiness or hatred is a laughable concept up on Step 3—with no fog to obscure things, the animals are completely naked, exposed for the sad little creatures that they are.

animals embarrassed

On Step 1, I snap back at the rude cashier, who had the nerve to be a dick to me. On Step 2, the rudeness doesn’t faze me because I know it’s about him, not me, and that I have no idea what his day or life has been like. On Step 3, I see myself as a miraculous arrangement of atoms in vast space that for a split second in endless eternity has come together to form a moment of consciousness that is my life…and I see that cashier as another moment of consciousness that happens to exist on the same speck of time and space that I do. And the only possible emotion I could have for him on Step 3 is love.

cashier 2

In a Whoa moment’s transcendent level of consciousness, I see every interaction, every motivation, every news headline in unusual clarity—and difficult life decisions are much more obvious. I feel wise.

Of course, if this were my normal state, I’d be teaching monks somewhere on a mountain in Myanmar, and I’m not teaching any monks anywhere because it’s not my normal state. Whoa moments are rare and very soon after one, I’m back down here being a human again. But the emotions and the clarity of Step 3 are so powerful, that even after you topple off the step, some of it sticks around. Each time you humiliate the animals, a little bit of their future power over you is diminished. And that’s why Step 3 is so important—even though no one that I know can live permanently on Step 3, regular visits help you dramatically in the ongoing Step 1 vs Step 2 battle, which makes you a better and happier person.

Step 3 is also the answer to anyone who accuses atheists of being amoral or cynical or nihilistic, or wonders how atheists find any meaning in life without the hope and incentive of an afterlife. That’s a Step 1 way to view an atheist, where life on Earth is taken for granted and it’s assumed that any positive impulse or emotion must be due to circumstances outside of life. On Step 3, I feel immensely lucky to be alive and can’t believe how cool it is that I’m a group of atoms that can think about atoms—on Step 3, life itself is more than enough to make me excited, hopeful, loving, and kind. But Step 3 is only possible because science has cleared the way there, which is why Carl Sagan said that “science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.” In this way, science is the “prophet” of this framework—the one who reveals new truth to us and gives us an opportunity to alter ourselves by accessing it.

So to recap so far—on Step 1, you’re in a delusional bubble that Step 2 pops. On Step 2, there’s much more clarity about life, but it’s within a much bigger delusional bubble, one that Step 3 pops. But Step 3 is supposed to be total, fog-free clarity on truth—so how could there be another step?

Step 4: The Great Unknown

If we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, we will have failed. —Carl Sagan

_________

The game so far has for the most part been clearing out fog to become as conscious as possible of what we as people and as a species know about truth:

Step 1-3 Circles

On Step 4, we’re reminded of the complete truth—which is this:

Step 4 Circle

The fact is, any discussion of our full reality—of the truth of the universe or our existence—is a complete delusion without acknowledging that big purple blob that makes up almost all of that reality.

But you know humans—they don’t like that purple blob one bit. Never have. The blob frightens and humiliates humans, and we have a rich history of denying its existence entirely, which is like living on the beach and pretending the ocean isn’t there. Instead, we just stamp our foot and claim that now we’ve finally figured it all out. On the religious side, we invent myths and proclaim them as truth—and even a devout religious believer reading this who stands by the truth of their particular book would agree with me about the fabrication of the other few thousand books out there. On the science front, we’ve managed to be consistently gullible in believing that “realizing you’ve been horribly wrong about reality” is a phenomenon only of the past.

Having our understanding of reality overturned by a new groundbreaking discovery is like a shocking twist in this epic mystery novel humanity is reading, and scientific progress is regularly dotted with these twists—the Earth being round, the solar system being heliocentric, not geocentric, the discovery of subatomic particles or galaxies other than our own, and evolutionary theory, to name a few. So how is it possible, with the knowledge of all those breakthroughs, that Lord Kelvin, one of history’s greatest scientists, said in the year 1900, “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement”4—i.e. this time, all the twists actually are finished.

Of course, Kelvin was as wrong as every other arrogant scientist in history—the theory of general relativity and then the theory of quantum mechanics would both topple science on its face over the next century.

Even if we acknowledge today that there will be more twists in the future, we’re probably kind of inclined to think we’ve figured out most of the major things and have a far closer-to-complete picture of reality than the people who thought the Earth was flat. Which, to me, sounds like this:

Laughing

The fact is, let’s remember that we don’t know what the universe is. Is it everything? Is it one tiny bubble in a multiverse frothing with bubbles? Is it not a bubble at all but an optical illusion hologram? And we know about the Big Bang, but was that the beginning of everything? Did something arise from nothing, or was it just the latest in a long series of expansion/collapse cycles?5 We have no clue what dark matter is, only that there’s a shit-ton of it in the universe, and when we discussed The Fermi Paradox, it became entirely clear that science has no idea about whether there’s other life out there or how advanced it might be. How about String Theory, which claims to be the secret to unifying the two grand but seemingly-unrelated theories of the physical world, general relativity and quantum mechanics? It’s either the grandest theory we’ve ever come up with or totally false, and there are great scientists on both sides of this debate. And as laypeople, all we need to do is take a look at those two well-accepted theories to realize how vastly different reality can be from how it seems: like general relativity telling us that if you flew to a black hole and circled around it a few times in intense gravity and then returned to Earth a few hours after you left, decades would have passed on Earth while you were gone. And that’s like an ice cream cone compared to the insane shit quantum mechanics tells us—like two particles across the universe from one another being mysteriously linked to each other’s behavior, or a cat that’s both alive and dead at the same time, until you look at it.

And the thing is, everything I just mentioned is still within the realm of our understanding. As we established earlier, compared to a more evolved level of consciousness, we might be like a three-year-old, a monkey, or an ant—so why would we assume that we’re even capable of understanding everything in that purple blob? A monkey can’t understand that the Earth is a round planet, let alone that the solar system, galaxy, or universe exists. You could try to explain it to a monkey for years and it wouldn’t be possible. So what are we completely incapable of grasping even if a more intelligent species tried its hardest to explain it to us? Probably almost everything.

There are really two options when thinking about the big, big picture: be humble or be absurd.

The nonsensical thing about humans feigning certainty because we’re scared is that in the old days, when it seemed on the surface that we were the center of all creation, uncertainty was frightening because it made our reality seem so much bleaker than we had thought—but now, with so much more uncovered, things look highly bleak for us as people and as a species, so our fear should welcome uncertainty. Given my default outlook that I have a small handful of decades left and then an eternity of nonexistence, the fact that we might be totally wrong sounds tremendously hopeful to me.

Ironically, when my thinking reaches the top of this rooted-in-atheism staircase, the notion that something that seems divine to us might exist doesn’t seem so ridiculous anymore. I’m still totally atheist when it comes to all human-created conceptions of a divine higher force—which all, in my opinion, proclaim far too much certainty. But could a super-advanced force exist? It seems more than likely. Could we have been created by something/someone bigger than us or be living as part of a simulation without realizing it? Sure—I’m a three-year-old, remember, so who am I to say no?

To me, complete rational logic tells me to be atheist about all of the Earth’s religions and utterly agnostic about the nature of our existence or the possible existence of a higher being. I don’t arrive there via any form of faith, just by logic.

I find Step 4 mentally mind-blowing but I’m not sure I’m ever quite able to access it in a spiritual way like I sometimes can with Step 3—Step 4 Whoa moments might be reserved for Einstein-level thinkers—but even if I can’t get my feet up on Step 4, I can know it’s there, what it means, and I can remind myself of its existence. So what does that do for me as a human?

Well remember that powerful humility I mentioned in Step 3? It multiplies that by 100. For reasons I just discussed, it makes me feel more hopeful. And it leaves me feeling pleasantly resigned to the fact that I will never understand what’s going on, which makes me feel like I can take my hand off the wheel, sit back, relax, and just enjoy the ride. In this way, I think Step 4 can make us live more in the present—if I’m just a molecule floating around an ocean I can’t understand, I might as well just enjoy it.

The way Step 4 can serve humanity is by helping to crush the notion of certainty. Certainty is primitive, leads to “us versus them” tribalism, and starts wars. We should be united in our uncertainty, not divided over fabricated certainty. And the more humans turn around and look at that big purple blob, the better off we’ll be.

Why Wisdom is the Goal

Nothing clears fog like a deathbed, which is why it’s then that people can always see with more clarity what they should have done differently—I wish I had spent less time working; I wish I had communicated with my wife more; I wish I had traveled more; etc. The goal of personal growth should be to gain that deathbed clarity while your life is still happening so you can actually do something about it.

The way you do that is by developing as much wisdom as possible, as early as possible. To me, wisdom is the most important thing to work towards as a human. It’s the big objective—the umbrella goal under which all other goals fall into place. I believe I have one and only one chance to live, and I want to do it in the most fulfilled and meaningful way possible—that’s the best outcome for me, and I do a lot more good for the world that way. Wisdom gives people the insight to know what “fulfilled and meaningful” actually means and the courage to make the choices that will get them there.

And while life experience can contribute to wisdom, I think wisdom is mostly already in all of our heads—it’s everything the Higher Being knows. When we’re not wise, it’s because we don’t have access to the Higher Being’s wisdom because it’s buried in fog. The fog is anti-wisdom, and when you move up the staircase into a clearer place, wisdom is simply a by-product of that increased consciousness.

One thing I learned at some point is that growing old or growing tall is not the same as growing up. Being a grownup is about your level of wisdom and the size of your mind’s scope—and it turns out that it doesn’t especially correlate with age. After a certain age, growing up is about overcoming your fog, and that’s about the person, not the age. I know some supremely wise older people, but there are also a lot of people my age who seem much wiser than their parents about a lot of things. Someone on a growth path whose fog thins as they age will become wiser with age, but I find the reverse happens with people who don’t actively grow—the fog hardens around them and they actually become even less conscious, and even more certain about everything, with age.

When I think about people I know, I realize that my level of respect and admiration for a person is almost entirely in line with how wise and conscious a person I think they are. The people I hold in the highest regard are the grownups in my life—and their ages completely vary.

Another Look at Religion in Light of this Framework:

This discussion helps clarify my issues with traditional organized religion. There are plenty of good people, good ideas, good values, and good wisdom in the religious world, but to me that seems like something happening in spite of religion and not because of it. Using religion for growth requires an innovative take on things, since at a fundamental level, most religions seem to treat people like children instead of pushing them to grow. Many of today’s religions play to people’s fog with “believe in this or else…” fear-mongering and books that are often a rallying cry for ‘us vs. them’ divisiveness. They tell people to look to ancient scripture for answers instead of the depths of the mind, and their stubborn certainty when it comes to right and wrong often leaves them at the back of the pack when it comes to the evolution of social issues. Their certainty when it comes to history ends up actively pushing their followers away from truth—as evidenced by the 42% of Americans who have been deprived of knowing the truth about evolution. (An even worse staircase criminal is the loathsome world of American politics, with a culture that lives on Step 1 and where politicians appeal directly to people’s animals, deliberately avoiding anything on Steps 2-4.)

So What Am I?

Yes, I’m an atheist, but atheism isn’t a growth model any more than “I don’t like rollerblading” is a workout strategy.

So I’m making up a term for what I am—I’m a Truthist. In my framework, truth is what I’m always looking for, truth is what I worship, and learning to see truth more easily and more often is what leads to growth.

In Truthism, the goal is to grow wiser over time, and wisdom falls into your lap whenever you’re conscious enough to see the truth about people, situations, the world, or the universe. The fog is what stands in your way, making you unconscious, delusional, and small-minded, so the key day-to-day growth strategy is staying cognizant of the fog and training your mind to try to see the full truth in any situation.

Over time, you want your [Time on Step 2] / [Time on Step 1] ratio to go up a little bit each year, and you want to get better and better at inducing Step 3 Whoa moments and reminding yourself of the Step 4 purple blob. If you do those things, I think you’re evolving in the best possible way, and it will have profound effects on all aspects of your life.

That’s it. That’s Truthism.

Am I a good Truthist? I’m okay. Better than I used to be with a long way to go. But defining this framework will help—I’ll know where to put my focus, what to be wary of, and how to evaluate my progress, which will help me make sure I’m actually improving and lead to quicker growth.

To help keep me on mission, I made a Truthism logo:

logo

That’s my symbol, my mantra, my WWJD—it’s the thing I can look at when something good or bad happens, when a big decision is at hand, or on a normal day as a reminder to stay aware of the fog and keep my eye on the big picture.

And What Are You?

My challenge to you is to decide on a term for yourself that accurately sums up your growth framework.

If Christianity is your thing and it’s genuinely helping you grow, that word can be Christian. Maybe you already have your own clear, well-defined advancement strategy and you just need a name for it. Maybe Truthism hit home for you, resembles the way you already think, and you want to try being a Truthist with me.

Or maybe you have no idea what your growth framework is, or what you’re using isn’t working. If either A) you don’t feel like you’ve evolved in a meaningful way in the past couple years, or B) you aren’t able to corroborate your values and philosophies with actual reasoning that matters to you, then you need to find a new framework.

To do this, just ask yourself the same questions I asked myself: What’s the goal that you want to evolve towards (and why is that the goal), what does the path look like that gets you there, what’s in your way, and how do you overcome those obstacles? What are your practices on a day-to-day level, and what should your progress look like year-to-year? Most importantly, how do you stay strong and maintain the practice for years and years, not four days? After you’ve thought that through, name the framework and make a symbol or mantra. (Then share your strategy in the comments or email me about it, because articulating it helps clarify it in your head, and because it’s useful and interesting for others to hear about your framework.)

I hope I’ve convinced you how important this is. Don’t wait until your deathbed to figure out what life is all about.

___________

Three other Wait But Why posts about things we should try to remember every day:

Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think

The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce

Life is a Picture, But You Live in a Pixel


  1. Unrelatedly, after finishing my outline for this post, I estimated that the writing part would take me 10 hours—which is odd, because I’m about eight hours in now and still on Step 1 of the staircase. You’d think that after writing about 50 posts in the past year and underestimating how long each of them would take, I might not have been so dramatically delusional by this point. You’d think.

    If you were to continue thinking, you might also assume that yesterday, when I needed to go from 116th Street in Manhattan to the World Trade Center for an event I absolutely could not be late for, I’d have considered the fact that I know from experience that this usually takes an hour before leaving for the event only 40 minutes ahead of time. We agree that that’s what you’d think. So why was I sprinting at the end to make it there on time? Why would I end up sweating to make it somewhere on time—for the nine trillionth time in my life—when this grossly undignified and unpleasant experience is so easily avoidable?

    Because when I make these inexplicably stupid, self-defeating decisions, I’m swimming in fog.

  2. I use a weird one, where I pretend I have a dial I can set to a number of sleep hours and then press the button and instantly it’s that many hours later and I’ve slept the number of hours on the dial, and I can resume doing what I’m doing. I’m a night owl, but if I had that dial, I’d go to bed around 11pm and sleep eight hours almost every night of the year. This isolates for me the fact that I’m not actually a night owl—my Higher Being wants to sleep from 11-7—it’s just that I have a short-sighted, fog-based resistance against going to sleep. Which probably annoyingly boils down to fear of death somehow.

  3. Sidenote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQr8UWuVefA

  4. Some dispute that Kelvin said this, claiming it was actually said by another great 19th century physicist, Albert A. Michelson. Whichever account is correct, a great scientist said it.

  5. This theory went out of style with the popularity of inflationary theory, but some prominent physicists are now questioning the validity of inflationary theory.

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  • Joseph

    MOST EPIC POST EVER!!

  • JennyM

    Thank you for this. Really fantastic, thought provoking read. Im sure a huge amount of time and effort went in to making my brain this rubbery, and I appreciate it.

  • HarryB

    Thank you. It is heart-achingly epic to see so many of your older anti-fog posts coming together under a grand ‘mission statement’. Wait But Why has crystalised with this article, and can only grow outward. Bloody well done.

  • Thijs

    Loved this post and how you incorporated your previous anthropomorphisms in it, Hungry Hippo, Anxious Ostrich and friends are great additions to the human emotional range squat. The path to wisdom you follow is interesting and has a lot in common with how I envision it (although I ommited the addition of step 1/2).
    What I missed is a way to encorperate growth in wisdom in a life/world still governed by the lvl 1 stage ways of thinking? Because as wonderfull as great wisdom is, we (still) need money in order to fulfill our most basic needs which puts us back into the standard struggle and makes us compete on the low animalistic level.

    Keep up the good work and may your wisdom grow evermore.

    • Michael

      Excellently put. It would have been useful if Tim had provided an insight in how to cope with living in a world still governed by the level 1 stage way of thinking.. As this is also to me a somewhat frustrating realization which makes me feel a bit apathetic towards everything around me. I guess its something he has to cope with on a day to day basis as well and probably isn’t sure if he can provide any useful advice on that matter.

      That being said – this post could not have gotten at a more convenient time. This is the exact topic I had discussed with friends over the weekend, and is almost a perfect 1 on 1 translation of my thoughts.. a very bizarre experience. Thanks for this Tim, as it also makes me realize i’m not that big of an exception by thinking the way you described – especially after reading through the comments. It makes me feel less alone – it’s a comforting thought.

  • Ken

    Is there a reason you avoid the term Buddhist? You’ve described it entirely in layman’s terms.

    • Ryn

      I second Ken’s question! I was thinking this through the whole post.

      • Wait But Why

        I don’t know that much about Buddhism—just little things I’ve learned here and there—so I left it out. I assumed Buddhism was a bit more intense, with its reincarnation and its aim to get rid of all wants. But again, I don’t know much so maybe it matches up better than I realize.

        • Akeem

          I was brought up Buddhist (though no longer am). Buddhism has all the stuff you have here. It’s just that it has a load of dogmatic metaphysics bundled in with it. For some people it’s really helpful, like believing that you have been reincarnated an infinite amount of times gives you some perspective on your own life and it’s importance, or allows you to treat all beings with compassion because statistically at some point they were your own mother and did the same for you. That’s just a small example. Personally I that side offputting, because it is often illogical (*to me)

          • Quick response on Buddhism

            While I like the post, I think you should spend a bit of time learning about Buddhism, as it has many similarities — no need to reinvent the wheel. As someone who shares many of your mental habits and predicaments, I think you’ll find the time spent worthwhile.

            There is much more nuance to the concept of reincarnation and cessation of wants. First, reincarnation (or rebirth) originally referred to actual rebirth between lives — as this was a common belief in India at the time — and as a metaphor for cycling between different states of mind. Karma simply meant that actions you take in one state of mind (say, if you’re angry) directly effect your next state of mind. As Buddhism migrated toward regions without the tradition of belief in reincarnation (i.e, eastern Asia), metaphorical rebirth became much more central. Also, cessation of want is a bit off from what Buddhists teach — it’s not called the Middle Way for nothing.

            Finally, a central tenet of the Buddha’s teaching was that metaphysical questions take little importance in improving well-being. In fact, seeking answers to these unanswerable questions and clinging to the answer is seen as a source of suffering. I’m not sure what lineage of Buddhism Akeem grew up with, but it’s certainly not representative of all Buddhists.

        • Anonymous

          Yes Buddhism is a little more intense but its practically the same thing. As are a few other forms of unorganised religion found in India. These practices include both meditation (spiritual side) as well as the four steps you mention (on the worldly side). And the two complement each other.

          One I particularly like is said to show the successful practitioner the truth: that the body and the world around us is made of nothing but pinpoints of energy coming into and vanishing out of existence. Curiously, this ancient belief seems to be a scientific hypothesis as well these days.

        • sam

          I’m not sure if I’m wrong but what I gathered from reading thich nhat hanh about (some sectors of) buddhism ‘s meaning of reincarnation is that our bodies become atoms and particles which become the sun, rain, wind, plants, stars again… I think he said that even when Buddha was alive other followers misunderstood him and ended up creating whole sectors of bubbhism based on those misunderstandings… :S like everything! worth the read!!!! Heart of Buddha’ teachings. Thanks for great post again!!! I rekon there’s some multidimensional action between the steps! Like I.live in fog but can still feel the vastness and energetic ness of step 4 thanks to science – especially learning that electrons and tons of other particles are travelling through us all the time!! 😀

        • Anonymous
        • Zoe
        • Alvin

          I think you’ll find many interesting parallels within Buddhism to what you’ve outlined in this wonderful post, and like ‘Quick response on Buddhism’ says, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – you might find it helps you accelerate your journey to wisdom.

          The challenge with Buddhism is that there are so many ‘flavours’, even within the three main schools, and a lot of cultural baggage from where it assimilated into the various cultures. So even a Buddhist like me gravitates more towards a certain school of Buddhism more than others.

          Luckily, most of the core tenets remain the same, some have described present-day Buddhism as the tree with many branches. Even then, there’s a lot inside Buddhism which appears very religious – the idea of reincarnation, gods and demons, etc.

          I don’t know about the more woo-woo stuff, but I can guarantee you that even though some of the teachings may appear illogical – like the mind that neither exists nor doesn’t exist, for example – can be experienced personally if you take the practice. At its core, Buddhism is not an intellectual toy, but something you need to experience for yourself, and that involves practicing with a competent teacher.

          ‘What the Buddha Taught’ by Walpola Rahula is a classic introduction book but you find might it a tad too ‘religious’. I recommend the book ‘One Dharma’ by Joseph Goldstein for a less religious introduction to Buddhism.

        • Cherry

          I would say that this is more like Zen Buddhism than just plain Buddhism.

          • P

            I´ve always liked that thing Buddha said one time: what people know as buddhism, that is not buddhism. This is from the Diamond Sutra. It means: truth is mere existence – existence as a whole – no words, even that beautiful, highly practical concept of karma, can describe it succesfully. Buddhism is, if anything, a philosophy of emptyness. You can´t get much wiser than that, I guess.

    • Josh

      Buddhism carries a lot of other beliefs though, like karma and reincarnation. Why add those? Tim’s a truthist.

    • Josh

      Reincarnation and Karma come with the term Buddhist. Why add those?

    • Steve

      Except without reincarnation and karma and other random beliefs

  • Kapucchu

    I think I know what to fill under ‘religion’ in forms from now. on All along I would be an agnostic, but I think Truthist is exactly the type of agnostic I am. Thank you so much for this post Tim, (along with all your other posts on the procrastination monkey and social mammoth), reading this alone has brought me to a level 3 whoa moment!

    My personal Step 1 is knowing/not knowing something, and Step 2 is awareness – knowing that you know or not know something. You have just sorted out my thoughts more clearly with this post. There are many concepts in (social) psychology which could do better for mankind and one’s self development if people were made aware of them happening right under our very noses. You made a very good point about the Hedonic Treadmill – people probably subconsciously know it happens, but unless you shove this information in their face, they are unable to proceed to Step 2.

    Awesome post!

  • Julian

    Hi Tim, this is an incredibly post. I was thinking about the simulation idea since a couple of months, it would be great if you can make a post about it.

  • A casual admirer

    Tim, thank you for all of your effort and clarity. You know that feeling when you feel very fond of someone and glad that they exist, and that these feelings amount to a kind of inexpressible warmth, which may or may not have to do with that person’s facility for revealing the ways in which we’re fundamentally similar? Well, ever since the Fermi post I’ve been delighted and charmed and Informed, and heck, even enlightened on a regular basis by your, let’s call it, unflaggingly unpretentious probity. Every generation seems to be blessed and alternately damned with proponents and articulators of ideas, and each subsequent generation seems to be a kind of proving ground in which these people try to recast and modify the Message for themselves, their peer-group, the extended family we call humanity, according to the expanding dialectic of What We Now Know, even if the themes seem entrenched in biology; we are all participants in an maddeningly incremental shlep whose end result is, simply, to fashion a society which values giving more than taking, a sentiment you find repeated over and over again in writing, from John Winthrop’s concept of individual charity to David Foster Wallace’s reverence of attention. Well (given this frame of understanding) I’m glad you’re around, Tim, to open dialogues on issues that are really begging for rational discourse, in these propagandistic and frightening times, mind provoking us, a kindly gadfly on our generation’s flank, so to speak, and thoroughly indispensable in the sough of our culture’s phobic, materialist, and spiritually bankrupt tendencies. Truthism indeed, and thanks again; I think I’ll buy a t-shirt.

  • Addy

    Woah. I can’t tell you how much this hit home for me. I recently found out that I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), which means that on a scale where 0 is horrible and 10 is AMAZING, most people’s emotions range from 4-6, while a BPD’s range from 3-7. In other words, our animals are EXTRA crazy and out of control, making us very unstable at times and putting our relationships through a lot of stress.
    Using the rude cashier from step 1 as an example, a normal person would think “What a rude asshole” and move on with their lives. Well, for me the internal dialogue would go more like “Woah, he is so rude. Why is he being so rude? I bet he doesn’t like me. I think I made him angry. I shouldn’t have bought so many cans of beans. I should have smiled more. Maybe I deserved it. Everyone is always so rude to me. It’s probably cause I talk too much. I’m so freaking annoying.” and then I will have that bad feeling for a couple minutes/hours/rest of the day.

    Fortunately, there are several ways to treat BPD. The most effect treatment is called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). What is DBT you ask? Well, according to Wikipedia:
    “DBT combines standard cognitive-behavioral techniques for emotion regulation and reality-testing with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness largely derived from Buddhist meditative practice ”

    A.K.A. STEP 2 OF THE LADDER

    So what am I? I’m a person learning and trying to apply the techniques in DBT in order to have a better life.

    (I think this is a good starting point)

    P.S. I think you should make a post about BPD. It fits in so well with the concepts you’ve described in the blog so far and more awareness needs to be raised regarding this condition. It’s one of the most misdiagnosed mental disorders despite the fact that it affects almost 1 in 50 people. Also, it has a terrible reputation thanks to pop culture (I’m looking at you Girl Interrupted). It’s also an incredibly interesting subject.

    • Brenda

      Addy, my daughter has BPD. I am going to print your reply out for her to read. Thank you for sharing.

  • Tycho

    Tim,
    I am continually amazed at the extent to which you speak my mind and give voice(and the occasional picture) to my thoughts while giving me more to chew on. Thank you.

  • Charly

    Being a loyal WBW reader for some time now, I absolutely loved this post. As usual, it resonated a lot with the way I (want and try to) view the world and how we live in it.

    But I have to admit I sometimes feel a bit helpless and sad, or even paralyzed during whoa moments or lvl 2 road trips, as I find it makes it all the more clear that the way most people (including myself) act most of the time is pretty level-one-y. And that the way most of the world is organized is very level-one-y. And that getting yourself all good and level-two-y (by traveling, spending time reading or getting your education on) actually requires participating in very level-one-y activities.

    Unnecessarily taking it to a more d*ckish level: If it’s sometimes challenging to act in a lvl 2 way in a store, while buying organic yogi tea somewhere in New York or Berlin or Tokyo or Stockholm (never been…), so you can relax while you study for your exam on post-humanist choreographies in modern theatre, how can I even begin to expect some woman in a sweat shop in Cambodia or some rebel fighter who had his family killed in some conflict to ever act in any way other than a thoroughly level-one-y way?

    I shouldn’t digress in such a negative way in a comment on such an awesome and positive post. Just felt like sharing what I struggle with when climbing the stairs.

    Keep ‘m coming, looking forward to the posts every week!

    • Craig

      Charly,

      Go to Stockholm. You won’t regret it. It’s my favorite city in the world so far.

      As long as your life is not threatened by a level 1 encounter you should always blow it off. I have found that you can usually control these situations by your own reaction to them. Don’t take things personally and we can all get to level 2!

      Tim, I’m buying the coffee mug. It’s what my nutritionist has advised.

  • This just beat the Fermi Paradox best post status

    well..I was supposed to do CS homework, now that won’t happen for a while.

    I am in awe. I’m filled with so many emotions and I am having the hardest time trying to explain how I feel. You are an amazing human being. I have so much love and admiration for this site. I wish I could hug you because you are a beautiful human being. I am extremely grateful to be alive at this point in time to have read this post. I think I will finally do something with my life calendar that I bought from you guys (lol).

  • Melanie

    Best one yet and worth the wait!

  • This just beat the Fermi Paradox best post status

    I am in awe. I’m filled with so many emotions and I am having the hardest time trying to explain how I feel. You are an amazing human being. I have so much love and admiration for this site. I wish I could hug you because you are a beautiful human being. I am extremely grateful to be alive at this point in time to have read this post. I think I will finally do something with my life calendar that I bought from you guys (lol).

  • Marcelo

    This post brought me Ayn Rand philosophy.

  • Uncle Screwtape

    “…but where I could do the greatest good privately to every one of you, thither I went, and sought to persuade every man among you that he must look to himself, and seek virtue and wisdom before he looks to his private interests, and look to the state before he looks to the
    interests of the state; and that this should be the order which he observes in all his actions.”

  • davide

    Tim, you’re an artist, and your medium is the blog.

    Thanks for using your talents to help others.

  • Supriya

    Beautiful beautiful post! A lot of things mentioned here hit home.
    Specially this
    “I love Whoa moments. They make me feel some intense combination of awe, elation, sadness, and wonder. More than anything, they make me feel ridiculously, profoundly humble—and that level of humility does weird things to someone. In those moments, all those words religious people use—awe, worship, miracle, eternal connection—make perfect sense. I want to get on my knees and surrender. This is when I feel spiritual.”
    In my experience only when at STEP 3 one could transition to STEP 4. The number of incidences on being at STEP 4 are rather few. It goes like STEP 1 > STEP2 > STEP3 > STEP 4 , STEP 4 being insanely rare.

    About STEP 3 I would guess different things/situations might help one to be at STEP 3, for me its travel and reading while trying to understand a concept or a thought process.Man! STEP 3 is phenomenal!

    I think, being at STEP 2 is to understand that we sometimes objectify people and lack empathy. Loved the examples you gave while doing the STEP 1 vs STEP 2 comparisons.Excellent!

    On a slightly different note I am wondering, at STEP 3 and STEP 4 my personal experiences are based on scientific knowledge. So my question is, if not scientific knowledge can the basis or reasoning at STEP 4 be something else as well? Though I find it hard to imagine it to be something else, but still!

  • sabs546

    I think I already spend loads of time on step 2, when I’m angry I go to step 1 and regret it later.

    Also for some reason those step 3 woah moments scare me more than step 4 but maybe its because of how little I understand of it though.

    Also my main aim was to do all this but still be a… Well valid muslim if thats the correct word.

    Or maybe I’m overthinking this like my mum says and that I’m gonna drive myself insane

    Should I start early thinking about this? Or should I wait till I’m older

  • Steve

    The reason why it’s so hard for humans to think is because our brains are hard-wired not to. If you read Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, he breaks our brains into two – System 1 and System 2. I think you’ll enjoy it – sheds light on why we behave in the ways we behave.

  • Anupama

    Great post as usual. I could almost see the fog lifting from my head as I read it. You should read the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Mirra Alfassa. You will find that their views and teachings on spirituality, right from consciousness to the evolution of the human mind, resonates with yours. You have immensely simplified what I have been trying to grapple with for quite sometime. Thank you!

  • Spainispain

    Congratulations for your unintentional and leaky introduction to “Buddhism for Dummies”.
    😛

    I’m afraid that two essential factors are needed to approach Truth, and you ignore them:
    1- Pain (yep, seriously ¿Don’t know suffering? So, you’ll never “Ascend”)
    2- A teacher (face it, it’s near impossible to find “Light” alone without help)

  • balloonney

    (I’ve stayed up all night procrastinating and eventually doing all my work, and my reward for once i finished was coming here to read this post. I saw it was up. I baited myself with this. This blog is something special, seriously. Existential stick figures are probably all I ever needed from the internet.)

    Reading this post as I apply to colleges is really making me think twice about everything, in a scary and inconvenient (yet potentially helpful) way. I want to make sure I choose the right path to take. There’s science, which is fascinating and dull at the same time; there’s music, which is a blast but has no jobs ever; there’s sociology, which is kind of cool; there’s literally everything to choose from. I don’t want to major in anything. I want to major in being a Renaissance person and having no problems in my life, ever. Which won’t really work out. I’m envisioning myself on my deathbed being unsatisfied with every possible outcome. And what’s really weird is that, if you mess up, you can’t try again. If i throw away my college and post-college years to the wrong major/focus/whatever, the best thing I’ll get is being older and trying to start something new way too late. I don’t want to waste my youth. And right now, I’m wasting it by freaking out on how not to waste it. What? Not a good way to spend my time.

    On a completely different note, it’s weird how atheism links back to theism. If our universe is just a computer simulation, then the guy running the computer would technically be “god.” Does the definition of “god” just extend to anything more powerful than us that we can’t understand? Maybe, in a million years, when we find these things out, we’ll name them after modern-day religious gods. Like how we named the planets “Jupiter” and “Mars”, we’ll name that guy at the universe computer “Krishna” or something. I dunno I’ve been awake for too long.

    Anyway, I stumbled on the procrastination post, like, a year ago, and found myself miraculously cured of procrastination for about a week. It was weird. I read this blog now.

    I never really leave comments, but I just wanted to say something like, “yo, this blog is cool!” Actually, like, my favorite blog. Keep writing cool stuff!

    • Tricia

      “I want to major in being a Renaissance person and having no problems in my life, ever.” That was almost as awesome as this blog. Best of luck in your endeavours!

    • Addy

      You just described the plot of a movie called ‘Mr. Nobody’. It’s about an old man in his deathbed looking back at his life, relationships, and all the possible outcomes that each different decision could have caused.
      Pretty cool movie, I think you might like it.

      • Krusty Shakelford

        Great movie!

    • uncephalized

      “I want to major in being a Renaissance person and having no problems in my life, ever. Which won’t really work out.”

      LOL. The first part is definitely possible, and you don’t even need to go to college to do it if you are a self-learner; having a college degree is basically a social-approval stamp anyway in many cases. A sufficiently motivated learner can master just about anything worth knowing, in time.

      As for no problems ever, good luck with that, dude? Problems are part of living and especially of learning and growing–if you don’t have any, you’re not trying hard enough IMO.

  • Erwan

    Hi Tim,

    Albeit this post and the solutions you propose to get rid of your Animal fears in some other posts might be very useful and life changing to some people, I (personnaly) think your missing a fifth step of consciousness, wich, to me, makes the whole point.
    Let me explain: by believing in Truthism, as you say it, you simply assume there is truth, that you describe as the “actual facts of reality”. You explore these facts through Science. And why wouldn’t you? It leads to very useful skills that help you improve your life and make you happier. It works!
    But what you fail to see (according to me, at least) is that there is no facts per se. There is matter (I assume, but – hey! – might as well just be an illusion, the only proven thing in philosophy is the “cogito ergo sum”), but the way we see this matter and cluster it into “facts” is changed by culture, context and the fact the whe ourselves are matter. For example, a man suffering a severe schrizophrenic attack might see the world utterly differently, only by repsonding differently to the material signals he receives from his environnement. His world views wouldn’t be false, even if it wouldn’t be at all related to what you would think is true, even if you where permanently on the fourth step of consciousness.
    Another example, trying to convey how using words distorts the world viem you might have: how would you describe a stool? Something with 3 or more legs that you use to sit on, right? But then, if you sit on a table, does that make it a stool? And if a father gets on all fours for his child to sit on him, does that make him a stool? I know this example is caricature but I hope this gets my point.
    My point is, there is a fifth step of consciousness, where you realise there isn’t anything you actually know, nor will know about the actual facts of reality (if reality even exists, wich I assume), but rather a way of looking at and interpreting the sensorials response you get from matter. This way (or, as philosophers call it, “system”) won’t ever be perfect and will never be completely accurate. Science, to me, isn’t the description of reality but rather the conceptualisation of reality. Reality being matter as the vast majority of us percieve it.
    The fifth step, as I concieve it, is realising there is no clear frontier between what we know and what we don’t – between light and darkness – but rather the fleting light of a candle, wich we can and should hope to grow into a torch, then into a lighthouse, and then into a sun.

    I hope I expressed myself cleary, for I happen to be French, thus not exactly fluent in English (also, being French is the reason why I am so annoying with my pesky remarks about what we know or don’t know). Feel free to ask me to reformulate if you can’t understand one of my sentences.

    • Tricia

      Thanks, Erwan, for saying what I was thinking along the way. Another philosophy major? 🙂

      • Erwan

        Nope: Medicine student ; first year.

    • Dave Baxter

      No, sorry, Erwan, but this is pure solipsism.

      It doesn’t matter how any one of use would “describe a stool” – descriptions (and language itself) are merely shorthand we use in order to communicate ideas easily and expeditiously, but they do not reflect the minutiae of shared reality. Two objects can both have three legs and be sat upon, but there can still be agreement that the two objects are not the same, if even similar at all beyond having three legs and being able to be sat upon. It can be argued whether it’s proper to use the term “stool” for either object (the term is language – shorthand use that is debatable even when the reality itself that the language is trying to describe is not).

      You say there are no facts per se. I say there are ONLY facts – everything else is perspective and cannot be shared in full. The facts we can corroborate up to a point because other share them. Not 100%, but facts that lay outside of ourselves can be shared far beyond what can be shared within ourselves. Facts are the ONLY thing we can corroborate to any extent at all.

      You’re conflating facts with perspective – they’re are many perspectives, but not many facts. A subjective viewpoint does not invalidate an objective reality lying underneath. The number of perspectives may potentially be infinite (though I doubt this is actually true) but the number of perspectives that are common are generally very small – it doesn’t matter that rare people can perceive reality in radically different ways than the rest of us can. What matters is that we can discount their perspective from a practical standpoint, because their perspective is rarefied enough to not impact the shared facts of reality within the more common perspectives. This is further played out (and justified) when the common perspectives “work”, as you say – we improve and advance and master reality with these common perspectives. Whereas uncommon ones, again, have little to no impact. Something can begin as an uncommon perspective, but if it has truth, it can spread, because it can be eventually applied. This is why we explore facts through science – yes, it leads to useful skills, and yes, it “works”. No other perspective does this. That’s what the concept (and term) of “reality” means. You can philosophize all you want about reality not being shared, but it is – the RESULTS are shared. The PROOF via science, is shared. You can deny it, or reject it, and disagree with all others, but it doesn’t change the demonstrability of what we call facts, and the complete non-demonstrability of all alternate perspectives.

      • Erwan

        I wasn’t philosophizing about reality not being shared, I was philosophizing about the fact that you always have a perspective on reality, no matter what, and that this perspective distorts the way you live (and eventually study) it (and, as such, what works or not). For example, most of us have a hard time distinguishing the unami flavor when it is not a problem for people from cultures where there is a word for it. Same thing with these tribes in east Africa that have no word for blue and thus have a hard time distinguishing it from black (or white, depending on the depth of the blue). Science, as well as or brains, works upon concepts, like the concept of a stool, and as such upon names. But names are a restriction/segmentation of reality. That was the first part of my point.
        The second part, with the schrizophreniac, was that science lies upon a certain set of logical rules that cannot be proven to be true without using these same logical rules to prove them. It’s the snake eating it’s own tail. What’s to do with schizophrenia? Well, it may be that people with these syndrom devellop what is called delirious ideas. And if you listen to some schizophreniacs talking about their symptoms (there are plenty on the internet), you will see that they often talk about these ideas seeming totally logical to them. They know these ideas to be delirious only once someone told them so and they make the effort to consciously examining their thoughts and seiing if they are coherent with what the classical cause to effect rules that plenty of us go by.
        I am not saying we should reject science (actually, I am studying medecine with the hope of becoming a scientist), nor that there is no actual world in wich we live doesn’t exist (even, if yes, this is kindof a leap of faith ; the same way assuming the logical rules most of us go by are true is a leap of faith). I am saying Science lies on language and concepts, wich try to describe reality the best they can but ultimately fail, because they segment it. And I am saying this segmentation insidiously carries what you call a “perspective” in itself.

        PS: there is no such thing as PROOF in science ; there is only the less glamorous “to be assumed reasonnably true until proven otherwise”

    • Kent

      There is no spoon.

  • KD

    Woah!

  • Will

    One thing I think you might be missing is that God is as real as the Instant Gratification Monkey and the Social Survival Mammoth and all those other guys, and maybe it was never meant to be anything more. Or rather, at the time those myths were written down, maybe no-one had yet made the distinction between How Things Are and How It Feels Like Things Are. And then along comes science with it’s objective reality and religion feels like it needs to compete rather than providing a complementary subjective view.

    We have this stereotypical view of God, if not as literally a big old man sat on a cloud, then as a real and personal higher intelligence, nurturing the world, rewarding the good and judging the wicked. But maybe that’s a corrupted version, and maybe the real intention of religion is closer to this post, where the Higher Being is God and the Zoo is Satan, and we all have eternal life because our individuality is an illusion and each one of us is an integral part of one singular unfolding event, and the fog is hell, and if we get to where everyone is on Step 4, all the time, that’s heaven.

    • “One thing I think you might be missing is that God is as real as the Instant Gratification Monkey and the Social Survival Mammoth and all those other guys, and maybe it was never meant to be anything more. Or rather, at the time those myths were written down, maybe no-one had yet made the distinction between How Things Are and How It Feels Like Things Are. And then along comes science with its objective reality and religion feels like it needs to compete rather than providing a complementary subjective view.”

      Yes!! You say this much more eloquently than I’ve ever put it, but I have said this before. I usually say I value religious texts for their metaphorical truth (as opposed to literal truth).

      “But maybe that’s a corrupted version, and maybe the real intention of religion is closer to this post, where the Higher Being is God and the Zoo is Satan, and we all have eternal life because our individuality is an illusion and each one of us is an integral part of one singular unfolding event, and the fog is hell, and if we get to where everyone is on Step 4, all the time, that’s heaven.”

      This was also right on the nose for me. I do believe that “hell is real,” in the sense that one can be in a hellish place of ignorance — like the fog. And to your point that “individuality is an illusion,” I have long held the vision of “heaven” as the home planet that Odo finally returns to in the final episode of Deep Space 9. If you’re not familiar, Odo is a shape shifter; he often takes a humanoid form but his natural form is a puddle. He’s separated from his species, but in the final episode the return him to his home planet — which is simply an undifferentiated ocean of “puddle people.”

      • Chiel Wieringa

        Hell can be created out of (partially) knowing as well, it doesn’t have to evolve out of ignorance. Like the famous quote from The Matrix: “Ignorance is bliss”. (that character is living in a hellish place while knowing more then some blissful ignorant people in that metaphorical world)

        I think that is the passage to (the next/another) heaven is full of obstacles. It is impossible to know everything at once, so if you know certain things while missing some key elements knowledge can be a huge burden.

  • Abhishek

    Tim, you are gift to humanity. Keep up the good work.

  • Anonymous

    This is why I read waitbutwhy

  • and maybe it matters….

    dude, everybody was in this frames you depicted in the last several posts.
    questions and questions give birth to more questions. a guide to zion, where the weather is foggyless and the rest tend to get thin, just like kurt cobain and his smell.
    btw did i mention u rock? but i think your wise enough to believe so.
    keep on the good work mate

  • Frank

    Truthist is a nice word, a nice concept and I’d really like to be able to call myself that.

    Unfortunately, with all that life is throwing my way, I can be happy to call myself a swimmer in the murky seas of base life, trying to keep the head above the dense fog.

    Sometimes I can glimpse something clear, the blue sky of wisdom.

    Anyways, I’m still trying and thanks to this amazing post, I know that there is something beyond, something to strive for.

    No, seriously, I have always tried to reach for the truth, to be really conscious in this world. I consider myself an atheist in the traditional, religious sense, but I do believe there’s more out there. The term I was missing is Truthist!

    Thanks a lot!

  • Frank

    Ahem, by the way, I’m glad the next post will be tomorrow already 😉

  • A huge admirer of your writing

    Hi Tim, this is a fantastic post as usual. I’ve been reading this site since around a year back, and all i can say is that no words of mine can express how amazing your writing is… I’m so so very grateful for your posts and writing and for this site, because I have learnt so much from you and I think reading your site has helped my life too, and also of course because your posts are very interesting and entertaining, and something to greatly look forward to every week. Thank you.

  • Elia

    This just gave me a Whoa moment. Thanks!

  • Erik

    Hey Tim,

    This is Erik the proud commenter from the “Why is my Laptop on?” post.

    You’ve pretty much 100% nailed my world-view and philosophy on life! Kudos on that because explaining it to other people has always been difficult, until now! Animal metaphors rock!

    However, I consider myself an agnostic, not an atheist. Like you, I am blown away by Step 3 and the concept of Step 4 and therefore believe that there is most definitely SOMETHING. I believe that atheism defines a more active belief that there is NOTHING. No divinity, no life after death. Nothing. Agnosticism believes in the possibility of… well whatever. The point is that the agnostic doesn’t know and chooses to acknowledge that he doesn’t know. The agnostic places his bets on the big purple blob. I think calling yourself an atheist does you a disservice.

    Amazing post!!!

  • Nick Kordoulas

    Tim you are one of the few persons that I don’t know personally and I feel you like a good buddy of mine.What you think and write are concepts and ideas that I strain my mind a lot with.Many times I have asked myself : Am I really sane by spending my time in questioning the ”certainty” many things have such as religion,our societies and what they proclaim as socially correct or not,the barriers that are set between people because they come from different birth places?

    Watching you and some other people have the same pursuits and try to find the truth in their lives and what the cosmos is and consist of,it’s really reassuring for me and it’s a push to strive mentally even more and don’t resign myself to the delusion of a ”one,true and ultimate path” that a political party/a religion/a nationality speaks of.

    I am hoping for you to stay always mentally active and give us these gems ! Keep these thought provoking posts coming!

    PS. I am not a native speaker of English so I am truly sorry if I made any mistakes or you couldn’t understand me.
    Thank You 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I definitely agree with this, Tim. It seems to me you’re the ultimate agnostic. Atheism suggests a lot more certainty.

  • Muntazir

    So the thing is to be aware of what you are and realizing that you’re not going to remain that way for long. stunned

  • A

    next article: who created consciousness?

    • Mark MacKinnon

      Um, no!

      That question is asked in bad faith. The question automatically assumes and would skip over the assertion that there was in fact a someone who ‘created’ (a different proposition than ‘evolved’, in which case, WE did) consciousness.

      I can ask grammatically correct questions like, “what color is hope?” but this does not mean that the questions should expect any kind of intelligible answers, seeing as such questions take my assumptions (say, of feelings really having colors) as givens.

  • Matt

    Having billed this as a follow-up to a post about how religion had gotten in the way of answering the “why” question of existence, I’m wondering if you can bring this full circle and answer why you think the pursuit of wisdom should be the primary goal. I think loads of people live out their blink-of-an-eye lives without ever leaving the fog. The underlying normative premise of this post is that a fog-based approach to life is inferior to a wisdom-seeking approach. But to what end must we seek wisdom?

    From an analytical standpoint, I agree with pretty much everything you say in the post, but share some of the other commenters concerns about apathy. In my own experience, brief encounters with lvl 3 whoa moments just make me feel utterly insignificant. I can appreciate the specialness – all of the gabillion variables that had to be just right to even produce the pile of navel-gazing atoms that is me, but can’t help but feel, given the sheer magnitude of it all, that none of the day-to-day needs serviced by my zoo of small-minded emotions and motivations really matter.

    You say that the goal should be the pursuit of truth and wisdom. But why? And how do you maintain it while still addressing day-to-day needs?

    • Anonymous

      For me it is a matter of zooming out to the original staircase towards the top of the post. If more and more humans push themselves to spend more and more time on the higher level sub-steps then we are helping, in our own tiny tiny way, to evolve the species up towards the next actual step in consciousness. Not to mention we’d live in a much more pleasant world for everyone if our base that we occasionally “devolved” to was sub-step 2. That is if we don’t manage to wipe ourselves out in the meantime (a la the Fermi Paradox post). So, how’s survival of the species as a goal for striving towards wisdom?

  • Len

    Fantastic piece of writing and thought. Thank you.

    Atheism is a four letter word in America. I wish it wasn’t. Without this prejudice, there would be no need for the term Truthism. Also not the need for many atheists to call themselves agnostic. In the same way many religious people who are turned off by Religion also call themselves agnostic. (Which is when the title “agnostic” is probably being more accurately used.) (Semantics get involved her of course.)

    Atheists could more accurately call themselves Scientists but that term is reserved for those with degrees and professions based on the sciences. Atheism is based on science and science is ANYTHING but certain. Science being the sum total knowledge of our known universe. There is a science to fairytales but fairytales are not based on science. Hence atheism points in the direction of a universe of randomness (being simplistic here for augment’s sake), and not one put in motion by a supreme being. (For lack of a better description of religious belief.) Atheism is no more certain and rigid than science is.

  • Bruno Sanchez

    Oh my….. You did it again! What an amazing piece of wisdom, Tim!

    “Truthist”, that´s a nice new concept…

    Keep rockin’!

    Best regards from Brazil!

  • DR

    Very insightful … And pretty much exactly what ancient Hindu philosophy (not the version spouted by politicians currently) says …

  • Austin S.

    First of all, nice post.

    Several people have mentioned this article reminding them of Buddhism, but I would add Mormonism to that.

  • Zoe

    I knew it!!
    AWESOME POST!! There is a path that leads out of the fog, towards wisdom & away from suffering. There are methods, there are tools, and there are people walking the path. We are waking up together.

  • Verdun

    Nice job. 🙂

    Just one thing: I think at the heart of most religions lies the same goals you have laid out here. It’s my feeling that, in general, they contain the same four steps.

  • Rebecca

    I wish we had a WBW community in which we could make friends and share ideas. I don’t want to sound uppity when I say I can’t even communicate these ideas to my family and friends, but the sad fact is most of them are not even interested. As a Truthist, I find myself incredibly alone.

  • sara

    i’m not a religious person, but i can’t help but notice you’ve still fallen into the atheist trap of painting all major world religions in a negative light. a lot of the negative results of religion is a product of the people who claim to be followers (the dumb, angry, step 1 people) – not necessarily the teachings of their religions. but to say that “at a fundamental level, most religions seem to treat people like children instead of pushing them to grow.”that’s a really wide generalization and a kind of narrow view of religion as a whole. im just saying it doesn’t HAVE to be like that, and it just seems like that’s the only viewpoint you’ve been exposed to. i saw in another comment you mentioned being a bit ignorant of buddhism, you might consider educating yourself outside of your own personal religious experiences so far in life. just getting a greater understanding of the core of the worlds major religions might give you a better step 3 perspective for people who do believe.

  • Chandani

    Tim, you are absolutely brilliant. It was immensely stimulating to read this post and I felt very happy to have many of my thoughts resonated through your great articulation. Although, much like most other people, I too wonder how it is possible to stay on the journey to step 2 and further while doing tasks that require step 1 motivations such as financial security. What makes it worse is that while doing these tasks, you clarity is not only covered by your own fog but also of your peers. You not only have animals inside your head creating all sorts of noises but also the voices of animals living inside the heads of those around you. Especially when these voices are of people who are immensely close to you. You also don’t want to be in your death bed wondering how you lost out on/disappointed so many loved ones in your selfish pursuit of wisdom. How do u think one can tackle that? While staying on this path of growth?

  • Ryan

    A little MDMA is the easiest (and most enjoyable) way to step 3.

  • Adrianne

    I loved your post!
    Did you happen to read Gene Keys by Richard Rudd? It’s an amazing book, it really changed my perception of the reality and kind of become my new religion. In this book there are some similar concepts with what you said. Richard speaks about the shadows we all have, shadows such as struggle, greed, doubt that we needed to survive for so long but we don’t need any more, not in the original way. These shadows are also hiding the gifts/one’s higher potential which are released once the shadows are recognized and accepted (or seen through :)) And since your religion is Truth I’ll share a small quote from Richard on Truth (which he considers as the highest gift of the Doubt shadow)
    “Truth is only realised After Completion. When we have finished with logic and
    with the mind. Its not that the mind is seen as useless. It will always have its
    beauty. But it has no business with truth. Logic has no relationship to Truth. They
    are not of the same world. They are not of the same dimension. When logic sees
    its own futility, it is naturally transcended. It will always defeat itself. The
    logical mind can only operate in a dualistic world. It always requires space and
    time to lay out its patterns. And so one day, logic returns to the source. Often
    this Gene Key will give an individual an experience known as Divine Doubt. It is
    the final letting go of one’s identity within space and time. We experience a
    void, a terrifying emptiness in which all the doubt is purged from our system, is
    wiped from our DNA.”

  • Amanathema

    Thank you so much for this post. I needed it! The last few years I’ve left a cult and become more and more abloe to stay on step 2, glimpse step 3 and enjoy my lack of knowledge of step 4 – I just never found names for them. I never defined it, and the last four months it’s been bringing me so far down that I’m guessing the animals just sort of piled up un top of my higher being and started biting.

    I made myself a … thing to believe in. I’m allowing myself to take anything from any religion or movement that I enjoy and use the bits that make sense for my daily and long-term happiness. I made a figurine, but I wouldn’t call her my god. I think she’s just a collection of all the positive things I want to be or am and have been. Also she’s very pretty in an artistic way (and spraypainted golden) and the statue is helping me remember steps 2 and 3. I would add that I’ve learned to enjoy the animals too. I’m an animal and that’s just fine, I’m also a conscious being and that’s great too. So much shame is gone from my life.

    I’m going to have to remember truthism as a concept. I feel like a fog has been lifted (ok, I typed that before remembering what’s happening on step 1 and 2, lol, your idea really works) and that’s a huge relief. It frees me up to fight the right things without worrying eternally about which bits I’m going to lose or win.

    I’ll be okay, because I’m alive and I have the ability to see joy in that fact alone. If nothing else this coffee is really nice and my feet are warm – and that’s enough on step 2.

    <3 <3 <3
    Thank you for taking the time to write this.

  • Lady

    Tim,

    I am a Christian, and this works for me. I like that you are working towards your own enlightenment, in whatever way works for you. Human growth is all for the greater good. I was skeptical about if I would like this post, and I can’t say that it is my favorite, mainly because my favorites are on lighter, sillier topics, but I can appreciate this! Nice insight and thoughtfulness.

  • Nc

    “I’m a Truisth”. So you are like good ol’ Platon? or the Stoics?, those were beliefs. They had leaps of faith’s too.

    • wobster109

      Beliefs aren’t all equal. Some beliefs are almost certainly correct (“the sun exists”), others almost certainly incorrect (“the tooth fairy exists”). And it’s useful to label some as true and others as false. Imagine if your doctor said “take this antibiotic” and your friend said “drink this snake bile”. They are both beliefs, but would you treat them as equally leaps of faith?

      • Nc

        Beliefs are all equal, what you are calling is Knowledge, which is a justified true belief.

        All beliefs have leap of faiths, until you try to justify them, which is the way to true knowledge. Most people have beliefs but they don’t really try to analyze them, they just keep the first impression of it and move on.

        In fact most people have only one argument to their point of view, without never trying to disaprove it by constant thought.

  • Michael

    Tim, this post is amazing and it comes at a time when I feel like I’ve been stuck on Step 1 for way too long. You should write a book.

  • John

    I really want to start a Truthist church. It would be a place where your posts are read, and everyone wheres your t-shirts. The world would be better because of it.

    • John

      **wears…

  • Stefany

    Tim — I have nothing but love for you and your writing. Each of your posts brings me to a Step 2/3 moment, but this week tipped the scale to a Step 4.

    Thanks for that.

  • T.

    Reading you for ages, reacting for the first time. I admire your fearless honesty and effort you put in every single post. Thank you for today’s fog and lifting it to see some of the greater fog behind it.
    But a staircase? It can only be used by a few people at a time, a step even only by one (or two if you squeeze). Won’t we/you/I become arrogant climbing those stairs as one of few ‘more conscious beings’? Aren’t we all in this together? I’ll buy your shirt of the starry night / kosmos we are in together and all love to look at.
    Ps: thank you especially for sharing your experience with foggy nights when all seems terribly wrong. It is really a comfort not to have those alone.

  • Judy

    I love the Oh You Precious Soul cartoon! So hilariously expressive with so few lines. You really are a master of clarity and orderliness. I like that you solicit responses from your readers, too. That’s a good project for me! You are a good boy, Timmer.

  • Cat

    Tim,

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and always look forward to new posts, but this time, I have to say THANK YOU! This post really clarified my way of thinking about the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything. “Truthist” is the best way to sum up my own “belief system.”

    I was having a real Step 1 kind of day and your post helped lift me up out of the fog. Especially when I had to giggle at those “suddenly ridiculous” animals.

    Again, thank you!

  • Rob

    All hail Tim, Prime Truthist. The only True religion.

    Oh wait, that’s not right…

    🙂

    What a wonderful post. I’m already planning my Whoa moments. Or at least to put myself in their way, and hope for the best!

    My love for this site grows on.

  • Jake

    Awesome. I just bought the Truthist T-shirt.

  • Ryric

    I really enjoy your posts. There is a lot similar between your views espoused here and my personal life philosophy, which in your terms could be expressed as “stay on step 2-3 as much as possible.” Here are bits of my core life philosophy:
    -Be honest all the time. You can’t see truth if you surround yourself with lies. Being honest with others helps you be honest with yourself.
    -Do not act from anger or fear. When you are angry everything you do seems justified, righteous even. It often isn’t. Fear stops you from attempting things that may be risky yet beneficial. It is useful to be informed of fear and anger, and to understand why you feel them, but the impetus for action needs to come from rationality.
    -Be a positive experience for those you meet. I want to make everyone’s life better for my having been in it.
    -Be genuinely happy for others’ good fortune. Jealousy and pettiness are not worthwhile motivations.
    -All people deserve a basic level of respect, until they prove through actions that they do not. You don’t know someone else’s situation so it is best to assume they are making a good-faith effort to be the best “them” they can be, just as you are.

    I’m not always successful, but I can maintain this most of the time(I’d like to say my Step2/step 1 ratio is >1). Traffic sends me into rage for some reason. I can say that operating this way, my life is clearer, I get along with most people, and things in general are pretty positive.

  • The truth abides

    So… hey. Can we hang out and get stoned together? Because I think that’d be cool.

  • Jocelyn

    beautiful. thank you for being the human that you are.

  • Matt C.

    Wow, Tim. Wow. I’ve learned so much from you over the years – wisdom that already existed in my mind – but that you’ve helped me to realize. I’m a Truthist. All this time I’ve been defending my stance as an atheist, a spiritual atheist, but one who’s been unable to organize an accurate framework for his beliefs, until now. You are truly one of the great philosophers of our time, and I’m happy to have you in my life. Thank you.

  • Greetings from Finland

    I had basically read the TOP-10 most popular posts before and they managed to deeply impress me almost every time but still when I started reading this post I could have had absolutely no notion to its coming scale of concepts. What a tour de force, congratulations.

    Quite early on one serious question surfaced on my mind that I am very eager to hear the answer to. Namely: Have you ever had a psychedelic experience? The way you described certain subjective realizations and feelings that visiting or staying on each of these ‘consciousness microsteps’ evokes hit quite close to home. I feel these momentary but momentous moments [sorry, had to] of unconditional love and compassion can surely be arrived at through mindfulness and meditative practices, but for me their description reminded mostly insights gained in a state of psychedelia. Through these sort of experiences I myself have been able to lengthen my temporary visits to Step 2 and perhaps undergone the most wholesome flashes of Step 3.

    All in all, thank you for this post!

    P.S. As it is said about hanging up the phone when the message has been heard, regarding psychedelics it is useful to realize that in most cases after the insightful content has been absorbed, it would only serve hedonistic (and thus lower-level) purposes to stick to indulging in them.

  • Too old to start over

    Sounds like you think a ’52 Chevy can be a Ferrari by just trying harder.

    • davide

      Certainly a Chevy ’52 can’t become a Ferrari just by trying harder.
      But people can always get better if they want to and work at it.
      That’s one of the best things about being human 🙂

  • Random internet user

    Hipster Buddhism, aka “Perspective 101” for the young hipster crowd.

  • Craig

    In my humble opinion, if Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Moses and Confucius read this, they would each say, “Yes, exactly.” In the past 15 years I’ve found dozens of people whose thinking has converged on what you say, but the way you said it is excellent. Thanks, and keep up the good work!

    • Renz

      I agree with Craig that the Spiritual teachers of our past would all agree with this. In Practical Kabalism (which I study and apply as my framework to reach the goal Tim talks about) we call Tim’s 3rd level, Christ Consciousness. Under that framework you find the paths of experience to ascend the “steps” of consciousness until that sustained “3rd level” attainment. Every experience you have lends itself to your evolution. In the same way that we think of each generation in biological evolution as a mutation towards escalated adaptation for better mastery of our world, then we can see each experience in our daily life as a way to evolve out of the “fog.” So yeah, this general force of conscious evolution is found in the contemplative factions of any religion, and even in some schools of phycology.

      I see Tim’s approach to this conscious evolution as a very pure humanistic approach to the fundamentals of spirituality. That’s awesome. It’s rare to come across people with the courage to begin to examine the mind in this way, let alone attempt to understand it well enough to write a coherent article about it . I say humanist because from a mystical outlook (I’d rather say that than religious, even though both bring a ton of shitty baggage with them) what seems limiting to me in this post is the need to wait on science to tell us what is ok to experience personally in the realm of the unknown. You know what I mean? I do this myself. It’s as if I need to wait for the exoteric/scientific proofs to tell me it’s ok, or, rational, to really explore esoteric/mystical knowledge (a knowledge that is mind blowing when we consider how highly developed that knowledge was so early in civilized society, ie. the Vedas and Upanishads). So, my question to myself, Tim, and other readers of this fine blog, is this: How much of the purple blob area is actually already known within us, but we can’t access it because we let our extremely limited thinking get in the way? From my experience, and man I really wish Tim would respond to this, or other readers, I find that every time I have a Whoa moment, there was zero thinking involved. Maybe intense thought preceded it, but in that moment there is no thought, just a knowing. To me this is the transcendence of thought/mind and the beginning of accessing the soul essence that each of us possess. In my opinion, we get crystallized by our dependency on science as the godlike authority to tell us what is and isn’t possible. I think it hinders us because of obsessive thinking when, as Tim pointed out, our best thinking still is cosmically retarded, so why do we allow external observation and thinking to set the limits of our inward knowing. Don’t get me wrong, I want to know everything about our universe. I love science. I believe in evolution and see how it fits beautifully with my spiritual life. I just think that if we allowed ourselves to focus as much inwardly (and this is where I diverge from Tim’s humanist approach to spirituality and align more with the true mystical traditions of our worlds cultures) as we do outwardly, transcending even the mind, then we would make exponential progress in all facets of love and life. People may respond to this saying that consciousness resides in the mind and therefore cannot be transcended. I understand that view and wrestle with that thought myself, but again, that is not known and is one of the biggest contributors to the purple blob, and a prime example of the limitation of thinking that I’m talking about. Man, I hope this made some sense to somebody and didn’t offend anyone else…

      Thanks, Tim for another challenging and thoughtful post. Your readers know you cut no corners and give it your all.

      Peace!

  • Further regards from between SWE and RUS

    Forgot to mention that if I had to guess you may be familiar with the concept of Indra’s Net. If you aren’t, look it up for recursive mindbogglery of the best ontological kind and notice how you applied the very idea in your text. How one infinitesimally small fragment of an infinite whole contains the aforementioned infinite whole in itself– or in other direction the infinite may as well be a similar infinitesimal figment of a ‘following’ infinite ‘whole’ in this infinitely extending succession of all-that-is towards micro- and macroscopic extremes with no end. Has nothing to do with empirical science but somehow succeeds in reframing the mundane worries of even the most science-minded person.

    Also, I think the greatest asset of this post is its clarity and elucidation without oversimplification. Getting an emsemble cast of the animals being a plus too…

  • SteveC

    I use the life of Jesus Christ as my example as to how to live. His religion was that of love and peace. Love your neighbor as yourself, don’t get too attached to material things, and look out for those less fortunate than you. Of course there are all manner of churches which distort this message. Agnostic is the natural state, probably, as there are any number of possibilities as to how all this came to be, but one answer could be a divine creator. Or maybe the universe has no beginning and no end, just expand and collapse forever, which really warps our brains. We’ll all get the answer soon enough, as our time on earth is short. To me, truth is OK, but wisdom is a more realistic goal for all of us, and wisdom comes from listening and meditating, not from scientists. (After all, it was a scientist who gave North Korea blue prints for the atomic bomb. That man was smart, but not wise).

  • Jeff

    Whoa! This is really wonderful insight. Thanks for writing it!

  • Jake G

    Awesome post I enjoy reading all of your articles during my study hall period and I found this to be me the most eye opening, more or less because I myself I am a Truthist. This helped me clarify thoughts inside my mind because only in the past 2 years have I opened my eyes and realized what the world is all about. (I’m 16) I really appreciate your work and I hope to one day be able to have the creativity and thought process you have shown through your posts. You are truly entertaining and insightful, thank you for everything. 🙂

  • Eiron

    Awesome blog post!

    The most logical step to read next would be: http://www.psitek.net/pages/PsiTekDCWMHSContents.html
    Skeptical at first, I started to love this book more and more towards the end! A must read, IMHO.

  • Jen

    Really great post . . . I’ve had several very profound Step 3 experiences during an intensive existentially agonizing/blissful time in my life. Having never been religious, I was floored when stumbling into the world of Buddhism/Eastern philosophy in a Beat Gen Lit class. One of them I call the self-construction domino fall. While wrestling in my head one night on “what” I was, I finally started to walk and relax, as the “dominoes” of my identity (EVERYTHING about me that made me me, what I liked, what I despised) began to fall in rapid succession until I reached a place of utter lightness, and gratitude and, not happiness, but serenity. The world, in all of its facets, good and bad, I saw, was perfect. My fellow human beings were divine. And I understood that this state (like the sun) I had achieved was ALWAYS there, but covered by “clouds” (or your fog) most of the time.
    Anyway, this experience changed me profoundly for a while, a month or so. I know I acted differently, was freer with hugs and smiles. My petty ambitions were gone. I was content with my life just as it was (for the first time ever). But I felt the stares of others. I began to feel self-conscious, and I could feel myself sliding back into my everyday, lower-level self. I really struggled with how to maintain this “enlightenment” in the everyday world . . . and I have yet to find the answer. Now, years later, I am pretty much back to where I started! The pull of the “everyday life” is strong, reinforced everywhere! I guess the point is just to repeat the process? Maybe in another million years or so, our social fabric will be constructed in a way that is more accepting and even eliciting of these experiences and behaviors.

  • Schaaschaa

    I would actually like to expand on Step 4 a bit – split it up in 4a and 4b or maybe leaving it like it is and add a step 5 (for I’m not really sure, if I understood you properly). The examples you gave in Step 4, like “We don’t really know, what the universe actually is”, only refer to known unknown. Step 5 would be the unknown unknown. It’s like the difference between the people that didn’t know, what the shape of the earth is, and those people that weren’t even aware that there is something to discover about that.

    I find that even far harder to grasp than the discribed Step 4.

    Best regards

    Schaaschaa

  • Annalisa

    I’m just in love with you.
    Seriously, we have the same idea of the life and the entire universe.
    If I ask you “would you marry me?”, it’s something about religious stuff?
    ‘Cause I love you. Seriously.

  • Kasper

    I really enjoy reading your posts.
    Keep up the great work!

  • Lor

    Excellent, but the thing is, we don’t know what we think we know. So everything should be in the purple cloud. I like it that way myself. I love that there are so many things we don’t know and that we get to make up theories about them. It makes our lives richer. Thanks so much for sharing this. It was truly fascinating.

  • Megan

    Thank you so much, for this post. Truthism!

  • Anonymous

    This is why I read waitbutwhy.

  • Jeremiah

    Great explanation! Within this framework, I believe Jesus was the first human from that Light Green Step right above us!

  • wobster109

    Tim, don’t do this to yourself. Don’t call yourself a Truthist with all its religious and conspiracist connotations, putting yourself out there for other religions to consider themselves equal to you, letting them claim you’re just another belief, pretending their “truth” is as real as yours. You’re a scientist and a rationalist, a humanist and very possibly a transhumanist. Those aren’t substitutes for religion, no more than a running club is, nor do they need to be. I hope you’ll extend your love to the red and green aliens whenever we meet them.

    • wobster109

      Seriously I mean that. Do a Google search for “truthist” and it’s not pretty. You know all about human psychology, so you’re well aware that this will affect how people perceive you. Which might not matter to your authentic voice but it will put others off from finding theirs.

      • davide

        I agree that the name could be better, and I cringed a little when I read it.
        Can’t come up with anything better myself though 🙁
        Maybe we should reclaim “Truthism” from the crazies???

  • Nola

    I love this blog (I like all of your blogs – but this is the first one I want to reply to) and I like the Truthist designation. It’s often been suggested to me that “Humanist” might work – but it never has and now I know why – thank-you for clarifying that. I want to live outside of the human fog: to be as self-aware and see as clearly as possible. I want the truth … whatever that is for me …

    For many years I have been trying to live according to a personal philosophy: “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” based on the idea that only truly stupid people are never afraid. That has been working … but, because I have been applying this to my life and getting an education, I now realize that I have to continue to expand my consciousness to embrace pain as a useful emotion (not physical pain – that’s just stupid – it doesn’t clarify anything and takes you back to the animal self). You started to address this and I don’t know if I made this up or read it somewhere else … but maybe it will help.

    Pain is what makes you aware that you are alive … Beauty is what makes life worth living. You cannot appreciate one without embracing the other.

    If you can shorten this down a bit (maybe make it tattoo size) or make it more concise … I’d appreciate your thoughts – but I don’t expect it … I know that we’re all busy living …

  • Jane

    Wow thank you. Finding out that you and other commentors have pretty much the same philosophy of life as I do has landed me on step 3 for the evening.

  • HarryM

    Great work lads. Really great stuff. Thanks

  • vanillaf

    Thank you for your posts which are extremely enlightening. You have such a gift with words and translating them into resonant visuals that capture complex concepts into a post that you would read over and over. You have taught me so much since I first read the Mammoth article from Pocket. Looking forward to your new “clarity” posts every week. Keep up the sublime work! 🙂

  • guest

    writing rocks
    stream of consciousness deeply resonates
    whoa 🙂

  • Maren

    This is a fascinating way to look at enlightenment and personal development. I identify as a Secular Humanist, (The philosophy or life stance of secular humanism embraces human reason, ethics, and philosophical naturalism while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition as the basis of morality and decision making.) but often find it hard to explain to others how a non-religious person can lead a satisfying life full of growth while positively contributing to society. This is an excellent series of articles to point someone to if I fail at explaining. Thank you for your insight and your ability to put into words what many think yet are unable to explain.

  • Kemstone

    To me, the most important thing we don’t know is whether or not humanity will manage to survive long enough to advance further up the consciousness staircase. You touched on this with your Fermi Paradox post (which thanks to this post is now only your 2nd-best of all time). Granted, all of our individual lives are tiny insignificant blinks-of-a-cosmic-eye, but if we as a species can survive our technological adolescence (coupled with what I’d call our “spiritual adolescence”) we have the potential to endure for billions of years. And since we (conscious minds) are the means by which the universe is aware of itself, isn’t a universe enriched with eons of enlightened human awareness preferable to a universe devoid of it?

    I’m deeply encouraged whenever I come across minds which share a perspective so similar to my own, as it gives me hope for our future. This is the first WBW post for which I’ve read every comment, and seeing so many others identify with this philosophy has also been greatly encouraging. As more and more people break away from the old dogmatic “Level 1” scripture-based ways of thinking and turn towards this wisdom-seeking, acknowledgement-of-our-own-ignorance kind of perspective, the greater I believe our chances of long-term survival are.

    The only difference between my own way of thinking and the one you lay out here (it’s uncanny how similar they are, right down to your 4 levels of consciousness) is that I place more emphasis on our responsibility to our fellow humans as opposed to mere personal wisdom-seeking. The pursuit of wisdom is enormously valuable in and of itself, but it’s also a means to a higher end—the enlightnement of the species as a whole.

    I believe that we all have a responsibility as we go through our individual lives to contribute in some way to making long-term human survival more likely than human extinction. Not everyone’s contribution can be equal (I wouldn’t expect your Nigerian friends to be able to do as much as a wealthy American) and everyone will have their own particular skills and talents to draw on. I used to try and do it through writing as you’re doing with your blog, but I was never able to draw an audience. These days I’m trying to do it through teaching.

    On Level 1 I often get jealous: “How come I never got any readers and this guy has so many? How come he can spend months traveling to all the coolest places on earth and I can’t even afford to travel within my own country?” But on Level 2 I’m glad your blog exists and I’m glad so many people read it.

    Reading this post brought me to Level 3, where I can clearly see that you are contributing to the betterment of humanity with posts like these. I hope your audience only continues to grow, you beautiful soul!

  • Luna

    Very Dömæc. Good job.

  • BrookeT

    Tim Urban, you are too omniscient for this world.

  • Kaan Keskin

    You should definitely read School for Gods from Stefano D’Anna.

    I didn’t finish the book but it actually helped a lot to have my own ideas while reading the book.

    It is more about Dreamism than Truthism because the concept is:

    “The world is such because you are such. ”

    Just while I was writing this, I realized the guy has died last month. The purple thing is everywhere.

    Whoa.

  • Didn’t finish, yet

    …but, I am in love with that naked turtle!

  • Russ Wollman

    The internet is a fabulous development for the spread of all kinds of stuff like ideas and knowledge and wisdom and even t-shirts. The downside is that we don’t who post don’t usually get the chance to meet each other and enjoy the fullness of our humanity together. The world is a big place with lots of people so I guess the internet will have to do, and it does quite a lot.

    Tim, you are a genuine seeker, and I want to tell you that I adore your every move in life. You’re lucky to have that spiritual drive, and I have no doubt you will keep the machine in gear. You will undoubtedly move many other souls forward.

    Maybe we will meet someday on one of the wonderful streets in Manhattan, where the diversity of humanity shines so brightly.

  • WW

    Tim – I usually love your posts, but I have trouble wrapping my mind around this one. Machines are great at knowing what they know and what they don’t know. What makes our path to wisdom different? I also think that wisdom is a great and fun activity, but the pursuit of it is no sillier than the pursuit of enlightenment or heaven, because as you point out, in the context of the vastness of the universe… we don’t even know if the wisdom that we gained is true. Some societies mistake misogyny or fascism as wisdom, and without the passing of time and the critique of our current day wisdom through multiple generations, we cannot know if we are truly looking through the fog or just hallucinating.

  • Anneka

    Thank you, Tim!

    You’re like a beloved friend to me, that I look forward to catching up whenever you come around. I sometimes giggle at this intimate familiarity which I’m sure I share with 10,000 or so other readers who love you and yet you have never met us.

    In my search I came across Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws years ago, which I found a simple and profound book that talks about giving, and just being and having an intent, but detaching yourself from the outcome, also in terms of the laws of nature.

    Then I enjoyed Steven Fry’s video on humanism http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tvz0mmF6NW4 as an answer to living life that tickled my fancy, but now I’m going to post your link on his comment section.

    I’m with Wobster 109 that, there might be a better name than “truthism”. I though about “Is”-ism, but that might not be the best word at the moment. May be one of those magnifying glass icons…

    Thanks again!

  • Darima the Siberian girl

    Hi Tim, congrats on an amazing post again! You keep putting my weird and intuitive thoughts into words and images, which is absolutely mind-blowing and insightful.

    I will try harder on fighting with the fog after your post)

    I also agree to a couple of comments above – most of the things you described in this post relates to Buddhism, which originally is not a religion. Buddha was *just* one of many other enlightened (you could say he had longer step 3 moments) people, and he used to ask to not to consider him as a higher creature, or worship him, or take anything he says for granted (without experiencing it themselves and logically questioning it). And there are so many more relative points from your post…!

    As you say about step 3, Buddhism also teaches compassion, since we all are just moments of consciousness happened to be on the same star; says that all things and emotions are constant happenings so it would be naive/limited to think that they would last forever.

    You might find this book interesting: http://www.amazon.com/What-Makes-You-Not-Buddhist/dp/1590305701 “What makes you not a Buddhist” – it’s witty, applicable for today’s life and clear of mythology.

    And just in general, you might get a lot of interesting insights from Buddhism while staying a Truthist!

    Regards, thanks again for all your work!

  • an AA agnostic

    We alcohalics belive that only through a “spiritual awakening” can we have a personality change sufficient to bring about recovery. AA has 12 steps all designed to instill humility in a brain where the fog has become a solid.We speak of a “higher power”of your personal understanding “higher being” worked for me.A life long truther my step 3 experiences have come mostly through the eyepeices of my telescopes and the love of atronomy.Isint it wonderus that through humility we may find serinity, wait but why?

  • Khephra

    Great post, Tim! Your best yet, by far when you couple it with your last post on religion. I had been myself growing by leaps and bounds several years back, but I abandoned my practice. But, as you mentioned we are on a graph that fluctuates. Even highly spiritual or wise people recognize this. I have been struggling to find the WILL to get back into my spiritual practice to grow again, but have been on that step 1 with occasional visits to step 2. I haven’t been on step 3 much since I stopped my practice. Thank you for this post; it is inspiriational in a certain way. Thank you also for reminding me that I’m not necessarily alone when it comes to experiencing that fog. I will later share what has worked for me over the years.

    Keep it up, Tim.

    -K

  • joe.holzer

    Great article, as usual,:) , thank you.
    I AM ON MY WAY HOME, AND I HAVE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH THE JOURNEY.
    Actually not quite right, I don’t just love life, I’m besotted with it!
    I’ve been a seeker all my live and it has served me well. I’m a happy person, nearly all the time and I’m lucky to be surrounded by beautiful people whom I’m able to serve and love. It feels like a lot of step 2 with intermittent excursions that are so vivid and real to me I will carry them like a string of jewels forevermore.
    HERE IS ONE OF THEM:
    Very early on a Sunday morning I stepped into a room with around a dozen other young people to pray. Most of us were standing and praying out aloud. Each in their own personal way. As I tired of standing after some time I kneeled and bowed forward with my forehead nearly touching the floor. As I continued praying I became aware of a brilliantly light entity approaching me. My eyes were facing the ground but it was as if seeing it through my skull. I felt totally humbled at first and then as the the brilliance came closer and approached me I was flooded with an intensity of love no words can do justice. At the same time I was bathed in a feeling of glowing warmth and well-being and I realized I was ‘at home’, as a state of being, not the place I lived in.
    I wish I’d be better with words to convey this jewel to you, I treasure it greatly. So since a while now I try to elevate my love to ‘unconditional’, due to my realization that my regrets at the end of my life would be that I could have loved more in situations where I didn’t.
    Anyway, I’ll end this with a short version of a favorite text,…… Someday we shall harness the energies of love, then for the second time in the story of humankind we will have discovered fire! (Teilhard De Chatin ).

  • Ryder

    Well… where to start.

    Most of it is obvious. Then much of it is simply known to be wrong. Demonstrably.

    The assumptions about happiness and love… are really born of the fog as well. So far as we know, the Vulcan is actually the enlightened one, and happiness and love are really just chemical signals that have no place in the enlightened mind.

    This is one of the problems that I think we see over and over with those that feel that they have seen a glimpse of enlightenment, and an expanding consciousness… that “the way” or “the path” is marked with many assumptions or presumptions.

    The Fog is real… as anything might be… but one day we’re going to be able to prove that we are really just a simulation running in a universe that we have no awareness of (simulation hypothesis)… and then question of the value of climbing stairs of awareness in a alien simulation has to he pondered.

    I think that it comes down to this: “I believe there is a fog in my mind, and I aim to clear it a bit…” is really all one might say.

    Vimeo “SLOMO”, the story of a 70 year old skater. He may just be leading the way.

  • Ryder

    And interestingly… everything in the step 1 and step 2 panel comparisons, has long be taught by Christianity… I’m just sayin’. They’ve been way ahead of us in many ways.

    (and please try to forget “Hollywood” Christianity… that’s a cartoon… and how far to many think they have come to understand their fellow man… via a Hollywood lens.)

  • Vikram

    Tim, great post and here are my three cents:

    0.01 – Flatland. A short novel by Edwin Abbott describes a world of two-dimensional shapes. In this world exists a north, south, east, and west, but an up and down z-axis does not exist. The main character (A. Square, a teacher) visits line land (of one dimension) and pointland (of no dimensions). He is then visited by a sphere. The sphere shows Mr Square the third dimension but scoffs at the idea of a fourth or fifth or even greater number of dimensions. This book demonstrates your model in a geometric manner.

    0.02 – This post seems like the beginning of the integration of many of your previous posts. Like how the claustrum of the brain integrates sensory experience to produce consciousness (as theorized). I would like to see you clear more fog and find more of these primitive animals. Maybe a pushover parrot or an impulse control lacking goldfish or a drunk horse (clearly I’m not as good at this as you).

  • Dave Baxter

    This is very much an agnostic’s manifesto. Here’s what the atheist’s version is like:

    While we can’t KNOW everything – and there will always be more we don’t know than what we do – we can generally UNDERSTAND everything that impacts us at any given time. We don’t know why someone is behaving a certain way on a certain day, but we’re always aware that whatever behavior they’re displaying is a potentiality, and what all the many, many reasons for such behavior might be. We always are carrying this understanding around with us, because no other person is actually that radically different from ourselves (we just like to throw our arms up and bitch that they are, because that lets us off the hook from having to try to understand them).

    That’s a more practical view of Step #2 – an atheist believes that we actually DO understand what’s happening around us and why, and we can accept this and always be ready for it rather than fighting it and flail about angrily against it. Understanding things is about embracing our experiences of being human and allowing for it when dealing with the universe and others.

    Then for Step #3 it’s not at all useful to simply realize: wow, I’m such a small piece of this massive puzzle! But it is useful to realize that your purpose in life, if any, has to be about what you actually encounter. An atheist understands that what’s important is what they can effect – the people around them, the people they can touch directly, or via politics, or improving lives via science and better communication. Our ability to recognize that we’re a bundle of atoms, that there is a massive and awesome universe of galaxies all around us, is invigorating, but not because it makes us feel little, but rather special. But we feel special because we WILL accomplish things and share these accomplishments with others on levels wherein we all understand each other’s existence and accomplishments. We’re not alone, WE (all living things) are all that matters.

    For Step #4, the atheist realizes that we don’t know a lot – but it isn’t particularly important. The unknown is unknown because it hasn’t ever been imperative that we come to know it. When that changes, we will begin to know what we next need to know. When we’re ready to expand beyond our borders, we’ll begin to figure out how to, and why the obstacles that are in our way are in fact obstacles, and how we can overcome them. But not until. Life it about improving what we’re struggling with RIGHT NOW. The atheist is perfectly happy with tackling those challenges, while understanding there is much more to come, but not being so self-obsessed that we believe these “more to come” things have anything to do with ourselves specifically.

    It’s all a process, and we’re here to play our part, to the best of our ability, and we’re eager to make it a good, meaty, actor-bait kind of role.

  • Jude

    Thank you, thank you for putting spirituality where it should be – not in a smug new age-y place or a creepy religion-y place, but here and now as everyone’s birthright, something that can be richly pleasurable and satisfyingly challenging and allowing of uncertainty. You’ve got a gift young Tim, bloody well done 🙂

  • Steven L

    This article is without a doubt my favourite. It’s managed to help me answer the question why I can be unnecessarily spiteful towards an unknowingly annoying friend of mine one moment, and considering the nature of human consciousness the next. Magnificent work.

    Speaking of human consciousness, here’s a question I thought of a couple weeks ago. I think its’ thought-provoking, but it might actually just be retarded.

    Say you died and were declared brain dead, but through some medical miracle doctors were able to restart your heart and restore life to you (this is all hypothetical as I’m pretty sure doctors can’t repair you after brain death… yet). Would the person waking up – i.e., their consciousness, be the same as yours? Would “you” be the person waking up, perceiving the world, or would it be a second, brand new instance of consciousness that was indistinguishable from the previous “you”?

    Does this make sense or is my brain having a science fart again?

  • Michael

    I’m an Arborvitian. I started exploring religion about 20 years ago, including fake religions that existed entirely within the imaginary world of video games and novels, and Arborvitianism was my attempt at creating a grand unified theory to take the good bits and leave out the bad bits. It’s rooted entirely on earth, and ignores most of the purple blob, because what can a bacterium do about the purple blob anyway?

    Nothing. We can’t even make it to step 4, let alone all the way to the green step, and the purple blob is way out there. We can scarcely even imagine what we don’t know about the universe. All you have to do is look at that Hubble image of a sea of fucking GALAXIES to realize we are beyond insignificant in the scheme of things. What if galaxies are like protons in the nuclei of enormous atom-like structures, and it takes millions of galaxies to make up the equivalent of one grain of salt in the larger world beyond our understanding? We truly have no idea, and couldn’t understand the answer if it were presented to us.

    So Arborvitianism draws on ideas from Neo-Pagan earth spirituality, and it is a collection of symbols and observances I really ought to write about one of these days, but I can’t imagine why anybody out there would ever care about my silly bullshit. It turned out to be more of an art project than anything spiritually meaningful in of itself, but I guess the making of the art was where I got the spiritual satisfaction I needed. My purple blob is called the Protark, and Arborvitianism deals with the Protark by ignoring it utterly. The universe outside the hull of this giant lifeboat ship we’re living in really doesn’t impact us that much, whereas local conditions impact us a hell of a lot.

    I’ve read a few different psychology books lately that have helped me come to terms with the fact that we’re hard wired to believe in fairy tales, and we’re very prone to magical thinking. I concluded in retrospect that Arborvitianism was my attempt to feed my “god socket” something palatable, since I couldn’t totally make it go away, and just be rational all the time. It deals with how the sun feeds us and the moon made our planet habitable to our kind of life (no more 200 mph winds scouring the planet during its 2.5 hour day) and encourages you to worship trees, because anybody who doesn’t want to worship trees is a poopy pants. I guess you could say Arborvitianism is my way of hanging some pretty decorations on the fog and saying la la la la la.

    I haven’t fooled around with any of that stuff in quite a few years. I’ve made it up to Step 3 and had some serious epiphanies, but the problem is whenever I go there my brain literally fries. I was walking around here for three days tripping BALLS after one of those episodes where I saw the “code behind the matrix” lit up like a Christmas tree, and I had such crystal certainty. Crystal certainty about things that turned out to be COMPLETE bullshit. Kind of like that guy who looks at a clock and it stops, so he decides he can stop a freight train with his mind, except my crazy bullshit was of a different flavor. I can read minds! I’m superhuman! Wait, I’m totally full of shit and embarrassing myself. Eek! (It’s a long story.)

    In fact, my personal journey is actually taking me back into the fog as much as possible. I’ve lived more of my life on step 2 than step 1, denying my animal nature, and I have lived a great life for some kind of ascetic monk or something. The problem is I’m basically just a monkey, and monkeys like to fuck and to fling their shit at things and beat the hell out of other monkeys. I need to feed my monkey more, and just enjoy more of my life at face value, instead of worrying so much about the purple blob.

    Whatever the purple blob is or isn’t, that isn’t helping make my penis happy, and my penis is really sick of having so little control of my body. I’m going to cease to exist in a few years one way or another, and I don’t want to regret not making my penis happier in the meantime. Of course I can’t keep it that simple, and I have to clothe all of this in fairy tales and fantasies about Trueeeee Looooooovvvvee, which is a big part of why my penis is so angry with me. Most girls actually just want to be bent over and have their hair pulled, but no, I have to make everything 10,000 times too complicated.

    I envy the people who live in the fog. They’re happy. Guys like us… We’re just too complicated.

    • lolo

      If you had a blog, I’d read it every day. Channeling my inner Tim Urban, “Truthism” is 20 steps below “Arborvitianism”. Can you include your Arborvitianism art on your blog please.

  • Mauler

    you still need to study Islam, if you consider it you’ll find something different, really.
    *nothing like this is absolute, just my opinion, nothing force me to be a muslim..

  • JM

    First time I’ve posted – been reading lots here for the past few weeks. Cracking post and I find myself agreeing with much of it and the underlying lesson it tries to teach however I have one thing that’s not resolving in my mind which is how the conscious/sub-conscious model of our mind fits into your Higher Being/lower level animals model?

    I think (and there is on-going study pointing to proving) that the conscious mind simply guides the sub-conscious the best it can with the sub-conscious doing the vast majority of the heavy lifting and decision making, even in regards to what we think of as our intellectual thought. Essentially without the subconscious to do most of the processing the conscious mind is a pretty useless animal.

    This then potentially conflicts with your model so I would like to understand how you think the 2 sit together?.

    You may of course just plain disagree with how I think the conscious and subconscious mind work together but my question still stands 🙂

  • Grego

    I think you could clear a little bit more of your fog by thinking about the basic question o what is being an individual. Or maybe you can reach a new Whoa moment.

    In your text I can see many times you talking about yourself and saying that you wont last long enough kind of thing, but what is “you”? For me, there might not be individuality, maybe we’re all just a bunch of atoms united with a specific load of animal parts (our DNA) and a lot of memories and experiences.

    Which makes us all the same stuff, just born somewhere else, but maybe there’s no “me” and “you”, we could be anyone anywhere, so somehow we will be here in the future generations, it may be all about simple existence, not individuality.

    Sorry I don’t have the complete theory about this, I’ve been building this thought over the years, but it always open paths on my mind to maybe reach a new big Whoa.

    Apart from this, awesome job on this post, I can identify myself on most of this and I’m really glad someone in this world took his time and talent to put this on paper.

  • Anonymous

    The Goal: Wisdom
    0/10

  • A Clock

    Haha you thought this would take you 10 hours to write.

  • Thomas P.

    Really great post. Just as many other followers here, I’m amazed to see someone having esoteric reasoning so close to mine. And you really have a gift to wrap things together, and output it in a very detailed form yet easy-to-follow.

    I just have one comment and difference with you. To me step 3 is not something I enjoy. I agree that this whoa moment lets me get the feeling “I can take my hands off the wheel”, but I also get the feeling “nothing really matters, whatever I do, nothing makes sense” … which basically shuffle all the cards with regards to what are the goals in life, what are the values I believe I should care about. You seem to postulate that wisdom is something we should aim to. But if nothing matters (because we can’t understand anything), then wisdom is neither good nor bad. Even “good” or “bad” becomes hard to define. In the end, I guess I arrive to something close to nihilism.

    I like the fact that your reasoning tries to be as logical as possible, but I don’t follow your logic when you arrive at step 3, because at this precise moment you postulate that “wisdom”, “love”, are “good” things … which is, to my perspective, precisely what you loose when going from step 2 to step 3.

    Cheers,

    Thomas

    • J Ritchie

      This catches what I have been thinking. Step 3 moments, and an awareness that Step 4 exists, just makes me want to curl up into a ball because it’s all so meaningless. Maybe we NEED Step 1 to make Step 2 possible.

    • Toby

      Thats exactly what I ask myself as well!

      What, suddenly, makes the scale tip to “do good, pursue wisdom, love” vs. “it dosen’t matter” when faced with the utter vastness/randomness that we’re not going to understand anyhow, and have that “whoa” moment of step 3.

      I myself am inclined to lean towards “do good, pursue wisdom, love” over “then it dosen’t matter” but I think that might be due to me being a social animal, that by evolution and upbringing, has learned that those things are inherently good. (I feel better when I do good – the feeling part I understand as my nature)

      Also that might partly be due to chance, because:
      I assume (through observation of people I talked to and know) that humans distribute along the “good” vs. “it doesn’t matter” continuum in a gaussian fashion, when faced with the incomprehensible facts.
      Meaning that approximately half arrive at a form of nihilistic worldview and the other half at their favorite form of “be good/do good” ideology and everyone with varying strength of believe.
      Just like most other humanly (and physical) features tend to be distributed in that fashion.

      I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

      Best, Toby

  • Anonym
  • V

    Tim, marry me!!

  • Finally!

    Something I can get behind.

    Hey any chance you could write this all into a book along with the correct things to think about and how to think about them? That would simplify things and maybe you could get a big group of people to follow this train of thought. Maybe if you get enough we could all meet once in a while (maybe weekly?) in a building? I know that would require money but if everyone put 10% of their income or something towards it we could pull it off!

    Hey just something to think about.

    🙂

    Oh and loved the post.

  • Alexander

    The good is the true?

  • Hemsagar

    Thank you Universe.
    And a long way ahead for you Tim. Good luck with that.
    After travelling around the world, it looks like you’ve been reflecting actively. The context and the way you write them have taken a very good direction.

    And, lately, I have been a bit dull, because I can’t seem to find people who think like me. I have just one friend, who gets excited about Laniakea. Imagine how sad that is. The only female I know that will get equally excited is my sister, probably because of my influence. Now, I feel guilty for that because she may have to be an outsider for the rest of her life. Just kidding, I am super proud.

    I feel very happy just reading the comments because I know there are a lot of people like me. Also, I feel your pain. Hopefully, we’ll all have a great life in this world.

  • Anonymous

    Favorite Post Ever! Completely and accurately described my own view on the universe & religion. Coming from someone who always finds it hard to translate her thoughts, thank you a MILLION times!!!

  • Anonymous

    As a religious person, my issue with this post, is that it is basically attempting to create a new religion. But as others have posted, basically at its core, the principles and ideas are not new. I can’t speak for all of them, but Christianity, is not just limiting, it is about continuous growth and striving for perfection, in the sense, of overcoming Step 1, and getting closer to the higher steps. Plus, like another person said, someone already tagged Truthism as something, so that isn’t an available term to use. Unfortunately, I think that this falls flat for me b/c it is an attempt to recreate the wheel, and make something seem new and unique when other religions have been striving for this for centuries, but believing in the Higher Being as being God, not some voice inside your own head. And the “animals” would be our sins, and our human characteristics that we are meant to overcome. So, sorry but this is not really insightful to me. The more followers of the blog that do believe in it, the more cult-like it is going to seem. At least religions already have their perameters set and defined.

  • Michael

    Man, your posts are simply stunning. It’s like you are inventing just the right terms (and even illustrating them) to help sorting one’s often thought thoughts and vaguely developed concepts of human existence. That’s an incredibly special and admirable gift. For me, you are the greatest modern philosopher. Period.

  • Frankie V

    Tim –

    Thanks so much for your sharings!

    Like many, I find them extraordinarily fascinating, creative, wise, insightful, lucid and quite often outrageously “laugh-out-loud” funny. If I were in the classroom again, these would be weekly reads for my students.

    In any event, I am so appreciative, love to share them and continue aspiring to this level of articulation, actualization and beyond… 🙂

    Much love & “God Bless”!! 😉

    🙂 Frank

  • ES

    Another great post. I agree with a lot of what you say here.

    You may have more than one life to live, though. There’s actually methodical scientific research out there that suggests reincarnation may be true: http://m.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/02/there-is-a-paranormal-activity-lab-at-university-of-virginia/283584/

    The same center in VA published a pretty remarkable (though long and dense) book on various unexplained topics concerning human consciousness. You may want to check it out: Irreducible Mind by Edward Kelly et al. http://www.amazon.com/Irreducible-Mind-Toward-Psychology-Century/dp/1442202068/

    Thanks for the awesome, entertaining, and enlightening content!

  • Seth

    Hey guys!

    Seeing as how this kind of stuff is what I would consider somewhere in “my domain of interest” I thought I’d give a few reactions/thoughts off the top of my head.

    Reading this post was one of those painful experiences where so much is right and wrong at the same time. Or rather, there are a lot of decent first-order approximations here, and for a popular post i’m sure it is doing its job, but there are a lot of aspects which really could use some… tweaking. The overall reason for the post is admirable and the basic idea that consciousness evolves, and that we can participate consciously in the evolution of our own consciousness is sound. But I don’t think it’s quite as straightforward as the post makes it out to be. I could write a post equally as long as the original to try to address all the details, but there are some aspects which stand out quite prominently:

    the metaphor of the staircase for consciousness is far too linear and narrowly interpreted in its close relation with the development of rationality. Higher should not mean somehow “more rational” if “more rational” also means “with less feeling involvement”.

    consciousness doesn’t simply evolve upwards in a progressive fashion, but rather is more like a rhizome, going every which way, including “backwards” — simultaneously, and on different fronts (i.e. consciousness is not “a” thing, let alone a monolithic thing — it is processes within/upon processes within/upon processes…)

    the split between the “fog/animal” and the “clear/rational” is far to strong, and is perhaps the major flaw in the whole thing. It is not an either-or game here, and it certainly isn’t a game where “rationality” stands alone on the top pedestal looking down on all those bits that it has rejected as a part of its own functioning. This myth has been totally destroyed and yet it still persists (the remnants of the modern world view are entrenched deeply), with some seriously deep consequences.

    likewise the division of emotions into “advanced” and not-advanced is too simple, and detrimental if ontologized.

    the idea of “truth” is naive and far too simple. There are no simple “actual facts of reality” — we are active participants in the ongoing creation and modification of these “facts,” always, all the time, through our total living/thinking/acting. Postmodernism says something like this, but it goes beyond postmodernism in that rather than decry all so-called realities as “false!”, endless realities become available.

    awareness by itself is not only not enough, it is even problematic when strengthened independently of supporting capacities which allow a growing awareness to become integrated into a healthier whole. It is not enough to know about the fog, for example — we have to integrate feeling and action into the awareness, along with our rational capacity, in order to address what the fog represents in a way that doesn’t create more problems than it solves.

    the implicit reduction of the Higher Being to some kind of form of rationality is a bastardization of the depth of what this term could refer to if we took mere rationality off its high horse and got it into the sandpit where it could see what is required for its own existence. There are different forms of thinking, where thinking is a larger category of experience that encompasses rational thinking but also much much more. The Higher Being doesn’t simply think rationally, but is capable of trans-rational thinking: thinking which crosses the boundaries implicit in any ‘merely’ rational thinking. Rationality distinguishes itself by virtue of what it can exclude; trans-rational thinking distinguishes itself by how it includes (across boundaries).

    “the fog” doesn’t go away through avoidance or suppression, but through transformation, which happens when aspects of it are carried forward in a new way, through a new context that transforms the way the problem is had in the first place.

    “the fog” as a metaphor is decent but should not be equated solely with “lower” / “animal” aspects of consciousness. There are also other contributors to “the fog” which do not lie the animal self. For example, the inability for a purely rational stance to incorporate paradox in a meaningfully transformative way is a sort of “fog” that prevents the Higher Being from becoming more integrated into the personality, and this particular blindness (the requirement for either/or types of solutions, the insistence on the division of truth/falsity in a naive way, etc. etc.) arises due to the very nature of rational thinking itself. Dogs, apes, elephants, dolphins… they don’t have this problem, which thinking creates for itself.

    “the fog” should also not be equated with “unconsciousness” — we can have just as much, if not more “unconsciousness” in our very awake and rational thoughts as we can in our feelings. This is because the unconscious, like consciousness itself, is not monolithic or singular, but complex, multileveled, and deeply interconnected. It is better to think of the goal of wisdom as one that doesn’t merely somehow “increase” consciousness (which isn’t quantitative anyway) but rather looks at it from a process perspective: how is consciousness (doing what it does…)? This is a shift in language from that of quantity (with its assumed and false position of simple ‘objectivity’) to quality, from content to process. Which segues into:

    from a process standpoint, the article’s language and tone exhibits too much of the very ideas that are known to be detrimental to the kind of enlightenment/wisdom being sought: the language of battle, of struggling against (our animal self), of duality and division, particularly in a binary way (animal self = bad/prevent wisdom; rational thinking = good/leads to wisdom). The language betrays the implicit assumptions that are the continuing inheritance of the rise and dominance of the modern/rational paradigm (ex: “Humiliate the animals,” “The Battlefield”, “the battle against the fog” etc.). One of the most difficult things when talking about large-scale things like the search for wisdom and the evolution of consciousness is the strictures placed on our thinking because of the unconscious assumption of particular language patterns that we have yet to become aware of. We don’t recognize the assumptions implicit in the way language is paradigmatically structured, and so continue to perpetuate the assumptions even when the content of the language is pointing to something beyond those very assumptions. That is, new ways of using language need to develop coincidently with the creation of new concepts and new ways of thinking. They happen together; new truths cannot be expressed in old language. For example, the language offered in the post cannot substantiate why “the only possible emotion I could have for [the cashier] on Step 3 is love.”

    the idea that each step upwards reveals the previous to be a ‘delusional bubble’ does an injustice to all the previous stages. Each previous stage was just what it was for reasons that are equally as good as yours when you are “higher” up the scale. The implicit assumption in this concept of bubbles of delusion is one of strict hierarchy, when a better position would be a multivalent hierarchy with each step/level continuing to provide something necessary at other levels — even all other levels, because each level is implicit in the whole. This reconfiguration avoids the trap of thinking that “because I am higher up, I get to see how delusional everyone else is — everyone should become like me! Let me pop your bubble (whether appropriate or not)!”
    it’s not so much about what you don’t know as how you don’t know. There are different kinds of unknowns, and when it comes down to it, how we react to them says a lot about our “wisdom.” What are our go-to patterns of thought, of feeling, and of action when we meet the unknown? Can we distinguish the different and complex ways in which we un-know? How does your unknowing lead your forward (or not) into new patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting?

    “There are really two options when thinking about the big, big picture: be humble or be absurd.” Humble, yes. Absurd? That would be the postmodern route, which I reject as a final position, despite what it teaches at an intermediary level. I would add that in addition to humility would be awe and reverence, which coupled together lay a good foundation for actively exploring the mystery, rather than simply basking in it. Our directed, sustained exploration becomes the basis for transformation; the “whoa” moments are invitations, not destinations. Saying “if I’m just a molecule floating around an ocean I can’t understand, I might as well just enjoy it” is the kind of response that occurs when one steps up to the door of the mystery but doesn’t walk through. There are levels of ‘not understanding’, and becoming wiser in part means not simply becoming okay with uncertainty, or even embracing uncertainty (as a ‘fact’) but rather in transforming the ways in which we can be uncertain, so that our uncertainty becomes a verb. In this way our ‘uncertainting’ becomes complex, nuanced, subtle, and more expressive of the evolving mystery. We know this because of the way it generates new actions and ways of feeling and being. It also generates oodles more ‘knowings’ along the way, but those knowings don’t ever get reified into “objective facts”, but are kept in a delicate balance between over-solidification and dissolution. We tread the boundary between the worlds, between certainty and uncertainty, in order to discover both where we have come from and where we might go further, transforming both ourselves and the worlds in which we walk along the way.

    Happy unknowing!!!

    -Seth

    • sam

      He Seth

      You touch on many points I was thinking as well when reading that post, though I would never have been able to put them the way you did as I miss necessary language to do so. I want to thank you for writing this up, it is a good contrast and riposte to the original article by Tim.

      Happy unknowing to you too! 🙂

      Sam

    • Lynn Adams

      Beautifly stated, Seth.

    • jimmy

      Seth: well said. You mentioned awe. As I was reading I kept wishing that instead of the word “science” the writer instead used the word “wonder.”

  • Zach

    The first post I ever read on this site was the Fermi Paradox one and it blew my mind more than anything else I have ever read. The next few weeks I read a couple of the more interesting posts and loved them, but gradually faded away from the site more because of occupations with other things than anything about the site. Than this summer my girlfriend broke up with me and threw my life into a spin, since then I have come back and re-read every post ever and absolutely loved becoming a weekly reader who anticipates each new post. This post is the first time I have felt so compelled to comment on an internet article in a long time, and is really one of the most fantastic things I have ever read. I am now proud to be a truthist, and really want to thank you for enlightening my life in ways I could have never imagined.

  • Ros.

    interesting and thought provoking (like all your posts :-). A lot of what your write resonates with my way of thinking at this stage in life; beautifully put into words! However not sure why this uncontrollable need to define and categorise one’s beliefs in a word (“So what am I?”). I think that is also avery primordial human need. Pressured by society I picked the word “agnostic” to define my line of thoughts about religion and spirituality. I picked it not because I needed a definition that would help me understand myself better or make my direction clearer to me but rather as a ready answer to the nagging question of where I stand in society. Is it not society that demands you to pick a place and explain yourself?

    Personally I think that unless I have a need to define myself in relation to “others” (mine vs “their” way of thinking) and explain myself to others (or indeed if during a debate, the animals in my head engage me into a wrestle to convince someone to understand, accept and maybe embrace my way of thinking 😉 then there is no specific need to pick a term to describe my beliefs.

    Also since our way of thinking inevitably mutate and mature over time are you not worried that it could be very limiting?
    Have you asked yourself why you need so badly to define who you are?
    Will having a ready answer to “So what am I” make you stop asking?

  • jen

    I would recommend the book “Awakening the Buddha Within” by Lama Surya Das. Also, “Buddhism Without Beliefs” by Stephen Batchelor. If you want to focus more on living in the present, examining your own mind, developing compassion, and you don’t believe in the traditional “God” of many organized religions, then Buddhism may be for you. For myself, I like it more as a philosophy and a way to live life, not as a religion (I’m agnostic on the idea of rebirth, karma, etc.)

  • Anne

    Dear Tim…….You lost me in the first title. To be original enough to be actually original you have to throw out everything you know because it will just be obselete in a few days/months/years anyway. Forget about the imaginary alien that sees us like we see chickens or ants. It doesn’t exist and even if it did I wouldn’t listen to it. Forget about all those cute animals in our brain….they don’t exist. (Think about how much of our DNA is completely redundant or outright useless) AND most important of all you need to see how much your cute rant sounds like a lecture/sermon.

    I am not saying you are wrong, I am saying that you are not there yet and need too many words to convince yourself that you are on the way. Ask yourself this simple question…..What behavior of mine , responding to this momentary circumstance will produce a constructive result in the kindest way? Wisdom gives us all a better answer than self-absorption. You are right to ask what is the definition of Wisdom. Knowledge helps create wisdom. Experience helps refine wisdom. Patience allows wisdom to set into a coherent form that we ourselves are able to recognize. Wisdom is the constant judgement of every event flowing past us and behaving correctly in our actions in response more often than not and always recognizing and be willing to correct our incorrect judgements. Chickens need not apply.

    Once we attach symbols and fictitious events to basic principals in order to explain them we have Dogma. Throw it all out. Non of us know why we are here on earth as living, conscious beings. It is the ultimate mystery. Do not trust anyone who believes they have the answer. The unknowable is not knowable and our silly egos keep trying to construct models of the existence of all things that inevitably includes the ridiculous. Back to the drawing board Tim, you’re getting close.

    Being a better person is as simple as being a better person. That fog is simply a construct made to hide the obvious. Who built it?

    Sincerely…..Anne

    • Anon

      You seem to know what you are talking about. I’ll follow your advice:
      “Do not trust anyone who believes they have the answer.”

    • lolo

      Anne, you summed up very well how I felt about Tim’s article. It was a great explanation of Tim’s current state in his journey to understand all things. He has yet to figure out, that his journey will yield no true answers. Or, he already knows this and is just really good at selling mugs/t-shirts. We should all stop reading this dribble and live by the wise words of Jackie Deshannon, “put a little love in your heart, and the world will be a better place”.

  • Anonymous

    I enjoy reading your posts and have learned so much. You are gifted with an ability to distill complex concepts and even philosophical conundrums with simple analogies and stick figure cartoons. This post is one of my favorites. I am delighted in your wisdom and in your desire to share your thoughts. Thanks a lot, Tim. Keep up the awesome work!

  • Chuck

    I’ve read Wait But Why for quite a long time, and I am always amazed at your insight and constantly strive to improve myself. Over the summer I have spent as much time as possible being loving, respecting, generous, productive… level 2. I have recently gone to college and fell straight into the fog. I had to deal with increasing stress, careless mistakes, and a growing loss of self-worth. This resulted in arguments, erratic emotions, hurting my friends, and suicidal thoughts. This article help lift the fog for me. Not only did it help explain how I have myself felt, but it connected with all your other explanations into a single whole, at once complex yet simple. Thank you for your wonderful work, and I hope you continue onward!

  • Silvija

    You are awesome, man!

  • Geoff

    Great post. Please do a post on the simulation idea I.e that we are all living in a simulation. It’s mind boggling and many scientists believe it’s possible.

  • Liza

    Tim, I love you.

  • Bryan

    Do you think that people who are stuck on and complacent with step 1 can hinder your progress to step 3 or even drag you back to step 1?
    Example(using your illustration of you hugging the cashier)
    Especially in these over-sensitive and politically correct
    times, if you were to hug the cashier (regardless of their gender) consider the possible legal repercussions let alone the fact that they might just think you are weird for acting in such a positive manner. Not unlike those pesky Mormons (Donnie and Marie, Mitt Romney, etc) who always seem to be smiling.

    I realize we must rise above the norm (constant state of step 1) that permeates the majority, but a frown can be as much if not more infectious than a smile.

  • Mehmet

    Could we organize this “Religion for the Nonreligious” into an organized religion?

    Our prophet would be Tim the Wise of course.
    They would call our religion Truthism, and our followers Truthers(?)
    Our sign has been devised at the colorful steps.
    We could have Truther Temples, with the Truthism steps on the door,
    where we go in to reflect on our brain to move up to Steps 2 and 3.
    We could have Truther priests and monks, ranked according to their steps.
    This could be a huge Religion…

    Oh and our Devil should be the Instant Gratification Monkey of course…

  • Timo

    Hi Tim,

    Terrific article, as usual. Odd how your articles keep on amazing me and I cant stop but wonder why we think exactly alike in thought patterns.
    You will definitely be interested read these books about this:
    Sam Harris – Waking Up (A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion)
    Alan Watts – The Book on the Taboo of Knowing Who You Are

    And if you are really into diving deep:
    Eckhardt Tolle – Power of Now

    Cheers from Holland 🙂

  • Alejo

    Wow, that was a lot of work to sell t-shirts and mugs

  • A。D。

    Based on these comments, you could start a Truthism cul–ahem–religion. What does it matter if the principals are similar to Buddhism? As long as there is one divergent factor, isn’t that how “new” religions are born (*cough Church of England cough*)?

  • Lauren M.

    I like when you said “put a new paper towel roll on the thing” because that is exactly what I say and it made me feel like maybe we aren’t in this crazy world alone. Is that weird? It’s probably weird. Your posts are amazing; after discovering the site, I went back and read every single one. I too have been seriously dating the cosmos since a very young age and we are still going steady, but this post re: religion (and non-) really grabbed me. I wish you had a million posts in your archive so I never had to do work at work again and I could just read all day. Keep it up. Refreshing and well written 🙂

  • Valentino

    Tim!
    you’re a candle in the fog of the world, and I’m sure I would proudly call you my friend – as I too value my friends for their wisdom and open-mindedness. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this blog, or shall I call it your lighthouse.
    This post reminded me of a very close friend of mine, who took his life two years ago. He would have loved this, and you. He was a step 2 natural, a native. He had a life rich of glimpses onto the step 3 world, of which I shared some. But then the world, his family, and even I pulled him down to step 1 and held him there. He couldn’t endure it. I think he would have taken great strength from your writings, as they’re inspiring me now -since I discovered your lighthouse/blog- to be better. Thanks!

  • louise

    I just finished reading The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck (for the second time). How synchronistic for you to post this recently and for me to be reading it now… thank you!!

  • Truthist

    Truthism tattoo coming soon. I want a constant reminder to stay awake and always work towards my betterment. Thank you so much. This blog has literally changed my life for the best and I feel like a better, more knowledgeable person every week(-ish) thanks to you.

  • MissM

    Made me wonder (once again) who’s ants are we?

  • Carl

    This is a perfect way to approach our lives. This expresses how I feel in words I could never have found myself. I just find myself in agreement with the whole concept of degrees of consciousness and how we can go up the ‘sub-staircase.’ But I totally dislike the name Truthism. The major theme in this post was how we need to deal with the unknown, uncertainty, and our own limitations. The word ‘truth’ is too concrete for things that may not have answers anytime soon. What is described is more like how to recognize and make the best use of human-level consciousness. I would call it ‘refinism’ or some variation on enlightenment. The logo is great though, I’ll probably buy a T-shirt since it doesn’t include the word ‘truthism.’

    • Emily

      Agreed!
      Tim, I think the name, and some of the ways the thoughts are expressed, belies the overall comfortable position that the post was written from… I resonate with Seth’s comments, and would add that we can lull ourselves into a very subtle state of certainty with the statement “I don’t know”. I don’t think you’ve recognized in this inquiry that a very real aspect of your search is for personal comfort and the sensations of happiness. That comes through clearly in your extolling the potential for being happy just not knowing… I’m trying to point out the stagnation that comes with accepting any truth as final. Beware as you enjoy the confirmation of so many agreeing souls : )
      And also, it would have been interesting if you reflected the limitations of language to express spiritual meaning. I think the deepest understandings that allow us to transform as beings transcend language, and the internal urge to explicate every micro-piece of our journey actually works against our higher knowing. Thoughts/words are catalysts, that can lead to the “Step 4″/epiphany/peak experiences, but it’s an essential practice in and of itself to be able to lose (let go of) the thoughts when it matters.

      Onwards!

      • Lynn Adams

        Your reference to the limitations of language remind me of Maimonides, Jewish philosopher,1138-1204, who taught that one should avoid using words to describe what God is because it would limit our understanding to the sum of the descriptive words used.

        • Emily

          Yes! The Guide for the Perplexed – very literally the one piece of Jewish literature that I’ve actually come into contact with through my own personal questing. Fancy that you should mention it here : )

  • Jeff

    Thanks for the post – hit home for me for sure. I wonder if you have ever done a post on the “Singularity”? As you seem to be a techno sort of person, and don’t have religious reasons to believe otherwise, I would be interested in your take on AI, and the possibility that we will soon be able to copy and upload our consciousness to a non-organic substrate. My personal mission is to have my pattern live forever this way, and I’m convinced this is the method we will use to climb those steps to the green alien and beyond…

  • Angelo

    This article is a WHOA moment!! Such a damn good post, so may things I love about it! Seriously just crushed it with this post!! I wish this was required reading in all schools around the world. So many quotes in here that I love! Fascinating, interesting, eye opening, amusing, educational, and so true (for me at least)! Bravo my friend, bravo!!

  • D.B.

    Great post and I really enjoyed reading it!

    I would just like to point to one thing – the term “Truthism”. It is a good one and I think I finally found my “religion”, 🙂 but since the term resonated in my head for some time after reading the article – at one moment of procrastination 😉 – I ended up googling it and found out a page “http://www.truthism.com/”. Holy shit!!! A page full of crap and total nonsense (not sure if you also stumbled upon it), but, like many other piles of crap&nonsense, this one also has a certain number of followers (and a central website, obviously). 🙂

    So, no need to change a term, but just in case someone starts talking about reptilians when you hold your favorite “Truthism” mug in your hand…. Forget the mug. Run! 😉

    • Anonymous

      Word

    • nexpyru

      hahahaha truthism.com rules!!! I never knew we were governed by Diane from V until now!!

  • Silvia Arce

    One of the most brilliant and clarifying post I´ve ever read.
    I have talked about the fog with my friends but I called “a black cloud”. When I know something is wrong, I feel fear or unconfident but I don´t know why. Well, now I know.
    Thank you for making me laugh -even at myself- while I learn.
    Awesome!!!

  • Patrick

    This is the shit.
    I just tried for 10 minutes or so to go more into detail why but it is basically “just” super concentrated common senseish life advice like most people here already pointed out. I processed a lot of this information before but none of it was so well presented. The foggy/cleared pictures are perfectly accurate and totally relevant; making complicated rational concepts more easily accesible. Plus they are funny.

    I am German so I am neither exaggerating nor easily amused lol

  • Auden

    Sir, I get the impression you are familiar with classic philosophy, so I am wondering where “Truthist” diverges from Philosopher? The linguistic roots of the word “philosopher” mean “lover of wisdom”. You sound like a philosopher to me. I suppose “philosopher” is as general and vague as “theist” though, so I suppose there’s nothing wrong with finding a comfortable, specific label. I’ve personally found that philosophy is there to fill the spiritual gap that I felt when I stopped being a theist. Not that atheism can’t be fulfilling, like you said, it’s just that the point of atheism is it has no guiding thoughts, so you have to go find some. Thoughts without the dogma and limitations of a single religion. Looking for answers with out clinging to any particular, that’s the ticket.

  • Trish

    Three days after first reading this entry, and I’m still wondering how you were able to encapsulate the human condition so simply, so profoundly, and in a way that my mind wants to stroke like it has found its way home? Tim, you have a very complex, beautiful, lovely mind to be able to distill it all to this post. After all, there’s being a Christian, which I am, and there’s your explanation, which could probably make every Christian be even better at being Christian.

    Many philosophers have come up with these grand words and grand explanations over the eons and you’ve just drilled it down to what great pets a lot of us humans would probably make if aliens ever did decide to adopt us. We’re all jealous of how they get to sleep as long as they want, they have no worries, and they give unconditional love? I think that’s how we would be to aliens, at least those of us who live happily on the first step and who would be satisfied with the fulfillment of all their worldly desires.

  • Allan H. Jensen

    Thanks

  • Julius

    Congrats on the amazing post. But there’s a question I’d really like to ask.

    Since science helps you broaden your knowledge and understand one’s littleness in this world (universe), it enourages your inner growth by letting you understand how little and meaningless you are in the big picture, which leads to one becoming more humble, more honest, more, let’s say, human.

    Yes, I get that, I believe in that, I am a truthist also. This way of thinking leads to self-improvement and daily satisfaction with one’s opportunity to witness this neverending EXISTANCE that we call The Galaxy, or The BEING. BUT if it is so optimistic and bright… Where do all the nietzsches and sartres come from? Where does the wave of nihilism rise from? What causes it? XXth century philosophers are well aware of their littleness but somehow they manage to depress the shit out of them instead of joining the path of TRUTHISM. They renounce religion, they renounce collective consciousness and mythical figures, they open their eyes for the Truth. But somehow they get moving to slightly different direction than you, Tim, do.
    It’s a question which has been on my mind for several years now. Where is the distinction, the turning point?
    Good luck, peace.

    • Nimh Snell

      Now, I’m not sure how tim would answer this, and I am a little physically ill right now, but I think I have a partial answer.
      It might be caused by jumping straight from step one to step three, or, in the case of various mental illnesses, having particularly active animals.
      from either jump, the animals might get a chance to realize that /you are a tiny mote of dust floating in the vast sea of existence/ and that TERRIFIES them, just like the realization that you will die. This leads to the animals trying to help process information they’re just not made for, which leads to focusing /way/ too much on the unpleasing parts of that realization and internalizing /them/ instead of realizing that because nothing matters, we can spend less time worrying about what the zoo thinks and more time growing as people.
      tl;dr (that’s still longwinded), you still partially make the jump, but it’s not processed correctly, which is what I think results in that habit of the great philosophers of the past realizing great things, but not actually spending much more time on step two because of it.

  • Jaco

    Nice to read Tim. I hold a Judeo-Christian worldview and I enjoy listening to/reading other people’s worldviews. I enjoyed your humility w.r.t not knowing everything – it’s always refreshing to see someone humble enough to say that. I’ve read through most of the comments and one thing that seems to be neglected is the issue of what happens after death. In my mind, considering time and eternity, this is probably the most critical (of greatest consequence) of the assumptions to be made in one’s worldview. I assume your decision around this matter (that there is no life after death) is drawn from the evolution theory? I am keen on hearing why you trust this theory so much. Because, considering how little we know about everything, if humanity and the science community is wrong on this one (and we know from history that we’ve been wrong many times on many things) it quite a game changer. I’d like to hear your views on this. What if we’re wrong on this and how can you compensate for it? Is there room for accepting a life-after-death situation? What would that mean for us now? Some scary thoughts. Hope to hear from you.

    • Lutz

      Hi Jaco.

      Since Tim hasn’t found the time to answer you I thought I could give you at least a couple of replies to your questions. Not necessarily exact the ones Tim would have given, but maybe they can give some additional inside into the overall idea.

      Also, I’m from a non English speaking country, so I kind of trust auto correct here and there.

      First of all, Judeo-Christian is a very broad and very unclear specification of you belief. This could matter so if I get your standpoint wrong it is mostly connected to this very broad statement. Just because religions base their specific branches on the same book, they still believe in totally different stuff and sometimes assure that the other ones are not really Christians and will go to hell, even if they “pretend” to follow the bible.

      Also I would like to add that most, if not nearly all, Atheist and Agnostics would admit that they do not know everything. That is essentially the basic building block of this worldview. People who believe that their holy book/song/story contains everything are, to my knowledge, the only ones who claim to know everything (from it).

      To your question about death. I, along with Tim I assume, just accept that there is nothing after death. To my knowledge we, as humans, never have seen someone come back from the death or communicate with the death. Therefore we do not have any evidence at all that there is something after death. In addition, everything that is usually claimed to be an near death experience can also be induced by drugs or direct stimulation of the brain.

      I’m baffled that you attribute evolution theory to nothing after death. That has absolutely nothing to do with each other. I assume you are from the US, because in Europe it is quite common to accept ET and still believe in a soul/afterlife/reincarnation. The connection you draw seems to me as an very essentially part of the US discussion that the rest of the world usually does not get.

      As to your questions about why people trust in ET, that is easy. It makes predictions that we can test and so far never was shown to be wrong. Yes, it still could be false to some degree, but we have so much evidence that it is correct that an alternative could make it better but not fully replace it. It is like the solar system. Yes, humans got that wrong at first and we find out new stuff every day, but how and why the planets are moving this way is now quite good understood.
      In short until now we have never been wrong if we could explain something/make predictions that good.
      But even if it would be wrong and we have gotten it completely false, that still would not prove a god, let alone one specific god. There are thousands of creation story’s out there and so far none religions has a better claim than the others. All have quite big parts that we today know better.

    • Ndidi

      Hey Jaco, what happens after death for chickens and ants? If we can’t fathom life after death for other animals, why would it be relevant for us?

  • Ashish

    I read your post and then re-read it 5 times. I saw something different each time. I want to tell you Tim how profound an experience I had after each reading but I don’t really have words. Suffice it to say that this was a brilliant whoa moment. Actually, the second whoa moment I’ve had from one of your posts (The first one was The Fermi Paradox). Thank you so much for making me feel like this. You, my sir, have a lifelong fan from now on.
    Cheers mate and keep up the briliant work! (y)

  • JP Ruddick

    Your idea of Truthism seems very similar to the Sophism of Ancient Greek. On another note, this is the most fascinating thing I’ve read since “The Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

  • Chris

    Lots of mental work just to sell T-shirts. Good stuff, but don’t forget humility.

  • Simraan

    I don’t know where you are, but I’ll find you and marry you <3

    You are awesome!

    • Simraan

      “how cool it is that I’m a group of atoms that can think about atoms” <3

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  • Linda

    The way you write is impressive. But I think the way you would explain it would be more than that. We will not be having any chance to interact directly, I understand. But, I think all us readers would love to hear you explain what you write. Could you please, if possible, take out some time from your packed schedule, and make a YouTube video where we could hear you explain stuff, in your style ? (A fan request, please!)

  • Marius Corici

    Your post is great, however, the 4 steps are all in parallel :). We are all the four at the same time and continuously. I am a Tantric Christian (with the new name for wisdom which is “presence”). And I had forgiven myself for being imperfect.

  • My goals are two-fold: Moving toward both enlightenment (wisdom, masculine energy) and enlovement (unity, feminine energy).

    I’ve called myself a Truth-Seeker, as well. But Truthist may be an even better mantle.

    You might enjoy Tim Freke’s thoughts on literalism vs gnosticism in each of the 3 monotheistic religions. Was a paradigm-shifting read for me: http://www.amazon.com/The-Laughing-Jesus-Religious-Gnostic/dp/140008279X (meaning, I got a lot wiser. I think.)

  • Martin Pozor

    This is my first comment on WBW.

    This article is the best and most important post on WBW (which became my favourite blog some time ago). Even more, it is by far the best text I have read last year anywhere. I believe no one approached and formalized spirituality and self-improvement from this perspective before (despite that many commenters see “their holy book” in it) and this is (and will be) appreciated by many people with similar views and self-improvement ambitions.

    Please keep exploring this topic, I’d like to read about:

    – Your personal experience in self-improvement (climbing the steps) with some suggestions or guidance how to proceed (what works for you).
    – How to do this while living normal life, how to interact with people stuck on step 1 (including close relations), etc.
    – Even more about taming irrational “animals” in our heads, maybe some others as well (I would welcome some “worrying” animal which is a huge problem for many).

  • Gerbels

    whoa whoa whoa

  • Luca

    “the Milky Way is so big that if you made a scale model of it that was the size of the US, you would still need a microscope to see the sun” Someone can find me the source of this? I have always thought that you could do a scale of the milky way with some balls. Was I wrong?

    • Tim Urban

      The source is me with my calculator and 15 minutes I couldn’t spare at the time. Here’s the math:

      The Milky Way is about 100,000 light years in diameter.

      9.46 trillion km in a light year, so the Milky Way diameter is about 946 quadrillion km.

      Sun diameter is 1.392 million km, so you’d have to line up about 680 billion suns to stretch across the Milky Way.

      Bringing that down to the scale of the US, the US is about 4,300 km across. So if the Milky Way were that size, dividing that by 680 billion gives us a sun with a diameter of 6 micrometers, or 6 thousandths of a millimeter.

      An amoeba is about .3mm across, so the sun’s diameter on our scale would stretch only 1/50th of the way across an amoeba, and you could fit 2,500 suns inside the area an amoeba takes up.

      The human eye can see things that are about 100 micrometers, but you’d definitely need a microscope to see something only 6 micrometers across.

      In fact, forget the US. If the Milky way were the size of the Earth’s circumference (so it fit just inside the Earth’s equator), the sun would still be under 20 micrometers across, and you’d still need a microscope to see it.

      Insane right? No one realizes how big the Milky Way is.

      • Luca

        Oh Gosh! I just realized the I made a dumb question! We are talking about milky way and I don’t know why I was keep thinking at our solars system. One of those moment when u think about something but u say something completely different. (too much fog I guess 🙂 or I got “lost in translation”) Sorry for wasting your time for this answer but at the same time thanks for it. 🙂

        • Mark MacKinnon

          This question was not dumb. I am a bit of a space buff and I still wondered about this same thing when I first read it. Good job for eliciting clarification about it.

          • Mark MacKinnon

            But I still wonder about needing a microscope to see a microscopic-size SOURCE of light? If it glows, isn’t it visible on a scale that mere dark reflector-particles are not? Hmmm!

  • Mark MacKinnon

    You always get me wondering about so much! But as a teacher, I like to think that a lot can be explained or demonstrated to convey even complex ideas to a learner. I grant that I can’t explain philosophy to a lab rat. Specifically, I wondered about an experiment with a less-conscious animal.

    Beside trying to explain things to creatures that don’t use language, sometimes there is also good old showing! If you could bring an especially privileged chimpanzee on a manned space mission and let it look out the window at its home zoo wing of the launch facility, and let that animal watch its home grow more distant and small until it was fully contained within the disc of the Earth hanging in blackness, would that ape form the idea of there being a great big unnamed ‘World’-thing of finite size? Or would it just be staring out the window without that comprehension? My guess is the latter. But how could we really know?

  • My absolute favorite part of this article was the distinction between age, wisdom and being a grownup. Over the past decade, as I’ve transitioned from child to adult, it was the biggest slap in the face to realize that being a “grown up” does not mean that you have necessarily attained a greater sense of wisdom. As I seek greater and greater consciousness and clarity, I begin to see others in a completely new light. Sometimes good, sometimes bad – but it’s so life changing to realize that age does not mean that you have all the correct answers. To realize that adults are scared too, and people that you have looked up to in life might not have your best interests in mind because of their own “fog”. I’ve had to learn to be selective with whose options I trust and look towards wisdom and consciousness to guide me instead. Thank you for verbalizing such an important truth!

    Best,
    Brittany

  • In the light of book recommendations and truthism:

    Tim (and others), you might be interested in reading Thoughts Without A Thinker by Mark Epstein.

    I just started it since it was once mentioned by Keanu Reeves and I consider him a pretty cool and powerful celeb zen master. Which is totally irrelevant.

  • Guest

    In the light of book recommendations and truthism:

    Tim (and others), you might be interested in reading Thoughts Without A Thinker by Mark Epstein.

    I just started it since it was once mentioned by Keanu Reeves and I consider him a pretty cool and powerful celeb zen master. Which is totally irrelevant.

  • Frank Clark

    Wow. I mean, wow. You have hit the nail on the head here; this is something I could definitely get behind!

  • thefermiparadox

    Eternity of nothingness is frightening. It’s why drugs, alcohol and sex is so popular 🙂 Distraction is the key. I read nonstop and I’m also trying to improve myself and continue to grow as a person with more knowledge and better thinking. It all feels meaningless though. Difficult not to fall into nihilism.

    • Gene R. Smillie

      Blaise Pascal (17th century dude whose mathematical formulas eventually led to the invention of the calculator/computer) became a “Christian thinker” as he pondered exactly the dilemmas you mention here, and realized that for most people life is spent doing EXACTLY what you allude to here – distracting themselves from the frightful thought of meaninglessness. Since he sensed or recognized that if life is, instead, what it feels like (= “meaningful”), he, like you apparently, and perhaps like Tim the author of this blog, sought to find truth. His book exploring that search is called Les Pensees (“thoughts”). It is not organized, like Tim’s blog is, but still the gems that fall here and there are worth exploring, imho. Blessings on your search!

  • James

    Step 2 reminded me of this amazing commencement address by David Foster Wallace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CrOL-ydFMI

    • jacobksamuelson

      Thanks for posting James. This DFW transcript is on my list of things I read often to “clear up the fog” as Tim says.

  • Very inspirational Tim! Your posts are a source of great hope to all aspiring bloggers 🙂 Keep up the good work!

    PS: You can check my stuff out at http://www.nikspeaks.com/

  • Morgan Lane Bennett

    kudos!

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  • ssar

    I share many of Seths concerns about the post.

    I don’t think consciousness can be viewed as a staircase, because on a staircase there is only one way to the top. Consciousness may consist of many elements. An alien species could be way ahead in understanding their own existence, but behind in understanding the universe (e.g. because of less advanced technology). Are they ahead or behind us?

    But this post has done for me what in my opinion religion should do. A religion should provide guidance to asking the right questions. I don’t think I will ever be able to answer the big questions of live (Why Am I here?, Is there a purpose?, …). Religion should guide me on my path to understanding. Not by providing answers, but by inspiring my thoughts and showing me different aproaches of viewing things. I’ll have to find the answers which work for me by myself.

    I did a lot of thinking because of this post. Posts like this are why i like your blog, Thanks!

    • “…A religion should provide guidance to asking the right questions…” — so what does science do for you?

  • jamaicanworm

    As someone who is religious (Jewish), believes in God, and agrees with 95% of what you’ve written… The 5% I disagree with is “wisdom is the most important thing to work towards as a human”; rather, I think a sense of kindness/empathy (a drive to improve the lives of others) is the ultimate goal.

    Wisdom is a great way to achieve that–since it’s very likely to make you kind/empathetic PLUS you understand the world and why helping it is so important–but what about everything along the way? What happens while you’re in the process of obtaining wisdom?

    That’s what religion–when well taught (which I know is a debatable term)–is for. Even before you’ve acquired the wisdom to understand the big picture, you’re taught to build habits of kindness into your life, via learning and ritual.

    P.S. Certain things you’ve nailed on the head–such as having a symbol as a daily reminder (your Truthism arrow)–is a staple of major religions. For example, the kippah in Judaism: what you might call an example of “treating people like children” by requiring them to wear a silly hat, is actually a built-in symbol to remind people of the bigger picture.

    I’m a huge fan of your blog, and curious to hear your thoughts.

    • Empathy over Wisdom? You’re taking the smaller of the two prizes. Wisdom already encompasses the idea that Empathy is good. And Wisdom encompasses so much more, too.

  • ptming

    I am distracted by the Mambo dog.

  • searchingforthomasina

    I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice, but Gandhi called his autobiography “My Experiments with Truth”….I’m guessing he spent most of his time on steps 2 or 3

  • Reader

    A quote from the end of Richard Feynman’s Lecture, The Relation of Science and Religion, which offers very good insight on these same questions.

    “Western civilization, it seems to me, stands by two great heritages. One is the scientific spirit of adventure – the adventure into the unknown, an unknown which must be recognized as being unknown in order to be explored; the demand that the unanswerable mysteries of the universe remain unanswered; the attitude that all is uncertain; to summarize it – the humility of the intellect. The other great heritage is Christian ethics – the basis of action on love, the brotherhood of all men, the value of the individual – the humility of the spirit.

    These two heritages are logically, thoroughly consistent. But logic is not all; one needs one’s heart to follow an idea. If people are going back to religion, what are they going back to? Is the modern church a place to give comfort to a man who doubts God‑more, one who disbelieves in God? Is the modern church a place to give comfort and encouragement to the value of such doubts? So far, have we not drawn strength and comfort to maintain the one or the other of these consistent heritages in a way which attacks the values of the other? Is this unavoidable? How can we draw inspiration to support these two pillars of western civilization so that they may stand together in full vigor, mutually unafraid? Is this not the central problem of our time?

    I put it up to the panel for discussion.”

    (The full lecture is here: http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/49/2/Religion.htm)

    • Just drop Christianity and go for the book “Sense and Goodness Without God” or if you must choose a popular religion, go with Taoism and Confucianism. They are much more wise and useful than Christianity.

  • Science geek

    My favorite part about this post is that the “whoa moments” are where I find my spirituality and highest sense of enlightenment as well, and I wanted to say that if you are looking for a whoa moment like peering into the Milky Way on a dark night, but it’s cloudy or you live in the midst of light pollution, you should go see interstellar. Since I saw it, I keep thinking about this post because for me, space brings me to the “whoa” place. If you’re like me, then I think it would bring you there, too, and I’m interested to hear what other people think about the concepts in that movie in light of this post (I can’t believe that I’m talking about a movie made in Hollywood in a conversation about enlightenment….never would have thought that would happen…)

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  • Nice piece but some of the basic assumptions seem questionable…

    Consciousness/state of awareness/self-awareness is not a path of staircase progressing to ever “better” levels. Is a broad consciousness that understands much about everything but fails to survive and procreate “better” than a focused consciousness that understands precisely what it takes to survive and procreate?

    Our mind/consciousness is not a conglomerate of disparate animals but a cohesive evolved unit for processing information and coordinating responses to a changing environment in order to survive and procreate. Our newly evolved distinctly human conscious functions are an unintended consequence of improved brain size and functionality. The verdict is still out on their evolutionary viability but we can through some of the methods suggested try to improve our chances of survival — we have objectively reached a new level in that we can concieve of long term species survival… not sure we are smart enough to pull it off.

    Whoa moments although thrilling and wonderful to experience are an illusion unless they lead to concrete demonstrable results.

    As for finding truth so far science has been the most demonstrably reliable… seeking the emotional equivalent of truth is like trying to put that blanket of fog back on.

    • jaime_arg

      You seem worried by the survival of our species. That’s not exactly the point of the article. It does not claim that knowing more about the universe makes us better at survival, simply that it makes us better at consciousness and at being higher-thinking animals. Also, that this higher-thinking puts many mundane problems in perspective and decreases their apparent size, thus making you less unhappy (or rather, making you realize that your unhappiness is pointless).
      As for being smart enough to enable the long-term survival of humans, it’s true that it might not seem possible at this point, but a) it is not a claim that the article makes, and b) if you read the part about step 4 it suggests that you (as well as the rest of your species) can’t really imagine what’s going to happen with your species in the mid- and long-term future.
      Asking for “concrete demonstrable results” is a little bit too scientific for Whoa moments. They are moments of clarity that in the long run lead to being less worried about the stupid shit in life. You can’t really measure how many times you’ve avoided thinking like an idiot thanks to moments of clarity.

      • I’m not worried about our particular species survival but just pointing out that consciousness is not a linear progression and survival matters to the extent that only the species that survives long enough to progress to its “next” level matters… in the long run anyway.

        “…They are moments of clarity that in the long run lead to being less worried…” — unless they do lead to “concrete demonstrable results” they are like conversations among stoners about being and nothingness… pleasant and a fulfilling as a nice doughnut but empty of anything meaningful. Being worried or not being worried about the minutia of life is a character trait, a biological disposition and we need people like that just as much as we need the ones who look for the big picture,

  • Tim,

    I’m always a fan of your writing style. It takes some cajones to write in your actual voice, which is what I feel like you’re doing. I’ve incorporated the “fog” into my philosphy as well as your excellent “Instant Gratification Monkey”. It’s great to be able to see something that makes so much sense actually make it onto my Facebook feed.

    Interestingly enough my ideas seem to mesh well with yours. My philosophy (or hypothesis, I suppose) is based largely on the concept of dimensions. Not sci-fi dimensions (as sweet as that would be), but actual dimensions: length, depth, width, time, possibility and multiverse… as well as the seventh that I think could exist: time.
    In order to observe any point, one must have a point of reference; i.e. a higher dimension. A creature in the first dimension could observe nothing. A creature in the second could only percieve lines. A creature in the third dimension could only observe a 2-dimensional scene without time to add events/perspective (depth perception only works if you can move, which requires the passage of time). Therefore, the ability to percieve the fourth dimension requires that the observer be in the fifth, which I term “possibility”, or “all of the timelines that could exist within the bounds of a given universe”. The sixth dimension, or the multiverse, would allow an observer within it to view the entirety of a universe, any universe, that they wanted to see, made up not only of the physical aspects of it but also of the temporal and possible aspects of the universe. This ends up with the inevitable question of “what the hell is consciousness anyway?”, which I have to conclude is the seventh dimension, meaning that it encompasses everything. That means that your consciousness, along with everything else’s, is all linked together as an actual, real dimension. When you’re existing as a “self” in our 4D bodies, we percieve that, but when we’re no longer tethered to that then the consciousness that existed there is part of everything else. Sort of trippy, but there it is. There’s a whole lot more material that ties it all together, but that’s my philosophy in a nutshell.

  • Anantika

    Hey
    Just want to say that you really get me thinking!

    Cheers

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  • Ema101

    Given the Carl Sagan quotes and grains of sand on beaches fact in this post, this seems appropriate (and probably one of buzzfeed’s better articles) that puts things into perspective:

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/daves4/the-universe-is-scary?s=mobile

  • jaime_arg

    You basically summarized everything I’ve always thought about the universe and consciousness, it’s great that many people can develop almost the same ideas independently. The part that I found most helpful was the purple blob of unknown, I hadn’t really put a name and face on that concept, so thanks for organizing my thoughts on that point.

  • Aish

    A few months ago my friend got me a book on Indian culture from South India. I am Indian but not particularly religious so I was very wary of reading it. It took a simple train journey to get me open and begin reading the book. One of the philosophies in the book is seen and heard everywhere in India but it is accepted quite superficially. The philosophy is similar to your truthism belief and is called ‘Satyamev Jayate’ which means ‘Truth Alone Truimphs’ and that it isn’t simply acceptance of truth but the search that we must continue. When we seek the truth, we get answers.

  • Guest

    this is a nice sum up (in spanish sorry, but is easy to get it)

  • suzanne

    nice sum up (in spanish but easy to get it)

  • Arabic Viewer

    (I want to get on my knees and surrender.This is when I feel spiritual)end quote…
    well i don’t want to promote for any religion here but when i read that line in your Article i couldn’t resist to tell you that this is literally the translation of the words (( Muslim)).

  • Arabic Viewer

    (I want to get on my knees and surrender.This is when I feel spiritual)end quote…
    well i don’t want to promote for any religion here but when i read that line in your Article i couldn’t resist to tell you that this is literally the translation of the words (( Muslim)).

    http://www.danielpipes.org/comments/120556

  • JLW

    I really enjoyed this, but am a bit confused with your conceptualisation of the role of emotions. You mention that the HIgher Soul or Being is totally objective. I wondder what you mean by objectivity here, and I don´t buy that, if you mean there is no place for emotions there. Empathising with others, for example, requires some emotional engagement and awareness, don´t you think?

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  • OkNowWh.at

    Just as a cartoon can be used as mental jiu jitsu to teach children to eat their vegetables, religion/faith is a stepping stool to continually reach level 2 to remove the fog – it calms the animals.

  • eindenker

    Congratulations on having become a post-modern Christian. Gianni Vattimo has a welcoming basket for you at the threshold of step 5…

    • Christian? It looks to me to be much more Taoist or something.

  • Rob Short

    John 4:24
    24 God is a Spirit, and those worshipping him must worship with spirit and truth.”

  • njguy54

    To echo the other commenters here, you just brilliantly described all the religions of the world… or at least all the important ones. The only difference between your observations and those of a religious person is that the religious person believes in the presence of a cosmic consciousness somewhere in the mix. And a lot of what is causing so much turmoil in the modern world is that religious people are experiencing a journey not unlike what you just described; the only difference is that, with them, they’re being dragged along kicking and screaming.

    The problem with the Abrahamic faiths in particular (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) is that they contain remnants of the ancient origins of belief: a need to explain the unexplainable, but also their usefulness as a tool for cementing power and control. Our tribal ancestors turned to religion because they needed a way to understand the world around them without the benefit of science, but those beliefs could easily be leveraged by those who sought to gain and keep power. A small tribe might be led by its smartest and strongest member, but a larger community would have a more complex power structure. So it was very helpful for the guy at the top to be able to say, “I’m here because God put me here. So if you’re against me, then you’re against God!” Also, God provided a collection of rules and acted as a cosmic enforcer; break those rules and you’ll have to answer for it in the afterlife. Crime and immorality are sins, but so are revolution and challenging the status quo. This made religions very useful for the existing power structure — and they remain useful today. Yet this function is at the core of so many of today’s conflicts.

    Religions will remain with us until we answer the Ultimate Question: What happens to us when we die? Do we continue on in consciousness into a heaven or hell? Or do we simply cease to exist? Science may one day answer these questions… or not. In the meantime, approaches like yours are a good template for spiritual growth, no matter what one’s faith. The further we can get spirituality away from the Santa Claus model (“He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake!”), the better off we’ll all be.

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  • David_Rogers_Hunt

    I am a Deistic Daoist Libertarian.

    I am a Deist because the human mind reaches for God in much the same manner that a mathematician reaches for the concept of infinity. The experience of our own minds and consciousness suggests the existence of God just as the existence of numbers suggest the series of numbers MUST go on forever. Today’s mathematics can no more function without the necessary concepts of zero and infinity than the experience of our own existence and consciousness can function without imagining the possibility of God.

    I am a Daoist because I have learned the absolutely fundamental role of ambiguity to everything’s existence. That all categories bleed and necessarily become porous at the boundaries. That, in the twentieth century, mathematicians learned the futility of striving to express all truth in any finite set of axioms. That truth is neither finite nor compressible. That quantum mechanics is not only stranger than we have imagined, but is stranger than we can possibly imagine. And that’s okay with me.

    I am a Libertarian because I have learned that government solely consists of the socially sanctioned use of initiatory violence,… and nothing else. As George Washington told us in his last speech to the nation while in office, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master.” At best violence can be used as a shield against violence,… and nothing more. Is it not probable that the maximum expression of good must always become evil (as in communism/fascism/progressism), and that the minimum expression of evil is our best attainable good?

    For my last thoughts,… I hope to have the following placed upon my gravestone so others who pass in happenstance may stop and consider it. I offer it now for you.

    The Lake

    by

    David R. Hunt

    It is said by some that there is a place where a bright, clear, mountain lake resides, a place where people of this world never visit. To attempt to describe it is possible, but all such tales are probably just fancy. Be that as it may, here is how it was described to me, in my sleep, by the spring rain, when I was still very small and trusting. I was very certain at the time that the rain had not lied or exaggerated, but as I grew older I came to doubt. This would seem to be our way. How sad.

    The rain told me that the air at the lake was fresh and clean and yet so thin that I would faint were I to be there. This lake was in the midst of a forest of giant pine trees that appeared to reach forever to the skies above. In contemplating these trees one would wonder if this lake were not really just a small puddle on the forest floor. But as all bodies of water were the same to my singing spring rain, I imagine these distinctions had simply gone unnoticed.

    There was something most remarkable about this lake. For I was told that all the souls of all the men & women & little children like myself washed through this water. There seemed to be some hint that all of life had passed by and was passing by this oasis whose place could not be named. As each new life was made, a handful of water was removed from the lake and placed within a mortal body. Day by day the water would be made purer or filthier as that life spent it’s limited time in the world. When that life was done, the water that had been given to it was returned to the lake as its body was returned to dust.

    And such was how all the hope and travail of life would come to each new generation. Some would succeed more than it would seem they should and so returned to the lake the courage and celebration that they had made of their lives. Others learned the habit of fear and distrust in their lives when they were very young and so took very meanly of every opportunity as only a threat. They only returned water that was foul and putrid for what else did they ever know.

    And so I was told, that was how it was with me and everyone who ever had been, or was, or would be. Parts of me had passed through many lives and parts of me were utterly new and untried. Parts of me would live other lives again and others would be forever still when I was done. None of us was ever created entirely alone nor could we ever be, for like the air and water of this world, which we all communally use and of which our bodies are literally made, our souls are unique and yet all made of the same stuff. How many times would you have to draw water from a lake to draw the same handful? Or is it just a silly question? I don’t know. Somehow it just doesn’t seem to be a very important question now.

    What would be an important question anyway?

  • Aditya

    A great article.

  • Kate

    I just read your 2 religion posts. It is amazing to hear someone put into words all the things I feel and believe. Just to give you an example, I was raised catholic but never really believed any of it. Like you, I decided I was an atheist in college, even scoffing at organized religion and thinking it was primitive and trivial. Years later, I of course went on my own quest for spirituality. As I read about different religions and philosophies, Buddhism spoke to me. I felt (and still feel) that the Buddhist teachings help me along the path of life more than anything else. While reading about Buddhism, I totally began to understand why and how religions were created. Buddhists put flowers on their meditation alters to remind them that life ends. They light candles to help light their way toward enlightenment. Go back thousands of years when Christianity was formed as a religion and they did and said concrete, tangible things to help remind themselves of the spiritual path they are on. Needless to say, I found a whole new respect of structured religions.

    What amazes me about your thoughts is that it sounds like the beginning of a formal religion. You have a clear path you are traveling on and are creating terms and symbols to remind yourself of the path you are on. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that you are trying to form your own religion with you at the center for all to study your wise words. I just find the connections amazing and am loving the whoa moment. Thank you for posting your thoughts!

  • Great ‘introspection’ (‘muraqaba’ as Muslim sufis called it). I’m impressed with that you modeled ego in terms of animals, which is something the renown scholar Ghazali did a millennium ago. He mentioned the pig (for lust and gluttony) and the dog (for anger). The science of knowledge and purification of ego is called tazkiya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tazkiah).

    BTW, you say you reached your conclusions about atheism/religion without any faith but just with logic. Repeat it to yourself twenty times, and hopefully a little more fog will clear out. Thinking one’s self as very logical must be one of the oldest religions.

    • leo

      He recognizes a higher being may exist, but believing in a religious deity would not be logical. For example, I cannot prove leprechauns do not exist, I cannot ‘know’ they don’t, but logically, it wouldn’t be clever to worship them just in case.

      • You already believe in the existence of a whole bunch of stuff that you yourself have never sought logical and mathematical proof, or observational and experimental evidence. For example, electrons, galaxies and Abraham Lincoln etc. You took the word of the History Channel, Michio Kaku or the guy who edited the Wiki page in his underpants. Now one thing you can do is to quit masturbating with reductio ad absurdum, and educate yourself about religions and learn what their arguments are. Or you can keep swimming in the fantasy of how logical you are and how illogical the rest of the world is.

  • rumble

    I get what u mean regarding ur problem with traditional organized religion: “Many of today’s religions play to people’s fog with “believe in this or else…” fear-mongering and books that are often a rallying cry for ‘us vs. them’ divisiveness. They tell people to look to ancient scripture for answers instead of the depths of the mind, and their stubborn certainty when it comes to right and wrong often leaves them at the back of the pack when it comes to the evolution of social issues. Their certainty when it comes to history ends up actively pushing their followers away from truth”

    That’s why apologetics is quite an appealing field.

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  • mds

    Tim, Write a post on what-if..if in future, various scientific theories evolve as different religions themselves.

  • Karishma Mehrotra

    These theories and the idea of Truthism resonates with me very much. However, there were some points that I disagreed with / some points that I thought could have been addressed. Please, don’t think that these contentions take away from my overall love for this post.

    1) I believe that a lot of reaching a level of higher consciousness is actually looking at our past. I felt this just recently when traveling to Ghana. The traditional societies there seem to have achieved a higher level of consciousness in many ways but not with the same terminology you or I would use. Your post seemed to focus a lot on progress into a futuristic conscious being but what if a previous version of ourselves had that consciousness and it has been washed away by modern development?

    Your mammoth article made it seem like tribe-like settings fostered an over-emphasis on social approval. However, you also show in this post how a higher level of consciousness and overcoming the fog on Step 1 allows people to see the bigger picture, which also leads to more modesty, more hard work, more generosity, etc. All those attributes could also be considered socially valuable and maybe those were the attributes you see in the “tribe” settings that help society function peacefully. Aren’t the carrots the fog lines up today an attribute of the modern world?

    “The industries that do often focus on the human condition—philosophy, psychology, art, literature, self-help, etc.—lie more on the periphery, with their work often fragmented from each other.” I felt like this wasn’t the case in traditional Ghanaian societies. “Education” in their communities involved a blend of all of these – there was no distinction.

    In some ways, I wonder if the fog has become thicker in the West and the fog was thinner at some point in our ancient past lives.

    2) Many of the scholars I have read state that religion in the traditional societies (like those of ancient Africa, India, China) was not supposed to be the “truth.” In other words, when Ancient Egyptians preached about Horus (the ancient “equivalent” of Jesus), they did not intend for people to believe the story as truth. It was a way to worship the sun, nature, and all the other Step-4 “woah moments” you have had. Religion has become institutionalized, commercialized and taught in a literal way. I believe religion is a method in which people used to achieve a higher level of consciousness through, like you said, meditation, praying, reflection, chanting, etc. In fact, this adds a new context to your point: you achieved spirituality when you had those woah moments. Wouldn’t it make sense for religion to be a part of society for that very purpose? So you are right: religion today claims too much certainty. But I don’t believe religion as a concept always did.

    “The major institutions in the spiritual arena—religions—tend to focus on divinity over people, making salvation the end goal instead of self-improvement.” Was this always the case? How did religion truly evolve into society? What original purpose did it serve?

    • FinnFiana

      I agree with Karishma in their sense of resonating recognition of Tim’s idea of Truthism and the underlying understanding of the mind/soul. I don’t think I’ve come across anything that’s expressed this idea
      so well, and am indebted to this achievement.

      Even so, I agree with Karishma’s thoughts on religion and would like to offer mine on the subject.

      While I agree with Tim that practitioners that take religion in a rationally literal way stymie their growth and increase their ‘fog’, I concur with Karishma that the problem lies with the practitioners (and the literal
      tradition/institution that informs them), and isn’t representative of the phenomenon ‘religion’, nor does it exemplify its suspected power in aiding the attainment
      of wisdom.

      Karishma points towards earlier practices of and experiences in the realm of religion as possible vehicles of growth and I think rightly asks themselves
      whether the fog in the Western world hasn’t become thicker than it might have been in earlier times, despite – or maybe because of – our technological advancement and the impact that has had on the circumstances that shape our lives.

      These technological advancements are the direct result of the philosophy and resulting scientific paradigm of rationalism, and I think it’s safe to say that
      rationalism is also responsible for transforming religion into its current literal and ‘institutionalized’ form. “Our intellect has achieved the most tremendous things, but in the meantime our spiritual dwelling has fallen
      into disrepair.” (Adler, G., & Jung, C., 2014, pp. 16).

      I am herein greatly informed by C.G. Jung (b. 1875), known for his concept of the ‘collective unconscious’ which he sees as the ocean of psyche which each of
      us shares and in whose depths ‘autonomous psychological structures’, or archetypes, are found which were handed down the line of sentient evolution since time immemorial. In Jung’s thought, religious symbolism is a way of relating to various Archetypes in the collective unconscious which, when done through ritual prayer/meditation/chanting, joins us to the inexpressible realities of our being, maybe inducing a step 3 ‘Woah moment’.

      Jung sees religious symbolism as informed by and as a representation of the archetypes, and the problem with rational religion – of which in Jung’s view Protestantism
      is the progenitor, but of which I think it is safe to say that today any literal, ‘institutionalized’ denomination is an expression – is that it has done away with the required symbolism, thereby losing its ability to connect its practitioners with their deeper being.

      He writes:
      “Could it be that men had never really known what they [sacred images] meant, and that only in recent times did it occur to the Protestant part of mankind that actually we haven’t the remotest conception of what is meant by the Virgin Birth, the divinity of Christ, and the complexities of the Trinity? …. The fact is that archetypal images are so packed with meaning in
      themselves that people never think of asking what they really do mean. That the gods die from time to time is due to man’s sudden discovery that they do not
      mean anything, that they are made by human hands, useless idols of wood and stone. In reality, however, he has merely discovered that up till then he has never thought about his images at all. And when he starts thinking about them, he does so with the help of what he calls “reason” – which in point of fact is nothing more than the sum total of all his prejudices and
      myopic views.” (Adler, G., & Jung, C., 2014, pp. 12 – 13).

      ‘Reason’ in the above applies to the general human
      faculty, and in Jung’s opinion it is the reason any religion or type of worship dies out, or is ‘reasonably’ replaced with another. Since the dissemination and consequent widespread influence of rationalism as a paradigm however, the transformation in the realm of religion is no longer a matter of superficial ‘replacing’ but rather a stripping of any religion by its rationally conditioned practitioners of its most powerful symbols and rituals. This, I believe, is evidenced by
      modern religious practitioners’ insistence on the absolute existence of the god(s) they worship, the consciously taking literal of which being necessary for minds deeply invested in the Enlightenment project and therefore conditioned to equate truth and meaning with objective facts and a materialistic conception of
      reality.

      While as Jung describes, religious symbols are not
      revered and reflected upon because of the rational understanding one could ever have of them. Rather – when still functioning – their meaning and value are
      immediately self-evident, requiring no ‘reason’ to grasp, and they are naturally gravitated towards. Where they have become impotent, post-mortem the
      question of their rational interpretation arises as an afterthought, only when their power has already been lost and could no longer be restored. “All ages
      before us have believed in gods in some form or other. Only an unparalleled impoverishment of symbolism could enable us to rediscover the gods as psychic
      factors, that is, as archetypes of the unconscious.” (Adler, G., & Jung, C., 2014, pp. 23).

      This stripping of religions of their symbols and therefore deeper function is a distinctly modern and recent development, conjectured to have been brought
      on by the paradigm of rationalism penetrating every aspect of life, shaping what could be called our collective consciousness and therefore the practice of religion and our relationship with the ‘collective unconscious’. I think this is why Karishma is correct in stating, or at least suspecting, that in earlier times the ‘fog’ might have been thinner, and that lining up ‘carrots promising future happiness’ is a modern
      way of coping with our spiritual poverty.

      I have tried quite hard to become a Christian, have
      toyed with the idea of becoming a Muslim and am still interested in the propositions of Buddhism. The strongest feelings in my life can only be described as having been religious, in the sense of having possessed a deep, intuitive certainness and as stated I think that religious systems can be a valuable way of gaining entrance to the submerged world where meaning doesn’t have to be understood in a rationally knowing way to be sensed as true. Yet the circumstances of our modern world entail the necessity of continually persisting in a rational mode of being in order to remain a part of it, while it is ever becoming clearer to me that what I consider meaningful is found on another plane of consciousness entirely.

      Having written that, and thinking about the rich,
      though I suppose mostly undocumented history of hermits abandoning society in search of connection with the mysteries of the world, this problem in itself strikes me as a persistent part of the human condition. This might serve as a contradiction to the alleged singularity of the modern state of spirituality,
      were it not that I project that the function of leading a solitary life is the same during all times, but that the extent to which it’s forced upon anyone that’s
      in connection with, or persistently resides in the aforementioned plane of consciousness is variable.

      The effect of adverse circumstances in society in
      general might be ‘curvilinear’, in that as fewer people manage and dare to travel the path of wisdom, the way and incumbent necessities of travelling it become more obscure, resulting in even less people finding their way onto it. I feel this is the problem I face today: I have a sense of the way I need to go, but am at a loss of how or where to find the symbols that might still propel me
      onto it.

      – Adler, G., & Jung, C. (2014). Archetypes of the
      collective unconscious. In Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 1). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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  • Phil V

    I think my comment got deleted criticizing Truthism, but I’ll post it again to make sure.

    Truthism is good for those who want to become a better person and need a guide to make better sense of the world. If not, it’s a dressed-up, self-help blog mixed with passive ideology. Truthism itself is a misnomer because who the fuck knows the “truth” to life and death. No one does- it’s something that can’t be tested. So I feel that putting oneself in a higher pedestal than those who are “Small-minded, short-sighted, and stupid,” is ignorant. Again, if you are someone that wants a change in life or someone that Truthism resonates with, then by all means follow it’s mantra. I’m not here to judge, it’s just that Truthism rubs me the wrong way.

    • leo

      But that’s the point of this article. That we shouldn’t ever think we can ‘know’ what is. It’s not saying we know the truth, or even that we ever could, it’s saying always remember you don’t know the truth. The animals just signify the negative emotions that are not reality outside of us.

      • Phil V

        What I got from reading this article is, “We could know the truth of everything if we all put aside our animal instincts.” I.e “Clearing the fog and climbing the steps.” That is where I disagree. We are animals on this planet with animalistic thoughts and behaviors. Putting our natural behavior aside, it’s not going to make our consciousness any better. For the most part, if you are a conscious person, you are going to make a conscious thought/decision whether or not you are a negative person.

  • I think the “Level 4” stuff is really a level 2 thing. It’s easy to know
    that there are possibilities. I also don’t really think that being
    aware of big space (step 3) and numerous possibilities (step 4) is
    important enough to be the defining characteristics of your steps.

    Richard Carrier’s book “Sense and Goodness Without God” is basically the one true religion. Similar to in this article, wisdom is key. He says his religion is philosophy itself, which literally means “the love of wisdom”.

    Good videos to check on Youtube with Richard Carrier about stuff
    related to this post include: “Is Philosophy Stupid?” and “Why Science
    is better than Religion and Always Has Been”

  • Christian Prof.

    This was a very well thought out and executed! While I do not agree with your naturalistic assumptions of the human mind, your demonizing of the “ego-animals,”and the overarching gnostic feel…I love the pursuit of truth and wisdom through deep honest introspection. But my question to you is what is the standard by which we establish wisdom? If Truth is simply “what is,” then does wisdom merely come to mean that which preserves life and sends us forward on the evolutionary staircase? If so, that is a pretty lame definition for something you lauded so greatly. Wisdom demands a moral framework, and the question is where does that moral framework come from in a world without God…or even worse, a world with mankind as the Higher Beings! I appreciated your querying of these life-sustaining matters and hope you continue to truly pursue wisdom and its source: Truth. Because…
    “if you call out for insight
    and raise your voice for understanding,
    if you seek it like silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasures,
    then you will understand the fear of the LORD
    and find the knowledge of God.
    For the LORD gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:3-6)

    • leo

      Morality is a word we made up, like all the others, we define what it means. Morality is not objective, it means different things to different people. If god is the source of morality, slavery, racism, sexism, homophobia, war, murder and forced abortion are all fine. Wisdom does not come from morality, morality comes from wisdom. We know what pain is, we know it hurts and we know others are like us, so we don’t hurt them, it’s that simple. Horrible people are usually extremely ignorant and child minded and dangerous ones believe they have access to objective or divine knowledge, that they are completely right and cannot be wrong about what they ‘know’. If you think you know, you cannot learn.

    • Chiel Wieringa

      Okay, a bit of lecturing from me then.

      True moral = Respect free will, both of yourself and others. Plain and simple, though putting it to practice needs a lot of wisdom and understanding. Asking this question before every action will force you to become wise to put it in a paradox 😀

      For everybody relying on God I always ask them: What do you mean with God? Please define God for me. What is he/she/it?

      My answer: it’s free will. (but not only for you!!! also your neighbour)

      (practicing free will to it’s full potential will put you in heaven)

      What is the devil? My answer: Ruling over others. (or letting others rule over you)

      (ruling over others or let yourself be ruled puts you in hell)

      Now you can write a lot of books about this, put them together and call it a bible, but it all boils down to that simple insight. God is an internal ruler, the Devil an external ruler. This world knows many Gods and even more Devils. In every institution of religion there are Gods and Devils. The Gods are the leaders that help people practicing free will without interfering the free will of others. The Devils tell you what to do (they rule) under the guise of religion.

      So yeah, moral is a man made word like all words are, but there is an objective meaning to it.

  • Thiago

    Reading this gave me goose bumps.

  • tdawg

    I only want to comment to recommend Manley P. Hall. His lecture “learning to know the dweller in the flesh” deals with this subject, perhaps a bit more in depth. I love waitbutwhy, though. Tim is a great writer.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-FHhqWVU5ohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-FHhqWVU5o

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  • Fantastic post, Tim! I’ve been wrestling with the questions you proposed for months now, and I’ve finally arrived at a conclusion that I’ve catalogued on my blog. But for the sake of convenience for other readers, here are the relevant snippets. Feel free to critique or borrow! 🙂

    Potentialist — One who seeks to maximize the potential of oneself, as well as that of those around oneself.

    ~ What’s the goal that you want to evolve towards (and why is that the goal)?

    The What: Unlocking your potential to make the world a better place, for both yourself and others.

    The Why: Acquiring knowledge is fantastic (see Tim Urban’s thoughts on Truthism), but knowledge without action seems incomplete. When you acquire knowledge and apply it to the benefit of yourself and others, you’re acting on the potential you have to make the world a better place. The goal isn’t to reach your “full potential” (who can even properly define that, anyway?), but rather continue to uncover and demonstrate the potential you have available, and make sure taking action isn’t lost in the never-ending challenge of acquiring wisdom in one mere lifetime.

    ~ What does the path look like that gets you there?

    This is different for everyone, so your mileage may vary. In its most broad terms, though, here are the levels you might encounter along the way:

    Level 1: On this level, you give your work the bare minimum (or close to it) to earn your paycheck and settle into a lifestyle of consumption (e.g. TV, movies, video games, fast food, the latest gadgets). You spend a majority of your time consuming and very little time (if any) creating and sharing with the world. Little growth is exhibited from this approach, and it’s unlikely that meaningful exploration of your potential will happen at this level.

    Level 2: On this level, you understand the value of hard work and learning by doing. You might take classes to learn something new, or perhaps find time to volunteer. You typically keep your life in balance, allowing your career and personal endeavors to develop quite well. On this level, you’re in a strong position to explore your potential by learning, trying new things, overcoming failure, giving back to your community, and working with others to bring something new into the world. It’s possible to spend months, years, or even decades on this level with active investment.

    Level 3: On this level, something inspires you to take action. You’ve found a cause, a purpose, a reason to obsess over a problem and it’s solution. Although less common than Level 2, it’s still possible to spend extended periods on this level, fueled by passion, flow, or a higher purpose. When it comes to breakthroughs, this level is typically where the magic happens: impactful discoveries unfold; major forks in the road encountered, analyzed, and chosen; perseverance exhibited, yielding results. It’s at this point that the ideas you develop and share start inspiring others, allowing for more relatedness and purpose in your endeavors.

    Level 4: On this level, you’re a thought leader who has found the means to inspire and build up the potential of communities around you, both big and small. You don’t just work for the benefit of your career or for personal causes; you work for the greater good. If you’re familiar with Tim Urban’s Truthism, you spend much of your time in Level 2, and can cultivate Level 3 moments with ease, and have the ability to share this perspective with others quite freely. Whereas Truthism’s Level 4 is reserved for the elite thinkers of the world, Level 4 in Potentialism is achievable by anyone with a compelling vision, the right skill set, and unwavering determination.

    ~ What’s in your way, and how do you overcome those obstacles?

    Poor health (i.e. lack of energy)

    No need to go into detail here. If you’re going to reach your potential, your diet, exercise, sleep, and stress should be priorities, otherwise you’re fighting an uphill battle.

    As an example, I saved up for out-of-pocket lab work this year that helped me identify adrenal gland imbalances, which was causing me significant fatigue. As a result, I’ve doubled down on improving sleep quality/quantity, removed most caffeine from my diet, and started proper supplementation.

    Ineffective thought processes

    If your mind isn’t trained to critically analyze the world around you, it’s harder to understand problems and generate viable solutions. As a great place to get started, read The Five Elements of Effective Thinking.

    The procrastination monkey

    This is a toughie; chronic procrastination is not an easy challenge to overcome. I’d start with one of Tim’s many suggestions, read a book or blog on productivity (e.g.Cal Newport or Getting Things Done) or experiment with a lifestyle change (my favorite: be an early riser).

    Counterproductive habits

    Unfortunately, the path to breaking bad habits is a slow and steady march towards good habits. Behavioral psych. has a lot to say about this. BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits for a great place to start.

    Aversion to discomfort

    Whether doing something uncomfortable, or removing comforts (fried chicken or your typical hit-up-six-bars-every-Saturday routine), getting comfortable with discomfort is key (personal growth occurs most rapidly during states of discomfort). This is also one of those things that will take a while, since too many big changes at once typically results in failure. The key is to keep pushing in small increments. Again, BJ Fogg’s work expands on this topic. Online communities like Reddit docomfort zone challenges that can help you get started, if that’s your thing.

    Lack of inspiration

    This is an easy one: read Wait But Why! ;). In all honesty though, the more you read and exchange ideas with people, the more likely you’ll have inspiration to work with. I read Ben Franklin’s autobiography in college, and couldn’t stop taking notes on cool things he did that could still be relevant in a modern lifestyle (adopting his virtue tracking system was a fun project).

    ~ What are your practices on a day-to-day level, and what should your progress look like year-to-year?

    Keep reading and blending ideas together. (Having trouble? see Lack of Inspirationabove for tips).

    Keep speaking to others about their goals, dreams, and ambitions.

    Consider practicing Tim Urban’s Truthism; as you gain insight, you’ll realize how much there is to learn and grow from.

    Looking for a list of specific day-to-day practices? Here you go:

    Invest in health first. Things like meditation, exercise, and preparing a healthy meal are my first priorities of the day. I try and do this in the morning before the work day kicks my ass.

    Employ meditative practices. I mentioned this above, but meditation deserves its own shout out. A focused, calm mind is conducive to tackling difficult challenges and withstanding failure. Whether you enjoy yoga, walks through nature, meditation, or simply quiet time with a loved one, find one meditative practice you can use to center yourself and quiet your mind.

    Lock in some creative time. Staying healthy? Check. Centered and focused from your meditative practice? Check. Great! Now it’s time to flex your brain a bit. Whether you spend your creative time learning a new skill, increasing your knowledge, or brainstorming a potential passion project, let this be your time for you and brain to get at it. I like re-reading influential literature (many religious communities do this, e.g. Jews studying the Old Testament on a yearly schedule), writing blog posts, and experimenting with web app prototypes.

    Give back. Admittedly, I have trouble with this one, but it’s crucial. The practices above will certainly yield some positive benefits in your life which you can share with others. Join a mentoring program, volunteer with your favorite non-profit, share your discoveries on a blog, or donate some of the proceeds from your latest successful project to a charitable organization.

    Keep track of progress. It’s important to keep a pulse on how you’re doing with your daily practices. It’s especially useful for catching and remedying a downward spiral in times of stress (this frequently happens to me). Thankfully, habits are easier to track than ever thanks to technology. Have a smart phone or know how to use a spreadsheet program (Excel, Google Sheets, etc.)? Then you’re in great shape! I personally use the Headspace app for meditation sessions, a Google spreadsheet for food logging, and JEFit on my iPhone for logging workouts. I even started tracking caffeine consumption using the UP Coffee app for iPhone when I started investing in higher quality sleep. Here’s an example of how great spreadsheets can be for quantifying your daily habits.

    ~ Most importantly, how do you stay strong and maintain the practice for years and years, not four days?

    The good news: Once these practices a normal part of your week, it’s a virtuous cycle. Achievement feels great; living a healthy lifestyle feels great; sharing and giving back to others feels great. This drives you to continue your efforts.

    The bad news: The journey to getting there is filled with bad habits and fear of failure, which are quite difficult to overcome.

    So what do we do? Embrace the community aspect of your goals. Community is the glue to keeps you in the game even when the going gets rough. Start a blog and share your thoughts and findings with the world. Join a mentorship group to engage with fresh minds. Start a Meetup.com group for your passion and meet likeminded people in the flesh.

    I wrote about this in more detail here: http://www.livingforimprovement.com/five-questions-that-will-shape-your-lifes-story-a-guide-to-a-coherent-life/

    Thanks again, Tim!

  • Matt

    Everything you said resonates with me and I really enjoyed it, I would however not use truthist as my spiritual designation because it still implies knowing something and being certain which is not possible, truth itself is subjective we see a blue sky but what color does a Mantis shrimp see? The term I would use for myself is progressionist. Great post you got my mental juices flowing, thanks.

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  • Keryn

    Have you read the Urantia Book? Much of your approach to philosophy and spirituality is supported in the Urantia Book, which essentially says that all human religious institutions are poor substitutes for one’s own Higher Being and that, while religion isn’t necessarily bad, it isn’t the fulfillment of our human spiritual capacity but is really only Kindergarten when it comes to trying to comprehend the I Am that started it all.

  • Marco

    Amazing article! Seriously, it’s so ridicuslouly clear that it’s almost shocking. It resonates so much with what I think about life. Great job!

  • Sam

    I have always been a seek to look into the purple kind of guy. And as time passes old solutions get thrown out and other solutions get tried. So I still seek to understand the purple but rather my former approach of hard literalism of reality I have grown softer in my approach and now include in my bag of tricks faith specifically, in part, because of what you mention above. I am still extremely empirical in my approach but also try to keep in mind the nuance and bias of being human and what that means and the implications seen and otherwise. And I try to never blindly throw things out, but I have certainly tempered my “reasonable amount of time to spend time on” scale as time and experience has taught.

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  • Yosarian2

    Very interesting post. My first reaction is part of the problem is that it’s not as simple as you make it sound; it’s not like there’s a human and an animal living in your head, it’s that the human mind is to a large extent made up of the animal brain and animal emotions. That’s what you use to think with. You can’t wall those off or fight them; if you try, the “animal minds” are the tools you use to build the wall with. We are, fundamentally, running on corrupted hardware.

    That doesn’t mean that it’s not worth trying to become more rational or to improve our minds to better see the big picture; we need to do that. But it’s harder then just “fighting animal instincts”; in a lot of cases, we have to learn to channel those animal instincts in the right direction, to use them to our advantage and harness them instead of letting them sabotage us, because to a large extent those are still the tools we have.

    • DAN

      I think that we have a lot more tools than imagined. Seems there may be physical human attributes that may have us connected to the WHOLE (TRUTH). Electric Universe theory is making leaps. One small gem found w/in below:

      The ~7 nT changes in local magnetic field strength associated with the emissions of photons from the subject’s brain may involve a more global increment of intensity than suspected. For example, according to Campbell (1997) distribution of the intensities of the interplanetary magnetic field peaks conspicuously between 6 and 7 nT.” PDF free: http://jcer.com/index.php/jcj/article/view/277

  • ShahZ

    I’m a muslim. :/

  • potato

    Have you heard of AGNOSTICISM?
    I think that defines a good part of who you are.
    Being able to realize that we may not be ever able to know whether God exists.

    • leo

      I think possibly more ignosticism. That a higher being may exist, but a religious god does not

  • Kyle Rosen

    This may be your best piece yet…even better than the ugly bunnies and that’s saying something. But seriously, reading this last night at 2AM was a “whoa” moment for me. You are not only a brilliant thinker and philosopher, but you have the ability to articulate your ideas in an almost super-human way. Thanks for helping the rest of us understand what we already know.

  • JC tha Legend

    I love this site, I love these posts. They’re are genuinely words of true wisdom for life and I accept that. I take notes from blogs like this to apply to my own life since the bible hasn’t been updated in 2000+ years. LOL. Bare with me on a few prequel paragraphs so I can make my point please.

    I watched my mother take her last breathe and die years ago when i was 24. She was a true great woman of God, and how I can correlate that with what you say is because on her deathbed her only regret was my lack of faith. No fear of death or regret from bad life choices, just my iniquities that she felt responsible for. And you’re right, we should live deathbed lives before our death comes. Only thing is, when facing death in the face, she told me that if she had to sacrifice her life for me to find Jesus in mine, that she would do it. And a few days later she died. A few years after that, I was reborn and the spirit with me. The spirit doesn’t share the same house with evil. So i know when you speak truth because i welcome it into my house. But theres also a flip side to that as well.

    I did find truth after that day, and each day i gain more wisdom and understanding because of a “Step 2” mentality. I thank you and everyone and everything i have come across to find what i now understand (and don’t understand) in truth. I am just as certain about life truths as the truths i am uncertain about. I believe creation/science/big bang/evolution/Jesus/salvation are all connected. We just cant acknowledge them all together because none of them mention each other all together, but they are all very real. My hope for you and all other non-Jesus believers is that you find Him in your quest for truth and wisdom, because your life will end one day. I don’t believe in Jesus because i’m afraid of going to physical hell (I believe hell is a metaphor for the turmoil we can bring to our own lives). I believe in Jesus because through tests of blind faith and patience I’ve been granted “Step 3” moments on a daily basis and for that I love Him. (Having a “Step 2″ moment as i’m writing this)

    My favorite quote from Jesus is John 14:3, ” I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am there you may be also” because I want, above all things, to be with everyone I’ve ever loved and cared for, forever. I trust that the spirit has lead you to all of your truths because many of the “truths” you speak are self-evident. Just like everything Jesus spoke was self-evident and undeniable. You yourself said you felt like submitting in your Step 3 moments. My question is why not? What do you have to lose when you have all life and love to gain? Why do you and other athiests all share the same common denominator of great logic and terrible faith? With all due respect, that seems like an oxy-moron. You can have everything that you already have, know and love but for all eternity. But I guess if we all thought the same about our beliefs then there would be no need for this life, henceforth the purpose to why we are here. Discovery of truths and wisdom is just a part of the ride to build value in the bigger picture.

    You’re a smart man, most athiests are. Your logic is undeniable for the most part but logic will not give you life after death. Its like when you go to school and a teacher gives terminology to a concept you already learned in life. When you agree with that professor and they give more meaning and understanding to what you already know, you feel the way I do right now when I listen to you speak. But its makes me sad to see all this knowledge come without any divine reference. Its like giving a thank you speech and leaving out the most important person who helped you get there. Who am i supposed to thank for this great knowledge and understanding? Myself? You? Am i supposed to spend my entire life thanking no one for the “Step 4” consciousness that has been made available for me? Look at all your replies, people are thanking you for the knowledge you have bestowed on them. So I’ll thank God for you, literally, because im overjoyed with the information I have received from you. It seems all people of intellect are striving for the same ultimate goal. To find a supreme being or state of being or both. You’re touching and influencing peoples lives, you have great power to inspire the masses and I got nothing but love and respect for you and your mission. You were given the free will to remove your fog just like many of us, I just want to know who you thank for it? You’re really onto something great man, I cant wait to see how this sites content evolves over time. Keep up the good work man, I look forward to more great things from you.

  • Jack Liu

    Something that I really like to tell myself often.
    I’m only human, but yet I AM a human.
    humans are minuscule compared to the universe and the insane amount of time. it’s like 1 second out of an entire year. So I absolutely agree with your step 3. We are nothing special, so we should be humble about what we are.
    But in that tiny spec of time, us as a specie has accomplished something that the trillions years of universe has not, and that is humanities’ potential. Thus that make human something very special. So we should also dive into doing things that we do not know. It’s like climbing your stair of conscious one step at a time. If two step below is the difference between ape and a man, and one step below is the difference between a 3 yrs old and a grown man. It also says that it took us millions of years to advance that one step as a specie, but took us 20 years to advance another step as individuals. And the reason for that is maybe we can’t comprehend what higher conscious are like, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I think the difference between an ape and a child is that ape never wonders what’s higher, but children does. So maybe we can actually advance quite a bit as individuals.

  • MisterMadison

    Tell a more comforting story about Death and you’ll entice more followers. Maybe it’s AI and uploading? Until you tell an equally or more comforting story about death, and how people can avoid the utter nothingness of the Void, religions and the religious will scream and murder and spew textual passages to keep their comforting lies over their eyes.

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  • hjbhk

    An initial comment: How have you measured consciousness? Brain cells and their connectivity? We have no reason to think this is significant, though it intuitively seems so. Brain structures? We haven’t mapped the human brain properly, let alone other species. Subject accounts? Of course not, can’t communicate very well with non-human animals.

    One thing that isn’t in question is that the consciousness of other animals will be different from ours, that’s based on the fact that other animals have extra senses, different organs, different amount of structures for viewing light, and therefore perhaps more colours. Etc etc.

    We can put the character of consciousness on a spectrum for sure, but I don’t know what you mean by ‘amount of consciousness’. Like it’s water in a bucket.

    I consider your position better than many, but it relies on an assumption without evidence.

    • massau

      I think a higher level of consciousness is that you know you are able to perceive time, your own thoughts, which allows for recursive thinking and even philosophy.

      For example a factory worker might find his job boring but he does to job to earn money. This money can be used for things he likes.
      A monkey could do the same job. but he doesn’t know the full concept of time. He would start to hit the manager with a hammer when he is bored.

  • hjbhk

    What basis do you have for separating love and good emotions into the newly evolved higher category, whil throwing fear etc in the ancient shitty category??

    A smart person would want to keep love etc and throw out the unpleasant stuff for sure, but factually those emotions all probably are ancient. As much as we want to avoid predators, we want to have sex and multiply.

    So you can say which emotions you want to keep in a better world, but you’d be wrong to associate all that is good with the recently evolved higher being. Love and sexual pleasure etc etc etc is also ancient.
    Come on.

  • hjbhk

    More, what’s the evidence that we’re the only creature that can imagine? We have good imagination for sure, but how do you know we’re the only creature with mental constructs flying around that don’t represent a version of reality?

  • hjbhk

    Realist.

  • Alexander S Anderson

    I think what you’ve described works in a modified way in Eastern Christian mysticism. The subduing of the passions (your animals) makes for a clearer mind to seek truth, of course, the major difference is a stated goal of sharing in the life of the Divine (through the mediation of Christ). There’s obviously parallels too in many of the ancient philosophical schools, especially stoicism and neoplatonism (some of them theistic and some not). Of course, Christianity is the primary inheritor of those traditions in the west.

  • Razorback

    Why do you feel love when you reach step 4, how do you know you do? What does love have to do with truth? This sounds like just another religion for religious people.

  • Wow. That was something. Gonna take awhile to digest this – along with a few comments. Thank you all for confirming of few “hunches” and for offering some new perspectives.

  • Evert

    Step 1 and step 2 are described by (amongst others) Daniel Kahneman as his system 1 and system 2 thinking. Other than that I can find no evidence for step 3, let alone step 4. Personally I experience step 3, as you describe it, regularly; but I see it as being the same as step 2, only more profound probably because there is even less influence from step 1 at the time. The way you describe step 4, means -to me- no more than the fact that our brains are built a certain way and are unable to do and comprehend things that they cannot do or comprehend (you cannot build a house with a coffee-maker). To me, step 3 is objectifying. While at step 2 I still look at the universe subjectivly, at step 3 my individuality is lost; the negative side of this, is that my life becomes utterly meaningless and everything I do has no (universally objective) purpose. There is a paradox here. On the one hand you become more aware and gain insight and knowledge and understanding which makes life more wonderful. But on the other hand, that same life becomes totally unimportant and has no meaning. I guess this is because a sense of purpose and related things (like fun) belong squarely in step 1. Luckily it is very difficult to get to and remain in step 3, (and also step 2) because this way of thinking costs a large amount of energy which our brain wants to preserve so it has an automatic off-switch.
    Unlike you, I can find no purpose in step 3, because any fun and wonder I feel at that stage comes from step 1. My life has become more of a struggle since I started thinking critically and logically because both steps are contradictory (more so in every-day life where no distinction between the two is made and we are supposed to be a constant).

    • Sinthoniel

      I feel the same. I often feel very depressive as nothing I will ever reach in my life has any impact on the whole, and I can only escape these depressions by falling back to lower steps. I fear clarity. But on the other side the only way to break this is to go through step 3 and reach step 4, the ultimate knowledge.
      We can never reach step 4 (to me another meaning of step 4 is “the unreachable”) but we can move the border between step 3 and step 4. We can learn more, but only by going to step 3 we can use this knowledge. And maybe one day we will know enough to change the universe. If we don’t at least try it, the whole humanity is pointless.

    • PhilosopherPhysician

      Please contact the show ASAP (RayOfLight). I would love to help you with this negative feeling.. Words were created by MAN to share our MINDs with the world.. FreeWill is a gift .. Please use freewill to choose great thoughts to improve the lives of other manimals and eternal happiness will be yours 🙂 See and ye shall find.. @DrRayofLight

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  • m.a.f

    Well done. A similar version of your “path to enlightment” was described by Siddharta Gautama 2500 years ago. His direct experimentation with the ultimate nature of truth yielded a method to overcome the “Fog” and these teachings – the four noble truths- have been passed down until today and are still not only incredibly relevant in today’s world, but also supported by all discoveries in modern science. I’m sure you would love diving into this stuff (and write a blogpost on it) in order to enrich your Truthism and benefit from the knowledge of people who collectively devoted millions of hours investigating the mind. Sources you can start off with: The Quantum and the Lotus, the tibetan book of living and dying, the monk and the philosopher. There are others and I’m not an expert on the topic but recently got into it and thought you’d like it too.

  • wobster109

    Sorry, this post is still bothersome to me. Like, it’s excellent for like 80% of it, and then it veers off into Weird Land. More specifically, the Atheists Have a God-Shaped Hole that Needs Filling Land. People who are religious or grew up religious tend to believe this. But the thing is, I don’t need “Truthism” or any other substitute for religion, because I’m not missing anything in my life. I don’t need any “religion for the non-religious”. Just like non-pet people aren’t in need of a Roomba to substitute as pet. Maybe they are perfectly happy without pets. And yes, it’s excellent to be a scientist, humanist, and philanthropist. But it has nothing to do with religion, no more than being a pet-owner does.

  • Peter Piper

    Listen to this episode of On Point. I find it amusing and reassuring that they almost travel the same circular path described in your article. It feels like they start off moving away from religion or a higher design or transcendental notions to end up approaching it from the opposite side. I think back to this article often and find it to parallel my building sense of my own “religion”. Cheers!

    https://onpoint.wbur.org/2015/02/26/atheist-secular-life-god-morality

  • Efreet

    this is my favorite post on this site thus far. thanks.

  • Linda

    Fascinating. So much good stuff and truth. But I’m more convinced than ever that if we really recognize how little we know and the enormity of the higher power we can humbly acknowledge that, indeed “The fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom.” simple enough for a child to grasp yet so complex that the wisest among us spend a lifetime searching the depths. Sad to spend our whole lives in the pursuit of truth but miss the Way, the Truth and the Life. We can learn a lot of truth and improve ourselves greatly in our lifetime and still have only climbed a couple of steps, but if we in humility allow the TRUTH to transform, empower and
    complete us we have confidence that we will be lifted beyond our own capabilities and will spend eternity engulfed in complete and perfect TRUTH and LOVE.

    • PhilosopherPhysician

      Thanks for sharing.. Understanding that LITTLE has been taught to us in formal education is a start.. Real knowledge comes when a MIND seeks understanding.. Today with a JOB requiring 70% of your day’s time it is hard to find time to seek much less time to share. In steps a phrase from Newton “IF i saw further it is because i stood on the shoulders of giants who lived before me”.. 100 years isnt enough time to see everything.. But, by seeing through the eyes and minds of other great HUMEN, we can see more.. Logic to Think and Love to Act.. MANmade words and religion, but ALL believe in a goOd GOoD.. Please reach out if i can be of further service and stay OPEN minded 🙂 @DrRayofLight

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  • Bernard

    Hi Tim,
    I just discovered your blog 2 weeks ago and can’t stop reading it. You’re views are so much in tune with my perceptions on a lot of things… Thanks a million for sharing, I hope you enjoy doing this as much as I do reading it!
    Bernard

  • I got hooked by this topic and went happily on to find out if there was
    already a Truthism movement around or something similar… sadly
    truthism.com already exists but it’s one of those Reptilian/Flying
    Saucer/Hollow Earth webpages 🙁 And I’d hate for it to lose momentum if
    more people (like me) are willing to engage in calling themselves
    “seekers of more wisdom and truth” instead of just atheists.

    So, I looked around for more words related to wisdom and the greek word
    “Sophia” could work well… apparently sophiology or sophianism was a
    gnostic movement banned as heressy by the Ortodox Church… you think
    they would mind much if we borrow it?

    • PhilosopherPhysician

      Thanks for taking your MIND to greater levels of understanding and seeking more Knowledge 🙂 Seek and ye shall find.. Gnostics were led by Jesus and their writings are found in the LostGospels (2011), 26 books, while only 4 gospels were chosen by Constantine and taught to the MANimals… Jesus believed the way to see GOoD is by thinking and doing for others less fortunate.. The book by Thomas quotes Jesus over 100 times..Socrates said “an UNexamined life isnt worth living”.. I am happy that we are discussing these points again 🙂 @DrRayOfLight

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  • Tom

    I’m late to this discussion, and this post was very insightful and well-articulated but I have to disagree entirely with the dialectic you’ve set up between the Animals and The Higher Power.

    First, you attribute all “bad” emotions (hate, jealousy, pettiness) to evolved evolutionary responses, and all “good” emotions (love, altruism, compassion) to The Higher Power. Of course the truth is that ALL emotions are evolved adaptations, the ones you like and the ones you don’t. We see this when observing animal behavior, how elephants mourn their loved ones, how dogs will risk their lives to protect their owners, etc. This is even seen more clearly when we take a scientific look at the brain, and realize that the good and bad emotions are coming from roughly the same, primitive region.

    But taking it a step further, even the Whoa moments you describe, the desire to experience that special cocktail of connectedness, calmness, belonging, luck, gratitude, etc. is an evolutionary desire born of the fact that is has been many millions of years since a human ancestor was last happy to live by themselves and not as part of the stronger, more evolutionarily fit unit of the community.

    Taking this a step further, we can see that it is impossible for us to act in a way that we do not believe benefits us. And by benefit, I mean so in the sense of taking a net sum total of:

    1) Our evolutionarily evolved desires, including self-interest and altruism evolved to protect the family and tribe.
    2) Our desire to feel like a Good Person living a Good Life based on our rational interpretation of what that means, and our desire to experience the chemical reaction in our brain that this knowledge of our morality makes us feel.

    Our rational mind being the only thing we can control, we have some leeway as to what makes us feel like a Good Person. But most people, after contemplating, will settle on something like this: I am a Good Person if I am a net benefit to other people.

    But then how do I become a net benefit to other people? Well other people want the same two things we outlined above: To satisfy their evolutionary desires or to feel like Good People themselves. After thinking about the option of helping others solely by making them feel like Good People, we get into a bit of a logic loop that rules this option out:

    1) I am a Good Person because I make other people feel like Good People
    2) They are Good People because they make other people feel like Good People
    3) The people they make feel like Good People are Good People because they make other people feel like Good People

    And so on and so on. If someone along this chain isn’t actually doing something that benefits someone other than making that person feel like a Good Person, then all of the steps that are dependent on this circular reasoning immediately become unjustified and no one should feel like a Good Person. So helping people only by making them feel like Good People is ruled out.

    The point being that if we want to help people (so that we can feel like a Good Person ourselves), we must do something to fulfill the evolutionary wants and desires of a person. This leads us to the realization that:

    Every human action, good or bad, altruistic or selfish, is undertaken in an attempt to fulfill the natural, evolutionary desires of either ourselves or others.

    The important thing implicit in this realization is this: we cannot choose our own or others evolutionary desires. They reside completely in the “Animal” portions of our mind, and they are non-negotiable.

    This realization, after all that leg work, then leads us to our final conclusion that:

    There is nothing for the rational part of our brain left to do except to use its powers to maximize our long-term, evolutionarily hard-coded happiness.

    We cannot rise above our animal minds. Every attempt to do so is motivated by a desire to understand things that comes from…our animal minds. Our animal brain give us our goals. We can step back and rationally think about how best to achieve the goals that we receive from the animal brain. But we cannot change the goals.

    Thanks for anyone reading this, and Tim your blog is the most intelligent thing I can recall reading.

    – Tom

    • Julian

      This is a brilliant response; taking the author’s post about truth and applying additional consciousness to get to, what I believe to be, a deeper truth. Reminds me of a quote by the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.”

      Thanks Tom.

    • Tung Nguyen

      Not only that, but the seemingly over-altruistic approach as he
      describes Step 3 and the ideas onward does not seem to be very sensible
      to me. I understand and appreciate the idea of improving our own
      metaphysical awareness in order to better ourselves and believe that
      this would be the right approach to human evolution, but to actually be
      all-loving and caring like he is trying to go for would be quite
      impossible without first for us to be able to limit or eliminate
      physical dependency entirely (say, by having the ASI helping us to
      evolve beyond our current state in the more optimistic scenario
      discussed about in his other post). After all, even though they are not
      relevant to modern society now, the reason we still have those
      animalistic tendencies that cloud our mind is because we are still bound
      by the same physical constraints as the animals of yore, and dead
      animals cannot do anything, let alone dead humans.

      Additionally,
      it seems that massau’s discussion about the difference between knowledge
      and consciousness a bit down below does assess and describe this whole
      idea more eloquently, so I think it would be nice to have it as
      supplemental refinement to the idea.

      Its possible that Tim could
      have been a bit overzealous when he wrote this post and fell victim to
      the cloud without realizing it himself, showing just how powerful it can
      be (!) But to be able to acknowledge these shortcomings and improve on
      them is still the same goal and spirit of the idea, and for this I am
      grateful that it can be conducted here. Hopefully we can always keep
      improving as a species not only to the benefit of our own but other
      beings and aspects of life as well!

  • Phill

    It sounds more like you are an agnostic. Atheist’s actively deny God and argues against him with evidence. You may be doing the same, but I think atheists are more aggressive with it.

    Also a VERY good book I live by is Secret Tactics by Kazumi Tabata. It REALLY illustrates your point!!!

    • Pratik Mehta

      Like he said, he’s atheist to all organized religions as conceived by man (since they don’t correlate with the truth, the reality at all), and agnostic to the possibility that a force greater than us is responsible for our existence. We just don’t know, we may never know and we may never even understand what it is that we don’t know.

  • Vladimir

    Great movie on this topic: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070544/

  • sonicboom343

    BETTERISM

    1)What’s the goal that you want to evolve towards (and why is that the goal)?
    I want to better my world by improving myself and everyone around me in a meaningful way.

    2)What does the path look like that gets you there?
    The path looks winding and bumpy with many hills (and some valleys).

    3)What’s in your way, and how do you overcome those obstacles?
    There will be many hurdles and struggles I can’t even begin to fathom or distinguish right now. Perseverance and drive will allow me to conquer all of them, especially with a little help from friends and family.

    4)What are your practices on a day-to-day level, and what should your progress look like year-to-year?
    I will improve today by learning from yesterday. Year to year should see exponential growth as the more I learn, the more I can efficiently and effectively improve.

    5)Most importantly, how do you stay strong and maintain the practice for years and years, not four days?
    Remind myself every day and never waver from driving onwards to bettering my world.

    • Lulilule

      What do you mean by “improve”? What is the definition of “improvement”?

  • neworion

    My way of avoiding the animals (sometimes): I imagine I’m wearing a blindingly fluorescent orange vest with my full name and contact info on it. The goal being to remove the cloak of anonymity I hide behind in public places. Rather than lose my temper (as your cashier example), or ignore rules (while biking, etc.) it encourages me to see through the fog. The fog still makes me forget the vest sometimes, but I’m getting more power over the fog. Maybe I should try an actual vest. ALSO: consider reading the book ‘Non-Violent Communication’, by Marshall Rosenberg. He has an effective strategy for dealing with the animals in ourselves and in others.

  • Matthus Gougeus

    So, procrastinators are in the fog most of the time.

  • DeathBurst

    I found this article particularly interesting, and so I made a quick research for Truthism/Truthist on Google. Sadly, the term is already taken by some rather intense conspiracy theorist who claims that a race of Reptilian Aliens surreptitiously governs Earth for at least 5,000 years…

    • dooj

      don’t deny the truth!!

    • Lhamo55

      Sounds like a Doctor Who episode some seasons ago:-)

  • Kutos

    your posts always blow my mind. Thanks!

  • Kurtis Engle

    Bookmarked.

    Prepare to be quoted.

    You have been warned!

  • Lulilule

    I thought this post would be about
    explaining religion to non-religious people…

    Disappointed that the content is rather about a new religion for people who do not have one. Why the heck would non religious people even need to have one? Can’t people be just fine without any religion?

    • Tato dlp

      It’s not a regligion, it’s simply a way to visualize the way that your mind works and using it to your advantage to recognize how you can improve your life in a more clear-headed and logical way.

    • Raphaël Biet

      This post isn’t about getting a religion, it’s about getting a spiritual way when you’re not religious. That’s something I started to think a few years ago: As atheism grow in developed countries, there’s less and less spirituality, and it’s probably why so many turn to Buddhism, Scientology, Yoga or gurus (far from me to say that that’s all the same stuff. But people who go there are looking for spirituality, “a meaning in their lives”). I’ve read a while ago (sorry i completely lost references), that in the french revolution they created a relatively similar “religion of truth”, named “cult of the reason and of the supreme being”, and the author was saying that it was not only to replace Catholicism (and get rid of the Vatican authority), but also so the people would keep spirituality. I’m not saying it was a good religion (look it up, it was ruled by Robespierre, a freaky guy), but that the ideas of “religion are outdated and mainly wrong, science is better” and “whops but now we don’t have any moral and spiritual guidance” have been around for a long time

      My personal view on this (who knows, some might be interested): I grew up with a growing interest for science, and in a religious family, with a religion teaching that love charity and forgiveness are most important values. But this family had hate issues with many (some were racist, some were fighting INSIDE the family), and did not match saying with acts. Science on the other hand, provided me answers, and it was simple for me to think that being a good person is an efficient way to increase self interest, and that everyone should be altruistic, even out of self based motivations. So I built my own moral set, sometimes saying that “I have my own religion, where I’m the only member, devout, priest and pope”. Anyone would be invited but I don’t do proselytism, I just share some ideas, as why it is always better in the long term to “act good”, how science mind-f*ck facts can lead to some kind of religious epiphany, or why I think that “god made man after his image” is to me a silly human centered point of view, as well as “earth is the center of the universe”, and a being capable of creating such a system can’t even closely resembles us. I was good for me for a while, and I think about this questions often, which probably help me growing spiritually, but more recently the idea that humans need a functional spiritual system, a clear set of values, moral and ethics. And preferably not one that comes from a book which teach killing the others, like ALL the main religions ones.

      • Lulilule

        I am not really sure and what you believe is the difference between “spirituality” and “religion”… Is bouddhism a religion or a spirituality for you ? I would put this into “religion” myself. And therefore it doesn’t change anything about what I say. Why the heck would non-religious or “non-spiritual” people need something like truism ?
        Not being spiritual or religious doesn’t mean you have to behave like an asshole. By the way, what history tends to show is that being religious doesn’t prevent you acting like an asshole either, nor being racist, nor being full of hate nor any of the things you said…
        Science is not there to replace religion nor the reverse. Einstein was a believer and still a great scientist. There are really accurate scientific facts described in religious texts too.
        Those two things are not in opposition. But still your conclusion is exactly what I said I don’t understand : “Why the heck do you think that non religious people need to have a religion ?”. Why do you think we need to “act good” ? What does that even mean ? Is that acting good for yourself ? for the other ? a greater self ? the universe ? your close relatives ? where is the limit ? What is the exact problem if you don’t “act good” ?

        • Raphaël Biet

          So, it’s not what I believe, it’s words definitions: religion is a belief with a cosmology (a story of how the world was created) (that’s the really short definition), spirituality is a broader concept, the experience or the thought about an higher power that transcend the self, like God, the universe, or reality. So Buddhism is a religion, since it has a cosmology, gods ans so on, AND it is a spirituality, since it teach how to reach higher state of mind through meditation, and eventually how to communicate with the universe.

          Then, I never opposed religion to science, and I’ll never do that. Why do people keep telling me that? I’m saying that when you get out of religion (not because of science in my case, but because what religions propose don’t satisfy me), there’s a lack of spirituality. Of course some are great with religion, some use religion as a reason to be an asshole. And all the same for atheist of course.

          Also you tell me that in conclusion I’m saying people need a religion. I’d reply: WTF? I never said that! I’m saying we miss spiritual guidance, that’s not the same thing! And I don’t think “we need to act good”, I think it’s a nice thing to do. Not to a higher being (why would he care?) but to yourself (yes start by you), family (if they deserve it) your friends (don’t need to have some, do whatever you want) community, humankind and even life in general. There’s no limit to that, only the one you choose. You don’t HAVE to. I was only giving my personal opinion, which is, being good will eventually be a gain for you in the long term, and not by karma, by economy. If you don’t see why you’re not invited in my religion 😉 (and that’s way to long to discus on a blog thread!)

          • Lulilule

            The only fact you believe there is a “higher state of mind” is related to religion to me. There is nothing that could define this very idea except “cosmology” related concepts.
            Oh and every economical theory pretty much says there are no such things as being good or bad if you want money… Being smart and a bit lucky is going to be way more helpful than “being good” that you still even haven’t defined.

            • Raphaël Biet

              Higher state of mind is not religious, it can mean wisdom, knowledge, or intelligence. It’s not compared to anyone or a religious tripy thing, it’s about improving your spirit, moral, mind in general. A lot of people think it’s not something you can work on, but I saw in my life that it is. I’m not going to get on word definition on a comment thread! (even if I agree, that would be important to get a precise debate, but this comment will be long enough like that). What I mean by “being good can pay back by economy”, is that pure economy don’t get into that kind of stuff like you said, but pure economy is a simple modelling system that forgot how human have memory and feelings, which are really important in business for example, and you can’t say that’s not economy. If your customers stop to trust you, you don’t make any more money. If you consider your surroundings (at any level, from neighbourhood to society), everyone is better off with people who behave nicely. I’ve lived some months in a country where stealing is not a thing. For sure the 1st point is that it’s nice. But what really differed, is that people spend much less money in security so they keep it for other things! One day or another, someone will remember what you did, and repay you, perhaps at a point where you needed something simple, but you couldn’t get or/and needed badly. So being good to a business partner who’s honest, like by being honest too (still not a definition I know, but that would philosophy matter for a book, so an example is nice), and you don’t take too much advantage of a situation when you could have, will give you money when he’ll repay you on a future business, where he could have taken advantage of you. You can say it’s being smart (by evaluating correctly who to be honest with) but without being naive, I’m optimistic when I’m nice with most of the people, even in situations where pay back seems unlikely, like by helping a total stranger. I do that every time I can, just stop in the street where I see someone who could need help, and I propose to give a hand. I won’t get money from that, but it feels good (and that’s perhaps a part of “the higher state of mond”) (and by perhaps I mean I’m convinced of that) (and I’m sure that it’s not religious)

            • Lulilule

              I still think that the very idea of “being good” is a really religious one. It does not mean that you have to trust in order to want to be good, but that its definition is derived from what religion says.
              It is only a matter of vocabulary, but the idea that there is a “good” and a “bad” and that you have to behave “good” sounded really like a religious thing to me… I mean you might need to lie sometimes. You might also need to not stop and help people who are in troubles from time to time (actually I would say most of the time for this one)… That does not sounds really “good”. And not doing that doesn’t seem like something which is going to pay you back in the future.
              But I got the idea of what you meant : you have to follow some ethics rules. And I agree on this, even without the idea that it is going to pay back later. I am pretty sure it is something mandatory for your own sake and your ability to live with other individuals.
              I understand better your idea of the “higher state of mind” even if I still do think there is a big problem with this idea : how do you rate “States of mind”? How do you determine if your current “state of mind” is higher than before? Is it just a temporary state?

              Even if it is a comment thread it is still interesting to learn about how other people think about life 🙂
              Thanks for your time

          • Lulilule

            You somehow opposed it to science with the word “on the other hand”. Sorry I misunderstood what you meant.
            I still believe your idea of “spirituality” is pretty “religious”. Without religion, there are no such concepts as “higher state of mind”, “act good”… Because what does that even mean to reach a “higher state of mind” ? Higher than what ? Higher than who ? Who juges who is in a higher state of mind and who is in a lower ? What is it to “act good” ? What are the criteria ? How is “being good eventually be a gain for” me “in the long term” “by economy” ? In what exactly do I have to be good at in order to have a gain from it ? I am pretty sure being good at stealing is going to be a gain by economy… And I am pretty sure it isn’t what you meant.
            You say you want to “communicate with the universe” that sounds like pretty religious to me… Because in order to “communicate with the universe” you first have to BELIEVE that the universe is something you can communicate with. So in the end, basically for me you saying that you think that people need “spirituality” is not really different than saying that you think people need a “religion”… Pretty much the same.

      • PsyX

        I can’t let you say that Robespierre was freaky.

        France was at war against other great european power, and at war against itself. Roberpierre will continue to be a centre of controversies I agree, but was it really a bad man ? I know one thing : he was the man that took upon his shoulder the cost for what he believed : direct democracy, end of slavery, social justice, end of the inegalities.

        • Raphaël Biet

          Okay. That’s out of the subject so I made it short, but let me clarify. He was freaky, like a guy who send many people on the guillotine is. A few decades ago, he was considered as a major actor of the French “terror”, but today his responsibility has been lowered by many. But he still participated! He also did many incredibly good things, like forbidding slavery, way ahead of his time (it was later restored by Napoléon). Speaking of Napoléon, this guy was a real monster, Hitler style (except he didn’t care about race nor religion). His death toll is comparable, in a much less populated Europe!
          And speaking about Hitler, he believed in what he did also, so I don’t think it’s an argument for freaky or not freaky (before anyone says it, it’s not a Godwin point, I’m not insulting anyone, that’s just an argument on history)
          So to come back to your argument, no he wasn’t really a bad guy, only someone who was going forward in very troubled times. France newborn republic was facing enemies from inside (royalist, federalist…) and from outside (all neighbouring countries were kingdoms, not really liking the idea of democracy) and he made good decisions, and also committed violent acts. And my point was only to mention that the cult of the supreme being is not my idea of the best thing, it might not be perfect, but it was an example of my previous point!

          • Raphaël Biet

            And once again, on a forum I make it short (yeah “short”, when I see the length of my posts…), but I’d love to have a real discussion on that! My field is more science, but I’m passionate about history and philosophy!

  • Tikhung

    I’ve been on Stage 3/Nearly on stage 4 IIRC. I’ve done a lot of research about existentialism, nihilism and presentism. I like what you call a ‘whoa moment’. I’m currently on stage 2 as it’s too hard to maintain being on that level of thinking while being bullied everyday. Any tips?

  • massau

    I personally think there is a difference between knowledge and consciousness.

    Up to step 2 consciousness and knowledge that goos hand in hand. Its bad to tell yourself: oh no the tire popped now i am late to work etc. While you could have just taken action and spent the time trying to fix it or call the service that can.

    For step 3 seems more like knowledge alone, you know you are made out of atoms and those things are made of little thing bound together with some kind of hyper glue and everything is going to the highest entropy state which might be your purpose of life to make everything more disordered just by doing what you do.

    step 4 seems to be still in step 3 : We know a lot of thing but we also know there are far more things we do not know of then we know.

    A real consciousness person tries to stop thinking about everything and free himself form thinking the whole time, they try to live in the present.

    Instead of thinking about everything and put it in a context. you start to perceive the present environment as much as possible, but just as it is without judgment or creating a imagined context.

    You’re slowly taking control of your mind by making it a quite place and use it when you really need it, But instead of thinking of 10 tings simultaneously you will be able to use all the power for the single thought or action. You stop questioning your actions and accept them and let them go. This frees yourself from the burden of thinking about what have might happened which you will never know.

    An good example could be going on a date.

    A type 1 conscious person would imagine a fake date in a fake restaurant etc. When the real date happens he will be sad when it went different then imagined and the day after he imagines the possibilities what could have happened when he did something different. All this happens in a fog and is unreal. This date might haunt him at nights at random for years to come.

    A type 2 conscious person would do preparations for the date, searching for a good restaurant, put on the proper clothing etc. When he notices that the person he dates (lets call her jane) seems sad and tries to put it into a context. But this context can be imagined with knowledge he made up. But he can live whit this fake context and move on.

    A type 3 conscious person would ask why jane why she is sad, if it isn’t because of himself then he will try to meet again. When he is the problem then he will be sad that the date failed because of him.

    A type 4 would do the same. except when the date didn’t work out. He just accepts it and chooses not to be sad about it, he is able to almost control his emotions.

    • PhilosopherPhysician

      Thanks for sharing.. I only had to read the first few lines of each paragraph to find something to help here.. First, please be OPEN to learn.. If OPEN to learn, please follow. You mentioned the world from the ego or self perspective.. Turn this around and ASK what can i do with my GIFTS of TIME, FREEwill and a human body to help OTHERS (less fortunate).. This should resolve most of your issues.. Remember I love each one and all of you equally. If you still need help, pls reach me @DrRayOfLight

  • Pratik Mehta

    I find too many people in the comments drawing parallels with preexisting religious books and Tim’s ‘truthism’. It just can’t be done. Why? Read the first post in this two part series – Where we went wrong with religion (something like that). Organized religions have long lost their connection with the truth. I feel like an ass pointing this out, but I also feel it needs to be done.

  • ColorfulVoid

    I like this article very much (and this whole blog as a matter of fact!) as it describes very well what’s going on in my head and in my life…

    I don’t like the name “Truthism”, isn’t it contrary to your belief that there’s a whole lot of things we don’t know?

    My goal is to be often moderately happy, plain and simple. I want to grow as a wise individual aware of the world and its working, in order to raise my “default happiness level” (which I think equals, as another poster said, satisfying my evolutionary needs). But my goal isn’t knowledge or an ultimate “truth”…

    We have only one life as human beings (even though our atoms will continue their path without us) so I want mine to be as enjoyable as possible on the long term !

    My current issue is, I don’t know yet how to react to an interaction or an unexpected event without the “fog” and the “animals” taking the first seats… Also, I’m a first-class procrastinator, which slows me down the road to growth and happiness ^^’

    • PhilosopherPhysician

      Thanks for sharing your mind with this blog 🙂 Instead of TRUTHism, can we agree on RAYism.. as a RAY of light that shines light of Logic to Think and Love to Act? Light is Logic and Love, created by the creator.. I’d like to shine light on the delusion of evolution, but that will be another time.. For your “current issue”, freewill allows control of all thoughts and actions in Present moment. Lining up to help others with your thoughts and actions requires knowledge of happiness. Happiness exists at the crossroads of Passion and Purpose.. as my friend Picasso mused “the meaning of life is to find Your gifts.. the Purpose of life is to Gift them away”.. they arent just for you.. Jesus is our brother who lived as a great man until #MANimals killed him.. But just as MLK spoke days before #MANimals killed him “I’ve been to the moutaintop and I fear no MAN”.. GOoD is our father- cool to talk with and open to help.. We just gotta ask.. “seek and ye shall find” .. Most ask for forgiveness, few ask for guidance.. I AM available to help your mind anytime you seek.. @DrRayOfLight call/write in anytime 🙂

    • Brokinarrow

      As he explained in the blog, Truth does not mean that we know everything. Truth is actually admitting that there is a LOT we don’t know. So Truthism is the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, and someone that can’t admit that there are lots of things they don’t know is not really seeking the truth.

  • KarinB

    I followed this…on the edge of my seat…up until the end. When it got to the “who am I, and who are you,” instantly my brain resisted. Why the labels? Why the mantras? Why? When you have so eloquently described us all as groups of atoms who are capable of thinking about atoms. Why must we separate ourselves with labels? Isn’t that what religion is on this Earth? A label for a method of thinking about the divine? A name to pit us against them? I’m a Truthist, I’m a Christian, I’m a Buddhist, I’m a Muslim, I’m a democrat, I’m a republican…Fuck all the labels. We are all just collections of atoms that will eventually disperse. Here in this form for a fleeting, beautiful, blip of time in the continuum. One other problem I had is the constant talk of animals being on a lower plane than us. The author himself admitted that what we don’t know far surpasses what we do. Why so quick to say that animals are dumber than us? How do you know that humans are the only species on earth to realize our mortality? How do you know that animals only see a tree as a tree and cannot imagine anything else? Have you asked them? I’m open to the idea that our species is not the most wise species on the planet.

    • Tung Nguyen

      Not only that, but the seemingly over-altruistic approach as he describes Step 3 and the ideas onward does not seem to be very sensible to me. I understand and appreciate the idea of improving our own metaphysical awareness in order to better ourselves and believe that this would be the right approach to human evolution, but to actually be all-loving and caring like he is trying to go for would be quite impossible without first for us to be able to limit or eliminate physical dependency entirely (say, by having the ASI helping us to evolve beyond our current state in the more optimistic scenario discussed about in his other post). After all, even though they are not relevant to modern society now, the reason we still have those animalistic tendencies that cloud our mind is because we are still bound by the same physical constraints as the animals of yore, and dead animals cannot do anything, let alone dead humans.

      Additionally, it seems that massau’s discussion about the difference between knowledge and consciousness a bit down below does assess and describe this whole idea more eloquently, so I think it would be nice to have it as supplemental refinement to the idea.

      Its possible that Tim could have been a bit overzealous when he wrote this post and fell victim to the cloud without realizing it himself, showing just how powerful it can be (!) But to be able to acknowledge these shortcomings and improve on them is still the same goal and spirit of the idea, and for this I am grateful that it can be conducted here. Hopefully we can always keep improving as a species not only to the benefit of our own but other beings and aspects of life as well!

    • Guest

      Exactly. What if step 4 is realising that we can’t reach the actual truth, or that it doesn’t even exists, and based on that we should enjoy our lives with what we have, and humans are actually the only species not able to reach this step, making us inferior to animals?

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  • Robert DeGray

    Read Sam Harris’s Waking Up, a guide to spirituality without religion.

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  • Chris Hairfield

    I think of myself as a Growthist, thought Truthist is an excellent term. This is my daily practice on the path to wisdom:

    I try to do something physical (movement a la Ido Portal), emotional (Morning Pages), mental (I write lists of ideas), and spiritual (meditation, Buddhist study) every single day*. I try to stop and reflect any time an emotion comes up. I try to keep my mind clear of mind-altering substances. My newest effort is trying to be more honest.

    I’ve found no better motivation to create and maintain a daily habit than Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break the Chain method: I put a calendar on the wall and write an X for every day I succeed.

    * the high-level idea was stolen from James Altucher

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  • Chiel Wieringa

    Perceptionist

    I think I started out as a truthist when I was young(er). This has made me see that the truth is always clouded bye perception if you are human. You always have predetermined concepts of things, abstract idea’s of how things should be and these idea’s always form your reality and the way you experience things. So I think I am still a truthist, but I do realize that I can never reach truth on my own. My own perception will always cloud the absolute truth, no matter how much “knowledge” I gain. There’s always another way to look at things which could completely change the meaning.

    So now I am focussing more on perception of things. I try to be aware all the time of the perception filter and try to find as many different perceptions as possible. This is kinda tricky, since the other perceptions I pick up are perceived bye my own perception. So even the different perceptions have to go through my perception filter. And this is also keeping in regards that it is really hard trying to determine the perception of the person presenting the information, especially if you don’t know him personally.

    The way I do this is trying to find as much superficial information on as many different topics as possible and try to put them in a rhyme. This way I have to be creative in describing things which shows me my own perception of things a bit more clear. (it also helps me learning more words, but that’s just a wonderful bonus) Also as my perception changes through time the meaning of the verses change as well. Sometimes giving completely new meanings to certain parts I previously only had a one dimensional understanding of.

    This is really a three steps forward two steps (sometimes 4) back process for me.

    For all the Dutch speaking folks here’s perceptionisme in one of my verses:

    luister als ik deze woorden zeg
    zonder inhoud komen ze in je oren terecht
    daar vertaal je ze in abstracties aan concepten gehecht
    maar zeg me wat is echt?

    illusies uit dromen welke zich in realiteit tonen
    kopieën van klonen van patronen van de fractal
    De realiteit: het kleinste en tegelijkertijd grootste deeltje
    is dat werkelijk niet meer dan een gedachtespeeltje

    echt

    een mooi woord dat helemaal niets zegt
    slechts een illusie zorgt er voor dat de grens zich verlegt
    weer die dromen, maar dromen is toch slecht?

    echt.

    slecht.

    vecht.

    Niets is echt behalve bewustzijn wat slechts een illusie van de geest is
    en daarmee dus een fabeltje blijft en nooit echt geweest is

    zijn we weer terug bij af. Beginnen we weer met een woord.
    Realifobie. Dat is angst voor alles wat ik zie, ruik, proef, heb gevoeld of gehoord.

    En zo hebben we weer een fabeltje de oh zo echte realiteit in geslingerd
    via fictieve mechanica en restrictieve logica op het toetsenbord gevingerd

    Maar deze telde dan ook niet echt

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  • Shyam Prasad Rao

    This article is rather long winded and does not exactly home in on some thoughts – but it’s worth a patient eye ,as the author of the article tries his hand at introducing a new term ” Truthism ” ,somewhat midway between religion & Atheism . It would have been better if he had stepped out of the paradigm and tried to reason truth as being well and truly beyond those two , considering the fact that the ” higher beings” & “Aliens” as he calls them would neither be water & air based creatures interested in the same awareness as humans , nor would they even bother to fathom the frail ,limited capacity human mind . Instead of using the term ” Truthism” ( where the word ‘truth’ has a very very vague & anomalous meaning ,with each person having his own version ) he could have used the term ” Ultra-Awareness” . The path to this ,suggested by him is more Ad-hocist and is hardly eye-opening or revolutionary . A good attempt, nevertheless

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  • Madame Catfish

    Oh Dear. My viewpoint exactly.
    I tried explaining it to some of my classmates once but failed- interesting to hear it from someone else.
    You have a beautiful writing style.
    Perhaps it is ignorant of me, but I never thought that this exact way of thinking was shared by another. In my teenage egoism, I assumed I was somehow being original. Guess not.

    • RedSusanno

      It gives you that uneasy feeling that yes that’s how I think, yes I’m just like that, I can do that too…You’re very much excited and frustrated at the same time, since you’re not able to convey it to the society/or this reader that you have that in you as well….

  • Pedro Ferraz

    Brilliant! Dont agree with everything, but I identify with most of it. I think things like that since I was a boy (not sure, but I remember letting go of religion before I was 10), the difference is you went waaaaaay deeper. You put a lot more thought in it. Really nice Tim, good to know this thoughts are being disseminated and so many people agree.

  • Rake

    So glad to have found this site, and in particular this article. If someone had managed to hook a dicta-phone up to my thoughts and turned it on, much of what is written here would have squawked out of that little speaker…except not nearly as eloquently and thoroughly. I have been quite interested in cosmology for a number of years and have also gravitated to physics – at least to the point where I have a working knowledge of all the references mentioned here. I most definitely share your views on religion and human consciousness states (steps).
    I must admit I have at times been despondent about my inability to remain cognizant of the 3rd step throughout one entire day -but i still try. The mental effort involved helps to provide a counterweight to the ever-present downward sucking gravity of step 1. You’ve given me a much better handle on the process and for that I thank and admire you.

  • You hit home for me with the Truthist aspect. Really opened my mind to how I’ve been thinking for quite a few years and helped me clear the fog. Love you Tim!! Thanks a lot.

  • Ruika Lin

    Hi Tim,

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m very moved by the words in this post and it resonates with me profoundly. I wish I had a few days to sit down and chat with you about many of the ideas you shared here. I guess I shall do that with some friends too =)

    Curious to hear if you’ve read the Conversations with God book series by Neale Donald Walsch? This is interesting to mention particularly following this post – despite the title, they are not Christian books and reading them reminds me repeatedly of your post.

    • Hayend

      read the church fathers instead.

  • Dr M

    What you have written resonates with a lot of Hindus’s thinking and lifestyle. What you have used as examples (each one of them) is what we Hindus have been treated to as parables and stories to no end from varied sources of our (universal) cultural heritage (which we believe belongs to every single human on earth).

    To me, it is yet another validation, from yet another corner of our earth.

    Cheers to you and all who resonate as such!

    • newtral

      Yep there are many similarities with what i’m learning atm in my Yoga-Teacher-Training 😉

  • Guest

    Don’t forget that the “Us vs. them” mentality is in this post as well. It can’t be escaped. There are now the “us” of “enlightened higher beings” and the “them” of the poor, animalistic general populace. Either “us vs. them” isn’t the real issue, in which case most of what is said is exposed, or it is the “original sin” in which case it shouldn’t matter that the author be enlightened and everyone else in the dark. He’s just perpetuating the whole “us vs. them” mentality he so desperately tries to escape.

    • Chris

      There is a distinction between “us vs. them” as in let’s hit them on the head or talk bad about them for being different and “us / them” as in realising, that there are different levels of counciousness. Realising a difference doesn’t autmatically translate to wanting to fight it. Feeling elated, because of an epiphany and realising, that not only others but you yourslef normally operate on a different “less good” level also isn’t that “original sin”. So to sum up: us vs. them only then becomes a problem, when it is used in divide et impera tactics

  • Elon Starr

    Tim, I absolutely enjoyed reading this and am quite impressed with the honest approach taken. I see many parallels between the wisdom shared in the article and numerous basic tenets written in the Holy Bible.

    —–
    *What if there is a Supreme Being, that is the fullness of the “purple blob”. (This being has fullness of knowledge and we are in the ‘dark’ or as you put it, Step 1).

    John 1
    1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
    —–
    *What if that being were initely steps above us and our consciouness.
    Isaiah 55
    8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
    ——
    I appreciate your approach on wisdom. The Bible teaches us this as well:

    Proverbs 4:7 (ASV) Wisdom [is] the principal thing; [Therefore] get wisdom; Yea, with all thy getting get understanding.

    I also like your message on humility and its importance. The Bible discusses this too:
    James 4
    6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
    —-
    What if the sentient being (I recognize him as God – as according to my faith that is who He is), has instructions for us as well as warnings. Is it truly rational to dismiss the message (whether is may *typically* be packaged in an “organized religion’). Funny enough, Jesus Christ criticized the (organized) religious leaders of His time. What if this message is true (despite the fact that some/many of its “representatives” may not be living up to the standard as suggested in the message?

    What if to get us to the state on the staircase, where we should be, it requires action from that Sentient being? What if for us to attain this level it requires us accepting his actions on his behalf – in recognition of the eternity that you mention (which we may remain conscious)…

    It would take ***humility*** for us to investigate this message to see if it is true… and not just disregard it based on our own level logic and rationale (which may be infinitely lower, than that Sentient being).

    1 Corinthians 1
    18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.”…

    22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

  • PopeDarren

    I LOVE what you’ve written here. Too many times I have seen sales people making speeches about how to think and why we should set up goals and ways to think about the future… yadda, yadda, yadda. When I start hearing that kind of thing, my brain goes into coast mode. I think that business and sales people have a knack for stating the obvious. This time, however, when I read your last couple paragraphs on how to become a better you and ways you are trying to attain seemingly unattainable goals, everything just kind of fell into place mentally. You twisted the puzzle piece to fit my mental landscape and I had a moment of clarity. Thank you! I had been drifting lately, spiritually speaking, and this will get me back on track. That is no small matter to me. Thank you.

    As a “Philosophical Buddhist” – what I call my brand of spirituality – my way of thinking goes hand-in-hand with your “atheist” way of thinking. It’s strange, though, because I have heard that the people of countries such as China, who are adopting Christianity, the way the US adopted eastern mysticism, are adopting Christianity in such a way that it aligns more with the way we think than what we would consider Christian. That is “Philosophical Christianity,” which is less about hard truths and beliefs and more about clarity. The Bible, though the very idea has been tainted by the very people who support it, is rich with information on how to find and keep happiness and value in your day-to-day life. People who aren’t familiar with the crap we see on a day-to-day basis are opening their minds and finding clarity with the bible. The very book we see the most closed-minded individuals using to push their personal agendas. I find that fascinating.

    Truthism sounds too much like Realism to me, which is just thinly veiled Negativism in my opinion. Might I suggest “Wisdism?” It’s fun to say and it’s more in line with what you want to come from this post, I “believe.” 😉

  • Chris Nelsen
  • Mridul Dharmapal

    Wish every person on this planet had access and time to read this. The people who fight and kill themselves for religion are just an ignorant block who were programmed through well organized training and speeches of heaven and hell by asshole leaders who have no fucking idea about what they are doing and what is their ultimate reason for all the hatred and war. Its a pity we are still fighting each other in this 21st century when we are at the zenith of our existence. We need more Tims around the planet to spread messages of truth, for helping people distinguish between the reality and uncertainty, for a better, peaceful world. I think you should watch this Indian movie – PK starring Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan. It has portrayed the religious aspects in a beautiful way through the idea of an alien visiting the earth and through his perspective. Happy watching. Peace!

  • randomread123

    Sometimes I think people focus so much on all the wrong other people are using religion for and fail to actually research the principals and wisdom the religion teaches for themselves. I was fortunate enough to learn about wisdom and religion in a free form environment that didnt appeal to our “animal instincts” rather our conscience man. As I read the article I couldnt help but think, “most of these concepts I’ve read in the bible”. But we all come to the same place in different ways. Very thoughtful read!

    • garion333

      Well said. The dismissal of religion is one of the glaring faults in the post and, imho, the one thing that holds this post back from reaching ALL peoples.

      Of course, the main issue with religion is the dogma that surrounds it and not the teachings at the heart of it. In that way, religions are generally against the actual growth of people.

  • Ricardo Couto

    Great read. I’d like to see what’s your opinion about this:

    Let’s entertain someone would be able to stay constantly in Step 2 and 3. That he’d never be nothing less than their higher-being. That he’d see every situation rationally and logically.

    Wouldn’t that person be viewed as “crazy” or “weird” by the society? Wouldn’t other people take advantage of him and his good will? Unless he is surrounded by other people who constantly are in the same “consciousness” level as he is?

  • rich hultin

    Thanks Elon Starr for providing an accurate Christian perspective.

  • squirrel squirrel squirrel

    Thank you for writing this. I have identified as an atheist for years but always had niggles with the uncertainties of the unknown purple cloud. This is essay is the closest to my own world-view I have read. It puts into words what has been in my head for a long time. Time for me to find my mantra. For a while I’ve been telling myself, “Take Risks,” so I think that’s a good starting point.

  • Dominic Antonacci

    Thank you for this great insight. I noticed that your “Whoa” moments are very similar to C.S. Lewis’s Joy moments (I finished reading Surprised By Joy recently). He first experienced these moments in literature and imagination and spent many years thinking about and analyzing them.

    One thing he found was that if he tried to force these moments to come, they wouldn’t; and once you recognize you are having one, it quickly fades. In order to have one, you must be completely immersed, i.e. you are completely focused on the subject and not thinking about thinking about the subject. Once you try to analyze it, you are brought back down and are just left with the imprint and memories from it.

  • Shade Grey

    I am an Existential-Phenomenologic psychologist (yes, weird name), and these currents come mainly from the philosophy of existentialists (which is an umbrella term and relates to the existence of people) and phenomenology (which tries to perceive things as they are, but each “truth” is subjective, because we are all different).
    This framework you “built” has explained these at times confusing and complex issues from these philosophies in layman’s terms. That is fantastic and it gets me wondering just how exactly you get there… I am humbled by your capacity to swat away that much of the fog and turn these abstract things into palpable and living things (the Instant-Gratification Monkey, the Fog, the Mammoth) AND interconnect all that.
    Congrats and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on WBW, you have my full attention.

  • What I can’t figure out is how someone enlightened enough to write something this profound could also have written that mean-spirited, uncharitable, ungenerous “insufferable on facebook” article.
    Viewing people’s everyday celebrations of the things that make them happy in life as “insufferable” bragging is about as “Step 1” as it gets.
    Maybe the author learned something important in between writing those two posts, because this one is just beautiful and spot-on.

    • NotaRagingRepublican

      Let me guess… You recognized you are insufferable on Facebook!

      • If you had any friends, you’d recognize the article as describing half of them 😉
        I for one am happy to see friends celebrate their children’s little accomplishments, their happy relationships, or their everyday mundane joys. That’s not insufferable, it’s what Facebook’s *for*.

  • Ninjastro

    Hello Tim and all,

    Does anyone get to Step 3 and freak out? It seems when I have those few “Whoa” moments my feeble mind can’t handle the fact that death is inevitable and life may be totally insignificant. Or my fear animal takes over and says “OMG death is like the end of everything for you!!” It seems my step 3 is a mesh of step 1 too. What do you guys think?

    Oh and any tips on how to kill this fear thing would help as well…

  • Juan Francisco Vinueza

    The most compelling thing i’ve ever read about the value of wisdom is on the bible; specifically, at job 28. Not sure what the writer -prophet, i mean- meant on those very last lines, and, is I have understood, no one really does. One thing that struck me during this year -one of those woah moments, perhaps, yet they’re so frecuently deceiving- was that the holy bible was probably written by fellow human beings -and quite wise ones, while we’re at it. Perhaps “God” is nothing but an artificial construction, but it is quite effective, isn’t it? See, a little later I come across one of these Jehova’s Witness tents, and I was in full existential berserk mode: what right did they have to spread the word in such treacherous ways? Guy acts smooth at my angsty agnostic questionings. “It’s like a know-it-all rebel child at the classroom, constantly spoofing at his teacher’s remarks. So teacher asks him to come to take his place and teach his classmates the truth he hasn’t been able to conceal. What would the kid teach? The Bible may be wrong, fine; but, then, what’s right?” I’m paraphrasing him. Thing is, I ask him if going off town with some book under his arm and blindly believing every single thing that book tells him is such a fulfilling way to live a life. But then, as I’m asking him so, I realize that I’ve been prey to the very same method: if not John’s and Job’s words, they’ve been Tolstoi’s and Cervantes’, and there is absolutely no way to tell who has been wrong and who’s telling it as it is: the Truth, as if there would be such thing. They’re all been sorts of prophets, I think, and Einstein and Sagan and Descartes all have shared us these new frameworks of comprehension, but they weren’t all “theirs”: might come from some God above, if there’s such thing, but most of all their discoveries have come as “channeled discoveries”; they simply framed up their lives for these grander-than-thou things to flow through them, and, even if no mystical associations are required, they can give purpose for beyond-human awakenings. Not sure if I’m making myself clear. I was at Cusco a couple week’s ago, at this impressive temple: Sacsayhuamán. It’s been built on twelve meter stones, carved naturally from the mountain, and arranged in such a way they formed animals on its façade while holding on several new stories that led up to this most splenderous, unfortunately crushed citadel. “They didn’t do it for themselves”, the guide explains. “They did it as a gift for the gods above; was their way of saying thanks”. Thing took 95 years to get built. Back at the city, at historical centre, you can appreciate no less than three spanish churches sharing the same square: thing is, Cusco was the Inca capital, so a lot of effort was required to change their initial dogma into the new european, colonial, catholic systems of beliefs. And these spanish churches are majestic as well: abundant on golden adornments and wooden sculptures and most elaborate scenes. Afterwards Cusco got its freedom, and yet what do you see? Half built houses chaotically spread upon the hill: they’re certainly no atheists, but there’s no God for whom life must be sacrificed in order for it to be fulfilled. There’s no worse architecture tragedy than the worshipping of oneself: we don’t need to be awed as frequently as we need so many other things, and all of a sudden our buildings and inventions come to please what’s certainly near. I’m aware of all the other tragedies that have come through religious fear, but I wouldn’t rush into preaching about a life without symbols as the truest way of being. Science something tries that: to merely unveil, and mocks at the magic of uncertain feels. Can humans really develop themselves without any other light than sunrays and stargazes? Anyways. Your blog is brilliant. Your AI article has truly changed my perception of where we going as a race. One topic that I find specially interesting, but I don’t think you have tackled yet is this sort of Abstract World phenomena, The Matrix like, where we can finally completely inhabit places that aren’t phisically there. Had this conversation last saturday with a friend, and he says something like: perhaps THERE, on this purely abstract place, we can finally contact them. Aliens, he meant. There would be no fictional hyperspeed necessary! And finally, I recommend you to read The Great Inquisitor, by Dostoyevsky, which I is the best religion debate piece I have ever read, and the fiction of Jorge Luis Borges, whose heavily researched, superbly written and otherwordly imagined short stories, I think, can also give us a hint of how to tackle up those very hard questions our upcoming future is bringing in.

  • Jose

    Just wanted to share to all of you. 🙂 Buddhism is very much like what you have said. Truth = Dharma or seeing things as the way things are. All of what was said is part of Buddhism. Well, just wanted to let everyone know. 🙂 Everything that’s been said here has been said and one doesn’t need to look any further. No need to overthink.

    • PsyX

      Buddhism seems different. There is no life after death or karma in Truthism.

  • Bearded Bear

    Truthism looks exactly like Stoicism.

  • Russell

    This post is the most understandable, straight-forward explanation of beliefs that I hold that I have ever read. It is so good that I wish I had written it. But now that it exists, I’ll just thank you for writing it and share it extensively. For those interested in further reading on this topic, I would suggest Sam Harris’s book Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

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