The Case Against Reality | Prof. Donald Hoffman on Conscious Agent Theory

ZDoggMD We have no clue how consciousness emerges from 3 pounds of wet goo. Cognitive scientist Don Hoffman takes us deep into his research suggesting we’re attacking the problem backwards. The implications may challenge all you know about our place in reality. Take the Red Pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes… In this extended interview we dive into the Interface Theory of Perception (how evolution hides the truth about reality in favor of a dumbed down “user interface” that only shows us “fitness payoffs” that help us survive), the “Hard Problem of Consciousness” and how we simply have no idea how consciousness could emerge from physical matter, the non-dual theory of Conscious Realism (how reality is really a social network of “conscious agents” and our perceptions are simply the interface by which we exchange experience with other agents), the math behind conscious agent theory, implications for artificial intelligence (AI), psychedelics, spirituality, and much, much more. Commenters have called this the best interview Don Hoffman has done. Links to our prior conversation, more info on Conscious Agent Theory and Prof. Hoffman’s work, and full written transcript at All audio podcast platforms are available, links here:… Your support makes what we do possible! Join the SuperPac and get exclusive content, live discussions, and other crazy perks: YouTube:… Facebook:… Patreon: Website: Podcast: Facebook: Newsletter: Twitter: Instagram: Send Us Email: Send Us Hate Mail: 1025 Alameda De Las Pulgas #218 Belmont, CA 94002

Reality Is Not As It Seems

NourFoundation The prevalent view in cognitive science today is that we construct our perception of reality in real time. But could we be misinterpreting the content of our perceptual experiences? According to some cognitive scientists, what we perceive with our brain and our senses does not reflect the true nature of reality. Thus, while evolution has shaped our perceptions to guide adaptive behavior, they argue, it has not enabled us to perceive reality as it actually is. What are the implications of such a radical finding for our understanding of the mystery of consciousness? And how do we distinguish between “normal” and “abnormal” perceptual experiences? Cognitive scientist Donald D. Hoffman and neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan join Steve Paulson to discuss the elusive quest to understand the fundamental nature of consciousness, and why our perception of reality is not necessarily what it seems. New York Academy of Sciences February 7, 2019

Is it Safe to Let Go? Facing Existential Fear on the Spiritual Path

By Craig Hamilton


The more I’ve been engaging with spiritual practice, the more I’m starting to feel a deep existential paradox. On one hand, I recognize that the only thing standing in the way of awakening is my investment in self-image. It seems so simple, logical, and achievable. 

But while awakening feels within reach, it’s still so terrifying to let go. The more I lean into letting go, the more I become overwhelmed with fear. What if everything falls apart? What if I’ll lose everything I’ve so carefully constructed? What if letting go will trigger a desire to change my whole life? This feels like I might die, and I’m not sure what to make of it or how to move beyond the fear. 


The question that you’re bringing up represents a really important reflection. I appreciate your vulnerability and the clarity you’ve expressed in laying out what’s happening within you. 

I have no doubt that many people can resonate with at least some aspect of what you’ve shared about your experience. There’s a lot in what you’re asking here, so I’m going to share a few different perspectives on it..

Whether or not you can relate to this exact question, this experience is something that comes up at some point for a lot of us on the spiritual path, and I can personally resonate with everything you laid out. 

Many spiritual practices revolve around letting go and letting things be, and when you engage this practice in  earnest, it’s natural—even inevitable—for existential fear to arise. Any genuine practice of letting go will eventually take you beyond who you thought you were. It will give you a direct experience of who you are beyond the mind. This is a part of you that your mind can never know. Any practice of awakening or enlightenment will, in one way or another, nudge us in this direction. 

At some point, these practices are going to threaten the existential attachment we have to our lives. The investment we have in our own self-image is going to be challenged and it’s going to feel like we need to leave something behind. This can create a deep sense of fear or even dread. It’s something that all of us on the path, inevitably, have to face. 

The good news is that you understand the dynamics of what is actually happening to you. You’re saying, “I get it. I understand that my investment in self-image is what’s in the way. I can see that. It’s crystal clear.” 

That’s good. The fact that it’s clear to you is really a good start. There’s no ambiguity about what’s being asked of you. You can see it in your own experience. 

You’re also saying that the more it feels within reach, the more the fear seems to grow. This also makes a lot of sense. 

Sometimes when I talk about the fear that we all face on the spiritual path, some people say, “I’ve never felt any fear on the spiritual path. I’m just excited to let go, and to awaken. I’m a big yes. I’ve never felt fear.” 

In these situations, I often say, “Enjoy it while it lasts, because at some point, fear and resistance will likely show up.” ,

The funny thing is that when we do experience the kind of fear I’m speaking about, we often think it’s a bad sign. When we experience the fear of letting go, or the fear of transcending, or the fear of what will happen when we awaken to who we are beyond the mind, we think it means that we must not want to actually do it. We think that fear means that we have a lot of resistance to awakening. We personalize the fear. This is what the ego does; it personalizes everything. 

But I actually think that having this experience of fear is a very good thing. Why? Because it means you’re close to something real. We don’t tend to feel fear of losing something until we’re about to lose it. We don’t tend to feel fear that our ego structure is going to fall apart until it starts to fall apart. 

So the fact that the closer you get, the more your fear intensifies, is a good sign. That’s exactly how it works and is always going to work. You should actually get a little bit excited about the fact that you’re feeling this tremendous fear, because it means something’s happening. Something extremely positive is breaking through. You’re on the cusp. In fact, it’s probably already occurring. You’re probably already letting go and starting to discover who you are beyond the mind. As a result, the ego structure is saying, “No, no, no! This does not bode well for me.”

Let’s talk a little bit about the particular fears you mentioned.  Specifically, you mentioned a fear that everything will fall apart and that you’ll lose everything you’ve so carefully constructed.

Let’s go into that. The first thing I would ask is:would it be so bad if everything fell apart? 

Let me nuance that a bit. If we get in touch with the part of us that’s spiritually seeking, that’s on the spiritual path, that wants to awaken, doesn’t it really want everything to fall apart? Doesn’t it want to break through and leave behind everything that you’ve carefully constructed? 

Isn’t the very feeling of being constrained and limited by the false world that our mind has created what we want to break free from? Aren’t we yearning for that to fall apart so that something new can arise from the rubble? Don’t we want to, in a sense, be reborn into a new, more glorious experience of being alive?

Spiritual awakening is called “awakening” because it means we’re waking up from being asleep. We are waking up from a dream. The fundamental premise of spiritual awakening is that we live in some kind of web of delusion or illusion. We’re not seeing reality clearly. We’re not in touch with the highest possibility. We’re not living a life that truly expresses our ultimate potential, and we want to wake up into a greater reality—into truth and the sacred, extraordinary possibility of living our life as awakened consciousness. 

In doing this, we’re inherently leaving something behind that we have discovered to be false or to be limited. We’re abandoning something that we’ve found to not be the whole story, to not be the real truth, to not be the highest possibility. We’re leaving it behind in order to go somewhere new. Something has to fall apart in order for something else to emerge. That’s the nature of it. 

This takes a profound degree of trust. In order to see this fear in context, you have to trust that you’re on the right track. You have to trust that your impulse to awaken is a good one, and that it’s moving you toward a better possibility—a more real, authentic, sublime existence. 

You have to trust that if you follow this impulse, the things that you’re going to lose weren’t worth having anyway. They weren’t the real thing. In other words, you have to trust that whatever is real and good and true—all the best parts of you and the best parts of your life—are still going to continue. In fact, they’re now going to be enhanced. They’re going to be amplified. They’re going to be allowed to fully flower because a bunch of other stuff is now out of the way. You let go of a lot of other things in order to make room for this higher flourishing—for this much deeper alignment. 

So you just have to trust that spiritual awakening is good. You have to trust that God is good. Those of you who know me know I mean “God” in a very universal sense. When I say “God is good,” I mean that the life process is good. The sublime, loving consciousness that is our own true nature, and also the essence and source of everything in existence, is fundamentally positive. And if it really is as good as it seems to be, then it’s worth pursuing. So you’re going to have to trust that what gets left behind in the process were all the things that were in the way of that, and nothing else. 

In other words, you really have to trust that awakening is leading towards something more real, more authentic, more true, more wise, more loving, more conscious, more whole, more integrated, more aligned with the moral axis of the universe. You’ve got to trust that. 

You have to say, “I feel fear, and I’m afraid that I’m going to lose everything, but the truth is that I want to lose anything that’s not aligned with the sacred trajectory of the cosmos. I want to lose anything that’s not aligned with my highest self. I want it to fall apart.” 

Of course, part of you is always going to be scared. But that’s okay. We all know how to do things that we’re afraid of, if we know they’re the right thing. We human beings act in spite of fear all the time. 

You have to learn to trust in your own deeper wisdom. That’s all we’re really talking about. I’m not talking about trusting someone else. I’m saying that as you become more clear, less biased, less driven by fear, more connected to your own deepest values, you’re going to want to live in alignment with it. What’s going to have to change about your life? Only the things that are not in alignment with your true essence. 

Let’s do a little exercise together. Think about your life as it is now: how you spend your time, what you do for work, who you socialize with, what activities you spend time on outside of work, how your day is organized, etc. Just think about your life. 

Now, imagine you’re a fully awakened self. You’ve woken up to the highest, deepest, truest part of yourself, and you’ve completely aligned with it. This higher consciousness has no interest in your story or your self-image. It has no investment in who you thought you were before you woke up. 

Now think about what needs to change about your life from the vantage point of this new, awakened consciousness? 

You might see things like, for example, the fact that a person you’ve been spending a lot of time with isn’t really aligned with this new trajectory and your relationship with them isn’t really very nourishing. In fact, it’s against the flow of your higher potential. It’s exerting a drag on it, and it’s not really healthy. In this case, you might have to change that relationship or let it go altogether in order to live your life in alignment with what you’ve found to be your higher potential. 

There are many other examples of the kinds of things you may need to change about your life from this awakened perspective. They could be certain things that are superficial or a waste of time or that feel out of alignment with your spiritual heart. 

Again, the things about your life that are already really good and wholesome and aligned with your spiritual aspirations don’t have to change. They’re already in alignment. They’re already enlightened, at least somewhat. The only things that need to change are those that are obstacles to this higher way of living and flourishing. 

So, in summary, my answer to the question, “Will I have to let my life fall apart?”, is, yes, you might have to let some things go. Some things might fall apart, and your life might radically change. But the only things that you’re going to have to let go of or allow to fall apart or change are the things that aren’t in alignment with where you want to go, with who you want to be, or with what you want to express. 

We have to be willing to trust. We have to be willing to say, “I don’t know what my spiritual path is going to demand from me or will require of me, but I trust that it will be true and right, healthy and positive, and move me toward all the highest potentials for my life. 

That trust, then, will allow you to let go and take the steps you see you need to take. If things about your life end up falling away, they were the things that needed to fall away to make room for this new possibility. You can let them go and let them fall apart, gladly. 

Group Dynamics and The Round Table

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Round Table
A reproduction of Évrard d’Espinques‘ illumination of the Prose Lancelot, showing King Arthur presiding at the Round Table with his Knights (1470)
Plot element from Arthurian legend
First appearanceRoman de Brut1155
Created byWace
GenreChivalric romance
In-story information
TypeLegendary table
Element of stories featuringKing Arthur
FunctionThe meeting of Arthur’s court, known as the Knights of the Round Table

The Round Table (Welshy Ford GronCornishan Moos KrennBretonan Daol Grenn) is King Arthur‘s famed table in the Arthurian legend, around which he and his knights congregate. As its name suggests, it has no head, implying that everyone who sits there has equal status. The table was first described in 1155 by Wace, who relied on previous depictions of Arthur’s fabulous retinue. The symbolism of the Round Table developed over time; by the close of the 12th century it had come to represent the chivalric order associated with Arthur’s court, the Knights of the Round Table.


Though the Round Table is not mentioned in the earliest accounts, tales of Arthur having a marvelous court made up of many prominent warriors is ancient. Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his Historia Regum Britanniae (composed c. 1136) says that, after establishing peace throughout Britain, Arthur “increased his personal entourage by inviting very distinguished men from far-distant kingdoms to join it.”[1] The code of chivalry so important in later medieval romance figures in as well, as Geoffrey says Arthur established “such a code of courtliness in his household that he inspired peoples living far away to imitate him.”[1]

Arthur’s court was well known to Welsh storytellers; in the romance Culhwch and Olwen, the protagonist Culhwch invokes the names of 225 individuals affiliated with Arthur.[2] The fame of Arthur’s entourage became so prominent in Welsh tradition that in the later additions to the Welsh Triads, the formula tying named individuals to “Arthur’s Court” in the triad titles began to supersede the older “Island of Britain” formula.[3] Though the code of chivalry crucial to later continental romances dealing with the Round Table is mostly absent from the Welsh material, some passages of Culhwch and Olwen seem to reference it. For instance, Arthur explains the ethos of his court, saying “[w]e are nobles as long as we are sought out: the greater the bounty we may give, the greater our nobility, fame and honour.”[4]

Though no Round Table appears in the early Welsh texts, Arthur is associated with various items of household furniture. The earliest of these is Saint Carannog‘s mystical floating altar in that saint’s 12th century Vita. In the story Arthur has found the altar and tries unsuccessfully to use it as a table; he returns it to Carannog in exchange for the saint ridding the land of a meddlesome dragon.[5] Elements of Arthur’s household figure into local topographical folklore throughout Britain as early as the early 12th century, with various landmarks being named “Arthur’s Seat“, “Arthur’s Oven”, and “Arthur’s Bed-chamber”.[6]

henge at Eamont Bridge near PenrithCumbria is known as “King Arthur’s Round Table“.[7] The still-visible Roman amphitheatre at Caerleon has been associated with the Round Table,[8] and it has been suggested as a possible source for the legend.[9] Following archaeological discoveries at the Roman ruins in Chester, some writers suggested that the Chester Roman Amphitheatre was the true prototype of the Round Table;[10] however, the English Heritage Commission, acting as consultants to a History Channel documentary in which the claim was made, stated that there was no archaeological basis to the story.[11]


See also: Knights of the Round Table

The Round Table first appeared in Wace‘s Roman de Brut, a Norman language adaptation of Geoffrey’s Historia finished in 1155. Wace says Arthur created the Round Table to prevent quarrels among his barons, none of whom would accept a lower place than the others.[12] Layamon added to the story when he adapted Wace’s work into the Middle English Brut in the early 13th century, saying that the quarrel between Arthur’s vassals led to violence at a Yuletide feast. In response, a Cornish carpenter built an enormous but easily transportable Round Table to prevent further dispute.[12] Wace claims he was not the source of the Round Table; both he and Layamon credited it instead to the Bretons. Some scholars have doubted this claim, while others believe it may be true.[12] There is some similarity between the chroniclers’ description of the Round Table and a custom recorded in Celtic stories, in which warriors sit in a circle around the king or lead warrior, in some cases feuding over the order of precedence as in Layamon.[12] There is a possibility that Wace, contrary to his own claims, derived Arthur’s round table not from any Breton source, but rather from medieval biographies of Charlemagne—notably Einhard‘s Vita Caroli and Notker the Stammerer‘s De Carolo Magno—in which the king is said to have possessed a round table decorated with a map of Rome.[13]King Arthur’s knights, gathered at the Round Table, see a vision of the Holy Grail. From a manuscript of Lancelot and the Holy Grail (c. 1406)

The Round Table takes on new dimensions in the romances of the late 12th and early 13th century, where it becomes a symbol of the famed order of chivalry which flourishes under Arthur. In Robert de Boron‘s Merlin, written around 1200, the magician Merlin creates the Round Table in imitation of the table of the Last Supper and of Joseph of Arimathea‘s Grail Table. Made of silver, the Grail Table was used by the followers of Arimathea after he created it as directed by a vision of Christ,[14] and was taken by him to Avalon (later identified with Glastonbury Tor, but this connection was not mentioned by Robert[15]). This version of the Round Table, here made for Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon rather than Arthur himself, has twelve seats and one empty place to mark the betrayal of Judas; this seat, must remain empty until the coming of the knight who will achieve the Grail. The Didot Perceval, a prose continuation of Robert’s work, takes up the story, and the knight Percival sits in the seat and initiates the Grail quest.[12]“Sir Galahad is brought to the court of King Arthur”, Walter Crane‘s illustration for King Arthur’s Knights, abridged from Le Morte d’Arthur by Henry Gilbert (1911)

The prose cycles of the 13th century, the Lancelot-Grail (Vulgate) Cycle and the Post-Vulgate Cycle, further adapt the chivalric attributes of the Round Table. Here it is the perfect knight Galahad, rather than Percival, who assumes the empty seat, now called the Siege Perilous. Galahad’s arrival marks the start of the Grail quest as well as the end of the Arthurian era.[12] In these works the Round Table is kept by King Leodegrance of Cameliard after Uther’s death; Arthur inherits it when he marries Leodegrance’s daughter Guinevere. Other versions treat the Round Table differently, for instance Arthurian works from Italy like La Tavola Ritonda (The Round Table) often distinguish between the knights of the “Old Table” of Uther’s time and those of Arthur’s “New Table”.[16] In the Post-Vulgate, the Table is eventually destroyed by King Mark during his invasion of Logres after the deaths of Arthur and almost all of the Knights, many of whom in fact had killed each other, especially in internal conflicts at the end of the cycle.

Is science dangerous?

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27th August 2020 (

Science was the vehicle of progress and the solution to the world’s ills. The bedrock of the philosophy of the modern West. But now the halo has slipped, and science is now seen by some as a potentially malevolent force: a tool of the military-industrial complex, a damaging exploiter of natural resources, an ideology masquerading as a single source of objective truth.

Should we welcome this shift in our perception of science as the end of an unquestioned belief in a false god? Or is it a dangerous and potentially disastrous slide into prejudice and superstition, that will leave us poorer, less safe, and less in control of our lives?

Senior editor of Nature Henry Gee, training fellow at The Crick Institute Güneş Taylor and philosopher of Consciousness Philip Goff debate the key to progress. David Malone hosts.

This video was recorded at the Institute of Art and Ideas’ annual philosophy and music festival HowTheLightGetsIn. For more information and tickets, visit

IAI TV videos are for personal use only. 

Octavia Butler on How (Not) to Choose Our Leaders

By Maria Popova (


In 1845, as the forgotten visionary Margaret Fuller was laying the foundation of modern feminism, advocating for black voting rights, and insisting that “while any one is base, none can be entirely free and noble,” she contemplated what makes a great leader and called for “no thin Idealist, no coarse Realist,” for a person “of universal sympathies, but self-possessed,” one for whom “this world is no mere spectacle or fleeting shadow, but a great, solemn game, to be played with good heed, for its stakes are of eternal value.”

But how does a nation, a society, a world concerned with more than the shadowy spectacles of the present identify and elect such leaders to shape the long future?

A century and a half after Fuller, Octavia Butler (June 22, 1947–February 24, 2006) — another rare visionary — offered a glimmer of guidance in her sibylline two-part series set in the 2020s: Parable of the Sower (public library) and Parable of the Talents (public library) — a set of cautionary allegories, cautionary and future-protective in their keen prescription for course-correctives, about the struggle of a twenty-first-century society, Earthseed, to survive the ecological collapse, political corruption, corporate greed, and socioeconomic inequality it has inherited from the previous generations and their heedless choices.literarywitches_octaviabutler.jpg?resize=680%2C958

Octavia Butler by Katy Horan from Literary Witches — an illustrated celebration of women writers who have enchanted and transformed our world.

Like Ursula K. Le Guin, Butler straddled the timeless and the prophetic, saturating her fiction with astute philosophical and psychological insight into human nature and the superorganism of society. Also like Le Guin, Butler soared into poetry to frame and punctuate her prose. Each chapter begins with an original verse abstracting its thematic direction. She opens the eleventh chapter of the second Earthseed book with this verse:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngChoose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.
To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.
To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.
To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.
To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.

And yet our discernment in choosing wisely, Butler intimates in a chilling short verse from the first book, can so often be muddled by our panic, by our paralyzing fright and pugilist flight:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngDrowning people
Sometimes die
Fighting their rescuers.


Art by Margaret C. Cook from a rare 1913 edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

With staggering prescience and perhaps with a subtle wink at James Baldwin’s assertion that “a society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven,” Butler lets us know that drowning people do not choose their leaders wisely:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngWhen apparent stability disintegrates,
As it must —
God is Change —
People tend to give in
To fear and depression,
To need and greed.
When no influence is strong enough
To unify people
They divide.
They struggle,
One against one,
Group against group,
For survival, position, power.
They remember old hates and generate new ones,
They create chaos and nurture it.
They kill and kill and kill,
Until they are exhausted and destroyed,
Until they are conquered by outside forces,
Or until one of them becomes
A leader
Most will follow,
Or a tyrant
Most fear.

Again and again, Butler cautions against the blindness of choosing from a state of heightened emotion — the very blindness which political propaganda is aimed at blinkering over the eyes of the electorate with the constant stirring of our most reptilian fears:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngWhen vision fails
Direction is lost.

When direction is lost
Purpose may be forgotten.

When purpose is forgotten
Emotion rules alone.

When emotion rules alone,
Destruction… destruction.


Total solar eclipse by Étienne Léopold Trouvelot. (Available as a print and as a face mask.)

In a short verse evocative of the closing lines of Jane Hirshfield’s stunning poem “The Weighing,” Butler beckons us to become Earthseed — to become “the life that perceives itself changing” — and to effect change with our conscientious choices:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThere is no end
To what a living world
Will demand of you.

A century and a half after Margaret Fuller’s admirer Walt Whitman peered at the democratic vistas of a thriving society and exhorted humanity to “always inform yourself; always do the best you can; always vote,” Butler leaves us with this central question of personal responsibility:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngAre you Earthseed?
Do you believe?
Belief will not save you.
Only actions
Guided and shaped
By belief and knowledge
Will save you.
Initiates and guides action —
Or it does nothing.

The shortest verse in the book distills Butler’s largest message:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngKindness eases Change.

Complement with David Foster Wallace on what a “real leader” means and Hannah Arendt on loneliness as the common ground for terror and how tyrants use isolation as a weapon of oppression, then revisit poet Naomi Shihab Nye’s magnificent ode to choosing kindness over fear and Audre Lorde’s magnificent ode to choosing creation over destruction.

‘Mysticism, Spirit and the Shadow’ – Jordan Peterson interview part 1

Rebel Wisdom The first part of Rebel Wisdom’s exclusive interview with psychologist and professor Jordan Peterson – where he talks in depth about his understanding of mysticism, religion and the challenge of integrating the shadow. Rebel Wisdom is a new media organisation making films about the biggest subjects. For more: If you enjoyed this documentary, please consider supporting our work on Patreon: If you are in London – come to an exclusive screening of unseen material, and join an ongoing discussion group around Dr Peterson’s ideas. For our full 50 minute documentary looking at the fundamentals of Jordan Peterson’s thinking – see:

Encore: Face To Face | Carl Gustav Jung (1959)

KidMillions Professor Jung is interviewed at his home in Switzerland by John Freeman. Theme music: excerpt from Les Francs-Juges by Berlioz, 1825. An earlier American interview with Jung:… A lecture on Freud by Theodore Dalrymple:…

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