Disruptive Strategies

The affordance of new insight depends on breaking the frame through which you ordinarily see the world. In the “Kenosis-Gnosis-Pistis” schema (or “Purification-Perception-Dalliance”) this is represented by the Kenosis/Purification stage.

I have described this in the mystical language of The Cloud of Unknowing as a type of forgetting. It is also often described as a kind of death, part of the death-rebirth trope identified by Brian Muraresku as the central experience of “the religion with no name” in The Immortality Key.

John Vervaeke talks about “the religion that isn’t a religion” to distinguish between traditional belief-centred religion, focused on propositional knowledge, from experiential and transformative “religion” focused on participatory, perspectival and procedural knowledge. This fits Muraresku’s “religion”, which may not have a name, but which has all the hallmarks of what we call Shamanism.

Shamanism is not any particular set of beliefs, but a set of disruptive psychotechnologies, “ways to go beyond” as Rupert Sheldrake puts it. The most familiar are those that induce a “trance” state, such as drumming, dancing, singing and chanting. And, of course, the ingestion of psychedelic compounds.

The idea is that by engaging in a disruptive practice, you “open your mind” or even “lose your mind” through the forgetting or emptying (kenosis) of your habitual frames of reference, allowing fresh perceptions and insights to occur (gnosis). This new information can then be integrated into the personality through a process of reciprocal correction and attunement (pistis), thus deepening your understanding and ongoing relationship with reality.

Meditation works in the same way. It is a psychotechnology designed to provoke a revolution in the Kenosis-Gnosis-Pistis cycle. Great poetry, art and music can achieve the same result. They are all psychotechnologies for the development of wisdom. What Vervaeke fails to appreciate, however, is that belief is itself a psychotechnology. The Credo is not just a set of propositional statements that are literally true or false, for example. It is a set of faith commitments or “acts of faith”.

Only through the radical transformation afforded by a revolutionary learning process based on powerful psychotechnologies and disruptive strategies can we grow into the fullness of our rational humanity. As the adult is to the child, so is the sage to the adult. You wouldn’t live your life as a child knowing that you could be an adult (unless you have Peter Pan Syndrome) so why live your life as an adult knowing you could be a sage?