Emergentism: A Religion of Complexity for the Metamodern World by Brendan Graham Dempsey (Book Summary)

“Emergentism: A Religion of Complexity for the Metamodern World” by Brendan Graham Dempsey presents a riveting vision of what religion can be in the 21st century. Dempsey eloquently unpacks the meaning crisis, blaming its birth on the divide between religion and science. Using an artillery of evidence he onslaughts traditional fundamentalism and modern scientific reductionism, two views that perpetuate this divide. Finally, he draws on complexity science, non-equilibrium thermo-dynamics, consciousness studies, and developmental psychology to weave together Emergentism, “a religion of no religion” that presents a solution to the meaning crisis while bridging science and religion. 

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*All sentences in quotations are direct quotes from “Emergentism: A Religion of Complexity for the Metamodern World” and are attributed to Brendan Graham Dempsey. Bold is added for skimmability. 


Unpacking the Meaning Crisis 

  • “More and more, people feel life matters less and less. A 2019 survey from the UK, for instance, found that a whopping 80% of people there believe their lives are meaningless.”
  • “Such figures go hand in hand with similar data detailing our exploding mental health crisis. Depression and anxiety are skyrocketing (again, especially among younger folks). Self-harm and suicide are at epidemic levels.” 
  • “Today, we lose more people to despair than to natural disasters, conflicts, and war—combined. For the first time in human history, you, reader, are more likely to die due to the emptiness in your heart than the emptiness in your stomach.” 
  • If everything’s as meaningless as we’ve been taught to believe by the Stephen Hawkings and Richard Dawkinses of the world, then why not get what we can, while we can, and let the rest be damned?” 
  • “I think we can actually trace the origins of the meaning crisis to the way we think about parts and wholes.”
  • “meaning itself is a whole-part relationship. For something to have meaning, it must be a means—that is, it must exist for something else, as a means to something else. It must have a causal significance, we would say, in something “bigger” than itself.”
  • “If, then, our sense of the relationship between parts and wholes becomes corrupted, we are at risk of losing our very sense of meaning itself—just as, in fact, we have done. We have become parts without a whole, at the same time that we cannot even claim to be whole ourselves.”


Understanding Traditional Fundamentalism

  • “According to the metaphysical framework of the traditional worldview, everything was significant, everything hung together, everything was connected. The universe was one great whole made up of different levels or grades of being.”
  • “This “Ladder of Nature” or “Great Chain of Being” (as it came to be formulated) connected everything in Creation, from God at the top, to angels in heaven, humans, animals, plants, and minerals on Earth, all the way down to demons and the Devil in hell.”
  • “Nor was this idea unique to the West. The East had its own version of the Great Chain, stretching from Ultimate Reality (Brahman, Nirvana) down through the heavenly devas in their divine abodes, to the earthly realm, and finally to the hell realms.”
  • “this conception was so cross-culturally universal, it has been called the basis of the “perennial philosophy” of the traditional worldview.” 
  • With considerably less distinction made, people’s experience felt more whole. They experienced reality as more holistically intuitive, since there was no profound divide between inner and outer worlds. The world was one. As within, so without.”
  • “Appreciating this allows us to understand the Great Chain itself much better, since it presents a cosmic whole arranged by levels of value.”
  • God, the best thing imaginable, is on the top; the Devil, the worst thing, on the bottom. This was just the reality. In this way, value was inherent to the world, an aspect of things themselves, as they really are—and not just something we subjectively overlay on top of a value-neutral objective world”. 
  • Meaning was something real—as real as rocks and trees and tables. And the cosmos itself was ranked by an “ontological normativity”—a metaphysical hierarchy where value and being were fused. “Better” also meant more real; “worse” meant less real.”


Understanding Modern Scientific Reductionism 

  • “Surprising as it may sound, the categories of “subjective” and “objective” only come to full prominence with modernity, meaning people tended to blur these categories much more in the past than we do today. In the modern world, people separate their experience of reality from reality itself. In the pre-modern world, this was not done in the same way or to the same degree.”
  • “This methodical approach—which has come to be called reductionism—became the essence of the early scientific enterprise. Once the first scientists began their analytical studies, breaking the world into its parts to explain how things work, they set off a domino cascade of dissection: the isolation of smaller parts led to the realization that those parts were themselves actually wholes made of still smaller parts—and so on. Find the smallest part, and the whole will become clear.
  • classical physics had come to be defined by its assumption that everything can be reduced to particles in motion, which Newton had shown to obey certain mathematical laws that let us predict future states.”
  • “if the complete course of bodies in space can be determined by of laws of motion devised by Galileo and Newton, then everything is already pre-determined!”
  • “Theoretically, knowing the position and velocity of all the particles in the universe would allow you to deduce its entire history and future, since the universe is ultimately governed by the same physical principles as billiard balls colliding on a pool table.”
  • Determinism, which followed ineluctably from the logic of reductionism, meant that human beings, despite our experience, actually had no free will at all, and that our sense of being autonomous agents was actually, at base, just an illusion.”
  • “Everything could—or would—be explained by simple material part-icles in motion: a metaphysical framework known as materialism.
  • “As reductionism became more and more engrained in the scientific enterprise, and the mechanized world it produced became everywhere more impressive and ubiquitous, the pre-modern world and its religious worldview faded increasingly from sight.” 
  • “The astonishing triumph of modern science (as well as its limiting weakness, as we’ll see) lay in this: its isolation of the part from the whole.”


Newtonian Physics, Evolution, Thermodynamics & Nihilism  

  • “By the mid-19th century, with modernity in full swing, two new scientific fields would enter the fray that, at first, seemed only to confirm its increasingly disenchanted worldview: the study of thermodynamics and the theory of evolution.”
  • One seemed to imply that all available energy in the universe was irreversibly running out, leading to the eventual freezing death of the cosmos; the other, that life had developed completely naturally through a blind process of chance mutation.”
  • “Such ideas fit well with the rest of the metaphysics and cosmic story of modernity: namely, a harsh, indifferent universe without goal or meaning.”
  • “The laws of thermodynamics came about by studying how energy behaves in closed or “isolated” systems—which is to say, containers cut off from the rest of the environment.”
  • “As codified in the first law of thermodynamics, then, it was discovered that, in an isolated system, the total amount of energy remains fixed and unchanging.” 
  • “things become more problematic with the second law, likewise deduced from 
  • the second law asserts that free energy is always being entropically dissipated over time—degraded, you could say, until eventually it’s totally useless and the system reaches a uniform feature balance: equilibrium.” 
  • “this insight created a big problem for the conception of Newtonian reality as particles in motion whose future and past states could all be predicted with deterministic certitude. For one thing, instead of being able to deduce it, once something reaches equilibrium, it’s impossible to know its earlier state (AKA, its “initial conditions”). 
  • laws of Newtonian physics were completely reversible. Gravity might bring a a rock down, but enough force against gravity could throw a rock right back up again.” 
  • The laws of thermodynamics, by contrast, had a clear irreversible trajectory. The hot and cold water will mix spontaneously over time, but trying to separate them again requires a lot of energy—free energy that no longer exists in the system, precisely because it’s been dissipated. 
  • “according to Newton’s laws, time was negligible; according to the laws of thermodynamics, however, time has a clear direction. It gives us what Arthur Eddington famously called the “arrow of time.”
  • according to the laws of thermodynamics, that arrow seemed to move only one way: from a gradient to equilibrium, from difference to sameness, from distinct order to jumbled chaos.” 
  • “Reductionist science—along with nihilistic interpretations of thermodynamics and evolution—had fundamentally changed people’s perspective regarding the part that humans played in the cosmic whole, leading them to no longer see themselves as agential wholes, but only purposeless meat-suits moving through space.” 
  • “people today who feel they know a thing or two (and likely find themselves in positions of power) will, as we noted, confidently assert: Life’s just a cosmic accident; the fit survive by preying on the weak and stupid; morality’s a fairy tale invented to keep people in line; and, sooner or later, the sun will explode, the universe will end in heat death, and none of this dazzling sound and fury will have meant a goddamn thing—so why not live it up while we can? By the early 20th century, all of the ingredients for the meaning crisis were firmly in place.” 
  • “As it turns out, however, this nihilistic worldview is actually… well… just simply wrong. It is based on contradictions, incomplete science, and unjustified extrapolations—failures that the new science has since begun to correct, but which nevertheless still hold their grip on the public imagination.”
  • “if this were true, and the universe was irreversibly unfolding in some particular direction, which direction was it? Thermodynamics and evolution glaringly contradicted one another on this crucial point. One suggested the world was losing its usable energy and winding down towards the simple uniformity and homogeneity of equilibrium; the other, that the world was becoming ever more differentiated and elaborately structured—even in a “progress towards perfection.”
  • “which was it? Chaos or order? Inert sameness or dynamic novelty? What was the true ending to the cosmic story science was telling?”


Understanding the New Science of Complexity

  • “The concept of “emergence” and emergent properties has become crucial to the new science I have been referring to—nowadays known simply as “complexity science.The basic idea is that, as things become more and more complex, completely novel and unpredictable phenomena arise—entirely new layers of reality, in fact, which behave according to their own laws and principles. These new levels are said to “emerge” out of interactions occurring lower down, and so possess their own unique “emergent properties” not reducible to their parts.”
  • Complexity increases when more and more parts come together in deeper relational webs to form new wholes. When something new emerges, it creates the possibility of still newer relationships—and thus the possibility for still deeper complexity. So the process builds on itself.”
  • “Parts, then, are just lower-level wholes themselves. Parts form wholes, and those wholes serve as parts in even greater wholes. Theoretically, the process is unlimited.”
  • “Anything you consider will be a whole made up of smaller parts, which in turn may be considered in terms of its parts, and so on.” 
  • “To even recognize a part-whole relationship first requires a differentiation process, whereby the whole can be differentiated into its distinct parts. If this isn’t done, or done only minimally, then part and whole remain (con)fused, undifferentiated, indistinct.”
  • “Wholes are made not only of parts, but of the interrelations of those parts.”
  • “How one part works in concert with another part, and that one with another, and all of them together those are dynamics that matter as much as the stuff of the parts themselves.”
  • “Wholes aren’t just things—they’re also processes.” 
  • “Novel realities arise through relation, and that degree of relation forms a spectrum. To use a common contemporary example, water is wet, but a single H2O molecule is not.”
  • “Even though water is just a large collection of these molecules, the quality of wetness doesn’t arise until you reach the macro-scale.”
  • “Zoom in and wetness disappears; zoom out and it emerges. “More is different,” a common refrain in emergence theory, means that more relationships in a system causes the qualities of its higher-level wholes to differ markedly (and often unpredictably) from those of its lower-level parts.” 
  • “The universe, it turns out, has different levels, and these different levels have their own laws.” 
  • “Unfortunately, these interrelational dynamics are exactly what get lost when you break a whole apart and just consider its parts in isolation.”
  • “the full truth of things lies, it turns out, in precisely what the early scientists did their best to systematically remove: relationality, interconnectivity—that is, complexity”
  • “Cybernetics and general systems theory succeeded in breaking out of the limitations of the reductionist paradigm by considering the relational dynamics of complex systems, and pioneered important theoretical concepts like non-linearity, self-organization, and autopoiesis (“self-making”). These ideas would give new life to emergence.”
  • “All of this would eventually lead to a truly revolutionary discovery—beginning a whole new field called non-equilibrium thermodynamics—which would contribute immensely to a radical re-conception of how energy behaves, and thus how life itself emerges and operates.” 
  • “dissipative structure (as Prigogine called them) is the whirlpool that appears in your bathtub when you pull the stopper. This highly ordered spiral gyre emerges naturally and spontaneously as the result of countless water molecules self-organizing. Why? Because such a configuration actually allows the water to drain faster.” 
  • The natural tendency of the universe to seek balance and equilibrium can actually propel systems to become temporarily more ordered to achieve this end. That is, the same law that drives closed systems towards disorder and equilibrium actually drives open systems to generate order and complexity—and to remain “far from equilibrium,” in fact, as long as that flow of energy into the system persists.”
  • “Life is always in relational exchange with its environment—a complex, open system, in which the second law operates to facilitate self-organization, keeping it far from equilibrium (i.e., death). All living organisms are complex dissipative structures whose parts self-organize into novel, emergent wholes.
  • Evolution itself, then, can be understood in thermodynamic terms: specifically, as the goal of organisms to remain far from equilibrium. To do so requires them to effectively extract and dissipate free energy from the environment. Because energy resources (i.e., food) is limited, this competitive process fuels the Darwinian “struggle for existence,” in which successful organisms breed and unsuccessful ones are weeded, leading to further organization and the complexification of species.”
  • “Based on such discoveries, which bridge the divide between physics and biology, an additional law of thermodynamics has been proposed (first by Alfred Lotka and later by H. T. Odum) that includes the evolutionary implications inherent in energy flow: “During self-organization system designs develop and prevail that maximize power intake, energy transformation, and those uses that reinforce production and efficiency.” The emergence and evolution of life is a law of energy itself.” 
  • “Energy self-organizes matter into life, and life self-organizes by maximizing energy. Or, as complexity scientist Harold Morowitz put it, “The energy that flows through a system acts to organize that system.” Energy inherently complexities.” 
  • “a consideration of how the whole is changing can inform our understanding of the parts. For instance, if the whole is the universe itself, and the parts are everything in it, then the fact that the universe is expanding means that the second law does not require that everything one day end in heat death. That assumption was far too hasty.” 
  • “The great complexity scientist Stuart Kauffman makes the point in reassuring terms in his 2016 book Humanity in a Creative Universe: “The second law says free energy is running down. But we know now that the expansion of the universe is accelerating due to the mysterious dark energy that comprises about 70 percent of the energy of the entire universe. The implications of this accelerating expansion is that we do not have to worry about enough free energy. As the universe becomes larger, its maximum entropy increases faster than the loss of free energy by the second law, so there is always more than enough free energy to do work.””
  • The initial conclusions scientists had drawn from the laws of thermodynamics were wrong: the universe is not destined only to grow more and more disordered with time. That idea arose on the false assumption that isolated systems could tell us everything we needed to know about energy. energy also spontaneously organizes things—a revolutionary insight, considering that there are no truly isolated systems in nature! In the real world, everything is connected, everything is permeable, everything flows. Even that insulated thermos will dissipate its energy eventually.” 
  • The universe is not a laboratory of isolated variables but a tapestry of endlessly interweaving relations, a network of connections in continual interchange, a symphony of parts all playing, in concert, a grand whole far greater than their simple summation.” 
  • “For this self-organizing dynamic is a naturally cumulative, snowballing process that keeps building on itself—a process Prigogine called “order through fluctuation.” 
  • “As energy pushes open systems farther from equilibrium, fluctuations in the energized system lead to threshold “bifurcation points,” at which the system is presented with novel, higher-order configurations as potential next stages of its evolution.
  • “As systems scientist Erich Jantsch explains in his book The Self-Organizing Universe: At each transition, two new structures become spontaneously available from which the system selects one. Each transition is marked by a new break of spatial symmetry. The path which the evolution of the system will take with increasing distance from thermodynamic equilibrium and which choices will be made in the branchings cannot be predicted. The further the system moves away from its thermodynamic equilibrium, the more numerous become the possible structures.” 
  • “So more and more complex structures evolve as energy flowing through systems naturally and spontaneously pushes those systems ever onwards, toward increasingly novel forms. The universe has been complexifying itself.”
  • “With these insights (still unknown to many in the general public even today), the apparent conflict between thermodynamics and evolution was resolved. There is indeed an arrow of time, and the question of its direction—increasing order or chaos—has become clear.”
  • “Evolution had suggested an increase in novelty, diversity, and complexity; now, thermodynamics agrees.” 
  • “Free energy flows through systems, organizing them into more orderly configurations. Order builds upon order, and complexity mounts—until entirely novel emergent levels appear, like life from matter. Complexity, then, is really just a measure of how energy organizes matter—something it has been doing to exponentially greater degrees as time passes.”
  • “In the various explorations of the universe’s probability space, matter that self-organizes best to dissipate free energy “learns” its environment and is retained vs. matter that doesn’t and is lost; such matter that then self-replicates flourishes as life vs. matter that doesn’t.”
  • “the entire cosmos has been evolving—matter naturally self-organizing into stable forms through the flow of energy, leading to life, and life evolving through natural selection, leading to still more complex species. As it does, something else emerges: agency.”
  • “Causal emergence repudiates for good the old deterministic account of organisms as being nothing but particles in motion, and offers far more than quantum theory’s mere open-ended chance. Rather, it shows that information generated at higher levels can have a causal effect on its material substrate. In this way, there is not only “bottom-up” causation from particles but also “top-down” causation, as information encoded in patterns of organization at the macro-level works to direct material particles at the micro-level towards specific states and goals.” 
  • “this sort of agency gains entirely new levels of causal freedom and power with the rise of more complex minded animals. In this way, the self-consciousness such as human beings exhibit can be understood as a uniquely complex form of causal emergence, whereby activity at the mental level exerts itself over and above the activity of the material level. The will itself emerges.” 
  • We are, then, neither the automatons of classical physics, nor the chance-driven entities of quantum theory, but free agents with self-determination, whose choices matter.” 
  • “with the implications becoming clear from this profound paradigm shift in the sciences, we now find ourselves facing an entirely new cosmic story, a mind-bending vision in which the universe has been, of its own accord, bringing all things together in more novel and intricate forms, producing order spontaneously from its originally featureless chaos in an uninterrupted evolutionary process that has led from unconscious, deterministic material at the lowest level to self-conscious agents with free will at higher ones.” 


Four Levels of Complexity

  • “Unified Theory of Knowledge (UTOK) is a big history framework that places the evolution of the mind within the full context of the universe’s complexification process.”
  • “The most novel aspect about the ToK System,” writes Henriques in his book A New Unified Theory of Knowledge, is the ontological claim that there are four distinguishable dimensions of complexity. …[T]hese separate dimensions emerge because of the evolution of novel information processing systems.”
  • “Genetic information processing gives rise to the dimension of Life, neuronal information processing gives rise to the dimension of Mind, and symbolic information processing gives rise to the dimension of Culture.”

Theory of knowledge

  1. “The “Matter” cone at the bottom represents the emergence and behavior of inanimate material objects from the time of the Big Bang, and includes entities such as atoms, stars, and planets. Particles like electrons represent the base of the cone as they are the simplest entities, whereas entities like macromolecules found in organic chemistry correspond to the top of the material cone.”
  2. “The “Life” cone represents the behavior of organisms, ranging from the simplest single-celled creatures (e.g., bacteria) up through large, complex multi-celled organisms (e.g., an oak tree).”
  3. “The “Mind” cone represents the behavior of animals with a brain, ranging from nematodes at the base (i.e., worms with simple brains) through highly complex and sophisticated animals, like chimpanzees, dolphins, and elephants.”
  4. “Finally, the “Culture” cone represents the behavior of human persons embedded in linguistic traditions and sociocultural historical contexts. It ranges in scale and complexity from individual persons to the behavior of modern, complex nation states or other societal structures organized by large-scale systems of justification.”


The Emergence and Complexification of Self 

  • “In A New Unified Theory of Psychology, Henriques provides a model for the emergence of self-consciousness within the linguistic context of Culture and the appearance of what he calls “justification systems.”
  • we became fully conscious of ourselves as individuals with our own subjective worlds precisely because we were in collective contexts that rewarded inter-subjective justification.
  • The self is born—through communion.”
  • “What is the self-consciousness system?” asks Henriques. In a nutshell, it is an evolutionarily novel mental apparatus that functions to build justification narratives that legitimize actions and claims. To put this in everyday terms, the self-consciousness system is the language-based portion of one’s mind that is narrating what is happening, why it is happening, and why one is doing what in that context.”
  • “self-consciousness required other selves to render it possible. The sense of self could not have emerged outside of society, because it is based on language and inter-subjective accounting. That is why self-consciousness is rightly understood as emerging not with Mind (which all animals possess), but with Culture. Only at the level of Culture does self-awareness and self-knowledge appear in the universe.” 
  • “The point of the Justification Hypothesis is that the self-consciousness system is designed so that it allows the individual to “download” the justification narratives of the current cultural context and utilize those narratives to navigate the social environment.” 
  • “Justifications are a great example of what Dawkins (1989) called a meme, which is a unit of cultural evolution. Much like genes, justifications interlock to form complex, functional systemic networks. And such systems can easily be envisioned to evolve.” 
  • “Collective intelligence shapes meme networks—called “metamemes”—which individual self-conscious minds “download” to better navigate their environment. Such metamemes serve to justify, legitimate, and explain human behavior and natural phenomena in their unique contexts—making them effectively equivalent to what we have been calling worldviews.” 
  • “Because worldviews are evolving, they are also complexifying, generating more sophisticated wholes by incorporating more and more of the knowledge from previous justificatory worldviews.”
  • “As conditions grow more complex, so does human psychology. “The psychology of the adult human being” is an unfolding, ever-emergent process marked by subordination of older behavior systems to newer, higher order systems. The mature person tends to change his psychology continuously as the conditions of his existence change. Each successive stage or level of existence is a state through which people may pass on the way to other states of [existential] equilibrium. 
  • “Commons’s Model of Hierarchical Complexity (MHC) formalized the sequence, confirming that cognition, too, complexifies according to a part-whole logic, wherein each successive level builds on (and thus includes) the level before it in a tiered, hierarchical manner. The Model allows for the ranking of tasks and modes of thought according to a mathematically deduced complexity metric. In this way, processing can be assessed in terms of relative complexity.” 


Understanding Cultural Evolution 

  • “Culture is not just something we passively experience, but also something we actively influence.”
  • “The sociological categories themselves are thus, in a real way, up for re-conception and re-invention. Government, economics, education, and yes, even religion are social structures and systems whose parameters should not be taken as immutable givens but, within reason, and subject to constraints, be up for redesign”
  • “Jamie Wheal calls such work “culture architecture.” I tend to think of it as “civilizational design,” wherein culture-artists develop new ways of living and being for a world so urgently in need of new possibilities.”
  • Our worldviews must complexify to keep up with the complexifying world.”
  • “Cosmic evolution is the process by which the Universe generates more and better knowledge about itself.”
  • “The updating of memetic code is called cultural evolution. Networks of memes come together to form memeplexes or metamemes, which are like conceptual ecosystems or, better, superorganisms. These memetic superorganisms evolve according to the pressures of their environment.”
  • “More complex environments will yield more complex sorts of adaptive responses; the complexity of an organism matches its environment, and this is true of genetic as well as memetic organisms like worldviews.”
  • “With each new set of life conditions, new worldviews arose within these contexts: Animistic, Imperial, Traditional, Modern, Postmodern, and Metamodern. As deepening complexity entails a deepening of consciousness, we can see this memetic evolution as tracking the evolution of consciousness itself. As the complexity of worldview increases, it becomes aware of phenomena earlier worldviews were blind to”. 
  • “The Imperial worldview sees an individual where the Animistic worldview saw only a member of a tribe. The Traditional worldview sees a moral order where the Imperial worldview saw only dominance. The Modern worldview sees mechanistic causes where the Traditional worldview saw only mysterious powers. The Postmodern worldview sees ecological suicide where the Modern worldview saw only limitless progress.”
  • “The Metamodern worldview sees an evolution of worldviews where the Postmodern worldview saw only relativism. 
  • “Each worldview advance reveals the blind spots and naivete—you could say, the simplicity—of the earlier, less complex perspective.”
  • “To say, then, that worldviews increase in what we tend to think of as depth is not just a metaphor. The emergence of each new worldview actually represents a genuine increase in memetic dimensionality.
  • “Just as a cartoon character living in 2D cannot see the full 3D world in which they are embedded, so some worldviews are limited in recognizing crucial aspects of the bigger picture.
  • “A religious traditionalist cannot comprehend how a modern materialist can live as though not being continually watched and judged by a personal, moralistic God.
  • Nor can a modern materialist grasp what all this postmodern “environmental hysteria” is about that’s limiting economic growth and individual liberty.
  • More complex, higher-dimensional worldviews are simply seeing parts of the puzzle that simpler, lower-dimensional worldviews can’t cognize. Literally: It does not compute.
  • “An increase in dimension is an increase in complexity, turning wholes into parts of new, higher-order wholes with greater dimensionality.”


Bridging Religion and Science

  • “Data show that those affiliated with organized religions do, on the whole, tend to be happier, healthier,and live more meaningful lives. Religious narratives provide existential orientation and a sense of purpose in a confusing cosmos. But religious affiliation is tanking, and today, the “Nones”—those who claim no such affiliation—are the fastest growing demographic of all. The coming generation will be the least religious yet—but also, as we’ve noted, the one most plagued by depression, hopelessness, and existential despair.””
  • millions of people find decidedly more comfort in the idea that the world was created by an omniscient God, that there is value and worth to every life—that there’s a supernatural Plan and Direction to history, and some final Transcendent beyond.”
  • “if you’re to buy into meaning of this kind, it requires your willful ignorance or disregard for the genuine insights of modern science and all that it’s taught us about the world. A faith-based conviction untroubled by doubt or uncertainty suffers from a lack of critical reflection.”
  • “Recourse to a “supernatural” is not just an explanatory cop-out—one that, ironically, actually tends to limit the amount of awe and wonder one has for the glories of Creation[*]—it is also an ethical cop-out.”
  • The modern nihilist might own up to living a cynical “smash and grab” lifestyle; but the religious fundamentalist can live the same way, yet with a pious conviction that they’re actually following the will of God as they do so.” 
  • “We seem caught between two equally bad options: a modern reductionist worldview, supposedly in accord with science, that says our existences are an insignificant cosmic glitch,or a traditional religious worldview that outright eschews science in order to maintain some sense that we actually matter. Worst of all, whichever one we choose, each seems to only justify the sort of selfish, short-sighted behavior that is degrading the planet and exacerbating the spread of meaninglessness all around us.”
  • “What if we weren’t forced to choose between religion and science, spirituality and reality, meaning and truth?”
  • “What if (it turned out) science itself was actually leading the way in uncovering an entirely new vision of the universe—a new, empirically grounded worldview that actually spoke to our souls? Good science is, as a rule, judicious, ever cautious not to overstep the data’s limited conclusions by too much inference, implication, or extrapolation.” 
  • “we need scientists to continue their diligent work establishing the solid empirical basis of knowledge, we also need people to help integrate that knowledge into a fuller, more comprehensive vision of reality. Otherwise, we risk missing the forest for the trees—awash in data, but lacking the kind of knowledge and wisdom that actually make a difference in our lives.”
  • “Science has not proved nor disproved religion; nor has religion triumphed over science. Rather, both have been transformed by the other, with religion learning to adopt the methods of empiricism and critical scrutiny and science learning to speak in the language of meaning and purpose. The result is not some strange truce between traditional religion and modern science, then, but more like the formation of a new category altogether, a “religion that is not a religion,” in which a Universe of meaning and sublime significance is simply, well, the best explanatory theory.”
  • “In drawing connections with spiritual and philosophical traditions of the past, we are not simply suggesting that the ancients possessed the pure and eternal truth that science is now corroborating. Rather, we are invited to consider the continuity of wisdom’s development, to see the present truth prefigured in the past, to find our story told by the ancestors in their own way. 
  • “Such is one meaning of religio: a “tying-back” to older yet enduring truths.”
  • “the religion that’s not a religion”—a decidedly science-friendly paradigm that avoids both nihilism and fundamentalism by facilitating transformation and transcendence through a diverse “ecology of practices.”
  • “we need to do something like what religion used to do. We need a comprehensive set of psychotechnologies that are set within communities of practices that allow for the comprehensive transformations of consciousness, cognition, character, and culture in a way that is analogous to religion.”


Emergentism: A Religion of Complexity 

  • “Emergentism is a novel spiritual framework informed by the revelations of complexity science, non-equilibrium thermo-dynamics, consciousness studies, developmental psychology, and other cutting-edge disciplines.”
  • “At the same time, the ideas that it speaks to are actually surprisingly ancient.”
  • “Emergentism is a religion based in the evolutionary orientation towards spirituality that recognizes different shapes of consciousness, different cultural codes, and different God-concepts. There are many ways up the mountain that yield such a vantage.”
  • Emergentism is an ““imaginal religion,” or what Sadie Alwyn Moon has spoken of in the context of “personal mythology”: namely, an approach to spirituality that embraces the self-consciously constructed nature of religion by generating new, creative expressions of the divine.”


“It is divided into three major parts: Logos, Mythos, and Religio.

  1. Logos, meaning “rational study” and the root of words like “logic,” considers the intellectual history and scientific evidence behind Emergentism. 
  2. Mythos, the root of “myth” and “mythology,” considers the theological, symbolic, and scriptural adaptation of such ideas into the religious register.
  3. Religio, the root of our word “religion,” which means both “tying back” to inherited traditions as well as “observance” of particular rituals and practices, considers the communal and enacted side of Emergentism. “


  • The “religion that’s not a religion” explored in this book is not just another closed-canon, close-minded set of beliefs either imposed, adopted, or rejected. Emergentism is open-source, co-created, and personally developed. Its cosmic story comes from scientists; its scriptures, from poets and artists. It is a religion of evolution and development by means of evolution and development. It is a religion of knowledge creation, refinement, and correction, and so itself shall be continually refined and corrected according to the same mechanisms
  • The God of Emergentism is a naturalistic God—the apex of the pyramid of enriched reality being made of the same stuff as the rest of Nature. In this way, immanence itself is made the locus of transcendence. Participating in the divine drama of God’s awakening transubstantiates the world.” 
  • “Emergence is an uncovering, a revelation. It signals the appearance of something that had been latent, hidden, unrealized, finally bursting forth into the fullness of being.
  • “Consciousness itself is what has been breaking forth from its concealment in mere matter. The evolution of the cosmos has been unfolding so as to bring forth self-awareness and self-knowledge. 
  • The universe itself is waking up—including waking up to this very realization (through us). For we are that consciousness (though the inevitability of the emergence of intelligent life in the cosmos suggests we are likely not the only ones).” 


Reconceptualizing God and Resolving the Paradox of Suffering 

  • The thing for which humanity strives, its telos, has been called “God” in the religious tradition. That was the word for the greatest Whole conceivable, of which each person found meaning by conceiving themselves a part.” 
  • “God” complexifies with the evolution of more complex justification systems and worldviews. Through the dialectic of the metamemes, God deepens.”
  • “By our awakening to the idea that God is awakening, God is awakening, because we are God’s self-consciousness.”
  • “By awakening to the realization that we are God, we come to enlightenment—and so does God.”
  • “To learn better what God is, and thus to help God learn God’s Self better, demands the same sort of trial and error, exploration, novelty, and “active inference” which produces all knowledge—from Life’s variation and selective retention, to Mind’s experimental learning, to Culture’s scientific enterprise of hypothesis testing.”
  • “God’s awakening to Self-knowledge, and our own enlightenment (which are the same), thus require that we continue re-imagining God with new symbolic expression. We must reinvent religion.” 
  • “Isn’t God supposed to be “all-knowing” (omniscient), “all-powerful” (omnipotent), and “all-loving” (omni-benevolent)? The God of Emergentism would seem to be only becoming such things.
  • “thinking of God like this resolves many of the problems that have plagued religious thinking for millennia—particularly the thorniest challenge of all: the problem of evil and suffering.” 
  • “If we are to maintain that God is truly omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, and always has been and always will be, then how do we explain the unspeakable amount of pain and suffering in the world?
  • “Considering the nature of the world we live in, if there were a God responsible for it all, that God could be all-loving or all-powerful—but not both.
  • The idea that God is supposed to be both is a paradox which, failing to be resolved according to any rational notion, can only be embraced by asserting faithful cliches like “God works in mysterious ways” or “God’s ways are not our ways.”
  • “Suffering is real. And would any God worth the name have knowingly chosen it, had such a God power to do otherwise? According to the theology of Emergentism God didn’t, and couldn’t. “
  • “The Universe may be headed towards infinite Love, Compassion, Knowledge and Power, but it started off as mere radiation, spent billions of years as bacteria, and only gradually worked its way up to beings with any degree of awareness, let alone self-consciousness and a moral compass.” 
  • “God is not conscious enough in the lion to understand or amend the suffering of the elk.”
  • “Only at the level of self-consciousness do morality and ethics emerge. Only once the Universe has come, via will, and then concepts (including counterfactuals), to self-awareness, can it choose to diminish suffering. Only then is it capable of doing so, and only then is it responsible to do so.” 
  • “Nature is not yet God; God is the future’s infinitely perfected Nature. After the Big Bang, but before apotheosis, Nature lacks the omniscience and omnipotence we attribute to its telos, God. On the other hand, because Nature tends towards God, and is God fundamentally (albeit in embryonic form), God is no more at strife with Nature than an adult is at strife with herself as a child.” . 
  • “Accepting this view of things, suffering does not refute God, but only one conception of God (namely, as unchanging, omniscient, and omnibenevolent). Allowing for the changing-ness of God, for God’s evolution, resolves the paradox of suffering and divinity.”
  • “Seeing that it is through self-conscious agents like us that God becomes aware, we lose the illusion that God is some perfect figure acting upon us from above, subjecting us to suffering, allowing terrors to occur, and so on. Instead, it is through the eyes of the world that God sees.” 
  • “The new myth enlarges the God-image by introducing explicitly the additional feature of the unconsciousness of God. His omnipotence, omniscience and divine purpose are not always known to Him. He needs man’s capacity to know Him in order to know Himself.” 
  • “The degree to which God aims to reduce suffering is tied to the depth of consciousness that allows for the recognition of suffering and the capacity to take responsibility for its alleviation.” 
  • As Culture evolves (and God with it), one should expect to see greater sensitivity to suffering, and greater concerted effort to alleviate it. And, indeed, something like this is precisely what is occurring—not, to be sure, as any simple, linear trajectory towards Utopia (as some of the more optimistic modernists imagined), but it is happening, naturally and unavoidably, in fits and starts, like any developmental process.” 
  • “Complexity deepens consciousness, rendering the Universe more sensitive to its own suffering, more knowledgeable of its imperfections, as well as well as more able to attempt resolving them.” 
  • “Through suffering, consciousness updates and, ideally, improves. God evolves through suffering. In this sense, suffering itself can be be redemptive to the degree it moves God forward.” 
  • “Each individual consciousness is a vehicle for God’s evolution. But updating the algorithm of God is no dry, mechanical affair; it takes struggle, sweat, and toil. We are building a cathedral; we are slogging stones through the desert, forging pyramids; we are re-designing civilization.
  • “God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please—you can never have both.” By choosing truth, the mind makes its own offering to God.”
  • “To be fair, this is only in the best of circumstances. Much suffering is meaningless, the consequence of a world in which God is not yet, but on the way.”
  • “God is both the Universe and the consciousness waking up to it, this theophany is an awakening to Self. Or, put another way, what the Abrahamic religions call “theophany” leads to what the Eastern traditions call “insight.”
  • “The “arrow of time” is thus the natural flow of the Universe towards its telos. Like a river flowing downstream, existence flows toward God. Just as the spiraling gyre arises spontaneously to facilitate flow, so the Universe organically self-organizes towards its maximally complex form: Divinity.
  • “The theophany of God in time culminates in a hypothetical future point of maximal complexity, consciousness, goodness, and power. This is the optimistic eschatology (“ideas about the end”) of Emergentism.” 
  • The Universe is getting closer and closer to closing the chasm between perceiver and perceived. As it does, it draws closer to perfect knowledge. This absolute knowledge is the telos of existence, the final aim of being, and it has been the attractor point driving the evolution and development of the cosmos. The realization of this state is God consciousness, where all distinctions between subject and object disappear, and Self is all in all. Therein lies maximal unity, maximal comprehension, maximal satisfaction, maximal equanimity, maximal whole-ness.”
  • “This Point toward which all things tend is, however, infinitely receding into itself. It is the asymptotic limit, never fully attained, and so always growing infinitely more and more perfect.”
  • “It is not a static end, but a dynamic eternal unfolding. It is both realized and unrealized; its dynamism and growth are its perfection, and its endless and abundant Self-transcendence is its very nature.”
  • The awakened Eye is but a symbol of an apophatic aim that transcends all known attempts, all embryos of former Selves. It is the “I” that can only be known in union, where all objects and thus all referents themselves fall away, and there is only All, and All is I, and I and God are One.”


Developing an Ecology of Practices 

  • “Religion is ultimately meaningless if it doesn’t affect how people live in the real world. It’s one thing to know, it’s another to do, and taking cosmic complexification seriously has a plethora of transformational implications for how we ought to be showing up in the world.”
  • “Wisdom informs action. Hence the second meaning of religio: “observance,” as in “observing one’s duties/responsibilities”; the etymological opposite of the word “neglect.” Religion means living your beliefs.”
  • “Emergentist spiritual practice is about conscious participation in the awakening of the Universe.”
  • “A rich spiritual life is one that learns to see the sacred in the supposedly profane, the divine in the seemingly mundane. 
  • “As it is, holistic Emergentist practice covers a broad range, from the ostensibly commonplace to the truly transcendent. This is because the Universe itself covers a wide spectrum of complexity and conscious depth.”
  • “Our spiritual praxis begins by awakening to the sacred reality of existence at all levels—Matter, Life, Mind, and Culture—and coming to recognize our Self in them. And considering that we are composite beings, operating through all levels, this means learning to integrate our own various sub-systems into a harmonious whole as well.” 


Level 1 Practices: Organization 

  • “Developing an Emergentist spiritual practice begins by coming into right relationship with the basis of all things, Matter.”
  • “Traditional religion, for instance, tended to denigrate Matter, contrasting it with supposedly immaterial Spirit. Whereas Spirit was considered pure and holy, Matter was base and vile. This perspective had the unfortunate consequence of rendering, well, everything in the world fundamentally corrupt in the eyes of the spiritualist.”
  • “With the rise of modernity, thankfully, such perspectives came to be roundly criticized and maligned. Matter rightly came to be appreciated in all its profound importance as the true basis of reality. Unfortunately, though, this very insight became, as we’ve seen, the source of a whole new pathology: materialist reductionism.
  • “Between these two extremes of Matter’s denigration and absolutism lies the healthy and important truth. Matter is the base, yes, but it is not on that account debased. Matter is fundamental, yes, but it is not on that account the ultimate.”
  • “Matter is the least complex of the emergences, and thus the least conscious. At the same time, we must not forget that all consciousness that emerges has a material substrate.”
  • “Matter is not something to balk at; it is the very body of God. Matter is divine, a phase of God’s realization.”
  • There is, then, no room in Emergentism for any of the ascetic’s deeply misguided self-hatred of the body or “mortification of the flesh.””
  • “Mundane as it may sound, our spiritual lives begin by simply “keeping it together.” To resist the draw of breakdown, randomness, and disorder. To fight dissolution, and continue the Universe’s improbable journey of creating more structural integrity. To not only maintain form and complexity, but add to it, expand it, deepen it.”
  • “we do not simply consider the minerals of the earth, but consider them in ourselves.”
  • “Thou art that. The first principles of physics conspired to make your bones. We are chemical constructions. In the aim of molecules towards entropy lies all our aspirations and intent in embryo. We are seeking to be angels far from equilibrium. We are awakened Matter.”
  • Such insights might meaningfully and practically come together in the intentional construction of sacred space—an organizational offering that brings a focus toward divinity out of (what had been) mere scattered, disordered stuff.
  • “The making of altars, shrines, natural sculptures, stupas, etc. is a valuable practice to engage mere Matter in such a reverential manner. It is, you could say, the cosmic act of theophany in miniature; an assembly of parts to form a divine whole.” 


Level 2 practice: Vitality 

  • “Emergentist practices that relate to the level of Life are concerned with the basic constituents of biological existence.”
  • Life must meet certain requirements if it is to maintain itself and stay far from equilibrium; because of that, there arises a good for and a bad for for an organism. If only in its rudimentary form, the life force is now in play, and the life force is what speaks—what screams—the good for. The guiding metric of normativity is simply health. Vitality. Vigor. Strength.”
  • Life thrives by becoming anti-fragile, by stressing the system to improve the system. It is not just in living but feeling alive that we connect to this level. To this end, any sort of physical exertion or exercise is of inherent value.
  • “So thrive, move, dare, struggle, revel, strain. Aspire and perspire. Don’t just live, feel alive. Cultivate an ecology of Life practices that keep you flourishing at the level of your biology.” 
  • “This means, crucially, maintaining a nutritious diet especially. Food has always been an important part of religious traditions. Dietary restrictions are common in different faiths, from the kosher laws of orthodox Jews to the vegetarianism of Buddhists to the abstention from beef of Hindus. For its part, Emergentism also articulates a specific dietary regime as an implication of its worldview.”
  • “Complexity deepens consciousness, and deeper conscious-nesses experience suffering more acutely. Cultivating, killing, and eating a carrot is thus very different from cultivating, killing, and eating a pig. One is at the level of Life, the other is rather high up the spiral of Mind. One has little if any consciousness; the other has a highly developed nervous system and brain.”
  • “Human beings are unique in that we are the only (known) complex organism to inhabit the domain of Culture, where self-conscious reflection enters into the mix and we are empowered by both our conceptual as well as our technological capacities to the point of being able to choose our diets.”
  • That choice is what renders us moral agents in a way that marks us different from other animals. Humans are in the unique position to have the capacity to choose to cause less suffering in order to stay alive.”
  • “If we can thrive off of vegetables, why do we choose to keep inflicting unnecessary suffering on billions of sentient creatures every year?
  • “The materialist/reductionist perspective is one of these extremes, which generally disregards animal consciousness as either nonexistent or negligible.”
  • “Traditional Christianity, especially of the fundamentalist flavor, provides another example of this sort of extreme position. It finds justification not in philosophy but in its holy scriptures for total subjugation of Earth and its resources—including all animal life—to the sole benefit of human beings, who alone are made in the image of God.”
  • Other religious traditions, however, have gone to the other extreme—with horrific and disastrous results of a different kind. In Jainism, for instance, adherents are so eager not to risk killing any living creature of any kind that they walk with brooms to brush away bugs by their feet and wear masks to avoid killing microorganisms. There is even a sanctioned practice of starving oneself to death out of the conviction not to harm any living being—including plants. This is misguided religion in the extreme, which, as in most cases, stems from the best of intentions but leaves a wake of guilt, suffering, and death in its wake.”
  • “The Emergentist attitude avoids these terrible extremes and forms of absolutist thinking, with a dietary ethic rooted in both complexity science and common sense. The fact is, all complex life lives off of other life.”
  • “That is the nature of the Universe, built into the process of complexification itself, as organisms become more complex by feeding off increasingly organized free energy in their environments. Indeed, we cannot truly valorize complexification, and thus the realization of God, without admitting and, in some ways, celebrating this fact. But this does not mean we carelessly embrace the infliction of suffering on other beings; nor does it mean we starve ourselves out of existence to leave the world for the bugs.
  • “Emergentist living by their convictions will be inclined to hold to an essentially vegetarian diet in an effort to minimize the suffering experienced by sentient life, while still optimizing for their own health, well-being, and complexity.”
  • “When asked why he was a vegetarian, the famous spiritual thinker Alan Watts responded: “Because cows scream louder than carrots.”
  • “Emergentism asserts that it is wrong to subject animals to slaughter. However, we are also obliged to note, it is worse to do so to pigs and cattle than to insects and fish, given their relative complexities and place in the phylogenetic chain.”
  • would it be better to eat a cow than to let a human starve? Indeed, we are inclined to say that it would.”
  • For we can affirm the special position occupied by human beings owing to their self-conscious complexity—without adopting the traditional notion of some divinely sanctioned human supremacy over all the animals.”
  • “It is just as inhumane and repugnant for a human to starve themselves out of piety as it is for one to gorge themselves out of rapacious desire.”
  • Emergentism celebrates Life, but also recognizes that it is always in a state of relativity. Here, complexity is key, not just in considerations of conscious depth (and thus the capacity for suffering) but also in regard to how nuanced we can allow our own thinking to be. Absolutist simplicities are dangerous; when applied to ethics, they can be downright destructive. Emergentists see life in context, and that requires a more subtle and contextual approach to issues of morality.” 


Level 3 practices: Embodiment 

  • Practices at the level of Mind relate to the nervous system and the full spectrum of enriched experience that such a deep interior world affords, from complex movement to emotion.”
  • Emotional regulation is thus a crucial spiritual practice at this level, one which allows us to better condition ourselves to stimuli such that, when difficulties occur, we can respond more like the Dalai Lama we wish to be and less like the Tasmanian Devil that tends to reflexively show up.”
  • Gaining control of our emotional responses first requires gaining awareness of how we react to things.”
  • Practicing mindfulness then (distinct from meditation, which we will discuss later) is key to increasing our conscious awareness of our behavior.”
  • “Noting tendencies and patterns and naming the particular kinds of experiences that trigger our “fight-or-flight” response, for instance, deepens our self-knowledge and allows us to be more intentional about our actions and the way we show up in the world.”
  • “In doing this sort of practice, various kinds of therapy can be of great value, since our emotional reflexes are deeply linked to our social conditioning and experiences of trauma.”
  • “Ultimately, the aim of Emergentist spiritual practice is the reduction of suffering and the expansion of consciousness. As we have suggested, these are actually two sides of the same coin. Expanding consciousness has a natural tendency to reduce suffering, and reduced suffering assists in establishing the proper conditions in which consciousness can develop.”
  • “One practice that supports both simultaneously is the responsible use of psychedelics (also called “entheogens”). Every day, it seems, yet another study is published showing a correlation between such psychedelic substances and therapeutic healing (whether that be the positive effects of psilocybin and ketamine on the reduction of depression, chronic pain, and addiction, for instance; the aid of LSD in treating anxiety; or other such findings).”
  • “Wheal, for instance, endorses what he calls “hedonic calendaring,” in which rites of passage are coupled with specific psychedelic substances and doses to help facilitate and enhance transformation.”
  • “A rite-of-passage initiation into adulthood with 3 grams of psilocybin, surrounded by elders, mentors, and peers, could fit here,” he writes. “This is the ‘Goldilocks dosage’ perfected by Johns Hopkins to prompt insight and healing without excessive destabilization.”
  • “Wheal suggests administering a sacrament of 5-MeO-DMT at some point before we shuffle off this mortal coil: an entheogen whose higher doses precipitate an “ego death” experience. With such a “trial run” under one’s belt, considerable fear and anxiety about the unknown can be diminished, and one can make the transit more tranquilly into the great beyond.”  


Level 4 Practices: Cultivation 

  • “Cultivation thus refers broadly to the active care and effort taken to enrich, to develop, to grow, to deepen—we might even say, to complexify.”
  • “It is the act of intentionally directing our full conscious attention, time, and effort to the improvement of what matters most—our vibrant Earth, our rich humanity, and our intimations of the transcendent.”
  • “Conceptual learning in all its forms becomes a key spiritual practice. Far from some luxury for intellectuals, education should be the very essence of the spiritual life for all people. This, of course, can take countless forms. But the end goal of all of them is the increase of understanding about how the world works—from physics to chemistry to biology to the social sciences, to our own phenomenological minds.” 
  • “Today, education is largely seen as only a practical necessity, something we do to get a good job to pay the bills—or, at best, something we engage in to “better ourselves.” But the intellectual life can also be (and has been) seen as a genuinely spiritual practice. Philosophia, the “love of wisdom,” was no mere academic discipline to the ancient philosophers. From Pythagoras to Plato, Epicurus to Plotinus, philosophy was a total way of life imbued with deep spiritual significance.”
  • “Traditionally religious folks look to their scriptures to understand the nature and workings of God. Emergentists look to books of all kinds. The full story of God is told in physics books and biology books and in the historical records of humanity. Such stuff is not mere trivia; it is the biography of the Universe, it is the sacred history of reality.”
  • “But this is not to say that our learning ought to be limited to objective facts, figures, and equations. Through the arts, through poetry and music and painting and dance, we explore the full span of emotional intensities and imaginative possibilities. The novelists and musicians of the world have just as much to teach us as the scientists and historians.”
  • “According to recent survey data, 42% of college graduates never read another book after college!)”
  • “Education that is intentionally structured to help the individual progress to the highest shapes of consciousness possible is called Bildung.”
  • “Such learning is not just a solitary endeavor. It happens best and most rewardingly in community. True philosophia unfolds in dialogue and debate, in the edifying context of peers—learners and teachers. 
  • A flourishing Emergentist church or sangha is one of rich discussion, enjoyment, and endless opportunities for co-learning—whether that’s in physical gatherings with a few friends or digital interaction with an online group. By reaching into the higher shapes of consciousness together we create new cultural code at the finest levels of resolution and depth.
  • “The Emergentist not only looks to the entire library of all human knowledge, she also writes scripture herself!
  • “Each of us is called upon, in the unique voices of our radical individualism, to render our God-image for the world.”
  • “A plurality of God-images provides the variation for the eternal learning algorithm of selective retention that is cosmic evolution. Out of the rich diversity of attempts, God adapts and evolves to a 5D/Metamodern environment. The Universe learns God better, so we learn God better, and God learns God’s Self better.”
  • “Permaculture, by contrast, is a neo-holistic perspective rooted in systems thinking. It sees how all the parts of an ecosystem work together to form a dynamic, symbiotic whole.”
  • “It finds the feedback cycles and mutually reinforcing relationships of earth and minerals and animals and air. It is, in short, all about complexity and knowing our place in a complex world.”
  • “All Emergentists should strive to be good permaculturalists, living in harmony with the ecosystem in which they live.”
  • “Here, the mantra is not just “do no harm”; we are not simply looking to limit our negative environmental impact. Rather, we are seeking to maximize our positive environmental impact, by doing what Nature by Herself cannot: consciously increase natural complexity.”
  • “Do you have a garden? Every practicing Emergentist really ought to. Gardening is a spiritual practice. It is not just your contribution to complexify the world and thereby make it healthier, it is also a way to assist yourself at the level of Life and Mind, providing you both the exertion and the means of a nutritious diet mentioned earlier.”
  • In essence, meditation is about turning consciousness on itself, and investigating the operations of the subjective experience per se. The mind seeks to know itself.
  • The self seeks self-knowledge. One gains awareness of awareness and learns to observe the nature of the observer. Here, we learn the subject subjectively, and not just through concepts. 
  • “Study the objective world all you want, but true self-knowledge is not complete without turning inward to study just what it is that is studying anything at all.”
  • “When we do this, we are able to gain a higher vantage on our self in a new way. The self that can be made an object is no longer the self that had been the subject. This is called gaining meta-cognitive awareness.”
  • “As Ken Wilber puts it: [M]editation…is a simple and natural continuation of the evolutionary process, where every going within is also a going beyond to a wider embrace. …In other words, the more one can go within, or the more one can introspect and reflect on one’s self, then the more detached from that self one can become, the more one can rise above that self’s limited perspective.”
  • “While the Omega Point of such non-dual Self-realization at a total, collective level remains a distant telos for the world, it is something we can get a glimpse of through such practices.”