The first and only principle, the Principle of Elimination of Assumptions, is the basic principle to the art of true sentience which further allows the true nature of investigations of the things within the compounds of any spatial reality that runs with time. Now, this is a hard one to stick to, because, ‘we’re born in a society’. This principle is hard to establish, because of the years of devotion or conformation into the constructs of society. But when harnessed, it is the first and the only basic step towards the art of true investigation into the nature of everything. Think of it this way, think of existing independent of this present society, think of a soul born independent of the present constructs of society and culture.
Sure, you can identify differences in gender, color; differences between different planta or anima; but would one be able to assume things like sexuality (heterosexuality; homosexuality; bisexuality; asexuality; etc). The answer is not complex, as when it comes to reproduction one can conceive the notion of a true ‘sexuality’; but again, investigating the nature of ‘love’ and ‘sexuality’ as compared to ‘reproduction’; it is the very conceiving of the notion of a true ‘sexuality’ in relation to reproduction that halts the phenomenology of the true nature of love or sexuality. Hence, following the same chain of thought, one can realize the free will that comes with the conflict of these two elements.
Now, think of color. The name of the color or the description exists purely because of the constructs of the present society. Black can be white, white can be orange, orange can be blue- it’s all about how you perceive or identify or label color and it’s constituents. And again, with this chain of thought, black can be dark or bad or light or good; depends on your perception and your free will when it comes to conforming to certain ideas or constructs. Here, think of black or white or orange as nothing other than a distinction, attach no other meaning to it because rationally, it doesn’t exist.
This can be applied to any present societal concepts like nationality, race, religion, etc.
The first and foremost principle i.e., The Principle of Elimination of Assumptions, hence, requires you to see the sentient as sentience i.e., as seeing another human as just another existing being. Regardless of all the proposed notions of this reality or the reality that is the result of a history of a construct.
A pure interaction with another sentience, hence, becomes pure when one is able to eliminate the current perceptions given to us by society.
As soon as a person assumes a thing, be it anything, the truest and purest doors of perception are closed. If one wants to transcend with another sentience in terms of interaction, without the elimination of assumptions, the pure interaction itself would cease to exist, and hence transcendence in terms of emotions would again just be a result of a construct, and therefore, false by nature.
Ideas are evolutionary, life is a process and within this process, change is constant. And for this change to be possible in the freest and the purest manner, one has to get rid of the assumptions of the society – a principle one can acknowledge, but hardly ever tries to truly accept, only because of mere ignorance.
Hence, just like to understand the ‘higher knowledge’ of a certain subject, one needs to fully grasp the basics of that subject, to fully experience sentience within any realm of possible realities, one has to eliminate the primary notions of the deemed society first.
That’s the only first step towards the free conscious or even unconscious self.
Principle of Mentalism and Integrated Information Theory of Physics
Generally speaking, almost all the laws of hermeticism have a hold on basic physics, but what’s even more interesting is that the first principle of mentalism is connected to a modern theory of quantum gravity and more importantly the IIT.
The first principle, among the 7 Hermetic principles of self-mastery in the esoteric philosophy by Hermes Trismegistus found in the ancient library of Alexandria and published in modern times by the Masonic Lodge of Chicago, is the truth that ‘ALL IS MENTAL’, meaning that the universe as we know i.e., matter and energy of the material universe is just a thought of our infinite, universal and living mind.
Think of the matter, energy and power around you as a sub-content of your mind i.e., that all the phenomenal world or universe (matter; energy etc) is simply a mental creation of THE ALL, in which mind we “live and move and have our being”. A man is a unit of his own universe where he witnesses nothing but transmutation in the matter, energy, and forces around him.
This knowledge of these brilliant principles are given to us by our ancestors, I mean thinking about it, astrology gave birth to astronomy, alchemy to chemistry and mystic psychology grown into modern psychology of schools. But it shouldn’t be ignored that even in those times of limited sources we had brilliant minds come up with geometry, mathematics and early natural philosophy which gave the idea of Atoms. The only thing that’s changed now is that we have enough resources to decide what’s a fact and what’s simply a theory.
If you read the principle of mentalism carefully, it is no different from the mathematically measurable explanation of nature and source of consciousness known as the Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness (IIT) i.e., what consciousness is and how it relates to physical systems. Giulio Tononi, who initially proposed this theory began first with the characterization of experience itself and later established the physical (cause-effect power) properties that are required for realizing these characteristics in order to give a theoretical explanation of consciousness in relation to particular information epitomized by those very physical properties. “The theory provides a principled account of both the quantity and quality of an individual experience… and a calculus to evaluate whether a physical system is conscious” (Tononi and Koch, 2015).
So basically, the esoteric explanation of the universe and the IIT establish the same conclusion that the spacetime emerges from the consciousness. That the universe is just a mental construct inside of THE ALL’s consciousness.
Esoteric planes and M-theory dimensions
I find it deeply amusing that both esotericism and physics mention the concept of planes, maybe not necessarily with the same meaning and symbolism, but similar enough to leave us wondering about our existence.
We are in the 3rd dimension, and you are reading this on your 2nd-dimensional screens, while your body resides in the physical plane. Physics and Esotericism together could provide the theory of everything even though both of them do not agree with each other in any aspect whatsoever but can be successful in giving you your answers about the universe. Physics presents us with the opportunities of different realities whilst esotericism/theosophy presents us with the levels of existence.
Both esotericism and physics have a different number of planes/dimensions of existence/realities like many esoteric authors claim that there are seven planes of existence, while there are others who have a different answer. In Physics, we also we the same thing, we went from a classic 3 dimension model from Einstein’s time to 10-dimensional superstring theory to 11 dimensions M-theory and even a Bosonic 26 dimension theory. All these physicists create dimensions to suit there mathematical calculations about the multiverse.
But taking a look at the most common models i.e., the seven planes of esotericism and the 11-dimensional M-theory, it is fascinating to see two contrasting studies occasionally suggesting something close and similar in essence.
Looking at the seven planes of existence, each plane constitutes of esoteric traits like purpose, energy, transcendence, logos, etc. What fascinates me is transcendence, as esoterically it means going beyond and suggests that the last plane is where the mind has reached infinite mental possibilities. Something similar is suggested by physicists but in terms of realities.
Now looking at physics, the M-theory suggests that there could be 11 dimensions i.e., 11 Dimensional Supergravity Particle Theory. The first spatial three dimensions being easiest to visualize i.e, length, width and depth and the rest a bit complicated. From the fourth to the eleventh dimensions, the possibilities get bigger like that of alternate and parallel universes and even higher dimensions where everything imaginable is possible. These dimensions are just as big but are curled up so tightly with our 3rd dimension that they are too small for us to see. Now, what’s even more interesting, is that with the help of LHC in Geneva, in 2012, we found the Boson particle which served as an interesting new point to start more research on these dimensions and also various others theoretical physics concepts as Boson allowed the Higgs field to be proven.
The main point here is that both these contrasting subjects produce the same endpoint that constitutes infinite possibilities. Mentally, one could opt for meditation or kundalini yoga to reach that state, and Scientifically, physicists are working out their mathematical equations to come up with a way one would physically transcend these dimensions of realities. And with infinite possibilities, who knows if both these aspects are one and the same in a peculiar way or two completely different things with two types of different infinite possibilities on the same scale.
Joker (2019), directed by Todd Phillips is a film with an amalgamation of profound aesthetic and political density, which is accompanied by an imagistic beauty that presents the specters of a Social-Psychological Renaissance. The film is a story of a man who dreams of becoming a successful comedian i.e., the protagonist, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix). His story showcases the process of genesis of the original supervillain in an oppressive society, set in the ’80s of the comic Gotham City. Here, I will attempt to psychoanalyze the specters that emerge in the course of the film, by identifying the “repressed moment” or the “prägung” and the signifiers along with examining the “father figures” of Arthur’s life to unfold some psychoanalytic and semantic meaning out of the character’s psyche and self (Lacan, 1988).
The beginning of the film reveals the first specter of the repressed emotion, with the intense scenes of Arthur Fleck’s laughing condition. The pseudo-bulbar affect (PBA), essentially a neurological condition that is characterized by an uncontrollable outburst of laughter or cries, reveals the signifier which is the mask that Arthur wears as he aims to be a comedian. Arthur’s laugh, which is essentially a condition, presents an emptiness in his shared language with the society, as he uncontrollably laughs after identifying himself as a comedian in front of his audience. This unmotivated laughter can soon be identified in terms of pain, as he begins to choke on his own laughter. In the film, the society often misinterprets this laughter and fails to understand, as one would say in terms of a psychiatric discourse, the disassociation between words and objects i.e., the signifier and the signification- mutual feelings and the revelation of the expression that affects him. The society fails to identify the repressed emotion during the spectral moments of Joker’s uncontrollable laughter. It is a laughter that alienates Arthur from his surroundings, as he becomes a painful subject constantly trying to locate and integrate himself into the ‘normal’ society. The film is a beautiful blend of fantasy and reality, as it presents the oppressive background in a society located in, what can be called a dark and dirty sub-world wherein along with the poor population of Gotham, Fleck tries to find the meaning of his own existence.
It is important to understand the duality of Joker’s nature, there is a repressed self that originates with specters from Arthur’s idealized self which is the Joker. In later parts of the film, his character transforms into a unary signifier, a strong subjective construct, which the oppressed section of the society starts identifying with. Another thing to understand here is the film continuously shifts from reality to Arthur’s delusionary world. An imposition of mass psychology can be identified in this background of controversial politics and violence within Gotham City, as it begins to empower a moment around this spectral signification that Arthur presents the two of different classes of the society with. This repressed self, when it gains sympathy amongst the weak of the society, takes the sense of anonymity that Arthur struggles with out of him as he continuously begins to signify an “anti-hero” i.e., here the super-villain, becomes a kind of hero for the oppressed. And the moment this occurred was when he kills his idol or ‘father-figure’ after he had made fun of his condition, on his TV show in front of the world- he becomes an object of injury, he becomes a hero. Arthur, an object under the gaze of the world, transcends from being a persecuted object to an admired one.
This dynamic and enigmatic blend of the reality of the society and Arthur’s delusions, in discourse heavily, bases itself upon the constitution of social bonds that fleck’s unconscious tries to understand and integrate with. According to the classical Freudian or Lacanian understanding of the unconscious, the unconscious is simply which that is fundamentally related to a symbolic or spectral anchoring point i.e., the “name-of-the-father” which facilitates the possibility of a discourse (Lacan, 1968). According to Lacan, “the unconscious is politics” is a development of “the unconscious is the discourse of the Other” (Lacan, 2002). This link to the Other, intrinsic to the unconscious, is what inspires from the outset Lacan’s teaching. This is also true when it is pointed out that the Other is divided and does not exist as One.
Arthur Fleck’s childhood details are gradually unfolded throughout the movie, as he attempts to exist between reality and his delusions. The relation to the Other, is unfolded during the specters of Arthur’s idealization of the ‘father-figures’ and also while crashing of these intense idealizations. Franklin Murray (Robert De Niro), who is a TV host of a popular talk-show, is one of the first father-figures that Arthur resonates with at the beginning of the film. This idealization develops when Arthur starts to watch his show on a daily basis with his mother whom he takes care of and resides with. The film also presents the moments of delusion when Arthur finds himself immersed in the show so much so that his imagination lets him believe that is one of the people in the audience of Murray’s show. Later in the film, another ‘father-figure’ idealization develops as Arthur’s mother reveals that Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen), is his biological father. Arthur shocked and excited with the news, then proceeds to meet Thomas Wayne. He attempts to fail the first time, but the second time he succeeds. Thomas Wayne after meeting Arthur bluntly reveals the reality of the situation by informing him that he is indeed not his father and that his mother was delusional and hence, he had to fire her and report her for help. This is the moment where Arthur’s ‘father-figure’ idealization crashes. He becomes devastated and shook, and starts looking for answers. The film soon reveals all the details about Arthur’s childhood, when he visits the psychiatric hospital to search for his mother’s medical reports. He finds that Murray was correct, and further that Arthur was in fact adopted, and also abused by his mother i.e., his maternal bond, as well as paternal bond, crashes at the same time. With this crashing of parental bonds, Arthur soon witnesses the last crash of idealization i.e., of the TV host Franklin Murray, when he plays the clips of his condition during his show, and laughs about it. Now, Arthur has lost touch to most of his delusions about reality and starts to fully transform into Joker by embracing his insanity. In Lacanian terms, this absence of the name of the father in Arthur’s life could be the reason behind his anarchic personality that makes him rebel against the law. This crashing of all the parental figures finally leads Arthur to embrace his aggression in front of the world. It gives him a reason to embrace his existence within the blended realms of reality and delusions which he had hated every second of his life before.
One of the earlier scenes of the movies, where Arthur’s strong subjective construct really attracts the sympathy of the society and the audience of the film in real life, is when Arthur fights back for the first time after he is ridiculed and beaten up by three men during the train ride. This moment is beautifully unfolded in the film, as Arthur’s character starts to give up and acknowledge the ‘Joker’ within him. He kills the three men in what can be argued as an act of self-defense. With the revelation of this scene, Joker starts to be seen as an ‘anti-hero’. And this subjective construct, due to the excellent filmmaking and acting skills, proves to be a strong anchoring point that lets the oppressed people avenge his every action. He proceeded to kill his mother as an act of ‘justice’ after he had realized that she had lied to him all these years and that the reason behind all his mania and melancholy is his Mother itself, whom he had been taking care of all his life and had loved so much. He also kills his colleague who gets him in trouble at work, but within that scene, there is an important factor that comes into play which retains this strong subjective construct i.e., when he lets the other colleague live because he was the ‘only one who was ever nice’ to him. Moreover, the death of Frank Murray, the ‘father-figure’ that Arthur identified with the most, in terms whom he wanted to be and what kind of society he wanted attracted towards to him, served as ‘justice’ in his eyes, as he had felt rejected and disappointed in humanity as a whole. In the narrative of the film, the mass society or the lower class of the Gotham City idealizes the transformation and emergence of ‘Joker’ a rebellious figure in the society. The lower classes start riots against the government and wealthy men like Thomas Wayne, soon after Arthur becomes ‘Joker’ and emerges as a Master who does not take power for himself but simply encourages the masses to seize their freedom for themselves. In other words, he does not become his ‘Father’.
The film also displayed moments of Arthur dressed as ‘Joker’ dancing and embracing his confusion, dilemmas, and delusions. The scenes directed by Todd Phillips, presented by Arthur (Joaquin Phoenix), depicted through his dance along with Hildur Guðnadóttir’s soundtrack, signify his urges to accept, acknowledge and become free of his repressed self. Arthur’s dance moments emerge in the film when he is faced with intense situations like when he had killed the three men on the train or when he was getting ready to go on Franklin Murray’s show only to kill himself as the last ‘joke’. These dance moments, very well co-ordinated with the soundtrack and the narrative of the film, gives out these profound specters of the acknowledgment of the repressed self. These are the moments when Arthur fully identifies with “the mask” i.e., his manic repressed self i.e., ‘Joker’. The first dance scene unfolds right after Arthur had revolted against bullying for the first time in his life. He had quickly left the train station, running to find a comfortable and safe shelter. This when the bathroom dance scene reveals the first full spectral emergence of the repressed self. The last main scene in the film, when Arthur is on his way to Franklin Murray’s show also constitutes of Joker’s dance scene. This is the moment when he had fully identified with his repressed self and accepted his own version of reality as the only version of reality. His joyous celebration of the moment while coming down the stairs with a dance establishes the understanding of the character’s narrative in its whole entirety. This can be acknowledged when the sync between the dance, music, and narrative is seen from a critical point of view. Furthermore, it also has a connection to Carl Jung’s Shadow Phenomenon which is essentially a realm of the psyche in which an individual’s unacknowledged negative impulses are compounded until they become an active influence in one’s behavior, ”Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is” (1938). In order to maintain mental equilibrium, an individual must acknowledge these negative impulses otherwise it can cause a shatter in the cognitive pattern of the individual. When this negative pattern is failed to be recognized, then the individual’s mind makes him/her the hero of their own stories i.e., the perceived victimization is hoisted up as a justification for ‘negative’ behavioral-patterns. As Carl Jung said in Archaic Man, “Projection is one of the commonest psychic phenomena…Everything that is unconscious in ourselves we discover in our neighbor, and we treat him accordingly”. In terms of adaption from the comic books to the film, the film also signifies this moment of acknowledgment and acceptance of the repressed self with the help of the comic Batman: The Killing Joke, wherein the Joker says, “All it takes is one bad day”, implying that an individual is only one traumatic moment away from insanity or madness.
In conclusion, Joker (2019) succeeded in presenting the enigmatic scenes of the repressed and unconscious desires, along with the string narration which locates its existence within the blend of reality and delusions. The film also constituted of scenes where Arthur’s delusions were strongly identifiable like the scenes where he thought he had a real relationship with his neighbor, but only much later could he acknowledge the reality when the lady confronts him in her living room. This moment clearly established that Arthur suffered from delusions. Also, the Social-Psychological Renaissance that this movie presents its audience with allows for the identification of “the unconscious is the discourse of the Other” (Lacan 1955).
Jung, C.G. (1938). “Psychology and Religion.” In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. p. 131.
Jung, C. (2002). The earth has a soul. p.111.
Lacan, J. (1955). “Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter'” in Écrits.
Lacan, Jacques. (1968). The Language of the Self: The Function of Language in Psychoanalysis. Trans. Anthony Wilden. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, p. 40.
Lacan, J. (1988). The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book I, Freud’s Papers on Techniques 1953-1954. W.W. Norton & Company, pp.187-199.
I don’t think I’ve seen a movie like this in the DC universe, or perhaps even movies in general in a very long time. There’s a good movie, and then there’s an absolute masterpiece, and this is definitely an absolute masterpiece. It’s funny that Todd Phillips, who generally makes films in the Comedy genre, could come up with a brilliant 2hrs of comic book/drama in the most perfect way possible. And even funnier that Todd claimed that the movie has nothing to do with the DC universe, where in fact it had so many ties to the Batman mythology. I mean come on, it’s Gotham, there’s an Arkham Asylum and even the Waynes in the movie..
You watch the movie, and you’re astonished and left thinking, and that is a trait that only a few movies in the history of cinema have achieved. You can take Tarantino with Inglorious Bastards and Nolan with Interstellar. On top of the brilliant 120 pages script that Joker has, and the directors’ cut that I hope gets released, it is extremely noteworthy to mention the perfect coordination of all the departments of the production crew. This movie would have performed okay with a defect in a few elements, but it did wonders instead because all the elements (departments) of the movie were in perfect synchronization. From the traditional joker makeup to the costume design and further to the soundtrack, not once was there a discrepancy in the well-put film. Not to mention, there was absolutely no CGIs in the movie. How BRILLIANT!
The soundtrack – Outstanding. The cello perfectly portrays the intensity of emotions that dances on the polarity of emotions the character goes through. I don’t think we could have expected any better from Hildur Guðnadóttir, in fact, she started composing the music before the movie was even shot. She said she composed the music based on how she felt whilst reading the script that Todd sent her, and frankly, I think she couldn’t have captured the string-based melody any more right. I think I’d rate the OST in level with one of Interstellar. They both succeed to describe the intensity of the scene and its emotion. Oh, and how beautifully did they use Sinatra’s That’s Life. Zimmer for Batman and Guðnadóttir for Joker is truly a great delight!
The makeup was probably more traditional and a classic look than the previous wild disappointment from Jared Leto’s Joker in Suicide Squad. What I liked, even more, was how subtle Joaquin Phoenix’s hair was dyed in green. Just perfectly aligned with the sophisticated joker costume. The scene of Joker’s dance down the stairs is the epitome of the perfect Joker scene right off the comic book into real life. Killing Joke vibes pretty much.
And Joaquin Phoenix. I think the man can finally retire, he has left an impact that will be remembered forever. The man definitely deserves an Oscar. Honestly, I would say, the Oscars deserve the Joker. I never thought that his acting will compete with Heath Ledgers’. I was mind-blown with his talent. He lost weight, a good amount of weight, practiced for hours for his roles without the help of CGIs of any sort and even practiced dancing for months to perfectly nail the role. What I personally look for in a real actor, is his capacity of making the audience feel emotions even with a subtle face. Which, Joaquin Phoenix was able to portray. Oh, and the laugh. The pathological laughter, although different, probably again levels with Ledgers’ and even from the animated Joker. It’s perfect, how he can make you understand how his laugh is making him choke and suffer when he doesn’t even have the desire to laugh in the first place. It’s so sad honestly, but I think Todd did a great job in bringing forth this condition forward for people to understand. It’s a bit rare but definitely needs awareness.
The movie, in general, did a fantastic job of bringing forth the harsh judgment that comes from society about mental illnesses, especially back in the day. What hits me the most was the quote, “The worst part of having a mental illness is that people expect you to behave as if you don’t”. And also to mention the quote, “Oh, why is everybody so upset about these guys? If it was me dying on the sidewalk, you’d walk right over me. I pass you every day and you don’t notice me! But these guys, what, because Thomas Wayne went and cried about them on TV?” hit differently. The movie portrayed so much, from mental illnesses to resistance but it’s crazy to see how most critics are being hard with the violence portrayed in the film. It’s a movie on one of the darkest villains of the DC in the most realistic setting possible, not a Marvel film full of meaningless comedy.
There’s honestly so much that I can write about this movie, and I feel like the more I’d see it in the future, the more conspiracies or theories I’d come up with.
Here’s another quote that I think is also noteworthy while critiquing the aspect of violence in the film, “What? It’s okay, Gary. You can go. I’m not going to hurt you”; “You’re the only one that’s ever been nice to me”. Not that I’m trying to justify the violence of any sort here, I’m just pointing out that maybe it would always be more insightful to look into someone’s story from there side before moaning about the conclusion. And I think, the movie did an incredible job of portraying the harsh reality.
Much more like a modern variation of the Unconscious, the ‘New Subconscious’ is different yet has similar grounds as that of the version of the Kantian unconscious in the philosophy of mind or Freudian repressive unconscious. Similar ground being the heavy involvement of our subconscious mind on our behaviors or actions.
It also reminds me of one of Nietzsche’s theatrical metaphors, “The curtain falls, and the man rediscovers himself like a child playing with worlds, like a child awakening at dawn and laughing wiping his awful dreams from his brow”. Here ‘awful dreams’ are used by Nietzsche to imply that we do not so much live life as getting lived by it, that we do not act consciously, thus everything originates in the “unconscious action”.
But Leonard Mlodinow, the theoretical physicist’s concept of new unconscious reminds me a lot of Daniel Kahneman’s system 2 form of thinking, just with more new scientific and experimental backing. Kahneman would probably be always connected to this sphere of psychological and neurological research, especially when it comes to Heuristics and Systems of thinking.
Mlodinow starts by asserting that the new unconscious facilitates many processes in action or behavior due to the structure of our brain which unlike the Freudian view are healthy and normal. While Neuroscience claims that it is the brainstem that controls the unconscious functions like respiration, digestion, and pulse, which Mlodinow claims can be witnessed through intelligent modern technology like MRI with blood flow and 3D precision.
Our behavior can be willful, habitual and automatic and it is often the automatic, especially the subliminal automatic that amuses a human of their behavior. It seems to be carefully derived from our senses, our capability of reading body language, our ability to recognize intentions from voices and most importantly memory. It also gives an in-depth insight into procedural subconscious memory.
The cover of the book itself explains a lot about our subconscious mind and desire of aesthetics as derived from our senses. Overall, a remarkable addition to the field of neuropsychology from the mind of a physicist and probably the most precise modern explanation of the subconscious mind.
While reading Daniel Kahneman’s work, I came across the science of Heuristics. Heuristics or the technique of heuristic employs a practical method not necessarily optimal or perfect, but sufficient enough for immediate goals. It also leads to cognitive biases.
Herbert Simon, in the 1950s, was the first psychologist to suggest that while people strive to make rational choices, human judgment is subject to cognitive limitations. Later, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in the 1970s presented their research on the cognitive biases that influence how people think and the judgments people make. When I was reading Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, I was indeed fascinated by how this psychologist duo conducted numerous researches in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and succeeded to put forward the science of Heuristics and its impacts on our judgments and decision-making. While Tversky died in 1966, Kahneman went on to publish their research and later developed more theories on Cognitive Psychology.
How Heuristics lead to Cognitive biases, however, is easy to understand if we identify the technique of heuristics as the limitations that we are forced to rely on, as the mental shortcuts which help us make sense of the world. While Simon’s research demonstrated how humans were limited in their cognitive ability to make rational judgments and decisions, Tversky and Kahneman’s work introduced the very specific ways of thinking humans tend to rely on in order to simplify their decision-making process.
According to psychologists, we use Heuristics for a) effort reduction due to our cognitive laziness, b) attribute substitution due to substituting simpler questions with the difficult ones and c) because of heuristics being fast, immediate and frugal. We use these heuristics in our day-to-day life to keep up with the enormous amount of data we encounter because they help to speed up our decision-making process. In short, Heuristics are the mental strategies that our brain relies on to simplify things and speed up our decision-making process in order to avoid spending an endless amount of time by analyzing every detail. For example, an availability heuristic lets a person judge a situation on the basis of examples of other similar situations that comes to the mind of the person, therefore, allowing the person to hypothesize the situation in which they find themselves.
I think this connects directly to Kahneman’s work in Thinking Fast and Slow, i.e., the workings of the two systems of our cognitive mind (System 1 making these heuristical decisions because we tend to avoid putting System 2 to work). What is System 1 and System 2? Simply put, these two systems represent two distinct modes of decision making i.e., System 1 is an automatic, fast and often unconscious way of thinking, therefore, it is autonomous and efficient and hence, requires less energy or attention and is prone to cognitive biases. Meanwhile, System 2 represents an effortful, slow and a controlled way of thinking.
Heuristics are divided into three kinds i.e., a) the Availability heuristics, b) the representativeness heuristics that involves making a decision by comparing the present situation to the most representative mental prototype and, c) the Affect heuristics that involves making choices that are strongly influenced by the emotions that an individual is experiencing at that moment.
While reading about this, I quickly realized its connection to Critical Thinking and how this bias is a possible measure of Critical Thinking itself. I think heuristics, as they are associated with our thinking dispositions along with our cognitive ability, is precisely the reason why we almost necessarily require critical thinking skills in life. Not because some of us are unable to think critically in a short span of time, but because the human cognitive system is designed to rely upon system 1 by default rather than system 2. It is upon the humans to realize and overcome these biases by understanding the significance of system 2. To understand why our unconscious mind affects our System 1, I think reading Leonard Mlodinow’s work might give the necessary reason and perception.
The Kybalion was written by the three initiates which includes the seven Hermetic principles that are the magical laws that govern the universe, but these laws are almost present in all things around us and are very less exclusive to magic itself.
The fourth Hermetic principle is known as the principle of polarity wherein all manifested things showcase two major degrees. Although this should not be confused as having two different things in entirety, as this principle emphasizes the nature of a thing having two contrasting degrees. The art of mental alchemy emerges from this very principle wherein an individual can experience this transition in degrees to his/her advantage, and therefore, better their experience of reality.
For example, “thesis and anti-thesis are identical in nature, but different in degree”; “Heat and Cold are identical in nature, the differences being merely a matter of degree”; “Light and Darkness are poles of the same thing, with many degrees between them”.
Being an individual who is heavily amused by the role of emotions in human beings, I find the connection of the principle of polarity to emotions deeply fascinating. The aspect of Love and Hate with regards to emotions are usually considered direct opposites of each other and are usually the mental states to which most are slaves. What this Hermetic principle can teach us today is that if one is able to firstly, understand that these two simply mental poles of the same thing as there are two degrees and a middle point where “like” and “dislike” reach a thin line, and hence, it becomes difficult to differentiate between the two. And secondly, if one is able to master this art of mental alchemy i.e., by will able to change and move between the two mental poles- he/she can be forever free to be the masters of their own mental states, which I believe is an achievement that would be useful when climbing the ladder to Maslow’s Self-Actualisation. The Pairs of Opposites exist everywhere, as nature of everything constitutes of two contrasting degrees on both the ends of the scale. Things that are a part of two distinct classes cannot be transmuted into each other, but only things belonging to the same class may have their polarity changed. And therefore, with this, an Hetmetist can transmute from one mental state to the other upon the degrees of Polarization as North never becomes Love or Hate, or Green or Red, but it may and often turn into South and vice-versa.
Ancient understandings of alchemy relied on chemistry to walk upon the path that leads to the truth which many in history mistook as the search of the elixir of immortality or the lust for the alchemical gold. This misunderstanding arose from the self’s lust for a valuable experience of reality. Mysticism, in essence, as opposed to its religious or shamanic definition, pertains to a kind of knowledge that unifies the self with the highest power. A mystic walks on the path of a spiritual quest i.e., the hunt for the truth in order to accomplish its union with the highest power. While the wide gap between the hunt of truth and the hunt of value began to be misinterpreted, the real essence of Alchemy and Mysticism got lost and took refuge in the shade of faith and institutions.
The intriguing connection of the self with the cosmos of the universe and its intrinsic exploitation to the self’s mundane gain seems complex but might just be a simple intuitive key that the self unlocks as an understanding that exceeds its temporal view and leads the self to realize the significance of the hunt for the truth as opposed to the hunt for value.
This truth, or the philosophers’ truth, perhaps seems to me as transmutable. The truth seems to be transmutable as the self on the path leading to it fixates itself in the loop of new discoveries and annulment of old notions of knowledge. The alchemical treatises consist of several varieties of enigmatic symbolism and allegories whose meaning seems transcendental in nature and could only be grasped subjectively. The knowledge amounts to nothing unless grasped by an observer at which point it takes on a form.
As close the self gets to the core of the truth, that distant it seems. The truth has never been held on to, as there has not been a mystery, so long as our eyes have been open and our minds wandered. As this quest for truth is nothing but a mere hope that we may grasp something corporeal in this life which might affirm that there is a purpose and an order.
The Hunt for truth is a routine of the discipline where the self persistently discovers and grasps new knowledge and epiphanies, and with this wisdom, the self then transcends into intellectualvision.