Re: Gematria, Cryptology, and Extropic Mysticism

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Tue Nov 14 2000 - 23:49:28 MST

I think the problem here is that people mix up mysticism,
spirituality, magick and the supernatural.

Mysticism is the epistemological position that some truths can or must
be grasped by direct insight, not empirical thought. Spirituality is
about meaning, the core values that we have. It doesn't have to
involve any spirits. Magick, as defined by Crowley, is merely the art
and science of causing change according to will - i.e. it encompasses
both technology, ordinary skills and magic. Supernatural denotes
stuff that behaves according to rules outside not just current
understanding of the universe but apparently against it.

(These are quick-and-dirty definitions with no warranty, if people
want to go on debating using them they better look up better versions
of them)

Now, how do these fit together with transhumanism and extropianism?

Mysticism claims that mystic insight delivers important truths. It has
a bad track record of delivering useful practical information like
physical laws or natural constants (it should not be mixed up with
creativity, where a random insight is then tested against reality and
possibly adapted, such as the Kekule benzene structure idea). A lot of
"mystical science" is just analogical thinking, a happy chant of "look
how elegant and neat it all fits together!" that doesn't lead
anywhere. What mysticism seems good at is delivering a sense of
meaning and emotional significance to stuff (be it the universe or a
single leaf).

Transhumanism is out to improve the human condition using efficient
means. This implies that mysticism does not provide much help in
building the devices or techniques we need or want. Where it may be
helpful is on the emotional level, in getting a feel for how wonderful
the universe is or how we ourselves fit in with it. Extropian-wise,
Practical Optimism and Rational Thinking implies that we should not
place blind faith in any revelation, but rather test it against
reality. Maybe it turns out that mysticism can be physically useful,
but it better prove itself.

Transhumanism and extropianism are often spiritual in the sense I
defined it above. Our drive towards progress, self-transformation,
optimism, self-direction etc. have a spiritual component - they are
meaningful and important to us. Here spirituality in a transhumanist
context would be the cherishing and development of these values, our
increased understanding of what we want and believe and how this fits
in with the rest.

Magick in the Crowley sense is trivially transhumanist - we want to
cause change, and we want to use the best available means to do so. In
the stronger sense of involving something supernatural, then we get a
collision with the rational views embodied in the extropian principles
and transhumanist declarations. Being rational we seek to minimize the
discrepancies between our reality models and observed reality, and
this means that in the long run all supernatural stuff will either
become natural (we figure out how it fits with a better reality model
- either as an unusual effect of the earlier models or by being
included as an irreducible part of the new model) or vanish (it did
not exist in the first place or was just misinterpreted). Clarke's
law, you know.

In the short run time, money, attention and intelligence are of course
limited and we should spend them in an efficient manner - not every
claim warrants great expenditures to be understood (here the benefits
of a distributed and individual approach seems to work well, let
people spend their own resources on whatever research they think will
be profitable).

To sum up, transhumanism has spiritual values, but these are not based
on any supernatural assumptions. Mysticism may reinforce or refine
them, but it is not regarded as the sole way to truth. Transhumanism
seeks efficient means of causing change fitting these values, and does
this from a practical empirical approach. Merely assuming that
something works is not transhumanist, but testing that something works
and then investing in it depending on how reliable the effect appears
to be, is.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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