Feb 2, 2021Liked by Erik Torenberg

I appreciated the perspective here, framing our ills with a lens toward modern Western society. I was surprised that for all of the talk of going inside & internal aims, not once did Eastern philosophy appear. The sub-traditions of Vedānta (incl. non-dualism), of the Buddhism-derived epistemologies, of Taoist concepts from Nei-Yeh.

There's a lot of focus on internal alignment and internal work from the East, and I'd posit that because of our globalizing civilization, we're seeing the swirl of perspectives and disciplines (e.g. capitalist yogis) who attempt to blend these together in ways that are not yet cohesive nor integrated. There are few modern moral leaders. My take is that since the 50's or so we are seeing the erosion of traditional religion, combined with a swirling shifting moral sea that we're still learning to float in.

Expand full comment

Noi-Yip is itself a good thing to pursue, and would absolutely agree that having a moral compass is inherently good.

I am predicting that the connotations of "western Buddhism" being corrupt, is caused by either (a) inherent self-deception, or (b) intended use for "psychopaths".

For (a) it is pretty easy to understand: standardize outward expression for social stability, contain all problems into inner space, if one is suicidal blame the victim for being weak moral cowards... the self-help, mainstream therapeutic, and masculinity spaces also suffers from this exact problem of the denial of collective suffering. "Just Be X" (e.g. "just be happy", "just be well-kept") are often platitudes hiding the problem of toxic positivity or "compulsion for happiness" noted within Byung-Chul Han's work. There is a lost distinction between resistance of treatment (obvious internal error) and ineffectiveness of dubious treatment (qualitatively defined external error). There is no "conscientious objection" to escape from.

For (b) it is more odd that the "psychopaths" are ones who pathologically believes in monism and not necessarily non-dualism (or alternatively there is no inside-outside distinction, only "oneness"), and that they do need in a sense of pure coherence to move forward else they cause uninhibited mayhem by misrecognized relative nihilism as pluralism. As a side observation, this line of thinking fits the "midwit" stereotype very well. They pathologically cannot distinguish inside and outside, since they either: have no outside (autism/bipolar), of which reality is inherently illegible and thus cannot be act upon intuitively and only can navigate the world through graphical symbols and stories in literal interpretations (thus comics and anime); or inside (narcissism/psychopathy) and thus do not have moral conscience, only the will for power and survival through the camouflage of ethical life through the semantics of law (thus dry corporate guidelines on "woke" morality).

It is safe to say that most common men don't even believe in Buddhism and is in favor of either pagan polytheism or classical monotheism, as philosophizing (and by extension therapy) is considered a waste of time for them. They would consider such activity as leisure for the middle class, rather than something that can be considered essential.

Question 1: is it necessary for the working class to also adopt this trend of therapy and Buddhist thinking? If so, how can one reduce resistance against such thought as "demonic" ala Christian Fundamentalism?

Question 2: How can a therapeutic culture be less corporate in the toxic positivity sense? How can collective suffering be reasonably expressed beyond provocation of populist rage, but at the same time not be misconstruted as individual absence of virtue?

On Byung-Chul Han's capitalist compulsion for happiness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLZOdvK80ic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rwQFIbJGG0

Zizek on westernized Buddhism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlCkLqz20W8

On clarification of Monism vs Nondualism https://archive.ph/fZ4yI https://archive.ph/pn1EX https://archive.ph/BTXNh

On psychopathic misrecognition (conversation in other places, sorry) https://eggreport.substack.com/p/why-people-hate-children/comment/10734768 https://eggreport.substack.com/p/the-spiderman-question/comment/11113532 https://eggreport.substack.com/p/the-spiderman-question/comment/11139021

Expand full comment

I think your point about therapists taking on the role of priests in society is spot on. As far as the Thurman quote goes: it could be that only once people have come alive as a result of following their inner purpose/direction are they capable of seeing the world from the vantage point that has it calling on them to serve others. Aliveness might be a form a receptiveness to the outside world.

Expand full comment

Great article, Erik! I believe everything is about balance.

Expand full comment

Great once again - thanks. Are you known with Nondualism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nondualism ?

Expand full comment