The Two Orders of Validation

By George A. Boyd © 2020

Q: It seems both reason and intuition have the capacity to generate error. Can you shed some light on this?

A: Let us tease apart the verification processes of reason and intuition:

Reason arrives at tentative, consensual truth through a process of analysis and critique, and testing.

  • It starts with facts, data, or evidence.
  • It generates a hypothesis to explain the fact.
  • It tests the hypothesis to determine whether it is true or not.

It observes, measures, weighs, detects, tests, and sets criteria for the statistical probability that the hypothesis is likely true.

  • This estimate of the likelihood that something is true can range from five out of 100 in social science to one in 100 billion in physics.

Empirical verification is a step-by-step algorithmic process, which is subject to peer review, analysis, and critique.

Intuition reveals truths that dwell in the sphere of the Soul’s consciousness.

  • It uses the faculty of discernment (Vijnana) to locate the object in the inner mandala of the Soul’s consciousness and recognizes it and labels it.
  • It employs the faculty of contemplation (Dhyana) to gather information about the object of meditation through observation, reflection, comparison, and identifying analogies or correspondences.
  • It is founded upon the Soul’s consciousness, which is the anchor of spiritual law and the foundation of inner Truth (Dharma).

Finding the ground of intuitive truth enables you to identify the stable markers of Subplanes, Planes, and Divisions of the Continuum, and to locate your spiritual essence in inner space.

Intuitive discovery or revelation is a heuristic process, which explores meaning, realizes possibilities, makes associations with other ideas, finds correspondences, and examines the changes that transformation produces.

When this rational and intuitive process goes awry, it gives rise to two forms of distortion:

Conspiracy theories – In this distortion of your rational process, you make assertions without validated facts, you create a hypothesis to explain your assertion, and you believe this hypothesis is the truth without subjecting it to tests. This arises from a failure to conduct empirical verification.

Delusion – In this distortion of intuitive discovery, you assume something is true in error. You use discernment to incorrectly confirm your erroneous belief. You only admit information that supports your belief, and you deny, ignore, or attack information that is contrary to your belief.

Disciples need to correct both types of distortion, and identify what is true behind conspiracy theory and delusion.

You can ask questions like these to examine these patterns:

Is this an intuitive or empirical truth?

How do I know this is true? How can I verify this?

What are the consequences of holding this belief?

  • How does it affect my behavior?
  • How does it shape my emotional reactions and attitudes?
  • How does it color my perception and worldview?
  • How does it alter my beliefs?
  • How does it influence my values?
  • How does it sway my choices?

When I make these choices, how does it impact my life, my relationships, and my career?

The Gentle Art of Spin

Q: What is the process through which truth is perverted so it gives rise to conspiracy theories and delusion?

A: This is both an active process and a passive process:

In the active process, you choose to lie and deceive others. Criminals, con-men, and dictators utilize the active process to control others and make them do what they want.

In the passive process, you start with a logical error and then you begin to justify and defend it. The passive process is generated when you receive incorrect information and you believe it is true. This can result from exposure to those who are telling you lies and you believe them; it can also stem from having incomplete information and making faulty conclusions based on this limited data.

These active and passive “truth cycles” are described below:

The Active Process

In the active process, truth is progressively eclipsed. The dichotomy is between choosing to tell the whole truth as opposed to the choice to lie.

  • The downward cycle for the active process moves from omission to misstating the facts to active distortion to feeling initial anxiety and guilt to rationalization to outright denial.
  • The upward cycle for the active process moves from breaking denial, stopping rationalization, to finding the source of anxiety and guilt to correcting distortion to stating the correct facts to revealing what was omitted.

The Passive Process

In the passive process, rationality is perverted into delusion through warping of information.

  • The downward cycle for the passive process moves from making a logical error to covering up this error to accepting false information to making judgments based on this false information to precipitating a change in mindset to a descent into paranoid thinking.
  • The upward “recovery” cycle for the passive process includes taking responsibility for what you can control to examining your mindsets and rejecting erroneous beliefs and perceptions to rejecting incorrect judgments and founding subsequent judgments on correct information to identifying and rejecting false information and finding correct information to admitting your errors to identifying the source of logical error and correcting it.

To deconstruct a rational or empirical belief, reflect upon:

  • What is the evidence for this contention?
  • What is your belief about the evidence (hypothesis)?
  • How do you prove this is true?

If there is no evidence, it does not exist in the physical universe.

To deconstruct an intuitive belief, reflect on:

  • In what nodal point is this truth anchored?
  • What is your criterion for assuming this is true? [Is this a mathematical proof? Is this a sensory proof? Is this an emotional or experiential proof based on faith or conviction? Is this a proof based on authority or scripture? Is this a revealed (revelatory) truth? Is this a proof based on analogy or correspondence like Gematria, numerology, astrology, or tarot? Is this a proof based on symbolic or linguistic analysis?]
  • How can you verify that truth is reliable?

Truth has many facets. What is true depends upon the means through which you derive it or arrive at it.

Notice how this process of spin can move both ways: you can descend into error; you can correct yourself. You may wish to apply this process of truth recovery to deconstruct your false beliefs.

The Gentle Craft of Delusion and its Dénouement

By George A. Boyd © 1996

Sweet Siren Song

Oh, I have listened to sweet Siren song
Lulled into inebriation by their melody;
I have forgotten myself too long in some fond reverie
In which the substance of my dreams seems so real.

Sober reason’s insistence, now a distant voice
Can no longer deter me from my ruminations.
My revelations have now become conviction
And my faith possesses me in a waking trance.

Alas, a madman now is at the tiller of this barque
The sails unfurled, lashed helplessly by the merciless winds,
Eddies o’er, into the maelstrom she passes;
Lost the ship, my life and sanity, on the hidden reef below.

There are few people who are so highly rational that they do not entertain some personal superstitions or areas of denial. The ability to test reality is not a seamless web; it may in certain situations be more or less effective. Most of us have temporarily hallucinated when extremely tired or when we have had a high fever, or we might have been fooled by a magician’s slight-of-hand illusions.

Where this process of fooling your self becomes problematical is where your denial increases about certain aspects of your behavior, so that your no longer are aware of its consequences or its impact on your self and others.

Worse, you may begin to attribute your own motivations to others, a psychological defense called projection. When this continues, you begin to lose the ability to take responsibility for your actions. Instead, it seems you are victimized by a hostile and uncaring world. You may come to rationalize your lack of self-care, and even migrate into self-destructive behavior such as addictions.

If you do not obtain realistic feedback at this point, you may drift further into troubled waters. You may begin to weave a fantastic web of delusion, from which you find it increasingly difficult to extricate your self.

Indicators of deepening delusion are the initiation of what I call the active jamming process, mediated through “affirmation, psychological process, and visualization.” The net result of continued self-programming is the creation of a trance state in which you walk about in a state of hypnosis, believing the fabrications of your own wishful thinking.

We note there is legitimate use of these techniques to work on psychological issues and to facilitate integration. When these are misused, however, they are employed to keep you identified with an altered state of consciousness, so you never come back to the grounded state.

When reality does not rudely awaken you at this step, the delusional syndrome makes further inroads into your personality. This is a shift from actively trying to convince your self by active jamming into a state of conviction that what you experience in your fantasy life is real. Now delusion becomes incorporated into your character.

If this process is not interrupted, at some point this delusional system may fall apart, and a person becomes actively psychotic. The dénouement of following the Siren Song of delusion is insanity. We see then, a progression of delusion from innocuous symptoms to a life-consuming obsession that finally destroys the person. This progression is summarized below:

Step One – Symptoms of a deeper problem

  1. Hallucination – temporary breakdown of the filtering system of the central nervous system at the level of the midbrain, allowing stimuli normally shut out to reach consciousness. Can be temporarily stimulated by lack of sleep, sensory deprivation, fasting, too much stress, or psychoactive drug use.
  2. Misperception or illusion – faulty interpretation of sensory stimuli by incorrect completion of the perceptual gestalt, or incorrect interpretation of the sensory cues presented.
  3. Denial – the tenacious adherence to a false belief or interpretation of a situation despite significant evidence to the contrary

Step Two – The active jamming system

  1. Affirmation – the active attempts to reprogram beliefs to fit a desired outcome or state of affairs, by changing the cognitive component of belief.
  2. Process – the active attempts to defuse the emotional component of belief by returning in memory to the origin of a particular issue and releasing its affective energy.
  3. Visualization – the creation of an imaginary image of the desired outcome, in reverie, hypnosis, active imagination, or meditation.

Step Three – Delusions become incorporated into character

  1. Conviction or faith – the adherence to a belief based upon an inner assurance that it is true, based upon the testimonials of the experience of others, miraculous or un-explained personal experience or interpretation of religious doctrine based on a book or books held to be sacred or scriptural revelation.
  2. Revelation or inspiration – intuitive information received as visions, voices, or feelings believed to come from extra-terrestrials, inner guides, spirits, angels, gods or other agencies of the Divine that is believed to be unquestionably true.
  3. Archetypal identification or Gnostic conviction – at this deepest level, you become identified with the inner forms of spiritual noumena, and may come to believe that you are a messenger or child of God, or even the embodiment of the Divine.

Step Four – Unraveling

  1. Panic – great energy must be invested to keep this delusional system alive, by active jamming methods and by remaining in trance states, which confirm the delusions, which has been incorporated into character. At some point this delusional system begins to break down and the reaction is panic, overwhelming anxiety, and great desperation.
  2. Disorganization and disintegration – the systematized delusion system can no longer be maintained. The entire cognitive and affective systems are thrown into disorder, disrupting normal patterns of behavior. This is the decompensation phase, which marks the beginning of psychotic illness. At this stage, hallucination may become nearly continuous.
  3. Reorganization or further deterioration – with assistance from others through psychotherapy, the reality testing mechanism may be reconstructed, returning the individual to more normalized functioning, rational and coherent belief and consonant affect. If successful intervention is not made, the individual may deteriorate further.

It concerns me that many of the New Thought, New Age and conventional religious practices incorporate elements of the active jamming phase and characterological phase of the delusional cycle.

The question that suggests itself: is reality so painful that we must hypnotize and numb ourselves to cope with it? The more frightening question is, does entertaining deeper levels of delusion run the risk of turning our mass movements into mass insanity? Let us hope we do not make it so.

The critical thing you must determine is, are you changing self-limiting belief and unproductive behavior through these attempts at self-help, or are you trying to desperately convince your self of something that isn’t and cannot be true:

  • The first will turn you into a more effective human being.
  • The second will sink you deeper into the quick sands of delusion.

It is important that you take stock of these efforts at self-remediation, and ask your self the very difficult questions that are required by rigorous honesty. If you do not ask these questions, the Sirens will be soon at your door.