The Double Void of Artificial Intelligence

My regular readers are likely to be split on me discussing Artificial Intelligence. For some, you are doubtlessly curious or at least hope to see me be entertainlgy sarcastic. For others you’re just tired of hearing about “AI,” a concern I share. Don’t worry, it’s well within my usual discussions of mysticism, psychology, and religion.

As I write this in 2024, many a person is glad to sing the praises of AI. They also want to shoehorn it into every product and technology available. This desire to raise stock prices while creating bad will and endless security problems is painful, but the claims are also grating. It’s obvious to anyone with some understanding that so-called AI is essentially complex probabilistic systems that produce what (on the surface) seems to be “real.” Well, real except for being told to eat poisonous plants or presenting pictures with inordinate numbers of fingers.

Fortunately this age of faux AI also has people asking “what is intelligence?” One of the things that pops up again and again is that “intelligence is a process.” Intelligence is not something we can hold on to or grasp (or put in a box), but is a thing that occurs, it is an action. Intelligence is not something activated and shut down, but an ongoing activity.

If you’ve ever done studies of meditation, religion, and so on, this is going to sound quite familiar. Many a Buddist practitioner knows that moment where you can’t find a solid self, just a whirling thing. Taoist Meditators may speak of the entangled complexities that create the everyday mind, and the hope to see through them to a kind of spontaneous Celestial Mind. Practitioners of energetics experience mind and body as wheels and swirls and flows of energy, without solidity..

In my own meditations and experiments, I’ve experienced moments where I realize there is no me, there are just these processes. Yes the goal of many meditations is to refine oneself or see through illusion or however you want to put it – but you do learn a lot about your mind. If you practiced any form of meditation, I’m sure you’ve had those moments where you’re there but you’re not there because the you there isn’t a solid thing at all.

You’re a constant process. Evaluating. Thinking. Feeling. Modeling. Adjusting. You’re not going to be duplicated by some language toys, though your employer might try so be careful.

Now I’m not saying that “Ancient Wisdom” explains everything or predicts AI. I am saying that thousands of years of meditators, breath practitioners, and people asking “what does this mushroom taste like” will have accumulated a lot of insights in time. When you’re there looking into the self – and intelligence – you’re going to learn things.

And one thing I’d say is screamingly obvious from all these psychonauts is we’re processes so intelligence clearly is. This also is yet another reason to disregard AI as any form of actual intelligence. It’s not a process, just a bunch of triggered code and data using some complex math.

Kindly respect that your fellow humans are processes, void of any solidity whatsoever.


Don’t Know It Until I Say It

Those of us who engage in mystical, magical, and meditative activity face a paradox of recording information. It’s useful, it lets us review things, but there’s also, well, some problems.

Sure, it helps to write things down as you might read them. Also, after awhile you end up with a pile of notes and no time to read them. There’s also a little self-pressure to review such things. It takes the fun out of “holy shit, I had an insight.”

Yeah, you may write down great wisdom. But sometimes mystical insights are of the moment, and the future readings might not help. “The mind is a bird on fire” might be a good album name, but what were you talking about? Were you high? Can you remember?

Writing down deep experiences can become its own purpose – and squeeze out your other activity. When you’re trying to record your deep experiences, you might focus on the record and not the doing. When you’re ready to write it down, you might not do the meditation or spellcasting or whatever you need to do to have something to write down.

These are what I’ve experienced. I assume, perhaps arrogantly, you’ve experienced some of them. I also assume you found who other issues of writing down mystic experiences I’ve not had – or aren’t aware of. Let’s commiserate if you want to email me.

Anyway, such negatives are almost enough to make you not want to record your insights for posterity – or whatever.. But I actually have found a very good reason to do so that has nothing to do with future review or recording the wisdom of your ages. To write down or otherwise portray your mystic experiences helps you understand and process them.

You know how it goes, you have something in your head and you can’t quite understand it. But when you write it down, sketch it out, do something to put it in an understandable form you learn. The act of communicating helps you understand what you experienced.

Sometimes you write things down or whatever to talk to yourself. You might not look back on it or reread it or whatever, but at least you get it when you record it. That’s fine, but maybe the act of writing down an experience lets you process it.

I found this doing a mix of art and trying to figure how to write down my various experiences. I noticed when I wrote down things that happened in meditation as small bits of text, like the little chapterlets of The Tao Te Ching, I got them. The target audience was me at that moment, but worked better than just taking direct notes.

So when you record your various experiences in magic or meditation, remember one reason is to figure out whats’ going on right then. Don’t ignore the moment.

Even if you find the moment is the only time you pay attention to what you wrote down.


Moving At The Speed of Self

I’ve talked about meditation in previous writings. On a simple level I do breath and simplified energy work mostly derived from Taoist sources. These are things that can be described in a sentence – or not described completely in a book. In the spirit of that paradox I’d like to share a deep slice of an insight I’ve had over the years – the role of speed and self.

More than a sentence, less than a book.

Most meditations I do involve a certain level of slowness – of breath, of feeling the bodies energies, etc. The slow even breath in my beloved Cleary translation of “The Secret of the Golden Flower” or slowing so one senses the bodies energies all involve some form of calming, focusing, and not running around in your brain. In these modern times it can almost be shocking to just slow down for a few minutes.

As you may know from your own works there’s a peculiar point in meditations where you slow down and suddenly you’re not you. In fact you might not be there at all.

All the chatter and sensations, dialogue and tensions just sort of goes away. I mean you’re there but you aren’t there. Somehow when we slow down, “we” goes away – which is quite disturbing sometimes as who’s doing all of this?

Thinking over these experiences – without trying to grasp them too hard – I’ve come to realize how much of ourselves, our identity, is a matter of speed.

Thoughts racing ahead in a relay race. Desires we grasp as soon as possible. Tensions that rage through the body as soon as triggered. There’s so much of our identity that relies on fast reactions and immediate thoughts that to slow it even a bit feels like we’re falling apart.

Perhaps that’s one reason relaxing can be hard for some people – even a moment of slacking and you’re falling apart in your head because so much of you is speed. Relaxation for a harried person might feel like an existential threat.

It’s an interesting insight. When you’re used to meditation, going to therapy, etc. it’s easy to see ourselves as complexes. We are thoughts and reactions and memory, crystalline memories on an erratic web, like rock candy on a string. It’s not hard to see yourself as bits and pieces when you do any form of self-exploration.

But the speed? I think that’s harder to see. You can see all the bits and bobs of your identity, but the connections and the rapidity of them? That’s a different thing to observe – moreso when it goes away in a slow breath or graceful meditative movement.

If you’re one thing because of speed – who are you in slowness?