Something Deeperism has changed no one’s life for the better. We therefore judge it useless.
We shall examine the one or two extant practicing Something Deeperist(s) to better understand how the philosophy in practice fails its practitioner.
First, a reminder of the philosophy of Something Deeperism:
Something Deeperism for Individuals
Something Deeperism for individuals purports to be based on a combination of psychological realism and metaphysical plausibility: the human psyche is like so; and this necessitates such and such intellectual, emotional, moral, and spiritual maneuver; but that’s OK because it is plausible that that maneuver is intellectually, emotionally, morally and spiritually doable; and if it is indeed thus doable, the practitioner will gain more and more insight into that and in what way it is indeed doable as the practitioner advances in their practice.
Something Deeperism for groups is similar, except it focuses more on the fact that no one’s thought makes sense to oneself except to the degree they are successful Something Deeperists; which implies that all our group enterprises (including governing) cannot under any circumstances be allowed to violate the principles of Something Deeperism (because to the extent that they do violate these principles, they are no longer meaningful to anyone within the group).
Something Deeperism for individuals assumes:
(1) Human beings cannot understand, care about, or believe in their own feeling/thinking/acting except to the degree that they feel/think/act aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, open-hearted/-minded, loving, kind, win-win/best-for-everyone, and joyfully free of selfish concerns. We cannot coherently think/feel/act except insofar as we follow these inborn-rules of our own thinking/feeling/acting.
(2) But to feel/think/act in this way implies insight into what is really going on, what really matters, and how to best fit oneself into what is really going on and what really matters. And also that what is really going on is Truly Good, ie: that insight into “what is really going on” ratifies and explicates our inner sense towards those ways of thinking/feeling/acting without which we cannot understand, care about, or believe in our own thinking/feeling/acting.
If there is no such thing as “what is truly going on” or if we can have no meaningful insight into this Reality, then we have no hope for being very meaningful to ourselves: we cannot help but assume and seek to live in accord with “what is truly going on”. Obviously, people often espouse philosophies that claim otherwise, but they are kidding themselves, hiding in dogmatic and/or aesthetic notions that, for whatever reasons, make them FEEL like they have some kind of meaningful hold on TRUE and GOOD.0
If kindness is not superior to cruelty to a person with insight into “what is truly going on”, then a person with insight into “what is truly going on” would have no way to meaningfully interact with this Reality. Wisdom would lead not to more coherence, but to a fundamental and irrevocable incoherence of feeling/thought/action.
(3) Our only hope is therefore, that Reality exists, that it is something along the lines of a True Good, and that we can have meaningful insight into Reality.
(3a) People say, “what does True Good even mean?” This is just dust in the eyes tactics. What concept does anyone truly understand? Words point towards notions, and never perfectly. Words like “God” and “Buddha Nature” and “Pure Love” and “True Good” point towards shared vistas just as well as words like “door” and “pigeon”. You can argue that “True Good” is just notions like “accurate” and “worthwhile” turned up and up and ever up by some crazed inner longing for perfection. OK, that’s a theory; but the point remains we have the gist of the direction where spiritual notions point. That does not prove they are actually pointing to something infinite, eternal, or important. We’ve not reached that far in our argument. And, in a sense, we never do.
(4) It is not particularly implausible that the mystics are right, and that lying beneath and animating this life is something like Pure Love. An energy of infinitely expanding all-embracing and -uplifting joy. Why not? Once you get down to what’s really going on in the universe, one factual account is as likely as any other. Science can explain to us what math plus empirical observation equal, and that is the extent and culmination of certain aspects of our thought. In a sense, science is true. But it is no more absolutely true than anything else because it can no more prove what it assumes (that our logic and empirical observations have a meaningful relationship to Reality, or that Reality does or doesn’t exist, or what Reality even is) than any other set of axioms and the conclusions drawn therefrom.
(5) Why not follow a spiritual path? Why not purposely seek a Love that is real and wise and that guide one’s feeling/thinking/acting towards more and more insight into what is really going on, what really matters, and how to best fit oneself into what is going on so as to bring about what is best for all? Why not seek wisdom and thereby give yourself a chance at feeling/thinking/acting more and more aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, open-hearted/-minded, kind, win-win/best-for-all, and joyfully selfless?
(6) But how? Human feeling/thinking/acting cannot make much sense of literal accounts of Reality.
(6a) We can understand literal accounts of things like science, math, and other clearly defined rules and facts. But a science cannot be clearly defined if it tries to prove or even explain it’s own assumptions. It is precisely because the natural sciences ignore all questions about whether or not their facts actually exist or matter that they’re able to be so literally clear and precise.
(6b) Some religions claim literal knowledge of things like whether or not God exists, and what God is like, and sometimes even what God has done on earth. But even if such knowledge existed, human minds could make no literal sense of it. In the end, even supposing some set of dogmas is literally True, people could not understand them in a literal scientific way for reasons outlined in 6a, and so how could they understand them? They could only understand these literal Truths to the degree they had whole-being insight, ie: an insight that relied not just on literal thought, but on emotional clarity and spiritual insight as well. That is to say, even supposing some religion or religions possess dogmas that are literally True, that Truth is only accessible to people to the degree they are wise, ie: to the degree they are able to transcend the merely literal accounts and enter into a whole-being relationship with the deeper essence of the dogmas. But, really, no religion can possess the literal Truth anyway, since the Truth, if it is to be that great and useful object that we wish It to be, cannot fit into mere ideas, let alone mere dogmas.
(6c) That is not to say that religions have no relationship to the Truth, merely that the relationship any human or human communication or human enterprise has to the Truth is poetic. With a “poetic relationship” we mean that one relates to something meaningfully, and perhaps even with one’s whole being (ideas, feelings, soullight, etc as the case may be), but not in a literal, 1:1, definitive way that lends itself to clear, symbol-based communication like with math.
(6c1) Note that math also becomes poetry to the degree it’s thinker dreams about the math’s relationship to Reality. It is here that math is experienced as art or something more. What it is, we do not hazard a guess; as we’ve not yet hazarded a guess about what the poetry within religious thought is.
(6d) So we’ll have not literal insight into the True Good. But as we noted in 1-3, we require some kind of an insight into the True Good to understand, believe in, and care about our own thinking/acting/feeling. So we can’t give up.
(6e) What about the poetic relationship that religions have with the True Good? What about a path of prayer, meditation, and meeting with others who share a common poetic language for talking about how to act in this world in such a way as to live in accordance with what is really going on and what truly matters? Why not? Why not try for wisdom in this way? Or, if that’s not your style, why not go off alone and pray and meditate and see to do no harm but to be only gentle and kind while praying always for more and more insight into what loving kindness really is? If Reality is True and Good and we can organize our feeling/thinking/acting better and better around Reality, then Reality can help us to think and feel and act more aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, etc. And through this ever-improving organization around Reality, we would gain more and more insight into that and in what way Reality was Real, and It was True and Good — we would gain more and more insight into the sense in which it is True to say “We are all this together”. And that would be helpful. We would grow in internal coherence — we would become more and more meaningful to ourselves. There can be no literal proof of Something Deeperism, but with arguments like 1-6e, we can demonstrate that Something Deeperism is worth a try, and that, if it works, it will give one a kind of internal proof: one’s entire conscious space will, by organizing itself better and better around the Truth shining in and through all things, will gain more and more whole-being insight into that and in what way it is True to say “There is a Truth, shining in and through all things — words cannot point to it literally, but they can be part of poetic individual orientations within It and poetic communication of Its Nature.”
(7) But how to know we’re not fooling ourselves? Afterall, isn’t that what people do? Whether their line be “God is Good!” or “There’s no Truth!”, don’t they always do the sam shit? Don’t they always just find ways to feel good and strong and worthy while also sliding trinkets into their pockets and getting accolades from their friends for their generous gifts while they let the rest of the world go down the tubes. Isn’t that what people do, regardless of their stated worldview?
It is at this point that our practitioner’s individual Something Deeperism breaks down.
We observe him wandering around, asking God about some girl, or how he can stop being broke, or what to do about the Republican attack on US American democracy, or what diet will make him the best long-term husband for that girl, or how to stop “the Evil” and what is “the Evil” really? and on and on.
Of course, he receives no reply, but only notions that he then either accepts or argues with.
This is, then, his “wisdom practice”.
He throws in some meditative breathing.
And so on.
But what is a reliable wisdom practice?
How is this really supposed to work?
Who has this working?
We can put forth guidelines, like: we need enough dogmatism to keep orientating ourselves better and better around the True Good; but not so much dogmatism that we confuse our ideas and feelings about the True Good for the True Good Itself. But how does one put such precepts into practice? I guess the best approach is a humble spiritual path: neither fussing too much about eschewing all dogmas nor about getting dogma exactly right, but instead finding a religion where one feels comfortable and then working alone and with others to grow more and more insight into that and in what way we are all in this together, and what that interconnectedness around the One Light should mean for one’s own life.
The world is full of more or less successful Something Deeperists. Indeed, we all know at some level that it goes too far to say we Know what’s going on, but it also goes too far to say we Don’t Know what’s going on. We all know at some level that our ideas about what’s going on are not the same as what’s going on, but that, in time, by following our inborn impulses towards awareness, honesty, clarity, accuracy, competency, kindness, compassion, win-win and shared joy, we can grow in wisdom — in the whole-being sense about what is really going on, what really matters, and how we should really behave. We all have some sense of the way that our feeling/thinking/acting relates poetically, but not therefore inadequately towards love.
So maybe Bartleby Willard can’t move from essay into a living assay. And maybe Amble Whistletown can’t take spirituality seriously enough to stop bickering with daydreamed gods. But still their ideas about Something Deeperism are basically correct. That many people with no interest in the philosophy of Something Deeperism are better Something Deeperists than they are proves nothing. The philosophy of Something Deeperism is just to help motivate and organize the work of Something Deeperism, but the work itself is the same as its always been: believe in the Light within, but not blindly: keep pushing for more and more whole-being insight into the Light within that tells us we are all in this together.
Collective Something Deeperism & Liberal Democracy
Let us turn now to Something Deeperism in groups. Do we have any living models of Something Deeperism in groups? On the one hand, if we have only one or two living Something Deeperist, we by definition can have no example of Something Deeperism in groups. On the other hand, many of the core principles within liberal democracies are core principles of Something Deeperism. And this is where things begin to get painful and scary. Because we may soon lose democracy in the United States, and this will be a cruel blow to Something Deeperism qua group philosophy, and to humanity as a whole. Let’s not mince words!
First: What do we mean by “we could lose democracy”?
We mean that our shared ability to improve our shared democracy could deteriorate to the point that we can no longer improve democracy, and we will fall deeper and deeper into tyranny — where rulers keep power primarily through fear and violence, rather than primarily by trying to govern openly and competently in ways that win them the support of the public at the ballot box. We mean we could end up in regime where the we are not free to speak our minds at the ballot box (because our will there is completely ignored) or in the public sphere (because of fear for the welfare and safety of ourselves and those we love).
Second: What is the proper place of Something Deeperism in public life, and how does it relate to liberal democracy?
Separation of Church and State. The freedom to speak one’s mind without fear of retribution from one’s government. The right to assemble and discuss one’s ideas with others. The right to a fair trial, unprejudiced by political considerations.
What do these kinds of rights grant one?
They grant one the space to think for oneself and share one’s ideas without fearing retaliation from one’s government, or from one’s fellows.
A government led by elected representatives of the people who must repeatedly stand for free and fair elections if they are to maintain power, with a professional rather than political bureaucracy. A transparent and open government, with the votes and other political actions of the elected officials (except in the rare case of information that could threaten national security) part of the public record. Laws against corruption: against the use of political power to enrich oneself, ones families, ones friends and one allies; against the political tests for bureaucratic functions such as enforcing legislated regulations; against selling political favors; against interfering in election results or in the election process. Division of powers and checks and balances arranged to keep any one person, branch, or group from seizing undue influence over the government — including but not limited to, using their existing political power to maintain their political power.
What do these kinds of rules grant the citizenry of a nation?
They — along with rights protecting free speech, freedom of knowledge, and open discourse — grant the people the ability to meaningfully share the government. The most fundamental duty of the citizenry of a representative democracy is to serve as a final check on madness and corruption in government. So long as they remain diligent and successful here, they can maintain a meaningful relationship to their shared government, and are free to help shape the political landscape and conversations that decide the matters of the day.
What is Something Deeperism?
It is the decision to plainly state and methodologically draw conclusions from that which we all know to be fundamentally true of our own feeling/thinking/acting: we cannot make sense to ourselves except to the extent we are guided by reliable insight into the Truth, but we cannot understand the Truth in a literal way, and so we must seek to better and better organize all our feeling/thinking/acting around the Truth that we sense shining in and through all things.
Long Aside Clarifying Something Deeperism (in general, not particularly in groups — you don’t have to read this part, though it belongs to the nature of your authors that they must write it
This final maneuver is perhaps a bit too mystic for some, they would rather express their inborn Something Deeperism with something like “a Truth that we would hope is already within us and meaningfully related to our ideas and feelings, for if it isn’t, then we will never be able to relate meaningfully to It”. This is indeed probably the better formulation to begin with.
And a better formulation for a mature Something Deeperism would probably be something like what we just gave the neophyte to say, plus something like ” — a Truth that, meditation, prayer, community, and selfless self-giving; all centered around the never-ending quest to better and better follow our inborn sense of towards choosing truer accounts and preferable feelings, thoughts, and actions; all of which has to be and is in fact nourished, explicated, and guided by an inner Light that relates meaningful albeit not literally (and what good would that do us, anyway?, since literal thought is a tool for organizing concrete-seeming objects — not anything a whole human mind can inhabit and understand!) to the other contents of a human’s conscious space.”
But that’s all rather wordy. So, for shorthand we say that Something Deeperism is the recognition that for human thought to be meaningful to itself, one must have insight into the True Good, but that insight cannot (due to the nature of both human thought and any possible Truth) be literal, but must instead by an internally-meaningful organization of one’s conscious space around an indwelling Truth — an organization that would then allow one’s ideas to relate meaningfully enough to the True Good for one to speak poetically yet still meaningfully about the True Good.
But that’s still wordy. And it leaves out any poetry about the True Good that might make our sense of It clearer. So, let’s just say that Something Deeperism is the recognition that we humans know that we should think, feel, and act clearly and honestly, loving one another and the Light within and through us all, and in this way finding and doing what is best for everyone, and living in shared joy — the recognition that we know this sense of things more fundamentally than we know any certainty that would explain it or any doubt that would dispute it.
Returning to how Something Deeperism relates to liberal democracy
Something Deeperism is the recognition that we humans know that we should think, feel, and act clearly and honestly, loving one another and the Light within and through us all, and in this way finding and doing what is best for everyone, and living in shared joy: It is the recognition that we know this sense of things more fundamentally than we know any certainty that would explain it or any doubt that would dispute it.
Something Deeperism in groups is not obsessed with getting every member of the group to agree with the ideas of Something Deeperism. Indeed, what could be more antithetical to Something Deeperism? All that Something Deeperism asks of groups is that they all together agree on what they already agree on: No worldview is meaningful to a human if that worldview contradicts those values without which no human is meaningful to himsherself. Therefore, let us agree to create and maintain rules and standards that encourage and support clarity, honesty, accuracy, competence, compassion/loving-kindness, win-win, and shared responsibility and joy. We’re not random motions, nor adding machines, nor robots, nor even blind animal impulses chained to sophisticated internal and external sensations and machines for generating logical-/causal-chains. We are human beings. And we cannot understand, believe in, or care about the contents of our own feeling/thinking/acting except to the degree we abide by our own internal laws for thinking/feeling/acting: We must think/feel/act in full awareness of our internal and external surroundings — which for humans means we must work to always become more clear, honest, accurate, competent and effective, but also more compassionate, gentle, loving, and effective at making everyone’s world better and life brighter.
That is the path by which a human can become more and more meaningful to oneself. And to the degree we stray from that path, we become less and less meaningful to ourselves. So we defeat our collective and individual selves to the degree we do not agree upon and maintain the supremacy of these fundamental values within our governments and communities. It is not virtuous to destroy those structures that make it easier and more rewarding for you and others to live virtuously. That kind of behavior is idiotic to the degree you don’t know what you are destroying and evil to the degree you do know what you are destroying. What virtue is more fundamental that protecting the structures that foster and encourage virtuous feeling/thinking/acting? And so we betray our individual and collective selves to the degree that we harm those organizations that fight madness and corruption in government.
Madness in government is losing the inability to coherently choose one thing over another. Corruption in government is rewarding non-virtuous behavior and punishing virtuous behavior. The two are interrelated, linked by chaos: the more insane a government, the more chaotic, and the more randomly corrupt; but when a government is purposefully corrupt it also becomes more chaotic and insane. Government corruption is evil in the same way that training oneself to get by by lying, cheating, and harming other people is evil.
Humans are individuals, but they are also all interrelated. And their individual selves flow into their exterior surroundings, so that strands of feeling/thinking/acting flow between them, turning aspects of their individual consciousnesses into the fibers of collective notions and behaviors.
To fight corruption in the individual, an individual must also work to fight it in the collective.
That last sentence is likely to receive approbation from people who would sacrifice free speech and democratic government for laws that outlaw certain types of behavior that they find unpalatable, demand univseral fealty to certain religious or political doctrines, or otherwise hurt everyone’s ability to find their own way to the Truth. To these people, we can only say: You misunderstand us. We’re talking about fighting for a free and open government that respects free thought and speech and does not interfere with an individuals spiritual development (what, after all, is the use of forcing people to pretend [to themselves and/or others] that they believe x, y or z?).
Corruption is most fundamentally the encouragement of a climate where the fundamental virtues are made more difficult, dangerous, and thus rare. It is this squelching of the human spirit that we are suggesting we all band against.
It is evil to seek to weaken democratic laws and norms. Those laws and norms are there so that we can maintain enough control over our government to at least serve as a final check on madness and corruption in government.
By following the dictator’s book of denying a fair election outcome and seeking to make laws that make it more difficult for their opponents to vote and/or easier for local officials to overturn the people’s votes, the US Republican party is pursuing a course that is idiotic to the degree it’s individual and collective actors (collectives are many and overlapping organizations of people) don’t know what they are doing, and evil to the degree that it’s individual and collective actors do know what they are doing.
What do we do? I’m asking you, USA: What do we do?
It doesn’t help much to tell people they are to some degree foolish and the remaining percent evil. But it also doesn’t help to pretend that behavior that threatens to destroy our ability to share government and to together prevent it from oppressing and it’s citizens and lashing out at the rest of the world is just another partisan difference. It is very dangerous to play around with tyranny when your nation has the largest economy and nuclear arsenal in the world — especially when the world faces the potentially destabilizing consequences of climate change and other environmental disasters. To the degree tyranny rules, the nation is governed incompetently. Tyranny is not fundamentally interested in governing well for everyone, but doing whatever it takes to maintain power in the few that for whatever stupid — generally dishonest and cruel — reasons at a given moment have power.
The Republicans chanting “stop the steal!” while supporting, or at least not speaking out against their local representatives’ efforts to reduce or in some cases even overturn opposing votes in the future elections — the Republicans supporting all this anti-democratic behavior not foolish, nor evil, but merely misinformed? But is there not some responsibility for checking one’s sources of information? Is that not part of competent thought? And isn’t incompetent political thought usually to some degree willfully sought: do we humans not seek out internal confusions so as to better cheer along what gives and keeps us in splendor, or at least in good with the side we need to be on in order to feel like we belong?
Ah, but how hard it is to free oneself from one’s fellows! Who among us can stand very far apart from the ideas and sentiments of our closest associates? Or at least from the tribe we’ve adopted — even if we mostly only engage in the tribe passively, by nodding along while someone on TV explains to us the details of how we’ve figured everything out?
And who can navigate the information age? Is it not in many ways a terrible explosion of lonely cacophonies?
And yet, in the end, democracy will fall if Republicans don’t decide to stick up for it even at the cost of a moment of political power. They need to take responsibility for this moment. For the sake of the rest of us, but also for their own sakes. Because a corrupt government is one that discourages truth and goodness and encourages dishonesty, thuggery, cruelty, and the like.
And then, I don’t think I need remind you, and yet I guess I’ll mention this truism: A tyranny may outlaw abortion today and prescribe it tomorrow.
I am at a loss.
What do we do? How can Something Deeperism help?
What good is Something Deeperism?
Everyone gives lip service to the basic values of Something Deeperism. And often people say they are being honest and kind and helpful and doing what is best for everyone, when they are in fact doing pretty much exactly the opposite.
Individual Something Deeperists can hide in empty platitudes about Truth and Goodness, while avoiding the discipline that comes with a more organized spiritual path.
Groups and political leaders can use empty platitudes about fighting for honesty and against corruption as tools to help them deceive people and undermine a government’s anti-corruption measures.
What good is Something Deeperism?
How does it come into its own?
How does it ever actually help?
Author: Bartleby Willard
Editor: Amble Whistletown
Copyright: Andrew M. Watson