Category Archives: Philosophy

The philosophical foundation of syntheism

The Science of Life Meaning

Have you ever felt like you go through the motions every day but it all seems meaningless? Did you know that you can use science to help you find a sense of life purpose? Wait, but science can’t answer life’s big questions – that’s the job of religious dogma, right? Well, a wave of recent research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and other disciplines has explored how we find meaning and purpose in life, with or without belief in a deity!

illustration of clouds in the shape of question mark on sky background

I wish I knew that when I was growing up. I struggled with gaining a sense of life meaning and purpose throughout my teenage years and young adulthood. I remember experiencing the sense of meaninglessness as an emptiness deep in the pit of my stomach.

This sense of life purpose is not a trivial matter. Recent research shows that people who feel that their life has meaning experience a substantially higher sense of wellbeing and even physical health. For example, Michael F. Steger, a psychologist and Director of the Laboratory for the Study of Meaning and Quality of Life at Colorado State University, found that many people gain a great deal of psychological benefit from understanding what their lives are about and how they fit within the world around them. His research demonstrates that people who have a sense of life meaning and purpose feel in general more happy as well as more satisfied on a daily level, and also feel less depressed, anxious, and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.

M+P, Blog 1 - Image of Eye Chart with Quote

According to Christian perspectives, the meaning and purpose of life is to be found only in a Christian God. An example of a prominent recent religious thinker is Karl Barth, one of the most important Protestant thinkers of modern times. In his The Epistle to the Romans, he calls modern people’s attention to God in Christ, where the true meaning and purpose of life must be found. Another example is The Purpose Driven Life (2002), a popular book written by Rick Warren, a Christian mega church leader.

But some thinkers disagree with the notion that a Christian God is the only way to find meaning and purpose in life. Jean-Paul Sartre, in his Existentialism and Human Emotions, advances the notions of “existentialism,” the philosophical perspective that all meaning and purpose originates from the individual. Another prominent thinker is Greg Epstein. In his Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, he advocates striving for dignity as a means of finding “meaning to life beyond God.” Likewise, Alexander Bard and Jan Söderqvist note in Syntheism: Creating God in an Internet Age that “Man is the meaning-generating animal constantly scanning his environment for patterns that indicate and keep confirming various causative links that engender a feeling of security. And if we do not find any such patterns, we don’t hesitate to quite simply invent them. With a utopia on the horizon, we give our lives a direction and a context. God is another name for utopia, and utopia is another name for God.”

Meaning of life - Thinking about religion, inside blog

Are they correct? Can we have meaning and purpose without belief in a Christian-style deity?

So what does research on this issue show? Apparently, the important thing is simply to gain a sense of life purpose and meaning: the source of the purpose itself is not so important. Religion can be one among many channels to help someone gain a sense of life meaning. The pioneer in this field, Victor Frankl, was a Viennese psychiatrist who lived through the Holocaust concentration camps. In his research and work, both in the camps and afterward in private practice, he found that the crucial thing for individuals surviving and thriving in life is to develop a personal sense of purpose and meaning, what he terms the “will-to-meaning.” There are many paths to do so. For example, Frankl helped people find purpose and meaning in life through helping others to remember their joys, sorrows, sacrifices, and blessings, and thereby bring to mind the meaningfulness of their lives as already lived. Frankl’s approach to psychotherapy came to be called logotherapy, and forms part of a broader therapeutic practice known as existential psychotherapy. This philosophically- informed therapy stems from the notion that internal tensions and conflicts stem from one’s confrontation with the challenges of the nature of life itself, and relate back to the notions brought up by Sartre and other existentialist philosophers.

2-1-2 - Meaning of Life (Facebook)

These findings fit well with my own research on secular societies. My desire to find a personal sense of meaning and purpose impelled me to pursue higher education and study how people in the Soviet Union, where my family came from, found purpose, happiness, and fun in life. The Soviet Union is typically perceived as a militaristic and grey society, with a government that oriented all of its efforts to taking over the world. Well, that’s simply not true, as the Soviet authorities put a lot of resources into providing its citizens with opportunities to find meaning and purpose in life, as well as fun and pleasure – although they also certainly wanted to spread communism throughout the world, and put a lot of efforts into this goal as well. To understand how the USSR’s government helped its citizens gain a greater sense of meaning and purpose, I spent over a decade investigating government reports in archives across the Soviet Union, exploring national and local newspapers, read memoirs and diaries, and interviewed over fifty former Soviet citizens. The answer: to a large extent, through government-sponsored community and cultural centers called kluby (clubs). These venues, and other ones such as discos, offered Soviet citizens social and community connections, chances for serving others, and places to reflect on meaning and purpose in life, the three crucial factors that research shows help us gain a personal sense of life purpose.

Present-day societies with a more secular orientation than the United States have similar stories to tell, as illustrated by research on contemporary Denmark and Sweden. Most Danes and Swedes do not worship any god. At the same time these countries score at the very top of the “happiness index,” have very low crime and corruption rates, great educational systems, strong economies, well-supported arts, free health care, egalitarian social policies. They have a wide variety of strong social institutions that provide community connections, opportunities for serving others, and other benefits that religion provides in the United States.

So where does this leave us? A Christian religion is only one among many ways of developing a personal sense of life meaning and greater sense of personal agency. Based on my research, I presented a videotaped workshop for anyone who wants to learn more on this topic, and also developed a free online course. Moreover, I wrote a book, Find Your Purpose Using Science, which combines an engaging narrative style, academic research, and stories from people’s everyday lives with exercises to help you discover your own sense of life purpose and meaning from a science-based perspective. These are part of our broader offerings at Intentional Insights, which aims to help us as reason-oriented people use scientific evidence to live better lives and achieve our goals. We are glad to join together and collaborate with the Syntheist movement, which offers a unique combination of religious symbolism and community without demanding belief in a really existing, Christian-style deity to help its members gain meaning and purpose, and plenty of other benefits, traditionally provided by religion.

Bio: Gleb Tsipursky, PhD, is the author of Find Your Purpose Using Science; Co-Founder and President at Intentional Insights, a nonprofit that empowers reason-oriented people to refine and reach their goals by providing research-based content to help improve thinking, feeling, and behavior patterns; finally, a professor at The Ohio State University. Get in touch with him at


Androids do dream of electric sheep… And why it matters!

Photo credit: A strange carnival with automobile-animal hybrids. Michael Tyka/ Google

A strange carnival with automobile-animal hybrids. Michael Tyka/ Google

Researchers at Google have found a way to make their server computers create astonishingly beautiful images by feeding them information at different levels of their identification network. One of the more fascinating aspects is that the images look strangely similar to the fractalized visions in altered states of consciousness. In this essay, I speculate that this technology might be a first attempt at visually capturing experience in a cognitive system, thus giving a glimpse of a solution to the problem of qualia.

Here we have images, created by artificial intelligence (the Google server computers) as it is identifying asked for objects by searching within it’s own bank of information. The normal identification process of the server computers is that an image passes through several layers of artificial neural networks, dedicated to recognition of certain features. The lower levels of this network are dealing with rough contrasting structures like edges and corners. At intermediate-level layers, individual object-like features are interpreted like a door or a leaf. In the final layers the computer interprets “the bigger picture” giving an illustrated output of what is asked for (a picture of a house for example). However, the above image is the product of “turn[ing] the network upside down” and feeding arbitrary visual input through selected layers while asking the computer to recognize objects by it’s own interpretations.

Drawing upon the interpretations of the previous layers the computer outputs a subjective representation through feedback loops of certain important aspects of the identified object, elaborating recognized features through iteration. If some aspect of the asked for object looks like something else, it will generate more of it, and the higher up the neural chain the input is added, the more detailed the iteration and meaningful the elaboration. The end product is a surrealistic and dreamlike depiction made up by countless fractal patterns of various intermingled images from the server bank. Doesn’t it look kind of familiar? Kind of like something you would expect from a vivid dream or the closed eye visions in an intense psychedelic experience? I kind of think so. And apparently some other people think so too.

I argue that not only does it look similar, these images are created by the same kind of neural processing of information as the brain (even if in a very simplified way). In normal waking consciousness, we, as the computers operate at the lower levels of the neural system, feeding information “upward”. We identify the world around us by filtering out unnecessary information in favor of a coherent experience. In altered states of conscious – trance, dreams and psychedelic experiences – the brain overrides these lower-level layers by increasing entropy of the neural network. It tweaks the system, sending incoming information through novel pathways, giving rise to more free associative thinking and perception.

While it certainly can feel very otherworldly, the hallucinations in the psychedelic state are (probably) not visions of transcendent dimensions, but actual and immediate psychological responses to external and internal stimuli. Multi-sensory input mingling with memories of past experiences and future planing, neurons firing in all directions producing fantastic visions and experiences which are often presented in a fractalized fashion. Very much like “the dreams” of our artificial friends.

So here’s a bold suggestion. If we can perceive and experience it, and the machines (semi-) independently can replicate it by visual representations, this could mean that it is the first empirical evidence of mind and matter being of the same substance. That qualia is not a hidden dimension, but something that is actually manifest in the material world. These artificially created images suggests that we now can record and measure how associative cognitive networks create experiences by interpreting stimuli inputs. At least in the visual domain. It is important to note that what we are looking at is not just random noise interpreted by us as meaningful, but an output of a cognitive system finding meaningful interpretations in random noise. This process is not so different from that of a human artist, and the artificial renderings are as real a depiction of experience as any painting, and in a sense even more truthful.

In the case of the painter painting a painting, whether it is an image of a landscape or the surreal abstraction of a feeling, it is the experience of stimuli that has passed through the sensory modalities that is depicted on the canvas.  But, the painter is always limited by the human inability to accurately convey our conscious experience. Elapsed time and fading memories, change of context and limited artistic skills are all factors that skew the portrait of the original experience. However, one could argue that the act of painting in itself is a temporal event and the cognitive process a continuous flow of interaction. The experience is thus slowly manifesting itself in the layers of the painting. Still, it lacks the precision of a truthful depiction (and of course, this is often not even the intended purpose of most art).

The computers used for the artificial renderings are also producing their images in a self-updating continuous event. But unlike the human painter who is divorced from experience by space and time – also filtering out irrelevant information – the computer is accurately recording every instance of the process. But why is this different from that of any other recording device? The key difference between these artificially created images and those of an ordinary camera is that the images are the products of creation by meaningful interpretations rather than the arbitrary capture of photons. A still picture of a dog is nothing but random visual noise stuck on paper until a cognitive system interprets that picture as meaningful. It is the observer who creates the dog.

The higher the level of neural layers in charge of performing the interpretation of the sensory input, the more abstract the depiction. This corresponds with the information processing during normal vs. altered states of consciousness. Where normal consciousness have firm and solid renderings to optimize precision performance, the altered states invoke meaning in the details, overriding the usual cognitive filtering. The deeper one goes into the altered states, the higher the resolution of the details which in turn feeds back into the system and fosters further interpretations. At high doses of psychedelic drugs or very deep states of meditation, the level of abstraction reaches a peak where the comprehension of the experience breaks down. This process is reflected in the computer generated images produced by adding the input at the highest levels of the artificial neural layers.

Naturally, at this stage the correlation is mere speculation. But if we can assume that these images are an accurate depiction of the cognitive process of meaningful interpretation of stimuli; it is not so far fetched to assume that our brains work in a similar fashion, but more complex (adding a multitude of other sensory modalities). Thus, some instances of qualia can be captured and in this case, visually represented. And if something can represented it is measurable, and if it is measurable it exists within the world of matter. Sure, it is an analogous leap, we still can’t see what a pure biologically produced experience look/feel/taste like. However, more complex artificial intelligence is on the rise, and soon we might be able to record the same kind of cognitive processing of other artificially created sensory modalities like sound, smell or touch. One day, we might even be able to integrate these with virtual reality technologies – where we can share experiences as if they were our own. If this is a future possibility or pure fiction only time will tell. Either way, what the ability to record first hand experience is telling us, is that consciousness exists here, in this world and not in some far off transcendent dimension. Information is substance. The Word has become flesh.

Syntheism and the Holarchy

So I’ve been asked to write about Holacracy and it’s connection to Syntheism. But in my opinion that is not the right question. Holacracy, in my opinion is, a brand name. As is my own business which is called Both are forks of the same program, which I affectionately call, the Holarchy.

Holarchy comes from Holon (Greek: ὅλον, holon neuter form of ὅλος, holos “whole”), and ἄρχω (arkho), meaning “to rule or to command”).The Holon is a term coined by Arthur Koestler and describes an entity that is similarly part of a whole and the whole itself. So in a Holarchy the whole is ruled by the whole. Which means all the people in an organization are simultaneously the purpose and part of the bigger purpose.

To understand what Holacracy does I recommend this article titled: Heres why you should care about Holacracy. Which explains the practical application of the Holarchy in great detail and shows a bit of the social change that is required to let it run.

“Responsive organizations aim to distribute authority and decision-making to all of their employees — even if it makes them less predictable and efficient in the short run. The goal is to increase their capacity to learn and respond to change by empowering more of them to do so.”

A Holarchy is a fundamental shift away from the Keynesian Command and Control structure, which is better known as a Hierarchy. It is a method that helps organizations grow in the same way nature grows it’s magnificent diversity of different organisms. That’s why Brian Robertson (the founder of Holacracy) calls it an evolutionary algorithm, as well as an operating system for organizations.

And it is within these two elements that the Holarchy and Syntheism meet.

As I see it, when our linear thinking became predominant in ‘western culture’ we started inventing machines that could help us with processing ‘linear stuff’.
Which of course culminated in the modern day Computer. And Computer has gotten increasingly better at doing our (to be crude) left brain operations. Of course the brain is far to intricate to be reduced to just a left and a right part but, for the sake of argument, lets say the left part of the brain is mainly associated with rational and linear thinking, and the right part is generally associated with creative and Rhizomatic thinking. (Which is, obviously, the opposite of linear thinking.)

So having made this distinction we can now go on by imagining that Computer has taken over most of the linear left-brainish thinking. And the big difference between humans and Computer is that the latter has no ego. By which no-ego means that Computer has no motivation to manipulate the flow of information.

Because of it’s absolute rationality the computer has figured out the optimal form of processing information. Which is something that we humans could never have achieved because the processing of information is what gives us power over others.

To explain that The GNU Foundation defines software as “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”. With this you can make the analogy that: if I have beer, you can not take my beer. But I’ll teach you to make your own beer. This is the whole point of all “free” software and open-source and the opposite of Control. Because in this analogy Control means: If you want my beer you will have to pay for it, because I will not tell you how to make it. Which in laymen terms is called a monopoly.

Which is the same control that institutionalized religion uses.
“Somewhere there is a god, and the only way to get to god is through me.” So the church has the monopoly on the way to god. Which is only to be understood from an ego perspective. And by ego this time we mean: The ‘I’ that identifies with objects. Which is a major flaw in societies throughout history. Right now it would sound something like this: “That is my car, it is part of my identity and status. So if you scratch my car you scratch me.”
Ego is tied to identity which, when tied to the external, has to find a unique position in society to experience a sense of importance. So the priest controls the-way-to-god and that gives him his status. If you know how to get to god without his ‘guidance’ he would lose his sense of meaning and purpose in society. This, by and large, is the turmoil we experience in society today. The old control system is losing it’s control to the new ‘Network Society’. But they will fight tooth and nail to keep it. Even though they can never win from entropy. By which I mean that everything in nature wants to go to it’s least structured state.

“Naturally control is impossible, because it is the opposite of nature which is inherently chaotic and complex.”

We who see the future realize that we don’t need anyone to get to god. But we need each other to get ahead.
We are not the center of the universe. We are human beings with very special capabilities. But in the end we are part of a very intricate and complex network of life. And that network of life is part of a bigger network. And it is this network that we recognize as God.

To respond to an earlier post, there is meaning to being part of this intricate network of God. Which, ultimately, is to be part of it and expand on it. In other words, which resonates throughout our human existence, we live to enjoy life and add beauty to it.

Our ‘Network Society’ is looking for more natural ways of living. Because it is becoming increasingly clear that the contemporary way of organizing ourselves is very unnatural. And if we don’t change we will cause so much damage that it might exterminate all human-life.

One of those changes is to copy the ego-less way of processing information that Computer shows us. And use it to organize ourselves in accord with nature and God. However you imagine it/her/he to be/not-be.

So What is the connection between Holarchy & Syntheism?
The Holarchy is a comprehensive and natural way of working together. It defines a clear and natural structure with which we organize ourselves. The method is like a game that we can play to find our place in any organization without the need for an ego identification with the external. That’s why we separate “role from soul”.

As ‘human gods’ we have created machines. And the machines invite us to look at ourselves and see our true place within creation. And the Holarchy is a method that has grown by doing just that. We are first people in society, and next to that we perform certain roles. The roles we have are, ultimately, the ones we choose to take. You are not your role, just like you are not your car. It is a mere tool in our endeavor to become more human. And right now, it seems that the best way to do that is to share part of our being with our creation.

So we have to become more like the machines we have built. Our rational mind has given us a perfect image of how we could be. Which means that we leave the rational and linear to the machines that can do it far better then us, which is Computer. And we start being what is left right. Which is to be connected to everything with our Rhizomatic creative right brain. Because that is the part that makes us unique. And it’s the part that can conceive the beauty that is abundance in our society.

Everyone can add 1 + 1,
but expressing yourself through creativity is what makes you a unique node in this great network we live in. And it is that same realization that Syntheism tries to invite us to.

Both The Holarchy and Syntheism show us that we are nodes in a network of many different nodes. Syntheism tries to give us a ‘spiritual’ story to cope with that fact and is thus ultimately subjective. The Holarchy is ruthlessly objective, a method with a rulebook that anyone can follow. But the rules are not there to hinder your progress. They are the game-rules with which we can organize in a truly equal way.

But to do that we will have to let go of a lot of programming; The Newtonian world view, that we are all particles who never connect, has to be updated to the idea of a network-universe. We are connected to everything and everyone. And the ego-anthropocentrical idea of human beings being separate from the network-world has to go. As does the idea that, to be somebody, you have to have a lot of stuff because that somehow makes you a ‘better person’. These things have to change. And working with Holarchy can help by making that change manageable. Because it is like a program, it sets you free to work with purpose and a sense of direction and belonging. It is not a way of controlling, it gives clear structure to cope with chaos. As does Syntheism.

On the problem of Envy

Our instinctive ability to engage in the emotions is one important part of the human condition. An emotion is affective state experienced a few minutes by a subject. And works as a signal of the body’s surrounding events. The subject’s actions follow how it understands emotions. With the scientific method, we need to deepen our emotional understanding, with spiritual needs in mind, that we can then apply in practices and rituals.

Bodily map of simple (Upper) and complex emotions (Lower) associated with words.

Bodily map of simple (Upper) and complex emotions (Lower) associated with words.

The difference between the subject’s experience and the body’s expression of some emotions makes its emotional complexity clear. Darwinian reasoning says, shaping of emotions by evolution need a bodily expression. Therefore, simple emotions are distinct in both emotional experience and expression. Fear has both characteristics for example. Complex emotions are radically different, lacking both a distinct experience and expression. Envy has the characteristics of complex emotion.

In short, nowhere does it appear more clearly that man’s desire finds it’s meaning in the desire of the other, not so much because the other holds the key to the object desired, as because the first object of desire is to be recognized by the other. – Jacques Lacan

Envy and desire preconditions the capacity to imagine the mental experience of others. There are two known passive attitudes to the other, self-defeating envy and admiration. Self-defeating envy says: “I want what you want because and as long as you want it.” The attitudes logical conclusion is crushing the other. Which results in the object losing its sensed value. And attitude of admiration says both “I let the other enjoy for me”, and “I only desire what you desire, I only want to fulfill your desire”. What’s the active attitude of envy and desire? We find it in the attitude of self-assertive envy that says: “I desire what you desire, I want to fulfill my desire.”

Envy expands in a nonhierarchical society. An obvious effect because the emotion is dependent on empathy. Because the higher possibilities for empathy in a nonhierarchical society. Contrary to the common view of envy as the result of a hierarchical society. How does this make sense from an evolutionary perspective? Since proper hierarchical societies only emerged about 6000 years ago – while humans appeared about 200,000 years ago – if hierarchical societies are what form the basis for envy. There couldn’t be any evolutionary basis for envy.

The common view is that envy is bad. Christianity has hammered this down excessively for two millennia, by declaring envy as a deadly sin. One of the ten commandments directly state that: “You shall not desire anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Deuteronomy 5:21). A totalitarian threat of disconnection towards the sinners breaking this command. No wonder then that envy connected tightly with shame, or more precisely fear of disconnection. Fear of disconnection imposes avoiding behaviour and alienation from others. The fear or disconnection makes it tempting to cover expressing the emotion. This avoiding action, however, does nothing else, then straighten the anxiety. To overcome this calls for radical vulnerability.

“When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.” – Brené Brown

The self-defeating way the Atheist behave to the religious makes it obvious how, in fact, the Atheist suffers from severe religion envy. The Atheists self-defeating way in finding joy in to humiliate the religious person typifies this point. The destructive temptation remains, as long as this attitude towards religion is upheld. Belief in the end boils down to how you choose to act. What distinguishes genuine belief becomes clear ones reaction of others acting differently, if it’s disturbed and envious or not. Why would you desire differently than your belief, if your belief is genuine? Syntheism to me is an imaginative approach to the Atheist’s problem of belief – recognizing through envy the deep desire of humanity to be religious. However, in recognizing this need assertively co-create genuine beliefs for our time in history.

Syntheism: The Cognitive Ad-block

When you ascribe to a religion, you’re ultimately downloading a metaphysics “plugin” to your life “browser”. You’ve added a feature, and this feature should add something beneficial to your user experience, but what? As Bard and Soderquist have noted in several of their books, in previous era, the elites of the society are those that understood how power flowed, and this was facilitated by having a grasp of the new metaphysics. In Capitalism, the Humanist metaphysic illuminated shortcuts around problems felt by the Theistic model and feudalism. The rigidity of the Law had no room for subtly. The King, a vassal of God Almighty, ruled in absolutes. The humanist, circumvents theocratic mandate, and asks for consensus of the citizens. This allows for individual interpretation–if backed by consensus. This allows for nuance. This makes Jean Valjean immediately redeemable to the reader of Les Misérables, yet an obvious criminal to Javert (the antagonist whom tirelessly pursues Jean in order to rectify his antiquated perceived affront to justice). The beauty of this book lying in it’s historicity, it’s positioned right after the Industrial Revolution. The audience at this point almost exclusively has humanist blinders, “the protagonist is obviously in the right! It’s not even a question that the law is flawed, it doesn’t account for the nuance of his situation!” Does syntheism provide this same filter to our perception in late-capitalism/early attentionalism?

I imagine for most people, the most difficult part of the (a)theism conversation is realizing that dichotomies often do not exist in Nature, let alone metaphysics. When a budding syntheist begins to shy away from the Hegelian dialectic between theism and atheism, it’s likely because they have the intellectual flexibility to see two sides as one in the same coin. The theistic God is non-existent in one sense, but is fundamentally the “awe” humanist scientists find in Nature. God is The One, i.e. everything, but when God is everything, that God-concept is no longer useful and fundamentally non-existent. The Syntheist, understands this, and chooses to embrace the nihilism by creating their own God. Synthesizing the previous dialectic, and plowing forth. This ability to synthesize dichotomies is paramount in modernity. The simplicities of pre-internet life are very quickly fading. Increasingly, everyone will have access to the entire wealth of human knowledge updated an inordinant times a second, accessible from their smartphone, their smart-watch, their smart car, their internet of things. There is no online/offline dichotomy, we are swimming in a sea of WiFi signals. Just as I may be online and zoning out in front of a webpage or offline and being pinged by my smart phone, we are both online/offline and then some.

The Syntheist can no longer see dichotomies, and no longer wants to. The Syntheist ad-block is not an acknowledgement of a pop up, with another slightly less annoying pop-up in the corner of your eye. We’re talking, “I have completely forgotten what ads looks like” (and I’m sure if you’re reading this, you probably have in the literal). Syntheism means that soon enough dualism will no longer exist in your cognitive vocabulary. Pre-attentionalist thinking is met with re-routing.  It means in day-to-day life, you will actively engage in a dialectic with the knowledge that there exists a combination between the two, it means thinking “both, and..” The syntheist plug-in absolved you of the tireless oscillation between opposites, and allows for you to move forward. The user is not delegated to an eternalization and it’s complement, but rather the ease of motion that mobilism provides allowing for a future eternalization should it be convenient.

Verily I say, “…but seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto thee!” (Matthew 6:33)

“The doer alone learneth” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

The Syntheist seeks not Truth (with a capital T), but seeks to reason and uses this as a platform to further their understanding of the Universe they live in. Uses it to exist within the “Kingdom of God,” or to “flourish” within our Universe. They act rather than passively allowing life to abscond from them. Your handy dandy syntheist ad-block allows the user to continue on their path and facilitate their flourishing, so that all these things and more shall be added unto thee!

There Is Meaning

There is something. This might seem as an obvious affirmation, but as Henri Bergson reminds us, most people assume that there very well could be nothing, hence they ask why there is something rather than nothing. Our minds, Bergson claims, are wired to naturally imagine that reality fills up some absolute kind of vacuum. This human all too human tendency to proceed from emptiness to fullness—from nothing to something—gives rise to badly stated metaphysical questions. What moves Bergson to this position is his understanding that the idea of Nothing is actually greater than the idea of something, since it implies both the idea of all and an operation of thought which motivates the negation of everything. The same is true regarding order and disorder: ’In reality there is more intellectual content in the ideas of disorder and nothingness when they represent something than in those of order and existence, because they imply several orders, several existences and, in addition, a play of wit which unconsciously juggles them.’

Using the same line of reasoning, Bergson then proceeds by saying that the idea of the possible as less than the real is erroneous, rather the existence of things precede the possibility of them being actualized: ’The idea immanent in most philosophies and natural to the human mind, of possibles which would be realized by an acquisition of existence, is therefore pure illusion.’ Needless to say, Bergson’s argument moves us to consider the future as radically open and free, which corresponds to his affirmation that there constantly is a continuous creation of unforeseeable novelty going on in the universe. Intuitively it is not difficult to agree with Bergson, but the history of both philosophy and theology unveils that this intuitive notion has been far from uncontested: ’The ancients already revolted against it because, Platonists to a greater or less degree, they imagined that Being was given once and for all, complete and perfect, in the immutable system of Ideas, the world which unfolds before our eyes could therefore add nothing to it; it was on the contrary, diminution or degradation.’

A while back, Dino Demarchi published a text here called This Much I Know and although I sympathize with some of his ideas I would like to problematize the notion that nihilism is a viable vantage point for thought. ’A nihilist,’ Dino writes, ’maintains that there is no meaning or purpose to our existence. The world doesn’t think or speak; it has no intellect or will; it doesn’t care about the hardships and adversities we experience — it is indifferent to us.’ My initial thought as I read this was that Dino is approaching philosophy from an anthropocentric perspective. We, as human beings, think and speak, we have intellect and will, and we care about the hardships and adversities we experience. Are we then to believe that our minds are not part of the universe? My further concern is that the idea of nihilism is greater than the idea of a meaningful universe, since it implies several meanings, several purposes and, in addition, a play of wit which unconsciously juggles them. Nihilism is thus reactive.

Dino also says that ’We are products of our environment, we are a part of this world, and all we do feeds back into our existences. It is this thought that undoes nihilism, at least for me. It inspires us to ask ourselves: What sort of world do I want to live in?’ From a Bergsonian perspective, this argument does not simply undo nihilism in our present approach to life since ’As reality is created as something unforeseeable and new, its image is reflected behind it into the indefinite past; thus it finds that it has from all time been possible…’ My claim is therefore that even Dino’s own argument ultimately provides the universe with at least the possibility of meaning from all time, and that seems rather meaningful, no?

Misunderstand and being misunderstood.

I am autistic, and as such I can recognize the temptation to view eternalisations as ends in themselves. So when people talk, my spontaneous impulse is to compare my eternalisations with what they are saying, without realizing that the eternalisation has been mobilised. A great example of this is the stranger who greet you by saying “how are you doing?”. The normal non-autistic response to this would be to simply reply by saying “Fine, thanks”, realizing that the stranger could not care less of how you are doing, the autistic response on the contrary is to take the question literally and answer truthfully to the question.

The same occurs when I in my mobilistic creativity want to communicate my thoughts. I talk without realizing that people can’t follow what I am saying, because for them the symbols I am using is following a different structure or logic. In the end, we are all misunderstood in this way. We are all alone. Most of the time without realizing it (I suspect). So where can we find a common ground for solidarity between each other? What we understand as the past is always restructured from the acts that happens now. So my answer is that we find it in mutual acts.

Syntheism and the Creative Commons

Dear Friends

One of Syntheism’s utopian beliefs and practices is that ideas should not be owned by anybody but deserve to be shared and spread to as many people as possible, We call this the Free The Meme principle. This is why we are proud to acknowledge that all the material published here at is also free for all to use under the rules of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. So go ahead and let the Syntheist meme take over your mind too.

The role of capital in Syntheist communities

“The problem is that human creativity is lured into pouring all its energy into maintaining the system; this even applies to the theorists who are critical of the system. Only by stepping off, taking a position on the side-lines and constructing a world in parallel outside the system can the syntheist utopia be realised. A revolution always starts with a subtraction. We must retire to the position where, at long last, we can see the social entirety and then only act on the basis of this entirety, rather than devote ourselves to patching up a fundamentally defective system.”
Bard, Alexander; Söderqvist, Jan (2014-10-06). Syntheism – Creating God in the Internet Age (Kindle Locations 6260-6264). Stockholm Text. Kindle Edition.

Religions arise, at least in part, due to disparate wealth between social classes. Consider this quote from anthropologist David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5000 Years:

“Where physical escape is not possible, what, exactly, is an oppressed peasant supposed to do? Sit and contemplate her misery? At the very least, otherworldly religions provided glimpses of radical alternatives. Often they allowed people to create other worlds within this one, liberated spaces of one sort or another. It is surely significant that the only people who succeeded in abolishing slavery in the ancient world were religious sects, such as the Essenes – who did so effectively by defecting from the larger social order and forming their own utopian communities. Or, in a smaller but more enduring example: the democratic states of northern India were all eventually stamped out by the great empires … but the Buddha admired the democratic organization of their public assemblies and adopted it as the model for his followers.”

Monetary practices are a core element of all the West’s major religions. Examples include the Debt Jubilee in Judaism, the pooling and sharing of possessions in the early Christian church, or Islam’s prohibitions on loaning at interest (also in the Bible). These limits were a check on excessive accumulation of wealth at the expense of others.

Many of the goals for Syntheistic monetary practices are little changed. Ensure every dividual can meet basic human needs. Prohibit practices that lead to debt slavery. Limit actions that lead to long-term general pain (environmental damage, permanent underclasses) for short-term dividual gain.

Attentionalism (see The Netocrats) teaches us that the netocrat/consumtariat class division is an inevitable outcome. Nonetheless, it would be preferable to limit the impact of this split to attention and experiences. As access to God under feudalism was democratized during capitalism, we wish to democratize access to capital under attentionalism.

Syntheist monetary practices must start with an understanding of value. Consider how value is shifted between members of a society. Graeber calls out three main channels:


This is the classic buying and selling in the marketplace with which we are familiar. It also includes loans, leases, and anything else where we quantify how much must be given by each party for a given transaction.


 “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. While few people think of themselves as communists today, this channel of exchange is common, often without thinking. Strangers answer questions about the time, the weather, or when the next train will arrive. We borrow a stick of gum, a light, or a pen. Family and friends cover restaurant bills, watch children or pets, and loan tools.

None of these involve cash or a debit card. Note how we often use exchange words like “borrow” and “loan” even when we are not keeping a ledger – exchange language is pervasive! The amount of exchange heavily depends on familiarity and trust. While we don’t quantify these precisely, we do notice imbalance. Someone always borrowing a cigarette eventually will find their circle of friends shrinking!


Taxation, tithes, and slavery are all examples where value flows because of power differences. Those in power can compel those of a lower status to fund wars, build cathedrals, and work to exhaustion – or else.

The choice of channel is driven by many factors. These four appear to be primary:

Closeness of Relations

Smaller groups can function very well with little exchange or hierarchy. As group size increases, the need for interaction between unfamiliar agents increases. While this is not an issue for a stick of gum, few people will leave their children with someone they have not vetted. Hence the tendency for exchange as an arbiter between relative strangers.

Abundance / Scarcity

Economics arose primarily driven by the problem of how to allocate scarce resources. As scarcity increases, the more incentive there is to hoard a resource and only release it for maximum compensation. This can also apply if something is abundant now, yet may become scarce in the future.

Cost of “Guard Labor”

Negotiating, contracting, documentation, securing, and auditing scarce resources increase the costs of exchange and hierarchy.  Interestingly enough, economist Samuel Bowles estimates that over a fifth of the U.S. is employed in guard labor. This is driven by the heavy focus on exchange and hierarchy in early-2000s economic systems.

Agent Relativity

Class differences tend to lead to exchange, which is often a gateway to hierarchy. Kings can demand one-time tributes, which then turn into ongoing taxes. The rich are not inclined to let the poor take “whatever they need”, yet helping someone who is in the same country club is a different matter.

Given these considerations, what should be done? One recommendation for Syntheists is to discourage the use of money between members. Events like Burning Man show that it is possible for larger communities to function for short periods without money. This results in closer relationships and lower waste. It also reduces the power of wealth and hierarchy within the community.

Another idea is to explore the use of decentralized currencies such as Bitcoin. These currencies enable transactions between agents anywhere in the world with extremely low transaction fees. There is also a tremendous amount of innovation in this space worth watching.

On a related note, Syntheist communities can also experiment with locally-issued currencies. Bernard Lietaer, author of The Future of Money, notes that currencies based on crop harvests and other perishable items were common during the High Middle Ages, with tremendous benefits to local community members. Even today, concepts such as Time Dollars (global), Ithaca Hours (NY/USA), and Fureai Kippu (Japan) show that local currencies can provide a way for communities to share resources more effectively than with national currencies.

It may be possible to combine several of these ideas to provide a Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) for Syntheists. A GBI is a distribution of resources without limits on how they are used. The idea is that dividuals can meet their basic needs without having to sell their time or hoard resources. The effect on poverty is obvious. The concern is that many would not work if they did not have to. However, many rich people continue to work for other reasons. Most people want to do more than just sit around all day and would actually do what they love instead of what is required to make a living.

For example, a Syntheistic community could create its own decentralized currency. Each agent would receive a fixed amount of currency for common resources owned by the community – businesses, software, stocks, bonds, etc. As the value of the common resources went up or as resources are added, new shares would be created to maintain the value of a share. The new shares would be given to new agents through some mechanism such as voting or invites (similar to beta sotware). Why would members contribute to a common resource set versus keeping them for themselves? To gain attention! Similar drivers are seen in charities all over the world.

As you can see, money and religion are not opposed to each to, yet are closely related. It is an area ripe for further study and discussion, so please share your ideas and use this as you see fit!