So we’re at a pretty significant juncture here. Our present situation could accurately be described as a question that we are collectively being asked as a species: do we want to (A) live on and find out what the future holds for us, or do we want to (B) go the way of the dinosaur?
Whenever I bring this subject up I encounter proponents of both answers. Though they never frame it as such, the people who show up in my social media notifications proclaiming that it is naive to think humans will ever cease their destructive patterns are very much on the side of Answer B. They insist that turning away from our ecocidal, omnicidal trajectory is impossible, and apparently their plan is to sit back and feel smugly vindicated when the world burns. They are choosing extinction, and their prize is that they get to be right and feel good about that if it happens.
Answer A is less sexy. Less egoically satisfying. You don’t get to feel smug and superior with Answer A, because Answer A involves changing. It involves waking up from that same ego structure which gets so much pleasure out of being right and knowing better.
If we’re going to pull away from catastrophe or dystopia and survive,… We’re going to have to evolve beyond our current relationship with thought. We’re going to have to wake up.
Throughout recorded history and across all cultures around the world, there have been individuals testifying that it is possible to undergo a transformation in the way one relates to the world, experiencing life as it actually is instead of filtered through unconscious conditioned thought patterns. After such a transformation, thought becomes the useful tool it’s supposed to be instead of the writer, director and star of the whole show.
Note that CJ is pushing a false dichotomy: she is saying that there are only cases A and B, where case A is transformation by meditation and case B is dystopia and extinction. She doesn’t mention the transhumanists and the extropian technologists, who believe that technology will swoop in and fix everything fixable, without any of that silly hippie meditation stuff.
For the first few paragraphs, the false dichotomy was somewhat plausible, but CJ goes off the rails with the following logical leap:
If such a transformation is possible on an individual level, it is possible on a collective level as well.
First problem: “possible” is a weasel word in this context. Meditation leading to individual transformation is well-attested by history – it’s not just possible, it can be verified. (And one can note that it often does NOT work.) Meditation leading to collective transformation is not clearly attested by history – there have been groups of meditators, but it is NOT clear that meditation transformed them. Furthermore, it is NOT clear that our current evolutionary state is measurable or understandable by anyone. CJ has not proven that she is good at measuring evolutionary states or meditation-induced transformations.
At the outset, let me note what history DOES show: history shows that when humans try to meditate as individuals, some individuals become “enlightened” and many become kooky. Further, when humans try to meditate as groups, they usually form religions. Religions are not particularly enlightening forms of social control; they do not abolish governmental violence. If Buddha didn’t transform the world and abolish coercion with his Sanghas, CJ is not likely to do so with Internet-connected meditators.