'Mysticism, Spirit and the Shadow' - Jordan Peterson interview part 1

'Mysticism, Spirit and the Shadow' - Jordan Peterson interview part 1

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[Music] I've always been surprised that I've been able to teach what I've been teaching in the Universities because I've always regarded it as crazily radical in a sense you know it's crazily radical in a conservative way I don't know what to make of that your teaching is crazily radical in a conservative way yeah I mean it's in a conservative way because I think that the past is not only has value its we cannot live without the integration of the past no more than you can live as an individual without integrating your past
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I mean we're historical creatures right and and we without if we're not united can't consciously with the past then were divided internally and socially and that has consequences so some of them are playing it themselves out in the political divisions in the current world but the consequences can be fatal so you know what's the saying a house divided amongst itself cannot stand right exactly and the house is a very
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very to the degree that any symbol is universal the house is a pretty universal symbol for the for the structure of the psyche so yeah and flowing on from that it's interesting to hear you call it radical conservatism because there's a few quotes that you that I've transcribed that from the ideology logos and belief lecture which I remember having a kind of hair stand up on the back of my neck moment when I heard you say this I don't know what happens to a person if they bring themselves completely into alignment
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I've had intimations of what that might mean we don't understand the world very well we don't understand her world could be mastered if it was master completely we don't know how an individual might manage that we don't know what transformations that might make possible that's that's mysticism rather than religion is it not well I don't know if you can you could draw a distinction between those two things to some degree because you could say that in a religious system there's two components and people are temperamentally inclined to align with one or the other there's a
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dogmatic component so the Conservatives are more likely to align with that and there's a active mystical component which updates the conservative component but also threatens it so which is what creative thought does in general and so I would say that the mystical element of that is religious but it's more on the transformative side but you know I also think that figures like the Buddha you know he's an exemplar of the possibilities of that alignment and the
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exercise is the yogic exercises for example our attempts to bring that alignment into being you know I mean it's very centred on the body which is quite interesting even though it's a spiritual tradition right it's very very centered on the body and I suppose that's related to the idea of the the Christian idea and the Jewish idea for that matter but the Christian idea more particularly of the sacredness of the body and also the Christian insistence that in the universal resurrection the body will also be resurrected right it's not and you know people are cynical
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about that idea but but there's a you know because they think about it as simplistic and and archaic and superstitious and all of that and they're missing the point the point is that that system doesn't denigrate the body it's as the body there's something about the body that's integral to being and cannot merely be disposed of and and and so if there's a eternality to existence then it's an embodied eternality and that's not especially
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given what we know now about the manner in which mmm intelligence operates is it's not really possible to have a disembodied being it's not possible really so yeah when you say you have intimations of what that might mean can you explain what you mean by that well I've had experiences where everything came together you know and and and there are very very powerful
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experiences and and they're they're also characterized by it's like everything turns into a musical symphony where each part is exact appropriate for that moment and and I think music actually expresses that which is partly why music produces transcendent experiences you know when people are dancing to something profound and they're really into it let's say the music and the person are the same thing and then if if things really get going
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you see this sometimes in a rock concert or a musical concert where everyone is in the same place right the band kicks into high gear and they're way out beyond where they usually go you don't see that that often in a concert even a great concert but now and then you really see it and the whole place is one thing that's just pulsing you know and that's an amazing experience and I think it is an intimation of paradise it's something like that and you can think about that psychologically you know
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because it also makes sense psychologically that your optimal experiences are going to occur when you're most United with yourself and but I don't know what see we don't exactly understand the relationship between our consciousness and the world the materialistic notion is that everything is deterministically causal essentially it's a newtonian view it's also not true but we know that it's factually not true
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but apart from that or or it's I shouldn't say that exactly but at the very base of things determinism isn't the operative mechanism and I think things are too complex actually to be strictly determined and it does look to me like we negotiate through that complexity but when we're at our best when we're integrated completely and there is an effect of that integration in principle on what we would normally
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regard as external reality because external reality can line up with that integration as well and so-called external reality and I think people probably experienced that when they have peak sexual experiences with someone you know where there's real intimacy because they're in the same place at the same time and it everything comes together for that moment you know maybe literally yes yes literally right and and and I also don't think that that linguistic usage is
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chance right because I think that's a place where that experience is a brief intimation of of heaven that might be a way of thinking about it so well through listening to it started to make sense of a lot of what I've been doing over the last few years I've done quite a lot of sort of deep transformational practices a lot of shadow works of integrating the shadow and actually feeling that real sense of becoming more in alignment with myself feeling that these different parts of myself coming together and
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feeling more embodied and more present in the world but it was through listening to you that I made this connection with the logos with the idea that this is actually a deep principle of Western culture which gave it another it's a real it's the Incarnation right because the Incarnation is is as at least a symbolic representation of the idea that the Spirit has to fully inhabit the body right and that's also a remarkable it's a remarkable idea especially because the spirit so to speak the
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psyche if you want flees from the body in terror because the body is the place of mortality and suffering and so people are disembodied and it's because what one way of looking at is because they're too afraid to become fully embodied and it's no wonder they're afraid there's reason to be afraid but the question is well what would you be like if you had the courage to be fully embodied and that's fully incarnate that's another way of thinking about that and the idea that Christian ideas that the fully
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incarnate human being is the Messiah that's the idea that's a hell of an idea you know but it means embracing the horrors of the world that's what it means and that's not only the horrors of the world but the evil of the world you know so there's this idea that Christ took absolutely well then those are those are not different and you know there's this idea that not only was crazy the incarnated spirit right so fully
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descended into the body let's say but that he also took the sins of the world onto himself and what that means is that psychologically speaking is that part of spiritual development is to recognize the satanic tendencies that characterize you and to fully wrestle with them and to and to integrate them that's the thing it's it's not so much to cast them away it's to transmute them you know and you can see the difference between people who've done that and people who
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haven't at least to some degree because people who haven't integrated the shadow at all are naive and you can tell that when you look at them and you can tell that when you talk to them and because they're naive they're often resentful as well because they get taken advantage of and someone who's integrated that more they're dangerous in in the martial arts sort of way which is they're dangerous but they don't have to be they don't have to use it because their presence
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radiates what would you say it doesn't radiate threat exactly well certainly strength but it's it's it's it's the potential for havoc that's the right way of thinking about it there's a there's an implicit potential for havoc and that's really necessary it's one of the things that gives people self respect this is an interesting thing about the integration of the shadow because recognizing yourself as the locus of
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evil let's say actually in some sense gives you far more respect for yourself strangely enough because the same respect that you might have for a wild animal or even a monster it's like and though so then maybe you learn to treat yourself differently like I think this is particularly true with regards to the discipline of children you know if you know that you're a monster and that that will manifest itself in your life consciously or unconsciously and if it's unconsciously it's it's it's not good
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then you become better at disciplining children and the reason for that is that you don't want to expose them to your dark side and so if they behave and don't provoke you which means they'll also behave for other people then you don't the monstrous part can stay in abeyance and then that's great but if you don't understand yourself as capable of wreaking havoc and that can be the kind of havoc that unfolds over decades right because if you're going to abuse a child
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it's the primitive form of abuses the physical abuse the sophisticated form of abuse is the continual undermining of the child's courage across perhaps their entire life and that there's a terribly monstrous element to that and if you're not respected properly by the child say you will absolutely take revenge on them and you know that's the holes in some sense that's the whole Freudian psychoanalytic story it's not all of it but it's a huge part of it interesting
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that you you say that you have to accept the fact that you're dangerous or become dangerous because I'd also say that if you haven't done that kind of shadow work if you haven't made friends with your anger if you haven't integrated it you're actually more dangerous yes then things will happen that will it will come out in a way that you don't expect right it comes out disintegrated so it comes out as an autonomous spirit right under no-one's control and that's like a burst of rage let's say you know when you when you hear about a mother who's done something terrible to one of her children it's that's the reason is that
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you know she maybe she's just been laid off maybe she went out and had two meant too much to drink maybe she's hungover you know she's she's angry and lonesome and she's overwhelmed by the responsibility of the children and she has a child who's testing and she doesn't know how to limit it and one day the child tests at exactly the wrong time and it's like mayhem and everybody goes well what happened it's like well seven terrible
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things came together at the same time and produced this outburst of disintegrated rage and like look the hell out when that happens you know so yeah you you want to have that you you either have that or it has you those are the options and you don't become safe by being castrated right that's not the right move forward and it almost feels like having done that I feel that
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as a as a as a physiological thing there's more tools at my disposal it is a physiological thing I mean you can actually see a change in people's faces when that part of them is integrated when the I would say the rage circuit is integrated because their face is hardened like they no longer look like wide-eyed children that they're no longer someone to who things only happen there there's someone who makes things happen and there isn't much difference between being dangerous and being
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indomitable right there.this they're that they're they're the same thing looked at from two different perspectives and so you know in my new book I wrote a little bit about there was an idea in the 80s that was reasonably popular among psychologists that the way to regulate male aggression was to socialise little boys like little girls and that's a very very bad idea so because suppressing that aggressive
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competitive urge which also characterized as many women by the way although it's more common among men it that isn't what you do you you you integrate it this is why I'm such a fan of Piaget you know as opposed not as opposed to Freud but I think Piaget is developmental model is superior to Freud's developmental model because for Piaget the process of becoming civilized is a process of continual integration including the integration of what Freud would consider the in you know I mean
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it's not as if for I didn't know that because he wanted people to incorporate the it but he you know he kind of conceptualized socialization as the super-ego inhibiting the it'd you know or or suppressing it that's only that only happens when the socialization process is bad when it's good like if you have a competitive child like my son was was and is a competitive person you have them integrate that into the ethos of fair play and then it's it's a mark
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of character strength at that point absolutely there's there's no doubt about it would you would you also say that that has to be balanced with compassion with a greatest of openness as well at the same time it has to be aimed right you need a name and and to put your integrated capabilities to work at bringing everything together is the
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right aim and it's not a task for you know one of the things about I think and one of the things about the way morality is taught is it's always taught like it's your it's your - it's always taught as if it's your grandma and of course that is too tight you know it's a hectoring sort of thing that you should be good and the reason that you should be good is kind of for other people you know and then so it's a it's almost like the Freudian sense you told to them yeah that's the super-ego sense exactly that's right and that it's
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a bunch of restrictions on you and and so you have to reduce yourself in order to be a good person and that's well you might say that that's a prerequisite to discipline because I think in some sense it is they know that you do have to be molded and shaped you know Nietzsche believed that a long period of unfreedom had to precede a period of freedom and that's something like discipline but fundamentally that's not the proper orientation because making everything work better is actually the most demanding task that you can take on and
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it's not a matter of reducing yourself to a domesticated moral being you know like like a well like a like a fat pug dog something like that you know it's it's it's a it's a task that takes everything that you've got and so you can use all of those darker forces let's say to be indomitable as you move forward and and and you want a challenge because all of those forces are exactly
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the thing that is therefore the challenge and so it becomes a matter of well it's a conversion of something that can be very dark into something that's a prerequisite for for light so I was thinking this on the plane the linking to the the thing I said before about how connecting this this personal growth to the idea of the logos was really powerful and reframing this and I've
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heard you speak about this in a certain way as almost like a heroic mission you take on ultimate responsibility for your words you take on responsibility for moving the world either closer or further from chaos that this is really you take on responsibility for moving the world closer to heaven or hell and this I was thinking how powerful a doctrine of I've always thought I've made a few documentaries about Isis before and how seductive a worldview that is right you can be you can either
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be a shelf stacker in water hamster glue or you're on the frontline fighting for your culture in an existential conflict for the future of the world right so what I find powerful I only really thought this the last few days is your message almost allows you to reframe your own life in that same heroic way and it feels like something like that is essential it is for us to fight back against those kind of ideologies there's no doubt about that and it's for the reason that you just laid out is like you take a tough seventeen-year-old kid you know who's rebellious enough not to
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fit well into the you know the extra domesticated school systems that that we impose on our children you know most of my my friends cuz I lived in a working-class town most of my friends dropped out of school before grade 10 and I wouldn't say it was the least admirable kids who dropped out you know these are guys who pretty much physically matured at 15 or 16 some of them were pretty big and strong and like they were done with putting up their hand to go to the bathroom they were just done with that and the fact that they left school you know it was a bad
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long-term decision maybe for many of them I mean a lot of them went worked on the oil rigs and made a fortune but they never kept any of it but but they didn't drop out of school only for weakness and failure you know and so you there there has to be there there has to be a challenge put forward to those people who are inclined in that aggressive competitive direction or they will fall prey to well you mentioned though we
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know why would people go fight for Isis well you you just said why and you can't really understand that unless you can allow yourself to imagine how you could be attracted to that and the Shelf stacker versus the heroic desert warrior I mean you know it's an illusion and it's a dangerous one and it's it's being utilized in a very manipulative manner by the people who were who are pushing
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this but you always have to give the devil let's do and do you think we need a heroic story of our own to combat it well what do you have otherwise you know you have a life of pleasure seeking you there's no you have no admiration for yourself if you live a life like that right it's there's contempt their self contempt that's going to build and and or or engagement in things at a trivial
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level which isn't useful because in the final analysis whatever your life is it's not trivial the suffering makes it not trivial as a baseline you're stuck you're stuck with a certain number of profound experiences and all of them can be negative if you don't all of them can be negative if you let the default manifest itself but you don't get trivial because you have to encounter your own death and the death of everyone around you and and the horrors of the
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world and so there's no trivial response that doesn't subject you to that with no defense and then embittered you so yeah it's I mean there's there's a call to nobility in the in the idea of imitation of the logos but it's more than that it's a call to something of well the hypothesis is it's a call to something of cosmic significance and I don't think that we have any right to assume that that idea
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is wrong we don't understand our place in the cosmos and you know if you if you base your analysis on size physical size well there are bigger things than us but it's not-- that's no that's not a reasonable yardstick there isn't anything that's more complex than us not not that we know of so why not use that as it as a marker and and there is something there's an integral
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relationship between consciousness and being and that isn't taken with sufficient seriousness by by the materialist community they keep like people like Daniel Dennett for example and you know he wrote a book on consciousness which his critics it was called explaining consciousness and his critics called it explaining consciousness away and I book and that is what he did as far as I'm concerned and you know people like Sam Harris have a real hard time with freewill and so
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their proclivity is to deny it but they act out the proposition that people have freewill including themselves because otherwise they wouldn't be able to exist in society because people aren't very happy when you treat them like they're not at least semi autonomous ages and so I don't think that that's fluke I think that we are semi autonomous agents now we don't understand how that can be possible but I'm not willing to say that it isn't the case merely because I can't explain it
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especially when I observe that people accept it behaviorally as an axiomatic proposition so they accept it as true it can say they don't believe it but it doesn't matter well it depends on what you think you mean when you say believe then for me you act out what you believe you know and your your conscious your your your cognitive your capacity for abstraction can divorce itself from your
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embodied reality and go wherever it wants it can even propose contradictory it can propose a worldview that isn't in alignment with the manner of your embodiment at all that happens all the time it happens to everyone to some degree because we're not transparent to ourselves but but well UK it isn't so
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straightforward to determine what our place is in the in the world and the thing that really got me with regards to that wasn't the good that we could do but the harm that we can do because you can debate about the good we can do but you cannot debate about the arm we can do that's done we know if we want to know and I think my experience was when I took that seriously which meant understanding how that was
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about me you know about that arch which was about me and that the Stalinist camps were about me then while that reorients you that's a deep part of the shadow idea right I mean and I think that is part of the idea of taking the sins of the world onto yourself it's like you're a human being so you see what human beings do that's you and you
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might say well I'd never do that it's like don't be so sure about that in fact you're the probability that you're wrong is extraordinarily high well that's yes and I mean it isn't self-evident that the default position is heroism in the face of the advance of evil in fact quite the contrary so it's highly probable that you would be on the side of the weak who are transformed into oppressors and that's a very
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terrifying realization if you if you take it seriously which you should and I do believe that we if we don't take that with sufficient seriousness we are not going to survive because we're too powerful to be naive you know and that was something that you insisted on especially after the invention of the hydrogen bomb in particular it's like if you're going to
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play with fire you better be a master of fire what are the prerequisites for true knowledge and understanding because it seems to me that intelligence is only a small matter of seeing an understanding properly and it takes a certain amount of moral courage it takes a certain amount of having done the work of introspection having done the work of defense introspection what do you think the the components are for true knowledge and understanding well I think I think the motivation one of the best motivations is existential terror you
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know I mean I don't remember where this is in the Old Testament but the line is the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and that's definitely psychologically true but but we could strip it say of its transcendent implications and say well if for me anyways I wasn't motivated to be serious until I knew what I was capable of in the most negative way because you don't
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take yourself seriously until you know that you can be you are an evil monster and you don't take that seriously until you know what that means and so but once you know what that means especially if you do it if you find that out consciously say then you're in a position to start taking yourself seriously enough so that you might be willing to learn what you need to learn to become wise you have to see yourself
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as an Auschwitz camp guard and you have to see yourself enjoying it and that can't just be an exercise in intellectual simulation precisely it has to be dramatic experience you have to feel that in your bones and then you have to decide and you have to give the devil is do there's something very attractive about predatory power and you might even say that it's preferable to pathetic weakness now I'm not saying that but you
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could make a case that it is because you could say that the person who's pathetically weak would like to be a predatory tyrant but just doesn't have the ability and that's well that's a Nietzsche and criticism of standard morality I would say but then is there something higher than predatory power well yes I mean part of part of Christ's encounter with Satan in the desert is precisely that realization because he's offered the kingdom of the world and and
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that means he's offered the option of tyrannical power and his response to that is there's something better and that's wisdom there is something better and there's no reason not to go for what is the best what else you don't have anything better to do than that by definition right so why not work for the betterment of being and abandon your resentment and your hatred of humanity
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and your self contempt and and take on the responsibilities of the horrors and and catastrophes of of human existence and do what you can to well at least not make it worse but maybe to make it better you know you can you know you can make it worse and better you just don't know how much find out it might be way more than you think I'm sure that's the
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case so there isn't any more an interesting adventure than that you know find out how much good you can do in the world and not in it and not in this moralistic thou shalt not weigh but in a forthright noble courageous eyes wide open articulate embodied manner and then god only knows where we
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could get so let's say let's find out that would be good it's certainly better than the alternative don't if you saw the logo that we've put together forever wisdom and recognize the eye and yep in the triangle yeah perfect we were looking for an abstract kind of way that didn't look too Illuminati mm-hmm there's a little bit Illuminati but not quite right so much yeah well that's the thing is that it's the it's the Sun in the pyramid that you
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worship not the pyramid right because the Sun is the thing that in both senses that stops it from being the patriarchy so that's the thing that you can have a relationship with that it transcends the dominance hierarchy so yeah it is it is it's it's it's it like in the Lion King that there's that little bird Zazu well he flies above everything sees everything that's the eye that's the Egyptian eye it's outside the structure
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it's the thing that moves up and down the structure and it repairs it that's what consciousness does in your body it's it moves up and down levels of of reality let's say and and alters them so in its so it's outside the structure and it's also the thing that gives rise to the structure but the structure also gives rise to it that's why there's Trinitarian ideas in Christianity you know there's the father and the son and they're mutually causal think well how can that be well the son gives birth to the father
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obviously because boys turn into men but the father also gives birth to the son and so that's part of the reason that those Trinitarian ideas exist so you

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