How Self-Reference Builds the World

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Cleric K
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Re: How Self-Reference Builds the World

Post by Cleric K »

Cosmin Visan wrote: Wed Jan 10, 2024 10:48 pm I don't know if I answered your questions. First of all because I am not sure what you're trying to get at. In case your post is mainly about how the thought process works, how we are able to make progress and gain true understanding and not be deluded, then this is a deep problem altogether, that maybe at this moment I don't have a definitive answer. My main thoughts so far have been about trying to explain qualia, maybe because this might be the easiest problem, you just have to explain the passive aspect of consciousness. How then free will is able to manipulate qualia, be it in thinking or in imagining or in moving the body, this might require something extra than what I already presented about self-reference. I will have to think about this for many years to come.
Yes, this is the direction I try to point at. However, I’m not suggesting that we should simply develop some theory of thinking. This can never do. In the end it will be precisely as useless as what you tried to hint at with your wizard example. We can only make progress in this direction if we seek phenomenological intuition of the thinking process.

Let’s add another metaphor:

(Greetings, Federica :D)

If we check we’ll see that most plastic objects around us have such a strange bump (usually on the inside or a less visible part of the object). This is simply the injection port through which the molten plastic fills the mold. We can’t avoid this mark. The plastic has to inflow from somewhere.

We can compare this to the thinking process. The formless (although not featureless or without qualities) molten plastic is formed in molds through the injection port of the thinking process. In contrast to the actual plastic object which we contemplate from the third-person perspective, in our thinking we can’t see the injection port. Only the molded forms become perceptible as mental images. Yet we know that this process happens. We feel somehow involved in it. When we think actively, thought-forms don’t just appear as if out of nowhere. We feel that we’re focusing our intuitive intents in them, we’re trying to symbolize, to explicate our dim intuitive orientation within existence.

Now one may wonder what’s the point of paying attention to these things when in the end we’re clearly conscious only of the finished molded mental images? Yes, if we only philosophize about the thinking process we’re still in the finished forms. But instead of philosophizing, we can make the thinking process the center of our experience. Not the finished forms per se, but the spiritual experience of being intuitively involved in the injection process. Then we can try to feel what constrains this process, what leads us to think in one way or another. I repeat – we seek the answers not by simply philosophizing about it but by actually trying to intuitively experience the degrees of freedom of our thinking.

Here’s another analogy. We can imagine our hand as relatively fixed in place and that we can scribble shapes with a pencil. These shapes correspond to the finished forms. Now if someone suggests to us that we investigate more intimately the nature of the hand and arm movements themselves, habitually we can try to do that by keeping our hand in the same way and simply scribbling various hand shapes with the pencil. But this is not what has been suggested. The goal is to awaken to the fact that the hand and arm may have unsuspected degrees of freedom which can be explored experientially. Initially we may not have very clear consciousness of what we’re doing but we certainly notice that we begin to scribble outside our usual spot. This is critical. There’s crucial difference between simply speculating about the degrees of freedom of the hand by scribbling shapes of a hand, and actually moving our arm.

This analogy can be translated to our thinking. Now we don’t simply scribble speculative philosophical thoughts about what thinking is and how it works but we actually move our intuitive activity in new ways and experience corresponding new kinds of scribbles which draw shapes beyond our familiar perimeter. The key is that now we look at our thought forms in a completely different way. We don’t build a model from them, but they become something like a mirror, through which we learn more and more about our invisible intuitive being.

When we make some progress in this direction, we gradually gain much more lucid awareness of what we’re really doing when we think. We may be astonished to realize how formerly we’ve been thinking more or less instinctively. We’ve been injecting certain forms but what we actually do to achieve this is experienced in a dreamy way.

If you try to experiment with this exceptional mode of cognition where we think not for the sake of the molded forms but in order to use them as imaginative mirror through which we explore the degrees of freedom of our hidden intuitive being, you’ll quickly understand what I meant by “you can’t do both.” It is normal that initially we feel almost obliged to go back to philosophizing with scribbles. In a sense we rationalize “Yes, I can do this observation but I want to understand the mechanism of thinking, I want to conceive of the fundamentals.” And then we go back to instinctively injecting our philosophical molds, we fix our hand in place and prefer to scribble hand-forms that we imagine map to Cosmic dimensions, but at the same time moving our real thinking-hand only in the tiniest perimeter. On the other hand, if we engage in the active experience of the way we inject the forms, then we’re no longer philosophizing in the classical sense. Now our thoughts are not a model of the supposed reality but are the direct testimonies/reflections of the true process of reality of which our own spiritual activity is integral part.

You’ll know that you are doing these mediations in the right direction if you feel certain discomfort. This proceeds from a kind of inner division. One part of us feels that in these mediations we begin to awaken to the reality of our deeper being. Another part, however, would much rather think about ourselves entirely through the proxy of formed thoughts. It’s like this part tries to convince us “No, no, these direct experiences can be misleading. I have much better understanding of what I am when I contemplate the model I have built through the injected molds.” This is a decisive point: do we prefer reality – the living intuitive process which injects the forms and learns about itself in this way – or we prefer to continue inject instinctively and believe that we know ourselves better when we contemplate a model of plastic forms.

When it’s said that thinking becomes the center of experience this doesn’t mean that we’re concerned only with thoughts. As explained, through this we actually begin to understand the so far unconscious aspects that shape our cognitive flow. For example, moods, sympathies towards certain ideas, physical sensations, they all shape the riverbed through which our thinking flows and injects into forms. In this sense, we’re doing true phenomenology. We’re not examining theoretical positions, we don’t seek how thing work ‘in general’, but we start from the particular reality of our own case – this is the only place where we find reality anyway.

I’ll stop here. Let’s see if we’re on the same page so far. Was I able to explain well the nature of these two modes of thinking? Has the “can’t do both” question been clarified? If it’s still unclear consider than in one mode we’re doing something with our spiritual activity, yet we’re not interested in what we’re doing but only in the meaning connected to the forms that we inject. In the other mode we’re interested that the forms reflect back to us what we’re doing. Here 'doing' is not only the immediate fact but also the intuition of the constraints that make our doing what it is.
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Cleric K
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Re: How Self-Reference Builds the World

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Cosmin Visan wrote: Wed Jan 10, 2024 11:51 pm But note one point: regardless of how thinking manipulates ideas or imagination images, all these are ultimately forms, and forms are by necessity self-reference. So even if some extra theory of free will might be required, that theory must be in direct relation to self-reference. Say you are imagining a green triangle. Even though that green triangle appears already formed, its structure is nevertheless a self-referential convolution (to use your word). Even though we use directly a green triangle, self-reference assemblies it in the background, putting together Self, vividness, black-and-white, shades-of-gray, color, time, etc., giving it already formed to free will. One interesting direction to pursue is to understand why exactly thinking needs forms. Even though we might have the understanding in an instant, we still need to unpack it. Why is that ?
Here’s one more attempt to really pinpoint what we’re talking about. This doesn't immediately answer your question above but prepares the ground.

The first and most important thing to keep in mind at all times is that no matter what we try to do in order to understand existence, we’re thinking. We can depict things thus:


The circles are simply symbols for our conscious experience with its contents. The darkened parts are the unknown part of existence (un/subconscious). To the left we have the philosophical situation where we understand that we’re embedded in the formless and somehow we experience meaningful mental images through which we try to build a model of our intuition of existence. In this case we tend to forget that we’re really thinking the plastic forms. We get under the impression that if we can build a model of reality out of them, then we grasp what reality is. In this case the reality of the formless (not our ideas about it) is a mystery. We know that we are what we are because of its hidden hierarchical structure, yet with our plastic forms we feel cut off from its reality. We can even rationalize that there's no need to even try approach that reality because there we simply succumb into instinctive, unconscious convolutions of the “I am”.

In the second case we no longer try to build abstract models of reality, but we try to understand more about our hidden being (which is at the same time the being of the Cosmos) by investigating the very injection process. Obviously, in this way we’re also producing plastic forms but we look upon them in a different way. They are only images, symbols, reflections of our invisible spiritual activity and the formless intuitive constraints within which it manifests. Actually, the qualitative aspect of the forms is only secondary. We don't need to stare at them, dissect them, try to see what they are made of. They have true value only because we're fully conscious of the intuition that we express through them.

Even by only glancing at the image above we can tell which mode is ‘more self-referential’. Simply put, in the first mode our thoughts are mental images of our general intuition for what self-reference is. Yet this intuition stands as something theoretical, floating in empty mental space. To pass from theory to reality the mental images have to refer back to the real thinking process that brings them into existence. This only comes in the second mode. As a matter of fact, the whole reason we can speak of self-reference is because we find it as a purely experiential fact in our thinking process – we can think about thinking. This is the root reason. The self-reference of the “I am” object is really an attempt of thinking to conceive its own explanation through arrangement of plastic forms secretly inspired by this thinking-about-thinking capability.

The real trouble is that we can’t easily pass from the first image into the second. In a sense, we can think very elaboratively about an explanation of our thinking but if we try to move towards the experience of its reality we have to let go of the theoretical thoughts. We are either theorizing about what causes thinking or we use thinking as a mirror of true reality. We can very easily convince ourselves in this if we try to think of something that can't be done just effortlessly, out of habit. Such thing is, for example, multiplying two two-digit numbers in our mind. If we try to do this multiplication and at the same time we try to understand what we're mentally doing through our theories of self-reference, we'll see that our calculation halts. It is the same when we try to concentrate in the second mode. Any attempt to rationalize the living experience throws us into theoretical modelling where we're now doing different type of thinking about our memory images of the prior. Here we feel like T1000:


As long as our thinking is invested in the theoretical model, we are weighed down, it sucks in our attention and doesn’t allow us to experience the second mode.

If we look at things without prejudice, it is clear that in the second mode we have much truer self-reference which is no longer simply theoretical but actually unveils something of true reality. One objection that can be made to this mode is when one doubts that anything of value can be known in this way. The funny thing is that even this very objection can become a fully relevant example that there’s much that we can discover about our hidden existence. All we need is to realize that we’re thinking this objection and then question: “What are the constraints which make my thinking nozzle produce precisely this plastic form?” If we examine conscientiously, we see that it is not simply a technical question. There are even deeper constraints which we only dimly grasp as various feelings of sympathy and antipathies. In most cases such an objection is motivated (even if not fully consciously) by certain unpleasant feeling at the prospect that our inner soul life has to be brought to light. Then our objection is really only an intellectual excuse which convinces us that there’s nothing to be found in this way and we should rather go back to modelling even though we don’t even understand why we are so constituted that intellectual modelling feels sympathetic to us. Thus, paradoxically, we can theoretically model existence ‘in general’ but we can never know anything about the true spiritual hierarchy which makes us what we are, what we find desirable, what feels interesting and so on.

In this way we reach a second problem. It is obvious that the second image leads not to theoretical but real self-knowledge. Our progress in this direction is directly dependent on our ability to uncover the hidden constraints within which our spiritual activity is enmeshed. And this concerns not only our philosophical interests but life as a whole. In other words, if we’re really to follow our self-referential philosophy to its ultimate conclusions, we understand that it must become a spiritual path. Centuries of materialistic thinking have very conveniently separated our inner life from scientific and philosophical endeavor. Not only that, but mixing the two is seen as weakness, as introducing subjective elements to our scientific investigations. Yet in a conception of reality as the one we’re discussing, we have no choice but pass through the layers of our personal psyche if we’re to gain even deeper intuition of the Cosmic hierarchy. So now the attitude “I do only science/philosophy, I’m interested in the fundamentals”, becomes counter-productive. With this attitude we can never pass from the theoretical into realities. Like T1000 we’ll feel held down by our rigid model below the surface of higher cognition.

Based on your papers, it seems that in the direction towards the foundations of existence things become more and more instinctive and unconscious. So what was described here as the second mode would be seen at best like approaching the event horizon of a black hole. And this is true as far as that we can’t see forms there. But at the same time our intuitive and feeling being already belongs there. If this wasn’t the case your whole theory wouldn’t come into being. You intuitively know that your being belongs there and you express this fact through the theory. Why couldn’t this process continue even further, where we’re able to discover novel degrees of freedom of our inner being and know them through the forms of our thoughts and imagination? This is not an invitation to indulge in fantasy! It’s not about free flowing in a stream of imagery but intuitively knowing the ideal constraints within which our being metamorphoses.

If all this is understood, it should be clear that it suggests an inner path of experience which starts with simple experience of our own thinking process (as in the second mode) but can gradually explicate the ideal constraints of our existence (which are not something static) in a way initially comparable to the way mathematical intuition is explicated. However, when we go further we’re no longer concerned only with the mathematical-like intellectual thought-forms but our with whole stream of existence. All our thinking, feeling and willing manifest within these metamorphosing ideal constraints. In this way we know reality from within-outwards, while in intellectual modelling we build a theoretical envelop of reality, yet we can't find an experiential path to it. So we’re speaking of an alternative way of knowing reality, one that is no longer based on mapping between intellectual thought-forms and the supposed true reality, but on seeing our whole inner experience as a testimony for the invisible but intuitively knowable structure of our ideal being and world.
Cosmin Visan
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Re: How Self-Reference Builds the World

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Cleric K wrote: Thu Jan 11, 2024 5:30 pm I’ll stop here. Let’s see if we’re on the same page so far. Was I able to explain well the nature of these two modes of thinking? Has the “can’t do both” question been clarified? If it’s still unclear consider than in one mode we’re doing something with our spiritual activity, yet we’re not interested in what we’re doing but only in the meaning connected to the forms that we inject. In the other mode we’re interested that the forms reflect back to us what we’re doing. Here 'doing' is not only the immediate fact but also the intuition of the constraints that make our doing what it is.
Very interesting. Yes, I agree with everything that you said. And your second drawing is also very interesting and revealing. I don't know what I could add at this point. I will just have to reflect more deeply about what you wrote in these posts.
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Cleric K
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Re: How Self-Reference Builds the World

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Cosmin Visan wrote: Sun Jan 14, 2024 1:27 pm Very interesting. Yes, I agree with everything that you said. And your second drawing is also very interesting and revealing. I don't know what I could add at this point. I will just have to reflect more deeply about what you wrote in these posts.
I would like to add a few points which may be of use to others too.

The most important thing regarding the illustration with thinking self-reference, is to resist the temptation to analyze our conscious contents and try rebuild reality from the fragments. Here at the forum we have used several times metaphors based on iterated function systems (IFS). Here’s a nice tool for getting some hands-on experience:

The previous time I posted this tool I wanted to follow-up with a more precise explanation of the algorithm but eventually the task was buried under other things. Now I decided to use the occasion and finish the intended visualization:

:idea: So the idea is very simple. We make a snapshot of the whole picture and make copies by scaling/rotating/translating in such a way that the main frame (white) fits into the target frames. Then we simply repeat the process (the website above uses a technique that overlays the copies directly on the current image after it is darkened a little. This produces the fading effect).

One very important characteristic of these fractals is that the resulting shape doesn’t depend on the starting image (the colors do depend though). After enough iterations it will be attracted to the same shape anyway. Let’s call this Observation 1 – the original image is lost, it recedes into infinity and what remains is an image of its infinite relations.

Another thing to notice is the following. When we create new fractals with the New button, or we move the frames, a new generation is triggered. This happens by drawing several colored rectangles and then start copying them in the described way. The image is quickly attracted to the specific shape (and the rectangles are lost as per Observation 1, only their colors leave a trace). The interesting thing is that even though the image is now stable, the copying process continues. It’s just that the whole image is so similar to the views after they are morphed into the smaller frames, that it’s not visible that something is happening. Yet, we should keep in mind that the image is continuously copied. This becomes obvious when we click the ‘Animate’ button. This actually doesn’t generate the fractal anew (from the squares) but simply slowly rotates all the frames and copies the image in the corresponding new ways. Let’s call this Observation 2 – even though the image may look static, it continuously sinks into the screen.

Playing with the tool above can help us build an important intuition. It is that the building forces of the image lie in the invisible frames. This makes a good metaphor for our thinking activity where we weave intuitively and as a result experience the mental images that recede from us. When we reflect on this we can really sense how our true inner life lies in what is invisible (formless) but intuitively known. The images are the consequences of the way we conduct our spiritual activity. When we understand things in this way, we’re much less likely to be tempted to take the images for literal reality. This doesn’t mean that their qualia are illusions but only that they are testimonies of the hidden ideal life. We can call this Observation 3 – what determines the fractal can’t be found by crack opening its form as if to see what they are ‘made of’, but by knowing the ideal (formless) meaning, of which the frames are only a symbol.

:idea: While we think in conceptual thought-trains we still think instinctively. As a matter of fact, our spiritual activity is always instinctive in respect to some even deeper cognitive level, but thinking is the first place where we can comprehend this. To pass from analogies (where we only imagine something like the IFS and still can’t get off the linear thinking train) to realities, we need meditative concentration. Just like the IFS images can start with any image (Observation 1), so the content of the thought-image on which we concentrate is not that important. What’s important is our whole intuitive and feeling context.

Concentration is not stagnation but stabilizing our inner flow (which is ever replenished as by Observation 2). If in the IFS tool we activate the Animation mode and try to change the parameters of some frame it’s practically impossible to distinguish the contribution of these changes, as everything is in motion anyway. Similarly, as long as we’re entrained within the uncontrollable torrent of our inner life, we have very little chance to gain consciousness of the more subtle factors of existence. Through concentration we resist the usual flow and gradually gain intuitive sensitivity for rotations of meaning which otherwise go by completely unnoticed. In the stabilized flow we can sense how hidden aspects of our inner life, when they gently nudge our inner flow, are revealed to be responsible for the metamorphoses of whole aspects of the phenomenal panorama. As previously explained, the first rotations that we discover correspond to our soul life, our sympathies, antipathies, preferences, beliefs, hopes, dreams, convictions, prejudices and so on. Normally these manifest rhythmically in the depths of our soul life and our formed stream simply moves along the thus shaped attractors.

:idea: We have to be very clear that when we approach these inner realities we’re no longer toying with intellectual models. The age of materialism has made it very convenient for us to image that we can fit the Cosmos in our intellectual mind, but when we penetrate the inner realms through meditation, we can only do that in a safe and fruitful way if we cultivate the feeling of sacredness.

In our mind we can imagine how we derive a picture of the World from a single principle but in the end this is only an arrangement of mental forms in our mind-fractal. Our intellectual activity is like arranging domino pieces.


We start with the first piece and build a tree of thoughts which we conceive as model of reality. In fact, it is our mind-fractal that has assumed this shape and we believe that the greater World is self-similar to it. Things, however, are vastly different when we step into the real experiences. Such tree of dominoes is nowhere to be found there. We can’t find such a perceptual hierarchical structure. Instead, what we find is that the rhythmic rotations of our own soul life are embedded into even more encompassing rhythms of meaningful intents. These do not in the least belong to our ego but they are the intuitive activity of the most varied Intelligences. So the unfolding of our perceptual IFS panorama does not result only from the rotations of our waking and subconscious soul rhythms, but all of these are nested into Cosmic-scale rotations of ideal intents.

If we try to think of these spiritual beings as we think about planets and stars, we simply reduce them to domino pieces, we lose consciousness of their reality and we flow in our instinctive intellectual rotations. The reality of these beings can’t fit in our head, so to speak. We can only know them if we cultivate the sacred attitude of prayer-like openness and humility at the feet of the Cosmic mysteries. Only in this way our pride can be humbled and we can seek musical resonance with the archetypal rotations. Only then we have a chance to intuit the spiritual intents responsible for certain aspects of the formed IFS panorama. Thus, meaning is not something like an additional quality of the IFS forms but it's rather the actual intuitive life responsible for the attracting patterns of the panorama. Without the intuition of the soul and archetypal rotations, the perceptual panorama appears as disconnected fragments.

The hierarchical structure of the spiritual world is grasped not as some tree-like branching structure but based on musical resonance of meaning. On the spiritual path we gradually transform our character, our habits, our ideas, the way we think, and all of this becomes resonantly attuned to the archetypal rotations. Then we understand the Divine as this perfect harmony at infinity that our intuitive being approaches as we make more and more sense of reality. We’ll be mistaken if we imagine this approach as if our ego expands and as a kind of blackhole swallows everything in it. Our ego indeed expands but in order to become musically attuned the Cosmos. Only in these concentric relations of meaningful intents – the Harmony of the Spheres – can we find the unity within the infinite multiplicity of the spiritual world.

In this sense, expanding consciousness towards these archetypal realms and musically attuning to them, leads into higher forms of consciousness. These are not instinctive but much more lucidly conscious than what we know in our intellect. In comparison our intellectual life seems dream-like. It is true that these higher forms of consciousness are in a sense simpler, less convoluted, but at the same time they encompass the intuition of much greater potential for existence and its possibilities. This is difficult to comprehend only because we usually try to jump directly into the sublime states of being. If we take them as extrema, it is understandable that the dazzling light of infinite intuition is effectively equal to the darkness of nothingness. But existence proceeds as gradual evolution. It is in between these two poles that consciousness can expand and grow through the soul world, into the ideal nature of the archetypal rotations and beyond towards Eternity.

:idea: Another very important point is to overcome the painter’s fallacy. This has been mentioned many times here. It’s the idea that reality is created from a visual perspective, as if from the primordial potential slowly crystallizes the visual panorama of rocks, trees and so on, much like a painter would go about it. This, however, doesn’t stand to the facts revealed by higher consciousness. What crystallizes are the qualia of all bodily perceptions. These crystallize (are attracted) into something similar to geometric patterns but not yet of 3D nature. Later they differentiate into what much later becomes organs. All of this happens through the complicated musically nested rotations corresponding to life, soul and spiritual rhythms. When these rhythms become sufficiently detuned (why this happens is a different long story) we can imagine that the inner geometry of qualia is attracted into what we conceive as physical lattices. The mechanism is the same at all levels. Specific orchestrations of intuitive intents result into specific attractors of potential. This is what crystal lattice really is – alternating probabilities to find or not to find the potential. The wave function is an alternative way to speak of an attractor, and vice versa. Visual perception is a latecomer in this respect. It becomes necessary only when intuition of the qualitative space becomes more and more constrained into the human form (caused by a specific constellation of frames). In that respect, most of what neurophysiology discovers as facts is correct. It only goes astray when it introduces its reductionistic explanations of consciousness. This only comes to tell that we should try to get a much better feeling for the geometry of our body and the qualitative space within which it is embedded. Again – this is not to suggest that 3D space is fundamental. We’re not interested in abstract understanding of space but in our purely phenomenological experience of bodily space (as if when it becomes apparent through the tingling sensations when a limb goes to sleep). This qualitative space can be conceived to have been attracted (aliased) from a more encompassing potential, yet the reasons for the specific form can only be sought in the spiritual world, within the ideal intents.

:idea: Another important point is connected with the being that develops through the instinctive life in the IFS forms. In esoteric literature we can find this as the concept of the doppelganger – the human double. When we have lived our whole life in the fragmented spectrum of existence, we have more or less integrated some sense of coherent self. We have some intuitive orientation within reality, we understand something about politics, about cosmology, philosophy and so on. But at the same time, this life is vastly instinctive. It is ruled by hidden sympathies and antipathies. For example, one is drawn to religion, another to science. Although they both may have some intellectual rationale about why they consider themselves to be on the right, the fact is that none of them understands the deeper soul rotations which result in their inner life being attracted to specific thoughts and feelings. This patched up personality is what we’ll have to face not too long after we set on the path of inner development seriously. The more conscious we become within the deeper strata of reality, the more we see how our personality is patched up from elemental fragments gathered from the most varied directions. Our religious, scientific or philosophical beliefs are a major backbone of this personality. They provide its basic structure. An important characteristic of this being is that it needs to feel the support of the IFS forms. This support can be sought in the bodily forms but also in certain formed thought-structures. The self identifies with these forms. A difficult trial that each one of us goes through is to find our true being in the ideal world. This being cannot be found as something concrete, something formed. It must manifest itself anew in every instant. It shines through us as archetypal Love, Wisdom and Truth. We can never find the fulness of these Divine principles as contained in some concrete formulation. These archetypal rotations we’ll be attuning to, until the end of Time, and within them we find the Fountainhead of existence – not as some object but as the Spring of Divine Life that continuously flows through us.

It is important to keep in mind that this IFS metaphor is only a way to put into words certain intuitions. There many different ways in which we can speak of the inner realities. In the end, it’s not the forms that matter but whether they help us orient ourselves and find the musical relations of the rotations of meaning. The forms recede from us anyway (Observation 1). In that sense it is very interesting to think: what is it that is being iterated? We can speak of this only quite abstractly but what is iterated is the unlimited potential of what existence could be. Thus, the IFS is like a way for this infinite potential to be filtered such that unique intuitions about the resulting complicated relations can be experienced.
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