It’s very difficult to talk about the internal subjective dynamics of the mind, precisely because such dynamics are non-denotational. As such, it’s important to use precise language, to distinguish technical terms. Mathematicians tend to overload common words like “category”, and “group” as technical terms. This works for them since it’s usually clear from context and tradition when they’re being technical. However, when discussing such nebulous concepts as the dynamics of mind, it’s very easy to get them mixed up. For example, when I say “idea”, I could mean a mental voice proposing a course of action, a mental image of the solution, or the platonic thing, independent from any particular thinker (in the sense of “The idea of communism”), etc.
As such, it’s important to have a technical language for such technical topics. I mean technical in the sense of “precise in its domain”, but I do not imply any of the scientific strength normally associated with technical language. An unfortunate quirk of human reasoning causes named things to be more “real” than unnamed things – naming a concept gives it Authority. One way to avoid this is to give fantastic names to poorly understood phenomena.
Ancient Buddhism has put a lot of time into “research” on the subjective dynamics of the mind, so I will co-opt some of their technical terms. In fact, there is an entire language, Pali, already devoted to precisely the purpose of immortalizing the technical mental concepts of Buddhism. I won’t be using exactly the original meanings, so it should be made clear that whenever I use a pali word, my definition will shadow the original meaning (and will be appropriately hyperlinked to avoid confusion).
The most central idea of Neuromancy is that mental objects have real subjective existence, and can be manipulated at “their own level”, in a way totally unlike our normal interaction with the world. Siddhi (सिद्धि) is often associated with fantastic supernatural powers, but its direct translation is “Accomplishment, Attainment, Complete Knowledge”. I will co-opt it to refer to a particular experiential understanding of mental objects. There is a hierarchy of progressively deeper “truths” to be attained. These aren’t truths like true statements, but truths like seeing in higher fidelity – seeing through an optical illusion. Mastery in neuromancy is about refining perception. The skills of manipulation follow naturally “For Free”. A deeply gratifying feature of this line of practice is that. Unlike normal factual knowledge, truly incorporating it changes who you are, at a deep level. It is impossible to fully understand Siddhi intellectually, and it is impossible to understand them without changing the way you interact with the world. Where the light comes, the darkness must be cast out. The progress of enlightenment is the attainment of increasingly central Siddhi, but it is not the straight path many would have you believe. Like fields of science, there is a menagerie of interrelated experiential skills to achieve – some more central and profound than others.
It seems too good to be true, that mastery over the mind could come as a side effect of simple observation. How could this be?
Suspend disbelief for a moment and imagine yourself as a Cartesian duality. . The watcher watching the world . Everything in is what you see, and is who you are. You can’t see inside your mind, but its thoughts and processes can be reflected into the visible world via introspection. Similarly, visible patterns and statements can be absorbed into the context. You can no longer see what’s in the context; it is just how you are.
We normally think of knowledge as the facts we can recite, or the skills we can describe. This sort of knowledge lives on the right – we can see it. The other sort of innate knowledge, like riding a bike, or painting a beautiful picture, live on the left. Similarly, what you believe lives on the left, and what you believe you believe lives on the right. There is a clear duality between left and right, between perception and object. To change your view of the world, you can either change the world, or change your perception of it. To fix a naturally changing world, you must change perception exactly opposite to it, contravariantly. This dance is in complete symmetry; to be perfectly wrong requires perfect knowledge of the reality.
There is good evidence that our “volition” is illusory: actions can be predicted before we are conscious of the decision. The body runs on autopilot, with the consciousness trailing behind. So what, then, is the point of consciousness at all? There are two purposes I see: One, our sense of volition gives us the ability to audit our actions, training the body-suit for a next encounter. Second and most salient to neuromancy, by controlling attention, consciousness can filter the perception that’s sent to autopilot. In a very real sense, the only control we have is of what we observe, so we best train attention to the limit.
It is in this sense that mastery over the mind follows directly from introspection. All you have to do is see a mental phenomenon, and this is sufficient to unravel the illusion, collapsing into a more stable mental state with more degrees of freedom. But take note: by “see” I don’t mean to describe or label. Simply noticing “I’m having maladaptive thoughts” is not sufficient to dispel them – that knowledge lives on the right. They must be truly seen, at the root level on the right – the arising of each thought strand, the wave of discursive thoughts they trigger.
Siddhi can be big and small, from the mundane of “how to see negative space”, through the technical of “groking recursion”, all the way through the boarderline supernatural of metabolic control. Generally, they provide a way of measuring Levels of Excellence, and share the property of being hard to evaluate in others, without feeling it yourself. I’d like to devote a significant portion of future blogtime to pointing out particular Siddhi of all shapes and proposing exercises to solidify them.