Practicing in Delusion

By Craig Neely

Inspired by Glenn’s recent post “Works of the Spirit and the Hardness of Fate,” I asked the question of Tom Pepper: “How can you sit through those deluded, x-Buddhist dharma talks at your sangha?”  Rather than give me a quick answer, Tom invited me to write a post about how I might answer this question.   The broader question is, “How does one coming from a non-buddhist critique practice in a deluded, x-buddhist context?”  I’ve come up with six potential outcomes culled from my experience as a thinking person in the midst of Christianity and x-buddhism.  The main focus of this post will be on the last two options.

Possibilities for practicing within the x-Buddhist context:

  1. Hem and haw about it ad nauseum.
  2. Quit and practice by yourself.
  3. Quit and not practice at all.
  4. Start your own sangha.
  5. Sit with the dissonance and practice as a non-buddhist in an x-buddhist sangha.  Don’t go to the things that really bother you and critique when possible.
  6. Pulling through the void…intentionally making meaningless meaning as a way of ‘sitting with’ and ‘not flinching’.

I am most familiar with possibility 1.  I’ve spent lots of time in institutions bitching and moaning about the situation and doing nothing about it.  Granted, it wasn’t until the last decade or so that I actually realized I had a choice in these matters and then it took a few more years to actually make a choice to change.  That being said, we are caught in many institutions that we cannot change or leave.

When you’re done pissing and moaning, you can leave and practice by yourself.  Or just quit practicing altogether.  These two options may seem simple, yet they can be difficult to do.  Being raised as a Christian, it took years for me to realize that I really didn’t have to go to church on Sunday.  This carried over into Buddhism where I “felt bad” about missing a week at my local sangha…even when it was just me and another practitioner.  So, there are two possible outcomes, quit and keep practicing or quit everything altogether.   If you do keep practicing, you may want to start your own group.  That is a whole other post.

The fifth possibility is staying with the institution, getting what you can, changing what you can and leaving it at that.  This basically comes down to two activities…you go only to the activities you like and speak truth to power when the opportunity arises.  There seems to be a fine line between trying to change the deluded institution and leaving altogether.  Both are viable options; I’ve found the former to be exhausting.

I’ve been through outcomes 1-5 and am now discovering outcome 6.  As with most of the things I was raised to conform to, I could no longer handle the dissonance of my most recent x-buddhist sangha activities.  I had to quit to maintain some sort of mental health.  Ironically, the place I went to find solace in this world left me with more issues.

Enter SNB.  There I found fresh insights into old issues, no sacred cows, and validation for long held, unuttered critiques of Buddhism, society, religion, etc.  In experimenting with non-buddhism I’ve been experimenting with pulling x-buddhist practices and ideas through the void.  To me, this means asking all the questions, not standing for simple answers, taking anatman seriously, considering the pervasive violence of capitalism physically, psychically and emotionally.

Nothing makes it though the void unscathed.  This has been ultimately liberating for me.  I’m no longer in the mindset of “having to get it all figured out,” as if there’s some cosmic order to The Dharma.  Dispense with dharma and things become clear!  Who knew?  Let me be clear: I am no longer searching for enlightenment (whatever the hell that is).  My practice these days, as informed by SNB, is intentional meaning-making in an utterly meaningless world.  Nihilism plus, if you will.

Interestingly, I feel less and less upset by the “fucked-up-ness” of the world and Buddhism.  I have no stakes in the game any longer.  Everything is meaningless.  I currently use mantra most nights to relax, soothe myself and build concentration.  Suspending decision.  Sometimes I burn incense because I like the smell.  Also, I have some Shin books on my reading list.  Not for answers, but for more conversation partners.  Alas, making meaning to unflinchingly sit with meaningless.

These are just some of my thoughts.  What do others think?  Can you practice non-buddhism in an x-buddhist context?  Can you practice with only online community support?  What long-term outcomes could that produce?  What does your non-buddhist ‘practice’ look like?  How, when, where do you practice?  Why?  What is practice?  Can anyone really ‘wake up’ the deluded in an x-buddhist sangha?  Has anyone had any success with any of this?

175 responses to “Practicing in Delusion”

  1. jayarava Avatar

    Thanks. This is an interesting perspective on what is probably quite a widespread problem. I don’t go to “talks” in the Triratna Order or Community because they bore me and over-simplify as a way of encouraging people to practice. And almost no one sticks to their time limit which really annoys me.. I’m interested in precision and clarity (and punctuality), but we don’t do those kinds of talks. I’m still attracted to some forms of collective practice however, and all of my close friends are Buddhists these days. Sangha to me is about fellowship. Fellowship can only be found in the company of a community, and an online community is but a pale reflection and a poor substitute for real people. Friendship requires face time.

    But I tend not to seek out doctrinal interpretations or discussions from my peers any more, with one or two exceptions. Community and fellowship are things I value; but they always involve groups of humans who do what all groups of humans do – for better or worse. Going along with things is one of the prices of group membership in any community. Perhaps there is always a tension for any thoughtful person. But we are social animals so we have to compromise or be lonely. Hopefully being thoughtful is not causally related to alienation. But group membership can be oppressive too.

    It’s interesting that according to the tradition a schism ought to be based on a disagreement about vinaya not dharma. Thus I share the refuges and precepts, and our ordination vows with my colleagues and peers and that seems to be enough, when taken with my friendships. If I also stopped finding the refuges and precepts enough of a commonality that would probably increase the tension to breaking point.

    I’ve started teaching regularly now and find the audience for my kind of rigorous study (where etymology is absolutely fucking important) is quite small. But non-zero. Thus I insinuate my ideas into the Sangha. And I’m often shocked that people find my ideas commonplace – my views are not as radical as I like to think.

  2. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Craig. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to articulate your thoughts on this important topic. I think the issue you raise is fast becoming the issue of our epoch regarding x-buddhism’s place–and prospects–in the West. So, far, I see in x-buddhist leaders nothing but an obstinate refusal to approach the question in a way that risks the status quo. Theirs is a fine example of wanting to keep your cake and eat it, too. If x-buddhist leaders and practitioners are constitutionally (decisionally) incapable of lighting the fire the fuels change, who will do so? Who will ask the necessary questions with the required force?

    I taught a theory course last semester for aspiring acupuncturists, meditation instructors, and Korean Buddhist ministers. The question driving the course was: “What does it mean to be an acupuncturist or a meditation instructor or a Buddhist minister in doubt? I had in mind Francis Bacon’s quip to the effect that if you begin in certainty, you will end in doubt. Framing it that way was apt because the institute where I work takes a celebratory approach to the three disciplines. It’s as if no important work can get done unless we’re all agreeing to the perfect efficacy of the particular “modality.” That unspoken rule creates an atmosphere of tepid questions and facile answers. Needless to say, I do not subscribe to that approach. And neither do many, maybe most, of our students. They are for the most part bright, educated, and sophisticated. The problem lies with the teachers, practitioners, and leaders of the respective fields. Since our students will one day be some or all of those things, I conceived this course in a moment of hopefulness. We can change things. And, contra the conservative-reactionary capitalist ideologues like ____ commenting on this blog, dialogue, discourse, the raw exchange of ideas, such as yours, can be a powerful impetus to that change.

    I am looking forward to the discussion that will surely follow. Thanks.

    [Nice to see you’re still reading, Jayarava!]

  3. poepsa Avatar


    Interested and delighted to see “doubt” brought into a class that included “aspiring acupuncturists.” How, specifically, was that done? Did you include the overwhelmingly negative research data?

  4. poepsa Avatar


    I’m interested specifically in how you introduced “doubt” into a course including “aspiring acupuncturists.” Did you include the massively overwhelming negative research? I’ve been trying to post a link to a site that reviews the research but seem not to be allowed to do so here.

  5. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Hi Poepsa (#4). They came with the doubt. (Those students with no doubt avoid me like the archfiend of all things good and true.) I explored with them, the doubters, how they might continue to develop as practitioners in doubt. Mainly, that involved becoming better thinkers. To that end, we read theoretical works from structuralism, deconstruction, Marxism, feminism, psychoanalysis, ritual theory, and beyond. We read Habermas on the very conditions of dialogue, Althusser on ideological formation, Ricoeur on the hermeneutics of symbols, Grimes on the modes of ritualization. We put all of these ideas to the test, and analyzed texts from our respective fields. We analyzed websites and mp3s of dharma talks and talks by leading acupuncturists. We subjected the materials of our fields to fierce, relentless questioning. The goal was for the student to become familiar with theories of textual and social interpretation so that they could make clear-headed decisions about what’s presented to them as they move through their fields. Further learning included: develop a critical vocabulary; improve ability to analyze textual and social data; become skilled in discerning rhetorical structure of texts and spoken word; heighten sensitivity to habits of communicating subject material; enhance individual communication style.

    About your attempt to post a link to critical research, it probably went to the spam folder. I’ll have a look. Otherwise, try again. Thanks.

    [UPDATE: I did salvage Poepsa’s link from the spam folder. See #3.]

  6. Craig Avatar

    1, 5:

    Thanks for the opportunity to participate.

    I think ‘fierce, relentless questioning’ is fast becoming my practice of choice. I really have no need for a community these days. That may change. A good therapy group can be a great community. It seems to me that one can vacillate between these outcomes.

  7. jayarava Avatar

    “It’s as if no important work can get done unless we’re all agreeing to the perfect efficacy of the particular “modality.” That unspoken rule creates an atmosphere of tepid questions and facile answers. ”

    Yes. This sounds familiar. This is a particular mode of group think. You’re either with us or against us, and your questions raise doubts about your loyalty to us. It’s this insecurity that I find unattractive in Buddhism. And the irony is that not only is it present in contemporary Buddhist discourse, but it can be seen in our texts from the earliest times. Always the emphasis on what to think in order to be a good disciple.

    For people ostensibly concerned with egolessness we sure do spend a lot of time constructing and defending our corporate identities and brands.


    PS I’ve just started reading again after taking a break.

  8. Patrick Avatar

    Hi Craig,
    Thanks for the post!
    To answer one of your questions I couldn’t even practice xbuddhism in the context of xbuddhism. Over a period of eight to ten years my attempt constantly collided with my inability to overcome my scepticism. Looking back I can see that I became involved during a period of personal crisis which coincided with a painful reassessment of Marxism, an abiding identification of mine since my teens. However I continue to sit (cant really say why) As for Marxism I now put every idea and opinion I once valued to the test in whatever way I can. In this Glens list of heuristic devises at the end of speculative non-buddhism serves me as a sort of template. I have also discovered an essay recently on an attempt at non-marxism by Katrina Kolozova that has helped me greatly not only in my reassessment of Marxist ideas but also in relation to Laruelle’s non-philosophy.
    My contact with Buddhism was mostly through the Mahamudra and Dzogchen traditions with their emphasis on the natural state in which thought and sensory phenomena were to be left as they were. The ideal state was a state of non -meditation , the ordinary state of the mind in which nothing whatsoever had to be practised, attained…a state of relaxed spaciousness and primordial peace. Needless to say this was delivered within the context of centuries of cultural. philosophical and esoteric mystification which rendered the acquisition of the natural state ( the state you were ,paradoxically, always already in ) a matter of tedious practice in which the attainment of the goal (no-goal) seemed to recede from you like your own shadow.
    Eventually I said fuck this and just sat with my mind and my body as it was in the environment I was in! I’ve continued to do that with one difference . Whenever a really interesting thought arises (I don’t mean just any old drivel but a particularly interesting or insightful thought ) I allow the thought to complete itself before resuming to just sit. I often break my sitting to write it down but mostly I seem to remember . I think this was recommended by Krishnamurti but I am not sure.
    I too often burn incense and always start to by bowing and offering the hope for an end to all suffering. Again I don’t know why I do this . If my old Communist friends ever find out I will be a laughing stock!
    ‘Nothing makes it unscathed through the void’
    Yes that is the truth… A fortunate truth because it is proof that we are not isolated monads untouched and frozen in some sort of icy void. Unfortunate because that means that our loved ones are in for it!

  9. Craig Avatar


    I too like to ‘wish for the end of suffering’. I do this as a coping device, but also with great sincerity. For me it reinforces my practice of critique. Thanks for sharing about your meditation experience. I was kind of the same. It’s all such mumbo jumbo. I remember when I was really working at it my wife told me to just sit in a chair and be quiet for 20 mins. Best meditation instruction I ever got. Of course, I stilled tried to do it right 🙂

    The ideal state the Tibetans talk about is that stubborn subtle atman again!

    I too am coming back to Marx after years of dismissal and cynicism. I find him to a priceless critical tool here and in all aspects of life. Not sure what a solution would be, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

    I’d like to hear more about your history with Marxism and this idea of ‘unfortune for our loved ones’.


  10. Matthew O'Connell (@Sciamanoinglese) Avatar

    Hi Craig,
    Well done for posting and contributing to the project. As far as a I can see, a central issue with Buddhism is its need to justify its existence, premises and validity. It seems to reoccuringly do so through recourse to special categories. As Patrick mentions when describing non-dual practices, he was supposed to be able to reach ‘the ideal state’. We could easily exchange ideal for special. I have been purging myself of special as an ongoing and sobering project and it’s been revealing to say the least.
    I practice meditation daily with days off when I feel like it, especially when it becomes stagnant. I follow three approaches. The first is focusing, the second is opening, the third is what I would probably define as creative contemplation. I consider each to be an active exploration of the relationship that is taking place between my being, as a living, breathing, feeling, thinking creature and the space I’m inhabiting. Because of this it has become less and less ‘special’ over the last few years, and more about creating, or allowing a quality of relationship to emerge in which as much honesty as possible can emerge. This practice is increasingly unbound by Buddhism and much more about a simplified, very human experience of relating.
    Returning to Glenn’s comment on doubt, I have to say that one of the most liberating aspects of this approach to a form of quasi-discipline is realising how little I know and how fine that is.
    As for community. I don’t involve myself with Buddhist communities. I work with a mentor of sorts and I find that dynamic extremely fruitful. I am involved with a neo-Shamanic group with whom I find more honest relationships and less Buddhist identity nonsense. It also means I get to avoid the nice Buddhists crowd. Basically, as soon as I hear any term that defines special, my alarm bells go off. If it’s not human, I’m no longer interested.

  11. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    I would definitely go for option #2. When I entered the Buddhist arena in 2004 it was mostly because of meditation techniques. People where generally very welcoming but it soon became clear that thinking wasn’t required. What is translation for example? To what referes the word “emptiness” to what the word “shunyata”? No discussion needed.

    Or what is shiné? Counting ones breaths? Bullshit. Why should I sit with people who make it their business to stop thinking.

    I travelled a lot to come into contact with people with whom I could discuss meditation techniques and with whom I could verify my experiences. I never went to those weekly groups who meet to sit together. Why should I. It reminded me of those study groups in school which would meet in working groups to ‘discuss’ mathematics. A horrible experiences.

    My experience is somewhat similar to Patrick’s. One can cut off the cultural artifacts from those Tibetan teachings and one gets great advice. But it is useless to sit with people who really believe in these cultural artifacts.

    We already live in communities if we are not totally secluded. I have family, friends, a lot of humans with whom I interact. What for is sangha? There might be cases in which an explicitly buddhist sangha might be good to live in. I myself know x-buddhists I respect and with whom I could live because they would leave me alone with my kind of thinking. But there are those with this religious hubris and these I hate.

    The only other option I could think of is to try option #4. But, of course, it wouldn’t be a “sangha”. One point definitely would be to cut out the poisoned language of x-buddhism.

  12. Patrick Avatar

    Hello Craig,

    You put your finger on it when you refereed to ‘wish for an end to suffering’ as a coping device. When I do that my first thought is for my children. Its always a question of wishing them happiness and freedom from danger etc, usually when they are having difficulty. I find it more difficult now that they are older . Now they take on the full condition of being ‘independent’ agents with all that entails regarding the consequences of their actions. The thought makes my stomach crawl! The Tibetan tonglen practice (in which one uses ones love for ones family members or close friends as a way of generating compassion) never appealed to me. It all too easily became a way to rationalize side-stepping actually doing something to help, both on a personal level and especially an a political level. I always found Christianity far superior in this regard both in the very clear statements attributed to Jesus regarding direct action…caring for the sick, visiting prisoners, comforting the grief stricken, siding with the dispossessed etc.. And on a political, social and philosophical level the emergence of liberation theology in the seventies and its practice, especially in south America ,of direct involvement not only in reformist movements but with revolutionary forces. Many nuns, priests and lay workers paid for this with their lives., often at the behest of The CIA and American administrations, not to mention conservative Catholic bishops and the Vatican. Anyway thats all history…I seem to be obsessed with the past these days..sorry! One of the factors in my growing disillusionment with Buddhism was a comparison between Christianity and Buddhism on this level.

    As for ‘unfortunate for our loved ones’ I was referring to the consequences of the condition of anatman or emptiness or dependent origination, whatever you prefer. To me this implies a paradox ( to the mind of course, ‘Reality ‘seems to have no trouble with it!). It implies not an inner absence …a sort of internal hole in being… but quite the opposite. When I introspect or when we objectively probe the ‘interior’ of objects we find ‘exteriority’… I find that the mind is composed of sensations, impulses, though/language formations all of which are ‘exterior’ phenomena. When I probe objects I find complexes or chains or holarchies of ‘environmental’ factors. For the human being this is both fortunate and unfortunate… fortunate because we are by our very condition embedded in nested holarchies of ‘being’ and so are already and always supported as it were ( spiritual practice is for me just the remembering of my true condition, nothing more)
    Unfortunate because this very condition is the source of our brokenness or our alienation or our samsaric condition, since it is our very openness or compoundedness which makes for our vulnerability to disease, physic disturbance, and economic, social and political oppression. In short our condition as living beings with nervous systems and (collective?) minds will always involve inescapable PAIN!
    Of course it is true that we are free to struggle against the given conditions but a great deal of pain is inescapable.. A very strong description of this can be fount in Camus’s novel ‘The plague’ in which we are forced to witness the horrendous death of an ‘innocent’ child. Camus makes the point that even if we accept the possibility of a transcendental liberation ( or a future end to suffering through scientific or social progress) nothing can undo that helpless suffering unto death. I t has happened and no amount of rationalization or action can undo it. Thus the inconsolability of the grief stricken. As you said ‘no one makes it through the void unscathed’

    As for my involvement with Marxism that’s a long and boring story. I will keep it for an email if we ever get around to that.

    Re #10
    Hello Matthias,
    Have been visiting your blog for the past while… find it so very interesting.. I am living in Switzerland for the last few years but my German is terrible… wish you could put more into English but that’s asking for too much I know… Am determined to learn German but its hard hard going.
    We seem to have had similar experiences. I could never stomach the thought of a ‘Sangha ‘ and sought out ‘teachings ‘ in order to scavenge meditation instructions. Fortunately the philosophical underpinning was easily accessed without contact with xbuddhists”(yuch)

    What you say about the Sangha and the fact that we already have a ‘community’ of family. friends etc. in which we are already embedded and from which we can gain support and make a contribution, makes me think of an incident that happened to me early on in my dealings with Xbuddhism I heard a Lama speak of it not being enough to just wish for the happiness of sentient beings but that we should translate that into concrete action for the benefit of all suffering sentient beings. In my naivety I understood him to mean the general community of needful beings and some sort of social action. But when I inquired as to the action he envisaged he referred to the ‘current project to advance the ‘Dharma’ in the west by the design and construction of a Stupa. Even at that early stage I experienced a moment of what Glenn terms ‘aporetic dissonence’. I remember being so disgusted that I later fantasied about the possibility of flying a plane into their horrible monstrosity!

    As for option four I will definitely travel Ha! Somewhere in the Alps would suit for the first ‘retreat’ (expunge that word lets say conference… no conclave!) But what about the poison of ‘group dynamics’ Seems to me a course of Freudian or Lacanian psychoanalysis should be made compulsory for all conclave members! (I speak first and foremost in regard to myself!)

  13. Tom Pepper Avatar

    Craig, in answer to your question, today, for the first time in four years, I didn’t go to the regular gathering of the x-buddhist group to which I belong. I just couldn’t bear to hear another talk on “mindfulness”–this one on “mindful cooking” inspired by an article by a TNH follower. I couldn’t go, and once again point out the futility of this kind of practice, its tendency to reify the very ideologies producing our suffering. I really struggled for a week with whether to go to this talk, because I do actually like these people, and want them to stop being deluded–but I have come to the decision, for now, that there is nothing I can do about it with this particular group. I had to accept that it is not giving up, just investing my energies where they might be more productive–there are only so many hours in the day, and at a certain point, I have to decide to help those I have the capacity to get through to.

    Re #12: Patrick, your description of “probing” the interior and finding exteriority is exactly how I understand “emptiness.” It is because we are completely the effect of social structures “exterior” to us that we must change the world to reduce suffering, not mindlessly chop carrot and wash rice. I’m wondering if there is any possibility of finding some people to start a group to do this kind of real investigation, instead of trying to achieve mindless bliss. I’ve been reading Lefebvre’s “The Critique of Everyday Life,” and I think this models, for me, the ideal of non-buddhist practice. Can we use a critique of our ordinary daily experience, of how thoroughly our simplest daily activities are produced by and reproduce capitalist social relations, to wake us up? Can we then use this knowledge as motivation for new forms of activity? In “The New Spirit of Capitalism” Boltanski and Chiapello try to analyze how ideological change can take place. They use the term ideology in the sense that I use it (that is, in the Althusserian sense), and recognize that we must always act within some ideological practice/belief. They argue that critique can serve as a motivating belief to produce new practices, a change in the ideology that enables a change in the social structure. Of course, they are examining the change from one stage of capitalism to another, but perhaps the energy of critique could motivate the production of an ideological practice which resists and subverts capitalism.

    My ideal Buddhist practice would be to set aside the Pali canon and the Mahayana sutras for a while, and have everyone read Lefebvre’s chapter “Marxism as a Critique of Everyday Life,” or Badiou’s Ethics–either one of them more likely to really produce enlightenment than another mystical interpretation of the Diamond Sutra.

  14. poepsa Avatar

    Re #13: Tom, I’ve added those two books to my “To Read” list. Of course, the “sufficient buddhism” article of faith would most likely keep your suggestions from ever being taken seriously by contemporary “x-buddhists.” On my blog, I actually received a comment to one of my posts that said: “I note at the end that his sources are all contemporary philosophers so i would argue that this is not zen at all. In fact, nothing in this article sounds like buddhism.” Laughed my ass off!

    Thanks again!

  15. Patrick Avatar

    Hello Tom,
    I’m thinking of expunging the words emptiness from my vocabulary. Is it really of any use? It inevitably evokes an indescribable absence, a nothingness, an incomprehensible no-thing; useful only in the context of a proper understanding of what constitutes the negatee : the deluded mind object called essence or own power. And an understanding of what is left after the negation: the relative world… a causal continuum, real, open to investigation, changing and changeable.
    On the other hand realizing emptiness in xbuddhist terms is fleeing from the actuality of our condition into a reified nothingness. Here in meditative equipoise one appropriates the objects of ( quoting Glen) ‘xbuddhist ideological excess’… bliss, clear seeing, calm abiding, physic powers, God realms, nirvana.

    So do we really need the word emptiness ? Isn’t it only an invitation to misunderstand the real situation and therefore fall under the spell of what glen calls Buddhism’s charism. Is any one really concerned with essences, eternalism, or the concept of own-power? Why should we impose such a difficulty on ourselves. Western philosophy has got on fine without ‘Emptiness’ and still provides sophisticated accounts of the relationship between identity and conditionality.

    ‘One point definitely would be to cut out the poisoned language of x-buddhism.’ Matthias #10


    I’m reading Badiou’s Ethics’ at the moment. I’ve never read anything by Lefebvre to my shame but I will look him up. I’m as disillusioned you are about practising in Groups but have gotten used to the isolation… this blog is my home at the moment and hopefully for the future.

  16. illuminationis Avatar

    Hi Craig,

    I need the sangha when I attend long silent retreats, with the emphasis on silent. As far as I am concerned, the teachers do not give deluded dhamma talks in such retreats. I do not really care for weekly gatherings at the local sangha. The time is not convenient for me, and maybe I am just too lazy, anyway. I am considering though to go to a monthly meditation day, when the main activity is meditation, not talking.

    You’d have wished that your sangha community are Buddha’s, but people are just people, with their own struggle and their delusions. So my approach is: go to the sangha to support my practice, but get out a.s.a.p after the meditation session finishes.

  17. Craig Avatar



    Great point about SPECIALNESS. That is so true. I definitely got into buddhism because it was special to me. I’m amazed at how people can keep up the specialness of it all. Even in exhausting retreats. I’ve given up on some aspects of practice because they lost their specialness. I find I’m revisiting some of them as they are helpful, but definitely some sort of transcendental truth pointer. I was at the book store yesterday and perused some Buddha mags. Talk about making things seem special. It’s sick.

    I think another part of my practice is just constantly asking ‘what’s going on here?’ What am I not seeing? What group dynamics are occurring? I do this in every situation, especially at work and socially.

  18. Craig Avatar



    Oh man, thanks for sharing your experience. Very informative to hear where you are coming from. I agree with you about sanghas. The whole enterprise reeks of specialness…as Matthew was discussing above.

  19. Geoff Avatar

    Tom re # 13,

    Just a couple of possible suggested topics for your group discussion:

    “Definition of a communist: someone with nothing but who is happy to share it with everyone.”

    “Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it’s just the opposite.”



  20. Danny Avatar

    Hello Craig,

    I’ve never practiced Buddhism with other Buddhists; mine has been a study Buddhism and a solo practice only. But if I were in your shoes, I would most likely choose # 2 or possibly # 4. It was a daily meditation practice led me to a study of Buddhism (what is this noise all about?), and that led me here to this blog and non-Buddhism…I enjoy looking at and learning about Buddhism through a NB lens. Following along and trying to keep up with the very challenging material here and then applying it to my everyday life has become a big part of what I call “my practice (plus daily sitting and incense, of course!)”…

    Thank you for your contributions here.


  21. Patrick Avatar

    Hello Tom ,
    As an addendum to #15
    I’m also thinking of expunging the term compassion . indeed the troika…wisdom/compassion/emptiness… the structure upon which xbuddhism builds its ‘extravagant architecture’.
    Of what use is the word ‘compassion?’
    Compassion, pity, concern …are not these simply elements within the existing ideological consensus and one of the reasons that xbuddhism is so readily acceptable within that consensus?
    It seems to be ‘self evident’ that ‘all men are created equal.. and therefore that all men ,(all sentient beings) are deserving of ‘happiness’ and the freedom to ‘pursue happiness’.
    How fortunate that the ethics expounded by his holiness the Dali Lama should coincide with the prevailing ideology. And its implementation (by force of arms in the last analysis) by the united nations and the international court of human rights..
    Who in their right minds could find fault with compassion, human rights, the protection of the ‘weak’ and the ‘powerless’?
    But to designate others as abject , weak, powerless, in other words as ‘victims’ is to deprive them of that very thing which defines their Humanity… Their ability to think through the implications of their own situation, the power to articulate their own solutions, and the ability to act against the force of the situation that confronts them. ( as Badiou puts it something in them above their mere animality… Their ‘stubborn determination to remain what they are…precisely something other than a victim. other than a being-for.death, something other than a mortal being.)
    It is a fact that the prevailing ideological consensus conceives of the ‘objects’ of ‘concern’ or ‘compassion’ as only as the category of deserving object ; as recipients of aid and wisdom ( enlightened governance, participatory democracy, the rule of law etc) but only if they remain in the condition of being victimized. Anything else, the effrontery for instance to disagree with the prevailing consensus by espousing difference (Islamic, socialist, regional, populist) meets with denunciation, expulsion, and if taken too far, invasion (after the suitable manipulation of the relevant international ‘legal arbitrators’.)
    All of this is explicated by Badiou in his ‘Ethics’
    So your idea of substituting that book for the ‘diamond Sutra’ in an effort to ‘decommission’ xbuddhist charism is one I totally agree with especially in the context of Mathiass idea of ‘cutting out the poisoned language of xbuddhism’

  22. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    RE 15: Yes, I can see why it might be useful to just not bother using the term “emptiness.” I’ve had this discussion with Matthias about many different terms. My position is that any term we use can just as easily be willfully misunderstood, and then we are stuck endlessly shifting terms to find some new word that the reactionaries haven’t yet appropriated. As for getting on just fine without it, well, it seems to me that the overwhelming majority of philosophers, eastern and western, are absolutely essentialists–and the average subject of capitalism, the “person in the cubicle,” assumes self-power, essentialism, and eternalism as obvious givens, whether the cubicle in question is in Tokyo or Toledo. So the concept is important, and cannot be assumed to be understood–Freud clearly understood it, for instance, but the reason almost nobody in American Psychology can understand Freud is because the concept of dependent arising would be inconceivable to them. They think they get it when they say that a person is “affected” by the behavior of those around them, but they cannot conceive of the person being constructed by the structures she inhabits. Emptiness, like minfulness, is perhaps a particularly bad translation, but no worse, really than translating Aristotle’s “hexis” as “habit.”

    And, of course, we have to keep in mind that the kind of profound stupidity exhibited by Geoff above is quite common, and is exactly what must be overcome. If such idiocy were really uncommon, then, perhaps we could assume that we don’t need to talk about sunyata, but it unfortunately it isn’t. It is almost universal, in the U.S., to assume that the problem with communism is that we won’t “have” anything, that we will all work for the good of all instead of for the wealth of Warren Buffett, to assume, that is, that in a communist world we still MUST have alienated labor and private property, since they are universal, eternal, essential. The repeated assertions right in these comments that we should all just practice alone simply reinforces the power of capitalist ideology, which convinces us that we can be autonomous atomistic subjects, that our rugged individualism is not simply the fragmentation and alienation necessary to reproduce the capitalist system. The Subject is always collective, and whenever we aren’t practicing in a group of our conscious creation, we are practicing in the group of the capitalist subject. And then we trick ourselves we are escaping the system by reproducing it even more powerfully.

    Anyone in CT want to start a practice group?

  23. Danny Avatar

    Re: 22
    Sure wish I were anywhere near CT and could answer that question!

  24. Patrick Avatar

    Re #22
    Of course these concepts are key but are the words themselves capable of functioning in a contemporary context. Why should terminology extracted from a classical Buddhist context be useful in addressing the situation in which we find ourselves now. As far as xbuddhism is concerned this sort of terminology is a powerful invitation to abstract from one’s actual lived process into the rarefied atmosphere of ‘practice’, while in reality acquiescing to forms of ideological subscription.. Even if it is only a case of undermining the ideological power of such usage one still needs to explore an alternative vocabulary for this purpose.
    And how can such archaic terminology extracted from Classical Asian cultures function vis-a-vie contemporary philosophical and political discussion?
    For my part I much prefer to use dependent origination rather than emptiness. At least it indicates that one is not referring to a reified nothingness that seems to offer some hope of an escape from vicissitude and the appropriation of extravagant physic and spiritual paraphernalia.
    As for the xbuddhmene ‘wisdom and compassion’ I prefer the words rigorous thinking and solidarity.
    As for your statement
    ‘The Subject is always collective, and whenever we aren’t practising in a group of our conscious creation, we are practising in the group of the capitalist subject’
    doesn’t it follow from this that even when we practice alone we are in fact practising as the collective subject, despite our bodily apartness, and that its our intention see through our ideological subscriptions that matters not the fact of a shared space..
    Having said that a shared space and direct contact is always better, of course.

  25. Jay Avatar

    hi Craig

    Really enjoyed your post. Not sure where I fit in from 1 to 6 but I still value the idea of sangha. I suppose my sangha includes many who have nothing to do with Buddhism – they are people who I find good to have around, who help me live a creative life. I have little time for traditional forms of Buddhism but I suppose I find a coherent message in gotama’s teachings and feel comfortable calling myself a Buddhist.

    I get a lot out of this blog and it improves as time go on but sometimes I feel a little out of place – I’ve never taken it all as seriously as some on these forums seem to do. I don’t feel to tHe need to rebel against the fiction of Buddhism – it feels a little like tilting at windmills. Having said that I haven’t devoted years of my life to some order of Buddhism and been let down by what is always just poor human behaviour – ideals are one thing but someone is always going to fuck it up.

    I find your idea of nihilism plus interesting – do you mean emptiness?. I’ve never found the idea of no inherent meaning to the universe to be a problem – certainly not a negative. Nor do i see it as ‘dead end’ that gotama spoke of – im no Pali scholar but i think there is a differnce in the modern form of the word Nihilism and what the buddha spoke of as a form of denial of existence.

    Anyway, the idea of inherent meaning seems to contradict the fact that we are constantly presented with the ‘meaningless’ present moment – always new, always open to inference or interpretation. This is freedom if we can be truly awake to that reality. We can only form opinions about the present in retrospect and then it’s about something that no longer exists – the past has disappeared in the the realm of the metaphysical. Without delving to far into the free will debate we can see our choices are made on the knife-edge of the ‘now’. If gotama is right we can train ourselves to watch these choices – we can start to make a difference by just doing that alone. Ethics comes in when we make the choice to try and reduce the suffering we cause ourselves and others through these awakened actions. The universe will not reward us specifically for deciding to do this but it does manifest a potentially better reality if only based on the laws of statistics. No magic needed!

    I look forward to more posts. – thanks J

  26. Craig Avatar


    We could do a Skype group. I’m not sure what is technically required, but we could figure it out.

    I have more to say to other when I have a moment. Thanks all for the comments so far.

  27. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    RE 24: Patrick, I do see the value in practicing as part of a “virtual” group that isn’t literally in the same place. What I had in mind in that comment was more the idea of practicing alone when it is used as a sort of “restorative” and has no impact on the practitioner’s actions in the world. This is quite common, with many people saying they don’t want to be part of a group because they want Buddhism to be only what Zizek says it is becoming in the west: a temporary rest before going out to be more effective and efficient capitalist drones. For me, practicing without a group has become necessary because even the group I have been part of for years has become completely focused on becoming more efficient mindless drones, on Buddhism as a self-induced lobotomy, to use Glenn’s metaphor. I’ve had to start practicing “alone” to accomplish anything at all, because I want to become a more efficient and effective critic and disruptor or capitalist social formations, and a more effective creator of communist alternatives. So, in short, I would have to agree that it might be possible, I certainly hope it is, to practice in bodily isolation as part of a collective faithful subject. Unfortunately, most people who say they don’t need a sangha, or aren’t interested in interacting with others, are unaware that they are, in their illusion of individualism, a part of the collective reactionary subject.

    RE 25: Jay, I’m interested why you would want to call yourself a Buddhist? What does it add, or what possibilities does it offer you? You clearly have not even the slightest understanding of the fundamental concepts of Buddhist thought, and simply want to call your postmodern ideology (everything is open to interpretation, we are always in a completely undetermined present moment, the past is just an illusion, etc) Buddhism, and go on being a good, deluded, unthinking capitalist subject. How does calling that Buddhist make it easier or more effective for you?

    RE 26: Craig, I’m just incapable of doing Skype, myself. I can’t get used to it. But perhaps some kind of online “practice group” that is not public, where we can get into some more intense discussion about our own practices and ideologies, might be useful? I’ve been thinking about finding a way to do this that wouldn’t devolve into the kind of empty posturing and vapid nonsense one gets on sites like DharmaWheel or Secular Buddhism.

  28. Patrick Avatar

    Re #27
    In complete agreement…..By faithful I understand a commitment to push ones critical capacities to the limit… that puts one’s capacities at the service of thinking itself. For me this is the hidden diamond within the xBuddhist trope of ‘oneness with the Dharma’ and why I bow. A strange paradox… one’s illusory individualism is the capitalist subject… practising alone can be its negation. On the whole though its a poor substitute for a group … I have often thought that a committed group could include selective action and intervention as part of its practice. I mean a well conceived and philosophically grounded programme of action that avoided the pitfall of knee-jerk activism! .

    Re #26 Skyping… find it impossible too.. tried it with my children. turned into a technical nightmare. Would be very interested in Toms idea of an online practice group!

  29. Uri Sala Avatar

    How about making a Google group?

  30. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Craig‘s questions at the end of his essay and Tom‘s #27. I am going to re-visit the question of how to create a practice environment that is driven by the Buddhist truths of fading-and-impermanence, non-atomistic self, conditionality, and so on, yet resists the tendency toward group-think and ideological subscription. My first attempt was not successful by the measure of numbers. As I’ve mentioned before, the group shrank in proportion to the “non-buddhist” deflations of x-buddhist forms. For example, the dharma talk become a simple conversation, sparked more often by a poem or literary passage than a teaching of the Buddha-figure. Protocol was reduced to sitting still and silent in a circle–literally no bells or smells. Anyway, that diminishing result was probably predictable since the old comers wanted their practice to remain just as it was. But if I judge the outcome by the fact that one or two people actually preferred and, more importantly, completely understood the reasons for the changes, then it was a success. In a couple of months the two or three of us will re-group and discuss a strategy for attracting people open to the kind of work we want the group to do. An an analogy, while virtually every x-buddhist practice group I know of attracts people eager to engage in some form of feel-good pop psychology, we are trying to attract people willing to do psychoanalysis. I’d rather sit with two other such people than a room full of the consolation seekers. I am not against seeking consolation, I just believe that a clear-eyed assessment of our human truths is the necessary condition for any consolation. So, once the spring semester ends, I will be experimenting with the questions about practice coming up here.

    In the meantime, Tom, why not hang some flyers around explaining what you have in mind? I bet that in no time a few people will emerge. That’s always been my experience, anyway. Though, I haven’t tried yet with the purely “non-buddhist” approach. Let’s compare notes.

  31. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Re cutting off intoxicated x-buddhist language.

    I can life with well defined terms. What I mean to cut off is:

    Ventriloquism. The Buddhist (person) manifesting buddhistic representation via speech and writing. An instance of the Buddhist as “the shape of the [dharmic] World.” Evidence of ventriloquism is the predictable iteration of buddhemes in everything from canonical literature to dharma talks and blog posts. (Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism p. 12)

    I think a first step might be that people learn to build and to trust their own ability to express thought instead of repeating buddhemes. This is very much a training in communication and not so much a training in the expression of experience. It is, for example, a training not to react in an affective manner to certain terms. Instead one would try to listen to what somebody else could mean. Of course this assumes that the interlocutor tries to express something and s/he is not just ventriloquising.

    A next step could be to interrogate how far experience and communication are subject to a) biological and b) to social influence – “aporetic inquiry”. Only this then could leads to “aporetic dissonance” in regard to ones own self. I think the first step, training in communication is essential here, because the “aporetic dissonance” could lead to strong affective reactions which need to be adressed in an effective manner for not to crash the communication process of the group at this point. This might also be the point where it becomes clear that an experienced mediator might be of great help. At least the group itself has to develope rules along the process.

    Only now, after “ancoric loss” hopefully was achieved, it becomes possible to think/communicate about implementing a new paradigm.

    But maybe it is not always a sequence. For example, how does doubt feels? It could be all three phases in one moment. Doubt that Buddhism might not be the panacea because of the impression that somebodies critique could be right and some idea how it could be different. These are those special moments an idea is born. For example, how was it when Glenn for the first time read about Laruelle and he had the idea about Speculative Non-Buddhism? This is a Kairos, a moment with a special character. Of course it is a process too. A new idea isn’t just there suddenly. And of course it can go wrong. I think the mindfulness industrie is trying to produce these special moments in assembly-line style.

    Note that this in itself is not in any kind something prone to x-buddhist language. But it could lead to a well informed use of the term anatta, for example.

  32. Patrick Avatar

    Re #31
    Hello Matthias,
    There’s a lot for me to think about in your comment.
    The four phases-inquiry, dissonance and loss followed by the adaption of a new way of seeing- is a good model within which to think about the use and miss-use of language. It brings attention to concrete experience. I’ve noticed that the process is not a one-off thing. Any element can occur while thinking, reading or writing. One of the strengths of Glen’s formulation is that he adds to Laurelle’s approach the concept of affective dissonance. This is an important feature of xBuddhist response to non-Buddhism . I am very interested in this question in relation to ideological subscription in general. I experienced a huge amount of dissonance when I first began to question my own subscription to Marxism. When I look back I can see that this process of inquiry, dissonance, and loss was extended over a long period, and was accompanied by feelings of anger and confusion. It was a huge factor in my decision to explore Buddhism. Remarkably, as Glen surmised in relation to a rupture with one’s subscription to xbuddhism, over time I have been able to separate what was useful in Marxism from what was, for me, habitual identification. Such identification always produces ‘ventriloquism’, along with subservience to charismatic leaders’ ( the equivalent of xbuddhisms guru worship) factionalism and verbal abuse. I know of one case of persistent sexual abuse of female recruits by a prominent Marxist , (now deceased) These problems are pervasive in Marxist circles.
    As I have said in other comments I think this question of dissonance is central to Marxist practice since one is engaged, hopefully, in concrete political action in conditions of conflict, or one is at least preparing for such an eventuality. Under conditions of conflict dissonance can take the form of cycles of vicious reactivity.
    In this connection I am interested in your inclusion of biology as a factor . I have been investigating the links Tomek provided and wonder in what ways neurobiology (and biology in general) can contribute to the question of understanding the process of ideological subscription. I have been thinking about Badiou’s formulation- body/,language/truths- and how they relate to one another. Regarding dissonance, ‘body’ has to be a big factor since we are subject to strong territorial and defensive instincts. These surly find expression as an over identification with ‘ways of seeing’ and ‘world views’.
    Finally your emphasis on communication has me thinking about the question of clarity and the avoidance of ‘jargon’, Buddhist, Marxist or otherwise. For instance I am constantly catching myself being led along by language itself. I mean the way the terminology of a particular discourse operates in determining the content of what one says. One answer to this is a commitment to constantly question ones opinions and beliefs. Another is a commitment to clarity in the way one expresses oneself, especially in writing. Of course this is easier said than done . I sometimes read over past comments I have made here with a sense of not having made the best job of it at all. In this one needs vigilance.

  33. Tomek Avatar

    Patrick (#32), don’t you think that ideological subscription when seen from the perspective of neurobiology can be understood as an example of a homeostatic mechanism – as convincingly says Damasio – which is patterned on the basic biological homeostasis and that manifests in the uniquely human forms of the so called sociocultural homeostasis – religion, ideology, art, etc.? The goal of such sociocultural homeostasis being not just Darwinian survival and reproduction but also broadly understood human well-being.

  34. Patrick Avatar

    Since posting my last comment I have come across a discussion on this topic here:
    Glenn’s comment to Tom and Tomek.

    On the question of substitution of terms raised here I think it is a matter of disabling decision for all ideological subscriptions so that one can see the ‘baggage ‘ attached to new terms—-for instance my suggestion that solidarity should replace compassion introduces tropes from Marxism and liberation theology, the latter in the context of trying to decommission the ideological charge of the word ‘charity’ and its ‘helper/victim structure and introduce a critique of ‘structures of injustice’. If I am blinded by my subscription to such an extent that I cannot see this there will be problems . But then isn’t part of the function of being in dialogue concerned with exposing ones views for critique by ones peers and in that way overcoming ones unseen ideological subscriptions?

    On the question of the transitive and the intransitive I think Laruelle’s formulations- the determination in the last instance, the human in the human, unilateral reality- are all categories against which the usefulness of different terms can be measured. But I don’t think this can ever be only a theoretical question. Marx addresses this question of ‘objective truth’ in his theses on Feuerbach as follows

    ‘The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth — i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking that is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.’

    In other words if I contend that Obama’s policy of extermination by drone is capable of becoming a policy of extra judicial killing of American citizens on American soil, and you accuse me of ideological bias, no amount of appealing to philosophical truth categories is going to decide the question. Someone is going to have to test my contention in practice and actually look like he might be a potential threat.

  35. Patrick Avatar

    Hello Tomek,
    I don’t quite understand what homeostasis means in this context so I will take some time out to research it. If you could in the mean time try to clarify what Damasio means by it that would be great

  36. Patrick Avatar

    Glenn’s comment referred to in #34: Tomek and Tom (#26-29). I think this is an interesting and important topic. Your discussion reminds me of one of the eternal debates in translation theory. The debate revolves around the question when, if ever, is a term untranslatable? Maybe the version in your discussion is not as absolute, something like when, if ever, is it necessary to alter a term?

    I want to try to get clearer about the issue. I think we all agree with points 1-4 in comment #26, right? As I understand them: (1) there are no ideologically pure terms; (2) disabling “decision” functions to create transparency where there was opacity regarding one’s ideological commitments (it changes our relation to, in our case, x-buddhist materials); (3) certain terms name mind-independent aspects of our shared intransitive dimension; and (4) because “decision” has been disabled, these same terms no longer function in the transitive mode, therefore (and given the truth of #1) there is no compelling reason to alter the original truth-naming terms, terms that are descriptors of the intransitive dimension.

    Do I have that right? Is one major reason for retaining an original term the fact that its replacement changes, and certainly solves, nothing? In fact, if it changes anything, it is that it influences us with its own inevitable historically determined lexical-ideological nuances. As Tom puts it:
    “Radical Contingency” [as a replacement for pratityasamutpada] has all kinds of ideological baggage to it, but you don’t see it because it is yours. If you want it to refer to exactly the same concept as dependent arising, then why produce a new term at all?

    This seems to be a major point; namely, the contention that retaining the original term is in fact a better choice because we thereby avoid, or at least delimit, the always present, if often subtle, ideological push and pull inherent in our language games. Is that right? Is that what the choice to retain the original terms boils down to?

    Or is there an additional issue tacitly at work here? Do you, Tom, understand the original term to offer a necessarily better angle on the truth it names? If so, I am wondering what makes that so. I understand the disabling of decision to constitute a shutdown or radical depotentialization of a given term’s network of postulation. In that case, the term becomes a denuded descriptor; and so, given the fact that it names a human truth, is now open to translation. Some translators argue that this is not the case, that, on the contrary, the truth-term requires more than itself to be a descriptor of the intransitive dimension. Translators of Heidegger, for example, typically retain terms like Dasein and Ereignis and so on for some version of this reason. Sometimes, the reason given suggests Heidegger’s own: Dasein speaks German, or German best thinks Being, and so on. Sometimes, the translator claims that Dasein carries connotations and resonances that English “Being” does not capture. The reason for this failure is related to Tom’s #1 and #4: our terms are soiled–encrusted–with layers of historical usage, and nothing can alter this fact. But it is here, too, that the question can be asked: how far have we come with our project of disabling decision, or of making our ideological commitment transparent, by retaining the original precisely given that this is the case? Can re-naming–translation–constitute a step out of the decisional circle for just this reason?

    I certainly agree that “confusing the ideological and the scientific, the transitive and the intransitive, is the cause of most delusions and suffering.” I am still not sure what role our actual terminology plays in perpetuating this confusion. But I think it is a debate worth having. So, I will continue to give it thought.

  37. Tomek Avatar

    Patrick (#35), please, have a look at one of the above videos, the one titled On Arts and Culture – I think that Damasio explains it quite clearly and concisely what he means by sociocultural homeostasis and how it relates to the automated (biological) homeostasis that we find in most basic forms of life on this planet. Subscription to an ideology from this neurobiological perspective could be understood as a specifically human form of cultural response to a detection of imbalance in the life process and seeking to correct it within the constraints of human biology and of the physical and social environment. Such subscription is not necessarily limited to the survival of the indoctrinated individuals but it aims at – what very often sounds quite grandiose – so called “well-being” (end of suffering, for example) and that makes it distinctly human response.

  38. Alan Avatar

    This post and the many comments have been really valuable for me. It connects very much with the state of my own practice now. My group has changed dramatically in the past couple of years (see Glenn #30)as it moves further and further away from x-buddhistic approaches. It seems to be on the verge of disintegration, and, hopefully, re-formulation. When I joined it four and a half years ago, typically 20 to 30 people would attend any given session. The last four weeks, it has been me and one other person, each time a different person. So for me it hasn’t been so much “Practising in Delusion” as “What Happens When Your Group Disables Delusion.” But it has value for me even sitting with one other person. I agree that sitting collectively is important, for reasons articulated in some of the comments, and I wouldn’t want to practice entirely alone. I am interested in the ideas here about how to create a group. Thanks for those.

    Glenn #30: I think that describes it well. Don’t really have anything to add. I like your pop psychology/psychoanalysis analogy and thought about what consolation can really be. After all, I find Beckett quite consoling. Looking forward to the end of your semester.

  39. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Patrick, re #32

    Yes, my point is to bring “attention to concrete experience“, as you say. I have argued for this here quite a bit. Ventriloquism is about talking without experience. My crude theory, underpinned with some experience in group work, is that a first step has to be expression of experience. I find it astonishing how few expression of meditative experience there is in Buddhism, or even here, while all the time there is talk about meditation. At the same time one can find loads of descriptions what people see, hear, feel, smell, think if they really are mindful – just in the denotational meaning of the term – in literature for example. Phenomenologically x-buddhism is a gigantic and ridiculous failure. My point is to become creative in expression. But, of course, this can go wrong at once because today everybody wants his or her fifteen minutes of fame and creativity is seen today as something to show off ones narcissistic speciality – which is, of course, just another pit to stumble in.

    That’s why I think another layer should be the question if these qualia exist at all? It seems as if from the point of view of cognitive sciences that there emerges a picture about a certain kind of “folk metaphysics” humans use before they even begin to think theoretically about “things”. Faces, bodys, living beings, material things etc. all could be, in this view, categories of “folk metaphysics”. Pascal Boyer and Clark Barret make a distinction between “proper cognitive domains” and “actual cognitive domains”. The former are phylogenetically old structures the latter are produced by social evolution. Both don’t overlap exactly but interact and that leads to what Boyer calls the “kidnapping” of the former through the latter. Actually it’s a bit more complicated than that but anyway, what emerges is an intuitive ontology about what we are which isn’t always compatible to reality. (There is strong opposition to this kind of science by Tom. One of his points seem to be that cognitive sciences and evolutionary psychology declare that capitalism is a natural product. I am sure these sciences will be used to exploit humans even more by capitalism but in fact they could explain why capitalism looks natural). The relevant text by Boyer and Barret is Domain Specificity and Intuitive Ontology in The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology (I think you find it somewhere in scribd).

    Point #1, about creativity, needs a certain kind of setting whereby humans are physically together. That doesn’t work over skype or something like this. One important rule of the setting is that critique is suspended just like in a brain storming session. Whoever doesn’t understand that in this phase critique is counter productive canot take part in such a group. The role of the mediator is to remind participants about the rules of the game (which evolve and change in the process itself), nothing else. The meaning of such a first phase is partly about building confidence/trust among participants. Only then can come critique. Of course, the trust building part can go wrong in such a way that, if trust is there, nobody dares to critique any more because of the fear to destroy trust. But this is, like in a marriage or after the first phase of love for example, a misunderstanding. Critique doesn’t put into question necessarily good human relation per se but in fact is part of it. But even to learn this might be part of the first phase of such a community building process.

    Ok, this is already too long again. There could by a lot more said about group building processes but everybody can read about it and try it out. I think the crucial part of the building of a community is the understanding that it is not simply about building a cosy emotional environment – that, and to not even to get this right, is for x-buddhism.

    Re skype. I had several conferences with skype recently with up to four people in different locations. It works pretty well. The picture is off to provide bandwidth. Some people might need a bit help to set it up but once it is worked out it’s a useful tool.

    Patrick, if you like to comment on my German blog, feel free to do it in english. Btw, where are you in Switzerland? I am sometimes in Zuerich and sometimes in Lugano.

  40. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    RE #36: I don’t think that any particular term is better as a term. The word doesn’t really matter. The reason I am wary of changing terms is that this usually occurs exactly when we begin to notice all of the ideological baggage a concept carries with it. All concepts will have ideological baggage, and noticing it should be a goal–the idea that we can move to an “ideology-free” term is really just a way to prevent us noticing the ideological baggage, and so only works to keep us deluded. This is a standard rhetorical strategy in critical thought–the critic attempts to point out the ideological origins and function of a concept, and the reactionary simply says yes, THAT term has too much baggage, let’s just rename the concept and ignore its ideological origins and function, and pretend it is now “ideology-free, for your protection.”

    The discussion of cognitive science, homeostasis, Metzinger, Boyer, etc., is troubling for exactly this reason. It is the same old positivist empiricism, with the same ideological function, but in ever-new and more “complex” terms. It still only functions to promote a positivist epistemology fundamental to capitalist ideology, and to ignore the aporia or lack, the structuring contradiction, which drives social activity. Once we begin to focus on the contradiction, the lack, the negative, then we can see how to actually make change for the better, instead of modifications to keep the system running. This is the function of the “cognitive science” obsession, and the goal of dopes like Metzinger, as well as purely evil folks like Boyer. Metzinger, at least, just seems to lack the intellectual ability to see his errors (although they have been made and pointed out by hundreds of people for hundreds of years, he thinks that some new terms for the same old concepts will solve the problem); Boyer seems, at times, to actually know that he is producing an oppressive ideology and that nothing he says is true, and to almost revel in the fact that he can successful delude people.

  41. Tomek Avatar

    Tom (#40), what a penetrating critique! Let’s leave aside that dope Metzinger – by the way have you already finished his Being No One? – and at least point out to me where exactly (what article or book) is this evil man Boyer “seems, at times, to actually know that he is producing an oppressive ideology”?

  42. John Avatar

    ‘scuse me. I notice the word moron being bandied about a lot here.
    Is this derision along the same lines as calling someone a cripple, in order to prod them into more coordinated and effective physical activity. ie ‘come on, you fucking cripple, MOVE! LIKE THIS!’
    Is moron a word that is simply being misused and applied to people who are in fact of average intelligence, a little like the ultra fit sergeant may abuse his recruits as they struggle over the assault course ?
    For their own good ?
    Is there a natural, intelligence based, pecking order by which the intelligent must dominate the stupid, or eject them/distance them if they cannot be effectively controlled or trained ?
    How do I know if I am a moron or not ?
    If I am a moron will I understand that I am a moron ?
    Or maybe I’m not a moron but simply appear to be a moron because my mental muscles have not been trained ?
    Is the definition of a moron someone that has reactionary thoughts and feelings ?
    Or is moronity demonstrated by a lack of facility with philosophical argument ?
    Those would seem like fairly narrow definitions of moron, but maybe I’m too much of a moron to understand the definition of moron.

  43. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    RE 41: No, Tomek, I’m not going to waste my time pointing out yet again what is wrong with such arguments. I’ve done it many times, as have many others in hundreds of different places. Reading Boyer makes me feel physically nauseous, and I have already pointed out what is wrong with his position–your approach is just to wait a while, then ask me to do exactly the same thing over again, and once I’ve done it you will simply refuse to understand, then wait a few weeks and once again insist I’ve never done it. I’m too busy to waste my time on this game any longer.

    And John, re 42: Tomek’s persistent willful ignorance and stubborn insistence on repeating the same arguments no matter how many times or in how many ways they are refuted is what I, personally, would call moronic. It is less a matter of innate intellectual capacity than it is a strategy for producing reactionary ideology by refusing to think.

  44. jayarava Avatar

    e 27. “You clearly have not even the slightest understanding of the fundamental concepts of Buddhist thought, and simply want to call your postmodern ideology (everything is open to interpretation, we are always in a completely undetermined present moment, the past is just an illusion, etc) Buddhism, and go on being a good, deluded, unthinking capitalist subject. How does calling that Buddhist make it easier or more effective for you?”

    I thought honesty was the name of the game here. I can’t remember reading a less honest comment on a blog for a long time.

  45. Tomek Avatar

    OK, Tom (#43), that was just one article by Boyer (actually just a short passage) you mentioned while ago. Do you think that you can extrapolate from it to all of the work of this author? How about the piece that Matthias just mentioned above? Have you tried that one too? I’ve read it and I’m alright. But that’s probably because my digestive system was properly conditioned in my childhood by the meager diet commonly served in Polish communist utopia.

  46. Tom Pepper Avatar

    RE 44: If blunt honesty is what you mean by “less honest,” then I guess I’m guilty of outright deception. I really am (honestly) curious about this–that is, I would like to know how it is useful for someone to say they don’t take Buddhism seriously, and don’t really know anything about it and don’t want to make the effort, but that they feel “comfortable” calling themselves Buddhist because they embrace postmodern ideology. Why is this helpful? Does it help to obscure the ideological nature of these postmodern claims, making them seem like profound ancient wisdom and therefore less starkly and cynically reactionary? I just don’t see the value of this. I hear it often, almost weekly, and I do ask people this on occasion, and I am not being disingenuous at all. If you simply want to keep doing Cognitive Therapy, why is it useful to call it “mindful” Cognitive therapy and pretend it is Buddhist? If you want to treat addiction with “stress management” techniques proven for decades to be completley ineffective, why is it useful to call stress “dukkha” and claim you are using Buddhism to treat addiction? Does it add some kind of placebo effect to an otherwise useless treatment? Similarly, does adding the label “Buddhist” help make a horrendous capitalist ideology more palatable? It doesn’t for ME–does it work for others?

    RE 45: Seriously Tomek, I’ve wasted enough time on Boyer, and I’m not willing to go back and reread his crap. Naturally, it wouldn’t seem problematic at all to someone who shares his capitalist ideology.

  47. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Tom, re #40

    The first paragraph is a rhetoric trick, and a cheap one too: Who ever is thinking about changing a terminology is a reactionary. It is as easy as this.

    Re the second paragraph. I asked you several times about sources for your critique of the “cognitive science” obsession. I never got one.

    For the record: The other layer I mentioned in #39 is about decentering the believe in our everyday ontology – the self included. Not about the right or wrong of an argument. I mentioned this before but obviously I do not get this through. Equally valuable could be LSD, sensoric deprivation, falling in love, an experience like Patty Hearst had, the sudden death of a very dear person, a visit to a totally alien culture without any clue how to behave and I don’t know what else.

    How does a non-buddhist ‘practice’ look like? was the question. Well, for me this kind of discusion is useless.

  48. jayarava Avatar

    Re #46 Tom, I suppose it makes a change from being accused of being a materialist (which is far more common). How do you come to associate me with this view?

  49. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    RE 47: Come on, Matthias, don’t give me that crap. Somebody asked why I was reluctant to drop the old Buddhist terminology, and I explained why I am, as I said, “wary of” the shift to new terms, or the insistence on not using old and strange-sounding terms. This is hardly sophistry, it is just a lucid explanation. Most of the time, when someone wants to drop a term from discussion, to relabel a concept, it is exactly for this purpose–to choose a term for the concept that sounds, to our ears, ideology-free, and so to avoid awareness. This isn’t sophistry, it is simply my experience, and is the reason I think there is no practical good is served by relabeling a concept just because we are very aware of its ideological baggage. For me, this remains the reason NOT to relabel it.

    I’ve given enough arguments and references for the problem with cognitive sciences. It isn’t worth discussing. Anyone who would be willing to listen to the argument doesn’t need to hear it, and anyone else would just refuse to understand the argument, wait a while, and then claim there was no such argument made. If you want to know what is wrong with the positivist assumptions of cognitive science, the explanations are everywhere. Honestly, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. From Marcuse to Badiou, everybody on the left has written about this at some point, and these arguments are only invisible to those who will not see them. What kind of “source” might you want? Read Ian Parker or Roy Bhaskar or Althusser or, well, the list in infinite. There is not single fundamental “critique” of the problem of cognitive science, as far as I know, but the problems are so glaringly obvious to most philosophers that criticism of this is everywhere.

    This may seem like copping out, but really, I’m tired of wasting my time on the cognitive/neuroscience nonsense. It’s like trying to convince someone who believes in astrology to stop believing in it. I could make the argument, I have made the argument, but it is pointless. When I explain why Metzinger is doing the exact same thing as Locke, with the exact same problems, the response is simply to ignore the claim, and insist that in yet another essay he finally solves that problem–that all his books and essays so far might lead to the false impression that he is an idiot, but the one I haven’t read yet, because it is only in German, refutes everything else he wrote before and after and saves his whole project. It is just a pointless waste of time. Positivism is ideology, not science, and if you don’t see that yet, nothing I say will convince you.

  50. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    RE 48: I cannot figure out what you are trying to say here.

  51. jayarava Avatar

    #50 Tom. Well it’s a fairly simple question. You are making some sweeping generalisations about some person and I’m wondering what they are based on. Could you provide some back ground as to why you think I don’t take Buddhism seriously or know the first thing about it. On what basis do you propose to judge me?

    I am regularly accused of being a materialist or a physicalist, but never before has anyone described as someone who “embraces post-modernist ideology”, let alone associated me with post-modernism.

    I’m just wondering what the fuck you are talking about?

  52. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize that you were the same person as “Jay” in comment #25. I am basing my assertion about being a “postmodern” on exactly what it says in that comment. The idiotic statements about everything being open to interpretation, the idea that the past has absolutely no effect on our present decisions or our future capacities, all that pomo crap. And the not taking it seriously, well, that is just what “Jay” literally says, so that’s where I got the idea.

    Of course, if you are not also “Jay,” then I don’t know why you would assume what I said to him must also apply to you.

  53. jayarava Avatar

    I get called Jay by people who can’t cope with Jayarava. My mistake. I’ll shut up now.

  54. Tomek Avatar

    I think that instead of succumbing to the rising intensity of Peppers slurs towards neuroscience or cognitive sciences in general it’s better to visit Running from Zombie Buddhas comments (let’s say from #38), where one can find at least something that can resemble constructive argument from him, not just epithets. Since I don’t think there has been a comment on this blog I haven’t read since its very beginnings I’m sure that one can not find any ‘stronger’ counter arguments from Pepper against Metzinger et al. – despite his latest assurances of explaining it in hundreds of places – then these comments he posed in Running from Zombie Buddhas thread. I wrote “resembling constructive arguments” because the most striking element in his smear tactic is that he tries to picture the neuroscientific terminology as a kind of subterfuge designed to “amaze and confuse” (#40) the reader, and as one can easily imagine in his case, eventually strengthen readers hysterical capitalist subjectivity. But to me it is just a smoke screen that allows him to hide his own amazement and confusion regarding such multidisciplinary approach as that presented by Metzinger. This is evident in his obvious lack of knowledge of this particular terminology. Peppers most penetrating insight in the intricate field of neuroscience starts and ends with his oft repeated pathetic metaphor of “the brain is like a radio–it ‘tunes in’ to specific broadcasts, but those voices aren’t ‘inside’ it.” (#37) Deep, isn’t it

  55. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    This kind of discussion (the last series of comments) is for me another example of what I am most concerned with in trying to find a new way to practice Buddhism. Because in the group I have been practicing with for years, it has become impossible to suggest that we think critically about mindfulness, or to raise the question of the universality of money, or the difference between contradictions at the limit of thought and thought-free immersion into bodily sensation. What I get is shocked outrage, and comments about Buddhism being a way to “restore” us and allow us to go out and be better capitalist subjects–to invest in the stock market more intelligently, to enjoy our commodities more fully, to learn to stop thinking about the suffering and oppression in the world and just have fun in the eternal “present moment”! So anyone who wants to actually think about changing the world and really reducing suffering is left constantly arguing against the reactionary subject, and never able to do anything constructive.

    On the blog, every time we try to start a constructive discussion, like this one about what Buddhist practice could look like, it become overwhelmed with reactionaries capitalist ideologues like Tomek or Luis Daniel insisting that we cannot, we have no right to, ignore their favorite new idiotic brand of capitalist ideology, we must always and only devote all our time and energy to critiquing the latest bullshit some capitalist ideologue has pulled out of Herbert Spencer or William James or John Locke and re-packaged. And if we should try to criticize these ideological mystifications, we get the same unthinking shouting about any and all criticism being simply “lack of knowledge of the complex terminology” or “smear tactics” or “cheap sophistry.” No argument against capitalist ideology can be comprehensible to the capitalist ideologue, so this is a waste of time. It’s like trying to persuade a psychologist that the empirical method is and idiotic waste of time–they will simply say “prove it empirically, then I will agree.” Or trying to persuade someone who believe in horoscopes that they are nonsense–they will insist that once their horoscope was right, and all the hundreds and thousands of counter-examples are just evidence that astrology is “too complex” for the non-believer to understand.

    What I’m interested in is finding a group who already knows that astrology is stupid nonsense, who doesn’t believe in God, and who is able to see through the tired old positivist ideology of crap like Metzinger’s. I’m interested in doing something constructive, not endlessly spending my time critiquing nonsense for those who will refuse to understand the critique anyway.

    My absurd fantasy is to find a practice group where anyone who tries to argue we must believe in God will be asked to go away, and where anyone still devoted to the universality of capitalism or the illusion of reducing the mind to the brain or any form of pragmatism or positivism at all, will also be asked to go away and come back when they have learned to think. I’m not saying there’s no place for arguing against these things, for trying to point out the conceptual errors in such absurd beliefs. I do it in my professional work every day. But I would like to find a group that could begin from a place beyond this attachment to capitalist ideology, and try to construct some useful alternatives. The new group I am in the process of putting together will not even be called a Buddhist group at all, and instead of sutras we will be reading Lacan and Antonio Negri and Boltanski & Chiapello. So far, there are only three of us, but it is better than a group of fifty hopelessly reactionary capitalist ideologues.

    Tomek: you can go right ahead with your unthinking assertions about the inevitability of capitalism and the impossibility of critiquing positivism and the glories of Metzinger’s capitalist ideology of the subject. I concede the fight–you are right, Metzinger is a pure genius, everything he says is completely true, everyone should hurry out to read his books and forget everything else, he has solved all problems (as he boldly claims) with his daring assertion, made explicitly in his book “The Ego Tunnel”: consciousness just remains beyond explanation, a profound mystery, and once we accept that we can begin busily transforming ourselves into more efficient capitalist drones. Let’s begin the good work!

    Somebody earlier asked what a moron was. Here’s another definition: if you read Metzinger and don’t see what a pile of recycled positivist crap it is, you’re a moron. And like the follower of horoscopes, there is doubtless not argument that can be made against you.

    But I am tired of endlessly trying to ward of the caviling of the capitalists. I think I’ll be taking break now. (Here’s your chance, Tomek: start insisting over and over that capitalism is inevitable, positivism is the only truth, Metzinger and Boyer have solved all the problems and every real thinker in history should be dismissed–while you’re at it, why not throw in some Herbert Spencer and Ayn Rand, the true ignored geniuses of philosophy? No doubt you can bring all the readers of this blog, in danger of having a real thought, back into the reactionary subject–if you just should like a moron for long enough!)

    Before my temporary cowardly retreat in the face of reactionary forces, I will offer, one time, to seriously critique and point out the errors in ONE work of your choosing. I don’t have time to review and dismantle the entire corpus of reactionary ideology, so if you are going to take the standard approach of the pscyhologists and insist that a critique of one, or two, or twenty, or sixty, or three hundred scholarly essays isn’t proof, because they have all been superseded by this one new one (and then the critique of that one is invalid, because, clearly, it contradicts the previous three hundred), then I won’t bother. But if anyone can offer one essay that can serve as an example the work of Metzinger or Boyer or any of the cognitive-scientists or cognitive neuroscientists, I will use it to explain the errors of this approach. Beyond that, I will leave you to extrapolate.

    And if anyone is really interested in trying out using google groups to conduct a sort of online practice group, email me (, I’d like to give it a try! I don’t know what form such a group might take, but figuring it out could be part of the practice, right?

  56. Tomek Avatar

    No need to be concerned Tom, I’ve been tying to persuade you for months that to my eyes this blog was not created to try to “find new ways to practice Buddhism”. That’s the most important thing that you so fiercely resist and an obvious sign of your deeply ingrained x-buddhistic reflexivity. So enjoy you new companion, who knows maybe you’ll create new vanguard of revolutionary Buddhism, and when time will come you’ll eliminate all those morons that won’t be able to comprehend the freshness of your utopian message.

  57. Tom Pepper Avatar

    RE 56: Thanks Tomek. I’m sure we will create the vanguard of revolutionary Buddhism. It’ll take at least five years, so you have time to prepare.

    I notice you don’t dare to actually risk submitting any of your precious ideological texts to serious critique. It works better to just assert that they solve all the problems–so long as nobody actually reads them.

    P.S. Matthias, I include your comment in this. Instead of lamenting that I won’t offer a critique of something you have in mind, some vague entity called “cognitive science,” why not offer something specific? I could critique and essay on cognitive science at random, but it isn’t likely the be the one you happen to find convincing. If you feel I haven’t really given any substantial criticism that bears on whatever you find convincing, why not tell me specifically, with a single concrete example, what you mean by cognitive science?

  58. Tomek Avatar

    For now Tom, my appetite for flesh and blood around this site is fully satisfied by scavenging from time to time on the corpse of your crazy project of fusing nostalgia for the dharmic good with the humiliated fantasy of worldwide communism. I secretly hope that you won’t stop feeding me profusely, Comrade. But who knows maybe sooner or later I’ll spit the undigested bones and from them I cobble together something to then bury them deep.

  59. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Again, your pathetic accusations that I cannot refute arguments that you refuse to make. Reactionary idiots like you are a dime a dozen, and none ever have anything worthwhile to say–just trying to make enough noise to prevent any real thought from taking place.

  60. Tomek Avatar

    I didn’t accuse you of anything Tom, I just see how soppy in fact your tirades are – just reread your emotional comment #55. But they don’t disgust me nor make me laugh, I’m well aware that even if the beast of your decision is naked and apparently dead, one have to be watchful because the sheer smell of its rotting corpse can be easily harmful to the feasting animal as myself.

  61. poepsa Avatar

    Interesting…. I just read this exact thing from Deepak Chopra:
    “the brain is like a radio–it ‘tunes in’ to specific broadcasts, but those voices aren’t ‘inside’ it.”
    To think Tom has an ally in the new-age guru/maven!

    Tom: Regarding the issue of creating “new terms” argued above. How does your position that we keep the traditional terms jibe with this blog’s criticism of “buddhemes?” Hasn’t there been a criticism made about the use of terms like “emptiness” here, with Glenn positing some new term?

    I am actually curious about this because I agree with you that often (if not always) the contemporary strategy of making up new terms does seem to me to be a perfect example of what you describe in Comment 40.

  62. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Re Tom‘s #55:

    [I]f anyone can offer one essay that can serve as an example the work of Metzinger or Boyer or any of the cognitive-scientists or cognitive neuroscientists, I will use it to explain the errors of this approach.

    One of you fans of Metzinger et al can not pass this offer up. Who will name such an example?

    This kind of exchange is how real progress (in thought, Luis Daniel!) is made. Remember, this blog is, in Bakhtin’s phrase, a site of struggle. Let’s go now!

  63. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    RE 61: Poepsa, Yes, this is the level of argument I get from folks like Tomek–he cannot understand or respond to anything anyone says, so he finds one single metaphor used to clarify one point, without the context it is presented in, and asserts that this one metaphor is my “explanation,” and then laughs to himself about how brilliantly he has proven me wrong, and returns to his canned rhetoric of “maturity” and how sadly naive and idealistic it is to foolishly think we can change capitalism instead of merely adapting to it, like mature grown-ups. When I ask for a concrete argument, he retreats, as always. He’ll be back in a couple weeks, making the same empty arguments again.

    As for the question of “buddhemes” and using conventional terms, well, there are differences of opinion on this matter, I guess. I think we can critique the use of term as a “buddheme” and still continue to use it, defining and arguing for a correct understanding of the concept. I would rather continue to discuss the term emptiness, and address how it is used in a purely ideological way in most x-buddhist discourse, instead of dropping the term and replacing it. Everything is “empty” is a way for most x-buddhists to say that nothing matters, we don’t need to do anything at all, just sit in passive contentment. It serves the same ideological function as “socially constructed” does for postmodernists: they just label something socially constructed, and think they’re done with it, as if socially constructed things didn’t have real causal powers in the world, as if because it is socially constructed we should believe that we cannot change it!

    In short, I would still want to critique the buddhemes, but not necessarilly drop the concepts–just the empty use of the term with no concept behind it. If we change to new terms, of course, we still have to do exactly the same kind of critique.

  64. Geoff Avatar


    PS re suggested topics for your group discussion, I forgot to mention the classic of course:

    “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.

    Re # 55 I like your quote:

    “No argument against communist ideology can be comprehensible to the communist ideologue, so this is a waste of time.”

    Also good to see you’re reading Dale Carnegie.

    It’s worth checking out this site just for the entertainment you provide getting hot under the collar.



  65. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Geoff (#64). We’ve moved past that (boring) mode of personal attack and have asked for specific texts or arguments to analyze. So, what do you have, other than middle-school level blah blah? Anything? Let’s have it. Otherwise, go snip at Bhikkhu Sujato’s heals.

  66. Craig Avatar

    I’ve been busy getting banned from another forum and re-reading some book store buddhist tomes collecting dust on my shelf. The site i was banned from was a vegan site. As far as practice goes, that’s been on my mind lately. Ironically, I was band by a self-described libertarian for making cogent arguments against his ‘deluded nonsense’ (thanks for that phrase Tom:)

    The books I’ve been re-reading are those of Joko Beck. It’s been a while since I’ve read her stuff. I used to think she was the shit, now I see that she to was focused on creating ‘mindful workers’. Many of here examples have to do with how we are at work, dealing with co-workers etc. Amazing, the not too surprising.

    Anyway, I’m catching up. My optimism has been waining towards apathy when thinking about possible change in this world. I think, technically, the world can change, but how do we stay motivated.

  67. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Craig (#66). I just re-read Beckett’s Texts for Nothing, #1. It opens:

    Suddenly, no, at last, long last, I couldn’t anymore. I couldn’t go on. Someone said, You can’t stay here. I couldn’t stay there and I couldn’t go on.

    I find words like that very helpful in dealing with the motivation question. It forces, for me, a no-nonsense, clear-eyed assessment of my situation as a living human being. What am I going to do? Who decides? Will someone or some doctrine or sangha decide for me? What does motivate me? Can I at least fulfill the basic conditions for doing that? Do I need to do something to help myself do that–go to the gym, eat more healthily, see a shrink now and then, recite heavenly mantras to Manjusri, meditate? Can I do what I need to do in the first instance –long before “getting somewhere” becomes a question? Does this make any sense? I’ll try again tomorrow.

  68. Patrick Avatar

    Hi Matthias and Tomek,
    Three points
    On Pascal boyer and cognitive:
    I think it is fairly obvious that Boyer supports a form of the free market economics and conservative politics. This information is freely available online in various places and is implied in much of his work. He contributes articles for the National review the pre-eminent American conservative and neo -libertarian online Magazine , including a recent article exploring, from a cognitive science standpoint, the question as to why ‘ordinary people’ have a fear of ‘free markets’ , the implication being that the free market system is a natural environment to which people respond in ‘intuitive’ ways. An interesting paper on a variety of social problems in which Boyer makes much the same presumptions about the given-ness of capitalist economic and social relations can be found here . Its called ‘Ten problems in search of a research programme’

    The question of Boyers political ideology is a different question from the question of cognitive science’s relationship to ideology. a question not about personal opinions but one about the nature of the relationship between the practice of science and economic production and its demands for technological innovation, individual and corporate ownership and its control of access to funding programmes and sponsorship, ideological control of education, and a host of other factors.

    No practice of science is ever anything other than an activity of subjects already embedded in complex social and economic relations that manifest in human thought as various ideological standpoints. This assertion is of course also an ideological standpoint and one that will be contested by those who believe in the neutrality of science.

    All of this should be separated from the empirical investigations of scientific practice , including the science of neurobiology whose findings are subject to falsifiability procedures.
    In my opinion Representationalism is a philosophical position is not an element of scientific practice. Representationalism is contested both within the domain of cognitive science and in the wider philosophical community, especially positions based on the work of Heideggeger and Merleau-ponty.
    Since many nurobiologists also espouse the philosophical positions of ‘representationalism the two are obviously connected in various ways. For instance the large proportion of corporate and government funding which goes-to neurobiology is to a large extent the result of the strength of the presence of ‘representationalism’ as a philosophical position, which in turn is connected to the co-opting of this philosophical position by the ideological right and the political, administrative and corporate power this faction wields within the existing power structures.

    Boyer’s theories about “proper cognitive domains” and “actual cognitive domains” and ‘folk ontology’ are interesting and could no doubt shed light on social behavior. But the extrapolation from neurobiological findings to social behavior has its difficulties, a fact recognized by Boyer himself, as illustrated by his assertion that an integral approach is necessary.

    ‘…a new way of doing social science and explaining culture, which for want of a better term I call an integrated behavioral science. What is characteristic of this integrated approach is that it ignores the (generally deceptive) divisions between “levels” or “domains” of reality suggested by reified disciplinary boundaries. Typically, this approach should combine tools and findings from evolutionary biology, game-theory, economics, cultural anthropology, cognitive psychology and neuroscience in causal models of specific human behaviours’.

    The inclusion of ‘game theory’ here and its ‘naturalization’ of ideological positions extracted from the philosophical positions of Hobbes, Locke and Adam smith, is a good indication of where Boyer is coming from and the ideological underpinnings of his ‘integrated approach’.

    I completely agree with your paragraph on creativity and the need for the creation of a non-judgemental space as a first step in the process of decommissioning xbuddhist identification,. This is the great problem with discussions such as these. The need for actual group interaction and face to face dialogue in an initial non-judgemental context is a must and its lack both here online and for those practising alone is obvious.

    I am living on the Bodensee near the town of Goldach. If you are visiting Zurich at any stage I would be delighted to meet for a chat. I am hoping to visit Berlin and maybe also Leipzig before the Summer. Perhaps that would be an option.

  69. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    RE 68: Patrick, quickly, before I go off to class I have to disagree with this statement:

    “No practice of science is ever anything other than an activity of subjects already embedded in complex social and economic relations that manifest in human thought as various ideological standpoints. This assertion is of course also an ideological standpoint and one that will be contested by those who believe in the neutrality of science.”

    This is a common error, but probably the most damaging one made by postmodernists. The assertion that all science is conducted for ideological reasons is NOT itself an ideology, but a statement of fact about the nature of reality. We need to maintain that distinction for any useful thought or action to take place.

    If we were to decide to invest billions of dollars in seeking a cure for cancer instead of getting smaller iphones, we would do so for ideological reasons–the belief that human life is more important than novelty in technology. The fact that this decision would be taken for ideological purposes is NOT an ideology, however. Being aware of this truth may change our ideological commitment, but truth is not the same as ideology.

    My objection to Boyer, then, is not because of his personal commitments, but because what he does is produce ideology, and call it science. If we were to do this in researching cures for cancer, it would be like asserting that our opinions about cancer and disease are what will cause or cure it. The cure will not work merely because we “believe” it works–placebo effects don’t work to cure cancer, however much they may effect the experience of having cancer. The objection I have to cognitive science is not that the practitioners are right wingers, it is that they are producing ideology and pretending it is science. I’m all for producing ideology, but we need to know that is what we are doing when we do it.

  70. Tomek Avatar

    (…)this is the level of argument I get from folks like Tomek–he cannot understand or respond to anything anyone says, so he finds one single metaphor used to clarify one point, without the context it is presented in, and asserts that this one metaphor is my “explanation,”(…)

    Tom (#63), anyone who made an effort to read your numerous statements throughout this blog can easily detect that this single, embarrassing metaphor of “the brain is like a radio…” is actually the only conceptual tool that enables you to make your pet idea of collective mind seem plausible on the ontogenetic level. I wouldn’t mind if you use it, because it carry some very vague idea of how individuals may communicate between themselves, but it is so simplistic that it can be pushed only to the five-year-olds. This alone is still passable, but when I see you slurring on the meticulous work of people like Metzinger, that actually try to explain to us how “the radio” can “tune in” I cannot sit here silently and allow you to spin your sick narrative endlessly. You demand an argument and I reminded you above about the previous discussions here, for example, the one in the Running from Zombie Buddhas thread, where especially Matthias tried to show how the process on “tuning in” is carried out by the individual biological systems as ours. You didn’t showed much interest, instead you blamed this approach as repackaging of an old idea by means of fancy terminology aimed first of all to amaze and confuse contemporary reader. So how one can discuss those matters with you when you just anxiously embrace your favorite “radio” toy and scream when someone comes and wants to explain you how it may actually play your favorite lullaby of collective mind.

  71. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Re 70: still waiting: have any specific argument you’d like me to critique? If not, if all you can too is say the same stupid thing about a metaphor, which is ONLY a metaphor, NOT an explanation of anything at all, and NOT even important at all to any argument I have ever made, well, if that’s all you’ve got, I’ve got better things to do. I took a shot, I offered to critique your position, or Matthias’s, but all you’ll do is complain about some unimportant phrase taken out of context (you clearly cannot grasp the point of anything I ever say), and then insist I can’t defeat an argument you refuse to make. I’ve got other things to do, and I’m kind of busy right now, so you and Geoff go ahead and crow over how brilliantly you’ve succeeded in stopping any real discussion by being total assholes.

  72. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Patrick (#68).

    I completely agree with your paragraph on creativity and the need for the creation of a non-judgemental space as a first step in the process of decommissioning xbuddhist identification,. This is the great problem with discussions such as these. The need for actual group interaction and face to face dialogue in an initial non-judgemental context is a must and its lack both here [and] online and for those practising alone is obvious.

    I am curious why you don’t see this blog as the kind of creative space you value, one for working through ideas. The point is worth exploring in itself, but also because it bears directly on Craig‘s post, the one under discussion.

    A couple of points while you’re thinking about it. If you’re using “non-judgemental” in either the colloquial or mindfulness technical sense, then you are right, you won’t find that here. A while back, when we were still educating readers about the vehemently anti-right-speech spirit of the blog, we had some good discussions on Bakhtin’s idea of a discourse community as a “site of struggle.” Tom Pepper first mentioned Bakhtin’s idea and terms, and it has stuck. So, given that that’s the case, there “non-judgementalism” is not valued. Why not? Because it is seen as being an enemy of creativity, not to mention the rigors of thought. What is valued in its place is full-throttled–and full-throated–expression of one’s view. One of the reasons for that principled choice is precisely because x-buddhists are so convinced of the idiotic notion that holding a view is sinful. So, they perpetually cover up the fact that they possess views with the many humophobic strategies preached in their precious sanghas, such as right speech, non-judgementalism, non-reactivity, compassion, and so on. A site of struggle environment such as this desires judgement. You are not receiving me if you aren’t judging me, my ideas, my view, etc. Judgement is, for me, the second move necessary for a genuine dialogue to unfold. (The first is that I honestly express my view to you.) So, if you are using the term “non-judgemental” in another sense, one of which I am apparently unaware, can you explain it? I wonder if you are confusing judgementalism with tone? I always get confused by these mindful-memes. I just don’t know what to do with people who are not intensely–and conspicuously–judgemental.

  73. Tomek Avatar

    I think we can critique the use of term as a “buddheme” and still continue to use it, defining and arguing for a correct understanding of the concept. (…) I would still want to critique the buddhemes, but not necessarilly drop the concepts–just the empty use of the term with no concept behind it. If we change to new terms, of course, we still have to do exactly the same kind of critique.

    Tom (#63,71), on the one hand, it’s actually amazing to me how blind you are to the very fact that no matter how “correct” is your understanding of any concept taken out from the dharmic vault – like emptiness/shunyata – just by insisting to keep the x-buddhistic term signifying the concept unchanged, let alone it’s very usage, you simply act as someone who reasserts the hallucinogenic force of x-buddhistic thaumaturgy.

    But on the other hand, it should not be surprising at all to someone who, from a fitting proximity, sees self-described Buddhist doing exactly what every Buddhist does, namely, replicating the decisional syntax. It really doesn’t matter, as Glenn wrote in Nascent article, how “they may modify and adjust the terms of the primary supposition”(s.25), the result is always the same: another x-buddhism. And he adds in the very next sentence: “Speculative non-buddhism is unconcerned with operating on this supposition precisely because doing so would constitute yet another iteration of x-buddhism.” And that primary supposition in your case Tom, I dare to say, is a cheap fantasy that Buddhism + Communism is a way to reveal “truth”, and in result, ending suffering in our cruel world.

    I don’t really care that you’re waiting for something, I’m used to act to my own pace. And you’re right that your petty “radio” metaphor does not explain anything, it rather obscures something that is much more thrilling that you would ever be able to explain to me, namely, the blind mechanism that produces the so called affective decision

  74. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    I am just skimming through the comments…

    A text by Boyer or Metzinger? They all have been named already. Patrick names one above (thanks btw for that bit of differentiation). I have mentioned Boyer’s and Barrett’s contribution to the Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. Then there is Metzinger’s Précis: Being No One in Psyche June 2005. How do these texts produce a certain ideology? I would be really interested in this.

    Another point. I am aware that there might be ideological problems with the cognitive sciences. Being relatively uneducated in all these ereas I take my time to learn – and to decide. But I decide. Calling me a moron to push me into a positon is not helpful.

    This said, this is also about group psychology. Reading Craig’s text I thought, ah well, that’s about this site too. A certain kind of group think is developing here: If I read Metzinger I am fucked up capitalist. (Perhaps I am still one, who knows? Some won’t know yet: I have worked in the heart of capitalism for quite a while and I have been absolutely opportunistic. I would scan through hundreds of shares every day, only knowing them by their abbreviations, not the least clue what they do, buying and selling them in massive scales.)

    In my view Tom’s apodictic style when it comes to neuro- or cognitive sciences is prone to help develop group think instead of a thinking that interrogates. Tom said Boyer is a fascist, well ok, then I leave Boyer alone. What I don’t learn is why he should be left alone. Education in my opinion is different.

    Tomek and I have tried to naturalize certain states of meditation we seem to know. But this discusion suffers under the stigmatization of being capitalist bullshit. Or it being dependent on some atomistic self. Or everything what has to do with meditation has from the beginning the stigma of do-not-think-anymore. All these thoughts are here at work. The discusion here about meditation was from the beginning stigmatized by the bullshit-connotation X-Buddhism is building up around it – only the other way round: X–Buddhists say mediation is about no-more-thinking, so we say we don’t want meditation because it is about no-more-thinking. That’s how X-Buddhism dictates the discusion here about meditation – at least partly.

    Another point. The discussion often suffers from common internet phenomena: It is short tempered, comments often are thrown out impulsively, discussion usually is much more agressive then in real face to face setting, a lot of subtleties get lost and so on and on and on. Nothing new. One consequence of this is lost to most participants: Those people who cannot or will not cope with this environment are de-selected already. This is also a kind of group think which formates the group.

    What are the characteristics of the collective self developing here?

  75. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Matthias: Surely you can see the difference between you post here and Tomeks, right? I offered to have a serious discussion, explaining the problem with a particular text in the “cognitive science” genre, and Tomek simply refused to have such a discussion, insisting instead on ignoring everything I have written on this blog and claiming that one metaphor I used for purely rhetorical purposes was the only explanation or argument I have ever made. Then, he retreats again into the tired old reactionary rhetoric about how naive and immature it is to try to think or change the world.

    I do think anyone who could read and agree with Boyer and Metzinger must be a moron. I don’t say nobody should read them–I did. I also read lots of books by Thich Nhat Hanh, and Alan Wallace. I’ve read things by Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle, too. Anyone who doesn’t, or won’t, see what is wrong with these people is probably beyond arguing with–again, like somebody who believes in astrology, no argument or evidence could be persuasive.

    My “apodictic style” when it comes to cognitive science is, to my mind, no different than the apodictic statement I would make about mind reading or the existence of God. If you can’t see that Metzinger is producing an ideology of the subject in the guise of science, then I would be willing to point this out. I won’t waste my time doing it with every text in this entire genre of ideology, though. Pick one, and if you can understand what I say about that one, you wouldn’t need me to do it with any other. If you can’t or won’t understand my criticism of the one text (like the Christian who insists religion is not an ideology because it is the law of God), then sheer volume of criticism won’t help.

    Internet discussion, just like any conversation, is going to have its peculiar form–there are things it does well, and things it doesn’t. In having a discussion in person, we wouldn’t accept someone like Geoff suddenly showing up and shouting grade-school inanities until all discussion stops, would we? Someone couldn’t interrupt a discussion of anatman with the assertion that we are using too many hard words and shouldn’t be wasting our time thinking because all thinking is mental masturbation. That happens all the time in internet discussions, and is part of what makes the tone combative. It can be frustrating, but there isn’t much that can be done except censoring. And the problem with censoring is that in cutting out the irrelevant shouting we risk too quickly excluding real questions that might arise, real arguments agains the “group think” opinion.

    What are the characteristics of the “collective self” developing here? To me, it begins to seem like this blog is becoming a space for some not-too-bright reactionaries who cannot get anyone else to listen to them to obsessively try to interrupt thought. Real discussion is immediately bogged down by a handful of capitalist ideologues who have found their way here, and whose defenses of right-wing ideology are so moronic that even the most reactionary of blogs have cut them off. People like Tomek and Geoff desperately need to believe that capitalism is “natural” and any attempt to change the world is imposing an artificial “system” on true nature–they need to NOT see that capitalism is a human creation meant to oppress the majority in the interest of the few. This is important to them (and, not doubt, to you, too, Matthias, given the source of your income), and they are terrified that there might be those who would like to change the world and who are still able to think. Thought and real agency scare them, and they resort to childish name calling to try to stop it, like the middle-school kids who beat up the “nerds” that do well in school.

    As for whatever kind of meditation you are saying you want to “naturalize,” well, if it isn’t a “stigma” if it depends on an atomistic self–if it does, if it assumes such an atomistic self, then it is trying to delude people by “naturalizing” a belief in error. You can get angry because this is pointed out to you, but it doesn’t make it any less true. If you try to convince people you are psychic and can speak to the dead, somebody will doubtless try to unmask your parlor tricks; certainly, this make the “mentalist” angry, because his livelihood is threatened, but it is still true that he is using parlor trick and not actually speaking to your dead aunt Ellie.

    So, do you really want an explanation of what is wrong with this “cognitive science” crap? Or, like Tomek, are you going to refuse to hear any disagreement with your ideological position? I’m all for producing ideology, of course, but only if we do it with full knowledge that we are doing it, and if we are willing to let go of our ideology if someone can show that it is harmful or dependent on delusion. Metzinger doesn’t even know he is producing ideology, I don’t think–I really believe he is under the impression that he is explaining a truth, and this is the worst kind of ideology–as bad as the Catholic Church insisting the earth is at the center of the universe, and Satan is real.

    If you want a serious explanation, then is Metzinger’s “precis” the text you would choose? I think I have a copy somewhere, so if you want I can dig it up, reread it, write a more detailed response to it, and post it. However, I won’t waste the time if you are then going to say “yes, but his explanation doesn’t apply to this OTHER essay, so we don’t have to consider it.” I don’t have time to waste if you are simply going to say, as someone did when I offered to explain Lacan on this blog, that you don’t want to hear the explanation, you just want to assert that what you don’t know must be wrong and not worth thinking about.

    So, let me know.

    And no, reading Metzinger doesn’t make you a “fucked up capitalist”; rather, you are already a “fucked up capitalist” or you wouldn’t find Metzinger convincing. If you want to get un-fucked-up, reading Metzinger critically can be one good way to start.

  76. Jamie Avatar

    Just a comment about an interesting (to me, at least) dynamic that seems (from the perspective of a lurker like me) to recur here in a manner that I suspect is a Freudian sort of repetition compulsion, and that I think may be one of the reasons it is hard to maintain a viable sangha of the sort many here seek:

    New posts that offer a pathway to a new form of practice initially elicit comments that facilitate the development process. Then some “”Geoff,” rendered anxious by the process, makes a provocative comment out of his/her anxiety. The comment elicits a response from “Tom” (I put Geoff and Tom in parenthesis because I am interested in describing the process, not the personalities), and then a subsequent, multi-person comment stream typically derails the initial process.

    For me personally, when the comment threads begin, I am hopeful. But eventually frustrated by the derailment, I wander away until the next new post elicits hope again.

    I wonder: do pioneering sanghas succumb to a similar dynamic? Do they start off well, but elicit anxiety in “Geoff”, a counter-reaction from “Tom,” and drive folks away?

    Does the same thing happen in applied Marxism?

    If I am correct in my observation, how do pioneers work through the anxiety rather than allowing the process to succumb to it? I believe the answer is critical to the project’s success.

  77. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Excellent account, Jamie. Thanks for coming out of lurkerdom.

    This does seem, to me, to be what I am absolutely hopelessly terrible at. When someone reacts in the way you describe, making some attempt to disrupt a line of thought that panics them, to bring everything back into comforting hostility safe from the threat of truth, I have no idea how to respond. I usually take the “Rinzai” approach, and call them an idiot and punch them in the face. This works for some, but only provided they really do have some investment in approaching truth. Most, of course, want to hold onto their ideology and believe it is not one. I don’t have any approach to reach them.

    How could we work through this? Well, my suggestion would be that more voices like yours come out of lurking and offer alternative responses to the reactionaries. The shout and slap of my Rinzai-style response doesn’t need to be the only response to those, like Luis or Tomek or Lee or the many others, panicked by the threat of having their delusions exposed. Most of the time, though it is. When I stop commenting for a while, I watch long strings of self-congratulatory comments by the reactionaries, as they discuss how natural and timeless and wonderful capitalism is, how being good deluded capitalist drones will save us all.

    I really do think that the only way to “work through” the anxiety is to have multiple voices pointing out that this is what the initial “provocative response” is. Just one or two voices won’t do it. Too often, the reaction will take the form of Geoff’s, who is able to relieve his anxiety exactly by convincing himself that I am the ONLY one who is troubled by his responses, and can then obsessively post childish nonsense hoping to annoy me, like the three-year-old who wants to be punished to get attention. If five our six people would point out how poor his behavior is, it might stop, when I am the only one doing it, it only encourages him.

  78. Tomek Avatar

    Tom, in one of my previous comments, I mentioned that your petty metaphor is one of the elements mainly aimed to obscure the deeper strata of your affective motivation/decision than explaining anything, but it’s worth repeating another issue I mentioned earlier, namely, that it nonetheless reveals the extent of the conflicted nature of your rhetorics, in which you find yourself between the need of affirming your pet idea of the grand “collective mind” and inconvenient logical necessity of at least cursory explaining the mechanics of glueing/tuning all those ontogenetically distinct individuals creating this assumed spiritual “collectivity”. But unfortunately, if you’d really want to start today a serious discussion about how this “tuning in” works you need to accept, at least to some extent, the discoveries made by neuro & cognitive sciences, and in result dirty your utopian agenda with the possibility of indirectly affirming the capitalist juggernaut funding those who work in this field. But what you eventually do? You choose to label them morons and at the same time in desperation of explaining how the “radio” tunes in, you make a new-age clown of yourself by using this metaphor not once and in many different contexts.

  79. Matthias Steingass Avatar


    I realized I have no significant reaction to the word “moron”. Actually I cannot remember having heard the word before we met. Somehow my wordprocessing faculty associates “Moroni”, the name of two Italiens I know. Also “maroni” (italian) are chestnuts… The word sounds rather funny to me. It’s not like somebody telling me Schwachkopp, Depp, Idiot, taube Nuss, Windei, Sackgesicht, Arschgesicht, Schwanzlutscher, Nazifresse, Stalinistenschwein and so on, which are all more or less insulting German cordialities. I really don’t feel the connotational field of the word moron. What I mean is, it could be the other way around. Somebody who lived in the Eastern Bloc might have different associations regarding some terms used here… marxism, capitalism and so on. A group building process I mean would have to clear such differences. That’s essential.

    This leads to ‘meditation’. You seem to come with what you think about ‘meditation’ from the presupposition that it is about an atomistic self. I do not. I am neither talking about ‘meditation’ in the x-buddhist sense of Non Self No Problem nor about anything atomistic. I tried to explain this often here. I even go as far to say the point about this topic is about communication – to no avail. You stay with ‘meditation’ as something atomistic/solipsistic and you simply say what I mean is what you think. Let me ask: What is sitting in the sun alone feeling the warmth? What is riding a bicycle? What is hearing the birds? Or the smell of snow? What is feeling alone, content, hungry, horny, angry? What is talking a walk? What is sitting in an armchair thinking about some text to write, some words to say, some love to make? – All atomistic events?

    Re the text. The precis is good.

    Re Jamie, #76. No I don’t think it’s about some Geoff derailing the process, it’s, among other things, about what I just wrote in the first two paras. And to name it the Freudian “repetition compulsion” before giving an more detailed analysis could well be a “decision”.

  80. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Okay Matthias, if you’re really interested, I’ll explain in detail my problem with Metzinger using that particular text.

    As for the meditation thing, well, if I ever gave the impression that I believe ALL meditation is inherently a support for the capitalist ideology of the atomistic self, I was probably getting carried away. I have never thought that, and never meant to suggest that. I do meditation, and encourage it, and teach it well. It is my position that there are many forms of meditation that have throughout the history of Buddhism been used exactly to break through the delusion that we have an atomistic self. It is the case that most of the kinds of meditation taught at retreat centers in the U.S. are meant to reinforce the attachment to the illusion of a transcendent self, but this does not mean that I think all meditation does this. And no, riding a bicycle, feeling alone, etc.–none of these things could possibly BE atomistic, and the illusion that they are is what we need to get over.

    I understand your anxiety, Matthias, about having your ideology revealed. But in the long run, the discomfort is worth it. And as to the associations others might have to the terms marxism and capitalism, that is also their ideology, and they will have to deal with it themselves. They need to be able to handle serious thought, and not be protected from the truth. If you can’t handle the truth, to watch Fox News.

    RE 76: Some further thoughts: I would still agree, Jamie, that pace Matthias’s opinion on the matter this dynamic is common, here and elsewhere. Part of the difficulty is in purpose. At the therapists office, or even in an in-person teaching of Buddhism, the goal is to cope with those anxieties that arise when someone’s ideology is exposed as ideology–it can be unpleasant, will always feel like an attack no matter how it is done, and causes anxiety and depression. However, the goal here is mostly to assume that we begin from already seeing our ideology as ideology, so we don’t have much to say to those who come along in a panic and want reassurance that their God still exists. Unlike the therapists office, in the research lab is someone raises the question of whether we should test the use of collective prayer to cure illnesses, they are summarily dismissed, and they need to find someplace else to deal with their anxieties–all progress can’t stop while scientists take the time to comfort every student upset by the dismantling of some religious belief. Tomek will now obsessively post his nonsense about my “pathetic metaphor” over and over, desperately hoping this will convince all readers of the blog that this metaphor was, in fact, offered as my only explanation of something (I don’t really understand what he thinks it was meant to explain), and he won’t stop posting this until I stop commenting on the blog for a while. This is his strategy to make sure that I, at least, can’t participate in this blog (Geoff does the same thing, and when Luis is off his meds he shows up, too). Now, in a therapists office, there might be ways to deal with this kind of pathological behavior; in an academic setting, he would be told to stop and eventually asked to leave. Here, it works very well, unless others will continue to respond instead of just reading in silence.

    As for the comment “does the same thing happen in applied Marxism,” well, this is one of the common popular myths about the “failure” of marxism, right along with the myth that marxism is a utopianism. It is what all those who know nothing at all about marxism tell themselves, as a reason not to bother finding out anything about it. So, this IS one reason marxism doesn’t get anywhere–the power of capitalist propagandan combined with general intellectual laziness. The bigger reasons are, of course, the power of the dominant ideology, and the power of the repressive state apparatus. And, of course, that pesky Moose and Squirrel.

  81. Jamie Avatar

    Just to be clear:
    I dont see it as “Geoff” or “Tom” — or any individual comment — derailing the process.
    I see it as specific types of interactions derailing the process.
    It’s systemic.

  82. Jamie Avatar

    So — how to deal with the systemic anxiety toward the goal of a pioneering sangha?

    My perspective is that y’all are messin’ with the two primary religions (or, ideologies, if you prefer) of our society: science and capitalism. I think science is by far the most pervasive of these religions, that is, it has the most practitioners, knowingly or not. Capitalism isn’t far behind, though.

    The fundamental beliefs of our primary religions are so socially ingrained that we do not even perceive them as religions. Their tenets are experienced as “just the way things are.” I am no historian, but I imagine that Christianity was similarly ingrained until not so many generations ago. It still is ingrained for many folks — and Western Buddhism is already suffering from the same problem, which I take as a primary tenet of the project here.

    But I imagine that our primary religions – capitalism and science – have many, many truths embedded amongst their rituals and their social distortions. After all, the tenets of science (including neuroscience) have led to much reduction in suffering, just like (I imagine) the tenets of Christianity did in the middle ages (and still does in many parts of the world).

    So I would expect all of us to be anxious when exploring these areas, regardless of our individual perspectives.

    And I don’t have a fix other than an ongoing self-analytic process so that we do not individually enact our personal anxieties to the derailment of the development of the pioneering sangha. Somehow a new form of practice has to incorporate this sort of self-analysis — supported by the sangha — in a way that can be successful to the practitioner and to the group.

    Easier said than done, in my experience.

  83. Geoff Avatar


    How’s developments going with your breakaway Popular Peoples’ Front (from the Peoples’ Popular Front) of SNB?

    Won’t be the same without you if you go … certainly less amusing…

    All the best


  84. matthewmgioia Avatar

    RE: 0 – Hi Craig, I can relate to a lot of what you write. I have a few questions, and then I’ll share my answers to the questions you ask.

    One question that comes up for me: what do you mean by “practice”? I’m a little confused. On the one hand, you talk of “intentional meaning-making in an utterly meaningless world,” and “suspending decision,” but you also include burning incense “because you like the smell.” If we include all activities which we like / relax / console / enrich us in our use of the word “practice” it loses meaning. Maybe it makes more sense to confine “practice” to – using non-buddhist language, “those activities (or, that manner of operating) which bring about the suspension of decision” or to use x-buddhist language “those activities which cut through delusion.”

    In terms of the “intentional meaning-making in an utterly meaningless world,” what need is there to “create meaning” (why not just let the world be meaningless)? What meaning do you create (by “meaning” do you mean “ideology”?)

    Here’s what my non-? x-? buddhist life and practice look like: My first priority is always meticulously executing my duties to my family (by my wife’s definition 😉 Anything I like to do (music, art, beer) or any practice I engage in (reading, thinking, talking, sitting) comes only afterwards. In the midst of meaninglessness – facing the “hardness of fate” – this is the best ideology I can create; it makes me and my family happy. I mix relaxation and practice in where I can depending on my energy and mood. I like this blog because of the focus on exposing (my) ideology – that’s what I always wanted from x-buddhism (and rarely received). Beyond that, I have a lot of anxiety around my role in perpetuating suffering via my capitalist activities – I have since I was a kid, and reading Tom’s work has not alleviated that anxiety. Can I extricate my family and I from being passive oppressors? What can I do beyond modifying my life in trifling ways, making limp gestures like buying fair-trade coffee and buying local food and products, tithing to Oxfam to assuage my liberal guilt, and doing work that similarly merely modifies the material in the system to make it run more palatably? I still haven’t seen a clear answer from Tom or anyone else about this. If I’m not going to do something drastic such as dropping off the grid / becoming a revolutionary, should I just embrace capitalism “whole hog,” ride the dragon, fight for the cash, and accept the consequences? Or can I live a thoughtfully subversive lifestyle, standing against the tide, and still draw an income, own a house and car, etc.?

    I think some x-buddhist sanghas are ripe for awakening; in my experience practicing in six centers in California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Massashusetts, there are people there who do desperately want their ideologies to be exposed – for their decisional commitment to be suspended; I count myself among them. There are also plenty of reactionary, stubborn, and shallow thinking people there, but why wouldn’t there be?

    Thanks for the post, Craig – sorry for the long comment.


  85. matthewmgioia Avatar

    OMG Geoff you are such a naughty wanker!!!

  86. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    #83, #85.

    But one with excellent timing! Well done, matey!

  87. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Jamie #76).

    That really is a perceptive analysis. Yours, coupled with Matthias‘s #74, is more psychoblognalysis than I could hope for. Thanks, both of you. Here’s my immediate and not too carefully considered response. You question, really, is the most important part, for me, of your comment.

    If I am correct in my observation, how do pioneers work through the anxiety rather than allowing the process to succumb to it? I believe the answer is critical to the project’s success.

    There are a couple of interesting points to these sentences. First, I think you are right in your analysis. But I think (if I understand you correctly) that I have a different take on a few of the (somewhat hidden?) assumptions and values operating here. For instance, I do not find value in “working through anxiety.” In this and many other regards I am an accelerationist: I want to stimulate anxiety where it does not yet exist, and increase and draw it out where it does. A hidden assumption/value there, of course, is that anxiety is a prime source of potent creative energy. “Working it out” destroys its potential. I want the “process to succumb to it.” A further assumption/value at work here is my belief that the entire basis for x-buddhist discourse has to be built from scratch. There is nothing in the old dispensation on which to build. It is a dilapidated archaic edifice, its planks are rotten through, its mortar crumbled. For those readers who want to see what discourse on salvaged x-buddhist wreckage looks like, go to any of the Secular Buddhist Association websites, or browse the shelves of your Barnes and Noble. Here, on this blog, you will find a few people willing to leave that wreckage behind, in shambles, and walk, full of anxiety, toward…

    A further assumption/value driving my accelerationist approach is that this blog is not here to provide answers. Some readers may have noticed that I singled out your question as a focus for your comment. Really, the questions provide the abiding value. We may come up with this or that solution for a problem. But as circumstances change so do, or must (often they don’t), the solutions. The original question, though, remains, creating the impetus for yet another go at a solution. And on and on. Of course we keep trying, keep formulating answers. But we do so in the spirit of an experiment.

    In that regard, I see the kind of discussion here–“derailments” and all–as precisely a way forward. Remember, Dionysus, not Apollo, is the patron saint of this blog. The second we start offering comfortable solutions I will press the “delete blog” button. That is why I am curious, Matthias, about your perception that “group think” is settling in here. One of the biggest criticisms we get is that we don’t offer any answers, just discussions that generate further questions.

    But, on that note, I could gather a ton of evidence from this blog’s comment archive alone that shows just how affected people are by our discussions. When I have an intense exchange with so-and-so, I am affected by that. I think about it throughout the day. Sometimes I go over an argument for days. Often, I see that I was wrong or sloppy or unnecessarily snippy. Unlike careful, friendly exchanges, intense ones help to push and clarify my thinking, taking it more often than not to previously unknown places. Actually, when I put it like this, it sounds like we are in a relationship with one another. And we all know about the intensities and difficulties of a good relationship–and how much work it takes. Of course, many of the changes that take place are hidden from our view. But some are announced here, if tacitly. Have a look. It’s there. So, another of my many hidden assumptions and values behind the approach of this blog (as I see it), is that intense discussion more often than not has far-reaching real-life consequences. (A corollary to this belief/observation is that nice, anodyne, right-speechified dialogue keeps everyone feeling good about themselves to the same extent that it perpetuates the fucked-up status quo.) Even those poor people who become anxious while reading here are experiencing the very pangs of potential change. Again, all of this is part of my accelerationist commitment.

    A final assumption that I can mention is that I see this blog as a big messy necessity in what we will look back on as the earliest days of a taking Buddhism seriously. For me, taking it seriously means: destroying what can be destroyed, and embracing that which remains. What remains are human truths, impervious to our discussions and critique.

    As a way to get some of these assumptions and values out from hiding, I will revive the old tagline: weaving a bloody tapestry of ruin. I will also resurrect my original effort to provide a commentary on that tagline (apologies to Rumi):

    The Buddha, our guide, becomes a stranger;
    The Dharma, our doctor, goes mad;
    The Sangha, our friend, weaves bloody tapestries…

    Might hidden treasure lie in ruins?
    Our ruin is a ruin because of treasure.

  88. Geoff Avatar


    Re #80

    I understand your anxiety, Matthias, about having your ideology revealed. But in the long run, the discomfort is worth it. And as to the associations others might have to the terms marxism and capitalism, that is also their ideology, and they will have to deal with it themselves. They need to be able to handle serious thought, and not be protected from the truth. If you can’t handle the truth, to watch Fox News.

    Thanks for setting us straight. I always thought that if I had no assets or prospects it would be better to live in Sweden than North Korea.

    How deluded I was. But that was just my ideology and I will have to deal with it myself (work through my own karma).

    Who needs X-buddhism when we have the reassuring dharma of X-marxism?

  89. Tomek Avatar

    Somebody who lived in the Eastern Bloc might have different associations regarding some terms used here… Marxism, capitalism and so on. A group building process I mean would have to clear such differences. That’s essential.

    That’s right Matthias (#79), take for example how Tom in his leftist belligerence is blinded to the fact of how we people from the former Eastern Block has benefited from the modernizing forces of the capitalism after 1989, both in the sphere of economic growth, and equally important and what may be the most difficult thing to understand for someone accustomed to the common standards of Western liberal society – namely, spheres of liberal freedoms and human rights.

    During decades of living in brotherhood with USSR, permanent shortages of basic foods in the stores were not so bothersome as an unbearable, absurd control of virtually all the movement of every citizen, from where you could travel to, or what radio station you could listen to, or what organization you could belong to, what currency you could have in your pocket. I’m not saying this because I’m an apologist of turbo-capitalism of late modernity that has eventually won with the centrally planned economy of communist state, I just want to remind that even Marx in the first part of his Manifesto was praising modernizing and emancipating power of lib-dem capitalism.

    Of course, ideologues of neoliberalism like Chicago boy J. Sachs were present here from the very beginning of the transformation carried out according to the rules of famous M. Friedman’s “shock doctrine” and since then the laissez-faire doctrine has dominated the current political and economic systems to a great extent and oppression of precariat is well under way.

    But still, the emancipating power of liberalism that entered the former Eastern Block after 1989 difficult system transformation, has had enormous positive impact in many spheres, not just purely economic, but what is the most important to me, the social spheres, especially, the conservative and subjugating family structure, its inter-relations and along with that the situation of women and many minorities, sexual, religious or non-religious. It had corrosive impact on the Catholic Church propaganda, although the collapse of communists regime gave it back enormous riches that had been confiscated after the WWII.

    I’m saying all this trying to nuance the crude picture of communism contra capitalism conflict that Pepper is sermonizing about all over this blog. If he would really experienced himself the effects of experiments with communist ideas and do not rely entirely on the French academia’s theoretical elaborations regarding communism he might present more ambivalent or levelheaded approach to all kinds of idealistic, utopian “collectivities”, from that of mythical proletariat to all kinds of suffocating nationalism.

  90. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    RE 89: This comment is an excellent example of the ideology that people will just have to let go of. Just because Tomek associates the term communism with state-run capitalism is not an argument against communism. It is merely a distortion of reality that serves the interest of capitalism. We do not need to “take into account” or “deal with” this kind of ignorance, but simply point out that it is wrong, and move on.

    And of course there has been enormous benefit to eastern block countries that have become capitalist. Nobody is denying that somebody benefits from capitalism. I do see, I am not “blind” to, how the few have benefited in these countries, but I am also not blind to the enormous price paid for that benefit, mostly by those living in the southern hemisphere–this is what Tomek would like us to be blind to, at least until he has gotten all the material benefit he can get out of their oppression.

    So, no, Matthias, I don’t think we need to be kind and compassionate to ideologues like Tomek. He is not interested in “team building,” to use your metaphor. He is interested, as he says in his last post, in trying to prevent people from seeing the glaringly obvious truths I have just pointed out, and in trying to prevent any real thought or discussion from going on by shouting the same idiotic nonsense over and over, and shifting the the ground of discussion from ideas and reality to his imagined story of my personal experience. There’s not need to treat this kind of behavior with kid gloves.

  91. Tomek Avatar

    Tom (#90), in your simplistic assessments of the benefits gained in result of the collapse of communism circa 1990, you completely denied the most important benefits I have mentioned, namely, human rights and liberal freedoms. And by the way, sorry, this was exactly communism for millions of oppressed victims, obviously not for armchair revolutionaries like you.

    You should also remember that to the beneficiaries of the systemic changes belonged not only the Eastern European countries as, for example, Poland, but also Asian countries – remember, even in China we’ve recently seen emerging trade unions. This glaring omission and understating of the issue of social emancipation and human rights being a direct result of the liberalism entering those parts of the world previously ruled by communists, is potentially the most dangerous aspect of ideological blindness in case of idealistic dreamers like you, inconsolable visionaries “forcing the truth” of some collective future utopia against the wishes of the millions.

    I’m well aware of the anti-capitalistic corpus delicti as this in case of obvious capitalist exploitation happening in Africa (vide Wallerstein), and those unacceptable practices trouble me, but I hope seeing the examples of what has happened in Poland and bordering lands withing over twenty years now, that in those African countries too, along with, for instance, increasing literacy and education of women, and robust presence of various humanitarian organizations this difficult situation will change gradually, not in effect of forcing another bloody revolution.

  92. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Tomek, you’re just too stupid to argue with. In fact, you have no argument at all. If all you want to do is parrot canned capitalist propaganda (one day, we’ll ALL be millionaires, and there will be NO workers at all!! We will insist on calling state-run capitalism “communism” and not understanding what the term communist actually means–and that will serve as proof that actual communism is bad, even though we have no idea what it is!!), then shut the fuck up.

    Matthias–this kind of crap is the definition of groupthink: the refusal to think or offer any argument at all, and compulsively shouting pre-packaged propaganda to stop real discussion. I do understand why you feel that the criticism of you capitalist ideology is “groupthink”–because it is not what YOU think. The point is to realize that what you think is your own individualist true thought is really already groupthink–it is just the thought of the group to which you have belonged all these years, the capitalist exploiters of the labour of the majority. Of course it feels more “authentic, free, and true,” because it is familiar. And of course somebody else’s ideas really feel alien and forced. This is one problem that I think certain kinds of meditation practice can solve–helping us to think through what our most powerful gut reactions want to reject. As someone who primarily worked as a wage laborer (mostly in construction, but also stocking shelves, digging graves, landscaping, and many other jobs) for about twenty years (I got my PhD in my late 30s), it may have been easier for me to reject capitalist ideology than it would be for a successful bourgeois. However, it wasn’t effortless–I was raised in America during the cold war, after all. I can hear you anger about finding out you are caught in delusion, and I can tell that unlike Tomek you have some sense that it IS in fact delusion–otherwise, it wouldn’t bother you so much, and you could just spout inane sophistry like Tomek so happily does.

    I will, over the next week or so, write up a more or less detailed response of the problem I see in the Metzinger essay you mention. It is a good example, because it focuses on exactly those parts of his project that are most ideological and least “scientific.” Perhaps that will help break through the ideological blindspot–probably the most common one in the whole history of capitalism, and one Metzinger shares with Locke, with Hume in the “Treatise,” with Arron Beck in psychology, William James, Skinner, Tolland and the neo-behaviorists, and countless others.

    In the meantime, I’m taking a week off from commenting, and hopefully in a day or two Tomek and Geoff will tire of compulsively posting the same inanities attempting to silence me. Maybe then some more lurkers can come out of hiding and have a bit of real discussion about the topic of this post?

  93. Tomek Avatar

    Tom (#92), than what the terms “communism” and “communist” actually mean according to you? Will you enlighten me, that semiliterate stupid parrot?

  94. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    It is important to note that with this post on practice one of the recurring themes of this blog has come roaring back: language. I think it is now obvious that it is impossible–and fruitless–to attempt to think new forms of x-buddhist practice without thinking new forms of language. I don’t mean that everyone should create an idiolect as I have for my critical work. When, for instance, Alan and I mention reading and discussing a passage of literature in the place of the traditional dharma talk (and virtually no real discussion), that’s language rethought. When Tomek pursues the question of the value of retaining what I call buddhemes, that’s language being rethought. When we get attacked for being “wordy” or “hyper-intellectual” or “philosophical” or “academic” or one of the many similar variations, that’s a refusal to rethink language. It’s a reaction against attempting to disengage from the tracks of borrowed thought-language. Matthias‘s #79 is another example of rethinking our language, and doing so at its very foundations:

    I really don’t feel the connotational field of the word moron. What I mean is, it could be the other way around. Somebody who lived in the Eastern Bloc might have different associations regarding some terms used here… marxism, capitalism and so on. A group building process I mean would have to clear such differences. That’s essential.

    Many things could be said about this comment. It evokes, for instance, Wittgenstein’s beetle in a box thought-experiment, whereby even though we use the term on the basis of personal (private) associations, the communal (shared, if often confused and unclear) connotations protrude into the meaning-field. Matthias is right that good conversation partners will have to be aware of this issue, and actually take pains to define their terms. I think he is right that is indeed essential to a worthwhile discussion. This is particularly true given a discourse community that values linguistic innovation.

    Language is one of the mediums for the fossilization of ideas and practices. That is not surprising since one of its functions is to fix things, to create some lexical homeostasis. I think that much of the anxiety and reactivity that people experience when confronted with new language can be traced to the following correlation: since language holds things together, altering language alters the thing. We could perform our critique of x-buddhism purely on the basis of language-criticism.

    When I was maybe twenty-two or so (thirty years ago) I was appointed the leader of an x-buddhist practice group of some thirty people. After a few rounds of following the Party’s script for a practice session, I made a simple change. The change was to read Freud or Henry Miller or William Blake in place of the sacred texts of the Enlightened One. It created absolute havoc. And the havoc went way beyond my group. It turned out that other group leaders were feeling stuffed into a cramped box. After all, as Tom has pointed out, x-buddhists do tend to be better educated than the average. In any case, I was told not to do that anymore, I said “fuck you,” and a life-long pattern picked up its bags and huffed and puffed further down the road. And here I am. What power language has.

    Finally, from the “Before you Read” page (Tom Pepper’s contribution; “concept” is the altered word):

    A [word] is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window. ―Gilles Deleuze, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

  95. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Another quick general observation.

    Some people may see these discussions on marxism and communism as tangential to the blog’s topic, x-buddhism. But given that the initial inspiration in formulating (if not conceptualizing) non-buddhist theory came from Laruelle, they make perfect sense. Many of Laruelle’s most important concepts are derived from Marx. And many of these ideas have relevance to our critique. For instance, just a few off the top of my head: determination in the last instance; force of thought (of labor); Humans (Man); relative autonomy; Science-of-men; material; performativity (the criterion of practice), and others. We also now have a strong influx of Badiou’s ideas in the mix. Finally, given our recognition of the unavoidable necessity of thinking through the ideological nature of x-buddhism, we began looking to Marx’s twentieth-century student, Althusser, for some guidance, and we have stuck with him.

    Speaking solely for myself, I have to give some more thought to Tomek‘s distinction, in #91, between marxism as a form of thought or as a tool for thinking and marxism as a lived reality in 20th century Eastern Europe (however unfaithful to the theory that “marxism” was). I have no problem admitting that I am interested in marxist thought, and not interested in the history of its uses or reception. That does not mean that I am not interested in action based on what I take to be marxist principles. I am, and I take them. But I have performed on x-marxism (Geoff‘s term in #88 is apt, I think) what I have on x-buddhism; namely, a divestment of any x-traditions’ power over my thought. This is a general feature of my destructive thinking practices. As Laruelle puts it:

    To really place [x-buddhism, x-marxism] in question, even if we are obliged to make use of [x-buddhistic, x-marxist] procedures, we must invalidate [them] in one blow and without remainder. We must presuppose every conceptual term to be already divested of all power.

    For me, such divestment is a precondition for innovative thought.

  96. Geoff Avatar


    You could change this site to Speculative non Marxism and apply similar methodology to what GW uses.

    eg Marxism plays with loaded dice. You can humanise capitalism as much as you like but to the x-marxist you are simply attempting to buy off the non- ruling class (keep them happy while keeping them down – false consciousness etc). Similarly you can make communism as bad as you like but of course that’s not real marxism etc. X-marxism always makes sure it comes out on top etc.

    It’s interesting that a central critique of non-buddhism is x-buddhism’s lack of reality, yet the x-marxist never allows the real world to interfere with theory eg when was the last time TP criticised an actually existing communist country? At least Althusser apparently criticised the French Communist Party.

    Re Althusser – you talk about him like his shit doesn’t smell but just a cursory glance at Wiki shows he is hardly above reproach on the Left. Critics referred to his theory as “best understood as a quasi-religious ideology” and “retains the orthodox radical rhetoric by simply severing all connections with verifiable facts.” Is there anything to this?

    Also given GW’s grand intellect – why do we never he him say anything vaguely critical of TP? I thought you had anarchist tendencies? As you would know marxism & anarchism have hardly had a smooth history together. Where do you differ? Why don’t we ever hear anything about this? Why do you always backing up your crony? Why do you cop out when it suits you, a la Sujato? Why do you let TP get away with pathetic shots like equating anyone who questions Marxism with being a fan of Fox News?

    The advantages of having your own blog I ‘spose….

    Why don’t you turn your own methodologies on yourself instead of letting TP police this blog according to his brand of Marxism – now that would be interesting…..

    All you have done is replace one questionable ideology (x-buddhism) with another and call it “forcing the appearance of truth” – as if the other isms don’t claim the same thing. So I’m going to gain enlightenment by reading Althusser? At least the other crowd offer a favourable rebirth….

    Like I said before – that orginal non-buddhist stuff was good but now I reckon you’re past your use by date…

    Yada yada yada

    Alternatively keep up the good work TP as it does provide some amusement….

  97. Jamie Avatar

    Glenn #30, #87 –

    Your assumptions for your blog make sense to me, although in my experience it is hard to find the proper point where anxiety elicits change rather than fosters resistance thereto. Based upon some of the comments here, I’d argue that the latter happens frequently.

    But, really, my intent was to use the blog process as an analogy. My real interest is understanding the process in a “practice environment driven by the Buddhist truths of fading-and-impermanence, non-atomistic self, conditionality, and so on” when an attempt to foster such an environment “shrank (the group) in proportion to the ‘non-buddhist’ deflations of x-buddhist forms.”

    I am wondering if a new practice environment is possible without measuring success as just one or two people preferring the change. I am wondering if it is possible for people who become anxious while reading here (or, by analogy, while participating in a pioneering practice environment) to “experience the very pangs of potential change” without bolting one-by-one because their defenses against change are bolstered, not bloodied, in the new practice environment.

    I think it is possible. I think it comes from how anxiety is addressed as part of the new practice environment. In #82, I offer up my only idea about how to do address the anxiety.

    But maybe I misunderstand the vision?

  98. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Geoff (#96). Hopefully, my responses to your suggestions will take you at least one baby step closer to beginning to have an inkling of a vague passing thought that casts a dark cloudy conception of something remotely resembling the intent of this blog.

    You could change this site to Speculative non Marxism and apply similar methodology to what GW uses. eg Marxism plays with loaded dice….

    No, you can do that, if it interests you so much. So, why don’t you? It’s a serious question. I am hoping to stimulate similar approaches to other cultural materials. Laruelle actually wrote a book on non-marxism. So, go ahead. Why not? But you have to do that work. Let me warn you: it is very hard work.

    It’s interesting that a central critique of non-buddhism is x-buddhism’s lack of reality,

    No, x-buddhism’s lack of reality (whatever that means) is not a central, or even peripheral, non-buddhist criticism. Look again, and again. Again: it’s hard work getting this shit right.

    Re Althusser – you talk about him like his shit doesn’t smell but just a cursory glance at Wiki shows he is hardly above reproach on the Left. Critics referred to his theory as “best understood as a quasi-religious ideology” and “retains the orthodox radical rhetoric by simply severing all connections with verifiable facts.” Is there anything to this?

    Althusser, hardly above reproach on the Left! No fucking shit! Althusser is largely passe in marxist circles. Do I give a fuck about what marxist circles think? Take a guess. Why do you care, Geoff?

    Also given GW’s grand intellect – why do we never he him say anything vaguely critical of TP? I thought you had anarchist tendencies? As you would know marxism & anarchism have hardly had a smooth history together. Where do you differ? Why don’t we ever hear anything about this? Why do you always backing up your crony? Why do you cop out when it suits you, a la Sujato? Why do you let TP get away with pathetic shots like equating anyone who questions Marxism with being a fan of Fox News?

    I see Tom as doing the work I am interested in seeing get done here. I am not going to repeat for the thousandth time what I see that work as being. You dig up the info. Hard work, innit, mate? And you tell me what differences you see between my “anarchist tendencies” and Tom’s marxism. You do the work, Geoff. I have to say, you come across as a really lazy motherfucker. Do the analysis yourself.

    Why don’t you turn your own methodologies on yourself instead of letting TP police this blog according to his brand of Marxism – now that would be interesting…..

    See above, about doing it yourself, about your being lazy, etc.

    All you have done is replace one questionable ideology (x-buddhism) with another and call it “forcing the appearance of truth” – as if the other isms don’t claim the same thing. So I’m going to gain enlightenment by reading Althusser? At least the other crowd offer a favourable rebirth….

    I hope you are starting to discern a pattern to your comment style. You make broad generalized assertions, such as, “All you have done,” etc., without offering an account or evidence. Give me an example of what you are asserting so that I have something concrete to assess and respond to. What you say here is a good example of my frustration with conversation partners like you: it is like a stubble field in winter–wide and mushy with nowhere to step. Get to work. Otherwise, you just continue to come across as someone with a poor grasp of the project, someone, moreover, who is too lazy to really do the work that is required. Given that you exhibit such laziness on such a consistent basis, I have no confidence whatsoever that you even understand what Badiou means by “forcing the appearance of truth.” It’s time to put away childish things, mate. U gonna hafta read something other than Wikipedia.

  99. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Jamie (#98).

    The reason that I value anxiety so highly is because I have lived my entire life with sometimes (potentially) paralyzing anxiety. Anxiety, in other words, has accompanied me throughout my life. I love anxiety. Or I should say I have grown to love it. I feel so fortunate to “suffer” from it. It makes me appreciate and connect to life and people in ways that seem impossible to most people I know. I think back on certain dark episodes of what, in the hierarchy of anxieties, is the unsurpassed variety. I am speaking of the cosmic crush. (I have a hunch Craig knows what I am referring to.) By the way, I put “potentially” in parentheses because I always did a tremendous amount of “work” during these episodes. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that I would not have had the fulfilling life I have had if it had been otherwise.

    One important conclusion that I have come to is that I am therefore poorly suited to work with many–most–people as a practice facilitator. Why? Because I bring everything I have to the session. That includes anxiety, boredom, anger, restlessness, darkness. How could I–why would I–not do so? I seem to be pretty good at training people who work with the people who need gentleness, who understand the step-by-step approach. I am the Napalm Death of meditation teachers. [By the way, what the singer says after the song is, “that’s about it.”]

    My mistake was to approach the practice sessions in the conventional manner. That approach attracted a large turnout each week. I then changed it. In my next attempt, I will start at the edge of the cliff–or, in anxiety-speak, of the abyss. Again, I have a bunch of students who offer various practice sessions for beginners and consolation-seekers. And I am very happy that they do. I just can no longer do that.

  100. Patrick Avatar

    Hello Glen,
    Well your point about the difference between judgement and tone got me thinking. Judgement and tone…I think I mean someone who delivers judgement in a tone that evokes a reactive cycle of accusation and counter-accusation rather than a reassessment of one’s opinions. Judgement of ones opinions, attitudes or actions might not always be an issue, but the tone in which the criticism is delivered undermines ones faith in the good intentions of the speaker, …and not so much because it is offensive or un-buddhist, but because it is destructive of the trust that allows one to risk exposure to judgement in the first place.
    This attitude may seem over sensitive but as you say the first move in dialogue is that I honestly express my view. I do this from within a shared space the nature of which is established before a word is spoken. The nature of this space exists between us as an objective social relation within hierarchical power structures, involving class, race, gender, and many other factors (including the conditioning brought about by my own past experience in such encounters, of which you know nothing).
    Does the fact that we are not face-to-face make a difference? I think so. I intuit the nature of this relation through bodily cue’s, dress, the way space is shared between us, the deference or otherwise of third parties etc. Many of these intuitions are conditioned on ancient biological brain and nervous system structures and processes that function below awareness. How much of our subjective world is constructed out of material of which we are not even aware?
    Our interaction is charged with meaning even before a word is spoken. The dialogue that evolves between us always involves a subtext that questions the nature of the hierarchical structures in which we find ourselves embedded. This ‘questioning is surly articulated at levels below language, at base as an expression of the survival instinct and the impulse to flight or fight. A form of cognition is at work here, sometimes delivering accurate appraisals of the situation and sometimes distorted ones.
    Its a wonder how dialogue can happen at all without descending into biologically conditioned reactivity. For some reason it does happen and often reaches the point where the participants are confident enough to express their positions as robustly as they feel is necessary to push the positions they feel need to be pushed. Perhaps intense sustained dialogue is possible because much is resolved by way of another dialogue going on ‘below’ language.

    As for xbuddhisms propensity for cosy acceptance, I never stayed around long enough to experience it to any great degree. You use the word non- reactivity when describing xbuddhist methods of dealing with confrontational situations but I think there is a difference between non-reactivity and the xbuddhist cultivation of a regime of self-monitoring that tries to foster a self congratulatory form of detachment. Non-reactivity for me means the ordinary capacity not to be provoked into unnecessary and irrelevant tangential statements that might derail the process..
    When I speak of cycles of reactivity I am thinking more in terms of what might be the situation among those who have consciously decided to decommission their ideological identifications? This always involves the thorny question of what constitutes ideology and what constitutes truth. And ones identification with a vision of oneself as being something in particular, a solid entity sustained by propositions about the world as a sort of flag marking ones territory.
    As for my statement about this site I was making a general statement about blogs and comment streams in particular. How do we dialogue in the absence of the intuitive faculties described above? I haven’t a clue. Perhaps one just needs to persist until new ways of interacting or new skills evolve.

    Re 99
    Just read you comment which addresses some of my points. You comment concentrates on the meditation practice situation. However I tend to automatically apply your comments to the situation of ideological struggle within Marxism and between Marxism and opposing ideologies. Both of these situations are relevant to this blog but perhaps one difference is that ‘Marxism ‘ has the potential to ignite a more explosive confrontation. For my part I regard ‘practice’ as preparation for these explosive moments, both during dialogue and, even more importantly, during the actual process of confronting capitalist state power. If I seem oversensitive it is because I regard conflict as inevitable given that all positions manifest as reflections of objectively existing contradictions within capitalist social relations. Needless to say the history of Stalinism, as one instance in a long line of disasters, puts this question of conflict at the very centre of any project of social emancipation.

    I can identify with your description of your own experience of states of anxiety. My own experience is quite similar. One thing I have come to believe is that there is not a whole lot of difference between personal experience and social/political/ collective experience. I have more or less abolished the distinction as far as my own personal history is concerned. The moment of conflictive intensity, personal or collective, is a moment of disruption, offering the possibility of creativity or collapse and accompanied by fearful emotions and intuitions.


  101. Patrick Avatar

    Hello Glen,
    I would like to raise a question that I am only beginning to grapple with. One way of formulating it is as follows:

    1) Does the project of disengagement from the ‘network of xbuddhist postulation’ necessarily demand a rejection of Capitalism and the various forms of capitalist ideology?

    2) Does this rejection necessarily demand the adoption of ‘Marxism’ as the method of enabling and explicating this rejection?

    The question is complicated by many factors that are generally contested even among Marxists.
    Even if one accepts that the process of disengagement with xbuddhisn necessarily involves a disengagement from capitalist ideology it does not automatically follow that one should adapt ‘Marxism’
    After all there are many alternative positions critical of capitalism that overtly reject a Marxist analysis or demand the right to reject some elements and adopt others. To name but a few—various positions that advocate an evolution away from capitalist social and economic relations and towards what Marxists would regard as reformist or utopian solutions. Various forms of Anarchism or Anacro-Syndicalism, solutions inspired by deep ecology, regliously inspired solutions such as a fusion of Marxism and liberation theology. Finally the position held by many ‘third world’ philosophers which advocates a move away from the philosophies of euro-centrism, towards a fusion of (for instance) Islamic secularism, Marxism, and ecological stances, or (particularly relevant to southeast Asian Buddhists) a fusion of traditional philosophical forms with Marxism , liberal agendas and ecology.

    A further complication:

    Various factions within Marxism contest many of the elements of Marxist theory and practice.
    Therefore: Which ‘Marxism’?

    Perhaps it might be helpful to re-formulate the question in a more direct way:

    Can one adapt the project of non-buddhism and retain an allegiance to capitalism and capitalist ideology?

    Can one adopt the project of non-buddhism and hold allegiance to an ideology critical of capitalism but overtly anti-Marxist?

    A further question comes to mind:

    Does the adoption of the project of non-buddhism require that one should also adopt the project of non-marxism as a method of decommissioning one’s allegiance to ‘the network of Marxist postulation’?

  102. Patrick Avatar

    Again I am late with this last post. I see you have refered to some of my points in 98. But maybe my explicit formulation is of value.

  103. Tomek Avatar

    Alternatively keep up the good work TP as it does provide some amusement…

    Geoff (#96), I think that we have something much more interesting in case of TP than some kind of amusement. We’ve got here a highly sophisticated individual living in XXI century apparently armed with countless intellectual weapons of late modernity enabling him, at least potentially, to take a critical stance toward his reality, but he nonetheless remains so identified with some ancient thought system that he ends up calling himself “Buddhist”. His case is even more intriguing because he seems to question, or more, deride virtually all of contemporary manifestations of “Buddhist thought” but nonetheless still, doggedly, parades already for months around here, on this probably the most critically oriented blog toward “Buddhism” of all the sites around the web, openly as “Buddhist”. Yes, this can be amusing, but its not what really thrills me in this case. To me the most spectacular part of his presence here is his sheer unshakable Buddhist identification, no matter how idiosyncratic it is and how far separated from all those “deluded” forms of x-buddhism but nonetheless it still remains “Buddhist”. Don’t you think it’s really amazing?

  104. Patrick Avatar

    Hello Tom : re 59
    Just to let you know I am still thinking about your objection and will respond… its far back in the tread but raises a central issue concerning science, truth and ideology. I am trying to clarify my own position.

  105. Patrick Avatar

    Hello Tomek,
    Re 89′
    you make a lot of interesting points here that I am thinking about, also the links on cognitive science you provided. will get back to you . At the moment I am overwhelmed by the pace of the discussion here!
    RE 96
    I think you should just drop out of the cycle of reactivity in which you seem to be caught and concentrate on pushing foreward your position in a level headed way, as in 89.

  106. Craig Avatar


    Cosmic Crush. I like that. Makes perfect sense. I usually call it impending Doom. Although I see myself as lazy, I too get lots of work done while in these anxious states. Thinking, creating, reflecting. Very hard work that almost noone in the world does. It’s tough shit and I appreciate your reminding me of this. Same with the Beckett quote above. I appreciate your comments to this post.

  107. Geoff Avatar


    You & TP remind me of my parents when I was a teenager! …. (now wouldn’t the psychs have a field day with that….).

    TP is Mum who is the dominant figure, always around and involved (we were good bourgeoisie where Mum didn’t have to work). She was the one who ran the place and laid down the law but tended to be prone to being overly emotive with the occasional hissy fits (bless her cotton socks).

    GW is Dad who tended to hang more in the background, was more relaxed and light hearted but would step in occasionally to bring things back into line when required. He also made sure he never contradicted Mum and that they would always present a united front…..

    Ah, nostalgia for simpler times……lol

  108. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    There was the question about what I do mean with developing group think here.

    Reading through the comments I think it has already been said. Anything I would say, which would represent my own thought, is capitalist group think already. Anything against this is an expression of my anxiety against being stripped off my ideology. That’s as clear and simple as it can be.

  109. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Matthias (#108). But that’s not an instance of group think. It’s just a reference to the claim Tom makes about certain of your positions. Does one person = group?

    Geoff (#107). That is indeed interesting. It only goes to show yet again how deeply personal all of this is–our personal positions, views, exchanges, tones, forms of interaction, all of it is through and through personal. That is precisely why I find it so valuable as a site of struggle: we are coming just as we are. And even those who aren’t coming, though watching from the shadows, are revealing, to themselves at least, important personal information.

  110. Jamie Avatar

    re: #109

  111. Patrick Avatar

    re: does one person = group?
    For myself, as I said above, the personal is the collective : the one is the group…always. Is that a leveling? an abolution of our uniqueness? No. Never!

  112. Patrick Avatar

    Re 111
    Read Abolition of our uniqueness

  113. Patrick Avatar


    Its all group think!
    You work within that as a unique manifestation of group think. Freedom consists in being faithful to that uniqueness.
    What you designate group think… a perceived imposition of Toms perspective… is not group think but a manifestation of struggle… At the moment (to be crude and compare it to tennis)
    Tom love 40
    Matthias love 15
    The game will never end!

  114. Patrick Avatar

    The self-proclaimed anti-marxists on this blog (Tomek, Luis, Geoff, )
    are a group of lame whiners and a disgrace to the anti-marxist camp. Give me articulate, sustained, principled attack! At least then I can start to question my own ideological subscriptions. Opposition to Marxism is absolutely vital! How else can thought progress! Who was one of the deadliest and determined enemies of this principle?

  115. Patrick Avatar

    If the Gang of three (T,L,G) don’t get their act together soon I for one am moving on … the thought of sitting in on Glenn and Tom as they exchange their profundities (with a side lined Matthias looking on in silence) gives me the creeps!
    Why don’t you three combine and produce a devastating refutation of Toms position ( a paper?)and demand publication rights in the form of a post ( and save me the trouble…since I am one of his dupes from your perspective? I don’t possess the necessary liberal credentials)

  116. Patrick Avatar


    All parents are dysfunctional…Tom is the fortunate owner of a cock (I presume) and won’t make a good fit as a substitute Mum…are you out of nappies by the way?

  117. Tomek Avatar

    It’s just a reference to the claim Tom makes about certain of your positions.

    Glenn (#109), what is actually “the claim” that Tom makes? Do you really see in it any willingness to step outside his dogmatic division of reality between communism (good) vs. capitalism (bad)? I have trouble to see it. I tried to show for example in #98 how actually ambiguous this rigid division he so anxiously embraces might seem from the perspective of those who had found out the hard way what form communist ideas may take in reality – Cold War Eastern Europe, south east Asia, China, Latin America, Africa too. Of course, he immediately parry wrongheadedly that it was actually not communism I mentioned, but it was state run capitalism! I am aware that the form of communism that ruled in the Eastern Block for decades was not the ideal form of communism that its theoreticians strive to create in their writings, but that fact did not really mattered at all to all those millions forced to carry banners with Marx, Engels and Lenin, not to mentioned all the other absurd and terrible things they were forced to endure. How do you think it is possible to discuss those things with such a fixated individual? Is it possible to differential between all those other ideological positions like classically understood liberalism vs. neoliberalism, social-democratic welfare state vs. turbo-capitalistic Thatcherism/Reaganomics, let alone Neo-Keynesianism vs. Chicago School…. No, it’s not because all of those positions, according to him, are just plain and simple mongrels of capitalism. As you probably noticed every time someone tries to nuance his obsessive fixation “communism vs. capitalism” he/she is immediately said to “shut the fuck up”. And if the poor idiot nonetheless wants to understand his notion of the terms such as “communist” or “communism” all he hears is deafening silence. Tom Pepper simply “tactically” retreats and all he hopes, as he says, is that maybe some “lurkers” will eventually show up here and than he can have “a bit real discussion” with them about the topic of the post.

  118. Patrick Avatar

    I love the ‘cotton socks’ reference… but is it really Tom?… I imagine him muscle- bound, large handed, gazing into the distance, an unshakable stance reminiscent of those good old socialist realist statues Tomek must have grown up with. ( poor Tomek …forlorn child of the proletariat nibbling on his crust of socialist bread ) Cotton socks? Yes…and flowery housecoat…but that noticeable bulge round about the crotch area?
    O dear me Geoff! Be careful…

  119. Patrick Avatar

    re 117

    I take the whiners comment i back…
    delicious food for thought! I have just skimmed through your comment… it deserves close study (as is always the case when you just concentrate on explicating your position)
    This question of the nuances between different versions of ‘capitalist ideology’ (I know you disagree with this sort of terminology) and between versions of ‘Marxist ideology is crucial. I could make a similar list of nuanced positions on the left…Reformism, social democracy, anarchism, syndicalism, Trotskyism, Stalinism, and many versions of post-modern ‘marxism’

    What does this profusion of positions mean. Two things
    1) Thought is not a perfect reflection of reality…it is only an approximation…to quote from laurelle ( for my own purposes only… I am not confident enough with his thought to do anything else)
    ‘A thought of the last instance’

    That is a thought (if pushed to its limits ) that goes right to the edge of what is possible for thought but never actually transcends the limits of thought. In other words immanence is never appropriated by thought. Immanence (or the real in the real) is unilateral in relation to thought and thought is one instance of Immanence as manifestation..
    This may seem overly philosophical but it has a bearing on this question of particularity…of the nuanced position and its relationship to ‘truth’ or ‘objectivity’

    All I can with confidence venture at this stage is that there are only truths with a small ‘t’ and particularities with a small ‘p’ and that there is a correspondence between them but no identity.

    The actual questions you address in your comment are well put and I will take time to think about how they fit from my (evolving) perspective

  120. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Tennis? That’s a good point. That marks an important point here: I don’t play tennis. If Tom is winning then solely on the ground that he is playing by his own rules – that is mostly in the style of conversation here, not in his texts. That has already been remarked. And this reminds me of the words of a German writer: Often times it is better not to look at the privat biographical parts of the life of a writer. That is simply, because, if s/he is good, the best part of his life goes to the writing. The comments about a text we see here in the thread of a blog are most often about the privat part. It’s repetition (for example you reminding me that “It’s all group think“. I came to this blog because group think was thematized here in the first place and not because I wasn’t aware of it), it’s impulsive, it’s often outright ad hominem (for example the argument not being of the opinion of somebody else is anxiety and that again is a reaction against ones ideology being exposed – what, btw, is as self immunizing argument), it’s playing with rhetorical tricks (somebody never using the word “compassion” because of the x-buddhist connotation, is accused of being “compassionate”) and so on. That’s all about private compulsive behavior brought into the light of the public via the not so new technology of the internet, blogs, discussion forums ect.

    I had my share of this. Form the early 1990s on I collaborated through bulletin boards and later through the upcoming discussion forums with other people. There where roughly two kinds of discussions. a) the highly professional one about information, learning, comparing market opinons in a respectful but not necessarily “compassionate” style, these kind of boards not necessarily open to all; b) the open-to-all-forum where every other self imposed opinionator would post their delusions – often times an such boards opinion-leaders emerge. The style of this blog is probably a mixture of both. Until I came to this blog I didn’t use any kind of online communication in the form of boards and blogs for 5 or 6 years. I Had enough. I began looking into some Buddhist boards after becoming interested in Buddhism but guess what, all typ b). I am again beginning to think that discussions like this one, partly typ b), are useless. Information gets lost. What I wrote in a comment a year ago about whatever is lost. Only the most opinionated, repeating ceaselessly his message, is remembered. Tom in this case – and also it’s not about Althusser, Badiou etc. what will be remembered, but the fancy terms, ideology, marxism, radical shin and so on. It’s flat surface. Empty signifiers again. That’s why it might be better to give up these threads and to write well thought through pieces instead of pissing each other off with infantile compulsive games.

    I appreciate Tom’s writing but I don’t play his type of Tennis. Should I really argue with the statement that I am a capitalist moron because I don’t understand the faults in Metzinger’s argumentation? And, just to be sure!, this is about the style of argumentation not about being naïvly apologetic in regards of Metzinger. The point alone that I have to emphasis this here again says a lot about where we are. I won’t argue with this style, is not struggle in the sense Glenn reminded us: this blog being a site of struggle. What Tom often does is called “flaming” in a well established jargon and knowledge about how communication on the net works. And I am not going to explain the difference of flaming and argumentation – whereby the latter, of course, can be direct, punching, polemic and so on. Rhetorics are certainly part of the struggle but I wish Tom would learn a bit about the difference between a strong argument which could of course, depending on circumstances, put forward in a harsh, aggressive or ‘punchy’ manner and outright flaming and trolling.

    Group think: “The self-proclaimed anti-marxists on this blog (Tomek, Luis, Geoff,)” Here we are right at the heart of group think. Tomek certainly does not deserve to be put into such a group (where does he say he’s anti-marxist, and if he is what does this signifier say? Is it more then just a diffamation calling somebody anti-marxist?) Luis is about Rorty and Stalin every time and not very interesting any more. Geoff, well, he did a bit of trolling in this thread, but finally asked some interesting questions (like you Patrick too btw, keep going). Tomek… everybody who has read a bit more then just the last two or three posts knows that he has to say something. That’s group think: Marxists on one side, and on the other… capitalists? And then there is right ideology and wrong ideology. And feeling pissed off about a socialization in the Eastern Block is of course – wrong ideology. Are you kidding me? What kind of stupid, childish world of black and white is this?

    And no Patrick, it’s not like you say to me: “What you designate group think… a perceived imposition of Toms perspective… is not group think but a manifestation of struggle…” “percieved”… – that’s a cheap trick again. The critic has always a personal problem. Tell me, how do I tell this kind of ‘argument’ from every other x-buddhist claim that I am spiritually not developed enough?

  121. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Just a few points:

    First, I am working on the critique of Metzinger. It may take until the middle of next week, but I will try to post it sooner. I really assumed the errors were obvious, and if they aren’t I will try to point them out. You can all stop complaining that I am “retreating in silence” and “refusing to offer an argument against Metzinger.” I have a job and kids and it will take a few days—have some patience. (On the other hand, when I asked Tomek to offer and argument for me to critique, he simply refused, and continued posting the exact same empty rhetoric over and over—is that not “retreating into senseless noise”?)

    Second: On the question of state-run capitalism. Capitalism is not an ideology, it is an economic system that can be reproduced in many ideological formations. Ideology is the collection of beliefs-in-practices serving to reproduce the existing relations of production. If the economic system includes private property, the extraction of surplus value in the form of profit, and the commodity form (particularly the commodity form of money—exchange value, participation in world monetary systems, etc.), then it is a capitalist economic system. Calling the ideological structure used to reproduce this economic system “communist” doesn’t make it communist—this is just a form of deception. Today, China is the most intensely capitalist country in the world.

    Third: On the question of ideal forms of communism: as critics of Marx have long pointed out, he offers no suggestion for the ideal form of a communist state. This is because there cannot be a particular “communist ideological formation”; communist ideology must be infinitely malleable in order to adjust to change in the forces of production and the real conditions of existence. The Soviet Union did not “fail to live up to the ideal model of communism,” but failed to eliminate capitalist relations of production (this error was Lenin’s, not Stalin’s—Stalin merely produced the form of capitalist ideology most suited to the particular form of state-run capitalism occurring in the USSR).

    Fourth: Matthias, you don’t seem to understand what “ad hominem” means. When I argue against your position, or say that your argument is naïve or stupid, this is by definition NOT ad hominem. When you refuse to offer an argument against what I say, and complain about your feelings being hurt, my hostile tone, or assert that my arguments don’t need to be considered because I don’t have the right kind of “experience” of suffering under some particular kind of state-run capitalist government, this is the very definition of ad hominem. I offered an suggestion, for your consideration, as to why you might consider my arguments (as far as I can tell, I am the only communist here) as “group think”, while the repetitive assertions of the majority without any argument at all except for personal attacks on me seems to you to be authentic and individual experience. I do think that often if one is bothered by a truth, it “feels” like some kind of external and forced position, because it is not one’s own, while the majority can comfortably assert unreasoned slogans and it “feels” like real thought, because it is familiar and comfortable. This is just something to consider.

    Now, back to work on the Metzinger essay. It’s a four-Excedrin essay–like reading Hume’s stupid German cousin.

    Talk amongst yourselves, I’ll give you a topic: Dr Phil, obnoxious idiot or evil genius? Discuss.

  122. JRC Avatar

    Maybe … some lurkers can come out of hiding and have a bit of real discussion about the post?

    What is practice?
    Practice, for me, is working to observe myself in all situations.

    What does your non-buddhist ‘practice’ look like?
    Hopefully, my practice looks like nothing.

    How, when, where do you practice?
    I practice with subtle difficulty and in varying degrees, whenever it comes to mind, and anywhere I happen to be.

    Why [do you practice]?
    I practice to work to observe myself in all situations so that I might become one who persistently works to observe oneself in all situations and in turn makes real choices.

    Can you practice non-buddhism in an x-buddhist context? Can you practice with only online community support?
    Of course I can practice in these contexts. But why would I need to or even want to? Answer: I am not sure.

    What long-term outcomes could [practicing non-buddhism in an x-buddhist context or with only online community support] produce?
    Can such outcomes really be known with any degree of accuracy?

    Can anyone really ‘wake up’ the deluded in an x-buddhist sangha?
    Does ‘waking up’ have more than one flavor?

  123. Matthias Steingass Avatar


    I assert that your arguments don’t need to be considered because you don’t have the right kind of “experience”?

    Repetitive assertions of the majority without any argument at all except for personal attacks on you seem to me to be authentic and individual experience?

    This kind of twisting and distortion is what I mean with rhetorical tricks. It is the point where an online discussion descends into insignificance.

  124. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Tomek (#117).

    what is actually “the claim” that Tom makes?

    I meant that Matthias’s statement concerned all the various claims and assertions that Tom makes about him, not about a general state of groupthink. The former are easy to see–they’re all over the place.

    How do you think it is possible to discuss those things with such a fixated individual?

    I don’t think there is such a think as a fixed or fixated individual. That there is no such thing is often difficult to discern over brief periods of time. But give it months and years and you see it: no fixed individual. Tom, you, me, Luis Daniel, Geoff, April, everyone who engages, is unavoidably and irreversibly altered through the engagement. I am not optimistic about many things in this world. I am, though, joyfully optimistic that we will change for the better through sustained and honest engagement. That emphasis is crucial because engagement in and of itself doesn’t necessarily lead to change for the better, or even substantive change. (That’s why I subscribe to certain principles of conceptual/emotional accelerationism, anti-right-speechism, and anarchism [in thought, ethics, and local action]). That’s also why my motto for the blog is kick out the jams, motherfuckers! How else will we hear the full force of Tomek and Tom if not through kicking it out? Motherfuckers functions to eliminate the life-crushing preciousness of x-buddhist dialogue models.

    That leads to another important point: I am not all that interested in these discussion about marxism vs. capitalism. I do want to explore the intersections between non-philosophy, and by extension non-buddhism, and marxist thought. I’m not interested in debating history. I am not against others’ doing so, I should quickly add, for the reasons given above, about engagement and change. You can’t be interested in everything, right?

    My interest, particularly concerning Craig’s current post, is captured by JRC‘s comment #122, to which I’ll say something later.

  125. Tomek Avatar

    Tom (#121), OK, from what you say I gather that communism to you, in its, as you say, “infinite malleability”, can be simply discribed as some kind of vague or idealistic form of antithesis of capitalist production relations, or to say it in as many words, antithesis of capitalist exploitation. Then tell me, is there any possibility in your radical communist approach to single out from the currently existing or past forms of ideological formations – no matter how much imperfect from your point of view – at least one that would be somehow, even vaguely, close to the “communist” ideal that you think about? So, you see, I’d be glad to hear from you about some kind of historical, or present, example of implementation of those “communist” ideals that are so important to you. Have there been any such formations?

  126. Patrick Avatar

    Hello Matthias,
    Thanks for your detailed response.
    To begin with your last point first:
    I apologize for ‘perceived’: that word is dangerous when not used in the right context, for as you say it implies a deficiency in the speaker. It too easily gets attached to other words…perceived this and perceived that…sloppy writing but not a cheap trick (cheap trick… does anything come cheap here…I hate the effort it takes to trite these comments and find myself constantly seduced by language. Cheap? Not for me and I think not for you either…and of what use is a trick between either of us?)

    I don’t play either. A better choice, from Tom’s point of view, might have been bare-knuckle boxing. The analogy was trite in the first place but there you are that’s commenting for you! After this spate of posting I will take a long rest.

    Group think:
    I was responding to your use of the term way back in comment 74 and again used it unthinkingly… which is again to be seduced by language, in this case to use someone else’s terminology and in the process claim ownership of the baggage that comes with it. Group think always implies that the opposite is achievable…that some sort of neutral thinking is possible. I no longer believe that. The most that can be hoped for is that we come to see how our language and the positions it delivers are conditioned in multiple ways. That’s better described as ideology.

    Blogs and commenting
    I agree with you regarding blogs and the disadvantages of making comments. My only experience before this was when I became involved with Amnesty International and commented on their blog and intervened at others regarding the situation in Syria. My experiences totally disillusioned me with blogs in general. I was initially loath to get involved here but the quality of the posts (I mean the texts) won me over. Now, again, I am not so sure. I think your idea of writing papers might be a solution.
    I referenced the advantages of face-to-face encounter above (somewhere) and so I will not repeat myself.

    Well of course I do think that Tomek is an intelligent and articulate presence here. I have visited his blog and (with the help of Google translate) tried to follow the work he is involved in there. If he himself doesn’t realize that this is so , I certainly will despair of commenting. My ‘gang of three comment’ and other recent short comments was an expression of the sort of disillusionment described above. I realize that Tomek has made many thoughtful contributions and would hope that he will make many more.

    Marxism versus capitalist ideology.
    If you cannot see that I refuse to subscribe to such simplification, either I am a very bad communicator or my posts haven’t been read (which wouldn’t surprise me. I make no claims as to their readability. )
    I confess that I would once have expressed myself in such terms but those days are long gone.
    I no longer fight a class war, although I think one is being waged by capitalism none-the-less.
    I no longer believe in the bogyman called ‘enemy of the people’ but I do believe that the state, liberal or otherwise, (read American Administration) given the right circumstances, will not hesitate to exterminate whomever it chooses.
    I no longer dream of a communist utopia, although the utopia of unending capitalist development and what it is doing to human beings, animals and the planet disgusts me.
    I cannot say that I have decommissioned my subscription to Marxist ideology but I can say that I have seen the necessity to do so.
    I no longer believe that meditation is a refuge from, or a consolation for, all of this. Have I given up on meditation? No
    Have I given up on the possibility of an emancipatory project that can transform society. No

    Site of struggle
    By struggle I mean the emergence of conflicting tendencies in thought as a reflection of particular economic and social relations. Within groups this always leads to conflict. A key point is that this does not imply any sort of crude vested interest… that an ideological position is directly connected to, for instance, one’s ‘class’ or one’s involvement in particular forms of employment, or ones level of income.
    Maybe you were using the word struggle in a different way (and Glenn also?)

    I prefer to address Tom directly

  127. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Patrick, no problem with the ‘perceived’ etc. I myself get carried away all the time in these discussions although I should know better and should be more relaxed and not so nitpicking. I appreciate your comments.

  128. David S Avatar
    David S

    Oh so you want to hear from a lurker?

    Well, this blog has some interesting notions but all too often slogs into Tom Pepper Marxist rants. I am disappointed to see the two of you, Tom and Glen, so deluded with your alliance. The tyrannical Tom gets away with misrepresenting other’s views by simplifying their points into the jargon he loves to promote. It is so obvious a ploy and I am shocked that he gets away with it over and over again. He also blames others for what he does, here’s a quote of his, “…the refusal to think or offer any argument at all, and compulsively shouting pre-packaged propaganda to stop real discussion.” Well this is classic Tom, and Glen does this too. They both refuse to engage with dialogue and then claim that it is those others who need to “do the work” blah blah blah. Talk about lazy! It is all in the need to control the terms of discussion and to assert their authority. Bullshit.

    All this focus on Marxism and Capitalism seems far too simplistic. It seems to be presented as a way to discuss something about ending suffering. Suffering is not caused only by economic terms. Ever think to make any topic of mental pain in relationships, or any other source? Doesn’t appear so. This dichotomy also cleverly avoids discussion of Democracy, which by implication appears to have been conflated with Capitalism. Intellectual laziness indeed.

    But even more disingenuous are the very terms of this blog being based on revealing a so called “x-buddhism” when the basis for discussion binds itself to the object it is trying so hard to dismiss without revealing what aspects it is in agreement with. It reminds me of the music metal heads in bands that use Christian mythology to assert how un-Christian they are! Slog on dudes.

  129. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    David (#128). Welcome. (I’ll respond pretty much sentence for sentence.) What do you see as the interesting notions? Really, a very small portion of the comments, and none of the posts, deals with marxism. It would be great if you could clarify an instance where you think someone’s view has been misrepresented or simplified. I enjoy that sort of exposure immensely! Shocked? Why? Do you dwell in Sukhavati? I’d have to see the context of that TP quote. Maybe it’s a fair statement in context. Out of context it’s completely meaningless. I do what, too? Blame others? I don’t understand. How? Whom? For what? Please, point to to a place where I have “blamed” someone. Thanks. By the way, if you want to avoid looking sloppy, you could start by spelling my name correctly. I don’t care that you misspell my name. It’s just that it signals, to me, carelessness. I then unconsciously extrapolate this perception out to the whole–you as thinker and person. I can’t help it. So, care, bro, take care with the details. You really misunderstood my comment to Geoff about “doing the work” himself? I can’t help you there. (Do that work of understanding yourself.) What terms of discussion do you prefer?

    Again, there is, overall, little focus on marxism and capitalism. Why are you putting your focus there? Why don’t you make “mental pain in relationships” a topic? (See my exchange with Geoff.) Do you understand what I mean? You are seeing this point, this distinction. It is coming from your life. If you don’t articulate what you see or find important, maybe no one will, and it gets lost. That’s is my issue with Geoff. He has all of these insights and perspectives and criticisms, but asks other people to resolve everything for him, to do the hard part of thinking through the matter for him. So, that second paragraph of yours is an incipient view or theory. By presenting it, as you do, as an obvious failure of my thought just masks the fact that you are refusing to think it through. Do the work yourself. Explain in detail what you mean–if it’s really important to you.

    Same with that last paragraph. Which terms are you referring to? Non-buddhism is bound to x-buddhism, but in a very particular and peculiar way. Do you understand how? If you do, then the terms will make a lot of sense. If you don’t, they won’t. That you say we are trying to “dismiss” x-buddhism only shows me that you have a very poor understanding of what we’re up to concerning non-buddhist theory. You lost me with that last analogy. Are you referring to the fact that Dark Metal, etc. employs Christian symbols and mythology, but in inverse? Sure, there’s a long history for that sort of move. Do you see us as doing that? If you do, your understanding is even dimmer than I thought a minute ago. I will bet you my 13-bead juzu bracelet that you have no idea what is being argued here as “speculative non-buddhism.” Are we on?

  130. Geoff Avatar


    Just some queries about your proposed splinter group….. curious to know whether we’ll be enlightened by studying such topics as the deeds of the founding fathers of the US Constitution, who, among other things, enshrined the right for you to jack off on this blog?

    Somehow I don’t think so….not quite as chic as Badiou…

    Is Marxism the opiate of the intellegensia?

  131. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    In the spirit of JRC (#122), direct and to the point:

    What is practice?
    Awareness and action. Cognitive, emotional, bodily, and environmental awareness, and the action that ensues from that.

    What does your non-buddhist ‘practice’ look like?
    Specifically, other than the above, sitting in stillness and silence with attention directed toward my breathing body or sensory field, and the actions that ensue from that.

    How, when, where do you practice?
    In the first sense, everywhere and always. In the second, at the breakfast table, in the mud room, in a fancy meditation hall.

    Why [do you practice]?
    Because I am alive and conscious.

    Can you practice non-buddhism in an x-buddhist context? Can you practice with only online community support?
    In an x-buddhist context? I’d have to ask a couple of questions first. I can do what appears to be x-buddhist practices. But given that I have obliterated the decisional juggernaut, it’s something different. I can go to the Latin Mass or attend a wiccan ritual in the same sense. I am free of decision, so all cultural goods are mine to enjoy. But I am unsure about an on-line community/ I’d like to try it, just to see how it goes.

    What long-term outcomes could [practicing non-buddhism in an x-buddhist context or with only online community support] produce?
    I second John’s answer: “Can such outcomes really be known with any degree of accuracy?”

    Can anyone really ‘wake up’ the deluded in an x-buddhist sangha?
    Only if they take x-buddhist truths seriously. The problem is that every x-buddhist community on the face of the earth and in the heavenly realms, without exception, is utterly incapable of taking x-buddhist truths seriously. If they did, it would destroy them. But the individual can nonetheless, painfully and slowly and despite the sangha, wake up. That’s why is so important to make widespread changes in attitudes and understanding. It’s nearly too hard for one person, in isolation, to wake up.

  132. Craig Avatar



    I remember a stint I did at a local Zen center. Lot’s of jockeying for transmission and lots of sitting, of course. I went for a while and people would ask me how it was. I just said, ‘it’s like a PhD program that never ends and your forever studying for comps and being a TA’! X-Buddhist truths should’ve liberated itself and humans eons ago 🙂

    I also love this idea of being ‘free from decision’. It speaks directly to what I was saying in the article about ‘pulling through the void’ and ‘nihilism plus’. Intentionally making meaning in a meaningless world. A recent example in my practice is that I chanted the Lotus Sutra the other night! Just wanted to…no more explanation than that.

  133. Craig Avatar



    As far as suffering in relationship goes, there’s a case to be made that much of that an be traced to capitalism. Economic systems absolutely cause suffering. I’m utterly exhausted tonight wishing I had more energy to engage with the kids while my wife has a meeting. This is directly related to life and work in a capitalist system. I’ve come to realize, no amount of relationship work or mindfulness training or stress reduction will fix this. Work that’s not alienating, not having to drive everyday, rational commerce, more re-creation…these things might help.

    FWIW, I’ve seen it over and over here…readers, like yourself, come on here and just spout nonsense without ever engaging any specific point Glenn or Tom might make. To echo myself as a former group leader…’just say your angry and move on’. If your not available to engage, that’s fine too.

  134. Craig Avatar



    Great question about whether non-buddhism requires disengaging from capitalism. I think it does. I really don’t think I can can have any serious thought or discussion about ‘the end of suffering’ without considering capitalism and all the shit that goes with it. In this regard, I find a Marxist critique, among others, to be quite enlightening. Especially exploitation and alienation of workers. How anyone in the 99% can’t find that stuff liberating and infuriating is beyond me.

  135. matthewmgioia Avatar

    Craig (#133)

    So, you’re tired. And, yes, capitalism facilitates plenty of suffering. But to reduce all suffering to it’s machinations is like Hugo Chavez blaming the CIA for the streetlights being out in Caracas – Boogeyman! You’re tired! Raising a family is hard, and tiring, – it’s always been hard, in every time and place. Same too with relationships; even when you have beautiful, authentic, connective work to do. You are tired – what is practice?

  136. matthewmgioia Avatar


    I need to ask about your use of “decision.” Here is the first part of your definition from Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism:

    Decision. An affective and cognitive operation. Affectively, “decision” is used in its colloquial sense. It involves a psychological and emotional (and, in many cases, economic) determination to accept a particular condition or state of affairs over and against other options. In this case, the decision involves (i) adherence to Buddhism’s claims to verity and (ii) dependency on its charism.

    I think I understand how I make a decision about Buddhism in this sense – I sit zazen blind-faithfully, trusting that somehow the activity has soteriological value – trusting in the charism, even as I make allowance that no empirical change can be expected to occur and embrace a “secular” perspective. I take for granted that there is a “dharma” “out there” and that the “dharma” = Truth. I buy into the sufficiency of Buddhism. Do you mean something different? When you write that you have whipped the decisional juggernaut, do you mean that you have made no determination “to accept a particular condition or state of affairs over and against other options?” If so, what value does cultural material like a catholic mass or a wiccan ceremony have for you beyond entertainment and beauty?

    Here is the second and more difficult part:

    Cognitive decision is a technical usage. Derived from Laruelle, it involves a fissure between an immanently given (empty reality of the world) and a transcendentally idealized (dharmic representations of the world). This splitting permits Buddhism the specularity that constitutes it as the totalizing dispensation given in it rhetorics. Simultaneously, however, decisional splitting disqualifies Buddhism from the community of knowledge. Speculative non- buddhism unmasks this decisional syntax, which operates without exception in every instance of “x-buddhism.”

    I understand that you are using language in a very particular and purposeful way – would your intention and/or meaning be broken by some translation? I mean, I’m from Boston, and I’ve never been to PA, and your accent is very thick.

    The second sentence I paraphrase as “There is a gap between rhetoric/teaching and reality.” Good enough?

    Beyond that I am lost. Specularity is something like “mirror quality”? “totalizing dispensation” is something like “sufficiency”? If so, I still do not see how this follows from the “splitting,” or how is disqualifies Buddhism from the community of knowledge (what disciplines do not contain similar splittings?).

    Finally, why must every instance of x-buddhism operate within the decisional syntax?

    If you tell me I need to figure this out on my own or do more my homework I’ll kick your ass.


  137. Tomek Avatar

    Matthew (#136), you ask surprising questions – I’m saying this because there seems to be rather few people around here who showed genuine interest in this foundational text. I’m too interested to hear what Glenn will say. But in the mean time, you reminded me about probably the first question I used to ask Glenn in X-Buddhistic Hallucination comment thread – I would recommend you to see this question (#15) and read the following detailed answers that I received from him. Maybe it can help you to understand this business of “decision” better. Anyway thanks for rising the questions, and stimulating my mind to think about those issues again. For example, rereading those comments strengthened my belief regarding my persistence in countering Tom’s reoccurring claims that we can safely keep the buddhemes intact – if my understanding of Glenn’s theory is more or less correct, we cannot get rid of x-buddhistic “specularity” unless we successfully get rid of those terms that create the grammatical/syntactical/decisional structure on which – to put it metaphorically – the mirror of the totalizing dispensation of the Dharma or “Buddhism” has been suspended. As Glenn says in one of those comments “a person is an x-buddhist to the extent that he or she can reflexively think and act in accordance with this grammar.” You talk about “’splitting,’ or how it disqualifies Buddhism from the community of knowledge (…)?”, and I’m again interested in what Glenn is to say about it, but to me it’s not the most vexing question. The question that I would ask is in what way this “splitting” disqualifies “Buddhist” from his/her community? And I don’t mean “community” in a sense of “sangha” as for example dukkha – that’s just another element of x-buddhistic decisional structure, of the refuge – but a human and non-human community of empty reality or radical immanence (you remember, another non-buddhist heuristic?) that is completely stripped of x-buddhistic representations, and exists alongside this empty reality with “whatever culturally minimal representation is required.” By this reality I might mean, whatever, the activity of the sun, tectonic movements and asteroids passing near by, fluctuation on the global share markets that influence the price of the bread I buy every day, the utterances of politician celebrities that inspire flanges of nationalities to threaten my friends on the streets, or the way my bowels work in reaction to all these macro events … how to live all of this without a naïve promise of some ultimate position toward those realities. I realize that to be fully engaged with this reality, in my case I need to mercilessly “sabotage all [x-buddhistic] representation,” (hallucinations, dharmic excess) no matter how “correctly” their conceptual basis is understood. Only this gives the promise to become “strange subject”, that is a person “for whom x-buddhistic representation is rendered transparent”, person who “have whipped the decisional juggernaut.”

    There is another interesting issue that to me is worth mentioning, namely, that according to Glenn some x-buddhistic postulates – such as emptiness (sunyata) and reality (sacca) and radical contingency (paticcasamuppada) and many others – can be successively “cloned” but only if “we unhinge them from the greater system of postulates,” called Dharma or “Buddhism”. So my earlier talking about getting rid of buddhemes does not precisely mean, at least initially, to destruct them entirely but first sabotaging them in order to gradually or instantly realize that they are just representations of reality and as representations they can be only vital if embedded in the whole (The One) voltaic network of dharmic postulates.

  138. Craig Avatar



    You’re tired! And if we can’t reduce suffering to it’s machinations, then why even try? Jesus Christ! It’s okay to be tired and this fucking grind of a life we’ve created for ourselves in the west makes it worse. I don’t want to hear any bullshit about life being hard, so deal with it. That is precisely the kind of conversation stopping attitude that causes suffering. So here is my practice…I’m real with myself about my feelings and think about them, validate them rather than shut it down, like you so obviously are doing here. You’re a meditation teacher, right? Not mine. Don’t ask me what practice is, ask yourself.

    BTW, not really sure about group think here. There’s enough of a corrective for that to be dealt with. This is like group therapy though, in the sense that people manifest their issues. With out awareness most folks are blinded by this. No amount of arguing will create awareness. People need to see their neurosis in real time with feedback in a safe place. Depression, anger, anxiety still ensue.

  139. Craig Avatar


    This is my practice: I say I’m tired and claim my weariness in an anti-human society where I’m not allowed to be AND I tell you, who insist on everyone live in your polite society, to shut the fuck up.

  140. Patrick Avatar

    Once again I am taken by your comment.
    Clicked on the link to the other tread and tried, as much as I could, to follow the discussion, one of the crucial ones I think. Unfortunately I never came across this tread before…there is so much to take in here.
    I will try to make sense of my reactions to that tread and get back to you with it in order to clarify many of my own confusions concerning Glenn’s essay and laruelle’s non-Philosophy.
    The close scrutiny of a text displayed in that tread is essential to me as I try to apply the non-philosophical approach to both xbuddhism and xmarxism.
    At the moment I seem to be suffering from a new sickness (for me). I’ll call it comment psychosis for now… the most obvious symptom seems to be an utter weariness with trying to take in and make sense of so much new information and comment on it, and a compulsion to continue doing so despite the weariness!

  141. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    What is practice? My practice is to see the truth, no matter how unpleasant. It is true that capitalism is not “natural,” but a humanly created social system; it is true that capitalism requires that the majority live in poverty so the minority can avoid labor; it is true that everyone in capitalist culture, even the wealthy, live an alienated life, in which the reified symbol of the social system dictates what we can do. These are not the only truths, but they are truths that most people want to ignore, with the same cliched rhetoric about the “immaturity” or naivete of foolishly wasting time trying thinking about the economy–or the same old “it’s always hard, we can’t do anything about it, just adjust to it” response. If you insist that this not be discussed, if you cannot face this truth, then you cannot face any truth completely. If you need to believe you have a soul, if you cannot face the truth that ultimately we are completely insignificant in the universe, then you cannot face any truth completely. If you need to believe that cognitive science accounts for the entirety of the human subject, and cannot face the truth of the Freudian unconscious, then you cannot understand any truth completely. And on that note, back to Metzinger…

  142. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Patrick (#101). Those are very helpful questions. I am going to write a brief post in response. It will take a couple of days. Thanks.

    Matthew (#136). Yours are, too. But first, we have to settle a little matter.

    If you tell me I need to figure this out on my own or do more my homework I’ll kick your ass.

    Ha ha. But didn’t you say you’re from Boston? Let me remind you that I am from Philadelphia. You get my drift? (There really is too much testosterone on this blog!)

    Yes, from what say about your practice you understand affective decision correctly.

    When you write that you have whipped the decisional juggernaut, do you mean that you have made no determination “to accept a particular condition or state of affairs over and against other options?”

    Yes, except the whipping of the juggernaut is not so much the result of a “determination” on my part. It’s more the “discovered” outcome of a process beginning with aporetic dissonance, and moving toward confrontation with the x-buddhist unbreachables (aporia) and exile. Liberation is found in exile. To go back to a point I made in exchange with John Connolly, exile can happen, as in my case, within the very embrace of the sangha. It involves the unvoluntary creation of the disidentified subject. (This subject is not the “bad” subject.) A relationship with a group is almost a requirement for initiating this process. But, given the new environment, I see it happening, too, with internet and book store x-buddhists.

    If so, what value does cultural material like a catholic mass or a wiccan ceremony have for you beyond entertainment and beauty?

    Entertainment and beauty are already a lot, don’t you think? But I have to give more thought to the entertainment value of what I do. There certainly is a kind of pleasure or something. But it’s a pleasure mixed with pain and sadness. Two weeks ago I spent two hours with several other people reciting John of the Cross’s “On a Dark Night.” We used the medieval monastic style of recitation called plain chant. (I learned that chant while staying in a Benedictine monastery in Aachen years ago.) We were in a dark room, lit only by candles. I sang every word with full conviction–not with faith or belief, but with conviction. Afterward, we sat in silence for maybe twenty minutes. The range and mix of “experience”–emotions, thoughts, raw sensation, connection with the others–really disables the term “entertainment” from being applied. Practice like this is too fraught with brute existence. I think the same goes for “beauty.” Yes, all of that is beautiful, but at the same time goddamn ghastly in what it exposes. My experience on seeing Beckett’s Endgame performed by an Irish troupe comes to mind. Entertaining and beautiful? Yes, but…

    About cognitive decision, Tomek (#137) gets it exactly right. The only thing I would add is that for the upcoming book on non-buddhism, I changed “disqualifies” to (splitting) “excludes” Buddhism from the community of knowledge. That change, suggested by Tom Pepper, is less emphatic. It leaves the door open for inclusion. But the inclusion comes at a cost so serious that x-buddhism’s acolytes are unlikely ever to do what is required for inclusion. Other than that point, I’ll let Tomek’s response speak for me. Just to elaborate briefly on “specularity.” I borrowed that term from non-philosophy to identify x-buddism’s auto-positioning in relation to the world, namely, from above. But that’s not all. It does not gaze on the world as science does, as raw a priori uncategorized data. Rather, x-buddhism sees in the world an image of itself, of its very own categories, categories of its own invention. It is this mirror-like relationship to the world that I call x-buddhist specularity. When x-buddhists theorize the world, they are really theorizing x-buddhism. One sign of being caught in the decisional whirlwind is that you see your x-buddhism wherever you look. Again, the world as mirror of x-buddhism. This bears on the issue of the x as well For since, as Ray Brassier says, “interpretation is a function of talent rather than rigor, the plurality of mutually incompatible yet unfalsifiable interpretations merely perpetuates the uncircumscribable ubiquity” of x-buddhism’s specularity (“Axiomatic Heresy” (26-27; emphasis added). That also explains why I made “exemplificative braggadocio” or the example fetish as component of the heuristic. Does that help?

    Are you practicing in a group now? Craig alluded to your being a Buddhist teacher. Is that right? What kind of Buddhism?

  143. Danny Avatar

    Here’s another apparent truth of modern global capitalism: it’s destroying the planet at an alarming rate and doesn’t appear to be able to do a motherfucking thing about it.

  144. Tomek Avatar

    When x-buddhists theorize the world, they are really theorizing x-buddhism.

    Glenn (#142), am I right? You refer here to what you wrote at page 9 of the article, namely, “(…) The Dharma is visible in the contingent and dichotomous unfurling of the samsaric swirl that it, The Dharma minutely indexes. Indeed: the dharma is the dharma because it mirrors the dharma.”?

  145. Tomek Avatar

    Hi Patrick (#140), I too probably suffer from the same sickness as you do, what in my case is exacerbated by the very fact that English is not my native language and I need to make additional effort to say what I want to say. But I think – to repeat what other speakers already said here – that without that sickness, the anxiety that accompanies it, nothing would be said here, no meaningful discussion would form. There would be simply no life here. So I look forward to continue our initiated discussion.

  146. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Group think.

    I threw in the term rather impulsively (indeed). What I mean is that I see a certain structuring of the discurse here which has to do with how Tom operates.

    Tom, despite the differentiations he is able to make in his more elaborate texts, is working with dichotomies a lot in discussions. Capitalism/communism, thinking/no-thinking, right ideology/wrong ideology, psychotherapie/psychoanalysis, allowed criticism/un-allowed criticism for example.

    I am only going to say, very shortly, something about the last point. What I criticize is a certain structure in his rhetorics which leads to the point that somebody criticizing him is always seen as having a personal problem. This problem is the anxiety that ones ideology might be exposed. This might indeed be a fact in some cases. But often in discussions Tom is twisting words of his opponent to arrive at this point. If I find myself being exposed to an ‘argumentation’ like the one in #121 and I oppose this, I am at once the one who has a problem with “hurt feelings” for example. Tom makes in the relevant paragraph assertions which simply aren’t true but he arrives anyway at the point where he can suggest that I am “bothered by a truth”. The result is that Tom is the one with the right ideology and his opponent is the one with the resistance.

    I am not going to untangle what is wrong with #121’s last paragraph. If anybody wants to know, for example, against what position of mine Tom is ‘arguing’ in this thread, he may try to find it.

    Also this is not about me and I am not going into this because I would feel angry about this. The point is not my feeling about it but the general structure of Tom’s style of argumentation. That I am angry is true to some extent. But that is because I am interested in this project Glenn initiated and I see how Tom’s rhetorical tactics are (to some extent) structuring the dialog here. One can see this at work again in his latest post #141 where he sounds like somebody said “that cognitive science accounts for the entirety of the human subject.” Who said this in regard about the ‘discussion’ here about cognitive sciences?

    So my assertion is that the dialogue here is structured in a certain way which is not always conducive to the goal of having an illuminating conversation. Opposing Tom’s view might lead to being pathologized, being accused of going into resistance or of transference . This is, of course, structuring. That is what I mean. (And no, I am not looking for some “neutral” dialogue/ideology/thinking or whatever.)

    As I said, I had my share with this kind of style and I am not going on in a discussion in which one person puts himself into the driver seat in such an way.

    On the other side I have been waiting too long to say something about this. Partly because I am tired of this kind of silly rivalry.

    But this site should be a site of struggle. Ok then, let’s kick out the jams. Let’s see what happens.

  147. Patrick Avatar

    Ha!!! Matthias I’m perked up again!

    Tomek I’ve been visiting your site and I see a little of what Tomek must be in his native polish! Pozdrawiac!

    Tom: goodluck with metzinger! Sparks will fly!

    Have been banned from this site for two days by my partner on the grounds that I’ve been muttering philosophical gibberish in my sleep (whats new!)

  148. matthewmgioia Avatar

    Tomek and Glenn : Thank you for your help on this – it’s much appreciated – I’ll need a little time to read carefully. And just to clear up my status: no, I’m not a meditation teacher, nor have I ever been or said I was – Craig must be confusing me with someone else.


    That is precisely the kind of conversation stopping attitude that causes suffering. So here is my practice…I’m real with myself about my feelings and think about them, validate them rather than shut it down, like you so obviously are doing here. You’re a meditation teacher, right? Not mine. Don’t ask me what practice is, ask yourself.

    I’m not “stopping the conversation;” I was trying to (perhaps impotently) invigorate it. So, maybe we’re not understanding each other here, because I read what you wrote as conversation-stopping. You blamed your current suffering on living in an anti-human (capitalist) society – I acknowledged that there was likely truth to that (I feel it too), but my effort to push the conversation further was to ask “now what?” I don’t think Tom was referring directly to me when he wrote “or the same old “it’s always hard, we can’t do anything about it, just adjust to it” response” in his last comment, but that’s not what I meant either – it seems to be how you interpreted what I meant – I was asking what can be done about it right here and right now. I was asking you and I’m asking myself, too – I’m not a meditation teacher, by the way, why would you think so? But I maintain that life is inherently hard and painful – before, during, and after capitalism (again, this is not to say that I do not find marxist critique compelling). So, I was asking, life is hard – now what? You write,

    This is my practice: I say I’m tired and claim my weariness in an anti-human society where I’m not allowed to be AND I tell you, who insist on everyone live in your polite society, to shut the fuck up.

    That practice sounds very bleak (and by the way, I don’t insist that everyone live in my “polite society”). As I wrote earlier in the thread, I see my practice as being to meticulously discharge my familial duties – whether joyful or onerous, and then sit, read, think, talk, but what I didn’t add was that it’s vital to me to have a forward thrusting , dynamic posture – I often think of this one Ferdinand Foch: “My center is giving way, my right is retreating – situation: excellent; attack!”

  149. Matthew O'Connell (@Sciamanoinglese) Avatar

    I’m afraid I’ve come to the banquet late and have gathered together quite a few comments on comments. Hopefully I can add some wood to the fire. A good number of my comments are directly or indirectly related to practice and the theme of the blog.

    Glenn (#87)

    ‘I could gather a ton of evidence from this blog’s comment archive alone that shows just how affected people are by our discussions. When I have an intense exchange with so-and-so, I am affected by that. I think about it throughout the day. Sometimes I go over an argument for days. Often, I see that I was wrong or sloppy or unnecessarily snippy.’

    Great stuff. This discussion is really producing some interesting material to reflect on: wow. Amongst all the comments, Glenn’s at 87 in response to Jamie really caught my attention as it mirrors my own relationship with this blog, which is sometime an active participation, sometimes that of the voyeur. I benefit as much from thinking about the challenges that are made between participants here as I do by the blog material precisely because it is so raw and untamed by burdensome niceties. I am glad to hear that I’m not the only one that wanders off contemplating, reflecting and doing research after reading. The challenges here within are what bring me back again and again. I even appreciate Geoff’s comments too as they reflect some of my own casual asides and the same goes for Tomek’s comments about Tom, and Matthias’ interest in exploring meditation further.

    Patrick (#100)

    ‘I think there is a difference between non-reactivity and the x-buddhist cultivation of a regime of self-monitoring that tries to foster a self congratulatory form of detachment.’

    In other words a form of robotic emotion suppression. In my experience such an approach does appear in some communities, especially amongst a good number of Zen and Theravada communities. The Tibetans, with whom I have had more first-hand experience, tend to display similar self-monitoring strategies as a means of maintaining a fragrant illusion of compassion that displays their good natured open hearted devotion to a higher purpose. They seem shit scared to me. A large boo and their fake game might fall apart. Collectively they force niceness to avoid the terror of returning to their past lonely and miserable existence. They represent in a way the other side of Buddhism that’s made more explicit in born again Christian groups: to be saved, o to be saved.

    Matthias (#120) Sober points and I agree with your statements about the nonsense B&W rhetoric thrown about by Tom, but pointing out his tone and style makes no difference so I think it best to ignore his cantankerous bellowing and just extract the points worth responding to in his comments. If you don’t play tennis, play squash and hit the ball back anyway but with the serve that fits your style and tone. You seem to have achieved this well at 120. I found him extremely clear at 141 and unable to disagree with his points there. Would love to see further clarity of this sort from you Tom. Overall the comments are a sort of flirtation it seems. Group think ideology, stance, tone, all striving for recognition and sane responses. As an adult I find it all quite wonderful. Three cheers to word blood and discord and sissy fits not resulting in permanent abandonment of the project by those with more delicate ears.

    JRC (#122) I am currently writing a piece on the topic of awakening that may or may not find a home somewhere near here. Conceptually awakening does appear to have a great variety of flavours. In my current research into this topic I am fascinated by two points: the first is what happens if we deny traditions all rights to aggrandising the thing and strip raw the terminology that has been repeatedly used to try and get at what awakening is, what causes it and, importantly, who has it or has achieved it and what would happen to such folk if they are stripped of all medals, awards and acknowledgement. Secondly, what takes place after the act? When prior to the Mahayana indulgence in the afterlife as an omniscient super-being the most consistent metaphor for the thing involves turning off the light, putting out the fire, ending the human. What occurs in that apparent absence? I’m exploring this not as an act of idealising this hallowed ground of attainment of the elite few, but as a potentially lived, human reality that must be shared and brought into contact with the surrounding environment and its demands and not defined in any way as special, apart from or above. Anyway, I’ll see where I end up.

    Patrick (#126) RE. Group think. Of course it’s avoidable. It often seems to operate as a field of attraction for those who are not alert and feel the need to belong or conform or receive confirmation of some form, either ideological or emotional. Parroting others’ terminology is usually a tell-tell sign and that does occur on occasion here, but in this thread I must say is sparse. I think your indulgence and confession reflect the sort of exposure that Glenn was getting at in an earlier comment (if I’m not mistaken). I take it as progress and a sign that honesty is at place, in both cases. Don’t give up; keep at it. Honesty is liberating and temporary.

    Craig (#134) As far as capitalism is concerned, it seems to me that there is an issue about treating the possibilities of Buddhism as commodities to obtain, value and own, that distracts from the visceral experience of engaging with the potential held within discovering those experiences on our own without the mediating force of a salesman (dharma teacher). The fact that these potentials are redefined and confined to Buddhist rhetoric is what stripes them of much of their power to actually liberate. X-buddhism in aligning itself with capitalism redefines its wares within a commerce dynamic that corrupts those invovled. ‘I own a practice purchased through an organisation that allows me to adopt an image, a persona, an identity which I can wear and confirm my place in society’. This is in part what I perceive as being part of the issue with the overlay of capitalism on x-buddhism. I do think a total disengagement from such a style of relationship with Buddhism is possible, but as Glenn points out, it requires a willingness to stand totally alone.

    (#137) I think your points reflect the need to abandon fear and hope as mechanisms that shield us from opening nakedly to the rawness of life and its immense unpredictability along with its attacks on our castle of conceptual defences against the decay and dismantling of our phantom self through constant little deaths. Practice for me has long been in part about relating to the immense tension that plays out between hopelessness and hope as projection towards an idealised or desired future and fear of what may or may not be. Experiencing fully such a tension is shit scary but then liberating and potentially highly creative.

    Glenn (#142) Glenn’s comment on exile applies to every life circumstance but therein lies the possibility of abandoning oneself to full participation: another face of practice for myself as a teacher of teenagers, and as a father. Mindfulness is so often traded as a control technique when total participation is really where life becomes more interesting and less about suffering selves and goal orientated non-living. In order to live in such a manner though I think one is unable to do other than disrupt the status quo because of its stifling and suffocating nature. I kind of naively expected Buddhist circles to provide this for me way back in my teens, but quickly found out they had no such interest and left and hung out with neo-shamans for many years because in that group disruption was available to me as a participatory act. I attempt to introduce such a possibility to the people I coach and the group work I do. If they’re willing, it can be highly rewarding.

  150. Craig Avatar



    Comment Psychosis…love it. I’d add some flavor of obsessive compulsiveness to this as well. 🙂

  151. Craig Avatar



    Being able to claim being tired has taken years of conversation for me to do for myself and even more years of conversation to actually say on a blog. Verbalizing the possible truth that my exhistance in capitalist society might have something to do with this weariness is the next part of the conversation. Saying ‘so what you’re tired’ is tantamount to telling a clincially depressed person to ‘cheer up’.

    I think you are right, we’re talking past each other. Disengaging from family duties is a tough one. At the same time, my practice involves forward thinking, but I’m not really interested in ‘going somewhere’. I’ve been doing that all my life and I’m done with it. Explaining that last sentence would take pages.

    BTW-adding the ‘shut the fuck up’ to my last post to you was probably unnecessary. I apologize for that. Now, back to my bleak practice 🙂 (being sarcastic…i love my bleak practice!)

  152. Jamie Avatar

    #146 evokes much empathy in me.

    I imagine the regulars on this blog as a family at the dinner table. The family is talking over dinner, trying to work through a major family change. One of the kids in the family, “Geoff,” is (for whatever reason) uncomfortable with the change. To deal with his anxiety, he tries to disrupt the change process. He does so by provoking a seemingly off-topic fight with another kid in the family, “Tom.” From his experience previously, “Geoff” knows that will do the trick. Unfortunately, and by his own admission, “Tom” invariably takes the bait. He realizes it, and leaves the dinner table early, hoping not to get sucked in for a while.

    The change process is temporarily derailed.

    Each time this happens, there is collateral damage to the process, because when he takes the bait, “Tom’s” scattershooting is indiscriminate. But his targets, both intended and not, can (understandably) take it quite personally.

    I like the solution proposed in #149.

  153. Jamie Avatar

    I am re-reading Tom’s “Naturalizing Buddhism Without Being Reductive,” with a focus on his exchanges with Luis Daniel. WIth regard to this post’s topic, I see the exchange as a metaphor for practicing non-buddhism in an x-buddhist context. Individual ideologies (religions, fixations, delusions…) are powerful — and frustrating to the objective observer. I still see the solution as some sort of self-analytic work as a part of practice.

  154. Alan Avatar

    Jamie #153: I really appreciate your bringing ideas about psychoanalysis. For me, psychoanalysis has been a very important part of practice for years, though I didn’t think of it in those terms until I began, more recently, a meditation practice. But self-analysis is extraordinarily difficult. Maybe the kind of resistance it entails is analagous to the kind of resistance Tom has observed in peoples’ difficulty in seeing their own ideologies. The words “unconscious,” “anxiety,” “transference,” etc. have appeared in recent comments. They often seem to draw defensive reactions. Transference, projection, resistance, etc. are not pathological, they’re human features, though I suppose anything, in extreme, could become pathological. But you are right, examing the pscychodynamics of what goes on in this blog is as important as examining political ideologies. It’s all about awareness, right? As others have stated, practice is about facing truths.

    Glenn #99: I, too, have experienced severe anxiety throughout my life. I agree that it has, in its way, been valuable in forcing me to confront truths and even to live a richer life. Sometimes it does enable me to create and be productive. But I have also experienced paralyzing, shut-down anxiety that is very painful. Yes, there is much to be learned from that and I have no regrets about it, but I’m not sure I am able to go so far as to say I love it. The point here, though, is that anxiety is part of my practice. Sometimes I can’t distinguish between “personal” neurotic anxiety (based in delusion?) and “existential angst” (based in reality?), nor am I sure such a distinction really exists. I think anxiety may also be analogous to ideology: we all have it, the thing is to see it and work with the truth of it.

    Don’t really want to get into other details about what constitutes my practice; it would repeat some things mentioned here previously. But pschoanalysis and anxiety are certainly part of it. By the way, I am a constant reader here (okay, lurker). Don’t always have time to comment (consuming day job, etc.)and don’t always feel I have something to contribute (okay, I’ll try to do some self-analysis on that point!), but I learn a hell of a lot. Does impact my practice.

  155. Jamie Avatar

    re: 154, “self-analysis is extraordinarily difficult”
    Agreed. My hope is that a sangha could offer some training therein, as well as ongoing support for one another.

  156. Matthew Gioia Avatar

    Hi Glenn (#142) Thanks again for your response to my earlier questions.

    First, I apologize for threatening you – I think I was watching a Bruins game and drinking IPA when I wrote that comment. And, as it turns out, I did indeed have a lot of work to do – and I still do – for instance, I’m not seeing the affective/cognitive distinction within decision – I don’t know how important it is. Is “affective” decision a more or less conscious process (or at least initiated consciously) and cognitive decision more or less unconscious? Is cognitive decision contained within/caused by affective decision? You write that cognitive decision involves a fissure between empty reality and transcendentally idealized world – but hasn’t that already/also happened with affective decision? In terms of specularity – the view from above, the seeing of x-buddhism wherever the x-buddhist looks – I would expect an x-buddhist to respond that’s because x-buddhist concepts describe the world accurately ie I see pratityasamutpada everywhere I look because pratityasamutpada is actually how the world works…

    I appreciate Tomek pointing me to the thread from x-buddhist Hallucination.

    In that thread, Tomek writes

    “And thus, in the end, the posited rupture turns into an actual one. So in a sense the buddhistic salvation comes from being forever sealed from zero-degree reality by the hope – manifesting as decision and reflexivity – of reaching the end of dukkha.”

    And you (Glenn) agree. This claim (and others like it in the thread) seems to imply that prior to x-buddhism a subject is not split from empty reality – that the fissure is somehow caused by the encounter with x-buddhism and ensuing decision. Is that so? I would claim that there is a split prior to the encounter with x-buddhism – a split caused by the decisional structure and the representation of other ideologies / representations (whatever they are). Converts to x-buddhism are thus trading in one ideology for another, which doesn’t create the rupture, it perpetuates and enhances it, dressing it up in potentially more deceptive clothing. Still, though – could it not lead to a breaking through of representation? Could not being under the spell of an ideology – in particular x-buddhism, be a precondition for seeing through ideology in general (as in the story of the raft)?

    Ok I have one million more questions but I have to go play with a baby.


  157. Patrick Avatar

    Re 141

    What jumped out at me here was your use of the phrase… If you cannot face this truth… then you cannot face any truth

    If you need to believe you have a soul, if you cannot face the truth that ultimately we are completely insignificant in the universe, then you cannot face any truth completely. If you need to believe that cognitive science accounts for the entirety of the human subject, and cannot face the truth of the Freudian unconscious, then you cannot understand any truth completely.

    As a rhetorical device it works beautifully and I have no problem with that. And the repetition ads punch. Needless to say I have used these phrases countless times myself. Who hasn’t?

    What interests me is the type of ‘subject’ evoked by such language, the unseen presence standing behind it. Utterances like this carry a primordial charge. The sentence ‘If you cannot face this truth…then you cannot face any truth’ delivers its charge without the listener needing to know any of the circumstances There is a dichotomy built into the structure of the sentence, in which a strong subject confronts a weak or even abject object.

    The ‘real’ speaker is but the conduit through which the voice of ‘reason’ or ‘objectivity’ or ‘necessity’ addresses its object. It is also a fact that the statement is delivered to no one in particular, and yet it is undeniably received, and an unseen audience seems to stamp its approval all over it. What we have here, below the deck as it were, is a drama in which imaginary actors—- a subject, an object and an audience—- play out an old script in which something is set to right; in which an ‘error’ is replaced by a ‘truth’

    Rhetoric has its origin, of course, in Greek drama, so it is not surprising that when someone uses a pronounced rhetorical style to proclaim ‘truth’ to a generalised ‘you’, certain generic scripts come to mind
    Some might accuse you of empty rhetoric or arrogance but I think that would be missing the point. That is not to say that I am comfortable with your use elsewhere of adjectives which do smack of arrogance. Your use of stupid, idiotic, moronic, etc to describe an argument provoke responses in a similar vain and derails discussion. That is not what I would call ‘struggle’.

    I think I remember you describing this way of responding as your’ Zen Roshi style’ of admonishing your opponents. There is a clue here for those who are mystified by your apparently dogmatic tone. Maybe you are exercising a form of enlightened authority, one bestowed on you not by wisdom or clear seeing, but by ‘History’.

    Is it not possible that the quote above derives its force by way of this unseen subject and the verdict it delivers? Might not its authority be established under a Marxist dispensation in which History by way of the dialectic, bestows an ocular knowledge on the members of the proletarian ‘vanguard’, so that the subject can proclaim truths on its behalf?

    Maybe those who mistake your tone for arrogance are simply blind to the way in which Marxism privileges the Marxist with access to the truth. If Marxists are indeed privileged in this way than there can be no question of arrogance or dogmatism. You are simply explicating the truth.

    The question is; are the truths you present established truths, or are they approximations, subject to modification, revision, or even exclusion from the category of truth with the discovery of new evidence? Are they working models, to be confirmed, adjusted, or discarded as part of the ordinary process of human activity?

    Or are they postulates deriving their strength from the hyper-reflexivity of an ideological system; a system in which Marxism, by way of the dialectic, authorizes ‘History’ to deliver an ontology that privileges the truths Marxism itself proclaims? Are you by default policing thought in such a way that anyone who departs from those truths is automatically deemed to be wilfully blind or ignorant. The circularity described above might be the source of the seemingly hidden mechanism at work in what Matthias describes in the following way:

    146 The result is that Tom is the one with the right ideology and his opponent is the one with the resistance.

    Marx made a precise statement on the question of ‘objective truth’ in his Thesis on Feuerbach.

    The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth — i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking that is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.

    A simplistic interpretation might reduce what Marx is saying here to the statement that we should always refer to experience to confirm the truth of any statement. I think Marx means something quite different. He is pointing to the fact that all truths are always and already products of what he calls ‘sensuous human practice’ that they always arise as this practice ‘ There is no way in which truth, existing in a realm outside of human activity, can escape interrogation by this ‘sensuous human activity’. Marx insists on the this-sidedness of thinking, of its arisal in the midst of practical human activity as ‘human thinking’
    This interrogation of truth by sensuous human practice confirms each truth as either a correlation or a distortion of reality and confirms the evolving nature of ‘truth’, its provisional character. Ideology then might be described as the reification of these evolving truths as elements within a system of postulates producing a closed circuit of reflexivity.

    Marxism can be particularly insidious in this way since it uses a conception of Hegalian dialectic to show that its own truth content is but an appearance in human thought of the logic of the unfolding of material contradictions within social relations. The Thesis on Feuerbach thwarts such a move with its insistence on the fact that thinking and sensuous human practice are inextricably intertwined (albeit in a different context).

    It might be true that ‘human sensuous activity’ has confirmed a correlation between the critique of capitalist social relations and ‘reality’. I think it probably has. However outside of Marxism’s own self-sufficient axioms, evidence for this conclusion is hotly contested. And it does seem to be the case that language can weave its own spell, and that we are always in danger of being bound by ‘networks of postulation, be they Buddhist or Marxist.

    For this reason I am more and more hesitant to proclaim any ‘truth’, Marxist or otherwise, with the forthrightness with which you proclaim it here. You may, of course, accuse me of vacillation or even moral cowardice, but just as I believe there may be no arrogance in your forthrightness so too I believe there is no cowardice in my reticence. The difference between us is rather that I have lost faith in the self-sufficiency of Marxist postulates whereas you have retained it.

    There is another approach to the question of truth and its verification articulated by Badiou. I cannot say that I understand how this formulation relates to the ‘classical’ Marxist position. The little reading I have done so far makes me think that it offers a more fruitful path, as does Laruelle’s project of non-marxism. This for me is starting from the ground up. Maybe your conception of truth is justified on an understanding of this approach? If that is the case I wonder that it hasn’t curtailed you liking for definitive proclamations, which, while they don’t go so far as using a capital T for truth, definitely imply that in regard to certain subjects the matter of truth is a closed book.

    Or does Badiou’s concept of ‘fidelity to a truth’ justify a sort of stubborn insistence on one’s own grip on ‘truth’?

  158. Craig Avatar



    You said:

    “It might be true that ‘human sensuous activity’ has confirmed a correlation between the critique of capitalist social relations and ‘reality’. I think it probably has.”

    Could you explain this a bit more? Are you saying that human experience has all but concluded that some of Marx’s critique of capitalism is right…true?

    I too am wary of ‘truths’. At the same time, there’s no excuse for poverty. What to do? Lately, I’ve been thinking of my practice as using ‘isms’ as tools rather than labeling myself this or that. I find Marx’s critique of labor true and a useful tool. I also find meditation helpful.

    Anyway, I usually just throw up my hands in exhaustion and say, “what a cluster-fuck!” It’s a wonder we haven’t annihilated each other yet. We can’t communicate with each other and when we try more issues are brought forth. We’re all fucked from our parents to some degree. We all have blind belief in ideology in the face of contradictory evidence. There really is no hope. This is where my anti-natalism tendencies come out 🙂

  159. Patrick Avatar

    Hi Craig,

    Now that you’ve isolated that sentence I can see that its very awkwardly put. For one thing the ‘Probably’ is way too weak. I am absolutely convinced that experience has confirmed that capitalism is defunct as a system .For one thing its unstoppable technological innovation in combination with the irrationality of the market system is driving life on this planet to extinction. That fact and the indescribable amounts of suffering it imposes on human beings in the form of war, economic inequality, etc, etc makes it undeniable that a radical change is necessary.
    I don’t think any Marxist could disagree with that, no matter what faction of Marxism he holds allegiance to. That being said there are many who reject Marxism both on the ‘left’ and within the various factions of reformism and liberalism. It is too much of a simplification to dismiss them as capitalist ideologues.

    The ‘probably’ was there to introduce a note of caution but as it stands the whole sentence should be reframed. So I will have another stab at what I think Marx is saying.

    I don’t know how much reading you have done on this so I will presume its zilch. Also I am not talking from a position of authority but from a position of putting ideas under ‘interrogation’; so that even when I make a definitive statement a question mark should be immediately put behind it…exactly in the way some schoolteachers correct your essay and you open it to find it covered in question marks and exclamation dashes.

    The first thing you need to know is that in the thesis on Feuerbach Marx is responding to a book in which Feuerbach presents a materialist critique of religion. While Marx is in broad agreement with it he has reservations about the way Feuerbach has dealt with the issue.

    Marx introduces the phrase ‘Human sensuous activity’ to describe the way in which human beings are inextricably embedded within a network of biological, social, economic, and cultural relations from the word go. In other words we are up to our necks in life. And this includes thought. Human sensuous activity is the ordinary everyday activity out of which Human beings create their world. Thought is inextricably enmeshed in this activity. Thought is just one more form of this activity. It is never a case of thought here and reality there and a process of having thoughts and then referring to reality in order to check out their ‘trueness’.
    We don’t act as one activity and then think as one activity and then try to find the correct fix between them. We think and act as one process and out of this complexity we create our world of economic, social, political, and cultural structures and processes including our sciences and our ideologies.

    It is this creativity of thought/action that Marx wants to emphasise; because it is here that Human freedom is possible. Marx gets this emphasis on the active from Hegel and he uses it to counteract the other side of the equation—that we are unfree in the sense that we are conditioned by the world we ourselves have created. But we can act out our freedom within those same conditions.
    The other important point is that when Marx uses the word Human or Man he always means human in the collective sense. This doesn’t mean that we don’t act as individuals but that our very individuality is a manifestation of complex interactions with the natural and manmade environment. Everything we do as an individual is at the same time an act of the Human; a collective act.
    In the middle of this very messy and confusing matrix of relations and processes we try to build viable models of how the natural world and our created world interact, how the ‘given’ (the conditioning factor) and the made (our free acts) come together to produce new conditions. Out of this messy process clarity about our situation emerges and evolves…we make models or ‘world-views’ as guides to action. This situation is complicated by the fact that our own actions produce processes that are not transparent to us; we often can’t see exactly what we are doing—-for instance a worker on a production line makes a piece of a car and the forms of social activity that have evolved obscure the fact that the worker is actually producing affects that are not in his own interests—he is ‘alienated’ from the product of his own action by the social relations that govern his activity.

    In the same way we continually act in ways that are repetitive and destructive because we cannot see the underlying unconscious processes that are conditioning our actions. Freedom has always to do with the process of ‘uncovering’ and this is the connection between Marx and Frued and between both and concept of ‘enlightenment’ buried under the cloud of mystification we call xbuddhism.

    Hope this helps… its way too long and I already want to change it! Ha! As you say a ‘cluster fuck’ ; where do you get them from?

  160. Craig Avatar


    Thanks for the response. I see where you are coming from. I’m so compartmentalized sometimes that it was very interesting to see your awareness of the atrocities of capitalism and still be critical of Marx. You are totally right, we can all seem to agree on change, but how to do it? That’s the cluster fuck 🙂

    I am familiar with Feuerbach, but not with Marx’s critique. I need to check that out a bit more. Another point that I really found enlightening in your other post was this idea of experience correlating or distorting truth. I love the idea of correlation. That seems to be the best answer when it comes to truth as we really can never be sure in the midst of our proclivity towards delusion. Marx correlates with my experience of capitalism.

  161. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Matthew (#156). I was just joking about the threat–I guess it’s a Philly thing.

    As far as I can tell from my actual interactions with x-buddhists, both the affective and cognitive dimensions of decision are largely unconscious. That should seem strange, since both are worn, so to speak, on the practitioners sleeve, visible to all. But an additional factor renders decision invisible, or at least extremely difficult for the x-buddhist to detect. That factor is “reflexivity.” A person is an x-buddhist to the extent that he reflexively views the world through dharmic categories. The goal of each and every x-buddhist sangha is to create a spontaneously reflexive subject. I would say that the two dimensions go hand in hand. As a person learns to operate via the dharmic categories his affective dependence on The Dharma grows. As his affective dependence grows, so grows his desire to master the cognitive dimension.

    You write that cognitive decision involves a fissure between empty reality and transcendentally idealized world – but hasn’t that already/also happened with affective decision? In terms of specularity – the view from above, the seeing of x-buddhism wherever the x-buddhist looks – I would expect an x-buddhist to respond that’s because x-buddhist concepts describe the world accurately ie I see pratityasamutpada everywhere I look because pratityasamutpada is actually how the world works…

    Yes, in the first instance the split occurs in thought (in representation, idea, belief, etc.). In the second, affective, it occurs for the subject. The idea of the stranger subject is relevant here.

    Yes, an x-buddhist would, by definiiton, have to see the world-pratityasamutpada nexus in those terms. It is precisely hallucinations of that kind that constitute the x-buddhist. (Pratityasamutpada (1) doesn’t describe anything in itself; it requires some x-buddhism’s entire network of postulation to yield sense of any sort: and (2) pratityasamutpada does not describe anything other than x-buddhism’s account of the world, hence, specularity.)

    I completely agree with your last paragraph. I just happen to be focusing on the workings of Buddhist decision and hallucination here.


  162. Patrick Avatar

    Hi Matthew,

    Re 149

    Well, group think is an interesting question… of course if we confine the discussion to a narrower definition, one based on the psychology of group dynamics for instance, then we could say that we can arrive at a sort of neutrality in particular circumstances… for instance at a meeting we might easily see that certain people are conditioned by the Group pressure to conform. That’s all good but I am interested in the way in which we can find ourselves embedded in unexamined stances conditioned by all sorts of factors outside of our awareness.

    I think of it as a holarchy of conditioning factors; innate biological conditioning, environmental factors, economic structures, social and cultural processes, psychological and cognitive conditioning, language structures, etc etc. The list could go on. When you do extend the list in this way you realise very quickly that there is no end to the conditioning factors at work. The extreme reaction to this situation is to say, along with behaviourism, that there are only conditioning factors and conditioned responses.

    The better response, for me at least, is to see that we, as subjects, are always already up to our necks in conditioning factors…that we find ourselves from the very beginning embedded within such networks, and that what we call selves, entities, and conditioning factors are conceptual terms within larger formations (models, world views etc) actively created in the midst of such conditions in an effort to come to grips with our situation.

    In other words we are free but only under certain conditions. On this view freedom and necessity, and all such dichotomies, are the result of an active thinking …a way of thinking dialectically and a form of dialectical thinking. Away of thinking dialectally means that we take a philosophical stance …a form of dialectical thinking is an ontological condition in which a n organism with a mind7brain/body complex can symbolically ‘step out of’ its situation while remaining embedded within it. In other words dialectical is somehow built into the situation and allows for the dichotomy we configure as freedom/necessity.

    Ha¨…..the above sounds to me now too complex by far and somehow full of holes but the holes are there to let fresh air in; and as way for someone to prise open the argument and either refute it or develop it or whatever!

    While I’m here
    Have just paid a quick visit to your blog and find it full of interesting things!
    Will return for a closer look.

  163. matthewmgioia Avatar

    Hi Glenn (161)

    Thanks for your response – it’s helpful. I wonder what you think about someone like Toni Packer – how do you think she looks through the lens of non-buddhism? Apparently she has jettisoned the buddhemes and rhetorics of self-display, including her former special status as a Roshi. Also, your description of your practice and her description – “Sitting in silence, listening, looking, questioning,” sound very similar.

  164. Tomek Avatar

    The goal of each and every x-buddhist sangha is to create a spontaneously reflexive subject. I would say that the two dimensions go hand in hand. As a person learns to operate via the dharmic categories his affective dependence on The Dharma grows. As his affective dependence grows, so grows his desire to master the cognitive dimension.

    So, Glenn (#161), to frame it in a real time – first dimension – a person may attend a “service” during which he would sit period or two even three, do some bowing, chanting, maybe listen to a dharma talk given by a teacher, and who knows, maybe additionally, if this is Zen community, he may meet in person with the teacher in a dokusan. After that ends, he can socialize during a short break with members of the sangha, and than, – second dimension – he could spend some time during “koan study group” honing his understanding of The Dharma expressed in the form of koan stories. Instead of lets say, as Jayarava mentioned lately, studying sad paradoxes underlying the modern economic system he devotes his precious time for thaumaturgic practice and decoding the laws of pratityasamutpada enshrined in the paradoxes of koan literature. And so on, day in, day out grows “spontaneously” reflexive x-buddhistic subject. All goes well until apporetic dissonances start to occur unexpectedly.

  165. Matthew O'Connell (@Sciamanoinglese) Avatar


    I am interested in the way in which we can find ourselves embedded in unexamined stances conditioned by all sorts of factors outside of our awareness.

    In relation to groups, I think it’s perhaps possible to understand how this happens through uncovering the unarticulated reasons why a person/people join a group and that in any dynamic that is interested in exploring the inner workings of a group identity should involve an attempt at getting at those hidden drives. Compulsion in attendance or participation is usually a sign that a person is not clear on the more honest motivations for their participation in a given group. They are not able to distinguish somehow between who or how they exist as an individual either in or out of the group.
    Hidden motives often reveal themselves when any genuine form of confrontation or change emerges and at that point the individual is faced with what they really want or why they really came and often the whole thing falls apart. I think the need for genuine confrontation is apparent in group dynamics for anything meaningful to occur. One of the issues I always had with Buddhist groups is that they avoid it like the plague. But, this is really symptomatic of society as a whole, especially British society, which I grew up in.

    I think of it as a holarchy of conditioning factors; innate biological conditioning, environmental factors, economic structures, social and cultural processes, psychological and cognitive conditioning, language structures, etc etc. The list could go on. When you do extend the list in this way you realise very quickly that there is no end to the conditioning factors at work. The extreme reaction to this situation is to say, along with behaviourism, that there are only conditioning factors and conditioned responses.

    Ha, what a web of entanglement you point to. At an absolute level, I guess you’re right. What we’re perhaps left with though is the possibility of coming to know the foundations for much of the entanglement and it is possible to free ourselves from much of it: whether the lies of our our parents, or the political ideology we’ve absorbed, or the beliefs from our class. In my experience it’s a major part of what makes life fascinating and exciting to live and getting at absolutes maybe be a lost cause ultimately?
    There’s the truth of the matter and then there is how we choose to enter into relationship with what we are learning, seeing. At an experiential level, seeing into and through the inheritance of habits, behaviours and ideas absorbed from a highly spiritual, new-age mum and an atheist, Marxist father has been illuminating and freeing and genuinely fun, if a little painful at times. When you describe conditioned responses, at what level do you mean? Are you implying that an original act is impossible? That we all move within pre-trodden grooves?

    Glad you like the blog. I haven’t visited for a while and some of my ideas have developed since the time of much of the writing there, but some it’s okay.

  166. oz Avatar

    Using the methods described in various posts on Speculative Non-Buddhism Blog, I tried to derive some “non-buddhist” practices, that can be done in an x-buddhistic context.
    1. Sit still and silent contemplating the empty reality, that is, the most banal, disappointing, uninteresting, unremarkable, indeed, vacuous, fact of life. Keep in mind that empty reality is not shunyata. (Shunyata is Joe Jikyo Jones Roshi to empty reality’s Joe Jones.) Then express what you have learned through sitting in a creative way. (Glenn Wallis’s post on August 17, 2011 at 18:00)
    2. Become aware of “your” thoughts which are produced by the discourses and social practices of which you are an effect and examine how and why our ideologies are constructed. (Tom Pepper’s post on February 16, 2012 at 11:20 )
    3. Inculcate an attentional proclivity toward “just this moment” and the disposition of “having no hope” and “radical acceptance of the totality of the present.” (Flinching, Posted by Glenn Wallis on August 26, 2011)
    4. Read Habermas on the conditions of dialogue, Althusser on ideological formation, Ricoeur on the hermeneutics of symbols, Grimes on the modes of ritualization. Develop a critical vocabulary, improve ability to analyze textual and social data, become skillled in discerning rhetorical structure of texts and spoken word, enhance individual comunication style. (Posted by Glenn Wallis on Feb 22, 2013, Practicing in Delusion)
    5. Read Lefebvre’s “The Critique of Everyday Life” and contemplate how our simplest daily activities are produced by and reproduce capitalist social relations. Using this knowledge, try to think about new forms of activity that will enable change in the social structure. (Tom Pepper’s post on Feb. 24, 2013)

    I still wonder if applying these practices need some academic background in social/political sciences. # 4 is an outline for an academic interdisciplinary study and I am not sure if it can not be practised individually without following an academic program (like Glenn’s theory course already mentioned in the relevant post) I guess many people follow “simplistic” x-buddhist groups, as their practices look more approachable for everyone despite their different backgrounds and capacities.

  167. Craig Avatar


    Great post. Thank you so much. I going to use this as a template for looking at my personal practice. Agreed, some of these things do require a group. Currently, I’m very interested in #5. Thanks again for pulling this together!


  168. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Oz (#166). I agree withe Craig that that’s a great list of examples of non-buddhist reductions of x-buddhist practices. You say:

    I still wonder if applying these practices need some academic background in social/political sciences

    I would say that application doesn’t require any special background at all. Formulating these ideas in the manner that they are formulated here might seem to require a certain degree of education and training. But the ideas themselves, the thinking involved, does not. People think and talk about this stuff sitting on their stoops on a summer night. They just do so in different terms. That’s why our motto at our companion e-journal is:

    Our goal “consists in wresting vital potentialities of humans from the artificial forms and static norms that subjugate them” (Marjorie Gracieuse).

  169. Jay Avatar

    I have to say I’m laughing my socks off here having read Tom#52 and jayarava#53. I was quite happy to be called a post-modernist by Tom – I haven’t read a convincing argument against relativism that doesn’t posit some transcendent moral guide or a sort of theosophy of science. I see in the concept of emptiness a great freedom but also a great responsibility. I consider myself a Buddhist because I try to sit every day and attend to my mind – I practise Buddhist ethics as best I can because I believe they make me a better person to be around. i dont have a sangha and i dont have certificate in MBSR. Im not trying to buy into some sort of buddhist identity either. Only my wife and a couple of friends have any idea that i have a practise. And to move a little closer to what jayarava was unintentionally insulted about – how can you even presume to know Tom that I am some sort of capitalist lackey?
    I might be – but you actually have no idea. Your ideology has created some sort of straw man out of my enthusiasm for Craig’s post. It says far more about your own constricted thinking than anything else – I love this blog/site but you guys have got your heads seriously up your own arses a lot of the time.

  170. Craig Avatar



    I laughed my ass off about that mix up too. So damn funny. I’m giggling now. Hilarious. Poor Jayarava 🙂

    As far as post modernism goes, I think the next step after realizing everything is socially constructed is to still decide what is right and causes the least amount of suffering. Relativism is only a step toward progression. We see that everything is constructed so now we can deconstruct and reconstruct better.

  171. Geoff Avatar

    Tom re #69:

    Just looking at some previous stuff – if I could return to that…..

    The assertion that all science is conducted for ideological reasons is NOT itself an ideology, but a statement of fact about the nature of reality. We need to maintain that distinction for any useful thought or action to take place.

    If we were to decide to invest billions of dollars in seeking a cure for cancer instead of getting smaller iphones, we would do so for ideological reasons–the belief that human life is more important than novelty in technology. The fact that this decision would be taken for ideological purposes is NOT an ideology, however. Being aware of this truth may change our ideological commitment, but truth is not the same as ideology.

    My question is: that all makes good sense to me. In accepting this, does this also mean I have to be as committed to Marx as you (on a theoretical and practical level)? Ie do you have to be a Marxist to make any sense?



  172. Craig Avatar


    I don’t thing so. I think this involves intentional or ideological awareness while using Marxist tools.

  173. Geoff Avatar


    If I can again return – I know you have moved on but I’ve been distracted elsewhere…..

    To quote you:


    I have no problem admitting that I am interested in marxist thought, and not interested in the history of its uses or reception. That does not mean that I am not interested in action based on what I take to be marxist principles.

    #129: … but asks other people to resolve everything for him (Geoff), to do the hard part of thinking through the matter for him.

    I have a query about where all this thinking is leading to. Glenn, you give priority to eg Marxist thinking over how it has been actually implemented in the past. Why do you have no interest when political / social thought itself is pretty useless unless it’s put into practice. Aren’t there lessons from the past on converting political thought into action? What’s the point of Tom getting all miffed about us capitalist lackeys when it has not real practical consequence? Isn’t this getting close to just being a wank?

    Maybe this is why I (like many others) am lazy “thinking through the matter”. As well as probably not having the same need for mental stimulation (like many others), I figure I get more bang for my buck focussing on trying to reduce suffering in a more concrete manner, however imperfectly, rather than focussing on getting the theory right for some utopian future that has next to no chance of happening.



  174. Craig Avatar


    This is an interesting point concerning ‘getting the theory right’. Even though I want to think so, I’m never gonna get it right. And when the theorizing results in utter desperation I’m at a loss. I’m stuck in this system and it sucks, but I can’t walk around being suicidal all day long. There’s stuff that has to get done…parenting, chores, self care, relationship. This is dangerous territory for those struggling with depression/anxiety, especially when buddhist practice has helped.

    As for real change, it seems theoretically possible, but the odds don’t look too good.

  175. Geoff Avatar

    Tom / Glenn,

    Just been reading over the comments… sorry a bit behind again..

    Geoff #

    “Definition of a communist: someone with nothing but who is happy to share it with everyone.”

    Tom # 22:
    And, of course, we have to keep in mind that the kind of profound stupidity exhibited by Geoff above is quite common, and is exactly what must be overcome. If such idiocy were really uncommon, then, perhaps we could assume that we don’t need to talk about sunyata, but it unfortunately it isn’t.

    You guys just think I’m just stirring things for fun.

    I am but…

    A little thought experiment.

    What would you do if you inherited, say, $2 million? Would you give it all away or would you play with the devil and justify keeping money generated by the capitalist system?

    We would then see if you really walked the talk….

    This is one of the issues that would need to be analysed when translating political theory into practice. eg how many leftist leaders in history have sold out when given the chance?

    It’s easy being on the Left when you have little to lose …..



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