Will to Power

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That life itself is dependent upon, if not made from, the opposition of forces, the fight. The pitting of two drives against one another, and the necessity of declaring a winner.

Take the tectonic forces coming together at a fault. One side eventually slides under, accompanied by a shaking of the foundation; one side eventually rises above and remains there until some colossal force is strong enough to overturn what has already been decided. If this fighting of wills is removed, if all is equalized, you lose all movement, all change, and all life. The pervading will is not all that emerges from this confrontation, it subjugates the lesser, making it part of a new whole. And the denigration of the lesser will, that is so common and easy to come to, only comes from man’s misplaced shame of man. An obvious devaluation of a part of the whole, an opposite required for the other. This has blossomed into an all out declaration of war on losing, as they have attached the experience of suffering to the loss itself in some cleverly misplaced equalization. In the name of suffering, they claim, we must protect, nay prevent, the losing entity from even becoming. Do not be fooled, this is an incorrect aim, as the existence of the winning drive presupposes a losing drive, and therefore each is equally required. The subjective devaluation of the lower is the root of the desire to remove it at all costs. With this removal, you do not remove potential, you simply strip out the surface level incarnations of the underlying drives. Now these drives compete at levels outside of our awareness. Life as we know it stagnates, our “life” is no more. 

A legal organisation, conceived of as sovereign and universal, not as a weapon in a fight of complexes of power, but as a weapon against fighting, generally after the style of Dühring’s communistic model of treating every will as equal with every other will, would be a principle hostile to life, a destroyer and dissolver of man, an outrage on the future of man, a symptom of fatigue, a secret cut to Nothingness.

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, Second Essay: “Guilt,” “Bad Conscience,” and the Like, aphorism 11

Look around. Everything you experience is the successor in a long and brutal fight against time. Our organs, our consciousness, our ideas, all are current manifestations of a block of marble that has been chipped, formed, and forced into existence by eternal competition. You do not go from single cells to incredibly complex organisms unless there is an underlying, pervading will. A will to do things better, to acquire better, utilize better, be better, a will to power. This is operating at a level we are not privy to, we only perceive its manifestations. We have the ability to observe and hypothesize, but our observations are never enough to infer original utility. At best, we are able to make judgements about an entity’s current utility, and even that is only a minutely educated guess. For example, take the mitochondria that exist inside almost all of our cells. These cellular substructures are the primary producers of ATP, the preferred energy currency at the molecular level. So we can look at the mitochondria, and many scientists have, and have a decent understanding of what its function currently is, that it acts as the power plant of the cell (obviously much more complicated, but not the point here). If one looks into their history however, their role has drastically changed. The prevailing idea is a theory of endosymbiosis, stating that mitochondria previously existed as free living, single celled organisms. And at some point these individual entities were taken into another cell (endosymbiosis). A particular strong piece of evidence for this theory is that mitochondria contain their own, unique set of DNA, that is different from the germ line DNA found in the nucleus of our cells. So certainly their role has changed, their utility has changed over time, and there has to be some underlying drive for these processes to occur. The will to power continually seeks to express itself in any way that increases its leverage. Our current observation, a snapshot in time, is the mitochondria existing inside the cell, serving a larger purpose, or larger drive. This tells us nothing about the way that entity was used in a time before. We should certainly project this idea into our future. Our institutions, the demonstrators of power, are not confined to the role and ideology they serve today, and it is unlikely they serve the ideology they were initiated upon, even if they claim to do so. They, like the mitochondria, are always ripe for subjugation by a stronger, underlying force.

Everything, anything which exists and which prevails everywhere, will always be put to new purposes by a force superior to itself, will be commandeered afresh, will be turned and transformed to new uses; all “happening” in the organic world consists of overpowering and dominating, and again all overpowering and domination is a new interpretation and adjustment, which must necessarily obscure or absolutely extinguish the subsisting “meaning” and “end.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, Second Essay: “Guilt,” “Bad Conscience,” and the Like, aphorism 12

It should be emphasized that the will to power has no conception of “good” and “bad.” These subjective judgements are only overlaid at a much higher, more superficial layer. A thing does not exist to be “good,” it only exists, or it does not. And in that interpretation, it may even be plausible to say, that to be, or to exist, in itself – is “good.” The environment or society or space of reality existed in such a way to allow anything that exists to come about, and now, we play a role in what shapes are allowed to form next. We do not have the option to not play, we are involved with both our action and inaction. If you do not act with intention, you will be subjugated by the will of another. When we do not pay attention to what is actually going on, if we refuse to look a layer deeper, then we allow our institutions, our customs, our culture, to be carried away by forces that have no connection to our sense of “good,” and to be manipulated by that objective will to power. That drive that can and will take any form presented, any form that allows it to increase its influence and tighten its grasp. Look under the hood, boldly venture one layer deeper. There are incredible forces at play, and we are only beginning to see the bubbling over of the many atrocities that brew under a stagnant, repressive, and reactive society.

Best explorations

-Ryan; 6/9/2020

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On Words

Words are acoustical signs for concepts; concepts, however, are more or less definite image signs for often recurring and associated sensations, for groups of sensations. To understand one another, it is not enough that one uses the same words; one also has to use the same words for the same species of inner experiences; in the end one has to have one’s experience in common.

Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, aphorism 268

I had been thinking about words for a while before I came across Nietzsche’s explanation of the problem. Words are an immediate abstraction. They are always trying to denote an underlying idea or meaning, or in Nietzsche’s words, a concept. I like to think about it visually. Imagine some foundational structure, a slab of concrete. It takes up some amount of space, and let’s assume this space is its meaning, in entirety. Words are the structure that sit on top of the foundational slab. They have a definite connection, certain points of contact, but in no way represent the entire concrete slab below. The structure on top, gives us certain advantages at the expense of objective truth. It may be the very tool that allowed Homo sapiens to flourish. Language gives you the ability to reduce complex tasks to its essential parts, while also making the process repeatable. Through language one can formally share experiences with other members of the the tribe. And because of the tribe’s shared experiences, they can learn as a community instead of individuals. Language (effective communication) is a prerequisite to specialization. Through specialization and sharing of experiences, the tribe can exponentially grow in its ability to withstand the challenges of the world.

But let us move to our situation in today’s society. We have significantly increased our interfacing with individuals from places unlike our own. Now, we have words that are the same on the surface, but stem from different concrete slabs. While we are in a place to benefit from truly understanding the perspective of someone unlike us, we should not underestimate the possible miscommunication between groups of people. It is hard for us to truly understand the values of someone from the opposite political party, much less those of someone from a different country. When we hear or read words, their effect is not at the level of the surface structure, but at the level of our own concrete foundation. Do we not all experience some feeling or sensation in response to words? This level of affect not only sits below the surface level interpretation of words, but it might sit below the level of our conscious awareness.

Every word has two components. We will define the surface level as that immediate registering of a known word in your brain, it carries the factual content of the word. The other part is the emotional baggage that every word is associated with. That aspect that drives how we feel and often how we respond to a word. The principle of Russell Conjugation, or emotive conjugation, is the relationship between these two layers. While two words or phrases may be synonymous on the surface level, they could have distinct or even opposite emotional connotations. Examples given by Bertrand Russell himself:

I am firm”
You are obstinate
He is a pig-headed fool”

While each of these phrases has a very similar factual meaning, they evoke a very different emotional response. The factual aspect of the words most often occurs in our conscious awareness, but the emotional tag-along may operate below our awareness. This discontinuity between fact and affect is a prime target for manipulation. At some level when we logically and consciously declare something as true, or right, we are signaling to the rest of our being that the emotional response to those words is validated. So in a way, one could engineer a phrase that passes the logical gate, while instigating an emotional response that may or may not be aligned with the logical conclusion. This is often deployed in the media where factual reporting is not enough to garner the attention desired. It is certainly displayed in political campaigns, and essentially everywhere one is trying to convince another of their perspective.

This is really just to call attention to the power of words. Be precise in your own words and judicious when interpreting those from others. While the above paragraph emphasized how language can be used to manipulate, it can equally be used to bring people together. Through the diversification of culture, our acoustic signals are no longer the same, but the concepts underlying them are universal.

Best explorations

-Ryan; 4/21/2020

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Sleeping With Jesus and Darwin

I grew up in a religious home. Do not take that to mean I was religious. I went to church because my mom made me. I was not exactly waking up cheerful and proper on Sunday morning, singing harmonies of Amazing Grace. We didn’t go every single week, but I was exposed to many of the common teachings of today’s non denominational Christian church. And I at least knew enough to be completely turned off when I was exposed to science in high school. How was I supposed to believe some dude died and CAME BACK TO LIFE three days later, all to somehow save mankind? How was I supposed to believe God created literally everything when I had learned about Darwin’s theory of evolution and selection? And the fact that none of these contradictions were even broached in church really turned me off. The church goes on acting as if many of the things they preach are not in direct opposition to hard science. These contradictions were not spoken of – more or less tucked away in the DO NOT DISCUSS category. Surely, if you ignore something long enough it will just go away right? 

One of the things that bothered me most as a kid was the extreme geographical bias of the great savior Jesus. Was I simply lucky to be born in the blessed holy land of the southern United States where Christian churches were on every other street corner? What about the billions of people born around the world who will never be exposed to the Bible, Jesus Christ, nor ever see a church? Did the great forgiving savior simply forget about those billions of people? Were they sentenced to Hell simply by virtue of birth location? That didn’t strike me as a great strategy by the almighty one. It was also not difficult to see that many of the religions shared a great majority of their teachings. Sure they were dressed up in different words and practices, but they seemed to almost be coming from the same source. If my God was teaching the same principles as your God, should we not go to the same Heaven? Unfortunately the dogma and traditions of religious institutions seek to emphasize distinctions rather than embrace the many of qualities connecting the world’s religions. 

My largest stumbling block was the manner in which the Bible or Christian stories were taught to me. They were taught as objective truths. God did create the entire world in 7 days (or whatever), and Jesus did in fact come back to life after being crucified and killed. The basic theory of evolution I was taught in high school clearly contradicted the truth of creation I was taught in church. But factual contradiction was not the the only problem here. I was forced to entertain the idea hypocrisy. How can one assemble a tome espousing the virtue of truth and honesty, when the first book on the creation of the world is a blatant lie when interpreted literally? At this point I was not aware of the metaphorical and metaphysical truths actually being described by the creation story. I did not have that belief structure because the idea of the Bible as metaphorical truth was never discussed during my time in church. From the viewpoint of the dogmatists and traditionalists of institutionalized religion, claiming a metaphorical truth would be the largest surrender and step backwards possible, so I understand their predicament. I could go on with the problems I was finding in the teachings of the Christian church, but these illustrate the point clearly enough. These sentiments generally sum up my spiritual position from high school up until about 1 year ago (I’m 26 now).

“The power of moral prejudices has penetrated deeply into the most spiritual world, which would seem to be the coldest and most devoid of presuppositions, and has obviously operated in an injurious, inhibiting, binding, and distorting manner.”

Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil


I never had a feeling of contempt or disdain towards those who considered themselves religious, or believers. In fact, I admired those people. Not only because they were generally good people, but because it was evident that religion was this intricate connecting fabric of all peoples. I went to engineering school and was surrounded by people who were technical, science minded individuals. Many of my classmates were religious and seemed to have no problem building a career based on science while also believing that a man rose from the dead. I don’t know if these people were living their lives with some form of low grade cognitive dissonance, or if they were spiritually advanced to the level of holding paradox and understanding deep metaphor (I would have to guess the former based upon my experience with religious teachings). Anyways, I suppose I always had a deep respect for religion even if it I didn’t understand it or believe it. 

Over the last year my views have changed rather dramatically. Or perhaps, they have simply come full circle. I became very interested in the ideas that lay under religion, those common threads. This led me to Jospeh Campbell (The Hero With a Thousand Faces) which led me to Carl Jung (multiple books), while previously being influenced by the metaphysical ideas of Marcus Aurelius (Meditations), Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now), and Don Miguel Ruiz (The Four Agreements). Over the many months of these readings, I eventually realized they were all talking about the same thing. Each, through a different perspective, attempting explanations of the divine – that force or essence connecting all things, that is all things. The thing that gives rise to religion. 

The fundamental problem with teaching religion is that God is all things. Therefore, when you speak about God, you are always making some sort of abstraction. Words can be classified as denoting substance, activity, quality, or relationship. For example, dog and human would belong to the category of substance, he runs or she jumps would belong to activity, dark and light would belong to quality, and lastly, having wealth or status would belong to the category of relationship. The idea of God does not fit into one of these categories, for it is all things. God is ineffable by nature, words are no more than partial descriptions. This is the fundamental reason why we must look to religion as teachings of metaphorical truths rather than concrete, objective, or historical truths. The fact that words unfailingly recoil from the idea of God demands a deeper interpretation than simple historical fact. When one views religious teachings as metaphors, the room for development and spiritual growth is magnified. Dogma feels this as reduction, when in reality, this opens the door to the infinite. 

This understanding creates plenty of room for both Darwin and Jesus. The genes that are the units of selection for Darwin’s theory have been through innumerable events of birth, death, and re-birth, just as the followers of any religion have been. Science and religion are not diametrically opposed. They are two distinct lenses through which one can gaze upon reality. They are both tools capable of fantastic dynamism, growth, and innovation. Both able to generate insights into our existence, and quite possibly into our purpose. When the western scientific approach seals its walls to religion, it is limiting its possibilities and trapping creative minds. It is quite literally placing bounds on what is possible. If we limit science to only that which we currently understand, we will not be able to meet the demands of our world. We must be willing to leap into the unknown, and we must reward those bold thinkers, nay, bold adventurers. When religious institutions rely on dogma and tradition to spread their message, they are alienating future generations and severely limiting the profound spiritual wisdom of our ancestors. They are acting as a reducing valve to an unfathomable beauty and source of insight and creativity. Tomorrow’s church must embrace the deeper truths, those that underly all the religions. It must embrace the complexity of God instead of attempting to reduce the ideas to flat historical fact. We must fight the tendency to identify with only one of science or religion. Together, they can be constructive and their collaboration might just be necessary for the fantastic problems of our future. Here is to future scientist shamans. 

Best explorations

-Ryan; 4/19/2020

Words From People Smarter Than Me: On Evil

But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
-see possible implications of this here

Ideology – that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer its necessary steadfastness and determination… That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

Indeed, the contradiction inherent in all evil is that it originates in the desire to eliminate evil.” – James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games

one always pays dearly and terribly when religions do not want to be a means of education and cultivation in the philosopher’s hand but insist on having their own sovereign way, when they themselves want to be ultimate ends and means among other means.” – Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, aphorism 61

We have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.” – Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

It is easy for us to disregard evil as that which we should avoid. Or the opposite of what we want to bring about. However something so pervasive is never so easily surmised.

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-Ryan; 4/17/2020

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A New Psychology

Preface: This will be my first post digging into Nietzsche. Nietzsche is incredibly deep and it is easy to spend hours on one passage. However, there is usually a point when it clicks. A point when I understand (on some amateur level) the profundity of his ideas. So don’t feel inferior if you have to read his quotes five times for some intro level of understanding, you are in good company. And it is well worth your time. So let this stand as my simple interpretation. It should by no means be considered the only interpretation nor a correct interpretation.

All psychology so far has got stuck in moral prejudices and fears.” – Nietzsche

Nietzsche believed we had not even come close to honestly broaching the spectrum of psychology. That we have only been playing on the surface of an ocean with tremendous depth – “insofar as it is permissible to recognize in what has been written so far a symptom of what has so far been kept silent.” He states, “A proper physio-psychology has to contend with unconscious resistance in the heart of the investigator.” This approach to psychology depends on the reciprocal nature of the opposites. It requires a temperament that treats the “wicked” drives with the same care and righteousness displayed to those “good” drives. This view is a complete and total acceptance of evil, of suffering, and of all that would fall under the ever-changing umbrella of ‘bad.’ “If, however, a person should regard even the affects of hatred, envy, covetousness, and the lust to rule as conditions of life, as factors which, fundamentally and essentially, must be present in the general economy of life (and must, therefore, be further enhanced if life is to be further enhanced) – he will suffer from such a view of things as from seasickness.” Here, Nietzsche warns this understanding is not to be taken lightly. For he is asking us to level what we have grown to assess as good and evil. Unification of opposites is no small request! However, if one can come to terms, it provides a new arena for advancement and understanding of the psyche. 

Speaking from a perspective of appraisement, good deeds must stand in contrast to evil deeds. There is simply no ground on which to discriminate good if one does not maintain the the polarity, evil. I would like to make this idea more concrete. First, examine yourself. Your emotions. How do you currently feel, right now? Comfortable, tired, restless, joyful, depressed, excited, etc. Now consider how you felt 24 hours ago. Realize there is some sort of line connecting how you felt yesterday to how you feel right now. This is not to say you can’t dramatically change moods or you can’t remain relatively emotionally constant, but to point out the connection of your emotional states through time. Now realize this line does not only connect the two simple states you identified 24 hours apart. It connects the continuum of emotional states you exist in from moment to moment. If you were somehow able to assign a number to your overall emotional state every hour, with 0 being the absolute worst most horrible, depressed state imaginable, and 10 being pure bliss, you could construct a table of values. Then if we connected those discrete points you would have a crude visual representation of the emotional ride you had been on for the last 24 hours. It might look something like this.

Visualization of emotional status throughout a day

Now take this same idea and extend it over two days, a week, a month, a lifetime. We are simply zooming out from the above graph.

Visualization of emotional status over an extended period of time

The y-axis of ‘Emotional Rating’ is completely unique to you. My graph may have a value of 10 at some point in time because I had a great night of sleep (big sleep guy). Another day my 10 might be because a loved one’s cancer went into remission. And maybe your 10 is simply because you were able to have a hot meal today. Our emotional states are completely relative to our experience and perceptions. They are subjective. There is also a concept of emotional inertia or momentum. This is the idea that it is easier to make a ‘good’ choice after a previous ‘good’ choice; likewise it is easier for a ‘bad’ choice follow a prior ‘bad’ choice. In our graph this would be represented as an event’s likelihood to affect our rating. If your are currently at a 10, some minor annoyance may not have the emotional valence to drop you down to a 9. So you keep cruising right along at 10. On the other hand, if you were trending down from 7 to 6, that same minor annoyance may shoot you down to 3. Graphically, this is giving weight to the derivative of our emotional rating curve. 

This is a laborious explanation in order to drive home the point that your present state is unique, incredibly complex, and also relative. Here is the pay off of this exercise: Think of another person. Maybe in your house, maybe across the world. Now realize their “Emotional Rating” graph is equally complex and unique to them, but also connected to yours through time. At every point along your graph, billions of people are experiencing their own unique drama. Your particular rollercoaster of a graph is built from your range of emotions but it is only the smallest slice of the world’s emotions. We each exist at every point in time, holding space in another’s world. When we are at a 10, having the day of our lives, there are millions of people across the world experiencing 0’s, trying to see just the smallest of touch of hope. Fighting to feel the tick back up the scale.

Let’s close with a return to Nietzsche and an abstraction of our graphs. Nietzsche claims when we approach psychology from this perspective, “we sail right over morality.” Now imagine our graph, but the y-axis is no longer ‘Emotional Rating.’ Now the 0 and the 10 simply represent any pair of opposites. For example, 0 = ‘Good’, 10 = ‘Evil’ , and all numbers in-between represent the spectrum of possibilities between the polarities. You could do the same exercise, assigning values to different aspects of your experience. The unifying principle remains. While you may be experiencing a 10, someone across the world is experiencing (at the same time!) a 0. This is why we all exist for each other, we hold space for each other. We hold the 10 while someone else is experiencing the harmony of 0, hoping to one day experience the 0 ourselves. The existence of the 0 requires the existence of the 10. Good requires evil. In this new psychology we must appreciate and equally value the complexity and different requirements of our existence. We cannot favor the 0 nor the 10, good nor evil. In this way, “we sail right over morality.” The psychologist who “makes this sacrifice…will at least be entitled to demand in return that psychology shall be recognized again as the queen of sciences, for whose service and preparation the other sciences exist. For psychology is now again the path to the fundamental problems.

All of the above quotes come from aphorism 23 of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, Walter Kaufmann edition. Thanks for reading.

Best explorations

-Ryan; 4/16/2020