Jonathan Haidt: Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence | Summary and Q&A

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Jonathan Haidt: Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence

TL;DR

This content explores the concept of self-transcendence and the idea that humans are naturally inclined to seek spiritual experiences in order to feel uplifted and connected to something larger than themselves.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How does the speaker define self-transcendence?

The speaker defines self-transcendence as the experience of the self seeming to melt away, leading to feelings of ecstasy and a sense of being uplifted or elevated.

Q: What metaphor does the speaker use to explain self-transcendence?

The speaker uses the metaphor of a staircase in the mind to explain self-transcendence. The mind is likened to a house with many familiar rooms, but sometimes a doorway appears and opens onto a staircase, leading to a state of altered consciousness.

Q: How do different religions promote self-transcendence?

Different religions promote self-transcendence through various practices. Some use meditation to shut down the self, while others use psychedelic drugs or dancing, spinning, and circling. The goal is to reach a state of self-transcendence and experience feelings of love, forgiveness, and a sense of being uplifted.

Q: What does the speaker say about war and self-transcendence?

The speaker mentions that war is a strange place where many books claim that it brings people together like nothing else. The shared experience of war can open up the possibility of extraordinary self-transcendent experiences, leading to a sense of unity and collective emotions.

Q: According to the speaker, what is the main reason for self-transcendence?

The speaker suggests that the main reason for self-transcendence is the capacity for humans to unite and transcend individual self-interest. This capacity for self-transcendence is seen as a basic part of being human and can lead to a sense of being better, nobler, and uplifted.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker discusses the concept of self-transcendence and the feeling of losing oneself, using the metaphor of a staircase in the mind.

  • He explores the idea that humans have a natural capacity for self-transcendence and that it is a basic aspect of being human.

  • The speaker suggests that self-transcendence may have evolved through multilevel selection, allowing individuals to come together in groups or tribes and cooperate for the greater good.

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