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Pattern and Nebulosity, with David Chapman

David Chapman

Scientist, programmer, and author David Chapman talks with Michael W. Taft about metarationality, emptiness and form, nihilism, tantrism, dzogchen, Kegan’s stages of development applied to meditation, vampire romance novels, and the importance of being able to switch reality tunnels.

David Chapman is a writer, computer scientist, engineer, and Buddhist practitioner. He’s been practicing Vajrayana Buddhism in the Aro Ter tradition for 20 years. David is a leading proponent of metarationality—a subject we’ll go into in some depth in this episode—and writes about it on his website

Show notes

1:43 – What is metarationality?
2:45 – What happens when you run off the edge of the map?
4:44 – Pattern and nebulosity, emptiness and form
6:45 – Story of scientist Barbara McClintock, and epicycles
13:30 – Donald Schön & design creativity
14:37 – Ways to deal with system failure, Nihilism
17:28 – Timothy Leary & Robert Anton Wilson, switching between reality tunnels
20:22 – Is metarationality just a larger rationality?
22:15 – David’s vampire romance novel, Ken Wilber’s novel Boomeritis
23:38 – What does metarationality have to do with meditation and Buddhism?
24:27 – Seeing the relationship between thought and reality
27:57 – Metarationality as a signpost of deep awakening
30:31 – Dzogchen and Advaita – are practices of view simply indoctrination?
32:17 – Metarationality as a path beyond postmodernism
33:09 – Fundamentalism as a huge LARP, Eternalism vs. Nihilism
36:06 – Spiral dynamics & Robert Kegan’s stages of adult development Link to Wilber/Kegan dialog (Warning: behind a paywall)
41:20 – What a Kegan Stage 3 group looks like in American Buddhist sanghas
43:23 – Transitioning to Stage 4, examples in relation to Buddhist practice and sanghas
44:22 – The edge of the map and the lack of support for Stage 5 in Buddhist communities
46:22 – Kegan Stage 4.5, rejecting systems for their limitations, and how to get to Stage 5
47:25 – The importance of intersubjectivity
49:20 – Future echoes of David’s teaching of metarationality
50:21 – Engaging metarationality in ways that don’t involve meditation, Bongard problems, and the word “intuition”
54:33 – Vipassana techniques for generating intuition
57:43 – Do we need gurus/lamas to transmit deep understanding?
1:04:20 – Students covering up their teacher’s crimes
1:05:33 – The desire to be metarational and the dangers of self-diagnosing your Kegan stage
1:07:54 – David’s background in artificial intelligence and philosophy
1:10:19 – Is AI dangerous?

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5 thoughts on “Pattern and Nebulosity, with David Chapman”

  1. Not to get to Buddhisty on y’all, but I’m not sure the 2 quotes below line up. Or maybe it’s that ‘modern-traditional Theravada & the (supposed) actual words of the Buddha don’t line up. Thoughts?

    Paraphrased from podcast:

    “The Theravada tends not to acknowledge the importance of meta rationality within the context of the 4 paths of awakening.”

    Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta (Thanissaro):

    “”Does Master Gotama have any position at all?”
    ‘A ‘position,’ Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with.’ […] Vaccha, the position that ‘the cosmos is eternal’ is a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views.”

    1. Thanks for pointing that out, nstar. I think the resolution to your question is the difference between “tends not to” and “absolutely never does.” That is, it’s not that you can’t find some scriptural references like this, but metarationality tends not to be a strong emphasis in most Theravada sanghas. Rather the opposite is true, where the sanghas tend to socially enforce belief in Buddhism as an absolute truth. Notice that there are no black and white statements here, but rather shades of gray.

Let us know what you think