Science is a wonderful thing, but science is good for some uses and not for others. Imaginative fictions are a wonderful thing, but imaginative fictions are good for some uses and not for others. People are remarkably good at allowing a decontextualized and incomplete version of science to displace imaginative fictions in ways that are counterproductive and allowing rationally unanchored and dogmatically clung to imaginative fictions to displace science in ways that are counterproductive.

We are biological creatures. From a scientific perspective, that’s really all we are, everything else being a function of our biological existence. But the biological fact of perception and cognition along with the innovation of complex forms of communication created wrinkles in that fact, aspects of ourselves that travel beyond our biological borders and survive our biological demise.

I apprehend, in limited and cognitively mediated ways, a universe in macrocosm and microcosm and everything in between, that is not fully limited to my biological boundaries. I can communicate those perceptions and cognitions–some of which might be unique innovations of my own–to others, some of whom might survive me and carry those innovations of mine forward into time beyond the timeframe of my biological existence. A person with whom I am most intimate for the longest period of time–a spouse or, even more so, child of mine–might absorb so much of my cognitive material, of my cognitive essence, that they carry substantial part of who and what I was into the world and to others after my biological existence ceases to exist. If I produce enduring expressions of that cognitive and emotional dimension of who and what I am–novels or paintings or musical compositions or published scientific theories–then even aside from the survival of some aspect of who and what I am beyond the time frame of my biological existence through those who intimately know me and survive me, some aspect of who and what I am survives in some material form that exists to some extent independently of biological forms altogether, other than requiring other biological forms to be converted back into cognitions and emotions.

To understand what is meant by “some aspect of who and what I am” in the above paragraph, one must make a distinction between the biological entity and the cognitive identity of that biological entity. Most of what we think of as ourselves–who and what we are–is cognitive. When asked “what kind of person are you?” one rarely answers, “the kind of person who is 5’ 10” tall, has white hair balding on top, a white beard, blue eyes…..” One usually answers in cognitive terms: “a person who likes to tell stories, to philosophize about the nature of our existence, to laugh and cause others to laugh….” We identify more strongly and more deeply with our cognitive selves than our biological selves. And while our cognitive selves are a function of our biological selves, once produced within the framework it has an existence that is no longer strictly bound to our biological being. If I write a story and share it with others, that story, which is the cognitive product of my biological being, continues to exist (as long as other biological beings are aware of it or have the possibility of becoming aware of it) even when the biological entity that produced it no longer does.

Primitive human beings, unincumbered by the various forms of reductionism brought on by civilization and even more intensely by science, had in some ways a more viceral understanding of this nonbiological aspect of our existence than we do. They lived in a reality more richly populated by stories and fictions and less constrained by scientific methodology. While a scientific orientation has many advantages, one disadvantage is that it shifts focus to ourselves as biological entities and away from ourselves as cognitive entities that can survive our biological existence in some ways. The notion of “life after death” is a religious notion rather than a scientific one even though, in a very real sense, who and what we are as cognitive entities survives our biological death. This is a tricky concept for modern Western minds to grasp, because we want to distinguish our cognitive product from our capacity for producing it, insisting that our capacity for producing it dies with our biological body and so our cognitive existence does as well. But a story that I create is a part of who and what I am not just in the act of creating it but also in its continued existence after I create it, and that continued existence does not depend on the continued existence of my biological self.

More broadly than just life after death, a more primitive shared cognitive landscape is simultaneously more focused on the reality of that shared cognitive landscape than on the reality of the biological beings producing it, and more focused on connecting it to the world around them in ways that both celebrate and effectively navigate that world. The mythological history of the past, the inclusion of oneself in that ongoing story in the present, and the recognition that the same story continues indefinitely into the future imbues one with a stronger, richer sense of belonging to something timeless and eternal rather than being bound to the lifespan of a human body. This is an area in which a more imaginative, fictional orientation actually brings us closer to an aspect of reality than a more reductionist, fact-oriented approach is able to. I refer to it as a more literary and less literal understanding of reality, a modality that is best suited to things or aspects of things that are not empirically accessible. But be careful! A more literary and less literal approach does not mean turning fictions into rigid, dogmatic beliefs, but rather into flexible and accommodating forms of understanding that do not create barriers to more precise empirical understandings in the interstices.

What’s the point? The point is that modernity has bought many benefits, and I am a staunch advocate of using disciplined, methodical reason for many purposes, but we have also lost much of value along the way, and I am an equally staunch advocate of recapturing our primitive, childlike wonder, our sense of a reality so full of mystery and magic that it can only be fully understood through stories. And I strive to help create a future together that marries these two modalities into something new and wonderful, something that is neither the dry and dead rationalism of people who feel no awe nor the foolish and self-destructive superstitions of those who do not provide their awe with the rudder of reason. To create an ever kinder, wiser, and more just world, we need not only to become more rational and empathetic, but also imaginative and humble; we need to feel the awe of a person who looks at the stars and sees gods in their chariots of fire, combined with the pragmatism of a person who knows that the corpus of human knowledge and wisdom can liberate us to celebrate that awe without the constant intrusion or threat of intrusion of the terror and pain and brutality that has always encroached upon it.

’Twas noisome, and the silly trolls Did sputter and spew away: All in a tizzy were the bored droves, And the moderates were outraged.

“Beware the Pettifog, my son! The cliches so trite, the phrases that catch! Beware the cultish blurb, and shun The furious righteousness!”

He typed his verbal word by hand; Long time the tiresome foe he fought— So chewed he did Tums times three As he gathered up his thoughts.

And, as in pensive thought he sat, The Pettifog, with just one aim, typed clatteringly on the keyboard pad, And showed it had no shame!

Such pap! Such crap! So keys he tapped, The cutting word through bullshit sliced! The ruse was slain, but it rose again, Unaware of its own demise.

“And hast thou debunked the Pettifog? The Hydra’s head, that grows two new! O such futility! Where’s the utility?” He despaired of what to do.

’Twas noisome, and the silly trolls Did sputter and spew away: All in a tizzy were the bored droves, And the moderates were outraged.

I’m going to say something sacrilegious in American mythology: Our prevailing national conceptualization of “liberty” is archaic, false, and pernicious. A truer notion of liberty, one that means more freedom to do more things and enjoy more opportunities to explore more experiences and realizations and enjoyments and connections, is wonderful and sublime, but our prevailing notion of liberty, which came from a historically specific experience relevant to a specific historical context and currently increasingly anachronistic and out of sync with our increasingly subtle and sophisticated understanding of reality, is not that and does not serve that. Instead, it provides cover for predation while being rooted in a false narrative of reality.

We are not, most fundamentally, individuals; we are most fundamentally expressions of a larger social whole, interdependent rather than independent. The languages we speak and think in, the values and beliefs we hold, the religions we adhere to, the concepts and technologies we utilize, the institutions through which we operate, are all the product of our collective existence over time, somewhat uniquely combined but only extremely marginally modified within each of us in our slight individuation of that larger whole. It is very similar to our biology, which is genetically far more similar to than different from other mammals in general, let alone other human beings.

Not only our minds, but our very existences are an expression of our interdependence. Forget the norm for a moment, a norm in which each depends to a very high degree on others for every aspect of their survival (food, shelter, etc.) and everything beyond survival (entertainments, comforts, etc.); let’s consider the extreme instead. The most rugged and self-sufficient survivalist, at the very limit of self-reliance, one who goes off naked into the wilderness with nothing but their own resources on which to depend, still survives by virtue of human interdependence, because the skills they utilize to do so are skills they learned from other human beings. There is no escape from the fact of our interdependence; it is the fundamental fact of our existence.

An ideology that downplays that, that at best grudgingly acknowledges it while emphasizing a counter-narrative that is marginal in comparison to it, is not a wise ideology, is not an ideology that is navigating the subtle and complex nuances of our shared existence deftly and wisely, is not an ideology to which we should subscribe.

And American “liberty” has always been steeped in the toxin of exploitation. Our Founding Fathers wrote eloquently about their love of liberty while owning other human beings, because their conception of liberty was too narrow and too self-serving. We should not be embracing the same conception today. It is not hard to see that those who most ostentatiously do so are also those who are most willing to continue the legacy of oppression and exploitation and injustice that we have long indulged in and suffered from.

The brilliant antebellum Southern statesman and philosopher John C. Calhoun summed it up most eloquently in his insistence that the abolition of slavery would be an infringement on the liberty of slave owners by depriving them of their property. His quintessentially American notion of liberty was one that easily adapted to his desire to deprive others of theirs, as it continues to today.

Noting this is not advocacy for some Leviathan to which we must submit as willing slaves. This binary notion is just one more of the tools that American “liberty idolatry” has relied on to perpetuate itself. In fact, the alternative to this ideology is not our enslavement, but rather our greater liberation. If anything, the American authoritarian-tainted notion of liberty is not devoted enough to true liberty, the liberty of the spirit, the liberty to thrive, the liberty to use our collective genius and its artifacts to our collective benefit without presumption that doing so is preempted by a narrower and less enlightened notion of what serves our liberty.

Our liberty means nothing except as the expression of a larger social whole of which we are a part. There is nothing liberating about being left devoid of the legacies of our interdependence, unable to speak or think in language or use ideas produced by others over the course of human history, and so we should not treat that interdependence as a threat to our liberty; we should treat it is the foundation of our liberty. Nor is it any less absurd to treat the subtle and sophisticated social institutions that have evolved over time to facilitate our prosperity and well-being as being inherently antagonistic to our liberty; they are tools that can be used more or less beneficially and justly, but are tools nonetheless, tools indispensable to the ever greater realization of our truer liberty to prosper and thrive and live lives with a greater range of opportunities and enjoyments available to us.

Similarly, there is nothing liberating about continuing to rationalize the exploitation of some by others by virtue of a distribution of opportunities created by the legacies of historical injustices. We should seek to transcend such follies, not embrace and perpetuate them. And, ironically, it is through the continuing refinement and utilization of the very same institutions (governments, modern economies, etc.) that formed through and in service to such injustices that we can do so, because that is the quintessential nature of human history.

It’s time to stop being slaves to our own ideologies, our own rousing marshal marches, our own jingoistic symbols and emotionally manipulative mythologies. It’s time to embrace liberty in a higher form, liberation from such shackles and from the temptation to shackle others, the freedom to be wise and kind and imaginative and cooperative, and to create institutions which facilitate our humanity. THAT is the liberty we should aspire to.

Trumpism is a toxic brew of hyper-tribalism, hyper-individualism, and dogmatic false certainty. Let’s first distinguish between “Trumpism” and “Conservatism.” There is some overlap, and there are some conservative (as well as, frankly, some liberal) ideas in the mix of Trumpism that are simply bad ideas in their own right, but Trumpism distinguishes itself by being almost entirely toxic, with very few glimmers of well-conceived and generally beneficial aspects to it. Conservatism covers a wide range, including many of the elements that go into Trumpism, but it isn’t inherently or inevitably anti-intellectual; it isn’t inherently or inevitably anti-fact or anti-reason; it isn’t inherently or inevitably religiously fanatical; it isn’t inherently or inevitably anti-Latino or anti-Muslim or anti-Black; and whatever of Conservatism is left after filtering those toxic elements of Trumpism out is the governing partner this country needs and deserves and this world requires of us.

We can examine this toxic mix of hyper-tribalism and hyper-individualism in relation to virtually any issue we face, but one that gets at its essence and is repeatedly, tragically, brought to the fore is the debate over gun violence in America, and particularly mass shootings. Guns aren’t the underlyng problem (though they are the most immediately tractable causal link). The combination of hyper-individualism and hyper-tribalism is the underlying problem (as it generally is).

At the time of this writing, we are in the wake of yet another mass shooting (two, in fact, occurring with 24 hours of each other). One of these recent shootings was carried out by a Trump supporter echoing Trump’s language and targeting a group Trump has consistently and relentlessly vilified. Every Trumpist insisting that the shooting in El Paso was in no way Trump’s fault insists that it is ONLY the shooter’s fault, or the shooter’s fault and the fault of society at large for failing to deal with mental health issues more effectively. By that logic, ISIS inspired lone-wolf terrorism isn’t ISIS’s fault; it’s either only the lone-wolf terrorist’s fault or the fault of OUR society (when the ISIS inspired terrorist is residing here) for failing to deal with mental health issues more effectively. Let’s examine both of those claims, determining how evenly they are applied, with how much integrity they inform ideological positions as a result of being applied, and the systemic ways in which they are or are not applied depending on other variables.

The illogic of hyper-individualism isn’t applied evenly; it’s applied conveniently. When something happens because of systemic or non-proximate causes that Trumpists, for ideological reasons, do not want to address, it is the individual –the proximate cause– who (according to Trumpists) bears all of the responsibility, but when something happens because of (real or imagined) systemic or non-proximate causes that Trumpists want to address, entire races are to blame. In other words, they are hyper-individualistic in terms of shouldering responsibility for what members of their own tribe do at the instigation of their own tribal leader (“it’s not our responsibility or Trump’s responsibility; it’s just the shooters responsibility”), but hyper-tribalistic when allocating responsibility for what members of other tribes do (“Muslims are out to get us! Mexicans are rapists and murderers!”).

Hyper-tribalism attributes every bad act by any out-group member to all of the out-groups in their entirety to which that individual belongs, while selective hyper-individualism allows the absolute hypocrisy of attributing any bad act by any in-group member to that individual alone while insisting that the rest of the in-group is blameless even if there is direct evidence of blame elsewhere within that group (such as Trump’s and Fox News’s incitements).

When Tumpists insist that the real problem is a mental health problem –despite that not generally being the case in the clinical sense of the term “mental health”– they are protecting their tribe by invoking some non-tribal force at play instead, but, even if that non-tribal force were really the pivotal causal factor, the selective hyper-individualism of their tribe kicks in and perpetually obstructs efforts to address things like mental health in a publicly funded way, because that is “too much government.” And, in fact, there are indeed societal factors in play, things we as a society could address if we were willing to be more proactive and less reactive, more aware of our interdependence and less hyper-individualistic, but which the same faction that refuses to allow us to address the role that guns play refuses to allow us to address as well.

The hyper-individualism also allows gun idolaters to focus exclusively on the individual pulling the trigger, and not on the role that our gun laws play in giving him a trigger to pull. The role that guns play as the fetish of this tribe, the totem at whose altar they worship, increases the incentive to mobilize the hyper-individualism in service to this farce, such that it is impossible to penetrate the demonstrably false narrative with fact and reason.

This combination of hyper-individualism and hyper-tribalism on the Trumpist right has become the perfect toxic storm, one which is already doing serious harm to large numbers of people and is placing our national and world in serious danger. True patriots find the courage and integrity to reassess and redirect themselves, for the good of their fellow countrymen and their fellow human beings. It’s time for Trump supporters to become true patriots and, frankly, stop supporting this toxic walking disaster of a president. Conservatism deserves a better leader.

There are some things we should all be able to agree on. We should all be able to agree that more rational understandings of the challenges and opportunities we face as a society are preferable to less rational understandings. We should all be able to agree that “rationality” is not entirely subjective, and that if we can establish with sufficient cogency that something is indeed more rational or less rational, we should favor that which has been cogently demonstrated to be more rational. We should all be able to agree that, all other things being equal, a kinder disposition is preferable to a crueler disposition, more empathy is preferable to less empathy, caring about others is preferable to not caring about others. The preceding should be our common ground; we should fight first and foremost to establish it as our common ground. And we should be able, from that common ground, to identify that which is consistent with it and that which is antithetical to it, that which should be embraced by all and that which should be rejected by all, that which is the expression of what I described just above and that which is the opposite of what I described just above.

Obviously, irrationality* and cruelty are the antithesis of reason and kindness. And let’s allow that they are not binary, but rather poles of continua defining a complex space within which actual ideological positions and dispositions fall. So let’s begin by identifying that which is consistent with reason. (*I am actually referring to one kind of irrationality here, “dysfunctional irrationality,” as distinct from things which are “irrational” but wonderful, including, for instance, emotions and spontaneous generosity that gratify us or motivate us or lead to better outcomes but are not the product of rational thought on our part. “Dysfunctional irrationality” is that kind of irrationality that leads to unwise choices and undesirable outcomes. Distinguishing between the two is, indeed, a vital skill to develop. “Irrational,” for the remainder of this essay, refers to “dysfunctional irrationality.”)

Consistent with reason, we should all be able to agree that it is a complex and subtle world, that the comprehension of even the most brilliant among us is limited, that most of us aren’t the most brilliant among us, and that we all have cause for humility, that humility helps inform wisdom by allowing us to recognize how little we know and understand and continue to learn and understand ever more as a result. Indeed, reason is a function of knowing that we don’t know rather than of assuming that we do, and then using disciplined methodologies to determine what actually is and is not true. We can, therefore, add humility to the elements of what should be our common ground, what we should all agree is worth striving to cultivate and commit to, both within ourselves individually and among one another socially.

Consistent with reason, we should all be able to acknowledge our interdependence, our interdependence with one another and with the natural and physical world around us. Clearly, we require air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, and a certain range of temperatures and other environmental conditions within our physical tolerance in order to survive. We also require other human beings in order to survive; even the most extreme survivalist, who goes off into the wilderness naked and without any tool or weapon of any kind, relies on knowledge and skills taught to them by others or acquired from others in some way. And few if any are that extreme; most rely at least to some extent on weapons or tools or equipment others have made. The rest of us rely on one another so constantly and in so many overlapping ways that we don’t even notice how ubiquitous our interdependence is.

Our interdependence goes far beyond survival. The languages we think in, the religions or philosophies we hold to be true, the scientific theories we acknowledge or apply, the rituals and tasks in which we engage in the ordinary course of our days and our lives, the techniques we utilize, the skills we employ, the norms we adhere to, the values we embrace, the music and art and recreations we enjoy, indeed, by far the greater part of who and what we are, is the expression of a collective existence and a historical evolution that we have inherited and are an integral part of. In fact, both physically and mentally, we are far more similar than different, an array of variations in how collective genetic and cultural material is combined and expressed, with occasional, very slight modifications on the margins. Our individuality is an expression of our interdependence.

There are quite a few other understandings that flow naturally from these foundations, such as the fact that we live in a predominantly non-zero-sum rather than zero-sum world, in which there are far greater gains to be had through successful cooperation than there are through its absence. We could, in fact, build an entire paradigm out of these basic axioms and their logical implications, informed by the research and practice of many others over many generations as well as by our own work in the present and future. And we could, while perpetually developing that paradigm, perpetually apply it, engaging in organizational efforts to draw people into the shared endeavor of being informed by it, informing it, helping it to evolve, and implementing it in our daily lives and our various collective endeavors.  I have begun to do so, with the help of others I’ve attracted to my initial framing of our shared cause (and who are now participants in its continuing evolution), calling this intellectual and organizational and behavioral paradigm “Transcendental Politics.”

So, we’ve identified some things that define or are logical implications of what we should all be able to accept as our common ground: a commitment to reason, a recognition that reason isn’t purely subjective, a reliance on objective criteria in determining what is reasonable; a commitment to kindness, to empathy, to putting ourselves in the shoes of others and caring about their welfare as well as about our own; a recognition of our interdependence on multiple dimensions and in multiple ways, how much our interdependence permeates our lives, how much we as individuals are an expression of it; and our recognition that we live in a predominantly non-zero-sum reality, in which cooperation yields greater benefits than its absence does. What, then, are some of the things that are antithetical to this common ground? What is the antithesis of our Transcendental Politics?

We’ve already established that irrationality and cruelty (including a lack of empathy) are antithetical to Transcendental Politics. We can add to these, based on the preceding discussion, that a lack of humility, a failure to acknowledge our interdependence, and an inability or unwillingness to engage in or seek out cooperative solutions to conflicts or shared challenges are all antithetical to Transcendental Politics. There are three further things that, though to some extent inevitable and in some ways beneficial, seem to be implied as aspects of the antithesis of Transcendental Politics: dogmatism, individualism, and tribalism.

First, let’s carve out their range of utility. While substantive dogmas, such as off-the-shelf ideologies that assume truths not necessarily in evidence, are counterproductive, methodological and attitudinal “dogmas” can be quite useful. A dogmatic commitment to the methodologies of reason and to respect for our shared humanity is, I would argue (and am arguing), a very positive thing. We’ll reserve the word “dogma,” therefore, for substantive dogmas rather than methodological and attitudinal dogmas. I refer to such substantive dogmas as “false certainties.” The counterpart of false certainty is “wise uncertainty,” the expression of intellectual humility. (Methodological and attitudinal “dogmas,” conversely, we will refer to as “disciplines.”)

Individualism and tribalism, in certain forms, have many benefits as well. Our individualism provides us with the intrinsic benefit of “liberty,” our freedom to choose our own destiny (leaving aside for the moment the philosophical question of free will and determinism). But it also provides collective benefits in terms of how robustly we contribute to our collective welfare. Extreme individualism, however, that is predatory or parasitic or unable to engage cooperatively with others, is neither personally nor socially beneficial. It is a rare narcissist, a rare sociopath, who is truly happy with their narcissism or sociopathy. And it is a poorly functioning society that is made up primarily of such people.

Tribalism, our impulse to gather together into groups that share a common identity, also has many benefits. There are the intrinsic benefits of shared identity and camaraderie as well as the functional benefits of working together for mutual benefit. Individualism and tribalism are, in one sense, opposites, in that some pure form of extreme individualism would prohibit identification with a tribe to which the individual belongs. But individualism and tribalism are also parallel and complementary, in that both are identities that are held and are distinct from other identities held by others, leading either to conflict or cooperation (or non-engagement) between and among the various such entities (whether individuals or tribes).

Extreme individualism is, therefore, sociopathological, and extreme tribalism is similarly dysfunctional on a different level. Healthy individualism, which recognizes interdependence and seeks out mutually beneficial cooperative relationships where possible, is sometimes called “enlightened individualism.” We can therefore call the tribalistic counterpart, which recognizes tribal interdependence and seeks out mutually beneficial intertribal cooperative relationships where possible, “enlightened tribalism.”

While extreme, pathological individualism is incompatible with tribalism (as well as transtribalism), there is an intense form of ideological individualism that is also highly tribalistic, the individualism becoming an integral part of the tribal ideology. To distinguish this form of intense ideological individualism from the sociopathic variety, I’m going to refer to it as “hyper-individualism,” and, for consistency, will refer to extreme tribalism as “hyper-tribalism.” This ideological hyper-individualism sees people as first and foremost individuals and tends, as a result, to downplay interdependence and be more inclined to see the world in zero-sum rather than non-zero-sum terms. It also tends to be more reactive than proactive (since proactive policies usually involve navigating interdependence), and more oriented toward prevailing in conflicts than in avoiding them through mutually beneficial cooperation.

The tribal identity that incorporates this ideology is therefore naturally hyper-tribalistic as well, translating the hyper-individualism into the tribalism. It has strong and unchecked attribution biases (biases that favor one’s own tribe and disfavor other tribes with which one doesn’t identify in terms of how attributions are made), is more combative, is less aware of intertribal interdependence, is less inclined to seek the mutual benefits of intertribal cooperation, is more reactive than proactive, and so on.

Transcendental Politics is the discipline and social movement dedicated to transcending those aspects of our individualism, tribalism, and dogmatism that are antithetical to reason, kindness, empathy, humility, a preference for mutually beneficial cooperation, and a preference for proactive rather than reactive solutions. These three things exist distributed individually and in various combinations and forms throughout our ideological and cultural spectrum. They can be found on the left, on the right, in the middle; in the form of egotism or religious fanaticism or ideological zealotry. They are problematic, each on their own.

But when they combine into a single ideological and social package comprised of dogmatism, hyper-individualism, and hyper-tribalism, that ideological and social package becomes the antithesis of Transcendental Politics in its entirety. (Arguably, Transcendental Politics is the antithesis rather than thesis here, born in response to this toxic blend of hyper-tribalism, hyper-individualism, and dogmatism that has long been nascent in American culture but has recently coalesced into a tangible force in our national political and cultural landscape.)

That particularly toxic concentration of all three antitheses of Transcendental Politics, however, is augmented and reinforced by positive feedback loops with political opposition that is imbued with too much dogmatism and tribalism (and sometimes individualism) as well. The form of opposition to that toxic concentration ends up being part of the problem rather than part of the solution to it. And that is why Transcendental Politics is not embedded in the partisan divide; it seeks to encourage and facilitate the transcendence of dogmatism, hyper-individualism, and hyper-tribalism throughout our political and cultural landscape, creating feedback loops that reinforce imagination, kindness, and humility and reduce irrationality, cruelty, and false certainty.

Developing a paradigm inevitably results in the creation of a language for that paradigm. In the language of Transcendental Politics, mobilizing more imagination, kindness, and humility in our political positions and behaviors is, by transcending our false certainties and tribalistic animosities, politically “transcendent.” Those qualities of imagination, kindness, and humility are contagious; the more of them we see on display, the more they spread, just as their opposites are contagious, the shared endeavor we’re in being to spread those transcendent qualities rather than the qualities that they seek to transcend. The real political divide, therefore, is not between the right and the left, but rather between the thesis and antithesis of Transcendental Politics.

Despite the historical genesis and relevance of the electoral college, current insistence of its virtue is based on rationalizations applied unevenly and for the ideological convenience of those doing so, in order to impose their will on others in a non-democratic way. But before diving into why and how that is so, here are a couple of disclaimers:

First, I’ve never been a fan of the narrative that Trump’s victory isn’t legitimate because he didn’t win a majority of the popular vote. That’s a bogus argument; you can’t decide that the same electoral system we’ve had since the ratification of the Constitution 230 years ago is suddenly devoid of legitimacy because it doesn’t give you the results you want, and you shouldn’t conflate the issue of the electoral college with other issues that actually do call the legitimacy of his victory into question.

Second, I don’t think that getting rid of the electoral college is something we should be investing a lot of time, energy, and passion on, in part because the only reasonably possible way of doing so in the foreseeable future (the interstate national popular vote compact, which does an end-run around the Constitution and is by no means an easy lift) would cause a lot of additional rage among the already excessively raging populist authoritarian right, and that is a truly dangerous situation, and in part because it is neither at the heart of our dysfunction nor an artifact that is likely to continue to do harm as demographic trends continue down their current path.

Having said that, let’s address the merits of the notion that the electoral college is a necessary counterbalance to the concentration of the population in a few urban areas mostly on the two coasts:

The electoral college was a compromise between federal and state sovereignty, with the national popular vote representing federal sovereignty and states having votes as states representing state sovereignty. When the Constitution was drafted to replace the toothless Articles of Confederation, each state still saw itself as a sovereign country, and no national system that ran roughshod over that was going to be acceptable

History has a way of changing things. While we still value and benefit from the principle of the devolution of power (e.g., that things that affect only the state population should be decided at the state level), few people in this country sincerely continue to see states as having co-equal sovereignty to the federal government. Culturally and institutionally, states are subordinate to the federal government, in ways that are now deeply woven into our institutional landscape. And that’s not something to lament; it is what led to the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement and the legislation and Court holdings that movement produced, and, in short, the progress of our nation into modernity and expanding democracy and equal protection of rights and justice for all.

We evolved to see tyranny not only as something inflicted by more remote centers of power that more local centers of power must be vigilant against, but also as something inflicted by more local centers of power that more remote centers of power must be vigilant against. The federal government had to protect the rights of African Americans against state governments and individual property owners who were intent on denying them their rights. We came to realize that states should protect children from the brutality of parents when such brutality exists. We decided that governments should protect minorities from private sector discrimination. Tyranny takes many forms, and protection comes from many places.

The “States’ Rights” Doctrine and its penumbra, originally perceived as advocacy of liberty against incursions of tyranny, became exactly the opposite. It began its descent into infamy when it became synonymous with defense of slavery, and continued as it became synonymous with defense of Jim Crow, and has reached the nadir of its reputation today, when, despite plenty of experience with which to enlighten us, it continues to be a part of the north star of the faction that eventually came to worship the unfortunate creature currently occupying the oval office.

What the “states’ rights” mantra — which is implicit in the skewing of the national vote provided by the electoral college — quickly came to represent in the course of our national history, and has only increasingly come to represent, is a desire to cling to an unjust past and oppose the arrival of a more just future. So let’s examine how that plays out through the electoral college.

A North Dakota resident has a vote in presidential elections that is three and a half times greater than a California resident. The original justification for this was that North Dakota is a state with co-equal sovereignty; it was NOT that rural minorities need to be protected from urban majorities. This distinction is critical, because the prevailing arguments aren’t that North Dakota has co-equal sovereignty, but rather that the rural minority needs to be protected from the urban majority, and that latter argument, when examined closely is clearly one of convenience, applied unevenly to serve the specific interests of those doing so in a brazen expression of their own tyrannical inclinations.

Should a North Dakota farmer have just as much say in who should be president as a Los Angeles movie producer? Hell yeah! Should the North Dakota farmer have three and a half times more say than the Los Angeles movie producer (as is currently the case)? Hell no! Because North Dakota isn’t really a sovereign country, and that rationale, which is the only legitimate rationale, is an anachronistic pretext for a predominantly rural, incidentally regressive faction to hold the country hostage to their oppressive mentality, a regressive political force that would fade thankfully away, as it has to a far greater extent in the rest of the developed world, were we a national democracy when it comes to presidential elections instead of a faux-federalism of ideological convenience when it comes to presidential elections.

I have been told that seeking to abolish the electoral college is discrimination against rural voters. But ensuring that each rural voter has the same vote as each urban voter is, by definition, an absence of discrimination against rural voters; seeking for each rural voter to have a vote more heavily weighted than each urban voter is rather, by definition, discrimination against urban voters. Those insisting that the electoral college is fair are the ones favoring discrimination, by definition.

And the discrimination amounts to the argument that land should get votes. The entire argument is that because rural areas are more sparsely populated, rural individuals should have more heavily weighted votes. By that logic, a single individual living alone in a large wilderness should have a vote many times larger than anyone else in the country. It’s a bit absurd.

Despite how horrible for this nation and world reasonable people consider authoritarian populism to be, we don’t seek to reduce the vote of those who advocate it to less than one third the value of those who don’t; that would be tyrannical, and I loathe authoritarian populism precisely because it’s tyrannical. We all should have the same vote, none with three and a half times the vote of others, something that becomes especially destructive when the minority thus holding the majority hostage happens to be intent on repeating the most horrifying errors of modern history.

But we don’t have to debate the merits of authoritarian populism; we just have to choose whether we are committed to the democratic principle that those who disagree with us should have the same vote that we do or to the tyrannical principle that those who disagree with us should have less of a vote than we do.

Finally, we need to clear up a misconception that really lays bare how wrong-headed the current prevailing defenses of the electoral college are: It was not established to protect a shrinking population of rural voters from a growing population of urban voters; it was established in recognition of state co-sovereignty, period. The only valid argument in favor of the electoral college that can be made is that an archaic commitment to giving states rather than exclusively people votes is better than democracy.

But that’s not the argument most people benefiting from it are making. The argument they’re making is that since rural people are a minority they need a vote weighted in their favor to protect them against the urban majority.

Let’s accept, for the sake of argument, that that makes sense, that minorities should get more heavily weighted votes to protect them against the tyranny of the majority. In that case, blacks and Latinos should get votes weighted two and a half times that of whites (since they each comprise about a fifth of the population and whites comprise about half). If you’re going to apply this principle that minorities need more heavily weighted votes to protect them against the tyranny of the majority, it shouldn’t just be at one’s own ideological convenience, but rather evenly and universally.

But that notion is undoubtedly horrifying to those who are adamant that it be applied to their own benefit, because it’s not electoral fairness to minorities that they’re championing; it’s tyranny for themselves.

All decent human beings, all people who care about both the economic health of this country and the values it stands for, should reject, resoundingly, the nativist xenophobia hawked, cynically, by the current president to a tragically receptive segment of our population. Illegal immigration is less than one fifth of what it was 20 years ago, and reached that low mark prior to Trump’s election. Our border security is quite sufficient, in reality, with crime rates by illegal immigrants being lower than crime rates by natural born citizens and crime rates by geographic locale being inversely correlated to the proportion of the population that are immigrants in that locale (i.e., more immigrants = less crime). Those are statistical facts.

There is absolutely no evidence that even a single terrorist has ever come across our southern border, according to Trump’s own justice department. The 4000 number that Sarah Huckabee Sanders used refers to people arriving at airports from countries that we consider to be countries that terrorists frequently hail from; they are not even suspected of terrorism, and they do not come across the southern border. In fact, the justice department and anti-terrorism experts in general consider the Canadian border to pose a greater danger of providing a conduit for terrorists, because there is much more radical Islamic influence in Canada than in the Latino countries south of us.

It’s also a fact that at a certain point further investment in border security costs more per person successfully prevented from crossing the border illegally than that person costs us if they do cross the border illegally. In fact, it’s extremely likely that we have already passed that point. Non-partisan analyses of the costs and benefits that illegal immigrants provide to our coffers and our economy range from net benefits on both scores at both the state and federal levels to fairly marginal net costs on both scores. No peer-review study has come to the conclusion that costs are any significant portion of GDP, or that they are anywhere near posing an economic crisis to the country.

Conversely, that which is currently illegal immigration DOES redress a critical and rapidly growing demographic imbalance between retirees drawing out of pension funds and working people paying into them. Developed countries really have little choice, if they want their pension funds to remain solvent, but to legalize and normalize fairly massive immigration of working age people.

Furthermore, the argument that the nativism and xenophobia on very prominent and obvious display by this president and his followers is just a commitment to the rule of law, not an anti-immigrant stance, is belied by both the nature of the issue and the facts. We determine what the laws are, and virtually everyone agrees that we need immigration reform, which means changes in the laws. So the real debate is over what the laws should be and how we should implement them. The divide in the debate is between those who favor a kinder and more open society and those who favor a crueler and more closed society.

That it isn’t just, or even primarily, about enforcing current laws is highlighted by the fact that when Trump proposed changes in the law to make immigration more restrictive and favor “Norwegians” over people of color, and when crueler and more restrictive choices of policy not dictated by currents law were implemented, his supporters passionately supported and defended his choices, demonstrating that the debate isn’t over enforcing the law but rather shutting out precisely the people we used to welcome.

Those who echo Trump’s narrative on immigration often compare the nation to a house, insisting that just as we use walls and locks to exclude people at will from our homes we should do so to exclude them from our country. It is redundant at this point to address the ineffectiveness of a wall (something a review of expert analyses of border security makes perfectly clear), so instead let’s focus on the errors in that analogy.

A country isn’t a house. It wasn’t legally purchased from its previous owners; it was stolen. Its property lines aren’t​ determined by developers selling lots; they’re determined by military conquest. Its walls don’t separate inhabitants from the elements, but rather secure those who managed to divert more of the Earth’s resources to themselves against those who have been violently relegated to diverting less to themselves. And it is not a refuge from the world financed by inhabitants’ labors external to it, but rather a complex economic, social, and cultural entity that thrives by means of its robust interactions with the world around it.

Let’s address the last point first, because it is the one that cuts across values and appeals directly to systemic realities. Our nation functions through an internal and external market economy, engaging in market exchanges within our borders and across borders. Classical (and conservative) economic theory maintains that the fewer barriers there are to such market exchanges, the more wealth is generated by them, the ideal being a “free market,” characterized by unhindered market activity. Advocacy for strengthening national borders and obstructing the flow of people across them is a contradiction of this ideal. Less ideologically pure understandings of market dynamics also recognize the value of allowing labor to travel to where there is demand for it. Whatever limits we feel we must place on that free flow of goods and people in service to a free market, the fact that it is a consideration is one of the principal ways in which a country differs from a house, not just on scale, but also in systemic attributes.

But a country differs from a house in other ways as well, on moral and historical dimensions. We can’t return land to all those with historical claims on it, but we can stop pretending that we have some absolute, inherent moral authority to deprive entry to those who are the descendants of the ones we stole it from seeking to work hard and provide opportunity for their children under our rule of law. Those who *have* always pass laws to protect what they have from those who don’t; one can defend that through a cynical insistence that might makes right but not through a claim to having the morally virtuous position. The morally virtuous position would be to recognize our moral debt to humanity as a result of the historical moral infractions through which we secured our privileged place in the global political economy.

And it’s a pretty easy form of “generosity” to let hard working people come here and do our dirtiest, most difficult jobs for the lowest wages, contributing to our economy, to our coffers, and to our culture. The fact is that most analyses show net gains to our economy, many show net gains to our state and federal coffers, and all show a net gain in our demographic distribution of workers to retirees, a critical imbalance at present that massive immigration redresses.

You people who think we should wall out the less fortunate because you feel threatened by them are the least fortunate of all, coveting material wealth that isn’t being threatened by inflicting passive and active brutalities on those most in need. You’re not Christians; you’re what Christians exhort us not to be.

This entire nativist, xenophobic narrative is a fabrication, refuted by fact, by reason, by our own national interests, and by basic human decency. And it is one that an opportunistic con-artist has leveraged, as he’s leveraged other similarly dishonest scams before, to stoke up the bigotries of a certain segment of our national population in order to serve his own personal self-aggrandizement.

Let’s talk about Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, and Freedom of Press.

Freedom of speech is not freedom from criticism or consequence for what you say. It’s not freedom from people deciding they don’t like your speech. It’s not freedom from people expressing that they are offended by your speech. It’s not freedom from being held socially accountable for using speech to bully others. Legally, it’s not freedom from accountability for slander, or inciting violence. Morally, it’s not freedom from paying a social or economic price for being a jackass.

Humor is not a specially protected form of speech. Claiming that something was “just a joke” does not exempt it from social norms regarding what kinds of speech people find harmful to others. Humor is conventionally allotted a little extra latitude, because humor often functions, in part, by violating taboos in revealing ways, with neither the intention nor result of violating the underlying purpose of those taboos. But far from all violations of social taboos couched as jokes meet that criterion. A racist or misogynistic joke is still racist or misogynistic, regardless of it having been a joke.

There are some gray areas we have to grapple with: For instance: To what extent and under what circumstances is it okay for an employer to punish the speech of an employee? At one extreme, it’s clearly okay for an employer to fire a customer service representative who is in the habit of rudely berating customers when they call for assistance. At the other extreme, it clearly would violate the spirit of the First Amendment if corporations routinely punished employees in non-sensitive positions for expressing any political view at any time or anywhere other than that of the employer or of the employer’s clientele. There is a large and varied range of possibilities between those two, some areas of which are open to debate.

But, in public discourse, when people respond to criticism of their positions with a proclamation that that criticism is a violation of their right to free speech, they are engaging in a particularly convenient and hypocritical notion of what free speech is, for the person criticizing them has as much right to speak as they do, and to insist that their criticism be withheld in deference to your right to say what you like without being criticized for it is to insist that you but not they should be able to enjoy the right to speak freely.

A similar phenomenon occurs with freedom of religion. Christianity is the dominant religion in America, numerically and institutionally. Freedom of religion protects the right of people of all religions, including but not exclusively Christianity, to be able to practice their religion without governmental interference and to be able not to have any other religion imposed on them in any way through governmental agency. But fundamentalist Christians have come to interpret “freedom of religion” to mean their freedom to continue to have an exclusive right to impose the symbolism of their religion on others through governmental agency, and to be free from seeing anyone else ever celebrating any religion other than theirs in public.

Finally, and most recently, the pattern has reached freedom of the press. There is now an authoritarian populist demagogue in power, supported by an authoritarian populist base, that wants to redefine freedom of the press to mean “freedom of the press if we like what the press says,” reserving to themselves the right to declare what they consider to be true or false (independently of actual empirical evidence) and to use the power of government anything that they decree to be false, even if it is by all conventional methodologies clearly true.

All three of these misconceptions –the one that insists that freedom of speech means one’s own freedom to say what they like without any chance of reprisal or criticism from others but not other’s right to say what those others like if they disagree with it, the one that insists that freedom of religion means one’s own freedom to exercise their religion in public and expect exclusive governmental endorsement of it but no one else’s right to do the same, and the one that insists that the press is free to report and editorialize as they like, but that if they do so in a manner that a populist faction in power disagrees with, the government supported by that populist faction should have the power to silence them– are tyrannical interpretations of these fundamental freedoms.

Tyranny rarely announces itself by name. Frequently, particularly in the modern era, tyranny uses the language of liberty while exercising the substance of oppression and political thuggery. Please feel free to use this post, in part or in its entirety, whenever you come across these phenomena in public discourse. These freedoms exist because sunlight is the best disinfectant, and this post is designed to shed some sunlight on a horribly infected portion of our shared cognitive landscape.

Trump is an aberration. His base is demographically doomed. While we’re ensuring that we defeat them politically, let’s also ensure that we’re not carrying the infection of anger and hatred forward into a future that doesn’t need to be defined by them.

The left and the right both think the other needs to look in the mirror, and on that point, they are both right. What’s more, to an extent greater than either want to admit, they are looking into that mirror when they are looking at each other and just don’t know it.

I know how eager we all are to claim “false equivalency!” And, yes, there is much that is not equivalent. But I’ve noticed for quite some time that, as a general rule, those who are quickest and loudest in shouting that refrain are the ones who have the least justification for doing so; it is the ideologues who fancy themselves most different from their counterparts while being in some very essential ways most alike.

There is less moral hazard in being eager to confront our own fallibility than in being eager to deny it. There is less moral hazard in being willing to acknowledge our opposition’s humanity than in doggedly denying it. We risk less by trying to ratchet down the vitriol than we do by refusing to. A future committed to human decency can’t be achieved through anger and hatred.

The Roman writer Livy said of the Greeks that they had “conquered their rude conquerors,” because though the Roman military captured Greek territory, it was Greek culture that captured Roman minds. We face a reverse problem, threatened by the contagion of vitriol rather than the contagion of more edifying sentiments, and I look at a future in which the left prevails with more trepidation than relief, because the left is growing angrier and meaner and more Intransigent, and that is not the spirit I want to prevail.

So let’s start now trying to be kinder. Let’s oppose the hate without hating. Let’s oppose irrationality with reason rather than another brand of irrationality. Let’s look inward as well as outward. It’s up to us to create and follow a better path. And it’s well within our reach to do so.

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An alternative representation, to emphasize the “flor”

The Flor de Luz, the Flower of Light, is both a symbol and, potentially, a tool. It is the symbol of Transcendental Politics (and logo of The Transcendental Politics Foundation) found in the middle of this Venn diagram, and the diagram itself. The name is, in part, a play on words of the French “Fleur de Lis” (a stylized lily), recognizing the incidental similarity of the original logo to a luminescent lily. It is also in part a reference to the concentric flower patterns formed by the overlapping circles of the Venn Diagram, with five small petals surrounding the logo, five larger ones surrounding those. and five larger ones still surrounding those (see the alternative representation). Most importantly, it is a reference to what both the logo and the Venn Diagram represent: Transcendental Politics, the flowering (“flor”) of a new Enlightenment (“luz”).

The Flor de Luz is, in one sense, a simple graphic with a simple purpose. It represents how Transcendental Politics resides at the confluence of our various overarching social institutions, how it aspires to be a distillation and synthesis of what is best in each of them, what has thus far worked well for humanity, leaving out what is least useful in each of them, what has thus far not served humanity well, an ongoing social movement that recognizes and respects the cumulative product of human history and humbly but proactively builds on it, weeding and pruning and watering portions of our social institutional landscape with new layers of conscious cultivation, continuing the human enterprise of transforming the wilderness of what time and numbers have produced into a garden of intentionality that better serves human welfare.

But the Flor de Luz is, in another sense, potentially (in a dynamical form discussed below) something more subtle and complex, a conceptual tool to assist in the identification stage of that ongoing endeavor of social institutional distillation and synthesis, a tool that is only partially and statically represented by the Venn Diagram above. Let’s explore, step-by-step, how it might be transformed into a dynamical tool.

First, consider possible variations of the Venn Diagram above. A different arrangement, or sequence, of the same five circles could be chosen, different pairs overlapping in the outermost petals (e.g., placing politics and activism next to each other, and religion and science next to each other, producing in their overlaps “campaigning” and “pursuit of universal paradigms,” respectively); or different overarching institutions altogether could be chosen (e.g., economics, family, technology, energy, environment, fine arts, etc.), creating a proliferation of possible combinations and sequences. (For instance, one product of the overlap of activism and economics might be “entrepreneurialism,” and of entrepreneurialism and technology “innovation,” leading to one of the already identified smaller petals by a different route.) Different aspects of what their convergences create can be highlighted, illustrating, in a sense, how “all roads lead to Transcendental Politics,” to the commitment to foster a more rational, imaginative, empathetic, humble and humane world.

We can create a completely different kind of Flor de Luz comprised of cognitive and emotional modalities instead of social institutions, with, for instance, reason, imagination, empathy, humility, and humanity (the five core values of Transcendental Politics) as the five overlapping circles, producing social institutions and types of behaviors and endeavors. We can even include such emotions and modalities as anger, fear, and tribalism, things we usually identify as that which we are striving to transcend, to acknowledge that they too have evolved for reasons, and that they may well have something to contribute to our garden of intentionality. Or we can combine cognitive and emotional modalities with social institutions from the outset, testing our minds to identify, for instance, what good can be harvested from the distillation and synthesis of anger, reason, and activism, or of imagination, fear, hope, and science, or of the convergence of those two sets. The possibilities are nearly limitless.

The purpose of presenting ourselves with these nearly limitless combinations is to guide our minds in an exploration of what is, in pursuit of what can be, by facilitating consideration of how we can work to leverage what is into something more beneficial. This can occur both in the abstract, imagining possibilities without worrying about how to attain them, and in the particular, identifying viable pathways to implementation and devising first steps that can be taken now in service to that end. It is, if nothing else, a tool for taking our minds out of the tumultuous onslaught of the perpetual urgency of now, and providing them with a space defined by a more synoptic view, in which we are guided not only in “thinking outside the box,” but in redefining “the box” as something far more expansive.

(I should insert here a response to the criticism, that I imagine has arisen in the minds of at least some readers by now, of “what does this have to do with anything? How does combining names of social institutions and cognitive and emotional modalities accomplish anything?” The answer is that it displaces our tendency to think in fixed ways determined by ideological narratives and ingrained habits of thought with a set of semi-random but also subtly systemic prompts to think in new ways. That can be remarkably useful, and it is integral to the meaning of “Transcendental Politics,” which is about institutionalizing the ongoing effort to transcend our ideological tribalisms and false certainties.)

Let me guide you through a consideration of how this design (five overlapping disks representing distinct social institutional, cognitive, and emotional modalities) can be utilized in the manner described above.

Imagine a narrated animation in which, first, the diagram is explained as representative of how Transcendental Politics is that which resides where our social institutional modalities overlap, each mitigating the others’ defects and reinforcing the others’ strengths, a sort of distillation of the best of what we’ve produced over the millennia, the product of the spinning lathe of trial and error. Then, the outer sections labeled “science, politics, education, activism, religion” are removed and the largest flower pattern is revealed, the narration stating that even though the various institutional modalities themselves are not precisely what Transcendental Politics is (because they exist independently), those aspects of their synthesis that are relevant to serving our shared humanity most effectively are distilled into the Flor de Luz. Then the next layer of petals is removed, and the next, and the narration continues, focusing on the distillation down to those essential ingredients that define Transcendental Politics, bringing the narration to a focus on precisely what Transcendental Politics IS, that quintessence at the center of this convergence of social and cultural evolution.

The animation can then grow back outward, with new petals labeled with new virtues distilled from other arrangements, both in sequence and in selection, of overarching institutions and modalities until a new completed Flor de Luz is constructed, the narration describing along the way how the petals of the concentric flowers, which in the other direction were derived from the larger overlapping petals, in this direction are emergent from the smaller ones (and ultimately from the center, from Transcendental Politics), illustrating how it inherits the cultural material of the past and helps create the cultural material of the future. The animation can then proceed to to a sliding around of the overarching circles, with the petals formed by their new overlaps changing accordingly, and then to a changing of the overarching institutions and modalities themselves, exploring some of the many different permutations of the Flor de Luz.

Now imagine a physical artifact, with five overlapping translucent plastic or glass colored circles in the form of the Flor de Luz, each rotatable around its center and able to switch positions by pivoting around the center circle containing the TPF logo and snapping into a new position. Each disk would contain perhaps three related social institutions or cognitive or emotional modalities that can be rotated into place, creating the possibility for 15 different arrangements without moving the relative positions of the disks, and some multiple of that by moving the relative positions of the disks. A complete set of disks can include far more than five, with the ability to switch out individual disks for others, removing all limits on how many arrangements can be explored. Of course doing so only suggests the combinations; the work of thinking about what that implies, what productive uses those combinations have, remains. But that work, too, can be cataloged and accumulated, in a kind of ongoing “social institutional genome project.”

(We can even create disks whose overarching categories are the finer ones produced by the confluence of other disks, and take their confluence into deeper, finer, and subtler levels.)

In an online version, that cumulative work can result in different combinations leading to different implied products of those combinations appearing in the various petals of the flower (much as they do in the graphic above). The physical artifact might accomplish the same through symbols visible in each petal in each rotational position of the disk, depending on which overarching principle is in effect, forming a sequence with the others, and then using a reference manual to interpret different sequences of symbols, the reference manual itself being a cumulative compendium of previous thought about the various possible combinations. Thus, this device could be used to explore different configurations of overlapping social institutional, cognitive, and emotional modalities, as a useful analytical and practical tool for thinking about how we can create different kinds of collaborative projects using those modalities in service to working our way toward the convergence in the center (Transcendental Politics).

(I can imagine turning it into a game as well, one that exercises the mind in certain ways that are aligned to what we are trying to cultivate, in which in each player’s turn they are challenged to take the set of social institutions and cognitive modalities they get from their “spin” of a Flor de Luz designed for that purpose and either create something from it following a set of rules and in pursuit of a defined goal, or build on what previous players have created. This is, obviously, not a fully fleshed out idea yet; just a glimpse of another possible use.)

What the Flor de Luz thus represents is that we have inherited an enormous quantity of social institutional, technological, cultural, cognitive, and emotional material, that is blended and can continue to be blended in complex ways, and that forms an evolving shared cognitive landscape of enormous complexity, subtlety, and power. It represents that we are not merely passive recipients of this material, but rather active participants in its ongoing formation, in how we combine and distill it, in what we derive from it, in how we employ it, in short, in what kind of world we choose to create together.

The Flor de Luz provides us with a relatively simple but elegant tool for thinking about this, for focusing our thoughts in productive ways. It reminds us of the possibilities, of how religious material and scientific material can combine beneficially, of the need to draw on reason and imagination and empathy all at once and not to pretend that anger and tribalism can (or should) just be wished away, of where our shared stories come from and what purposes they can serve. It reminds us of the fractal geometry of the anthrosphere, of how social institutional and cognitive and emotional materials are tributaries to larger streams; it helps us to reconstruct those tributaries and streams and rivers of possibilities in endless combinations. It is not a necessary tool; we can engage in the same contemplations without it. But it assists us in doing so more comprehensively and more precisely. Think of it as a social institutional kaleidoscope, with mechanisms for considering every set of combinations of every set of cognitive, emotional, and social institutional materials, and thinking about what those combinations imply, what challenges and possibilities they pose, what opportunities they present.

While potentially useful, it is certainly not a sufficient tool in and of itself; in the forthcoming book, “Transcendental Politics: A New Enlightenment,” I go into considerable detail exploring some small portion of the corpus of analytical and practical tools that are relevant to our endeavor. The need to continue to gather, produce, and synthesize them is perpetual. But the Flor de Luz is a reminder that at the core of all of that intellectual material and practitioner expertise are the lessons of our ongoing history, the convergence of a history of past experiments, and the cumulative products of human genius forming the foundation of present and future innovations. It is up to us to design those innovations to most effectively serve the ever fuller realization of our consciousness and of our shared humanity.

Our various personalities and affinities are reflected in which petals of which variations of the Flor de Luz resonate most with our own predispositions, talents, and desires; it becomes a way of locating ourselves in this shared endeavor of ours, of thinking about who our social institutional neighbors and natural partners are, of who we can reach out to to create new synergies in service to our shared humanity, to the greatest realization of our consciousness and our well-being, individually and collectively. It recognizes both diversity and coherence, facilitates both, draws upon both. The Flor de Luz is a way of thinking about our various roles in this shared story we are living and writing together, and how we can each individually and in cooperation with others, consciously and conscientiously, ensure that we are writing it and living it well.

To learn more about Transcendental Politics and The Transcendental Politics Foundation, visit our Facebook group, our Facebook page, or our website (still under construction).