I think this was my favorite essay of Yarvin's I've read.

I have to reflect on why. My guess is that it articulates something I felt, but only inchoately, which is that (a) self-analysis, done in the wrong, but most common, way is the route to nihilism; (b) psychology, more than Marcuse, has ruined the western, developed world.

Re: (a), I've had a story of myself since I was in my 20s. (At least, that's part of my story of myself; I'm not actually sure I did have a story of myself in my 20s, or if I did, what it was. Honestly!) And I have found that when I delve into the causal antecedents of my behavior, it just drains the interestingness out of my life. "Oh, I'm a cog, huh? Great. I guess this is why I do X and Y. The end."

Not to mention all the second-guessing. I second-guess myself all the time. Hell, I second-guessed myself in the previous paragraph!

But Yarvin has a more intriguing, actionable explanation: when you get a sense of what your flaws are without an attendant sense of guilt, you accept your flaws and even rejoice in them. And then you're stuck with them, plus the new flaw of loving your flaws. I'm sure this was in _The Screwtape Letters_ somewhere.

Re: (b), I think that psychology is to culture what economics is to policy. Psychology is responsible for the implicit bias stuff, for the microaggressions stuff, for the "I'm traumatized" stuff, for the insane fixation on linguistic trivia stuff. It's responsible for the idea that environment is everything, more even than the empiricist, blank-slate philosophers like Locke, because it actually offered "rigorously" tested interventions that actually "worked" and depended merely on very small changes in language to effect their effects. (Growth mindset and values clarification, I'm looking at you.)

So, I've now learned three things from Yarvin that I have accepted as deep parts of my worldview:

(1) The desire to make a difference is often Satanic; (this was the most novel idea of his)

(2) You should look at your own age as a historian looks at past ages; (C. S. Lewis also had something like this; he talked of and condemned "chronological snobbery", but Yarvin gave me a way to practice the theory)


(3) Accepting your flaws is very bad. (As I said above, I'd always felt this inchoately, but now I can articulate it -- I have a story!)

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Any idea where he first started to talk about the desire to make a difference being Satanic? I certainly remember from UR where he makes the connection between “changing the world” and “scheming for power,” but I’ve forgotten where he originally calls it out spiritually.

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I never read UR, so it wouldn't be there. And I'm not 100% sure that he called the desire to change the world "Satanic"; he's been using "Satanic" a lot, though, so it's possible that he did call it that somewhere in the Gray Mirror series, but it's also possible that I just added one thing to another thing.

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I would say your takeaway (3), maybe should be clarified, "accepting your flaws is fine, the conclusion to draw is to work around them, not to convert this knowledge into unabashed pride in them." Seems to be the message Yarvin sends, and I totally agree. Writing my own post on this in a sec.

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Yeah I agree it needs reframing. You should certainly accept that you have flaws, and also that you will never fully overcome your imperfections, but yes, you should work on them.

I wonder how much this has to do with being triggered? Like, if you’re so fragile that hearing a word you don’t like will send you into a spiral, maybe that’s something you should work on, rather than use as a sword and a shield to control others?

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But was she hot?

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He said on a podcast that she was beautiful.

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Curtis “Curt” Yarvin out here writing a break-up essay - you could’ve just said her Khazar milkers were fake

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The Taylor Swift of long-form monarchy blogging.

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Jew-haters are swarming centipedes licking each other's anuses.

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Not every joke made at a Jewish person's expense is anti semitism

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It is perhaps no surprise that today the various psychologies amount to little more than fat acceptance for the soul.

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It strikes me that Circling is to loneliness what opium is to pain. I have never been prescribed opiates, so I wouldn't know for sure, but I imagine doctors do not tell their patients "this will be the best feeling of your entire life, oh and by the way, it will also help with your chronic pain" when prescribing opiates. It is not that opium dulls pain that is the problem, it is that it creates physical pleasure out of nowhere. Similarly, Circling appears to generate social pleasure out of nowhere.

There is good evolutionary reason for the drives that Circling exploits, and none of them are being satisfied here. Bonding in the context of a community is not only functional, it's adaptive. Bonding in the context of a group of strangers, according to my historical knowledge of cults, always seems to wind up someplace awful.

If social bonding and intimacy are what you desire, move to a small town and get to know your neighbours. Trade eggs for carrots, baked goods for lasagnes, and you will find a much healthier version of it than these sad saps engaging in Circling.

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Curtis baby I'm not withholding my subscription or anything but how the hell is this supposed to help me seize power, man???

Cool post otherwise

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Your job is not to seize power. Your job is to build institutions and be ready to receive power when the current institutions collapse.

Only those who keep their own houses in order are fit to receive power. Therefore be wise in matters of the heart.

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Learn to organize. Curtis doesn’t know how to organize us, so you have to do it yourself

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I like posts like this one, they really reveal how Curtis actually thinks. I also mostly agree - I think close-mindedness is a useful tool that has gotten a bad rap.

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As I was just looking up the term, “open to suggestions” and “open to suggestion” have very different, unrelated meanings. The first one is the good kind of open-mindedness, while the second one is mental laziness

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I didn't make it very far into the circle video. There was a person saying "I'm super empathic, I feel things so much more deeply than most people", and the other people in the circle were all like "yeah, I totally get that", and I'm thinking some more like "even if that were true, and I'm not even sure it's meaningful, how would you know?" She might as well have been saying, "when I see red, it's a much redder red than the washed out reds most people see."

Personally, I don't consider myself to be particularly empathic, let alone empathetic. But I'm not really sure if I actually care less about other people, or just care less about seeming to care.

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Two Zen teachers were walking on a bridge over a pond containing many carps. "Look at these carps, they are enjoying themselves" said one teacher. "How could you possibly know that if you're not a carp?" retorted the other. "How could you possibly know that I can't know if you're not me?" replied the first, unperturbed.

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"I trust Chad and Stacy." Appreciate your vote of confidence in us Curtis. *Hides tricorder*

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He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the kinglike brow. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two soy-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Chad.

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Confession(/Brag?): if you were to pin the fact that nerds like MIRI are into circling on any one person, you would probably pin it on me personally. Almost everything you said here is right, and I won't quibble. But I thought you'd be interested in a chunk of writing that's part of a rough draft of a book that's been languishing on my computer for a couple years. It's a book by me, a "circler," targeted at circlers.

Pitch: most people aren't as clever as you and so most people don't notice the "circling narcissism" thing right away, but I very notice it, and you might like to know some of what I have to say about it.


Accidental Narcissism in Circling

“The original inspiration/discovery of circling wasn't "saying the truth,” or "revealing oneself,” or any cult of vulnerability kind of stuff. What was most original to circling was enacting a deep, phenomenological listening. A Listening willing to undo my understanding. Not listening as an empty, receptive vessel, but listening as an ontological midwifery where all involved hearkened the world anew, permeable to be struck and moved by the world as it really exists.

That listening is the essence of the kinds of conversations which the linguistic-self-loop simply can't survive.”

-Guy Sengstock

[I actually altered this quote. Guy wrote the original on a facebook thread with the requisite typos and confusions that come with quick communication. I did my best to perfectly preserve the tone and meaning, while correcting the prose.]

Circling can easily become an exercise in narcissism, and the only thing it takes is slightly misunderstanding what is being done. To be clear, I mean small N narcissism, not the personality disorder in the DSM (I talk about the real disorder elsewhere in the book). Here I just mean the sort of deluded self importance and navel gazing that comes with telling yourself stories about yourself, then believing and defending those stories. I mean losing yourself in an increasingly elaborate fantasy world which glorifies all your incidental thoughts and feelings as somehow more important than they actually are.

This is one of the criticisms of circling I hear from people who have been turned off by it, and although I object that it’s actually supposed to be part of circling, I do acknowledge that it happens a lot in circling culture.

The reason this happens seems clear enough to me, and I think Guy’s quote above explains it, but the quote seems like the sort of thing that would only resonate if you already knew what it meant. So I’ll try to explain what I think it means.

If you conceive of circling as getting someone’s world, or getting your own world in more detail than usual, then navel gazing is almost inevitable. That’s because when you start from a place of only really being aware of yourself as your “linguistic-self-loop,”--your conscious, narrative-based ego--then what else can you do but notice your own stories and make up more stories when given the instructions “pay attention to yourself”? Then as you dive deeper into the practice, what else can you do but make those stories increasingly elaborate and sprawling?

That is what small n narcissism is. That is why circling can lead people there.

The real practice of circling is the “deep, phenomenological listening” Guy is talking about. I’ll lay this out in plain terms.

First, when someone uses the term “phenomenological” in this context they mean the microscopic bits of impulse, sensation, and awareness that add up to your entire human experience. For most people the ego thought loop is deafening, it drowns out almost everything else. But almost everyone finds an incredibly rich texture of sensation underlying that if they practice paying attention to it. I mean literally the feelings in your body, like the particular nerve activation of endogenous chemicals in your gut.

Next, the “listening” here is not about listening to the people you’re circling with. Instead, you’re listening to your own deep phenomenology, by which I mean listening to the small nuances of your impulses, sensations, and awarenesses.

It doesn’t take long for this practice to pay off: paying close attention to the microscopic bits of impulse, sensation, and awareness quickly reveals that your linguistic-thought-loop is wrong or deluded or limited. I like the analogy of something happening in the world, and then a reporter writing a news story about it later--the story is often sort of right in a limited way, but it’s never quite true to the reality of the situation on the ground. Your story about yourself quickly gets quieter as you see the reality of how you actually are, at deeper, more subtle levels. With this practice, the ego quiets in contact with the world, as you see the machinery that produces the story you had about yourself.

At this point you might be wondering whether the other people in the circle even have a place in the practice as I describe it. If you’re just listening to yourself, then why do you need other people at all? The answer is emphatically yes, other people do have a place. Here’s why:

It’s of course possible to listen deeply to your phenomenology in any context, but nonsocial contexts provide comparatively little data for you to actually be in contact with. This is true because most of who we are as humans is defined by our social reality, and separately because nonsocial realities are simply not about us. A cool breeze is something to behold on the level of pure sensation, but it’s not related to us except insofar as we are relating to it—the breeze didn’t arise in contact with you, and doesn’t reveal anything about you in particular.

Conversely, a person being a certain way in our presence, especially when that person is also in deep, phenomenological contact with us, is very much about us. It’s partially about incidental factors in them and in the environment, but our presence in that environment changes who they are, materially changes their experience of the world. Said differently, their experience with us is partially a reflection of us. That means that people--other aware beings--can act as powerful mirrors for us, that we can choose to look into to see ourselves more clearly, if we have the courage and practice to do so.

So, in circling “knowing yourself” means being aware of how you actually experience and interact with the world, and does not mean having a detailed story about yourself. And actually doing the practice leads to more “knowing yourself” in circling terms, and leads to less “knowing yourself” in narcissistic terms.

This is what I actually mean when I say “feel what it’s like to be yourself,” when I intro circling for newcomers. The length of this explanation is a big part of why I don’t try to say anything like “deep, phenomenological listening” instead.

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Oh, and if you're asking yourself:

Hey self, even if we take seriously the possibility that "doing it right" in circling is anti-narcissistic, while doing it subtly wrong is narcissistic, what does it say about the practice that the guy (Guy?) who started it and who selected a particular example video to be the top hit on google about it, is also "doing it wrong" in exactly that way?

My reply is: yes.

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So which is? Are you a philosopher or are you dating women?

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>Care about your partner. Care about how they’re feeling. Keep track of what they like and don’t like. Try to keep doing the things they like; try to stop doing the things they don’t like. Yeah—it’s really that easy.

Amen. (Except, of course, it's not easy. But practice makes perfect.)

>And at that point, while it is always great to have friends—only your family, once complete, will really matter. There is no way around the trad!


>To worship yourself is to grow proud of your own flaws—neuroses, prejudices, biases, etc (in the strict sense of these terms). Once you learn to repeatedly confess a flaw, you lose the sense of pain in confessing it; you cease, in fact, to struggle against it; you make it part of yourself.

Can attest to that. Sigh.

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Catholics go to confession, still. Or they do in parishes where the priests make a point of making it available, which is not universal. There was a long line when I went last Sunday, and there usually is. This may not occur in California, so your sample may be skewed. Remember that the Four Cs for confession are to be Clear, Concise, Concrete and Complete. Concise is especially important if there are a bunch of people in line behind you.

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Moldy, the world needs more children with Unabomber-IQs. You must do your duty!

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At his age the chance of any new children being on the autism spectrum is quite high. Such children are equally worthy of love, but it is a cost worth weighing.

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We're not ready for the power-level of a Yarvin autist scion.

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As if autism was the worst of the risks out there…

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True. There are many risks that come from being an older parent. I just know that autism is one that is particularly likely if the father is older.

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First, I hope giving all your subscribers your post break up rant was cathartic. I found it educational, and have encountered these sorts of people. I lacked the words to describe them beyond using a Holden Caulfield "phony", or the modern, cooperate euphemism "would be good in sales/marketing". I appreciate the deep dive.

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Minor comment on: “It is normal to depersonalize yourself and try to enter her perspective.“ I thought it was normal to do this with people you’re talking to, no? I don’t see it as any sort of intimacy, only respect for the individual. I think that is my personal religious feeling, though. I used to think I was an atheist, but I hold a lot of unfalsifiable or even objectively false beliefs about the value of each individual person (including non-human persons).

On circling: I watched 15 seconds of the first linked video of the guy explaining why people are drawn to circling, and I immediately got the culty vibe. As a pre-teen, I was really interested in religions and cults, and I’ve had personal experiences that I consider super-valuable, similar to Curtis’s experiences with nerddom. Personally, as a natural born nerd who hadn’t grown up in the US, I can’t completely relate. Those experiences are unfamiliar. My nerd experiences all had to do with meeting people in real life that I had encountered online, usually over our shared love of music.

In general, I find musical nerddom to be kind of exceptional to those other kinds. Music nerds, whether their focus is metal, classical, or samba, are the best. Maybe that’s because music is not something that selects people by “neuro-typicality” or intelligence or social status. Maybe music is the last domain where different people still mix.

Thank you, Curtis, I think I just had a breakthrough.

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Music is often collaborative and requires a lot of pattern matching. I suspect that both of these home social ability moreso in other nerds, who engage in solitary hobbies and never grow socially.

To clarify: pattern matching is actually very useful for learning social behavior. It's also good for learning very specific but useful social skills, like comedy. There's an old saying I heard: "inside every comedian is a musician, and inside every musician is a comedian." I can see how the creative element of comedy and music are similar. They're both concerned with timing, tone, and pace, though in different senses.

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