i don't know how to describe the feeling of awe without just giving examples of what causes it in me. i think what i mean by this word is not just what it usually means, but rather some combination of "peak experience", "spiritual experience" and "awe". things that cause it:

the value of awe

i think these/this (experiences/feelings/qualia/attributes of qualia/classes of qualia/component of qualia along the scale of awe) have great intrinsic value, and therefore are one of the primary goals (ends in themselves) for life (at least, for me).


it seems to me that humans easily fall into ruts of experiencing. by this i do NOT mean that you do the same ol' thing over and over; i mean a certain phenomenon of consciousness. you are conscious of the same qualia over and over, and somehow the qualia has less of an effect, or rather, the spiritual/awesome (awe-some meant in the above sense, see "on awe" above) component is attenuated.

the spirit world

it seems that somehow, also, qualia in general is linked together with something, i am not sure if the linkage that i intuit is a linkage with other qualia or a linkage with something else. i think a good way of describing it is a "spirit world" or "spiritual world" or "world of meanings". by "meaning" here i don't mean the denotation of a word, i mean something like the qualia associated with the word "poignant" -- what someone means when they see a movie that makes them cry and they say, "oh, it was just so meaningful!". in fact, the only reason i use the word "meaning" instead of "poignant" is because poignant is a qualia in itself, whereas there are different kinds of meanings for different qualia, although they are all meaningful. if that doesn't mean much to you (in the previous phrase, i used "mean" in the "denote" sense), try thinking of a "dream world". as a mostly-materialist (i haven't firmly ruled out the actual existence of a "spirit world", but until further notice i've decided to provisionally rule it out), though, i don't really know what to make of these notions -- right now i merely note that they are the best phrases i have found of yet to capture this partially-formed intuition.

back to ruts

anyhow, it also seems as if, the first time you experience them, qualia have more "meaning", and also that they are more linked to whatever it is, and perhaps the reason that they have more meaning is because they are more linked. i have this picture of a little model dollhouse, and that when you look at one little chair or doll or whatever in it, it's not very meaningful, but then when you zoom out and look at the whole dollhouse, it may be more poignant -- BECAUSE of the zooming-out. but as you experience the same thing over and over, you get less of this linkage and (perhaps because of this) less of this meaning. it doesn't seem to me that the meaning isn't there (the same as the property "divisible by 3" is in the number 411, whether or not you think of it when you think of 411), but rather than our brains adapt/acclimatize to it so that we don't perceive it as much upon repeated exposure.

often i feel like the qualia i experience in everyday life is mostly the same day after day, and so i lose these awe/meaningful feelings. new things seem to bring different qualia, which then come with the awe/meaningfulness. re-experiencing old qualia that haven't been experienced for awhile works too (note, though, that i have a very bad episodic memory; but thi smay not matter, see below).

places seem more linked to this stuff than other things. that is, i hypothesize that doing the same thing, using the same tools in a different place will cause more difference in qualia than doing something different with different tools in the same place.

marijuana and ruts

i have been told that marijuana attenuates both cognitive and qualia ruts; although i have also been told that marijuana increases perseveration.

Perhaps these can be reconciled by the hypothesis that marijuana, amongst other effects, reduces the strength of the adaptation mechanism, unmasking the perception of cognitions and qualia which usually would be subtracted by adaptation -- this is compatible with effects causing chains of thought to perseverate (indeed, one may even hypothesize that one function of adaptation is blocking perseveration -- i.e. one scale of rut is traded for another).

qualia and memory

it seems to me that only part of the qualia can be attached to (long-term) memories, at least, the conscious part of memory (i have been told that under the influence of marijuana, "deeper" parts of existing memories become available). in particular, the part related to the awe/meaning cannot seem to be remembered, or at least not much of it. it seems like after you have had such a feeling, for a minute or two when you remember that moment you can get back some of that feeling. but if you try to remember it half and hour later, you can't (unless you can re-follow the train of thought that led you to it and re-cause the feeling, which you are more probably able to do half an hour later than, say, a day later).

memory and ruts

one hypothesis is that it is actually the memory itself which causes the adaptation/rut; perhaps having a conscious memory attached to a qualia either directly prevents the awe/spiritual/linked/poignant part, or prevents it indirectly by way of prevents the conscious mind from considering and processing the stimulus anew (because it can just refer to the already-processed representation in memory). i am not sure about this though, maybe the formation of memory and the adaptation are just coincidence.

the value of memory and experience

because of these considerations, i wonder sometimes if our brains are (sadly) set up to block these experiences more and more as time goes on. because, as we experience different qualia, the adaptation process sets in and prevents the best part (the awe/spiritual/linked/poignant part) from being perceived. you can beat this by changing your environment back and forth, like rotating crops, but perhaps eventually you would remember all of the environments well and perhaps that would cause you to adapt to all of them at once.

dreams and ruts

dreams, however, often seem to occur in new places, often awe-inspiring ones, and this seems to break the rut, and cause the awe/spiritual/linked/poignant feelings, at least for the duration of the dream. the contrast between the relatively rut-full character of awake life and the relatively rut-less character of dreaming life is large. this may be one of the purposes of dreams (and perhaps a purpose is not just to give the awe/spiritual/linked/poignant feelings themselves, but to break you out of cognitive ruts in the same manner -- indeed i feel that late at night i perseverate more, even if i stop and do other things and come back, and that this is linked to thinking and feeling the same way about the activity, and then i go to sleep and wake up and then i can easily see that i was stuck in a (cognitive) rut, and that now i am free of it (at least for a short while).

awesome/spiritual experiences and ruts

similarly, it seems as if having awesome/spiritual moments during waking life, at least temporarily frees one from ruts, both the qualia rut but also cognitive ruts. so maybe qualia ruts and cognitive ruts are similar, which gives this whole discussion a value for non-spiritual purposes (like proving a theorem, or doing some task for one's job), in addition to its value for purposes of understanding or improving (or just discussing for its own sake) spiritual life.

awesome/spiritual experiences and gods

it does feel as if when one contemplates something that causes these experiences, one is contemplating a god (whether it is one god that always seems to be contemplated in such moments, or many, one for each qualia, i'm not sure). it is not always clear whether it feels like you are actively choosing to engage in contemplation of the god, or whether the god, by its will or by its nature, intruded into your consciousness (or, if the god itself did not enter your mind, perhaps it emanated some spiritual substance ("sprit") which went into your mind or your "soul"). And when one is broken out of a cognitive rut in waking life by the influence of these experiences, it can feel like the relevant god intervened ("divine intervention") into your thought processes to "raise you up", giving you a higher vantage point (like zooming out on the dollhouse) so that you could see the "big picture" and see what the nature is of the rut you are stuck in (it feels like you have escaped from the rut at that moment, and like you are free now, but i've found that you tend to fall back into the rut -- so it seems like it's more like you are only momentarily freed from the rut, but that after this, having more knowledge of the nature of the rut, you chance of avoiding it/attenuating it/escaping it in the future are increased). note: i'm agnostic and i'm not actually asserting that any gods exist, and i don't think the previous is (strong) evidence towards that conclusion. i'm merely trying to find the best words to describe my intuitions. i do think that, even if gods don't exist, that perhaps the same situations and intutitions that i describe here are part of what believers experience and interpret as interactions with actual gods, so besides the primary purpose of understanding the phenomena themselves, this discussion may be useful for agnostics or atheists seeking to understand religion better.