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Level 3 of Consciousness are reading about something that most people don’t even know exists. If you told them, they wouldn’t just not believe you—they would have no clue what you were talking about. That’s why I wrote this little essay: so that I could show it to someone when they had no idea what I was talking about and, if they were persistent and open-minded, make some progress in their thinking. And meanwhile I could get on with my other projects.

1. In the beginning, there was attraction. Things attract each other because they like to be closer to some things than other things. This is the root of all change in the whole universe.

Sometimes like attracts like and sometimes opposite attracts opposite. When opposites attract, you’ve got a pair, a couple. That pair is now another unit and you can start the whole process over again. The pair, the new unit, can attract an opposite or a like or just drift along.

When like attracts like, it can end there, like an oxygen molecule made up of two oxygen atoms, or it can continue to attract like, like a Carbon atom. When things continue to attract like, something big gets created.

2. Sometimes a thing will attract just the right stuff to it that the new stuff turns into another copy of the thing. That is self-replication. Self-replication is the most powerful force in the universe. One becomes two, two become four, four become eight, and soon the universe is full of things.

Sometimes a self-replicating thing makes a copy of itself with a mistake in it. The thing with a mistake will either be better, worse, or the same at making copies of itself. If it’s better, there will soon be more copies of the new thing than the old thing in the universe.

The only way for new things to get created is by a complex series of mistakes that turn out to be better after all.

3. We are self-replicating things. We are the result of a billion years worth of mistakes that turned out to be better after all.

4. One big mistake that turned out to be better after all was that, of all the animals, we alone can communicate complicated ideas. We can tell stories. We can share recipes. We can make complicated plans. Even dolphins and whales can’t do these things, we think.

5. These ideas that we communicate are called memes. Memes are a kind of thing. Memes live in our minds.

6. Like all things, memes fit better with some things than others. Some memes naturally fit better in people’s minds. Some memes naturally fit better with other memes. When a group of memes fit well together and pull the strings of someone’s mouth and vocal cords so that they pass them on to others, a new, self-replicating thing gets created. The new thing is called a memeplex.

Self-replication is the most powerful force in the universe. One person tells two, two tell four, four tell eight, and pretty soon the whole universe is full of people sharing the memeplex.

Sometimes a self-replicating memeplex makes a mistake in copying itself. The memeplex with a mistake in it will either be better, worse, or the same at making copies of itself. If it’s better soon there will be more copies of the new memeplex than the old in the universe.

The only way for a new idea to gain acceptance is by a series of copying mistakes that turn out to be better after all.

7. All our belief systems, religions, and governments are the result of a series of mistakes that turned out to be better at making copies of themselves after all.

8. Every new idea we think of immediately becomes transformed by copying mistakes that change it into something that is better at making copies of itself after all. A key part of the idea may be sacrificed to something better for copying.

The only control we have over the spread of our ideas is in making them as resistant to copying mistakes as possible.

9. When we are born, our mind is courted by meme after meme after meme, all the result of thousands of years of practice at getting themselves copied into fresh new minds. This is Level 1. We have our instincts, born of millions of years of the genes our body carries striving to make copies of themselves.

Soon our minds become filled with memes and eventually we may develop a map of life that mostly makes sense. We speak a language that we believe expresses anything we want to say. We use geometric and physical concepts that we believe explain anything we encounter. We know stories and myths that we believe relate to all of life’s trials and tribulations. This is Level 2. We have our roadmap, born of thousands of years of the memes our mind carries striving to make copies of themselves.

10. Each of us has a purpose here. When the memes are quiet, it is possible to feel when we are on purpose and when we are off purpose.

11. Once we realize that there are millions of memes battling inside our mind, there arises the possibility of influencing the outcome of that battle. Until we realize it, there is no possibility.

The battle can be influenced in three ways. First, by noticing the memes. Second, by detaching from them. Third, by obtaining clarity of purpose.

When these three steps are achieved, we can begin to select our memes consciously. We select memes that keep us on purpose. This is Level 3.

12. A purpose is not a goal. A purpose does not feel like guilt, shame, or vengeance. Guilt, shame, and vengeance are emotions used by memes to gain mastery over your life. By choosing memes consciously, we can eliminate the control that memes have over those emotions.

A purpose feels fulfilling, satisfying, joyful, and powerful.

13. A purpose has to do with other people. A purpose is fulfilled by spreading memes. Every time we speak, write, create, or act we are spreading memes. To fulfill our purpose we must be conscious of which memes we are spreading.

Life is largely composed of conversations. Conversations are composed of memes. In Level 1 we are unaware of this. In Level 2 we see the world as a solid, understandable body to be interacted with. In Level 3 we see the world as a canvas to be painted, an instrument to be played, or a block of marble to be sculpted by us for our purpose. We choose to do this for good or for evil. If we choose good, good is returned to us in unexpected ways. If we choose evil, evil is returned. Either way, it looks like the way we choose is the way of the world.

14. In Level 1, we do not understand the world and consequently fear it. In Level 2, we replace the fear with understanding. The price of understanding is limits. Our approximate models of the universe are never completely accurate, never useful in all situations.

In Level 3, we start with a vision of what we want to create. From there we choose our models. Sometimes a chosen model may seem insane to the other inhabitants of the little patch of space-time we happen to occupy. No matter. Men with a vision of goodwill have often looked insane in times of mistrust and scarcity. But in Level 3, we realize that the universe is not a maze to be navigated; it is a baby to be brought up. When we give it love, clarity, and opportunity, we raise a child to be a joyful, giving, successful adult. This is the opportunity we have to farm our little patch of space-time.

Richard Brodie
June 1999

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Last Edited: November 2, 2009
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