Late Fields medalist Voevodsky describes "power" experiences

Dada Kind, modified 5 Years ago at 10/9/17 10:06 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 10/9/17 10:05 AM

Late Fields medalist Voevodsky describes "power" experiences

Posts: 633 Join Date: 11/15/13 Recent Posts
Fields medalist mathematician Vladimir Voevodsky passed away recently. Here's his NYTimes tribute.

In an interview from a few years ago he describes power experiences. I figure this would be of interest to someone here. Unfortunately, the interview has been taken down, and it was originally in Russian. So to view it you have to dig up the archive and then translate it. Doing so and using Google Translate here are some interesting pieces.

- A couple of years ago a conference devoted to general scientific issues was held in St. Petersburg. You spoke there and said the following. "What we now call the crisis of Russian science is not only the crisis of Russian science: there is a crisis of world science, real progress will consist in a very serious fight between science and religion that will end with their unification.
I confess, when I read this statement, I laughed happily, I just covered my happiness, because someone spoke about a deep, not about politics-financing-economy, but about what is really important. But this statement certainly remained incomprehensible to many. You are a person who has been brought up in materialistic paradigms, with the corresponding ideology, aesthetics, and morality. Kastovo is a Soviet intellectual, at the same time, who made a brilliant scientific career. And society, stereotypes, templates scream from everywhere that in the life of such a person there is no place for religion and mysticism. But you openly start talking about some kind of unification of science and religion, at your home the table is covered with Hindu books, Sanskrit textbooks, books in Ancient Greek, books on supernatural phenomena, shamanism, history of religions stand on the shelves. How so?

"Here's the story." As I said, I'm pretty good, for a layman, I know the natural sciences. Several areas of physics, several areas of biology, chemistry, a bit of geology and paleontology. In addition, I was seriously interested in artificial intelligence and the semantics of languages. In 1997-1999, I read many modern books, the authors of which tried to create a kind of scientific philosophy, i.e. from existing scientific theories to combine the general picture of our world. I particularly well remember Edward Wilson's book "Consilience" (I do not know how it is in Russian). As a mathematician, I am very sensitive to "holes" in arguments, to those places where the conclusion does not follow formally from the premises, and what is called, are pulled by the ears. So, having read all these books, I became convinced that those who say that modern science explains our world are wrong. Yes, some sciences very successfully and accurately explain certain groups of phenomena. But in the full picture of the world, these explanations are by no means "glued together." Moreover, some so-called scientific explanations are in fact, I'm not afraid of this word, profanation. The most important example of this situation is Darwinism. There is no doubt that the biosphere of the earth developed and develops, and the processes of natural selection and random mutations play a certain role in this development. But they in no way explain this development. I note by the way, that now it is gradually beginning to be discussed by serious biologists, but even ten years ago, in America, a biologist, having expressed such a point of view, could seriously spoil his career.

Understanding how little our science really explains, it came to me somewhere when I was 35 years old. approximately in 2001. Then I did not connect it with the fact that in the 20th century science excluded from the field of its attention what is now called "supernatural." I still treated everything mystical-religious as a deception or delusion. At this position, I stood very firmly until 2007. The period from 2001 to 2006 was very difficult. For several years I was only saved by the fact that I was engaged in wildelife photography. Some of my photos of that period can be found here:

"It happens that people of search become after contact with something that does not fit into their old understanding, into the familiar picture of the world. For example, they say that Gurdjieff as a child witnessed a ritual act, in which children outlined the circle around the Yezidi boy, and he could not escape from this circle. Struck by what he saw as supernatural, as well as human cruelty, Gurdjieff began to seek new knowledge about the world and man. Did you have any points, events, inexplicable phenomena that triggered a rethinking?

- In 2006-2007 a lot of external and internal events happened to me, after which my point of view on the questions of the "supernatural" has changed significantly. What happened to me during these years, perhaps, can be compared most closely to what happened to Karl Jung in 1913-14. Jung called it "confrontation with the unconscious". I do not know what to call it, but I can describe it in a few words. Remaining more or less normal, apart from the fact that I was trying to discuss what was happening to me with people whom I should not have discussed with, I had in a few months acquired a very considerable experience of visions, voices, periods when parts of my body did not obey me and a lot of incredible accidents. The most intense period was in mid-April 2007 when I spent 9 days (7 of them in the Mormon capital of Salt Lake City), never falling asleep for all these days.

Almost from the very beginning, I found that many of these phenomena (voices, visions, various sensory hallucinations), I can control. So I was not scared and did not feel sick, but perceived everything as something very interesting, actively trying to interact with those "creatures" in the auditorial, visual and then tactile spaces that appeared (themselves or by call) around me . I must say, probably, to avoid possible speculations on this subject, that I did not use any drugs during this period, tried to eat and sleep a lot, and drank diluted white wine.

Another comment - when I say beings, then naturally I mean what in modern terminology is called complex hallucinations. The word "beings" emphasizes that these hallucinations themselves "behaved", possessed a memory independent of my memory, and reacted to attempts at communication. In addition, they were often perceived in concert in various sensory modalities. For example, I played several times in a (hallucinated) ball with a (hallucinated) girl and this ball I saw, and felt tactile palm when I threw it.

Despite the fact that all this was very interesting, it was very difficult. It happened for several periods, the longest of which lasted from September 2007 to February 2008 without breaks and there were days when I could not read, and days when coordination of movements was broken to such an extent that it was difficult to walk.

I managed to get out of this state due to the fact that I forced myself to start math again. By the middle of spring 2008 I could already function more or less normally and even went to Salt Lake City to look at the places where I wandered, not knowing where I was in the spring of 2007.

It should be said that despite many conversations with non-material "creatures" during this period, I completely did not understand what actually happened. I was "offered" many explanations, including hypnotists, aliens, demons and secret communities of people with magical abilities. None of the explanations explained everything I observed. Eventually, since some terminology was needed in conversations, I began to call all these beings spirits, although now I think that this terminology is not true. The terms "world system" (apparently control over people) and, especially in the beginning, "the game hosted by fear" sounded in this context.

After I returned to a more or less normal state, and in particular I could read serious books again, I began to study very actively those areas of knowledge that I had previously ignored. First of all, I began to try to find descriptions of similar events that occurred with other people. I must say that it was not possible for me (not counting Jung). Something a little bit similar, but without visions, was with Karen Amstrong, who later began to write books about different religions. There were many descriptions of how people experienced visions, voices, unusual emotional states , etc. in the course of hours or days ("mystical experience"). As a rule, it either strengthened them in the religion in which they grew up or made them religious. A classic and very interesting example, when events of this kind continued with the man long is Swedenborg. In my case, however, it did not seem like that - Swedenborg quickly accepted what was happening to him as coming from God, and after that the process was completely different. Perhaps the most interesting thing for me was the story of the "confrontation with the unconscious" of Carl Jung, but there the situation was also different because Jung, unlike me, came across "super-natural" events from his childhood and believed in God.

From part 2,

- Here we are talking about a lot of aspects of a very peculiar experience, but it gives the impression of an uncontrolled flow of complex phenomena. And what did you learn from this experience and fix it inside yourself as important?

"The truly profound things that I have learned over the years are the ability to observe my own inner world on both the verbal and other levels, and it is rational to analyze these observations. For example, to notice when new "voices" are woven into my mind-stream, or to distinguish between styles of visual and other sensory hallucinations. These skills all, in one way or another, require keeping the clarity of thinking, even when you are immersed in an intense sensory and emotional state, and pay attention to details, to the "technique of building" the impressions that you experience, and not just their content .

Another group of observations, which I consider important, boils down to the fact that what we perceive as inner world events that we actively "create" in real time is often not. Basically, these are blanks that are "lost" in such a way that a very realistic illusion arises that what is happening is created with our participation and "now."


- I'm quoting. "I will express a timid hope that in the second part there will be words about a critical analysis of the causes of those visions that have visited you, and about the relationship of these visions to physical reality."

"First, about a very general idea that I was difficult to accept, but based on all the experience I went through over the past five years, I could not think of anything else. Around us there are inhuman minds. Under the word "mind", I understand here an information system that has memory, motivation, the ability to model the external world and to plan. They are not "extraterrestrial," but primordial terrestrial and, most likely, evolutionarily older than humans. These minds actively (and sometimes negatively) affect people's lives.
The world of these minds is very complex, maybe even comparable in complexity to that part of the world as a whole, which we now call physical reality. I would not like to speculate about the structure of this world, because I do not have enough for this facts, observations. Even the simplest questions for me today do not have unequivocal answers. I am sure that these minds interact with people. Almost sure that with higher animals. And how do they interact with lower animals? With inanimate matter? Considerations of logical consistency, which the complete picture of the world should satisfy, prompt that they somehow interact. In this sense, they are also part of the "physical reality". It's just a part about which we know very, very little. This part of the world needs to be studied and studied using scientific methodology.

Of course, attempts at such a study have been made. Especially in the late nineteenth century, but then there was not enough for this opportunity. Now it seems to me that such a study can begin with the group of phenomena that Jung called sinchronicity. In a simple way, these are unnatural in terms of existing models, patterns in the individual and collective behavior of people. In Russian it, as I understood from the comments to the first part of the interview, is called "synchrony."

Now, for the first time, it became possible to document such regularities (ie, instrumental) in a document and begin to understand their structure. It appeared due to the existence of a huge number of records of both human speech (for example, interviews on radio stations) and human movements (for example, "security cameras" in airports). These data need to be analyzed taking into account their binding to physical time. I am almost sure that in this way it is possible to discover regularities in the behavior of people who, on the one hand, are not explained by their conscious activity and on the other hand are too complex, and are too closely tied to objective (physical) time, so that they can be attributed to individual subconscious.

I personally do not want to do this, although I sometimes feel the internal pressure pushing me in this direction. I really hope that there will be people who have both access to the right data, as well as courage and the desire to deal with this problem. It will be real science. From here the chain to the present will understand the structure and driving forces of the historical process, and then the process of the evolution of life as a whole.

One specific idea is this. Make a website (for example, a page in LiveJournal) where people can leave a comment if they are synchronized when they are listening to the radio or TV and thinking about something their own, suddenly they hear a word continuing their thought or answering the question posed in their head . The main thing in such a commentary should be a word or phrase pronounced over the radio. As additional information, you can leave, or you can not leave, the thought-context, the time when it happened and the radio / TV station. Especially valuable in this respect are the cases when the synchronization occurs at the moment the radio is turned on and such cases must be necessarily indicated.

My hypothesis is that in the stream of words that we hear on the radio, there are regularities by binding certain words or words from certain co-sense groups to moments of time (with a second accuracy) not known to the consciousnesses of those who say these words. Next is a good voice recognition software that can generate transcripts from time stamps to individual words and make up a large array of sequences of moments of time uttering each of those words with which people most often have synchronies. After this, it is necessary to look for deviations from randomness in these sequences.

Now there is a whole field of mathematics called the theory of pseudo-random sequences. These are sequences that at first glance look accidental, but are in fact highly predictable. We have a whole group working on them here. So, it is mathematically possible to find the presence of hidden regularities.

- There were also a few questions about doctors and schizophrenia. Clearly, for many, such revelations are perceived as schizophrenia. The person openly talks about visions and complex hallucinations.

- I'll try to answer. The first thing I did when I came back from Salt Lake City, it went to the hospital and asked me to do standard tests and X-rays of several parts of the body, because besides mental, this period was accompanied by a lot of unusual somatic sensations. I was told that I am completely healthy. In general, my physical health has improved over the past five years, although I'm obviously older.

I have not addressed this to psychiatrists. Somehow from the very beginning it was clear that this is not schizophrenia.

There is in all this a more general theme - the connection between mental disorders and those minds, of which I spoke above. This topic is complex and I believe that honest, clever and courageous specialists should first of all deal with this. I do not want to go into this here.

Some parts of it are hard to parse, like "game hosted by fear". Maybe someone who speaks Russian could help.

In the comments (which are hard to get to load and translate), Voevodsky responds to people.
C P M, modified 5 Years ago at 10/9/17 11:17 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 10/9/17 11:17 AM

RE: Late Fields medalist Voevodsky describes "power" experiences

Posts: 218 Join Date: 5/23/13 Recent Posts
Great find, thanks.
Alesh Vyhnal, modified 5 Years ago at 10/10/17 3:18 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 10/10/17 3:18 PM

RE: Late Fields medalist Voevodsky describes "power" experiences

Posts: 130 Join Date: 2/14/13 Recent Posts
Thanks. Could you please provide the link to the original article? What Voevodskij says is very similar to writings of another mathematic genius Alexander Grothendieck when he was old and lived in a seclusion. We can't be sure but in my opinion both of them probably suffered from schizofrenia. 
Dada Kind, modified 5 Years ago at 10/10/17 4:49 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 10/10/17 4:49 PM

RE: Late Fields medalist Voevodsky describes "power" experiences

Posts: 633 Join Date: 11/15/13 Recent Posts
The links to the articles are in my post. Specifically, the links to the translation of the archived version of the articles.

Interestingly enough Voevodsky's mathematics continued in the tradition of Grothendieck. He actually learned French to read Grothendieck. He addresses the schizophrenia question in that article at the end there. As far as I know there's no evidence Voevodsky or Grothendieck had schizophrenia. Whether the latter was functional is debatable because of his decision to go into seclusion.
Alesh Vyhnal, modified 5 Years ago at 10/11/17 2:14 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 10/11/17 2:14 AM

RE: Late Fields medalist Voevodsky describes "power" experiences

Posts: 130 Join Date: 2/14/13 Recent Posts
On the other hand John Nash was also to some extent functional despite suffering from schizophrenia all the rest of his life. It is not relevant what Voevodskij thinks about his disease since majority of people suffering from schizophrenia don't realize that they are ill. Somatosensory hallucinations, seing ghosts and apophenia are quite typical for this disease. The only strange thing is that schizophrenia typically starts at the age of about 20 years, which was not the case in Grothendieck and Voevodskij. But there are also late age onsets of this disease.
Dada Kind, modified 5 Years ago at 10/11/17 3:15 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 10/11/17 3:15 PM

RE: Late Fields medalist Voevodsky describes "power" experiences

Posts: 633 Join Date: 11/15/13 Recent Posts
Interestingly, I remember Voevodsky commenting on that post mentioning that he swapped notes with John Nash and concluded that their experiences were different (also that the movie was a bunch of nonsense).

Nash had, if I'm not mistaken, delusions that were severely interfering with this life. Afaik, Voevodsky did not experience this. He also said he could control the experiences to some extent. Also, they went away when he "forced himself to do math again".

If  "hallucinations" alone are enough to diagnose someone as schizophrenic then you might be effectively diagnosing: Daniel Ingram, Shinzen Young, Duncan Barford, Florian Weps, countless other DhO members, etc. You could argue these experiences were just induced with concentration. I would add that I conjecture mathematicians have some of the most intense focus of any modern profession. Etc.

I'm inclined to believe, personally, that DhO members aren't just inducing themselves into functional schizophrenia but rather that schizophrenics are stumbling upon dysfunctional "powers" experiences. I could be wrong.
Alesh Vyhnal, modified 5 Years ago at 10/13/17 11:07 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 10/13/17 11:07 AM

RE: Late Fields medalist Voevodsky describes "power" experiences

Posts: 130 Join Date: 2/14/13 Recent Posts
We can't be sure.

I think that nobody disputes that nimitta and other visual phenomena arising during meditation are just hallucinations. I think that Voevodskij preceptions of some other mysterious minds, i.e. "ghosts" and tactile perceptions were also just hallucinations. I think that Voevodskij suffered form psychosis. The question is if his psychosis was a symptom of a wide family of psychiatric diseases called schizophrenia(s). The presence of apophenia indicates that may be yes. 

If I remember well Grothendieck started to be paranoid before he went to live in wilderness. He also did quite strange things like eating only dandelion soup or eating only a host (I am sorry I don't know the correct English word, he was eating just the "sacred bread", the small biscuit you obtain during a holy mass).

I would love to read some biography of Alexander Grothendieck. 
Saka Yuki, modified 5 Years ago at 10/16/17 12:17 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 10/16/17 12:17 AM

RE: Late Fields medalist Voevodsky describes "power" experiences

Posts: 81 Join Date: 10/21/12 Recent Posts
This is a really interesting post.

Incidentally, I have studied mathematics in the past and find this view of power experiences from a mathematician strikingly familiar. 

Mathematics requires a high-degree of unification of different internal sensory modalities both concrete (visual, auditory, kinetic) and abstract (logical, geometrical, linguistic etc).  For someone who has attained to a mastery of that skill, together with a favorable secluded environment (which I presume he was under when he was in Salt-lake city), it's not surprising that some unusually highly concentrated state manifested spontaneously.

He mentions:

"These skills all, in one way or another, require keeping the clarity of thinking, even when you are immersed in an intense sensory and emotional state, and pay attention to details, to the "technique of building" the impressions that you experience, and not just their content "

This description is interesting, because it seems like both a description of Vippasana technique and how it culminates to a high-degree of mastery upon an experience of A&P.   It also reminds me of a deity visualization and such in tantric practices.

A thing a little bit different from a typically described Vipassana technique, is that his technique is quite active, as he says it requires "clarity of thinking" and involves "technique of building" the impressions that you experience...a highly creative endeavor involving precise intention and high focus.

Alesh Vyhnal, modified 5 Years ago at 10/20/17 6:56 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 10/20/17 6:56 PM

RE: Late Fields medalist Voevodsky describes "power" experiences

Posts: 130 Join Date: 2/14/13 Recent Posts
Yes, he didn't have hallucinations but "powers" because he was an eminent mathematician. emoticon