The Purple Pill

It finally arrived. I had to appeal it’s denial a couple times, but it finally came through. It arrived in the mail today. It’s laminated with rounded corners, a holographic mark, and a pinch of glitter. I finally got my Poetic License. They said if I wanted permission to use metaphors I would need to apply for an allegorical diploma, but what is a poetic license without metaphor? In practice most licensed professionals in the field ignore this rule. It’s not like the reader ever asks you for your credentials whenever symbolism is used. They said my trope copyright agreement is on the way. They gave me a tracking number. But I’m not going to be waiting around any longer…

The most insidious thing about taking the blue pill is that it is usually followed by an immediate amnesia of having done so. Soon after one is presented with the same decision, but now with an incredible -unbelievable- literary feeling of empowerment and bravery that makes you decide to take the red pill in an heroic act of self-effacement. Alas, this is of course all a fantasy induced by the original blue pill.

There are various grades of pseudo-red pills. You have the standard sedatives that put you to sleep; a dreamless coma – “Life is an unprofitable episode disturbing the blessed calm of non-existence” (Schopenhauer). You have the one that makes you forget -in fact achieve a state of convenient social neglect- of the intensely bad experiences that exist out there in Hell branches of the multiverse. There is the one that makes you believe that nonhuman animals lack souls and are unable to suffer (despite their, it turns out, much greater capacity for suffering than humans). There are those that by virtue of making you believe that you took the red pill give your life a tremendous sense of mission and moral superiority. There is the pill of sentimentalism, the pill of fanaticism, the pill of scientism, the pill of mainstream sports, the pill of social media rage, the pill of analytic philosophy fandom, and the pill of pop psychopharmachology (SSRIs increase your serotonin levels, and serotonin is the happy molecule, or so the scientists are saying *wink*). Alas, naming the most common ones, those that zombify the people who claim to be the most awake would feel like a personal attack (even if far from it). So the most common blue pills shall remain unmentioned lest I’m lynched.

The true red pill is not just DXM with red 2. It isn’t just eugenics, international conspiracies, evolutionary psychopathology, or Hansonian signaling theory. The real red pill is made of 4000°C bright red luminous magma that destroys not only your esophagus, but cuts through your body and falls directly on the ground below passing right through, only barely cooled down by your body due to its incredibly high specific heat capacity.

No. That’s still another blue pill fantasy designed to make you feel brave and morally superior for taking it. The real red pill is agape. The communion with the Godhead in its infinite compassion for all Beings large and small.

But you guessed it right, that’s also another type of coating for the blue fellow (iridescent, yes, but still synthetic and bad for your liver).

What did you think, that there is any real closure? It is not like nature is going to be kind to us humans who suffer from high levels of neuroticism and psychological need for closure.

There is no red pill. But there are decent approximations. There is the unprejudiced pursuit of truth – the high AQ high IQ depressive realism that is an evolutionary spandrel. The state of metta and LSD ego death are close seconds, though they lack the critical clarity of mind needed to be willing to stare at the raw truth of suffering and its causes for too long before craving social validation for doing so.

Is there an alternative? Yes.

The purple pill is the pill that gives you both high hedonic tone and an unprejudiced open ended approach to the pursuit of truth. For losing truth is to lose it all, but to lose it all is only bad because it makes you and others suffer in the wider universe. Yes, here is where I am abusing my poetic license. I am a licensed wordsmith, don’t you know? I carry with me the approval of RA, I have the blessing of poetic authority so don’t you dare question my use of vagueness to drive a point home. The purple pill is what will redeem us all. The recognition that though truth is painful in our current, evolutionarily adaptive mind-frame, it is not in and of itself a cause of seething pain. Recognizing that true evil is not a person or a mythical archetype but the mere existence of states of consciousness as pornographically unethical as kidney stones or cluster headaches does not need to induce (at least not logically, not physically) a nihilistic depression. It does not need to make you speak in tongues, to scream at strangers in the street “AHH don’t you see how bad it is that we live in an eternalist empty individualist universe that does not care about the welfare of moments of experience!?!?” – It is still possible to do something productive instead. You can still, it turns out, choose to take eros and agape and reforge them into a laser sword that produces hyperdopaminergic loving-kindness in those who are hit by it, and mindfulness in those who wield it.

The purple pill is the true red pill; at least the best approximation there is. For if the truth is that the world is tenselessly (timelessly) littered with hellish states of consciousness implicated by the universal wavefunction satisfying the principles of zero ontology, this still does not imply that accurately representing the causal structure of such facts *has* to come along with a hellish hedonic tone of itself. This is the truth we all long for.

Take the purple pill and join us in the battle to destroy hell. You will, much to everyone’s incredulous amazement, be happy while doing so.

Photo credit: The HyperSpace


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  3. Alex Nil · April 21, 2019

    Stumbled upon David Pearce’s mentioning the purple pill as well (
    > Should we choose gritty reality or an escapist fantasy world of self-delusion? The messy real world or Nozick’s “Experience Machine”? Authenticity versus drug-addled life on soma? The Red Pill or the Blue Pill? And so forth.
    > Yet it’s a false dilemma. We needn’t choose between the Red Pill and the Blue Pill. Genetically enlightened agents can take the Purple Pill, so to speak, combining the benefits of realism and recalibration. For sure, mood-congruent cognitive biases are potentially a risk anywhere on the hedonic scale; without them, low mood might never have evolved in the first instance. But rose-tinted spectacles, so to speak, can be corrected with the tools of AI and decision-theoretic rationality. Genetic case-studies can also be conducted of contemporary high-functioning hedonic outliers, i.e. fortunate souls who are temperamentally “hyperthymic” but not manic. There’s no evidence that traits such as empathy, intellectual prowess and virtues of character are less common in hyperthymics than depressives. What’s clear is that other things being equal, life animated by happy experiences is appreciated as more valuable than a life of mediocre experience, just as mediocre experiences are more valuable than nastiness. Compare our appreciation of art, music or literature. If it’s not rewarding, it’s no good. Other things being equal, superhappy life is supervaluable too – subjectively at any rate: philosophers can endlessly debate its transcendental (in)significance. More informally, take care of happiness, and the meaning of life takes care of itself.

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  5. Benjamin Andersson · December 19, 2018

    To build an ontology based on science you have to presuppose that our current understanding of the universe is a close enough approximation of the real answer that it is justified. I don’t share your belief that it is justified. Also, this focus of yours on loving-kindness and empathy is hollow without the incorporation of the “darker” emotions of mankind. It is easy to talk about the love for mankind and the goodwill of each sentient being when you are not currently in war. Try this strategy when other “homo rapiens” are trying to kill your family and see how quickly your genes get erased from the gene-pool. You should read Steven Lehars “Scientism” manifesto. There will never be a universalist religion of peace and love, because humans by their nature are neither completely peaceful nor completely murderous. But this fantasy utopia of H+ and trans humanism is not a realistic assessment of our situation. The most realistic assessment is probably a continuation of historical contingency and adaptation, or extinction.

    Happy Christmas,


  6. John · December 18, 2018

    Nice post! Reminded me of this passage from the Tao Te Ching

    “The men who practiced the Way in the past
    Were unfathomable and beyond description
    You could not get a sense of their depth
    And although you could not get a sense of their depth,
    I will persist, and try to create a picture of them:
    Hesitating, like crossing a stream in winter;
    Wavering, like fearing demons with clubs on all sides;
    Respectful, like being a guest;
    Pliant, like ice about to melt;
    Unpretentious, like rough lumber;
    In plain view, like a valley;
    Mixing and mingling, like muddy water.”

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