Treebeard: Becoming The Change We Wish To See

This week's podcast delves into matters of the inner self.

Here at Peak Prosperity, we follow a lot of the problems and challenges of the world around us and explore what can be done in response to them. And in seeking solutions, we have to remind ourselves that if we want the world to be different in some way, the only way to begin changing it with 100% certainty is by changing ourselves. In the end, we are responsible for how we perceive and relate to what's happening around us, and true change begins with taking ownership of what our reality is, and what we want it to be.

For such a heady topic, we've responded to previous requests from the community and invited our own philosopher-in-residence Andrew Graves -- better known as Treebeard on the site -- to expound on the topic:

In the West, we've done a great job of exploring the external world, but have done absolutely nothing about exploring the internal world. And if the internal self is disordered, even if you have the right facts and ideas and are doing the right things, you'll still just create more disorder around you. If you aren't in the right place and don't have the right awareness, then your actions will simply create more disorder. I'm sure we've all met people like that, where they are saying all the right things, but you just sort of feel like something is off. 

So it's really about changing the way we perceive the world, and the way simple ideas are missed because they are so obvious, not because they are complex. It's about going back to base one, looking internally and seeing the world as it is, which -- as simple as that statement sounds -- is an amazing challenge. 

I think the first step in being able to come in contact with reality is owning the ugliness within human beings. This can sound negative, but I think you have to go through the darkness to get to the light. Think of the atrocities throughout history, the things that human beings are capable of and what we have done over time. And, it's our avoidance, our desire to be good, to be nice, to reject that dark part of ourselves is what keeps us from being able to see reality directly. It's taking ownership of what we are and we are capable of, and owning that darkness, that allows us to come in direct contact with reality. And, when you, there is an overwhelming feeling of intense love: it's a state of being where you realize where the foundation of the world is. But, as long as we are trying to apologize and reject that dark part of ourselves, we are holding ourselves back from experiencing life as it is.

So the first step coming in contact with the dark side, which allows you to see it for what it is. Then the separation from the self and the observed disappears, and contact begins, and love just flows organically as a part of that experiential process. So, in fact, the thing we avoid, the thing we say "No, not that", is the very thing that we need the most. If we can have the courage just to own all of it, the darkness of being a human being and all that entails, once we own that, then all kinds of possibilities come into play.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Andrew Graves (59m:26s):

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I hope that you make this thread of discussion a regular feature at the site.  You have hit on an area that I suspect many of us are struggling/dealing with, and being able to hear open discussions on the topic -at this level- is very welcomed and appreciated.



The idea that the first step is "taking responsibility for your own actions" really resonates strongly with me.  That's how I found Chris's site, just by taking responsibility for a very bland and common choice:

"How can I do asset allocation for my retirement savings, so I make enough $ to retire comfortably (modestly), while mitigating risk so I don't have to worry about how its doing all the time?" (yes; heavy irony here:). 
The simple answer would have been to follow conventional wisdom for asset allocation and diversification. And I really, really, really wanted to do just that, and be done with it.  But something inside of me (my "gut") was very uncomfortable with blindly trusting conventional wisdom with such an important life-choice.  And so I took personal responsibility for the choice I needed to make.  And that iterative cycle of questioning and learning is what eventually led me here; the more I learned, the more I questioned, and the broader my questioning became. 

Your comments on suffering also resonated strongly with me, both: "pain is real, suffering is optional", and (paraphrasing) that "suffering makes the transition/transformation for spiritual growth possible".  Several years ago, I experienced deep pain and suffering at the unexpected death of a very close friend.  But as hard ("intense") as that experience was, I learned an incredible amount from it.  I learned that I could dwell in pain and see myself as a victim in my loss.  Or I could try to look at the loss through the lens of gratitude, for having been so incredibly lucky to have had such a beautiful person/friend/teacher in my life for so many years.  I had to find a different way to look at the event -to get a  more positive "cognitive handle" on it- in order to make it through the event.  From that experience, I learned that I did have the power to change how I looked at things, and to see the positive in an experience in order to constructively cope with it.

That hard-won lesson (spiritual growth) came in handy a few years ago when I had to deal with betrayal and the subsequent break-up of my long-term marriage.  The pain was very real, and I didn't ignore it or sugar-coat it.  I don't want to make it sound like there wasn't any real pain; there was!  But through it all, I knew I had a choice of whether I wanted to go through prolonged suffering by seeing myself as a victim, or whether I wanted to find a different cognitive handle - to see the positives in the situation and grab ahold of them.  And there were a number of positives to focus on.  So from my previous experience, I knew I could choose which lens I wanted to look through when I perceived this event, and how I subsequently experienced the event.  I can't tell you how much difference that made in reducing the amount of unnecessary suffering I experienced.

Finally, I think experiencing painful events also teaches us humility and compassion.  When you lose a friend you love dearly, you start to see how many other people have experienced such losses and have gone through similar pain.  When you experience the pain of betrayal and the break-up of your marriage, your eyes are opened up to just how many other people have had to experience that situations, many under much worse life circumstances. And you also start to realize that other people have gone through  other different, but equally (or much more) challenging situations.  It is a strong lesson in humility, and in finding inner strength to likewise persevere.

Thanks again, Chris and Treebeard!


 The constantly varied topics and interesting guests along with Chris's own insights  are why this has become one of my favourite sites.  Years ago I stumbled upon a book by an American philosopher Allan Watts. "The Taboo about knowing who you really are." It had a huge influence on me at a time when I was seeking to understand life and my not so happy part in it. Many of the same themes were present in todays discussion. A particularly relevant part was his description of Western society as being schizophrenic, dividing things into either good or evil, and this is obvious today in the ranting and raving of our politicians and media.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in these ideas, it is available free on the internet, and is a valuable resource to anyone lost on the path to enlightenment. Unfortunately am still lost  on that particular path,   or maybe fortunately?

This podcast was one of your best ever!  And for me it was even more delightful as the guest was one of our fellow, long time members Treebeard.  Many thought provoking ideas were discussed and I will be listening to it again.  Would love to hear a few "Off The Cuff" discussions along these lines, (especially with Treebeard).
These concepts affect people so much more profoundly than the price of precious metals or the fluctuations of the stock market.  

Thank you for sharing these personal thoughts and observations!  Well done.

AK GrannyWGrit

I especially liked the emphasis on owning the evil humans are capable of. One of Pope Francis' first statements was to acknowledge the violence and evil perpetrated by the Catholic church over the centuries, and only THEN did he condemn the evil of the Muslim extremists; violence in the name of religion is never acceptable. Just one example. 
I agree that there is hope with the younger generation – no, they aren't saving money, they have a different view of work, etc. But among certain groups, there is a rejection of materialism as a value system that seems to be healthy, and could mean there will be a better system to arise from the ashes. 

Recently I had to take a dive into Biology to help my daughter who wanted to be homeschooled for a semester to overcome some social issues at the local high school. I was shocked at the level of granularity that Biology was being taught compared to when I studied it in the 1960s. Talk about missing the forest for the trees. Cell respiration at the molecular level. The electron transport chain.How can memorizing chemical reactions be helpful for understanding the wondrous mystery of life? Especially for a 14-year old in this culture. So the high school teaches that life is reducible to chemical reactions, and sex is for entertainment, but make sure you don't get pregnant. What a world.

What is Andrew's background?


Aloha! Watch Cool Hand Luke and you know what that means! The way the system communicates to the masses is punitive and in fact even our money lacks any sort of Freedom of choice. We have legal tender and if you fail to adhere to that then you got to jail. Ask Bernard Von NotHaus about monetary freedom. In Cool Hand Luke those with the authority, the Captain, communicates by authoritative repression. He enforced rules and regulates with violence. Isn't that a microcosm of macro global government.
There is another "failure to communicate". Those of us here at this blog take for granted the world knows what we know and sees what we see. Even in America that is a physical impossibility. If you just take internet access stats then there are 60 million Americans who have no internet. Then add in 119 million with no broadband. That is a lot of people who cannot even listen to this podcast much less contemplate the dark suffering and acceptance. In my vicinity where I live in Hawaii I am the only one with electricity out of some eight neighbors.

That said from my own experience I believe people can only make profound change in their lives if they experience deep pain. Not just a one time event like the death of a friend or parent, but a sustained painful existence whereby you realize that your safety net, your comfort zone is no longer viable. It leaves you no real choice other than to look inward since your connection to your former reality outside yourself no longer allows your life any sort of long term future. It is the time when you see your future on your current path as just too painful to continue the facade. Once you accept that your present being is rendered a false reality then your search for a new more sustainable way to live opens up. You change how you live and you change who you share your life with. You start a search, a path, for your own truth by forging a connection to your past. As you move forward you then see how false and shallow your former life really was. For me I saw past experiences in my life that I labeled as "normal" as being disguised atrocities. I even recognized certain events of my life that I had purposefully buried and never looked at or talked about. I tried to completely forget that those events took place at all. I had totally underestimated the depth of my pain, my darkness. Amazing enough once I took those parts of my life back and made them part of who I really was it made me accept myself completely and enthusiastically. It was like a high without any drugs other than the high of my own acceptance. Once I let go of my destructive former inner voice my life turned around. I had an enhanced ability to look at reality without my own personal inner judgment that held me back in the past. In short I made much better choices in every aspect of my life.

This may sound simplistic to many here but one of the biggest changes in my life is I gave up this idea that I needed to have absolute control 24/7. Going through life holding onto that sort of belief system only created more "drama" in my life and my life became more out of control not less. One of the biggest improvements in my life is I moved myself into a path where I live in minimal drama … minimal conflict! Sometimes the best strategy is to let your oppressors have enough rope to hang themselves. What I have found out is that they will gladly take that extra rope and string themselves up all on their own! But you have to let them go first!

Now I am a farmer. You cannot be a farmer and a control freak at the same time. Something has to give. You either have to stop farming or give up control! In fact farming is one of my most enjoyable tasks I have in my day now. It takes me to a place of pure simplicity.

I also produce videos and write for other financial blogs. That's what I do when I have a need for human interaction. Otherwise I could easily slip into a total hermit lifestyle here on the farm. Yet, when I look back to my youth and early adulthood living on a farm was the last thing I could see myself doing. I look at that part of my life as another "lifetime" when I was another "person". Without the severe hardships I faced in those days I would never have looked inward to find a new life.

I appreciate this topic from Chris and Andy. To me it is a topic not discussed enough, but then there is a BIG reason why. True CHANGE brings on a lot of fear. People all too willingly will dismiss the past as "the past" and urge you to "move on"! For me I do not think you can ever truly "move on" unless you have faced the demons of your past and accepted them and made them your life long friends. They are as much a part of you as the color of your eyes. It is a fatal mistake to just "move on"!!




These thoughts are in line with Tom Campbell's interpretation of the Quantum erasure experiment. Using the minimum of clearly stated assumptions (axioms), he argues that for him Reality is a fine-resolution Virtual Reality game.
You are real, and You are the great prize. It is all about You. You are on a journey to your Godhood.

Evidence? What do we need next?Communication, Knowledge- Internet! Done. AI to take care of the mundane work? Coming up! Energy? Watch this space.

Oh Great Poopchick of the Cosmos! You are the Great Prize. That was said before, about 1982 years ago, middle east.

(Poopchick is colloquial Russian for Belly button).

...the minute you blame somebody else is the minute you give away all your power. Because, now the people you are blaming are the people who have the responsibility and the power to act, so then you become a victim. The minute you take ownership of a problem, then you also take your power.
And taking ownership of our lives, while living in the NOW that partakes of eternity....yes. Too many of us live in our own heads, not in the real world. And too many of us blame someone else for things we have the power to solve. It's willful blindness. And what can be infuriating is seeing, all around us, our addiction to anything that will keep us from experiencing reality. CS Lewis, in his book The Great Divorce, talked in analogies about people who avoided dealing with reality in various ways, until reality killed them.

Yes, kaimu is right. "True CHANGE brings on a lot of fear."  Pinecarr is right: we will not change until it gets more painful to be willfully blind than open our eyes and intuitive senses.

Great Podcast Thank you.


These concepts affect people so much more profoundly than the price of precious metals or the fluctuations of the stock market.

As the guy whose mandate here is to write about the price of precious metals, I agree with you completely.  :-) I've undergone a journey very similar to Chris, not identical but we've ended up at much the same place.  Ultimately, we are responsible for our own happiness, and we must embody and live the change we want to see happen - and detach from the outcome of projecting it on the world. I too used to be really angry at those bankers, my favorite target to yell about.  I let that go, not because I tolerate or approve, but because I wanted to put my energy on creating something rather than fighting or destroying. You and TB are right - if everyone is already good enough, then we definitely already live in a world of plenty, and instantly we all return to a better baseline of health. Thanks for coming out of the closet Chris.  I'm sure it will disturb some and encourage others.  :-)  
"This is not Them doing this. This is all of us doing this."
Catherine Austin Fitts, on USA Watchdog. (Thanks Foggy)

Right on.

Chris and Adam, You have created for yourselves what has to be one of the most interesting and satisfying jobs in the world.  And for us members, you have also created an amazing community and access to information not available anywhere else.  I love the range of perspectives you seek out and particularly enjoyed this conversation with a member whose writing I have long admired.

How does one switch their phase? putting to use all this wonderful wisdom and foresight, or is that even the right approach? Individually ants exhibited very troubling behavior but collectively they are masters of their universe. Humans have the individual mastered yet collectively we see troubling behavior. From where does collective knowledge come? Clarity can be such the wiggly worm.

We'll gladly tell you we're the natural consequence of an un-directed event 4.5 billion years ago. A cosmic "accident", if you will. 
Yet we search for meaning and significance…

We'll proudly proclaim that our knowledge has allowed us to transcend belief in a God or gods.

Yet we freely use words like "evil" and "darkness of being a human being" which are rooted in objective moral truth…

We'll openly discuss our "spiritual" path or the "spiritual" growth we've experienced.

Yet, the beliefs stated above directly contradict the existence of any spiritual element in humankind.

I respect Chris and Treebeard very much, but frankly these are schizophrenic conversations.

In sum, if we are the product of random chance and not intentionally created by a moral being greater than ourselves, our lives have no objective meaning. The material universe is all there is or ever will be (Sagan). We are nothing more than a short-term collection of chemical elements.  Therefore, our thoughts, our loves, our relationships, our passions, our sufferings, our sacrifices are nothing more than chemical interactions…meaningless.  They are meaningless now and they will be meaningless 100 years from now.  So to my original question, why do you care?

mthorn-I'm not sure who this "we" you are talking about might be.  Perhaps you could just speak for yourself, rather than adopting the position that you are the spokesman for some group?

Hi Chris, another excellent podcast amongst the many articles which I've enjoyed reading over the past years here on PP. I am not an economist so I feel humble in all the wisdom and knowledge that has been shared so far. 
Today's podcast reminded me about the GAP that exists in many people's lives. The GAP between who we represent to be (our Suit) and who we really are within (our Monk). The larger the GAP between the Suit and the Monk, the more people suffer and feel unhappy. In the world today our children are being taught a lot of knowledge in school which develops the mind or the ego but rarely in schools children are nurtured based on their creativity, curiosity, uniqueness and individual gifts and talents. If you receive high grades you are ''successful'' and if you receive low grades you are not successful and praised. So we live in a society that nurtures external success but not our inner self. As we grow up we mainly focus on external success and fail to look within because as said in the podcast if we look within, we might need to go through the pain of truly knowing ourselves and we don't want that pain so we avoid looking inwards. 

Here's a graph which represents the GAP between our external selves and internal self. 

In business or leadership or politics we focus on nurturing the Suit (ego) without involving our (Monk) true self. The gap that exist causes suffering. Usually the larger the GAP, the more people suffer, the smaller the gap, the more happier we become. So the question is, how do we close the GAP?

  1. Find your live's purpose. This transcends personal gain and looks at the greater good of society

  2. Practice Acceptance. Life is not easy, we all have our individual struggles and difficulties on the journey. By accepting the challenges we open ourselves to our true self and become more humble

  3. Be willing to face negative emotions that we carry within us. A divorce, being cheated in business or the loss of a loved one. 

True leadership starts with our inner self, to look at the greater good for society and others. This transcends our personal agenda. A lot of the global, economic challenges that we experience today can be overcome if we are willing to look inside of ourselves and overcome our ego and look at the greater good. Let's hope the world and our leaders will wake up. Maybe the damage is not big enough to make a change but it will happen sooner or later …


Before anyone condemned my negativity in my prior post, I wanted to provide an explanation.
I love Peak Prosperity and I have recommended it to many people.  Chris has opened my eyes to reality in many ways and I am forever grateful.  Any comment I make on this site is always intended constructively.

In my most-recent post, I intended to challenge the excellent thinkers in this community to examine their unexamined assumptions.  Chris stated of Janet Yellen in this Treebeard interview: "I think that it is amazing that she has a context that is so fundamentally different from what I think is a easily verifiable context, and those are two separate worldviews."  I feel similar amazement when otherwise intelligent, thoughtful people don't think critically about the consistency of their beliefs.  Am I guilty of believing inconsistent things?  Most definitely.  So I'm not judging, but rather encouraging fellow travelers on the journey. :wink:

Even considering this revealing interview with Treebeard, Chris is very careful to hide his cards when it comes to spiritual topics.  For reasons that make sense, Chris doesn't want a lot of God-talk in his forums.  Yet, there seems to be an increasing desire in the community to explore "spirituality."  I believe this is too often neglected in today's culture, and I am grateful for this increased openness.  Without the discussion of the spiritual, the answer to "Why" we should care is underdeveloped.

Treebeard's take on things seems rooted in eastern spirituality.  He and Chris seem to share the belief that the answers to the important questions are inside each of us.  Sort of like "Each of us must find our own way and your way may not be my way.  If the concept of "God" helps you along the journey, that's great.  But if God's not your thing, that's okay too."  This sounds appealing, but is it grounded in true reality?
If there is no God who establishes an objective standard of moral behavior, on what moral basis can we reassure ourselves that the atrocities committed by humans are morally wrong?  Who decides what is good and what is evil?  If each individual can decide for himself, then I don't have to follow your rules and you don't have to follow mine.  Under that system, inevitably might makes right and the Government decides.  If the Nazis had defeated the Allies in WWII, would that have made what they did to the Jews morally acceptable?  If you reject the idea of a moral God who establishes moral absolutes, you cannot say the Nazis were evil with any moral authority that others are bound to respect.

The Christian worldview, even though imperfectly lived out, has concrete answers to all of life's significant questions. God created a perfect world, to be enjoyed and lovingly cared for by humankind.  God created humankind to enjoy relationship with Himself-to love and be loved.  But to have the ability to love, you must also be able to choose not to love.  Humans exercised that choice to reject God and introduced evil into the world. Evil is anything that opposes God's moral law and which God, as a righteous judge, must condemn.

All humans are capable of great evil.  And yes, as Treebeard suggests, we must accept that reality as true.  We are spiritually dead.  But because we are spiritually dead, we cannot, on our own strength, overcome the evil within us.

But the "good news" is that God did not leave us in our helpless state.  He intervened in human history, became a man, Jesus, and took upon himself the penalty of death for our human rebellion.  He was raised up from the dead (an historical fact attested to by many witnesses who were martyred for refusing to deny it) and now offers his substitutionary sacrifice to all mankind as a gift for those who, in trust, will accept it.

For those who do accept this gift, God grants . . . 

[Moderator's note: Unless I am mistaken, the forums rules prohibit proselytizing; in fact they prohibit all discussion that is specifically religious (as opposed to merely and generally spiritual) in character.  Unless I am further mistaken, in order to become a member one must first certify that one has read and understood these rules.]

Thanks so much to Peak Prosperity for being a great resource!

Wasn't trying to speak for any group, per se. Sorry I caused misunderstanding.

Chris, and other members on this site, have posted comments/articles on the site that reflect a belief that humans evolved from a process that started 4.5 billion years ago.  Normally, this belief is accompanied by an atheistic worldview, although I certainly recognize that is not always the case.  To my knowledge, Chris hasn't revealed his views either way.  So my comments were directed to those PP members who may hold that worldview.

There is much discussion recently on PP about "spirituality" and "inner self".  My point, inartfully conveyed, is that without God, every single thing PP stands for and all its education efforts, are meaningless.

That is not saying they are meaningless.  I think they're very meaningful. 

I'm just trying to challenge the often unexamined belief that God doesn't have to be part of the equation. So many people today operate within a moral framework that is antithetical to what they say they believe.  I'm certainly guilty of this at times.

Don't think of me as a contrarian.  If knowing the truth sets you free, think of me as someone who cares enough to try to free people with the truth.


Chris & Co.,
Once again another very timely podcast.  Personally, I've been going through some very deep issues and have come to same conclusions just this week.

Keep this content coming because as far as I see, it is the big E in the background of the 3 E's = Existence.

with gratitude, Joanne

I haven't listened to the podcast,so I don't know what territory it covered,but I'm sure you noticed that no-one has responded directly to you,probably out of embarrassment. Now I realise that this is a largely US centred site and these things tend to be taken more seriously on your side of the Atlantic,but I'm pretty sure that it's only politeness that causing people not to tell you that proselytising your personal beliefs(and I feel fairly safe in saying this) is not going to be welcome here. I,personally,am offended. You wouldn't see me injecting my atheism into discussions of psychological resilience,so why should you ejaculate about your sky daddy? In any discussion of morality god is not needed, to my mind and a lot of other people's evolutionary biology explains morality in a very satisfactory way (see Dawkins 'The God Delusion') as a strategy for the best survival outcomes in the natural environment. I've looked ad nauseam at the arguments both ways (having been indoctrinated as a child in a religious school) and find a world view without a supernatural element to be more in keeping with the data my senses record. It's also more intellectually satisfying and evidence based.
How can you use the word 'objective' in the same sentence as the word 'god'? Herein is your major,clinching problem (either that or you don't understand the meaning of the word 'objective'), your experience of god is unequivocally 'subjective', faith is subjective. I prefer evidence and you don't have any.

[Moderator's note: Please watch the tone of your post.  Also, it would be better practice to avoid speaking for other people on the thread.]