Professor John Vervaeke — How to Build a Life of Wisdom, Flow, and Contemplation (#657)

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“Knowledge is about overcoming ignorance. Wisdom is about overcoming foolishness.”

— Professor John Vervaeke

John Vervaeke (@vervaeke_john) is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He currently teaches courses on thinking and reasoning with an emphasis on cognitive development, intelligence, rationality, mindfulness, and the psychology of wisdom.

Vervaeke is the director of UToronto’s Consciousness and Wisdom Studies Laboratory and its Cognitive Science program, where he teaches Introduction to Cognitive Science and The Cognitive Science of Consciousness, emphasizing the 4E model, which contends that cognition and consciousness are embodied, embedded, enacted, and extended beyond the brain.

Vervaeke has taught courses on Buddhism and Cognitive Science in the Buddhism, Psychology, and Mental Health program for 15 years. He is the author and presenter of the YouTube series “Awakening from the Meaning Crisis” and his brand new series, “After Socrates.”

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

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The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#657: Professor John Vervaeke — How to Build a Life of Wisdom, Flow, and Contemplation

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Want to hear another interview that ponders the nature of our relationship with reality? Have a listen to my conversation with Professor Donald Hoffman here, in which we discuss the science of consciousness, how perception may influence the physical world, the holographic model of the universe, panpsychism (and influential panpsychists), cosmological polytope, the use of hallucinogenic drugs to tap into deeper reality and interact with conscious agents, QBism, the probability of zero that humans evolved to see reality in full, and much more wild stuff.

#585: Professor Donald Hoffman — The Case Against Reality, Beyond Spacetime, Rethinking Death, Panpsychism, QBism, and More

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.



  • Connect with John Vervaeke:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube


  • [05:31] The four ways of knowing (4P).
  • [10:15] Affordances.
  • [13:04] Semantic memory.
  • [13:37] Flow.
  • [27:03] Did John find Tai Chi, or did Tai Chi find him?
  • [29:46] Leaving Christianity.
  • [34:42] Wisdom vs. knowledge.
  • [36:54] Self-deception.
  • [41:53] When is logic the illogical choice for solving a problem?
  • [46:05] The powers and perils of intuition.
  • [55:05] Spotting patterns that need breaking.
  • [59:18] Meditation vs. contemplation.
  • [1:05:30] Misunderstanding love.
  • [1:06:36] Circling.
  • [1:12:28] “God is related to the world the way the mind is related to the body.”
  • [1:14:34] A non-theist in the no-thingness.
  • [1:24:03] Responsive poiesis and Sufism.
  • [1:27:31] Neoplatonism.
  • [1:29:16] Seminal moments.
  • [1:31:36] Pierre Hadot.
  • [1:32:43] Two books.
  • [1:34:38] Potent poetry.
  • [1:37:40] The four Es.
  • [1:42:38] Two bonus Es.
  • [1:45:24] Heretical beliefs.
  • [1:54:12] Panpsychism.
  • [2:00:56] Most unusual modes of cognition.
  • [2:02:37] Jordan Peterson.
  • [2:10:27] Opponent processing.
  • [2:13:53] How to support friends endeavoring to lead meaningful lives.
  • [2:17:50] After Socrates.
  • [2:21:44] Western words.
  • [2:25:11] John’s changing perspective of experienced reality.
  • [2:28:01] Something old, something new.


“Knowledge is about overcoming ignorance. Wisdom is about overcoming foolishness. So you understand wisdom by understanding foolishness, and you understand foolishness as not identical to ignorance.”
— John Vervaeke

“Stop demonizing any faculty and stop deifying any faculty. Your intuition will lead you as much wrong as your reason, as much wrong as your emotions, as much wrong as your logic.”
— John Vervaeke

“The very processes that make us intelligent problem solvers [and] make us so adaptive are the very same processes that make us prone to self-deceptive, self-destructive behavior.”
— John Vervaeke

“We pick up on all kinds of complex patterns that are not real and we form intuitions around them, but when we don’t like our intuition, we don’t call it intuition, we call it bias or prejudice or racism or sexism or a whole bunch of other things.”
— John Vervaeke

“Logic does not tell you how to go from a weaker logic to a stronger logic. I can do all the possible manipulations within predicate logic and it won’t get me to motor logic. I have to do something outside of that to actually increase my logical competence. So there’s no panacea.”
— John Vervaeke

“Yes, your emotions can lead you astray, but try living without them and see how rational you can be.”
— John Vervaeke

“I don’t like the argument that goes, ‘Consciousness is weird, quantum is weird, therefore consciousness is quantum.’ That’s just ridiculous. Now, panpsychism is a different thing. And you don’t have to be convinced about quantum stuff to be a panpsychist.”
— John Vervaeke


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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12 Replies to “Professor John Vervaeke — How to Build a Life of Wisdom, Flow, and Contemplation (#657)”

  1. That was exceedingly difficult to listen through. I tried for 10 minutes, then skipped around to intriguing timestamps, and then gave up. I love most episodes but sheesh.

    1. I concur. This was flowing amazingly well, a plethora of juicy topics, wealth of information, etc. Still a ton of new info and concepts I marked for myself to research and dig into on my own but that’s literally the point of me listening to these podcasts.

      Not sure what people who are complaining expecting. Just because people are talking about complex concepts and are not starting from complete zero doesn’t mean the podcast is bad. It means you need to study up to understand and appreciate it.

  2. Tim, you never fail to deliver in your choice of guests nor in the way you interact with them. This podcast is one of the most important things I’ve ever heard. I’m on my third listen and I’ve just bought a copy of Plato’s Republic to reread ‘decades after the first time). I always mean to say thank you after dipping in to your work and I’m sorry I haven’t gotten around to it in the past. Let me say it now. Thank you. All good things to you and the people you love.

  3. Absolutely loved this episode. I have listened about half of his awakening from the meaning crisis lectures and I am excited to delve into After Socrates.

    1. Tim, thank you for another excellent podcast. The idea from Spinoza about earth, g-d, body and mind reminds me of one from H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama in Mind of Clear Light (2003): “The mind rides on wind like a rider on a horse.”

  4. Thank you Tim,
    Would like to hear John Vervaeke and Sam Harris engage in a meaningful conversation some day. Can anyone here recommend a conversation between John and someone else who has views on Nondualusm similar to Sam Harris? Or is my take on John all wrong? Not criticizing either John or Sam Tim. I am just very interested in John’s work thanks to this excellent podcast episode that you produced.

    1. Highly recommend his two conversations with Jules Evans on the Rebel Wisdom podcast (also on their YouTube channel) – one on “street philosophy” and the other is “the book that changed my life.”

  5. This was a wonderful episode. I discovered Vervaeke via the Rebel Wisdom community and podcast, and he has been a life-changing, paradigm-shifting teacher for me. He’s not always easy to follow, especially when he veers into verbal footnotes and callouts to the influences and teachers who make up his canon. There is so much packed into this conversation, and those who persist will be well-rewarded. Consume it in small bites if you need to.