For Putting Things On Top Of Other Things

Towers Of Thought

or, How To Change Your Mind

The most profound thing you can put on top of another thing is a thought. An idea. A belief.

Ideas build on each other, stacking skyward, until they form an impressive tower of thought. A pillar of belief that can form an entire world view.

First, consider a single musical note. Of all other possible notes, a couple will resonate at a pitch that is in harmony with that base note. Together these notes form a chord, a single cohesive sonic texture.

Now, one in possession of a single powerful thought or core belief might seek out other ideas that resonate at a similar frequency to that base belief. The resulting collection of thoughts may present themselves as a single texture. A multi-tonal chord, from which it is difficult to isolate and recognize the individual notes.

Core beliefs and automatic thoughts are a major theme in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a popular framework for understanding and reprogramming one's thought patterns. For example, suppose one has been taught, by a teacher or through life experience, that the world is a dangerous place. And suppose this becomes a core belief for our subject, the base note on which they will build their chord, their tower of thought. They may gather other beliefs into their musical thought tapestry such as, "The only person I can trust is myself." And, "Everybody is out to get something." Look how well these thoughts go together! How their harmonics amplify each other!

Our subject probably grows to be distrustful of others, maybe possessive and jealous. They might develop mantras like, "Nothing good ever happens to me" or even "I don't deserve good things to happen to me." By the time they adopt certain behaviors and attitudes based on these thoughts, they are likely high enough up this particular tower of thought that they are not even aware of their root cause. They simply know they are suspicious of anybody trying to do them a favor or show them kindness.

That is the most insidious part of all of this. The uninitiated may only ever be aware of the top most levels of this tower of thought. They may experience repeated negative thoughts of self-doubt, and of not deserving nice things in life, without ever knowing where those thoughts come from.


The Society For Putting Things On Top Of Other Things teaches that all structure and order is not just temporary, it is illusory. It never in fact existed in the first place. All order and all disorder is just one's interpretation of the raw stuff of creation at a certain point in space and time. One's view of the cosmic stuff-and-fluff through one's cultural lens.

Dolly, from Michael Murphy's Perceptual Art series, looks like a portrait of a woman from one position, but from every other position it looks like just what it is: a random collection of plastic waste. The illusion of order is very carefully crafted and constructed. But it remains a manifestation of pure chaos. Peceptual art by Michael Murphy that looks like a portrait of a woman from one position and like chaos from another.

This is our holy work: through the putting of things on top of other things, we create apparent order, and celebrate its inevitable collapse back into apparent disorder. This is a simple demonstration of the Law of Eristic Escalation: imposed order in a system must inevitably result in disorder. But all the while we know that through order and disorder, the things themselves haven't changed at all. Just their arrangement has. It was and always will be just random chaos.

Thoughts are just things. They are objects made of thought-stuff. When you put thought-objects on top of other thought-objects, you aren't doing anything more significant than creating apparent order out of random chaos. It isn't real. But it is convenient to act as though it is.

Because thoughts are just things, they hold no inherit order or disorder. They just are. Thoughts think themselves into being, and for the time that they exist, until the time that they pass into non-being, they exist in chaos, just like everything else. Any order or disorder we perceive in our thoughts is arbitrary and of our own making.


It is challenging though not impossible for the neophyte to conceptualize a tower of thought-stuff, and harder still to work on transcending its levels.

It is challenging for two reasons: first, the neophyte must disassociate themselves from their thoughts. They must learn the difficult lesson that they are not their thoughts. That their thoughts are not them. That thoughts think themselves into existence, but that we must often then dismiss them into non-existence.

Second, once thought have been made to be sufficiently other-than to the neophyte, they must then learn to studiously examine and interrogate repeated thoughts.

Many worthwhile things are simple, but not easy. And this is one of them. Here's how you topple a tower of thought-stuff. When our subject, for example, notices the arrival of a negative thought they wish to stop having, they must first name it Labeling is one of the first skills a society psychonaut will learn in order to master their mind and achieve gnosis. Labeling is the simple practice of giving a name to thoughts as they occur, like shining a flashlight on a boogeyman and revealing nothing but a coat rack. Calling a thought "dwelling" creates distance from you replaying the past over and over again and allows you to dismiss that thought. In the same way, naming a thought "planning" and dismissing it can help you stop obsessing over the future. And naming a thought "narrating" can help shut down an inner monologue. Give it a try! Soon you too will be naming thoughts with all the confidence of a toddler pointing at a cat and shouting, "Doggie!" , and then tirelessly and relentlessly question it.

It might look something like this:

I feel bad. What is it that I feel? I feel discouraged.

Why do I feel discouraged? I feel like I don't even want to try to do the thing. There's no point to it.

Why is there no point to it? It won't work. I won't succeed. Nothing good ever happens for me.

Why does nothing good ever happen for me? Because I don't deserve it.

Why not? Nobody deserves anything. There's no system of rewards. The world is not a fair place. The world is a dangerous place.

Why is the world a dangerous place? Because of all the things I have experienced that taught me so.

Our subject has drilled down through a tower of thought to the base level, to the base note of this chord of negative thought. None of this but the most surface level thoughts and feelings It is important to note that feelings are made of thought-stuff too. With practice, you may notice that beneath most feelings there are thoughts. And that many thoughts have feelings attached. Thoughts and feelings are, for the most part, the same kind of object. were at first known to them. It is through questioning and contemplation that they were able to get to the bottom of it.

Now the work, if they want to put a stop similar surface thought activity in the future, is to keep going. To examine and question that core belief. Is the world in fact a dangerous place? Maybe. Maybe not. This deserves further investigation.

Our subject may find that by eventually rejecting this premise, they in effect remove the foundation of this tower of thought, and the whole house of cards may come down, eliminating entire classes of negative thoughts.

Easier said than done. It is simple, but not easy.


One consequence of this type of work is noticing and believing in the arbitrariness of conviction. It's just another form of apparent order, clinging to which, believing in the permanence of which, will only bring misery.

We put things on top of other things. Pebbles and rocks. And then watch them fall. In the same way Buddhist monks ritually create and destroy their beautiful colored sand mandalas, so too can we learn to feel no loss or sorrow when our towers of things crumble. There is no loss to mourn.

So yes, conviction is as arbitrary as the arrangement of individual grains of sand. And a Stacker Of Things must be in the practice of releasing conviction when it doesn't suit them or if their belief been proved wrong. And they must build new conviction in new beliefs that better themselves and others. Enjoy your beliefs while you have them, but also be willing to let go of them as easily as brushing sand from a table.