The Thinker and The Prover: Part 5

A Twitter thread by Jim O’Shaughnessy

Aaron Morekin
5 min readDec 30, 2020

To read this thread as intended on Twitter, follow this link

“There must be some kind of way outta here Said the joker to the thief There’s too much confusion I can’t get no relief” ~Bob Dylan

Congratulations! If you’ve stuck with me this far, you might actually be interested in changing things. The problem is, you’ve also entered what Wilson calls “Chapel Perilous” — a place filled with both our fears but also with some of the answers to the questions many would rather not ask.

The point is simple: Many of us believe things that we’ve never questioned or considered questioning. And, like a computer operating system that is badly programmed, our Provers might be proving the *wrong* things, and that keeps leading us to suboptimal choices and results.

So, how do we rectify this situation? Wilson himself offered a pretty limited solution:

His first bit of advice is the same as mine — first, start trying to see the Thinker/Prover app working in other people. We’re much better at seeing these things clearly in other people than we are in ourselves. Here’s Wilson:

“Avoid coming to any strong conclusions prematurely. Try to figure out what their Thinkers think, and how their Provers methodically set about proving it. Second, apply the same exercise to yourself. Believe that you can exceed all your previous ambitions and hopes in all areas of your life.” ~Robert Anton Wilson

The first bit is pretty easy. But go slowly and if you’re trying to understand the process in a friend or family member, don’t try to provoke anything, simply pay attention to how they process information that agrees with one of their beliefs and then innocently introduce something that you KNOW contradicts it.

Make sure it’s from a source that the person believes is generally credible and watch what happens. When you’re doing this for the first time, it might actually surprise you to watch their Prover working in real-time. It did me.

Don’t argue, just observe. Do this a couple times with different people and you will often be unable to unsee the process working in others, even if you try.

His 2nd piece of advice is much harder “try the process on yourself.” Harder, because now we’re working *against* our own Provers, and, um, your Prover will actively attempt to convince you this is a fool’s errand. So, I recommend an intermediate step — without giving it too much thought, think of something that you believe you rarely see.

In my case, it was green cars. Write down what you *think* you rarely see, then write “tomorrow, I will actively look for [your rare item.]” Follow this with a prediction of how many you expect to see over that entire day. In my case, I predicted I would see at most 7–10 green cars. The number I actually saw? 47. It freaked me out a bit but really made me understand the truth behind this ancient quote from the “Bhagavad Gita:”

“You are what you believe in. You become that which you believe you can become.” This exercise demonstrates that we “see” a lot more of things when we actively focus in an innocent way — who cares how many green cars you see anyway? But the exercise primes your mind for trying this Thinker/Prover thing on yourself. It makes you aware of just how vast/deep the information pool is and how your mind actively filters out the majority of it which helps you understand why your Prover works so well — like the exercise, your Prover is *actively* looking for information that confirms your Thinker’s beliefs. Once you see this working with the exercise, you’re ready to try this on yourself. But, start small.

Think about minor beliefs you have that aren’t foundational like an affinity or dislike for some sort of art, music or TV program. Then ask “Do I REALLY like/dislike this?” The trick here is by asking this question, you are turning your Thinker back ON.

As you think of it, your Prover will up its game and flood you with a host of “reasons” for why you DO indeed like/dislike the thing. Let that pass and then start actively thinking — maybe I like this because all my friends do, or because I grew up with it, or it’s something that you and your significant other discovered, but the thing is, you’ve moved it back into the Thinker’s camp and by so doing you might honestly be astounded if you treat it like a mystery you’re trying to solve and when looking up things (thank god for Google) you will notice pieces and articles that you will honestly believe you never saw before and there’s some truth to that — your Prover, like the neuralyzer from “Men in Black,” pretty much removed them from your attention or, if they got your attention, conveniently removed them from your memory.

When your mind is reopened to ALL of the information on the topic you’re thinking about, you may at first feel silly and still remain skeptical about the information that refutes your belief. This is totally normal the first few times you do this, but as you get in the habit of doing this, it will feel less and less forced and unusual. You might actually have fun with it. I once worked with a person whose first belief was that he hated peas. (he took my ‘start small’ advice pretty literally) and several days later, he called me and said “goddamnit O’Shaughnessy, I actually LIKE peas.” By going through the process he realized that his dislike of peas came from his childhood where he was forced to eat them by his parents (same thing happened with my wife) and he realized by turning his Thinker back on that it was a super silly belief because it led him to always refuse peas when offered, so he hadn’t actually eaten one since his childhood! He ordered them in a restaurant and was shocked to find that he actually liked them, a lot.

Silly? Yes, but this small “win” made him much more serious about the process and he went on to make some pretty significant upgrades to his “reality tunnel.”

One thing to remember is to avoid thinking that you were in some way “fooling yourself.” Nobody likes to feel like a fool and as Mark Twain is reputed to have said “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” If you become convinced that you were fooling yourself, your shields will go up and maybe even get you to stop taking another look at your “preferences” and beliefs because you unconsciously equate that with being fooled and almost nobody wants to admit they are easily fooled, either by themselves or others.

So, we’ve now got the basic starter package explained and on this level, I think most of you who try it will be amused and surprised at how this works.

But let’s be clear — in the next thread, I’ll cover some ways you can change some of your more deeply held beliefs, and when we’re facing those, things get a bit harder. For now, I wish you a bountiful of those rare things you thought you didn’t see: cause now you know did.

A Twitter thread by Jim O’Shaughnessy