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Why life on Mars may help change the paradigm

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See update notice at the bottom of the article for the latest.

There has been growing speculation this weekend that NASA has discovered complex organic molecules in the soil of Mars, or perhaps made an even more significant discovery. See this article on space.com. I've asked people around me whether they thought the possible confirmation of microbial life on Mars would be a paradigm-breaking event. The response was mostly on the 'no' camp. This is completely understandable, for scientists have been acknowledging for years that life may be common and widespread in the universe. So why would the discovery of life in a neighboring celestial body break any paradigms? Yet, I think we are missing something here. Below, I will argue that such a discovery would not only be extraordinary, it would also pose difficult questions to our reigning scientific paradigm.

Our culture's mainstream view is that life is a mechanistic phenomenon explainable entirely by the known laws of p…

Pragmatism, applications, and the meaning of life

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When talking to people about my ideas and writings, be them friends, radio hosts, or event managers prior to a talk, I often hear the following question at the end of the conversation: 'OK, but now, how can people apply all this in practice?' In the beginning, the question struck me as very reasonable and legitimate, so I felt a little guilty and embarrassed for having to think about the answer. But as I stepped back to ponder about the motivations behind the question, a whole new avenue of insight regarding our culture opened up before me. To anticipate the conclusion of this article, and without for a moment meaning to blame or criticise anyone who has ever asked me this, I think the question reflects a generalized state of psychic imbalance in our culture; so generalized that it comes across not only as perfectly normal, but appropriate and even smart.

Ultimately, all human reality is an internal phenomenon unfolding in mind. Even if there were indeed an outside world inde…

Chemotherapy and self-transcendence: an informal survey

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A common, if anecdotal, side-effect of chemotherapy is what people commonly refer to as 'chemo brain,' a kind of loss of concentration and mental fog following chemotherapy sessions. Now, there is finally scientific evidence that 'chemo brain' is not a merely psychological phenomenon, but is correlated to physical changes in brain activity. A study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America shows that "there are specific areas of the brain that use less energy following chemotherapy." In other words, chemotherapy can lead to reduced brain activity.

A friend of mine, who has indirect experience with 'chemo brain' symptoms in a close family member, raised an interesting hypothesis. He suggested that only patients who experience negative effects report it to their oncologists or general practitioners. Patients who experience a positive psychologicalchange after chemotherapy, as his own family member did, are unlikely to…

Lost posts!

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UPDATE 18-Nov-2012: I managed to redirect the older URLs to the new links, so there should be no broken links anymore!

Today I was applying some adjustments to the formatting of my posts, so as to make them look nicer in the new blog template I am now using. Accidentally, I deleted the two most recent posts in that process, because somehow the blogger interface mixed their names up with a draft test post I was playing with. Naturally, I am fuming, but it doesn't help to get upset at this point.

I did have a back-up of the text of those posts and, as you can see, I've republished the original content. I've also redirected the older URLs so there should be no broken links. However, there were about 100 comments, combined from both posts, that I still see in my interface but am not sure I can 'move over' to the newly published posts. I am trying to find a way, but am not sure I will succeed. I contemplate with dread the possibility that all those comments, which you u…

Sam Harris: proud and prejudiced?

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UPDATE 17 Nov 2012: I accidentally deleted the original post and recovered it here. But the 74+ original comments have probably been lost! See more here. I sincerely apologize for this. An addendum was also added at the bottom of this post as a reply to Sam Harris' own addendum.

Sam Harris is at it again. Not content to have carried out what I see as a cheap 'drive-by shooting' of a neurosurgeon in his previous blog post, which I commented on here, he is now taking his act to a whole new level. Have a look here. Below, I intend to deconstruct Harris' argument, showing it for the display of intellectual blindness and misleading prejudice that I believe it is.

Here is the first segment that caught my attention. Harris is referring to Near-Death Experiences (NDEs):

"Unfortunately, these experiences vary across cultures, and no single feature is common to them all. One would think that if a nonphysical domain were truly being explored, some universal characteristics w…

The membrane metaphor in images

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UPDATE 17 Nov 2012: I accidentally deleted the original post and recovered it here. But the 30+ original comments have probably been lost! See more here. I sincerely apologize for this.
Most of you know that I have been working on a metaphorical model of reality that looks upon mind as a kind of membrane, the vibrations of which give rise to all subjective perception and, as such, to all reality. I have discussed this in a number of previous posts in this blog, amongst which:
Mind as a Hyper-Dimensional Membrane;
Categories of Consciousness;
Subject, Object, and Instincts; and
The Brain as a Knot of Consciousness.

Now, a video has been produced where I discuss the ideas behind these articles in a, hopefully, more evocative manner:


Notice how the membrane metaphor described in the video provides a different, but perfectly coherent ontological framework upon which to interpret the mathematical formulations of M-theory, the leading edge of theoretical physics today: The hyper-membrane M-theo…

Magic and Truth: A myth

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In my latest Story Time episode (see video below), I tell a little fantasy about the nature of magic and its relationship to the more subtle notions of truth that have been lost to our modern Western culture. As in other Story Time videos of mine, the attempt here is to give a new, more modern language to rather old ideas, so we can hear and appreciate the underlying notions without the knee-jerk reaction of dismissing them outright as superstition. For emphasis, I do not put this myth forward as literal truth, but as a kind of intellectual artwork aimed at stimulating the imagination; that most crucial part of what it means to be a human being. Now, while the myth, as told in the video, keeps things rather simple, I felt the need to go a little further with the audience of this blog; an audience that certainly 'can take it.'


Let me start with a summary of the key ideas behind the myth:

Fractals are efficient and economic ways to create variety of form out of very simple princi…

Sam Harris' critique of Eben Alexander

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Newsweek Magazine's cover article this week is Eben Alexander's report and analysis of his own Near-Death Experience. Alexander is a neurosurgeon and Professor at Harvard School of Medicine who underwent an unfathomable NDE while suffering from acute bacterial meningites, which reportedly shut down his neocortex. His description of his NDE is rich and nuanced, with many Christian undertones. One might wonder how seriously one can take an experience that seems to be so much coloured by cultural idiosyncrasies but, as I agued here, I do not see this as contradictory to the reality of NDEs. As a matter of fact, my intuition is that Alexander's story is authentic; it certainly matches well with my own metaphysical model of consciousness and of what should happen upon cessation of brain activity, as I elaborate on in my books and many of my articles. But well-known atheist activist Sam Harris seems to disagree, and it is his critique of Alexander's case that I want to comme…

Apparitions, ghosts, and mediumistic communications

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I have recently been asked by several people about my views on so-called apparitions, ghosts, and spirit communications through mediums. This is certainly a fascinating subject, so I think it is worthwhile to discuss how I map all this onto my philosophical views. I will organize the discussion below into five parts: a summary of my general philosophical views as they apply to this subject; what I think is true regarding the many theories advanced by those interested in the subject; what I think is not true; my own interpretation of the evidence; and then some final commentary.


My general philosophical views

As most of you know, I hold an Idealist stance: I believe the most logical and parsimonious interpretation of reality is that all of nature is in mind, including the human body; mind itself being the sole irreducible ontological primitive. I have argued elsewhere why I think there is sufficient empirical evidence to discard the notion that the brain somehow generates mind. As such,…

Transcending Our Brain Created Reality

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An article I wrote for New Dawn Magazine, published in print a few weeks ago, is now freely available online thanks to the kindness of David Jones, the magazine's editor. I'd like to make it this week's blog post, since I believe the message in it is quite important. Below, you will find the first paragraph of the article and a link to the full text on New Dawn's website. Enjoy!

The study of non-ordinary states of consciousness is quickly becoming an established area of scientific and philosophical inquiry. Yet, all the enthusiasm about finding out what these non-ordinary states are somehow obfuscates much bigger, important, and urgent questions: What as-of-yet unknown aspects of reality do they give us access to? And what significance do those hold for the human adventure in space-time?

Continue reading on New Dawn's website...

Copyright © 2012 by Bernardo Kastrup. All rights are reserved.

The Great Cosmic Split: A myth

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What follows below is a myth, a story; not a philosophy, a model, or a theory. I share this myth here for the cultivation of what William Blake once called "The Divine Imagination." May the Divine Imagination not be forgotten in this age of misguided pragmatism and cynicism.

The "story time" video below tells the complete myth of the "Great Cosmic Split," in case you prefer to hear it instead of reading. The text that follows, however, does contain more substance.


At the beginning of time the cosmos was subject to a split: a deep slice across the core of existence. The universe became then divided into two very different halfs: the Physical Realm and the Mythical Realm. All the meaning of existence went into the Mythical Realm, while the Physical Realm retained all form.

In the Physical Realm the unfolding of existence became governed by laws of cause and effect, or 'causality.' These causal laws are blind, mechanical automatisms; there is no mean…