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Showing posts from 2015

The Idealist Symbolism of the Christmas Archetype

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[Updated 28 December 2016]

As we experience the afterglow of Christmas—the date that symbolically commemorates the birth of the Christ in the Christian world—I wanted to share some reflections about its archetypal symbolism. Just as Pentecost symbolically marks the Divinity's entrance into Its own Creation in ethereal form (the Holy Spirit), Christmas symbolically reminds us of God's entrance into the world in human form. Surprising as this may sound to the average Christian, this archetypal idea of the Creator entering Its own Creation is by no means exclusive to Christianity.

In the creation myth of the Aranda people, in Australia, the Creator deity Karora dreams the world up as He sleeps. He then wakes up in His own dream, effectively entering it. Once within the dream, Karora even eats some of the animals He'd imagined into existence. On the other side of the world, the Witoto people of the Amazon jungle believe their Creator deity Nainema also imagined the world into…

Back to Sam Harris' Critique of Eben Alexander's NDE

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[Updated 26 December 2015]

A teacher of philosophy called Michael Sudduth has written a blog post criticizing what I say, in my book Brief Peeks Beyond, about Sam Harris' attack on Eben Alexander. Let me admit upfront that I had never heard of Michael Sudduth, have no idea who he is beyond what I found in a quick google search, and know nothing of his work. I will explain at the end of this essay why I nonetheless decided to comment on his criticism.

He starts his critique of my views rather colorfully, implicitly promising a knock-out punch at some later stage:
"It’s astonishingly evident to me that Kastrup’s thinking on this matter is not merely confused; it’s profoundly confused. ... Kastrup’s reasoning in both his blog and book is an astonishing display of misrepresentation and philosophical obfuscation." Apparently I astonish him a lot. Undeterred, he uses 1142 words (!) to introduce his essay and disparage my position with pure rhetoric before he even begins the at…

Overview of More Than Allegory

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"Over the years I have felt that the limitations of mainstream religion increasingly outweigh its potential benefits, but More Than Allegory sees into its heart, enabling us to consider religion with fresh perspective and redeeming it for our generation." ~ Rupert Spira
To mark the online availability of my new book More Than Allegory for pre-order (see links below), I am posting today the Overview chapter of the book. You can now pre-order it here:

Amazon USA
Amazon UK

Overview

This book is a three-part journey into the rabbit hole we call the nature of reality. Its ultimate destination is a plausible, living validation of transcendence. Each of its three parts is like a turn of a spiral, exploring recurring ideas through the prisms of religious myth, truth and belief, respectively. With each turn, the book seeks to convey a more nuanced and complete understanding of the many facets of transcendence.  Part I will resonate especially with those who yearn for the richness that r…

Upcoming book: More Than Allegory

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"Over the years I have felt that the limitations of mainstream religion increasingly outweigh its potential benefits, but More Than Allegory sees into its heart, enabling us to consider religion with fresh perspective and redeeming it for our generation." ~ Rupert Spira

Coming out in the spring of 2016, but soon available for pre-order, is my new book More Than Allegory. Here is the book's blurb:

This book is a three-part journey into the rabbit hole we call the nature of reality. Its ultimate destination is a plausible, living validation of transcendence. Each of its three parts is like a turn of a spiral, exploring recurring ideas through the prisms of religious myth, truth and belief, respectively. With each turn, the book seeks to convey a more nuanced and complete understanding of the many facets of transcendence.Part I puts forward the controversial notion that many religious myths are actually true; and not just allegorically so.

Part II argues that our own inner st…

Letter to a cancer patient

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I wrote the letter below to someone dear to me, who's been battling a serious form of cancer. I struggled with it for weeks, till finally the words came to me in a manner that felt genuine. After sending the letter, I figured that if it could help even just one more person, it would be worth to translate it into English and make it publicly available here. This is precisely what I am now doing, having removed all the more personal material. It is my sincere hope that this text finds its way to whoever may benefit from it, if anyone.





Dear friend,  Since this the most important message I've ever sent you, for weeks I've been waiting for the right mental and emotional conditions to write it. But the ideal conditions never seem to come. So today I've decided to simply write. I imagine that everyone around you right now is trying to convey optimism regarding your prognosis. They are encouraging you to believe in a cure. "Positive thinking," we call it. "Fait…

Violence in the name of religion

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This post is just a thought: We cannot stop violence committed in the name of religion by attempting to eradicate religion. A relationship with transcendence is a primary, authentic and valid impulse intrinsic to being human. The solution is the very opposite of the annihilation of religion demanded by the opportunistic, populist shallow-thinkers of Neo-atheism: we will stop pseudo-religious violence only by truly coming to terms with religion in a full, genuine manner; by allowing this primordial psychic impulse to express itself in a healthy, harmonious, undistorted manner.
Copyright © 2015 by Bernardo Kastrup. All rights are reserved.

Nondualism and the fallacies of panpsychism and artificial sentience

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The video below is an extended, enhanced remake of my presentation at the Science and Non-duality Conference last week, in San Jose, California. It's adapted for a broader audience and contains some additional points that I thought were worth adding.

Blurb:
We live in culture dominated by two contrived metaphysical inferences: that the world exists outside consciousness and that particular arrangements of matter in that world somehow generate consciousness. This distorted view of reality feeds the delusory dreams of artificial consciousness so prevalent in the media today, such as in movies like Ex_Machina.  In contrast to science fiction, however, there is the cold science fact of our complete failure to articulate, even in principle, how particular arrangements of matter could possibly generate consciousness. But instead of forcing our culture to revise its mistaken metaphysics, this failure is leading to a new delusion: panpsychism, or the notion that consciousness is in all ma…

Curious Minds

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Here are two teasers of two episodes of Curious Minds now available on curiositystream.com. You can get a 30-day subscription for free!



Copyright © 2015 by Bernardo Kastrup. All rights are reserved.

Top-down Individuation: Nonduality and the Fallacies of Panpsychism and Artificial Sentience

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Here is the abstract of my upcoming presentation at the Science and Non-Duality Gathering 2015, in San Jose, California, coming October:

We live in culture dominated by two contrived metaphysical inferences: that the world exists outside consciousness and that particular arrangements of matter in that world somehow generate consciousness. This distorted view of reality feeds the delusory dreams of artificial consciousness so prevalent in the media today, such as in movies like Ex_Machina.

In contrast to science fiction, however, there is the cold science fact of our complete failure to articulate, even in principle, how particular arrangements of matter could possibly generate consciousness. But instead of forcing our culture to revise its mistaken metaphysics, this failure is leading to a new delusion: panpsychism, or the notion that consciousness is in all matter, as opposed to all matter in consciousness. Under panpsychism, consciousness is fundamentally fragmented, just as matter…

The elevator pitch of a world in consciousness

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(Updated 1 September 2015)

It strikes me how often discussions about the nature of reality get muddled in misunderstandings arising from concepts. Words like 'mind,' 'consciousness,' 'subjectivity,' and even 'world' can evoke all kinds of unintended meanings, depending on the listener's background, expectations, prejudices and proclivities. 'Isms' like 'idealism' and 'panpsychism' are even worse, since they hopelessly attempt to package, in only a few letters, the meanings of disparate and complex ideas that have taken many books to expound on. As a result of this conceptual pollution, we get caught in a dangerous web of words that make simple, self-evident arguments look tortuous, complex and even implausible.

Ideally, I would love to do away with words and convey meaning directly, through some form of telepathy. But until we figure out a way to do that, I'm afraid we're stuck with words. The best we can then hope to…

Mind and Brain: A skeptical look

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Below is my presentation at the Alzheimer Symposium 2015 last June in Amsterdam, with corresponding blurb. Enjoy!

Perhaps no other disease has a more fundamental bearing on our sense of identity and the nature of mind than Alzheimer’s. It wreaks havoc with the human psyche and one’s sense of self by corrupting the brain. Precisely for this reason, Alzheimer’s raises one of the oldest questions in history, investing it with a renewed sense of urgency: What exactly is the relationship between mind and brain? Surprisingly, in what is called the ‘hard problem of consciousness,’ no one in science or philosophy today has any idea how brain metabolism can lead to conscious experience or our felt sense of self. Yet, we operate under the assumption that it somehow does, for the correlations between brain function and subjective experience are overwhelming. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is a particularly compelling instance of such correlations, wherein destruction of brain tissue fundamentally…

The heart of the matter

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A few hours ago, I had a lively and productive dialogue with Canadian author and filmmaker Jean-Francois Martel, which is now episode 6 of my Inception Dialogues podcast. See the video below. As my regular readers know, Martel and I exchanged criticisms through our respective blogs in the past couple of months. See, for instance, this article. However, this latest dialogue helped both of us notice more commonalities between our respective positions than we had realized before.


One particular topic, however, deserves further elaboration than what was discussed in the dialogue. Martel considered it the heart of our disagreement: one hour, 2 minutes and 25 seconds into the video, he refers to my four-point argument against materialism, as discussed in my earlier book Why Materialism Is Baloney. The four points consist of increasingly inflationary statements about reality that are entailed by materialism. Here they are:

Your conscious perceptions exist;The conscious perceptions of other l…

What really happens after death?

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This is the final week of the 99-cent promotion valid for my four earlier titles this July on Amazon Kindle stores worldwide. From the 1st of August onwards, the prices will return to their regular level. So I'd like to close my series of four essays celebrating relevant passages of those titles by quoting the most recent of them, which is also my most popular book to date: Why Materialism Is Baloney. Although it hasn't (yet ;) become a full best-seller, Why Materialism Is Baloney continues to be quietly read by highly influential people in many different fields. Its readership, albeit not voluminous, is a high-quality and high-impact one. The book's true impact on our culture is most-likely yet to be seen.

One question that often comes up is whether the views expressed in the book endorse some form of afterlife or not. For instance, the question has been raised in a recent thread in my Discussion Forum. The book itself has a very explicit answer, starting on page 182, wh…

The meaning and purpose of life

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During the entire month of July 2015, my first four books, including Why Materialism Is Baloney, will be available on Amazon Kindle Stores for only 99 cents. You can purchase them all for under $4. This is an effort to make my work more accessible and widespread. To celebrate this, each week in July I will be publishing selected passages from each of the books.

This time, I'll quote a passage from my 2011 book Rationalist Spirituality. This is probably my least rigorous but most accessible book. It discusses very openly the fundamental questions of life, particularly the meaning and purpose of our existence. It also uses a dualist metaphor throughout, implicitly playing with the allegorical image of a soul separate from the body, which can also be read literally if that's your inclination. The passage below comes from Chapter 2 and pretty much sets the tone for what you can expect to find in the rest of this short and pragmatic book.

“What happens but once [...] might as well…

Talking each other into consensus reality

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During the entire month of July 2015, my first four books, including Why Materialism Is Baloney, will be available on Amazon Kindle Stores for only 99 cents. You can purchase them all for under $4. This is an effort to make my work more accessible and widespread. To celebrate this, each week in July I will be publishing selected passages from each of the books.

This time, I discuss my 2011 book Dreamed up Reality. The relevance of this book has grown since last year, when an article published in the renowned science journal Nature argued that reality is mental, its shared aspects emerging out of communication-enabled consensus between observers. In other words, the article suggests that there is no objective world 'out there,' but just inner experiences that we talk each other into agreeing about. As it turns out, this is precisely one of the key lines of discussion in Dreamed up Reality. In the book, I even use computer simulations to explore this idea at the level of first …

Transcending logic

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During the entire month of July 2015, my first four books, including Why Materialism Is Baloney,will be available on Amazon Kindle Stores for only 99 cents. You can purchase them all for under $4. This is an effort to make my work more accessible and widespread. To celebrate this, over the coming four weeks I will be publishing selected passages from each of the books.

We will start with a passage from the final chapter of Meaning In Absurdity (published in 2012), where I recapitulate the book's key messages. It works well as an overview that may encourage you to dish out 99 cents to read the whole thing. Meaning In Absurdity is, for some reason, my least popular book in terms of sales. Yet, I consider it my most profound work so far. It is the only one where I explicitly try to go beyond rationality, beyond the rules of logic itself, to explore the nature of the reality that lies behind it. In no other book do I dare venture so far from the solid ground of reason. And I do so by…