Brief Peeks Beyond: An Overview


To mark the launch of my new book, Brief Peeks Beyond, I am publishing today its editorial reviews, table of contents, complete introduction (Chapter 1), as well as the introductory text of each subsequent chapter. The list of materialist criticisms refuted in the book is also provided. The intent is to offer a complete and representative overview of the book. I consider this my most important published work to-date and hope you find value in it.


WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT BRIEF PEEKS BEYOND

Better than any book I’ve come across, Bernardo Kastrup’s collection of essays confronts two mysteries that must be urgently solved. The first is the mystery of reality. ... The second ... is the mystery of knowledge. ... To confront both mysteries at once ... requires courage, tenacity, a willingness to swim upstream, and thick skin. ... But if you have a persistent, acute mind like Bernardo’s, an exciting journey opens up. (From the Foreword)
– Deepak Chopra, M.D., pioneer in the field of mind-body medicine. Author of more than 75 books with 23 New York Times best sellers.

Some words, such as the collection of essays in Brief Peeks Beyond, have the ... power to evoke in the reader not just the concept of infinite Consciousness ... but the experience of it, a taste of its own essential reality. I have been touched by the profundity of these essays and know that they will imprint their healing intelligence in the broader medium of mind, from which humanity draws its knowledge and experience, for many years to come. (From the Afterword)
– Rupert Spira, non-duality teacher and author.

In this pioneering, original and brilliantly written book Bernardo Kastrup is very critical of the still widely accepted materialist approach in science, while making use of many convincing rebuttals to materialist counterarguments. According to him all reality is in consciousness itself, because it is the only carrier of reality anyone ever knows for sure, but it is in a transpersonal mind-at-large, and not limited to our personal waking consciousness. His inevitable conclusion is that consciousness must be fundamental in the universe. This important book is an excellent contribution to the growing awareness that the domination of materialism in science is irrefutably coming to an end, perhaps even in the next decade. Highly recommended.
– Pim van Lommel, cardiologist, author of Consciousness Beyond Life.

Occam’s Razor never cut so deep as in this penetrating critique of science, philosophy and the cultural cocoon we’ve constructed. Kastrup has followed up on his previous assault on dopey scientific materialism with a knockout punch.
– Alex Tsakiris, author of Why Science is Wrong... About Almost Everything and host of the Skeptiko podcast.

Bernardo has the ability to communicate with the readers, through challenging them, in order to help our human consciousness to (re-)merge with the Whole of Consciousness, the ‘Infinite Womb’ of all that expresses Itself in time/space. For the open-minded and openhearted seekers of truth, this is great stuff to read.
– Fred Matser, humanitarian, philanthropist, author of Rediscover Your Heart.




CONTENTS

Foreword by Deepak Chopra
1. Introduction
2. On metaphysics and cosmology
   2.1. A more parsimonious, logical, non-materialist worldview
   2.2. Materialist arguments and why they are wrong
   2.3. Finding truth within the dream
   2.4. Survival of consciousness beyond death: an implication of common sense
   2.5. The actual difference between living beings and inanimate objects
   2.6. Finding God in metaphysical parsimony
   2.7. Quantum physics: a parsimonious solution to the measurement problem
3. On consciousness, neuroscience and the media
   3.1. Consciousness: an unsolvable anomaly under materialism
   3.2. The incredible trick of disappearing consciousness
   3.3. What are memories, after all?
   3.4. Misleading journalism and the notion of implanted memories
   3.5. Psychedelics and the mind-body problem
4. On skepticism and science
   4.1. Intellectual fundamentalism
   4.2. Living in a cocoon of mere hypotheses
   4.3. Scientific dogmatism and chance
   4.4. Science and the defacement of reason
   4.5. The taboo against meaning
   4.6. Darwinian evolution: an open door to purposefulness
   4.7. To understand the anomalous we need more skepticism, not less
5. On culture and society
   5.1. The idolatry of a new priesthood
   5.2. Education and the meaning of life
   5.3. Has academic philosophy lost its relevance?
   5.4. Myths in contemporary culture
   5.5. Enchantment: the lost treasure
   5.6. A cultural narrative of projections
   5.7. Direct experience, philosophy and depth-psychology: why we need them all
   5.8. Unfathomable change is on the horizon
6. On the strange and mysterious
   6.1. Near-death experiences and the afterlife
   6.2. Why Sam Harris is wrong about Eben Alexander’s visit to ‘heaven’
   6.3. UFOs: even more mysterious than you’d think
   6.4. Extra-terrestrial life: implications for the materialist paradigm
7. On free will
   7.1. What is free will?
   7.2. Where is free will to be found?
8. On practical applications
   8.1. Pragmatism and the meaning of life
   8.2. What difference does it make if reality is in consciousness?
   8.3. The case for integrative mind-body medicine
   8.4. Can our thoughts directly affect reality at large?
   8.5. It starts and ends with us: what can we do individually?
9. Takeaway message
Afterword by Rupert Spira
Notes
Bibliography


1   INTRODUCTION

This is probably the most important book I’ve written. The original idea for it seemed easy enough: my publisher and I discussed creating an anthology of essays I had previously written for webzines, blogs and magazines. The intent was to update the essays and organize them into a coherent structure. Once I embarked on the project, however, something within me saw an opportunity and I became determined to take it way beyond its original scope. The result, which you now hold in your hands, could no longer be honestly described as just an anthology. It has turned into an experiment in ‘nonlinear philosophy,’ with a new, unifying message of its own. Allow me to elaborate.

As I reviewed my original essays, I noticed for the first time that they were pieces of a larger jigsaw puzzle. Only with the benefit of hindsight did I realize this; the overall picture in the puzzle had eluded me up to that moment. It became clear that much of the material consisted in explorations of different angles of a single motif: an idea gestalt – an organized cognitive whole beyond the mere sum of its parts – about the human condition as it is presently manifested. It has various facets related to science, philosophy of mind, the underlying nature of reality, the state of our society and culture, the influence of the mainstream media, etc. Because of this apparent disparity of facets, the gestalt that links them together can’t be conveyed through a linear narrative. There are just too many important nuances to capture that way. It can only be conveyed by tackling each of its facets within its own context so that you, dear reader, can combine the pieces of the puzzle and reconstruct the gestalt in your own mind. This is precisely what this book attempts to achieve. The essay format turns out to have been critical in that it allowed me to approach the target motif through several different angles, helping you build an overall picture of it facet by facet. If the book succeeds in its endeavor, at the end of it you will be looking upon the present nexus of the human story in a very different way.

I’ve attempted to make each essay in this book suggestive of, and conducive to, this global cognitive gestalt. Each contributes an important angle to it. Yet, when putting the original material together, it became clear to me that there were gaps; important pieces of the puzzle were missing. For this reason, many of the essays here are entirely new, having never before been published. They are meant to cover the gaps. All previously published material was also updated and in many ways improved. Several essays were largely rewritten to reflect new, more complete insights I’ve had since I first wrote them, or to make their message crisper and clearer. Most were also adapted so as to complement each other in suggesting the subtleties and nuances of the global motif that is the message of this book. Even among the essays that were least changed in terms of the number of words edited, the importance of the changes is disproportionate to the space they occupy.

Overall, this work is characterized by a new readiness on my part to go all out with my points of view. In my previous works, I’ve held myself back in the interest of striking a more moderate note with broader appeal. It is, however, unclear whether that was effective. What is sure is that it pruned the full expression of my views. Now, having turned 40 and witnessed my life take turns I’d never expected, I feel less motivated to compromise on my discourse. Life is just too short for that. Therefore, this book tackles, head-on, subjects I have hitherto kept out of bounds: God, ‘conspiracies,’ the obvious flaws of science as practiced today, the often insidious role of the media and a number of other polemical topics. You be the judge of whether my uncensored views still hold up to reason and the available evidence.

This book can be read in two ways: in sequence, from beginning to end; or by picking a different essay at each sitting. The essays have been organized in a logical and coherent sequence, optimized for insinuating the subtle bridges and relationships between the various different topics. This way, readers who are willing to read this book from cover to cover will probably develop a better grasp of the ideas in it. That said, I am well aware that many readers will prefer to pick their favorite topic from the table of contents, depending on their mood and disposition of the day, and go straight to it. I confess to often preferring this approach myself, especially when reading in bed before sleep. Therefore, I also made sure that each essay is self-contained and can be read independently of the others. The majority can be read in well under an hour. When appropriate, I refer to other essays where certain topics mentioned are covered in more depth. The price for this modularity, however, is some redundancy: many of the essays contain summaries of my metaphysics, which is necessary to give context to the ideas they express. I’ve endeavored to strike an optimal balance between redundancy and modularity, so readers neither feel bored with repeated content, nor miss essential context for understanding each essay.

Whichever way you prefer to read this book, I do suggest that you always start with essays 2.1 and 2.2. They provide context that underlies what is discussed in most other essays. Although the key contextual points are, as mentioned above, repeated each time, readers will derive more value from the rest of the book if they have more extensive prior grasp of those two initial texts.

A couple of observations should be made at this point. This is largely a critical work: it criticizes today’s science, philosophy, media, culture and society. It is also largely a body of – hopefully well-substantiated – opinions. Yet, the criticisms it contains are not always preceded by a disclaimer asserting that what follows is an expression of opinion. Doing so would be highly detri- mental to flow and readability. Let this be the general disclaimer, thus: unless stated otherwise, you should assume that what you will find in the following pages is an expression of my opinions. The extensive substantiation of my arguments does not change this fact.

Another important observation: I use the words ‘mind’ and ‘consciousness’ interchangeably. The meaning I lend to the word ‘consciousness’ – and thus ‘mind’ – is defined early in essay 2.1. I use the term ‘psyche’ when I mean personal consciousness, or personal mind. This terminology may be confusing to some: in non-duality circles, the word ‘mind’ has come to be associated with ‘thoughts;’ that is, with a particular type of contents of consciousness. Yet, my use of the terms is more consistent with their traditional meaning in Western philosophy.

Finally, this book contains a high concentration of ideas. Very few words are wasted. I go quickly to the point and don’t ramble around. While this will probably feed the enthusiasm of some readers, it may prove a little too intense to others. I apologize to the latter: my approach here reflects my surrender to what comes more naturally to me, rather than a deliberate attempt to favor a particular segment of my readership.

So if you’re ready, buckle up and join me in a multi-faceted, fast-paced, nonlinear exploration of the human condition in the early 21st century. Here we go!


2   ON METAPHYSICS AND COSMOLOGY

Our culture takes for granted that reality exists ‘out there’ and is fundamentally independent of consciousness. This postulate seems to explain a number of things that we, otherwise, would allegedly be unable to make sense of: the continuity of events while we are asleep, the undeniable correlations between brain states and experience, the fact that we all seem to share the same reality, etc. For this reason, we’ve allowed our values, economic and political systems, ways of relating to nature and each other, psychology, medicine, social dynamics, etc., to be all subtly colored – if not outright determined – by such a postulate. But does it stand to reason and evidence? In this chapter, we will explore the underlying nature of reality and our condition as conscious entities within it.

Essay 2.1 summarizes the metaphysics more extensively described in my earlier book Why Materialism Is Baloney. But beyond a mere summary, it also extends and refines that metaphysics, elaborating on it in a more direct, sharper, explicit, less metaphor-loaded manner. Essay 2.2 then lists and addresses each of the key materialist counter-arguments against the ideas in essay 2.1, refuting them one by one. It is not only the longest essay of this book, but probably one of its most important and original contributions as well. Essay 2.3 takes the form of a short story. It seeks to illustrate a different way of seeing and interpreting the ancient ideas of an immortal soul and an afterlife from the perspective of the metaphysics described in essay 2.1. Essay 2.4 discusses how the survival of consciousness beyond physical death is, in fact, a direct implication of our most basic common sense. Essay 2.5 confronts a distinction that materialism has difficulties with: the obvious difference between living beings and inanimate objects. It also explains why the notion that all reality is in consciousness does not imply that inanimate objects are themselves conscious. Essay 2.6 then bites a big bullet: God. It argues that the existence of a conscious, omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent agency is, surprisingly, a direct implication of metaphysical parsimony. This is profoundly counterintuitive from a materialist perspective, which holds precisely that the existence of a deity defies parsimony. The essay further maintains that evidence for God is literally all around us. Finally, essay 2.7 grapples with one of the biggest mysteries in science today: the measurement problem of quantum mechanics. It argues that the explanation for that conundrum is, in fact, the very same phenomenon that explains how our ordinary awareness arises from seemingly unconscious mental activity. In the process of making its case, the essay ends up bringing together the Copenhagen and the Many-Worlds interpretations of quantum mechanics, which materialism deems irreconcilable.

...

[Essay 2.2 in this chapter lists and refutes the 16 best materialist arguments against idealism; that is, against the notion that all reality is in consciousness, consciousness being fundamental and irreducible. Here, only the 16 criticisms are listed. Check out the book for the respective refutations.]


Criticism 1: Our sense perceptions provide direct evidence for a world outside consciousness.
Rebuttal 1: ...

Criticism 2: Because we cannot change reality by merely wishing it to be different, it’s clear that reality is outside consciousness.
Rebuttal 2: ...

Criticism 3: Because we are separate beings inhabiting the same external world, reality has to be outside consciousness.
Rebuttal 3: ...

Criticism 4: It is untenable to maintain that there is no reality independent of consciousness, for there is plenty of evidence about what was going on in the universe before consciousness evolved.
Rebuttal 4: ...

Criticism 5: It is not parsimonious to say that reality is in consciousness, because that would require postulating an unfathomably complex entity to be imagining reality.
Rebuttal 5: ...

Criticism 6: Reality is clearly not inside our heads, therefore monistic idealism is wrong.
Rebuttal 6: ...

Criticism 7: Monistic idealism is too metaphysical.
Rebuttal 7: ...

Criticism 8: There are strong correlations between brain activity and subjective experience. Clearly, thus, the brain generates consciousness.
Rebuttal 8: ...

Criticism 9: Unconscious brain activity precedes the awareness of certain decisions, showing a clear arrow of causation from purely material processes to experience.
Rebuttal 9: ...

Criticism 10: Because psychoactive drugs and brain trauma can markedly change subjective experience, it’s clear that the brain generates consciousness.
Rebuttal 10: ...

Criticism 11: During dreamless sleep, or under general anesthesia, we are clearly unconscious. Yet, we don’t cease to exist because we become temporarily unconscious. Obviously, then, reality cannot be in consciousness.
Rebuttal 11: ...

Criticism 12: The stability and consistency of the laws of physics show that reality is outside consciousness.
Rebuttal 12: ...

Criticism 13: To postulate a collective and obfuscated part of consciousness as the source of consensus reality is equivalent to postulating a reality outside consciousness.
Rebuttal 13: ...

Criticism 14: Why would consciousness deceive us by simulating a materialist world?
Rebuttal 14: ...

Criticism 15: Monistic idealism is solipsistic and, as such, unfalsifiable.
Rebuttal 15: ...

Criticism 16: One cannot prove that monistic idealism is true.
Rebuttal 16: ...

...


3   ON CONSCIOUSNESS, NEUROSCIENCE AND THE MEDIA

The most vexing aspect of nature from a materialist perspective happens to also be the only carrier of reality anyone can ever know: consciousness itself. Indeed, materialism would make a lot more sense if consciousness didn’t exist at all; if the entire universe consisted simply in the mechanical unfolding of uncon- scious processes. Clearly, it doesn’t. So how could a metaphysics that fails to explain – even in principle – the one obvious aspect of existence attain, and maintain, the status of reigning worldview? Many indications are provided in the essays of this chapter.

Essays 3.1 and 3.2 discuss how materialists, unable to make sense of consciousness, attempt to deny its very existence. The in-your-face absurdity of this position, and how it is tendentiously spun by many scientists, philosophers and the media alike, is examined. Essays 3.3 and 3.4 address a problem that materialist neuroscience has failed to solve for more than a century: the nature of memories. They expose the public relations charade responsible for the pervasive cultural illusion that neuroscience knows what memories are and where they are located. Finally, essay 3.5 discusses the effects of psychedelics on the human brain, as well as their implications for the materialist axiom that the brain generates all experience. This essay was the most unsettling for me to research and write, for reasons that will become clear to you after you’ve read it. For a while, in the interest of avoiding polemic, I considered not including it in this book. Yet, precisely for the reason it is so upsetting to me, essay 3.5 is probably one of the most illustrative of the overall message of this work.

...

4   ON SKEPTICISM AND SCIENCE

As a culture, we’ve come to believe that skeptical science now understands most of the mysteries of our ordinary world. There may be unanswered questions regarding abstract parallel universes and alternate realities, but we assume that most of the facets of concrete life have been explained by rational scientific theories, from the weather to health, to psychology, to social dynamics. We believe unquestioningly that the Faustian power of rationality, skepticism and the application of the scientific method have answered – or are on the cusp of answering – all questions of any practical relevance to our daily lives. But is that really so? What reasons do we actually have to believe it? Could it be that the apparent runaway success of science – and, more generally, of our rational faculties – is as much illusory as it is factual? Could it be that we live in a world of illusions enabled precisely by a spectacular failure of skepticism?

Essay 4.1 explores – in a metaphorical manner – the insanity of our deification of rational faculties. Essay 4.2 illustrates how the belief that science has explanations for most of the events of our daily lives is nothing more than an illusion. Essay 4.3 discusses the unexamined and tendentious philosophical beliefs adopted by many scientists when it comes to extracting conclu- sions from the available data. Essay 4.4 goes deeper into this subject by exploring how most scientists have come to conflate scientific observations with philosophical interpretations of these observations. Essay 4.5 discusses the one and true taboo that pervades science as practiced today, and which so often corrupts proper scientific assessment of the empirical facts of reality. Essay 4.6 confronts the question that underlies the culture wars: does the scientific evidence in favor of evolution by natural selection imply that life is purposeless? Finally, essay 4.7 argues that the solution to the prejudices of scientific thinking today is not a departure from skepticism but, surprisingly, its revitalization.

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5   ON CULTURE AND SOCIETY

Human beings naturally long for wonder, transcendence, mental landscapes beyond the boundaries of ordinary life. Something in the human spirit shouts loudly that there is more to ourselves than the space-time confines of the body. This obfuscated part of our psyche demands lucid recognition of what it knows to be the true breadth and depth of our existence. Throughout much of our history as a species, we’ve given it its due recognition in the form of myths, mostly of a religious nature. Indeed, religious myths encode a form of trans-metaphorical truth that can’t be described or made sense of directly, in literal terms. Yet, it resonates intensely with the deepest obfuscated layer of our psyche, giving it its due voice in our lives.

Since the Enlightenment, however, our culture has come to reject all truths but the ones amenable to literal articulation. In doing so, it has withdrawn the tacit acknowledgement of the obfuscated psyche, creating an inner state of conflict. Our everyday sense of reality and self-identity, as outlined by our culture, is now in direct contradiction with what the deepest layer of the psyche knows to be true. This conflict creates an unstable situation. The gap left by the arbitrary denial of all trans-metaphorical truths demands to be filled in some way. It is this irresistible gravitational pull towards some form of transcendence, artificial and precarious as it may be, that lies at the root of the dangerous cultural and social ailments of our time. These ailments, and the specific dynamics that motivate and underlie them, are examined in this chapter.

Essay 5.1 argues that the spokespeople of contemporary science are attempting to replace priests as intermediaries between people and transcendence. The move is meant to invest them with inauthentic power previously reserved for ecclesiastic authorities. Essay 5.2 argues that our educational system has become almost entirely utilitarian, turning people into controllable tools, as opposed to equipping them to fully express themselves in the world. Essay 5.3 laments the ever-diminishing role of philosophy in laying down reasonable, coherent maps to transcendence, a responsibility many academic philosophers have tragically forfeited. Essay 5.4 discusses the dangerous cultural aberrations that arise out of our odd denial of the validity of myths. Essay 5.5 attempts to rekindle our sensitivity to the notion of enchantment, the loss of which – one of the greatest tragedies of the Enlightenment – has made our world small and claustrophobic. Essay 5.6 relates our current cultural dilemmas to some of our subtle psychological predispositions, attempting to raise awareness of their unexamined but far-reaching and detrimental effects. Essay 5.7 argues that a sane future for our culture and society can only be nurtured through a balanced integration of direct experience, philosophical inquiry and psychological awareness. Finally, essay 5.8 suggests that, because of the desperately unstable state of our culture and society today, significant change at all levels can be expected in the not-so-distant future. It also discusses the shape such changes may take.

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6   ON THE STRANGE AND MYSTERIOUS

In the previous chapter, we discussed the interplay between contemporary cultural dynamics and the intrinsic human recognition of, and need for, transcendence. It is only natural, thus, that we now look at empirical phenomena that seem to validate our intuitions about transcendence. The essays here, due to the very subjects they address, tend to be more speculative and less rigorous than those in other chapters.

Essay 6.1 discusses the possible validity of the phenomenon of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) from empirical and logical perspectives, exploring its implications as far as the existence of an afterlife. Essay 6.2 delves more specifically into the subject, offering a critical deconstruction of Sam Harris’ attack on a particular, well-known NDE report. Essay 6.3 then switches gears and addresses the phenomenon of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs), offering a perhaps unique and startling perspective on what it may represent. Staying close to the theme, essay 6.4 discusses something striking but curiously left untouched by the mainstream media and the spokespeople of science: the implications that the discovery of (microbial) life in our solar system would logically have as far as contradicting key axioms of the materialist paradigm.

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7   ON FREE WILL

Perhaps no other topics of debate encapsulate the current culture wars as powerfully as the triad encompassing: (a) evolution by natural selection, (b) the afterlife and (c) free will. Evolution was already addressed in Chapter 4 and the afterlife in Chapter 6. This leaves free will to be examined here. Indeed, whilst the mainstream materialist worldview precludes the possibility of any true free will, does a different metaphysics – such as that discussed in Chapter 2 – allow for it?

Essay 7.1 offers a generic definition of free will that does justice to our innate intuition of it. Essay 7.2 then discusses the validity of true free will under monistic idealism.

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8   ON PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS

We’ve turned into a pragmatic bunch. Our cultural value system entails that nothing is really worth anything if it doesn’t have practical applications. A new insight or understanding is allegedly pointless if there’s nothing we can really do with it. This very notion is a symptom of our confusion. Nonetheless, it would be naïve to ignore it as I attempt to communicate alter- native insights and understandings. This chapter, thus, represents not my surrender to a confused value system, but my attempt to work from within it in order to convey a different way to relate to life.

Essay 8.1 confronts the confusion head-on: it deconstructs the cultural notion that all value is derived from applications. Essay 8.2 bites the bullet and elaborates, in a fair level of detail, upon the practical differences that a transition from materialism to a more mature worldview would make in our lives and society as a whole. Essay 8.3 then zooms into one specific area where these differences would be particularly significant: healthcare. Essay 8.4 tackles a question that is often asked in connection with the philosophy of monistic idealism defended in this book: if all reality is in consciousness, can our thoughts and wishes directly influence reality? The correct answer is subtler than a mere ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Essay 8.5 closes the chapter with an unexpected twist on the question that started it.

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Copyright © 2014-2015 by Bernardo Kastrup. All rights are reserved.

Comments

  1. Bernardo, congratulations on the release of this book. I very much look forward to reading it (and writing an Amazon review!)

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    1. Thanks Don! I Very much appreciate your help in writing this book.

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  2. Looking forward to reading the book when it appears in Kindle format, Bernardo. It will be interesting to get greater insight into your thinking now that you've taken off the gloves.

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    1. I guess you will like at least some of what you will see, Michael :)

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  3. great that writing created momentum for far more greater insights, really looking forward reading them! Thanx for continued sharing your skeptics and allow us to travel with your viewpoints. hope you had as much fun writing as i have drempt up reading it.

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    1. Thanks Joris! It was sure a gratifying, if at times challenging, journey writing this new book :)

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  4. Hi Bernardo:

    I have a question - it's a follow up on similar questions I've asked you over the last 9 months, regarding the practical effect that a widespread adoption of an idealist view might have on the actual methodology of everyday scientists.

    So if you're willing, let's imagine the following scenario - it's 2050, and an idealist/non-dualist view is taught in all science programs, from elementary through post-graduate training (and BK's name is mentioned in all the texts:>))).

    Let's leave aside physics an other "physical" sciences (chemistry, astronomy, etc) for the moment, as they would be least likely to make immediate, substantial changes.

    That leaves the life and mind sciences. Starting with the latter (various subfields of psychology, like developmental, personality, motivational, etc, along with cognitive, affective and volitional neuroscience) do you see any difference in how the mind sciences are actually conducted, or only the view of what the research and results mean?

    Just to be clear, I'm being very optimistic here, and imagining in 2050 almost everyone accepts psi (including precognition, telepathy, remote viewing, distant healing and psychokinesis, as well as NDEs indicating the brain is a filter, a transmitter, not producer, of consciousness - an "image" in consciousness, as you say, and even the evidence for rebirth).

    Do mind scientists start using introspection (first person research) as simply an accompaniment to the usual 3rd person, quantitative research? Does neuroscientific investigation change at all? How do scientists deal with psychics who perceive subtle energy fields (let's say there's plenty of accredited subtle energy seers by 2050)?

    What about qualitative methodology? Does this simply go on being superficial as it is now, or does it change in some radical way once Dr. Kastrup's books have created the cultural change leading to 2050?

    And we might even touch on the life sciences… Dr. Kastrup has definitely shown that there is in fact purpose and direction in evolution, and he has been working assiduously (now that he's in his late 60s, he is free to devote all his time yet has attained an irrevocable equanimity) with various psychics, medical intuitives, and subtle energy seers) to update Sheldrake's morphic resonance theory, putting it more in line with a truly transcendental idealist vision, changing our whole notion of what causes mutations and how characteristics are passed down in evolution, in line with Kastrup's more wholistic vision of purpose and direction in evolution.

    So, you're welcome to take any one of these suggestions or none, but do you see any of this as possibly leading to even slight changes in the way the mind or life sciences are actually carried out on a day to day level?

    (next question, for a future date - now that that's out of the way, maybe the physicists might change a bit too??:>))))

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    1. Hi Don,
      Uh, let me get my crystal ball from the attic. ;-)
      I think the pure methodology of science, uncontaminated by ontological assumptions and prejudices, is just fine. The problem is that it is almost never applied, in practice, in its pure form. So I don't think a revolution in our culture's chosen ontology should distort the archetypal scientific method, but simply purify its application, rendering it more honest and open. This alone should indeed change many things. I discuss it extensively in the book (stop pretending you don't have an advance review copy ;), so here are some quotes:
      "If all reality is in consciousness, then your physical body is also in consciousness, not the other way around. As such, your body is the outside image of psychic processes unfolding in what analytical psychology has come to call your ‘personal unconscious.’ ... the implication is clear: your physical health isn’t merely ‘connected’ to your psychic state; it _is_ your obfuscated psychic state! I discuss this in greater detail in essay 8.3, but the gist is that it opens up an entirely new avenue for treating physical illness through forms of suggestion, clinical psychology and many other treatments currently considered alternative or even fringe. ...If our personal psyches are merely dissociated complexes – alters – of mind-at-large, then, at bottom, our psyches are fundamentally one and the same consciousness. This validates the possibility of so-called psi phenomena, like clairvoyance and telepathy. If the a priori bias against parapsychology were to disappear, so that critical resources and people could be committed to it in scales much greater than ever before, what could science discover in this field? What practical applications could emerge from more widespread and better-funded parapsychological research? In what variety of very practical and pragmatic ways could that impact our personal lives and those of our loved ones? ... If subjective experience is primary in nature – not merely a secondary phenomenon of the mechanical behavior of matter – then our feelings and emotions carry much more weight and relevance than otherwise. They are much more significant to our sense of who or what we are, what reality is, as well as to the meaning and purpose of our lives. If love is actually primary – material chemicals suffusing your brain being just an outside image of love, not its cause – wouldn’t that make a difference as far as how you look upon your relationships? If your subjective sense of calling or purpose is primary – not merely a chemical trick to keep you motivated to survive and reproduce – wouldn’t that make a difference as far as the decisions and risks you take in your life to try to make your dreams come true? Wouldn’t we, as a culture, have to take another look at current psychiatric best-practices if we acknowledged our feelings to be primary, not merely the outcome of chemical imbalances to be corrected with drugs?"
      More questions than answers, I know. I do explore all this in a lot more detail later in the book, but I agree that a more complete treatment of this topic would require a book of its own!
      Cheers, Bernardo.

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  5. hmmm, come to think of it, maybe my previous letter might contain some topics for your next book!!

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  6. oops, I got the math wrong - you'll be 75 in 2050, not in your late 60s - well, I'm sure you'll be in such good health you probably won't look at day over 50!

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  7. Bernardo, I want to ask you a question.

    There is a trait of dedicated materialists which I find surprising - their staunch loyalty to the the most cynical and misanthropic wordview ever produced by human intelligence. According to the position held by those people, there are no meaning, value or purpose. There is no free will. No selfhood. All experience and conscious awareness itself is nothing but illusion - which, in effect means that the whole expeiential reality, and our lives in it, is a phantom.

    And yet, such a gloomy, even nihilistic, view is furiously defended by many.

    So my question is: what keeps all those people attached to the philosophy which seek to banish anything humane from the world? What do they find in it? What makes some of them so faithful that they are ready to dismiss evidence, ignore reason and attack anyone who contradict them?

    What do you think?

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    1. I've been writing about this, reflecting on a quote by Alan Watts. Here is a passage of something I've been working on:

      "The allegedly skeptical scientific myth that dominates contemporary culture is, in fact, based on a peculiarly biased value-system: an emotional and irrational need to deny all meaning and purpose in nature. Alan Watts saw this as a reflection of the 19th-century ethos under which the values of contemporary science congealed. He wrote: 'The world-conquering West of the nineteenth century needed a philosophy of life in which realpolitik – victory for the tough people who face the bleak facts – was the guiding principle. Thus the bleaker the facts you face, the tougher you seem to be. So we vied with each other to make the Fully Automatic Model of the universe as bleak as possible.' In other words, science, as the exclusive domain of men in the 19th century, incorporated in its very fabric the adolescent male’s need to look tough. When listening to the spokespeople of science and neo-atheism today, one in fact wonders whether much has changed since then."

      In Brief Peeks Beyond I also discuss this, in an essay asserting that a taboo against meaning is dominant in science, for a number of historical reasons that I elaborate on. Finally, there is something we must not forget: materialism provides a guarantee that all of our problems and suffering will inevitably come to an end at some point. The comforting appeal of this view can be strong.

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    2. I agree with the idea of Alan Watts. I also feel that there is a wound that is masculine that contributed to the way science developed since Francis Bacon, a need for control and power. The early founders of what became science depict her (nature) as “wild and dangerous harlot who must be fought, tormented, uprooted, interrogated, held down..” (See Mary Midgley) Keep up the good writing and the good work.

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    3. "materialism provides a guarantee that all of our problems and suffering will inevitably come to an end at some point. The comforting appeal of this view can be strong."

      I think this is an interesting point, which I also realised recently while listening to an Alan Watts lecture. It's often argued that the religious cling to their belief in God and the afterlife out of a psychological inability to face the cold hard facts of reality as the materialist/atheist sees it. But surely the idea that when you die you simply cease to exist is infinitely more comforting than the idea that you might be compelled to account for your actions on Earth, let alone the possibility of frying in hell for eternity. So, in a way, materialism is both a cynical, nihilistic view allowing us to exploit the natural world as we see fit, as well as providing the ultimately comforting idea that we'll get away with it.

      Anyway, very excited to read the new book, Bernardo! Your previous books were invaluable to me in terms of providing a coherent framework to bring together a host of seemingly disparate thoughts I'd been having. Everything just kind of clicked together after reading "Materialism is Baloney", so thank you for that!

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  8. I think Abraham Maslow also had some interesting observations linking the male "tough guy" adolescent mindset to the desacralisation of science. If memory serves the book was "Psychology of Science: A Reconnaissance".

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  9. Hi Bernardo,

    I've been having a look at Brief Peeks Beyond (and now, Why Materialism is Baloney), and I've found it stimulating reading. I agree with you that our materialistic outlook has impoverished us, and that there is a need for a broader understanding of life and the meaning/purpose of existence. Your arguments against materialism look spot on to my philosophically untrained eye.

    However, I want to focus on one area where I disagree with you, and this is the postulation of a mind-at-large. Each one of us experiences the world as an interaction of individuals, and to go beyond this to postulate an over-arching mind is metaphysical speculation. The idea of a mind-at-large is only one way of making sense of our shared experience of the world, and perhaps not even the most parsimonious one. However, I do not now wish to propose any alternative theory, but merely to question one of the statements made in your book. I feel this particular statement is symptomatic of what I consider the main flaw in your philosophy.

    On page 18 of BPB, to support your suggestion that we are “alters” of a mind-at-large, you say: “If I were lucidly aware of your entire inner life, and you of mine, we would be effectively the same conscious entity, wouldn't we? We feel that we are separate precisely because we are seemingly unconscious of each other's inner lives. This is how obfuscation leads to dissociation.”

    My answer to your rhetorical question is, “No, we would not be the same conscious entity.” In your essay you make a clear distinction between first person and second person experiences. This perspective is also valid here. The part of your experience that you identify with and that you have some control over is your first person experience. The part of the experience that you do not identify with and that you have no control over is a second person experience. These would be clearly separable and therefore would not form one entity.

    A truly transpersonal experience would be one where two people had the same first person experience, and it would have to be perfectly synchronised. I am not aware of any evidence for such experiences, and I doubt that it would even be possible to produce such evidence. In the end we only have personal experiences – some of which may be interpreted as transpersonal – but in fact can never be established as such.

    So to me the idea of mind-at-large is just an assumption that helps explain consensus reality, but it is an assumption that itself can never be proven. I would therefore prefer not to postulate anything beyond individual experiences and instead provide an alternative mechanism for how our experiences are related in such a way that we perceive the world in similar ways. This has the advantage of being more in keeping with how we actually experience the world, that is, we experience the world as interrelated individuals.

    My best wishes to you.

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    1. Hi Ajahn,
      Unless we accept solipsism, we have to infer something beyond ordinary personal experience in other to explain how different people share the same world. Mind-at-large, in my view, is the most parsimonious inference that can be made. A seeming alternative is to say that different minds are in communication with each other in order to create a shared experience. But if minds are communicating and there is nothing but mind in between them, then these communicating minds are in fact a single mind, for the same reason that a thousand drops of water touching each other is, in fact, one puddle.
      The thought experiment of I being fully aware of your inner life, and you of mine, requires that I share your first-person experience and you mine. In that case, we would be the one and the same conscious entity.
      More elucidations about how I argue my position can be found in this new video:
      https://youtu.be/hx7cspjwvHM
      Cheers, B.

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    2. Ok, here we go ...

      But if you put 1000 rocks together in one pile, they don't become one rock; they still keep their individual identity. The question, it seems to me, is the nature of the boundary. If each individual psyche is clearly bounded, yet not incapable of sharing information with other psyches – perhaps in a similar way to the whirlpools in your metaphor – then perhaps we could model reality in such a way as to avoid mind-at-large. (It must seem by now as if I have some sort of congenital hostility to this idea. :-))

      Moreover, the idea that there is something “in between” minds is a physicalist metaphor. I am not sure we can speak of minds in this way. It seems more relevant to me to consider whether minds have clear boundaries, boundaries that coincide with our sense of individuality. And boundaries can be permeable, without this making them non-existent.

      The “problem” with early Buddhism is that it doesn't really provide a philosophical outlook; it is essentially a pragmatic teaching on how to find the highest happiness and eliminate all suffering. In fact, rather than being a problem, this may be the strength of early Buddhism, because it does away with as much of the problematic process of conceptualisation as it can. Instead it focuses directly on how to achieve the highest good. Of course, in the case of the Buddha – who claimed to have awakened to the truth – providing a philosophical framework for his teachings would be understandable, since this would simply consist in spelling out what he already knew. It is very interesting, then, that he does not do this, and presumably this is because it would detract from the pragmatic application of his teachings. But most people don't even have access to a higher truth (let alone the highest), which renders any philosophising highly precarious. We are fumbling in the dark, trying to use the only tool we have – the rational mind – to make sense of something that can only really be apprehended through direct experience. It is just too easy to go wrong when imagination is not somehow anchored in real experience and direct insight. For this reason we need to remain open to a number of different possibilities so that we do not get locked into a new paradigm that will just become a new straitjacket that stops us from accessing an even deeper truth. If we simply replace materialism with a new paradigm that has its own limitations, then perhaps we have not achieved as much as we could. In the end I think openness of mind is critical, and we should always be wary of the human tendency to tightly hold onto metaphysical positions. (And no, this does not mean that we need to remain open to the materialistic outlook; anything that is patently absurd can of course be discarded.)

      So I guess this is my challenge to you: to be clear about the limits and potential unreliability of a rationally constructed metaphysic, and therefore not to get too wedded to the mind-at-large idea. In my world view, based on intuition and experience, there is no such thing as mind-at-large. And on that basis I am unable to accept your philosophy. Its internal coherence and reasonableness from a philosophic point of view are quite irrelevant if it does not match the most profound experience of the nature of reality.

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