Talking each other into consensus reality

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 principles, with surprising results.

As my readers know, from my book Meaning in Absurdity onwards I've emphasized a complementary mechanism: that a form of transpersonal consciousness is a reality-synchronizing factor beyond our personal psyches. It still consists purely in subjective mentation, but outside personhood. Such a deeper synchronization mechanism wouldn't require linguistic communication between different people: it would be built right into the fabric of reality as the global, overarching patterns and regularities of nature itself.

I think both mechanisms ultimately play a role, at different levels. But because my three latest books focus on the archetypal unfolding of transpersonal consciousness, which we call the "laws of classical physics," the "we-talk-each-other-into-consensus" possibility argued in Dreamed up Reality has become largely forgotten. May this essay help rectify this situation.

In addition, my latest books are rather sober, rigorous philosophical discourses. They are grounded in reason, logic and empirical science. This way, the more intimate and experiential aspects of my work, present so strongly in Dreamed up Realityhave also become practically forgotten. I, too, have had deep, direct, transcendent experiences, which have significantly contributed to my present philosophical views. Some of these experiences, as well as the background of how I ended up having them, are described at length in Dreamed up Reality. To impress this point upon you, I quote one of them below:

The initial stages of the experience pretty much followed the previously established pattern. Upon crossing the threshold into a non-ordinary state of consciousness, I found myself once more in my own “private” inner theater, with the familiar and evocative mandala patterns and Kandinsky scintillae waiting for me. I stayed centered, carefully avoiding a drift into negative emotions that could set an undesirable tone for the rest of the experience. I visualized the feeling of learning something about the underlying nature of reality. This visualization was strong, for I very sincerely wished for greater understanding. Behind my visualization, perhaps hidden in my subconscious mind, there was a hint of disappointment that I had not yet had an unambiguous insight about reality, like many others had reported as a result of their subjective exploration practices.
From the familiar inner theater, I drifted further into that state of egolessness and non-life that I described earlier. This time, however, I recognized it as it was happening. I welcomed it and continued to actively try and keep my mind centered and disciplined as the experiment unfolded. Thankfully, I did not think about how difficult my previous return from egolessness had been.
My efforts to stay centered and lucid paid off. Shortly after reaching the state of egolessness, I broke through into new and uncharted territory. New, previously unseen images started flashing in my mind, accompanied but strange thoughts. I cannot recall what they were, but I remember wondering about what was going on. Some of the images seemed vaguely to resemble some weird form of visual art, akin to cubism. Whatever it was, it was very peculiar, as if I were tapping into a mind not my own; as if I were witnessing things, events, images, thoughts, and emotions that did not belong to me, or to any normal human being for that matter. It was not scary though: I was relaxed, open-minded and, frankly, very curious.
More than in previous experiments, I find it extraordinarily difficult this time to recall the details of the experience. Like a regular dream that one forgets seconds after waking up, this time the experience began fading fast, even before I was back to more ordinary states of consciousness. Still, I remember that, at some point in the experiment, I was saying repeatedly in thought: “I am trying, but I cannot understand it... I am trying...” Something was being displayed in the screen of my mind; something extraordinarily profound and complex, but I could not make sense of it. It was very, very hard to grasp, whatever it was.
The gestalt of the experience was that of a “better informed” alter ego of mine trying to convey something to his space-time-bound doppelganger. I had a hard time making sense of “his” message. Yet, very slowly, the entire situation started becoming clearer. At some point, I felt as though my supposed alter ego were metaphorically opening the dome of inner theater above my head – like the moving dome of an astronomical observatory – revealing a profound and unprecedented truth operating busily and inconspicuously just behind what had previously been the boundary of my perceptual universe.
What I then “saw” was indescribable. How inadequate words are. This... “thing” that was revealed... froze me to the spot. It was a pattern. Whatever doubt I might have harbored about whether these experiences truly entailed knowledge input from outside my brain evaporated: there was absolutely no way this thing, this unfathomable miracle of a pattern, could have come out of my primate head.
Suddenly it was completely clear. I could understand it! It was an unbelievably complex, yet self-explanatory evolution of concentric patterns growing out of concentric patterns; like self-generating, hyper-dimensional mandalas recursively blossoming, like flowers, out of the centers of previous hyper-dimensional mandalas, ad infinitum, but with a single point of origin from where it all emanated. This point of origin, this Source of it all, however, remained elusive: hidden behind the layers of wonders growing outwards from it. Somehow, the way new patterns unfolded and evolved was already entirely encoded in, and determined by, the very shapes, angles, and proportions entailed by previous patterns, so that no new primary information was ever added to the thing as it evolved. The entire story was already fully contained in it from the very beginning, and it was simply unpacking and manifesting itself in all its indescribable glory. It was a thing of startling power and beauty, yet put together with a level of sophistication and perfection that goes way beyond anything I could compare it to.
I was flabbergasted with how unambiguous this experience was. No fluffy and debatable impressions here; this thing was there. I could hardly believe it. Despite its sheer complexity, and unlike diagrams in a textbook – which require captions for their meaning to be made clear – this thing was entirely self-evident in its perfect harmony. Simply by “looking” at it I understood not only it, but its far-reaching implications as well. This was the answer to the question that haunted me my entire life: this thing, this miraculous, hyper-dimensional, evolving pattern, was the definitive explanation to the underlying structure of reality. There was no doubt. This settled the question entirely. One simply needed to “look” at it with the mind’s eye to know that this is how reality came to being; this is how nature was formed; this is what nature is; this is what is behind everything. There, in that pattern, in its wondrous shapes and features, in the angles, lengths, proportions, and relationships among its components, and in the way it evolved recursively as if re-birthing itself continuously, was the answer to everything. The pattern was the answer. At this point of the experience, there was no other reality to me but this jaw-dropping thing that was unfolding and revealing itself; physical body and life in linear time completely forgotten.
From the moment the metaphorical dome began to open, I felt thoughts in my mind that I did not recognize as my own. These were clearly and very gently articulated statements that popped seemingly out of nowhere: “You wanted to know... so here is how it is, you see? This is how it is...” These words came invested with a sense of calm and benevolence. “This is how it all is, you see?” spoke my supposed alter ego, borrowing my own voice.
My reasoning machinery was operating in overdrive. I could not stop “looking” at that miracle of a thing, trying to somehow articulate its implications in language. But it was impossible. I thought to myself: “this is not meant for human consumption.” The mere attempt at articulating it was exhaustive. I noticed I was – and I cannot avoid the expression – frying my brain to a crisp. It was overwhelming and painful in a non-physical way. I thought I would go insane, and it dawned on me that this is what insanity may feel like. Yet, I felt as though my mysterious alter ego were aware of how dangerous and distressing this kind of knowledge could be, and were somehow controlling the “dose,” if you will. That was a reassuring thought, whether factual or not.
I concluded with certainty then that one must be literally insane in order to comprehend this thing. The magnitude of it, its hyper-dimensional character, and its implications, cannot be apprehended unless one completely abandons all pre-existing mental models, semantic frameworks, assumptions, and paradigms of thought one holds. Losing all this mental infrastructure comes very close to the definition of mental pathology. In fact, I understood then why ego dissolution appeared to be a necessary pre-requisite for exposure to that miraculous pattern: the preconceptions, expectations, and closed thought paradigms of the ego would prevent one from even seeing the pattern for what it is, let alone understanding it. The ego would dress it up and squeeze it into lower-dimensional models that would limit the perception of its true nature. Perhaps the mandalas I saw in inner theater were but such lower-dimensional, fragmentary projections or resonances of that miraculous pattern. Perhaps the mandala drawings used by mystics the world over are even lower-dimensional projections of it. There seems to be a hierarchical progression of states of consciousness leading to the state that made such understanding possible: from consensus reality, to the inner theater of mind, to ego dissolution, to this.
Now, as I write these words, I face the formidable challenge to try and articulate the unfathomable. Whatever I do, I am certain that more than 99% of the meaning, nuances, and richness of what I perceived have been lost upon the precarious imprinting of the impressions onto my brain. But I will do my best. The following paragraphs represent my feeble attempt at articulating some of what was instantaneously obvious to me merely upon “glancing” at the indescribable pattern I referred to earlier. The words capture but a very modest part of the pattern’s self-evident and far-reaching implications. I do not know how an abstract pattern could entail or imply so much concrete information. I will simply record this information here as I recall it, with suspended judgment and critique about its validity. Later we will have occasion for rational analysis.

Copyright © 2010-2015 by Bernardo Kastrup. All rights are reserved.


  1. Beautiful. Welcome down the "Rabbit hole".

  2. Sounds like someone met Dmitri! :) Can't wait to read the book.

    1. I think aprasad was referring to DMT.

    2. Ohh... no, I haven't done it. Maybe one day. :)

    3. Indeed, I was. Probably worth giving it a go :)

  3. This is all very nice. You might look at the essay on the "intermediate zone" to understand where this, and much of what Jung describes, fits in the larger picture.

    All these experiences are of the same nature and what applies to one applies to another. Apart from some experiences of a personal character, the rest are either idea-truths, such as pour down into the consciousness from above when one gets into touch with certain planes of being, or strong formations from the larger mental and vital worlds which, when one is directly open to these worlds, rush in and want to use the sadhak for their fulfilment. These things, when they pour down or come in, present themselves with a great force, a vivid sense of inspiration or illumination, much sensation of light and joy, an impression of widening and power. The sadhak feels himself freed from the normal limits, projected into a wonderful new world of experience, filled and enlarged and exalted; what comes associates itself, besides, with his aspirations, ambitions, notions of spiritual fulfilment and yogic siddhi; it is represented even as itself that realisation and fulfilment. Very easily he is carried away by the splendour and the rush, and thinks that he has realised more than he has truly done, something final or at least something sovereignly true. (continued...)

  4. Don, nice essay " intermediate zone". Do you know where I can find more literature on this particular topic. Thanks.

  5. Thank you Bernardo for describing something I have experienced when I was 34. I remember the overwhelming unconditional love this to me 'electrical vibrating field' expressed. It promised me that I would never get ill and gave me some very easy ways to accomplish that. Am 70 now and up till now it really has kept its promises.

    I refer to it as my SOUL because every letter in this word has meaning to me: S-elf O-mnipotent U-niversal L-ife.

    Funny but very special to me is that the Dutch word: ZIEL has exactly the same meaning:
    Z-elf I-nitiƫrend E-euwig L-even

    I made so many poems to describe this experience, but it cannot be put in words :)

    Good luck to you in your life-journey which I would name after the pattern of the Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of Life :)


    1. "Dreamed up Reality" seems a great book to stir the fantasy of my grandkids.
      Going to order it as an e-book......

  6. You might like this quote from Dzogchen master Thrangu Rinpoche on how the whole process works:

    Rinpoche: The reason for all of these appearances is our habit. Appearances
    always arise from habit that causes you to generate or project those particular
    appearances. It’s a lot like dreaming. So, to use a dream as an example,
    when you start to dream, the dream begins as a thought, like one you would
    have in the daytime. But you’re asleep, so the thought intensifies and becomes
    something like talk or gossip, and then the gossip intensifies or solidifies into
    images, and then you really think that you’re seeing people, seeing places,
    going places, and so on. And that is how it works with conventional appearances
    as well.

    I've only been able to witness this once or twice when dreaming, but it sounds accurate. Trippy to think that's how "physical reality" may have come about, too!

    1. To know what I made of my own experience, one has to read the book... this is just an excerpt ;)

    2. I did. That's why I posted this here :)


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