Showing posts from April, 2016

Reading Inside God's Brain

And the day has finally come! Today is the official publication date of my latest book, More Than Allegory. This means that if you purchase the eBook/Kindle edition now, you get instant gratification, since it will be downloaded immediately. To celebrate this special occasion, only a special blog post will do. And a very special one this is: here is the full introduction of the book, generously contributed by Prof. Jeffrey J. Kripal.

Reading Inside God’s Brain By Jeffrey J. Kripal
I was so delighted when I found Bernardo Kastrup’s books. Actually, I didn’t find them. A mutual colleague working in Paris on medieval Christianity, Troy Tice, read us both and encouraged me to read Bernardo. He thought our books somehow spoke to one another, and that I would appreciate Bernardo’s books. Troy could not have been more right. I read all five of Bernardo’s previous books within a few weeks. Just gobbled them up.

I have thought about why I did this. I seldom read this many books by a single auth…

Conquering the fear of oblivion (in 15 minutes)

Most people fear death. And amongst those, most do so because death seems to entail oblivion, the end of everything we are. In this brief essay, I want to help you follow your own direct experience to realize that, whatever death may be, it isn't the end of you; not even of a part of you. This realization, in my view, is fairly simple to achieve and I personally don't include it in my list of critical existential questions. But our mainstream cultural narrative has created a false monster here that distracts most people from the real questions. So let me try to make a contribution towards changing this distorted state of affairs. What follows requires no spiritual background, belief, knowledge or skill; indeed, it doesn't require anything other than sincerity and attentive introspection for about 15 minutes. It focuses solely on your direct experience of your own being, without addressing thought-oriented philosophical questions. For the latter, I recommend Part III of my…

The timeless numinosity of death

Last week we lost the author of much of the soundtrack of my childhood: Prince, the musician. I hadn't thought of Prince in years; he'd just dropped out of my inner world, except for the very occasional song played on my car radio. In those rare moments, his songs would  immediately bring back memories of my early years; yet, not the image of Prince himself. The artist was just a faded figure in my mind, who I assumed to be an old and grumpy man by now, enjoying retirement somewhere in Florida.

However, upon hearing the news of his passing, I noticed something that had evaded my reflections up until that moment: the strange numinosity that death invests people and their work with. Prince was no longer that old-fashioned, trite, grumpy old man I imagined him to have become. No, no: now he was a mythical figure I'd had the unfathomable honor to share the world with.

How the hell did this sudden change happen? How could the mere passing of a man lead to this complete reversa…

Shattered Innocence

I grieve the loss of my innocence.
The mystery and possibilities that once were my world abandoned me,
Frivolousness and claustrophobia left in their stead.

Each door traversed turned an infinitude of magical could-be's into one cold has-been.
No longer an endless, multi-dimensional path ahead,
But a long line of footprints behind.

I ache in sorrow not for my failures, but for my successes.
They revealed the hollowness of early dreams,
Failing my childhood.

I feel grievously disappointed in people,
From whom I once expected wisdom, strength and reassurance,
But who are just as lost as me.

Knowledge betrayed me.
Maturity is the fall, and I fell.
Having seen through my innocence, I now feel naked and vulnerable.

In knowing, I have come to distrust the world.
Even my own body is an insidious alien forced upon me by nature,
Ready to ambush me at any time.

I feel angry at nature for her being what she is.
I feel furious at myself for having been such a fool,
And for having allowed mys…

Dispelling straw-men: does brain imaging corroborate or contradict materialism?

The two essays I wrote prior to this one have commanded a lot of interest and attention (see here and here). They discuss recent brain imaging studies on the effects of psychedelics. Surprisingly, the results have shown that, unlike what one would ordinarily expect from a materialist perspective, the increase in the richness and intensity of experience following the intake of psychedelics correlates with reductions of brain activity. Although these results, in and of themselves, do not single-handedly refute materialism, they do contradict its intuitions. After all, under materialism, brain activity constitutes experience. Therefore, I've referred to these studies as circumstantial evidence for the alternative, non-materialist philosophy I argue for (analytic summary freely available here).

Since publishing those two essays, I have been confronted with a barrage of straw-man arguments against my philosophy. Straw-man arguments are those wherein a critic first misconstrues my view…

The LSD study: an author responds

[Updated on 16 April 2016. A follow-up has also been published here.]

Yesterday I published an essay criticizing the media coverage of a brand new study on the neural correlates of the LSD experience. In that essay, I analyzed the original study and compared it to what the media reported. Towards the end, I also shared some social commentary about the media's role in our culture today, based on a philosophical interpretation of the study's results.

Today one of the study's authors, Luke Williams, responded to my essay through a comment in a Facebook group. I reproduce his response verbatim and in full below, inserting my comments and rebuttals as appropriate. Since, as you are about to see, Williams attacks the second part of my essay unceremoniously, I feel legitimized to now bring to the table aspects of my argument that I have held back in yesterday's essay. Namely, I feel now warranted to criticize the study authors themselves, for what I see as their shortcomings …

The LSD study: you're being subtly deceived (again)

A new study on the neural correlates of the LSD experience has just being published, to great fanfare. Naturally, the mainstream media is all over it, because of the loaded history of psychedelics. The Guardian published an article and so did CNN, even with front-page visibility in its website. As many of my readers know, the same group that carried out this study has published other studies earlier, in which they've shown that psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) only reduces brain activity, instead of increasing it. See this earlier essay, as well as this one. Such results are counter-intuitive from a materialist perspective since, if brain activity indeed constituted experience, the mind-boggling psychedelic state should correlate with more brain activity, not less. So the key question of interest in this new study is this: Does brain activity increase or decrease when the subjects are under the influence of LSD?

The facts reported in the study

Let's focus o…

The linguistic demon of space-time

Time and space are one of the greatest conundrums of both science and philosophy, and have been so since we began to think about them self-reflectively. Many, especially in physics, see space-time as an objective thing, which can be bent and twisted. Others, namely in Eastern philosophy, see time and space as illusions, narratives in the mind without any objective existence. An intense dialectic goes on between these two apparently opposing views.

But when it comes to explaining and communicating these views, the playing field is anything but level. Those who espouse the notion that time and space are just illusory narratives face the apparently impossible challenge of articulating their position in language. After all, language already has time and space built right into it: we conjugate verbs according to tenses that reflect time; the linguistic separation between subject and object assumes the objective existence of space; grammar organizes the structure of language along the axes…