Hyper-dimensional fantasies...

There seems to be a lot of talk in the New Age community these days about hyper-dimensional ideas, like "5D ascension," "higher-dimensional realms," and what not. Much of the stuff is either completely unsubstantiated or articulated in a way that flies in the face of science and reason. So although the fantasies are rich and appealing, their lack of any grounding is a complete turn-off. Yet, hyper-dimensionality, as a concept, can be explored in full accordance with materialism/physicalism to weave surprising possibilities about what it means to be a human being. Amazingly, it can even reconcile survival of consciousness, eternal life, and reincarnation with strict physicalism. Curious about how? Read on, and/or watch the short video below.

According to different versions of String Theory, and especially M-Theory, up to 10 dimensions of space are required for describing and explaining the behavior of matter. For years now popular culture has acknowledged this abstraction with a certain degree of wonder, thanks to the likes of Brian Greene and other science popularizers. Yet, there is one remarkable implication of these theories that seem to escape the attention of most of us: If matter exists in 10 spatial dimensions, then our bodies, which are made of matter, also fundamentally exist in 10 spatial dimensions. So the 3-dimensional body we see when we look down while dressing up each day is, in fact, a flattened projection of a 10-dimensional structure way beyond our ability to visualize spatially.

When we take a picture of a face, we are making a 2-dimensional projection of something that exists in 3 dimensions. A lot of information is lost in that process: A head-on picture of a face still shows a nose, but misses all the information about what the nose would look like in profile. Yet, at least there is a hint of the broader structure left: We still see the nose. In other cases, however, every hint of the presence of an entire structure in 3 dimensions can be lost in a 2-dimensional projection. For instance, if you have a mole on the side of your neck, there will be no sign of it in the head-on picture. By looking at the picture alone, nobody would be able to infer the presence of the mole, or of large parts of the structure of your ears. Now take this thinking several levels up: How many structures are lost when we project a 10-dimensional body onto only 3 dimensions? How many 'organ systems' become completely invisible? How many complex, vital structures inherent to the inner-workings of a living body disappear in the projection? Going from 3 to 2 dimensions, as we all know, implies significant loss of information; and that is just the loss of a single dimension. Imagine the loss of 7 dimensions.

If we had a closed causal explanation for human physiology today, all the way down to the molecular level, it would be fair to say that postulating invisible hyper-dimensional structures is totally unnecessary and gratuitous. In such case, we could still acknowledge that the visible human body is indeed a 3-dimensional projection of something in 10 dimensions but, just like the nose in our example, every structure in 10 dimensions is still hinted at, in some way, in the 3-dimensional projection we see; enough for us to construct said closed causal explanation. In other words, there would be no need to postulate moles or more complex structures that leave no hint in the projection. But we do not have a closed causal explanation for the inner-workings of the human body. Molecular biology is very, very far away from it. Most of the molecular-level details of life are still a profound mystery. Moreover, research has been generating more questions than answers, so it's hard to say even that we are getting closer. As such, we can still legitimately fantasize that there are bodily structures, inherent to life, existing in those 7 invisible dimensions, no hint of which is left in the 3-dimensional projection we normally call the human body. We can even fantasize that the difference between living and non-living structures in nature is precisely the presence of a hidden, hyper-dimensional core in living things, whose intrinsic dynamics becomes visible as the molecular physiology of life. According to this imagination, life is itself a 'protrusion' into our 3D world of something grounded in hidden dimensions.

Expanding on this fantasy now: Our 'regular' bodies (that is, the three-dimensional projection) have parts that grow, get older, and eventually get discarded: hair, nails, skin, teeth, etc. Nobody sits around in a gloomy mood because he or she has just shed a patch of dead skin; the core of what it means to be us remains intact. Now, imagine the visible human body as something analogous to that: It is a 'protrusion' into the regular 3 dimensions of our true hyper-dimensional bodies; a protrusion that grows and gets older throughout a lifetime, and eventually is discarded. The core of the structure, the thing it means to be a human being, albeit hidden, remains intact in those 7 invisible dimensions. Like the roots of garden plants, which survive underground throughout the winter even though their visible structures die and are discarded, the body we see may be just the glorified 'flowering' appendages that have their moments during the spring and summer. No need for a soul in this fantasy: Survival may be entirely physical.

A different, but ultimately equivalent, way to approach this is the following: Neuroscience today states that the entire reality we actually experience is a brain-constructed hallucination modulated by external electromagnetic signals coming from an outside world (for the sake of the fantasy, I will pretend I agree with this position, so we can explore its implications). In other words, you live your whole life locked into a kind of 'copy' of reality generated by your brain. But if that is so, then everything we think to know about our brains is itself part of that 'copy' of reality generated by the brain; a self-referential loop. What we call a 'brain' is, thus, merely what 'something' related to a brain looks like from within the reality this 'something' creates. To make description easier, let us define the following terminology: Let us call a 'hyper-brain' the true structure that actually generates our subjective reality; and let us call a 'brain' the way a hyper-brain looks from within the subjective reality it creates. Naturally, the hyper-brain fundamentally exists outside the reality we experience every day, for this everyday reality is itself created by the hyper-brain. Computer programmers can understand this with the following analogy: A 'brain' is an internal model, within a piece of software, of the computer that runs the piece of software. The internal model exists within the virtual reality of the software, while the machine itself exists in the same reality you and I inhabit. Clearly, despite important equivalences, a machine model running in software is not the actual machine, in the same way that your Facebook timeline is not your life, despite equivalences; one thing is just a representation of the other. The brain we see is merely a representation of a hyper-brain within the virtual reality created by the hyper-brain, in the same way that computer operating systems have virtual representations of the actual machines they run on.

Now the question, of course, is: How complete and accurate is this internal software model? How accurate a representation of the hyper-brain is the brain? How much about the hyper-brain is it safe to infer from observing a brain? Continuing on with our fantasy: The brain may be a faint, distorted, partial 'echo' of the real thing; of the hyper-brain. As such, making assertions of certainty about the beginning or the end of the hyper-brain based on observations made within the reality created by the hyper-brain is, at best, tricky. We cannot infer the end of the hyper-brain from the decomposition of a brain within the hallucinated reality, in the same way that we cannot infer the destruction of the computer from erasing its software. This way, even though this second fantasy is not literally a hyper-dimensionality one, it leads to a similar conclusion.

I hope you've enjoyed our little excursion into the unexplored spaces of the physicalist imagination!

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


  1. Interesting speculation.

    If modern biologists are beginning hardly to realize that quantum phenomena may be relevant to living creatures, resulting in quantum biology, it is not unreasonable to think that the subquantic phenomena of the other dimensions posited by string theory also may be relevant to living creatures. Of course, if the relationship between quantum mechanics and biology is still quite speculative, it is more speculative accept still more microscopic phenomena relevant to biology.

    Following another way, I think other way to reconcile physicalism and afterlife not as speculative and has empirical and experimental support. Is to conceive the soul as a material vehicle of consciousness that remains after the death of the organic body, which is known as the astral body. The astral body is compatible with physicalism because it is physical, and physicalism only states that all real entities are physical, leaving the empirical and experimental research which physical entities exist. The astral body is material but made of a material unknown to modern science, normally invisible but in certain circumstances can become visible as in the apparitions of the living and the dead and visions of deathbed. We even have experimental evidence of the astral body, as Karlis Osis experiments with psychic Tanous whether during the extracorporeal experiences really get something out of the body.

    1. Bernardo, do you know that projective geometry is something Eric Weiss talks about with regards to trans-physical worlds, survival of death and reincarnation?

    2. Hi Mark,
      I started reading Weiss' book but then got sidetracked. So I didn't quite know he talked about hyper-dimensions in a literal sense. But I'll go have a look. Thanks for pointing out.
      Cheers, Bernardo.

  2. Now you're cooking Bernardo!

    I asked a top notch cardiologist two weeks ago to explain what is newly diagnosed as "Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy".Real Mind/Body problem with this one and he actually agreed our current model cannot address this cardiac event and many simply won't use "Takotsubo" preferring just "Cardiomyopathy" or "stress induced cardiomyopathy.

    I have spoken with two. Real Mind/Body sensitivity indicate that physicians are becoming increasingly aware that our current paradigm in medicine is outmoded and that there is a need for a deeper explanation for Mind/Body interactions that requires a new underlying paradigm such as what you are creatively playing with.

    Most who practice medicine don't read this stuff. They are too busy, uninterested, and lack Imagination. As an American Psychologist who has worked with Medical Practioners for 35 years, I have met perhaps 2 who would bother to read Karl Popper or Thomas Kuhn. Psychiatrists don't even do real therapy beyond medications for symptoms listed in DSM-IV. No Imagination at all!

  3. Sorry in advance for the off-topic post... I just finished reading Dreamed Up Reality -- brilliant read! I was astounded to what extent your thinking mirrors my own thoughts and intuitions about reality -- but of course you delved much deeper (and with much more rigor) than I ever dared go.

    Question: is the Process code for the cellular automaton-based simulation available for download somewhere? Thanks!

    1. Hi Rambutan,

      First of all, thanks! I appreciate very much the nice feedback; this is the reason I invested so much in writing this stuff.

      And, yes, the code is available! Have a look here:


      Have fun with it! Bernardo.

  4. String theory is completely beyond me, but I do know that it has some severe problems:

    1) There are actually embarrassingly many different "string theories", some of which look like physical reality, some of which don't.

    2) The LHC hasn't given any support for string theories.

    Furthermore, physics as we know it doesn't take consciousness into account - except perhaps in as much as the Copenhagen QM convention uses it as a source for wave function collapse. I can't help feeling that when physics does incorporate QM, a lot of these untested ideas may cease to appear useful.

    I also feel that there is a split between physical reality, and what might be called non-physical reality, that becomes more obvious by the day. Associating consciousness with an extension of physical reality into extra dimensions (if that is what you are suggesting) doesn't seem to solve, say the Hard Problem - any more than moving the action from neurons to micro-tubules would solve the HP.

    For these reasons, I am a bit cautious about the idea of incorporating ideas of higher dimensions into a theory of a bigger reality.

    1. Hi David,

      > Associating consciousness with an extension of
      > physical reality into extra dimensions (if that is
      > what you are suggesting) doesn't seem to solve, say
      > the Hard Problem - any more than moving the action
      > from neurons to micro-tubules would solve the HP.

      Yes, this is correct, in my view. Still, the fantasy potentially makes the 'hard problem' less crucial for the question of survival. Many scientists simply say that consciousness _is_ physical activity in the brain. Under the hyper-dimensional fantasy, even if that is the case, there may very well be conscious, physical activity in the 'hyper-dimensional brain.'

      M-theory/String theories are still, as far as I know, the only game in town for a grand-unification perspective in physics...

  5. Interesting speculation. Physicalism and life after death is not incompatible. Would be interesting to know your thoughts on shadow matter. The physicist Gerhard Wassermann wrote a book Shadow Matter and Psychic Phenomena in which he claimed life after death was possible as a shadow matter duplicate of the brain survived into a shadow world.

  6. Bernardo, you're onto a very interesting concept -- an invisible entity in 7 dimensions protruding into the third-dimensional physical reality. It suggests that all forms, not just conscious beings, have their 7-dimensional counterparts if they exist in the physical. This can explain the "astral" realm which people have visited in OBEs and NDEs, and likely death - the shedding or withdrawal from (temporarily or permanently) the physical "shell".

    Plato wrote of our spiritual forms within and upon which our physical world takes shape or is molded. Edgar Cayce, in his trances, also spoke of ideal patterns, and that the physical follows these patterns of "Mind".

    I recall watching a TV science program about multiple higher dimensions, at least two of which may actually be imbedded in spacetime -- one responsible for information (storage of memories/experiences for learning with future iterations?), and the other for order (structure? Platos forms and Cayce's patterns?).

    It all makes great sense to me, as it seems it would for anyone who has experienced the unseen realm in the mystical sense.

  7. Rudy Rucker's Forth Dimension is the gold standard in this subject. As an aside Rucker is the great great great great grandson of Hegel!