Brain, Mind, and the Matrix of Innovation

I have been busy writing my fourth book and, therefore, have not written much here lately. To try and compensate for it, I'd like to share with you a presentation I gave recently. In it, I discuss the nature of the creative process and its relationship to the mind-body problem. Are innovative ideas generated algorithmically by the brain? Or is brain activity, in fact, an obstacle to creative insight? An intriguing pattern in revealed: creative insight correlates precisely with a reduction of brain activity. Many cases are reviewed to substantiate this pattern: accidental savants, psychedelic trances, brain damage, hyperventilation, meditation, acceleration- and strangulation-induced loss of consciousness, traditional ordeals and initiatory rituals, transcranial magnetic stimulation, etc. The presentation concludes with the surprising idea that, analogously to how lightning is merely the image of the process of electric discharge, the brain is not the cause of mind but an image of the process of mind constriction. As such, the path to creative insight is a de-clenching, a relaxation of brain activity, not its increase. The presentation is in video format, with accurate closed captions that I created manually.

I hope you find it enjoyable!

Here is the relevant bibliography alluded to in the video:
  • Bergson, H. (1912). Matter and Memory. London: George Allen & Co.
  • Blanke, O. et al. (2002). Stimulating illusory own-body perceptions: The part of the brain that can induce out-of-body experiences has been located. Nature, 419, pp. 269-270.
  • Carhart-Harris, R. L. et al. (2012). Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 6 June 2012].
  • Huxley, Aldous (2004). The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell. London: Vintage Books, pp. 10-11.
  • Kelly, E. W., Greyson, B. and Kelly, E. D. (2009). Unusual Experiences Near Death and Related Phenomena. In: Kelly, E. D. et al. Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 367-421.
  • Neal, R. M. (2008). The choking game. In: The Path to Addiction: And Other Troubles We Are Born to Know. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, pp. 310-315.
  • Pascual-Leone, A. et al. eds. (2002). Handbook of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. London: Hodder Arnold.
  • Retz (2007). Tripping Without Drugs: experience with Hyperventilation (ID 14651). [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 6 June 2012].
  • Rhinewine, J. P. and Williams, O. J. (2007). Holotropic Breathwork: The Potential Role of a Prolonged, Voluntary Hyperventilation Procedure as an Adjunct to Psychotherapy. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 13(7), pp. 771-776.
  • Taylor, K. (1994). The Breathwork Experience: Exploration and Healing in Nonordinary States of Consciousness. Santa Cruz, CA: Hanford Mead.
  • Urgesi, C. et al. (2010). The Spiritual Brain: Selective Cortical Lesions Modulate Human Self Transcendence. Neuron, 65, pp. 309-319.
  • Whinnery, J. and Whinnery, A. (1990). Acceleration-Induced Loss of Consciousness: A Review of 500 Episodes. Archives of Neurology, 47(7), 764-776.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Many, if not most, procedures aiming at reducing brain activity can be potentially dangerous and even fatal. This presentation is not meant to encourage anyone to carry out risky activities. I disclaim any and all responsibility, legal or otherwise, for any damage incurred by those choosing to run such risks, or as a consequence thereof.


  1. Very nice Bernardo. It is synchronous with my current reading of biologist Rupert Sheldrake's new book,'Science Set Free'.

    My own interest and experience, professional and personal with 'savant atypical information acquisition',as downloaded packets (Oliver Sack's writes on this subject which often includes synesthesia,where senses take on different qualities i.e. 'seeing sounds, feeling colors, or numbers are seen as 3 dimensional colored figures within the person's mind, and suddenly just appear "as compacted information packets of novel 'transcendent meaning and knowing'pouring into the 'open part of the psyche, read 'empty, in a person's waking,dreaming, hypnogogic or altered state of subjective awareness, previously unknown or trained in a person's life experience.

    Personally, I have awakened from a light sleep hearing a voice speaking very fast and teaching at a higher vibrational rate that my slower processing conscious mind can comprehend, but knowing that all of the information is 'stored' in my unconscious memory banks and subtly emerge over time 'bubbling up gradually' into my conscious awareness sometimes years later from my inarticulate unconsious depths where they were in 'deep memory storage'.

    "Mind at Large" is condensed, filtered and evolves in human beings for use for evelutionary survival. Shamans have known for 40,000 years how to 'silent the brain' and open up to Infinite Mind at Large. The silent mind is the telescope to the exploration of the inner universe of Infinite Inner dimensional Direct Knowing of Mind at Large.

    Bernardo is bringing Enchantment, Meaning, Telos and Holonic Participation back into mainstream Western Society.

    Stir the soup Bernardo. Loki, Coyote, Pythagorus, Parmenedes, Hermes, Terrence McKenna, David Bohm and all human Tricksters appear just when life looks impossibly stuck, meaningless and deadend.

    May 2013 be a special year for you Bernardo.


    Rick or maybe Phillip K Dick or both

    1. :-)
      Thank you, Rick. Being immersed in myself, I don't have a clear view of what my contribution/role might be in a wider context... I just do what I feel I have to do, because what else is there to do? As such, I feel like a witness of this unfolding, not really a protagonist.
      I also can relate well with the hypnagogic experiences you mention... since I've started paying more attention to them, I've realized that we can easily 'tap into' other storylines -- other lives, realities -- unfolding concurrently in mind at large, but then just as easily forget we did it once we tune back to the story we call our lives.
      Happy 2013! B.

  2. Bernardo, I really enjoyed the presentation. Thank you for posting it. I've heard you make the case before, but it was good to see it as a lecture with pictures. What I especially appreciate is the number of different kinds of cases you've collected in which brain reduction leads to enhanced functioning. I don't know if this is your collection (sounds like it) or is borrowed from elsewhere, but it's the breadth of conditions under which this occurs that seems so impressive. Do you know if any neuroscientists have tried to rebut your interpretation of these cases?

    By the way, I'm partway through Dreamed Up Reality and am thoroughly enjoying it. It's quite thought-provoking, even for someone who already agrees with your general conclusions.

    1. Hi Robert,
      I'm glad you're enjoying the book! Coming from you, it's an honor to hear it.
      As far as I know, I collected these cases myself over the last two years or so. I would be glad, though, if someone else arrived at the same list independently. It is always comforting to know someone else went through the same trail and arrived at the same place.
      There are standard -- and vague, promissory -- neuroscience responses, but I believe they don't cut the mustard. You can look at my replies to Steven Novella and Christof Koch in this blog (you can do a search on their names).
      Happy new year! B.

    2. I for one find your collection of cases in which brain reduction leads to mind expansion to be extremely valuable. It gives your conclusion a very broad and strong base to stand on. Materialists seem to explain away each case based on mechanisms quite specific to that case ("psychedelics inhibit reality testing"). But then that means they end up with a whole series of different specific explanations for what your collection shows to be a single phenomenon. That single phenomenon needs a single explanation. If they don't have one, then that invalidates their interpretations right there.

      Thanks for sending me to your Novella and Koch posts. I had read some of them before, but it was good to read them all. What I always find surprising is when a really thin position (like Novella's, where it almost reaches the point where neuronal firing means nothing) is combined with an overwhelming confidence ("It's so obvious. Why don't you get it?"). When there is that huge gap between the weakness of the position and the confidence with which it is offers, it shows that that yawning gap is clearly filled with faith, massive faith in the paradigm.

      Happy New Year to you too! I'm nearing the end of Dreamed Up Reality and think I should probably go from there to Rational Spirituality.

    3. Hi Robert,
      I agree with the points you make! I am elaborating more on this in the book I am writing. I also try to tackle the usual materialist answers in it. Personally, I think we are not too far from the point where materialism will have to concede... many years for sure, but not a lifetime.
      Cheers, Bernardo.

    4. "...but not a lifetime." I really hope you are right about that. From where I sit, the edifice, though full of cracks, seems to be rolling along as if everything's fine. But then they say that's how tyrannical regimes fall. One day it looks like they'll go on indefinitely; the next day they have collapsed in a heap.

      By the way, have you seen this:

      Reminds me a bit of your third experiment.

    5. Very interesting! And yes, I see the link... amazing... Despite my convictions, it is still amazing to see this kind of 'objective' confirmation, in such detail, of something that, according to the paradigm, has 0% chance of being 'objective' (perhaps I should use the word 'consistent' instead of 'objective'...).

  3. More Quantum weirdness to ease us into the new year:

    More evidence of non local interactions.

    btw just bought your first book, Rationalist Spirituality. Looking forward to it :-)

    1. Hi Douglas,
      I hope you enjoy it. And thanks for the link! :)
      Cheers, Bernardo.

  4. Dear Bernardo Kastrup,

    Thank you very much for you video as well as for your article "A paradigm-breaking hypothesis for solving the mind body problem".
    However, it seems to me that when confronted with near-death experiences testimonies, the paradigm you propose does not explain a fundamental fact: it seems that the so called experiencers somehow keep their "ego-self", they still have their sense of "I am" intact. According to many reports they sometimes don't even realise immediately they are in a deep coma for example.
    I agree that nde reports are not easily compatible with materialism/physicalism but if the brain is a kind of filter or a kind of whirpool inside an undifferenciated consciousness, how can it be that the ego-self is kept quasi intact when the brain stops (I would have expected a kind of peek experiment caracterised by a loss of the sense of self) ?

    Sorry for my bad english !


    Hicham Wadi

    1. Hi Hicham,
      You raise very good points. Two answers:
      1) The ego is a narrative -- a story -- that mind identifies with. It is not that fundamental sense of 'I', the subject of experience. It is possible that one loses his ego, but preserves the exact same sense of 'I' -- now naked, disassociated from the 'story of me' -- during an NDE. In his biography 'Memories, Dreams, Reflections,' psychiatrist Carl Jung describes his own NDE. He describes losing the 'baggage' of the ego -- the storyline he identified himself with -- while preserving his inner sense of 'I'. His description illustrates well what I am trying to say here.
      2) The ego is the top of the psychic structure. I think it is nearly certain that death entails dissolution of the ego. But it doesn't necessarily entail the complete destruction of a differentiated psychic structure that can hold on to personal memories. Think of it this way: The ego is like a flower that sprouts from the ground in spring and dies in winter. Once the ego dies, nobody can see the flower anymore. But buried underground -- in the invisible realms of mind, outside of space-time -- the roots remain.
      Cheers, Bernardo.

    2. Hi Bernardo,

      Thank you very much for your answer. I like your answer 1) (which is a particular case of answer 2) ).
      When you say "a story -- that mind identifies with", I understand the word mind as synonymous of the word soul.
      In my understanding, the fact the the sense of I seems to survive after death means that somehow the concept of a soul persisting after death is a valid one. This is not incompatible with an idealistic stance, since nothing preclude that individual souls originates from some "universal consciousness" and that at a deep level we are not separated.

      Regards, Hicham.

    3. Hi Hicham,
      Yes, I concur that Dualism can be a useful metaphor under Idealism, even the concept of a 'soul.'
      Cheers, B.