Favorite quotes from Brief Peeks Beyond
|Photo by Bernardo Kastrup, hereby released into the public domain.|
My new book Brief Peeks Beyond is being officially released today! This means that, if you've pre-ordered the ebook version, you will be getting it today. And it also means that, if you order it now, you will get it immediately!
To celebrate the occasion, in this post I list my 65 favorite passages from the book. The passages capture and summarize some of the essential points rather sharply and succinctly. I've numbered them for ease of reference, in case you want to cite them in social media. Have fun!
Pages 12-13: Because all knowledge resides in consciousness, we cannot know what is supposedly outside consciousness; we can only infer it through our capacity for abstraction. … It is enough that we find one coherent explanation for reality on the basis of excitations of consciousness alone for a postulated universe outside consciousness to become akin to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Page 14: Inferring that personal psyches share a common root does not entail postulating a new, abstract theoretical entity – namely, a universe outside consciousness – but merely extrapolating consciousness itself beyond its face-value personal limits. As such, to see reality as akin to a shared dream generated by a collective, obfuscated segment of consciousness is much more parsimonious than materialism.
Page 16: Mathematics – quantities and their relationships – is a mental construct. ... By stating that the supposedly objective world consists of pure mathematics, there is an important way in which [physicist Max] Tegmark is at least flirting with [philosophical idealism].
Page 18: Mind-at-large suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder; and we are its alters.
Page 28: No ontology in the history of humankind has been or is more metaphysical than materialism. Unlike all spiritual or religious ontologies ... the strongly objective realm of materialism is, by definition, forever outside experience. It is pure abstraction. ... All the properties we attribute to reality – like solidity, palpability, concreteness – are qualities of experience and, as such, not applicable to the real world of materialism.
Page 30: There is no actual unconscious. What neuroscience today calls ‘consciousness’ is simply a particular, amplified segment of consciousness.
Page 31: If all reality is in consciousness, then a pill or a well-placed knock to the head are simply the images of processes in consciousness. … What is a pill but what you see, touch and otherwise feel in your fingers? It has color, flavor and texture. It’s a set of subjective perceptions with the qualities of experience. ... Therefore, that a pill or physical trauma to the head can alter one’s state of consciousness is no more surprising than the fact that your thoughts can change your emotions.
Page 32: Think of how elusive dreams can be: ... you may remember nothing when you wake up – declaring yourself to have been unconscious all night – and then suddenly recall, hours later, that you actually had a very intense dream. How can you know that you are ever truly unconscious?
Page 45: For exactly the same reason that there is nothing it is like to be an isolated group of neurons in a person’s brain, there is nothing it is like to be an inanimate object.
Page 49: Empirical reality consists entirely of outside images of ideas in the mind of God. We cannot know how the world is felt by God simply by looking at the world, for the same reason that a neuroscientist cannot know what love feels like just by looking at brain scans. Yet, when we contemplate the magnificence and incomprehensible magnitude of the stars and galaxies through our telescopes, we are essentially looking at a ‘scan of God’s brain.’
Pages 49-50: The mystery of death consists in the shift of our experience of the world from second- to first-person perspective.
Page 51: What Plato called the ‘world soul’ is simply God’s direct subjective perspective; the reverse side of the measurable universe. The measurable universe, in turn, is the obverse side of God’s soul. The Universe, thus, is God’s body.
Page 59: To consider consciousness an emergent property of brains is either an appeal to magic or the mere labeling of an unknown. In both cases, precisely nothing is actually explained.
Page 60: Eliminative materialists [claim that] you just compute that you are conscious, but you really aren’t. The premise behind this is ludicrous. I can create a computer program that ultimately attributes the logical value ‘true’ to a variable labeled ‘conscious,’ but obviously that doesn’t take the computer any closer to having inner life the way you and I have, no matter how complex the program.
Page 61: For the sake of preserving a minimum degree of empirical honesty in our culture, we must remain grounded in the primary datum of reality: experience itself. Experience is what there is before we start theorizing about the world and ourselves. It takes precedence over everything else. It is the departing point and necessary substrate of all theories. ... We must never forget this, lest we totally lose our connection to reality.
Page 63: Whichever way one looks at it, consciousness is an unsolvable anomaly under materialism: we can neither explain how it is generated, nor why it evolved. Unfortunately for materialists, this one anomaly is also the very matrix of all knowledge and the carrier of everyone’s reality!
Page 64: We, as a culture, find ourselves now in the strange position of having to explain how abstractions of consciousness generate consciousness. Such a circular problem, of course, can never be solved! We’re just chasing our own tails at light speed.
Page 67: [Materialist philosopher Daniel] Dennett suggests that, if enough aspects of experience are found to lack any correspondence with consensus fact, consciousness will be shown to be inexistent. This is wholly illogical: even if we find one day that everything we experience fails to correspond to consensus fact, that will simply show that consciousness is populated with illusions. It will leave consciousness itself intact. We are still conscious of illusions, in exactly the same way that we are conscious of our dreams.
Pages 67-68: To refute some of the face-value traits ordinarily attributed to consciousness doesn’t render consciousness itself – raw subjective experience – an illusion. To argue otherwise is entirely equivalent to proclaiming that, because the Earth isn’t flat – as it appears to be at face value – then it must be an illusion; and to proclaim this while standing firmly on the Earth! Where is one ‘standing’ when one consciously proclaims consciousness to be an illusion?
Page 70: The ‘hard problem [of consciousness]’ is merely a linguistic and conceptual construction of human beings. It only arises when you conceptualize a whole universe outside consciousness and then postulate that this conceptual universe somehow generates consciousness. So you end up in the position of having to explain how an abstraction of consciousness can generate consciousness.
Page 71: Provided that the headlines suggest a confirmation of the materialist hypothesis, it is surprising how much inaccuracy one can get away with. Society is very forgiving when the error is on the side of the reigning metaphysics; a virtuous cycle that tendentiously maintains its ruling status.
Page 72: The brain is the image of a process of localization in a stream of transpersonal experiences, like a whirlpool is the image of a process of localization in a stream of water. The brain doesn’t generate consciousness for exactly the same reason that a whirlpool doesn’t generate water. Active neurons are what experiences look like from the outside, this being the reason why brain function correlates tightly with subjective states.
Page 73: Memories are nothing but ongoing obfuscated experiences in the periphery of the psyche.
Page 91: The bottom-line is this: when one sees more consciousness consistently accompanied by less brain activity, one is forced to contemplate the possibility that brain function is associated with a localization of consciousness, as opposed to its production.
Page 102: We just assume that complex phenomena can be reduced to the basic laws of particle physics, because such an assumption is an axiom of the current paradigm. But who is to say that as-of-yet unknown and irreducible causal forces or organizing principles don’t kick in at higher levels of complexity? Who is to say that nature isn’t mostly governed by these higher-complexity principles or agencies, which only come into play when enough subatomic particles interact in a way too complex to simulate or test under controlled conditions?
Pages 102-103: The widespread cultural notion that science has explained most of the world is scandalously unjustified. For all we know, we’ve explained only very, very little; practically nothing. We just don’t know what kinds of fundamental causal forces and organizing principles may kick in when systems become complex enough to be seen with the naked eye outside a laboratory. Inability to acknowledge this represents a catastrophic failure of skepticism.
Page 103: Technology is designed to eliminate – by construction – the influence of all but the potentially small set of causal forces that are understood by science. … Because technology is deliberately insulated from the unknown, its effectiveness in the larger world is no evidence that science has a significant understanding of that larger world.
Page 106: If one’s statistical conclusions are in accordance with the reigning scientific paradigm, it is enough to demonstrate that the odds of a certain effect occurring against chance are very small. However, if the conclusions contradict the reigning paradigm, critics can always dismiss the evidence on the basis that, theoretically, any pattern can be found in the data if random effects can’t be completely ruled out.
Page 108: Materialism is by no stretch of the imagination a scientific conclusion, but merely a metaphysical opinion that helps some people interpret scientific conclusions. Yet, the emperors with no clothes who promote the materialist belief on TV, in books and what not, present themselves as spokespeople of science itself. When these people promote their flawed logic in the media as an expression of reason, the irony is painful.
Pages 113-116: Neo-Darwinists conflate the established fact of evolution by natural selection with another hypothesis that is anything but established: that the genetic mutations at the root of the entire process are themselves random or blind. ... We have never run a randomness test on a sufficiently complete set of raw genetic mutations to know the answer either way.
Page 117: New scientific conclusions arise from the patterns we do find, for these are the footprints of the laws of nature. Neo-Darwinism is an aberration in that one of its key conclusions arises precisely from the alleged absence of pattern, even though no substantial evidence for it exists.
Pages 121-122: Proper skeptical parsimony is not about declaring things to be impossible, [it] is about making sense of reality with as few postulated theoretical entities as possible. … Precisely by succeeding in explaining reality with less theoretical entities, we realize that what materialism considers anomalous is, in fact, entirely natural.
Page 126: Because our culture mistakenly takes technological success for evidence of a deep understanding of the underlying nature of reality, we are all guilty, at least by omission, of allowing the neo-priesthood of science to appoint themselves arbiters of truth. This is as insane as appointing a five-year-old kid, who happens to break records playing computer games, chief architect at a major computer company.
Pages 126-127: We now find ourselves in the position of expecting wisdom and guidance from intellectual specialists who can solve abstract mathematical puzzles but are often largely disconnected from life. No teenager would make this mistake among his or her own circle of friends, as a visit to any schoolyard will show you.
Page 127: Our progressive abandonment of our relationship with the mysteries of transcendence since the Enlightenment has left a gaping hole in the human psyche. Our culture is desperate to get intellectual permission to believe something else instead, to peek into some new and obscure mystery, so long as it inspires the same amazement and awe previously reserved for transcendence. The neo-priesthood of science sensed an opportunity and rushed to fill the gap.
Page 129: We’re so focused on living longer, optimizing the performance of necessary tasks, communicating faster and more frequently with one another, accumulating wealth and, most visibly, consuming and entertaining our way to depression that we’ve almost entirely forgotten to ask what this is all about. Why do we live? ... What have philosophers and poets alike been trying to say for the past few thousand years?
Pages 129-130: The educational system in most modern societies today is almost entirely focused on utilitarian aspects. … A purely utilitarian education tends to turn people into controllable tools; cogs in the machine. Unequipped to even conceive coherently of the higher questions of existence, we’re left with no option but to blindly leverage our utilitarian skills day in and day out, contributing to economic output and wealth generation.
Page 130: A civilization of stupefied drones going blindly about their practical tasks is constantly flirting with collapse. But the power structures may believe that this can be managed through the right combination of alcohol, tobacco, television, pornography, commoditized shopping culture and, in more severe cases, cognitive behavioral therapy and dependency-creating psychiatric drugs. The mainstream metaphysics of materialism enables this by rendering culturally legitimate the outrageous notion that unhappy people are simply malfunctioning biological robots.
Pages 132-133: Academic philosophy has [come to] to believe that to ‘prove’ an idea is more important than for the idea to resonate with the innermost selves of people and, thereby, make a true difference. … By denying the affective nature of reality, academic philosophy has alienated itself from a large and significant part of what it means to be a human being alive in the world. In seeking to become more objective and real, it ended up distancing itself from reality.
Page 134: The cultural indoctrination that deems myths to be inconsequential has left us, as adults, unable to discern meaning and significance in our own imagination the way a child can. The craving that results from such alienation from ourselves has been accumulating in our society for centuries now.
Page 140: Projection is thus the amazing mental mechanism by which we create ‘the other’ out of ourselves, like Eve from Adam’s rib. It enables the magical rise of a second person from the first person, the ‘you’ from the ‘I.’ Through it, the ‘outside’ world becomes a mirror for the most hidden and unacknowledged aspects of our psyches, so we can, in essence, interact with ourselves by proxy. We get a chance to dance, unwittingly, with that which is repressed within us.
Page 141: Being conscious is the very essence of what it means to be whatever it is we are. But what does our culture say about this? It says that consciousness arises out of particular arrangements of matter. The projection here is so in-your-face that it may be hard to see: we are projecting ourselves onto matter!
Page 144: Philosophy gives people intellectual permission to truly embrace what their intuitions and experiences are already telling them to be true.
Page 145: Without a suitable metaphysics to ground it, depth-psychology is unable to address the real ... How to treat depression without addressing the actual meaning of life? How to treat death anxiety without addressing what death actually is? If depth-psychology avoids these crucial metaphysical questions, its efforts turn into mere academic exercises.
Page 148: The true strength of materialism is its symbiotic relationship with the economic system and power structures upon which we have all come to depend.
Page 156: Here is my hypothesis: the afterlife realm comprises a core layer consisting of … intrinsic, essential, invariant properties ... independent of the cultural background of the witness. But surrounding the core layer there is a symbolic layer, which is malleable and acquiescent to one’s particular beliefs and expectations. This symbolic layer is a kind of bridge: it presents the core themes according to whatever imagery is most evocative to each personality.
Pages 173-174: A choice is either determined by some process – even if the process is yet-unknown, mysterious, unfathomable, ineffable, transcendent, spiritual, ethereal, etc. – or merely random. It seems impossible to find semantic or logical space for libertarian free will if we insist on distinguishing it from both randomness and determinism. … True free will can be the expression of a fully deterministic process, as long as the determining factors of that process are internal to that which the choosing agent identifies itself with.
Page 175: Metaphysical free will is only valid under models of reality that allow for choices to be made unhindered by factors outside our own subjectivity.
Page 177: The semantic difference between desire and necessity rests on the corresponding imperatives being external in the latter case. I only say that I have to work because the imperatives of society – which are external to me as a person – require me to do so. If the imperatives that compel me to work were, instead, internal to me – say, an inner imperative to feel useful and productive – I would say that I want to work. Indeed, what is a desire but the direct experience of an inner imperative?
Page 179: If … we identify not with particular dissociated ideas but with consciousness itself – with that whose excitations give rise to all thoughts and feelings – we attain unfathomable metaphysical free will. This arises not from the power of the ego to control the world, but from the realization that we are the world. How could we feel oppressed by that which we are?
Page 183: We stopped living the inner life of human beings and began living the ‘outer life’ of things and mechanisms. … All meaning must lie – we’ve come to assume – somewhere without and never within. I even dare to venture an explanation for how this came to pass: because of Western materialism, we believe that we are finite beings who will, unavoidably, eventually cease to exist. Only the ‘outside world’ will endure and have continuity.
Page 184: Life is a laboratory for exploration along only two paths: feeling and understanding. All else exists only as connotative devices: ‘tricks’ to evoke feeling and understanding. All meaning resides in the emotions and insights unfolding within.
Page 186: If all reality is in consciousness, then your consciousness is not generated by your body. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that your consciousness will end when your body dies. Your body is simply the outside image of a particular configuration of consciousness that you experience when you are alive.
Page 186: Your physical health isn’t merely ‘connected’ to your psychic state; it is your obfuscated psychic state!
Page 187: 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? … 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?
Pages 189-190: While particular types of brain activity are the outside image of egoic processes in consciousness, the rest of the physical body is an outside image of our personal obfuscated psyche; that is, an image of our repressed, forgotten or otherwise unacknowledged psychic activity. … We can treat all illnesses by influencing obfuscated psychic activity.
Page 192: The patient must be helped to bring all unhealthy psychic activity into the light of self-reflective awareness, so it doesn’t become somatized. … Once this happens, the patient can be treated through the oldest, simplest and most effective healing method ever devised by humankind: heart-to-heart interaction between patient and healer.
Pages 192-193: Healers must help patients internalize the treatment, so it drops past the ego and into the deeper layers of the psyche. Here is where the art and skill of the healer comes into play, for this ‘dropping in’ must be accomplished through bypassing egoic barriers and defense mechanisms. A form of benign manipulation is required, which may conflict with present-day notions of ethics.
Page 196: It is ... conceivable that thoughts and imagination originating in our personal psyche, if they somehow sink into the deepest, most obfuscated, collective levels of consciousness, could indeed affect consensus reality directly.
Page 201: Cynicism ... is a disguised but extreme form of belief: the often-baseless commitment to the impossibility of something. … Living in the mystery, on the other hand, entails an attitude of openness without commitment.
Page 202: Show me a person who claims to have no significant anxieties or insecurities and I will show you a liar. The human condition isn’t reassuring and we’re all in the same boat. But because we try to put up this image of strength, we add insult to injury by convincing each other that we are alone in our misery. This only increases our isolation and loneliness. We forget that the only real strength is the courage to present ourselves to the world as we really are, so we can live in authentic community and help each other out.
Pages 203-204: A quiet and entirely peaceful change in our spending habits is not only impossible to repress, it will also have a much bigger impact than any street revolution. Consumerism – so frantically reinforced by governments, the mainstream media, and validated by the academically-sanctioned delusion of materialism – is what keeps us in the role of cogs in a sick system that benefits only the pathological amongst us. By peacefully refusing to play the role of entranced consumers, we will irremediably undermine the very foundations of this system and enable positive, necessary change.
Page 206: It is dissociation that creates the experiential ‘outside.’ But this ‘outside’ is not outside consciousness itself; it is simply outside the alter. Our culture has come to mistake the witnessing of mental processes outside our personal alters for the witnessing of material phenomena outside consciousness.
Pages 208-209: There is vicious, insidious stigmergy in our society today. The agenda of this stigmergy is the maintenance of materialism. It manifests itself as a broad network of subtle local actions, biases and values, each serving powerful interests. These local dynamics build up into a system of global reinforcement; a virtual cabal, so to speak. The stigmergy has turned most of us into entranced drones, serving a mad state of affairs that is slowly but inexorably killing our humanity.
Page 209: We must summon the courage to acknowledge that some of the most celebrated intellectuals and scientists among us have been no more than arrogant children when it comes to their understanding of the nature of reality and of their own humanity. They do not deserve the wide-ranging reverence we, as a culture, seem to feel we owe them.