Where can you read, hear and see me in 2016?


Photo by Bernardo Kastrup, hereby released into the public domain.

As I sit outside today under glorious spring weather, enjoying a glass of my favorite Wei├če with the warm sun shinning on my face, it feels as though 2016 has only just begun. Yet, in the dark months of winter we now leave behind my philosophical productivity was in overdrive. My ideas have congealed with more clarity and robustness, and more of their implications in a number of fields of knowledge have revealed themselves. So where will you be able to read, hear and see something about it in 2016? Here is a complete overview, as of today's status.

First and foremost, of course, the paperback edition of my new book More Than Allegory is now immediately available from at least Amazon US, over a month before the official publication date. I have been discussing what this latest book is about for some time now, so I won't repeat myself here. For more, you can have a look at the following recent essays:

Upcoming book: More Than Allegory
Overview of More Than Allegory
Religion, reason, time and space: Introducing More Than Allegory


In addition, I am contributing lengthy and elaborate chapters to two other books slated for publication later this year. One is The Neurotic Turn: Inter-disciplinary Correspondences on Neurosis, a collection of scholarly essays by a variety of authors, exploring, re-thinking and trying to revive the significance of the term 'neurosis' for the 21st century. My contribution explores the idea that the physicalist/materialist narrative is an expression of deeply-ingrained, yet culturally-sanctioned neurotic impulses. Here is a selected paragraph:
To sum it all up, by denying our felt sense of existence and identity, the physicalist narrative attempts to clear our egos of ultimate responsibility. By denying the fundamental reality of our emotions, it attempts to protect our egos from a confrontation with far more powerful forces. By denying the symbolic meaning of nature, it attempts to circumvent the need for our egos to recognize a grander message than their own pedestrian models. It even opens up a Promethean door to immortality that, unlike religious beliefs, invests the ego—not deities—with the power to control transcendence through technology. Clearly, the attempt to protect and invest the ego with authority is the perennial theme discernible in every implication of the physicalist narrative. This betrays it as an egoic defense mechanism—whatever else it may also be—and is, by definition, neurotic.
My second contribution is a chapter for a very timely and much needed anthology on the theological theory of Pandeism. The book is suitably titled Pandeism: An Anthology. As a teaser, here is also a selected paragraph from my contributed chapter:
My project with this essay is to rigorously articulate a metaphysics that is both consistent with Pandeism and preserves ontological space for what the spirit of the word ‘God’ denotes. In other words, I intend to argue for an interpretation of the facts of reality that renders Pandeism both genuine as a theology and metaphysically sound.
In addition to these three books, I have very recently updated and improved my freely-available white paper containing a rigorous, analytic summary of my philosophical ideas. It is available for viewing and downloading, in PDF format, from scribd via this link. In the future, I plan to take this white paper and elaborate much more on it, as well as on its implications, in the format of a short book. In fact, I am already writing this book and here is a selected passage from the manuscript, which puts the white paper in the context of my earlier books:
Prior to the present work, I’ve written six books elaborating extensively on my ontology and views on the underlying nature of reality. Particularly in Why Materialism Is Baloney and More Than Allegory, not only have I conveyed my message at a conceptual level, I’ve also made liberal use of metaphors to help readers develop a direct intuition of the ideas expressed. It was not enough for me to simply win a technical argument in a court of philosophical arbitration; I sought to evoke in my readers a felt sense of the world described in my argument. As such, my work has had the character of continental—rather than analytic—philosophy.

I have no regrets about it. Yet, I’ve also come to recognize the inevitable shortcomings of the approach. Some readers have misinterpreted and others over-interpreted my metaphors, extrapolating their applicability way beyond their intended scope and thereby creating straw men of my position. Yet others have simply become overwhelmed or confused by the richness of metaphorical images, losing the thread of my argument. Perhaps most importantly—given my goal of providing a robust alternative to the mainstream physicalist metaphysics—some professional philosophers and scientists felt they needed to see an analytic formulation of my ontology before they could take it seriously.

The present work addresses all this. Starting from canonical empirical facts—such as the correlations between subjective experience and brain activity, the fact that we all seem to share the same world, the fact that the known laws of physics seem to operate independently of our personal volition, etc.—it develops a complete and unambiguous ontology based on parsimony, logical consistency and empirical honesty. It re-articulates my views in a more rigorous, explicit and precise manner. It avoids metaphors—except when absolutely harmless—opting instead for direct and succinct elaboration. To prevent ambiguity, it explicitly and precisely defines its terms whenever such terms are not used according to their ordinary English language denotations, and wherever such ordinary denotations are too vague. Its arguments are constructed according to strict formal logic. I’ve strived to make every step in them explicit and sufficiently substantiated.

Clearly, thus, this [white paper] can be seen as my first work of analytic philosophy. It represents a delicate trade-off: On the one hand, its analytic style prevents it from reaching the depth and nuances that metaphors can hint at. Parts II and III of my earlier book More Than Allegory, for instance, use metaphors to suggest profound philosophical ideas that cannot be tackled or communicated in an analytic style, for they transcend linear reasoning, language and even spacetime. Therefore, the ontology elaborated upon here is not an expansion, but in fact a subset of the ideas I have tried to convey in earlier works. On the other hand, the present [white paper] articulates this subset in a rigorous analytic style that was lacking before. And to offer a viable alternative to physicalism, an ontology must be presented in the same precise manner in which physicalism itself is presented today. This is what this [white paper] does.

Incomplete as the subset of ideas presented here may be in the context of my earlier output, it is still more complete than the precarious metaphysics that informs our cultural narrative today. This subset alone—as I argue in [its] pages—can explain more of reality, in a better way, than physicalism, thereby being sufficient for this [work's] purposes. By articulating its ideas very precisely, my intent is to deny the cynics and militant physicalists an excuse to dismiss the body of my work simply because it hasn’t had, up to now, an analytic formulation. If the price to achieve this is to write a [white paper] as if one were arguing a case in a court of law, then this [work] represents my case. You be the judge.
That's about it as far as written work in concerned, except of course for the many blog posts I will continue to write and make available here throughout the year, as inspiration strikes me. There might as well be one or two other surprises, but I will remain tight-lipped about those for now, for I don't want to create expectations and then disappoint you.

Of course, there will also be public presentations where you will be able to hear and see me this year. There are a couple already confirmed. Early in May I will be visiting the Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS) of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, by invitation of Edward Kelly, main author of Irreducible Mind and Beyond Physicalism. But because this isn't really a public presentation, I mention it here just for completeness, not as an open invitation.

On July 31st, in London, UK, I will be presenting at the Psychedelics and Nonduality event together with Peter Russell. The venue is great and the tickets cost only 10 pounds, so if you are in the UK, it's a great opportunity.

From the 24th to the 28th of August, I will be giving three different 'presentations' at the psy-fi festival in the Netherlands. I'd rather describe these 'presentations' as guided tours to seldom-explored mental landscapes, where I'll be inviting you to come along and rove through the antipodes of mind. For an impression of the festival, check out the video below.


Then, from September 9th to 11th, I will be speaking at the Sages and Scientists Symposium 2016, organized by the Chopra Foundation in Beverly Hills, California, USA. I participated in this event's 2014 edition and loved it. It's a fantastic gathering of smart people from all walks of life, leading to an alchemy of mind and spirit with the potential for great synergies. The admission price is very spicy for most people, since the costs of the event itself are also very high. Videos are made freely available later, which is always an option. But if you are around and have the means to attend, I highly recommend it. The atmosphere of the event itself is unique.

Next to all this, it is possible that one or two feature-length documentary films will become available this year featuring me. I won't promise this because I have no control over what happens in editing rooms or production schedules. But the chances are good. If and when they materialize, I will make announcements in my social media pages.

I hope you enjoy all the material that is coming down the pike in 2016!
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Sacred trees and rituals by... Chimps?


Photo by Bernardo Kastrup, hereby released into the public domain.

In a new study recently published in Nature's Scientific Reports, scientists discovered that chimpanzees perform what seems to be 'sacred rituals' at chosen 'sacred trees.' One of the scientists published a blog post with footage of the chimps' strange behavior and some of her own speculations. She wrote:
We found the first evidence of chimpanzees creating a kind of shrine that could indicate sacred trees. Indigenous West African people have stone collections at “sacred” trees and such man-made stone collections are commonly observed across the world and look eerily similar to what we have discovered here.
Quoted in the Daily Mail, renowned primatologist Jane Goodall said:
If the chimpanzee could share his feelings and questions with others, might these wild elemental displays become ritualised into some form of animistic religion? Would they worship the falls, the deluge from the sky, the thunder and lightning—the gods of the elements?
Many other instances of ritualistic behavior in chimpanzees have been cited in a more cautious New Scientist article on this new finding.

The jury is still out, but the observations are extremely suggestive and intriguing. As discussed in my new book More Than Allegory: On religious myth, truth and belief, the symbolic mind is far older and deeper-rooted than the intellect, anchored in natural realities that transcend our linear logic. Religious myths are the natural expression of this primordial umbilical chord our contemporary culture fears and represses, not a wish-fulfillment maneuver. There are truths about ourselves we are deeply afraid to confront. To many, even the belief in final oblivion—death according to materialism—is preferable to the vertigo of eternity.

Pre-order now.
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The Symbolic Big Bang


Screen capture of the animation shown below.

In anticipation of the release of my new book, More Than Allegory: On Religious Myth, Truth and Belief, I have been publishing a different quote from the book every day, for the past 40+ days, in my social media sites. In the last couple of days, the quotes have been about a crucial concept introduced and elaborated upon in the book: that of the cognitive big bang. The idea is that time and space aren't objectively real, but myths conjured up by thought. The cognitive big bang allows us to replace the notion of an objective big bang in some far distant past with that of subjective projections of mental contents experienced now. Here are the three most recent quotes, at the time of writing this essay:
The present moment is the cosmic egg described in so many religious myths. … It is a singularity that births all existence into form. It seeds our mind with fleeting consensus images that we then blow up into the voluminous bulk of projected past and future. These projections are like a cognitive ‘big bang’ unfolding in our mind. They stretch out the intangibility of the singularity into the substantiality of events in time. (pp. 102-103)

The cognitive ‘big bang’ is not a process unfolding in time. Rather, it’s a qualitative pattern of distribution of mental contents across the map of human cognition. This complete pattern exists now and only now. … Each of [its] mental contents is a particular reflection of the central singularity on the mirror of human awareness. (p. 103)

The past and the future are thus projected images—symbols, icons—of the intrinsic, timeless attributes of the singularity [that we call the present moment]; of the intangible essences contained in the cosmic egg. There is nothing else the past or the future could consist of. Myths are the form taken by these symbolic projections of intangible essences. (p. 103)

           

This theme of the big bang has thus been in the foreground of my mind. It occurred to me that in my older book Dreamed up Reality, from 2011, I explore the same theme. In that work—an atypical book for me, in which I openly discuss my own transcendent experiences and speculate freely about their possible meaning—cosmogony is a dominating subject. One of the experiences I describe at length in the book gave me profound insights into the origin of the universe and the dynamics of its unfolding. From Dreamed up Reality:
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. ... This was the answer to the question that haunted me my entire life: ... 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. ... All of reality seems to be the unfolding of a thought pattern in the imagination.
It was not lost on me that this very visual and powerful experience somehow echoed ideas expressed in ancient cosmogonic myths, such as Sacred GeometryKabbalah, etc. And neither were the significant implications of this surprising similarity lost of me, as I discuss in the book.

Shortly after the experience itself, I sat contemplating its significance. Suddenly, a strong and very precise intuition seized me about a way to capture what I had intuitively sensed: a very simple algorithm, based on a so-called cellular automaton, that could symbolically represent some of the properties of what I had seen. I even 'stumbled' on a particular cellular automaton rule—1 out of 4096 different possibilities!—that turned out to be precisely the one able to reflect some of what I had experienced. The result was a computer-simulated symbolic representation of the origin of the universe—the (cognitive) big bang—in geometrical form. It starts with a single active pixel in the center of the screen. Then, through the recursive application of a very simple construction rule, amazing complexity is generated out of that single starting pixel and this very simple rule. See the video below.


Dreamed up Reality explains this simulation in details and even provides the complete computer source code for it in its appendix.

I find this animation startling, not only for the peculiar way its underlying algorithm spontaneously popped in my mind. The images display profoundly symbolic elements at multiple levels: nested triangles and squares—archetypal forms that symbolize harmony and completeness—arise spontaneously and intermingle. Fractal mandalas—so significant in mystical traditions the world over—underly the entire evolution of the structures. Multiple layers of unfolding can be discerned, as though the animation were a projection of a pattern wrapping around itself in a higher dimension. The evolution of the pattern forms a self-perpetuating loop that seems to symbolize eternity; etc. The symbolic significance of this simple algorithm, which came to me apparently by pure 'chance,' is inexhaustible. I often use this video during my own meditation sessions, for it seems to have soothing, almost hypnotic properties. I invite you to watch it more than once, shifting the focus of your attention each time to a different area of the pattern, observing small local details as they unfold. You will realize how many subtleties and nuances can be found, and how each of them seems to carry a symbolic message of its own.

I realize today that Dreamed up Reality and More Than Allegory have something significant in common: they both stress the importance of symbols for conveying insights that transcend language and linear logic. In Dreamed up Reality, I simply used these symbolic metaphors to try and convey my own transcendent experiences. In More Than Allegory, I attempt to make rational sense of the way in which such symbols can carry actual truth, as well as review and interpret their historical usage across the world's religious myths. The books are complementary in ways I never explicitly intended them to be. While More Than Allegory discusses religious myths, Dreamed up Reality relates my own personal myth, derived from my own contemplative practices.

I hope you enjoy and find value in both books.
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