Introducing the Idea of the World

My new book, The Idea of the World, is now available on, other online retailers and many bookshops as well. To mark the occasion, I am publishing below two of the first sections of the book, which explain what the book is about and the role it plays in the context of the body of my work. I hope you find value in it!

And if you cannot afford the book, remember that the 10 academic papers comprised in it can be freely downloaded from my papers page. You will miss the many additional chapters and the overall argument built around the papers and the added material, but you will get some of the key pieces of the puzzle.

So here we go...

Note to readers of my previous books

Prior to the present volume, I have written six books elaborating on my views regarding the underlying nature of reality. Particularly in Why Materialism Is Baloney and More Than Allegory, in addition to a conceptual exposition I have also made liberal use of metaphors to help readers develop direct intuition for the ideas expressed. My intent was not to win a technical argument in a court of philosophical arbitration, but to evoke in my readers a felt sense of the world I was describing. As such, my work has had a character more akin to continental than analytic philosophy.

I have no regrets about it. Yet, I have also come to recognize the inevitable shortcomings of the approach. Some readers have misinterpreted and others over-interpreted my metaphors, extrapolating their applicability beyond their intended scope. Yet others have simply become overwhelmed or confused by the many metaphorical images, losing the thread of my argument. Perhaps most importantly—given my goal of providing a robust alternative to the mainstream physicalist metaphysics (Kastrup 2015: 142-146)—some professional philosophers and scientists felt they needed to see a more conceptually clear and rigorous formulation of my philosophical system before they could consider it.

The present work attempts to address 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 operate independently of our personal volition, etc.—it develops an unambiguous ontology based on parsimony, logical consistency and empirical adequacy. It re-articulates my views in a more rigorous and precise manner. It uses metaphors only as secondary aides to direct exposition. I have strived to make every step of my argument explicit and sufficiently substantiated.

This volume thus represents a trade-off: on the one hand, its mostly analytic style prevents it from reaching the depth and nuances that metaphors can convey. Parts II and III of my earlier book More Than Allegory, for instance, use metaphors to hint at philosophical ideas that can hardly be tackled or communicated in an analytic style. As such, the ontology formulated 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 volume articulates this subset more thoroughly and clearly than before, which is necessary if it is to offer—as intended—a credible
alternative to mainstream physicalism.

Incomplete as the subset of ideas presented here may be, I shall argue that it is still more complete than the current mainstream metaphysics. This subset alone—as I elaborate upon in the pages that follow—should be able to explain more of reality, in a more cogent way, than physicalism. By articulating the corresponding ontology precisely, my intent is to deny cynics and militants alike an excuse to portray it as vague and, therefore, dismissible. If the price to achieve this is to write a book as if one were arguing a case in a court of law, then this book represents my case. You be the judge.


The main body of this work brings together ten different articles I published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Unbeknownst to the journals’ editors, the articles were conceived, from the beginning, to eventually be collected in the volume you now have in front of you. Despite being self-contained, each was designed to fit into a broader jigsaw puzzle that, once assembled, should reveal a compelling, holistic picture of the nature of reality. This book presents the completed jigsaw puzzle. The resulting picture depicts an ontology that squarely contradicts our culture’s mainstream physicalist metaphysics.

Indeed, according to the ontology described and defended here, reality is fundamentally experiential. A universal phenomenal consciousness is the sole ontological primitive, whose patterns of excitation constitute existence. We are dissociated mental complexes of this universal consciousness, surrounded like islands by the ocean of its mentation. The inanimate universe we see around us is the extrinsic appearance of a possibly instinctual but certainly elaborate universal thought, much like a living brain is the extrinsic appearance of a person’s conscious inner life. Other living creatures are the extrinsic appearances of other dissociated complexes. If all this sounds implausible to you now, you have yet more reason to peruse the argument carefully laid out in the pages that follow.

Each of the ten original academic articles constitutes a chapter in this volume, organized so as to present an overarching argument step by step. I have added five extra preamble chapters, as well as an overview and extensive closing commentary, to weave the original articles together in a coherent storyline.

The choice to break up my argument into ten self-contained, independently published articles had three motivations. Firstly, I have been criticized for not submitting my earlier work to the scrutiny of peer-review. I take this criticism only partly to heart: peer-review can be a prejudiced process that stifles valid non-mainstream views whilst overlooking significant faults in mainstream arguments (Smith 2006, McCook 2006, Baldwin 2014). As an author whose ideas systematically defy the mainstream, I had doubts about whether my articles would receive an impartial hearing. And indeed, often they didn’t. Nonetheless, peer-review can also be constructive, insofar as it provides penetrating criticisms that help sharpen one’s arguments. This was my hope and, as it turns out, several of my original manuscripts were significantly improved thanks to insightful comments from reviewers. In the end, peer-review has proven to be fruitful.

Secondly, specialized articles can reach more and different people in academia than a more generic book. The articles collected in this volume span fields as diverse as philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry and physics, each with its own academic community. By publishing the articles in journals specifically targeted at their respective communities, I hope to have reached people who will probably never hear of—or be interested in—this book as a whole.

Thirdly, by having each part of my broader argument receive the specialist endorsement that peer approval represents, I hope to deny cynics and militants an excuse to portray the ontology presented here—antagonistic to current mainstream views as it is—as dismissible.

In the interest of achieving the three goals stated above, the articles collected in this volume were originally published in journals that, at the time of manuscript submission, met the following criteria:

  1. Peer-review process;
  2. Open-access policy (so to safeguard my ability to make the articles available to a wider, non-academic readership);
  3. Their publishers were not included in Jeffrey Beall’s list of potentially disreputable open-access publishers* (Beall n.d.), as of its version of 12 January 2017;**
  4. No transfer of copyright required from authors (so to safeguard my ability to republish the articles in this volume).
To the extent possible within these constraints, I have also sought broader geographical exposure for my work by publishing in journals spanning North America, Western, Central and Eastern Europe.

In order to preserve the integrity of the original peer-review process, I am reproducing the ten original articles here without any change of substance. I have only corrected the occasional typo and language inaccuracy, harmonized the terminology and ensured consistency—citation style, section and figure numbering, etc.—across the entire book. I have also consolidated all references in the bibliography at the end of this volume, so to reduce redundancy. Everything else is as it was originally published in the respective journals. Whenever I felt that an update of—or comment on—specific passages was called for, I have done so in the form of added footnotes, so to preserve the original text.

For this reason, and since the original articles had to be self-contained, some repetition of content occurs across chapters. Some readers may consider this annoying, but I think it has a positive side effect: it provides a regular recapitulation of key ideas and context throughout the book, helping the reader keep track of the overarching argument line.

Finally, because the main substance of this work can already be found in ten freely accessible articles, it is important to highlight that the value-add of this book consists in my effort to weave the articles together in a coherent storyline, building up to an overarching ontology. By downloading the original articles one can get the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, but by reading this book one gets the overall picture the pieces form when properly connected together.

It is my sincere hope that this picture helps you come to new insights about the nature of reality.

* A study published in Science (Bohannon 2013) concluded, “Beall is good at spotting publishers with poor quality control,” although “al- most one in five [of the journals] on his list did the right thing.” So Beall erred on the side of being overly critical of the journals he evaluated. By contrast, the same study showed that the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), which seeks to list only credible publications, includ- ed many journals with poor quality control. Although I understand that the DOAJ has made several improvements to its processes since then, I have nonetheless elected to use Beall’s ‘black list’ instead of the DOAJ’s ‘white list.’
** This was the latest version of Beall’s list available as of the time of this writing. Jeffrey Beall had then just stopped maintaining the list, so this is possibly the last version as well.


  1. Hello, I wrote a small note on your philosophy in my blog:


      “Needless to say, idealism is at best a metaphysical model, as is physicalism, panpsychism, Hoffman’s conscious realism, indeed all such ‘isms’, and ultimately the map is not the territory, and one must bow to the opening lines of the Tao Te Ching. Nonetheless, it somehow seems important to conceive of an ontological/cosmological model upon which to base a cultural ethos. The question becomes, which one? “
      ____ snowleopard, on The Philosophy Forum, regarding Kastrup's defense of Idealism ... do-kastrup

      Gnomon comments :
      This quote hits on the key problem with all attempts to revive the ancient Idealist worldview in a modern Realist world. It's true that we all know Mind directly and Matter indirectly, but perhaps because of that familiarity, we tend to take Mind for granted. Kastrup has produced a masterful argument for Idealism as a philosophical metaphysical model of the world. But his critics are mostly those whose profession requires pragmatic physical results, not dreamy spiritual feelings. So, according to my own BothAnd Principle (*1), I think we need to accept that there is an essential duality (yin/yang) to our relationship with Reality & Ideality. Those are two sides of the same coin that we perch precariously on the edge of.

      Theoretical scientists have always flirted with Idealism, especially since Quantum Theory became respectable in the early 20th century. But, among the practical scientists, who make the technology that runs the modern world, Kastrup's notion of mental reality sounds like it's coming from the far-out fringes, and his metaphysical model seems to be associated with flaky New Age fantasies. Which is why my blog post (*2 ), reviewing The Idea Of The World, suggests a slight change in terminology : first, for precision of meaning, and second, to make the notion of a metaphysical foundation for the physical world more palatable to hard-nosed rationalists and pragmatists.

      Kastrup refers to “Consciousness” as the Ontological Primitive. But the “C” word has been hi-jacked by those who delight, not in pragmatic facts, but in romantic mysteries, such as mind-over-matter magic. The spooky spiritual connotation of "Consciousness" is associated with myriad discordant religious beliefs & practices. I don't have any personal experience with the disembodied "consciousness" of ghosts & demons, yet I do see a need for an update to the materialistic “cultural ethos”. But the problem, as Snowleopard concluded, is “which one?” As a non-mystical pragmatic person, I think the concept of mind-stuff (datum) as the Ontological Primitive should be common sense in the Information Age. And it should be amenable to the scientific pursuit of physical (mechanical) understanding, as well as to the philosophical pursuit of metaphysical (mental) comprehension. I can accept that other people prefer mystical & magical interpretations of Idealism, but that's not my information-based world-model works.



  2. Dear Bernardo,
    I'm a great fan of all your works. And regularly refer to your ideas on my FB book page on consciousness, science and spirituality.

    I look forward to reading the new book.
    All the Best
    Adnan Al-Adnani

  3. Looks like everyone is doing this to you Bernardo...sorry...I thought I had your email.

    Hey Bernardo,

       It is thanks to you that I know that I am a Subjective Idealist.    Your 1st show on Skeptiko helped me sort out what I was. (And we all evolve, so who knows where I'm leading.) 

     The people who tune in are mostly friends in a forum area, in which your name comes up occasionally.  

    This is me talking about a show called Unbelievable, but then we get onto the fundamental nature of Consciousness. 
    I'm glad you are finally getting more prominence, you deserve it. 

    Supplemental Tara episode here....

    Love and Light

  4. Hey Bernardo,
    I have just read your article on Scientific American and will soon read your book.
    Just a question, how do you reconcile the Idea that Information exist only intrinsically bound with the substrate it describes
    "To say that information exists in and of itself is akin to speaking of spin without the top, of ripples without water, of a dance without the dancer, or of the Cheshire Cat’s grin without the cat. It is a grammatically valid statement devoid of sense; a word game less meaningful than fantasy, for internally consistent fantasy can at least be explicitly and coherently conceived of as such."
    with the Quantum Cheshire Cat experiment?
    Thank alot!

  5. Not really. The whole thing is a simulation.

  6. Hello, Bernardo,

    I just finished The Idea of the World, and wanted to let you know how much I loved it. I have been a follower of nonduality through Buddhism and Vedanta for many years, but I found your case for idealism, through a modern lens, to be especially helpful. It gave me a much deeper felt sense of reality as pure experience.

    So again, thank you! I am very grateful for the approach you take and the work you do.

    Kathleen Sutherland

  7. Dear Bernardo,
    Yesterday I saw entirely your Phd dissertation and defence in front of a very tough row of puzzled professors facing so new (for western philosophy) and radical ideas. My feeling is that - like after watching a Stanley Kubrick movie - they left with more question about the reality of the world than before entering the dissertion room ! Well done Bernardo! We need new ideas and change the materialiistic mainstream vision of the world, to find a vision where we don't feel stranger to this universe. A modern idealism, rigorous, compatible and coherent with science data is the way!


  8. Bernardo, I was wondering if you could give a written deconstruction of the YouTube video where you defend your thesis. Until I watched that exchange, I granted that there was more of an empirical case for the consciousness as ontological primitive model that you propose. Now I rather see it as just another starting point of the same inferences materialism makes, still being left with whose mind is this that contains all, how it is more parsimonious to assume all of the alters in this mind, if the physical world is still itself disassociated from me (the extrinsic appearance of excitations of mind), than how is the model any different from materialism in terms of explanatory power? I am starting to buy the idea that both materialism and idealism are equal...

    1. That's a pity, since I tackle all these points in the book, particularly in the chapter about addressing criticisms. There is both a strong empirical and logical case for idealism. The entire book makes that case, very extensively and in detail. So there's no need at all for this written deconstruction of what was a technical exchange with the opposition board, in a context (my thesis) that wasn't made explicit in the discussion... just read the book! :-) The book is what you are looking for.

  9. Thank you for your reply. A lot of my misunderstanding has arisen from trying to convince another person (a property dualist) of this Idealism position. In trying to win them over, I got caught up in the false belief that mind and matter are a true dichotomy, and realized how much I still don’t understand Idealism. I am of the belief that ‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough’. I went back and reread the parts of the new book you suggested, and it seems like it all boils down to: it is a smaller epistemic leap to say we are in mind than it is to say there is matter out there, because mind is not the same kind of abstraction as matter, as we directly experience mentality. Okay I think I get what you are saying...

  10. Dear Mr. Kastrup,
    In my humble materialist opinion, you have things backwards. Assume cosmological evolution led to the appearance of life, at least on Earth, which eventually led to conscious beings like ourselves. These conscious beings then observed that they can only ever know about their environment via interpretation of data from their senses, which made some of them decide that the observing, i.e., consciousness, is primary and everything else secondary; that seems backwards. Moreover, the argument that "it is impossible to conceive of how or why any structural or functional arrangement of physical elements would constitute or generate experience" seems to be an opinion, not a fact. It might be a fact that some people cannot conceive of this; but perhaps others can. And even if no-one can conceive of it, that doesn't mean it isn't the case. I admit that I am just finishing up part one, and I will keep an open mind as to these issues being addressed later in the book.
    Best regards, Kees van Zon

  11. Kees....this is one of the easiest parts of Idealism to grasp..but you and most people don't grasp it unfortunately. Time is an EXPERIENCE and as Consciousness creates all aspects of all experiences, time is ultimately completely within it's control. So to say that consciousness appeared at a particular time in the history of the universe becomes absurd. It's like saying a hammer is an effective tool even when there is no one to use it. there must be a conscious entity to use both types of tools. A hammer or time are both tools that consciousness creates and uses to create our reality.

  12. Dear Bernardo: I wrote you a while back about revising your current concept of "Legacy" at that time and you responded with, "Thanks". Since then I have been to my second retreat with Rupert Spira. The next one is Oct 27-Nov3 in Burlingame, CA near San Francisco at a gorgeous old convent with great food. There are some incredible folks coming from all walks of life. It is a vibrant community grappling with everything you are, with Rupert as our friend and leader. I encourage you to come. His grasp and metaphors on the Nondual frame of reference and his guided meditations are truly remarkable and the space held provides a place for breakthroughs on a daily basis. You could contribute greatly as well. I lead the Resonance Group 501c3, creating experiences of harmony for a more connected world by developing new sonic instruments and protocols for human swarm intelligence towards expanding social resonance. Single rooms are sold out but retreat spaces are still open. I have a house reserved in the area for our sound practitioners etc. You are welcome to a room. Just say the word. in resonance, Alan Tower for reservations.

  13. Thanks so much for your clarity. What a joy. I went to work on it:

  14. I've thoroughly enjoyed everything I've read from you, Bernardo. As soon as I get a regular income again, one of the first things I'll buy is this book. But suffice to say it's very unselfish of you to offer so much of it in free form.
    That being said, I have a few questions that might be somewhat off-base, but perhaps they are part of the book. Anyway, they are in regard to near-death experiences, which I have been studying lately. Namely:
    1. You appear to agree that these experiences are actual events and not the imaginings of a dying brain or the like. Is that fair to say, and if so, what do you think it would take for mainstream science/medicine to come to the same conclusion?
    2. Along the same line, if they are "real events," do you have any thoughts as to why only 10 percent of people who have been revived have such an experience? Some, like Sam Parnia, argue that it is actually the case that everyone experiences them but, due to medications or other causes, do not recall them (though this seems odd, seeing as others describe them as "more real than real" and studies show them being etched in the memory as well as any other real event -- much more than dreams, say). Others, like Pim Von Lommel, suggest that the 90 percent who do not recall them actually were not dead long enough to have the experience. Both explanations seem wanting to me, and I wondered if you had thoughts.
    Thanks again for all of your work.

    1. Thanks Shawn, please consider posting your questions on the forum (see main menu above).

  15. Hi Bernardo,

    I just ordered your book “ The Idea of the World “ which I’m excited to read !
    I am currently delving into the natural theology of medieval Catholicism- I returned to the tradition of my childhood by way of the Perennialist writers whose view, as you know , is rooted in Advaita Vedanta . But ever since I’ve become more familiar with classical theism, I’m not so certain that it can be reconciled with the “ Perennial Philosophy “ as understood by say a Frithjof Schuon or a Ken Wilber . In any event , there is an excellent discussion on YouTube between a Thomistic Catholic philosopher , Edward Feser and an atheist philosopher , Graham Oppy that gets into the weeds of basic metaphysical questions - partcularly the issues of realism , nominalism, and anti - realism . I would LOVE to hear your response .

    Kind Regards


  16. A really thought-provoking read, thank you!
    Maybe Paul had it right when he quoted Epimenides to the Athenians
    ‘In him we live, and move, and have our being’
    Maybe …

    But may I make a few observations and point out a few howlers?
    1. Cosmic idealism with thinking beings as dissociated alters of a universal consciousness (UC) has to posit 1-1 isomorphism between ‘objects’ in the ‘external world’ and thoughts of UC , and between ‘laws of nature’ and the structure of UC.
    It is the same issue as with design of a physical universe under the physicalist POV, only in different guise!
    Kastrup does not spend enough time on this.

    2. The bodies of thinking beings as the boundary between alters and UC.
    Kastrup also needs to spend more time on this.
    He writes that the ‘neural activity we discern is part of what the organism’s inner life looks like when registered from a second-person’s perspective; that is from across a dissociative boundary’ (p240)
    But why just neural activity?
    What is so special about the brain?
    Science shows that the whole nervous system is connected up with the brain, part of it really.
    So why not all activity in the body, blood flow, nerve signals etc, being what my inner life looks like to someone else?

    3. My action against the world provokes a feeling in my body.
    The world against me likewise.
    Everything behaves as if the body is the seat of my feelings.
    To be consistent idealism has to say that our bodies are just the way that the boundary appears to us, but there are really are ‘things’ that we affect and affect us, just as na├»ve physicalism imagines.
    However these ‘things’ are actually events in the thought of UC, are they not?

    4. The brain in particular presents a problem.
    Damage to brain affects consciousness, or appears to.
    Idealism has to account for this by positing events in UC which affect our consciousness at the boundary and APPEAR as damage to brain.

    5. Why the brain in particular?
    Just because that is the way universal consciousness is structured!?
    Same issue as with (apparent) design of living beings under the physicalist POV, only in different guise??

    6. Howlers, in which K. says that physical events cause mental events.
    Chap 10 p174. Brain impairment AFFECTS dissociation mechanism.
    P175. … CAUSE enrichment in inner life
    Chap 9 p160. Damage to visual cortex INTERRUPTS … blindsight (implying causation)