Looking back, looking forward, and the "tyrant in me"


Breathing the air of the heights on the Austrian Alps, summer of 2018.

"It is done." This is the thought that comes to me as I sit on my couch this lazy, warm Sunday afternoon in northern Europe, reviewing in my mind the amazing life and writing journey I have undergone over the past nine years. For nine years now I have been elaborating on and promoting a modern formulation of ontological idealism, the view that reality is mental in essence. I have explored it through a multitude of angles, perspectives, starting points and metaphors, all of which converge to the same destination, the same basic understanding of what is going on. Along the journey, I have touched on ideas as varied as body-mind dualism, religious myths, high-strangeness phenomena, visions and hallucinations, so-called 'conspiracies,' the culture wars, the media, free will, etc., relating all these disparate topics to the basic understanding underlying everything I've written and spoken about so far: at the foundation of it all, there is just mind at work, doing what mind does.

Seven books... Seven books in nine years, all ultimately about idealism. But until just recently, something very important was missing: a rigorous, academic articulation of my ideas, based on a strictly analytic approach to my argument and strictly scientific evidence. After all, as compelling and mind-opening as idealism can be, one can always say that, until the academic acid test is passed, one's ideas hold no water. As someone who came originally from academia and the leading fortresses of hardcore science, I can sympathize with this position.

Therefore, since early 2016 I have been working precisely on a broad, multi-disciplinary academic articulation of my ideas, meant to pass the acid test and close all conceivable holes. It has been a very ambitious project, touching as it does on disciplines as varied as analytic philosophy, foundations of physics, psychology/psychiatry and neuroscience. My goal has been to publish in leading academic journals in all these disparate disciplines, for my overall argument for idealism relates to all of them. Nature, after all, does not recognize the artificial boundaries and divisions we impose on our knowledge.

Ambitious as this plan was, it has now been accomplished, with the last paper having just been published a few days ago. Nobody can claim anymore that my ideas haven't gone through the scrutiny of peer review; they have: thirteen times over. Not only are these thirteen papers published, most of them also form the backbone of my seventh and latest book, The Idea of the World. In it, I attempt to weave an overarching, multi-disciplinary argument for idealism that brings all those disciplines together, so to construct as compelling and rigorous a case as I possibly could. It has been an exhausting effort of scholarship, but one I am hopeful will pay off in terms of bringing down barriers to the mainstream acceptance of idealism.


If anyone now dares to argue that idealism is an old-fashioned and discredited idea, which could not survive modern standards of argument and evidence in academia, I have this to say to this person: you are demonstrably wrong; you literally do not know what you are saying. The Idea of the World demonstrates this (more here). Snippets of the material in it have been picked up by the mainstream science media, as my many contributions to Scientific American attest. Indeed, media outlets from across the world have latched onto the idea, now that it has a solid academic foundation.

The Idea of the World is the book that, I believe, completes my effort to provide a full, solid and compelling articulation of idealism. In this sense, it is my magnum opus; the missing piece of the puzzle. It is the work that should silence any honest critic of idealism, for it rises up to the most rigorous challenges and objections that can be posed against it. The book addresses these challenges with explicit, detailed, almost hair-splitting argumentation, and a vast pool of empirical evidence from disciplines as diverse as quantum mechanics, neuroscience and psychology. If you don't believe it, I challenge you to criticize my case after having read the book.

So this is it. This is my best shot at closing my case as if I were in a court of scientific and philosophical law. Armed with the material in this book, I feel comfortably confident to issue a public, open challenge to any prominent academic who thinks idealism is false: debate me in public in a neutral venue. I would be particularly delighted to debate those who covertly think that anyone who doesn't espouse physicalism is sort of an idiot: come and make a fool of me then.

In a letter to Franz Overbeck, written in Sils Maria in the summer of 1883, Nietzsche wrote:
I have an aim, which compels me to go on living and for the sake of which I must cope with even the most painful matters ... the "tyrant in me," the inexorable tyrant, wills that I conquer this time too.
The "inexorable tyrant," of course, is what Jung, Hillman, Harpur and others have called the dæmon, that impersonal, autonomous driving force within the creative mind, with an agenda of its own and no regard for the circumstances and desires of its victim, which compels us to perform and complete our work. It is the irresistible, brutal natural energy behind what wants to come into the world through us.

Like Nietzsche's dæmon in Sils Maria, mine compelled me to breath "the air of the heights." It forcibly pulled me out of the hole I was in and offered me a "lofty" perspective on the state of human thought today. It was then up to me to descend to the valley and confront our culture with the inherent contradictions and absurdities of its views. The Idea of the World is the result.

Now, after a lifetime of forced labour, my completion of this latest book has finally silenced my dæmon. I am free, though disoriented for lacking the compass that has hitherto guided me. Yet, there's still work to be done: echoes of tasks already completed. I must promote this new work; not out of some twisted desire for personal fame or recognition (goodness knows my deeply introverted character goes counter to all that), but out of an innate desire to make my contribution count.

If you find value in my ideas and feel you can help promote them, I'd surely appreciate your contribution through social media, word of mouth, your own blog, etc. Whatever you can do will help. The intent is noble, the cause just, and the potential impact on the history of human thought certainly positive. All hands, the time is now! As Edward Kelly (lead author of Irreducible Mind and Beyond Physicalism) says in the Afterword of the book, "a major inflection point in modern intellectual history is close at hand!"

Comments

  1. Bravo! I hope your efforts achieve the full-blown recognition they so thoroughly deserve.

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  2. Нi Bernardo, among those who follow your ruminations with great interest, I am just one. I don't know whether you're aware of the work of physicist Tom Campbell, who's also a Consciousness explorer. He has devised a TOE which is available either by buying his book or reading it for free on Google books. The point is that he has succeeded in gathering funds enough as to make a set of experiments related to the double-slit, aiming to show evidence that reality is virtual in nature. In the video below he explains grosso modo his view of reality as well as his ongoing project, in which he encourages philosophers, people with a background in epistemology and other areas to join the project. I think it could be interesting for you and indeed your presence would enhance the team. All the best, Carlos

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIb9HO0SUnU

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  3. I notice Joe Rogan follows you on Twitter. I think he'd be interested in having you on his podcast.

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    Replies
    1. Re. the dæmon:
      Hippopotamus

      I rode a Hippopotamus the other night
      In the cool dawn of the moon.
      The dim light drew dark silhouettes
      At my sides,
      Of tin roofs burning cold in the dark
      And dust-dry bill-boards
      Lifting themselves on brittle stilts
      Above the dry sand
      To proclaim their messages.
      We leaped over pottami,
      My Hippo and I
      And conquered slops in a lumbering stride.
      "Where are we going?"
      I had to inquire
      For he had spat the bit
      From his great square jaw.
      Where are we going?
      "Yes,"
      Said the Beast.
      "Yes! Yes!"

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  4. "Tao produces unity; unity produces duality; duality produces trinity; trinity produces all things. All things bear the negative principle (Yin) and embrace the positive principle (Yang). Immaterial vitality, the third principle (Chi), makes them harmonious."

    - Lao tzu: Tao Te Ching, Ch. 42 (trans. Goddard, 1919)

    I identify with the Daemon process Bernardo. In a way I now date mine back to meeting a 'being' when out of body at 6 or so years old (in 1954) and somehow getting a 'download' which I did not retain consciously... but I think I have been working 'from it' ever since...

    What Lao tzu indicates about Chi would seem gobsmackingly odd to any true 'physicalist': that some "Immaterial vitality principle" could ever somehow "make" Yin-Yang (negative-positive etc.) "harmonious". And after my 70 plus years 'here' (early years having that and other mystical experiences, now 46 years as a psychotherapist) I find none of us consistent in retaining such "Chi"! People do hear something of worth in Lao tzu's words, but tend to dismiss them, Yin and Yin appearing to be just concepts. But we all live their polarities: a life long juggling of +/-, eustress-distress etc.

    In sync I think (?!?) with aspects of where you have gone/are going in your books, I suggest anyone's world is actually an active-passive, doing-being, good-bad, cause-effect, mind-body, space-time, head-heart, life-death, self-other *experiential* reality. But similar to what Shinzen Young gets to in his works, that Self-Other polarity is as pivotal as Yin-Yang, I believe. All the same, as a conflictual terrain of this or that, one's life can seem built upon Yang vs. Yin. So, say we take Lao tzu seriously, then what is meant by Tao and where is what he was referring to as Chi?

    I've been proposing for a while now (also I'd say certainly in parallel to your viewpoint...) that as 'Lao tzu' used Chi, that is somehow what we call consciousness, its focus etc. I see this daily as being effective in the psychotherapy dance... both for me as well as for couples and individuals I work with. But taking the understandings of how 'states and qualities of consciousness are critical' upwards to the societal level that I believe I hear you advocating is exactly where I have been aiming for a long time now. (I worked in education and psychiatry for many years, it taught me patience...)

    That is, I've been developing a model from a Tao-Yin-Yang-Chi ecosystem perspective which addresses both the automation of self and our interface with each other. Furthermore, however, it addresses as well what steps (individually and societally) we can start putting in place for people to have signposts to Notice the ecosystem of our being caught into Habitual Automation, our being either more distant or more attuned to this 'web' we live in. I think this may be comparable to what the Other mentions in "More than Allegory..." as to "notice that layered cognitive activity is not limited to the performance of tasks. It applies also to how you feel about life and self." I have only read that far (!) but I anticipate it gets aggregated to the world interactional stage of our institutions et. al... (continuing...)

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  5. (Continued)
    Re the model, here's a quick synopsis: "Autopiloted" type "Clusters" are us as lifestorying 'egos'... blossoming or fading in a life - in relative isolation or openness which corresponds to how fully 'caught' one is by the underlying 'scripts' I formulate from a simple (!) Cartesian matrix of Yin vs. Yang crossed by Self vs. Other. All this 'journey through time' is aided by hearing the 'voice' of Tao through claiming the Chi to do so. It offers an idea and model for a centring into Tao vs. a being caught in Habit, 'on Autopilot', in the Merry-Go-Round (!) of modern physicalist or previous other either/or, Yin vs. Yang worldviews where Chi or its equivalent is lacking.

    Finding someone who walks this path where I have found very few others has been great and I will certainly be referencing you when I publish. I'd had a first sense of all this back in 1966, enrolled in an Honours Physics degree at Queen's in Kingston, Canada. However physics seemed boring so I 'transitioned' into being a therapist... Now I am delighted to see and hear other voices like yours and that of other philsophers etc. We are moving a key shift forward.

    Second to Last note... Re your dialogue with the Other, the mind-at-large, one of the experiences I describe in the book that is to be published is having done Autogenic Abreaction. I had the shock of my life, going through a comparable dialogue to what you depict there in More than Allegory... however as I was only in my 30s and not too grounded I panicked at the time. The sense of the Other you convey fits though.

    Finally, re Kelly's point of "a major inflection point in modern intellectual history is close at hand!" and your call for collaboration I am certainly more than willing to be on board helping what I'd call: "all this unfolding we can sense arriving".

    Namaste. Barry

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