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!"