GUEST ESSAY: Reality is a hyperdream

By Jason Barr

(This is a guest essay submitted to the Metaphysical Speculations Discussion Forum, reviewed and commented on by forum members. The opinions expressed in the essay are those of its author. For my own views on the subject of this essay, see my book The Idea of the World.)

Does reality 'seem' mental?

I understand that this might raise more questions than it answers. However, it is important to know that reality does in fact appear mental, even though it is a common criticism that "reality obviously does not seem mental, look at me kick this rock!" A good analogy to understand the plausibility of reality being mental is dreams, so you can look upon reality as a 'hyperdream.'

Reality while asleep? These are dreams constructed mentally from emergent unstable minds and reality while awake is a hyperdream, which is more vivid and consistent while being constructed mentally from a fundamental stable mind. Philosopher Erik Haynes:
This philosophy argues for a unified consciousness at the core of reality. Humans are primarily conscious beings (or souls) with a tangible sense of reality provided by, and connected through, God's consciousness. This can be compared to the way in which the dream world seems to incorporate everything that reality does yet one would not say that the dream world contains matter since dreams exist completely in the mind. Since the mind is capable of producing a tangible reality in the dream world, then how much more so would God's mind be capable of creating a tangible reality for His creation?
The category of mentality, or 'consciousness,' is all that is needed to explain reality. We know that this category of being has to exist and even honest physicalists ('materialists') admit this. Neuroscientist Sam Harris:
Consciousness is the one thing in the universe that can’t be an illusion. Consciousness is the fact of experience, the fact that something is happening, the fact that the 'lights are on' in some basic sense even if we don't understand anything. So even if I'm a brain in a vat, what I'm calling consciousness is still a manifest fact of reality, and is the basis for every other fact.
In other words, we only believe objects exist because we are conscious of them. We only know things because of mentality. You cannot doubt it because even doubt is mental. You really cannot get 'behind' mentality.

Reality can be explained just as well with less explanatorily useless postulates, as there is no need for a reality beyond the category of mentality. Also, philosophical problems dissolve, such as the hard problem of consciousness that the physicalist has to deal with, and the interaction problem that the substance dualist has to deal with.

The category of non-mentality (or, a 'reality beyond consciousness') is therefore explanatorily superfluous and one of the biggest violations of Occam’s Razor I have encountered. It should, in my opinion, be tossed in the graveyard with the aether and Russell’s tea pot, even if it cannot be 'disproven' with absolute certainty. Leo Gura:
Notice that in your sleeping dreams, they have narrative arcs, they are always story based; it's always a sequence of events that happened to you just like ordinary life (in a spatiotemporal reality, controlling a body, interacting with objects etc.). Doesn’t that make you suspicious about ordinary life? Are you noticing all these similarities? This should make you very suspicious.
The fallacy made by the vast majority of people in the world is confusing differences in degree with a difference in kind. The degrees of vividness and consistency are higher pertaining to waking reality, but that does not magically make waking reality non-mental. In fact, what it most likely means is that waking reality is a more vivid and consistent dream that we all share from different perspectives... Simple.

In conclusion, reality clearly does appear mental. It seems precisely to be a more vivid and consistent dream that we experience from our own first-person reference points.

Copyright © 2019 by Jason Barr. Published with permission.



  1. Would it be a gross mischaracterization to describe Bernardo's metaphysics as secular religion? I myself find it an intelligent next step from traditional Roman Catholic theology.

  2. If everything is mental how do you distinguish between perception and imagination? A perceived moon and an imagined moon?
    All our knowledge has a subjective element bit that doesn’t mean it is all a dream. In my opinion, by definition a dream is produced by an individual subject. Seeing reality as a hyperdream is inconsistent, unless you postulate a hyper-individual Subject. But that is hardly parsimoneous.
    These are huge cosmic assumptions to solve local problems.

    1. I love the question! I believe the distinction of perception and imagination is a question of presence and absence. For example, cold is the absence of heat. Our perception is real like heat but when that perception is taken away it is equivalent to cold. One can feel the cold and its affects but cold doesn't exist in the same way imagination works in this way.

      There may be a loophole in my logic or I may not be articulating it well but I hope it helps.

    2. So you are saying imagination is a "weaker" kind of perception?

      True in the sense that imagination doesn't have the same "feel of reality", unless you are hallucinating. And imagination is also some kind of second-hand perception, in the sense that we use previous perceptions to work them into imaginings.

      But the real distinction remains that imagination is made up, but perceptioin isn't, at least not entirely - though Bernardo would disagree here I suppose.

    3. When we are dreaming, the dream seems "real" does it not? Mine at least still sometimes do. (When I was a kid, my dreams were so vivid that I sometimes couldn't believe it when I woke up. My reaction would be, wait, WHAT???) The fact is (and this is easy to see if you think about it) the world as we actually experience it is entirely a construction of our minds. This is not to say there isn't "something out there" but this something is not what we actually experience. Our minds take our sensory input, integrate and synthesize it into a coherent "construction" and then project this construction back out onto the world, so to speak, so that we experience our construction of the world AS the world. But it is still just our mental construction that we actually experience., "real" as it might seem. (That "sense of reality" and identification of our world-construction WITH the world is part of the whole process....)

    4. Addendum. I call this mental process "the Constructor" and the other interesting fact is that the SAME Constructor constructs BOTH our dreams AND the waking world as we experience it. Hence the sometimes apparent continuity of the two....

    5. "These are huge cosmic assumptions to solve local problems."

      The folly here is assuming there is a distinction between cosmic and local. Akin to saying it's a huge assumption that the local rising and falling of tides at your local dock could be somehow affected by cosmic celestial bodies.

  3. Great article. Just posted it to all my materialist colleagues in my university.


    Richard Lee

  4. I would just ask that contemporary idealists, if they are not explicitly Christian (or at least subscribe to one or another of the so-called "Abrahamic religions" (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) stop using the term "God" if what they mean (as they usually seem to ) is something akin to the Neoplatonic "One Mind". The word "God" simply carries too much religious/doctrinal baggage whether this is consciously intended or not. (And BTW, Bernardo Kastrup's "The Idea of the World" -- brilliant book -- adheres to this principle very well for the most part.

    My other point has to do with the implications of idealism. I believe, in fact, that it implies BOTH an afterlife and survival of death AND all the psychic phenomena that have been so thoroughly (and scientifically) documented over the past century-and-a-half. (These phenomena, in turn, also support an idealist philosophy.) So called "skeptics" who continue to sing their out-of-tune physicalist song simply haven't read the literature. And, in fact, seem to make that a kind of badge of honor....

    1. To ask people to stop using the word God is silly. If one finds it an accurate descriptor then it should be used. Just because some people are triggered by the word due to their own perceived "baggage" it is no reason to stop using a descriptor which one sees fit.