Psychedelic corruption, politics and other random thoughts

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
As we leave yet another intense week behind, there is a confluence of concerning thoughts in my mind regarding recent developments. The common theme seems to be increasing corruption, for financial or political gain, of areas of human activity that should, at least in principle, be above all that. It's a long story, so bear with me.

For years now I have been a member of a closed Facebook group called 'Reality Sandwich Writers Circle,' a discussion forum for those who write for the Reality Sandwich website, a psychedelic community e-zine. A few days ago someone posted there claiming that the website had been taken over. Upon visiting it, I realized it was indeed completely different, looking silly and atrocious now, rather like a mixture of McDonald's with SpongeBob. I understood that the previous management, to whom I was committed, was gone, which prompted me to leave the group. Today, I saw a concerning post on Facebook making serious claims about what happened.

I don't know what the facts behind this conflict are. But financial motivations at least seem to be behind it. If so, this is rather surprising, as for decades now the psychedelic community hasn't been a promising corner of society for those looking for profits. These are people generally motivated by the pursuit of inner development and healthy relationships with others and the planet, not material goods. They are probably some of the lowest-spenders on the planet.

Be that as it may, it lines up with other recent developments. In a video I posted on Facebook a couple weeks ago (see below), Jamie Wheal suggests the possibility of pharmaceutical businesses co-opting the psychedelic renaissance. They would do it precisely by removing the psychedelic effects from the substances and patenting the resulting drug. The idea is this: research done e.g., at Imperial College London and Johns Hopkins University, indicates that psychedelics may have therapeutic effects helpful in tackling depression and anxiety. If pharmaceutical companies can create a drug that keeps the desired effects whilst removing the trip itself, it will be marketed as a high-margin problem-solving drug, instead of a path towards self-discovery. This may not be possible, as the therapeutic effects may originate in the trip itself; but unless and until this is proven, it is conceivable that the results of psychedelic research will be monetized in ways previously unimagined. Commercial creativity seems limitless.


In the same day I posted the video above, someone sent me a link to a for-profit start-up company in the UK, backed by big Venture Capital investors. This start-up synthesizes psilocybin—the active component of psychedelic mushrooms and truffels, which grow spontaneously in backyards and can be cultivated at home by anyone—in the laboratory. I understand that lab synthesis produces the purified substance, which may have advantages, but it still sounds to me like trying to sell bottled tap water... Oh wait, Coca-Cola did exactly that, so perhaps it's not as absurd as I think... Maybe I am just too old-fashioned.

Anyway, I did notice that the two key researchers of Imperial College's newly founded 'Center for Psychedelic Research,' Prof. David Nutt and Robin Carhart-Harris, are in this company's advisory board. I am not sure this means anything, but it's factually true. Also factually true, as I have recently learned, is that psychiatrists are charging north of $800 for supervised psychedelic therapy; per session. Next to my earlier writings arguing that psychedelic research and its reporting are appallingly biased (see this, this, this, and this), all this adds to my already significant concerns.

But who am I to know, right? The only thing I do know is my personal experiences: I have cultivated psychedelic-containing organisms at home, legally, safely and very easily. The experiences they provided me with years ago have been of tremendous learning value and considerably helped my personal development. I paid very little to achieve all that, basically acquiring spores (also legally) and some basic tools. I had no professional supervision for my experiences and neither did I require any (although I do recognize that others may indeed need it, depending on their psychological health). I simply had a sober person (my partner) in the house during my experience, just in case something went wrong; which fortunately never happened. Beyond that, the only professional help I ever got was from my doctor, to ensure that everything was okay with my heart and liver before I first took the substance. If I were offered free psychiatric supervision for a trip today, I would politely decline (as, in fact, I have), for I consider the experience the most personal activity one could possibly engage in. These are my humble personal views, for what they are worth. I fail to see any need for any big-money commercial infrastructure around psychedelic usage.

The thing is, psychedelics are well on their way to legalization. Everyone can see the writing on the wall. And this is very, very good. Prohibiting naturally-occurring substances less toxic than most over-the-counter medications, and with demonstrably beneficial psychological effects, is just preposterous. But legalization is also a business opportunity that many will spot. Given the norms and values of our society today, it would be naive not to expect the sharks to jump into the pool to 'monetize'—a handy business word I often use in my day job—these new developments. One could argue that researching psychedelics requires a lot of money, so there must be returns, otherwise why would investors, well, invest? Alright... perhaps nothing—not even the most sacred—can be spared an 'economic rationale' with 'return on investment.' A community and life-style that were once the antithesis of commercial gain, may, after all, be commercialized, just like medicine, education, basic utilities, food... and bottled tap water.

Which brings me to something totally different... Or is it really? You see, I was looking the other day at the Twitter pages of the likes of Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson and others. I did it because there are clear overlaps between what I talk about and what they talk about. But they have hundreds of thousands, even millions of followers, whereas I have a few thousand. I have always known that and taken it for granted, but the other day I suddenly wondered why such disparity after a whole decade (I published my first book almost 10 years ago). It doesn't really bother me, as my 'daemon' is all about publishing, not gathering followers, but my curiosity was piqued. What is the difference between how I bring my message out and how they bring theirs? As far as rigor, academic grounding and 'respectability' are concerned, I dare suggest that my record betters theirs. So that's not it.

And then I got it: they all put politics in the mix. These guys take overt, polemical political positions. Sam Harris is supposed to be a neuroscientist and talk about consciousness, but politics and religion are all over his online presence. This, I presume, is what commands large audiences. A rather lackluster and substance-thin exchange between Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Žižek the other day was billed "the debate of the century." Really? Why? Perhaps because both have clearly defined, easily labelable (yes, it's a word) political orientations? (Note: I sincerely respect both Peterson and Žižek, something I can't say of many others.)

But I talk about metaphysics, a subject—I strongly believe—well above politics. I do have political positions, but they are too nuanced to get any popularly-recognizable label. I am probably as much conservative as I am liberal; as rightwing as I am leftwing. Or, better yet, I am neither conservative nor liberal; neither rightwing nor leftwing. Instead, I believe I am simply thoughtful. I reject these labels because they make the story too easy, too flattened, too artificial. Society has too great a variety of problems and potential solutions for us to divide the pot in two. Our problems and issues aren't that simple; they aren't reducible to slogans.

Moreover, it seems that every minor political militant knows a lot more about what is going on in the world than I do. I am convinced I have way too little access to the unbiased truths of the matter to dare identify myself with any camp. Perhaps this is my weakness. For me to talk about politics as I talk about metaphysics would require, I think, a depth of understanding I just don't have. I feel I should leave that to pundits, political scientists and other experts. I could cause stir by stating that, say, we are all going straight to hell on the back of the horses of democracy and capitalism, but who the hell am I to know this? (Before you rush to conclude that I've just revealed my covert political views, think again.)

Finally, I would hate for people to reject what I have to say just because my political views may be different from theirs. I want to keep the focus on what matters to me most, and that is metaphysics, the ground of reality underlying all the madness of economic gain and political activism. Yet it seems one can't stay above the fray of politics and business and be popular at the same time.

Everything that attains popularity seems to be eventually politicized or economically corrupted; even the most sacred. It's a funny world...
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39 comments:

  1. You're bang on with your belief that metaphysics is fundamentally more important than political philosophies. Since I've been reading your books, I've begun to realize that finding meaning in this existence far outweighs the concerns of much political debate. In fact, your metaphysical speculations on the nature of reality should be used as set texts for all students studying PPE at Oxbridge. We might then get politicians who take more of a holistic/less materialistic approach to governance.

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  2. Harris and Peterson felt a strong pull to respond to outside forces directly impacting their lives. Harris spoke bluntly about religion in the aftermath of 9-11, and Peterson made news by fighting a new law in Canada that compels speech. If you enter social commentary, I hope it's something that's deeply concerning to you. Other than that, I'm very glad I found your work.

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  3. While I don't encourage stooping to discussing politics for the attention, I'd like to point out that you can not avoid political labelling. You have, for example, used the term "partner" in this very article. At least here in the US that brands you as "Leftist". Advocating civil discourse doesn't necessarily do the same, but it clearly removes you from the crowd who voted into the presidency a man who ran his campaign primarily on disdain, even disgust, for politeness.

    Your interpretations and speculations suggesting a fundamental unity of all conscious beings -- Mind at Large -- is antithetical to the radical individualism of US Conservatism where greed is good, where those who see themselves as genuinely superior in some sense to "others" would prefer that those "others" simply not exist, and where your or my going to Hell has no influence on their personal salvation. In so many ways, a metaphysics that likens us to whirlpools in the river of Being is essentially incompatible with a large portion of Americans' political views. In my own experience, I have seen my otherwise interested, anti-Materialist brother shut down when I get to the point of explaining that this "dream" is shared, because it conflicts with the fierce individualism of his political and religious views.

    But more, you're branded for your associations. Many would (quite wrongly) dismiss you immediately as an unreliable source for having anything kind to say about Deepak Chopra. And in the same way, mentioning Reality Sandwich or any other part of the psychedelic community in even a neutral manner reeks of "Leftism".

    My only point here is that you're branded politically already simply. While I'd tend to agree that discussing metaphysics should be well above and far removed from politics, anyone eyeing you through a political lense will filter you, your ideas, and your behaviors into some category or other. Through a political lense, nothing, not even something as simple as polite discourse, is apolitical.

    My second point is simply that how you're branded is a matter of degree, not kind. In the realm of politics, there is no neutral and political thought is not as immune to metaphysical speculation as metaphysical speculation should be to political thought.

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  4. There's something about quality, not quantity in the numbers, many of us have direct experience of what you write about whether through psychedelics, psychological death/suffering crisis or NDE's. In this sense, religion and political concerns take a back seat, as they're seen for the collective painbody they are. Your academic contribution (and public writings) cannot be under-valued here. I work for a Children's Research Centre where we see many children/young people medicated and incarcerated by a deeply unconscious system, for their 'non-ordinary' experiences. Your academic work is now allowing us to present a different ontological premise from which to argue the case for supporting children differently - which we will be doing through International research, presenting at conferences etc. Many young children and young people appear to be revealing much about the nature of reality and what it means to be human - and your work has provided an academic platform from which we can explore and argue from more proficiently. Your fierce courage, conviction and ability to kick arse (so to speak) is rare - so go and argue with them - its time they faced a worthy opponent

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    1. This is one of the most wonderful things I've ever heard about my work. That children may be getting better lives because of it makes it all worthwhile, come what comes. Thank you for telling me! If possible, I'd love to hear more about this work.

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    2. That's so lovely to hear and I'm really pleased to have the opportunity to share how your incredible work can potentially 'reauthor' how children and young people are supported through 'crisis'. In a nutshell - our research is concerned with self , subjectivity and experience. In social sciences (as your aware) there is a current tension between postmodern emphasis on individuality and 'you are your story' and 'new materialisms' - were there is no ground of reality only patterns of forces and fields. We've proposed a 'third' ontological possibility by bringing in 'Analytical Idealism' as a more meaningful (and of course logical) way to argue 'what it means to be child'. A consciousness-first ontology means 'child' as altar expresses in their experiencing or realitie(s) porous boundaries etc. This then brings in ideas about morphic resonance, Jung and Grof to explain an increasing crisis of children and young people in the Western world. From this, we are developing (with children and young people) methods to explore and represent non-ordinary experiences (myth/fictional storytelling, art, sound etc - to transcend limitations of language) -and shift epistemological knowledge from a first (story I) to a second attention epistemology (primordial/shared I) from which direct and collective experiences can be shared. The research will inform organisations that support children in crisis -change is always slow but we have to start somewhere. I have a couple of academic papers under review and will be presenting these ideas at the BPS (British Psychological Society Consciousness and Experiential) - fully referencing your work and how it will inform our research with children - apologies, this is all a bit jumbled but I will happily send you a paper to have a look at (so it may make more sense!)

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    3. This sounds fantastic, Donna. Yes, I'd love to get the paper. See my contact page on the top menu bar above. Thank you!

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    4. Donna,

      What you seem to be talking about here reminds me a bit of what Davidson et. al. are up to and they have certainly met resistence, although it is becoming a bit comical! It seems as though many people would rather our children risk becoming dependent on pharmaceuticals than teach them beneficial life skills directed at the actual heart of the problem. And I think, Bernardo, that this, this mindset, also, perhaps, has something to do with your less than optimized popularity: Harris and these others are not questioning the scientific materialist status quo nor Western philosophical transcendentalism inherent in the modern Abrahamic religious traditions.

      Consider this, if you will. A few months ago I was inspired to try my hand at Wikipedia editing by a Quora answer from Spencer Alexander MacDaniel, a classical studies undergrad and major Wikipedia contributor; his answer was largely about why there is such a lack of diversity in viewpoint among Wikipedia's editor pool. So, being a big fan of William Tiller's PsychoEnergetics, I visited William Tiller’s Wikipedia page and it was less than flattering - it’s worse now and I will explain why! On Tiller’s page it states:

      “He is also the author of Science and Human Transformation, a book about concepts such as subtle energies beyond the four fundamental forces, which he believes act in concert with human consciousness.”

      And you follow that “subtle energies” link to the Wikipedia page for, Energy (esoteric), which was pretty damn horrendous - it’s worse now and I will explain why! Technologies such as yoga and Qigong are ancient - dating back at least 5000 years based on archaeological evidence, and these were developed specifically to manipulate these "esoteric" energies in beneficial ways, so humans have known of these energies for a very long time. In addition, consider just a small but significant sample of books and scientific papers which support the veracity of these technologies:

      Life Force: The Scientific Basis, a very comprehensive survey from physicist Claude Swanson;

      Scientific Qigong Exploration:The Wonders and Mystery of Qi, a book describing experiments by nuclear physicist Lu Zuyin most conducted in concert with Yan Xin, a Qigong master training since age 4 who also has medical degrees in both Western conventional medicine and Chinese traditional medicine; these experiments were conducted in the 1980s and papers published in peer-reviewed journals, although there is very little theorizing here;

      Tiller's books discussing his experiments and theory;

      Neurocognitive and Somatic Components of Temperature Increases during g-Tummo Meditation: Legend and Reality the 2015 update of Herbert Benson's 1990s work;

      the scientific experiments conducted on Wim Hof and his students;

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    5. All of these books include high quality empirical data with regards to these subtle energies and taken all together it is certainly difficult, impossible if intellectually honest, to ignore and this empirical data demonstrates the ability of consciousness to affect matter at all levels - atomic, molecular, gross. And all of this data is either ignored - at best, or castigated, labeled "para"normal or "psuedo"scientific, most generally castigated! From the Wikipedia page for Energy (esoteric):

      “The term "energy" is used by writers and practitioners of various esoteric forms of spirituality and alternative medicine to refer to a variety of claimed experiences and phenomena that defy measurement and thus can be distinguished from the scientific form of energy. There is no scientific evidence for the existence of such energy.”


      This, of course, is an outright lie! And of course they back it up with references to literature produced entirely by skeptics, most with no academic credential. And it gets even crazier:

      "The scientific term energy is not what is being referred to in the context of spirituality and alternative medicine. As Brian Dunning writes:

      That's all that energy is: a measurement of work capability. But in popular culture, 'energy' has somehow become a noun. "Energy" is often spoken of as if it is a thing unto itself, like a region of glowing power, that can be contained and used. Here's a good test. When you hear the word "energy" used, substitute the phrase "measurable work capability." Does the usage still make sense? Remember, energy itself is not the thing being measured: energy is the measurement of work performed or of potential... Thus, this New Age concept of the body having an "energy field" is fatally doomed. There is no such thing as an energy field; they are two unrelated concepts."

      The Brian Dunning reference is from Skeptoid a podcast providing a “critical analysis of pop phenomena!” I kid you not! As you well know, energy of all known scientific forms has been considered a field since Einstein’s General Relativity in 1915 and electricity, the most common form of energy, has been considered a field since Maxwell’s Classical Field Theory in 1873 (notice I link to the Wikipedia pages for these subjects)! So of course I feel this is a great place to begin editing Wikipedia pages!

      All I did was try to take the extreme, dare I say idiotic, bias out of the article; I did not even try to make it accurate, simply less biased. I edited the page on May 2, 2019; you can see the page I created here. I was supposed to receive notification of any edits to that page but there have been 9 edits since mine and I was not one time notified. Instead, I received an email from a Wikipedia moderator saying welcome and here’s some info and then they proceeded to edit the page so that it is now even worse than it was before! In addition to this, since I referenced a couple of Tiller’s papers, they edited Tiller’s Wikipedia page twice, reinstating a reference to Tiller receiving the “Pigasus” award, some juvenile award dreamed up by the insufferable skeptic James Randy. I mean, how juvenile is this!?! These folks are like the sandbox bullies from 1950s elementary school!

      So yeah, I think that is why Wikipedia doesn't have a more diversity of viewpoints in their editor/contributor pool and why you, perhaps, are not as popular as you would like to be - or should be! But what to do?

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    6. "It is said that truthfulness alone constitutes the spiritual discipline of the Kaliyuga. If a man clings tenaciously to truth he ultimately realizes God. Without this regard for truth, one gradually loses everything. If by chance I say that I will go to the pine-grove, I must go there even if there is no further need of it, lest I lose my attachment to truth. After my vision of the Divine Mother, I prayed to Her, taking a flower in my hands: "Mother, here is Thy knowledge and here is Thy ignorance. Take them both, and give me only pure love. Here is Thy holiness and here is Thy unholiness. Take them both, Mother, and give me pure love. Here is Thy good and here is Thy evil. Take them both, Mother, and give me pure love. Here is Thy righteousness and here is Thy unrighteousness. Take them both, Mother, and give me pure love." I mentioned all these, but I could not say: "Mother, here is Thy truth and here is Thy falsehood. Take them both." I gave up everything at Her feet but could not bring myself to give up truth." - Sri Ramakrishna

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    7. PonderSeekDiscover - Thanks for the article share. This is not what our work is about - there appears to be a 'Capitalistic Mindfulness' that is popular with an agenda to improve 'mind-sets' and life skills in children and young people, for the sake of educational attainment, better behaviour and in the longrun, economic gains. This approach to mindfulness tends to be rooted in material-first assumptions, and the research associated with it doesn't tend to involve children and young people - as with much research on children's wellbeing and mental health its about adults making assumptions about their experiences, framed in theoretical discourses that are rooted in Cartesian-materialistic versions of reality. Your right about the Pharmas and the push to medicate children. If you look at the recent exposure on who sits on the DSM boards, about 75% (I think) are Big Pharma reps, the ones who are making decisions about what counts as a 'disorder'. Indeed this work meets many challenges yet, each time a child or young person shifts their perception from the small story 'I' to something that extends beyond it - they are become empowered to discern and respond instead of unconsciously react to what ever experience is present in their field. In this respect, it doesn't matter who challenges it. D

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    8. I don't mean to be critical, but I don't think you read the Davidson et. al. article I linked to! I don't precisely know what you mean by "material-first assumptions" but the Davidson et. al. paper certainly includes research involving children, more specifically, research which seems to be directly related to what you are discussing above; just one example from the paper:

      "Childhood abuse in humans, for example, has been linked recently to specific alterations in the expression of genes for glucocorticoid receptors involved in the regulation of stress-related neuroendocrine response (McGowan et al., 2009) as well as alterations in prefrontal structures critical to the regulation of emotion (Hanson et al., 2011). Whether caused by physical or psychosocial stress, cumulative allostatic load may lead to developing psychopathologies in infancy, adolescence and adulthood, such as cognitive deficits, sleep disturbance, schizophrenia, anxiety-related disorders, and depressive symptomatology (Shirtcliff, Dahl, & Pollak, 2009).

      [...]

      Considerable evidence has revealed developmental changes in the circuitry critical to emotion regulation, especially in pre-frontal cortical networks. When adolescents engage in tasks that require emotion regulation, greater cognitive demand ensues, along with greater activation in PFC regions compared to adults (Blakemore & Choudhury, 2006). Moreover, the circuitry of emotion regulation overlaps considerably with the circuitry of cognitive control. Yet despite enormous cognitive gains across childhood and adolescence (Paus, 2005), adolescents engage in more risk taking than adults (Steinberg, 2007). Rates of accidents, suicide, homicide, depression, substance abuse, violence, and risky sexual behaviors skyrocket during adolescence (Steinberg, 2009). These major sources of adolescent death and disability are related to difficulties in the control of emotion and behavior. Whereas adolescents demonstrate decision-making on par to adults under conditions of low arousal, these cognitive processes are particularly impaired under intense emotional arousal (Steinberg, 2005). Consequently, strategies that promote skills in emotion regulation and self-awareness are particularly important to identify and to incorporate into educational curricula.

      [...]

      In addition, pessimistic explanatory styles and rumination that construe the self to be a cause of negative life events are core features of anxiety, depression and academic problems beginning in childhood (Rood, Roelofs, Bogels, Nolen-Hoeksema, & Schouten, 2009). Contravening such construals, studies are beginning to link mindfulness-based clinical interventions to reductions in anxiety and depression in adolescents (Biegel, Brown, Shapiro, & Schubert, 2009)."

      And the majority of this research is grounded in the contemplative traditions, most all of which either embrace some form of Idealism - Valuational Idealism generally, or Agnosticism; it really has no grounding in "Cartesian-materialistic versions of reality!" That would be the Big Pharma approach rather.

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    9. To be a bit more specific, this last sentence of yours:

      "Indeed this work meets many challenges yet, each time a child or young person shifts their perception from the small story 'I' to something that extends beyond it - they are become empowered to discern and respond instead of unconsciously react to what ever experience is present in their field."

      This is, essentially, an expression of sunyata on an intellectual level and at least in Buddhist contemplative practice, which informs most of Davidson's research, sunyata is a central goal, sunyata united with karuna; this is bodhicitta or enlightened mind, where mind here is active, a process. From a lovely passage by Herbert Guenther in The Dawn of Tantra, chapter 5:

      "The indivisibility of shunyata and karuna is termed bodhicitta." Here we have two terms which are of key significance in tantra, shunyata and karuna. The terms are not restricted to the tantric level, but appear fairly early on in the development of the Buddhist tradition. Shunyata was originally an elaboration of the concept of anatman. The meaning of anatman was that there is no abiding principle in things. Later on, shunyata became one of the central concepts of the Mahayana. For the student of tantra, it remains a sort of objective reference of which he must be aware in order to pursue his practice onto further levels of subtlety. Shunyata is usually translated "emptiness" or "void." These translations are thoroughly misleading, because shunyata is a highly positive term. Unfortunately, the early translators were not very sophisticated and allowed themselves to be misled by the sense of shunya in ordinary everyday language. In this popular language, if a glass had no water in it, it could be called shunya. But this is not at all the sense of shunyata in Buddhist philosophy. Shunyata can be explained in a very simple way. When we perceive, we usually attend to the delimited forms of objects. But these objects are perceived within a field. Attention can be directed either to the concrete, limited forms or to the field in which these forms are situated. In the shunyata experience, the attention is on the field rather than on its contents. By "contents," we mean here those forms which are the outstanding features of the field itself. We also might notice that when we have an idea before our mind, the territory, as it were, delimited by the idea is blurred; it fades into something which is quite open. This open dimension is the basic meaning of shunyata.

      […]

      Shunyata is the objective correlate of this heightened or opened state of awareness. In this state, we do not see different things but we do see things differently. When I meet someone, I can immediately snap into a state of mind where I am asking myself what I have to gain or lose from meeting this person and I can then involve myself in the appropriate strategy. Or, I can merely take in the impression of this person and relate to him without preconception. Very likely if I do the latter, a very satisfactory meeting will ensue. I have related to this open dimension of my impression. Now this is a very simple thing, there is nothing special about it and anybody can do it. But, as I have said, the simplest things are often the most difficult. Probably one of the most difficult things is for a person to do without his fixations and preconceptions. They seem to provide so much security; yet a person who follows his fixations always suffers from a sense of lack or loss - as if something were missing. When we speak of shunyata, we are speaking of the open dimension of being. We can be aware of this open dimension, but in order to perceive it our perceptive faculty must be open, without a bias of any kind. If our way of perceiving is tainted by any sort of predisposition or reservation, we are right then out of the openness. We have already narrowed our view, and this, in the end, will be quite unsatisfying.

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    10. […]

      All action is based on perception, since, naturally, we always act in the light of our awareness. This is true on every level. The less I am aware of another person, the less able I am to act appropriately in my relationship with him. We have the example of certain types of people with so-called "good intentions" who do not take the trouble to become aware of what the people they are being "good to" really need. They are so involved in their preconceptions and biases that they think whatever they like must be good for everybody. Such a person might like milk and exert himself to get everybody to drink milk. But what about people who are allergic to milk? Such a thought would never make any impact on such a person's good intentions. The example may appear ridiculous, but it is precisely this sort of ridiculous action that we encounter constantly in life. We act on the basis of our understanding, our awareness, and if this is not open and alive, then our actions are necessarily clumsy and inappropriate."
      [end quote]

      And of course this is just half of the story - sunyata! The other half is karuna, compassion applied with equanimity; if you read about the type of contemplative practice Davidson is suggesting, it is based on the Tibetan practice called Tonglen, in which children are told to imagine that they are using their own compassion to heal the entire planet.

      Don't get me wrong here, I am most certainly interested in what, exactly, you and your colleagues are up to. I was really rather curious as to how it related to the Davidson et. al. approach; perhaps there is more synergy there than you may be aware of!?!

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    11. PonderSeekDiscover, thanks for taking the time to reply and the interest in this work. Just a few bullets to respond to some of your points:
      - In response to your assumption that I didn't read the article, just to clarify that I did and have read a few others like it
      -The article is based on research ON children and not WITH children. There is a significant difference. The authors research is based on research 'in Neurosceience, Cognitive Science, Developmental Science and Education as well as INSIGHTS from contemplative traditions'. There are no children and young people in this article representing their own experiential authority about 'anxiety' or contemplative practice for example. The article is not research WITH children
      -The article is concerned with educational settings 'supporting prosocial behaviour and academic success in young people' demonstrating a materialistic concern for current societal values - as opposed to using contemplative practices to facilitate children and young people with self-enquiry
      -The author's aim is to 'provide a scientific warrant for educational interventions' - instead of questioning the mainstream scientific ontological underpinnings that require a warrant (and the educational system that young people are not fitting into anymore). The concern is with demonstrating changes in brain function and its associated correlates - its not about exploring the direct and actual experiences of children
      -Much research ON children refers to traditional childhood development models that are currently under significant challenge in the social sciences - the authors make references to some of these models without highlighting the implications
      -I am very familiar with traditional contemplative practices. Some of these practices we use with children and young people that are taken from ancient practices (Buddhism, Shamanism etc) and from current non-dual and spiritual teachers, such as Rupert Spira. These practices are used for self-enquiry, not to improve pro-social behavior and educational attainment
      -The article has some interesting points and is useful in demonstrating some of the potential benefits for children and young people and contemplative practices - here may lie some of the 'synergy' that I am very aware of
      D
      -

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    12. Okay, thanks, that clarifies things a bit. So, yeah, I would also be highly interested in taking a look at your research, perhaps when it is published or accessible online.

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    13. Of course, when its published I'll add the link, thanks PonderSeekDiscover - D

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  5. One random thought about perhaps the main factor that keeps ideas like yours below the fold, while Peterson & Harris are superstars (although I'm sure it's occurred to you): you are bravely goring the sacred ox of materialism. That's not only bold, it's far less obvious as a vehicle for popularity than most intellectual superstars might select, although your own goals are not aligned with fame anyway. We've seen how venomous the reaction to idealism can be. The fact that your ontology is so counterintuitive to our fully indoctrinated minds is also going to limit traction, except to those minds which can remain open enough and that level of self awareness is sadly still rare. If only there was some form of populism that could be attached to your message! I think there are hints that Peterson has a more nuanced view of consciousness than Harris, but I doubt he'd have the balls to risk his popularity by coming out against the materialist paradigm that's prevalent in his field, or indeed in his fan base amongst the general population. A long form discussion between you and Peterson is something I wouldn't be able to contain my excitement about, and even if it's not your goal, I think your subscription rate would sky rocket! Such a meeting of titanic thinkers would be unmissable. He likes to talk about Jung, any chance? Cheers, Paul.

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  6. Great article. One thing I believe you are off about: The main reasons why Harris and others have a huge following is simply because they celebrated a breakthrough. Obviously once you have been on TV you automatically gain a huge amount. Or once you write a best-seller. Its a marketing-breakthrough, to me, nothing else. Some achieve it, some don’t.

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    1. Mark, I think I know what you are saying, but 'they celebrated a breakthrough' is either typo or an expression I can't frame in this context. Say more if you have time! :)

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  7. Great article! For me you are asking a very complex question, a question much more tangely and difficult that the 'hard problem' of consciousness :) I'm serious, though.

    What draws me most to your work is the rigor and careful precision with which you argue for idealism. As you know, I'm least drawn to your claims that it is other thinker's non-idealist worldviews that might account for their more shadow-like behaviors. In a recent interview, you conflated materialistic science with the horrible greed of our time, and you pointed out how previously to our dark days, people held beautiful and powerful religious views that led to some of the greatest art. My heart sinks a little bit in these cases, because I would just want you to then talk about counter-examples and counterfactual, just like you do in your philosophic work. For instance, if we flatten out materialism to simply be a view that amplifies horrible tendencies, then should we flatten idealism and blame the horrors of history to it? No, of course. We should let history be complex. We should see all the ways that cruel Kings used religion, how fear and desire for power fed into wars. Blaming the horrible greed that we see all through history on the fact that people believed in God/Gods would be horrible thinking. But my point is that I'm glad that you primarily don't get into arguments with people online and then tie other views about consciousness to the negative topic being discussed.

    That said, I think you could grow your audience quite a bit if you did boldly confront more popular, public figures. To me this all comes down to picking your battles. This is where I think there might be a wonderful marriage between your impersonal logical rigor and your more aggressive debate instincts :) I'd love for you to find specific comments or themes that some of these people (especially Peterson) constantly throw out, and I'd love to see you go directly at the idea, tearing it apart, exposing it. I'd even like you to connect the horrible idea to real world consequences IF those aren't overly generalized or grounded in vague psychologisms of the other person.

    One thing that I notice about Sam Harris and even Joe Rogan. They cover lots of different ground and their audience, then, is hardly uniform. In fact, each time they focus on a certain topic, they have rather large portions of their audience that ignore those topics and simply wait for when they come back to a different one. You could do this. You and Sam overlap on consciousness in interesting ways. He is very wary of the idea that consciousness will just come along for the ride when we create super-intelligent machines. But he has yet to have somebody on his show who has a model that can explain why it almost certainly doesn't come along for the ride. I'd love to hear that conversation. It might get started by just a well timed, somewhat ornery comment the next time he bring up that topic.

    I do want to see you debate more. That spreads. Even a friendly debate with Philip Goff would be so refreshing. But, again, that might require some orneriness. If you made a tight 8 minute Youtube video called What Jordan Peterson Doesn't Understand About Jung and you really nailed a couple of his confused comments (Or on any topic he spews on and on about), it would get at least good traffic. And if there were other 8 minute videos that also had tight commentary on Big Thinker's Bad Thoughts, that would be enjoyable and educating. At least for me! :) Take care.

    Jeff

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    1. I should be clear. Just because I haven't yet grasped Bernardo's logic regarding the causal effect of physicalism, I do not assume that I'm not missing something. I mostly am. The only thing I feel certain about is that when he argues about these 'effects' he no longer uses his meticulous methods of argument. Maybe that is because he thinks this is an obvious point?

      Also, in my opinion Bernardo has made the strongest arguments for Idealism in the history of the world. I don't think I'm exaggerating.

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  8. Hi Bernado,

    Are you familiar with Penny Sartori's research into NDEs. This video may interest you - gets really interesting at 16 mins as it mirrors your work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_9tuw7_lfg

    Best,

    Richard

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  9. Perhaps another reason that Bernardo's work is not reaching a larger audience (along with its seemingly apolitical nature), is that it is focused on understanding the big picture in a postmodern era in which "big narratives" are instinctively rejected as oppressive to inherently diverse personal narratives. And yet it appears to me that without some shared understanding, however rudimentary, about the nature and purpose of life, there is no possibility of summoning the human spirit, in the extraordinary variety of its cultural expressions, to meet the global neoliberal challenges of depersonalization, plutocracy, and ecocide. Bernardo and others believe that spiritual/mystical experience, accessible through psychedelics, provides an avenue both to break through the materialism that underlies reductionist neoliberal thinking and to provide humanity with a common, though intensely personal, transcendent experience, one which might eventually lead to a more widely-shared idealistic worldview. A once-famous, now-forgotten voice from the 20th Century similarly suggested an avenue for universal spiritual/mystical experience, one readily available to us without the induced alternation of ordinary consciousness. Drawing upon the religious traditions of both East and West, Albert Schweitzer distilled what he believed to be an elemental, universal moral principle, originating in the instinctive will-to-live within us and around us. If I had to name the polar opposite of neoliberal materialism--its mortal enemy--I would put forward, in partnership with Bernardo's well-developed metaphysical idealism, Schweitzer's "reverence for life."

    https://newtonfinn.com/2017/12/18/two-rivers-one-spirit/

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  10. glad to read your thoughts here, and i shall look at your other writings. good to see intelligent commentary on this so called renaissance, rebranding, again, the sometimes marvelous and sometimes malefic psychedelics. the thing is, these drugs were originally marketed to be the newest Huxleyian soma. MKULTRA, dosing the masses, backfired, but just a little. now the psy op is being revved up again....

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  11. Bernardo,

    I used to find myself drawn to Sam Harris's podcasts. Peterson's stuff, less so.

    For the past year or two, however, I've found myself disinterested in both the above and instead drawn to your books and videos.

    However, it is a great effort for me to totally grasp and appreciate your worldview and its implications.

    I think the careful and precise way that you present and attempt to explain your views is what keeps me interested and persistent. But that's just me.

    I have found it very difficult to explain your views to others and interest them in taking a look for themselves.

    What you are selling is not everybody's cup of tea. But I think if you "dumbed it down" you'd risk losing part of the serious but relatively small audience you do have.

    It might be that, realistically, your potential audience for metaphysics or ontology per se is itself very small. I think your prudent and cautious and careful approach has been the right one for this group.

    Maybe it would be beneficial to attempt to attract a novelist or filmmaker or game designer to incorporate your metaphysics into a potentially popular work of entertainment. (Very likely, this is not something you have not already considered.)

    Or be patient: You are relatively young, and it might be a while before your philosophy ship comes in. I myself choose to believe that it will.

    Another possible avenue conceivably could be to interest open-minded theologians to try to absorb your metaphysics and then possibly revise their theological speculations accordingly. That's a long shot, I admit.

    Finally, please know that I am much enjoying working my way through your recent conversation with Steve Patterson, a very intelligent interlocutor for you. You make a great pair, partly because he also is an independent thinker with his own metaphysical speculations.

    Audio:
    https://pattersoninpursuit.libsyn.com/a-consciousness-only-ontology-dr-bernardo-kastrup

    Video:
    https://youtu.be/KuYeNKEGgAs

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    1. Great example of how one's influence can spread. In my free time I write fantasy and I am explicitly world-creating under the assumption of Idealism. So often fantasy authors try with all their might to fit a fantasy world into the Materialist paradigm. I'm hoping the result comes across as refreshing to some people.

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  12. Bernardo , Bernardo,

    "Mas sabe el diablo por viejo, que por diablo".

    .-> Politic, is the kernell of the system that rule 'men into time' .
    .-> Knowledge, is the kernel of the system that rule 'men over the time'.

    Bernardo, welcome to reality.

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  13. Greetings Bernardo! I'm posting this comment because I'm someone who has been and continues to follow Sam Harris' work.

    And I'm also now a huge fan of yours!! I've purchased and read all your books, and watched/listened to all the YouTube videos I've found. I've also purchased your book as gifts for others I want to discuss your ideas with.

    You and Harris have different gifts, and it sure seems to me that you are doing nothing "wrong".

    As someone who has a pretty good feel for Harris, I think perhaps you have been somewhat influenced by the leftist press to think badly of Harris, and I'd like to say why I think the two of you have much more in common than you may think. You should be collaborating!

    As one commenter above said, Harris entered the political arena almost by accident. He has said publicly many times that he literally sat down to write his first book on September 12, 2001.

    He has also said that he was posturing as an atheist in that book and in those years, and was adopted into the so-called New Atheists club by the media momentum and just went along with it because it was creating an audience for his intended work as an author. He also has said publicly that he doesn't self-identity as an atheist but was simply arguing from an anti-religious position in the years immediately after 911.

    He had spent a good deal of the previous 15 years experimenting with psychedelics, traveling in Asia and studying with some of the meditation "masters". He's stated publicly he has spent about 2 years on silent retreat during that time.

    When he published his last book "Waking Up" in 2014, he lost a good deal of his "atheist" audience. He was even mildly critisized publicly by Richard Dawkins (I believe but I can't find the quote) for asking the audience, when Dawkins was present, to participate in a small meditation practice. This was shortly after the release of his Waking Up" book and most of the audience weren't aware he was going to bring up the subject (ambushed was the term one of the scientists used to describe the experience).

    Harris created a guided meditation app less than a year ago that has become wildly successful. I have been using it daily since it came out and there is NO QUESTION Harris is as much an idealist at heart as yourself. He regularly guides his listeners to appreciate that all experience is appearing in consciousness. He even often uses the same expression you use, to the effect 'where else COULD it appear', emphasizing that all reality is "as a matter of experience" (Harris'term) mental.

    Interestingly, Rupert Spira, who I was delighted to see wrote the Afterword to your book Brief Peeks Beyond, has been my primary non-duality "teacher" since before Harris went public with his book Waking Up. And I felt no discontinuity or conflict switching back and forth between the two.

    Harris also has a highly regarded podcast called Making Sense (it was previously named Waking Up but he changed the name after releasing the meditation app).

    I think you would find it instructive Bernardo to listen to at least the last several minutes of Harris' podcast with Thomas Metzinger, the German philosopher and professor of theoretical philosophy at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz.

    Near the end of the podcast Metzinger tells Harris how deeply respected he is (Harris) by himself and others who know how he has been demonized by leftists and some in the media who haven't taken the time to appreciate how nuanced his positions are. Metzinger is also a lifelong meditator.

    I've listened to 2 or 3 of Harris' podcasts where the guest was someone who had previously demonized Harris and in each instance there's a meeting of the minds so to speak, and the podcast ends with a significantly different relationship.

    Am Harris is not antagonistic with your ideas. He just needs to come out of the closet a bit more and you should try to engage him publicly.

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  14. continued...

    He had spent a good deal of the previous 15 years experimenting with psychedelics, traveling in Asia and studying with some of the meditation "masters". He's stated publicly he has spent about 2 years on silent retreat during that time.

    When he published his last book "Waking Up" in 2014, he lost a good deal of his "atheist" audience. He was even mildly critisized publicly by Richard Dawkins (I believe but I can't find the quote) for asking the audience, when Dawkins was present, to participate in a small meditation practice. This was shortly after the release of his Waking Up" book and most of the audience weren't aware he was going to bring up the subject (ambushed was the term one of the scientists used to describe the experience).

    Harris created a guided meditation app less than a year ago that has become wildly successful. I have been using it daily since it came out and there is NO QUESTION Harris is as much an idealist at heart as yourself. He regularly guides his listeners to appreciate that all experience is appearing in consciousness. He even often uses the same expression you use, to the effect 'where else COULD it appear', emphasizing that all reality is "as a matter of experience" (Harris'term) mental.

    Interestingly, Rupert Spira, who I was delighted to see wrote the Afterword to your book Brief Peeks Beyond, has been my primary non-duality "teacher" since before Harris went public with his book Waking Up. And I felt no discontinuity or conflict switching back and forth between the two.

    Harris also has a highly regarded podcast called Making Sense (it was previously named Waking Up but he changed the name after releasing the meditation app).

    I think you would find it instructive Bernardo to listen to at least the last several minutes of Harris' podcast with Thomas Metzinger, the German philosopher and professor of theoretical philosophy at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz.

    Near the end of the podcast Metzinger tells Harris how deeply respected he is (Harris) by himself and others who know how he has been demonized by leftists and some in the media who haven't taken the time to appreciate how nuanced his positions are. Metzinger is also a lifelong meditator.

    I've listened to 2 or 3 of Harris' podcasts where the guest was someone who had previously demonized Harris and in each instance there's a meeting of the minds so to speak, and the podcast ends with a significantly different relationship.

    Am Harris is not antagonistic with your ideas. He just needs to come out of the closet a bit more and you should try to engage him publicly.

    He often chooses guests for his podcasts based on subscriber requests, and I'll certainly be one asking he consider inviting you. And soon, for the world needs to hear loud and clear that there's an alternative paradigm which offers a vision of transcendence!

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  15. Here's an idea Bernardo, instead of waiting for someone with a huge following (like Sam Harris) to invite you on his podcast...start your own podcast and invite folks with large audiences to a conversation!

    Those audiences will automatically follow your guests and viola, you'll be speaking to a much wider audience in no time.

    Tap into these interested audiences by starting conversations with their already "established" spokesmen!!

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  16. If it provides you any comfort, I'm reading and subscribing to idealism because of you, whilst still studying at Imperial College. I don't know how long they can both harmoniously live, but I want to go into the field of consciousness research and especially its medical implications (but from an idealistic metaphysics). It's potentially game-changing in terms of impact potential.

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    1. Thanks SuperSuley. Just to make sure it's clear: I have nothing at all against Imperial College as an institution, much to the contrary! I think you have much to be proud of for studying there!

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