HOME  |   ENGINEERING  |   RESEARCH  |   CONTACT
Why Materialism is Baloney

BERNARDO KASTRUP
2014

In the pursuit of an external truth, scientistic materialism has forgotten the internal, most fundamental reality of human existence: we can know nothing but that which appears in our own mind.

Words of the Heart Sutra: form is emptiness; emptiness is not different from form. Form (matter) and emptiness (mind) interpenetrate each other as one single reality.

The Current Worldview and its Implications
  • We fundamentally depend on a collective, distributed effort to develop a critical opinion regarding what is going on. Validation emerges organically and iteratively from within the group of specialists itself. This process is only partially guided by evidence, and largely by psychosocial dynamics. Each person plays the dual role of contributing personal insights to the emerging consensus and calibrating their own opinions based on the validation.
  • Empirical data proves the models of science under certain conditions, not the metaphysical interpretation of such models.
  • Capturing the observable patterns and regularities of the elements of reality, relative to each other, is an empirical and scientific question. But pondering about the fundamental nature of these elements is not; it is a philosophical question.
  • The intellectual elite have failed to see that they are simply assuming a certain metaphysics – namely, materialism – without giving it due thought. To construct a metaphysics about the fundamental nature of reality demands more than the empirical methods of science. It demands a kind of disciplined introspection that critically assesses not only the elements observed, but also the observer, the process of observation, and the interplay between the three in a holistic manner; an introspection that, as such, seeks to see through the game.
  • The most basic assertion of materialism is that reality exists outside your mind in the form of assemblies of material particles occupying the framework of space-time.
  • A logical implication of materialism: panpsychism - that all matter is conscious, even though the intensity or quality of consciousness may depend on the particular arrangement of matter at hand.
  • If you cannot explain consciousness in terms of emerging dynamics of unconscious subatomic particles, you must then postulate that consciousness is itself a fundamental property – like electric charge, mass or spin – of all particles.
  • There is good empirical justification for the inference that other people and animals, and perhaps even all life forms, are conscious. But there is no empirical justification to infer that inanimate objects are conscious in any way or to any degree whatsoever.
  • According to materialism, what we experience in our lives every day is not reality as such, but a kind of brain-constructed "copy" of reality. It is somewhat self-defeating. The materialist worldview is the result of an internal model of reality whose unreliability is an inescapable implication of that very model.
Tackling the Mind-Body Problem
  • There is an undeniable correlation between brain states and subjective experience.
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a process where neuroscientists run magnetic fields through specific regions of the brain, interfering with the ability of neurons to fire normally. Deactivation of specific brain regions correlates tightly to specific changes in subjective experience.
  • One of the best materialist theory of consciousness available today is Giulio Tononi's Information Integration Theory: Cconscious experience is a result of how much information is integrated by a purely material brain process. The problem here is this: to claim that a neural process suddenly becomes conscious when it integrates enough information is rather an appeal to magic than to cause-and-effect.
  • The notion that consciousness is merely brain activity not only lacks explicit and specific elaboration, it cannot strictly be said to be supported by empirical observations.
  • All scientific models need, ultimately, to postulate so-called ontological primitives: irreducible aspects of nature that can't themselves be explained but must, instead, be accepted simply to exist.
  • Materialism attempts to reduce conscious experience to physical entities like these particles. As such, it assumes consciousness to be derivative, not fundamental.
  • Recent and powerful physical evidence indicates strongly that no physical entity or phenomenon can be explained separately from, or independently of, its subjective apprehension in consciousness. If this is true, the logical consequence is that consciousness cannot be reduced to matter – for it appears that it is needed for matter to exist in the first place.
  • The Filter Hypothesis of mind-brain interaction is that the function of the brain is to localize consciousness, pinning it to the space-time reference point implied by the physical body. No subjective experience is ever generated by the brain, but merely selected by it according to the perspective of the body in space-time. The filter hypothesis implies that consciousness, in its unfiltered state, is unbound. As such, consciousness must be fundamentally unitary and non-individualized.
  • The filter hypothesis predicts that one can have experiences that do not correlate with one's brain states.
  • Jung postulates that there is a part of mind – shared by all human beings, and perhaps by all conscious beings – which is extremely rich in images and narratives.
  • The most complex, coherent, intense, non-local, and transpersonal experiences people report are associated precisely with reductions, or even elimination, of brain activity.
Mind as the Medium of Reality
  • Realism: Reality exists outside and independent of mind; Idealism: Reality consists exclusively of mind and its contents.
  • If idealism is true and all reality is indeed in mind, then the simplest hypothesis is that there is but one mind; Your egoic mind – that limited awareness you identify yourself with – is, in this context, merely a segment of the broad, universal canvas of mind.
  • Mind is an ontological primitive: a fundamental, irreducible aspect of nature which itself cannot be explained in terms of anything else.
  • Non-contextuality means that the properties of a physical entity do not depend on the process of observation. Non-contextuality is almost synonymous with realism.
  • Solipsism is the notion that all that exists are my own conscious perceptions.
  • The substrate of mind cannot be measured, detected, or analyzed like some kind of stuff, because it is that which measures, detects, and analyzes in the first place.
The Brain as a Knot of Mind
  • The brain is the image of a process of localization of mental contents.
  • The world we perceive in ordinary awareness isn't necessarily causally closed; that is, that we may be fundamentally unable to explain everything in nature in terms of the stuff we ordinarily perceive.
  • The entire body is integral to the localization mechanism of the contents of mind; the "filter of mind". Unlike what materialism entails, a neural process isn't the subjective experience it correlates with, but merely a partial image of it released as undulations into the broader stream of mind.
  • There are "external" regions of the medium of mind that you do not identify yourself with. But it does not entail that there is an abstract "shadow" universe outside mind, for the same reason that the "external" world of your dreams does not entail anything happening outside your dreaming mind.
A Mercurial Metaphor
  • There is actually no real unconscious. It is the unconscious that is an illusion, consciousness may delude itself about what it actually comprises. We are all conscious, at all times, of absolutely everything that exists in time, space, and beyond.
  • The ability to turn conscious apprehension itself into an object of conscious apprehension is what fundamentally characterizes our ordinary state of consciousness.
  • The ego is the part of our psyches that is recursively and self-referentially aware.
  • There is no unconscious; there are only regions of the medium of mind whose experiences, for not falling within the field of egoic self-reflectiveness, become obfuscated by whatever does fall within the scope of the ego.
  • Explaining how consciousness can arise from something truly unconscious is an insoluble problem for Materialism. It requires a magical step.
  • The unconscious appears unconscious merely because of a relative difference in amplification with respect to other mental contents.
  • Experiences happen when mind moves, as in the movement of ripples.
  • Researchers have found that egoic consciousness seems to be associated with a back-and-forth flow of information between different brain areas, analogously to how images bounce back-and-forth between two mutually-facing mirrors.
  • There is no point in talking about what is "true" or what is "false" in any absolute sense, since there is no external reference system, outside mind, to ground the truth-value of anything. All reality is experience and all experience is real.
  • Forgetting and recalling things are processes whereby contents of mind go in and out of the field of self-reflective awareness, but never really leave consciousness.
  • Self-reflective awareness allows us to think about our own thoughts and evaluate them critically. Without it, we would be incapable of self-realization, self-judgment and growth as individuals. It is self-reflective awareness that creates the unconscious, but also represents a trade off.
The Oscillating Membrane Metaphor
  • We live under the illusion that we all share the exact same reality because our language has evolved to pick out precisely the few aspects of our experiences that are common and shared, while ignoring those that are completely personal and idiosyncratic.
  • Our realities are determined by our unique states of mind.
  • Resonance happens when the stimulus applied to a vibrating system has the same frequency as one of the system's natural modes of vibration. A system can acquire and amplify the vibration of an external stimulus if they resonate.
  • Experiences – the "contents" of mind – are nothing but mind itself, manifesting a certain behavior in the form of vibrations. The "contents" of mind aren't separate ontological entities.
  • Our experiential realities are determined by our psychic structures, so the similarities of our psychic structures allow for a shared experiential reality to emerge across humans.
  • Relatively little information needs to arrive, through resonance, from the broader membrane of mind in order to create the linguistic illusion of a shared world.
  • The structure of the human ego – the loop – is such that the vibrations we call the "empirical world" consistently resonate with it, while the vibrations we associate with the "collective unconscious" do not.
  • Ultimately there is nothing to experience – and therefore to existence – other than the void that vibrates.
  • We only really experience the prelude and the immediate aftermath of choice, never the making of a choice.
  • Freewill proper is the primary cause of all movements of mind. Freewill can never be experienced directly: it is the driving force behind all experience and, thus, never an experience itself. Freewill is simply an inherent property of the medium of mind, fundamentally unexplainable, and cannot be experience directly.
  • Somehow, out of unlimited flexibility to create experience, limitation arises.
  • By exploring its very freedom to move, mind at large ends up creating local structures throughout its surface. And then, as a direct consequence of this act of creative freedom, local limitations arise as far as the modes of vibration supported by each structure.
  • The ego is the limited patterns of vibration entailed by a certain loop structure. The ego is the structure. Outside the ego's radar screen: vibrations can dramatically affect the configuration of the structures where they take place.
  • Even though the ego is applying its freewill to excite vibrations alone – not structural reconfigurations – the process will end up disrupting the structure of the individual's psyche.
  • The membrane of M-theory is nothing but certain aspects of the vibrating membrane of mind.
Re-interpreting Reality
  • The human psychic structure defines our reality by determining what modes of vibration resonate with us.
  • We are the expression of mind in its attempt to make sense of what is going on.
  • We are the very process that we seek to understand and control.
  • Upon my physical death, my psychic structure unravels, so my body image can no longer exist in it. But nothing stops my body image from continuing to exist – for a while, that is – in your psychic structure and other parts of the medium of mind.
  • Only the modes of vibration that resonate with the structure of the egoic loop are perceived by the ego. Everything else is filtered out. Consensus reality is but a partial view of what is actually going on.
  • Less self-reflective amplification reduces the level of obfuscation and allows for otherwise "unconscious" contents to become discernible after-death. It is reasonable to assume that the mental process we call physical death "makes the unconscious more conscious," because it eliminates a source of obfuscation; namely, the egoic loop.
  • Physical death does not entail the end of consciousness, for consciousness is the fabric of all existence.
  • It is reasonable to expect that physical death reduces self-reflectiveness and, thereby, increases our access to the contents of the "unconscious" due to less obfuscation.
Final Musings
  • When mind tries to "look at itself" what it gets are these hard-to-reconcile, contradictory images on top of one another. By dissociating itself into separate egoic points-of-view, mind may end up getting a clearer, less contradictory – albeit more limited – view of itself.
  • Everything we perceive, think, or feel is a vibration of mind. But we have to stop looking for the "stuff" that vibrates. We won't find it, because there is no such "stuff." To understand the underlying nature of mind one has to turn inward, toward introspection and away from measurement.
  • Consensus reality is nothing but a metaphor for the fundamental nature of mind. In a metaphorical world, all the images of consensus reality are symbols, not literal realities. We cannot be told what it all means. We must live it and somehow "get it."
  • By extricating "reality" from mind, materialism has sent the significance of nature into exile.
  • There is no literal shortcut to whatever it is that the metaphor of life is trying to convey. There is no literal truth.

These notes were taken from Bernardo's book.
See his website at www.bernardokastrup.com


RELATED NOTES

» The Idea of the World 2019
» More than Allegory 2016
» Brief Peeks Beyond 2015
» Why Materialism is Baloney 2014
» Meaning in Absurdity 2012
   Bernardo Kastrup


© 2020 Cedric Joyce