Bernardo Kastrup: Consciousness, Dissociation, Idealism, Materialism, Psychedelics, Death & Mind
Full episode transcript below. Beware of typos!
Bernardo kastrup How are you doing?
Bernardo Kastrup 3:21
Great. Happy to be here. And
Nick Jikomes 3:23
thank you for joining me, can you let everyone know who you are, where you're joining us from and just give like a concise summary of what your academic training is in so people have a sense for where where you're going to be coming from today.
Bernardo Kastrup 3:36
Yeah, I am speaking to you from the south of the Netherlands, writing between Antwerpen Dusseldorf and Amsterdam on that triangle. I have a background in computer science. I have a doctorate in computer science and a doctorate in philosophy of mind. So dual background, I have some background in physics because of my professional life. I used to work in data acquisition at CERN in Switzerland, it was actually my very first job in life. And I've been writing about ontology philosophy of mind for the past 15 years and have some acquaintance with the technical literature in neuroscience of consciousness.
Nick Jikomes 4:15
Yes, you've got this interesting background where you have formal training in computer science, computer engineering, this background in the physical sciences that's related to that. And then you became a philosopher, basically. And we're going to spend most of our time today talking about mind stuff, consciousness and related topics. The thing I wanted to get you talking about first is this very interesting psychological phenomenon that I've discussed on the show in different ways on a few occasions, and that's the association. And I want to start off by asking you about dissociative identity disorder and how that can manifest neurologically. So tell people about that and what we know about it.
Bernardo Kastrup 4:58
Yeah, dissociation is something we are all acquainted with non pathological mild levels of dissociation happen when you don't remember something. A dream state is partly a dissociative state because you don't identify with the parts of your mind that are generating the dream environment, you only identify with the dream character or avatar. So we can all become dissociated when we become confused. Under stress. That's an example of dissociation. But dissociative identity disorder, which used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder, is an extreme sustained form of dissociation in which one mind appears to fragment itself into multiple distinct or cognitively separate centers of awareness, each one with its own selected memories with its own dispositions personality traits, they call themselves by different names. Now this has existed. We have known about this since the 19th century, but for over a century, there were reasons not to take it seriously. Because it's not something you could diagnose objectively. So there was always that doubt that the patient was faking it in order to get attention, or get away with some socially awkward situations. But with the advent of neuro imaging in the early 21st century, we now have means to diagnose di D, objectively using fMRI images that was worked on by Yolanda Shalom and her team here in the Netherlands in 2014. We have worked on with EEG, in Germany in 2015, a woman suffering from D ID who claimed to have multiple outers, some of which claimed to be blind, the neuroscientists had this brilliant idea of instrumenting, the woman with an EEG cap, while blind out there was an executive control. And lo and behold, there was no brain activity in the visual cortex, even though the woman's eyes were wide open. And we know that her eyes and visual system organically speaking, work, because when a sighted alter was again in control, or the host personality, brain activity in the visual cortex, would reappear. So today, we know that this is a real condition, it can be objectively diagnosed, and it has the surprising property of having one mind appear to itself as many separate minds.
Nick Jikomes 7:26
Interesting. So this case of a woman with a blind alter that term alter that just mean that just refers to the separate centers of awareness contained within one brain. And you're saying that there was this case study of a woman who had who could see and her eyes were functioning and everything, but one of her alters, claimed to be blind. And they were doing EEG MIT measurements such that when they look at the EEG signal for the visual cortex, the blind alters EEG looked like an actual an actual person with physical blindness, this EEG would look like,
Bernardo Kastrup 7:58
there was no activity, I don't think the neuroscientists went so far as to say it's the same as a blind person, but they couldn't see discernible activity beyond noise levels in the visual cortex, even though her eyes were open. So yeah, that gives you pause for thought, because dissociation seems not only to create islands of mentation, that are cognitively isolated, but it seems to be capable of literal blindness.
Nick Jikomes 8:26
I see. And in these cases with such individuals, is the is the default altar or the default person that's speaking, do they claim to be aware of the alters? Or are they completely unaware of each other? You have
Bernardo Kastrup 8:42
both cases, because now we can retro actively analyze the clinical literature that was not taken seriously for over a century. So now that we know that the condition is real, now we are sitting on a mountain of data that didn't require that didn't demand enough attention from us in the past. So it's an abundance of riches now, and there is clinical evidence for both for authors that are well aware of the other's existence. And for authors that are not. And there is, and that's the most interesting part, there is an abundance of clinical evidence, even recent one research done in Harvard by Deidre burette there is evidence that alters are co conscious. In other words, it's not a matter of rebooting the computer with a different operating system. Now the different alters are always present, the ones that are not in executive control, they are still conscious, and you can even try to play tricks on the alters that are in executive control, to undermine other alters.
Nick Jikomes 9:41
So the other thing this reminds me of, I mean, this can be very, very hard and weird for people to wrap their minds around. But the other you know, on the topic of just the idea that you can have multiple types of consciousness or multiple centers of awareness within a single brain that may or may not have access to the content The other you know, it reminds me of the famous cases of the so called split brain patients that that are defined in the literature going back several decades now, are you familiar with those cases?
Bernardo Kastrup 10:11
Yeah, there's there's contention about, I don't know what you're about to say now with the recent latest new results that seem to bring, bring it out to the earlier conclusions. But go ahead.
Nick Jikomes 10:22
Well, can you just describe the sort of classic split brain results and maybe then bring us up to speed on what you just refer to?
Bernardo Kastrup 10:29
Yeah. So there is this notion that if you split the two brain hemispheres, then you get two parallel consciousness consciousnesses, and you no longer have sort of unified field of awareness. I don't think that holds up. If you talk to patients after surgery, they will report to you that they feel exactly the same, like they felt before. But some quirks appear, one of which can be a blind sight. Blind sight is when you report to not be able to see, but you act as though you could see. Like, if you report that you cannot see anything on the left side of the visual field and somebody throws you a ball on the left side, you will raise your hand and catch it. And if if the psychiatrist or the neuroscientists confront you with that you claim you cannot see, but you held your hand and you caught the ball. The people will report Well, I just raised my hand by by chance, it was just a coincidence. So you have this amazing cognitive dissonance is happening. I think what this might show is that impairments of certain types of brain function when you when you prevent communication between certain types of brain areas, under certain circumstances, what you destroy is metacognition, you destroy your ability not to experience, but to know that you are experiencing, to bring that experience into the microscope of explicit introspection to examine the contents of your own mind at the metacognitive level. I think that's what's impaired, I wouldn't go as far as to say that split brain patients have two alters, I don't think there is enough clinical basis for that.
Nick Jikomes 12:20
I see. And sticking on dissociation for a moment, you know, there's also the phenomenon of acute and reversible dissociation which can be induced by stressful events, which I think you mentioned earlier, or drugs. And some people have experienced with this where you know, you take a dissociative psychoactive drug, it induces this very bizarre state where, you know, it's very hard to describe and wrap your head around, you know, when someone is in the state, they'll they'll say things like, Well, I was sitting there, and I look, I look around, I see everything, I can see everything in my visual field, I look down at my hand, and I see it. So the sensory information is not being disrupted. I understand intellectually, that I'm looking at my hand, my arm, and yet somehow, the body that you're seeing doesn't really register as belonging to you. And it's very bizarre, but that is the kind of thing that people report. This kind of state can even be induced in animals and experimental situations. And so I'm hoping you can describe for us what you think this means in terms of how the mind is generating a sense of self and integrating the sensory information into its model of itself. Let's let's get people thinking about how the brain is generating these models.
Bernardo Kastrup 13:34
You know, just to sort of dovetail with what you said, there are there are instances in the literature of people who have car crashes. And instead of losing their memories, they lose the sense of ownership of their memories. They remember the entire lives, but they they relate to it as if it were the life of somebody else. They said that was not me. I remember it from a first person perspective. But that wasn't me. It doesn't feel like it was me. So you can have many types of dissociation. I mean, we just talked about perceptual dissociation, you can't see because you're dissociated from the cognitive mechanisms associated with perception. Ownership, you can lose the feeling of ownership. You can have memory dissociation, different alters can hold different memories, so you don't have to deal with the stress of knowing everything. So there are many forms of mild and severe dissociation. I think what this tells us is that the mind is a dynamic web of cognitive associations and associations. Associations are being formed and unformed. All the time. It is a constant dance. It's like the dance of the starlings in the afternoon sky. They come together, they fly apart, they form these intricate patterns. And under ordinary conditions, that's what our minds are doing all the time. We are associating dissociating, forming different views of the self. And what we call the self is a noun narrative that emerges from this dance. And it's a narrative that almost invariably is, is not based on on the data. It's not based on reason. That narrative itself is a sort of a byproduct of this cognitive associative dance that characterizes what mind is.
Nick Jikomes 15:21
Interesting. Yeah. So there's, you know, to think of it in sort of a cartoon fashion, there really are many different streams of information. And any number of them can become dissociated from the sort of model that we have of ourselves that normally feels like it's always one thing. Many of these things don't dissociate under normal circumstances. And so from the first person perspective, people go through most or all of their lives, never having certain kinds of dissociative experiences. So it doesn't feel to most people like this is possible. And yet these interesting this interesting case is show us that it is you mentioned something a little while ago that I want to dwell on. You mentioned metacognition, and awareness that we are aware versus the awareness, per se. So can you just explicitly state for people? How do you think about consciousness proper versus metacognition? And why is that? Why is that important?
Bernardo Kastrup 16:15
So what philosophers call phenomenal consciousness, is just raw experience. It's the qualitative aspect, it's what it is like to be us. If there is something anything it is like to be us, then we are phenomenally conscious. And phenomenal consciousness or simply consciousness does not depend on higher level mental functions. It's just a sort of a raw property of mind, which is to have experiences to have this qualitative aspect to its inner dynamics. Meta consciousness is when mind sort of folds in upon itself to examine its own dynamics at a meta level. So if your perceptions are representations, meta consciousness entails a re representation of your mental concert contents. So you represent your mental contents once they are representations, and then you represent them again, one level up, that re representation is not the original experience, it is the awareness that you are having the original experience. And of course, you can have re re representations of meta meta consciousness, it can go on forever. But it is that first critical step, when mind re represents its own contents. That's when we can start talking about meta consciousness. You can also talk about meta cognition, but technically, meta cognition does not necessarily entail consciousness. I think they always go hand in hand, but you know, the terms are used in a technical sense. So meta consciousness entails meta cognition, but not necessarily the other way around, as far as the definition is gone.
Nick Jikomes 18:02
And this distinction, can you describe its importance relative to the neuroscientific study of consciousness, so many people, historically, and in the present day study the so called neural correlates of consciousness? Can you describe what they're talking about? And what that means, and then how this distinction you've made, can sort of muddy the waters there.
Bernardo Kastrup 18:25
Yeah. So in this, traditionally, the state at least until 2015, the study of consciousness from a neuroscientific perspective has been entirely based on subjective reports. So you perform brain function scans with fMRI and EEG, EEG, whatever. And the subject then reports what is being experienced from a first person perspective. And then you try to find the correlates between the experiences reported and the patterns of brain activity that are being measured. And that's how you come to the NCCS the neural correlates of consciousness by linking subjective report to to empirical objective measurement of brain activity. And of course, the whole thing relies on subjective report. The problem is that subjective report requires that the subject not only have the experience, but he also has to know that he has the experience or the rights, otherwise, he will not report it, not even to himself or herself. So report entails meta consciousness. So much of the work that has been done on the entities, the neural correlates of consciousness are in fact, the neural correlates of meta consciousness. Now some awareness about this has emerged in the last years in recent years, and there is an attempt now to come up with this no report paradigm. But of course, the whole thing is experimentally very cumbersome, because it requires on you're making certain mistakes. about something the subject is experiencing, but doesn't know that they are experiencing. So how do you know? And then if it's not based on subjective report, so that's, that's a significant operational difficulty in the neuroscience of consciousness. But more importantly, it is the fact that many neuroscientists have failed to understand this distinction that has led to a lot of misunderstanding about what consciousness is how it expresses itself, because people just conflate the two, the conflation has begun at the very birth of modern psychology, what Freud and Jung called the unconscious was just non metacognitive dissociated contents of experience. In other words, it was phenomenally conscious, but not accessible. From the point from the point of view of the ego. The ego could not introspect into those experiences, but they were still phenomenon. In other words, they were still consciousness, like consciousness stuff, but they gave it the name the unconscious, they should have called it the on meta conscious.
Nick Jikomes 21:05
I see. Yeah, this is, this is something that that you just see throughout the history of many thinkers. Are you familiar with the book by Julian Jaynes, called the origin of consciousness and the breakdown of the bicameral mind? Yeah, it's a very, it's a very interesting and weird book. But that's another case where when he said consciousness, he was talking, I think about meta meta consciousness.
Bernardo Kastrup 21:28
I think it's very likely, I think, even modern neuroscientists, I mean, there are some glaring examples, I've seen papers, I'm not going to cite the names, but I've seen papers, in which in the discussion of the results, the author of the paper basically says, Okay, this cannot be conscious because of this, this and this, since what characterizes consciousness is report. And therefore, anyway, like, he's talking about meta consciousness, where he's trying to talk about experience. He's talking about something that comes on top of experience. So you see this conflation to this day?
Nick Jikomes 22:01
Yeah, and it does. I mean, if we go back to the blindside example, for a minute, this is just to re articulate this if people have not encountered it before. I remember learning about this for the first time in, in my neurobiology training, I mean, literally, there are forms of brain damage to the primary visual cortex where people say they cannot see anything. And yet they behave as if they can see things as Bernard identified earlier. And if you take, you know, if you don't make the distinction that you introduced to us Bernardo, and say, like, okay, the damage is really to their ability to be to report what they are, in fact aware of, rather than awareness being absent, it is very difficult to imagine what the alternative explanation is, how could they truly not have any awareness of it, and explain what and we could explain the phenomenon. Now, I actually don't know what a good alternative explanation would be. So
Bernardo Kastrup 22:54
if you adopt physicalist, metaphysics, and you think that certain patterns of brain activity somehow generate awareness, you could just say, well, blind sight, these are mental processes are not conscious, they are not part of the NCCS. But they feed information into the NCCS. So the subject can act upon these perceptions, which are real, just not conscious, and the subject do not report them. The problem is that you see, the whole thing is circular. And that's one of the greatest dangers of misinterpreting the science. There is this paper by Jonathan school or in 2002, in which he shows that there are dissociations between the contents of consciousness and the contents of meta consciousness, they don't necessarily go hand in hand, what you think you're experiencing isn't necessarily what you're actually experiencing. And then this can be experimentally determined, as Jonathan schooler has done 20 years ago. So that's one issue, you rely on reports, while those reports may actually not be consistent with what is actually being experienced, because of this dissociation between these two entities and the other entity for the other. The other problem is that you may be misled into thinking that the notion that the brain generates awareness is sort of confirmed by by blind sight. You may think that okay, that's evidence that there is no mental something's mental goings on that accurately perceive, but they are not part of the NCCS. Therefore, you need certain patterns of brain activity in order to generate consciousness. Why, in fact, the correct interpretation, all you can say is that you need certain patterns of brain activity to be meta conscious to explicitly introspect into something. And this has enormous theoretical ramifications. donation, just the most glaring example of Giulio Tononi is information integration theory of consciousness. Julio and Crystal Have a crucifix I have been promoting it heavily for over a decade now. And the concept of phi, you know that you have to have this closed loop of information integration in the anatomy of the brain for consciousness to arise. And that closed loop has to integrate more than a certain number that reflects the, the amount of information in there, that threshold is called phi. So, if the information in that loop crosses phi, then you're a conscious. And of course, that whole thing, the value of phi was determined experimentally based on subjective reports. So, they attribute their theory to be an account of consciousness learning, in fact, it's a very good very accurate account of meta consciousness. What do you need to happen in the brain in terms of closed loops of information integration for for you to be able to be aware of being aware of knowing that you are experiencing? So the whole thing about ITT information integration theory is about meta consciousness, it doesn't begin to say anything about consciousness.
Nick Jikomes 26:07
Can you talk a little bit about so so you've mentioned this, this concept of re representation that when you're aware of your awareness, there's this extra layer of processing and abstraction that the brain is somehow doing? How does the extent to which our brains normally do that, across say asleep wake cycle? Very, how does this tie into the the weirdness of dreams and the difference that we all naturally perceive between our dream world experience and our waking consciousness experience? Because it would seem to be related to this and an important?
Bernardo Kastrup 26:39
Oh, absolutely. There's there's been research done in 2007. And that's the one I remembered as the more research done on that. But it has been shown that metacognition reduces substantially during dreams, that during our dreams we are experiencing, but we are not telling ourselves oh, I am experiencing this. Because if we did, we would immediately ask questions about continuity, like how did I arrive here? What am I doing here where I'm going next? And then you would have a lucid dream, which is, what lucid dreams are lucid dreams are dreams in which you are meta cognizant, and regular in regular dreams, you are not. And then you might say, well, but I report my dreams. So I had to be metacognition. No, no, no, you're metacognition, when you remember your dreams, and then mind mirroring them by reflecting them on the mirror of reflection in the mirror of metta consciousness, after you are awake, by appealing to memory, only then do you know that you had those experiences, but during the dream, you're like leafiness. Tsunami, you're just going along with the experience you are experiencing with you're not meta cognizant of the experience.
Nick Jikomes 27:46
Yeah, so this, this, as you mentioned, is related to the, the ephemeral nature of dreams in terms of our ability to remember them, I think everyone has this experience, we wake up, you remember it vividly. But then within seconds or a split second, it falls through your fingers like sand, and you can no longer remember it. And basically, this probably has something to do with the fact that you weren't meta aware in that state. And so somehow this must be related to the ability to encode that in memory. Yes,
Bernardo Kastrup 28:11
I don't, I don't remember explicit research in this regard. So I have to qualify what I'm about to say, Now, it's my opinion. But I have a very strong opinion to meat options. It's not even an opinion. I know this memories facilitated by metacognition, we don't remember the experience per se, what we remember is what we tell ourselves about the experience as we're having it. So if, if you lose a loved one, the main part of the memory No, 35 years later, is what you were telling yourself when you lost that loved one. Even when you see something, I see a ship in the horizon. And you remember that a week later? Because you remember having told yourself implicitly, oh, that's a ship on the horizon. When we don't do that, memory pathways don't seem to form everything becomes very elusive. It's no, like you said it sort of flows like sands through the fingers, we lose it.
Nick Jikomes 29:07
Yeah. I mean, this fits perfectly well, with the very well documented phenomenon of the the the low quality of eyewitness testimony. So two people observe a crime and one or both of them just get very obvious facts about what happened wrong. And, you know, it starts to make sense in the context of what you just told us, if you know what they're not remembering the scene, per se, they're remembering what they were thinking during the scene, basically, exactly
Bernardo Kastrup 29:36
what they were telling themselves metacognitively that they were experiencing. Yeah.
Nick Jikomes 29:41
So So another way to think about the difference between the dream state is, you know, while you're dreaming, you're obviously having perceptions. But you're not thinking or at least not thinking in the way that you are when you're awake. And I'm wondering if maybe this is a good spot for you to describe for people how you think about the difference between thought and thinking and perception
Bernardo Kastrup 30:03
or perception is mediated by the sense organs, there has to be stimulus on the measurement surfaces of our sense organs, namely, retinas, your drums mucous lining of the nose surface of the tongue and surface of the skin, something has to be impinging on those measurement surfaces of our sense organs, that then get translated into what we call percent. But the dreams are not mediated by the sense organs, they are entirely endogenous, they are self generated imagery. And in because often we can, we can not distinguish between a dream and real life, while we are in the dream and after afterwards, of course, but during the dream, often we cannot distinguish between dreams and real life. What that shows us is that the mind is perfectly capable of endogenous generic endogenously generating the entire imagery that we associated with reality with the world we inhabit. And it has gone as far as some people like a new set today, they would describe perception as a sort of controlled hallucination, hallucination, have the same kind of streams, but which is modulated by what impinges on the sense organs. So the mechanisms are the same, the same brain areas, the same patterns of brain activity are involved when you experience something for real, when you dream of it, or when you remember it, it's always the same brain areas. Now, watching someone hit a soccer ball is correlated with certain patterns of activity. Remembering watching someone hit a soccer ball is correlated with the same patterns of brain activity and dreaming of someone hitting a soccer ball. It's correlated with the same patterns of brain activity. So if the mind is engendering the imagery recall reality and the imagery recall, dreams and memories.
Nick Jikomes 32:02
Yeah, one of the one of the other reasons streams are so intriguing is that, I mean, as you as you grow up, and you start to dwell on these things, you do start to get a sense of, okay, these are endogenously generated images, somehow, my mind is able to concoct these things. And it's not, it doesn't work like a video camera, that's sort of the naive view, you start when you're very young, I've Okay, when I'm looking at the world, it's like a video camera recording what's actually out there. And it's giving you sort of a one to one completely filled in view of what's out there. But of course, a lot of what's going on in the brain has to do with actually filtering out information so to speak, there's there's more information flowing in and we're aware of this information gets shaped and filtered in different ways before we get a visual image that we're perceiving. And the other the other thing that starts to tie into this is the experiences that people have on psychedelics. And so sort of bridge bridge the gap here, I want to read a quote from Aldous Huxley that I think you'll probably be familiar with, and maybe get your reaction to it to get us thinking about some of these ideas. So I think this is from the doors of perception, which you quote in your book, the idea of the world. But this quote, that's very interesting, or Huxley, who was not a neuroscientist, who was writing in, I believe, the 40s or 50s. He said this, to make biological survival possible mind at large, his term has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and the nervous system. What comes out the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us stay alive on the surface of this particular planet, to formulate and express the contents of this reduced awareness. Man has invented and endlessly elaborated those symbol systems and implicit philosophies we call languages. Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of this linguistic tradition, the beneficiary, beneficiary in as much as language gives access to accumulated records of other people's experience, and the victim insofar as it confirms him, in the belief that this reduced awareness is the only awareness. And I'll just leave it at that. But what does this quote mean to you and what do you make of this, this term he uses of the reducing valve?
Bernardo Kastrup 34:26
Huxley was a very observant, intelligent human being we know that and then you don't need to be in neuroscience to observe your own mind and extract some conclusions about it. But I think what the data and the reasoning, reliable mathematical reasoning, what they are showing us today is that it's much worse than even Huxley would have there to imagine what's going on is much more than just filtering. If you look at the word, the work of Karl Friston about inferential perception, inferential mind that what we see is what are reminding first about the world. It's Not the world as it actually is. If you look at the work done by Donald Hoffman, on on the notion that game theory proves that evolution would not favor us seeing the world as it is, it would favor us seeing the world in whatever way distorted way invented way hallucinated way you would favor survival. And then you realize that people who agree with these two gentlemen, maybe even they themselves, they, they take the implications of this realization up to a certain point, beyond which they are no longer comfortable. In other words, we like to think that reality by and large is more or less like we see, we filter out a lot of stuff, we distort some other stuff, we invent some stuff. But by and large, on average, we are in the right ballpark. But if you look at the mathematics of what Karl Friston did, if you look at McDonnell Hoffman has been doing, you cannot stop there. It's it's an entirely arbitrary stopping point, you have to bite the bullet all the way. And you have to understand that the screen of perception is not a transparent window into the world as it actually is. The screen of perception is like a dashboard of dials on an airplane cockpit. And that airplane has no windows, and we were born in that cockpit. We have never seen the world as it actually is. All we have is the cockpit. Now the cockpit is very important. It has given to us by evolution to provide accurate salient information about the world, the pilot can fly a plane safely by instruments alone, in a dark night during a thunderstorm. You don't need the transparent windshield. In fact, you don't want to look through it because it will be misleading, it will disorientate you, we are in the position of that pilot, except that we have never seen through the windows, there are no windows, we were born in that cockpit. All we have is the dashboard. And we think the dashboard is the world know the dashboard convenience, salient, important information even accurate about the world. But the world doesn't look like a dashboard. If you know what I mean, the world as it is in itself is bound to not look anything like the form shapes, colors and geometrical relationships that we see on the screen of perception, because that's the world impinging on our sense organs, and the resulting measurement being presented on our internal dashboard. Now, we should take the dashboard seriously. Otherwise, we will be run over by a train. But not literally, we make the mistake of thinking that the dashboard is the world, or at least that the world looks like the dashboard. But the world stands to look nothing like the dashboard. And this is playing obvious. This is just difficult to internalize and live your life with this awareness with you at all times.
Nick Jikomes 37:59
So in the Huxley quote, he'll he also comments on this sort of double edged nature of language. On the one hand, he calls it a gift because it obviously empowers us in some very striking ways. In many ways. It's one of one of the defining features of humanity. That can also confuse us about the nature of reality. So what are your thoughts on how the language faculty can can confuse us in our ability to distinguish the concepts and abstractions that we're capable of generating versus the actual sort of raw sensory experiences that we have
Bernardo Kastrup 38:36
nothing about us has ever evolved to enable us to have an accurate worldview? In other words, to develop accurate philosophy, nothing. Everything about us has evolved to allow us to survive for practical pragmatic purposes. Many may think, Oh, that was the case for cavemen not for us. Well remember that we think linguistically only for about 30,000 years before that even even Homo sapiens and atomically identical to us up to 200,000 years ago, did not have the ability to think symbolically to think conceptually to develop language to tell narratives. Those were purely intuitive human beings and atonic anatomically identical to us. And we have no idea why this change happened, by the way. So we, in what we call conceptual reasoning, was not even born yesterday. It was born a blink of an eye ago. No, it's last minute. It hasn't even been born properly yet. So the consequence is that our inner narrative making has evolved to enable cooperation Yuval Harare has written extensively about this in his first book, we are fiction creating mammals in our fictions allow us to cooperate with strangers. Which other animals don't do. So we can cooperate at enormous Lee large scales with strangers. Now, the 100,000 people who work for GE, they are largely strangers to one another, not not a single one of them know the other 990 9999. Yet we have a sort of a sort of a shared fictional narrative that allows us to cooperate money is a shared fiction narrative. What is it, what is a $10 bill is a piece of paper, it's worth nothing, you can't eat it, you can't cover yourself and protect yourself against the code with it. And you can't drink it, it doesn't cure diseases, it's useless. It's the worth is zero. But it's worth $10. Because we have a collective fiction and narrative fiction, fictional narrative. And believing in that narrative allows us to succeed in life. So that's what our narrative making capacity, our linguistic capacity to tell ourselves what's going on, that's what it's, it's evolved for, it didn't evolve to tell us what's really going on, it's evolved to give us a convenient fiction in terms of which we can on the basis of which we can cooperate and succeed as an animal species on this, this this ecosystem of planetary.
Nick Jikomes 41:19
So maybe taking a slight detour, a common turn, a phrase that you hear, you know, from time to time in life is, you know, someone might say, Oh, that that person is stuck in their head, or they have their head in the clouds. And what we mean to say, when we encounter such a person, sometimes it's even ourselves is we're sort of stuck and spending too much time in the world of abstraction, and metacognition. And it's distracting us from the concrete sensory reality that's, that's right in front of us. And you know, throughout evolutionary history, one of the things implicit in what you were saying is, you know, we must have spent much more of our time every day some of our ancestors, in the concrete world of direct sensory experience. And as time went on, in our lineage, more and more time was spent in this sort of a world of abstraction using sort of that, that side of our brain, as a philosopher, as someone who spent so much of your life, living in the intellectual and and in the intellectualizing living in the world of abstraction, how do you keep yourself physically grounded? And what are your general thoughts on how that might relate to things like psychological well being
Bernardo Kastrup 42:29
is to do good philosophy is a constant fight to uncover your hidden assumptions, in your hidden prejudices, that's what good philosophy is all about. And that requires a certain degree of intimacy with your own mind, you need, you need to be acquainted with the almost infinite set of tricks that mind uses to deceive itself. Because that's what mine does mine deceives itself, it's useful for minds to deceive itself, to buy into a certain narrative that is conducive to survival, because it motivates you because it helps you avoid danger because it gets you the know, the healthiest Bureau around to have healthy children with. But of course, none of this is what you want to do philosophy. To do philosophy, you don't want a convenient fiction, you want to know what's actually going on. And in that process requires digging down into the onion of hidden assumptions, prejudices and self deceptive narratives of your own mind. And unfortunately, that's precisely what most analytic philosophers are very bad at. It's pursuing this, it's doing this exercise. So for me, I can't even give you a recipe because I am constantly trying to dig into what is the latest subtle way I'm using to deceive myself. And then I've learned a few things already. I've learned that the most effective deception is what I call a two level deception. The first level is a distraction is there's a military term for it. When you give your enemy target, a decoy decoy, yeah, it's when you have a certain narrative that your mind creates about what's going on. And you buy into it. And then when you start thinking more carefully about it, you realize I'm deceiving myself, I'm making certain mistakes here. I will get one up on my own mind. I'll take a step back and realize you dissolve fiction. Now you take a step back into another narrative, there is always a narrative. And because you found out that the decoy was false, now you were doubly confident that the narrative you now have the one you stepped back back to that now is true. While in fact, that one is the real deception. The first one was just a decoy, you know, and this may sound cheer us at least For most listeners, because not many people engage in this kind of dialectic with oneself to try to know to uncover all the ways your own mind is always trying to cheat you. But for me, this is what good philosophy means it's uncovering that.
Nick Jikomes 45:16
And perhaps this loops back to some of the things we were saying earlier about, you know, the fact that our brains evolved for survival purposes. So, so related to that, you know, the simple question I want to ask is, why would the mind be trying to constantly deceive itself like this? How does that tie into the evolutionary survival component of this,
Bernardo Kastrup 45:35
right, extremely useful to have convenient fictions? To have narratives, it gives you motivation, it may preempt anxiety, or it may be very conducive to social cohesion allows you to cooperate with strangers for a common goal gives meaning to your life gives a reason for you to stand up in the morning, and go do something. Because otherwise if you just think, you know, if one day I will die, so everything is already pointless right now, right? Because one day it will come to an end. Instead of that you have a convenient fiction that gives you motivation to stand up to try to be well to fight illness, and be healthy, live long and have lots of children. These convenient fictions are very powerful. Look, it's not even only in survival psychology or evolutionary psychology. It's in every aspect of human functioning. Let's take science which is taken to be sort of the archetypal manifestation of the human quest for the truth, the unbiased, objective truth. Convenient fictions are all over science. Newton to explain the fact that not only apples fell from trees, but that the moon stayed in its orbit around the Earth. He proposed that there is this invisible force, acting spontaneously at a distance, for no reason. And he called it gravity. And it took the French 50 years to stop laughing is Newtonian. Whoo, whoo, this magical invisible force, acting at distances instantaneously. What nonsense was that? Right? But that convenient fiction helped us put a man on the moon and an asteroid on a meteor on not a meteor Meteor is when it enters the earth. A spaceship on on? Oh, my English is failing in space rockets Onchain. And then came Einstein. And Einstein said, Oh, that convenient fiction was convenient for Newton, Einstein. But it doesn't account for the orbit of Mercury. And it doesn't account for why I can see certain stars that in fact, they're behind the other stars. So it doesn't account for some anomalies. So we need another convenient fiction. So the new convenient fiction, which is in still the one we use today, is that there is no such force acting into distance. That's not what gravity is around. It's not an invisible force. It's the invisible fabric of space time that bends and twists. That's the new convenient fiction. And now comes to quantum gravity saying, Oh, no, what? It's not even that. It's actually something else. So you see science moving through this convenient fictions. Now the point if you really understand science, the point is the following. The convenient fictions are really useful. Nature behaves as though those convenient fictions were true. So by pretending that they are true, we can predict the behavior of nature and develop technology and improve our lives. And we only change the convenient fiction, when new observations show us that the previous convenient fictions are deviating from reality. In other words, nature is no longer behaving quite the way it should. If those convenient fictions were true, we need a new convenient fiction. And then we come with elementary subatomic particles, the Higgs boson, which we think is a little particle we measured, it may tell you the news, we never measured the Higgs boson directly. A Higgs boson has never interacted with a measurement surface. I can explain to you later what this means. But because the convenient fictions are so useful, so convenient, we tend psychologically, to think that they are actually true. It's not just an operational convenience to allow us to predict the behavior of nature and develop technology. Now, they are really true. And that's where it all goes wrong, not only in science, because the moment sign a scientist makes this assumption, then you get a bad philosopher as opposed to a good scientist. But in all aspects of human life, we're always dealing with our convenient inner narratives.
Nick Jikomes 49:58
And when you say that this Things are useful. All that really means is, we come up with these fictions, literally, we make them up, we we conjure up these abstractions, sometimes the one, sometimes these things are very useful, meaning that they predict the outcome of experiments or things that we observe in the natural world. And we call those, you know, our good scientific theories. But it becomes quite easy to lose sight of the fact that on the one hand, you're talking about abstractions that we that we made up, and ultimately their their truth value, or their ability to be useful and make those predictive, those accurate predictions, it all comes back to them. lining up with our direct sensory experience, when you come up with some amazing theory that predicts the outcome of experiment. At the end of the day, what you're saying is, it lines up with what my eyes are telling me when I look at this particular chart, which documents you know, something that we've touched directly, in some sense. And I think that's an interesting dynamic that will play off with playoffs is
Bernardo Kastrup 50:58
the science of perception and Andrei Linde, the great physicist renowned for for cosmic inflation theory. He's on record saying, Guys, physics, the science of perception, even if we use instruments like telescopes, and oscilloscopes, and microscopes, whatever, whatever you choose, you only see the result of that instrument by perceiving it. So ultimately, everything gets filtered by the screen of perception. In other words, everything that you can possibly know about the world is given to you on the dials have your inner dashboard, they are not the world, they are always filtered in mediated through the screen of perception through your sensors in your internal dashboard, you always ever only see the dashboard.
Nick Jikomes 51:43
So before moving on to some of our other big topics I want to stick with with narratives for a moment, you know, people get very, very attached to narratives. In fact, in my experience, it certainly seems at least that, you know, in the absence of any clear narrative that someone is attached to, it can actually cause a lot of distress. And people almost don't know how to organize their behavior without having some kind of narrative script that's running to organize their behavior. What do you think, you know, where do you think this attachment comes from? We'll probably rip off some of the things that you were just saying. But it I mean, is it possible to even exist in the world and behave coherently without running some of these narrative scripts?
Bernardo Kastrup 52:27
I don't think it is, I don't think it's even desirable. I think life would become entirely dysfunctional. Without the narratives. What's important is not to get rid of the narratives. What's important is to understand in the back of your mind, that you're always only dealing with internal fictions. With these narratives, it's important to recognize them as narratives, to understand them for what they are, and then also acknowledge the value acknowledge that without those narratives, we wouldn't be able to survive, we need them. But if we mistake them for reality, we can go down some very treacherous paths. So I would never advocate for the end of the narratives, I think we cannot do without them, we would lose our humanity, if we lost our narratives. What makes us human is the convenient, the convenient fictions, the inner narratives. So by all means, let's not abandon them, but let's see them for what they actually are. And keep that in the back of our minds. Because sometimes, it's important to make that distinction between a narrative and what we actually know about reality, sometimes it's very important. And those times are very, very significant. Like if you want to extract a conclusion about what will happen to you when you die, and after you die, it's very important to keep in mind that the narratives are convenient for certain practical, practical reasons, but they are not the reality. So there is a range of usefulness. And if you stretch them beyond that range, you may extract conclusions that are simply not valid or useful at all. And you may go down a dark hole that you didn't need to fall into at all.
Nick Jikomes 54:12
So I want to read another quote. Now this is from someone who I know is dear to you as a philosopher, and I'm picking this quote also, because this was actually part of the inspiration for the logo of the podcast. So I'm just gonna, I'm gonna read this quote for people and I would love if you could comment on this person, how they shaped your thinking, and then we'll get into some of your ideas explicitly. So the quote is, with the disappearance of willing from consciousness, the individuality is really abolished also, and with it, its suffering and sorrow. I have therefore described the pure subjective knowing, which then remains over as the eternal world eye. This eye looks out from all living beings. It is thus identical with itself constantly one in the same This quote is not from a Buddhist monk or something like that, but many people might guess that that's the kind of place that came from. So this was from Arthur Schopenhauer. And so I'd love if you could sort of describe who he was and how that starts to relate to the idealism and the related ideas that you're going to talk about.
Bernardo Kastrup 55:19
This is a quote from 1818 204 years ago already. My our dear Arthur Schopenhauer indeed, one of the most recognized names of the Western philosophical canon. I discovered Schopenhauer more or less late in my life. And like Jung, who I have known since I was a teenager, Schopenhauer was a late discovery. And it was a very sobering discovery because many of the things we talked about in philosophy today, he was already saying over 200 years ago, he sort of he was way ahead so much ahead, but people didn't understand him. The world's most respected the leading scholar on Schopenhauer. Should I mention his name? Professor January. He doesn't have a clue. What Schopenhauer is trying to say you can see in his writings about Schopenhauer that he has no clue. He accuses Schopenhauer of being a materialist. For instance, why I can quote Schopenhauer saying that materialism is so stupid because it's the philosophy of the subject that forgets himself in his calculations. Schopenhauer derided materialism. But January cannot find another way to interpret Schopenhauer as assertions other than on a materialistic framework because Schopenhauer talked about the brain. And the fact that no brain function and activity head on the mind seems to conflate the two at times say that the mind is the same as the brain and doing what generally cannot make heads and tails of that. But things we talked about today, such as Cosmos psychism and cosmic consciousness, well, Schopenhauer already talked about that he called it the wheel with a capital W. Metacognition, which is we still even didn't manage today to bring that really to the mainstream in neuroscience, a lot of neuroscientists don't understand that. Well, Schopenhauer was talking extensively and very clearly about that over 200 years ago. He called them abstract representations, what we call re representations. Today, Schopenhauer was calling abstract representations, which are representations of representations. So he already unfolded the whole map of metacognition higher level mental functions, endogenous cognitive activity, which you call the wheel, the relationship between that, and the phenomenon the world as it presents itself to us, which he called representations. And the world as it actually is, or the nomina, which he called the capital will, which is endogenous from its point of view, he already laid out, laid out the map for us, but we are too stupid to see it.
Nick Jikomes 58:02
So why don't you just describe for everyone here, so So now let's start talking about idealism versus materialism. Maybe a good place to start is actually could you contrast both of those philosophical ways of thinking with dualism and then describe how they differ from each other?
Bernardo Kastrup 58:17
Okay, so there are a few you had dualism, there are four main understandings of the nature of reality that we could call them technically ontologies. That's the technical name. Materialism is the notion that the only thing that actually exists in other words, the only thing that has stand alone existence that doesn't depend on anything else in order to exist, is matter. And matter is supposed to be exhaustively defined through a list of numbers, purely quantities, matter has no inherent qualities. In other words, matter is not blue, or yellow, or sweet, or middle ideas. Matter is just mass, charge, momentum, Steam, amplitude, frequency, and so on and so forth. And that's the only thing that exists in all qualities, mental stuff, the colors, the melodies, the smells, and tastes, the feeling of fear of desire, of having a belly, a call, that's the depression falling in love, all that stuff can be explained in terms of non qualitative matter, in other words can be reduced to matter. And therefore mine has no standalone existence. That's what's technically called mainstream physicalist. We can call it materialism. Now idealism is the opposite of it. idealist musei all that exists is mental stuff. All that exists is of the same ontological category as your inner feelings. And matter what we call colloquially matter which idealism doesn't deny idealism doesn't deny the existence of the things outside of ourselves that we colloquially call matter. But an idealist would say, well, the world we perceive is also qualitative. So it's also mental. So everything, in a sense is mental. And the challenge for idealism is then to explain why we seem to share the same world, why brain activity correlates with inner experience, why we can't change the laws of nature just by wishing them to be different. So that's idealism. And then you have pen psychism. There are many variations, but the main variation says, okay, matter really exists, it has standalone existence, it's not just a kind of experience, the pen psychist acknowledges the fundamental existence of matter. But then he goes ahead and says, but in addition to the other fundamental properties of matter, such as mass charge, spin matter also has qualitative properties. In other words, there is some thing it is like to be an electron. And electron has conscious in their life, very simple, but it has fundamentally a conscious in their life of some sort. In it, the combination of the subjectivities of the fundamental particles making up your brain, when they combine the leads to this this coherent, seemingly unified consciousness in your life, that you call yourself, that pan psychism. And dualism says, There is mine stuff, which is separate from matter, it's not only a property of matter, it's really separate. And it has their own existence. And there is matter stuff, which is really separate, and also has standalone existence, both exist in themselves. And they interact in some form. And that's, of course, the religious view of the soul that inhabits the body. And when you die, there's so float away like some kind of gaseous substance. And, you know, so that's the menu, we have three of these are entirely incoherent, internally incoherent and empirically refuted, one survives.
Nick Jikomes 1:01:55
So I'm wondering if you could sort of walk us maybe walk us through your justification for that last last step in a relatively concise way? What would you say? What would you say? The the, the main. The main problems, the main areas of incoherence are with each of those other three before we get to your discussion of idealism itself.
Bernardo Kastrup 1:02:20
The main problems of idealism, no, I mean, others of the others. Okay, so let's start with materialism. explanatory power is an issue and materialism fails to explain the qualities of experience in terms of physical parameters. There is nothing about physical parameters in terms of which we could deduce one particular quality of experience as opposed to any other there is, they are incommensurate. But this is called the hard problem of consciousness. Another point of difficult for the incoherence of materialism is that we created those numbers, mass, charge, momentum, frequency amplitude, we created all that to describe the world of qualities around us the world we see. So the numbers were there as descriptions in what materialism does, he then says, what actually exists is only the numbers. It's the description, in the thing described somehow emerges out of the numbers. It's like saying that, you know, you have a territory, you chart a map, and then you say, well, the map precedes the territory, and you try to pull the territory out of the map, that will never work. Another problem of materialism is that it assumes that physical entities have standalone existence. But in foundations of physics for the past 40 years, a series of ever more sophisticated experiments have now produced the conclusion being beyond the reasonable doubt that physical entities do not have standalone existence, they only exist upon measurement. What we call physicality is the result of a measurement. It's like what is displayed on a dial in the dashboard, when the sensors of the airplane measure the world outside. If you don't measure that nothing's displayed on the dials. In other words, there is no physical world if you don't measure, which doesn't mean that there is no world there is the thing there is measured, it's just not physical, the world outside the plane that's measured is not the dashboard. That's all it means. So this, there are more reasons why materialism is still born. It's the most incoherent on the table right now. Pan psychism. Many problems with it as well. One of them is the combination problem, we have no coherent account of how fundamentally separate fields of subjectivity could combine to produce a unified field of subjectivity. There is a strong analytical argument that even to say that this happens is already internally inconsistent. It's incoherent it doesn't work. Another problem of Pan psychism is that it is physically incoherent. It contradicts what we know from physics. It assumes that there are these spatially bounded Elementary subatomic particles that are separated in space and time and therefore, they combine in one point of space to produce your mind in the combine in another point of space to produce my mind and that's why our minds are separate, because their respective subatomic particles forming your brain and mind are separate. The problem is that there is no such thing as elementary subatomic particles in physics. We have known that since the late 1940s. With Richard Fineman and other two gentlemen, may be horrified with what he just said, like what do you mean? Of course, they exist. Now subatomic particles are metaphors. Quantum Field Theory tells us that what exists are 17 quantum fields that are not spatially bound. Subatomic particles are particular patterns of excitation of the fields like waves in the ocean, they are not fundamentally separate in the same sense that there is nothing to a wave by the ocean. There's nothing to a subatomic particle, but the underlying field and the fields span across space and time. So pan psychism, fails. And dualism. The main reason to reject dualism I would say is parsimony. Why do you need two things to explain nature, if you can get away with one? That's all kinds razor, it's the Principle of Parsimony. Another problem of dualism is the interaction problem. If you have two fundamentally different types of things, how come they interact? Because an interaction seems to presuppose a commonality of some form for there to be causal interaction. But if they are fundamentally different, then how is it that you have an interaction?
Nick Jikomes 1:06:30
So it makes sense to me that, that you would appeal to parsimony there, if you can explain everything with one thing. There's no need to invoke two different things to explain the world. So in that sense, materialism is similar to idealism that both of them involve saying, there's just sort of one kind of thing in the universe. So, you know, to caricature this a bit is, is it even worth making the distinction between materialism and idealism? Are they both sort of saying there's one thing at the end? What is the why is it worth making that distinction between materialism and idealism?
Bernardo Kastrup 1:07:06
Because the implications, the implications are, are fantastically significant. What materialism says is, there is only one kind of thing. And it's not that which you identify yourself with. It's not have the same kind of your as your inner life, your conscious in the life is an illusion, produced by another kind of thing. And that other kind of things, the only thing that actually exists, therefore, when that other kind of thing, loses its structural and dynamical integrity. In other words, when you die, then your conscious in their life is gone. And all of your insights, all of your memories, all of your suffering of your joy, everything that constitutes that which you identify yourself with that which you consider to be yourself, all of that will come to an end, and you will vanish into oblivion. But if the one kind of thing that survives is that same kind of thing that you do identify yourself with, then that is a change in your state of consciousness is a loss of the narrative of individual self. It's like a trance, something fundamental will change. Because you know, if the body is the image of a certain configuration of mind, the body is no longer there, then something very big has changed about mine. But it has changed and not disappeared. The real you is still there. But it's mentation will unfold according to sort of different lines. Another reason to think of the implications are fundamentally different. On their materialism, your health doctor should be like car mechanics, it's a matter of mechanics. So the only tools available are surgery and drugs. But if idealism is correct, then your body is what a certain dissociated configuration of mentation in nature looks like. In other words, it's what Schopenhauer would call a representation of the inner will. But the real thing going on is your conscious in your life, even that those aspects of your conscious inner life that are beyond introspection, that are not metacognitive, like your, your repressed emotions, your repressed memories, all that stuff that you never integrated, your fantasies that you don't think you have, you know, your inclinations that you reject. And you're ashamed of all that stuff taking together looks like a human body, a metabolizing human body. So if the body is just what mentation looks like, then you get a Third Avenue for healthcare, and let's talk therapy, that psychological therapy. It's, it's, to put it bluntly, it's to learn how to mature it's to learn how to reconcile yourself with the fact of nature, the bad and the good, and the good and the bad.
Nick Jikomes 1:09:55
So, you said some things that were interesting there, and I'm wondering if you could reiterate some of them just tie some of the concepts we've discussed throughout the discussion so far together for people. So you said something about, you know, the death of someone being the end of the narrative of individuation and you use the word dissociated at one point. So from your standpoint as an idealist, given our previous discussion of dissociation and some of the things you just mentioned, what is when I perceive you on the other side of the screen here, what what are we from from your point of view? What am I actually perceiving when I see Bernardo here?
Bernardo Kastrup 1:10:35
So, let me try to frame this in the context of what we just talked about in the other ontologies on the table. Let's ignore dualism for now. It's not technically taken very seriously. The three remaining alternatives consultative pan psychism analytic idealism and mainstream physicalism all three phase a canonical problem, they may face more problems, but there is one there is canonical in analytic philosophy. Materialism faces a so called hard problem of consciousness. There is nothing about physical parameters in terms of which we could deduce the qualities of experience, there is a there is a chasm there, pen psychism faces the combination problem. There is no coherent way of arguing that fundamentally separate fields of subjectivity could could combine to form a unified field of subjectivity. And idealism faces the opposite of the combination problem, it faces the decomposition problem. And that's the following. idealists avoid the combination problem by saying that it's all already combined from the beginning, there is only one mind in nature. And that's also the parsimony argument of idealism. We try to explain everything in terms of only one thing to be as parsimonious as possible. And that one thing is a universal field of subjectivity underlying all nature, not subjectivity, like ours, not higher level mental functions, just just very simple, instinctive, raw subjectivity, one universal mind, if you will. And then the canonical problem of idealism is how to account for the fact that I cannot read your thoughts, and presumably you can't read mine, how to account for the fact that I am not aware of what's happening in the galaxy of Andromeda right now. If everything is happening in one mind, why don't I know your thoughts? Why don't I know what's happening in the galaxy of Andromeda right now, we call that technically the decomposition problem, how what is fundamentally one mind can seem to become many, when unlike the other two canonical problems, nature is shoving under our nose, our solution to the decomposition problem, and that's dissociation. There is something in nature that does exactly what the idealist needs it to do, in order to tackle the decomposition problem. We know that in nature, minds can see many fragments themselves into separate centers of awareness that are co conscious can even interact with one another, but don't identify with one another, and don't have associative access to each other's private inner ones.
Nick Jikomes 1:13:09
So what you're saying is that, you know, when we, when we see other individuals in need, when we see other life, we're seeing a dissociated aspect of what is ultimately just one, one substance, so to speak.
Bernardo Kastrup 1:13:22
Exactly. This, like Yolanda Sheila shown showed in 2014, doing fMRI images of people with D ID, and comparing them to a control group made up of actors pretending to themselves to be dissociated. And she figured out that you could actually discern the two groups based only on the fMRI scans. So there is something dissociative processes look like. Now, just extend that a little further. And imagine that, yes, there is obviously a world beyond our individual minds, a world we all share to the nine that is just silly. I'm not a solipsist. I know idealist is a solipsist. There is a world out there a real world out there beyond our individual minds. But the idealist will say, but that world too, is of the same kind as mind. It is also mental. It's not my mental stuff. It's not your mental stuff. It's transpersonal mental stuff. It's natural mental stuff out there. And then the question is, if that mental stuff undergoes dissociation, should there be something that dissociative process would look like? Well, based on your donations, results, we we could infer that there should also be something dissociative processes in nature at large look like they should be diagnoseable and identifiable on the basis of their appearance. And my claim to you is that there is an it what we call life, biology, metabolism. What we call life is what the dissociative process in the mind of nature, if you will, looks like from our perspective, in other words, when observed from across it dissociative boundary to speak rigorously and technically matter is what mental inner life looks like when observed across a dissociative boundary. That's why when I look up to the sky, I see a heavens made of matter. Because I'm observing the happens from across a dissociative boundary, which one my own, my dissociative boundary matter is what mentation looks like when observed or experienced from across the dissociative boundary.
Nick Jikomes 1:15:27
So the image I have, in my mind, you know, trying trying to understand some of your ideas, and I want to try and give people some kind of, you know, cartoon model that they can try and play with right now. You know, if you imagine just a piece of fabric, a loose piece of fabric made out of silk or whatever, if everything is this fabric of consciousness, as you're saying, then, you know, you and I are just sort of like, you know, twisted up knots are very sort of complex patterns of folding of that one, that one substance. But, you know, in this in this cartoon example, that would presuppose that there's a spatial extent to that substance to in order to fold that thing into a knot that looks like Bernardo and into an app that looks like Nick that can then see each other. There has to be something with spatial extent. So how do you think about concepts of space and time and why? Why aren't those sort of the the priors here?
Bernardo Kastrup 1:16:25
Space and Time is woven into our language into our conceptual armor, it's impossible to speak reasonably without sort of presupposing space and time as, as a scaffolding of the world. Schopenhauer called it to the Principium individual stones without space and time, everything would occupy the same volume of space at the same time. In other words, that would be no differentiation, everything would be one. And Schopenhauer said that that is actually what's going on. He followed Kantian saying that space and time are modes of perception, categories of perception, they are not out there, they are just the tricks our mind uses to make sense of the world. They are in the internal scales of the dials on our dashboard. Now when you have those scales in the dials and needles of the dials are moving inside the those little internal scales. That's what space and time is. They are the scales of our our cognitive apparatus, our modes of cognition, they are not out there, physics is getting to that conclusion, loop quantum gravity does away with timeless fundamental. Julian Bob was 20 years ago, wrote 23 years ago, wrote a book called The End of Time, in which he rewrote all the equations of physics, removing t time for a time, and he showed that physics remains entirely coherent, without bringing time into into the fold. The problem is that space and time are built into the language, verbs are actions, actions, unfolding time, the distinction between sub subject and an object is a spatial distinction. So I cannot speak, if I, if I am consistent with this view that space and time are not really there, I cannot open my mouth and speak. So what I usually say is the following. space and time are not really real. But what is projected on space and time is not pure nonsense, in the same sense that if you illuminate a solid three dimensional cylinder from the front, you will see a circular shadow. And if you illuminate the same solid cylinder from the side, you will see a rectangular shadow. In the world of shadows, the circle is not the rectangle, right? They're distinct. But you don't dismiss them, the projection of the cylinder in the form of a circular shadow and the projection of the cylinder in the form of a rectangular shadow. They do say something about the cylinder, even if the shadows are not primary, what really exists is the cylinder, not the shadows. So what I'm telling you is that what really exists is the world outside space time, not what we see in space time. But what we see in space time, our projections of that real world, they are the shadows, and the shadows do say something about the cylinder. So I don't think it is pointless to reason. Even though reason presupposes space and time in order to have the distinction of categories that reason entails. It is not useless to reason. We just have to keep in mind the fact that we are dealing with projections with penultimate things and not with ultimate things.
Nick Jikomes 1:19:35
Yeah, what you just said reminded me of the famous Allegory of the Cave from Plato. Yeah, the shadows dancing on the wall, but the shadows perfectly correlate with stuff that actually is out of there.
Bernardo Kastrup 1:19:45
Exactly the shadows and the convenient fictions and the narratives. They're all useful. I'm never advocated to dismiss them. All I am advocating is to keep in mind what the limit of the metaphor is. And don't try To stretch the metaphor beyond the limit of usefulness, because that will lead you to delusional territory.
Nick Jikomes 1:20:07
So one thing I also want to tackle explicitly here is, you know, I understand that, that, you know, I've read one of your books called the idea of the world. And you know, you're coming from a, you would call this analytical idealism. This is a perfectly naturalistic way of thinking, in your view. But you know, I think, a knee jerk reaction that a lot of people would have to some of your ideas, including myself at a different phase of my life is, okay, well, he's denying that material realities out there, he's saying that everything is mind and nothing is matter. This must be in some way, sort of airy fairy or involve some element of supernaturalism. Can you just kind of speak to that for a moment?
Bernardo Kastrup 1:20:47
Yeah, yeah, it's, it's a cultural phenomenon. And there's nothing can really mean there's not not much I can do to eliminate that. But notice that it is materialism, that's telling you that the world you experience, the quality of the qualities of your experience exists only inside your head, below the inner surface of your skull. Because under materialism, all of your experiences, or qualities, or colors, or flavors or smells, they are generated by the brain in a way that nobody can explain. But they're supposed to be generated by your brain, therefore they will exist inside your skull. If you look up to the sky at night, and you see the bright moon, that brightness, you see, that experience of seeing the moon is actually unfolding underneath the inner surface of your skull. The real inner surface of your skull is beyond the moon you see, in the night sky, under materialism, it's all inside your head. As far as experiences are concerned, there is a real world out there beyond your skull. But that world has nothing to do with colors with flavors with smells. It's a purely abstract world that you cannot visualize, because it's supposed to be described exhaustively only with a list of numbers. In other words, if you provide a long a large enough list of numbers, you will have said everything there is to say about the real material world outside your scope under materialism. So you can't even visualize it. It's pure abstraction. The charge against idealism that it's all airy, fairy mental stuff, is based on a misunderstanding of idealism and conflating it with solid system. solipsism is the philosophy that the entire world is your personal dream, that all that exists are your personal experiences, that's solid. That's very airy fairy stuff. And we have plenty of reasons to deny that what idealism says is that, look, there is a real world out there, that is beyond my inner mentation. That doesn't care what I'm thinking it doesn't care if I like it or not, doesn't care if I wish it to be it were different or not. It's really an external world in the sense that it's external to my mind, but it is mental. And I grant that inference that it exists as mentation. In the same way that I grant, that your mentation exists as mentation, even though I cannot access it. I don't know what you're thinking. But I grant that your thoughts exist, and they are not mine. In exactly the same way, I grant that there are thought like processes underlying nature and constituting the external objective world, which presented themselves to me as the qualities of experience but which are themselves not the qualities of my experience. And that that world is mental, even though I cannot access It's an invitation directly, just as I cannot access your thoughts directly. I grant the inference that it's really there, in that I can perceive it indirectly from across the dissociative boundary. So what people consider to be the unreasonable aspect of idealism, that it's it's all airy fairy stuff in your head. That's actually the unreasonable stuff of materialism, because it's materialism that is saying all the world of qualities exists inside your head and inside your head alone. He
Nick Jikomes 1:24:15
had this he had this great line in your book, when you're describing what material materialism is, in effect, saying and it was something like, according to materialism, you're not a ghost in the machine, you're a ghost conjured up by the machine, and I think this is what you meant.
Bernardo Kastrup 1:24:31
Yeah. Under materialism. You don't really exist. Your inner life doesn't really exist. And believe you or not, there are famous materialists. So get airtime in mainstream media? who states that experiences don't really exist, they are illusions, some say the so called illusionists, which of course, no, it backfires immediately, because an illusion to is an experience. So by seeing that experiences are illusions, you're actually emphasizing that experiences do exist as illusions, but they do exist. And there are materialists of another kind called eliminative lists, that they say it's not that experiences are illusions, it's just that experiences don't exist at all. Now, I don't know how to make heads and tails of that experience is the only thing that we can can be absolutely sure to exist. It's the only given of nature that precedes theory making. It's the one pre theoretical given, it's what you have before you start creating narratives about what's going on.
Nick Jikomes 1:25:35
I think some redundancies is okay here, especially for people that haven't thought about these things as much as you have. But let's, um, let me try and play devil's advocate from a neural scientist perspective with some of these ideas. You know, you said that today, you know, there's there's nothing that neuroscience can say, to explain the qualitative aspects of our experience and exactly how it comes from. But an neuroscientists interested in consciousness might say, well, yes, but we can appeal to ignorance here, there's a lot more that we don't know about the brain and other things than we do know. And today, I can't explain to you how the brain gives rise to subjective experience. But once we know enough, I'll be able to do that. And I'll be able to tell you that, you know, I can inject some pattern of activity into the brain that is sufficient to create some conscious percept. And when we really, really know everything in detail, we'll be able to create arbitrary percepts that are composed of different patterns of excitation that we inject into the brain. And likewise, you know, when we remove parts of the brain and things like that, certain parts of experience go away. And so can you sort of address that and tie it back to our earlier discussion of awareness versus meta awareness.
Bernardo Kastrup 1:26:50
It's important, if you want to stay grounded in reality, and in reason, it's important that we stay sharp about the distinction between an internal contradiction of a line of thought, and an unsolved problem of that line of thought. These are two distinct things. If I'm trying to pull the territory out of the map, it is invalid to say, well, but one day, I will create version two of this map. And maybe that will still not work. But one day in version N of the map, I will be able to take the territory out of the map. No, you will not because the problem is more fundamental than one of solving issues. The problem is a fundamental internal contradiction of a certain line of thought, you don't pull the thing described out of its description. In order to have the description, you first need to have the thing described. The hard problem of consciousness is not a problem to be solved in the same sense that to pull the territory out of the map is not something that you can solve in the next version of the map. It just puts it right on your face an eternal contradiction of the line of thinking that underlies physicalism. Now, of course, committed physicalists will always hide behind this kind of promissory argument. It's a sort of hand waving, that you never need to stop making. You can always hand wave your way out by saying, well, but one day, we will find enough about this and that then will make it succeed. The burden of proof is not on me. I think this is entirely unreasonable. But if that's what you believe, please go ahead. But then don't turn around and tell me that physicalism is the best substantiated ontology today on the table, because you are substantiating it on the basis of all things. Ignorance. What you're appealing to, to substantiate your view is your ignorance is what you don't know. That's a complete epistemic reversal. You substantiate things based on explicit reasoning, the things that you do know, you don't defend your position by by appealing to what you don't know. Now, remarkably enough, materialism today stays alive on the back of two epistemic inversions. One is, most believers casual believers in physicalism do not know what physicalism is. That's ignorance. The other one that is appealed to when physicalism rests on its today. It is its incompleteness. It's what it doesn't explain it precisely. It's lack of explanatory power. And you would think this is amazing, right? It just cannot be what's happening. It's exactly what's happening. Let me tell you why. Because we do not have any idea even in principle, how physical parameters could lead to the qualities of experience there is nothing about structure and function that can give you qualities. So wherever you learn about the structure and function of the brain, you cannot create As a chasm, I think commensurability no structure and function will give you anything other than structure and function, they will not give you a qualities. But because there is so much we don't know about the structure and function of the brain, and there is no account under physicalism of how structure and function or function or brain activity can lead to the qualities of experience, then we get into a position in which anything that you measure, or fail to measure about the brain can be used as an argument for physicalism. Because physicalism doesn't tell you what the causal link is. So whatever you see, or fail to see, you can always say no physicalism survives this. Because it doesn't you see, it doesn't precisely tell you, but even in precisely, it doesn't begin to tell you what the causal link is. So you can get away with anything. So whatever you measure, physicalism is still on the table because of the lack of explanatory power of physicalism. And most people in the streets believe in physicalism, because they think that physicalism tells you that the world of qualities we experience is really outside your head, no physical isn't actually tells you the opposite. If the regular person on the street would really understand and internalize this, they would go like how can anybody believe this nonsense. So physically, is now based on ignorance and lack of explanatory power, which is amazing.
Nick Jikomes 1:31:29
So what you're saying is that the the hard problem of consciousness doesn't describe a problem that can be solved in principle it describes, it's pointing to a contradiction that's largely unacknowledged. And exactly the hard problem, as it's called, simply evaporates under the paradigm you're speaking of, because you're simply saying, well, subjectivity is the one thing that we take as granted,
Bernardo Kastrup 1:31:52
exactly the thing described is what exists and matters a description there are we stay true to how we began in this 16th century? What physicalism does it It starts from the thing described, the world of qualities, qualities are all that we have, then it describes it and then it says, oh, but the description precedes the thing described, and that leads to this internal contradiction, you cannot pull the territory out of the map, you cannot account for mind in terms of an abstraction of mind, which is matter as defined on the physical ism is on the physical is matter is an abstraction. It's something that can be exhaustively exhaustively defined in purely quantitative terms, and there is nothing we are directly acquainted with that is like that. Because the mere act of being acquainted with something as a as a conscious human being entails the existence of the polities, you're only ever acquainted with qualities that augmentation is. So this internal contradiction of physicalism is what we call the so called hard problem, it's not a problem to be solved. It's just showing us we've taken a wrong turn, retrace our steps back and try another more promising avenue, because you're going to hit your wall against this wall hit your head against this wall forever. And physicalists are happy to say that that one day, we will know that's an appeal to a vague, incoherent unknown, it cannot be considered a serious defense of any position, let alone a scientific or philosophic position. But in our culture now has made it plausible and acceptable to use ignorance as an argument to maintain a position in life. Opposition that is clearly failed, nonsensical, stupid, if I may use the word like the word, materialism is flat out stupid. Look, Nick, during the Enlightenment, when materialism was sort of reified, people knew this. And why did they push materialism? Well, listen to what they needed. The host said one of the two authors of Lions Club AD, the founding document of the Enlightenment in 18th century did he holds on record saying materialism doesn't really work, but we need to use it as a weapon against the church. So materialism was a way to carve out a space for science that wouldn't threaten the church. The church was all about the soul. In Greek, the soul is the psyche, or CK. And the psyche is mind consciousness. So they invented this world of abstract matter. So people wouldn't be burned at the stake like a loss.
Nick Jikomes 1:34:35
Well, I have no idea about the history here. But what you're saying is there was a political move made in the 1600s or so where you didn't want to offend the church. So you had to say want to know, everything we're doing over here in the laboratory and in the science department, is another thing called the material world and has nothing to do with you what you're saying Father, so please don't kill me.
Bernardo Kastrup 1:34:56
Exactly. Today we learned In history, we learn that the Carter said, well, the mind is for the church in the material world is for science. And because we are the offspring of of that misunderstanding, we think, Well, science got all we needed for itself, and it gave the church an illusion. But you have to remember that back in the day, the notion that there is something that is not qualitative, in essence, was preposterous. almost inconceivable. It was ridiculous, it was talking about abstract matter, that you can fully describe with quantities, and that doesn't have any qualitative aspect doesn't have color doesn't have taste doesn't have texture. You're You're delusional, you're hallucinating. Like that's how people thought. So when the cards made that move, it reassured the church. Because yeah, the church got the entire world. And it got everything that actually existed. And today, we're so sort of duped by that cognitive misstep that we learned in history class, and we think, how did the church ever accept this? Not the scientists gave the church nothing got away with everything in the church was so powerful. Why did the church accept this? Well, they accepted this because they thought this matters yet wasn't nonsensical, which it was. And they knew that they knew math was just a description, it was not as extensive it was not a thing in itself. But at some point, somewhere around the middle to the late 19th century, then this major cognitive shift took place, took place, and Nietzsche internalized it by saying that that was the moment when God died, the death of God and, and people remember the quote, God is dead. What they don't remember is what Nietzsche said through his mouthpiece, Zarathustra, immediately afterwards, he said, God is dead, and we killed him. So it was our doing, we reified, an abstraction, and gave it put it in the pedestal of absolute, ultimate fundamental standalone reality. We did that, not nature, we killed God. And from then on, we kept on duping ourselves. And there are psychological dynamics about it, I wrote an entire paper on a major psychology journal, explaining what were the psychological dynamics in the intellectual elite of the 19th century, that led to this fantastic cognitive inversion to this, you cannot describe it with any word softer than pathological inversion. This is because it is so stupid that intelligent people you would think would never fall for this. But they did. So you have to account for it in some other psychological term, not, you cannot assume that those people saw things. Clearly they were being motivated by a psychological dynamics that we call technically fluid compensation in psychology. It's a whole interview to talk about that alone.
Nick Jikomes 1:38:09
Well, yeah, I mean, there's probably a lot we're not going to get to one of the things I definitely want to get to is related to something we started talking about earlier. So in your view, in your frame, you know, when I look at Bernardo, here, I'm looking at a particular pattern of excitation dissociated pattern of excitation and other people and living things are sort of one class of such patterns, as distinct from another class of patterns, which we perceive to be nonliving things. And this brings us to the interesting connection that seems to exist between angiogenesis or the origin of life. Where does living stuff come from in terms of its origin and nonliving stuff? And the creation of AI or creation of artificial conscious artifacts? And you say in your your book, the idea of the world that these two things are connected? And so can you just unpack what you mean by that for people?
Bernardo Kastrup 1:39:09
Yeah, I think we have plenty of evidence to think that other living beings have private conscious in our lives of the same kind we have, I'm sure my cat here lying next to me. People ask me now to show my cat. Yes. If he doesn't appear, people say, Well, where was your cat in that interview? So there he is. me just correct the camera. We have plenty of reasons to think living beings have private conscious in their lives like we do. I don't think we have reasons to think that a piece of rock has private in our life of its own, not least because the separation of the inanimate world into discrete objects is purely nominal. It's something we do by convenience. There is nothing etched in stone in nature, that makes the river distinct from the ocean. That makes the car separate from the road that makes the leg of the chair separate from the rest of the chair. We nominally we give names to subsets of this great image we call the inanimate universe, because it's handy for communication. I want to buy the car, not the road. So I give a name for a subset of the pixels of that great image. But this carving out of the inanimate universe into discrete objects, is purely academic, it will be doing this it's not the nature in nature, it's one great entangled hole, the inanimate universe, we have plenty of scientific reasons to think of the inanimate universe as an entangled system, because everything started from the Big Bang, therefore, it was all entangled. And therefore it cannot decohere with a system around it, because there's nothing around it is the sum total of everything that exists. So it's still entangled. So it's one whole and objects don't really exist, but living beings do. Because if you touch my hand, I feel it. If you touch my chair, I don't. If a photon hits the wall, I don't see it if it hits my retina I do. So there is an ontological case to be made for living beings being in some sense, discrete, there is no case to be made for inanimate objects. So there is no case to say that a rock or a computer has a private conscious inner life of its own because all instances of private conscious in your life that we know, share this feature called the metabolism they all metabolize, a computer doesn't. Now does that mean that we can say for sure that the computer is not conscious? No. But I cannot say for sure that there isn't a teapot in the orbit of Saturn. Maybe ETS came here in the 19th century, stole a teapot went back to I don't know the Pleiades and emptied their waste bin around the midway through the play is and that waste got captured in the orbit of Saturn, and therefore there is a teapot in the orbit of Saturn. But so I can't disprove that. But is it interesting as hypothesis? No, because we have no reason to entertain the hypothesis. So in exactly the same way, I think we we have no reason to entertain the hypothesis that a computer can ever be conscious. Look, we never make this mistake. When it comes to other aspects of nature. That say kidney function, you've probably heard me use this metaphor before, I can simulate kidney function accurately on my iMac in front of me with an M one processor, I can simulate kidney function down to the molecular level accurately on my iMac. That doesn't mean that my computer will be on my desk. Because the simulation of a phenomenon is not the phenomenon. It's a simulation, they're off. They are similar only at an abstract level, not at the level of the medium that gives the phenomenon its actual existence. But when it comes to consciousness, we think that the computer will be on our desk, that if we emulate the patterns of information flow in a human brain, a computer, the computer will be conscious. Now that's exactly as absurd as to say that a simulation of kidney function will make my computer urinate on my desk. Again, it's stupid. It's one of those stupid things that the mainstream media has manufactured plausibility for. We now think it's plausible, because we watch science fiction and have been watching Science Fiction for decades. That tells us that this could be the case. And we have bozos with PhDs earning a living in the luxury circuit by wooing people with the woowoo of artificial consciousness.
Nick Jikomes 1:43:39
So if I'm hearing you correctly, what you're saying is, if and when we do, in fact, create artificial intelligence, some form some conscious artifact, it will not look like a very fancy laptop that's capable of reporting amazing simulations are calculations to us, we would actually instinctively perceive it to be an alien life form an actual biological life form.
Bernardo Kastrup 1:44:03
Yeah, look. Oh, well, they put this best. I don't think we have any reason to think that when we create an entity with private conscious in their life like we do, that it will look anything other than biology. Now, when we talk about creating consciousness, what we mean is creating private consciousness, because that's the consciousness we know we want to create something like us, and we have private or dissociated, conscious in our life. So that's what we are talking about, when you talk about artificial consciousness, is the creation of private conscious in your life, will we ever be able to do that? I think we will. I think we will be able to induce artificially dissociation into this fundamental field of subjectivity that underlies our nature. But when we succeed in doing that, when we succeed in artificially creating a privately conscious Bing, it will look like biology. I think we have every reason to think that that will be the case and no reason to think that computers will do that. You can only think that you can do that with computers if you fantastically ignore the medium. In other words, if you ignore the actual thing, and you choose only abstractions to exist with, it's completely arbitrary. There is no reason to do that. But I look I distinguish this from artificial intelligence, intelligence is objectively measurable. If an artificial entity can solve certain problems, intelligently in a way that we would recognize as intelligence that would pass an IQ test, then you can certainly say that that computer is intelligent. I think we will get to general artificial intelligence or artificial general intelligence AGI, which is human level or more intelligence in a computer do I think that will happen? I'm quite confident that that will happen. I work in artificial intelligence for years, it will happen, but it will not have a conscious in their life of its own in a way you and I have. In other words, we don't need to pass laws protecting the rights of intelligent computers. And let's drop that nonsense.
Nick Jikomes 1:46:17
So earlier, you mentioned you know, I read the Schopenhauer quote, and you mentioned that that was a thinker that came too late in life. You mentioned Carl Jung, who is someone you've known throughout your entire most of your life. And for me, with respect to Jung, it's actually the opposite. I remember learning about Carl Jung in grade school in psychology class. And based on my own temperament, I just sort of ignored it right. It was archetypes of the Collective Unconscious dream analysis, it sounded like nonsense to me. So I just sort of never went there. I never read a young until I was in my 30s. And I read young, not that long ago in my life for the first time directly. As a primary, you know, reading young directly rather than reading secondary sources, and, you know, my backgrounds in neuroscience and in evolutionary biology. So you know, that's, that's generally the frame that I bring to the table when I'm when I'm reading something and thinking about things. And I was struck when I read one of Young's books that a lot of what he appeared to be saying when he was talking about things like archetypes, and the collective unconscious, it struck me that it sounded a lot like the types of things I or others with an evolutionary psychology background might talk about. He just was using a very different vocabulary. But many of the things that I originally assumed were sort of fantastical or even supernatural, or perfectly naturalistic, it seemed to me when he was talking about archetypes. In my reading, it was just that we all have brains, we all descended from a common ancestor. So all the structural and functional similarities that we have will mean that even though the specific individual contents of our experience are different, because we're all distinct individuals, we're all going to show the same basic patterns because we all inherit those things from this common architecture that we got from our evolutionary antecedents. And so I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about Carl Jung and the idea of archetypes and what that has meant to you.
Bernardo Kastrup 1:48:14
And Anthony Stevens has sort of perpetuated now this notion that union archetypes are genetic inheritances. I think if you read Jung, you immediately see that that's not at all what he meant. You have to read more than just, you know, one chapter of one book in order to realize that but if you read his corpus, it's obvious that it's not what he meant. When he and both can Polly the famous physicists know, the Pauli exclusion principle is named after him. He was young friend and patient. And together they develop the hypothesis of synchronicity and what's entailed by that hypothesis is that the same archetypes that manifest themselves, through the human mind, manifest themselves through the physical world at large. So the archetypes for Jung cannot be a genetic inheritance that's playing obvious and I don't know why Anthony Stevens sort of ignored what Jung wrote in order to try to accommodate Jung to a certain limited mainstream perspective, while Jung himself didn't try to do that at all. But, so, just to comment on what you said about this genetic inheritance aspect, I think you went much further than that, but the existence of archetypes are an implication of the following hypothesis. To be is to have properties. If you think that this is correct, that to be is to have properties, then archetypes follow. Because if you are, then there is something you are and something else that you are not. To be is to be one thing and not another thing Write that means that to be is to have properties. And therefore, the behavior of the thing that is, is determined by the properties, what you do is determined by what you are, it's entirely plausible right. So, if you are, you will behave according to certain patterns and regularities, why because you are what you are in those pattern regularities are what they are, because you are what you are and not something else, if you were something else, then you will have other patterns and regularities of behavior, but because you are the thing you are and not something else, then you have these patterns of regularities of behavior, those patterns or regularities of behavior are the archetypes. So, whatever the mind is, by being what it is, for, by virtue of being what it is, it behaves the way it does, and it doesn't behave in another way because it isn't something else it is what it is to be is to have properties to be is to behave archetypically. So, the question now is, what are the archetypes not? Are there archetypes? No of course, there are archetypes there are patterns of behavior, everything that behaves has to exist in to exist is to have archetypes of behavior, because you are what you are and not something else. So, you behave in that way and not in some other way. So, Jung's Quest was to try to catalog as many of the archetypes of minds including the collective unconscious and Jung was very clear, he said, I am not against equating matter itself matter at large not only the matter in your brain, I am not against equating equating matter with the psyche. As long as by psyche, we mean the collective unconscious. So, for Jung the collective unconscious was the mind of nature that presents itself to our observation as the physical world and because it is mental, it has mental archetypes. And those mental archetypes as they express themselves, can be cataloged in the form we call the laws of physics, the laws of nature, they are the regularities of the behavior of nature, that, that are available to observation because they are the expressions of the archetypes of nature's mind. And they are where they are, because nature is what it is. And it needs to be something so it needs to behave in certain ways. And that's what we catalog in called the laws of nature. So for you, the archetypes of the human psyche, are instances of the same archetypes, as those described by the so called laws of nature, which are not laws at all. They're just metaphors to describe certain regularities of behavior in nature. And that's why sometimes the world is the actions of the world correspond to your in their conscious life, what he called meaningful coincidence or coincidences or synchronicities, this correspondence exists because according to him, the world at large in your mind, they are both expression expressions of the same underlying mental archetypes.
Nick Jikomes 1:53:14
Interesting. So. I mean, did Jung consider himself an idealist explicitly or? Or Wow, so he was infer that about him?
Bernardo Kastrup 1:53:23
Yeah, it's very easy to infer so young, especially in the first half of his career, he tried to stay as far away as possible from the label philosopher as he possibly could. If you read his autobiography, you'll see that he was a philosopher since he seems he started reading Kant and Schopenhauer. And when he was 1415, he stole the books from his father's library without his his father knowing it. But in the early in his career, especially after the break with Freud, he was sort of insecure, he wanted to carve out a place in that community for himself. So he steered away from the notion that he was philosophizing he presented himself as an empirical scientist. He and He underpinned the hypothesis of the collective collective unconscious based on clinical data, which is the empirical observations of the psychologist its clinical data. But if you read his entire corpus, you see that he makes an abundance of statements that have direct philosophical implications. And then in the second half of his career, he dropped that pretense that he wasn't doing philosophy and at some point, he wrote that Yeah, Okay, I admit not in these words, I'm paraphrasing, but he said, philosophy and psychology are so intricately intricately interrelated, that it's impossible for me to say that I wasn't doing philosophy. What I'm doing is really at heart philosophy. And if you then read what he wrote in terms of philosophy, he was flat out an idealist. There is no denying that there is a letter he sent to Father white father, Victor white, one of his friends, he was a Catholic theologian. And in that letter Young is in an effort to be as unambiguous as possible. He chose a word in Greek, because that was the only language in which that word is fundamentally unambiguous, and left no room for discussion. He said, the psyche is a new sia in a new Sia. It's a Greek word that means that which has standalone existence, that which is not reducible substance, an essence the thing in itself a noumenon. It's completely unambiguous. So he said the psyche is irreducible, and that's an idealist speaking.
Nick Jikomes 1:55:44
So, at least in the West, we tend to associate religions, especially the big, monotheistic religions with dualism where there's this separation between material stuff, and spirits stuff, or whatever. But various religious and spiritual traditions have come to essentially idealistic conclusions through introspective practice stating, like you that there's just one universal mind. Do you have a perspective on any traditions or texts that provide perhaps the most cogent articulation of idealism in in their terms?
Bernardo Kastrup 1:56:18
Well, non dualism, the interpretation of the Vedas that you find in the Upanishads it's difficult to argue that that's not flat out idealism. It's, of course, idealism, described in a metaphorical language, because that's how people used to think it one and a half, 1000 years ago, 2000 years ago, the notion of speaking literally is a very recent notion. It's a Western creature, and a young one. So people spoke always metaphorically, but if you can see through the metaphors, the Upanishadic interpretation of the Vedas is clearly a non dual non dualistic form of idealism. idealism is fundamentally non dualist. But I would argue that even Christianity if you are not, you know, fundamentalist or a literalist, even in Christianity, the Holy Spirit percolates through the entire universe. And the Holy Spirit is the same thing as Jesus. And it's the same thing as the Godhead. They are not separate things. So it's not like there is God in the form of Jesus and a separate Holy Spirit. Now, they aren't all members of the Trinity. They are all one, three aspects of one. And in the whole, when it comes to the Holy Spirit, which is that one, it percolates through everything. It's in every honest man, child, and woman. And then the descent of the parakeet, I think is the part of Christianity that talks about that. So I would say even in Christianity, especially if you look at the Gospel of John, in which he talks about Jesus as the Word, and the word, the Greek word that we translate as word is logos, and logos stands for mentation, in Greek. So when John talks of Jesus, God being the word, what he's saying is that God is the logos, God is mentation. God is meant to activity. And in, in the metaphor of the Holy Spirit, that mental activity percolates through all reality. If you have the eyes to see, all of the great religions will be pointing at idealism.
Nick Jikomes 1:58:34
So, one of the other things I want to touch on, in part because I've had many conversations about this subject, although probably not in the way that that we'll discuss it is psychedelics, psychedelics have become much more culturally prominent recently, they've been sort of revitalized in certain ways. There's lots of interesting scientific research going on with them. But you know, as people know, either from direct experience or from reading about other people's direct experience, and your psychedelics have very interesting and powerful effects on the contents of consciousness, a oftentimes you take a psychedelic, especially at a high dose, and you experience things that you didn't even know were on the menu before. And I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about the phenomenology of psychedelics in connection with some of the things we were talking about earlier? What are we learning about what's going on in the brain when someone ingest the psychedelic? And how does that start to relate to some of the things we were talking about previously, in terms of the the reducing valve that the brain access to use Huxley's term?
Bernardo Kastrup 1:59:34
So you want me to talk about the phenomenology? phenomenological side of things, not the neuroscientific side of things, why don't
Nick Jikomes 1:59:41
we? Why don't we try and take them in sequence there, so okay, what kinds of things tend to happen in a psychedelic experience? And then how does that tie to some of these neuroscientific findings?
Bernardo Kastrup 1:59:50
Yeah, I've done many psychedelic experiences, and I consider myself lucky to have only started doing them when I was already in my 30s as a mature adult. Otherwise, I don't know What I would have made of it, I am not sure they would have been productive and useful. They're certainly not for fun. It's a hard curriculum, it's hard work. It's not something you do for fun. And if you do that for fun, then you're not really doing it, you're taking a very light those if you think you can go to a concert after taking psilocybin, so you don't know what a real psilocybin trance is, if you're doing it that way, I have done a few. That doesn't give me the right to say that I know the truth that the truth about psychedelics, because once you've been there, you know that that's an infinite world. But my takeaway is are the following. There is a lot, a lot, a lot more about my own inner mentation, a world of rich imagery, reach cognitive associations, reach feelings, reach imagination, that is completely beyond metacognitive access in an ordinary state of consciousness, stuff that I do not know I have in me. And I would never have known if I hadn't done a psychedelic trip, I would only have known that during the process of death, which does the same thing. Psychedelics do reduce any pair of brain activity. So a lot more has been revealed to me explicitly about my own inner fantasizing my own inner needs, that are fulfilled through fantasy, my own inner yearnings, how much I love certain people, for instance, becomes very evident, what I actually yearn for in my life, as opposed to my little egoic plan of the achievements I need to have in a company 10 years psychedelic, show you what you really, really want, how you really, really are from within how you really, really feel. And much of this stuff is stuff that we rather not know. We don't want to know that stuff about ourselves, makes us feeling appropriate or ashamed makes us fear ourselves, there is a monster within psychedelics can show you that monster as well. So that's one. The other thing I think it showed me is that certain aspects of the psychedelic experience are way too alien to be mine. Beyond mine, are they fantasies, yes, but they are not my fantasies, they are the incrementation of the field of subjectivity around me. They are the noumenon they are part of what nature is, in essence, as opposed to how nature presents itself to me through my sense organs, they are the thing in itself, part of the thing in itself, in the thing in itself going on out there is weird, you know, to the difference between to perceive nature and to be nature, and psychedelics give you a hint into what it is to be nature beyond yourself, what it is like to be nature just beyond just yourself. And it's mighty weird, and at the same time extraordinarily familiar. And that's a very characteristic cognitive dissonance in a deep psychedelic trance that the thing that is most alien most anxiety inducing, most discombobulating at the same time, it's the thing that's closest to you the most familiar the most primordial, that which you knew at the very beginning of time, and you've forgotten that which is the real you and at the same time, so incredibly alien. Now that stuff is not mine as Bernardo kastrup. That stuff is the recognition of nature's mind through my cognitive apparatus, but that stuff is not me. And it may ask me well, how do you know it's not you? Well, go there yourself. Come back and tell me that that stuff was you. It's surpasses any conceivable notion of a personal self. It's so fast is all of our categories, all of them. So that's the second thing and the third takeaway message in the most important, in my opinion, from my psychedelic experiences is that mind concocts its own sense of reality.
You can be in a psychedelic trance and in that trance, you are in the Pleiades talking to aliens and you have a feeling of hyper reality. You cannot help but tell yourself, this is actually happening. It feels so much more concrete, vivid, self consistent, continuous, reliable, palpable than ordinary reality. It feels much more real than real. It's what people usually say, you know, you have your friends trip, they come back saying Wow, man far out that was more real than real. Yes, that's the sense. But why are you physically in a reality outside mind talking to aliens in the player this outside mind? No, you are not. If somebody were next to you, you would be lying on that bench. all along. So what tells you is that our sense of reality is not objective doesn't come from outside mind. Our sense of reality is indulgence. Therefore the real insight from the psychedelic trance is not that the trance is real in the sense of being outside of mind. It's not it's a creation of mind. But what it's telling you is that this right now is a creation of mind as well. That your sense of reality right now your feeling of the continuity, the the fact that the world seems to be autonomous and independent of your wheeling in your wishes, all this stuff that seems to ground our sense of reality. That's all mental stuff, too. It's not your mind as an individual human being. But these two is mental. These two is a kind of transparent drugs all the time and you don't need to be on trans owning silicene or Dimethyltryptamine. You can have a trance on our main neurotransmitter
Nick Jikomes 2:06:02
glutamate. No, no, no, no.
Bernardo Kastrup 2:06:05
Serotonin. We are tripping on serotonin right now. So now we are always on drugs. So these two is a kind of trip. I think that is the key takeaway message from the psychedelic trip, not psychedelic Gnosis not to come back and say I spoke to a real deity outside mind. No, no, no, no, don't get taken in by your own bullshit. Because on this under psychedelics, you have no defense against your minds, perpetual attempts to deceive itself. That's what mine does. Mind communicates to itself by creating deceptive imagery. It's the language of mine. That's what it does, because it is what it is. So you're not escaping that in a psychedelic trip. But what you can conclude this shit, that's what mine is doing right now.
Nick Jikomes 2:06:50
And so there's some interesting results that have you know, started to percolate up into our awareness around what the brain is actually doing in the psychedelic state versus the normal waking state. What are some of the more interesting findings that you've seen so far? And how does that tie back into some of our discussion of the
Bernardo Kastrup 2:07:11
most robust in large, the largest observation so far, which is it has been repeatedly observed, across psychedelic substances and across measurement apparatuses. And by substances I mean, studies were done with Silis psilocybin, which turns into psilocybin DMT, LSD, ketamine, I think a couple of others. But the main studies were made with these four substances, and measurement apparatuses were fMRI and EEG in EEG, so, a variety of substances in a variety of measurement apparatuses, have led to the same conclusion. Psychedelics, always and only reduce brain activity, they don't increase brain activity beyond the error margin of measurement anywhere in the brain. That's the largest effect of psychedelics, there are other very minor effects as well, which the literature is now focusing on. Because they, they sort of remain consistent with physicalist intuitions. But the main effect is the opposite of what we would have expected. You know, before 2012, you would have asked any neuroscientists, what do psychedelics do in your brain, everybody would say, Oh, they light up your brain, like a Christmas tree. You know, both levels would go beyond the charts, you know, you'd be consuming a lot of oxygen in your brain because it would be lit up in order to generate the imagery of the trance, which is the richest, most intense, most significant experiences of one's life actually, research done yet. of them failing with remembering the details, but research has shown that it consistently scores amongst the five most intense, rich, memorable, significant experiences of one's life, one psychedelic trance, let alone a whole series of them. And we thought, no, the brain lights up like a like a Christmas tree, it's the opposite. Your brain is less active than when you're dreaming a lot less active than when you are asleep. It is the best safe model of death we have in the sense that it really brings your brain activity down without killing you. And then you get metabolic rebound after now after you metabolize the substance knopman blood oxygen levels in the brain increase a lot because your brains starved. But that's the main the main, by far the largest and most consistent effect, reduction of brain activity.
Nick Jikomes 2:09:44
Yeah, and it's a very interesting observation. It's also, I think, interesting to think about in terms of this connection between the psychedelic experience and death that many people have drawn throughout time and You know, one of the one of the particular psychedelics I wanted to ask you about, based on one of my own experiences was five methoxy DMT. So I'll briefly describe an experience I had, and how I start to connect some of the dots here. And, you know, when I had this experience, which I spoke about, in the very first episode of the podcast, it was not the first psychedelic had ever tried to add been very experienced at this time, but five Meo DMT had a very different character to it than anything else I had tried. And very briefly, I'll just say that for the 10s of minutes that you're in this trance, it leads to what I would describe as a very undifferentiated experience, meaning that as opposed to taking other doses of other substances, instead of seeing a bunch of crazy stuff, and things are moving, and things are happening, everything goes away. And yet somehow there is still this awareness present. And so you know, with eyes closed, it's sort of just dark and with eyes open, it was a pure white light. And you just immediately kind of have this undifferentiated experience experience of light, there are no shapes, there are no concepts, there's no, there's no mental activity happening, except this sort of what I would just call pure awareness. And then as you relax out of the state, that light starts to coalesce into simple colors. And then they start to sort of morph and move a little bit. And then gradually over the course of 10, or 15, or 20 minutes, it coalesces into what eventually just becomes you looking at the room again, in the normal way that you do. But the first experience I had with it might when I started thinking again, 10s of minutes later, I my mind immediately went to wow, that sounds a lot like every time I've heard someone describe a near death experience, and they say, I saw the light or something like that, or anytime I've heard, you know, someone really into Buddhist Buddhism or meditation, say, talk about Samadhi, or the sort of pure, undifferentiated state that you can reach at which is usually taken to be the kind of Pinnacle pinnacle of meditative practice. And it struck me that I had this sort of undifferentiated experience, all of the distinctions, all of the concepts, all of the colors, all of the shapes went away temporarily. And I was just left with this pure and very, very strong feeling of bliss is maybe the best word that you could use to describe it. And it was very interesting, I would love to know what's going on in the brain. But I wonder if five Meo in particular, is causing this kind of reductions in brain activity. And before I get your comment on this Bernardo, I do want to tie that back to some of the stuff we were talking about earlier, where a lot of what the brain is doing when it's metabolizing. And doing what the brain does. It is drawing distinctions between things, it's making sensory discriminations. It's building the concepts that allow us to label and discriminate between different entities that we perceive as as objects and other things. And all of that goes away in this particular experience. And, you know, I would love to get your comments on that or hear about any experience you might have with five a meal.
Bernardo Kastrup 2:13:09
I didn't have any experience with with five me, you know, the frog business is not appetizing. For me. I don't know whether you can get that synthesized legally in the Netherlands. Planning and Research context, I would imagine.
Nick Jikomes 2:13:27
I'm not sure about the Netherlands in particular, but depending on the jurisdiction, yeah, there is there is synthetic five Meo DMT, it sometimes is available for research purposes. And sometimes it's available for anyone,
Bernardo Kastrup 2:13:39
I never tried to find me, Oh, I did have an experience. The smell is the same as what you just described, but I had that experience with psilocybin. Psilocybin is, is a strange psychedelic in the sense that you never know what's going to come. It can be radically different from one week to the next from one phase of your life to another. But there was one experience I had with psilocybin, in which I came back and the only word the only cultural reference I had, that would get anywhere near what I had experienced was the Buddhist void, the void of Buddhism, in which there is only mind, but mind isn't excited. In other words, there is only potentiality. But there is nothing beyond that. And I was in that void. And it's a very known, claustrophobic void in the sense that it's unlimited. It's not constrained by space and time at all. It's, it's a moment of eternity if one wants to put it that way. And when I started coming back from that, which is usually called the reentry, and the reentry from that particular experience was the worst aspect of a psychedelic experience I have ever experienced. People talk about, you know, liftoff, which is ego dissolution that can be very hard. But you grow into it, you become used to it to a point that it doesn't feel better or anymore, you're so ready to let go of all of your shields, that when it goes, you don't grasp onto it, you don't try to hold on to it. So I got to a point where I was used to ego dissolution and didn't feel bad at all. On the contrary, it felt like a great relief. And I was letting go of all of your anxieties, all of your problems, though, dissolves, dissolves, dissolves, only what is really important and really real estate. But the reentry from this particular experience of the void. I don't know even how to describe that. Imagine you're being crushed by a truck. Except that this, this truck is as heavy as the moon and it's crushing you for 100,000 years, and you're not dying. The level of claustrophobia of reconnecting with the notion of time. I remember having the image of a colander with the five days of week of the weekend, two days of weekend, I remember coming back to that image and think, Oh, my God, no, I cannot live ruled by this little thing called the weak. By life, my existence cannot be ruled by this, this is so incredibly close, the frog claustrophobic. I couldn't breathe, and I had this image is coming back. I drive a black Volkswagen Passat in a large sedan, totally black. And I had this image of this little thing that was me, inside the black box, it needed to be in that black box to have different experiences in other, in other words, to go from one place to another. So you couldn't have different experiences by just allowing your experiences to flow through you, you have to get into that little black metal box. And that was so crushing. And so crushing as well. It took me I don't know, two or three days to accept life again after that. Because I was when I came back to this, I was so crushed. I was so depressed, I was so irate with the notion of being alive. Like inside this little box in space and time that I was dysfunctional for a couple of days. And that was one of the trips that sort of sobered me up like whoa, I have to be careful with this stuff. The curriculum is very hard. This is no joke. These are hard life lessons. And they are as hard as they come. It's very tough love.
Nick Jikomes 2:17:59
What kind of dose was that with?
Bernardo Kastrup 2:18:04
Between five and six? Dr. Brands? Okay, so
Nick Jikomes 2:18:06
you did the heroic dose.
Bernardo Kastrup 2:18:10
I've done more, I've done eight. Wow,
Nick Jikomes 2:18:13
that that's quite a lot. So one of the things I do want to talk about here is
Bernardo Kastrup 2:18:17
I'm very hard headed the neck. Eight for me probably is for for the regular tripper, my baseline consciousness is very hard to move, it's very hard to displace it.
Nick Jikomes 2:18:31
So one of the things I do want to talk to you about is the phenomenology of death and how you think about it, given the frame that that you think in. So I want to say, You know what, one of the things I've talked to people about before, is my five Meo experience. And one of the ways I start to think about that myself, but also help other people think about it who haven't had the experience is in the following way. And again, naturally, I think, as a biologist, so an experience we've all had is going out on a cold day, you're not wearing a jacket, and it's very cold outside. What happens as you walk outside and time passes? Well, some parts of your body start to get pain and start to get very cold, and start to get frostbite before other parts, right so your body has baked inside of it. In order of operations that happens, it knows Okay, well, if we only have so much heat to keep the body alive, make sure that your brain and your heart and your organs get that heat. And you know, siphon it away from the tips of your fingers, the tips of your toes, the tip of your nose first, so the body knows so to speak, and it will it will allow the least important things for survival to shut off first, and preserve the ones that are absolutely essential as long as it can. So when we think in that way, and we think about metabolism now think about the brain, just decaying organically as part of a slow and gradual natural death process. Right some parts of your brain in the brain Some are controlling your heartbeat. They're controlling your breathing. If those go offline, you're done. But all of the fancier stuff so to speak, that your cortex is doing, creating the your ability to have language, to discriminate objects based on the sensory inputs, you're getting, to make logical deductions, all of this stuff is not strictly necessary, you can lay there and breathe and keep your heart beating without doing those things. And so I wonder if you know, in the, in the organic death process that people experience an old age, I would suspect, and it's answerable in principle, right, that those higher order networks in the brain doing the fancier stuff are going to shut down first. And the things that will generally shut down last, if you're having this kind of slow death are the ones that are absolutely essential for respiration and heartbeat, and things like this. And if that's the case, and if what much of those higher order networks are doing are all of the fancy stuff that we take for granted us talking together, making distinctions between objects in my visual field, and so forth, between science and philosophy, and science, and philosophy, all of those things would start to go offline, while the absolutely essential survival functions were preserved, then you would eventually perhaps, I think, come to some experience, not unlike what I what you just described, where things feel void, but the brain is still alive for some period of time. And you know, I've always wondered and speculated if things like five Meo or things like these high dose psilocybin experiences, are essentially putting your neurophysiology into a place that's not unlike what it does when things organically wind down at the time of death. And perhaps that's related to why many near death experiences have these similarities to the types of experiences people have on psychedelics. So I'm wondering if you could comment on that, and then just talk about death from the perspective of analytical idealism?
Bernardo Kastrup 2:21:51
I think what you said is entirely reasonable, doesn't sound implausible at all 20 years. I mean, it's like a psychedelic is not a threat to your life, like cold is. So it's curious why they have this effect, why they reduce brain activity as if you're dying. So not sure why that happens that way. But clearly, it does happen. And I do think it's, it's the best safe model of death, we have, I mean, sort of going to like the Flatliners did in the movie, with you stop your heart, and hope to be resuscitated with psychedelics, your heart never stops. But your brain largely does not a good model of death. Now from an analytic idealist perspective, the normally function metabolizing body and brain ordinary brain activity all these things are, what a strong dissociative process in the mind of nature looks like. So they are directly correlated one is the appearance of the other and of course, life wants to survive. That's, that's what evolution tells us, that the organisms that we have today are the ones that are best capable of staying alive. And so in the language of analytic idealism, it's a natural thing that outers was formed, wants to survive, they wanted to stay as authors. Why? Because the, the, the causal nexus of nature would favor the authors that do, as opposed to the authors that don't, it's not like, there is a law decreed by some agent in nature saying, this shall happen thus, no, it's just what happens to happen. And we understand why it happens like that. Now, if an ordinary normal, healthy, metabolizing body and brain are what a dissociative process looks like, then death, the end of that body and brain is what the end of dissociation looks like. So, right, if the body is the image of dissociation and the end of the body implies logically the end of the dissociation. Now how would that feel phenomenologically from a first person perspective, we think that death implies the sort of DNA of consciousness. But we know now that many of the states which we consider unconscious are not unconscious at all syncope is not unconscious, you can have rich visual imaging in during the time you are unresponsive. In psychedelics, trance states, the choking game I mean, the list is endless, that we know that states in which we are unresponsive are accompanied by rich, rich inner life. So I think the same applies to death. Because death is the end of the dissociation from a first person perspective, what is experience? is an enrichment. You cognitively re associate with your immediate cognitive environment from which you were dissociated. Just before that. To put it in colloquial language, you remember things you didn't know anymore, you will have a sense of identity that spans a much larger area than just your body. Your inner imagery will become a lot richer than your living human fantasizing could ever be. It's a reintegration into a broader cognitive context, which could be experienced as something overwhelming. Imagine if you remember, the memories of the universe, coming from being a little human being, of course it wants to want to last long, it's like waking up. Waking up is the end of a dissociative process. When you wake up your dream avatar Stokes is dead. And but it's the same you it's just that you thought you were the dream avatar, but you never were into the same you that wakes up. And then you remember the memories of your life, which you didn't remember, when you were the dream avatar, you were dissociated from the aspects of your mind that did the rest of the dream and had the rest of your memories and ideas and wishes and fears and fantasies and all that good stuff. Which all comes back to you the moment you wake up, I would expect death to be something like that to the power of I don't know. 100? In other words, it's scary stuff. I am afraid.
Nick Jikomes 2:26:40
Yeah, I mean, even the term ego death that people use in the context of psychedelics, you know, sort of gets at how, how jarring the experience can be, you know, if you're coming up on a large dose of psilocybin, you know, ego death corresponds basically to some patterns of activity in the brain that are associated with your feelings of individuation. And those are going away. And a lot of people experience that as, oh, my body is actually dying, even though it isn't, in fact dying. And it can be frightening if you if you try and fight it. And it can have this very liberating feeling if you just sort of relax into it. And I wonder if you know a lot of the metaphors that we typically get in religious traditions of heaven and hell are you know, Huxley famous wrote, famously wrote another essay called Heaven and Hell, that you know, the difference, those aren't two places you go, there are two types of experiences you can have, in a state like this, depending on your orientation to it.
Bernardo Kastrup 2:27:37
I would love to think that this is the case that hell is ego dissolution, because then there is nothing to worry about. I mean, you've been there a few times, like me, after a while, Ego Death is no longer an issue. It's not hard anymore, because you don't fight it. And if you don't fight it, it has no energy, it doesn't come to get you. It's just the first time when you think you are actually going to disappear. Because you think you are your ego. So when your ego goes when that little knot of associations that know the default mode network in the brain, when that begins to to unravel. You think my God, that's me? And I'm going to go no, no, you are the thing that is observing that the solution. Once you've been through that gauntlet a few times, it's no longer a gauntlet. So I don't think that's it. I don't, that's certainly not my reason for being afraid of death. My ego will dissolve and I'm glad shed it. gladly let my personal identity go because it's so claustrophobic. I just don't feel claustrophobic all the time. Because I get used to it. But you go to the void and you come back and you go like, this is not a pleasant state. This ego stuff. So I'm pretty okay with that. But I have had trips that I could describe as equally cathartic and hellish. And that the difference between pleasure and pain disappears in those experiences. There isn't that duality anymore that you can only talk about intensity. I had an experience once. It was a high dose replay and went deep in it was not only hide those, I was wearing a mind machine. I had done breathing exercises I had made when I controlled my diet for a week before the trip. It was when I thought you know, gloves are off. I'm going to go as deep into this rabbit hole as quick as I can go. I was on holidays, to head bread, billions of paper. A lot of papers I had read in anticipation. I had my doctor to whom I told what I was going to do. I had him give me an EKG ECG heart, key for the heart. Yeah, for the heart and check off my liver function, because I wanted to make sure I would come back at From that, I went really deep in and after your past ego dissolution, after you pass the fantastic visual hallucinations and the aliens and the parallel universes and all that, and then you pass the void, and you keep going, and there is something at the base of the fountain, there is something at the very root of mind the very root of existence, it is the ultimate. Now, you understand that whatever I say now is nonsense, because it cannot be captured in Word. So we're not talking about it, I'll talk around it. In basically hand wave trying to give you at least a smell of more or less what that felt like. At that fountain, it was like a multi hyperdimensional fractal pattern was unfolding. It came from a singularity and nothing in it began to unfold. And it unfolds based only on itself. There is never anything coming from the outside itself unfolds. But the richness of this unfolding is beyond anything that can be conceived in an ordinary state of consciousness. And at the same time, it's nothing that unfolding comes from nothing inside, there is nothing out of the nothing comes all of that. In at some point, witnessing that, I was still telling myself narratives, it was one of those strips in which we maintain some level of metacognition amazingly enough. Now, at some point, I was telling myself, this is going to fry my mind. A human mind cannot confront this, not words, be aware of it and survive. It, it is, it is to win tropic. The diversity of states is so massive that you cannot maintain any sense of structure or dynamical integrity.
Not that it's random, in the sense that neuroscience is trying to study psychedelics now know, the entropic brain hypothesis, known entropy levels rise, what they mean is noise, unstructured noise, that's not it at all. It was immensely structured, immensely structured, but structured in such a way that the diversity of states that would arise from that continuously unfolding structure to become acquainted with that was to die was to lose your internal integrity, to lose everything that defines you as a mind. And that was death. That was real death, not ego death. That is the death of a friend in a frying pan. It's, it's really going to blow you two pieces if you maintain your attention on that. Yeah, my fear is that hell, and Heaven are both that. That is it. That's the fountainhead it's both hell in heaven. And I understand how and why it can be both because it's simultaneously terrifying. And beyond delightful, it's cathartic. It's of a level of beauty that even the word beauty is like, we need another word. That's cosmic beauty. It's beyond anything.
Nick Jikomes 2:33:38
Yeah, well, and
Bernardo Kastrup 2:33:38
it kills you if you stare at it.
Nick Jikomes 2:33:41
Strangely enough, I feel like I know exactly what you are talking around here. Because in my five Meo experience, and again, talking around it, it was quite similar. I think ice there was this thing and only this thing, there was no even perception of myself being there to see it. But somehow, this thing that somehow didn't have a shape was vibrating or shaking with such intensity, that it felt like not only every scene of experience that I was about to come back into was coming from it, but every possible scene of every possible experience that could be was just sort of violently shaking out of this thing. And again, the word thing doesn't mean like a shape that I saw, it was just this sort of, I mean, it was just almost just like seeing light and wishes like everything was wiggling out of it.
Bernardo Kastrup 2:34:30
If I if I, you understand it, because you probably we've been there as I see it, but people who have never been there will not understand it. So for the sake of those who can sense this now, the reason the fires of hell burn you, is because they are unspeakably beautiful. They are having me
Nick Jikomes 2:34:53
the fires of hell are heavenly.
Bernardo Kastrup 2:34:56
And that's why they burn because they are unspeakably beautiful It's a beauty that dissolves you.
Nick Jikomes 2:35:05
Yeah. And I will say, I mean, funny enough, again, somebody else who had this experience with me on one occasion, described it almost that way. It's like, yeah, I felt like I burst into, you know, the most intense flames ever. And then they just slowly cooled off again. So, you know, people it's remarkable how certain aspects of these high dose experiences are remarkably reproducible from person to person, it seems based on you know, the language they start to use to try and describe it. We've already been talking for two and a half hours Bernardo, and I believe it's evening for you. So I don't want to take too much more of your time. Are there any final thoughts that you want to leave people with and perhaps any any of your work that you would point people to if they're unacquainted with you
Bernardo Kastrup 2:35:51
can go to Bernardo kastrup, Castro with a K K s, tr, u p of Peter. You're not orchestral.com. And everything is linked from their free essays, free technical papers, books, videos, blogs, from a whole lot of things. It's all linked from there.
Nick Jikomes 2:36:10
Or is there anything that you're working on right now that is building on work that you've done already, or any any interesting problems that you think are unanswered that that are being worked on by anyone?
Bernardo Kastrup 2:36:23
Immediately after I stopped talking to you, I have to prepare for a debate tomorrow with a physicist, Bina hossenfelder. We are going to discuss super determinism and quantum physics. Tomorrow, I need to refresh my acquaintance with the literature a little bit. But long term, I am working on a new book that is unlike anything you have ever seen coming from me. It's a completely different kind of thing. And because what I noticed happening myself is the more I get comfortable with the big questions, the more I become invested in the small questions of human life, society, economy, politics, geopolitics, our values, our culture, how we relate to each other and to the world and to animals and forests with small problems. And that scene that's paradoxical, right? The more you're comfortable with the big things, the more the small things come to the fore as things that need attention that that needs tender intending to.
Nick Jikomes 2:37:41
Alright, Bernardo Castro, thank you for your time.
Bernardo Kastrup 2:37:43
My pleasure. Thanks for having me.