Saturday, January 6, 2024


Infrequently Asked Questions ("IAQ") About Bernardo Kastrup

Q.  Who is Bernardo Kastrup?

A.  Kastrup is a contemporary philosopher, trained also as a computer scientist.

Q.  What is most noteworthy about him?

A.  He is considered the foremost modern philosopher who embraces the view that consciousness, not matter, is primary, in other words that matter is derived from consciousness, not vice versa.

Q.  Do you think that Kastrup has proven this foundational case?

A.  No.  But I agree with him that developments in physics and cosmology and elsewhere in "ontology" and "phenomenology" are placing great strain on the old, more widely-held view.  Kastrup believes that the old, more widely-held view was an Enlightenment attempt to break a narrative that was forced on the West by the Roman Catholic Church.  The discoveries that followed from Enlightenment thinking are fine as far as they go, in fact exceedingly valuable, but something was lost in relation to what Carl Jung was wont to call "Man's Search for Meaning."

Q.  What is the "dashboard" metaphor that Kastrup often invokes?

A.  You are a Navy carrier pilot.  You have just been launched into low cloud cover.  Now you have no visual cues at all; you must fly purely by reference to your instrument panel.  The panel is vital to your survival because it tells you altitude, attitude, speed and direction, which are otherwise invisible to you.  

But the dashboard is not the world in which you are flying; it does not even purport to be a faithful rendition of it.  It would be a grave error to mistake the dashboard for the world.  And yet we do something similar when we take our sensory inputs to be a direct and accurate rendition of the world we inhabit.  Those inputs are filtered in a most dramatic way, via the structure of our sensory organs and also by our brains.  Some things are filtered out altogether; others are distorted.  This filtering is necessary so that we have a bucket of information so limited that we can use it efficiently to make survival choices in life; otherwise we would be overwhelmed.  

Thus Kastrup, in phenomenological terms, can be called an idealist in the classic sense rather than an empiricist.

Q.  What does Kastrup make of the UFO/UAP phenomenon?

A.  He asks us to consider whether we are dealing with one integrated phenomenon, or rather two perhaps related but discrete phenomena.  If the latter, one would be the "nuts and bolts" of UAP like sightings of flying objects, objects gathered in crash retrievals, and radiation marks in the ground or physical footprints from craft landings.  The other would be "high strangeness" events like abduction, hybridization and things even further out on the scale of the "impossible that nevertheless is possible."

Q.  What does Kastrup think may be the purpose or goal of the intelligence behind UAPs?

A.  Kastrup speculates that they may represent a way for intelligent nature to break us out of a "local limit" of understanding of our place in the universe, as part of our natural evolution towards a higher understanding, in other words, to get us out of a rut that is a product of embracing the same Enlightenment mindset.

Q.  What does Kastrup think may happen when we die?

A.  Kastrup gives us a new way of thinking about death that I believe offers more hope than other, more conventional views.  The scientific materialists believe that we will simply be annihilated.  The Christians believe that if we are bad we will go to hell and if we are good we will go to heaven.  But the Christian heaven defies belief for many of us, for reasons too complicated to explain here.  The Hindus and the Buddhists believe that we will come back again and again, until we reach a level of spiritual perfection that allows us to escape the cycle of rebirth.  But this nirvana is another form of annihilation; when we reach it, all qualities evaporate, including the qualities that animated and defined us; there is nothing left of us at all.

Kastrup believes that when we die, the meaning that we accumulated in our lives, largely via suffering, is preserved as our consciousness merges into the Greater Consciousness and feeds it, if you will, from our own experience.  At the same time, he believes that while we lose any agency at death -- we can't make decisions that have an impact on the world -- our memories are retained, and our identity with them, because our identity is forged from memories.  So even as we will feel a oneness with all conscious things, we will retain Who We Were when we were alive.

Q.  Does Kastrup fear death?

A.  Kastrup says that he does not fear the state that I have just described that follows death, presumably because it will be filled with peace and love.  He does, however, fear the death transition that comes before that.  He has many times experimented with powerful psychedelic drugs.  In that context, he has experienced a form of "ego dissolution," and that process he found terrifying and wildly disorienting, especially in his earliest experiments.  In that state one feels that one is being annihilated, even though the ego will return.  Kastrup assumes that in the death transition the experience of ego dissolution will be similar, but even more extreme, and he is not looking forward to that ride.

Q.  Does Kastrup believe in reincarnation?

A.  I don't know.  If he does not, then perhaps his vision of the afterlife is subject to a criticism that I happily aim at the Christian heaven, which can be summed up as "OK, what do we do now?"

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