This book is a multi-faceted exploration and critique of the human condition as it is presently manifested. It addresses science and philosophy, explores the underlying nature of reality, the state of our society and culture, the influence of the mainstream media, the nature of free will and a number of other topics. Each of these examinations contributes an angle to an emerging idea gestalt that challenges present mainstream views and behaviors and offers a sane alternative. The book is organized as a series of short and self-contained essays, most of which can be read in under one hour.
Foreword by Deepak Chopra
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
In this brilliant and combative book subtitled 'critical essays on metaphysics, neuroscience, free will, skepticism and culture', Bernardo Kastrup attacks the assumption and presumption of materialism in science and society, proposing instead an understanding of the world based on the primacy of consciousness and a philosophy of monistic idealism. This involves challenging both the ontology and epistemology of modern science while pointing out that scientific materialism is of course a philosophy or ideology rather than science per se. He builds on his earlier book Materialism is Baloney and pulls no punches in putting forward his arguments and criticisms. The various essays are divided into self-contained sections that contribute to the overall argument.
His basic proposition is that there is no reality outside consciousness and that we are all manifestations of one Mind at Large (Aldous Huxley's phrase) linking us together. Materialism states that that the world is fundamentally outside consciousness, and yet consciousness is required for any awareness of the world and 'is the only carrier of reality anyone can ever know for sure.' He uses the analogy of a whirlpool, arguing that in the same way that the whirlpool doesn’t generate water, the body-brain system doesn’t generate consciousness. The brain is what consciousness looks like from the outside when observed by another person (he calls this this a second-person perspective while most writers refer to this as third-person). Put more succinctly, ‘it is the body-brain system that is in consciousness, not consciousness in the body-brain system.’
Moreover, the fact that our bodies are separate does not mean that our psyches are fundamentally separate, and there is a good deal of evidence to suggest this very connection. He sees individual human beings as localisations within a broader, transpersonal stream of experiences, similar to the view in physics that matter is a condensation of the field. Bernardo then lists some common materialistic criticisms and gives his own rebuttals, showing how in many circumstances the reasoning of materialism is circularly by assuming what it sets out to prove. He gives an interesting example of this in a debate between Sam Harris and Eben Alexander about the status of the latter’s near death experience: ‘the very fact that Alexander remembers his NDE suggests that the cortical and sub-cortical structures necessary for memory formation were active at the time’.
There is a fascinating section on psychedelics and the mind-body problem where a 2012 study found only reductions in brain activity while subjects were having vivid psychedelic experiences. This was not just a question of inhibitory processes, since the researchers observed no activation anywhere in the brain. Hence, ‘the more the drug deactivated the brain, the more intense were the subjective experiences reported by the subjects.’ This recalls Huxley’s ‘reducing valve’ metaphor and parallel work by Henri Bergson and others. The researchers themselves had trouble understanding their data, putting forward a disinhibition hypothesis prompting an email exchange and clarifying the result that more consciousness was indeed accompanied by less brain activity, indicating that the brain is a localisation of consciousness rather than its producer.
The next section takes a look at intellectual fundamentalism, defining it as a condition of undue emphasis on the rational intellect. Bernardo lists signs and symptoms, including a tendency to interpret everything literally, putting forward potential causes and risk factors that include a high academic education in science or engineering, working in academic environments and being a publicly recognized expert with, however, a lack of appreciation for the humanities and intuitive ways of knowing. In this respect, he could have mentioned the work of Ian McGilchrist since his characterization is broadly in line with exclusively left hemisphere functioning. There is also a tendency to extrapolate beyond the validity of current models. A case in point was the BBC documentary about the work in Princeton of Robert Jahn where Nobel laureate Philip Anderson dismissed Jahn’s experimental results on the basis that they could not be right if they did not fit out current expectations. Contrary to his view, these results do not invalidate the current scientific paradigm, but only call on us to revise scientific prejudices about the primacy of matter and the epiphenomenal nature of consciousness. As readers are already aware, something is defined as anomalous only in terms of theoretical expectations, which may be incomplete.
Bernardo comments that academic philosophy seems to have lost its relevance as a means of exploring the meaning of life, while many leading scientists also contend that life is meaningless. He makes the interesting cultural observation that the materialist paradigm is tightly aligned with our similarly materialistic economic system, so we are dominated by materialism and its power structures in two difference senses. This arguably encourages us to seek meaning through consumerism but leaves us with a vacuum of meaning, which we cannot survive – witness the growing proportion of mental health challenges in industrialized societies. His own contention is that ‘the only internal reality of consciousness can confer any meaning to human life.’ Towards the end, his idealistic perspective gives him an interesting take on free will and self-identity where he suggests that my choice is only free if it is determined solely by what I perceive as me.
Bernardo finishes with some practical implications of his outlook, which involve a turning inwards rather than a reliance on out things. He is surely correct in arguing that life is a journey in consciousness and nowhere else and that meaning ‘resides in the emotions and insights unfolding within.’ This view implies that death will be a change of consciousness and that the oneness of consciousness validates the possibility of psi phenomena. This is a new as well as an ancient basis for a philosophy of life and living, turning us once more towards being than doing and having – the very message of the near death experience as well. Whether they full agree with Bernardo’s arguments or not, readers will find themselves challenged to reassess their philosophy and understanding of the nature of consciousness.
~ David Lorimer, Network Review - Autumn 2015 issue
This book is a multi-faceted exploration and critique of the human condition as it is presently manifested. It addresses science and philosophy, explores the underlying nature of reality, the state of our society and culture, the influence of the mainstream media, the nature of free will and a number of other topics. Each of these examinations contributes an angle to an emerging idea gestalt that challenges present mainstream views and behaviours, and offers a sane alternative.
The book is organised as a series of short and self-contained essays, most of which can be read in under one hour.
Bernardo Kastrup has a Ph.D. in computer engineering with specialisms in artificial intelligence and reconfigurable computing. He has worked as a scientist in some of the world’s foremost research laboratories, including the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Philips Research Laboratories (where the “Casimir Effect” of Quantum Field Theory was discovered). Bernardo has authored any scientific papers and five philosophy books.
~ Wendy Stokes, Psychic News issue 4129 - July 2015
In "Brief Peeks Beyond: Critical Essays on Metaphysics, Neuroscience, Free Will, Skepticism and Culture", Bernardo Kastrup presents a multi-faceted exploration and critique of the human condition as it is presently manifested. "Brief Peeks Beyond" addresses science and philosophy, explores the underlying nature of reality, the state of our society and culture, the influence of the mainstream media, the nature of free will and a number of other topics. Each of these examinations contributes an angle to an emerging idea gestalt that challenges present mainstream views and behaviors and offers a sane alternative. "Brief Peeks Beyond" is organized as a series of short and self-contained essays, most of which can be read in under one hour.
Exceptionally well written, informed, and thought-provoking, "Brief Peeks Beyond: Critical Essays on Metaphysics, Neuroscience, Free Will, Skepticism and Culture" will prove to be of special interest to students of metaphysics, culture, and the human condition. Erudite, articulate, occasionally iconoclastic, but always inherently fascinating, "Brief Peeks Beyond" is a strongly recommended addition to community and academic library collections. ~ Micah Andrew, Micah's Bookshelf: MBR Bookwatch: Midwest Book Review - July issue
Better than any book I’ve come across, Bernardo Kastrup’s collection of essays confronts two mysteries that must be urgently solved. The first is the mystery of reality. ... The second ... is the mystery of knowledge. ... To confront both mysteries at once ... requires courage, tenacity, a willingness to swim upstream, and thick skin. ... But if you have a persistent, acute mind like Bernardo’s, an exciting journey opens up. ~ Deepak Chopra, M.D., best-selling author
Some words, such as the collection of essays in Brief Peeks Beyond, have the … power to evoke in the reader not just the concept of infinite Consciousness … but the experience of it, a taste of its own essential reality. I have been touched by the profundity of these essays and know that they will imprint their healing intelligence in the broader medium of mind, from which humanity draws its knowledge and experience, for many years to come. ~ Rupert Spira, non-duality teacher and author
In this pioneering, original and brilliantly written book Bernardo Kastrup is very critical of the still widely accepted materialist approach in science, while making use of many convincing rebuttals to materialist counterarguments. According to him all reality is in consciousness itself, because it is the only carrier of reality anyone ever knows for sure, but it is in a transpersonal mind‐at-large, and not limited to our personal waking consciousness. His inevitable conclusion is that consciousness must be fundamental in the universe. This important book is an excellent contribution to the growing awareness that the domination of materialism in science is irrefutably coming to an end, perhaps even in the next decade. Highly recommended. ~ Pim van Lommel, cardiologist, author of ‘Consciousness Beyond Life.'
Occam's Razor never cut so deep as in this penetrating critique of science, philosophy and the cultural cocoon we've constructed. Kastrup has followed-up on his previous assault on dopey scientific materialism with a knock out punch. ~ Alex Tsakiris, author of 'Why Science is Wrong... About Almost Everything' and host of the 'Skeptiko' podcast
Bernardo has the ability to communicate with the readers, through challenging them, in order to help our human consciousness to (re-)merge with the Whole of Consciousness, the "Infinite Womb" of all that expresses Itself in time/space. For the open-minded and openhearted seekers of truth, this is great stuff to read. ~ Fred Matser, humanitarian, philanthropist, author of 'Rediscover Your Heart'