Welcome to Kala’s Quick Five, where I chat with fascinating authors, artists, teachers, and researchers and ask them five questions about their work. My guest today is Bernardo Kastrup, author of Dreamed Up Reality: Diving into the mind to uncover the astonishing hidden tale of nature. Bernardo Kastrup has a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering and has worked as a scientist in some of the world’s foremost research laboratories, including the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Philips Research Laboratories (where the “Casimir Effect” of Quantum Field Theory was discovered). He has authored many scientific papers. Bernardo has also been an entrepreneur and founder of two high-tech businesses. Currently, he is an executive in one of the world’s most influential technology companies. Bernardo has lived and worked in four different countries across continents. He currently resides in the Netherlands.
Kala: Hi Bernardo, welcome to Kala’s Quick Five. It’s a pleasure to speak with you about your book and your work. As an engineer, you’ve explored nuclear physics, advanced semiconductors and volumes of scientific research in your work. Along this journey, you began to explore what is the definition of “reality” and asked the question, how do our dreams touch on the concept of reality as the subconscious projecting onto the fabric of space and time. As best as you can in this brief format, explain to us your definition and understanding of reality and how our dreams work in this hypothesis.
Bernardo: The funny thing about dreams is that they feel totally real while we are in them, which illustrates unambiguously the power of mind to project a seemingly autonomous and completely convincing reality around itself. Yet, there is one key difference: In waking reality the storyline is constrained by continuity, the laws of logic, and those of physics; in a dream, on the other hand, these constraints do not seem to hold. Now, if reality and mind are fundamentally intertwined, as science has recently all but proven (see Nature 446, 19 April 2007, pp. 871-875), we must explain why our waking reality is not as unconstrained as our nightly dreams. If reality is a projection of our minds, why do the laws of physics seem so unchangeable? The hypothesis I raise in Dreamed up Realityis that, unlike our nightly dreams, consensus reality is a kind of shared, collective ‘dream.’ Many participants contribute to it, so global synchronization constraints spontaneously emerge out of the local interactions between ‘dreamers;’ much in the same way as beautifully coherent patterns of sand ripples on a beach emerge out of the local interactions between individual grains of sand and water.
The laws of physics and logic may simply reflect these emergent global constraints. When awake, we are subject to these constraints; when asleep, perhaps we simply ‘unplug’ from the collective ‘dream’ and become free to live out a private, unconstrained storyline in our personal dreams. Nonetheless, in both cases all we experience may be, fundamentally, a projection of mind.
Kala: In your book, you share scientific evidence which explains how our consciousness has evolved in order to allow our spiritual practices and experiences to bypass the filtering and at times limiting mechanism of the brain. I would describe this in a sense as “freeing our minds” so that they are open to thinking “outside the box.” How do you explain what occurred here with this evolution and do you have any thoughts as to how this evolution may produce people who have evolved with psi abilities including intuition, telepathy and psychokinesis?
Bernardo: Today, science can largely explain human form and behaviour, but not consciousness itself. We just do not know why the calculations in our brains are accompanied by subjective experience and inner life, while analogous calculations in a computer are assumed to be devoid of sentience. This is called the ‘hard problem of consciousness,’ which may force science and philosophy to see consciousness as a fundamental property of nature at large; not generated by specific arrangements of matter but perhaps preceding matter ontologically. In this case, the nervous system, which comprises the brain and our sense organs, may have evolved not to generate consciousness (since consciousness is already there from the beginning anyway), but to ‘trap’ consciousness in the space-time location of the body. This certainly would have had survival advantages: It would have induced consciousness to (mistakenly) identify itself with the physical body and develop a vested interest in the body’s preservation and continuity. Seen this way, our nervous system is rather a filter of consciousness, not its generator. Now, for millions of years this entrapment of consciousness may have played an important survival role. But as our lives become less conditioned by the raw rules of immediate survival, and more conditioned by the landscape of ideas entailed by modern civilization, we may have an opportunity to transcend the filtering mechanisms of the primate brain. The nature of the game may be changing: In the stone age, someone born with an accidental physiological make-up liable to partially releasing consciousness from the entrapment of the ego would probably die rather early, due, for instance, to a predator attack while he or she is daydreaming. Today, that same person could perhaps help millions uncover the deeper, transcendent meaning of their existence, overcome depression, be better parents, and live more fulfilling lives. Intuitive abilities, which may not have been fast or reliable enough to confer a survival advantage in the remote past, given the immediacy and practicality of our survival needs back then, today may have much more value than the instincts of fear and desire that were so useful to primitive humans.
Kala: I work as an esoteric wisdom teacher, teaching the mystery school lessons from the temples of ancient Egypt and Greece. Many would describe me as a mystic, sharing these very old teachings which explain how reality and the spiritual world operate through a spiritual mystical eye and vision. In your work as a scientist, you are sharing the scientific view of how what has been described by those in the spiritual line of work can also now be explained scientifically. Do you think we are drawing closer to a point where science and spirituality can work together in order to explore and possibly further understand and explain some of the deeper questions of how we and the universe operate energetically and consciously?
Bernardo: Mystics seek the great truths of existence through direct experience. Scientists seek the great truths of existence through indirect modelling. The difference here is analogous to that between the map and the territory. The models of science (also called theories) are like maps: Blueprints of nature that allow us to build technology and improve our lives. But these maps are most-definitely not the territory, in that the scientist approaches nature in a detached way, through measurement and statistics, not personal experience. Spending his or her life in a tower of instrumentation, drawing maps, the scientist often misses out on the real journeys of life. The mystic, on the other hand, seeks to immerse him or herself in the territory. He or she will never be content with merely looking at a map of a foreign place, but will need to go there and experience the place first-hand. However, lacking the cartography skills of the scientist, the mystic will often start off on the trail without a reliable map. The journey can then often be frustrating, scary, and even perilous. Not getting anywhere or becoming lost forever, never finding his or her way back, are real risks. Now, both science and mysticism, in my view, have an inherent value. If we were to give up all the maps of science, we would not be able to find our way to myriad new medicines, communication networks, transportation and energy technologies, and so on. Yet, how meaningful would our lives be without the occasional personal visit to a transcendent truth, elusive as it may be? I, for one, am not content with looking at maps without going anywhere. Therefore, the obvious opportunity that insinuates itself to us is the possibility of having both the map and the territory at our disposal. There lie the most promising synergies of our future. But to get there, we must respect the complementarity of both approaches. Hijacking science for lending respectability to unsubstantiated pseudo-mysticism is not helpful. At the same time, hiding behind the arrogance of ‘scientism’ to dismiss the validity of personal experience is equally unhelpful.
Kala: You are quoted as saying, “… As we move into an epigenetic landscape governed and driven by ideas – not genes – we have an opportunity to transcend the primate body and experience the truly unfathomable reality operating inconspicuously right under our noses. There lies the human soul, the universe itself, in its most naked and radiant glory.” Your quote reminded me of author C.S. Lewis who once said, “Humans are amphibians – half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.” What do you see for our future? Can we evolve past the trappings of space in the third dimension and time in the fourth dimension and move consciously into the fifth dimension? Where do we go from here?
Bernardo: Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist, discovered a subtle but profound psychological process that takes place slowly in our lives. He called it ‘individuation.’ Jung empirically derived, through observations of himself and his patients, that our psyches are much deeper and more complex than the viewpoint of the ego, or the identity we ordinarily experience. To put it simply, his observation was that we are much more than we think we are, parts of us potentially being very alien and scary to the ego. Many other ‘personalities,’ some of them with an unfathomably broad and wise perspective on reality, may inhabit the unconscious depths of our psyches. They may influence our thoughts and dreams without us being directly aware of it. But through individuation, we slowly integrate these different personalities together, becoming more and more aware of all aspects of our psyches; of our true, complete, innermost identities. Now, if waking reality is itself a projection of our psyches, as we discussed above, then it is a projection of our complete psyches, not just the provincial viewpoint of the ego (Indeed, this may be part of the explanation why we often feel so estranged from a reality that, as postulated, is a projection of ourselves.) Therefore, it follows logically that, as we become more and more individuated, bringing up to the light of awareness more and more of ourselves, reality itself may become unfathomably broader and, dare I speculate, more conducive to our conscious will. I discuss this at length in my upcoming book Meaning in Absurdity. A higher-dimension metaphor to describe this process, as you suggested in your question, seems to me an appropriate and evocative one.
Kala: One of my favorite authors from the early 20th century was James Allen, who wrote ‘As A Man Thinketh’. His focus was on mind as the master and he was one of the thought leaders of that time who explained how our thoughts create our reality. Many entrepreneurs also understand this concept. Walt Disney is famous for saying “If You Can Dream it, You Can Do It.” Can the laws of physics explain how this concept works with the mind and our dreams and how we manifest our reality through the combination of both and more? How do you use this concept with your work now?
Bernardo: I would tend to see the laws of physics more as a consequence of the concept you describe, rather than an explanation for it. If reality is a projection of mind, then physics itself is a projection. The challenge is for us to explain how seemingly stable, self-consistent, and objective physical laws can emerge from the apparently unstable, voluble, and subjective nature of mind. Above, I suggested one possible explanation: As a shared dream, synchronization constraints may emerge in waking reality, which are then reflected in stable laws. Notice that this explanation assumes that minds are multiple and separate, as empirical observation at first suggests. However, closer observation may lead us in a different direction: Jung observed that, at bottom, we all seem to be connected at a deeply unconscious level of the psyche that he called the ‘collective unconscious.’ Therefore, if there is actually only one mind playing all roles, then our earlier explanation for the emergence of stable physical laws may hold only superficially. At a deeper and truer level, reality may be the projection of one unfathomable mind that is ultimately who we really are, but which we have forgotten in the bottomless depths of the collective unconscious. Perhaps we feel alienated from reality only to the extent that we are alienated from our true, unified inner identity. The practical consequence of this is exciting: By exploring and becoming more familiar with the unconscious depths of our psyches, we can perhaps gain broader mastery over our experienced reality. Only through first understanding how the mechanisms that put reality in place actually work, will we be able to influence those mechanisms. And to understand them, it appears that we need to get to know ourselves with an unprecedented degree of intimacy. This is, in fact, an ancient mystical proposition.
Kala: Bernardo, Thank you for spending time with us here on Kala’s Quick Five. Wishing you continued success in all of your endeavors!
Bernardo: Thank you, Kala, it’s been a pleasure. And I look forward to reading your new book, The Awakened Aura!