Why is reality 'mental' + the questionable 'thing-in-itself' (two questions)

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personn
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Why is reality 'mental' + the questionable 'thing-in-itself' (two questions)

Post by personn »

This morning I sent an email to Bernardo with two questions. I came across his email address in a paper I downloaded from Academia, but now I see on the website that philosophical questions will not be answered via email but only on the forum. So, I'll just copy the email in the hope that Bernardo / other users can help me out:

"Dear Bernardo,

I have just recently come across your work via the Theories of Everything YouTube channel, which in turn I had stumbled upon because I follow Rupert Spira's work. Many thanks for your fascinating interview. I have not yet read your books, though I mean to (at least a couple, anyway), so if my two questions below are already addressed somewhere then I apologize and please refer me to where I can find the answers.

1) I find your model very useful for deconstructing the materialist presuppositions which are indeed deeply embedded in 'our' way of thinking. At the moment I am writing a PhD in visual studies about self-imaging, the epistemological framework of which will be determined by my own experiences of 'direct consciousness'. It might be useful for me to use your work in developing a defense of a methodology that departs from the primacy of awareness/experience, but -- based on my so far limited knowledge of your work -- I am hesitant to do so for the following reason:

Though I follow you entirely in the notion that consciousness is fundamental, I don't understand the need to substitute a model that posits reality to be essentially material for one that posits it to be essentially 'mental', except if the idealist model is designed for purely deconstructive ends and not meant to to be adhered to in itself. In my opinion, it is the superimposition of such models on 'naked experience' that divorces us from a direct experience of reality and leads to all kinds of confusions. Our abstractions create a veil of familiarity, whilst actually the intellect is entirely incapable of fathoming reality, and hence it is in not-knowing that we are the closest to it. This is not to poo-poo the human intellect, as obviously it is immensely useful and powerful, but I don't believe it to be a faculty capable of understanding reality, nor do I believe that to be its function. Addressing the untenable assumptions of materialism, as you do, is very useful for increasing awareness of our not-knowing, but why must the pendulum swing to the other end and label reality as 'mental'? Also, as you reduce what we perceive as matter to be 'mental' in nature, it seems that paradoxically the distinction between mental and material becomes meaningless, as there is no longer any real contrast between two. Is 'mental' just a better metaphor to describe reality with to you?

I'm quite sure that I am not telling you anything new. Much of what you say in your interview with Curt clearly implies an awareness of the discrepancy between abstractions and what they point to, and yet precisely for this reason I don't understand the reason behind positing reality to be essentially 'mental'. I very much respect your thinking and what you're doing, but I also wonder if it is not substituting one veil of familiarity for another one, albeit one that leads to less problems. (To be clear, I am not suggesting you don't develop any model at all, but I wonder if there shouldn't be more elements in it to make the reader 'model-aware', so to speak, to prevent him/her from unknowingly superimposing it on naked experience. This would align with your aim to 'relax the intellect' in order to open people up to new experiences.)

You also state that you believe the metaphysics of the east have gotten it right, and yet, contrary to the suggestions of Buddhist philosophy, you favor one dualism (mental) over another (material) instead of allowing reality to rest in an in-between space of 'both and neither', revealing its nature to be inherently non-dual and hence beyond the capacity of dualistic categories to grasp. Nature is only what it is, as you say in the interview, and yet you also say it's 'mental'.

2) You mention that one of the mistakes of materialism is that it conflates our experience of things with the 'things-in-themselves'. I agree, in the sense that materialism reifies the phenomena of experience into 'objects out there', independent of the subject. Drawing a distinction between the subjective phenomena and the 'thing-in-itself' is useful for revealing the inherent involvement of the subject of experience, but in what you say you also seem to indicate a faith in the existence of the thing-in-itself, beyond our experience of it. This seems questionable, as knowing a 'thing' inherently requires an experiencing subject to know it. Consciousness cannot possibly know any distinction (i.e. a limited form of experience) without a limited subject, as you seem to suggest as well. Belief in a thing-in-itself hence either rests on faith or an uninspected assumption about the world that cannot be verified in experience, it seems to me. Why, then, do you seem to use the 'thing-in-itself' as an ontologically valid category, rather than concluding that subjective phenomena are the 'the things', so to speak, but without reifying them into independently existing entities in a world 'out there'? Does the distinction between appearance and thing-in-itself not ultimately re-insitate the assumption of a purely objective world 'out there'?

(I'm pretty sure Nietzsche wrote something like this in his critique on Kant, in The Will to Power, if I remember correctly. I mention this for reference as you seem quite familiar with Nietzsche.)


If you could find the time and willingness to address my concerns, I would be very grateful. Thanks either way.

Sincerely, "
Starbuck
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Re: Why is reality 'mental' + the questionable 'thing-in-itself' (two questions)

Post by Starbuck »

Hi. If you take a materialist stance you are forced into preposterous nihilism (ala Dennet) or some form of crude dualism. Bernardos model has two huge benefits - it bypasses both those problems, and it is directly pointing at the transcendent (the Tao that cannot be spoken of). Bernardo addresses the un qualifiable in many interviews and works - but it never grabs the headlines for understandable reasons. Materialism is a cult de sac that stops us accessing worlds beyond the egos attachment to conceptual control. Bernardo calls it the 'bouncer of the heart'. It good to remember that his work is not intended to the replace one bouncer with a new one.
personn
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Re: Why is reality 'mental' + the questionable 'thing-in-itself' (two questions)

Post by personn »

Starbuck wrote: Sun Aug 08, 2021 11:22 am Hi. If you take a materialist stance you are forced into preposterous nihilism (ala Dennet) or some form of crude dualism. Bernardos model has two huge benefits - it bypasses both those problems, and it is directly pointing at the transcendent (the Tao that cannot be spoken of). Bernardo addresses the un qualifiable in many interviews and works - but it never grabs the headlines for understandable reasons. Materialism is a cult de sac that stops us accessing worlds beyond the egos attachment to conceptual control. Bernardo calls it the 'bouncer of the heart'. It good to remember that his work is not intended to the replace one bouncer with a new one.
The points in bold are exactly why I don't understand the need to posit that the world is essentially 'mental' (even if that term meant something in the absence of anything 'actually' material, which, because of Bernardo's positing that the 'physical world' is mental, it doesn't, it seems to me). You don't need to do this to deconstruct materialistic fallacies and arguably providing a new conceptual label to apply to naked experience still runs the risk of putting one at a distance from that naked experience, because the intellect tends to conflate its models with experience.

Again, I'm new to Bernardo's work, so my apologies if my qualms arise from lack of knowledge.
Starbuck
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Re: Why is reality 'mental' + the questionable 'thing-in-itself' (two questions)

Post by Starbuck »

Totally get your argument. I think of it as him setting up his stall - counteracting a very dogmatic environment in which clunky dualism or anabolism are poisoning the culture. In the modern world we filter information by getting someones 'angle' other wise they would be drowned in a sea of voices. I heard a great talk by Rupert Spira, who also in one breath will claim consciousness is ontologically fundamental, and in the next very skilfully dismiss 'consciousness' or 'infinite' as misleading terms. He and Bernardo agree on most everything as far as I can see. Language is dualistic, which is why the great teachers used silence. Bernardos work will always open the door to some and lead others down a wrong path - irrespective of his intention. He wouldn't be the first or last. If you are making the case for a honing of language to limit negative impacts then that is a beautiful linguistic evolution that should be applauded. Im sure Bernardo would agree, but don't want to speak for him of course!
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Re: Why is reality 'mental' + the questionable 'thing-in-itself' (two questions)

Post by Soul_of_Shu »

BK's model is 'nondual' or 'monist' in the sense that it posits only one ontological category, that being MInd, albeit Mind that 'dissociates', for lack of a better metaphor, into myriad 'alters' as loci of Mind, without which the apparency of this inter-subjective, relational, processual, experience within a subject><object dynamic would not appear. As pointed out, under this model so-called 'matter', as it is construed under materialism, i.e. an entirely distinct ontological category of some substance existing apart from Mind, having no need of Mind to exist, which then somehow gives rise to minds, is nothing but an abstraction. Under BK's model, the apparency of such 'substance' is a mind-conceived representation of Mind-conceived Ideation, and so requires only Mind as the the sole ontological principle—even as it can be considered as a kind of dialetical monism, in that it conceives of MInd as being both non-dissociated and dissociated. Nonetheless, it avoids any mind/matter dualism, or some other mysterious ontological category which is nether mind nor matter that gives rise to the categories of mind and matter, and which BK would no doubt claim is not as parsimonious as a Mind-only ontology.
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where mutual longings and sufferings of love
are laid bare in transfigured exhibition of our hearts,
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Re: Why is reality 'mental' + the questionable 'thing-in-itself' (two questions)

Post by ScottRoberts »

personn wrote: Sun Aug 08, 2021 10:45 am
Though I follow you entirely in the notion that consciousness is fundamental, I don't understand the need to substitute a model that posits reality to be essentially material for one that posits it to be essentially 'mental', except if the idealist model is designed for purely deconstructive ends and not meant to to be adhered to in itself.
It should be noted that BK uses the words 'consciousness' and 'mentality' interchangeably. So his saying consciousness is fundamental is no different from his saying reality is essentially mental. As you agree with the first, and not the second, perhaps you should clarify what you see as the difference.
In my opinion, it is the superimposition of such models on 'naked experience' that divorces us from a direct experience of reality and leads to all kinds of confusions.
I would say that the phrase "naked experience" (or other such expressions like "direct experience" or "pure experience") is nothing other than an abstraction. No experience, even mystical experience, is naked. It is always in context, even if that context is temporarily obfuscated.
Our abstractions create a veil of familiarity, whilst actually the intellect is entirely incapable of fathoming reality, and hence it is in not-knowing that we are the closest to it.
This is a highly debatable claim. It is not that the other side of the debate claims that with our current intellectual capability we can fathom all of reality, rather that we are in a stage of development which, with discipline, can evolve to further stages that increase our capability to know (experience) more. It sees your side of the debate as tending to cut off that development.

I'll refrain from more comment until the first issue is clarified (the different way, if any, that you use 'conscious' and 'mental').
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Re: Why is reality 'mental' + the questionable 'thing-in-itself' (two questions)

Post by AshvinP »

personn wrote: Sun Aug 08, 2021 10:45 am This morning I sent an email to Bernardo with two questions. I came across his email address in a paper I downloaded from Academia, but now I see on the website that philosophical questions will not be answered via email but only on the forum. So, I'll just copy the email in the hope that Bernardo / other users can help me out:

"Dear Bernardo,

I have just recently come across your work via the Theories of Everything YouTube channel, which in turn I had stumbled upon because I follow Rupert Spira's work. Many thanks for your fascinating interview. I have not yet read your books, though I mean to (at least a couple, anyway), so if my two questions below are already addressed somewhere then I apologize and please refer me to where I can find the answers.

1) I find your model very useful for deconstructing the materialist presuppositions which are indeed deeply embedded in 'our' way of thinking. At the moment I am writing a PhD in visual studies about self-imaging, the epistemological framework of which will be determined by my own experiences of 'direct consciousness'. It might be useful for me to use your work in developing a defense of a methodology that departs from the primacy of awareness/experience, but -- based on my so far limited knowledge of your work -- I am hesitant to do so for the following reason:

Though I follow you entirely in the notion that consciousness is fundamental, I don't understand the need to substitute a model that posits reality to be essentially material for one that posits it to be essentially 'mental', except if the idealist model is designed for purely deconstructive ends and not meant to to be adhered to in itself. In my opinion, it is the superimposition of such models on 'naked experience' that divorces us from a direct experience of reality and leads to all kinds of confusions. Our abstractions create a veil of familiarity, whilst actually the intellect is entirely incapable of fathoming reality, and hence it is in not-knowing that we are the closest to it. This is not to poo-poo the human intellect, as obviously it is immensely useful and powerful, but I don't believe it to be a faculty capable of understanding reality, nor do I believe that to be its function. Addressing the untenable assumptions of materialism, as you do, is very useful for increasing awareness of our not-knowing, but why must the pendulum swing to the other end and label reality as 'mental'? Also, as you reduce what we perceive as matter to be 'mental' in nature, it seems that paradoxically the distinction between mental and material becomes meaningless, as there is no longer any real contrast between two. Is 'mental' just a better metaphor to describe reality with to you?

I'm quite sure that I am not telling you anything new. Much of what you say in your interview with Curt clearly implies an awareness of the discrepancy between abstractions and what they point to, and yet precisely for this reason I don't understand the reason behind positing reality to be essentially 'mental'. I very much respect your thinking and what you're doing, but I also wonder if it is not substituting one veil of familiarity for another one, albeit one that leads to less problems. (To be clear, I am not suggesting you don't develop any model at all, but I wonder if there shouldn't be more elements in it to make the reader 'model-aware', so to speak, to prevent him/her from unknowingly superimposing it on naked experience. This would align with your aim to 'relax the intellect' in order to open people up to new experiences.)

You also state that you believe the metaphysics of the east have gotten it right, and yet, contrary to the suggestions of Buddhist philosophy, you favor one dualism (mental) over another (material) instead of allowing reality to rest in an in-between space of 'both and neither', revealing its nature to be inherently non-dual and hence beyond the capacity of dualistic categories to grasp. Nature is only what it is, as you say in the interview, and yet you also say it's 'mental'.

It seems to me your critique above is, in essence, pointing to the Ideal-Real or Spirit-Matter polarities. You think BK is prioritizing the "Ideal" and the "Spirit", which you refer to as "mental". Is that about right? If so, then I think the critique is misplaced, because, in my view, BK deemphasizes the Ideal in "idealism". He doesn't seem to think there is much utility in the Ideal bringing us to true understanding of Reality, which sounds similar to what you are claiming as well. Even if not, I think what follows will be relevant to your concern, which are shared by many people in the modern age, including BK and others on this forum. This concern, ironically, smuggles in the Cartesian dualism (like Kant did) when framing the critique. It assumes that "knowing" (by way of ideas) is the process of recreating an "external" Reality by way of "internal" concepts, sort of like making a photocopy of the world within ourselves. Only after making that assumption, it proceeds to show why such a Herculean task cannot reasonably be done under idealism. That is true, but it tells us nothing about the relationship of ideas to Reality, because it set up the incorrect Cartesian frame to begin with.

Goethe, contemporary of Kant who rejected the Cartesian framing, gave us the true definition of "knowing" under a consistent idealism - it is adding thought-perceptions (which currently appear from within) to sense-perceptions (which appear from without) so as to render the complete perception. Only half of the perceptual content arrives from without, the other half arrives from within by way of concepts-ideas. With that slight shift in perspective, we see how inner thinking goes hand in hand with act of outer perceiving in the shared goal of "knowing". (keeping in mind "inner" and "outer" are being used as distinctions here precisely to show how they are actually One in essence). True thinking (ideational activity) precedes the subject-object distinction, as that distinction is only imbued with meaning by our thinking. And, as Scott mentioned, there is also no reason to assume ideas can only be generated-perceived and added to sense-impressions by abstract intellect - there are higher modes of cognition which perform that operation more fluidly and expansively.
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Re: Why is reality 'mental' + the questionable 'thing-in-itself' (two questions)

Post by Shajan624 »

Soul_of_Shu wrote: Sun Aug 08, 2021 12:16 pm Nonetheless, it avoids any mind/matter dualism, or some other mysterious ontological category which is nether mind nor matter that gives rise to the categories of mind and matter, and which BK would no doubt claim is not as parsimonious as a Mind-only ontology.
Well, the ‘mysterious’ third option could also be viewed as the most parsimonious. Count of fundamental ontological categories is going down from 1 to 0 as the 'fundamental category' in this case is truly un-representable! The act of representation reveals its dual nature as mind and matter, neither of which are fundamental.
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Re: Why is reality 'mental' + the questionable 'thing-in-itself' (two questions)

Post by Soul_of_Shu »

Shajan624 wrote: Mon Aug 09, 2021 4:33 amWell, the ‘mysterious’ third option could also be viewed as the most parsimonious. Count of fundamental ontological categories is going down from 1 to 0 as the 'fundamental category' in this case is truly un-representable! The act of representation reveals its dual nature as mind and matter, neither of which are fundamental.
Suffice to say that if BK were to check in here, which he rarely does, he would utterly refute this proposition. Going from 1 fundamental ontological category to 0 seems to be copping out of ontology altogether, and might as well be pointing to absolute nonexistence as the irreducible origin. In any case, I'm not seeing how any unknowable non-category, even more inaccessible than Kant's noumenon, is other than a mind-conceived abstraction, with the intractable 'hard problem' of how it gives rise to mind and its ideation. Whatever it is, it's not idealism.
Here out of instinct or grace we seek
soulmates in these galleries of hieroglyph and glass,
where mutual longings and sufferings of love
are laid bare in transfigured exhibition of our hearts,
we who crave deep secrets and mysteries,
as elusive as the avatars of our dreams.
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Re: Why is reality 'mental' + the questionable 'thing-in-itself' (two questions)

Post by personn »

Soul_of_Shu wrote: Mon Aug 09, 2021 11:44 am
Shajan624 wrote: Mon Aug 09, 2021 4:33 amWell, the ‘mysterious’ third option could also be viewed as the most parsimonious. Count of fundamental ontological categories is going down from 1 to 0 as the 'fundamental category' in this case is truly un-representable! The act of representation reveals its dual nature as mind and matter, neither of which are fundamental.
Suffice to say that if BK were to check in here, which he rarely does, he would utterly refute this proposition. Going from 1 fundamental ontological category to 0 seems to be copping out of ontology altogether, and might as well be pointing to absolute nonexistence as the irreducible origin. In any case, I'm not seeing how any unknowable non-category, even more inaccessible than Kant's noumenon, is other than a mind-conceived abstraction, with the intractable 'hard problem' of how it gives rise to mind and its ideation. Whatever it is, it's not idealism.

But the category 'mental' for reasons I've mentioned isn't any less 'mysterious', as it lacks any meaning because it has been ripped from the dualism that gives it a definition in the first place. (Because 'material' has been rendered as 'mental' in BK's model.) I don't see what parsimony has to do with it. Why not simply say that consciousness is fundamental and every form of experience is an excitation of consciousness? Why do the excitations have to be mental, and, again, what does that even mean in the absence of anything material? I don't see to need to attribute some substance to relative experience on top of saying that experiences are excitations of consciousness.

I guess there is an associative connection between 'consciousness' and 'mind', but it seems that this connection actually stems from the materialistic models of consciousness that BK's model wants to move away from. If the notion that every form of experience is a 'thought of the universe' is simply seen as a useful metaphor for describing reality and explicitly acknowledged as such, then I don't see at all an issue, but the reason behind my posting is that I am not sure if that is the case. It might be, but again, I'm as yet not sufficiently knowledgeable to know.

(Will reply to other previous comments when I have the time and willingness to do so, but wanted to quickly reply to this as it gets to the heart of the matter.)
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