The flip

The Flip by Jeffrey John Kripal (Book Summary)

In “The Flip” Jeffrey Kripal challenges the dominant materialistic worldview and presents different pathways for understanding consciousness and reality. In the book, Kripal shares many stories of people going through what he calls a “flip” – a paradigm-shifting state of consciousness that changes one’s understanding of what is real. Such flips are necessary for us to overcome the outdated materialistic worldview and discover deeper levels of truth.

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*All sentences in quotations are direct quotes from “The Flip” and are attributed to Jefferey Kripal.


What is the flip? 

  • “That moment of realization beyond all linear thought, beyond all language, beyond all belief, is what I call “the flip.””
  • “The single big idea here is that once one makes the flip and begins to understand that consciousness is fundamental, is a primitive of the physics and mathematics of the universe, it becomes more than apparent that every local religious ego or political identity, every local story, is historically relative, built on and constructed out of this deeper-minded matter or conscious cosmos.”
  • “One can still affirm and nurture all of those local relative identities after the flip as intimate expressions of consciousness (and so one can also continue to act from within a particular story and its script, if one so chooses), but one will no longer make the dangerous mistake of privileging one’s own inherited story and script over every other. One will recognize that there are many stories, many ways of enacting a form of reality, and that each of these do different things well (and other things poorly).”
  • “no story, however “sacred” or “scientific,” can or ever will be absolute and speak for all of human experience and human potential, much less all of earthly or cosmic life.”
  • “The flip, in short, relativizes and affirms each and every culture, community, and religion, even as it cosmicizes and—I dare say—spiritualizes our shared humanity. The flip results in a new cosmic comparative perspective that reorients us within an immeasurably larger vision of who we are as a species of the cosmos and what we might yet become.”
  • “I know perfectly well that the form of mind I inhabit, the seemingly paradoxical “third way” of the flip—at once deeply critical of and deeply sympathetic to all local religious expressions—is very difficult, impossible really, for both the religious fundamentalist and the ideological materialist to understand and accept (and, as I will show, these two mind-sets have much more in common than either wants to admit).” 
  • “this third way “beyond belief” and “beyond reason” is far preferable to religious belief or pure mechanistic rationalism, since it opens up new horizons of inquiry and thought and does not prematurely shut down our quest for meaning, which is exactly what belief and hyperrationalism do in different ways.”


The Problems and limits of Materialism

  • “In the language of the French philosopher Michel Foucault, our “order of knowledge” is highly “disciplined” and “policed.” And the police are the classical materialists, be they scientists or humanists (for the humanities are nearly as policed by classical materialism as the sciences are).”
  • “materialism as the conviction that there is only matter, which is fundamentally devoid of mind or intelligence, and that this mindless matter is arranged and behaves according to the mathematical laws of physics (hence the alternate term physicalism).”
  • “Many forms of materialism or physicalism today also work with the doctrines that there can be no value-laden causes in nature and “no fundamental mentality”—that is, the position that, deep down, material reality, which is all there is, possesses no purpose and no mental or conscious characteristics.”
  • “promissory materialism states that someday everything will be explained in a materialist framework, because everything is finally only matter. The argument is circular. It simply presumes that which it is trying to establish.”
  • “It is extremely unlikely that we just happen to be living at the historical moment when all things will soon be explained within any framework, materialist or otherwise.”
  • “Irreducible Mind and Beyond Physicalism. Together, these volumes remain the single most substantial and provocative challenge to conventional materialist interpretations of science that we possess.”
  • “materialism only “wins” as long as it gets to declare the rules of the game. Such rules might include: “Nothing is real that cannot be established by the scientific method,” “Occam’s razor is absolute,” “You have to use statistics and wash out every anomaly or outlier,” “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” and “All truth must be falsifiable.” When those rules are challenged and described as what they in fact are (assumptions, beliefs), typical materialist responses might be “That is pseudoscience,” or “That is magical thinking,” or “That is anecdotal.”” 


Integrating Science with the Humanities

  • Western intellectual history has seen immense swings back and forth between Platonism and Aristotleanism—that is, between a visionary philosophy rooted in mystical and visionary experience (a Platonism which helped produce, among countless other things, the conviction that profound mathematical and philosophical truths are “remembered” or “discovered” and not “constructed”) and an empirical rationalism that bases its knowledge on sense data and linear logic. The latter rational empiricism, with the rise of modern science, has been dominant for the last few centuries.
  • ““Every man,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge once quipped, “is born an Aristotlean or a Platonist.” That may be, but even the Platonists are being educated into Aristotleans these days. Hence Nelson’s diagnosis of our present intellectual condition: “The greatest taboo among serious intellectuals of the century just behind us, in fact, proved to be none of the ‘transgressions’ itemized by postmodern thinkers: it was, rather, the heresy of challenging a materialist worldview.”
  • “The solution is not simply to swing back to some kind of pure Platonism, but to effect a synthesis or union of the two modes of human knowing. The sciences are a big help here, and for two reasons. First, because they can challenge humanists to abandon their complete constructivisms and relativisms. And second, because they have utterly failed to explain consciousness.”
  • “Plato may admire Aristotle, but Aristotle sneers at Plato as a fool. The humanities read and admire the sciences, but the sciences generally completely ignore the humanities, or worse.”
  • “I propose that we reimagine the humanities as the study of consciousness coded in culture.”
  • “We can only study consciousness indirectly—that is, as it is reflected and refracted in cultural artifacts in the humanities (literature, art, language, religious expression); or in social expressions in the social sciences (institutions, cultural practices, legal systems, voting patterns); or in brain-based neurological processes (cognition, perception, temporality) in psychology and neuroscience.​​”
  • “Consciousness is the fundamental ground of all that we know, or ever will know. It is the ground of all of the sciences, all of the arts, all of the social sciences, all of the humanities, indeed all human knowledge and experience.”
  • “the humanities are often thought of as little more than “candy sprinkles on the cake of science” playfully describes our present educational moment and why the humanities are not resourced or funded as robustly as they could be.”
  • “Those disciplines that study the “most real” things are on the top. Those disciplines that study the “least real” things are on the bottom. Everyone else is in the middle.
  • “So physics is at the very top, because it studies the most real things there are: tiny bits of (nonliving) matter. Chemistry sits just below physics, because it studies things that are more complicated but still quite dead: chemicals and molecules. Biology comes next because, for all of the field’s astonishing discoveries, it still has to deal with the tricky question of “life,” which seems completely irresolvable on scientific grounds.” 
  • “The social sciences line up a bit below biology because they use scientific or mathematical methods (which allows them to claim a scientific status) but really study perfectly living and conscious subjects—that is, people. Many social scientists, wanting to be “real scientists,” try their best to forget this. At the bottom, of course, come the humanities, because they study living things, who speak back no less. They also study completely unreal things, like subjective states of mind, emotion, art, language, and religion.” 
  • “third-person science may not be able to answer the question of first-person consciousness, but it can make us better philosophers, and we may know enough now about the physical universe and the human brain to begin asking the is questions once again.”
  • “One primary function of the humanities (though not the only function) involves exposing, analyzing, and criticizing the unjust structures of human society.”
  • “One can come up with all sorts of good and bad reasons why the humanities should be challenged, but behind most of them (good and bad alike) lies a disguised attempt to preserve and defend unjust social structures and practices, often of a racial, gendered, or class-based kind.” 
  • “In the humanities, the truths discerned almost always offend or violate the status quo and the comfortable, some more so than others. That is precisely why these truths are so important, and why colleges and universities are so important—because these are the only institutions that nurture and support professional humanists and intellectuals in large numbers.”


Understanding and integrating Paranormal  Experiences

  • “I think the most basic and uncontroversial thing we can say about paranormal experiences is that they appear to lie below or behind basic religious ideas and practices, such as the separable soul, immortality, reincarnation, transcendence, and divination, to name a few.”
  • “We do not need to accept the ontological reality or empirical objective truth of any of these ideas to see that (a) these types of sincere and honest experiences are as evident, really more evident, in the present as/than they are in the irrecoverable past; and (b) they naturally produce in their subjects a deep and abiding conviction in the truth of specific religious ideas.”
  • “We do not need to believe the beliefs to understand and appreciate their basic rationality or reasonableness. Most of us, after all, would, in fact, at least entertain the idea of a separable immortal soul if we experienced ourselves separating from our bodies and floating above a car crash or surgery room. I certainly would.”
  • “This does not mean the beliefs are true, only that they are perfectly reasonable and understandable.”
  • “such beliefs appear to arise from universal human capacities or uncanny potentials that are then, of course, shaped, constructed, textualized, and transmitted by all of the processes that scholars of religion have come to know so well.”
  • “secular subjects consistently report dramatic paranormal experiences. Unlike religious people, however, the Scandinavians do not generally use them as means to build up or support a religious worldview—that is, they do not construct public belief systems out of them. They simply let them stand. But they do not deny them, and they fully recognize how incredibly strange they are.”
  • “It is not just that we are told that such things that happen all the time cannot happen at all. It is that there are subtle, and not so subtle, punishments in place for those who take such events seriously—that is, for those who let the Hydra stand. Eyes roll. Cruel things are said. People retreat into safe silence.”
  • “The professional debunker’s insistence, then, that the phenomena play by his rules and appear for all to see in a safe and sterile controlled laboratory is little more than a mark of his own serious ignorance of the nature of the phenomena in question. To play by these rules is like trying to study the stars at midday, and then claiming that they don’t exist because they do not appear under those particular conditions.”
  • “If we look at what happens to a human being in extreme conditions (like a near-death experience or a traumatic paranormal event), we will likely get much closer to the truth of consciousness than we ever will by talking endlessly about qualia and cognitive modules.”


Bridging Science and Religion 

  • “these future forms of knowledge will be “religious” in the traditional sense, any more than I think they will be “scientific” in the classical materialist sense. They will be both, and neither. They will be something else, and something way, way more.”
  • “One of my basic convictions is that scientists and medical professionals are now sitting at the very center of the production of new mystical and visionary literature, and that this same literature signals the early beginning of a new worldview or a new real. Indeed, it is precisely because of their scientific and medical training that these professionals make such convincing visionaries and authors. This is also why their stories are so compelling.”
  • “what we have here are modern conversion stories, conversions not to this or that religion, but to a new cosmic outlook in which mind or consciousness is primary. The word conversion, by the way, comes from the Latin for “turn around”—a specifically religious form of what I am calling the flip.”
  • “A good conversion story tells us as much about the previous worldview that is left behind as it does about the new one that is being embraced and celebrated.” 
  • “Modern science, and particularly quantum mechanics, has rendered every past public conception of the real, every past conventional religious worldview fundamentally inadequate, if not more than a little silly. And yet the positivism of science has prevented us from offering any viable alternative or new story. In Thomas Berry’s language, we simply do not have a stable story at this global moment. We are “between stories.” Which is a polite way of saying that we are in crisis.”


Theories of Consciousness 

  • “The mind can know things distant in space and time because it is not finally limited to space or time.”
  • “Kashmir Shaivism, Its basic teaching is that everything is consciousness. Everything is literally made of consciousness (chit), which manifests in the physical world as a kind of subtle “vibration” (spanda), a vibratory energy that congeals or crystallizes into what we perceive and know as material reality. “
  • “All of this energetic consciousness that takes shape as matter and the physical world is ultimately an efflux, radiation, or emanation of an ultimate Subjectivity, known as Shiva in this Indian tradition or, in Western language, as God.
  • “there is no ultimate division or separation between mind and matter. Mind is prior and cosmic, and matter is an emanation from that mind that, in turn, shares its nature and “divinity.” Mind does not “create” the physical world as something other than itself. Mind “emanates” or “radiates” the physical world as an expression of itself. Matter is congealed mind.”
  • “The universe evolves toward consciousness, toward eyes that see and minds that perceive and, eventually, come to know that they know.” 
  • “When we study or try to understand consciousness, what is essentially happening is that consciousness is attempting to become conscious of consciousness.”
  • “many thinkers suspect that these two questions—”What is consciousness?” and “What is life?”—are, in fact, the same question in two different guises.” 
  • “Consciousness can cease to identify with any and all objects. It is possible, even if, historically speaking, this has been accomplished only in elite religious communities and by particularly gifted or rare individuals.”


Einstein Vs Bohr (Implications of Quantum Mechanics) 

  • “Einstein was a complex figure when it came to these questions. On the one hand, he had a real reverence for mystical sensibilities as the deepest drivers of both religion and science: On the other hand, he clearly rejected any personal conception of God.”
  • “Einstein confused cognition with consciousness, cognitive thought with direct mystical knowing beyond cognitive thought.” 
  • “Bohr’s position that uncertainty is not a function of an incomplete theory whose loopholes we will eventually close, which was contrary to Einstein’s position. Rather, uncertainty and indeterminacy are woven into the very nature of things.” 
  • “Bell’s Theorem showed mathematically what was at stake, but it could not answer the question about whether Bohr or Einstein was correct. This required empirical testing.” 
  • “Bell’s Theorem was later repeatedly tested under increasingly sophisticated laboratory conditions. The eventual results were unequivocal but also bizarre in the extreme. Put simply, they demonstrated conclusively that Bohr was right and Einstein was wrong.”
  • “Put less personally and more complexly, they provided empirical confirmation of the phenomenon of “entanglement”—the very phenomena Einstein considered absurd and impossible.”
  • “In lay terms, these empirical tests demonstrated that particles that have once interacted become “entangled” and thereafter correlate with one another’s internal states (like “spin”) instantly, regardless of the spatial or temporal distances the two particles have since traveled.”
  • “It was now empirically confirmed: Either localism or realism had to go. While it was theoretically possible to let go of realism (and so edge closer to idealism), most physicists preferred to keep realism and let go of localism. They now began referring to the apparent irrelevance of space and time on the quantum level as “nonlocality.””
  • “nonlocality and entanglement are so strange that even physicists have often resorted to paranormal or sci-fi language to describe what appears to be happening: Entanglement is thus playfully likened to “telepathy,” a Star Trek–like “teleportation,” or “spooky action at a distance””
  • “Another reason why the new quantum real has not been effectively integrated into public culture is because it is just too shocking to our ordinary sensibilities and ways of thinking.”
  • “In the new quantum real, there can be no reductionism in the classical sense, since the organization of the “particles” lies inside themselves, as it were, within that strange phenomenon called entanglement. There is no external communication, no chemical reactions, no information signal “between” this and that particle. There is only an instantaneous response from nature outside of space and outside of time. It is as if everything is already one thing and is simply responding to itself, evolving itself through time.”


The developing philosophies of mind 

  • “The single big question that drives most of the modern philosophy of mind is this: “What is the relationship between mind and matter, and how is this relationship mediated or produced by the brain?”
  • “I see five related developments in the contemporary philosophy of mind: (1) pansychism, (2) dual-aspect monism, (3) quantum mind, (4) cosmopsychism, and (5) idealism.”


  1. Panpsychism.
  • “Once one makes such a move—that all matter is minded to some degree—there is no longer a matter-to-mind problem. Of course, mind emerges from matter, because matter is itself always and already minded.”
  • “This, in a nutshell, is the claim of panpsychism, literally, the position that “everything” (pan-) is “minded” or “psyche’ed” (psychism).”


  1. Dual-Aspect Monism
  • “An alternative to old-fashioned physicalism that has received increasing attention in recent years is to consider neither the mental nor the physical as fundamental but, instead, to trace them both back to a shared third substratum or superreality.”
  • “Such a position has a storied pedigree in the history of philosophy and science, including, in different forms, in the works of Baruch Spinoza, Gustav Fechner, Arthur Schopenhauer, William James, Bertrand Russell, Wolfgang Pauli, C. G. Jung, David Bohm, and Bernard d’Espagnat.”
  • “dual-aspect monists can be thought of as panpsychists, but of a very special stripe, since they insist that the most basic “stuff” of reality cannot be understood as purely mental or conscious (as in panpsychism), but neither can it be thought of as purely material or physical (as in materialism)—the ground of reality is both, or, more technically, it is neither.”
  • “The fundamental nature of reality, then, does not consist of the mental and the physical (roughly, the answer of dualism). Neither does it consist of the physical alone (roughly, the answer of materialism) or the mental alone (roughly, the answer of idealism).”
  • “This makes the theory both dualist (on an epistemological level “after” and within human experience) and monist (on a deep ontological level “before” human experience”—that is, prior to the symmetry breakdown into the two aspects).”
  • “ Put differently, reality seems to be two (or many) to us, but deep down it is really one.”


  1. Quantum Mind.
  • “Alexander Wendt is such a dual-aspect monist or panpsychist, with a twist. The twist is that he is an accomplished political scientist and a widely recognized expert on international relations. It is precisely this linking of the physical and the social sciences that makes his work so interesting, and so relevant, here.”
  • “Wendt advances the elegant thesis that most of the dilemmas around agency, subjectivity, freedom, and experience that philosophers and social scientists—and, by extension, I would add, virtually all humanists—struggle with are only problems if we restrict our thinking to what is now an outdated metaphysical world, that of Newtonian classical physics.”
  • “Wendt is arguing that human forms of awareness, agency, freedom, and consciousness are literally quantum mechanical in nature. We are “walking wave functions.” This little phrase is, in fact, the repeated refrain of the book. Not only that, we are quantum mechanical wave functions that have the freedom to actualize our potentialities (collapse our wave function) in ways that we can choose and partially determine.”
  • “We are artists and art forms at the same time.”
  • “[Q]uantum theory admits a neutral monist/panpsychist interpretation in which “physical” does not equal “material,” and instead sees the material world described by classical physics and the mental world of consciousness as joint effects of an underlying reality that is neither. 
  • “The question then is whether an ontology in which consciousness goes “all the way down” can scale up to the human and specifically sociological level. While there are a priori reasons to doubt it, there is growing experimental evidence that human behavior in fact follows quantum principles. If that evidence continues to mount, it would confirm a key prediction of quantum consciousness theory, according to which our subjectivity is a macroscopic quantum mechanical phenomenon—that we are walking wave functions. That would constitute a basis for solving the mind-body problem, and in so doing unifying physical and social ontology within a naturalistic, though no longer materialist, worldview.”


  1. Cosmopsychism.
  • “One of the most common ancient worldviews was what scholars of religion call cosmotheism. This is the idea that the universe (cosmo-) is a god (theism). The same vision can be found today in any number of figures and movements, including any number of theologians, scientists, and philosophers who have advanced some form of panentheism—that is, the view that the universe or “all” (pan-) is the body of God, or is “in God” (en-theism).”


  1. Idealism.
  • “idealism—that is, the position that mind is fundamental and thatmatter is an expression or manifestation of some cosmic or universal mind.”
  • “Kastrup suggests that both the thoughts and feelings of the human psyche and what we perceive as matter emerge from some deeper superstructure or symmetry in a universal form of consciousness, which manifests itself at once as human mental activity and the material universe—a kind of Möbius strip of subjective objectivity or objective subjectivity. This may suggest some form of dual-aspect monism. Based on conversations with him, I know that he thinks of dual-aspect monism (particularly the dualism part) as more of a helpful metaphor that may be appropriate enough and close enough to our ordinary experience, but that must eventually be left behind on our way to a deeper and more fundamental idealism.”
  • “realism (the notion that the physical world is constituted by objects that exist independently of observation).”
  • “Kastrup summarizes our cosmic condition this way: “Put in another way, the universe is a scan of God’s brain; except that you don’t need the scanner: you’re already inside God’s brain so all you have to do is look around. Your perceptions of the sun, rainbows, thunderstorms, etc., are as inaccessible to God as the patterns of firing neurons in your brain—with all their beauty and complexity—are inaccessible to you in any direct way.”
  • “We are the universe becoming self-aware. We know what God does not know, since we are “inside” God. But—and here is the even more astonishing thing—we have access to what God knows, since we are, in fact, embodied, particularized forms of this same cosmic mind. We exist in, and so can know, both levels of the real.” 


Integrating Myths and symbols into modern society 

  • “We do not really speak of symbols any longer in the humanities, because we do not really believe that that cosmos can “speak” to us in this way.”
  • “The word symbol itself is significant. It refers to two things “put together” (sym-ballein).”
  • “A “symbol” here was literally a whole that had been split off into two and later recombined to form the whole again. “
  • “a myth in both popular culture and professional science is a falsehood or a lie, not a narrative form of a cosmic truth. Is there any clearer sign of our present dilemma than this double meaning of myth as “cosmic truth” and “lie”?”
  • “One cannot “explain” the imagination, any more than one can explain consciousness, since both are fundamental and cannot be reduced to anything else.”
  • “Numbers are symbols that mean something other than what they appear to mean (squiggly lines on a page, screen, or chalkboard) but nevertheless participate in some fundamental way in that which they symbolize (the workings of the physical world) and in that in which they appear (the human mind).”
  • “Because this deeper ground of being is before and beyond all mental or material form, and is neither mental nor material, it cannot “speak” in human language or even in mathematics. It is of an entirely different ontological order, and so it “speaks” to us in the only way it can: in superstrange images, open paradoxes, and bizarre or absurd narratives.”
  • “if we are ever going to learn how to read what nature is writing in these latter contexts, we will have to come to terms with the structure and dynamics of signification—that is, with meaning itself and how it is transmitted and received within human experience, including and especially in symbolic experience.”


The Future of Knowledge 

  • “Some very basic skill sets burn at the heart of the prophetic witness I am imagining here: (1) reflexivity, or the ability to move outside one’s own world and observe it, critically and compassionately, from the outside; (2) fair and just comparison of other peoples and other communities; (3) a fundamentally different spiritual orientation or “religion of no religion” that locates the locus of fuller religious truth in the unrealized future and not in any imagined golden past; (4) a cosmic humanism that understands the human as an expression of the entire universe; and, finally, (5) a deep, dark ecology understood as self-care.”


  1. “Don’t Believe in Yourself”
  • “Once we become sufficiently reflexive, it becomes painfully apparent that our deepest convictions, beliefs, thoughts, even emotional reactions and sensory impressions are not what we thought they were.”
  • “reflexivity is an intellectual form or expression of the flip in which thought turns back on the thinker and examines that thinking subject critically.”


  1. “Comparison Is Justice”
  • “Comparison is the cognitive negotiation of sameness and difference in a set of data.”
  • “bad or inappropriate acts of comparison of other people are those that overemphasize either sameness (thereby eliding the real and important differences) or difference (thereby eliding or erasing the shared humanity).”
  • “Good or appropriate acts of comparison of other people are those that balance sameness and difference, acknowledging both as important and refusing to deny one for the sake of the other.”
  • “Ultraconservative ideologues and their followers in the United States attempt to deny the integrity and importance of the differences of others and so subsume them into their own understanding of universal human sameness, which inevitably takes some form of whiteness or Protestantized Christianity.” 
  • “Intellectuals on the far Left make the opposite comparative mistake. They overemphasize human difference (usually coded as racial, gendered, or sexualized) to the point where all human sameness is relegated to the margins or demonized as “colonizing,” “imperial,” “hegemonic.”
  • “Perhaps so few people can balance sameness and difference in just and effective comparative acts because they have not been taught to do so.”


  1. “The Religion of No Religion”
  • “I believe that liberal politicians and intellectuals have failed on the political or public level because they have either dismissed or not taken seriously enough the spiritual yearnings of their fellow human beings. They have not engaged, really engaged, religion.”
  • “To the extent that any political platform attempts to deny, repress, or even downplay these spiritual impulses, it will inevitably fail.”
  • “The key is to affirm this shared spiritual nature without confusing it with any particular historical instantiation of that nature—that is, with any particular religion. The key is to affirm our sameness and our differences at the same time. The key is comparison.”
  • “Left-leaning intellectuals tend to see little more than narcissism, intellectual fuzziness, and “New Age woo-woo.”
  • “ Conservative or fundamentalist religious leaders see a refusal to commit and a dangerous slide into secularism and relativism. Neither camp will own up to its own blind spots: a hyperrationalistic materialism and historical ignorance on the Left, a hyperliteralism and ethnocentrism on the Right.”
  • “Spiegelberg stressed that the religion of no religion is ultimately creative of new religious forms. This “new” spirituality, then, possesses its own paradoxical logic, which, once understood, is rigorously rational and firmly rooted in some of the deepest and most important currents of global mystical thought.”


  1. “Cosmic Humanism”
  • “our national, cultural, and religious identities work from the opposite logic. They privilege the parts over the whole and deny the whole in various subtle and not so subtle ways.”
  • “During the 2016 presidential race, after he was named the vice presidential candidate for the Republican Party, we heard Michael Pence say these lines: “I am a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican—in that order.” Note that he left out what he was before all of these things; that he was a human being.”
  • “Versions of this prioritizing of a religious identity over a shared humanity could be easily found in fundamentalist leaders around the world, each of whom is arguing for similar forms of privilege and dominance for his or her religious community and thus doing damage to his or her larger community and shared species.”
  • “What if we stopped identifying humanity with any religion, nation-state, or ethnicity?”
  • “What if we all accepted and embraced our own specific cultural or religious identities, yes, but stopped seeing any of these as ultimate, and started seeing them all as expressions of our shared humanity?”
  • “How do we deny humanity to someone simply because he or she has a different color of skin, or holds a different set of beliefs in her or his head? How is this even imaginable within such a cosmic humanism?”


  1. “Deep, Dark Ecology”
  • “If we do not recognize that we ourselves and our most cherished beliefs are themselves the problems (and by “we,” I refer mostly, but not exclusively, to those of us who live in developed economies and so have burned the vast majority of the carbon that has warmed and polluted the Earth), how can we effectively address such a global crisis?”
  • “Does the supposed “competition” of free-market capitalism, driven, of course, by self-interest and the accumulation of wealth in tiny, tiny pockets of the species and with little or no eye to the larger environment, make any sense at all in the Anthropocene?”
  • “How about the “freedom” to build coal plants and purchase endless automobiles that pollute everyone’s atmosphere and warm the planet to who knows what effect?”
  • “Humanism has been justly criticized as anthropocentric—that is, as too centered on the human species at the expense of other life-forms and deeper ecological networks.”
  • “A truly cosmic humanism, however, extends through the natural order into the universe. It humanizes all forms of consciousness, wherever they are found.”
  • “Deep ecology is a broad spiritual and philosophical movement that can be traced back to the Norwegian intellectual and activist Arne Næss, who was a trained philosopher and a student of Mahatma Gandhi. Its basic claim is that we are an intimate part of a larger ecobody or ecosystem and so should care for the ecosystem not as a collection of dead objects or neutral resources “out there,” but as our own larger body.
  • “Not so long ago, Amazonian cultures were considered ridiculous for holding that plants—especially psychoactive ones that engage human beings in countless acts of healing, guidance, and revelation—possess agency, intelligence, and consciousness.”
  • “Now we are told by cutting-edge botanists that plants possess all kinds of sophisticated forms of intelligence; that they interact with their environments in intentional and agential ways, if within a different or “slower” temporal dimension; that they send electrical and chemical signals between their cells like animals; and that there may even be something we might call “chlorophyllic sentience.””
  • “When Amazonian shamans code insights in elaborate mythical or visionary ways, it is “magical thinking” or “animism,” but when botanists code in technical or purely descriptive ways, it is “science.””
  • “If all gods are in fact projections of us, then there is something about us, which we cannot yet own or admit, that is godlike.”
  • “Such a realization of being caught in a story we ourselves are writing as unconscious gods can be terrifying, depressing, even nihilistic.”
  • “a flipped individual may turn to previous religious systems for inspiration and guidance, or belong to a religious community, but she or he will not be slavishly bound to any of this, as she or he will understand the religions as humanly constructed responses to some earlier flips, not absolute truths to literalize, “believe,” and worship.”
  • “Research on fundamentalist movements around the globe has shown that there have been two especially common career paths from which fundamentalist leaders have often emerged: engineering and computer science. I suspect cognitive and educational reasons for this. These individuals tend to think in very literal and literally binary terms. Computer codes and blueprints for bridges, after all, cannot contain any ambiguity, much less open paradox.”
  • “But that is not how religious writings and religious experiences work. Ambiguity and ambivalence, even open paradox, lie at their very heart. Such forms of reflexivity and ambiguity also lie at the heart of the humanities, which is why fundamentalist leaders hate the humanities and humanists.”
  • “We need to understand that fundamentalism is also a symptom or a cancer, an out-of-control immunological response of the social body responding to the toxic environment of nihilism and meaninglessness that defines so much of modern Western society and to which scientists and humanists have contributed more than their fair share.”
  • “The phrase “being right” encodes a neuroanatomy that we are learning more and more about with each passing decade. Our cognitions, our languages, and our metaphors are expressions of our bodies and their kinesthetic orientation and movement through space and time. All our thoughts are embodied thoughts.”
  • “Whereas the left hemisphere is involved in generating the meaning of individual words, the right hemisphere is in charge of grasping more wholistic meanings, such as narrative and humor, and correlating feeling or emotion to content.”
  • “I take it as a given that all the “right” and “left” symbolism of Western culture is a function of this same neuroanatomy and, more particularly, of the left hemisphere’s tendency to demean and deny the right hemisphere. Jesus sits on the right side of God, not on the left. The Latin for “left” is sinister. When my father tried to write with his left hand in grade school, the nuns would strike it with a ruler. The “hard” mechanistic sciences now trump the “soft” intuitive and artistic humanities. “The Right” now demonizes “the Left.””
  • “Language use in particular has physiologically “altered our brains’ anatomical structure and cellular networks.”
  • “The right mind does not perceive or heed artificial differences, like boundaries, territories, race, or religion.”