why materialism is baloney

Why Materialism is Baloney by Bernardo Kastrup (Book Summary)

“Why Materialism is baloney” by Bernardo Kastrup is a groundbreaking book with the potential to change your understanding of reality. Kastrup illuminates how the materialistic worldview is more subtle and pervasive than many of us realize. He goes on to unpack the philosophy of Idealism and explains why it is a worldview that more likely explains the true nature of reality. 

*All sentences in quotations are direct quotes from “Why Materialism is Baloney” and are attributed to Bernardo Kastrup. Bold is added for skimmability. 

Buy the book 


What is Materialism and why is it so convincing 

  • “The most basic assertion of materialism is that reality is, well, exclusively material. Materialism asserts that reality exists outside your mind in the form of material particles occupying the framework of space-time.”
  • “The existence of this material reality is supposed to be completely independent of your, or anyone else’s, subjective perception of it.”
  • “Materialism holds that consciousness is itself a phenomenon produced, and entirely explainable, by the assembly of material particles that we call a brain.”
  • “According to materialism, what we experience in our lives every day is not the world as such, but a kind of brain-constructed ‘copy’ of the world.”
  • “Materialism requires a doubling of all reality: it presupposes an abstract and unprovable ‘external’ universe next to the known, concrete, and undeniable universe of direct experience.” 
  • “Materialism subtly pervades our expectations, value systems, goals, and nearly every aspect of our lives.”
  • “Many of us absorb materialist beliefs from the culture without even being aware of it, all the while trusting that we hold other beliefs.”
  • “The power of the core materialist worldview comes from its adoption by intellectual elites and its amplification by mainstream media.” 
  • “Social validation is often crucial to our ability to truly hold onto a belief system, both consciously and subconsciously. And no form of social validation is stronger than the validation provided by the segment of our society that has become perceived as the learned elite.”
  • “We fundamentally depend on a collective, distributed effort to develop a critical opinion regarding what is going on.”


Science vs Philosophy 

  • “The scientific method allows us to study and model the observable patterns and regularities of nature.”
  • “But our ability to model the patterns and regularities of reality tells us little about the underlying nature of things.”
  • “Science can only explain one thing in terms of another thing.”
  • “The two models of physics (standard model) and (general relativity) contradict each other and cannot simultaneously be true everywhere.”
  • “All scientific models need, ultimately, to postulate so-called ontological primitives: irreducible aspects of nature that can’t themselves be explained but must, instead, be accepted simply to exist”.
  • “Capturing the observable patterns and regularities of the elements of reality, relative to each other, is an empirical and scientific question. But pondering about the fundamental nature of these elements is not; it is a philosophical question.”
  • “In recent decades, scientists who have little or no understanding of philosophy have begun to believe that science alone can replace philosophy.”
  • “Constructing a metaphysics about the fundamental nature of reality demands a kind of disciplined introspection that critically assesses not only the elements observed, but also the observer, the process of observation, and the interplay between the three in a holistic manner; an introspection that as such, seeks to see through the ‘game’.”


Realism vs Idealism 

  • “The part of the materialist worldview that entails that objects exist outside, and independently, of mind is called realism.”
  • “Another alternative is called idealism: the notion that all reality is a phenomenon of, and in, mind.” 
  • “According to materialism, the tables, chairs, walls, windows, computers, books, floor, etc., which you are experiencing right now are not really the real things, but merely hallucinated copies inside your head.”
  • “According to idealism, on the other hand, the tables, chairs, walls, windows, computers, books, floor, etc., are all the real deal. You are not creating mental copies of anything, but having direct access to what is truly real.” 
  • “When people hear about the basic definitions of materialism and idealism, their first impulse is to reverse the implications: to think of idealism as entailing that reality is inside our heads, while believing materialism to say that the world we experience is outside ourselves. Well, it’s exactly the other way around!”
  • “Idealism is saying that there is no stuff, there is only subjective perception.”
  • “If idealism is correct, then mind is not within the brain, because it is the brain that is within the mind.”


Why the mind is not the brain 

  • “That mind states are correlated with brain states does not necessarily imply that brain states cause mind states.”
  • “The patterns of brain activity that we can measure are, like the rest of nature, are partial images of the mental processes they represent.”
  • “The function of the brain is to localize consciousness, pinning it to the space-time reference point implied by the physical body.” 
  • “The filter hypothesis implies that consciousness, in its unfiltered state, is unbound. As such, consciousness must be fundamentally unitary and non-individualized, for separateness and individualization entail boundaries.”
  • “Different egos, entailing different perspectives on space-time, retain awareness of different subsets of all potential subjective experiences, the rest being filtered out.” 
  • “The filter hypothesis also predicts that one can have experiences that do not correlate with one’s brain states. Since here the brain is seen merely as a mechanism for filtering out experiences, it is conceivable that, when this mechanism is interfered with so as to be partially or temporarily deactivated, one’s subjective experience could delocalize, expand beyond the body in time and space, and perhaps even beyond time and space as such.”
  • Psychedelics can lead to profound transpersonal experience by decreasing blood flow to certain areas of the brain.”
  • “The most complex, coherent, intense, non-local, and transpersonal experiences people report are associated precisely with reductions, or even elimination, of brain activity.”
  • “It is very difficult to see how a generalized reduction of blood and oxygen supply to the brain could selectively and preferentially affect inhibitory processes, while still allowing for enough metabolic energy to be available for an increase in the neural correlates of consciousness.”


The Conscious Mind (Ego) vs The unconscious Mind 

  • “Modern consensus on the issue entails that, in fact, the majority of our psyches are indeed unconscious. If something is in the psyche but is not in consciousness, where exactly is it?”
  • The ego is the part of our psyches that is recursively and self-referentially aware.”
  • “Any content of mind that falls within the field of self-reflectiveness of the ego becomes hugely amplified.”
  • “We don’t notice the mental amplification because we have become accustom to it.” 
  • “What happens to the experiences flowing in the broader medium of mind that do not fall within the scope of the ego? They do not get amplified at all and remain unconscious to us.”
  • “Less self-reflective amplification reduces the level of obfuscation and allows for otherwise ‘unconscious’ contents to become discernible; a kind of egoic eclipse that allows the stars to become visible at noon.” 
  • “The ego is the limited patterns of vibration entailed by a certain loop structure. It is the patterns of thought, feeling, and perception that arise within that particular structure. As such, it is fair to say that the ego is the structure. Therefore, from the ego’s perspective, changing the structure too much means dying, insofar as it entails ceasing to be what it is.”
  • “Egoic consciousness seems to be associated with a back-and-forth flow of information between different brain areas, analogously to how images bounce back-and-forth between two mutually-facing mirrors.” 
  • “According to the cone metaphor, all the objects and phenomena of what we ordinarily call the external world are, insofar as you experience them, merely ripples propagating within the spinning cone of mind that you call your ego. Everything you ordinarily see, hear, smell, taste, or feel through your skin is just these trapped ripples.”
  • “Recursive self-reflection amplifies these ripples enormously, obfuscating everything going on outside the cones, just like the sun’s glare at noon obfuscates distant stars.”
  • “When certain ripples of the broader ocean of mind penetrate our spinning cones of self-reflective awareness for the first time, at least occasionally we should register them as familiar memories, not as new information. After all, they were in consciousness all along, just obfuscated.” 
  • “How many times have you felt, upon learning new information or arriving at a new insight, that you had somehow known it all along?” 
  • “Unconscious knowledge is in consciousness all along, even though we aren’t self-reflectively aware of it. The knowledge was always there, diffused in the interstices of egoic awareness. Then, when an event suddenly triggers its insertion into the field of self-reflection, we suddenly become aware that we were conscious of the knowledge all along.”
  • “The unconscious does not truly exist. The word is a misnomer for contents of mind that are not (sufficiently) amplified because they fall outside protrusion or folder-in loops in the membrane of mind.”


What is the Mind and how does it work 

  • “Mind/consciousness refers to the medium of all existence as a subjective phenomenon, as well as its inherent property of free will.” 
  • “The substrate of mind cannot be measured, detected, or analyzed like some kind of stuff, because it is that which measures, detects, and analyzes in the first place.”
  • “Since knowledge exists only in mind, everything touched by the fingertip of knowledge, no matter how slightly and subtly, is instantaneously ‘brought into’ the domain of mind.”
  • “The laws of nature represent the patterns and regularities according to which certain contents of mind preferentially flow, carrying a certain momentum as they so do.”
  • “If the brain is a whirlpool of mind, the patterns of whose flow determine the qualities of subjective experience, then physical interference with the brain should indeed alter subjective experience insofar as it changes such patterns.” 
  • “Experience/information is a particular movement of mind. The qualities of an experience are determined by the pattern of this movement.”
  • “Awareness is a self-reflective form of conscious apprehension. When you are aware of an experience, not only do you have the experience, you also know that you are having the experience. Naturally, awareness is itself a special form of experience.”
  • “Thought is a particular type of experience arising autonomously within an individual psychic structure.” 
  • “Perception is a particular type of experience within an individual psychic structure, but which originally arises outside the psychic structure.”
  • “Since experience is modeled as the movement of the medium of mind, the necessary consequence is that the medium of mind itself must be empty – a void — in the sense that it fundamentally transcends all experience and knowledge.”
  • “Choice itself is outside experience. We only really experience the prelude and the immediate aftermath of choice, never the making of a choice.”
  • “Freewill proper is the primary cause of all movements of mind; the freewill of the one subject of all existence. Freewill can never be experienced directly: it is the driving force behind all experience and, thus, never an experience itself.”


Rethinking Reality 

  • “We live under the illusion that we all share the exact same world because our language has evolved to pick out precisely the few aspects of our experiences that are common and shared, while ignoring those that are completely personal and idiosyncratic.”
  • “Resonance happens when the stimulus applied to a vibrating system has the same frequency as one of the system’s natural modes of vibration. 
  • “The psychic structures of all human beings resonate with certain particular patterns of vibration of the underlying membrane. We call these particular patterns the ‘outside world.’ 
  • “Different species — say, cats and ants — correspond to protrusions with different structures that, therefore, resonate with different modes of the underlying vibrations. While there clearly is a small subset that overlaps and is shared across all species, essentially each species lives in an experiential reality of its own.”
  • “It is conceivable that other ego-capable psychic structures in the fabric of mind, corresponding to broader loops with perhaps more complex topography or topology, have already accumulated insights and understandings that far transcend our possibilities as human beings. As a matter of fact, simple probability shows that this is not only conceivable, but the most likely possibility.” 
  • “The human psychic structure defines our experiential reality by determining what modes of vibration resonate with us. For the psychic structure of another ego-capable being to understand all of our questions, and formulate answers that make sense to us, it would have to support all natural modes of vibration that the human psychic structure supports, and then at least some more.”
  • “We should not ignore the possibility that, at the current stage of universal unfolding, nobody anywhere has all the answers. We are the expression of mind in its attempt to make sense of what is going on.”
  • “We are the very process that we seek to understand and control.” 
  • “We aren’t just students redundantly having to find out, the hard way, answers already known to others. We are researchers at the leading edge of knowledge.”
  • “You and I are examples of a living attempt by the ‘eye’ of mind to create, out of itself, a mirror upon which it can contemplate itself and answer the ultimate questions: what am I? What is going on?””  
  • “We are the chaos, the mess, the bleeding and the injustice. We are the harmony, the bliss, the healing and the compassion. We are the whole works, but we still don’t understand how and why it unfolds the way it does.”


The Illusion of Death 

  • “One could argue that the fear of death is genetically programmed by evolution and, as such, should transcend any worldview. However, ethnography shows us that truly internalized belief systems can supplant this programming.”
  • “The Zuruaha tribe in the Brazilian Amazon believe that the soul (‘asoma’) reunites with lost relatives after physical death. This belief is so deeply internalized that, in the period between 1980 and 1995, 84.4% of all deaths among adults — defined as people over 12 years old — in their society was caused by suicide.”
  • “Unlike modern Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc., the Zuruaha have never been exposed to an overwhelming materialist culture, which explains their ability to deeply internalize the alternative cultural notion that death is but a transition.” 
  • “Due to difficult conditions Members of traditional societies consistently and collectively experienced altered states of consciousness which shaped their view of reality.”
  • “In the West, spontaneous access to such transcendent experiences has become nearly impossible. Non-ordinary states of consciousness no longer have collective momentum, since our sheltered lives ensure optimal levels of brain activity and function. 
  • “Upon my physical death, my psychic structure — at least the part corresponding to the ego — unravels, so my body image can no longer exist in it. But nothing stops my body image from continuing to exist — for a while, that is – in your psychic structure and other parts of the medium of mind.”
  • “Alan Watts spoke of a corpse as a residual echo of something that mind is no longer doing.” 
  • “The mental process we call physical death ‘makes the unconscious more conscious, because it eliminates a source of obfuscation; namely, the egoic loop.”
  • “ A dead person might simply be a differentiated structure that no longer resonates with the patterns of vibration we call the empirical world. But it will still resonate with other patterns.” 
  • “Physical death does not entail the end of consciousness, for consciousness is the fabric of all existence.”