The world through a dashboard.

So, what I am particularly interested in right now is exploring the topic of analytical idealism.

This is a branch of philosophy proposing that consciousness rather than matter is fundamental. That is, everything you see around you and everything you are experience is part of one trans-personal, universal consciousness.

If you like you can (carefully ‘cause all these word come with a lot of cognative baggage) substitute the words universal consciousness with: Buddha-nature, God, Non-dual awareness, Oneness…take your pick. Analytical idealists sometimes refer to it as mind-at-large, after Aldous Huxley’s exploration of the topic (during a psychedelic trip on mescaline) in his 1954 book ‘The Doors of Perception’.

What we feel as a self, as what it is like to be ‘me’, is a part of this universal consciousness that has become delineated (but not separated), much as a whirlpool briefly forms in a flowing stream. The whirlpool is both individuate and undivided from the stream.

The makeup of this individuation is such that it is generally no longer aware of mind-at-large. A situation very similar to a person who has dissociative identity disorder (DID) splitting themselves into multiple co-conscious centres of self-awareness called alters. Each alter unaware of the memories and first person experiences of the other.

Everything we are experiencing (both other living beings and inanimate objects, is what mind-at-large looks like when experienced through the ‘lens’ of our senses. And as that lens is very limited in its capabilities, what we see is only a representation of the actual reality of this mind-at-large.

One analogy that is useful is to think of our experience of the world as looking at the dashboard of a plane flying at night. As we cannot see the ‘actual’ world out through the windows, we rely on the instrument panel (our senses) to understand and navigate the external world.

All we can know is the information the instruments are showing us. This panel is our reality. But it is not the reality of the world outside the window. We (usually) cannot see anything else besides the instruments.

The information they show us is our familiar world of tomatoes, and Jazz, and belly button lint, and Dogs, and tables.

A living biological body is the extrinsic appearance of an alter in universal mind. In particular, our sense organs — including our skin — are the extrinsic appearance of our alter’s boundary. As such, our brain and its electrochemical activity are part of what our subjective inner life looks like from across its dissociative boundary, which explains the observed correlations between experience and brain function. — Bernardo Kastrup.

Our instrument panels are limited by our biology, for example we can only see a very narrow part of the visual spectrum, and only hear a small sample of the auditory spectrum. Compared to a dog, our worldview of smells is minuscule.

Our neurological processes also limit our instrument panels. Our heuristics, cognitive biases, previous experiences, prejudices, memories, field of awareness, subconscious influences etc.

Why are contemporary views always so spellbinding? It may have to do with the fact that what we perceive about the world is, in fact, already loaded and suffused with subliminal interpretations and fitted into culture-bound conceptual categories. What we ordinarily perceive is not really the world out there, but a representation thereof as much determined by our own intellectual baggage as by whatever is actually out there. — Bernardo Kastrup

In fact, many neuroscientists today think that the purpose of our brain is to act as a sort of limiting valve, only letting in just enough information from the world to ensure our survival.

I’m going to write a little more about analytical idealism in future posts. It is something which resonates with my own contemplative and meditative experiences.


At the heart of the matter: you and I are not two.

Until then, if you want to dive into the topic a little more, I highly recommend checking out some of these essays by Bernardo Kastrup in Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/bernardo-kastrup/

Ian Miller

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