J J Kripal on 'Flipping' Out of Materialism

Haven’t heard enough podcasts to concur but, yeah, this was impressive. They “went there”, as the kids say… :grinning:

Thanks to @Michael_Stumpf, @johnnydavis54, and @achronon for the links bringing this to everyone’s attention. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that this particular interview, though it ties into just about every theme we discuss here, deserves its own thread. I need to listen to this again in the near future and (try to) sort out my (jumbled) thoughts on several points raised. But I’ll ‘serve’ the first volleyball:

Kripal states that materialism is not ‘wrong’ so much as “half-right” because it “erases whole dimensions of reality that it cannot in principle explain.” Including human being.

Not one week ago I was reading The Axial Age and its Consequences, Chapter 7 “The Idea of Transcendence” by Ingolf U. Dalferth:

"To claim that all knowledge is mathematical or scientific is a dogmatism that cannot be critically justified. However, that there is a beyond of mathematical or scientific knowledge cannot be spelled out or stated in mathematical or scientific terms but only from a perspective that allows us to see both the realm of mathematics and science and the realm beyond mathematics and science in a certain way.

“There is no way of showing, in purely mathematical or scientific terms, that mathematical and scientific knowledge is all the knowledge there is, that is, it is an account of knowledge that is both epistemically consistent and complete in that it comprises not only all possible mathematical and scientific knowledge but all knowledge that is possible.” (p. 159)

I confess to having stumbled over Dalferth’s prose a bit, but now it makes more sense.

[Taking a leaf from Ed: should anyone choose to comment here, it might be more fruitful to discuss the ramifications of ‘universe = matter-in-motion’ versus ‘universe = mind through matter’ than to try to definitively ‘prove’ either (or a similar) proposition…]


Let’s take a Walk-Talk at Sunrise in the Labyrinth/s of Openness to the Flip within & a Shared Thinking Affect? The Beer is on Me!


Thanks for the invitation, TJ, to muse upon this podcast as a group. The themes are relevant to our infinite conversations. I have recently read Kripal’s short and lively book and have a few quotes.

" The unity of realty splits into mental and physical dimensions of our ordinary experience, reality doesn’t consist of mental and physical ( dualism) nor physical alone ( materialism) nor mental alone ( idealism).

Being “inside” a body looking " outside" is a result of this deeper supereality being split into experienced dimensions by the brain-body and a particular adaptive needs and spatial and temporal perspective. The phenomenal experience of time itself is also created by this symmetry breaking of a deeper reality. There is no inside or outside, no subject or object. There is no stream of time and no structured subject or object. There is a fundamental oneness that is neither mental nor material. We do not just experience this split as the typical subjective-objective structure of our phenomenal experience and grammar. We are the split."

After reading this I went to sleep and had the following lucid dream.

" I am aware of a presence behind me and voices. I turn around in my dream body and see a man’s face. He asks me," Do you need a mirror?"

" No," I say," I want to watch TV. The TV is behind you. Can you get out of the way?"

" Where would you like to put the TV?" We spend some time arranging this and we sit side by side on a couch and watch the TV. There is a program on symbols. A symbol is shown on the screen and a verbal statement is made. The symbol looks like a letter of an ancient script. A voice repeats a sound. As I watch this the couch we are sitting upon floats into the air. The man, who sits to my left, holds my thumb in his hand. I feel a strong connection to a vast intelligence. I wonder about the opposable thumb.

I say, " When I saw the symbol and heard the sound I felt the presence of a vast architecture." It felt like a hologram of several styles of architecture all stacked upon one another. I felt that the sound and the symbol actually combined to collapse the possibilities into actualities. I remembered how ancient dwellings were constructed with sound. This felt very much like something out of Atlantis. ( I have been studying Plato’s Timeaus!) I feel the holographic nature of the encounter with this man and I sense that we are like a spray of a trillion pixels on a swarm of the indefinable of an unrealized possibility. This is not easy to put into words but the use of words is critically important. That’s why I bother to write this stuff down.

Kripal pays a lot of attention to Alexander Wendt, whom I mentioned on the last call with Davor. Wendt writes about the quantum mind and social systems. Here is a quote from Wendt." Collapsing a wave function s inherently contextual process that involves first deciding what question to ask of nature and then preparing the experiment in such a way that it can be answered."

The next day, I found that my key did not open my door. Luckily, my next door neighbor let me climb though her window, onto the fire escape. I went from the firescape and to the open window of my apartment, and if I had slipped I would have fallen five flights. My neighbor was frightened and warned me to call a locksmith and not try to go through the window. I stretched out a leg, one foot in the window, the other on the edge of the firescape and pulled my body through. I thanked my neighbor for her help and told her," I feel like this a lucid dream." I then remembered that a few days before I had thought about what would happen if the key would stop working. It is a very old lock. I got an answer to my question! We are, perhaps, going though an intensification of the mutations of the next wave. We should expect, as Gebser says, lots of irruptions. I think the Weird podcasts are bringing our attention to this. And as we bring our attention to our collective unconscious our collective unconscious changes.

“And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name”
William Shakespeare


Heh, heh, heh … Germans and their syntax.

That quote, however, does sound like an expanded version of or a riff on Gödel’s incompleteness theorems. The reality of paradox is ever-present and there appears to be something beyond the system regardless of how well conceived it is.

The two sides of Kripal’s coin aren’t necessarily complementary, though they are no doubt so in certain cases, but I would think they also overlap and interpenetrate (whereby for certain, particular topics, one or the other could very well temporarily suffice or serve as the primus inter pares for those cases). And getting one’s head/heart around that is what I see as a real challenge.


I failed to record a detail in this previous anecdote. I left the window open because I had a hunch that the lock might not work. A few days later that hunch actually occurred. Afterwards, I felt a feed-forward effect had happened. I think these odd events ( kind of silly) may indicate a playful weirdness rather than a very deep life changing event. However, enough tiny serendipitous occurrences can add up. It is an a-rational connecting principle that comes in the form of a vague hunch, a lateral move, no reason for it.

I just took this volume from the shelf and saw that I marked up this essay and made notes. I can go over it again this weekend and get back to you. I do remember I got a great pleasure from reading this book but the details are forgotten. I also read the Bellah companion volume. That was a really good read! I think these ideas get tucked away as a tacit knowledge. I look forward to reviewing this as I rarely review anything. We live in such an un-reflective age!


This afternoon (for me) I happened to be reading the chapter in Nora Bateson’s Small Arcs of Larger Circles, “Parts & Wholes, Hope & Horror”. The “horror” part has to do with an interview she had been asked to do that turned out to be for a neo-Nazi individual/organization/website that was using cybernetics and systems theory to justify its own designs for national and racial purity.

Two things immediately flashed to mind. One was the end of the Kripal interview when the discussion turned to the political consequences of “flipping”. His answer was generally affirmative, but, fortunately, not without a number of significant caveats. Ultimately, he thinks “the humanities” (as we generally understand the academic term) were going to be a potential avenue of thwarting the apocalypse towards which are hurtling ourselves. The other was the brief exchange on the Generations III thread (posts 10-15) where, among other things, the notions of algorithms and technology were being sorted in regard to finding solutions to many of the seemingly unsolvable problems confronting us.

What caught my eye in Bateson’s piece was her engaged plea for us to reevaluate not only our most fundamental assumptions about “how things (e.g., the world) work”, but also the presuppositions that enable those assumptions. Both Kripal and the Generations discussants favor reactivated/rejuvenated/revitalized/reconfigured metaphysics as an essential aspect of seeking relevant approaches, and that, in turn, brought R.G. Collingwood’s Essay on Metaphysics to mind in which he argues quite specifically that the metaphysical undertaking itself need be understood as the arduous and relentless (my words, not his) search for and discovery of absolute presuppositions, true starting points if you will.

What is interesting about Nora Bateson’s ruminations is that she thinks we have a better chance of finding these when we start thinking about life as mutual learning contexts. This has the advantage of overcoming what she believes is a lot of presupposed mechanistic thinking about the systems we’re trying to deal with. It reveals other, perhaps more yielding, ideas than the overworked and underquestioned mechanized notions we consciously, or unconsciously, apply . She may be onto something.


Thanks for pointing out that thread, Ed, as this is an example of what Nora is referring to as " mutual learning contexts". She by the way is not against systems theory but against Nazism. She does have an innovative spin that she has given a name of her own. Since her grandfather came up with genetics, and her father coined the term schismogenesis, she has come up with “symathesy.” The Bateson clan are a wild bunch!

I am glad that we can move between different threads, as observer/participants, and replay passages that we deem of benefit to the group dynamic. This may have a trans-contextual meaningfulness, felt like a background buzzing, the fly that let’s you know it is time to empty the garbage. There are signs that we need to pay attention to something that is group oriented, rather than just my own favorite complaint. That is why Nora focuses attention on art and storytelling, and warm data collection. She is pointing out, as I sense Davor does, a Second Order Culture. This is a major interest of mine and I have been bringing this up relentlessly. Forgive me for my obsession.

Second Order Culture. The walls are tumbling down. We are not one way mirrors. The glass is shattered. We are becoming participant -observers and the false barriers between mechanized micro and mezzo and macro are breaking down. We are not engines that can be fixed when we break down. We are biotic and quantum processes happening in the in between. We are paradox, we are the twist in the mobius strip, as subject and object shimmer and morph, and new conceptual blends, arise not from nowhere, but from a potential " I and Thou."

My work in Clean Language plays with the entangled nature of language and social mind(s). This is a deep study for me in group entanglement and process. It is not always pleasant but can be very intense. And we have explored Quantum Poetics and we have barely scratched the surface. Alexander Wendt, a researcher that Kripal highlights in his book, draws upon this rich philosophical tradition. He calls us " walking wave functions." We are paradoxically matter and mind at the same time. We are the split, as Kripal says, and this can be felt as a strange, very strange sensation.

In my view, we can train ourselves, through a healthy expression of first person and third person perspectives, to play with multi dimensional attention. The mechanistic urge dominates us, through exclusive third person accounts that deny mind, and dictate vocabulary use. You are just matter.

This hard line of third person only kind of material reductionisism quicky turns into dogma of the most dangerous kind, the Dawkins selfish gene crap. How can a gene be selfish when it has no Self? This becomes pretty quickly a parody right out of Alice in Wonderland, when Humpty Dumpty announced
that the word means whatever he wants it to mean. This leads to totalitarianism, which is happening everyday, as we gaze into our flat screens. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? We are trapped in someone else’s language game, a language game that can hide a virus. Our psyche is under constant barrage of thought viruses. Beware of premature cognitive commitments.If you are told enough you are a robot, you will start acting like one. Our group effort here, perhaps, is trying to create a safe rehearsal space, to gather resilience, to inoculate ourselves. Knowledge is a performance.

Life is much more complex than that, and great demands are being put upon us. And this is why, no doubt, I rail against the failure of the imagination as we reduce each other to algorithms from nowhere. Davor accepts this techo domination but wants to re-direct it away from cannibal Capitalism. Kripal is making a claim that by comparing maps and narratives, and using good phenomenology we bring forth different living arrangement. This is what the humanities are up to.

A long quote from Wendt on the art of conversation. I hope this resonates.

" Collapsing a wave function is inherently contextual process that involves first deciding what question to ask of nature and then prearing the experiment in such a way that it can be answered. What brings about a concepts collapse from potential meanings into actual ones is a speech act, which can be seen as a measurement, that puts it into context, with both words and particular listeners.

Concepts are not " objects" as in the orthodox view, but processes that unfold in time.

Language as a whole is a quantum coherent state, but it is in de-coherence that meaning is actually created. It is only in the experience of language that meanings are realized. Far from being an illusion produced by language, linguistic meaning presupposes consciousness. Language, in short, is like Light.

Speech acts create what it describes. What we hear in speech are not acoustic cues per but the vocal gestures that produced those cues. We do not grasp meaning word by word but through gestalts, which relate what is being said backwards to what they have already said in the past and also anticpating what they are going to say in the future. The boundaries of this whole are set not only by the speaker’s decision to start and stop talking at certain points, but also by the listener’s recognition of what they are trying to do together through dialogue."

Sounds like magic doesn’t it? Well it is magical!

Listen to Shakespeare’s prose, as he gives Hamlet a lovely speech at the end of the play, summarizing this human paradox.

" There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be not now it will be to come, if it be not to come it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all. If no man knows ought of what he leaves, what is it to leave betimes? Let be."

So, is the world we perceive " physical" " psychological" or somewhere in between?

And with all of that, what do we want to have happen, now?


That was part of the point I wanted to make but see upon rereading that my brain was way ahead of my fingers. I loved that she had the integrity to refuse the interview. She’s a remarkable woman.

What struck me was the fact that she originally thought that the cybernetics/systems theory, etc. would be sort of immune to co-opting by such nefarious ideologies, but they are not. That was the immediate flash to the Kripal interview when JF asked if the “flip” might be somehow by nature progressive. I appreciated greatly that Kripal said “not really” by pointing out that bad people flip just like good people do and take their abstruse ways with them. And I appreciate your pointing out the disconnect between my thoughts and fingers!


As the Bard once said," The evil that men do, lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones."

We can misuse language, mind and matter. We are immensely creative and destructive. That is why I get up at 3am every morning and meditate for an hour, go into the lower astral, and kick ass with the cultural shadow. I have to clean up this swamp. I am one of the cosmic clean up guys! There are lots of us working on this.

Evil is not the enemy. Without evil Love would have nothing to do. Color, as Goethe said, emerges from the interplay of light and dark. And color is a beautiful thing!



Well Expressed John, U are a Guide/Friend in/to Edges of Imagination,Thank U!


Thank you, Michael. Love-warriors of the world unite!

1 Like

And Herr Goethe was right about more things than most modern scientists are willing to give him credit for. He might not have phrased it as they might have, but …

And so, John, not a Ghostbuster, but a Gunkbuster … keep up the good work.


Thanks, Ed. Now, how wierd are we???


We’re, dear John, not weird at all.

These almost-realities, these not-quite-rights are part and parcel of everyday existence … but most often we don’t recognize them, and when we do, they are not what we would like them to be at all. So we slough them off, don’t acknowledge them, explain them away, or just ignore them … but they never leave us go.

It’s like a wise man wrote, which I read recently read:

What’s involved is not an extraordinary version of ordinary experience, rather it’s an extraordinarily ordinary experience. In fact it’s so ordinary (and therefore rare) as to become extraordinary.

Yet it happens almost all the time. I like that you dream it, John; I wish I could do that. Instead, I encounter this every day in my waking life.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no paranormal/extrasensory/supernatural/supernormal/preternatural abilities at all (I’m one of those “unsensitives” or, perhaps better, “insensitives” who just make life difficult for others. A group of friends and I once went to an assessment center organized by the Stanford Research Institute regarding “remote viewing”. I was sorted out after the first assessment exercise. Though it took a couple of rounds, no one from the group was left either. But, the mere fact that it took a couple of rounds to get us all out indicates, at least to me, that these abilities are much more widespread than is generally acknowledged. In the end, most people end up denying that they are having such experiences at all. That’s not good. We would do well to acknowledge how extraordinary ordinary life is.

We’ve got the Goethes and the Steiners and the Jameses and Bergsons and the Collingwoods and the Mannings, and the Batesons and the Kelleys and who knows who else on our side, as opposed to those who names will be easily forgotten (the Dennetts, the Dawkinses, the Churchlands, and their friends). I think Kripal does an excellent job of bringing in precisely the “right” witnesses: scientists, technologists, physicians … who should know better but who can’t.

There is much more cross-fertilization going on in these various – but obviously related and interpenetrating – threads than I think we generally realize. But we all can’t approach it as nor get access to it in the same way. I’m still not completely clear on what you are hashing out in the Generations threads, but much – not all – of it resonates with what notions I’ve been wrestling with for some time now. I’m enjoying following the flow of ideas without being directly involved myself, for I wouldn’t want to interrupt that flow at the moment , otherwise we’ d just get bogged down in a morass of hair-splitting that would be more than counterproductive.

OK, as the Germans say (literally translated): “Long talk, short sense”; that is, “a lot of words, very little meaning”, how do we get more people to openly admit they’ve had these kinds of experiences, and how do we get them to recognize that this is the everyday and anything else is just ignoring the reality of it all?


Thank U Curmudgeon Friend with a “Heart of A Lotus” with Earth Colors!



James said, " The true opposite of belief…are doubt and inquiry, not disbelief." All of the sources that you mentioned are allies in creating a more vibrant and coherent ‘we’ space. While we can’t make cooperation on a global scale happen, we can stop penalizing people for speaking up, throwing rocks at them, and chasing them out of the village. The trauma of such abuse is pretty universal in our top heavy cognitive culture. I have been vigilant here at trying to keep the conversation open to differences that make a difference. A community of the competent who have flipped is to be cultivated and protected. I have seen many communities fall apart when these odd episodes are reported. Tricksters are among us.


Yes, yes, and yes. LOL

I had been wrestling with Wendt’s application of Aristotelian causal thought to the historical development of the ‘international’ system since reading his article. The arrow of time lends an ‘efficient’ aspect to even the ‘formal’ and ‘material’ (let alone ‘final’), doesn’t it? Then it hit me that that was the point Wendt was/is trying to address.

The humaniverse is inherently teleological.

Humaniverse” => that intersubjective sub-domain of the universe which exists by virtue of human sentience or consciousness; that “dimension” of abstraction and symbolism in which frameworks for the interpretation of meaning reside
“inherently” => of a piece with
“teleological” => connective of vision/ideas with results/institutions, not only ‘cause-and-effect’, but also ‘cause is effect’

Now, add the possibility that “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” and…




This is going to sound way more curmudgeony than it is intended, but …

Not having read Wendt (and consequently not having thought about what he might be specifically saying), my first question is, “Is this an actual subdomain, or is it an analytical construct to help us better understand the actuality of the universe itself?” (I’m old school and there is simply “the universe”, which, as its name implies, is simply all that is … divisions confuse me.)

My follow-on question is, then, “Is there something special/different/unique about human sentience or consciousness, as opposed to non-human sentience or consciousness?”

And from this comes the question – and believe me, I am not picking nits – "What is it about human sentience or consciousness that makes it, I’m assuming, a unique version (?) of sentience or consciousness?

And I ask precisely because


Good questions, all. As always, “curmudgeon” away; I’m just throwing spaghetti again. :smile:

The “humaniverse” is my own shorthand, inspired by Wendt and Carroll Quigley, who noted that humans operate in space-time and in a “fifth” dimension he called “abstraction”. (Quigley treats time as a fourth, which I understand is not quite how things are currently understood). I probably should have said “…which exists among humans by virtue of…”, which sidesteps for now whether and how it may or may not be ‘unique’. Right now, we’re the only ones we know who ‘do art’ would be another (weak) way to present the concept.

Is this an actual (physical) subdomain, or is it an analytical (psychological) construct to help us better understand the actuality of the universe itself? Or “somewhere in between”? The answer might still be yes to all…