“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

Integrating Space-Time: Non-Dual Idealism, or Physics of the World-Soul?

Metaphysics is serious play. Serious because (if done well) it demands a reckoning with death, with limit as such, with finitude and necessity. Play because (if done well) it frees us from our perceived finitude to partake in the process of realization itself.

Materialism and idealism, though mutuality exclusive as metaphysical positions, are nonetheless symbiotically dependent on one another at a psycho-social level: their opposition is a symptom of a deeper dis-ease, an archetypal knot that thousands of years of philosophical inquiry has failed to untangle. The ideological battle between materialism and idealism is a split in the species mind. Materialists define their own courageous adherence to facts in opposition to the inflated fantasies of idealism. Similarly, idealists define their own enlightened God’s eye view in opposition to the naive confusions of materialism. Neither captures the totality on its own. The totality is itself torn asunder by their very opposition, twisted into conflict with itself.

Metaphysics (if done well) calls us toward an integral realization: we are body and spirit. Death is a necessary phase in the process of Life. Life has no meaning without death. We are logos incarnate, not simply minds in bodies or bodies in minds.

Bernardo Kastrup is a rising figure in the online philosophy world. I first encountered his thought back in 2015 when someone shared his blog post “The Threat of Panpsychism: A Warning.” I posted a response, and we were off and running (Bernardo’s response to me, my response to his response). I won’t recount what we discussed back then, but it remains relevant to what I want to discuss below.

In response to a recent post of mine on Whitehead and relativistic cosmology, an adherent of Kastrup’s non-dual idealism (@MishaRogov) engaged me in an interesting exchange. I’ve pasted it below (the link I share in my first reply is to Physics of the World-Soul: Whitehead’s Adventure in Cosmology):

Footnotes2Plato on Twitter_ _Plenty of folks have argued at length that Whitehead_s cosmology offers one of the few coherent integrations of quantum and relativity theory. Eg, https___

On @MishaRogov’s suggestion, I read some of Kastrup’s more recent writings on space-time. In “The Linguistic Demon of Space-Time,” Kastrup characterizes the materialistic conception of an objective space-time as a culturally invented “demon.” He writes:

“We are—or so the demon screams—limited beings lost in the vastness of the cosmos, destined to oblivion at the moment of death. We’ve been eaten by the demon and completely lost touch with our own inherent transcendence. It is critical to realize this: it is the demon of objective space-time that robs us of our felt sense of transcendence and creates all suffering.


Kastrup’s view of space-time is a helpful foil for me. It brings my own alternative understanding of the significance of the physical cosmos into greater relief. So much of my philosophical writing is guided by what begin as vague but insistent intuitions. I only gradually work out these intuitions into what (I hope!) are consistent, coherent, adequate, and applicable ideas. Interacting with deep thinkers on the blogosphere has played a crucial role in my own philosophical development and self-understanding. I’ve tried to work out my own version of process-relational panpsychism in conversation with materialists, idealists, realists, theists, skeptics, magicians, and more. I learn something from every encounter. I have been, in a non-exclusive sense, converted to each of these perspectives at some point. I try to hold to a plurality of truths, transmuting contradictions into contrasts wherever possible.

In contrast to Kastrup’s transcendent view of space-time as illusory, my own take on space-time (elaborated in the Chiasmus of my dissertation) is descendental or incarnational. I remain unsatisfied with both the objective materialist view of space-time as a mind-independent “thing” and the subjective idealist view of it as a mental projection. Space-time is real, bot not actual, which is to say its mode of existence is as potentiality, specifically, the potentiality to relate. All the percipient actualities in the universe are internally related. Space-time is the nexus of potentiality housing these relations. Space-time is not an illusion to be dispelled; it is the royal road to the realization of ultimate relationality. We encounter the Real not by attempting to escape space-time, but by diving more deeply into it. Space-time, concretely experienced, is not as finite as it at first appears. The descent into the spatiotemporal underworld may indeed crucify our ego. But dying into the apparent finitude of space-time may open a doorway into the sublime renewal of a more integrated Self.




2 responses to “Integrating Space-Time: Non-Dual Idealism, or Physics of the World-Soul?”

  1. Roy Avatar

    I think you are on the right track from my perspective, Matthew. I wouldn’t personally look at matter or atomism as mere “illusion” because it all own frame of reference rather than the absolutist view of Bernardo and his pure idealism. As much as I am attracted to Bernardo’s view and the constants drone of the non-dualists about materiality being an “illusion”, I think that word is less accurate than the proper Sanskrit term, Maya, Samsara, and the perspective of it as a living drama, or “school” of life of some type. Perhaps very few Western philosophers grasp the relationship between matter and spirit better than Tim Freke, who recently did an interview on Rebel Wisdom which might interest you:

  2. ggoldbergmd Avatar

    All on the right track but I think you all need to take a really close look at the evolutionary process metaphysics–the ‘scientific’ metaphysics–of Charles Sanders Peirce in connection with his semiotic objective idealism. This is from the so-called ‘Father of American Pragmatism’ who Whitehead referred to as the ‘American Aristotle’ in a letter to Charles Hartshorne. Peirce’s triadic semiotics and architectonic philosophical system may well provide, as the late John Deely maintained, the path to the ‘Age of Signs’ which is the path to constructive postmodernism and postCartesianism, and out of the increasingly threatening global existential concerns that are consequences of the waning ‘Age of Ideas.’ The key issue is time and its connection to our concept of energy in the context of subjectivity (and, especially, intersubjectivity) and finitude, along with the recognition of the ‘Logic of Continuity’ and the general concept that time is real and continuous–where the issue of what exactly constitutes a true continuum is absolutely crucial. It is the only hope for getting beyond the limitations of Nominalism–the issue that Peirce recognized as the ‘threat’ that has been greatly magnified by Cartesian mind-brain dualism and the Cartesian proclamation that the only way to confirm existence is through the reflexivity of thought. I don’t have to think to know how to breathe and to experience wonder. In fact, one could readily argue that thought can really ‘get in the way’ in some situations.

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