Mod+ 274. DR. BERNARDO KASTRUP, WHY OUR CULTURE IS MATERIALISTIC

I wanted to say something about Alex's terminal question about whether there is a link between materialism and our economic system. So much of what is available to buy is dependent upon fantasy and conceit.
Agreed!
If we bought clothing on the basis of utility [as one we did] we'd get by with a couple of pairs of pants, a few shirts, maybe two pairs of shoes and a coat or jacket. And those items would last for years.
That describes my wardrobe rather well!
If we bought like that now the so-called fashion industry would fall over pdq. But we are induced not to buy on physical utility, rather psychic utility. How we look matters, or so we are told. We have to be fashionable. Pure materialism would trade on functionality and robustness [optimal value for the least effort], but what we have is an exploitative materialism that puts no store by the psychic attributes of being human beyond seeing them as an opportunity to exploit them for profit. Or so it says. Bernardo made a slip of the tongue early on in the chat when he observed that the only purpose of materialism was to accumulate. I got what he meant but at the same time he revealed the fatal flaw in a lot of materialistic thought. That is that it is not actually materialistic at all. It just a screwed up way of seeing the world via displacement and compensatory behaviours. And so long as there is a market for equally screwed up folk it is a way of getting rich, and feeling compensated while fears and angers are displaced. In essence the material world does often serve as a representational medium for psychic states - think keepsakes, mementos, sacred relics, memorabilia and so on. Some things we place personal values on [like keeping letters from old loves], but the commercial sector survives on its ability to induce us to attach to its products through design or marketing. Think a popular vile tasting lolly water that is often marketed as possessing magical or hallucinogenic properties [of course implied only through advertising, not in any actual way]. The old Coke slogan of "Coke adds life" meant what? That carbonated lolly water adds something essential to a situation? That's a metaphysical claim and when we examine marketing there are many metaphysical claims made. Moral materialists would not exploit metaphysical vulnerabilities in customers in order to profit. Moral markets would stop at enough. There is a fundamental difference between a market serving the customer and the customer serving the market. We are in that latter phase. Materialism permits a retreat from a fundamental moral duty of taking no more than is needed. That moral duty existed in the hearts and minds of cultures that operate within the animistic mentality [the world is full of spirits] that assumes a fundamental moral relationship between humans and the reality that embraces them.
I agree with a lot of that, though I am not sure most of us - even you - would want to leave everything behind - computers for example?

I wish Western society had never started down the slippery slope of advertising and image consultants etc. We are fed so many idiotic slogans - such as "Coke adds life" that we don't react with derision as past generations would have.

The problem - which you alluded to - is that more spiritual societies seem to degenerate into rigid and corrupt theocracies.

Is this about materialism vs Dualism/Idealism? My feeling is that there is a tangential link, but maybe no more. A scientist may take a materialist view of the world, and yet be quite un-worldly - mainly interested in his equations. Conversely the ancient Egyptians were very concerned about the after-life and yet kept slaves.
 
How do we connect the US shadow government's state crime against democracy on 9/11 with materialsm? Are level 33 freemasons generally materialists? What about satanists?
Having read portions of Albert Pike's book on Freemasonry "Morals and Dogma" I don't think free masons are materialists. Much of their teachings agree with ancient mentalist hermetic philosophy, sacred geometry, and various religions. Pike gives homage to lucifer, the light bearer and teacher of knowledge and wisdom. I think most masons would say that lucifer has been given a bad rap by modern Christianity due to a misinterpretation of one single Old Testament passage. They don't see Lucifer as synonymous with Satan. I think a lot of freemasonry may be good stuff and those Freemasons in America's history seem to have made positive contributions. The sacred geometric symbolism they put in their architecture is amazing and often inspiring art that points to their mentalist philosophy. But I don't think Freemasonry is the only secret society involved in power plays around the world.

Skull and Bones for example is a secret society that I haven't heard anything good about. Supposedly their members (such as the Bushes) make a pledge to acquire as much wealth and power as possible which would seem to be rooted in materialism.
 
I like Alex's point about materialism being fostered by elites who don't want competition with higher power. About the only useful thing said by theists in the over 60 hours of debates with atheists I listened to [the Goddebates - podcasts] was an observation that atheists lacked the humility to dare to be accountable to a higher intelligence. The materialistic version of humanism has humanity at the very peak of consciousness - which is weird conceit for folk who think it is nothing fundamental. How can you be proud of having the best epiphenomenon on the block? But the progression from faith to materialism is a steady slide down an intellectual slippery slope that started with Christianity napalming the inner ecology of the old pagan tradition in favour of a highly mannered and controlled version. Its a bit like favouring the manicured garden over wilderness, but a garden which has only a few approved plants. Then the Church's folly in demanding that dogma trumped science didn't help. The final blow seems to have been the innocent anticipation that a proper scientific method would reveal God's handiwork, and when science did not prove God it was easy to then discard the idea. But let's add to that the proposition that the world was there for the benefit of humans [both Biblical and Aristotle] and its easy to see that materialism emerged a morality-free zone with no metaphysical extensions. So many streams came together. Materialists simply drew upon religious thought that suited them [the world is given by God to humans for their use and benefit] and ignored the bits that did not. The English philosopher John Grey does a fabulous job in taking apart that confused fusion of religiosity and materialism in Black Mass. But its a dense read with a lot of detail on neoliberal economics that will not suit everybody. If you can suck it up and go with the narrative it is deeply rewarding.
Interesting analysis!
 
I wanted to say something about Alex's terminal question about whether there is a link between materialism and our economic system. So much of what is available to buy is dependent upon fantasy and conceit. If we bought clothing on the basis of utility [as one we did] we'd get by with a couple of pairs of pants, a few shirts, maybe two pairs of shoes and a coat or jacket. And those items would last for years. If we bought like that now the so-called fashion industry would fall over pdq. But we are induced not to buy on physical utility, rather psychic utility. How we look matters, or so we are told. We have to be fashionable. Pure materialism would trade on functionality and robustness [optimal value for the least effort], but what we have is an exploitative materialism that puts no store by the psychic attributes of being human beyond seeing them as an opportunity to exploit them for profit. Or so it says. Bernardo made a slip of the tongue early on in the chat when he observed that the only purpose of materialism was to accumulate. I got what he meant but at the same time he revealed the fatal flaw in a lot of materialistic thought. That is that it is not actually materialistic at all. It just a screwed up way of seeing the world via displacement and compensatory behaviours. And so long as there is a market for equally screwed up folk it is a way of getting rich, and feeling compensated while fears and angers are displaced. In essence the material world does often serve as a representational medium for psychic states - think keepsakes, mementos, sacred relics, memorabilia and so on. Some things we place personal values on [like keeping letters from old loves], but the commercial sector survives on its ability to induce us to attach to its products through design or marketing. Think a popular vile tasting lolly water that is often marketed as possessing magical or hallucinogenic properties [of course implied only through advertising, not in any actual way]. The old Coke slogan of "Coke adds life" meant what? That carbonated lolly water adds something essential to a situation? That's a metaphysical claim and when we examine marketing there are many metaphysical claims made. Moral materialists would not exploit metaphysical vulnerabilities in customers in order to profit. Moral markets would stop at enough. There is a fundamental difference between a market serving the customer and the customer serving the market. We are in that latter phase. Materialism permits a retreat from a fundamental moral duty of taking no more than is needed. That moral duty existed in the hearts and minds of cultures that operate within the animistic mentality [the world is full of spirits] that assumes a fundamental moral relationship between humans and the reality that embraces them.
Every human action must be psychically motivated, so yes, ultimately everything serves a psychic purpose. But, unlike what you seem to suggest, materialists don't deny this; they simply say that the psychic purpose is a purely material process. As such, they actually validate it in their own value-system by bringing it down to the sphere of matter, as opposed to mind.

It is a direct implication of materialism that, since only matter exists, the only conceivable purpose of life is to accumulate material goods. That, of course, serves the psychic purposes of attaining status, power, whatever. But again, materialists don't deny this. They simply say the purposes are material processes in your brain too.

So I would disagree with you that true materialism would contradict consumerism by denying the psychic purposes behind it: materialism doesn't deny them at all; it simply misinterprets their nature and flattens them down to the operations of a biological mechanism.
 
Thanks very much for your response, Bernardo. I have no quibble with anything you wrote other than this:

I would turn it around: why is the existence of evil a problem to begin with? Clearly, this phenomenon we call evil is part of reality and part of the intrinsic potentialities of dissociated alters of mind-at-large (i.e. human beings) just like love, affection, fear, ambition, etc. Why does it need to be accounted for in any special way? The 'problem of evil' only arises from the postulate that the world is governed by a self-reflective deity that is inherently and fully good, while also omnipotent. Idealism makes no such postulate.
In the discussion on evolution you wrote about mind-at-large sensing its way to better outcomes in the way we seek warmth and avoid cold. Surely, evil is an outcome that it would sense in this way and seek to avoid, yet there is so much of it in and beyond this world, not merely in the form of biological entities but in spiritual entities too.
 
In the discussion on evolution you wrote about mind-at-large sensing its way to better outcomes in the way we seek warmth and avoid cold. Surely, evil is an outcome that it would sense in this way and seek to avoid, yet there is so much of it.
Sadistic serial killers carry out evil because it gives them pleasure ('warmth'?), sometimes at orgasmic level. It seems disingenuous to me to deny this aspect of reality.
That said, the survival advantages of being evil don't seem very great... :)
 

Alex

Administrator
How do we connect the US shadow government's state crime against democracy on 9/11 with materialism? Are level 33 freemasons generally materialists? What about satanists?
I suspect it's a mixed bag... there are probably a lot of very high level minions who are materialists. on the flip side (well, kinda the flip side) there are a lot of outwardly Christian folks who are basically materialists.
 

Alex

Administrator
I like Alex's point about materialism being fostered by elites who don't want competition with higher power. About the only useful thing said by theists in the over 60 hours of debates with atheists I listened to [the Goddebates - podcasts] was an observation that atheists lacked the humility to dare to be accountable to a higher intelligence. The materialistic version of humanism has humanity at the very peak of consciousness - which is weird conceit for folk who think it is nothing fundamental. How can you be proud of having the best epiphenomenon on the block? But the progression from faith to materialism is a steady slide down an intellectual slippery slope that started with Christianity napalming the inner ecology of the old pagan tradition in favour of a highly mannered and controlled version. Its a bit like favouring the manicured garden over wilderness, but a garden which has only a few approved plants. Then the Church's folly in demanding that dogma trumped science didn't help. The final blow seems to have been the innocent anticipation that a proper scientific method would reveal God's handiwork, and when science did not prove God it was easy to then discard the idea. But let's add to that the proposition that the world was there for the benefit of humans [both Biblical and Aristotle] and its easy to see that materialism emerged a morality-free zone with no metaphysical extensions. So many streams came together. Materialists simply drew upon religious thought that suited them [the world is given by God to humans for their use and benefit] and ignored the bits that did not. The English philosopher John Grey does a fabulous job in taking apart that confused fusion of religiosity and materialism in Black Mass. But its a dense read with a lot of detail on neoliberal economics that will not suit everybody. If you can suck it up and go with the narrative it is deeply rewarding.
great stuff, Mike... thx for joining us.
- How can you be proud of having the best epiphenomenon on the block? :)

- Its a bit like favouring the manicured garden over wilderness, but a garden which has only a few approved plants. :)
 
Sadistic serial killers carry out evil because it gives them pleasure ('warmth'?), sometimes at orgasmic level. It seems disingenuous to me to deny this aspect of reality.
That said, the survival advantages of being evil don't seem very great... :)
At the risk of trying your patience (please tell me if I am; in that case I'll pipe down):

OK, though wouldn't mind-at-large optimise "temperature" at the highest level rather than just the level of individuals, and isn't a world without evil more "optimally-heated" than one with evil? You seem to allude to this in your final sentence.
 
OK, though wouldn't mind-at-large optimise "temperature" at the highest level rather than just the level of individuals, and isn't a world without evil more "optimally-heated" than one with evil? You seem to allude to this in your final sentence.
You're not testing my patience at all, this is a nice and relevant discussion!

I wonder if, at the level of mind-at-large, what we call 'evil' wouldn't be looked upon or 'interpreted' under a very different light, or seen with very different 'colors', than evil appears to have from the perspective of localized, dissociated alters.... I'll leave it at that because I am on the edge of getting a lot of heat now. :)
 
There are always exceptions to generalities, but generally, materialistic philosophy undoubtedly feeds our oftentimes destructive socio-economic system.
Sorry but a cursory review of cultures, ages, etc in which concepts of the spiritual were the norm shows that statement to be utterly false. I'd say so false as to verge on the ridiculous. Also, if our systems are any more "destructive" than any others, it is simply because there is a high degree of technological power.

BTW the very notion of "destructive" is steeped in materialism. What is spiritual cannot be destroyed.
 
My point was precisely that materialism, as a metaphysics, ontology, is synergistic with the economic system.
Yes and I'm stating that your contention is completely false. So much so and so obviously so that I did posit that perhaps there was confusion between the term being used in a metaphysical way and the same term being used in an economic way.

The majority of our economic and cultural (Western) systems did not originate in materialism. Manifest destiny is not a materialist philosophy, it's a "chosen people of God" philosophy. Columbus, the African slave-traders, the witch hunters, etc were not people with a philosophy of materialism.

Enough examples have been given in my posts in this thread and there are at least thousands more. What puzzles me is what motivates continuing to support of such a clearly incorrect association.
 
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Sorry but a cursory review of cultures, ages, etc in which concepts of the spiritual were the norm shows that statement to be utterly false. I'd say so false as to verge on the ridiculous.
Care to provide historical examples that might open you up to criticism or would you prefer to safely pontificate?
 
The majority of our economic and cultural (Western) systems did not originate in materialism. Manifest destiny is not a materialist philosophy, it's a "chosen people of God" philosophy. Columbus, the African slave-traders, the witch hunters, etc were not people with a philosophy of materialism.
Manifest destiny was not a philosophical system of thought. It was a post-hoc justification for morally questionable actions most probably rooted in greed and mercantilism and commercialism.

Giving lip service to the existence of a higher power does not mean you have a non-materialist philosophy. I would say most people in that period had a dualistic philosophy where the realm of material was so separate from the spiritual realm that the spiritual realm was hardly worth considering except on formal traditional occasions.
 
Sorry but a cursory review of cultures, ages, etc in which concepts of the spiritual were the norm shows that statement to be utterly false. I'd say so false as to verge on the ridiculous.
You're mixing up the practice of culturally-sanctioned 'evils' (human sacrifice, local warfare, torture, etc.) with the global scale of Earth-murdering consumerism. There is absolutely nothing ridiculous in the original statement. No traditional culture in the history of humanity, in which non-materialist values prevailed, ever treated the Earth like a resource to be plundered; ever had so little regard for the future; ever denied so thoroughly the meaning of life.
 
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Yes and I'm stating that your contention is completely false. So much so and so obviously so that I did posit that perhaps there was confusion between the term being used in a metaphysical way and the same term being used in an economic way.

The majority of our economic and cultural (Western) systems did not originate in materialism. Manifest destiny is not a materialist philosophy, it's a "chosen people of God" philosophy. Columbus, the African slave-traders, the witch hunters, etc were not people with a philosophy of materialism.

Enough examples have been given in my posts in this thread and there are at least thousands more. What puzzles me is what motivates continuing to support of such a clearly incorrect association.
*sigh*
 
Most people have a sense of morality or a conscience. Some choose (or early in life are forced) to exercise and refine this sensibility. Both materialists and non-materialists can have this sense of morality; however, it seems reasonable that non-materialists (at least those who are not psychopathic) experience a greater degree of compulsion to act morally. This is due to both an extended sense of connection and an extended sense of reward/punishment or karma. Without these, there is less motivation to put effort and discipline into refining one's conscience and acting upon it.

Materialism gives the little devil on the shoulder more persuasive fine sounding rationalizations and idealism gives the little angel on the shoulder more sway in the other direction.

Having spent most of my life involved in Christian churches I have witnessed many people's lives transformed. This is not to say religious people do not have blind spots or rationalizations that enable them to continue supporting a materialist system. But in general, people who leave behind materialism and adopt some form of idealism realize their interconnectedness and become more conscientious about how they treat others and their environment and less focused on stuff and money.

Has anyone read John Perkins' book, "Confessions of an economic hit man"? I have not, but I have heard him interviewed a number of times. He gives a clear picture of how materialism is used to accumulate power and control and create the modern system of slavery that we have today.
 
The only way I can see that idealism could promote the destructive and immoral socio-economic system is if one is truly psychopathic - that is, if one lacks any empathy or conscience. If one believes that everything is One and ideal in nature and that the dark side is a natural requirement for the light side, then one with psychopathic tendencies could embrace his inclinations to join the dark side and even see this as a good thing in a way since good must have evil to fight in order to be realized as good. In other words, in this dreamland someone must play the bad guy so if one enjoys that sort of thing, he might as well go for it and use the knowledge of the mental nature of reality to his/her benefit. I think many elites may fit this category of evil mentalist.
 
I wonder if, at the level of mind-at-large, what we call 'evil' wouldn't be looked upon or 'interpreted' under a very different light, or seen with very different 'colors', than evil appears to have from the perspective of localized, dissociated alters.... I'll leave it at that because I am on the edge of getting a lot of heat now. :)
Things are hotting up. I'm willing to take the heat for you on this one, if I'm correct about the reasons for your wariness. This is a question relevant to dualism too, which has to account for the lack of parsimony of having two fundamental forces. I sometimes speculate that they were originally united in One, which split for the purpose of furthering its evolution: enhancing its complexity and thus enhancing its capacity for ever-more-sophisticated experiences. Why would this further its evolution? Because of the "arms race" that occurs in war. We've gained a lot of technology through warfare on this planet alone; imagine the advances in "consciousness technology" in which a spiritual war across the entire universe has resulted. But I emphasise that this is pure speculation, I really have no idea what the reality is. And it's very questionable (hot) speculation too: would the benefits really be worth the cost?

In any case, in this sense, again, my interpretation of dualism seems to be compatible with your interpretation of idealism: my One-which-split is compatible with your mind-at-large.
 

Alex

Administrator
You're mixing up the practice of culturally-sanctioned 'evils' (human sacrifice, local warfare, torture, etc.) with the global scale of Earth-murdering consumerism. There is absolutely nothing ridiculous in the original statement. No traditional culture in the history of humanity, in which non-materialist values prevailed, ever treated the Earth like a resource to be plundered; ever had so little regard for the future; ever denied so thoroughly the meaning of life.
I get where you're coming from, but I'm not sure I'm totally on-board. a lot of folks point to Easter Island as an example of irreversible ecological mismanagement (speculating that they cut down all the trees to roll their statues arond and then died from starvation as a result). maybe we're just operating on a much larger scale... a difference of scale rather than kind.

whenever I think about how messed up our materialistic culture is think about folks that are doing all sorts of crazy stuff without the benefit of all our hangups and craziness... maybe it's just human nature to make a mess out of stuff:
 
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