Bernardo Kastrup’s Ontology

[The following text is transcribed from Jeffrey Mishlove’s interview with Bernardo Kastrup, with some paraphrasing and editing by JJM]

The content of experience varies from day-to-day, but the dative* of experience—that to which the experience is disclosed—the subject of experience never varies.

There is always one and the same subject of experience. If you eliminate all the contents of your consciousness, all of your memories, everything you know, everything you think, all your opinions—eliminate all that, then check how you feel. And if I do the same, I will feel exactly as you feel, because we will both be the pure dative* of experience: contentless experiencer.

Before you experience anything, you experience “I am”. That is the pure dative* of experience, and it is the same in you as it is in me.

What Richard Maurice Buck realized is that some people have found a way to identify with the pure dative*, and their experience was one of being the whole universe.

People come back from these experiences and they say they have seen behind their heads, they have seen to the ends of the universe in every direction. But I think when they are in that state, they cognize something that is completely ineffable. They cannot attach symbols or referrents while they are in that state, but they carry vestiges of it back to the body. And it is only when they come back into the body that they code their experiece with words. What they have experienced is the pure dative*, the subject before everything that comes from a nervous system.

That’s who he is. That’s who we all are before we put on this “meat suit”.

We can know intellectually that we are pure consciousness, prior to sense experience, but it is only when we have a direct experience that we really believe it. I think this direct experience is accessible to all of us. In certain moments.

We conceptualize reality with a library of concepts that may be innate or may be learned. But the library is limited, and there are glaring holes in what we are able to conceive. I think that time is one of these holes. Our limited conceptualization of time leads to artifacts.

From personal experience and accounts of people close to me, I know it is empirically a fact that the “future” can be perceived, sometimes with an astonishing degree of accuracy. Similarly, it is an empirical fact that sometimes people acquire knowledge across space, with no physical intermediary to transmit the information.

But the language that we use to code these phenomena is contaminated by our limited concepts of space and time. You want to know if there is a self that survives death. Well, certainly the dative* self, the experiencer survives. It was never dependent on a body in the first place. But what about the memories, the knowledge, the attitudes and experiences that are part of your human life? Perhaps this question comes from an improper framing. Time exists while we are incarnated, and in our conceptual system we can talk about reincarnation and past lives and precognition and clairvoyance. But the deeper reality is what is there when you are not dressed in a meat suit. From a perspective outside the human framework, we would not talk about a soul that dwells for a time in the body and returns in a different body. Maybe another way to say this is that the Akasha exists outside of space and time.

I am a story in that Akashic record, and so are you. I’m speaking of the conventional you and I, the human bodies and minds. The real you and the real me are an experiencer—one and the same experiencer that exists outside physical space-time.


* Dative case is a grammatical construct that exists in Latin and Germanic languages, but not in English. It is like the object of a preposition. In the phrase, “I can show you the world,” “I” is the subject, “world” is the direct object and “you” is in the dative case.

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