Dante on Idealism. Or Dante in dialogue with Bernardo Kastrup and others

An audio version of this talk can be found in my podcast Dante’s Divine Comedy available via podcast feeds.

This is a contribution to recent dialogues on idealism between Bernardo Kastrup, John Vervaeke, Matt Segall, Philip Goff and others, including myself.

I draw particularly on:
– Dante’s account and analysis of his journey to the heart of consciousness in all its fullness – source and manifestation – in the Divine Comedy
– how minds as we know them not only dissociate but also project and introject, and what meaning this might have for Bernardo’s thesis
– trinitarian understandings of oneness, and the dynamics of creation.

I start with some concerns that I have with Bernardo’s account of analytic idealism, much as I value all that he does. They focus on his sense of mind at large, or God, and his use of the phenomenon of dissociation.

I’m struck that Dante’s discovery of his true nature in God goes hand in hand with the increase of his individuality and personhood. Also, he not only experiences dissociation, or a sense of separateness, but projection and introjection – two further mechanisms that minds deploy, which I think are key.

This takes me to trinitarian understandings of oneness, in its eternal and infinite form. In divine life, kenosis is ecstasis; giving is receiving; knowing and unknowing are a mutual unfolding; longing is satisfaction; expansion is the expression of what already is. If the meaning of our life is the discovery of our nature in theosis, that might add to the model.

Beatrice conveys this movement to Dante, overcoming his separateness by discerning his projections, and offering them back to him as introjections of the truth of himself, others and God.

Finally, I raise questions of suffering, the nature of life, and why we experience separateness at all, before the discussion concludes with the hadith beloved by Sufis, another idealist expression of genius:

“I was a Treasure unknown then I desired to be known so I created a creation to which I made Myself known; then they knew Me.”