Being Mentally Healthy – 1. Perspectives on Existence

Welcome to the course Being Mentally Healthy. My name is Ishi Nobu.

This course draws from my research on the natural world. My books, and other material, are available on my web site,

This course is on being mentally healthy by way of 2 intertwined subjects: the nature of existence and how the mind works. You’ll learn what is really going on, and why your mind keeps deceiving you about it.

You’ll also learn how to enjoy life to the fullest. Hopefully, you will see how your inner grace defines your well-being.

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How you view the world shapes how you view yourself, which is pivotal in determining your contentment. With that in mind, we begin with the distinct schools of thought on reality.

English novelist and philosopher Aldous Huxley: “All that we are and will do depends, in the last analysis, upon what we believe the nature of things to be.” Psychologist Alejandro Tabas: “All that we perceive is deeply contaminated by our subjective beliefs on the physical world.”

There are 3 schools of thought on the nature of existence: dualism, matterism, and energyism.

Your consciousness witnesses a mind insisting that you are bound in a body amid an external world. You experience a duality.

This what-you-see-is-what-you-get dualism has been the orthodoxy of natural philosophers throughout most of history and remains today how most people conceive of existence. Irish philosopher George Berkeley: “custom reconciles us to everything.”

Scientifically, dualism presents a profound dilemma, which is called the mind-body problem. American philosopher Mortimer Adler: “If this dualistic theory were true, it would confront us with the most embarrassing, insoluble difficulties should we try to explain how these 2 utterly different substances – mind and body – could interact with one another, as they appear to do.”

The mind-body problem arises in trying to explain the interface between the mind and the brain; that is, between the mentation we definitely experience and what is supposed to be a physiological intelligence system. This dilemma exists only with dualism, which considers the mind and the body distinct but somehow integral.

Mind-body ecology, essential to dualism, remains unfathomed, despite millennia of investigation. American philosopher Thomas Nagel: “No one has a plausible answer to the mind-body problem.” That bodes ill indeed for dualism as the basis of reality.

The impenetrability of the mind-body problem opens the door to a monism. Monistic theories posit that reality is a unicity which deceptively fronts the duality which we experience.

There are 2 basic schools of monism. Matterism asserts that matter manufactures existence and there is no deeper reality. 19th-century Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell, who opened the door to modern physics with his field theory: “A strict matterist believes that everything depends on the motion of matter.”

The polar opposite of matterism is energyism, where a unified Ĉonsciousness begets the mirage of a material world by way of a universal field of coherence which fabricates Nature.

The only thing these diametric schools agree on is the statement by American cognitive scientist Candace Pert: “The body and mind are not separate.”

If duality is a mirage, there is no mind-body interface. The apparent diversity of existence emerges from a singular force. The crucial issue with a monism is explaining how.

This makes monism hard to comprehend, especially energyism, which reckons that the physical world is only a proximate subjective experience, and ultimately illusory. Whereas matterism only has to explain away what we know to be that isn’t material – namely, consciousness and mental activity, energyism has to explain both how and why we live amid a mirage of matter. Irish-Scots novelist and physician Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote novels of super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes, provides a prelude to energyism: “There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”

Matterism supposes that matter is the be-all and end-all of existence. Matterism is the overwhelming consensus of Western scientists, who sophistically suppose that Nature follows comprehensible ‘laws’ by way of physical forces.

There is a seductive appeal in thinking that the world is comprehensible. German theoretical physicist Albert Einstein had his doubts that Nature was as simple as it seems: “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.”

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Psychology is the study of the mind. The orthodox school of thought by modern psychologists is that the mind is housed in some bodily organ – that psychology is an adjunct to physiology. Canadian cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, who is considered one of the most influential intellectuals of the 20th century: “Our own consciousness is a product of our brains.” Pinker then admitted: “We don’t understand how the mind works.”

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With its expressed need for verifiable evidence, science has a decided reductionist bent. Reductionism is the philosophical stance that even complex systems are simply the sum of their parts. Austrian philosopher Karl Popper: “Science may be described as the art of systematic oversimplification.” American geophysicist Marcia McNutt: “Science is not a body of facts. Science is a method for deciding what we choose to believe.”

The dilemma for reductionism is that there are no reductionist systems in Nature. Biology is an especially rich proving ground that scientific empiricism – the belief that Nature may be entirely explained by physical forces – just doesn’t cut it. Dutch philosopher Bernardo Kastrup: “Matterism is a reasonable castle built on rotten foundations.”

Under energyism, the mind creates both the body and the world at large. Throughout history, this seemingly fantastic view has been held only by a tiny minority: most notably, and consistently, by spiritual sages. 20th-century India guru Nisargadatta Maharaj: “The world is a creation of your consciousness.”

The quandary with energyism is that it is strongly counterintuitive, running smack into the wall of what the mind tells us is going on. If energyism is correct, what the mind presents is an elaborate deception. The question then becomes: why? That intrigue will be answered later in the course.

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The lessons that follow highlight issues in physics and biology that show whether matterism or energyism is credible. English philosopher Adam Smith: “The theory that can absorb the greatest number of facts is the one that must rule all observation.” You are about to find out which theory that is.