In the last blog, I stated that the premise that a rationalistic scientific way of thinking is the only way to the truth of reality is false.

Physicalism is the premise that the real world only consists simply of the physical world. Physicalists don’t deny that the world might contain many items that at first glance don’t seem physical — items of a biological, or psychological, or moral, or social nature. But they state nevertheless that at the end of the day such items are either physical or depend on the physical. And that, theoretically, given enough time,  physicists and scientists will be able to explain everything using physical laws.

The basic idea is we human beings are nothing more than exceedingly complicated biological machines . Consciousness is generated by physiological events and processes in our brains.

So how does one explore whether this foundational premise is false? I am going to look at three ways in future blog posts.

  • Consciousness-subjective experience
  • Parapsychology, i.e. ESP, mind reading, mediums and such
  • Spiritual experience of religious and non-religious people

Let me begin with a perspective. A few years ago, I wrote a book called the Leadership Mastery Map. It categorized leadership subjects according to Ken Wilber’s All Qual Model. The model is a simple but powerful way to explain reality.

Two dichotomies emerge from this model: individual versus collective, and subjective versus objective. By using a 2×2 matrix, we can include all perspectives reality.

The upper left is individual interior subjective which includes inner values, beliefs and internal dynamics, including consciousness.

The lower left quadrant is the collective interior subjective. It is shared values and beliefs of the family, tribe, or nation or any other group.

The upper right quadrant is the exterior individual objective. It consists of one’s physical body and one’s behavior. When a doctor examines you, they are in the upper right quadrant. When you are talking about feelings and beliefs to a psychologist, you are in the upper left quadrant.

The lower right quadrant encompasses everything in the external world.

Physicalism only looks at the right side of the model, the external objective.  In this way it is called reductionist. Some say it does not look at reality from a holistic perspective.

And if you really are into it, go to my talk on Integral Coaching which explains the model.

One more thing. If you really want to begin to understand the mentality of those who focus on the right quadrants (objective) to those who focus on the upper left quadrant (subjective)  go to this fascinating dialogue between  of a physicalist and a spiritual person. Richard Dawkins, biologist and atheist and Satish Kumar, a spiritual teacher and environmental activist have a robust conversation about reality.

Begin at 10.14 when they start talking about spiritual trees and rocks. Listen to how the different perspectives play out.

So how holistically do you look at the world?

While you do reside in all four quadrants, do you put more credibility in one quadrant than the other?

3 thoughts on “PHYSICALISM”

  1. Very interesting..
    Still doesn’t explain where life began. I will read on.
    Did you get the book I had ordered and if you did have you bothered to read it?


  2. I am commenting on several posts. I think we can take ourselves far too seriously at times in this “human experiment” called life. For example, we perceive so very little of the electromagnetic spectrum (6%) and yet we think we see everything there is to see, solar systems, stars, the flowers in our front yard. We see but a tiny slice of it all and who is to say that slice is even real? We experience time as linear when time does not exist solely as linear. Frankly, I am beginning to believe our human perspective is highly delusional. At 60 I am more and more leaning into my soul than my “logical” mind. I don’t give a flip about whether others think they are “right” about whether we are just meaningless bundles of DNA floating around in the universe. My soul says not so. No so at all. That is good enough for me. Lynn’s journey with incurable kidney cancer has been one that has impacted my beliefs profoundly. Long story short is that he believes we choose the lives we have now for soul evolution. We’ve lived many lives as we evolve. The human experience is a fertile ground for this because of the tension of duality and the limits of our condition. Struggle can produce strength and change. We can reincarnate in other solar systems or dimensions. I am beginning to feel there is merit here. I do NOT ever try to squash someone’s beliefs, religious or otherwise, if those beliefs give them comfort as we all face an ultimate physical demise. In fact there have been times I’ve actually envied my parents who believe so solidly in the heaven of the bible and the simplistic framework of a Southern Baptist belief system. Totally gives them comfort in their 80s that this life is not all there is. Although I cannot ever go back to that system again, I’d say their unequivocal faith and happiness are pretty amazing.


  3. Bruce, thank you for writing these things. I can hear your voice in your musings. It is a joy to read the comments of the others who are still such close friends. Much appreciated, beloved friend.


Leave a Reply to Victoria Winburne Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.