The Master Betrayed #10

A series based on Iain McGilchrist's conclusions about a left brain dominated world

Aug 8, 2022

In the conclusion of Iain McGilchrist’s book The Master and His Emissary, the question is asked, “What would the left hemisphere’s world look like?” if the left hemisphere of the brain “became so far dominant that, at the phenomenological level, it managed more or less to suppress the right hemisphere’s world altogether”.

In this series of posts I’d like to break down his conclusion and discus just how closely our world is conforming to the left hemisphere’s perspective.

To make sense of the quote below please review the previous quotes:

Part #1 Part #2 Part #3 Part #4 Part #5 Part #6 Part #7 Part #8 Part #9

Family relationships, or skilled roles within society, such as those of priests, teachers and doctors, which transcend what can be quantified or regulated, and in fact depend on a degree of altruism, would become the object of suspicion. The left hemisphere misunderstands the nature of such relationships, as it misunderstands altruism as a version of self-interest, and sees them as a threat to its power. We might even expect there to be attempts to damage the trust on which such relationships rely, and, if possible, to discredit them. In any case, strenuous efforts would be made to bring families and professions under bureaucratic control, a move that would be made possible, presumably, only by furthering fear and mistrust.

In such a society people of all kinds would attach an unusual importance to being in control. Accidents and illnesses, since they are beyond our control, would therefore be particularly threatening and would, where possible, be blamed on others, since they would look like a threat to one’s capacity to control one’s life. The left hemisphere, as will be remembered, is in any case not quick to take responsibility, and sees itself as the passive victim of whatever it is not conscious of having willed. In the Renaissance, as in the nineteenth century, when the right hemisphere was in the ascendant, death was omnipresent in life and literature, was openly spoken of, and was seen as part of the fabric of life itself, in recognition of which alone life could have meaning. According to the left-hemisphere view, death is the ultimate challenge to its sense of control, and, on the contrary, robs life of meaning. It would therefore have to become a taboo, while, at the same time sex, the power of which the right hemisphere realises is based on the implicit, would become explicit and omnipresent. There would be a preoccupation, which might even reach to be an obsession, with certainty and security, since the left hemisphere is highly intolerant of uncertainty, and death would become the ultimate unspeakable. (Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary)

The things that cannot be regulated. Family and faith come to mind immediately, and these are the very things that come under attack in totalitarianism of the past and present. Look at how some pastors have been treated because they dare to put their religion before a nonsense health edict. Isn’t it interesting that the left hemisphere and totalitarian regimes have the same mistrust of faith, family and any other relationships that can’t be easily regulated and seen as a threat. I think it’s interesting that McGilchrist uses the word suspicion, as I think this perfectly describes the attitude of a left hemisphere that cannot comprehend relationships that are beyond utility and forged by love, faith and altruism. The suspicion is that there must be an ulterior motive, and a dangerous one at that.

This propensity, or rather need for control in the face of death is also playing out in startling clarity with the ‘pandemic(s)’. Regardless of the legitimacy of the pandemic, its lethality, or even if it’s anything new at all, the left hemisphere’s attitude is to have total control over this ultimate enemy (of death). Thus we have the ridiculous notion of “zero covid” or the locking down of entire regions because of a handful of “cases”, doing more damage than simply letting the virus (or whatever it is, if indeed it is anything) play out.

We also see the blame shifting - the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” sort of rhetoric. Classic left hemisphere that cannot accept any responsibility for anything. In split brain subjects the left hemisphere will confabulate all sorts of nonsense while shifting the blame to someone or something else. Frighteningly (but maybe not surprisingly) we are seeing this happen at all levels of our bureaucracy.

‘without batting an eye’ the left hemisphere draws mistaken conclusions from the information available to it and lays down the law about what only the right hemisphere can know… This may be linked to a phenomenon known as confabulation, where the brain, not being able to recall something, rather than admit to a gap in its understanding, makes up something plausible, that appears consistent, to fill it. Thus, for example, in the presence of a right-side lesion, the brain loses the contextual information that would help it make sense of experience; the left hemisphere, nothing loath, makes up a story, and, lacking insight, appears completely convinced by it… the left hemisphere needs certainty and needs to be right. (Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary, pp.81-82, emphasis mine)

The left hemisphere, without the capacity to hold ambiguity and parallel possibilities in suspension, but needs closure and absolute clarity (for reasons of control), takes us into dangerous territory about things which it is clueless (remembering it has a mechanistic view of things, the birth and death within the biological realm being incomprehensible to it).

What have we lost in the 21st Century when we can’t accept that death and dying are a normal part of life? In the desperate grasping for immortality, are we robbing ourselves of actual living? How have we become so intolerant, so averse to any ill, yet willingly apply dangerous, even fatal remedies to avoid the mildest malady? And what do we do to humanity when we discount the guides of the transcendent, the priests, the prophets, the healers?

Truly we are quickly going down the path of insanity which looks very much like the left hemisphere’s version of reality, with no subjection to the right.

Let’s discuss…