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Iain McGilchrist: the Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

Iain McGilchrist: the Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

Iain McGilchrist is a psychiatrist and writer, former Fellow of All Souls’ Oxford and author of the highly acclaimed book The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.

In modern Western culture the prevalent view is that those who believe that there is more to the world we experience than scientific materialism would suggest are simply fantasising, and are clinging to outmoded habits of thought.  This is fundamentally mistaken.

For reasons of survival, the two brain hemispheres have evolved to pay different kinds of attention to the world.  Since the nature of attention governs the nature of the world that comes to attention, two radically different types of attention should lead to two radically different experiential worlds, with different qualities, goals and values.  A vast body of brain research demonstrates that this is indeed the case.

The reductionist model corresponds to the manner in which just one hemisphere, the one that literally sees and understands least, conceives the world.  The other hemisphere recognises a world which has qualities that cannot be made explicit, corresponding to the realm beyond everyday language that the traditions of the sacred and spiritual have aimed to help us reach, realise and celebrate.  Our failure to see this risks no less than the destruction of humanity and the planet that is our home.

On 13 November, Iain addressed an invited audience in our London offices. The main session and Q&A audios are below. 

Main session

Audience Q&A

Image by Allan Ajifo


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