Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The Matter With Things Volume 2

 To quote an Oxford professor from the dust jacket, "This is one of the most important books ever published, and yes, I do mean ever".

I'll be following Iain McGilchrist as I do Jordan Peterson ... which means I'll be reading a couple more of his books and attempting to keep of with as much of his thinking as I can. 


A quote from the heading of his channel (which can be found from the link with his name above): 

I believe that we are engaged in committing suicide: intellectual suicide, moral suicide and physical suicide. If there is anything as important as stopping us poisoning our seas and destroying our forests, it is stopping us poisoning our minds and destroying our souls.

Our dominant value – sometimes I fear our only value – has, very clearly, become that of power. This aligns us with a brain system, that of the left hemisphere, the raison d’ĂȘtre of which is to control and manipulate the world. But not to understand it: that, for evolutionary reasons that I explain, has come to be more the raison d’ĂȘtre of our – more intelligent, in every sense – right hemisphere. Unfortunately the left hemisphere, knowing less, thinks it knows more. It is a good servant, but a ruinous – a peremptory – master. And the predictable outcome of assuming the role of master is the devastation of all that is important to us – or should be important, if we really know what we are about.

Even if we could, by some miracle, reverse the course on which we are set, unless we change our way of thinking, of being in the world – the way that is destroying us as we speak – it would all be in vain. This is why I have written the last long book I will ever write: The Matter with Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World.

In it I search out what it is we have lost sight of, all that is there for us to see, if only we were not blinded to it: an inexhaustibly, truly wondrous, creative, living universe, not a meaningless, moribund mechanism. By bringing to bear up-to-the-minute neuropsychology, physics and philosophy, I show not only that these are in no way in conflict with one another, but that they all lead us, time and again, to the same insights. And that this is not in opposition to, but rather corroborates, the wisdom of the great spiritual traditions across the world.

All this converges on a vision that is necessary if we are to survive; and, even more importantly, if we are to deserve to survive. What I hope for my readers is that, if they are willing to accompany me on this adventure, they will never see the world in quite the same way again.

I am largely in agreement with his analysis, and those that have followed my blogs know this to be the case. His ability to present two key models of thought is invaluable. 

  • The clear difference between the left  and right brain views of the world.

  • The increasingly observed physics and philosophical view that what we perceive as matter is actually a series of quantum fields. Quantum Field Theory (QFT), possibly described a bit in the book "Helgoland".
The analogy of our brains being more like a TV set receiving fields from some universal underlying field or set of fields, finally gives me a model that makes sense to me of "God, the universe, and everything". It is a way to explain consciousness that I had never considered. Being stuck in the Cartesian body/mind dualism model of our consciousness/spirit being a "ghost in the machine", with the brain being a sort of wetware computer that somehow generated consciousness, I just didn't have a model that I really believed to be reasonable.

A mind bending assertion is that we need to give up our conception of matter: 
Page 1053, "If you believe matter is the only reality, and you then learn that matter as you think of it is illusion, you will conclude that reality is illusory. But it is not. It is matter as we think of it, that is an illusion. And there is more to reality than matter. It was your thinking that misled you. 

No, I haven't become a believer in Climate Change, and man "destroying the planet", but rather view that narrative as merely another play for power. Since I'm at least somewhat a right brained guy, I could be wrong.  

Chapter 28 gets into "The Sense of the Sacred". On 1194, 

"How does it come about that there is a process. or motion, or a point in time at all - now or ever" The answer to this question cannot be answered in terms of a physical entity or process, because that already presupposes what we are questioning -- why there are physical processes and entities. The proper object of of this question is that which underlies timelessly and eternally, whatever is: in other words, the ground of Being." 

Humans all have some concept of this, covered in "The Elementary Forms Of Religious Life". 

Page 1295 is tragic. 

"It is in dealing with death that that one is most forcibly we have yielded hands down to the forgetting of Being." 

Even though McGilchrist can't practice religion for some reason, when his parents died, he and his brother wanted words from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer to be repeated as written,  but the priest was unable to comply. "Too gloomy". 

Appendix 8: "Incompatibility" of Science and Religion points out that the religion of our times is Scientism, and it is arid in the extreme. 

"That the religious, both communally and individually are happier, and dramatically healthier both mentally and physically, as well as better adjusted, more resilient and more prosocial in their habits, also does not prove that religion is true. But it suggests that we and our societies function poorly when we neglect it, and that human thriving and fulfillment depend on it to a considerable extent." 

 I want to help reconcile the critical need for religion in the lives of individuals, families, communities, countries, and the world. This book is the best I've seen to date as a way to help move our western culture from the materialist path to destruction we are on.

Based on my life, and what I observe today, a quote from page 1333 seems critical to moving to unified truth. "... it is dogma we must avoid at all costs. Dogma is the besetting sin of the age; and if one wanted one, it would be be hard to find a better expression of left hemisphere's take on the world than dogma. 

Matt 23 11-15 

11 The greatest among you will be your servant. [ the left brain is to be the servant of the right ]

12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

13  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. 

15  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

The left brain is the Pharisee brain, and since our society post the Enlightenment is left brain biased, we are biased toward dogma in everything ... religion, philosophy, science, politics, interpersonal relationships ... we are living on half a brain, and it is killing us, temportally and eternally. 

This does NOT (as is covered many times in the book) mean "there is no such thing as truth", or "anything goes" ... it is the opposite. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God. Humility. 

Pray without ceasing. 

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