The Return of the Right Hemisphere

Western civilization is tilting ever further towards left hemisphere dominance. The signs are everywhere: in popular as well as high culture; in the madness of modernism and post-modernism; in scientism; in mushrooming bureaucratization; in the reification and virtualization of information technology; in political polarization and extremism; in mental illness; in dissociation from the body, nature, art and religion.

Enough is enough. We need a return to the right hemisphere. We must stop trying to make the world in our own image (the image of the left hemisphere) and rediscover the right relationship between the two hemispheres and in so doing, with the world.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you need to read Iain McGilchrist’s magnum opus, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. I really can’t recommend it highly enough.

Left hemisphere dominated materialists, atheists, bureaucrats, capitalists, scientists, technocrats and computer programmers are all “muggles”. Their pathology manifests itself somewhere on the autism spectrum. Left hemisphere dominated artists, thinkers, journalists, professors, activists and religious fundamentalists are “muppets”. Theirs manifests as schizotypal. Muggles are involved in science and technology, business and administration whereas muppets are involved in the arts and humanities, politics and religion. Both types suffer from left hemisphere dominance.

If Western civilization is to survive and not degenerate into dystopian totalitarianism, we must resist the advances of both muggles and muppets. We need only to glance at Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to see what nightmares erupt when muppets and muggles take over.

The way out of this left hemisphere nightmare is through those things that it cannot encapsulate or colonize: nature and the body, and the genuine products of the right hemisphere: art and religion. But the left hemisphere has attempted to colonize all of these and block all the exits from its self-referential world. So we must be vigilant, and learn to discriminate, especially in relation to those disciplines that most closely speak to us and define us, namely psychology, philosophy, morality, science, history, art and religion. Although the left hemisphere has a part to play in all of these, it must not be allowed to get the upper hand and betray its master.