This book will help you better understand your inner world, the human condition, and how Western society has ended up in such a dysfunctional state.
Have I mentioned that I’m somewhat obsessed with understanding the inner workings of our left and right brains? I currently consider The Master and His Emissary to be the book to read on the subject. It’s dense, and to use the author’s word, “demanding” — I could only read short sections at a time — but so illuminating.
We are gifted with a dual hemisphere brain that offers us two different world views. These hemispheres are meant to work in cooperation with each other, but as the author lays out quite convincingly, they are not exactly equals.
The left brain is meant to work for the right brain.
“… what the left hemisphere can offer must be used in service of what the right hemisphere knows and sees, not the other way round.”
Instead, in our current condition, the left brain has taken over and thinks it is in charge. It has built a society that reinforces its values, ways of working, and false sense of dominance. As this imbalance in the brain plays out in our lives and in society, it seems normal, but from the right brain’s perspective, it most definitely is not.
I will now leave the author to tell you the story of the Master and his emissary:
“There is a story in Nietzsche that goes something like this. There was once a wise spiritual master, who was the ruler of a small but prosperous domain, and who was known for his selfless devotion to his people. As his people flourished and grew in number, the bounds of this small domain spread; and with it the need to trust implicitly the emissaries he sent to ensure the safety of its ever more distant parts. It was not just that it was impossible for him personally to order all that needed to be dealt with: as he wisely saw, he needed to keep his distance from, and remain ignorant of, such concerns. And so he nurtured and trained carefully his emissaries, in order that they could be trusted. Eventually, however, his cleverest and most ambitious vizier, the one he most trusted to do his work, began to see himself as the master, and used his position to advance his own wealth and influence. He saw his master’s temperance and forbearance as weakness, not wisdom, and on his missions on the master’s behalf, adopted his mantle as his own — the emissary became contemptuous of his master. And so it came about that the master was usurped, the people were duped, the domain became a tyranny; and eventually it collapsed in ruins.
The meaning of this story is as old as humanity, and resonates far from the sphere of political history. I believe, in fact, that it helps us understand something taking place inside ourselves, inside our very brains, and played out in the cultural history of the West, particularly over the last 500 years or so. Why I believe so forms the subject of this book. I hold that, like the Master and his emissary in the story, though the cerebral hemispheres should co-operate, they have for some time been in a state of conflict. The subsequent battles between them are recorded in the history of philosophy, and played out in the seismic shifts that characterise the history of Western culture. At present the domain — our civilisation — finds itself in the hands of a vizier, who, however gifted, is effectively an ambitious regional bureaucrat with his own interests at heart. Meanwhile the Master, the one whose wisdom gave the people peace and security, is led away in chains. The Master is betrayed by his emissary.”
Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary
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Check out the book here: The Master and His Emissary