Thursday, February 17, 2022

More than One Way of Knowing

    One might wonder why a hyper-rational perspective so dominates industrialized societies these days. By hyper-rational I mean unbalanced, very narrow & machine-like, as if human beings were isolated machines, manipulating completely separate, unrelated external mechanical objects, in a totally random, dead, meaningless universe. Seriously??
This is physicalism - the current orthodoxy under which we unknowingly live. But like other dogmatic belief systems, it cries out for open examination
& wise correction!

Materialist or Reductionist Science … has concluded that we are the only sentient beings in an inanimate universe that is without life, meaning, purpose, direction or intelligence. This bleak ‘philosophy’ has taken on the power & absolutism of an ideology.
Baring – Awakening to a New Story – The Evolutionary Imperative of Our Time” :

     “Albert Einstein called the intuitive or metaphoric mind a sacred gift. He added that the rational mind was a faithful servant. It is paradoxical that in the context of modern life we have begun to worship the servant and defile the divine.
Samples. “The Metaphoric Mind: A Celebration of Creative Consciousness.” Jalmar, 1976.

     "Our understanding of knowing is multifaceted and education emphasizes memory, reasoning, learning style, language, intelligence, & on & on. Acknowledging the vast array of distinctions, I want to cut beneath these to claim that with respect to education, consciousness, & culture today, there are two ways of knowing. That is, there are two fundamental ways that the mind works to know the world. There are myriad variations to be sure and certainly plenty of other ways to slice this rhetorically, but the most salient concern today comes down to this.
     One way we will call categorical. This knows the world through abstraction, through separating it from us, through taking apart to understand. In a sense everything is reduced to parts, to lowest units that are differentiated, named, catalogued. It reaches its apex in metaphor of computer zeroes & ones. Categorical awareness narrows in to focus on detail and seeks precision, objectivity, & presupposes certainty. It simplifies & represents, proceeds linearly & sequentially, and generalizes. Our schooling emphasizes this way of knowing, and for the most part, only this.
     The other knowing is through contact (experiential) instead of category. Its style is direct, relational, embodied, and recognizes wholes & connections. Awareness through contact enables a broader view, one connected with the world & the body, scanning for changes in the environment. This knowing seeks novelty, picks up implicit meaning & metaphor, is able to read faces & other cues of individuals instead of simplified, predetermined, and generalized categories. Knowledge through contact is evolving, implicit, & indeterminate since it always exists in relationship to something else and is not ever fully graspable.
     Iain McGilchrist, drawing from a vast body of neuroscientific and phenomenological data, makes a compelling case that these ways of knowing have neurological substrates corresponding to the anatomically distinct hemispheres of the brain.”
     Tobin Hart. “The Integrative Mind: Transformative education for a world on fire.” Rowman & Littlefield, 2014

Iain McGilchrist, author of, 'The Master and his Emissary. The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World,' says that we are dominated by this left-hemisphere analytical view, which of course you see going straight into artificial intelligence. And we’ve neglected the right-hemisphere creative, intuitive, holistic side of ourselves. For him, the master hemisphere, in terms of his book’s title, is the right hemisphere, not the left hemisphere, because  

     • FIRST the right hemisphere gives us an idea of the whole, then  

     • SECOND information is sent to the left hemisphere for analytical elaboration, finally

     • THIRD it should be sent back to the right hemisphere for a higher level of integration

     So he never says we only need one hemisphere. He says we must create a culture in which these hemispheres are working together and we therefore re-establish our balance."
      David Lorimer


     "To cut a long story short, it struck me that it was a problem with our thinking ... about things out there that were objects, that didn’t have any kind of embodied reality for us. And that interested me in what's going on in our brains. And when I studied medicine, I was very much inspired by Oliver Sacks and his writings, principally “Awakenings,” an extraordinary book. That book shows that when something goes wrong brain, it affects their whole world. Or something goes wrong with their mind, it affects their body. These things are deeply, closely connected. So I studied medicine, and went off to neurology & psychiatry, which is the area of overlap.
was there that I started to ask myself questions. Why is the brain divided? In medical school, nobody ever said why the brain is divided in two halves. Nobody knew, and nobody even asked the question why. And later, I learned that the two hemispheres have completely different ways of looking at the world. There was a lot of nonsense talked about hemisphere difference that put serious scientists off the topic altogether. I was told, ‘Don’t even touch this topic because it’s career death. It’s pop psychology. It doesn’t have any basis.’
      And yet, when one came to look at scholarly research on people who had damage to one or other hemisphere, you could see that they had completely different effects, depending on where it was - the left or the right hemisphere. And that was being overlooked & ignored. People say, ‘Ah there aren’t any really serious differences.’ But I think what they were doing wrong was they were thinking of the brain as a machine. And so they were asking the question you would ask of a machine, ‘What does it do?’ And they said first of all, well the left does reason & language, and the right does emotion & pictures
then they found that this was completely untrue, because each hemisphere got involved in all those things. But what they didn’t seem to be asking, was the question you would ask a part of a person which is, ‘How, in what way does each hemisphere get involved in these things?’ And if you do that, you find that each hemisphere is involved in every single thing that makes up parts of our lives, just with a completely different take on it. That was the difference! To begin with, I couldn’t quite see how staggeringly important this was. Then I realized, the two halves of the brain were attending to the world in two different ways. And we know that when you attend differently, you see different things. There are lots of clever demonstrations, some by Darren Brown the illusionist, and so on, which show that if you’re not expecting to see something, you don’t see it; if you look with a certain kind of attention you see one thing, if you look with another kind of attention, you see something completely different. Quite apart from those clever demonstrations, in our daily life, when we look at things with a certain kind of attention, we find a different kind of world from what is apparently the same world on a different day when we’re attending to it differently.
      I heard a lecture by John Cutting, whom I considered the most interesting living psychiatrist. He had done what no other physician had been doing, which was looking at what happened after right hemisphere strokes. Everyone was focused on left hemisphere strokes. And they thought well nothing serious happens to somebody with a right hemisphere stroke because they can still use their right hand, and language is usually unimpaired. But actually it turns out that they’re much more seriously impaired, & harder to rehabilitate after a right hemisphere stroke than after a left hemisphere stroke, even though, after a left hemisphere stroke, it’s very probable that you won’t be able to speak or be able to use your right hand. Now that surprises people. But what John was saying is when the left hemisphere is damaged, you see these very obvious results, but when the right hemisphere is damaged, what you don’t immediately see is that their whole experience of the world has changed. And he alerted me to some things in this lecture which rang a bell. He said, the left hemisphere fails to understand implicit meaning – it doesn’t understand metaphor, jokes, irony, sense of humor. It takes things very literally, in a sort of mechanical way. It is less in touch with the body than the right hemisphere, and literally the body image, which is not just a visual image but an image in all senses in the brain of ourselves as embodied beings, is in the right hemisphere. And he was saying also that the general ideas, as it were, get collected abstractly in the left hemisphere, but unique instances, embodied concrete instances of things are better appreciated in the right hemisphere.
      ... it’s the left hemisphere that does the talking. It’s my left hemisphere now that is speaking to you. And it has set up a kind of language that works well for it. But it’s much harder to convey the meanings & knowledge that the right hemisphere has
often, when you make something explicit, you utterly change its nature. You see this with sex, you see this with religion, you can see it with jokes, you can see it with poems. And when you disembody something, you utterly change its reality for us and how we relate to it. And when you abstract and generalize something, you’ve completely lost what was unique & special about it. You’re doing a rather paradoxical thing – you’re destroying the thing you’re trying to examine, in the process of examining.
      And very often, I think, what we as a society have been tending to do in the last 150 years, is increasingly to denature the world by our way of talking about it abstractly, mechanically, reductively. And we have not attended to, because it’s harder to see, what is lost and, what, as it were, the part of us that understands the implicit, knows.
Now the implicit is enormous compared with the explicit. The bit that we actually see explicitly, in the center of the focus of our consciousness is minute. It’s conservatively estimated to be much less than 5% of all the stuff that we’re knowing & experiencing, and probably it’s very, very much less than that. So the unconscious mind, which includes the whole of our bodies as well as the other parts of the brain and so forth, is taking in, dealing with, assessing & responding to the world – knowing things as it were, that in our explicit, conscious mind we’ve ruled out, we don’t talk about, and we say we don’t believe in them. So that actually skews the picture of what the world is, who we are, and how we relate.
is a Relative Matter with Iain McGilchrist:


     "There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe." Teilhard de Chardin

      “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “The Little Prince”

     “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “The Little Prince”

     Insights from a present-day, 84-year old mystic & long-time meditator, John Butler:
     “The more I appreciate the wonder of the world around me, the more I realize my own ignorance & incapacity to understand. And I love the verse from scriptures that says, ‘My ways are higher than your ways, my thoughts than your thoughts,' says the Lord. And also another one that says, ‘The wisdom of man is foolishness to God.’ I suppose that’s why, as we grow in spiritual awareness, what we call knowledge – the answer to questions, also goes through as it were a process of evolution
faith is really higher knowledge. Lower knowledge is concerned with facts & answers. So we study, we read books, we ask questions, search the internet. Why do these things happen? We try to analyze the different parts. As you stand more at the top of the mountain, somehow these questions rather fall away, and you acquire a deeper understanding – an understanding of wholeness. It’s not so concerned with the bits & pieces of separation. You see the wholeness of things.
you lie on your back and look at the sky, you don’t normally say, ‘Why is this bit of cloud like that? Why isn’t the other bit shaped in the same way? Why are some dark & shadowy? Why are other bits light?’ We’re used to looking at the sky as a whole, aren’t we? And we can see the comings & goings of things, within a greater unity, within a greater harmony.
so, a part of spiritual development is that partial knowledge ie knowledge of different parts, bits of this & bits of that, what you could refer to as ‘name & form,’ gets replaced by a higher knowledge, which is called, faith. Now faith is the evidence of things not seen. You don’t see with the eye of flesh. You see with the eye of heart.
’re to understand what can never be explained in terms of ordinary encyclopedic knowledge. Begin to understand the meaning of love, and of peace, and of freedom. No one can explain what these things are.
we all know instinctively what they are. We talk about them every day, like we talk about God. Who really knows what we’re talking about? We may have a sort of inkling, but... Yet there is faith, isn’t there? Faith is a sort of knowing, but a fractured, partial knowing. It’s a knowing that enables one to have faith or trust. And these statements, ‘All things happen for the best, to those that love God.’ It’s really a statement of faith, of higher knowledge, that knows it perhaps instinctively, better than in analytic knowledge. I mean who can ever say, what’s best and what’s worse?
Butler :


     "William James more than 100 years ago, speaking of mystical experience said that one of it's characteristics, besides ego dissolution & transcendence of space and time, is its 'noetic quality.' And this was the quality that what you learned, the insights you had, were not merely opinions but were revealed truths. And they have a stickiness & a power that is central to the experience, and it is what allows people to change."
Pollan interviewed by Katherine May, "The Future of Hope 4":


     “When you consider all the saints and prophets as legitimate and no longer differentiate between religions, you have arrived at the stage of truth.
Elahi (1895-1974)

     “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
. Buckminster Fuller


John Butler's - 33min talk


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