Saturday, May 13, 2023

The Last Temptation of Bob, AKA Normality

In the chapter I'm currently reading, Science's Claims on Truth, the limitations of McGilchrist's approach become more apparent. You might say that while his neurology is cutting edge, his philosophizing -- thus far anyway -- is going to be pretty familiar to anyone who has thought seriously about the limits of science. In short, he gives us a conventional critique of scientism. 

Again, when you're accustomed to someone like Schuon, anything less is like a declension from a higher to a lower dimension of reality. 

For example, in the chapter before this (What is Truth?) McGilchrist lists the usual paths to truth, including science, reason, intuition, and imagination. But he left out the most important one: intellection, which is the direct perception of truth. The intellect is a "mirror of the supra-sensible and itself a supernatural ray of light" (Schuon). 

Mere reason "perceives the general and proceeds by logical operations, whilst Intellect perceives the principial -- the metaphysical." However, in our yuga of stupidity,

the intellect is atrophied to the point of being reduced to a mere virtuality, although doubtless there is no watertight partition between it and the reason, for a sound process of reasoning indirectly transmits something of the intellect (Schuon).

Also left off McGilchrist's list is revelation, which, according to Schuon, is a "an objective and transcendent Intellection," whereas "Pure Intellection is a subjective and immanent Revelation." 

Although I agree with Schuon, it is a pretty woo woo opinion, so I certainly don't blame McGilchrist for having more conventional views. Nor do I want to criticize him for what he is not trying to say, do, or be. Analogously, I love Thomas Sowell, and it would be stupid to blame him for not being Thomas Aquinas.

McGilchrist criticizes the idea of truth as a settled thing, and prefers to view it as an ongoing process, more of an unending asymptotic approach. It very much reminds me of Voegelin's bottom line, that our Quest has no external "object," but is reality itself becoming luminous for its movement from the ineffable, through the Cosmos, to the ineffable. That's also pretty woo woo, but it sounds about right to me.

In one of his books, Schuon says something to the effect that the divine manifests as truth or presence, and McGilchrist says something pretty similar vis-a-vis the LH and RH, respectively. 

Again, for the LH, truth will be an abstract map or model, a re-presentation, while the presentation -- the presence itself -- is in the RH:

The single most profound difference between the hemispheres... is the distinction between the experience of something as it "presences" to us in the RH, and as it is "re-presented" to us in the left. 

Now, "presence" is an ambiguous word. For example, when the teacher would call my name in the morning I would say "present," even though I was subjectively absent. Somewhere else. We've all had the experience of people being with us but not truly present, and we can even detect the same thing, in, for example, music. 

We can even be absent from ourselves, which is the worst.

Last night I was listening to a singer who was really present, and then there's the matter of "stage presence." What is that?  Whatever it is, it is obvious, and known in some kind of direct manner analogous to how intellection works. 

McGilchrist asks why we don't "have a verb to describe the experience of an encounter with reality that strikes us at once as of fundamental importance?" Instead, we have this equivocal and ambiguous word, "presence." But

To "presence" is not the same as to "be present," which is too finished and inert, leaving little place for whatever is there to play an active part in the encounter; or worse, to "be presented," which is passive, and gets dangerously near to "being re-presented." 

Whatever this Presence turns out to be, it clearly isn't something perceived by the LH. Problem is, the LH only knows what it knows, and, like scientism, will pretty much deny the existence of what it does not and cannot know. What would the LH say about the presence of the sacred? That you're lying or hallucinating, I guess.

Or, it might say what an autistic person says about facial expressions: eh, seen one, seen 'em all. 

Here's a sobering thought: "Presencing is what the world does less of as we grow older." Is this inevitable? Or in-eve-ate-apple? Is there something we can do to arrest or reverse the process? If only we could somehow be born again, or be as children or something.... 

Note also that it cannot be the world that does less presencing, since it doesn't change. Rather, something in us hardens and crystalizes, or freezes or dries up, or loses its sense of flowing engagement, its living dialectic with the real presence of the Real Presence. Something must be able to reach us from outside ourselves, or we're done.

How do we go from dead men walking to dead men waking?!

McGilchrist recalls Wordsworth's famous gag about how those annoying shades of the prison-house begin to close upon the growing boy, and boy, I hate it when that happens. It's something I've spent my whole life trying to avoid, even back when I didn't know a thing about poetry and hadn't a punny to my gnome. In other words, it is something from which I instinctively recoiled, as from Grim Death itself. Save me from the LH monster!

If that's what it was.  

Here's another thing: if everyone you know is living in the conventional LH grid, but you're some bohemian living way out in the bewilderness of the RH, how do you avoid feeling like you're the weirdo? 

I still get occasional attacks of this nature -- like The Last Temptation of Bob, or something. Perceptive readers will know it's happening when Bob has one of his periodic tantrums about having few readers and no impact. A perfectly wasted life!

At any rate, in addition to presence, two other important principles or realities to bear in mind are relationship and betweenness, but I guess we'll deal with those tomorrow.

Friday, May 12, 2023

What Have We Unlearned?

As we come to the conclusion of Part One, what have we learned? First, that hemispheric differences "are stark in every area relevant to making sense of the world," and that -- this I wouldn't have guessed -- "the LH is, compared with the RH, unreliable in just about every way that matters."

McGilchrist compares the LH to a (perhaps basement-dwelling, ice cream-licking)

high-ranking bureaucrat, protected from the world which he or she must administrate: adept at knowing and observing the rules, but knowing little if anything about life as it is lived there.

I remember the first time I was thrown in with a live patient. I had my LH theories, but as I became more confident, I pretty much tossed them out. 

In this regard, I was very much influenced by a fellow named W.R. Bion, who, now that I think about it, was all about not conflating the map with the territory. If I'm not careful this could easily descend into a whole post, so I'll try to find a suitable passage and move on.

Bion considers that stereotypes, the therapist's fantasies of omnipotence, and this tendency to cling to theoretical a priori knowledge are the analyst's chief reactions in the face of the something new and unknown that appears in every analytic session.

Essentially, you want to avoid premature closure of the epistemological field by superimposing a superficial LH answer to tamp down the anxiety of not knowing.

But not knowing (or unKnowing) is good. Every morning I wake up not knowing and following where it leads. As we know, the more we want to find out, the more we must fuck around in the cosmos ( I didn't make up the rules.

I suppose the main thing I'm discovering is that the progressive Matrix is the result of a detached and isolated LH. 

A commenter to yesterday's post mentions that conservatives typically accuse progressives of being plunged into a world of feelings, while we are the rational, logical, and empirical ones. There's still truth in this, only now with a twist, for the irrational things the left gets so hysterical about are lodged in the LH. We'll have much more to say about this as we proceed.

To repeat a passage from a couple of posts back,

When you are out of touch with reality you will easily embrace a delusion, and equally put in doubt the most basic elements of existence [like whether you are a boy or girl]. 
If this reminds you of the mindset of the present day materialist science and the socio-political debate, we should not be particularly surprised, since they show all the signs of attending with the LH (McGilchrist). 

Which in turn reminds me of an observation by Russell Kirk that conservatism can never be an ideology, rather, the absence of ideology. This doesn't mean there are no conservative ideologues, only that they betray conservatism by reducing it to an LH formula.  

I'm just flipping around a book called The Essential Russell Kirk, and there is this eloquent description of what amounts to an RH grounded life:

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning... and under every deep a lower deep opens. 

Straight-up Gödel.

Thaaat's right, Petey.  

For [Kirk], schism of the soul and schism of the community have a distinctly mutual relationship...

And perhaps these schisms are grounded in one between the hemispheres.

The decline of moral habit produces, in its first stage, a rigid and exalted moralism; and in its second, an immoralism raised to the level of doctrine; sooner or later, it invariably gives birth to the lowest level of immorality.

And here we are: an unstable combination of "rigid and exalted" LH moralism and utterly immoral anarchy unleashed at the border, in our cities, and in the judicial system.

In an essay called The Idea of Conservatism, Kirk lays out principles that clearly reflect an RH<-->LH harmony, such as the existence of "a transcendent moral order, to which we ought to try to conform the ways of society." Let's just say the isolated LH in principle has no direct knowledge of the transcendent order to which we are always dialectically ordered.

 End of Part One. 

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Second Look at Witch Trials?

If you saw the CNN townhall last night, the Nasty Woman who hosted it is the perfect image of LH tyranny imposing its ideological grid over the world. It's like an alarm went off in her head every time Trump strayed from it. She makes Michelle Obama look fun.

Men who do this are grating enough, but when a woman does it... Frankly, it reminds me of the book we discussed a few months back, Witches, Feminism, and the Fall of the West

I don't have time enough this morning to dive back down that rabbit hole, but I may review it later today in light of hemispheric differences. Something about these primordial Karens was perceived as toxic to society. Who knows, maybe it was a hyper-aggressive LH.

It also reminds me of a Steven Wright joke: If a man speaks in the forest and no women are present, is he wrong? 

To reset where we are in The Matter With Things, we're wrapping up the final chapter of Part One, The Hemispheres and the Means to Truth, and about to get into Part Two, The Hemispheres and the Paths to Truth. The title of the first chapter of Part Two asks the little question, What is Truth?

But first we need to finish up the chapter on what severe mental illness can tell us about hemispheric differences.

One more bit of housekeeping: a reader emailed me to let me know he's enjoying our deep dive into the book, adding that McGilchrist "appears to be an important contemporary thinker -- mind you, he’s no Schuon or Dávila, but he certainly helps pave the way to a higher metaphysical perspective for those who are called to go deeper."

I couldn't agree more. Later it will fall upon me -- since no one else can be bothered -- to attempt to reconcile McGilchrist with perennial philosophy and religion, and I do notice a kind of psychic declension that occurs when he discusses philosophy per se. It's as if it takes place in a lower dimension, using the tools available to him. 

This is not a criticism. But unless anchored in a higher principle, philosophy will be subject to the same limitations of any manmade ideology. Philosophy cannot transcend philosophy except by means of something "exterior" to it. Grace takes many forms, including intellectual. 

It is this x-factor that separates an Aquinas or Schuon from any purely secular philosopher. And this difference can be perceived experientially -- as if it is an RH phenomenon, only cranked up to 11.

Then again, Schuon or Aquinas or Dávila alway write about the latter with the most lucid language conceivable, which implies that the LH too must also be cranked to 11. It's easy enough to have all sorts of RH intuitions but write about them in a flabby, imprecise, or deepakish way, just as it's easy to posit an LH ideology with maximum precision. 

Of the latter, it reminds me of a story McGilchrist tells of a museum curator who informs visitors that a particular dinosaur is exactly nine million and six years old. When asked how he knows this, the curator replies that the dinosaur was nine million years old when he began working there six years ago. 

Yesterday we alluded to the LH matrix to which people are more susceptible than ever, especially those who are exposed to higher education:

The world becomes self-enclosed in such a way that symbols refer to other symbols, signs to other signs, ideas to other ideas, language to other language, without so to speak breaking out of this hermetic space to what lies beyond (emphasis mine).

But enough about the Nasty Woman on CNN.

Note the italicized passage: that is exactly what I was referring to above when I said that Philosophy cannot transcend philosophy except by means of something "exterior" to it. 

It also goes to what we said about the limitations of LH language divorced from RH experience: "words can lose their purchase on reality and begin simply to refer endlessly to one another," to such an extent that you may even find yourself confined to a postmodern humanities department, totally detached from reality.

Every once in awhile McGilchrist touches on the centrality of relation, which is when he comes close to the One Cosmos view. For example he talks about "a loss of connexion between mind and world," and with it, "the loss of betweenness." 

Now, betweenness is somewhat difficult to conceptualize, perhaps because the LH thinks of it as a kind of space between concepts. But in my view, betweenness is as real, or more real, than what it links. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but this is what is seen when we put on our trinitarian spooktacles.   

Another key point:

Only the right hemisphere is able to see that what seem to be opposites coexist and are necessary to one another -- indeed, that by stepping beyond mere opposition, and excluding neither, a new unity can be attained.

That's a bingo, and it goes to all sorts of primordial complementarities, from wave and particle in physics, to one and three in the Godhead, to LH and RH in between.

McGilchrist mostly avoids politics, at least explicitly. But the chapter ends with this little nugget: "once the theoretical mind is untethered" and no longer grounded in the real (RH) world "there is simply no basis for discriminating truth from untruth." 

For example, we might see "belief systems driven by the irrationality of identity politics, which lead subjects to doubt everything except the validity of a bizarre conclusion which they feel driven to accept," while never doubting their own belligerent LH certitudes.

But enough about that nasty woman on CNN.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Red Pilling the Right Hemisphere

Have you ever become depressed and exiled from the bonus dimensions of the cosmos?

In McGilchrist's discussion of what mental illness can tell us, there's a subsection called The World is Once More Flat, describing how in certain mental states there can be "a dimension missing, the one that gives depth" in both time and space. It's definitely happened to me, which is how I know it exists. It becomes conspicuous in its absence. 

It is also possible for our world to become stale, losing the sense of continuous novelty. I recall being overwhelmed by this feeling in high school, at which point I vowed to myself that I would never have a job that bore any resemblance to its rigid and repetitive structure. But it probably wasn't high school per se, just the mental state I was in.

McGilchrist describes one patient "who saw the future as a repetition of the past. It is already tired, generic, categorized, drained of life." "The LH world, we have seen, gets 'stuck in set.' The RH plays the decisive role in avoiding repetition." 

Difficult to know what was going on in my brain back then, partly because there was so little going on. I was just adrift in the culture, without much sense of agency. Life just happened. I went on to college not because I knew what I wanted to do, but because I had no idea.

It makes me wonder if I was just floating in the RH without any kind of LH map. I think I was pretty much overwhelmed and mystified by the world, but trying to pretend I wasn't by just doing the things other adultolescents do. 

The mystification part wasn't bad, or rather, it cut both ways. At least it was never boring or predictable, which occurs if the LH is inhibiting the RH too much. Maybe I was just swimming in the RH creek without an LH paddle. So hard to know.

As alluded to above, I was just adrift in the culture, but this was before the culture had become as sick as it is today. In today's world, I don't know that I would have survived. We hear about the epidemic of mental illness in teens, but perhaps it's because the number of vulnerable individuals hasn't changed, rather, they're just immersed in a culture that makes it so much more difficult to cope. 

McGilchrist touches on this on p. 363, and I'm sure he'll have more to say later. He talks about the baleful effects of social media, which seems to put people in a perpetual LH loop, for example, constantly taking pictures of things instead of simply experiencing the things. 

He cites one patient who got a bit carried away, and began taking photographs every 30 seconds. He now has more than a million, but the LH can never recreate the living flow from which they were abstracted:

Freezing kills time. Our age is one of re-presentation.... But research shows that photographs actually erode memories. The effect of taking photos is that they substitute for memories.... the photos tend to crowd out memory of all else. And time is sliced.

Again, perhaps people at the extreme can tell us something about this hemispheric shift. He cites a certain savant who attended a Shakespeare play and calculated that the actors had uttered 12,445 words and taken 5,202 dance steps. 

He wasn't wrong. But it reminds me of a "reverse-Polanyi," so to speak, in which what is supposed to be tacit becomes explicit. Meaning is always discovered in the other direction, via implicit awareness of the particulars in order to be focally aware of what they are pointing to. And getting back to what was said in paragraph one, I have definitely experienced moods in which this focal awareness collapses and the world flattens. 

I was about to say that it's like becoming a lower animal, but it can't be like that, because animals must be immersed in a world of constant instinctual meaning. Humans can lose this spontaneous meaning, but how? Later on he speculates that this doesn't happen to animals because

both hemispheres still maintain their groundedness in the pre-conceptual world. Because of the "virtuality" that has necessarily followed the LH's primary preoccupation with the world of symbols..., we are particularly vulnerable to anything that impairs the RH, since it is our mainstay in reality.

Which is precisely the problem in our disordered culture: "The LH's world is now an increasingly virtual world. It no longer even pretends to yield a faithful portrait of reality. For that it depends on the RH":

When you are out of touch with reality you will easily embrace a delusion, and equally put in doubt the most basic elements of existence. If this reminds you of the mindset of the present day materialist science and the socio-political debate, we should not be particularly surprised. 

It's not so much that people are living off the grid, but rather, experiencing a pseudo-existence in the LH grid, precisely. 

Like the matrix, only literally: the LH becomes

self-referential, internally validating, and self-confirmatory. The serious problem for humanity is that the LH is prone to see the world this way and to "go it alone." Not knowing what it doesn't know, it tends to be overconfident it is right.

So I guess the question is, RH pill or LH pill? 

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Abnormal Normality & Normal Abnormality

This last chapter of Part One of The Matter With Things is on the subject of what severe mental illness -- e.g., schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism -- can tell us about about the brain. I've mentioned before that in such illnesses we can vividly see processes that are subtly at work in everyday neurotics. 

We're all crazy, or rather, the way I learned it -- and I haven't thought about this for decades -- there's a kind of complementarity between psychotic and non-psychotic minds (for example, dreams are rooted in a different kind of logic that would qualify as crazy if it ruled the day). 

But "psychotic" isn't the best way to put it, because it implies madness when the complementarity is normal. It only becomes abnormal in a state of imbalance. 

Looked at this way, it's even possible to be "too normal," i.e., cut off from one's kooky side. Back in the 1990s I read an article by Christopher Bollas that actually proposed something called "Normotic Personality Disorder," for people who are too blandly normal: squares, baby. Let's see if I can dig it out.

Can't find it, but I was surprised to discover that there's actually a wikipedia entry for normopathy: it involves  

the pathological pursuit of  comformity and societal acceptance at the expense of individuality.... Normopathy is difficult to diagnose because normopaths are integrated in society. 

Bollas, who called it normotic illness, considered it an obsession with fitting into society at the cost of the person's own personality.... 

Normopaths perform best given a strict protocol to follow. They constantly seek outside validation. The normopath may ask a friend what they think about a new song, dress, or hairstyle before forming an opinion. Normopaths look to others to inform them how to think or believe.

The concept of normopathy parallels Winnicott's idea of the false self, which is formed in response to the demands of the external environment rather than from within.
Here are some of the proposed diagnostic criteria: 
--Anxiety of examining one’s psyche with diminished curiosity about inner life.
--Hyper-rationality in dealing with others and an intense focus on factual data to seek reassurance.... For the normopath, human feelings are troublemakers that require “formulaic structuring in order to be controllable.”

 --Loss of connection between feeling and speech. 

--Horizontal thinking, the inability to prioritize and create relative values and meaning. 

In this context, it seems to me that individuation is freedom lived, and freedom is individuality actualized. Conversely, in our regime of identity politics, "A person loses his individuality and becomes typical of a certain class of people."

And all of this sounds very much like a hyperactive LH or hypoactive RH. Again, as mentioned in yesterday's post, the concepts are familiar, regardless of where they are situated in the brain. 

For example, we know that language is mainly in the LH, but knowing this tells us nothing about Shakespeare, plus we can know all about Shakespeare's works without knowing about his left brain. Likewise, E = mcirrespective of what part of the brain came up with it.  

In any event, it seems that mental illness can be conceptualized as a hemispheric imbalance, which necessarily "changes what we find in the world." And looking at these imbalances "sheds light on normal experience, revealing its ordinary and therefore overlooked structure." 

Illness "allows us to observe normal human behavior and cognition via their pathological counterpart." I suppose this is similar to how the injuries of war taught us so much -- albeit the hard way -- about anatomy and emergency medicine.  

In parts of this chapter McGilchrist touches on the question of why our civilization has lost its mind, attributing it to the LH essentially eclipsing the RH (there will presumably be much more on this subject in parts two & three). He mentions a prophetic book that was published 30 years ago called Madness and Modernism: Insanity in Light of Modern Art, Literature, and Thought, documenting how
people with schizophrenia bore a close resemblance to phenomena not just found in, but at the core of, modernism.... 
Sass not only "illustrates his thesis in detail, across numerous domains," but shows how many of these modern luminaries were frankly on the "schizo-autistic spectrum." 

This seems to be a hint of things to come later in the book: that a hypertrophied LH and atrophied RH may underlie our societal plunge into "mechanism, scientism and bureaucracy," accompanied by an "inauthentic materialization, technicalization and mechanization of everything."

The LH Narrative is superimposed on all of this, but again, I don't think we have to know anything about neurology to see this. The Narrative functions as a pseudo-whole that is a pathological compensation for the absence of a true integrating synthesis of reality. It is less a blobby swamp than a rigid grid.

There's also an implicit recognition of how identity politics furnishes the disordered person with a faux "wholeness" to help organize the fragmented self into something manageable. For the majority of left wing activists, the activism is but a defense against unmetabolized, unrecognized, and projected parts of the self.  

It starts at the top, with our class of credentialed idiots who live in the map and not the world, where words only refer to other words, and where abstractions are "more real than actualities.... the triumph of theory over embodied experience." These resonate 
with academic trends in the humanities, with scientism, and even with the world-picture of the average Western citizen.

"In all forms of dialogue today," it "often feels as if one is talking to a machine." 

You're not a machine. You get the point.

Monday, May 08, 2023

This Blog is Addicted to Me!

We are nearing the end of Part One (of three) of The Matter With Things, the latter two parts presumably more about the philosophical implications of the neurology. 

One thing I've been thinking about is that there's nothing unfamiliar about what we've been discussing, it's just being discussed in a different context, i.e., LH / RH differences. 

I remember having a similar experience when reading Allan Schore's monumental two-volume monument to Affect Dysregulaton and Disorders/Repair of the Self: it too is a discussion of familiar concepts, only reframed in terms of neurobiology and other Hard Subjects. 

Come to think of it, both works are like an explicit LH mapping of intuitively understood RH intuitions. 

For example, an overactive LH 

will present problems for creativity: it is too linear, too detail-focussed, and too concerned with naming or labelling, which tends to crystallize meaning prematurely.

I knew that, I just didn't know it was the LH doing it. But whatever you call it and whatever its source, it is definitely a thing. 

For example, back in grad school we learned about patients -- and therapists -- who eagerly grasp at a superficial answer instead of tolerating the pain of "not knowing" and waiting for a deeper kind of insight and synthesis. Again, the phenomenon is familiar, whatever we call it. 

There is much evidence that negative emotions can lead to creativity, probably by a range of routes: for example, by enhancing contact with a more emotionally rich level of awareness, more broadly ramifying into redolent emotional memory, and involving deep unconscious and embodied cognition, as well as analogical [RH] thinking...

"Insightful individuals show greater RH activity at rest, relative to analytic individuals." And "the work is constantly 'incubating,' in highly creative minds," because "they are not creating only when overtly engaged in a task." 

I'll buy that. I'm always incubating or cooking up something. It's like my head is a crockpot, except I have no idea what's cooking until the crock is served up in the morning. 

It's kind of addicting, which explains why I've been doing it for 17+ years. 

Earlier in the chapter McGilchrist briefly alludes to the pleasure of "aha" moments, and perhaps he will expand upon this later. But once your life starts to revolve around these aha -- and guffah-HA! -- moments, nothing else can take their place. 

What would life be without this constant creative engagement? I don't want to know. Philo-sophy. If loving truth is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Jazz. McGilchrist touches on this back in the introduction:

It is something we improvise -- within bounds. Whatever it is will emerge from a balance of freedom and constraint. It won't exist until it is being performed: no-one can know exactly what it will be like. But it will not be random: it will emerge from the players' continuous interaction, and from the music's own "history" as it unfolds; what comes next will be anticipated by what has gone before.....

To be in the groove, in the flow, is to feel oneself played by, as much as playing, the music.  

Exactly. I am reminded of Bill Evans' "invention" of the modern piano jazz trio. Before him, the bass and drums were essentially there for support, but in his trio all three improvised simultaneously, like so:

Incidentally, the bass player, Scott LaFaro, died in a car crash a couple of weeks after this legendary engagement, which plunged Evans into a deep depression, leaving him  "numb with grief," "in a state of shock," and "like a ghost." (

Speaking of which, there's a lot in here about the relationship between creativity and vulnerability to mood disorders. I guess it's the price you pay.  

Now I'm wondering: do I write the blog, or does it write me? 

Whatever comes to be does so through an interaction of a multiplicity of elements, some ours, some not.

Whatever-it-is-that-exists-apart-from-ourselves creates us, but we also take part in creating whatever-it-is (McGilchrist).

Again, this is just another way of describing a familiar reality that I call O <-> (¶).  It is

a seamless, always self-creating, self-individuating, and simultaneously self-uniting, flow that is truly only knowable as it comes to be known (ibid.).

Hmm... it's like, every night I fall apart, and every morning I put myself back together. I mean that literally. Figuratively speaking.... Whatever it is, it's been going on for a long time, which is why you see that comment by Voegelin in the comment box:

The quest, thus, has no external 'object,' but is reality itself becoming luminous for its movement from the ineffable, through the Cosmos, to the ineffable.

My life in a notshall. 

Sunday, May 07, 2023

Back Off, Man, I'm a Pslackologist!

 You'll never guess which cerebral hemisphere is more involved in creativity:

Creativity involves a number of elements in which the RH is superior to the left: breadth of vision, the capacity to forge distant links, flexibility rather than rigidity, a willingness to respond to a changed, or changing, context, a tolerance of ambiguity, and an ability to work with knowledge that is, for the most part, inherently both imprecise and implicit. 

I love the whole subject of creation, creativity, and Creator, and this chapter did not disappoint. Well, nothing yet about the Creator, but if my RH doesn't deceive me, the whole subject of creativity is incoherent and inexplicable if not anchored in the principial realm, or in other words, at the top, not the bottom. But we'll have plenty of time to spookulight later on the deiformity of human creativity. 

This is a long chapter, so I'll just hit some highlights, but what is creativity, anyway?  We know it when we see it, but there seems to be a qualitative difference between garden variety creativity and the genius kind. And "Creativity is such an elusive phenomenon that one has to be creative oneself in how to approach it."

An LH approach to creativity will get us nowhere, and the RH approach is like using consciousness to study consciousness, or a flashlight to tell us what darkness looks like.  

Real creativity "is a rare trait" requiring "the simultaneous presence" of a number of other traits. These are all necessary conditions, and even then, may or may not be sufficient. 

At any rate, they include high intelligence but also perseverance and (woo hoo) unconventionality. None of these alone will guarantee creativity, but put them together and you might just have something.  

Oh yes. You will also need a modality or means of expression. This of course will require some persistence, but mastery is no guarantee of creativity.  Everyone can write, but how many writers are there?

McGilchrist describes a certain stagewise movement from preparation to incubation to illumination. We have a lot of control over the first, a lot less over the second, and pretty much none over the third. It's very much as if we can till the soil and plant the seeds, but the rest is up to... x:

You can't make the creative act happen. You have to do certain things, otherwise it won't happen. But it won't happen while you are doing them.

Certainly one must be open, but to what? Who knows? If we knew, it wouldn't be creative, rather, an AI algorithm, something a machine could do:

It involves remaining open, and yet being able to receive something which is, in the end, quite specific and particular. (In this, it is somewhat like prayer.)

Now, there's a thought: openness (o), silence (---), aspiration (), and grace (), or something. 

There are two types of thinking, one of which sees only two types of thinking. That was a joke, but not far from the truth, since "convergent" thinking is the type that finds a single, unambiguous, and correct answer, while "divergent" thinking is much more free-floating, original, and surprising. 

And as alluded to yesterday, our state-indoctrinational system not only largely rewards convergent thinking, it has gotten to the point that it clearly punishes divergent thinking. How did this happen? In my professional lifetime psychology went from an openminded study of mental illness to a mentally ill celebration of the abnormal. 

Obviously creativity involves seeing connections, but paranoid and delusional people see connections too, or MSNBC would be out of business. And guess what: it turns out that truly creative people often have relatives who are subject to severe mental illness, while they themselves are not:

It has been repeatedly shown that the healthy relatives of people with psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and who presumably share some traits, are more creative than average.

There are some nuts in my family tree, the question being whether I am one of them. But I want to go back to the question of seeing connections, because this, I suspect, touches on the Ultimate Issue of relationality.  Waaaay back in the introduction McGilchrist mentions this, that

our world is what comes into being in the encounter between us and this whatever-it-is.


The relationship comes before the relata -- the "things" that are supposed to be related. What we mean by the word "and" is not just additive, but creative.

It's all about the and, the creative links between. 


Yes, or as some people call it, f-ing around: (

Do you have to use s'many cuss words?

We can't make creativity happen, but we can certainly do our best to stand in its way. Or therefore not. Furthering creativity is mainly about not doing, rather than doing. 

There are a lotta ins & outs and what-have-yous, a lotta strands to hold in your head at once. Thus, you have to keep your mind limber:

It can't be made to happen. Over-control is the enemy here as elsewhere.... Though reason may be helpful at some stage, it can't permit creativity any more than it can generate it. Its best tactic is to back off for now. 

In short, abide:

First and foremost there must be ease, relaxation, and a general sense of permissiveness...a feeling of informality.... Probably more inhibiting than anything else is a feeling of responsibility. 

Are you employed, sir?

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