My post Modes of knowing highlighted that we have two modes of knowing: rationality, corresponding to left brain function; and intuition, corresponding to right brain function. The human being operates at best when these two modes of knowing operate in tandem, and there is great danger when the rational/left brain function takes over and ignores or denies the right brain/intuition. This is the root cause of fundamentalism.
Fundamentalism appears in many guises in the modern world.
- Religious fundamentalism. We all know about that. The word in the holy books is taken as a statement of fact, rather than as metaphor. We see these fundamentalists all over the world – Islamic Christian, Hindhu, Buddhist… The effect is to deny the basic truths that were initially espoused by the founding spiritual teachers – Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha…
- Political fundamentalism. The dedication to a particular ideology, which is often the cover for a privileged class, even an individual, to stay in control of society.
- Economic fundamentalism. The dedication to particular ideas about how an economy is run, such as that private is always good, public spending is always bad, of many modern right wingers – or indeed the very opposite from many modern left wingers.
- Scientific materialist fundamentalism. The belief that objective science and the materialist paradigm can explain everything, and that subjective life – religion/spirituality, morality, values etc – are somehow unimportant as without foundation.
I’m sure you could add further examples. Yes, fundamentalism abounds wherever there is human thought and endeavour – particularly, I would suggest, in these days of significant left-brain domination. The task of human development is, as ever, to tread the path between the extremes that lead to fundamentalism, to respond to life with the full subjectivity of those very subjective values that fundamentalism is inherently unable to take into consideration. To be human beings, not the machines that various fundamentalisms would seek to turn us into.
Inspired by Iain McGilchrist’s The Matter with Things.
Featured image by Stiller Beobachter from Ansbach, Germany, via Wikimedia Commons