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


“Atheism turns out to be too simple.
If the whole universe has no meaning,
we should never have found out that it has no meaning…”

C.S. Lewis

I could never see the point of atheism. What exactly was it that you were supposed not to believe in? Most atheists seemed to have a concept of a God that they thought was manifestly ridiculous, so they chose not to believe in ‘him’.

It was a sort of rejection of religion, and yet appears to be a sort of religion itself, based on faith and belief in a negative. (Some atheists, eg American Atheists, suggest that athiesm is a ‘lack of belief in Gods or supernatural beings’ – surely itself a sort of belief.) The agnostic perspective always seemed to make far more sense to me, and modern perspectives on spirituality even more so.

Does this matter? Well, along with atheism you often find the package of materialism and secularism – and the rejection of the inner of things. All is outer, and there is this wierd belief that eventually inners (consciousness) will be explained by some future development of our understanding of outers, through science naturally.

And along with this secular materialism has come an evolutionism based on self interest, an economics without values, a denigrating and despoiling of the natural world, totalitarian governments determined to stamp out religion, an existential philosophy of despair,… Yes, it matters.

See also my posts on materialism and religion.

While writing this I came across this useful website critiquing the atheist position as essentially indefensible (from a Christian perspective).

Falling Upward

A spirituality for the two halves of life

fallng-upward-coverThis review of a book by Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest, New Mexico is an edited version of one I did for the APA blog.

This little book encapsulates a lot of the essence of modern psychology and most religions.

Essentially we spend the first half of life creating the psychological ego and learning to live within the boundaries set by society – the laws, rules, traditions and conventions by which society operates. We seek the approval of others or seek to oppose them – essentially with a dualistic right-wrong viewpoint.

In the second half of life our task is essentially to move beyond and dismantle that ego and discover our true inner essence, operating from position of true authenticity. We are no longer bound by the rules of society but operate from a higher inner self. Our concern is no longer the little self, the ego, but the good of the whole. We exhibit wisdom.

As a member of the catholic church, Richard is at pains to point out the dangers of religion in freezing us into the first part of life rather than encouraging us to step forward into this second.  Most religious organisations essentially operate in first-half-of-life terms and have lost the impetus to move beyond to that inner essence – the search for which has in many times and places had to move underground.

Society itself also encourages us to stay in the first half of life and not develop beyond. This is particularly so in the modern age with all the wonderful technological devices available to us. Is there not evident a lack of wisdom in the leaders around us? Such that we revere the few who do exemplify this, such as Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King.

The journey from first to second halves is paralleled in the hero’s journey of myth and legend, for example the trials of Odysseus. And failure, and coming to terms with that failure and our own ‘shadow’, are an essential part of the process. Many of the bible stories tell also of this process – how the prodigal son is fêted on his return, to the disgust of the one who stayed at home  (in the first half ).

Richard relates all this to the aging process, and suggests that the true goal of the aging process is  ‘falling upwards’ into this state of wisdom and the real self that is beyond the little ego. He speaks of the radiant older people that he has met who are true exemplars.

This is truly a wise and thought provoking book.

Do read ‘Falling Upward’ for the inspiration it offers; more important, take the next step on your own journey there.