In a enlightening discussion on the Dartington Hall Trust Youtube channel, renowned psychiatrist and author Dr. Iain McGilchrist and Satish Kumar, a former monk and long-term peace and environment activist, delved into the intricate workings of the human mind and its relationship with the world. The conversation was centered around Dr. McGilchrist’s latest work, “The Matter of Things,” a two-volume exploration of the mind, the heart, the soul, and the world.

Dr. McGilchrist, known for his work on the lateralized brain in “The Master and His Emissary,” continues his exploration of the human mind in his latest work. He emphasizes the importance of balance between the two hemispheres of the brain, cautioning against the dominance of the left hemisphere, which he associates with a mechanistic, fragmented view of the world.

In the discussion, Dr. McGilchrist and Kumar touched on various topics, including the nature of reality, the role of religion and spirituality, the importance of beauty, and the concept of relationality. They also addressed questions from the audience, providing insightful answers that further illuminated their perspectives.

Dr. McGilchrist emphasized the importance of acknowledging the unknowable aspects of reality. He argued that while the left hemisphere of the brain seeks to categorize and define, the right hemisphere embraces the mystery and complexity of existence. This, he suggested, is the key to a more holistic understanding of the world.

On the topic of religion and spirituality, both speakers agreed that spirituality transcends religious labels. They argued that spirituality is about relationships – with oneself, with others, and with the world. It is about love, compassion, kindness, generosity, and service. They warned against the dangers of fundamentalism, whether religious or atheistic, and advocated for a more inclusive, empathetic approach to spirituality.

The conversation also touched on the concept of beauty. Dr. McGilchrist argued that beauty, often overlooked in modern society, can guide us towards truth. He suggested that the pursuit of beauty, whether in art, music, or mathematics, can lead to profound insights. However, he also cautioned against equating beauty with empathy, arguing that the pursuit of beauty can sometimes lead to a shallow form of narcissism.

The discussion ended on a hopeful note, with both speakers expressing optimism about the future. They emphasized the importance of balancing the brain, of harmonizing the analytical and the empathetic, the logical and the intuitive. They urged the audience to continue seeking knowledge, to question everything, and to strive for a deeper, more holistic understanding of the world.

About the Participants

  • Dr. Iain McGilchrist is a psychiatrist, author, and former Oxford literary scholar, best known for his work on the lateralized brain. His research explores the differences between the brain’s right and left hemispheres and their impact on society, culture, and the individual.
  • Satish Kumar, a former monk and long-term peace and environment activist, is a speaker and teacher of reverential ecology, holistic education, and voluntary simplicity. He is the editor of Resurgence & Ecologist magazine and the author of several books, including “Soil, Soul, Society.”

About Darlington Trust

The Dartington Hall Trust is a center for learning, arts, ecology, and social justice based in South Devon, England. It hosts a variety of programs and events aimed at fostering creativity, learning, and social change.