Wednesday, 24 July 2019

The Secret Teachers of the Western World: “The Master and His Emissary” Meets the Esoteric

The Secret Teachers of the Western World.
For those of you who have read Iain McGilchrist's epic, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, you'll know that it is “a fascinating exploration of the differences between the brain's right and left hemispheres and their effects on society, history and culture”; that “the left hemisphere is detail-oriented, prefers mechanisms to living things, and is inclined to self-interest, where the right hemisphere has greater breadth, flexibility and generosity”, and that “despite its inferior grasp of reality, the left hemisphere is increasingly taking precedence in the modern world, with potentially disastrous consequences” (though there have been periods when the pendulm has swung back and the right hemisphere or an integration of the two modes of being have briefly flowered, such as the Renaissance, the Romantic, and the 1960s). In view of the many crises we are currently facing, however – even what has been called the ongoing Sixth Extinction – I think we can safely scrub out the qualifying word “potentially” here.

And for those of you who don't know about Iain McGilchrist's work, you can get an entertaining, informative and thoroughly worthwhile taster by watching the short RSA Animate video entitled “The Divided Brain”.

Gary Lachman's own work, The Secret Teachers of the Western World might, then, be described as “The Master and His Emissary” – and our evolution through Jean Gebser's structures of consciousness – meet the esoteric. Though we might quibble over details, The Secret Teachers of the Western World wonderfully complements McGilchrist's work, and puts an additional useful slant on our sadly-forgotten or rejected knowledge. The loss of this knowledge (not least the faculty of real imagination) has brought us to the sheer horror that we currently face, from the individual and group, the cultural and societal, and now the global. Climate emergency, biodiversity loss, and the rise of fundamentalism, populism and fakery – huge issues that these undoubtedly are – are really just the symptoms of a more deeply-rooted disease – what Gebser dubbed the (late-stage) deficient mode of the mental-rational structure of consciousness that we are now experiencing, which is now breaking down and has brought us to the brink of an existential crisis.

And, at the same time, this increasingly painful transition also offers us some hope that we might evolve to the next stage of our evolution, the integral structure of consciousness, a transcendent integration of the previous four structures (archaic, magic, mythical and mental-rational). In addition, transpersonal psychologist, Ken Wilber finds evidence for additional later mystical stages beyond Gebser's integral structure, so that is a wonderful possibility to look forward to.

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