Light in the darkness 1


We live in dark times with much suffering and global uncertainty. This means that the start of a new year offers new possibilities for creativity, but this is alongside the ongoing grinding destruction of frightening wars, climate breakdown, loss of habitats, and increased divisions and hostilities across the world.

Both psychoanalysis and spirituality offer the idea of a light that is not overwhelmed by the darkness. In analysis what has been repressed deep in the unconscious can emerge into the light of consciousness, whilst in Christianity we are promised that the darkness cannot and will not overwhelm the light. Both are about opening to the vulnerability of seeking the truth, and both are about healing through relationship and interrelatedness.

Feeling the trauma of the world arises from our interconnectedness with all beings. So, in a traumatised world we too are inevitably collectively traumatised. The next few posts will be about looking at how different people have opened themselves to the reality of the current state of the world, and are offering new ideas and thinking about how the planet, and within that each of us personally and collectively can be healed.

This post focuses on an interesting discussion between Iain McGilchrist (psychiatrist and writer), John Vervaeke (philosopher) and Daniel Schmachtenberger (social philosopher), which was recorded in Oxford, in September 2023.* These three who are all white, middle aged, academic men, reflect on what is now recognised as the metacrisis that we find ourselves in. The metacrisis is described as the total ecosystem of all global crises: climate breakdown, AI, synthetic biology, current wars, all of which share the common underlying dynamics that generate catastrophic and existential risks to life. The aim of the conversation was to look at the underlying dynamics of how and why amongst all the animal species we are so uniquely destructive – the next most environmentally-modifying species is apparently the beaver! The need, the three thinkers agreed, is to look at all the problems together – as to a certain extent they are all connected by our psychology – our cognition and the state of the human mind. It’s a long discussion, over three hours, with agreement that humankind needs to re-find the value of the sacred to combat the destructive nihilism and materialism we are currently swamped by.

We are largely led by sociopathic narcissists and need to find people who can harness technology wisely, as humans have gone beyond evolution because of the speed of technology. The neuroscience perspective, put forward by McGilchrist, is that in the last 200 years, we have first understood— and then remade—the world in the mechanistic image favoured by the left hemisphere of the brain emphasising order, control, rationality, agency, and bureaucracy, that is purposive and tending to ignore what is irrelevant to this purpose – including issues of beauty and morality, and untroubled by empathy and emotion. Inclined to ‘either/or’ thinking, the left brain enables us to manipulate and ‘explain’ the world. The right hemisphere, by contrast, is better at understanding the world in all its complexity. It is inclined to ‘both/and’ thinking, and more willing to change its view in the light of new evidence. It is reflective, empathic, exploratory, more uncertain and self-deprecatory than the left hemisphere. The left sees constituent pieces, whereas the right sees the whole, and where all is flowing and changing, provisional, and complexly interconnected with everything else. Only by following a ‘higher’ value that transcends current materialism, and more influenced by the right hemisphere so as to balance the left, can save us from ourselves.

Tbc …