In The Master and his Emissary, I outlined important differences in cognitive and emotional style between the brain hemispheres. In this talk I will build on that work, examining the capacity of either hemisphere to achieve an understanding of what it is we mean when we speak of the realm of the sacred and divine. The relevance is that I believe that in the modern West we live in a culture whose take on the world is strongly aligned with that of the left hemisphere at the expense of the right. I will suggest that hemisphere differences should not be expected to lead simply to theism or atheism, but to predictably distinct types of either phenomenon.
IAIN MCGILCHRIST is a Quondam Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, an Associate Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford, a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and former Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director at the Bethlem Royal & Maudsley Hospital, London. He has been a Research Fellow in neuroimaging at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore and a Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Stellenbosch. He has published original articles and research papers in diverse publications on topics in literature, philosophy, medicine and psychiatry. He is the author of a number of books, but is best-known for The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (Yale 2009). His book on epistemology and ontology called The Matter with Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions, and the Unmaking of the World will be published by Perspectiva Press in November 2021. He lives on the Isle of Skye, and has two daughters and a son.