Exploring Reality

An Online Learning Community

I am pleased to announce that I am launching a series of Zoom meetings, starting in November 2022, that will support an online learning community for the shared purpose of “exploring reality.” The meetings are intended to provide a structured, supportive, and stimulating environment for engaging with the work of Dr. Iain McGilchrist. Members of the learning community will participate in ten Zoom meetings over a period of four months.

Who is McGilchrist?

Dr. Iain McGilchrist is a psychiatrist and a philosopher, with a background in literary criticism. In two major works—The Master and His Emissary (2009) and The Matter with Things (2021)—McGilchrist has broken new grounds in epistemology and metaphysics by bringing together the findings of neuroscience, physics, and philosophy in a fresh and exciting synthesis.

Why Read McGilchrist?

Unable to effectively address the countless converging crises that the world is facing today, humankind appears to be drifting into uncertainty, anomie, cynicism, and chaos. Modernity itself is losing its dominant position as the purported climax of what humans can achieve. The inability of science to answer fundamental questions has now become too obvious to ignore, and so has the fact that technology cannot save us from its own excesses. Neither capitalism nor liberal democracy is able to provide the guidance that humanity needs in order to negotiate the ever-worsening prospects of life on earth. As the global crises continue to worsen, more and more people are recognizing the need to find the root causes of our collective dysfunctions as well as to adopt better ways of thinking and being. There is a growing awareness that something fundamental has gone wrong with the human project, and that only a radical shift in our orientation can bring us back in alignment with reality.

McGilchrist’s work offers precisely that possibility. It does so by providing a science-friendly approach for building bridges between apparently incompatible entities and concepts, as well as a science-friendly criterion for judging the value and future prospects of any particular culture. When applied, his approach results in a powerful critique of modern rationality and of the dysfunctional world it has created, as well as the outlines of a sane and healthier alternative.

McGilchrist’s approach for dealing with age-old philosophical questions is rooted in cutting-edge scientific research; at the same time, many of his conclusions tend to confirm a great deal of traditional wisdom, including much of what is attributed to religious and poetic intuitions. Put differently, McGilchrist’s discoveries are both new and ancient at the same time.

Anyone familiar with the ideas of Muhammad Iqbal (1877–1938) will discover numerous similarities, and even overlaps, between his work and that of McGilchrist.

If you want to actively participate in the discussion from the beginning, I would suggest that you read at least 75% of The Master & His Emissary before the end of October. It would be helpful if you could also start exploring The Matter with Things as early as possible. Both books are dense and challenging, which is why it is a good idea to read them at a slower pace, to take frequent breaks, and to make copious notes while reading. Participants will also benefit from reading the same chapter more than once, with at least a week between the two readings.

Prerequisites

There are two prerequisites for joining this learning community: first, you must be curious about the nature of reality, and second, you must be willing to have your beliefs challenged. Any prior interest in science and/or philosophy would be a bonus.

Preparation

Members of the learning community are expected to invest at least 3–4 hours per week studying the assigned texts and working on their responses to a set of reflection questions.

You are most likely to benefit from participating in the discussions if you come prepared. However, you are welcome to attend any meeting even if you haven’t completed the corresponding assignments. Although our first meeting will be in November, your learning doesn’t have to wait until then. As soon as you enroll in the program, you will be invited to join an online forum where you’ll be able to ask questions and share insights.

Schedule

Zoom meetings will be held on Sundays, from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM, Central Time, according to the following schedule.

SessionDateMeeting Agenda
1November 13, 2022
2November 20, 2022
3December 11, 2022
4December 18, 2022
5January 8, 2023
6January 15, 2023
7February 12, 2023
8February 19, 2023
9March 12, 2023
10March 19, 2023

I will start the meeting 15 minutes ahead of time and will stay for another 15 minutes after the end of the meeting. You can come early and/or stay late if you want to ask any questions or have a chat with other participants. Even though I would like to stick to the above schedule, I am open to making any reasonable changes in order to accommodate as many participants as possible.

Tickets

There are two options for joining this learning community. You can pay a one-time enrollment fee of $350.00, or you can register for one meeting at a time, in which case you will pay $40.00 per meeting (tier 1). If this amount puts too much stress on your budget, you may choose to pay $30.00 per meeting (tier 2) or even $15.00 per meeting (tier 3).

If you register for a meeting but end up missing it for any reason, you’ll be able to use your ticket for the next meeting. Please note that the enrollment fees are not refundable, with one exception: If the number of registered participants doesn’t reach a minimum threshold by September 30, I will take that to mean that the universe doesn’t want this program to go forward at this time, in which case I will refund your payment.

Ten Zoom Sessions

$350.00

One Zoom Session

Tier 1

$40.00

One Zoom Session

Tier 2

$30.00

One Zoom Session

Tier 3

$15.00

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