The Master and His Emissary

By Iain McGilchrist,

Book cover of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

Book description

A pioneering exploration of the differences between the brain's right and left hemispheres and their effects on society, history, and culture-"one of the few contemporary works deserving classic status" (Nicholas Shakespeare, The Times, London)

"Persuasively argues that our society is suffering from the consequences of an over-dominant left hemisphere losing…


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Why read it?

5 authors picked The Master and His Emissary as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Philosopher and psychiatrist McGilchrist presented a bold thesis about the working of the human mind. It has profound implications for the way we understand human societies. We’ve long known that the two halves of the brain perform different functions but, using approachable case studies and clearly presenting the science, the first half of the book argues that the left, more rational, part of the brain is dangerously dominant. Controlling and grasping, it needs to remain subordinate to the more inclusive, humane, and intuitive functions of the right brain. McGilchrist goes on to trace the consequences for the development of human…

From Fernanda's list on making us rethink global history.

Combining detailed scientific expertise with dazzling literary erudition, Iain McGilchrist offers a fascinating account of the dangers of abstract, analytic, ‘left-brain’ thinking when it is detached from the intuitive, imaginative, and holistic modes of awareness that make us truly human. I found his arguments deeply relevant to how we should think about religious ways of approaching the world.

From John's list on the human search for meaning.

This book is a magnificent collection of what research has taught us about our left and right brains over the last 70 years. It is a fascinating account of what we know and how our brain has shaped the condition of our world. 

This book was written by a neuroscientist, but in an accessible way, gives us an insight into our brains. It’s a big read but so worthwhile. It dispels the urban myth that the left brain is logical and the right brain creative. It explains how our brains are asymmetric and the hemispheres do indeed perform different roles. By becoming mindful of how our brains operate, we become better able to harness and control the most amazing structure in the known Universe that we are all blessed with.

This is far and away the most important book I’ve read in years. It’s destined to become a classic – Philip Pullman and John Cleese have been enthusiastic about it. I knew nothing about brain science when I started reading it, but I was deeply inspired by the book. An essential exploration, not just into brain science and consciousness but into culture, society and the arts.

From Maitreyabandhu's list on Buddhism, meditation, and philosophy.

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