• Witch

Beyond Right and Wrong

I am used to viewing the world through the coveted rationale and scientific lens that we are taught in the west to hone and value from a young age. This lens looks for facts, proofs, reason and certainty; if it cant see them, the rational mind smells blood, and will savage whatever you are looking at until it is a ridiculed worthless husk. The lens is reductionist. It can strip away the very essence of your subject into component, soulless parts.


We have probably all encountered this lens in action:

The mystical voice in the woods that could give you ideas and inspiration is just wind, acoustics and harmonics.

The inspiring vision during a ceremony or ritual is reduced to shapes being seen in blood vessels behind the eyes, or desires being made up by the mind.

The kinship you feel with ancestors, spirits and gods is placebo.


This lens has the potential to leave you lonely.


I have struggled with this lens and fact, and witchcraft . I have a constant undertone from this perspective that brings doubt into practice. I am regularly asked to bring irrevocable proof, fact, reason to verify craft as something worth committing to.


Fact and reason, the essence of what this perspective can bring you, is not maleficent. They are powerful. When these facts and truths are leveraged, we understand so much more about how the world works which lets us take meaningful action. We have powerful understanding that can shape the very way we work. However I still rally against them for 2 reasons: their potential to be fakes and frauds, and the space they take which could be filled with a broader range of awareness and perspective.


I was recently reading some updated summaries of modern neuroscience which touched on the Triune Brain: the theory that we are all run by a reptile brain, a mammal brain, and the superior human brain. This theory is seen everywhere, and has taken particular hold in businesses and self development courses all over the world. Employees are taught to understand how they need to focus on winning the constant battle between their lizard brain and their human brain. Its hit mainstream books and selfhelp guides seen in most career aspirants shelves. Sports teams have based their mindset training almost exclusively on this idea. The Chimp Paradox, that focuses on these ideas, is one of the most read, quoted, adopted books I have come across in the realm of self development.


The thing is... it is not true.


Neuroscience has shown that the brain is not structured in this way, and that we are not a series of expanding layers raising in complexity and worth from base lizard to powerful human. The scientific community knew the theory was not true when initial scientific papers were published. This book is well worth a read to understand more about it Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain (bookshop.org)). Summary on the triune brain is here wikipedia (favourite quote of this piece: Due to its longevity, the triune brain idea has also been called "one of the most successful and widespread errors in all of science.")


So our scientific lens served up facts, which most of us have acted on at some point, that turned out to be false.


However...the idea has still been massively powerful. Just because the theory is wrong, and the models we have adopted so readily to improve ourselves are built on crumbling foundations, makes no difference to the profound impact it has had on some people. We have lived with something false and it has served us well. Looking at it another way, we have lived with a metaphor, to help us understand who we are, to help us take accountability for our actions, to help us lead better lives.


Science can get away with now citing better rationale thinking that replaces the previous theory. The old has been shown to be wrong, but have no fear, the new theory is here. Does it change the fact that we have been living with something that is not true and based our actions on it? I dont think so. I dont think truth and fact is the only way we need to view our world. We should just be aware that these facts are metaphors and models - not the be all and end all.


I believe the underlying metaphors of how we act, how the different parts of us work, which have been the subject of thinkers for centuries, are powerful and worth exploring and living with. The facts or truth I font think matters if the metaphor helps us shape our reality in a way that is meaningful for us and our community.


So why do we not accept other lenses, perspectives, views with the same understanding and more importantily, credibility to build our reality on them. I feel we (I certinaly) have become too obsessed with rationale thought at the determent of all other perspectives.


This was a powerful realisation for me - as it helped me to understand that I don't need to live only by fact. If facts can be wrong but still have value, then facts are surely not important? If facts can be wrong but give so much value to our lives, then why does everything need to be reduced to proofs? If our human experience is shaped by how we see the world and how we act on it, regardless of where the metaphor came form, or the lens used, then why do we need scientific truth to justify our approach to living? If we can accept metaphor, model or mistakes in science, we can accept it across a broad spectrum of perspectives. Ultimately its up to us about the lens we use and how we act on what we see.


Going back to the woods - that whisper I hear is now a whisper. One of the views can seek to destroy it, but it doesn't get to decide any more. The lens and perspectives that I want to have in my life are the ones that bring it reason. They are beyond right and wrong.

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