Collective Wisdom in the West: Beyond the shadows of the Enlightenment

by Liam Kavanagh

Western society is deeply attached to ‘Enlightenment’ ideals of rationality, individualism and equality. These ideals have become dogma, taboo to even question, creating blindspots central to the ecological and political crises we face. By looking into these three blindspots we can rediscover our capacity for deep intuition, collective action, and politics motivated by love. To do this we must leave aside a false dichotomy between intellect and intuition, and realise that ideas can be addictions.

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‘In this important and timely book, dense with insight, Liam succeeds where many others have failed, to not only accurately diagnose the root causes of the brokenness that so many of us intuit at the heart of Western scientific materialism, but to indicate the path towards a remedy. Courageously and compassionately teasing apart the roots of our attachments to reason, individuality and equality – notions we would often prefer to take as read, so painful are they to explore – Liam skilfully navigates the reefs and shoals of our reactivity, creating a space for real understanding and a new turning of the wheel of cultural evolution. In this work, Liam models the solution he proposes, by drawing in equal measure on wisdom arising from his own direct, first person meditative investigation, balanced by intellectual rigour and a thorough grasp of developments in neuroscience, psychology and the history and philosophy of science’

– Brother Phap Linh, Dharma Teacher, Plum Village Zen Monastery

‘This is a brave and important book for our time, a time when we direly need to find the wisdom to overcome such identities and divisions, and find each other, freely and together’

– Professor Rupert Read, former UK national spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion and author of Wittgenstein’s Liberatory Philosophy

Dr. Liam Kavanagh directs research at Life Itself, a community taking practical action for a radically wiser, weller world.

Liam is a researcher, community organiser, and cultural activist working at the borders of secularity and spirituality. He draws on contemplative, intellectual, and collective wisdom practices to mediate the tensions that immobilise cultural imagination, allowing new visions for collective flourishing to emerge.

This book builds on his current work organising dialogues and collaborations across ideological divides.