Lesson 108- Productive Relationships and Growth of the Left Lobe
Well, where are we in our relationship to God, the Church, and all authority figures? Are we still in the destructive mode of our childhood where laws, rewards, and punishment are necessary to get us to following rules, assuming that they are good and wise? Or have we gotten past that stage and, having grown in ability and talent, reached the point where we now feel self-sufficient and no longer in need of God or anybody else to tell us what to do? In other words, having moved beyond a destructive relationship with all authority figures, we have cut our relationship with all of them? Or, have we reached the point that Mark Twain spoke of when he said, “When I was seventeen, I thought that my father was the most stupid man that I knew. When I reached twenty-one, I was amazed by how much he had learned in four years.” Of course, his point was that he had matured enough in four years to suddenly see the wisdom behind his father’s views. At that point, he replaced his destructive relationship with his father based on authority, compulsion, and law with a productive one based on love and understanding.
The first type of relationship is typical of our childhood; the second one of our teenage years; and the third of our adulthood. Unfortunately, age alone is not the sole indicator of where we are in our relationships. Some people who are chronologically adults are still operating on the destructive level. Others, are still arrogant teenagers who are, as the Irish say, “full of themselves.” And, some of us, have moved on from the dependency of childhood and the arrogance of adolescence, and have moved on the maturity of adulthood where true understanding has replaced ignorance and arrogance.
In my relationship to God and the Church, I have gone through all three stages, so I know of what I speak. As I a child, I was scared by the “fire” of hell and attracted by the promised pleasure of heaven and thus dutifully tried to obey the rules of the Church by abstaining from meat on Friday, participating in the rituals of the Church, and going to Mass on Sunday. However, although my behavior often conformed to the rules, my heart often was somewhere else. I was like so many other distracted people at Mass who didn’t sing, didn’t respond, and seemed to be mentally somewhere else. In other words, I was operating under law and was there because I “had” to be and foolishly believed that it was enough to assure that I had a relationship with God. Like the Pharisee in Jesus’ time, I thought that just following the “law”` could save me.
Then in my teenage years, once the power of parents, school, and Church was removed, I stopped going to Mass, and pretty much broke any connection I had to God or the Church. I was young, invincible, and thought I knew everything, at least until my own sinfulness created such chaos in my life that I came to the point that I had to either choose life, by turning my life around, or death, by following the path of chaos and destruction that I was on.
Then, I had what Jesus called a “born again” experience that placed me on the road to ultimate salvation. I’d like to emphasize the words “placed me on the road” because whenever anyone asks me whether I am saved, I always answer, “I am being saved” because I now understand what the comic strip Pogo meant when Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and they is us!” In other words, we are often our own worst enemy because of our mental blindness and lack of understanding. Thus, salvation for me is not the childish idea of being saved from a vengeful God who wants a “pound of my flesh” because I dared to upset His universe with my sins. Rather, I see it as a loving Father who is trying to save me from myself by leading me down the path of Wisdom. I am not headed for hell because of what I do. I am trying to get out of the hell, or the Gehenna of “empty thought”, into which I, and everyone else, was born due to our connection to the animal kingdom. In other words, God is saving me from the “doing of my sins” which, because they violate His Wisdom by “missing the marks” of rational behavior, carrying their own punishment through the chaos they cause in my life and the lives of others.
God offers me, and everyone else, the opportunity to be, like Him, a rational being who operates according to knowledge and understanding instead of an hedonistic animal that operates according to feelings and impulses. And if I reject the offer, I will never get out of the Kingdom of Mental Darkness into which I was born. And, if after I die, I find my spirit locked in that world with other kindred spirits, I will know that it was not because God wanted me there or condemned me to be there. Rather, it will be as St. John says in answer to his own question of “Why does God condemn Man? Because the Light of Understanding came into the world and Men loved Darkness.”
God’s message is and always has been one of salvation, not condemnation but to take advantage of it, we have to leave the “flesh” that belongs to the animal kingdom of darkness, and embrace the “spirit” that belongs to the rational kingdom of light. And that requires a change of heart, not just behavior. Laws can change behavior but only a change of heart can change our attitude and a change in attitude is the only sure guarantee of a lasting change. As one sage put it, “It’s so hard when I “have to” and so easy when I “want to.” Today, I attend daily Mass even though I don’t “have to.” That’s what happens when a “change of heart” replaces laws bases on threats of punishment.
So how does this change of heart take place? Jesus once said , “No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him but no one can get to the Father except through Me.” Sounds likes double-talk, doesn’t it? And it is until one replaces the nouns and pronouns with the entities that they stand for. Jesus is the Truth, that has come to set us free. The Father is Goodness Itself or the Highest Good. In fact, on one occasion, Jesus reprimanded a man who called Him “Good Master” by saying “Why do you call me “good.” Only the Father is “Good.” So let’s restate Jesus statement by adding in the realities behind the nouns and pronouns. What He really said is, “No one can come to the Truth, unless he is drawn by the Ultimate Good, but no one can get to the Ultimate Good, unless he follows the Truth.”
We might remember here that Catholic Medieval philosophers believed that the Will was made to seek the Good and the Intellect was made to seek the True and that when the Will, which was powerful but blind giant, went seeking the Good without the Intellect, that was a powerless cripple that had sight, it ran the risk of ending up with a “false good” or “god.” On the other hand, when the blind, but powerful Will, joined with the seeing, but powerless Intellect, together they would find the True Good, or God.
As someone who, at the age of 19, has experienced a conversion in his life I can assure you that at my deepest moment of despair all I knew was that whatever I had been doing until then was not “good” because of the disastrous consequences in my life. I didn’t know what the “good” was. All I knew was that I wanted it. That put me on a path of “seeking and finding” what was Truly Good that continues to this very day.
The Truth did not come all at once because some truths are dependent on others and the foundation has to be laid before we are capable of receiving and understanding them. In other words, the path to the “Ultimate Truth and Good” is the “path of revelation”. Am I there yet? No, not by a long shot because every time I think I have arrived, I find a new insight or revelation. It’s as St. Thomas said, “the Truth is an ocean not to be contained in the pool of a human mind.”.
We are finite beings chasing the infinite and we will never catch it and that is the wonderful part about it. It’s the joy of the journey rather the fulfillment of the arrival. Thus, I suspect, salvation is a process rather than an accomplished fact and that I why I always say “I am being saved,” rather than “ I am saved…”
Salvation is an evolving truth based on the Hegelian Dialectic of Thesis-Antithesis- and Synthesis, and Hegel was right when he said that history is developing towards God or the Ultimate Truth or Good through a dialectical process.
If Hegel is correct, then human history is an evolutionary drama in which the human race has been following the same process that each of us follow in our journey from the Mental Darkness of Gehenna to the Kingdom of Light and Understanding. In other words, there is a correspondence between the salvation of the entire human race and the individual and that is what I would like to address now.
The third or Mental Level of evolution, which is also called the Cultural Level, is the story of how the human race has been struggling to emerge from Gehenna, the Kingdom of Mental Darkness that has its roots in the Animal Kingdom, into the Kingdom of Mental Light, which is the Kingdom of Rational Thought. In essence it is the story of our mental awakening as the Logos of Reality, who is Jesus, entered our mental world when the left hemisphere of our brain, which is the source of language and logic, became a reflective agent on the right hemisphere, which is the source of art and intuition. At that point, the Mental Level of evolution began and, like the two previous levels of the Chemical and Organic, the Law of Complexification started to move it from the simple to the complex.
I have already tried to deal with the question of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden in previous programs as they relate to the beginning of human existence but I just want to synopsize here some of the possibilities which my previous analysis suggested.
First, the story of Adam and Eve, even if it is allegorical in nature, could symbolize a time in human history when intuitive knowledge, which is direct and immediate, was our dominant method for knowing. This type of knowledge is akin to the instincts of animals through which they know deep truths without any instructions. To the extent that we share in instincts, we still share in this type of knowledge. I’ve already mentioned that there are people known as savants that, although they are considered retarded according to our standard I.Q. test, have unbelievable talents in the fields of math, which is left lobe, and art, which is right lobe. Great mystics and saints, like St. Theresa, have indicated that intuition is a higher form of knowledge than logic because it is direct and immediate and doesn’t have to go through the long, arduous struggle required by logical knowledge. And, even our greatest scientists, like Einstein, have testified to the importance of the role that intuitive insight played in their greatest discoveries. The right lobe, the source of intuition and art, is also the source of genius and, from a Christian point of view, is modeled on the creative right lobe of God’s rational mind, which we call the Father. Yet, it appears that at some point in evolution, logical knowledge started to compete with intuitive knowledge for dominance. Whether this was a blessing or a curse is uncertain because it appears that the growth of logic diminishes intuition but it is also the source of reason. In fact, we could say that the story of Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was the beginning of reason because they weren’t content with just knowing the truth, they wanted to know “why it was true.” In other words, they wanted to know the reason, and in doing so, they wanted to be a rational being like God. Looked at from this point of view, the story of Adam and Eve represents a Fall from a higher and easier form of knowledge, intuition, to a lower and harder form of knowledge, logic.
In doing so, their life of ease was replaced with a life of struggle. By the way, people who have had “near death” experiences claim that when they crossed the border from this life into the next that all knowledge and communication is instantaneous.
Second, the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden could symbolize the point in evolution when the Logos of God who was the Natural Selector that was moving the Chemical and Organic levels of evolution towards the Mental Level, entered the left side of a primate-like creatures’ brain and took it out of the subjective prison of intuitive thought and brought it into the objective freedom of logical thought. I have quoted Helen Keller’s description of how she emerged from her animalistic existence when she first became aware of language. To her it was like entering heaven and becoming fully alive for the first time. Through language she was lifted out of the animal world of “empty thought” or Gehenna into the rational world of conscious thought. Not only did the activation of her logical, verbal left hemisphere allow her to escape her subjective world and connect with other people through language, it also gave her a sense of herself. In other words, it allowed her to develop and individual identity and, in my last program, I indicated the importance of this in relationship to developing a productive relationship with anyone, including God. Thus, seen from this point of view, the development of reason through the activation of the left hemisphere of our brain as a reflective agent on the right hemisphere is a positive act that marks the beginning of the Mental Level of evolution.
Whether the acquisition of “reason” was a blessing or a curse, a “fall” or an “advancement”, is open for debate. As Christians we can view it as both because we believe that at one time our connection to God was more intimate and direct and, at the same time, we see “reason” as being the Divine Spark within us that makes us in the “image and likeness” of our Creator. If the acquisition of logic and language broke our subconscious, intuitive relationship with God, it is also the method through which we will reconnect with Him on the conscious, logical level. When that happens, intuition and logic will unite into one common vision and what was automatic and “without thought” will become decisive and “with thought.” Like Mark Twain, we will emerge from our adolescent rebellion where we thought that we knew better than our Creator and finally discover that His ways are better than ours and that sin and rebellion harm us more than they harm Him. In other words, Mankind will have moved from a destructive relationship to a productive relationship with its Creator. And this may have been the plan from the beginning since, as the Damiens say in their “Song of Thanksgiving”, “love that freely given wants to freely be received…”
With this in mind, let’s explore the Mental Level of evolution as the story of Mankind’s struggle to find its way back to union with God by following the Divine Logos contained in the left hemispheres of our brains. In other words, human history is the story of the growing dominance of the left lobe in human affairs.
Whether primitive man is the result of a Fall from a higher level or the emergence of Mankind from a lower level has already been addressed. Although paleontologists have discovered skeletal remains of human type creatures almost a million-years-old, they are fragmental and inconclusive because a skeleton doesn’t tell us whether its owner had rational thought or language. Therefore, they look for clues surrounding the skeleton that might indicate intelligence. For a long time, the presence of any type of tool, no matter how primitive, was taken as an indicator of human intelligence. However, it is now known that chimpanzees are capable of making primitive tools like shaping wooden sticks to poke into termite mounds. More recently, genetic anthropologist have placed the beginning of modern man with the emergence of language around 80,000 years ago. By tracing DNA markers they have determined the origin of Man in Africa and his migration to Asia, Australia, and Europe. It is interesting that language has become the major indicator of true humanity because it suggest that no matter how similar a skeleton might be to our own, if language is missing then it’s not a human being. And, of course, language comes from the left hemisphere of our brain where logic is located.
By studying the cultures of primitive people today who still exist in South America, Africa, New Guinea, and Australia, it has been determined that in our most primitive state, the human race lived as “hunter/gathers.” Since they had not yet learned the secret of agriculture and herding, they were forced to roam about the natural world looking for plants and animals living in their natural state. This meant that because they were constantly on the move, they couldn’t establish permanent settlements and this, in turn, limited the size of the group. However, at some point, some genius recognized the logical connection between the seed and the plant, and the role of sex in the reproduction of animals. This led to the creation of agriculture and herding.
Once these were discovered, it was possible to settle down, and establish permanent structures. At this point village and towns started to spring up as the guaranteed food supply allowed larger and larger populations to occupy areas near rivers and fertile plains where agriculture and herding could thrive. As the population grew two natural laws kicked in: the Law of Complexification and the Law of Organization and Specialization.
The Law of Complexification, which states that things will move from the simple to the complex, was the driving force behind the development of higher forms on both the Chemical and Organic levels of evolution. And, it performed the same task on the Mental or Cultural Level. Through it family united to form clans, clans united to form tribes, tribes united to form cities, cities united to form states, states united to form nations, and nations will eventually unite to form an international community. However, in order for this to happen numbers alone were not enough. As the size of population grew, logic indicated that it didn’t make any sense for everyone doing the same type of work. This led to the Law of Specialization and Organization. Even during the “hunting/gathering” stage, there was some kind of division of labor that was often based on sex. Thus, men did one type of work while women and children did another type. However, as population grew it required even more “division of labor.” It didn’t make logical sense for every one being a farmer or herding when it was possible for a few to feed the many and the increased population created other new needs that someone had to fulfill. Thus various members of the population began to specialize in being lawyer, scribes, doctors, carpenters, soldiers, teachers, etc…
In a sense this can be compared to what happened when we first began to develop in our mother’s womb. We all began when two cells, our father’s sperm and our mother’s egg, united. They quickly began to multiply geometrically: 2 became 4; 4 became 16; 16 became 256; 256 became 65, 536 etc… At this stage, we were a group of stem cells that had not yet specialized. Then the Law of Specialization and Organization kicked in and these stem cells began to form communities that specialized in performing some function in the body. Those that became “light sensitive” formed eyes; those that became “sound sensitive” became ears; those that became white blood cells became a warrior class that, as part of our immune system, attacked any foreigner that entered the body.
At this point, I would like to digress a bit from my major theme to discuss some additional laws. For example, there is the Law of Correspondence that says that things that are different in nature correspond or are the same in principle. Thus, there is a correspondence between the relationship of stem cells to biological bodies and young children to society.
Consider the following examples of the correspondence between biological and social bodies:
1. Each day the biological body must reproduce new cells to replace those cells that have died and the social body must reproduce new children to replace those people who have died.
2. These new cells are stems cells that must be imprinted with the DNA code of the
body and shaped to assume the function of the cells that have died. In like
manner, new children in the social body must be imprinted with the code of the
culture and shaped to assume the function of the people who have died
3. If the body fails in accurately imprinting its DNA code in the new cell, it will
become irregular, such as in warts and moles, and fail to fit properly into the
body’s organization. If the culture fails to accurately imprint the cultural code in
new children, the child, like a wart and mole on a biological body, will have
trouble fitting in and become an irregular member of the social body.
4. The body contains a Law of Identity that is designed to protect it from invasions
from foreigners whose DNA code or genetic identity is different from itself. Thus,
its immune system will attack and destroy any foreign element that is
significantly different from its identity. I say “significantly different” because it
appears that the closer anything is to its own identity, the more tolerant it is of it.
Thus organ transplants between close relatives are tolerated more than ones
between total strangers. This Law of Identity is so implacable or incapable of
being change that it will even attack the sperm in the male because it contains 23
rather than the 46 chromosome of the rest of the body, and the child in its
mother’s womb because it is biologically different from its mother. Therefore, the
male’s scrotum contains specialized large nurse cells whose function is to protect
the sperm cells from an attack from the immune system. The baby in the womb is
protected from a similar attack by being separated from its mother’s system
through an umbilical cord. Social bodies follow a similar Law of Identity that
anthropologist call ethnocentrism. What this means is that each culture believes
that they are the “true human being” with the “true style of life” and they will
reject people and ideas that are different or incompatible with their identity. Like
the Thesis in the Hegelian Dialectic, biological bodies and social bodies will
reject any Antithesis that is incompatible with its own identity and like the
“norm” in the “normal curve”, there is a “range of tolerance” for those deviations
that are closest to the norm but intolerance for those deviation that are most
distant from it.
5. In the biological body, if a benign group of irregular cell, such as those in a wart
or mole, should suddenly become malignant and start to reproduce and grow, the
life of the body will be threatened as cancerous cells spreads and starts to destroy
or crowd out healthy organs. This happens when, for some unknown reason, the
immune system fails to destroy “free radicals” in the body. The body is also
threaten when, as is the case in AIDS, the immune system fails to stop the spread
of infectious diseases. Social bodies can suffer the same fate when social cancer
or foreign infection starts to threaten their cultural identity. Every society can
tolerate a few nuns, priests, homosexuals, alcoholics, drug addicts, criminals,
etc… but no society can afford to allow them to become “norms” because
they threaten the survival of the society. Nuns, priests, and homosexuals threaten
it because they don’t reproduce, while alcoholics, drug addicts, and criminals
threaten it because they interfere with the efficient functioning of the society. A
society survival can also be threatened by the spread of foreign infection that
threaten to destroy its cultural identity. For example, historians tell us that the
major killer of the American Indians were the diseases that the Europeans
introduced to which the Indians had no immunity. However, what was even more
devastating was the destruction of their cultural identity caused by the spread of
European cultural values and artifacts. According to anthropologists, many of
the Indians just lost their “will to live” and thus they succumbed to the infectious
diseases more easily. The obvious conclusion is that both biological and social
bodies that fail to defend their identity will lose it and die.
6. Both biological and social bodies grow and change by integrating new elements so
long as they are compatible with their basic identity and that is why the Hegelian
Dialect is a model for every type of change because it models how change is
suppose to take place by blocking those things that are incompatible with the
Thesis while incorporating those that are. Let me illustrate this by describing an
important social change that took place in our own culture: the Civil Rights
The Thesis in our country prior to the Civil Rights movement was based on the premise of “separate but equal.” After the Civil War, the freed slaves faced a barrage of discriminatory actions from white society in both the North and South. In 1909, the NAACP was formed to create a legal antithesis to the overt discriminatory practices of the Jim Crow Law in the South and the more subtle discrimination in the North. Then, in the 1950’s Rosa Park and Dr. Martin Luther King sparked a non-violent movement of “social disobedience and non-compliance.” They were soon joined by others more aggressive groups like the Black Panthers and Black Muslims. The Black Panthers formed para-military groups who threatened violent revolution and the Black Muslims sought social separation from the “devil white race.”
At first, all of these groups were seen as enemies to the existing Thesis because they demanded change. However, as time passed, more moderate elements in the white community began to sympathize with the demands of Dr. King and the NAACP because they presented their demands based on premises already a part of the existing system. Dr. King, while declaring love for the country, kept pointing to the hypocrisy and contradictions that existed between our basic premise of “all Men are created equal” and the discrimination faced by Black Americans. He had us because it was part of our basic identity.
Therefore, the Panthers and Muslims were rejected because they were incompatible with our basic Thesis, while Dr. King and the NAACP were integrated into it. Dr. King became a national hero and the NAACP is still active in its legal efforts to end discrimination.
This is an example of how a society changes without losing it identity. It has to know when to accept a change and when to resist it because not all changes are compatible with a society’s basic identity. The society that forgets this will eventually lose that identity and die. And how does this happen? Once again, I would like to quote the poet Yeats who was commenting on the revolutionary period that he lived through:
Things fall apart, the center cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the earth
The best lack all conviction
and the worst are full of passionate intensity
It’s the old story of “conservative don’t know when to move; liberals don’t know when to stop; and moderates have to know both.”
Well, I see that my time is up. I will return to my major theme concerning the development of the left hemisphere of the brain in human history, in my next program. Here’s Dom!