Lesson 109- The Left Lobe, Social Institutions and Writing
In my last program I was talking about how the Law of Correspondence, which says that things that are different in nature might be the same in principle, applied to the similarities between biological and social bodies. According to Fr. Tielhard de Chardin, God, who was seeking to take life to its fullest expression through an evolutionary process, changed His strategy when he reached the optimum level with biological bodies. In other words, assuming that mental awareness, intelligence, and consciousness are a fuller expression of life than unawareness, ignorance and unconsciousness, then it would seem that the larger the brain, the greater the intelligence. However, the larger the brain, the larger the body has to be to contain it and, at a certain point of size, you reach what it called “the point of diminishing return.” That is, at a certain point the size of the body necessary to hold the enlarged brain becomes so large that it becomes impractical because the creature would be too heavy to move or breath on land. For example, could we imagine a biological body as large as the state of Pennsylvania with a brain as large as Philadelphia? Or, how about a body as large as the United States with a brain as large as the Northeastern states? The solution, according to Fr. Chardin, was to switch from biological bodies to social bodies that corresponded in principles to the operation of biological bodies. Thus, just as hundred of millions of individual cells combine to form a biological bodies so hundred of millions of individual bodies unite to form a social body. Thus, we could say that “individuals are to social bodies what cells are to biological bodies.”
We often forget that each one of our cells has a life of its own and that what we call our body is the result of an astronomical number of cells that have united and organized themselves for their mutual survival. They live, they reproduce, and they die. They organize themselves into functional groups that perform important bodily functions that are necessary for the body’s health and survival. They even sacrifice their lives for the good of the whole body. For example, white blood cells, the warriors of the immune system, die in the “battle of the infected finger” as they encircle the invading germs within their body cavity and, like suicide bombers in the Middle East, explode a chemical bomb that kill them and the germ too. Their dead bodies form the pus around the infected wound. Brain researchers tell us that what we call thinking or consciousness is the result of billions of communications taking place between hundred of billion of neurons that compose our brain. In short, our bodies are really a community of cells that, following the Law of Organization and Specialization have united to operate as one composite being. Truly, as the Bible says, we are “wonderfully made.”
And who is responsible for this organizational miracle? Well, we already know that our logical left lobe is the great organizer in our own brain’s structure. It, like a computer, loves to take complex wholes and organize them by placing them in separate compartments or folders according to their functions or some common trait. It is the basis for all scientific classification. However, since we are not responsible for the organization that we see in nature or in our own bodies, then there must be a Higher Logic than our own that is responsible for it. In other words, there is a Logos or Logic in Reality or a Divine Logos or Logic of which our own logical mind is but a pale reflection. Thus, as both the Church and Einstein state, there is a Superior Wisdom that reveals itself through the laws that govern the universe and thus to know them is to know the “mind of God.”
And so what did this Divine Wisdom do in its pursuit of “higher forms of life” when it had taken things as far as it could go by organizing individuals cells into biological bodies? It switched to social bodies by applying the same organizational principles to people as it had with cells. Both Plato and St. Paul sensed this when they used the analogy of the body in describing how society is a composite of functioning parts composed of people that have organized themselves for their mutual survival. This, of course, is in direct contradiction to the modern atomistic theory that, through its extreme emphasis on the individual as a self-sufficient and independent being, preaches “individual rights” instead of “social responsibility.”
Plato in his work, The Republic, describes how through an educational process, members of his utopian society would drop out at the highest level of their competency and naturally fill the function that was compatible with their ability. Those who made it to the top level would become “philosopher kings” and, like the brain in the biological body, assume the role of controlling everyone else. To explain to people their different levels and functions in the Republic, he said they should be told the Myth of the Body that explained how, like a body, society needed all levels and functions to survive. St. Paul, using the same analogy wrote:
“The body is a unit though it is made up of many parts. And though its parts are many, they form one body. So it us with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Sprit into one body… Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say of the hand, “Because I am not the hand I am not of the body”, it would not because of that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not the eye, I am not part of the body,” it would not cease because of that reason to be part of the body. If the whole body were the eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged all the parts of the body just as He wanted them to be… Now you are the Body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it…”
Thus, it seems clear that our God is the source of the organization that constitutes the organization and specialization that we find in both biological and social bodies. All cultures and societies are the result of this Natural Law that some call the Law of Organization and Specialization. Basically what it says is that whenever anything reaches a certain numerical quantity, it will begin to break up and organize itself into specialized parts. We can see this in society whenever an area of knowledge grows to the point that it is too much to comprehend and it breaks up into smaller areas of specialization. In medicine for example, as our knowledge of the body grew, doctors went from being general practitioners to ones who specialized in one particular area.
Thus, Father Chardin refers to the Mental Level of evolution as the Cultural Level too because he envisions a time when the same law will unite the various cultures into a world culture on the international level. At this point, the various geographical areas will specialize in providing whatever talent or resource they “bring to the table” for the survival of us all. At that time, according to Fr. Chardin, God will create a “brain of brains” through which all the human brains on the earth will be connected electronically and, like the biological brain in which billions of neuron maintain a constant chatter with each other, people throughout the world who before could have never communicated with each other, will suddenly find themselves able to share ideas with anyone on the planet. When this happens, there will be an explosion of human knowledge that will precede the final stage of evolution: the Spiritual Level.
Obviously, Fr. Chardin, as a Catholic priest, sees this as the unification of the world into the Body of Christ. However, as we will see, this is not the only possible vision for where the world is headed. There are some people, who rejecting God, Christ, and His Church, have a vision that excludes all of them and, thus as we approach the historical period where this type of organization is destined to take place, it becomes extremely important whether the vision that dominates is the vision of Christ and His Church or that of the Anti-Christ. This will require a great deal of discernment on the part of Christians because, according to the Bible, there will be many counterfeit Christs by whom the undiscerning will be led astray. Therefore, we must not only know what the Kingdom of God looks like but also where it differs from the Kingdom of the AntiChrist. And that is what our analysis of the Mental or Cultural Level of evolution is about. Where is this level headed and how is it getting there?
In my last talk, I had begun to describe the period that is known as the Pre-historic period which is any time before 3400 B.C. Does this surprise you? It was a surprise to me when I first learned of it because, as a child I always associated the Prehistoric period with the Age of the Dinosaurs and it never occurred to me that it was that close to modern times. The Historical Period did not begin until human beings discovered writing because that is when man began to record HIS STORY. How this might have happened, I will describe in a minute. However, first I want to summarize the points that I made about the Prehistoric Period in my last talk.
The beginning of human existence could have been, as the Bible states, when the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, lived in harmony with God and knew everything intuitively without any effort, much as animals know through instincts and human savants know intuitively how to perform fantastic mental feats. Then they fell from this harmonious state when they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil by seeking to know through logic and reason what before they had known through intuition. . In acquiring reason, their logical left lobe assumed a dominance that, while it made them a rational being like God, it weakened their intuitive abilities and made knowledge and learning a struggle that involved the dialectical process described by Hegel.
It seems that Christian mystics, like St. John of the Cross, and Eastern mystics, like those in Hinduism and Buddhism, seek to return to this intuitive state through meditative exercises designed to turn off the conscious mind and, during the 1960’s hippies and others sought the same kind of experience through mind-altering drugs like LSD. During these altered states of consciousness, both the mystics and hippies tell of experiencing God directly in a mystical way. It also appears that primitive and illiterate people are more prone to these mystical experiences than are those who belong to higher civilization or are highly educated. It seems to be true that the gift of reason may have been both a blessing and a curse.
Another possibility is that human existence began when a primate-like being rose up out of the Gehenna or Kingdom of Mental Darkness described by Helen Keller when the Divine Logos of Reality entered the left hemisphere of its brain changing it from an impulsive, arational animal locked in the subjective world of feelings and impulses into a reflective, rational being capable of living by objective truth and facts.
Whichever version we accept, it seems that at that point of the human story, whether it was a climb back from a Fall or an ascent from an original darkness, is one of the growth of the dominance of the left hemisphere and logic in human affairs. It is also the story of how we moved from small, simple primitive groups to large, complex, civilizations. According to historians, the two pillars of civilization are Art and Science, which we now know correspond to the right and left hemispheres of the brain. However, it appears that the real driving force behind civilization is the linear oriented left hemisphere with its passion for organization. This seems to be born out by what we know of those primitive groups that still exist today where the cyclical, existential right hemisphere seems to dominate their approach to life. For example, the Australian aborigines’ story of how things began demonstrates the qualities of the right hemisphere.
According to them in the Beginning was the Dream Time when human beings used to dance around a fire. Already, the term “Dream Time” indicates that we are dealing with the pictorial, sub-conscious right lobe. Then, according to them, a man fell into the fire and the blisters on his back, changed him into a crocodile. Then the bumps on the crocodile’s back became the mountains that surrounded their territory. Here we see the Law of Correspondence that is the basis for the right lobe’s talent for analogies, metaphors, and similes and its belief that things that “look like each other are each other in a symbolic way.”
Then, one of the first indications of the stirring of the left brain occurred during the Prehistoric Period when the human race moved from the wandering hunting/gathering state into settled communities when the left hemisphere detected the logical connection between the seed and the plant and sex and reproduction. Once this was discovered, it became possible for our hunting/gathering ancestors to settle down in permanent communities where the food supply was assured through agriculture and herding. Once again logic showed its growing influence when, as the population exploded, the logical Law of Organization and Specialization led to the creation of different jobs and professions.
At first, social control came from the family and the social taboos adopted by the group, and decisions and rules tended to be on a personal, face-to-face basis. For example among the primitive tribes in New Guinea weaker men have their wives raped and pigs stolen by stronger men and their only recourse is to return the offense by raping the wives and stealing the pigs of the offender. In other words, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Of course, if the victim can’t do this he suffers these offenses without any response. There is no concept of justice because the operating premise is “might makes right” which is related to the “laws of dominance” that animals use to establish social order.
Another practice related to the earlier development of human society is known as “blood law” which means that the person or family offended has the right and responsibility for “evening the score” for any offenses committed again its members by responding in kind. If you kill my son, then I’ll kill your son. If you rape my wife, then I’ll rape your wife. The logical results of this were an unending cycle of retaliation such as the family feuds that Shakespeare wrote about in Romeo and Juliet and the infamous feud between the Hatfields and McCoys.
These feuds were problematic when the population was small but as population grew it became evident that there had to be a better way of solving the problem of offences against individuals. The logical left lobe solved the problem by creating a criminal justice system involving the police, the courts, and the prison. Crimes in the past against individual persons that required a personal response from the offended party now became crimes against the society and it became society’s responsibility to respond by investigating the crime, arresting the offender, weighing the evidence, and meting out the punishment. For the first time, the concept of social justice began to replace the old concepts of “blood law” and “might makes right.” Now weaker people had a recourse for crimes committed against them by those who were stronger. Also, it relieved the family of the offended party from becoming involved with the family of the offender in an unending feud. Thus, civil law had replaced “blood law” and the dominance of the left lobe grew.
Eventually, as society grew in numbers, it was necessary for the left lobe to solve the problems related to social order and control by creating social institutions designed to solve social problems by having agents of the government take responsibility away from individuals and their families. Thus, the social institution of government was created by the law-making left lobe to make, judge, and enforce laws that were necessary for social order and justice. Marriage, which before was a personal agreement between families, became a legal contract protected and regulated by the government. Schools and teachers took over the education and training of children. Whenever a social problem arose, the logical left lobe sought a logical solution to it and, when the solution worked, it became embedded or institutionalized into the culture through the creation of laws, customs, or organizations designed to apply the solution to the problem. Each of these steps indicated the growing dominance of the left lobe and its organizing talents in human affairs. And each step towards the growing dominance of the left lobe, was also a step away from the personal and concrete towards the impersonal and the abstract.
Before moving on to my next point, I want to be sure that my listeners understand the difference between what I mean by the concrete and the abstract. In a previous program I tried to demonstrate this by explaining the different method one has to use when attempting to explain to the left and right lobes why lying is wrong. To the left lobe I said, “Lying is wrong because the primary purpose of speech is to communicate information and lying is wrong because it communicates misinformation.” It other words, it misses the logical purpose of speech and thereby “misses the mark” or sins. To the right lobe I said, “Lying is wrong because there once was a little boy who lived in a mountain village who was given the job of looking over the sheep. The townspeople told him that if a wolf should appear, he should call out “Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! and they would come running to save him…” I’m sure that most of you know the rest of the story of “The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf!”
The first explanation that was aimed at the logical left lobe used abstract language that does not generate any pictures. Instead it speaks of abstract concepts like “primary purpose”, “information”, and “misinformation” all of which are incomprehensible to the right lobe. The second explanation that was aimed at the artistic right lobe used concrete words like “little boy”, “village”, “sheep”, and “wolf” that can be pictured. And that is why children, who love cartoons, stories, and pictures, love the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and dislike long, verbal, logical explanations. When they become teenagers their response to such explanations is generally, “I know!…I know… Stop lecturing me!” Thus, concreteness is associated with the right lobe and abstractness is associated with the left lobe.
Now let me once again show the growth of the dominance of the left lobe by by demonstrating how the development of reading and writing moved from the concrete, which can be pictured, to the abstract, which can’t be pictured.
According to the experts, the first type of writing was a Pictograph in which a person conveyed what he was thinking by drawing a picture of it. Thus, if I wanted to tell you that I was thinking about a horse I would draw a “stick-like” picture of a horse with a straight horizontal line representing the body, two vertical lines coming out of the body representing its legs, and a circle at the end representing the head. A good example of this are Egyptian hieroglyphics, one of the oldest forms of writing, that recorded events involving the ancient Egyptians through a series of pictures. Chinese writing, another ancient writing form, is done with a paint brush and is almost an art form. It contains over 3000 characters that began as pictures. Since, the right lobe specializes in art and thinks in pictures, it seems obvious that writing began in the right lobe.
However, as time passed, the Pictograph evolved into an Ideograph in which the picture of the horse came to symbolize the more abstract concept of “travel.” In other words, the “thing” became a symbol for an “idea” that was associated with the “thing.” This was followed by the Phonograph in which “the thing” that had become “the idea” now became “the sound” associated with “the thing.” Thus, we can imagine that the “stick-figure” horse that I described went through minor modifications when the head was removed and the legs were extended above the horizontal body and it became an “H” that stood for the sound with which “horse” began.
Once this happened, it was only a matter of time before some genius would create an alphabet of 26 letters that allowed us to write abstract concepts that were impossible to picture. This genius took five sounds, called vowels - A E I O U -, and combined them with 21 mouth formations, called consonants, and created a system called phonics which allowed the writer to write any word by sounding it out. Now it was possible to write an abstract word like “antidisestablishmentarianism” simply by breaking it down into its parts and sounding it out. AN TI DIS ES TAB LISH MEN TAR I AN ISM. Fantastic! Isn’t it?
With the discovery of writing around 3400 B.C. the Prehistoric Period ended and the Historical Period began and human knowledge could now be transmitted accurately from generation to generation. And all of this was the result of the growing dominance of the left lobe.
I hope that as I describe the growing dominance of the left lobe of the brain in human history, that my listeners are sensing that this resembles or corresponds to the same growth of the left lobe in each of our lives. As children we began, just like primitive humans, almost totally right lobed. The first sign of the awakening of the left lobe in our lives was the acquisition of language. Then we became aware of the Law of Organization and Specialization when we learn that different people have different roles in society and that eventually we must prepare to assume some of these roles. Then through external rules and laws we began to organize and bring different areas of our lives under rational control. We learned to feed ourselves, dress ourselves, tie our shoes, cross the street etc… Through parental discipline we began to learn how to control our impulses and to take our arguments with other children to grownups instead of trying to “even the score” ourselves. Then we entered school and began to learn how to read and write. With each of these steps, the left lobe of our brain grew in dominance as we moved from dependency to independency, from “other control” to “ self control”, from “freedom from” to “freedom to”, from “destructive relationships” to “productive relationships, from childhood to adulthood.
The next step in this march towards left lobe dominance both in our lives and history is the development of mathematics, which is even more abstract than language.
Once again it appears that in history mathematics, like writing, may have begun in the right lobe and gradually moved to the left lobe. Simple counting, which many believe developed in the ancient world with businessmen wanting to keep track of their wares and accounts, served a very concrete function. It was not concerned with the more abstract notion that 4 +3 = 7 but rather with the more concrete issue of 4 cows + 3 cows= 7 cows. However, as time passed, it moved from the concrete to the abstract where the numbers became independent of any concrete thing and their value rested in the logical consistency that the provided.
Geometry, which means “the measuring of the earth”, is suppose to have begun with the Egyptians who developed it to relocate the boundaries of farms after the seasonal flooding of the Nile River. Notice that its original function was spatial, which is related to the right side of the brain, and that it was created to serve a very concrete function. How, when the left lobed, logical Greeks got hold of it, it became Euclidian geometry that is an exercise in logical deduction based on theorems and postulates. This was followed by other forms of math- Algebra, Trigonometry, Calculus- that continued down the path of logical abstraction and led to the scientific and technological revolutions that produced the modern world.
Needless to say, right lobers hate math. It is much too abstract for their pictorial, concrete minds and, as students, it is hell for them in the classroom. The same is true when it comes to most textbooks because of their obsession with structure and facts. Right lobers learn best by watching and their talent is creativity and the ability to “think outside the box.” In other words, to see things from a different and unexpected point of view.
As I previously noted, historians say that Art and Science are the two pillars of civilization and since Art is the right lobe and Science is the left lobe, then they truly are the dynamic duo who seem to be responsible for all the benefits that civilization has given us. However, like the Will and Intellect of the Medieval philosophers, they are dynamite when they work together, but they are less than that when they operate alone. Art without Science is like the Will without the Intellect. Without the limits set by a logical, moral dimension, Art soon drifts into decadence, mediocrity, or pornography. Science without Art, like the Intellect without the Will, becomes lifeless, dry, and dull because it lacks inspiration and spirit. In fact, without the softening touch of the freedom loving, creative, artistic right lobe, the order loving, law abiding, scientific left lobe could lead us all into a sterile, antiseptic dictatorship. And that is why the writer Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, predicted that the 21st century would become a scientific and technological dictatorship.
Obviously Art and Science, the Will and the Intellect, the right lobe and left lobe, freedom and order, and other dialectical relationship share some type of correspondence that is basic to the nature of the universe. But as Christian there is even a deeper correspondence to our concept of God. Art, Will, right lobe, and freedom bear a correspondence to the Father and science, intellect, left lobe, and order bear a correspondence to the Son and the interaction between the two results in the Creative Spirit whose energy is driving the universe towards its final goal. What this end will be is yet to be determined by whether we know how to maintain the perfect balance between these opposing elements the exists in the Trinity, Itself.
Too much freedom results in chaos; too much order results in a stagnant dictatorship. What we are seeking is a “free order” in which rational beings willingly obey the dictates of rational thought by moving from a destructive relationship based on law and compulsion to a productive relationship based on love and freedom.
When that happens, for the first time the heart and the mind will end their historical struggle, the “lion will lay down with the lamb; justice and peace will kiss; and we will beat our weapons of war into tools for farming” and our “hearts of stones” will be replaced by “hearts of flesh” At that point, God will once again live with his people and our prayer about “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” will finally be answered. But we are not there yet as any reading of the daily papers indicate.
In my next program, I will continue my discussion on the growing dominance of the left lobe throughout history and how, it appears, that we are living at the time when the question of where the world is heading will finally be answered.
Well, I see that my time is up. Here’s Dom!