Lesson 90- Summary of Brave New World
Well I’m back after a three months summer vacation that allowed me to recharge my batteries. As I explained at the end of May, I would play re-runs of my programs and, when I returned in September, I would continue where I left off. Of course the teacher in me says, “You know, your listeners were probably taking a vacation too and they have no idea where you were when you ended in May.
Now, if these talks were just a series of disconnected observations on various topics, it wouldn’t matter where I picked up. But these talks are the essence of a course that I teach over a six month period and each unit builds upon the previous one and that is why from time to time, I stop to review so that listeners who have just turned in might have some understanding of where I am coming from and where I am going and my steady listeners have an opportunity to refresh in their minds some of the foundational premises upon which this course is based. And so, I hope you won’t mind if I begin my return by reviewing the major premises and observations that we presented in some previous programs.
First, this course, which is presently called Logic and Psychology, used to be called the Sane Society, a concept developed by a famous Secular Humanist psychologist named Eric Fromm. Fromm, despite the fact that he is a Secular Humanist, wrote like he was a Christian because there were many things involved in his theories that were compatible with our Christian perspective. For example, he believed that there was a common human nature shared by all human beings and that there were objective standards for how we should behave. He rejected the theories of the Sociological Relativists who claimed that each culture was simply a different way of solving the common problem of survival and thus they were all equally valid and good. In other words, each culture was simply a “different lifestyle” and our attitude should be one of “different strokes for different folks.” Fromm disagreed by observing that although human beings could exist under many different kinds of conditions, they needed the right conditions to develop. Through this observation he raised one of the most important questions facing up as human beings: What is the purpose of human life? Is it to exist or develop? How we answer this question will have a great impact on how we view and deal with reality.
If the purpose of human life is to exist, then any culture that exists is just as good and valid as any other culture and the symbol for all cultures would be a circle indicating that everyone should just keep repeating whatever they are doing. Our attitude towards our own culture and other cultures would be that of the crew on the Star Ship Enterprise whose prime imperative was to never interfere or try to change any of the cultural traits they found among the people they visited on different planets. This is a very liberal and super-tolerant idea and also very stupid. If we really followed it, it would eliminate any change or progress among ourselves and others. Widows in India would still be burning themselves to death by throwing themselves on their dead husband’s funeral pyre; adult males would be taking little boys as lovers as they did in ancient Greece; fathers would still have the power of the “patria potestas”, as they did in ancient Rome, to sentence members of their family to death; slavery would still exist; and all of us would be “hunter/gatherings” wandering the earth looking for animals and plants. Even those liberal-minded people who say that believe in this super-tolerance can’t follow it because they are constantly trying to change things to match their concept of the world.
If, on the other hand, our answer is that the purpose of human life is to develop, then life takes on a totally different perspective. Instead of being symbolized by a repeating circle signifying existence, it would be symbolized by a ever-extending line signifying development. Development implies improvement, and improvement implies a goal, and a goal implies that behavior that takes you to the goal is “right” and behavior that takes you away from it, “misses the mark”, and is “wrong”, and, since this is a goal that is related to our common human nature, it implies that there is an objective, universal morality that is independent of our culture or personal feelings.
Thus, according to Fromm, a Sane Society would be that society whose social norms were most compatible with our basic human nature. In other words, a society devoted to human development in which the goal of every person would be to achieve the “fullness of life” that Jesus promised in the gospel. Of course, this would mean that those cultures that stifle human development are wrong because they would contain what Fromm terms as “socially patterned defects” which are defective ways of dealing with reality that are patterned into the culture. Because they are out of touch with “reality” or truth, they could rightly be called minor forms of insanity. Thus Fromm asks the provocative question “If you were born in an insane asylum, grew up in it, and never left it, would you know that you were insane?” The answer, of course, is “No!” because we all, as children, accept as normal the culture into which we were born. The fact that many of these cultures pass on defective ways of behaving that lead to undesirable consequences seems to go unnoticed by those in the culture because they “keep on repeating the same behavior while expecting difference results.”
Having been born in a working class Irish ghetto in South Philadelphia, where alcoholism was rampant and was passed on from generation to generation, I can identify with Fromm’s observations. Generation after generation of lives were destroyed by alcoholism, yet by some distorted logic, the young victims of alcoholism often became alcoholics themselves and passed the disease on to their own children. Obviously, this is an example of a cyclical view of reality in which the same patterns are repeated over and over. In this view there is no “repentance and reform” because people don’t see any reason to change since the defect that is ruining their lives is seen as a normal part of their culture. In a linear view, “repentance and reform” are on-going process since each person and each generation is seeking to improve himself or his society.
Thus, Fromm’s concept of a Sane Society is very Christian even though he was a leading Secular Humanist because it is related to the Judeo/Christian Linear Utopian Concept of History that views history as the stage that God is using to take us from the Kingdom of Ignorance and Darkness to the Kingdom of Light and Understanding. The Sane Society is just another name for the Kingdom of God that is the way of life that our Creator, who engineered our nature, meant for us to live. But this rests on the assumption that the purpose of human life is to develop rather than exist. Is their any objective proof that this is the case? This leads me to my second point.
Recent experiments by brain researchers have revealed that our sense of being one person is an illusion. After Dr. Roger Sperry and his team split the corpus collosum, a crisscrossing bundle of nerves, that connect the right and left hemispheres of our brain, they discovered that each hemisphere qualifies as a different person with its own point-of-view and talents. The right hemisphere, which is related to our animal nature, is a non-verbal, artistic, intuitive genius that thinks in pictures rather than words. It is the source of all art and, since it is inclined to feelings and emotions, it is our subjective side. The left hemisphere, on the other hand, is a verbal, logical, scientific and technological craftsman that thinks in words and mathematical formulas.
The importance of this discovery to our Christian belief is incalculable because it helps us to better understand our most significant and unusual insight into the nature of God: the mystery of the Trinity. No other religion ever claimed that there was one God who encompassed three persons. In fact, is has been an embarrassing point for us because it seems to contradict itself. How is it possible for one being to be more than one person? And now brain researchers have revealed that we ourselves are more than one person. In fact, we may be three persons since the frontal lobe of our brain, where all judgment takes place, is a blending of the input coming from the other two. We might even say that, like the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son, the frontal lobe “proceeds from the right and left hemispheres. For example, when we go to buy a car, the artistic right hemisphere is concern with style and beauty, while the technological left hemisphere is concerned with engineering and function. The frontal lobe, which will receive input from both perspectives, will blend form, how it looks, with function, how it works, to choose a car that contains both.
Thus, it appears that we, who like God, are rational beings, may really be made in His “image and likeness.” Our right hemisphere may be patterned on the Father, the Artistic Genius, who envisioned the universe. Our left hemisphere may be patterned on the Son, the Wise and Logical Craftsman who took His Father’s vision and began to plan how to implement it through a step-by-step logical progression. And our frontal lobe may be patterned on the Holy Spirit who is the Creative Energy that flows from the interaction between the other two. Thus, the real name of the Holy Spirit might be “enthusiasm” which comes from two Greek words, “en theos”, that means “God in us.”
In short, both the Father and our right hemisphere think of “what to do”; while both the Son and our left hemisphere and think of “how to do it”; while the Holy Spirit and our frontal hemisphere makes the decision to “do it.” Once we view creative activity from this point of view, the Trinitarian nature of the acting agent isn’t a mystery, it’s an obvious fact.
In John I, Jesus is referred to as the “Word” who God used to create the universe. It says that he was with God and was God and that everything was created by Him. It then says that he was the Light that was found in every human being. And finally it says that this “Word became flesh” in the person of Jesus and it “dwelt amongst us.” This powerful statement takes on even more power when we learn that in Greek, the language in which it was originally written, “WORD” is spelled “LOGOS” and from it we get LOGIC. Thus we could rightly say that Jesus, according to the Christian scriptures, is the Logic of God and that He is found in the logical left hemisphere of our brains that is responsible for all science, technology and civilization itself.
Without this logical left hemisphere, we would be animals living in a circular world of instinctual patterns, totally unaware of the logical purpose of the instincts that drove our behavior. Recent finding by genetic anthropologist indicate that, although human-like creatures may have existed for million of years, modern man didn’t develop until 50 thousand years ago when a group in Africa learned to use language. In other words, true humanity is connected to language and language is a function of the left hemisphere of the brain. Later, I’ll have some more to say about this when I talk about the Catholic perspective on evolution.
So what else have these new discoveries in brain research taught us aside from the fact that our sense of being one person is an illusion. First they have shown that we have a dialectical brain in which two things interact to produce a third. Animals, on the other hand, have non-dialectical brains because both hemispheres are non-verbal and, therefore, non-reflective. Second, they have shown us why animal existence is based on the circular repetition of instinctual patterns while human development is based on the dialectical interaction between an artistic and scientific brain. The animal brain, like asexual reproduction, keeps repeating the same pattern because “same to same equals same” while the human brain, like bi-sexual reproduction, leads to variety and change because “ difference to difference equals difference.” Historians say that the two pillars of civilization are Art and Science which is the same as saying the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
Thus it appears that the very nature of a dialectical process in which two things interact to produce a third is to change because it always involves the blending of two different things into a third that is a composite of them both. But, since change can be either positive or negatives, it would appear that those changes that are positive ought to advance or enhance life and those that are negative ought to restrict or destroy it.
The religious significance of this is seen when God tells Moses to tell the people that “today I place before them life and death, the blessing and the curse. Tell them to choose life” and centuries later Jesus says “I have come that you might have life and have it more fully…For I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life… and unless you eat My Body and drink My Blood you will not have life within you... and I will raise you up on the last day.” What does all this mean? What is life and what is death?
The philosophical definition for life is “integration” and for death it is “disintegration.” Thus life in the process of constantly taking into ourselves positive aspects of reality that we use to enlarge and enhance who we are. Death, on the other hand, is the process of taking into ourselves negative aspects of reality that limits and “tears down” who we are. This may be why, in our language, the word EVIL is LIVE spelled backwards and when we place a “D” in front of it, it becomes the DEVIL. God, as His statement to Moses indicates, is “Pro-life” and the devil, His archenemy, is “Pro-death.”
Jesus’ statement takes on greater significance once we understand that the Ancient Hebrews or Jews believed that there were two dimensions to every human being: the “outer man” or “flesh”, and the “inner man” or “spirit.” According to them, the “outer man” or “flesh” ate bread and the “inner man” or “spirit” ate Wisdom. The “flesh” they said would die and disintegrate while the spirit would live forever. Therefore, they considered it the height of foolishness to spend one’s life feeding the “flesh” while starving the “spirit.” In the Book of Isaiah, which is one of the Wisdom books in the Bible, God says, “Why do you pay money for food that does not satisfy and for drink that does not slack your thirst. Come to me, and without pay, I will give you the food of eternal life.” What He is talking about is Wisdom that the ancients sometimes referred to as the “Bread of Life.” Thus, when Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me shall not hunger. He who believes in Me shall not thirst, He is claiming to be the Wisdom of God of whom Isaiah spoke. This, of course, is the teaching of the Catholic Church that refers to Jesus as the Incarnate Wisdom of God who created the universe. The word “incarnate” means “made into flesh” and thus, in the rosary, the birth of Jesus is referred to as the Incarnation when “the Word or Logos, or Logic, or Wisdom of God became flesh and dwelt amongst us.”
The point that I am making here is that it logically follows that human beings, possessing a dialectical brain, were made to progress, while animals, having a non-dialectical brain, were created to exist. Thus, Eric Fromm’s Sane Society, which is the one that is most compatible with our basic human nature, and the Judeo/Christian Kingdom of God must be the same thing. However, since we are made to change and grow and not every change is progressive, it is essential that we have a clear understanding of, first, how change takes place, and second, what types of changes take us closer to the “fullness of life” and what types lead us away from it. And that brings me to my next point of review.
Catholic philosophy teaches that we live in a universe full of two types of existence: potential and actual. Potential existence is a great pool of potentiality containing all those combinations that are capable of existing. It is so large that it boggles our minds just to think about it. However, out of this great pool of potentiality, which could be signified as a gigantic circle, only a small stream, signified by a line, ever will become actual. The number of people who have ever existed is insignificant to the number of people who could have existed. The number of creatures who ever existed is insignificant to the number of creatures that could have existed. Thus, only an insignificant amount of the potentiality of the universe, ever becomes actualized and this is determined by the relationships that are formed. On the chemical level of reality, when an atom of hydrogen forms a relationship with two atoms of oxygen, H2O, or water moves from the potential to the actual. When a male dog forms a relationship with a female dog, the puppies become actual. And when our fathers formed a relationship with out mothers, we became actual. Had these relationships never taken place or had they taken place with others than those mentioned, things that are actual now would disappear and would be replaced by new actualized potentials.
From this we can conclude first, the creation is not finished. The potential of the universe, or potential existence, is finished, but its actualization is still taking place; second, that this potential contains both negative and positive qualities; third, that the quality of the potential that becomes actualized depends on the quality of the relationships that are formed; fourth, whoever made this universe put before us “life and death”, the “blessing and the curse”, positive and negative potentials and has established a system in which those choices that enhance and further life will survive and those that don’t will become extinct. In other words, our Fate is in our own hands because reality is designed to reflect our values through the relationships that we form. Choose wrongly and we have entered the path that leads to death and extinction; choose rightly and we have entered the path that leads to eternal life. How we choose depends on how wise we are and thus it is imperative that we become in tune with the Wisdom that created the universe. And this leads me to my next point: the nature of relationships.
Lao Tsu, the Chinese philosopher, said that everything came into existence- or moved from potential to actuality- through the relationship between Yin and Yang. Most of us have seen the symbol representing this relationship. It is a circle, with an “S-like” curvature line splitting it in half. One side is dark, with a little circle of light and the other side is light, with a little circle of darkness. According to Lao Tse, the Dark Side represents the Female Principle that was built to receive. It is connected to everything passive, intuitive, artistic, and unconscious and it sound very much like the right hemisphere of the brain. The Light Side represents the Male Principle and it was built to give. It is connected to everything active, logical, scientific and conscious and it sound very much like the left hemisphere.
Now before I get every feminist listening to this program angry at me, let me emphasize that these are principles of interaction and that biological sex is just one of many examples of these principles. So whether you are the male or female principle in any relationship depends on the nature of the interaction. In any situation in which you are the “giver” you are in principle the Male or Yang Principle. In any situation in which you are the “receiver” you are in principle the Female or Yin Principle. And as the interaction changes so do the principles that we represent. When I speak and you listen, I am Yang and you are Yin. When you speak and I listen, then you are Yang and I am Yin. The secret of progress is to know when to be Yin and when to be Yang.
So, you might ask, what does this have to do with negative and positive development that results from the relationships that we form. Well logic says that the Male Principle, which has come to give, must have some dominant quality to give if the Female Principle, which has come to receive, is going to progress. We see this acted out on the biological level when, in nature, the female of some species have an instinct for seeking the dominant male. When this happens both in nature and in our social interaction, the Yin Principle benefits by receiving something that enhances it existence and survival. But what happens when a foolish Yin Principle forms a relationship with a subdominant Yang Principle. In other words, what happens when the receiver interacts with a giver who brings that which is lower and sub-dominant. The answer is that the results will be regressive rather than progressive. Instead of a movement towards life and higher integration, it will result in a movement towards death and disintegration. This is true not only for individuals but also civilizations. It is a foolish civilization that loses its moral compass and no longer is able to distinguish between the higher and the lower, the moral and the immoral, that which enhances the human spirit and that which degrades it. It is a foolish civilization that in the name or unbridled freedom fails to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.
Thus, through the relationships that we form we move into actuality either positive or negative potentials which eventually become the reality that we will all share. And, as the scriptures say, “we will all reap what we have sown.”
From a spiritual point of view it seems obvious that God, who by definition is the only complete, totally full and lacking in nothing being, is the only legitimate eternal circle that has no linearity in Himself. In other words, He is not developing because He is totally wholly with a “W”. Therefore, since there is nothing that He needs to receive, His eternal attitude must be that of Yang the giver. And if this is so, then the only legitimate attitude of the creature is that of Yin, the receiver.
A problem arises however when the creature decides to assume a Yang position in relationship to his Creator. That is, when he wants to be God. That is exactly what the story of Adam and Eve is about and when, through Pride, they sought to become Yang when they should have remain Yin, they broke the relationship with their Creator and fell out of harmony with the creation. Yang to Yang doesn’t work nor does Yin to Yin.
Thus on the spiritual and/or psychological levels Yang is related to Pride and Yin is related to Humility. Eve broke the relationship with God through her Pride and Mary, the mother of Jesus, reestablished it through her Humility. The lesson that we should learn from this is that Man creates disharmony in the universe when he forgets that he is part of a macro system created by an Intelligent Being whose ways far exceed our puny minds and thus when we seek to alter this macro system we should always approach it with great humility. As the scriptures warn, “Pride comes before the Fall.”
And now let me end with my final point: the dialectical nature of reality and mechanism of the Hegelian Dialectic as the method for taking us from the Kingdom of Mental Darkness to the Kingdom of Mental Light and Understanding.
As I ended my last program at the end of May, I was finishing up a series of talks on the Hegelian Dialectic and its relationship to both the Judeo/Christian Linear Utopian Concept of History and Marx’s theory of Communism. I don’t have enough time to fully review all the points but let me at least highlight some of the major points.
First, Hegel’s was looking for a law of history because, as someone raised in a Christian environment, be believe that history was linear, progressive, and developing towards some ultimate end. The end that he envisioned was God or Ultimate Truth. Since, we are all born in a world of Mental Darkness unaware of “who we are”, “where we are”, or “why we are here”, life is a process of seeking to find out the answer to these important questions. Since the Old Testament’s word for hell is Gehenna and it means “empty thought” we could legitimately conclude that we are born in hell and that our whole life is the process of getting out of it. However, there is only one way out and that is the Truth that is capable of setting us free. But we don’t know the Truth and thus we are forced to make “Guesstimations” which Hegel calls the Thesis. So long as these Theses about the nature of reality go unchallenged they will continue to be our explanation of life. However, as time passes, experiences, the opinions of others, or even our own reflective minds will present challenges, called Antitheses, to our theories. A conflict and struggle will result that, in most cases, will be resolved through a Synthesis that incorporates what is good in the new idea with what was good in the old idea and this becomes our new Thesis. However, this process continues throughout life as various aspects of our total theory about life undergo this refining process until, like gold tried in the fire, our Thesis is purified of its errors and impurities and moves that much closer to an understanding of God or the Ultimate Truth. Notice that the dialectic is a mechanism that integrates new understandings with older ones and thus is a mechanism for life. Notice also that each time we go through the struggle involved in the dialectic we take one more step out of Gehenna, the Kingdom of Mental Darkness, and take one more step towards the Kingdom of Light and Understanding. Thus, if my analysis is correct, the Hegelian Dialectic is the method God uses to save our souls. The Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis of the dialectic is a model for the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. Jesus in the Garden is the Thesis who trembles at the thought of the struggle that He is about to enter. His Passion that involved torture, humiliation, struggle, and death symbolizes the Antitheses of life that often terrorize and immobilize our flesh. His Resurrection symbolizes the higher level to which we all rise once we have conquered our fears and have faced the crosses that life presents to us. And that is why Jesus said, “If you want life, and you want it fully, then pick up your Cross and follow Me, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” As one sage put it “Whatever doesn’t kill us, strengthens us!”
However Jesus is saying even more. He is saying even death can’t conquer us because what we lose in the physical, we gain in the spiritual. As He once said, “He who loses His life for My sake, will save it. While he who tries to save his life, will lose it.” In other words, follow the Truth even if it leads to death because a life based on lies is a sure way of losing your soul.
Well, I see that my time is up. Next time I will deal with that scary word: evolution. Here’s Dom!