Left Brain, Right Brain, Transcendent Brain
The psychoanalyst James Grotstein proposes a “dual track” theory of human development, in which there is a separate developmental agenda for the self in isolation and the self in relation to others. Recent work in neurology has suggested that we not only have two cerebral hemispheres (left and right), but two consciousnesses, two very different ways of processing data and experience.
In our normal waking consciousness, one hemisphere subordinates the other, so that we have the subjective impression of a unified consciousness, but in reality, it is somewhat analogous to having two eyes or ears. For example, when they are properly functioning, we are not aware of having two eyes. However, the fact that we have two eyes with slightly different points of view creates the experience of visual depth. Likewise, thanks to having two ears, we can have the experience of a bitchin’ stereo.
The right brain allows us the experience of fusion with others, of oneness with creation, of membership in a larger group. But thanks to the left brain, we can have the experience of uniqueness, of our separateness from the group, of what is called individuation. The two hemispheres also think and process information in divergent ways, one in a holistic, translogical and analogical manner, the other in a linear, logical, and digital manner. One cannot understand religious metaphysics without a highly developed, right brain "poetical" sense.
Especially in the West, we have many excessively left-brained thinkers who derive their philosophies from their own handicapped existence. Here I am thinking of someone like the famous materialist Richard Dawkins, whose spiritually barren atheistic theology is all words and no music, and speaks to no one who is firing in both hemispheres.
This is why atheism so quickly devolves into bad theology. The “return of the repressed” guarantees that the shunned hemisphere will exact its vengeance on the philosopher who tries to naively reject it, exposing the illogic of his metaphysics. In fact, Gödel’s theorems may be thought of as the guarantor of a liberating higher Reason that transcends the logic-bound left-brain.
But it is obviously possible to lurch too far in the other direction as well, and to promulgate a philosophy that is almost entirely a product of right-hemisphere thinking detached from logic, such as Islamism, radical feminism, homosexual activism, etc.
In reality, the two hemispheres are not opposed but complementary, a reflection of the irreducible complementarity of relative existence. When I use the words “vertical” and “horizontal,” you should think of them as “empty categories” or mythsemantical placeholders that subsume many other irreducible complementarities in our existence, such as: wave/particle, whole/part, form/substance, male/female, mind/matter, exterior/interior, thinking/feeling, sensing/intuition, analysis/synthesis, group/individual, time/eternity, brahman/maya, Kirk/Spock. None of these dualities can be resolved in the phenomenal world, because the phenomenal world is their product, so to speak.
Thus, it is not so much that we have two brains, but that the different vertices of the two brains create a third thing that transcends either one alone. At least in a healthy individual. It is not that the two hemispheres should become fused or commingled, so to speak. Rather, there is a harmonious relationship between them. Normally we think of the repressive barrier between ego and unconscious as being vital to the maintenance of the ego. However, the boundary is just as vital for the sake of the unconscious, otherwise each world would destroy the other. "Unconscious" and "ego" are really just different points of view that are simultaneously present, like "God" and "Man."
In last Friday’s post, we spoke of Melanie Klein’s theory of the paranoid-schizoid (dispersive) and depressive (integrative) positions. Grotstein has added a third, which he calls the transcendent position, which represents a higher fusion of the dual tracks referenced above. In other words, these complementarities are not to be resolved by ignoring them or attempting to impose one over the other. Rather, they can only be resolved by moving in the opposite direction, toward the anterior, nonlocal wholeness “above,” of which the complementarities are a local manifestation:
“The two time-space worlds are incompatible and must be kept apart. This is the intercourse that is so sacred that it must not be known; it must always remain inscrutable.
“The act of psychic creation involves the most arcane, most mysterious union between two modes of ‘being’ and of ‘valuing’ the data of inner and outer experience. Their intercourse creates ‘thoughts.’ It can never be penetrated. The subject, being ineffable and inscrutable, does not lend itself to objectification but can reveal itself only in ‘transformations in O,’ with which we at best can become resonant in the transcendent position” (Grotstein). In identifying the transcendent position with “transformations in O,” this is another way of describing the O-->(k) directionality described in my book, from knowledge, to wisdom (n), and to being (¶).
Grotstein goes on to say that the transcendent position is not properly regarded as a stage per se, but an ongoing capability that must be won again and again: “Transcendent means having the ability to transcend our defensiveness, our pettiness, our guilt, our shame, our narcissism, our need for certainty, our strictures, in order to achieve or become ‘one with O,’ which I interpret as becoming one with our aliveness or our very being-ness.”
In the past, I have described this as playing along the infinite shore where the waves of eternity break upon the sands time. In fact, this is what I am attempting to do in most of my posts. If they “resonate” in you, that is probably why. You’re just smelling the salt air and Coppertone.
Many of the fine paradoxables of Jesus may be regarded as murmurandoms from the transcendent position. In fact, in considering who he was, how could they be otherwise? I should do a post on that....
It's fair to say that my book was an effort to write from the transcendent position, in order to resolve our complementary ways of knowing reality, the “scientific” and the “religious.” Remember, in the absence of the transcendent position, science merely becomes bad religion, while religion can become bad science.
Yesterday a reader hinted that I may be edging close to gnosticism, writing that “I believe I understand your point about overly literal interpretation of text obscuring the path to enlightenment/salvation, but it does seem a tad dismissive.” If so, that is not my intent. It is just that I am trying to avoid looking at religion with just the left or right hemisphere, but to do so from the transcendent position. Thus, if someone asks me if this or that event in the Bible is literally true, I cannot provide a simple answer. It’s much more complicated than that. The answer is not yes (with the right brain) or no (with the left), but a very different sort of “yes” that emanates from O. More of a yeah, baby!
In order to elaborate, I have to veer into another major area, and I don’t know whether to do it today or wait until tomorrow. Perhaps we’ll just lay down some of the broad themes here.
No, what's the rush? Mañana.....