Have You Heard the One About the Snake & the Lass?
Turns out to be the same vis-à-vis language, which "is an extension of life" (whatever that is). Like most of the factoids emerging from split-brain research, it doesn't really require the research to understand the principle.
For example, McGilchrist quotes Wittgenstein, who said that "to imagine a language is to imagine a form of life" (whatever that is).
Yes, "whatever that is." This is a critical unThought to bear in mind, because "life" and "language" are absolutely coterminous. In other worlds, no pre-linguistic animal "knows" it is alive, or has any way of abstracting the thing we call "life" from the totality of its experience.
Nor is it likely that human beings would have the concept of life in the absence of the experience of its absence. We've discussed this in the past, but it was Hans Jonas who first brought this to our attention.
In his The Phenomenon of Life, Jonas writes that "When man first began to interpret the nature of things -- and this he did when he began to be man -- life was to him everywhere, and being the same as being alive" (emphasis mine).
Thus, "Animism was the widespread expression of this stage.... Soul flooded the whole of existence and encountered itself in all things. Bare matter -- that is, truly inanimate, 'dead' matter, was yet to be discovered -- as indeed its concept, so familiar to us, is anything but obvious."
Now, in the absence of a vascular catastrophe, it is very hard for us to put the developmental truthpaste back into the tube, and revert to a wholly right-brained view of the world.
However, as we shall hear, I think Genesis 3 must have something to do with this epic transition -- arguably the biggest bang in the cosmos -- from the untroubled holism of right-brain living into the dualistic world of the left, i.e., the tree of bifurcated knowledge of good and evil.
While we're on the subject, I should mention another book we've discussed in the past, The Symmetry of God, by Rodney Bomford. I don't have time to review his ideas at the moment, but if you search his name on the blog, you will see that his application of symmetrical logic toward understanding the divine realm is completely compatible with the idea that this realm is mediated via the right brain.
Indeed, Matte Blanco's analysis of symmetrical and asymmetrical logic essentially defines the left and right brain views of the world.
Back to the orthoparadox that Life is prior to nonlife. Clearly, this is a quintessentially right-brained view of the world, which doesn't perceive the sharp outlines and abstractions of the left. It sees holistically, and who's to say its interpretation is wrong?
For example, modern science places a sharp temporal division in the cosmos, and tells us that on one side is dead matter, the other side "life" (whatever that is). Life wasn't present for the first five billion years or so of cosmic evolution, and then it suddenly pops up out of nowhere (BOO!).
But as we suggested in the Bʘʘ!k, who are we to assume this cosmos is fundamentally dead, or that biology isn't just the mature fruit of a sufficiently ripe old cosmic tree?
Speaking of trees, back to Eden. One of the lessons of Genesis 3 is that with the dominance of the left brain, Death is introduced to the cosmos.
But that's just the way it is. Once we enter the dualistic world of the left, "the riddle confronting man is death: it is the contradiction to the one intelligible, self-explaining, 'natural' condition.... To the extent that life is accepted as the primary state of things, death looms as the disturbing mystery" (Jonas).
Just so: the price of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is indeed death, just as God says.
Note that he says we will die if we eat from it, which is to say, assimilate it. Also, when the Torah uses the word "knowledge," it is not in the abstract way we understand the term. It has much more to do with intimate familiarity, as we've discussed in the past (e.g., Adam knew Eve, ooh la la!).
Now, Rabbi Sacks has an interesting take on this subject, in his highly raccoomended The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning. Alert to the whole left-right brain tissue, he notices some details in Genesis that had escaped me.
First of all, for prelapsarian man, God "speaks" in an unproblematic manner. In short, he is "heard" intuitively, which is much more of a right brain phenomenon.
But in Genesis 3:6, Eve can't help noticing that the forbidden tree is easy on the eyes, meaning that she has transitioned from ear to eye and right to left. Indeed, immediately thereafter we read that the eyes of both of them were opened. Adam and Eve suddenly see that they are naked, and -- just as in the developing child -- feel shame.
Then it's back to the ear: they once again hear God, only now, for the first time, Adam is frightened of him. Which reminds me of a Buddhist crack to the effect that where there are two, there is fear. (I'm also thinking of "no one sees my face and lives. But hears my voice? No problemo.")
But who is this serpent fellow, this snake in the lass? Hmm, maybe the corpus callosum that links the two hemispheres: