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Brain Lateralization, Language, and the Reality of the Divine Feminine - Part One

It is a tenet of Buddhism that we do not experience reality as it really is. Modern psychology and neuroscience support this notion. The thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and cognitive algorithms that shape our experience were not designed to give us ‘Truth’ or to depict reality accurately, but to help our ancestors survive and reproduce within their specific evolutionary setting. Evolutionary psychology has discovered that our cognitive systems are designed to give us experiences that are, at best, schematized (in order to simplify cognition), emotionally charged (in order to encourage certain types of behavior) and, at worst, delusional (to avoid cognitive dissonance).[1] Our thinking is undermined by a whole host of cognitive and emotional biases that served us well in our original evolutionary setting but stand in the way of veridical experience.[2] That we inhabit a world of illusion, as per the teachings of the Buddha, is no longer a controversial claim.

A fundamental illusion that prevents us from experiencing the non-egoistic oneness of reality stems from the radically different ways in which the two hemispheres of our brains interact with the world. Research into hemispheric brain differences has been misrepresented in pop-psychology: Because the right hemisphere (RH) seems to process visual imagery and the left hemisphere (LH) handles most language and logic functions, the right-brain was labeled ‘feminine’ and ‘creative’ and the left-brain ‘masculine’ and ‘rational’, with all the superficial generalizations and biases that come with these labels. I will also be describing RH activity as ‘feminine’ and the LH as ‘masculine’ but in doing so I am not claiming that our RH, for example, is essentially ‘feminine’ nor that this is how women interact with the world. It isn’t. Rather, I am claiming that, traditionally, for right or for wrong, the mode of interaction typified by the right-brain has been described as ‘feminine’ and the mode of interaction typified by the left-brain as ‘masculine’. By examining these traditional interactions and labels in terms of actual brain function (rather than vice versa) we can gain insight into the hermetic, occult, mythic, and alchemical traditions of the Divine Feminine. The goal of this article is, therefore, to understand the Divine Feminine, not in the context of speculative metaphysics or intuition, but in the context of neuroscience. The way to do this is to understand how these two styles of hemispheric interaction create and reinforce a world of illusion. Once we see how ‘masculine’, left hemisphere habits of cognition and perception have obscured and schematized reality in specific ways, we can infer back from these systematic errors and illusions to the true (or more true) nature of reality -- to the Divine Feminine.

To understand the illusions created by brain lateralization, simple dichotomies in terms of function are untenable and misguided. It is now clear that both hemispheres are involved in all cognitive processes to some extent. At any rate, both hemispheres are involved in language, reason, and creativity so there is nothing specifically ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ about any of these functions.

Yet, there is a crucial difference between the hemispheres that is only now becoming properly understood. This difference has to do, not with what each hemisphere does, but with how they do it. Each hemisphere attends to, or focuses upon, the world in a different way. The LH is tightly focused on specific goals, tasks, and objects while the RH is vigilantly open to the world around it. Although the lives and brains of humans are highly complex and layered with a range of interrelated processes and functions, this basic difference underlies all cognition: The LH has a narrow, focused attention on specific tasks and objects and the RH has a wider attention to the meaningful patterns and anomalies going on around it.

To illustrate this fundamental difference, consider the simple cognitive demands of a bird’s brain.[3] When feeding, a bird needs to focus its attention on the task being performed: it needs to precisely differentiate objects, identify the grain or the insect that it wants to eat, isolate it from its background, and then accurately seize upon it. That is the job of the LH. Notice that this attentional focus is on individual units and their relations to each other. Meanwhile, the bird also needs to attend to changes in its environment. This attention is not to any thing specifically. It is open to everything and to nothing in particular. The job of the bird’s RH is to stay alert to predators as well as rivals and possible mates. This is a more holistic attention, attuned to disruptions and changes in environmental patterns of meaning.

These types of attention must operate without interfering with, distracting, or confusing each other. The focus of the left-brain requires that information irrelevant to its specific task is filtered out. Similarly, the vigilance of the RH must not be distracted by whatever the LH is focused upon. This necessary filtering is likely the evolutionary source of brain lateralization; creatures that could remain focused on a task were more successful. The two types of attunement are physically separated and interact only when unexpected occurrences demand a change in attunement.

These two basic types of cognitive attention are present in every bicameral brain and can be summarized as follows: the LH focuses upon tasks of differentiating, identifying, grasping, and manipulating while the RH attends more widely to its environment and is alert to novelty and the unexpected. The LH attends to objects and to pieces of information in isolation, one piece at a time, while the RH attends holistically to broader patterns of meaning.

This difference of attunement is the basis for all lateralization in terms of function. For example, noticing and identifying phonemes and words (rather than insects and seeds) was naturally taken on by the LH while the holistic or Gestalt pattern recognition in one’s sensory, emotional, cultural, and linguistic environment was taken on by the RH. Thus, language came to be mostly a LH function while creativity and imagery came to be mostly a RH function.

But it is crucial to understand that these processing differences work together to create our world of experience. Neither hemisphere is naturally dominant nor exclusive. The Gestalt of the right-brain makes use of things or pieces of information first noticed by the left-brain. This, for example, is how we derive meaning from a string of individual words -- the left-brain quickly picks out and identifies each word one at a time while the right-brain remains open and receptive to the overall pattern of meaning that emerges from them. Meanwhile, the recognition of a ‘piece’ of information -- as information and not noise -- is dependent upon the overall context provided by the RH. So there is an ongoing back and forth between the two modes of attention in any and every human experience.

The problem arises when this back and forth starts to recognize and reinforce only certain types or patterns of information and becomes oblivious to others. This is crucial in understanding how the Divine Feminine and the fundamental unity of existence has become obscured. It is my contention (as informed by correspondence with the Priory of Sion) that the oneness and interconnectedness of reality has been subverted, mischaracterized, and obscured by a masculine, left-brain epistemology that has lodged itself in our culture and, thanks to the plasticity of our brains, has ‘wired’ our brains to be oblivious to certain aspects of reality. In short, our experience of reality in terms of disconnected material objects surrounding a self-important monadic ego in the ‘here and now’ is the result of systematic errors and illusions introduced by the LH and adopted by the RH.

How is it possible that cognition could become oblivious to the basic texture of reality? Here are two basic examples of obliviousness, one in which the LH blocks out extraneous information and the other in which the RH tunes out as background noise perceptions that it does not recognize as meaningful.

You may have seen that famous selective attention test in which participants carefully watch a video of 6 people with a ball, 3 in white shirts, 3 in dark shirts, and are asked to count the passes made by individuals in white shirts. Most participants who watch the video and concentrate on the task are completely oblivious to the fact that someone in a gorilla suit walks though the set. This is exactly the sort of filtering that our brain is designed to make; the left-brain has been given a focused task on which to concentrate and it is unconcerned with objects or actions that are not relevant to that task. For sure, the RH has seen the gorilla. However, that information was filtered out of conscious attention so that the LH could do its job. The question is, what sort of experiences, information, or perceptual data is being filtered out of our everyday experience?

Next, there is the well known cognitive phenomenon of phonological deafness. When learning a new language, a listener is ‘deaf’ to certain phonemes and tones that are not common is one’s own language. Japanese speakers, for example, do not naturally distinguish between the ‘l’ and ‘r’ sound. In this case, the LH has not been trained to watch for, focus on, and to quickly distinguish between these two bits of linguistic information. As a result, they are not noticed and made available to the RH; the sensory environment to which the RH is open and attuned does not contain these sounds. No meaningful pattern can be obtained from these phonemes because they are not there. As unimportant background noise, they are filtered out of perception. The question is, what else might be missing from our perception?

We begin to see how these two modes of obliviousness might produce a feedback loop that would reinforce certain ways of experiencing reality. In the course of human history, one crucial cultural development literally altered reality for us. This cultural development not only altered our conceptions of reality, it altered our perceptions of reality by inculcating specific habitual errors and illusions. What was this brain-shaping cultural development? Language; especially, reading and writing. Written language has created a feedback loop that has caused us to perceive the world in terms of isolated and disconnected words/things/concepts/instants/egos and is oblivious to features of reality that don’t fit this mode of being such as Love, Light, Infinity, Duration, and Unity. I will explain further in Part Two.

[1] Robert Wright, Why Buddhism is True

[2] Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow

[3] This example and much of my understanding of hemispheric differences comes from: Iain The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

About the Author:

My name is Gus Stiver. I research and write on the topics of Mary Magdalene, the Divine Feminine, and the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau.

I wrote this book:

The Truth Behind the Ben Hammott Confession-Hoax: Rennes-le-Château, Mary Magdalene, and the Priory of Sion

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Comment by sav on February 3, 2019 at 8:41am

Thank you for publishing this essay to your blog. Looking forward to Part Two.

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