Saturday, December 12, 2015

Zac Hassan's Review of The God of the Left Hemisphere: Blake, Bolte-Taylor, and the Myth of Creation

The author [Roderick Tweedy]'s analyses of the profound connections between Blake's figure of 'Urizen' and the complex of left-hemisphere activities, of Jill Bolte Taylor's case of brain lateralization due to a hemorrhage in the left brain, as well as of compelling new discoveries in modern neuroscience, all converge into a discussion that suggests a rather radical reinterpretation of the 'God' of Creation texts.

Parallel to its analysis of the relationship between brain lateralization and the psychological basis for the God referred to in these early texts, the author pursues a line of inquiry into the relationship between Reason, or the complex of rationalizing and ordering processes identified as the left hemisphere, Morality, and psychopathology. The author explains how religion and science have developed as a result of the emerging dominance of the left brain over the right brain, and how the historical discrimination against the right brain has resulted in the cultivation of psychopathology, which is ubiquitous in modern society.

The main argument of the book is that 'Urizen' is [an instantiation of] the left brain, and that Blake is unique because he recognized the 'God' of the Book of Genesis to be Reason personified, and hence referred to it as 'Urizen' or the 'Holy Reasoning Power'. This God is a creator by division and abstraction, which are employed in order to impose order on reality. The author shows throughout the book just how this brain function on the one hand, and daemonic power or personality on the other, manifest in human nature.

The basic drive of the God of the left hemisphere - or Urizen, the left brain - is a need for control and dominance, which stems from existential angst: a fear of emotion, and indeed, of being alive. The promise in worshipping Reason, by obeying laws and moral codes, is to assuage the fear of uncertainty and to achieve a semblance of predictability. Thus, Reason creates a world where the human is a physical machine on one end and a statistical unit on the other, where man becomes regular either way. In the former he is a predictable material object and in the latter a predictable mathematical concept. This is post-enlightenment philosophy in a nutshell, and schizophrenia is the embodiment of such a phenomenological state.

The emergence of left-hemisphere dominance has been a process of increasing doubt in immediate and embodied subjective reality, which, according to Blake, has subsequently led to a separation of the human from the divine. It is important to note here that Blake thought of divinity as an empathic mode of attention in relation to another, which, the author adds, can be accessed through the right hemisphere. This severance from what Blake referred to as Energy, or the bodily and imaginative (the right brain), is responsible for the loss of emotion, spontaneity, and vitality, and the consequent enslavement to a state of rationalizing and egoic compulsion. Blake identified the traditional ‘Satan‘ as a personification of this state. The controversial assertion is that the devil resides not in hell but in the human brain, and more specifically in the left hemisphere.

Blake exposed the concealed moralistic dimension of rationality: that Reason is evaluative and ego-centric and not neutral or objective. The author empirically corroborates this by demonstrating that Reason and Morality have a common neurological source rooted in left-hemisphere networks, where the complex of processes that are commonly referred to as ‘ego' are located. Therefore, there is no actual opposition between Science and Religion, because these two systems are two versions of the same thing ‘battling for supremacy over the left hemisphere‘ (p. 93). Instead, ‘the real clash [is] between rationality and imagination’ (ibid.), which is to say between the left and the right hemisphere.

To summarize: the greatest trick the devil pulled was not only to convince human-kind that he does not exist, but to be worshiped under the guise of Morality by the theistic adherents of religion and under the guise of Reason by the atheistic adherents of Science. Needless to say, this thesis is challenging to both parties. Nevertheless, there is hope, the author reassures the reader. Salvation lies in repentance: by returning to the God of the right hemisphere, and thereby silencing the left hemisphere. But be not alarmed, for this kind of repentance does not depend on supernatural grace but on neuroplasticity. The author is calling for an end to the discrimination against the right hemisphere, and recommends the educational system as a good place from which to start.

2015. Zac Hassan

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