This and the following issue of Zygon are dedicated to the memory of
My career focus mostly has been on the ritual process, a cultural phenomenon, more than on brain neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. But I am at least half convinced that there can be genuine dialogue between neurology and culturology, since both take into account the capacity of the upper brain for adaptability, resilience, learning, and symbolizing, in ways perhaps neglected by the ethologists pur sang, who seem to stop short in their thinking about ritualization at the more obviously genetically programmed behaviors of the lower brain. It is to the dialectic, and even contradiction at times, between the various semiautonomous systems of the developed and archaic structures of innervation, particularly those of the human brain, that we should look for the formulation of testable hypotheses about the ritual process and its role as performing noetic functions in ways peculiar to itself, as a sui generis mode of knowing.
Edith Turner describes, in the pages following this, the striking impact made by Victor Turner on 12 November 1982, when he gave his keynote address at the Symposium on Ritual and Human Adaptation in Hyde Park Chicago. The symposium was sponsored by the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) in association with the Center for Advanced Study in Religion and Science, the Chicago Theological Seminary, the Disciples of Christ Divinity House, and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Turners address, entitled Body, Brain, and Culture, became the lead article in the Zygon publication of that symposiums papers (see vol. 18, no. 3 [September 1983]).
Victor Turner, to whose memory this and the next issue of Zygon are dedicated, was the major figure among symbolic anthropologists who came to the realization that brain research applied closely to his own studies. At the same time Philip Hefner and Robert Moore, well-known scholars of religion and great organizers, reached out to him and brought him to Chicago to meet the brain scientists and religion scholars of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science who had been reading his work. To me it was as if three people had been working on one jigsaw puzzle, each succeeding to fit together a number of pieces on his own, until he could do no more. Then suddenly each saw that his section had its further continuation in the sections of the others. And they fitted. A shifting of the sections a little, a closing of the gaps, and the whole picture was made. …
Edith L. B. Turner, collaborator with her husband Victor Turner until his death in 1983, is lecturer in anthropology at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903.
Thoughts on the Psychology of Religion and the Neurobiology of Archetypal Experience by Anthony Stevens
There is good reason to suppose that religious belief and ritual are manifestations of the archetypal blueprint for human existence encoded in the genetic structure of our species. As a consequence, religion has become a focus of study for psychobiologists and neuroscientists. However, scientific explanations of religious experience do not explain away such experience nor are they substitutes for the experience itself. On the contrary, scientific discoveries may be seen as corroboration of religious insights into the unus mundus, the essential oneness of all experience, which links human nature with the nature of the cosmos.
Anthony Stevens, Fardel Manor, Ivybridge, Devon PL21 9HT, England, is in private practice as a psychiatrist and Jungian analyst in London and Devon, and combines his clinical work with writing and lecturing.
The Passionate Mind: Brain, Dreams, Memory, and Social Categories by Robin Fox
The intellectualist position held by structuralists does not explain the extremes of emotional reaction to the disruption of social categories. An approach from neuroscience based on the functions of the limbic system in the creation of long-term memory through the role of the hippocampus and REM sleep is proposed to account for the emotive loading of cognitive categories.
Robin Fox is university professor of social theory at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903.
Religious Experience, Archetypes, and the Neurophysiology of Emotions by James P. Henry
Established religions integrate a societys everyday secular realities with humankinds numinous experience of the holy. Powerful emotions nourish the cultural expression of the archetypes propelling the ritual dances of art, sport, and technocracy. During sacred moments such as mother-infant or adult bonding, neuroendocrine triggers activate lifelong ties. The cultural canon of the left cortex contrasts with the intuitive right. Brainstem switches alternate the lefts cool, extraverted, sympathetic drive for control with the rights warm attachment behavior and dreaming sleep. Psychic trauma damages flexibility with resultant alexithymic blindness to emotions and archetypes. Substance abuse and narcissistic overemphasis on control ensue.
James P. Henry is research professor of psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Lorna Linda University, Lorna Linda, California 92350. He is also professor emeritus, Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California.
Counting Your Blessings: Sacred Numbers and the Structure of Reality by William K. Powers
Although numerical systems have been regarded as static models of a symbolic system and treated as mythological behavior, it is postulated that these systems are more profitably analyzed as dynamic models, better understood as ritual behavior. As ritual, numerical systems, limited in number and expressive of rhythmicity, contribute to the biogenetic structuralists notion of equilibration between the central nervous system and the environment.
The relationship between concrete and abstract numeration is also examined, showing that counting behavior, requiring asymmetrical use of the hands, may contribute to understanding the relationships between handedness and brain hemisphericity, as well as enumeration and memorization.
William K. Powers is professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, Douglas College, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903.
Evolutionary Ethics: A Phoenix Arisen by Michael Ruse
Evolutionary ethics has a (deservedly) bad reputation. But we must not remain prisoners of our past. Recent advances in Darwinian evolutionary biology pave the way for a linking of science and morality, at once more modest yet more profound than earlier excursions in this direction. There is no need to repudiate the insights of the great philosophers of the past, particularly David Hume. So humans simian origins really matter. The question is not whether evolution is to be linked to ethics, but how.
Michael Ruse is professor of history and philosophy, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1.
Tradition in Science by Werner Heisenberg, reviewed by Lawrence S. Lerner