This and the preceding issue of Zygon are dedicated to the memory of
If one considers the geology, so to speak, of the human brain and nervous system, we see represented in its strata—each layer still vitally alive—not dead like stone, the numerous pasts and presents of our planet. Like Walt Whitman, we embrace multitudes. And even our reptilian and paleomammalian brains are human, linked in infinitely complex ways to the conditionable upper brain and kindling it with their powers. Each of us is a microcosm, related in the deepest ways to the whole life-history of that lovely blue globe swirled over with the white whorls first photographed by Edwin Aldrin and Neil Armstrong from their primitive space chariot, the work nevertheless of many collaborating human brains. The meaning of that living macrocosm may not only be found deep within us but also played from one mind to another as history goes on—with ever finer tuning—by the most sensitive and eloquent instrument of Gaea the Earth-spirit—the cerebral organ.
Recent Discoveries in Neurobiology—Do They Matter for Religion, the Social Sciences, and the Humanities?
Myth, Ritual, and the Archetypal Hypothesis by Eugene G. dAquili
This paper reexamines the myth-ritual complex, considering myth as a psychobiological stereotype, the neurobiology of myth structuring, the neurobiology of myth transformation, and some religious implications of the myth-ritual complex. Relevant points of comparison between this neurobiological analysis of the myth-ritual complex and Jungian psychological theory are made throughout. Finally the neurobiology of transcendent experiences is considered along with a brief neuroepistemological consideration of the possibility of transcendence itself.
Eugene G. dAquili, M.D. is associate professor of clinical psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, University and Woodland Avenues, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104.
Brain Science and the Human Spirit by Colwyn Trevarthen
In recent decades of its brief history, brain science has shed light on the source of motives. We review the chemistry and anatomy of the neural core of human motivation; it seems to penetrate the hemispheric cognitive fields asymmetrically, subjecting them to differing evaluations by self-organizing states of mind. The brain core generates and responds to the rhythm and color of emotions, giving moral control to relationships and setting values and meanings in communication. The newborn human mind is ready to share transcendent states with an empathic partner. Fantasy-making play of a child in friendships presages adult rituals. Mystic rites and mythic symbols express feelings essential to time- and space-defying cooperation within the ancestral culture.
Colwyn Trevarthen is professor of child psychology and psychobiology at the University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9JZ, Scotland.
Hasidic Contraction: A Model for Interhemispheric Dialogue by Mordechai Rotenberg
Neuroclinical studies have claimed that the right side of the brain is associated with mystic orientation and sensual-affective functioning and that the brains left side is related to logical-analytic thinking. From observations of conversion processes among repenters and cult recruitees, it is hypothesized that a drastic switchover between mythic and analytic life orientations, via a dialectic replacement of the previous code, may result in a psychopathological disorientation. Based on the Hasidic-Cabalic notion of mutual contraction, a dialogical model of interhemispheric balancing, which a priori trains people to interpret reality through simultaneous rational Talmudism and Cabalic mysticism, is introduced.
Mordechai Rotenberg is associate professor, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Paul Baerwald School of Social Work, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel 91905.
Encounter with Neurobiology: The Response of Ritual Studies by Edith L. B. Turner
Knowledge of the working of the brain is of prime importance to anthropologists studying ritual and symbol. The play between the neocortical hemispheres can be inferred from the varying styles at different stages of ritual; one can begin to hypothesize archetypes for general processes such as self-healing social dramas that are at the roots of ritual; the concept of preparedness as a genetic endowment residing in the brain appears to confirm the fundamental importance of image making; while the shamanic skills of inhibition and disinhibition, releasing latent religious powers, can be grasped for what they are.
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.
The Transcendent Function of the Bilateral Brain by Virginia Ross
A transcendent function, which integrates conscious and unconscious elements, can be characterized for the human mind. From Carl Jungs model of four basic functions of the psyche—thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition—a modified compass of the psyche is constructed to conform to the neurobiological structure of the bilateral brain. The transcendent function can be correlated with the principal states of consciousness existent between waking and sleep. Dreams, myth, and the experience of deity, of related unconscious content, are manifest in hybrid states of consciousness. The exercise of the transcendent function is of creative value in the arts and sciences and paramount to human survival.
Virginia Ross, Concord Greene, Concord, Massachusetts 01742, has had professional careers in crystallography, neurochemistry, and analytical psychology and is currently studying theology and the nature of religious experience.
Philosophical and Theological Reflections on Recent Neurobiological Discoveries by Karl Schmitz-Moormann
Recent progress in neurophysiology research has created a certain uneasiness in the modes of explanation. Starting with body experiences this research has progressed to borderline experiences and confronts us anew with the age-old mind-body problem. At this point science is especially exposed to the dangers of reductionism as they have been spelled out by Carl Jung. Evolution, understood not as the deployment of pre-existing properties of matter but as the continued emergence of new realities which integrate and transform the pre-existing realities, may lead to a more profound understanding of humanity, which came into being through the emergence of mind. Archetypes and the human religious dimension or the capability to experience God may be the most significant mark of this emergence.
Karl Schmitz-Moormann is professor of philosophy and theology, Fachhochschule Dortmund, Sonnenstraße 99,4600 Dortmund 1, West Germany.
Cry of the Environment edited by Philip N. Joranson and Ken Butigan, reviewed by John Carmody