|TWO WAYS OF KNOWING|
The mind that does the thinking has to interact with the body and control it. The body is controlled via two brain centers. Let us consider a right handed person, and make the necessary adjustments in terms of left handed people. A person's right hand controls fine detailed movement, such as writing, adjusting mechanisms, controlling tools, or doing anything, which requires sequential action as such. Whereas the left hand establishes an anchor point or reference point. It may hold on to something that we are working on, so there is a relative motion between the left hand, or reference point, and the right, so the action is grounded in reality. This is an analogy for the two modes of perceiving: the way of the left and the way of the right.
The way of perceiving which is educated most in this culture, goes with the right hand - the left hand having been called the kack hand or the sinister hand. So two modes of knowing, two modes of perceiving the world and to deal with the material of this world exist. One is potential, the other one manifest - which in most people is the right hand side which corresponds to the left brain. You might say that the left brain is the chalk and the right brain the blackboard, when both sides of the brain are working together.
If we contrast these two sides, the left side is linear, it can only deal with one thing at a time. It forgets rather rapidly, and a person who is learning in that mode may be called a 'stringer' - he will have to learn one thing very carefully, then the next and then the next. A person almost totally unable to take an overview was described by Luria, the great Russian neurologist. He describes this in his book 'Man with a Shattered World'. He talks of a soldier who received a bullet wound through the head, and the bullet damaged severely the right side of the brain, yet the man survived, but with very strange experiences. For example, while eating soup, when he concentrated on the soup the spoon disappeared; when he concentrated on the spoon, the soup disappeared; and when he concentrated on the flavor, the whole room disappeared. The left hemisphere is organized to deal with one detail at a time, whereas the right side deals with many details and provides the context. This is necessary too, otherwise the creation and perception of music would not be possible.
The left hemisphere can only deal with one note at a time, whereas the right hemisphere looks at the overall context: that which has gone before, the immediate history of that piece of music, and the anticipation of what will happen as the music unfolds. A person without a right hemisphere could tune a guitar against a pitch pipe; he may be able to play the odd note if it is written down on a bit of paper, and in a very artificial way play some very simple tunes, but this would be done at a robotic level. Whereas with the other side of the brain, a person may easily translate intention into action, at the non-verbal level. Both types of consciousness are necessary, in most activities.
Both in children and primitive people, the degree of differentiation between the two sides of the brain is slight. So both sides are doing something like the same work; the difference is a matter of degree. And according to the German Philosopher Ernst Cassirer, many primitive people are unable to tell a lie, because this requires standing outside of oneself, to have an abstract perspective, so one can have feelings about one's thoughts or thoughts about one's feelings. A person with specialized hemispheres is able to have an abstract perspective, so lying is something he can do easily.
You may say, well why tell a lie? When we write a story or invent something, initially we are telling a lie. We are creating a pretend universe. The classic form of this way of thinking would be, for example, 'were I to do so-and-so, if that, then that'. So we have one side of the brain which is capable of inventing, and the other which is trying to recreate reality. Both sides draw on much more primitive structures, such as the limbic system, which produces the imagery, much in the way of a video recorder, but in a different manner. The left side can isolate out a detail, which is a useful skill, so long as this skill does not become compulsive, whereas the right side is unable to deal with details; it looks at the general plan.
A person who is right brain dominant has a totally different learning style. When they are learning a subject, they will read every book in the library about it, and read everything else, talk to everybody and then, only gradually will a picture of what they are learning emerge out of the mist for them. You may say that one side of the brain is concerned with plan and the other with putting it into action. No single side of the brain, operating in isolation, is right. Full consciousness arises from an integration of the two sets of mental processes, which involve a cooperative or collaborative relationship between the two sides of the brain.
According to depth psychologists such as Arthur Janov and Matte Blanco, we may retreat into left brain modes of perceiving and acting, in which mode our emotions are memory, rather than what is being directly experienced, because the traumatic material is being stored in the right side of the brain in such a way that it is inaccessible. By splitting the storage of the memory in this way, we have a verbal description of the events that we can access, but we are unable to experience the pain and emotions of the memory.
Another person, who is in the right brain mode, may well have pain, emotion and effort visible; however, he is unable to access the intentions, decisions, conclusions and other verbally and conceptually stored material in the left, as this side of the brain is suppressed below the boundaries of consciousness. For example, when a person is in an extreme emotion, such as love, rage or grief, the words to express this do not come easily or they may not come at all.
There are differences in the visual imagery between a left brain dominant person and a right brain dominant person. Left brain imagery tends to be small, and it is experienced as if it is inside the head, and it moves with you, whereas the imagery of a right brain nature, due to some peculiar arrangement of the balance, is such that if you turn your head, the imagery will tend to move, as though you were seeing something in the real world. If you moved your head to the left, the imagery would appear to move to your right.
For example, I can imagine with my eyes closed a chair that I am pointing at, and as I move my head, it will remain where my finger is pointing. The left brain imagery will tend to move with me, as I move around. So one sort of imagery can be described as grounded, whereas the other is ungrounded.
In perception, the right side of the brain is concerned with the spaces enclosed by objects. For example, I am looking at some plants that are in front of me, and I can see the various spaces exist between the leaves. This creates another set of shapes beyond the conventional. The left side would tend to see the thing itself, the figure rather than the ground. Likewise, I have done some experiments with some playing cards. The hearts and the diamonds were black, and the clubs and spades were red. When these cards were given to people who were left brain dominant, they actually experienced visible disturbance when they were trying to play with these cards, because it interfered with what is called conventional perception. Right brained persons have no difficulty playing with these types of cards.
Integration of the Two Sides
True higher creative thought arises from an integration of the two sides of the brain. Einstein said, "I will do a flight of fantasy and work on some thinking, which is not thinking as you would understand it, but a combinatorial play of some types of imageries and sensory feelings. Only when this activity comes to some resolution, would I fumble in the other side of my head for words and for algebraic statements, which would permit me to communicate these insights to others". True thinking, which stands behind our conscious thinking, is non-verbal. A person, who is right brain dominant, when both sides are cooperating, uses words as his servants, whereas a person who is left brain dominated, frequently tends to be governed by words, belief systems and symbol systems, often to the exclusion of external reality.
Some work has been done with a device, similar to a Psycho-Galvanometer, in one of the London hospitals in 1985. The meter was used as a diagnostic device, to find the discrepancies between what we would call the left hand measure of body resistance and the right hand measure. These differences have been found to represent particular clinical types. The Manic type has a significantly lower resistance on the left hand - the right brain is more highly aroused; and the Schizoid/Schizophrenic type has a much lower resistance on the right hand - the left brain is more highly aroused. This indicates either functional imbalance between the two sides, as a consequence of early traumatization or actual organic damage, resulting from illness or accident. In either case, when there is a discrepancy of magnitude between the electrical resistance of the left hand and the electrical resistance of the right, you will find an underlying problem.
The right half of the brain controls the left side of the body, and the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body. Often people can be described as left brain dominant or right brain dominant: for example, artists tend to be right-brained, and mathematicians left-brained. The most able people, however, can easily switch from one type of thinking to the other, as their situation demands. A large part of Mind Development is directed at helping students to gain ability in both styles of thinking. If you examine a drawing of the brain, you will see it is divided into two sides. In the last two decades, research has clearly shown that each side of the brain has a unique set of mental abilities, or styles of thinking. These are shown in the table following.
The Two Hemispheres
Convergent, attention to detail
Deals with time
Verbal and conceptual memory
Short term memory & memory for names
Algebra & Symbols
Introvert = Phlegmatic
Extravert = Sanguine
Can handle arbitrary
symbols, such as a phonetic alphabet, where the symbols do
Responsible for forming consonants
Motor control of tongue
This side controls speaking
Parallel Processing, intuitive
Divergent, ignores detail
Perceives & poses problems
Has only present time
Eidetic recall (visual images)
Long term memory, recognition & recall of faces
Introvert = Melancholic
Extravert = Choleric
Can only handle symbols where they share some identity with the thing symbolized, e.g. traffic signs or simple Chinese characters, as they are a type of drawing
Responsible for forming vowels
Motor control of lips, vocal chords, etc.
This side controls singing
Mind Development has been scientifically designed to place increasing stress, in incremental stages, on the under-used side of a student's brain, so at the end of the first five or six courses he will be able to switch from one type of thinking to the other, when he desires, assuming he is of normal mental and physical health. Because he gains this new ability, he finds that he is able to stand outside of his present mode of thinking; he can let go of many aspects of his former-self and stand outside of his thinking processes, and view these from an objective perspective.
The Bilateral Psycho-Galvanometer
The simple psycho-galvanometer was one of the earliest tools of psychological research. A psycho-galvanometer measures the resistance of the skin to the passage of a very small electric current. It has been known for decades that the magnitude of this electrical resistance is affected, not only by the subject’s general mood, but also by immediate emotional reactions. Several researchers have noticed that one side of the body gives different responses to the other. The point of using a Bilateral Psycho-Galvanometer, as invented by Gregory Mitchell and utilized throughout the research of Mind Development, is to monitor the differential arousal of the two hemispheres of the cortex.
If one takes into account that the left hemisphere of the cortex usually controls speech, logical action and symbolic functions, while the right hemisphere is responsible for spatial and holistic processes, there is value in having a simple device to facilitate cognitive growth through the technique of real-time, instantaneous biofeedback monitoring with the Bilateral Psycho-Galvanometer. A full instruction manual for application of the Bilateral Psycho-Galvanometer is available for download here. Unfortunately there is no current manufacturer of the Bilateral Psycho-Galvanometer; in the meantime there is a great deal of understanding to be gained by learning about this technique.