Reason, Revelation and the Divided Brain
Jean Gebser, in The Ever-Present Origin, chose the term “irruption”, rather than “e-ruption”, to describe the emergence of a new consciousness structure or of “unconscious knowledge” (in Seth’s terms). And it’s pretty clear that “irruption” is a substitute term for revelation or revealed truth.
Thanks to the research of Iain McGilchrist on the divided brain in The Master and his Emissary, we’re in a position to interpret revelation and reason as issues of neurodynamics, related “dialectically” or, perhaps better, “dialogically”, as issues of the first and second attentions or the two cognitive minds associated with the right and left-hemispheres of the brain, respectively. To the second attention, the sudden “irruption” of the insights of the first attention or “Master” into the cognitive matrix of the second attention, or “Emissary”, appear as revelations — not as something it itself has “made”. This is the key difference between revelation and reason — revealed truth versus man-made truth. Or, to put that another way, “the truth that sets free” or “the facts of the matter”.
So, in those terms, when McGilchrist says, for example, that the second attention of the left-hemisphere is busy trying to shut down all the “exits” out of its own tautology and cognitive matrix, it is actually trying to shut down all the “entrances” or avenues by which the perceptions of the first attention and its own mode of being might influence or enter into the consciousness of the second attention and its mode of being. What we call “transcendence”, which is what McGilchrist wants to say by speaking of “exits”, is actually what Gebser calls an “intensification” of awareness by the influx of new energies, which we call “inspirations”, from the first attention into the second attention. And this is called “revelation”. The irruption, simultaneously an “intensification”, is also called “the quickening”. “The quick and the dead” is really an issue of the divided brain.
“Irruption”, “intensification” as revelation comprise the apocalyptic element in the thinking of Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy also. The grand entrance of revealed truth into the cognitive matrix of the brain’s left-hemisphere is really experienced as “shattering truth” precisely because it upsets the apple cart — the “best laid schemes o’ mice and men”, as it were. Gebser, McGilchrist, and even Rosenstock-Huessy have very carefully selected their idiom to avoid any kind of suspicion that they are beholden to an antiquated theological or metaphysical discourse about the meaning of “revealed truth”, but it’s pretty evident that the secular idiom they employ has counterparts in theology.
But far from discrediting them, it does the opposite. It affirms that, what William Blake called “the Everlasting Gospel,” recurs again and again in the discrete idioms of mankind’s speech as the same universal pattern.
What trigger’s revelation seems to be a more or less conscious NEED, as attested to also by the great Rumi
From realm to realm man went, reaching his present reasoning,
knowledgeable, robust state; forgetting earlier forms of intelligence.
So too shall he pass beyond the current form of perception.
There are a thousand other forms of Mind. . . .
But he has fallen asleep. He will say: “I had forgotten my fulfillment,
ignorant that sleep and fancy were the cause of my sufferings.”
He says: “My sleeping experiences do not matter.”
Come, leave such asses to their meadow.
Because of necessity, man acquires organs.
So, necessitous one, increase your need.
When the brain is considered more as an organ of perception rather than as a Cartesian Calculator, then it will be appreciated that reason and revelation are not dichotomous or opposites but polarities of one and the same awareness, and that the second attention, which is the ego nature, is that which is called “Prodigal Son”, which has become estranged and alienated from its home and its roots in the first attention. The consequence of this alienation or apartness or estrangement is widespread anxiety, paranoia, cynicism, nihilism, and narcissism. But, by the same token, this things which are characteristic of crisis are also features of need. Crisis and neediness are pretty much synonymous. And it is only when the Prodigal Son ends his journey as a swine living amongst swine — at perhaps the lowest ebb and nadir of life — that he awakens to remembrance of himself, which is to say optionally, awakens to his condition of dis-memberment and begins his journey of self-re-collection.
Perhaps our sense of need is not yet intense enough (or still too much in what Nietzsche called a state of “miserable ease”)? Perhaps we have not yet become mad enough for a new revelation? Madness can be “the exit” that McGilchrist was looking for. There’s no new integration without a prior disintegration, after all, which is the only valid meaning to “creative destruction”. “Two centuries of nihilism” and “Dionysian madness” were the conditions Nietzsche believed had to come about in order to prepare the way for a new inspiration or revelation. But as mad as the world appears at present, perhaps it is not yet insane enough.
“Divine madness” would be the disintegration of the cognitive matrix of the second attention sufficient enough to allow the influx or entrance of the energies of the first attention. There is some connection between this “divine madness” and what Castaneda’s don Juan called “controlled folly”. In fact, the practice of “letting go” is the very delicate task of “controlled folly”, and the difference between “divine madness” and of a total insanity which might be compared to “forced entry”.
“Exit” is probably the wrong term. It’s the entry way. Hence, the importance of “Not-Doing”, or No-Mind. It’s opening the door rather than seeking the exit. Makes a world of difference how you approach this matter. “Controlled folly” is really quite indistinguishable from “enlightened ego consciousness” in some ways.
The Vision Quest and “crying for a vision” (increasing one’s need) amongst traditional First Nations peoples is the same opening up to a revelation, and in that sense the practice of controlled folly, too. The warrior waits, and he or she knows what he or she is waiting for. Waiting is emptying. One is not caught flat-footed. That’s the difference between madness and vision.