Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Left Brain is Concerned with What it Knows

"The left brain is concerned with what it knows...the right brain with what it experiences."
The title of this post is taken from page 78 of The Master and his Emissary by Iain McGilchrist and I resonate with this sentence so strongly. In the past with left brain dominance, knowledge and knowing were all important. Those who could remember and recite spiritual literature were seen as gurus and followed in the belief that the states of spiritual consciousness suggested by such knowledge could be transmitted. Many devotees were disappointed when this state couldn't be transmitted, or at least not transmitted in a
permanent and lasting way. That which Knows cannot Experience — they are two different worlds. To go from one to the other requires a shift.

On page 79, Iain makes a fascinating (at least for me) distinction between left and right in terms of certainty:
'The left hemisphere likes things that are man-made. Things we make are also more certain: we know them inside out, because we put them together. They are not, like living things, constantly changing and moving, beyond our grasp. Because the right hemisphere sees things as they are, they are constantly new for it, so it has nothing like the databank of information about categories that the left hemisphere has."
This got me thinking about the ego and how it is something that human beings construct from the way we interpret ourselves and from the sensory information we ingest from world around us. It is formalized when we get language and then for the rest of our lives, we fight tooth and nail to maintain these constructs which takes the form of being right and defending a point of view.

This is not wrong. If taken from the perspective of what is written about the left brain in this book, it is a simply a structure we have put together. If we are aware of the tendency of the left brain to be rigid and inflexible, then we have a choice to shift — as choice is always possible with awareness. In ignorance, choice is not possible.

On page 80, the author goes on to say, "The right hemisphere is virtually silent, relatively shifting and uncertain, where the left hemisphere by contrast may be unreasonably, even stubbornly, convinced of its own correctness."

This makes sense to me because of how reluctant people are to shift their points of view or validate their opinions. There is a rigid rightness in the left brain, which doesn't allow for the right to express itself, which, in turn, really doesn't care about being right (no pun intended!).
That which Knows cannot Experience
Hemispheres of the Brain
To say that I am dining out on this book at the moment is an understatement. I am poring over each word in each sentence and resonating with all of it. For the first time in many years I feel the excitement that comes from being authentic, having finally found something that mirrors my thoughts and feelings about this topic.

This is an important book. If there wasn't the shift happening from the left brain to the right, I wouldn't be so excited, but it is happening. You only have to Google "spiritual awakenings" and you will find YouTube videos created by people speaking about this shift, which never happens in the same way for any two people, but whose effects and realizations are the same. The means are different depending on the quality of conscousness and the degree of awareness.

Finally, I don't want anything I write or quote from this book to be seen as a value judgement on the qualities of either hemisphere of the brain. Of course, I am biased towards the right brain because it's my natural orientation, but the left is also needed to organise what is experienced and give voice to the experiences of the right brain. The left has asserted mastery over the right for too long and must now assume the role of interpreter for the right brain.


  1. This theme is echoed so perfectly in the 8th Century The Secret of the Golden Flower. Much older than that in oral form, the 8th. Century version the first printing:

    "In this part there is described the role played by the primal spirit and the conscious spirit in the making of the human body. The Master says, The life of man is like that of a mayfly: only the true human nature of the primal spirit can transcend the cycle of heaven and earth and the fate of the aeons. The true human nature proceeds from that which has no polarity [the ultimate] whereby it takes the true essence of heaven and earth into itself and becomes the conscious spirit. As primal spirit it receives its human nature from father and mother. This primal spirit is without consciousness and knowledge, but is able to regulate the formative processes of the body. The conscious spirit is very evident and very effective, and can adapt itself unceasingly. It is the ruler of the human heart. As long as it stays in the body it is the animus. After its departure from the body it becomes spirit. While the body is entering into existence, the primal spirit has not yet formed an embryo in which it could incorporate itself. Thus it crystallizes itself in the non-polarized free One.

    "At the time of birth the conscious spirit inhales the energy and thus becomes the dwelling of the new-born. It lives in the heart. From that on the heart is master, and the primal spirit loses its place while the conscious spirit has the power.

    "The primal spirit loves stillness, and the conscious spirit loves movement. In its movement it remains bound to feelings and desires. Day and night it wastes the primal seed till the energy of the primal spirit is entirely used up. Then the conscious spirit leaves the shell and goes away."

    Right brain = Primal Spirit
    Left Brain = Conscious Spirit

  2. Awesome post ! I have used alternate nostril breathing when left-brain thoughts and fears overwhelm my mind. The basic technique is to breathe through one nostril and let the breath out of the other, then breathing through that nostril and letting it out of the first. This page describes the technique and it's benefits.

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  4. Rather than establish right or left brain dominance, Kundalini attempts to balance the two in so much as this is possible, given the anatomical and somatic state of the individual. The first step in balancing is to make the individual aware of what the left brain is up to, to have the individual step back and put life in perspective in order to realize that the left brain's work is promoting the ego and "fitting in."

    Once this is realized, the individual is free to make the choice you describe in your post. Obviously, practices such as Yoga and meditation abet the balancing process. Not only do they stimulate Chakra related, neuro-biological activity, they also train the individual to become "inner landscape aware," i.e., an observer of what goes on inside, a sifter of thoughts — where they originate and the real ego-inflating purposes behind them.

  5. Wonderful comments thank you very much. Directed energy is more powerful than undirected energy because it follows intention. Yogic techniques without understanding exactly what they are designed to do are in danger of not being effective. Recognising as Vivek has that alternate nostril breathing calms down the fearful thoughts in the left brain is bound to be more powerful than simply sitting down doing alternate nostril breathing. Being aware and intending is what creates the shift and also being responsible for taking whatever you get in the process.

    It is also my experience that Kundalini balances right and left because prior to Kundalini I had experiences but found it difficult to articulate them, now not only can I articulate but I can also organise and write which is why both left and right are important but organising and writing is nothing without experience, not the other way around

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