There is a neuroanatomist, someone who studies the physical functioning of our brains, by the name of Jill Bolte Taylor. In 1996 she had a stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. Being a brain scientist, she was able to watch herself as the stroke was impacting on her ability to function and her perception of reality. She already knew that our brains are made up of two very distinct halves, one which she describes as a parallel processor, and the other a serial processor. The parallel, on the right, can take in a more holistic picture, while the serial on the left is restricted to a more pedantic A then B then C, etc. These two are totally separate except for a small cable of nerve cells that connect them at the centre bottom.
As the bleeding expanded, her left-brain skills faded and she began to perceive reality only through the right side of her brain. If you watch her TED talk, at this point she goes into a totally different voice.
‘It’s very big, totally peaceful, so beautiful! … There’s no clear boundary between my arm and the energy around it. … I’m seeing myself from the outside.’
You can feel that she has accessed a different world from the work-a-day space that is the only one that most people know.
Then her left-brain snaps back into operation and her individual self, rational and logical, starts protesting:
We’re in trouble, you’ve got to do something. Get help!
But not long after, the left side goes off line again, and once more she’s in
‘Nirvana! Oh, so peaceful, so connected. If everyone could be here, the world would be a different place.’
Then it’s back getting help. I haven’t got time for a stroke!
As the process continues, she suddenly feels herself expand into the world of energy around her. She feels
‘like a genie, let out of her bottle. How could I ever fit back into that little body again?!’
Jill’s ‘stroke of insight’ alerts us to the fact that there are two worlds with in our head, both physically grounded there and accessible. So why do so few people know about the second of these two worlds?
I remember when I was a child, there was a cartoon on the TV, part of a series called ‘Fractured Fairy-tales’. In one episode, there’s an investigation into a crime. The detective is interrogating everyone, looking for the facts. He encounters the fairy godmother. When he finds out who she is, he says,
‘I don’t believe in you, you’re not real!’
She makes an indignant exclamation, ‘well, I never!’ and, poof!, disappears.
Even as a child, it occurred to me that this is what has happened to an entire aspect of reality – people stopped believing in it, and now they can’t see it. But that doesn’t mean it not there.
What have we lost in letting science tell us that this other world isn’t real? Obviously having a rational self has been very useful in functioning in the world, getting on with life, – inventing things that are destroying the planet.
Would we be inventing things that are destroying the planet if we knew very clearly that we are destroying part of our selves? That’s just one consideration.
Being an individual, separate self is a very vulnerable place to be. Bodies are quite susceptible to sudden death, incapacitating damage, pain, loneliness, fear. I could go on. If we have no personal experience of being intimately connected not only with the world around us, but with each and every other, there is no antidote to a terrifying loneliness. This can be warded off with tons of friends, close-knit family, all manner of distractions. But behind it all is a dread fear of being alone.
The other thing that gets lost with no sense of connectedness to everyone else is social justice. ‘Do unto others’, ‘love others as yourself’ become meaningless and foolish. It’s ‘every man for himself, devil take the hind most’ that is the sensible approach to others. If someone else isn’t as able or lucky or wealthy – tough luck! Hurry up and die. Be quick about it.
The only meaning in life is the accumulation of things. Eat, drink, drink, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. And that’s the end of it. There’s nothing outside of what science tells us is real. Once you’re dead, that’s that end of you. To hell with the rest of them.
But, if you allow yourself to access the other half of your brain, you will have a powerful experience of being embraced by the universe. This vastly enriches your life, and helps you understand that you are one with all that is. Whatever you do to others you do to yourself. Losing this perspective has led, gradually over the centuries, to a myopic, cruel, and foolish approach to living and dying. Taking time to reconnect with this disappeared part of reality will change you and the world, one person at a time.