It is common knowledge that the human brain is made up of two hemispheres, and that each hemisphere specializes in particular skills. Professor Roger Sperry, Nobel Prize-winning Psychobiologist, wrote, “” there appear to be two modes of thinking, verbal and nonverbal, represented rather separately in the left and right hemispheres respectively, and ” our education system, as well as science in general, tends to neglect the nonverbal form of intellect. What it comes down to is that modern society discriminates against the right hemisphere.”
The intelligence of the right brain is a part of all of us, and we are all using it more in every day life as we enter an era wherein right-brain skills are increasingly prized. Yet we live in a culture that is still left-brain dominant. The realm of the left hemisphere (the “masculine hunter/killer” side) is logical, linear, abstract, sequential, analytical, literal and functional. To read and write, we use the skills of the left hemisphere. The right realm (the “feminine gatherer/nurturer” side) includes intuition, creativity, metaphor, poetry, empathy, dreams, art and synthesis. This hemisphere comes into play as we contemplate images and the world around us. While the left hemisphere of the brain conceives of life as generally an “I am” experience, separate from all else, the right hemisphere of the brain experiences reality as frequencies, energies and patterns — a totality in which we are all connected. Through three million years of evolution, the two hemispheres developed to work in perfect balance, and yet our culture has favored left-brain skills and values.
In cultures that value strengths of the right brain, feminine power is celebrated. In a survey of 150 cultures today, anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday compared cultures structured around male dominance with those that embrace female power. She found a clear correlation between female power in society and the Goddess veneration found in these cultures. Where the divine has a feminine face, there is a correlation with the society’s honoring of nature, women’s role as officiators of sacred sacraments, connection to the land, and female power. In these right–brain integrated societies, there is egalitarianism, rather than women holding power over men. The worldview is holistic and oriented in the embodied rather than the abstract. These cultures value community, birthing, nurturing, empathy, intuitive intelligence, earth, nature, connection and interdependence. Also, the orientation of time is not linear, but is cyclical and aligned with the eternal cycles of birth, growth, death and renewal. The divine is understood to be embodied in every person and in nature, not somewhere else, abstract and disembodied. Sensuality and sexuality are honored as sacred. These “feminine” values belong to women and men; they are a valued part of society when the feminine is not subjugated. They are not seen as women’s tenets, they are societies’.
History takes us to our collective connection with Goddess veneration. In Paleolithic and Neolithic cultures, the driving force behind all things was considered female. D r. Elinor Gadon, Cultural Historian writes about historic Goddess cultures: “” Goddess religion was earth-centered, not heaven-centered, of this world not otherworldly, body affirming not body-denying, holistic not dualistic. The Goddess was immanent, within every human being, not transcendent, and humanity was viewed as part of nature, death as part of life. Her worship was sensual, celebrating the erotic, embracing all that was alive.”
In our left-brain dominant culture, we define humanity according to left-brain characteristics, and we have relegated right-brain “feminine” characteristics to secondary status. We call war human nature, and peace an impractical ideal. We sing praises of women’s traditional work of nurturing. Yet those who do the work of caring for children or the infirm and elderly are relegated to the lower economical, social and political rungs. Nurturing is denigrated as “non-work.” We can hardly view sexuality and sensuality as holy expressions, for we have come to perceive sexuality through the lens of the left-brain with its themes of dominance, power and ownership. Our treatment of the natural world has made environmental issues like global warming an urgent concern. The United Nations has asked that the world come together for a common purpose: global investment in women and girls and the elimination of gender inequality. Our world mirrors for us the critical need for humanity to move into balance.
To access our right-brain intelligence we need to shake up the fixed assumptions of our left-brain dominant perspective. It can be a challenge to get beyond the left-brain perspective we are so familiar with. We rarely question assumptions that that provide the foundations upon which we build our personal beliefs and in turn, our culture.
We have been educated, formally and informally, that history begins with the written word. The first written law code is the Mesopotamian Law Code of 2350 B.C.E. Alphabetic literacy became well established across the ancient world at around 1700 B.C.E. With alphabetic literacy came a new left-hemispheric function of the human brain (we rely on the left hemisphere to read). As alphabetic literacy took hold, humanity underwent a shift into left-brain dominance and “masculine, hunter-killer” themes. New “Sky God” creation myths were written at that time that replaced the prevailing earth-based, Goddess creation myths. Over the next thousand years, new creation myths were written in many cultures across the ancient world. Genesis was written later, in 600 B.C.E.
What we don’t realize is that new foundations were laid in place at that time with those written words – foundations that are still with us today. We believe that the tenets of human existence are hierarchy, war, dominance, conquering. These tenets are left-brain oriented. Dr. Elinor Gadon outlines these foundational tenets as follows:
1) A male God created the universe.
2) Humans have the right to dominate nature.
3) Man has the right to dominate woman.
If history begins with the written word, then indeed all history is left-brain dominant, hierarchal, patriarchal history. But human history is three million years old; the history of homo sapiens sapiens began over 100,000 years ago – it did not begin with alphabetic literacy. The Beginning is not the Word and yet, we have virtually ignored our preliterate history – the history we learn in school tells the story of territories, battles and war. When we look at what we know of Neolithic and Paleolithic history we see a time when humanity understood the creative principle to be female. We find no evidence of organized war.
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Dale Allen has been described as “a living Goddess, a bright light, a messenger, a teacher, a storyteller who was born to be listened to!” She has brought her talents to scores of audiences – nationwide and from Kauai to Dubai, with her one-woman (more…)