The Left Brain/Right Brain Dichotomy is Nonsense

YOU GUYS! There is this whole theory that is TOTALLY WRONG that is constantly being bandied about by otherwise intelligent people. The theory is that the Left Brain controls Logic and Reason and is Stuffy and Snooty but the Right Brain controls Creativity and The Emotions and is Arty and Wonderful, and so You are either Left-Brained (BOO) or Right Brained (YAY!), and we live in a Left Brain Society so we Right Brained Artists and Rebels should rise up and take down the patriarchy!  The problem with this whole idea? It’s CRAP.

This is an overly reductionist argument that attempts to explain one of the most complex biological systems in terms of the “Heart versus the Mind” silliness that’s been going on for years in the New Age movement.  In fact, the brain is composed of lots of different parts that do lots of different things, and process information in lots of different ways:

An article was published this week in the venerable (and reliable) psychology journal Psychological Bulletin, which synthesized 67 brain imaging studies of creativity. Among other things, it showed that creativity is not especially a right-brain function. In fact, two of three broad classes of creative thought that have been studied seem not to depend on a single set of brain structures.

What we call “creativity” is so diverse that it can’t be localized in the brain very well. – Daniel Willingham, UVa

Any serious modern student of neurobiology views the R vs. L Brain Myth as nothing more than pseudo-scientific nonsense; nonetheless, the myth persists, likely for the same reason that newspapers still publish horoscopes and Gurdjieffian scam artists still make mad cash with the “Enneagram” scam:  it’s a fun theory that lets people take quirky tests online, join clubs, and compete against other people.

The Gnostics represented the Archons’ control over Fate by assigning them signs of the Zodiac, which explained, to them,  how the various forces behind the World of Forms influenced human activity and society. The presence of the Christos eliminated the value of horoscopes and allowed the Gnostic to transcend Fate. As says the (woefully out-of-date) Mead translation of the Pistis Sophia:

…[T]hou hast taken their power from them and from their horoscope-casters and their consulters and from those who declare to the men in the world all things which shall come to pass, in order that they should no more from this hour know how to declare unto them any thing at all which will come to pass.

We posit in our modern approach to Gnostic practice that this is a good reason to avoid placing much stock in fortune telling of any kind, and the “Left/Right Brain Dichotomy” myth certainly fits the bill:

This development however, has passed by the myth makers who fixed on the simple notion that one side of the brain is wholly responsible for complex activities such as listening or creativity. This is usually coupled with the idea that in any individual one hemisphere or the other of the brain will be dominant. The result: the concept of left and right-brainedness expressed in the idea that our dominant logical left brain was repressing our creative right brain to the detriment of our learning ability. This myth has spawned a wide variety of learning materials. Much of it is self-serving nonsense.

In This Way we visit the erroneous idea that the “Heart” and the “Mind” are in opposition to one another, and the unhealthy trope that, in spiritual matters, reason should be subservient to intuition. This is pretty much another example of the same thing, another reason for lazy people who are opposed to “book learnin'” to justify their anti-intellectualism.

What is the real picture? The real picture says that the human being is complex, and that there are lots of reasons to measure how you interact with the world, but that narrowing your focus down to “intellect vs. feeling” (or “masculine vs. feminine,” or “democrat vs. republican,” or “Gnostic vs. orthodox,” or “Aries vs. Taurus,” etc.) is a fool’s game.

Look, guys, using tools to try to cultivate self-knowledge is FANTASTIC. It’s a great idea! But you have to be really careful about what tools you’re using! A lot of people who are into this Left/Right Brain personality test stuff are scam artists. A lot of them are probably well-meaning, but this is another example of the importance of the RADICAL SKEPTICISM you need to embrace if you’re REALLY interested in gnosis.


Leave a comment

Filed under Gnostic Philosophy, This Way

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s