VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies
5. Bicameral World Religions
McGilchrist, Iain. God, Metaphor, and the Language of the Hemispheres. Chilton, Paul and Monika Kopytowska, eds. Religion, Language, and the Human Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. In this chapter, the British psychiatrist and author of the 2009 epic treatise The Master and His Emissary (search) continues his lucid exposition of this incredible cerebral complementarity. We include extended quotes because they provide a clearest citation of and contrast between these cosmic archetypal halves. We have, one could say, a microcosmic bicameral universe in our own double brain (a hemi in our head). As noted in his book review above, these attributes, or lack thereof, can well be applied to scientific, political, national, herewith to religious domains, and onto an imperiled global ecosphere presently bereft any phenomenal identity, image and common purpose.
Birds and other animals have to solve a conundrum on which their survival depends, namely how to eat and to stay alive at the same time. Each must pay attention to something that is already prioritized – a seed, one’s prey – at the same time as being open to whatever it is that might come along – be it predator or conspecific. For the first of these, one needs a narrow-beam, sharply focused attention to something; for the latter, just the opposite – a broad, open, vigilant, sustained attention. Paying two kinds of attention in one consciousness is an almost intractable problem. The solution appears to have been the bihemispheric brain. The left hemisphere provides narrow focus in order to get food, a twig for a nest, and to manipulate the world; the right hemisphere sees a wide view to watch for predation and bond with mates, and in general to understand oneself in relation to the world at large. (137)
Murata, Sachiko. The Tao of Islam. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992. This important synthesis of Taosim and Islam by a professor of religious studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the wife of William Chittick was first noted in A Rosetta Cosmos.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Sufi Essays. Chicago: ABC International Group, 1991. The author is Iranian University Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University and foremost scholar for the true prism of Islam, Sufi wisdom, and their relation to modern science (search). Born and raised in Tehran, he moved to the United States at age 12 and went on to earn degrees from MIT and Harvard. We note this certain work because its chapter Ecological Wisdom in the Light of Sufism advises that while western mechanist, particulate worldviews struggle with ways to heal the environment, “eastern sciences” with their emphasis on a complementary interrelatedness of things within a whole milieu could offer much guidance.
Panikkar, Raimundo. The Unknown Christ of Hinduism. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1981. Riamundo comes from a Spanish Catholic family on one side and a Hindu family on the other to make him especially astute in relating these traditions.
The differences between the two religions, however, are very often complementary. To put it succinctly, if Hinduism claims to be the religion of truth, Christianity claims to be the truth of religion. Hinduism is ready to absorb any authentic religious truth; Christianity is ready to embrace any authentic religious value.
Paranjpe, Anand. Self and Identity in Modern Psychology and Indian Thought. New York: Plenum, 1998. The West is occupied with a self-actualization of Becoming while for Eastern, Hindu wisdom, self-realization of Being is preferred. An obvious middle path respecting both traditions can join these complements.
Patt-Shamir, Galia. To Broaden the Way: A Confucian-Jewish Dialogue. Latham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006. Presently at Tel-Aviv University, the author took her doctorate with Tu Weiming at Harvard. A novel and lucidly accomplished comparison of east and west via Abrahamic Judaism and Chinese Confucianism. By so doing their affinities of quest and test, encounter with mystery, a learning path, imbued tasks of self and society, and our human exemplar can be discerned. Again a complementarity of autonomy and togetherness, diaspora and presence, search and rescue abides. Our western way can be glimpsed via Franz Kafka and Jorge Borges as a labyrinthine journey to find an elusive code and message, a definitive principle that likewise resides at the heart of Asian wisdom.
In her attempt to animate the old in order to attain the new, she identifies Dao and Halakah both as ways of dynamic unfolding and of creative transformation. (x) Yet, the forms of life they envision are radically different. In the Judaic tradition, “the ultimate, community, and person are separation, disharmony, and being tested,” whereas in the Confucian tradition, “the ultimate, community, and person are unification, harmony, and self-reflexivity.” (xi) (Tu Weiming)
Patton, Kimberly and Benjamin Ray, eds. A Magic Still Dwells. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. Cogent essays make the case that comparative studies of religion are still possible even for our postmodern relativist mindset.
Puett, Michael. To Become a God: Cosmology, Sacrifice, and Self-Divinization in Early China. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004. A scholarly study and illumination by the Harvard University professor of Chinese history of the traditional essences of Asian wisdom. In regard, we cited in Cosmic Code a scientific instance where Yi Lin, et al, Systems Science (2012), notes how well these theories affirm the correlative Yin/Yang dynamics. As one reads along a “spontaneous, self-generating system, of organismic process” deeply imbues this original vision. The perennial Chinese cosmos is a teleological, self-creating organic process with theomorphic human persons. Human beings, in their filial and familial milieu are thus in some way engaged in a numinous genesis.
Qingjie, J. W. Genealogical Self and a Confucian Way of Self-Making. International Philosophical Quarterly. 42/1, 2002. A comparison of universal, organic, relational and familial modes of individuality and numinous context in Chinese wisdom. Altogether these attain a complementarity of distinct person within an organically developing creation.
Schaab, Gloria, SSJ.
A Procreative Paradigm of the Creative Suffering of the Triune God.
A professor of systematic theology at Barry University, Florida, expands on the panentheistic evolution of biochemist Arthur Peacocke to propose that an appropriate way to fathom life's evolutionary struggles and travail is as female procreative experience. This fecund vision is considered from three perspectives – feminist theology, ecological action as midwifery, and pastoral ministry. Along the way we encounter She Who Is, the Matrix of all being; Shekhinah, an indwelling Kabbalist Divinity; and Sophia as creative spiritual wisdom. A luminous articulation of a genesis cosmos from a woman’s sense of carrying and birthing sacred life and new being.
As evolutionary processes demonstrate, however, the being and becoming of all things in the cosmos is inevitably attended by suffering and death in the movement toward emergent existence. The cosmic child of this Mother’s womb endures these pangs of suffering and death that life may be birthed anew. (551)
Shanta, Bhakti Niskama. Life and Consciousness: The Vedantic View. Communicative & Integrative Biology. 8/5, 2015. The author has a doctorate in oceanography and is based at the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute of Spiritual Culture and Science. His Vedantic master training is described at scsiscs.org/b-n-shanta. As the Abstract cites, this Indian, Asian wisdom tradition evokes an innately organic milieu, suffused with primordial life and consciousness, from which life’s evolution and human beings manifestly arise and embody. In contrast, the modern North/West version is a soulless, inanimate mechanism from nothing to nowhere. We add that this moribund modernity bereft any encompassing embrace, an epic failure of knowledge and nerve, could be much implicated for global civilizations descending into a new dark age of barbaric ignorance. However might such a salutary, integral 21st century numinous revolution ever dawn, as this sites tries to document? See also an exchange of criticism and response in the 9/1 - 9/3 issues about whether ancient beliefs should merit any consideration.
In the past, philosophers, scientists, and even the general opinion, had no problem in accepting the existence of consciousness in the same way as the existence of the physical world. After the advent of Newtonian mechanics, science embraced a complete materialistic conception about reality. Scientists started proposing hypotheses like abiogenesis (origin of first life from accumulation of atoms and molecules) and the Big Bang theory. Modern science hypothesizes that the manifestation of life on Earth is nothing but a mere increment in the complexity of matter — and hence is an outcome of evolution of matter following the Big Bang. After the manifestation of life, modern science believed that chemical evolution transformed itself into biological evolution, which then had caused the entire biodiversity on our planet. The ontological view of the organism as a complex machine presumes life as just a chance occurrence, without any inner purpose.
Sharma, Arvind and Katherin Young, eds. Feminism and World Religions. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999. An attempt to sort many strands from romanticism and deconstruction to Marxism and postcolonialism to properly document and right the place of women. A relational complementarity is advocated by a writer from the Chinese tradition.