In my last post, I left off with these questions: Does communication with the unconscious mind come via the right hemisphere of the brain, which is then re-presented to the conscious mind by the left hemisphere?
One of the most successful periods in human history, at least in terms of the right hemisphere of the brain operating in its proper role as “master,” as McGilchrist calls it, was the period of Western history we know as the Renaissance. During this time, from roughly the 15th to the 17th century, what seemed to be the primary mode of Western consciousness was right-brain dominant. As we learned in the last post, the two hemispheres always work together, but one or the other will dominate. The period from the end of the Renaissance until the 20th century was ruled by left-brain consciousness. During the Renaissance, a flowering of art and culture occurred that had not been seen since ancient Greece. All forms of learning flourished. This most certainly indicates communication was occurring between the unconscious mind and the right brain, since the imagination (the imaginal world) was obviously being explored to great depths. What brought this on? What were the artists, poets, and scholars doing that was different than, say during the Dark Ages? How were they tapping the deep well of Soul in gaining inspiration for the exquisite work they were bringing forth?
One man that was very influential in bringing about this state of affairs was Marsilio Ficino. Many of the artists and thinkers of the day were heavily influenced by Ficino’s translations and commentaries of Plato, Plotinus, and some Neoplatonic thinkers, as well as his translation of the Corpus Hermeticum. With the work he accomplished through his writings and lectures, Ficino unleashed a watershed of creativity. Ficino made Soul central to his philosophy. I believe this is why the Italian Renaissance occurred. I may be giving him too much credit, but it makes sense to me that making the soul primary would bring about such a flood of innovation. Paul Oskar Kristeller, one of the foremost authorities on the Renaissance in the 20th century called Ficino, “the first philosopher of the Italian Renaissance” (Kristeller 13). To be fair, there were many scholars who contributed.
The understanding that Soul is central to life and thought is not characteristic of a left-brain dominant worldview. During the Renaissance, Europe, especially Italy, experienced what Jung and Gebser would call an “irruption” from the collective unconscious. In my estimation, it came from the Anima Mundi. Truth emanates from The One to the World Soul, then on into the minds of individuals who are listening to the voice of their daimon. Ficino was obviously one of these. Perhaps the right brain receives a messages from one’s daimon, which have been passed to him/her from the World Soul. Now, if a person is dominated by the left hemisphere of their brain, they will discount these, thinking they are irrational. Maybe when the hemispheres are operating in unison, the right brain receives a message, and the left brain will re-present it to the conscious mind, free of left brain prejudices, such as the belief that “all things must be totally rational to be real.” However, the message must still be weighed in the balance by the two hemispheres working together holistically. Unfortunately, we live in a time when the left brain thinks it is the boss. Still, the right brain has been gaining in ascendancy since the early 20th century. Maybe the most important development was the discovery of quantum physics. This really threw a monkey-wrench into the Newtonian worldview. Also, we have been fortunate to have had several influential thinkers, such as Carl Jung, who sought to revive the inner experience.
I think the stilling of left brain dominant thinking is key to hearing the voice of the divine. This is why we see such success with meditation, as well as art, music, and poetry therapy. The act of contemplation opens up the infinity of the inner universe. The knowledge to save mankind and our world is there, ready to be procured. May we listen closely.
Kristeller, Paul Oskar.. The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino. Translated by Virginia Conant. New York. Columbia UP, 1943.