Sun, 1 Sep 1996 06:46:25 -0400

Dear Group,

Here are some thoughts I have about the relationship of brain development,
revelation, and the Bible. I am not a neuroscientist or brain specialist, so
if any of you have better information than I do I would appreciate your
input. I have painted my ideas with a broad brush, and many are

It is common knowledge that the brain is asymmetrical. It has two major
hemispheres, right and left. Each is the locus of rather different mental
functions. The right hemisphere appears to be predominantly responsible for
certain spatial skills, and musical abilities, and to process information
simultaneously and holistically. The left hemisphere has been found to be
predominantly involved with analytic and logical processes, motor skills,
especially the production and understanding of language, and it appears to
process input in a sequential manner.

The asymmetry of the brain is already present in the prenatal development,
since the right brain develops earlier and faster than the left hemisphere.
The left hemisphere matures catches up later and gradually becomes dominant.
Language and logical thinking develop as a result. Education contributes to
left hemispheric dominance in our culture. Ours is a primarily left-brain,
adult culture.

I hypothesize that the right hemisphere of the brain is the primary locus of
religious faith, and is the channel, as it were, through which God revealed
Him/Herself to and communicated with human beings. I suggest that in far off
historical times, the function of the right brain may have been more dominant
than it is today. The right hemisphere developed historically in the human
race more rapidly than the left brain, as it does in individual development.
(I have some suggestive evidence for this which is, however, too detailed
for this post.) A "window of opportunity" opened in the development of the
human race, starting with Adam and Eve and probably ending with the
Revelation of St. John, in which God was able to reveal Himself to His chosen
people and through them to the world. Revelation could have occurred in many
ways, including visions, dreams, theophanies, and mildly dissociated
conscious states, all of which I consider right brain phenomena.

The left hemisphere is more concerned with logic, rational thought, theology,
creeds, philosophy, and science. These followed after the primary revelation
was well under way and completed. The left brain tends to interfere with
revelation to the right brain.

Here are some examples of the interplay of the right and left brain in
revelation. Moses was shepherding his father-in-law's sheep near Horeb, the
mountain of God. He was probably bored with the lack of sensory and
intellectual stimulation of the wilderness, and thus primed for revelation.
Then there appeared the blazing bush, which, however, was not consumed. His
left-brain curiosity was aroused, aided and abetted by his training in the
wisdom of Pharaoh's court. "I must look at this great sight, and see why the
bush is not burned up." God, however, tunes him in to his right brain by
saying, "The place on which you stand is holy ground." God then continues
with His communication to Moses, which Moses, however, persisted in opposing
with left-brain arguments.

The child Samuel offers another interesting example. The fact that he was
young is significant, in that the left brain probably was not yet fully
matured. In those days, moreover, the word of God was rare: visions were not
widespread. So Samuel was probably not acquainted with dreams and visions.
One night Samuel was lying down, half asleep in the temple. God called to
him in this half-dissociated state, in which the left hemisphere was damped
down with approaching slumber, and the right brain relatively alert.
Samuel's left brain, however, intercepted the call, and interpreted it
logically as Eli calling. This went on three times. But Eli perceived that
the Lord was calling him. So he instructed Samuel to respond with his right
brain, which Samuel did: "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening." God
then communicated his message to him regarding the future of Eli and his
wicked sons. Samuel went on later to become a trusted prophet of the Lord.

One more example. Peter was in Joppa praying on the roof top, hungry,
wanting something to eat. This induced a trance, a state of altered
consciousness, and Peter received a vision of many kinds of four footed
creatures, snakes and birds. God told him to kill and eat. Peter's left
brain, loaded with Jewish logic and prohibitions, kicked in with a vengeance,
"By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or
unclean." The vision was repeated three times. This vision was a major and
necessary breakthrough in Peter's thinking--that God shows no partiality.
God was concerned about Gentiles as well as Jews. The gift of the Holy
Spirit was also poured out on the Gentiles.

This brief review of visions/revelations could be extended to include
Abraham, Jacob, Elisha as he watched Elijah ascend to heaven in the fiery
chariot, Isaiah in the temple, Peter's confession--"You are the Christ", the
transfiguration, Paul on the road to Damascus, John on the Island of Patmos.
What do we learn from them? A vision or dream usually comes suddenly and
unbidden. God does the choosing of who, when, where. There is usually some
internal or external condition that enhances right-brain reception. Left
brain often interferes with the vision or dream, but also, often later
directs the follow-up of the vision.

In this view, visions, dreams, etc. have a biological basis that is employed
by God to communicate with Her people. The Bible resulted from such
revelation. I believe that the Bible should be read in the same way that it
was revealed--with the right brain. In this way the Holy Spirit speaks
through the Word. Applying left brain skills to it soon leaves the Word
behind, and goes on to produce Christian theology and philosophy, the Talmud
from the Jewish Torah, and religious writings of all kinds. Applying
analytic and scientific left-brain methods to the Bible also impairs, if they
don't destroy, its revealed message.

The "window of opportunity" for God's special revelation is closed, and the
various revelations have been gathered together in the Bible. Anticipating
the maturing and dominance of the left brain in human history, and subsequent
subordination of the right brain, and with it the cessation of revelatory
dreams and visions, it might seem that God ordained the composition of the
Scriptures to consolidate and contain what had been revealed in the great
revelatory age, the age of the active right brain.

Do visions and trances happen today? Probably. Although they may have
personal signficance they have little if any larger revelatory significance.
Dreams, of course, are an ubiquitous if not a universal human experience.
Some posts on this listserve have reported meaningful dreams. These are a
blessing. Some native Americans induce trances and visions by various means
as part of their culture. I noted earlier, we live in a left-brain culture,
dominated by science. To overcome the dominance of the left brain is not