Unity versus the Frontal Lobes
It was a devil’s bargain: Thought, ideation, intent, objectification, ego, the finger-eye-frontal lobe complex. A devil’s bargain, yes, but supremely adaptive, as we now dominate nature and occupy every corner of the globe. And the devil’s bargain was the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil: The first division, like light and darkness, soul vs. body, humans vs. nature, Christians vs. animists.
Of course, it’s an old story by now how life started natural-yet-brutish and how we evolved adaptations to protect us and how now, the very traits and brain functions that enabled us to excel thus far, are proving counter-adaptive in the form of pollution, extinctions, cancer, obesity, overcrowding, competition, mechanization and social alienation.
So how do we heal that rift? Transcend the duality? Not by sliding back down the spiral, as Kaczynski and bin Laden would have it, but by powering-through today’s modern alienation from nature, all the way up and around the spiral to an integral, post-modern world view, co-existent with the animist tradition, but full-circle and “one level up” on the spiral. This is a world view that can accommodate shamanic states and quantum mechanics into one truly natural science.
In moving forward, first you have to know where you want to go and then you have to have a vehicle to get there. Many people have noticed that there is a consistent world view that visionaries see and report back: unitive, transcendent, accepting, transphysical, indescribable, infinite, whole. And the visionaries, seers and gurus have pointed to the many ways to consistently get there: meditation, spontaneous religious experience, drugs, fasting, mortification of the flesh, other rituals, trance, focusing incantations, spells or directed logos, and so on.
The idea, of course, is to see the unitary brain, get back to it, fully experience and incorporate it, but this time to do so with one’s eyes open, fully conscious, Buddhist-style, for a post modern integration of animism and higher awareness. But how do we leave the dualistic struggle behind and just be one, in our lives, in nature, in the Universe?
A Post-Modern Approach to Reality
Every world view contains the seeds of its own eventual dethroning, contradictions that will be explained only by the next, superseding world view. Today, it is post-modernism supplanting modernity – the dualism of Descartes being replaced by a world view that accommodates and integrates opposites: of technology and art, mind and body, man and god, matter and energy, spirit and flesh. This is what I refer to as a "poetry science" - not the science of poetry, or poetry about science, but a poetical world view that positions modern, industrial, extractive science in the broader, undergirding context of cosmology, creativity, spirituality, and community.
I am a believer in a non-dual, NATURAL philosophy. That is, the universe is at times counterintuitive, but never supernatural. I also apply that idea to viewing the mind: nothing SUPER-natural, just holistic and Gestalt, so exhibiting emergent properties, such as intelligence and awareness. The same argument can be applied to the universe as a whole: it’s Gestalt and emergent - what some refer to as “miraculous” – but fully natural. So I don't believe in an external deity - just what we have inside us. The seemingly miraculous or supernatural is just the nature of the universe itself - the whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts gestalt effect in full operation. This is a holistic, “spiritual” perspective, but also a scientific one. For me, a world view has to successfully pass through both the spiritual and the scientific sieves. This requires a holistic approach high in perspective and broad enough in inclusiveness to recontextualize and embrace what we’ve been referring to as the “spiritual,” thus making the scientific magical and magic only natural. In modernity, when we think of the cosmic level of the Universe as a whole, counterintuitive behavior such as the Big Bang or time dilation is now accepted as normal. Likewise, at the sub-atomic level of quantum mechanics, we accept counterintuitive, "weird" behavior (such as matter springing into existence, or particles communicating instantly over great distance) as the new “normal.” Despite this wonderful insight on nature at the extremes, at the human, Newtonian scale we still insist that reality must be linear, logical, predictable and mechanistic.
Yet a post-modern science must also be able to accommodate counterintuitive human-scale topics such as mind, psychosomatics, spirituality, ESP, the psychedelic experience, spontaneous remission, stigmata. It is in a "poetry science" that we can see that, even at the human scale, reality is not Newtonian. This post-modern perspective on the human scale might be better explained by eastern philosophies, such as yoga and Buddhism, human-scale philosophies more consistent with the seemingly counterintuitive perspectives of quantum mechanics and cosmology.
In my clinical practice, then, I take a world view that...
- Is relativistic, but not amoral;
- Offers a rich, dualistic interplay, but is not oppositional;
- Is transcendent in perspective, but doesn't descend into apathy;
- Views the Universe as animist, but refuses to see this observation as supernatural.
This perspective is crucially important, not just for scientists, researchers, clergy, clinicians and activists, but for all of us trying to protect ourselves and help the world move forward. Moreover, this is an inevitable perspective: as the global information infrastructure continues to grow, the future belongs to the unified, transcendent whole, not to any one of divisive, combative opponents. Ultimately, the poetry science perspective becomes one of truth and freedom, versus blinders and decline – it’s our choice – and one that is made every day in psychotherapy.
My Clinical Approach
I view the Universe as fundamentally alive, with mind as an emergent property of that complexity. I view mind and body as two sides of the same coin, life as a global mind and the planet as a Gaian organism. And I view all this as simply the normal state of nature, with spiritual development “just” the advanced end of the normal human development. From this perspective, then, "healing" takes place only when we get underneath our modern imago to rest at the ground of our being, so to naturally unfold according to our perfect, internal template for development.
A post-modern science that can theorize alternate universes can (and must) also accommodate alternate phenomenologies. How do states of mind differ from neurotransmitters -- and how do both differ from "spirituality"? When we finally bind the rift between matter and energy, brain and mind, body and spirit, particle and wave, what will our science be like? Our psychotherapies? Our religion? And what can we do today to help society into that maturation?
In other words, what does healing mean? The very question implies the prior question of what is it that needs to be healed. Of course, we would welcome healing of our psyches, our relationships and families, our nation, our politics and history, but how can we heal? Medicine? Drugs? Therapy? Spiritual practice? Compassion? Service? Love? What perspectives and methods have emerged over time as consistently effective and what would such a “perennial” medicine look like – and what would be a reasonable action path to a future with a healing world view?
As a beginning, over time I have come to view behavior generally labeled “neurotic” as not pathological at all. Rather, I see “neurosis” as the organism’s natural response to developmental stress on our varied and unique road to maturation. From this perspective, “neurosis” is better seen as a developmental challenge – the surmounting of which brings maturity, or wisdom – rather than as a pathology. In essence, I want to send schizophrenics to psychiatrists (doctors who can prescribe medical, nowadays usually pharmacological, treatment) and want to return psychology to the study of the psyche, in all it’s beauty and complexity, as it unfolds.
Another way to see this is that I am moving away from the words “patient” and "healing.” With the exception of biologically-based illness, psychology is the science of spiritual maturity. We call someone "neurotic," when in reality, it's not a medical illness they are suffering from, but spiritual immaturity.
Finally, I define "spiritual" as simply the upper end of normal adult developmental psychology. As such, I don't differentiate between body and mind, or mind and spirit, but look at them as all part of the whole organism. An example comes from when my seven year old was learning to walk. As with all kids, while learning, he used to fall a lot, yet I didn't label it pathological, just developmental. He didn't need healing by a helping professional, just his natural resources, a supportive environment, and me getting out of the way. Another example is a rose bud. We could say that it would be nicer if it were open now and begin to peel back the petals, but of course that wouldn't work. Rather, Sun, rain, soil and protection from trauma are all that are required – other than that, let it unfold. In my practice, I want to be less like a farmer, who plants in a row and harvests systematically, and more like a forest ranger, who keeps a look out for forest fires and otherwise simply embraces the sprawl.
So I don't believe that the neurosis concept is in any way accurate or helpful. In fact, one of the most negative influences on mental health is the "sick" concept, which in itself tightens and distorts, keeping people from a natural unfolding and realignment. I find that big-picture understanding, active listening and fundamental positive regard work much better.
We all want to forge a broader, more parsimonious and inclusive view of reality, one that is discriminating among ideas, flexible to change, reasoned in assessment and systematic in perspective. Our ultimate goal is a more curious, open, accepting intentionality toward the future – and the present moment – of our development.
I see my clients as already, fundamentally perfect – and my practice aims first at the completion of childhood issues and then to facilitate the further awakening and the successful unfolding of your true self, the self you were at birth; the self that’s there in between your thoughts.
I look forward to working and developing with you.
Neal M. Goldsmith, Ph.D.
Brooklyn (Dumbo), NY
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