Self versus Unity
Michael Persinger from Laurentian University has been studying geophysics of brain function. He writes,
Understanding the neurobehavioral correlates of the sense of self is one of the last challenges for neuroscience. In general the sense of self is involved with language processes traditionally associated with the left hemisphere of the human brain. However we were interested in the source of discovery: the neuro-cognitive processes of creativity. We had been impressed by the many historical and cross-cultural examples of ordinary people who accessed sophisticated knowledge well beyond their level of education or intellect when the right hemisphere was likely to have been stimulated. To test this association we experimentally simulated the condition. We applied specific complex magnetic fields of less than 1 micro Tesla over the right hemisphere. The most frequent result was the experience of the sense of a presence or of another Sentient Being. We have hypothesized that this sense of a presence is the transient awareness of the right hemispheric equivalent to the left hemispheric sense of self. We suspect that the general properties of this "other" reflect right hemispheric functions that include a feeling of extended space (beyond the self, infinity), widened time (eternity) and marked emotion. (Persinger, n.d.)
Persinger explains the other “Sentient Being” as the perception of an individual beyond the self, the feeling of a presence and the unification with the whole of existence. He attributes this feeling to the right hemisphere.
Our awareness floats between the dissimilar perceptions of the right and left hemispheres. Therefore, we may show our conscious awareness with a Cartesian diagram as follows.
A combination of left and right brain’s perception creates our consciousness, although the left brain perception dominates our awareness domain
In the diagram above, the vertical axis indicates the right hemisphere’s domain of perception, and the horizontal indicates that of the left. However, Rene Descartes himself believed that the mind is not split into completely exclusive domains. He pointed to the pineal gland as the only part of the brain that is not split and therefore can accommodate a homogeneous mind.
Even though our awareness is dominated by the left hemisphere’s perceptions, based on inbuilt patterns, the right brain interferes in the case of any major paradigm shift to modify those patterns. However, its interference is subtle. In an experiment, M. Gazzaniga and J. LeDoux flashed pictures of a chicken claw in the right visual field and a snow scene in the left visual field of a split-brain patient. The patient was then asked to choose a related shape out of several pictures presented to him. The patient correctly chose a picture of chicken and a shovel. When he was asked to explain his choices, he said, “I saw a claw and I picked the chicken and you have to clean out the chicken shed with the shovel” (Springer and Deutsch 1998, 338–339). In another test, a split-brain patient was shown two words, bell to the left visual field, and thus the nonspeaking right brain, and music to the right visual field, and thus the dominant and speaking left brain. When he was asked to choose pictures related to what he saw, he chose a musical instrument and bell. When he was asked about his choices, he said that he read music and chose bell because the last music that he heard was from a bell. It is interesting to note how the left hemisphere, the interpreter, stubbornly makes up stories to legitimize the selection of the bell despite other pictures that more aptly represented music. These experiments demonstrate the subtle but effective role the right hemisphere has in creating our perceptions. They also demonstrate the dominance of the left hemisphere in our thinking process. Michael Gazzaniga calls the left hemisphere the interpreter. Within the context of this article, I prefer the term legitimizer or normalizer when describing the role of the left hemisphere.
The relationship between the two hemispheres in forming our perceptions is a complementary one. For example, while the left brain interprets verbal and objective aspects of communications, the right mind senses something beyond. It recognizes the emotions embedded in the conversation and can alert us about the sincerity behind the statements people express. In the domain of awareness as well, one finds a complementary relationship between self and whole. At times we are so into ourselves that the outside world seems to grow pale. At other times, we almost forget ourselves as we immerse ourselves in our environment. This complementary relationship is clearly a function of our brain. One may speculate that the two paradoxical states of reality mentioned above (the classical level and the quantum level) have less to do with actual reality out there than we think.