FEATURED GUEST for 4th WEBINAR, Recorded May 20, 2021: Bill Harvey, Founder, The Human Effectiveness Institute


A Trip into the Right Hemisphere of the Human Brain

Join award-winning radio talk show host, philosopher, and humorist Doug Grunther on a fascinating, insightful trip into the most creative,
intuitive and expansive part of our brain: The Right Hemisphere.

FEATURED GUEST for 4th WEBINAR, Recorded May 20, 2021:


Bill Harvey is the author of Mind Magic:  Doorways into Higher Consciousness which science journalist Daniel Goleman called”Highly recommended… will loosen your moorings and open you to creative vistas.”  Bill is known world-wide as an influential media analyst and continues his work into higher states of consciousness, particularly “The Flow State”  through his Human Effectiveness Institute.

New Links of Interest

You can now find additional links to websites on our Right Brain Links of Interest section which encourage and open our minds to a more right-hemisphere perception of the world. Included are websites of the great spiritual teach Alan Watts and the brilliant “big picture” social philosopher William Irwin Thompson.


Essay #8: The Creative Power of Dreams

Evolution only continues a process over long periods of time if it is serving a useful and important function.  So why do we continue to dream at night?

This essay will cover:

  • The physiological reason we need to dream;
  • Dreams and the Right Hemisphere;
  • How dreams have inspired music, art and science;
  • The value of nightmares;
  • Some useful principles to enhance your dream work.
  • “The Magic Mirror” that never lies.


Before diving into the immense creative/liberating force that dreams provide, since this website is devoted to whole-brain thinking and an understanding of the distinction between the two hemispheres of our brains, let’s start with the important practical physiological/emotional function dreaming provides.

The “Safety Pressure Valve”

Every one of us dreams 4-6 times every night.  Obviously, we don’t remember the vast majority, so what is the biological function of the dream?  Turns out if we didn’t dream frequently every night, we’d probably go insane.

Thanks to 21st century computer-driven technology (EEG, MRI), sleep laboratories can now see inside the brains of volunteers while they are dreaming.   The dream state is associated with rapid eye movement (REM),

so, researchers know that when a volunteer’s sleep pattern stimulates the eyes to move underneath the eyelid, a dream is taking place.  Dream lab researchers also learned from seeing inside the brain and having the sleeping volunteers hooked up to electrodes measuring their vital organs, that just preceding the eyes going into REM activity, there is a burst of electrical energy originating in the brain stem.  When this burst of energy gets to the visual cortex, REM is generated and we’re on the way to a dream.  In addition to REM, the dream state induces a relaxation of our muscles, faster breathing and increased brain activity.

But this doesn’t answer the question:  What evolutionary reason did Nature’s Intelligence have for the brain generating dreams? One major reason was revealed in sleep labs when volunteers were awakened by researchers every time the computer screen showed they were entering the REM stage.  Within a few days these volunteers reported increased anxiety and depression compared to those awakened during non-REM sleep.

At the practical, physiological level, the dreaming process is analogous to a boiler which has a safety release valve.  The valve periodically releases pressure to ensure the tank doesn’t build up excessive pressure and explode.

During the day, no matter how positive events go for us, our unconscious mind, which determines well over 90 percent of our thoughts and behaviors, experiences high levels of stress, anxieties and warnings which build up pressure.  During the REM dreaming stage, regardless of the content of the dreams that night, a major function is to release some of the built-up stress/anxiety energy to help keep us safe from emotional overload.

This “safety-valve release” system also appears in many animals besides us humans. Scientists are almost certain other animals dream as they have the same capacity for REM sleep.  Dogs, cats, even reptiles have been studied to show their electrical brain patterns go into a similar REM stage as we do.  (Here is an incredible video  of a mother cat calming her sleeping kitten who whose paws are in rapid motion as if having a nightmare).

But is the “safety-valve release” the only reason we dream?


Dreams & the Right Hemisphere

The practical function of dreams as a safety release valve relates more closely to the left hemisphere of our brains.  But there is substantial evidence over centuries and millennia attesting to the creative, psychospiritual function of dreams.

To understand and appreciate the more enlightened function of our dreams requires a shift to a more right-hemisphere view as now we work with and play with more confusing, mysterious, byzantine imagery and story lines.

And it is worth asking why nature’s intelligence, through the evolutionary twists and turns out of which we emerged, set up our brains physiologically to be more directly connected to the streams of messages percolating up from our unconscious.

As noted in the book which greatly inspired this right brain network website, “The Master and his Emissary:  The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World”, Dr. Iain McGilchrist writes:

“…during REM sleep and dreaming there is greatly increased blood flow in the right hemisphere, particularly the temporoparietal region. EEG coherence data also point to the predominance of the right hemisphere in dreaming.”


He then adds,

“When we remember that it is the right hemisphere that succeeds in bringing us in touch with whatever is new by an attitude of receptive openness to what is—by contrast with the left hemisphere’s view that it makes new things actively, by willfully putting them together bit by bit—it seems that here, too, is evidence , if any further were needed, that the right hemisphere is more true to the nature of things.”


That the right hemisphere is more stimulated by and receptive to the mysteries of the unconscious in general, dreams in particular, should come as no surprise to those who have read previous essays in this section.  For while both hemispheres are clearly essential in our lives, since the left hemisphere is more attuned to verbal language information which can be analyzed rationally, the right hemisphere is more open to  non-verbal language and much more receptive  to play with the more uncertain, at first opaque and often ambiguous nature of the language of dreams.

What I have learned from my over 20 years of studying the nature of dreams, leading dream groups and working my own dreams  is a powerful paradox:  While on the one hand, we can learn much about how dreams communicate important, life-enhancing messages to our conscious minds (as will be presented in this essay), at the same time, it is the very darkness and mysteriousness of dream contents that are important to meet on their own grounds, whether or not we come to understand them.

Creative / Life-Enhancing Guides

History has provided us with clear proof of how dreams have inspired great music, art and spiritual breakthroughs.  Some noted examples:

Paul McCartney, “Yesterday”

The melody for the most-covered song in music history came from a dream.  Here is Paul’s account:

“I was living in a little flat at the top of a house and I had a piano by my bed. I woke up one morning with a tune in my head and I thought, ‘Hey, I don’t know this tune – or do I?’ It was like a jazz melody. My dad used to know a lot of old jazz tunes; I thought maybe I’d just remembered it from the past. I went to the piano and found the chords to it, made sure I remembered it and then hawked it round to all my friends, asking what it was: ‘Do you know this? It’s a good little tune, but I couldn’t have written it because I dreamt it.’”

Interesting note:  The original title Paul came up with for the dreamt tune was “Scrambled Eggs.”  Why such an irrational, offbeat title? Paul never explicitly says, but given the power of the unconscious mind communicating through dreams, can it be just a coincidence that “scrambled” are often how we would describe the often confusing, irrational nature of our dreams and that the “egg” is such an apt metaphor for the fertility of dream content?

“The Persistence of Memory”

Salvador Dali called his world-famous depiction of melting pocket watches a “dream photograph.”  The article “The Story Behind Salvador Dali’s ‘The Persistence of Memory”   reveals that:

“The melted versions of typically hard objects portray the fine line between a dream state and a real state. Dali sought to paint the dream world itself and mastered unique ways of bringing dreams into the real world.”


Jekyll & Hyde

One of the most famous novels in all literature, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”came to Robert Louis Stevenson during a dream.

According to his essay, “A Chapter on Dreams” (he racked his brains for an idea for a story and had a dream, and upon waking had the intuition for two or three scenes that would appear in the story Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Biographer Graham Balfour quoted Stevenson’s wife Fanny Stevenson: 

In the small hours of one morning, […] I was awakened by cries of horror from Louis. Thinking he had a nightmare, I awakened him. He said angrily: ‘Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale.’ I had awakened him at the first transformation scene.”


Dreaming the Atom

While it is not surprising that surrealist art and a surrealist work of literature would be inspired by dreams, dreams are responsible for major scientific breakthroughs.

Niels Bohr, Nobel Prize-winning physicist and one of the founders of quantum mechanics (I discussed his love of the spiritual yin/yang symbol in Essay #7) reported that he first saw his vision of how atoms were structured in a dream:

“Bohr often spoke of the inspirational dream that led to his discovery of the structure of the atom, in turn making him the father of quantum mechanics. Reportedly, Bohr dreamed about a horse race in which the marked lanes on the racetrack were just like the fixed and specific orbits that electrons travel around the nucleus of the atom. After waking up from this vision, he ventured to his lab and searched for scientific evidence to support his theory, and voila — his dream of atomic structure later landed him a Nobel Prize for Physics.”


Industrial Revolution Hangs by a Thread

One of most influential dreams in human history came from a particularly horrifying nightmare.

Unless you are reading this essay naked or are wearing totally hand-made clothing, the intense nightmare which inspired the solution to the first effective sewing machine has an influence on you right now.

It’s easy to forget that before the sewing machine was invented in 1846, making a shirt would take around 14 hours.  A dress, almost 7 hours. The new invention totally transformed the clothing and shoe industries, making good clothing available to the majority of people, not just the rich and privileged.  And it helped kick off the Industrial Revolution which would so expansively define modern history.

The nightmare experienced by Elias Howe in 1846, as do virtually all nightmares if we are willing to explore them deeply, contained the insightful shift needed to solve what was then the vexing issue of creating an efficient, effective sewing machine.  My dream teacher, Dr. Jeremy Taylor loved recounting  Howe’s nightmare as a teaching tale of how nightmares can be such rich resources:

“Howe had been struggling to invent a machine that would sew with the same speed and efficiency as Hargreaves’ and Cartwright’s new machines would spin and weave, but with no success. As the tale goes, exhausted by frustration, Howe fell asleep at his workbench one night and had this dream:

He is in Africa, fleeing from cannibals through the jungle. Despite his frantic efforts to escape, the natives capture him, tie him up hand and foot, and carry him back to their village slung from a pole. There they dump him into a huge iron pot full of water. They light a fire under the pot and start to boil him alive.

As the water starts to bubble and boil around him, he discovers that the ropes have loosened enough for him to work his hands free. He tries repeatedly to take hold of the edge of the pot and haul himself out of the hot water, but every time he manages to heave himself up over the edge of the pot, the natives reach across over the flames and forcibly poke him back down into the pot again with their sharp spears.

When Howe awoke from this “nightmare,” much of his mind was absorbed with sorting through the emotions of the dream–but another part was able to note with objectivity, “That’s odd–those spears all have holes in the points….” As Howe came more fully awake, he thought, “Holes in the points… holes in the points! That’s it! That’s the answer!

As he awoke, Howe realized that the trick to making his sewing machine work was to move the thread transport hole up to point of the needle (as opposed to a handheld needle, where the hole is on the base). It then was a relatively simple matter to design a system of gears that would cause the needle to poke the thread down through the layers of cloth, wrap it around a second thread, and then pull it up again, all very neatly and efficiently. And with the invention of the sewing machine, the last bottleneck to the mechanical production of clothing was broken–this dream leads very directly to the realization of the industrial revolution!”


The key to Howe uncovering the deeper meaning of his nightmare was managing to overcome the discomfort, re-play the dream in his mind and feel the importance of its key image: the hole in the spears. This points to (pun intended) a good strategy when awakening from a dream: Identify a particular image or action that is most perplexing or emotionally powerful and re-play that part of the dream it in your mind a few times or more until an insight or felt intuition emerges.


“Training Films for Spiritual Warriors”

Dr. Jeremy Taylor explains the above phrase  on his website:

 “Whenever any dream is remembered, it is an indication that the waking mind has a creative, transformative role to play in the evolution of whatever issue the dream is presenting. For millions of years, the ability to pay immediate and focused attention to nasty, threatening stuff has been a primary survival test. The creatures who pay effective attention to threats tend to survive, and the ones who don’t tend not to survive. In this way, we have been shaped by natural selection to be inherently predisposed to pay attention to ugly, scary, and menacing experiences.”

At the same time, American culture in particular prefers to promote the Hallmark Card/soften the blow/feel-good palliatives to the direct/uncomfortable reality check.  As Jeremy discovered in his decades of globe-trotting dream work, nightmares are among the most powerful guides we have towards inner psychospiritual growth, if we learn to unpack their hidden meanings. (Any of Jeremy’s books are great place to start).

Given the mind-bending shock of the sped up, globally connected data barrage of the current information age, exacerbated as I write this by over a year in which for the first time in human history, major economies and cultural societies shut down to deal with a virus, facing up to and finding the hidden meanings in our nightmares becomes, as Jeremy puts it, a “primary survival test.”

One of the first principles of dream work Jeremy teaches, one I and the others participating in his dream groups can attest,is that all dreams, including the most frightening nightmares, come as Jeremy puts it, “in the spirit of health and wholeness.”  This requires a shift to a more right-hemisphere proclivity for imagination and novel insight.  While dreams can be analyzed in a more left-hemisphere, linear/associative way, to get to the core of a deep dream, particularly a nightmare, calls for a more intuitively creative re-playing of the dream to see and feel what novel insights emerge.

Jeremy writes:

“Ironically, for this reason I take heart every time I have (or hear about) a dream that involves large, planet-wide problems like destruction of the environment, plague, military conflict, or other massive disruption of society. The fact that we remember such dreams suggests that we are able to respond creatively and effectively to these problems, in the same fashion that dreams addressing seemingly “insoluble” personal problems always indicate our ability to deal with those problems. Nightmares may also provide symbolic suggestions and specific creative inspirations, provided we have the wit and wisdom to pay attention.”


Embedded in this perception is one of Jeremy’s key principles for doing effective dream work:  If we weren’t capable of dealing with a dream, our psyche would have protected us by not letting us remember it.  Once remembered, its hidden ‘gold’ can be retrieved.

Jeremy writes:

“The worst case dream calls upon the dreamer not only to see and accept the depths of depravity that reside in every human psyche, but even more importantly, to become more conscious of and responsible for our ability to face, overcome, and give transformative, creative, and spiritual expression to those archetypal shadow energies.”


For those familiar with the insights of Carl Jung, the most famous psychologist of the 20th century, you can detect in Jeremy’s words the Jungian influence of “shadow” and “archetype.”

What’s significant here is the calling on us to face our own shadow energies, those dark, primal fears genetically and culturally inherent in our brains. For when we face those personal “shadows,” they not only lose their fearful power over us, but often reveal insights and meanings which can lead to a major breakthrough.

One of my favorite insights from Jeremy on the importance of frightening and uncomfortable nightmares:

“Another way of looking at such dreams is that they are “rescue missions” undertaken by the dreaming psyche in the as-yet-unredeemed depths of the collective unconscious.”


The right hemisphere comes into play here because while the left hemisphere is skilled at analyzing dreams, to get to the deeper levels often requires more imagination, intuitive feel and, most importantly, a willingness to be open to total surprise.



Dark Humor

As I became more experienced working my own dreams and those within dream groups,  I discovered an interesting characteristic:  Often our dreams, particularly the most frightening and confusing ones, can be more fully understood by looking for the hidden humor or deep joke, like a Zen Koan, a banana peel put in our path to help us “slip into” a transformational insight.

Here is my favorite experience with such a dream.

About 10 years ago, a close friend of mine called me up, sounding quite anxious, and asked if I could come over right away and help him understand a nightmare he had. I was surprised to get the call since he had never showed an interest in dreams over the many years I had known him.

He told me that for the past few days he had been suffering from intense stomach pain and could barely get out of bed.  He had a great mistrust of doctors and despite his wife’s pleas to let her drive him to the emergency room, he wouldn’t budge.  He felt somewhat better that morning, but had experienced the mysterious nightmare.

Here is the dream:

I’m at a resort of some kind.  I’ve never been here before.  I’m finishing up dinner in the café on the premises and pay my bill.  I suddenly feel exhausted and head to my room for a good night’s sleep.  But as I walk down the hallway of guest suites, I’m confused by the fact that there are no numbers on any of the doors and I can’t remember which is my room. I keep staring at these doors with no numbers and wake up distressed and anxious.


The way I was taught dreams is take on the dream as if it were my own, and discuss the dream from this point of view rather than say something like, “This is what your dream means.” (This will be clarified towards the end of the essay when discussing Jeremy Taylor’s Essential Principles for Dream Work.)

Like any good story, the opening scene often introduces the main theme.  First, I mentioned to my friend that if this were my dream and I was experiencing intense stomach pain in waking life, it’s interesting that “I’m finishing up dinner.”  Obviously in the dream, there is no physical stomach pain and I was able to digest my meal. In addition, “I pay my bill,”  which in my version of the dream is a metaphor for a willingness to take responsibility for (“pay the bill”) whatever is making me anxious in waking life.

Note:  This important start to the working of the dream can be credited to left-hemisphere logical thinking and analyzing the relationship between finishing a meal and paying the ball in the dream to the anxious situation in waking life.

While I could see from my friend’s body language that he was somewhat relieved at this insight, I knew it was the mysterious missing of numbers on the doors that needed to be addressed. And this would require a shift to the right hemisphere potential to enter into mystery, volatility and ambiguity while waiting for an insight to emerge.

When facing a mysterious aspect of a dream such as the missing numbers on the guest suites at this dream resort, it’s helpful to ask oneself (or the person whose offered the dream) clarifying questions. So, I asked:

“Did you notice anything else different about the doors other than the missing numbers?

And “What kind of carpeting or flooring did the resort hallway have?

My friend responded, “No, all I remember is numbers on the doors and not being able to find my room.”

I felt pressure to help him and come up some kind of useful insight, but felt stuck. Then I remembered how that I was able to get to an “AHA!” moment of recognition from working some of the more bizarre dreams I had experienced by looking for a hidden joke. As previously mentioned, many dreams contain puns and comical twists which, if uncovered, lead to insight.

I closed my eyes and as  I re-played in my mind walking down the dream hallway without any numbers on the doors, it hit me—and I must have visibly smiled for my friend asked, “What’s so funny?”

I opened my eyes and said, “If this was my dream, it’s coming to tell me I’m not going to die from this stomach pain.

“How do you get that? He asked incredulously.

“Because the missing numbers on the doors means ‘my number’s not up yet.”

My friend laughed out loud and the next day, feeling less anxious, saw a doctor who told him he was suffering from a strong case of stomach flu and would recover with a few more days of rest.

Useful Principles for Dream Work

Whether working with your own dream or in conversation with others about their dreams, here are five key principles which Dr. Jeremy Taylor advocated, followed by some that I add based on my experience.   The key principles Jeremy advocated:

All dreams speak a universal language and come in the service of health and wholeness. There is no such thing as a bad  dream–only dreams that sometimes take a dramatically negative form in order to grab our attention.

Only the dreamer can say with any certainty what meanings his or her dream may have. This certainty usually comes in the form of a wordless “Aha!” of recognition. This “Aha” is a function of memory, and is the only reliable touchstone of  dream work.

There is no such thing as a dream with only one meaning. All dreams and dream images are “overdetermined,” and have multiple meanings and layers of significance.

No dreams come just to tell you what you already know. All dreams break new ground and invite you to new understandings and insights.

When talking to others about their dreams, it is both wise and polite to preface your remarks with words to the effect of ‘in my imagined version of the dream…’ and to keep this commentary in the first person as much as possible. This means that even relatively challenging comments can be made in such a way that the dreamer may actually be able to hear and internalize them. It also can become a profound psycho-spiritual discipline – ‘walking a mile in your neighbor’s moccasins.’

My additions (all of which Jeremy agreed with.  He chose to highlight the ones above).

A short dream fragment can be just as meaningful as a long, narrative dream. Dreams have a “holographic” quality, meaning any one key symbol, action or event when re-played and actively encountered, can open up the greater meaning of the entire dream.

Dreams often use puns, satire and black humor to enlighten us. Discovering the hidden humor in a dream is often a profound and transformative experience.

Every dream is both unique to the dreamer and, at the same time, often has a more universal level, connecting into what Carl Jung referred to as the “Collective Unconscious.”

All dreams live in the present and so it is helpful to write down the dream in the present tense and consider the actions to be happening now, even if you are working on a powerful dream from many years ago.

A dream dictionary is a good place to start, poor place to end.  While it is helpful to know, for example, that water in a  dream almost always refers to the “emotional state” of the dreamer, it’s important to note the specific details of the water in each dream:  Does the dream take place in a private pool, a pristine lake, a dirty bathtub, at the beach?

In other words, while noting the accepted meanings of various symbols from a dream dictionary (left-hemisphere strategy) it’s important to shift to the right-hemisphere’s ability to dive beneath the surface of the known meanings to the unknown, creative, ambiguous depth to see and feel what might emerge. That’s often how the “AHA!” moment is unveiled.



Jeremy Taylor’s great phrase for the creative power of dreams is:

“The Magic Mirror that never lies.”

This “Magic Mirror” may not always reveal its hidden truths…but truths remain there to be uncovered.  For really “big” dreams (to be discussed in the next essay), it may take days, weeks, months or years before a full “AHA!” is achieved. The good news is that by writing down, contemplating and talking about our dreams, this tends to generate additional dreams which build on previous ones and start to reveal recurring patterns which are quite useful to identify.

A final word from Jeremy Taylor:

“Initially, it always seems as though the most difficult task faced by the dreamer is to look into the ‘magic mirror that never lies’ and take more responsibility for the symbolic reflections of our weaknesses and failures. However, over time, it becomes clear that an even more challenging task is to acknowledge the size and scope of our creative gifts and our ability to transform ourselves and our world. The worst case dream calls upon the dreamer not only to see and accept the depths of depravity that reside in every human psyche, but even more importantly, to become more conscious of and responsible for our ability to face, overcome, and give transformative, creative, and spiritual expression to those archetypal shadow energies.”


This “Magic Mirror” that never lies is at the forefront of our evolutionary push forward.  I say this based on an “AHA!” moment I experienced in of the dozens of dream group weekends I participated in with Jeremy and a group of interested dream workers:

We were working a particularly dark, powerful dream submitted by one of our group.  There was a distinct “heaviness” in the air as we took turns projecting our insights into possible meanings of the dream when Jeremy broke in and said:

“These dreams are so powerful, and sometimes overwhelming, because they aren’t just our dream…they’re the dreams of our parents and their parents and their parent…”

This is something all of us already know. The genes we inherit from our parents contain not just memories of their unresolved traumas, challenges, successes, emotional blocks…but of their parents and so on, right down the generational lines…and as I’ll discuss in the next essay, our individual dreams are  not just about us and whatever was passed down from our genealogical lines, but each dream has, on some level, a universal meaning connecting to what Carl Jung identified as “the collective unconscious.”

To connect the insight that our dreams are not just ours to the first principle about dreams brought up in this essay:

On the physiological level, dreaming provides an emotional safety release valve so that at night our brains can release some of the pressure built up by the tensions and stresses we experience each day.  Nature’s intelligence gave us (and many animals) this physiological release valve.  But it gave us humans a higher form of consciousness which, if we choose to exercise it, can unlock the deeper meanings and inherent truths our dream come to offer.

So, when we choose to write down our dreams, re-play them, contemplate their deeper meanings, share the dream with others, we are taking on the immensely valuable work of “consciously” liberating the hidden depths of not only our individual dreams, but those unworked out emotional and even spiritual blocks passed on to us from our ancestors as well as consciously freeing up previously locked down psychospiritual insights of the collective unconscious.

On the personal level, dream work offers opportunities for emotional and spiritual liberation.

On the larger, collective level, dreams offer a glimpse into the potential reason higher levels of consciousness emerged into our brains:  A calling to consciously work out the deeper meaning of our existence and the best ways to influence evolution moving forward.

This is what I feel Jeremy Taylor was getting at by referring to dreams as “training films for spiritual warriors.”

Dreamwork offers both tools for personal liberation and for advancing conscious evolution.  This includes not only the immense satisfaction of the “AHA!” moment of recognition into the deep meaning of a dream, but just as importantly, the willingness to let the dark currents of the dream’s inherent mystery wash over us, whether we understand it or not.



Enjoy the following quotes and links:


“That which the dream shows is the shadow of such wisdom as exists in man, even if during his waking state he may know nothing about it…. We do not know it because we are fooling away our time with outward and perishing things, and are asleep in regard to that which is real within ourself.



“Dreams are the guiding words of the soul. Why should I henceforth not love my dreams and not make their riddling images into objects of my daily consideration?

Carl Jung


Getting Into the “FLOW”

Interesting article in The New York Times last week (21 April/2021). Title is “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing.” The antidote to languishing given is “Flow,” that wonderful experience of being so in the moment,
“where your sense of time, place and self melts away.” I write about “flow” towards the end of Essay #5: “Yin/Yang & the Hemispheres of the Brain.” 


FEATURED GUEST for 3rd WEBINAR, April 21, 2021: Susan Rosen, Dream Work Facilitator


A Trip into the Right Hemisphere of the Human Brain

Join award-winning radio talk show host, philosopher, and humorist Doug Grunther on a fascinating, insightful trip into the most creative,
intuitive and expansive part of our brain: The Right Hemisphere.

FEATURED GUEST for 3rd WEBINAR, April 21, 2021:


Susan Rosen is an experienced dream work facilitator who has produced and led masterful dream group retreats for almost 20 years.  She received her certification as a dream work facilitator from Dr. Jeremy Taylor, co-founder of the International Association of Dreams and, during his lifetime, one of the most renowned dream experts in the world.

Susan was the founder of Miriam’s Well, a spiritual retreat in Saugerties, NY which hosted weekend seminars with some of the leading spiritual teachers in the country including groundbreaking poet and storyteller Robert Bly, psychiatrist and Jungian Analyst Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen and Dr. Brugh Joy, medical doctor and teacher of dreams and the healing capacities of the human unconscious.

 About Carol and Susan - In the Voice of Our Mothers


What Are We Thinking? explores how the dominance of the left hemisphere perception in western culture has created a self-centered, materialist reality which can no longer be sustained and what can be done to counteract this trend. Grunther reveals how explorers of the human mind, including select artists, scientists, depth psychologists, philosophers, business leaders and global visionaries, are providing mind-expanding insights to meet the challenges going forward.

And we will see how optimistic visionary insights into creative potential are available when we are willing to access the depths of right-hemisphere awareness.  


Let’s help bring about the Next Renaissance and have a spirited good time along the way.

Are you ready to make the leap?

FEATURED GUEST for 2nd WEBINAR, March 24, 2021: Iain McGilchrist


 A Trip into the Right Hemisphere of the Human Brain

Join award-winning radio talk show host, philosopher, and humorist Doug Grunther on a fascinating,                insightful trip into the most creative,
intuitive and expansive part of our brain: The Right Hemisphere.


FEATURED GUEST for 2nd WEBINAR, March 24, 2021:

Iain McGilchrist:  Psychiatrist, Fellow in Neuroimaging at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, former literature scholar at Oxford and author of the acclaimed book The Master and his Emissary:  The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.

Iain is committed to the idea that mind and brain can be understood only by considering them within the whole of our physical and spiritual existence.




WHAT ARE WE THINKING? explores how the dominance of the left hemisphere perception in western culture has created a self-centered, materialist reality which can no longer be sustained and what can be done to counteract this trend. Grunther reveals how explorers of the human mind, including select artists, scientists, depth psychologists, philosophers, business leaders and global visionaries, are providing mind-expanding insights to meet the challenges going forward.

And we will see how optimistic visionary insights into creative potential are available when we are willing to access the depths of right-hemisphere awareness.  


Let’s help bring about the Next Renaissance and have a spirited good time along the way.

Are you ready to make the leap?

Nature’s Living Intelligence

Highly recommend:  The article “Nature’s Living Intelligence” is an excellent insight into the need to shift what we’ve been primarily taught—that the world is a “collection of objects to be transformed, sold, used, and ultimately thrown away.”  And it offers the alternative view, inherent in many ancient philosophies and spiritual teachings, that the world is alive with intelligence and meaning when we learn how to flow within its deep patterns.

The article is written by David Fideler who has a PhD in philosophy and the history of science and cosmology.


Essay #7: Global Brain Emerging?

In the Mission Statement of this Right Brain Network website is a proposed equation for contemplation:

NI (Nature’s Intelligence) + HI (Human Intelligence) + AI (Computer Intelligence) + = ???

Of these three major forms of intelligence now interacting for the first time in human evolution, the most powerful and influential is NI (Nature’s Intelligence).

Of course, we forget this almost all the time.  For the past 500 years or so modern civilization has been overly balanced towards the left-hemisphere of the brain’s focus on being separate from nature and able, perceiving it as an object to manipulate for our material benefits.  This is most powerful insight from Dr. Iain McGilchrist, author of “The Master and is Emissary:  The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World,” the book which inspired this Right Brain Network project.

We are clearly not separate from nature.

We were born out of nature’s intelligence and live within its complex, self-organizing system. As evolution biologist Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris writes,

“We are natural creatures which have evolved inside a great life system.  Whatever we do that is not good for life, the rest of the system will try to undo or balance in any way it can.”

The current viral pandemic and significantly more devastating climate change are proof.

When looking into what might be emerging from the enfolding  dynamic of NI + HI + AI, a good place to start is the principle of self-organization–the fascinating ability of totally new paradigms to be generated from complex interactions.  Here is a beautiful, intriguing 2-minute video of Nature’s self-organization in action:











Inside the Self-Organizing Universe

The fuel that has been driving evolution is self-organization or what many scientists refer to as “Emergence.”  Self-organization/Emergence is an underlying process in which complex, local interactions (cells in our bodies, people navigating traffic, birds in flight) spontaneously, with no external command or instruction, somehow form an overall order far greater than the individual elements giving rise to it.

Our nervous systems and brains function through self-organization all the time at the unconscious level.  For the evolutionary leap (into the Next Renaissance?), this under the surface, virtually invisible, self-organizing principle needs to be brought more into the light of consciousness.

In 2003, biologist Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris gave a talk called “After Darwin:  Reuniting Spirituality with Science in order to Form a New World View.”  The excerpts which follow are from the transcript of that talk

This first excerpt shows Dr. Sahtouris; reliance on a right-hemisphere perspective:

“…trained as a western scientist I came to feel that the world view I was taught was too narrow, like a suit one had outgrown, and was searching for the broader context for what a Western science would be. I’ve been working on that now for quite a few decades and have come to the view that consciousness is not a late emergent product of a material evolution but the exact opposite, the source of all material evolution. So, I’ve come to believe that spirituality and science were separated only for historic reasons and that it’s time now to reunite them in a single world view that can encompass the best of our spiritual traditions and the best of our scientific traditions.”


Leaving aside for now that we have different takes on what spirituality is, the key point here is the calling for a “broader context,” in which to view science.  She identifies the shift in perspective which has taken place among many biologists who know that the standard definition of biological life, “survival of the fittest” in a competitive zero-sum game paradigm, needs to be broadened.

As for her insight that “consciousness is not a late emergent product of a material evolution but the exact opposite, the source of all material evolution,” while still a minority view among most mainstream scientists, it has been attracting more adherents from within the realm of science over the past 50 years.  We will address this issue more in future essays, but my own intuitive sense is in agreement that mind/consciousness is not simply a by- product of the brain’s activity (materialist perspective), but, that consciousness/mind-like qualities are an inherent, emergent quality of nature itself (and the universe out of which Earth’s nature was born). And so this and other essays in this Next Renaissance section are based on the paradigm that our brains operate from within this larger context of Mind/Intelligence.

Note: An interesting analogy here is the synaptic leap required by our ancestors during the  Italian Renaissance when in 1543 astronomer Nicolas Copernicus provided empirical evidence that the sun didn’t revolve around the earth, but the earth was one of a number of planets revolving around the sun.  In depth psychological terms, the human ego had to give up its inflated sense of being the center of the universe and adapt to the reality Earth was part of a much more vast, complex solar system.



Here in the 21st Century, as we head towards the next evolutionary leap, we will be required to develop a bigger picture of how our brains fit into the fast-expanding, interrelated, global network of the World Wide Web.

Dr. Sahtouris writes,

We have a new definition of life in biology in the last few decades called autopoiesis [from the Greek, meaning self-creation], which means that a living entity is one that continually creates itself. This is very unlike a machine which is created from the outside by an inventor, given its rules of operation, and usually in a hierarchic arrangement and has to be reinvented to have generations of technology rather than being able to reinvent itself in an evolutionary trajectory.”


“Autopoiesis” is part of the self-organization principle.  And the description Dr. Sahtouris provides is filled with right-hemisphere qualities: “continually creates itself,” as contrasted with “hierarchic arrangement” which requires outside instructions in order to “reinvent.”

As discussed in a previous essay, in the new VUCA strategy being adapted to meet the current hyper-speed, digitalized, globalizing effects of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, we are called upon to develop a mind-set that resonates with nature’s inherent biologic intelligence, which in Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris’ words,  is nature’s ability to “reinvent itself in an evolutionary trajectory.”

She describes the inherent self-organizing intelligence of the DNA which created us:

“We know now there are what biologists call repair genes. When there’s accidental damage to the genome it is immediately repaired. Otherwise these errors would build up and you wouldn’t be able to function for a whole lifetime. We now know there are editor genes when DNA is copied that make sure it’s copied correctly. There are repair genes fixing any damage done so again we have to give up the Darwinian notion that evolution occurs through accidents and trust that the genome is intelligent. We see it’s intelligent.”

“We have a hundred trillion cells in our bodies and each one of them has thirty thousand recycling centers renewing our proteins. They’re so hi-tech that they can take in a protein, disassemble it, build a new protein (perhaps an entirely different kind) and issue the new protein. That’s as if we could stick trees into a chipper machine and get a live tree out the other side. Very hi-tech! We’re not nearly as hi-tech yet, as our own internal microworld.”

“We have a great deal to learn from nature…”



Dr. Sahtouris is one of a number of scientists dedicated to teaching a more expansive understanding of nature’s intelligence, out of which we emerged, yet to which humanity over the past 500 years has become separated from through the overemphasis of the left-hemisphere focus of perceiving nature as an object to be analyzed and taken from, over the much needed right-hemisphere intuitive understanding of being ‘embedded’ within nature’s intelligence, in tune with its underlying currents.


Repeating the two-key theme of this essay:

  • We human beings, for the first time in evolutionary history, are living in a world generated out of three forms of intelligence: Nature’s Intelligence (NI), our own Human Intelligence (HI) and Computer Intelligence (AI)
  • AI emerged out of the human brain, we emerged out of Nature’s Intelligence.  And Nature’s Intelligence operates to a great extent through a process called self-organization, described earlier as “complex, local interactions (cells in our bodies, birds in flight, humans collaborating on the Web) spontaneously, with no external command or instruction, capable of generating totally new orders of complexity.


AI, Philosophy & Spirit

Two of the leading experts in computer science who seek a bigger picture of the self-organizing potential of the World Wide Web to enrich our philosophical and spiritual understanding are Dr. Ben Goertzel   and  Dr. Francis Heylighen

Ben Goertzel is a renowned computer scientist, AI researcher and founder of the SingularityNET Foundation.  Francis Heylighen is a physicist who leads the Evolution, Complexity and COgnition group at the Free University of Brussels where he is also associated with the Department of History, Art and Philosophy.  They are both part of a collaborative called the Global Brain Institute which looks at the emergent properties of World Wide Web.

(Note:  Most of what they talk and write about is much to technical for me to understand—my interest is philosophy and depth psychology and so I will tease out those aspects from what they have written.  That said, I find it stimulating and a good exercise for my brain to read material which forces a stretching out into unfamiliar territory, regardless of how much of the content I can understand on an empirical level, a characteristic much more attuned to the right-hemisphere.

Also, the concept of a Global Brain or Global Mind easily evokes images from grade B science fiction and fantasy…particularly when we forget the distinction between the projected fear of a super computer running the world like a human autocrat as compared to more grounded predictions from two researchers  steeped in math, computer science and philosophy as to what kind of  networked-based, distributed intelligence will emerge  out of  the expanding, connected network of humans and AI).

Dr. Goertzel writes

The  WebMind system…would be an independent intelligent entity on its own, interacting with humans, but fundamentally separate from them. This is what I call Phase One of the global Web mind; and it will be, in itself, an incredibly exciting development. It will be our first opportunity ever to interact with a highly intelligent nonhuman being. And it will be an opportunity to understand ourselves more deeply, by seeing the subtle patterns of our own collective mind come to life.”


Here Ben makes the important shift from viewing AI as a competing force threatening human intelligence to viewing AI as an evolutionary new form of intelligence now capable of not only recording and accessing the entire history of human knowledge, but capable of teaching itself independent of human-imposed rules). And, included in this shift of perception is the fact that we can use AI to in Ben’s words, “understand ourselves more deeply, by seeing the subtle patterns of our own collective mind come to life.”

A big question hovering over this discussion:  Can certain powerful corporations or governments control in an organized way how this potential Global Web Mind will operate?  While clearly Google, Facebook, Amazon have significant control over their individual domains, Ben writes,


“The Web, by its very nature, is not under anyone’s control: there is no way to enforce intelligence on it from above. If one is to influence its evolution toward intelligence, one must be subtler. One must use complexity, parallelism and self-organization to seduce the Web toward greater intelligence.”

Again, given the left-hemisphere’s need to control territory, there will clearly be attempts by massive AI corporations to dominate the emerging “WebMind System.” But one of the key characteristics of self-organizing processes is their unpredictability and strong drive to evolve from the bottom-up rather than from the top down.

In an interview Dr. Goertzel conducted with Dr. Heylighen we get the latter’s perspective on this emerging Global Brain/Mind:


“The global brain (GB) is a collective intelligence formed by all people on the planet together with their technological artifacts (computers, sensors, robots, etc.) insofar as they help in processing information. The function of the global brain is to integrate the information gathered by all its constituents, and to use it in order to solve problems, as well for its individual constituents as for the global collective. By ‘solving problems’ I mean that each time an individual or collective (including humanity as a whole) needs to do something and does not immediately know how to go about it, the global brain will suggest a range of more or less adequate approaches. As the intelligence of the GB increases, through the inclusion of additional sources of data and/or smarter algorithms to extract useful information from those data, the solutions it offers will become better, until they become so good that any individual human intelligence pales in comparison.”


Commenting on the important question as to who or what might gain control of the future and dictate its terms, Dr. Heylighen responds,


“For me the issue of freedom in the GB is very simple: you will get as much (or as little) as you want. We do not always want freedom: often we prefer that others make decisions for us, so that we just can follow the lead. In those situations, the global brain will make a clear recommendation that we can just follow without too much further worry. In other cases, we prefer to think for ourselves and explore a variety of options before we decide what we really want to do. In such a case too, the GB will oblige, offering us an unlimited range of options, arranged approximately in the order of what we are most likely to prefer, so that we can go as far as we want in exploring the options.”



What we already see evolving on the Web is the contrast between private, AI corporations (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM) based on competition, placing profit first and therefore protecting the privacy of its patented algorithms and what is called “Open Source” entities such as Wikipedia, which are based on collaboration, where the underlying AI architecture is publicly available and anyone can contribute to the end result.  If you’re looking for a sign confirming a more optimistic view, consider that the individual who invented the software protocols which created the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, chose not to patent his paradigm-shifting software for private gain, but instead made it open-source.

Despite his optimism, Dr. Heylighen understands that even before the World Wide Web ever existed, most humans prefer not to make challenging choices, but defer to what we’ve been taught or what the culture determines is the right way to live.  So, the issue of “freedom” will remain a choice we have to make to follow the path less predictable, more uncertain, but potentially more creative and soul-fulfilling:


“Culture is already a collective intelligence or GB, except that it reacts and evolves much more slowly than the one we envisage as emerging from the Internet. As you hint at, the risk of having a more interactive GB is that people will have less time to question its suggestions. On the other hand, the GB as I envisage it is by design more explicit than the subconscious conditioning of our culture, and therefore it is easier (a) to remember that its opinions are not our own; (b) to effectively examine and analyze the rationale for these opinions, and if necessary reject them.”


Another complex, fascinating and significant question is whether super intelligent AI can ever at any level become “self-conscious,” a quality in large part responsible for us being the most intelligent species on the planet.  Dr. Heylighen responds to this question:

“Certainly, self-reflection appears like a useful feature for the GB to have. Again, this does not seem to be so tricky to implement, as we, in our role of components of the GB, are at this very moment reflecting about how the GB functions and how this functioning could be improved… Moreover, decades ago already AI researchers have developed programs that exhibited a limited form of self-improvement by monitoring and manipulating their own processing mechanisms.”


Bringing the subject down to a practical level, Dr. Heylighen, responding to the question as to what technologies exist right now that might be pushing towards the emergence of a Global Brain lists 21st century digital tools most all of use every day…to our left hemisphere, they are marvelous technologies which offer immense convenience and nearly instantaneous connection.  But if we let the imaginative/big-picture/paradigm-shifting capacity of our right-hemispheres to contemplate just how novel and intricate these everyday tools could be self-organizing into some yet-to-be transcendent intelligence, what comes up?

Dr. Heylighen cite:


1. wikis

“(and related editable community websites) provide a very simple and intuitive medium for people to develop collective knowledge… Wikipedia is the most successful example: in ten years’ time it developed from nothing into the largest public knowledge repository ever conceived, which may soon contain the sum of all human knowledge.”

2. collaborative filtering (aka recommendation systems)

“This is the technology (based on closely guarded algorithms) used by sites such as YouTube and Amazon to recommend additional books, videos or other items on the basis of what you liked, and what others like you have liked previously. Unlike wikis, this is a collective intelligence technology that relies on implicit data, on information that was rarely consciously entered by any individual, but that can be derived relatively reliable from what that user did (such as ordering certain books, or watching certain videos rather than others). If wiki editing is similar to the rational, conscious reflection in the brain, collaborative filtering is similar to the subconscious, neural processes of selective strengthening of links and spreading activation.”

3. Smartphones

“make it possible to tap into the global brain at any time and any place. From simple person-to-person communication devices, these have morphed into universal, but still simple and intuitive interfaces that connect you to all the information that is globally available. This adds a very practical real-time dimension to GB problem-solving…Thanks to in-built sensing technologies, such as a GPS, a compass, a camera and a microphone, a smart phone can first determine your local context (e.g. you are standing in front of the Opera building at sunset facing West while hearing some music playing in the background), then send that information to the GB together with any queries you may have…”


The need to shift to a more right-hemisphere perception of the self-organizing potential of exponentially expanding digital network intelligence and how we might best adapt it to our knowledge and insight into how we best fit into nature’s intelligence is illuminated by Peter Russell.  Author of the book “The Global Brain Awakens,” Russell, who holds degrees in theoretical physics, computer science and psychology writes:


Western science sometimes finds it difficult to address the notion of emergent orders of existence.  This is because one of the principle ways in which it has tried to understand the world is to break phenomena and processes down into smaller units, using what is called the reductionist approach.  Although valuable in some areas, such as physical chemistry, engineering, and computer programming, it has the drawback that emergent qualities of the whole system are usually lost or not dealt with.”



 A key insight which generated this look into the potential of an emerging Global Brain came from evolution biologist Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris presented at the beginning of this essay:


“We are natural creatures which have evolved inside a great life system.  Whatever we do that is not good for life, the rest of the system will try to undo or balance in any way it can.” 

In addition to calling on us to consider how our actions are adversely affecting nature’s inherent move towards “balance,” it reminds us that we are born out of this evolutionary intelligence, which we forget when stuck in the left-hemisphere’s need to objectify (separate away from) and perceive nature as an object to analyze and take from, rather than grow from within it.

If a Global Brain or Global Mind is emerging out of the self-organizing complexity of the World Wide Web, it will have totally novel, mind-boggling characteristics we can’t even begin to comprehend by adding up all of the elements involved.  For any leap in self-organizing complexity is based on “The Whole being greater than the sum of its parts.”

One way to contemplate it is from the perspective Dr. Sahtouris suggests: “We are natural creatures which have evolved inside a great life system.”  If a Global Brain is emerging, will we will be inside of it, part of its distributive intelligence?  Or as Dr. Goertzel suggests, will it be an advanced form of intelligence independent from us?

Every day billions of us are emailing, tweeting, Google searching, Pushing “Like” buttons on Facebook, uploading and downloading our desires, fears, deep insights, petty differences and spiritual values through digital screens, coursing through fiber optic cables, under oceans, across continents at 134,300 miles per second, beamed up and down form orbiting satellites and back into our brains.

At the same time, quantum computers and genetic engineering are on the verge and climate change is accelerating in ways no human experts or supercomputers can fully predict.

What is emerging?  Are we headed towards the Next Renaissance or Mass Anxiety?

Most likely, both.

Which serves as a reminder of the key insight from Buddhist Teacher Robert Thurman previously discussed in Essays #5, 6 & 7:

“Wisdom is tolerance of cognitive dissonance.”


Wisdom is inherent in Nature’s ability, through self-organizing/Emergence to generate totally new “Wholes” out of the sum of interacting “parts.” And for the first time in evolution here on Earth, self-conscious mammals with unique frontal cortexes and right-hemisphere capabilities for intuitive wisdom and imaginative synaptic leaps, are consciously participating in the next evolutionary shift.

Systems Theorist John Platt offers:

“Anyone who is willing to admit that there have been sudden jumps in evolution or human history, such as the invention of agriculture or the Industrial Revolution, must conclude from this evidence that we are passing through another such jump far more concentrated and more intense than these, and of far greater evolutionary importance.”   

There are good reasons to be optimistic and pessimistic. The Next Renaissance could emerge as well as a Sisyphean nightmare of reactionary fear, materialistic greed and emotional implosion.

Much will depend on what values we, as individuals, and even more importantly, in collaborative groups, decide are most important if we are willing to contemplate:

      NI (Nature’s Intelligence)

            + HI (Human Intelligence) +

                           AI (Computer Intelligence) = ???!!!


As Cyberspace journalist Douglas Rushkoff, whose insights we will be covered in a future Essay, writes:


“The web of inter-connected computer networks provides the ultimate electronic neural extension for the growing mind.  To reckon with this technological frontier of human consciousness means to reevaluate the very nature of information, creativity, property, and human relations.”





Enjoy the following quotes / insights / links



“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”


Scientist & Science Fiction Writer Arthur C. Clark



“What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.”

Theologian, Philosopher, Mystic Meister Eckhart



“For the first time in human evolution, the individual life is long enough, and the cultural transformation swift enough,  that the individual mind is now a constituent player in the the global transformation of human culture.”

Cultural Historian/Philosopher William Irwin Thompson





Essay #6: Gaia Vision



One of the most brilliant, insightful integral thinkers I ever had the chance to converse with was William Irwin Thompson.  He was gracious enough to be a guest on my radio program for two hours back in 2002.

Bill Thompson was a philosopher, cultural historian and founder of the Lindisfarne Association, a network of scientists, artists and religious scholars who got together to discuss what Bill called “Planetary Culture.”  Listening to Bill or reading his work, one gets the sense he has not only read virtually every important book in the humanities and general sciences, but integrated them into a unique, wholistic vision.

What I remember most about radio our conversation was not the content of what he said, but his style which he himself described as “poetic, philosophical mind-jazz” (clearly a right-hemisphere style of thinking).

For this essay I focus one of his essays, “It’s Already Begun, The Planetary Age is an unacknowledged daily reality.”

Written in 1985, it’s relevant for global shifts going on right now and serves as a good view of Bill’s integral mind.


“We live in a culture that we do not see.  We don’t live in industrial civilization; we live in planetization. For example, we all think we live in a world that’s structured according to industrial nation-states that engage in activities of trade and warfare that are weighed and measured by certain quantitative forms. That’s the conscious structure of the world that we call reality. The unconscious structure of the world is that there are all kinds of forms of dark exchange called pollution – atmospheric things like acid rain and the greenhouse effect and changes in the oceans – and that these are the integrations that are bringing us all together. We are in an implosive situation of planetary integration, but where is the planetary culture expressed?”


The key reference here is to “the unconscious.”  Most academic disciplines are limited to what can be seen and felt consciously.  But it’s been an accepted scientific fact that some 95 percent of our behavior is generated by the unconscious.  When Bill refers to the “quantitative forms” which can be “weighed and measured” as the “conscious structure of the world we call reality,” he is alluding to what we now know as the limitation of the left-hemisphere of our brains which is not comfortable with and often blind to the less predictable, less measurable, but significantly more influential qualities of the unconscious which need to be brought into light.


Emerging Signals

Bill then goes on to make the right-hemisphere insight that phenomena such as greenhouse gases and acid rain can be seen from the depth psychological level as signals rising out of the collective unconscious and forming a more visible planetary vison. Bill’s insights in this essay came when the internet was a not a highly usable tool by the general public, before the world wide web was even created.

He expands on the essence of the emerging “planetary culture:”


“And it’s expressed with those people who are sensitive to the unconscious, who live at the membrane between the culture’s conscious system, called civilization and writing and literacy, and those who face the intuitive dimensions of the unconscious. These are the artists. These are the prophets…. There is also planetary culture in the forms of electronic communication, of the whole grid of satellites that enables us to exist in forms that have nothing to do with the reality of the industrial nation-state.”


Again, we see right-hemisphere qualities being elevated with reference to “intuitive dimensions of the unconscious.”  As discussed in previous essays here, unconscious impulses are much better absorbed and understood by the adaptive, empathic, non-verbal, expanded vision qualities of the right hemisphere (what psychotherapist Allan Schore calls “the essential right-brain process of non-conscious affect regulation”), the ability to integrate emotion and meaning into a larger vision.

It’s also useful to note that Bill met with and was influenced by the communications theorist Marshall McLuhan, whose insights into technology as extensions of the human mind and body are featured in Essays #3&4.

Bill writes,


 “We are now at the stage where there is an unconscious form of shadowed integration, where we are living in a planetary culture, but we are trying to describe it and weigh it and measure it in all the systems of consciousness of industrial values, industrial structures and industrial nation-states. This creates an incredible cognitive dissonance.”


Aha!  Again, we bump into the phrase, “cognitive dissonance.”  When this website first went online, we posted the quote of Buddhist teacher Robert Thurman, our first webinar guest:

“Wisdom is the tolerance of cognitive dissonance.” 

This psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance was again referenced in the previous two essays, relating to Arthur C. Clark’s explanation for HAL’s brain imploding in 2001: A Space Odyssey and relating to the therapeutic and spiritual power of the enduring Yin/Yang symbol.  Cognitive dissonance refers to the psychological pressure felt when holding two or more contradictory thoughts, values or beliefs at the same time.  This pressure will most likely cause us to end the conflict by choosing one thought or value or belief.  But as Robert Thurman suggests, tolerating the “dissonance”, holding the apparently contradictory thoughts in the mind can lead to a greater truth.

Bill Thompson brings up cognitive dissonance in reference to the situation that in 1985 (still true today) most people were viewing the world through the lens of the industrial age whereas a number of intuitive right-hemisphere thinkers were tuning into an emergent global mind-set percolating up from the collective unconscious, a shift  into a new ‘planetary culture.’


“So right now, everything in our content of consciousness is industrial nation-state, traditional forms, the modern world that we have had since 1500. And we keep bumping into things. We bump into the atmosphere. We bump into people. We bump into Indians. We bump into Russians. We bump into Shiites or Palestinians. And we keep wondering, what the hell’s going on? The maps don’t work. Where are we?”


Bill was anticipating the situation we are in now as TV screens, Websites and newspapers send out pictures and commentary on culture-bending issues from Women’s Right and Blacks Live Matter to Immigration Reform and, the shape-shifter of them all, Climate Change.  While these are specific political and social issues on the one hand (left-hemisphere focus), they are also, as integral thinkers like Bill Thompson point out, deep-seated, invisible rumblings from the collective unconscious signaling a seismic shift to a more integrated, digitally networked, planetary culture (right hemisphere).



From Civilization to Planetization

“You can’t fix civilization. Civilization is militarization. So, the first thing you have to have is a transformation of consciousness. You have to move from civilization to planetization and realize the world we are really living in, where we are all mutually involved in one another.”

This “transformation of consciousness” clearly happened in the late 1960’s when horrific images of innocent Vietnamese men, women and children being napalmed were transmitted onto millions of TV screens in living rooms across the country were credited as a pivotal point in changing the public’s view of that war.

And in 2010, a Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, trying to sell enough fruit to feed his family, was ordered by police to hand over his cart because he lacked a permit.  Humiliated and despondent, he protested by setting himself on fire in front of a government building.  His act was captured by cellphones, posted on the Internet and quickly set off what is now referred to as the “Arab Spring,” a series of powerful, expanding protests which forced the resignation of political despots and uprisings across the Middle East.


“Once you begin to see what’s really going on in the world, you won’t see the future. Forget about prophecies. We’re just talking about what’s happening now. When you look at the stars, you know you’re seeing the past. But maybe in the soul, when an event happened ‘out there,’ you would know it in your heart even though the light would take time to come to you. So, there are times when you look out at history and read the newspapers, but you don’t really see what’s going on. Then you imagine these fantasies of prophecies about the future far, far away, but all of those prophecies of the future are the actual daily news. Your heart is telling you what’s going on.”


Here is Bill integrating astrophysics, relativity, the human psyche, history, spiritual values and media theory all in one paragraph.  There’s a key point here he makes about the false distinctions we’ve been taught regarding past, present and future.  It’s not the straight line, clearly marked linear graphs in the history textbooks we were tested on in school.  By tuning into what’s actually going on right now (requiring both the conscious, empirical, quantitative level of left-hemisphere focus AND the intuitive, imaginative, unconscious knowing of the right-hemisphere) we actually see the future by paying deep attention to the present.


Gaia Politique

Bill’s essay ends with:

“I think the politics of the 90’s will be the emergence of a Gaia politique. That’s not America; that’s the planet. That’s all of us.”

First, while “industrialization” was still the ruling vision of the 1990’s (it seemed every week there was yet another corporate CEO being celebrated on the cover of Time Magazine for their ability to increase profits), the 1990’s, influenced under the surface and above by the emerging World Wide Web, can now be seen as a significant global rallying cry for environmental sanity. A few examples:

1990:  the UN issues its first report on Climate Change;

1991:  Sweden becomes the first nation to develop a carbon tax;

1997: Julia Butterfly Hill, protesting the logging of historic redwood trees in California, climbs up one of the trees and lives above ground on it for two years.

This last event speaks to how the influence of one person, despite no visible political or financial power platform, but by living on a small wooden platform high on Redwood tree branches, can, with good timing and deep soul-commitment, change the perception of millions of people.

Some highlights of Julia Butterfly Hill‘s  protest which affected global consciousness:

  • To insure the 1500-year-old tree would not be cut down by the Pacific Lumber Company as planned, Julia lived on two 6 by 6-foot platforms above ground;
  • She almost never washed her feet so that the sap from the tree could help her feet stick better to the branches;
  • She used a small propane stove for heat and cooking; a support crew of eight brought in survival supplies which Julia pulled up on ropes;
  • She put with freezing rains, El Nino high winds, and a ten-day siege by Pacific Lumber Company security guards as well as helicopter harassment;
  • She used solar powered cell phones for radio interviews and was named “in-tree” correspondent for a cable TV show;
  • Her protest was resolved when the lumber company agreed to preserve the tree along with other redwoods within a 200-foot radius.

When Julia Butterfly Hill climbed onto that tree, 97 percent of the redwood forest, which once stretched 400 miles, had been cut down for lumber (literally the left-hemisphere not seeing the forest for the trees…or not caring about the forest and just seeing the material profit from the trees).

But one physically frail woman stopped the total destruction and added a powerful spark to the global environmental movement.  She was quoted afterwards:

“When I entered the great majestic cathedral of the redwood forest for the first time, my spirit knew it had found what it was searching for. I dropped to my knees and began to cry, because I was so overwhelmed by the wisdom, energy, and spirituality housed in this holiest of temples.”

Julia’s spiritual act absorbs Bill Thompson’s insight, “You can’t fix civilization. Civilization is militarization. So, the first thing you have to have is a transformation of consciousness. You have to move from civilization to planetization and realize the world we are really living in, where we are all mutually involved in one another.”


Shifting Consciousness

In his essay, “The End of the Age of Religion and the Birth of Symbiotic Consciousness” Bill writes,

“The linearity of left-brain thinking was now to be balanced with a right-brain activation.” 

More specifically, he imagines the potential integration of neuroscience, depth psychology and philosophy:

“The brain may be a three-dimensional volume, but neurons in separate parts of the brain can fire together in the neuronal synchrony of the range of 40 Hertz. The geometry of the synchronies engages as facets of the higher-dimensional geometries of the subtle bodies—where both the Dalai Lama and Rudolf Steiner say memory is stored—so the play of consciousness should not simply be reduced to a section of the brain3. Cultures have in the past called this process of consciousness, imagination or intuition, but whatever one calls it, it is basic to the creative process in art, science and spiritual contemplative practice.” 

In the Mission Statement of this website we cite one of the crucial shifts for the 21st century being “from individual intelligence to collaborative intelligence.”  This “collaborative” synergy is with other human minds AND also with nature’s inherent patterns of flow and integration.

This shift requires more imagination, which means we are less interested in the practical results, more tuned into the emerging, self-organizing oscillations of change expressing the deeper meanings of the planetary shift rumbling under our feet and setting off new synaptic leaps within our brains.



Whether or not Bill is right about the details he offers about the shift from civilization to planetization is secondary to the effect of his right-brain oriented, imaginative integration of cultural history, science, art, philosophy, and spiritual awareness.

“Militarization” and territorial aggression are the dark side of the left hemisphere’s need for certainty and its inability to see past its own substantial, but limited wiring.

This was revealed in a seminal book published in 1966: “The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations” by Robert Ardrey details the mammalian brain’s instinct to defend its boundaries against any perceived threat, real or not. In us humans in led to a left hemisphere tight focus on property ownership and empire expansion legitimized as necessary protection against invaders

Of course, it hasn’t been determined yet whether we humans will in great enough numbers shift our consciousness from the “territorial imperative” to a more right-hemisphere “planetization” instinct Bill Thompson called for and sensed was percolating under the surface of the 24-hour news cycle.

The Key Point:

What makes great right-hemisphere thinkers is not being  highly accurate or proven right,
but able to stimulate the imagination
and creatively expand the blueprint of the next paradigm shift.

In 1978, the New York Times aptly described the big picture integral  mind of William Irwin Thompson in a review titled “Prophet In the Mode:” 

“W1LLIAM IRWIN THOMPSON wants people to think big. Instead of worrying about tomorrow, he would prefer them to worry about all of human history. He would like them to give up their “small” preoccupation with paychecks, marriages or personal mortality in order to speculate about the influence of sunspots on civilization, or to consider a curious analogy he suggests between the life‐cycle of cultures and the initiatory stages of the lumined yogi.”


William Irwin Thompson, one of the most brilliant, spiritually-driven intellects of the modern age, died last December on the winter solstice.  Leave it to Bill to have his spirit depart on such a transformational, liminal time of the year.




The following poem, which connects nature’s majestic redwood trees to some of the great visionary and artistic minds which have passed on is written by Victoria Sullivan, the poet laureate of the radio talk show, The WoodstockRoundtable, which I host on Radio Woodstock, 100.1FM.



Charles Bukowski
William Burroughs
Allen Ginsberg
Albert Camus
Leo Tolstoy
Zelda Fitzgerald
Samuel Beckett
These are my mighty dead
These and so many more:
the trees fall in the forest, and I hear them,
redwoods, ancient redwoods,
echoes of greatness
carried in the wind, like
William Butler Yeats
James Joyce
William Blake
James Baldwin
Langston Hughes—
& others, so many others…
the giants of history
Like Churchill and Lincoln
& Mandela
and Native Americans
Crazy Horse & Sitting Bull, Geronimo,
Stumbling along the trail of tears
The mighty dead, the mighty dead
They sing a song of blood & loss,
The mighty dead.
Their cries & sighs reverberate
like a migraine
like a knife to the chest
The mighty dead march on
in the very air around us,
if we hear their music


if we whistle their song
pluck their strings
blow their horn.
I want the voice of Edith Piaf
of Annie Lenox, Janis Joplin
Willie Nelson
Tom Waits
I want a voice that shivers on the spine.
Give me a voice to sing of the mighty dead.
They visit me at night in smoky dreams,
the air thick, they don’t want our tears.
They want our faith. They say that mighty souls
unborn are yet to come. The mighty dead
have not died in vain. Their laughter
and their pain carry us on to other battlefields,
not for wars this time—so crude a method, no,
now we march into the brightest light:
places we have never been or seen.
The mighty dead wait for us to truly live,
and that will be their mighty legacy.

                                                                            Victoria Sullivan November 2020


WPS Reading-March 14th, 2020 2pm








Essay #5 Yin/Yang & the Hemispheres of the Brain



“A spiral, folding within itself….”

Light and Dark submerging within and emerging from out of each other….

Unconscious and Conscious thoughts, feelings, urges interweaving….

The Yin/Yang symbol of the Tao, one of the most enduring in the perennial philosophy, is a great diving off point for contemplating a shift in emphasis to the right hemisphere of our brains in order to regain our emotional/psychological/spiritual balance here in the 21st century.

Soon after choosing philosophy as my college major, I encountered this symbol for the first time while browsing in a college book store. Over 50 years later, I’m still mesmerized by both its simplicity and complexity all at once.

On the “explicate” level, it’s relatively simple:  black and white sections of a circle divided evenly by a spiral, a white dot within the black, a black dot within the white.

But the deeper “implicit” levels are what stopped me in my tracks (although I had no reason why)  and are the powerful magnetic pull that has made it one of the most enduring symbols in human evolution.

As brought up in previous essays, the left hemisphere of our brains is skilled at breaking things down into smaller parts and analyzing how they are put together (explicit).  The right hemisphere is wired to get a bigger picture or deeper “implicit” meaning which often can’t be best explained in words, but understood at an intuitively felt level.

A common phrase used to define what the yin/yang symbol represents is “Unity of opposites.”  On the explicate level, the black and white sections can be perceived as two opposing forces.  On the implicate level, according to many Taoist accounts, the opposing forces are generated from an underlying, unseen unity/harmony.

So, at the explicate level, yin/yang can reflect a constant pattern of conflict, opposition and competition. From the perspective of the right hemisphere, as taught through the millennia by more intuitive philosophers and spiritual sages, the spiral within the circle reflects a continuous flow between the black and the white which co-exist in an underlying harmony.

Diving into the Spiraling Wave

As with many explorations of ancient Asian wisdom, I turn to one of the most gifted teachers at evoking this wisdom and applying it to our modern age:  Alan Watts.

He once stated:

“The yin/yang symbol is a spiral folding within itself.”


With this perspective, let’s dive in.

Often a good place to start when exercising right hemisphere modes of perception is a teaching tale.  Here is one of the most famous Taoist stories, as written in Alan Watts’ book Tao:  The Watercourse Way:


“There was a farmer whose horse ran away. That evening the neighbors gathered to commiserate with him since this was such bad luck. He said, “May be.”

The next day the horse returned, but brought with it six wild horses, and the neighbors came exclaiming at his good fortune. He said, “May be.”

And then, the following day, his son tried to saddle and ride one of the wild horses, was thrown, and broke his leg.

Again, the neighbors came to offer their sympathy for the misfortune. He said, “May be.”

The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to seize young men for the army, but because of the broken leg the farmer’s son was rejected. When the neighbors came in to say how fortunately everything had turned out, he said, “May be.”  


You can hear Alan Watts talking about yin/yang here.


He comments on the fact that the symbol contains a white dot in the black pattern and a black dot in the white pattern:

“Obviously black and white are as different as different can be…but strangely black is white in a strange sense. And white is black…because black implies white and white implies black. All positive implies negative and negative implies positive. Because you can’t have the one without the other. To put this into clear words we can say explicatively, black and white are different. But implicitly…they are one. So outwardly, the positive and negative of life are very different.  Life is different from death and good is different from evil. But esoterically, secretively, they are one.”

“Thus, rather than seeing nature as a conquest between opposing forces, the cold vs the heat, the light vs the dark, the day vs the night, man vs woman, the principle of the Yin-Yang is that of mutually-arising. That is to say, to adopt an organic view of nature and appreciate the underlying unity behind the apparent duality.

To demonstrate cooperation and harmony in all the various phenomena of nature.”


Nature’s Expression of Yin/Yang

Contemplating down to an individual atom, the building block of nature, we find the unity underlying the apparent opposition: Each atom contains a proton with a positive charge and electrons with negative charge.

At its core, nature generates symmetry through opposites attracting and like repelling.

In the plant world, we easily get entranced by the beauty of the flowers and the trunk, branches and leaves of a tree reaching up towards the sunlight. But that is only half the story.













As beautiful as these photos are, they leave out ½ of the whole picture…As if being captivated by the white section of the yin/yang symbol, being blind to the dark section.

The missing part?  The roots pushing deep into the dark muck of the earth for sustenance, without which the trees we see in the above photographs couldn’t exist, a vivid example of the “explicit” (left hemisphere) being overemphasized to such a degree that the “implicit” roots of life are forgotten.

And science is now telling us that at the “root” level, trees communicate with each in life-enhancing ways. As described in the article published by Smithsonian Magazine, “Do Trees Talk to Each Other?” based on observations by German forester Peter Wohlleben,

“A revolution has been taking place in the scientific understanding of trees, and Wohlleben is the first writer to convey its amazements to a general audience. The latest scientific studies, conducted at well-respected universities in Germany and around the world, confirm what he has long suspected from close observation in this forest: Trees are far more alert, social, sophisticated—and even intelligent—than we thought…”

The article goes on to confirm a significant understanding of evolution:

“Since Darwin, we have generally thought of trees as striving, disconnected loners, competing for water, nutrients and sunlight, with the winners shading out the losers and sucking them dry. The timber industry in particular sees forests as wood-producing systems and battlegrounds for survival of the fittest.

There is now a substantial body of scientific evidence that refutes that idea. It shows instead that trees of the same species are communal…These soaring columns of living wood draw the eye upward to their outspreading crowns, but the real action is taking place underground, just a few inches below our feet.

“Some are calling it the ‘wood-wide web,’ says Wohlleben.”


The “wood-wide web” clearly includes both underground at the root level as well above ground.

At the same time evidence such as the “wood-wide web,” as detailed in the Smithsonian Magazine article, reveals nature is much more collaborative than competitive, culturally we are still stuck in the constrained paradigm that evolution is based on a ‘survival of the fittest’ based on material gains and competition. The yin/yang symbol reflects the need for collaborative harmony, not getting stuck in the explicate at the cost of missing the implicate.


Wave Theory




At the deep, implicit level of what many ancient Asian sages were tuned into, Yin and Yang, dark and light, can’t be well understood taken separately.  As Alan Watts pointed out, the spiral which visually separates them in the symbol is “folding in on itself.”  So, if we imagine the symbol in motion, the black and white sections would be submerging into and emerging out of each other, understandable only as a ‘mutual whole.’

There is another powerful example we’ve all shared that can tune into a deeper understanding of this underlying ‘mutual whole’………. Watching waves rise and fall as they approach the shoreline.

On the visual, explicit level, we can distinguish one wave from another as they rise out of the surface.  Each wave is clearly separate from the others.  But are they?

It’s virtually impossible to accurately measure where an individual wave begins and ends. For at the moment of the measurement, the wave has shifted its position from the ocean out of which it emerges.  And while at the explicit level, we can see general dimensions as the wave rises and falls, did the visual wave ever fully separate itself from the ocean as a whole?

It can’t.  For beneath the surface of the water each wave is being shaped and formed by the underlying tidal forces not just locally, but throughout the entire undersea tidal dynamics of the ocean at large.

So, at the same time a surfer can choose to ride one particular wave over another and we can distinguish each wave from others, in reality each wave is intricately woven into the expansive push/pull currents of the entire ocean.

The importance of understanding the deeper dynamic of wave/ocean is noted by Alan Watts:

“This (the yin/yang symbol) implies that the art of life is more like navigation than warfare, for what is important is to understand the winds, the tides, the currents, the seasons, and the principles of growth and decay, so that one’s actions may use them and not fight them.

At the very roots of ancient Chinese thinking and feeling there lies the principle of polarity, which is not to be confused with the ideas of opposition or conflict. In the metaphors of other cultures, light is at war with darkness, life with death, good with evil, and the positive with the negative, and thus an idealism to cultivate the former and be rid of the latter flourishes throughout much of the world.”




Riding the Quantum Wave

As previously mentioned, the ancient yin/yang symbol is one of the keystones of the perennial philosophy, those transcendent insights that continue to spark the continuing search for deep, edifying patterns of existence.  While primarily an insight in philosophy and spiritual teachings, the yin/yang symbol has influenced science as well.

Niels Bohr, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist whose institute in Copenhagen was the main center for development of quantum physics, was offered a Danish knighthood in 1947. One of the perks was the opportunity to construct a personal coat of arms.  Bohr chose as its central image:  The yin/yang symbol.

This is quite interesting to our topic since it was Bohr who created the most enduring philosophical interpretation of the mysterious contradictions inherent in quantum physics.  Despite the fact that quantum physics is the most successful scientific theory ever (responsible for the current computer driven digital age), at its core, confirmed by multiple experiments, is the bizarre mystery that at the subatomic level an entity such as a photon (which makes up light) or an electron (which makes up electricity)  can be either a particle or a wave, depending on how the experiment is set up.

This makes no logical sense.  A particle has finite, discernible boundaries–a wave is diffused and has no clear boundaries.  How could anything be neither definitively one or the other, but potentially either one?

As physicist David Harrison describes the mystery of Wave/particle duality and Bohr’s philosophical vision called “complementarity:” 

“We can think of an electron as a wave or we can think of an electron as a particle, but we cannot think of it as both at once. But in some sense the electron is both at once. Being able to think of these two viewpoints at once is in some sense being able to understand Quantum Mechanics.”

To think of “two viewpoints at once” connects beautifully to Buddhist teacher Robert Thurman’s statement, cited previously on this website:

“Wisdom is tolerance of cognitive dissonance.”  

In other words, by holding the opposing viewpoints of Wave/particle duality, or for that matter, the dark and light characteristics of yin/yang in the mind, rather than choosing or defaulting to one or the another, we get a fuller sense of how life operates.

No wonder one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century, Niels Bohr, chose the yin/yang symbol for his coat of arms honor. He was adopting the symbols inherent call:  To understand that what appear to be opposing forces (Wave/particle duality) are, at the deeper level of reality, reflections of an unseen, unified flow.

Note:  During the development of quantum physics, its most brilliant creators, Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Dirac, Planck, et al, devoted energetic conversation to the mysterious, esoteric philosophical revelations of the quantum world as well as the practical, observable, provable results.  But as is all too common in the Western mind by the 1950’s, the next generation of quantum physicists consciously discarded philosophizing about the deeper meaning of quantum reality (right-hemisphere) to focus entirely on achieving practical advances in quantum technology (left-hemisphere).  This left-hemisphere mind-set to forget about deep meaning and focus on practical results was captured in a quote attributed to physicist David Mermin, which became the operating mantra:

“Shut Up and Calculate!”

(The right-hemisphere might counter with ‘Open Up and Contemplate.’)

While admiring and enjoying the benefits of this left-hemisphere focus (personal computers, laser medical devices, smartphones), we can at the same time point to the crucial human need for deeper meaning and existential insight. (Fortunately, this has always re-surfaced on occasion, examples being Fritz Capra’s brilliant integration of quantum physics and ancient Asian mysticism, “The Tao of Physics” , Quantum physicist David Bohm, Einstein’s protégé, whose contemplation of underlying  unity inspired his 1980  book “Wholeness and the Implicate Order” and, in the 21st century, the Nobel-Prize winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek who wrote:

My 10th key to reality, which emerges from but in some ways transcends science, turned out to be ‘Complementarity is Mind-Expanding.’ Complementarity is an attitude toward life that I’ve found eye-opening and extremely helpful. It has, literally, changed my mind. Through it, I’ve become larger: more open to imagination, and more tolerant.”




Brain Patterns & Flow

We’ve all been in that wonderful, great-feeling, highly productive brain state of “flow,” where linear time seems to disappear and we move effortlessly towards a successful goal.  It’s been commented on by artists, athletes, writers, scientists, musicians and business leaders.

The ancient “spiraling within itself” image of yin and yang clearly reflect a flow inherent in the world and now modern science can explain some of flow’s origins in our brains.

An article on Peak Performance published in TIME Magazine stated,

“Over the past decade, scientists have made enormous progress on flow. Advancements in brain imaging technologies have allowed us to apply serious metrics where once was only subjective experience…

The state emerges from a radical alteration in normal brain function. In flow, as attention heightens, the slower and energy-expensive extrinsic system (conscious processing) is swapped out for the far faster and more efficient processing of the subconscious, intrinsic system.”

The quoted material above is packed with interesting allusions to right-hemisphere wiring:


  • On the one hand, it points to “being in flow” as requiring a shift from “extrinsic system” qualities more associated with left-hemisphere thinking towards the “processing of the subconscious, intrinsic system,” more associated with right-hemisphere thinking.


  • When we are ‘in the flow state’ our brain doesn’t slow down to break down and analyze different strategies (left-hemisphere characteristic). As the article states, when we are “in flow, the result is liberation [from second guessing]. We act without hesitation. Creativity becomes more free-flowing, risk taking becomes less frightening, and the combination lets us flow at a far faster clip” (right-hemisphere characteristics).


The article then describes the shift in brain wave states which induce this experience:

“In flow, we shift from the fast-moving beta wave of waking consciousness down to the far slower borderline between alpha and theta. Alpha is day-dreaming mode—when we slip from idea to idea without much internal resistance. Theta, meanwhile, only shows up during REM or just before we fall asleep, in that hypnogogic gap where ideas combine in truly radical ways.”

The “day dreaming” alpha wave mode and even deeper theta wave mode are much more effectively processed by the right hemisphere’s openness to totally novel, boundary-shaking messages from the subconscious than the left hemisphere’s predilection for more objective, familiar language.

(Note: As for the even deeper theta brain wave state, I address this in the next Essay:  The Creative Power of Dreams)




As Dr. Iain McGilchrist writes in “The Master and his Emissary:  The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World,”

the book which is a major influence on this Right Brain Network website:

So, the left hemisphere needs certainty and needs to be right. The right hemisphere makes it possible to hold several ambiguous possibilities in suspension together without premature closure on one outcome.” 

This insight is connected on a deep level to Robert Thurman’s, previously mentioned:

“Wisdom is the tolerance of cognitive dissonance.”


Note: Robert Thurman and Iain McGilchrist were the first two guests on our webinar series “What Are We Thinking?  A Trip into the Right Hemisphere of the Human Brain.”






As we encounter the challenge of the sped up, digitalized, globalized, network-connected 21st century, slowing down our brain waves from the hyperactive beta state to the more reflective, intuitive, open-minded right-hemisphere feels like a much-needed shift.

And if we see the yin/yang symbol as a metaphor for our brain, it can be imagined as pointing to the need for whole-brain thinking, with the two hemispheres working more in concert.  Given the well-researched, well thought-out premise of Iain McGilchrist’s “The Master and his Emissary:  “The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World:” Western culture has been dominated for centuries by the overly self-assured, technologically oriented left hemisphere, then to achieve whole brain thinking requires a re-balancing shift to a more right hemisphere perception of the deep, powerful patterns of change occurring under the surface of the anxiety-producing 24-hour news cycle.

The yin/yang symbol, apparent oppositions folding in and out of one another, reflecting an implicit Flow & Unity underneath, is much more capable of being felt and understood in the right-hemisphere of our brains’ ability to tune into the alpha and theta brain wave frequencies, to intuit the Whole and not just the parts, to understand collaboration has a greater presence in nature than does competition, to see beyond materialism to the deeper, more pervasive non-material pattern of existence.



Enjoy exploring this week’s quotes and links:


“At heart, science is the quest for awesome – the literal awe that you feel when you understand something profound for the first time. It’s a feeling we are all born with, although it often gets lost as we grow up and more mundane concerns take over our lives.”

Sean Carroll,  Theoretical Physicist



“The materialistic consciousness of our culture … is the root cause of the global crisis; it is not our business ethics, our politics or even our personal lifestyles. These are symptoms of a deeper underlying problem. Our whole civilization is unsustainable. And the reason that it is unsustainable is that our value system, the consciousness with which we approach the world, is an unsustainable mode of consciousness.”

 Peter Russell, author, “The Global Brain”


“Dialogue is a space where we may see the assumptions which lay beneath the surface of our thoughts, assumptions which drive us, assumptions around which we build organizations, create economies, form nations and religions. These assumptions become habitual, mental habits that drive us, confuse us and prevent our responding intelligently to the challenges we face every day. “


David Bohm, Quantum Physicist/Philosopher