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Biological and Spiritual Growth with Joseph Chilton Pearce

The Intuition Network, A Thinking Allowed Television Underwriter, presents the following transcript from the series Thinking Allowed, Conversations On the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery, with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove.


JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. Our topic this evening is the development of intelligence, and my guest, Joseph Chilton Pearce, is an expert in the development of intelligence. He has developed a theory along these lines which he has written about in five different books, including The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, Magical Child, and Magical Child Matures, his most recent book. These books have been translated into eight languages. Joseph, welcome.

JOSEPH CHILTON PEARCE: Thank you, Jeffrey.

MISHLOVE: It's a pleasure to have you here.

PEARCE: It's a pleasure to be here.

MISHLOVE: In your book Magical Child, you suggest that there is some kind of human potential in the child, in the human organism, that gets stifled by our child-rearing practices, by our educational practices. Why don't we begin there? Perhaps you can elaborate on that.

PEARCE: Well, we hear constantly that we only use a small percentage of our full potential, and this has become just kind of a bandied-about term. We hear it all the time; we tend to ignore it. Some recent information came out from, I think, Cornell Medical School -- I just got the research in, and got blown away by the research, and can't remember the exact citation. It points out that the capacity or ability of the brain to think, to learn, to adapt and all, is determined not so much by just the neurons, the major cells that make up the new brain certainly, but by the neural connections between the neurons -- the dendrites and axons and all those things. It's like it's not a matter of how many good offices you have, but what is the communication network of telephone lines between them, that determines the efficiency of the office. The more lines you have, the more efficiency you have; the more lines of communication between the cells of the brain, the more efficiency the brain has, the more intelligence it will display.

MISHLOVE: In other words, we've got about twelve billion neurons or so.

PEARCE: A lot more than that, I think.

MISHLOVE: But each neuron might connect to a thousand others, or ten thousand others.

PEARCE: Well, yes, you run into the neighborhood of quadrillions and trillions of these neural connectors, you see.

MISHLOVE: Synapses.

PEARCE: All that. Now, at eighteen months of age, when a little toddler's head is about one-third adult size, he has the full number of neuronal connectors that we have as adults, same number. By age six, that child has four to five, and sometimes greater, times more neuronal connections than we have - four to five times more than we have as adults, or than he had at eighteen months - a fantastic neural mass of networks prepared to match or adapt to or imprint to any conceivable kind of model given the child at all.

MISHLOVE: One might think that a six-year-old, then, would be able to learn much better than an older adult.

PEARCE: Well, a six-year-old is able to adapt to, modify to, modulate to, imprint to anything. That is, the capacities of the brain at that point are infinite beyond all infant calculations. Now, you see, he's ready to imprint to the whole social body of knowledge, the whole social idea system of his world, all the ideas of his limitations, his capacities, and everything else. At age twelve, a chemical is released by the brain and starts dissolving that neural mass that has not been activated by being given the proper stimulus of models, people, exemplars out there, who represent these capacities for the child.

MISHLOVE: In other words, if the neural pathways aren't being used, then they atrophy.

PEARCE: No, they don't atrophy. They get dissolved, all of a sudden, with a chemical released into the brain. They'll get dissolved, and literally absorbed into the cerebrospinal fluid, and become just kind of food for the rest of the brain. Now, what protects the neural connectors is a fatty sheathing called myelination, and myelination takes place any time these neural networks are involved in patterning, according to the nature of the stimuli given them by a model out there in the world. Do you follow what I mean? I mean, Mama comes along, she uses French language, then that immediately will start myelinating the patterns of the brain according to that unique pattern above all patterns.

MISHLOVE: As I recall, the study of Einstein's brain indicated that he had more of this myelination on his nerve tissues.

PEARCE: Well, myelination is the key; sure, you find that. And by age six, then, the child has this infinite capacity of adapting to any kind of pattern given. Eighty percent of that neural brain mass is dissolved by age fourteen from disuse.

MISHLOVE: Eighty percent! That's astonishing.

PEARCE: Eighty percent. Now, that's what has just come out, after many, many years of some of the most painstaking work, I guess, that's ever been done in medical research. Now, you then have an adult brain which has at its disposal only twenty percent of the potential which it had at age six, and not just one but at least a dozen research papers have come out over the past ten years which have shown that of that twenty percent remaining as an adult brain, we utilize approximately five percent of it. So you're dealing with an approximate one percent of our potential that we ever utilize. That is on the new brain, the neocortex -- not so with the two ancient, primitive animal brains, and we'll talk about that in a minute.

MISHLOVE: Your theory involves what you call the triune brain system.

PEARCE: Well, yes. Any theory of the brain has to include that now, because Paul McLean's work at the National Institute of Mental Health's Brain Research Center is not even theoretical. That's pure, hard-core research. You can't deny it.

MISHLOVE: Perhaps we could just explain what those three portions of the brain are.

PEARCE: All right. We have three brains in our skulls, not one, and they're three uniquely separate, distinct brain structures, those developed throughout all evolutionary history on earth. We have a reptilian brain, which includes our spinal cord and the brain stem, which is identical to the brain found in all reptiles. We just have a little bit bigger one, a slightly more elaborate one, but essentially the same structure. That's our sensorimotor brain, Jeffrey, as you well know. And superimposed on that is the great limbic structure, which we share with all mammals, and that's our emotional-cognitive brain, that handles emotional energies. Now, emotional energy proves to be the most awesome thing in the universe. Emotional energy is the energy that hold all patterns in their pattern form, that relates everything together in our life. Emotional energy pulls everything into its formal relationship and maintains all relationship.

MISHLOVE: The great glue of the universe.

PEARCE: The great glue of the universe, the great bonding power of the universe, is this emotional energy. And then, superimposed over that, is the neocortex, which occupies eighty percent of the skull, five times bigger than the two animal brain structures. And that's our thinking brain, our intellectual brain. That's the one we use five percent of, that's the one that loses eighty percent of its neural mass at adolescence, but the two animal brains we utilize one hundred percent of, and they never lose anything.

MISHLOVE: When people talk about the right and left halves of the brain, they refer to the new brain.

PEARCE: They're referring to the new brain. You get into a lot of nonsense about the right and left half business, which I don't really care to go into. But the issue is, as McLean has clearly shown, the vast bulk of our ego awareness -- our personality, our awareness of selves in the world -- translates into our awareness through the two animal brains, and only the tiniest fragment of it through the intellectual brain.

MISHLOVE: I'm gathering, from what you said earlier about the brain tissue dissolving, that it must be very crucial in certain stages of the child's development that they get a lot of stimulation.

PEARCE: Surely, and it depends on what kind of stimulation, you see. Hilgard at Stanford, as you know, said around about age seven the child becomes acutely susceptible to suggestion, of the ideas implicit in his society -- that is, the ideas his society gives him of his place in the universe, what the whole show is about, his capacities, his limitations, and so on -- and imprints to those through his intellectual brain.


PEARCE: Values, yes, but the values as they apply to his relationships, which means the way the new brain is then going to influence the emotional brain that he shares with all mammals.

MISHLOVE: That's interesting. It suggests that we basically become acculturated through a form of hypnosis.

PEARCE: If you want to call it that. But the issue is that we imprint, our brain imprints, and makes all its neural patterns, according to the suggestions given. They don't even have to be spelled out to the child. They can be psychologically implied within the child's whole ambient. Now, that brings up another point, Jeffrey, and that is a whole raft of recent studies have shown that fully ninety-five percent of all learning and memory that the brain lays down in that neural patterning takes place beneath conscious awareness. Only five percent of those neural patterns will result from all of our training of our children, all of our disciplines of our children. All of our teaching of them, and so on, can only account for about five percent.

MISHLOVE: That is, we're unconscious of most of what we impart to our children.

PEARCE: Totally. Ninety-five percent of what the child is picking up from us, we're not aware of and the child is not aware of, and there are a lot of good, solid reasons for that, and they're all physiological. I mean, none of it's occult or just hypothesis; we know how this thing works. So it means that if you look at what most of us think about our child, we want a better world for our child than we've had. We don't want our child to have the bad behaviors that we have had. We want him to avoid the pitfalls we've fallen into, and we want them to have a lot more the few joys we've had, and not know all of miseries we've had. So immediately, the minute they can use language, Jeffrey, we start prescribing to them the behaviors that we intellectually think might help them to avoid all the pitfalls. Now, we're trying to prescribe verbally, through our teaching, prescriptions for their behavior that will help them to keep from being who we actually are.

MISHLOVE: But our nonverbal signals are just the opposite. They are who we actually are.

PEARCE: But the child is simply imprinting with ninety-five percent of the whole psychic machinery of the brain to our states of being - to who we are physically, who we actually are emotionally, and to who we actually are intellectually. And every intellectual ideal I have of myself - "I am no good, I'm isolated, I'm estranged, I don't work in the world, and I'm this, that, and the other" - the child is automatically imprinting through this non-conscious, or non-aware - certainly it's a conscious process, but we're not aware of it, the child isn't aware of it.

MISHLOVE: Particularly, I gather, self-esteem.

PEARCE: Oh, any of these things. The slightest suggestion, you see, becomes sort of the command of the child in this respect, and particularly in all of this our emotional states, because we know that the child is imprinting to our emotional states continually through that emotional-cognitive brain structure. Now, of course they do a lot of imprinting to our physical postures, stances, and gestures, but those are almost incidental compared to the overwhelming power of the intellectual-emotional.

MISHLOVE: It sounds like what you're saying reflects the old Biblical saying, "The sins of the father shall be visited... "

PEARCE: "Visited on the third and fourth." The father eats sour grapes, and it sets the son's teeth on edge to the third and fourth generation, too. Indeed it does. Now, the other tragedy of this, though - that would all be simple, but you see, the five percent of our prescriptions for the child's behavior, which he has to try to follow, because the child is driven by one of his greatest instinctual intents, to follow the model of the parent, or the teacher, or whoever it is in the society, at all costs. And really we don't believe this, but he's trying desperately to follow our models with that five percent. But since we're telling him to be something we're not, since we want a better world for the child, the other ninety-five percent is simply imprinting automatically to who we are, and of course since who we are radically outweighs who we tell the child to be, the child is simply split right down the middle.

MISHLOVE: It creates a conflict.

PEARCE: Terrible conflict. And he cannot conceivably be who we tell him to be, because ninety-five percent of him is simply going to be who we are. And then, when he fails to be who we tell him to be, as simply this whole system imprints to who we are in our states that we're in, we then accuse him of moral failure to measure up to the lofty standards of our prescriptions.

MISHLOVE: That lowers the self-esteem even further.

PEARCE: Splits him even more. So my teacher, Gurumai, says, until that which you think, that which you act, and that which you speak and feel and so on, are all a single integrated unit, not only are you robbed of your own power and efficiency in the world, but you fragment every child that you even pass on the street, since the child is simply influenced by the whole emotional-cognitive-intellectual ambient of everyone as he passes.

MISHLOVE: Now, I gather from your writing that there are stages in the development of the child at which the child is more susceptible to one or another kind of influence. For example, you mentioned at the age of seven suggestion becomes a very strong influence on the child. Are there stages in which suggestion doesn't play such a strong role?

PEARCE: Well, no, but it depends on -- we're talking about social suggestions at age seven. That's when we throughout human history recognize the emergence of the social ego, somewhere between six and seven, and the emergence of logical thinking. The church started administering the sacraments at age seven two thousand years ago for a very good reason -- because at age seven the kid can begin to catch on to some real rules and regulations. Well, we could go on throughout history, how they recognized six to seven as that big turning point when the society becomes the model, and the child shifts from the family as his major model to the society as his major model.

MISHLOVE: The peer group.

PEARCE: Not so much peer group as the society of adults around him. He'll shift to peer group if this adult model's failing, and therein lies our current failure, you see. We get this very strange peer group orientation of children to themselves. They're trying to model for each other because their other models have failed them so tremendously they've lost faith in them. That kind of what we call generation gap is absolutely unique in history. We've never had that before, you see - when we are not giving the child any kind of models that follow the needs of the child, and so they try to pick up from each other cues of what can we do in this kind of abandoned state. But certainly each period of history - these are called the optimal periods of learning. Howard Gardner of Harvard, with his theory of multiple intelligences, has outlined, I think he has some eight or ten distinct, unique intelligences inherent within us at birth. These intelligences unfold for development when their optimal period for development is ready. You can't have one intelligence unfold until it has its prestructures of other intelligences on which it draws and is ready. For instance, sexuality unfolds, or did always universally until recently, somewhere around age fourteen. You had to wait until all the physiological and psychological and emotional systems were mature for it.

MISHLOVE: Recently it seems to be happening at an earlier age.

PEARCE: Do you realize that menarche is now at epidemic outbreak in the United States? It begins menstruation in eight-year-old girls, and we have a very serious outbreak of pregnancies in nine-year-old girls, and an even more, to me, tragic and serious outbreak of violent, hostile rape against females and males under age ten. This is at epidemic proportion in the United States. That means it's hundreds of percent increased year by year. Forty years ago it was never even heard of. It was inconceivable to anybody it would happen.

MISHLOVE: And this, I understand from your writing, is a result of hormones that are getting into our food.

PEARCE: Only one of about five major causes. The other major causes are premature pressures for early academic education, which forces the brain to fire in patterns of thinking related to adolescence, and you get with them the entire entrainment of the brain. Then you have television, which is a major, major cause of damage to the young child. In fact hospital technological childbirth is another major contributor, for a lot of reasons. And all of these interweave; they're all kind of self-supporting, interweaving factors, and none of them have we ever had before. They have no historical precedent. So the child's sytem could compensate, perhaps, for one of these damaging influences, but not all five of them all put together -- day care, and a whole raft of things which are breaking up the genetic unfolding, that is, the actual genetic timing. It would be, Jeffrey, as though all of a sudden half the children in the United States started either developing twelve-year molars at age six, or didn't develop them at all, as we find seventy percent of our child population not really moving into formal operational thinking at age eleven, which we always considered genetic and built into the system. That's a breakdown of the whole genetic unfolding.

MISHLOVE: Formal operational thinking?

PEARCE: The pure intellectual, abstract thinking - the ability to think in pure abstract logic, pure semantic language structures - move into pure mentation, pure thinking without any objects, in effect, which is of course the next stage toward moving toward divinity itself.

MISHLOVE: And that normally occurs at about age eleven?

PEARCE: Eleven to fifteen is the development for that. This is Piaget's term, but also all the rest of the developmentalists recognize this at this point.

MISHLOVE: And that's not happening now?

PEARCE: It's not happening in about seventy percent of our teenage population. We have about a seventy percent functional illiteracy rate in the early twelve-, thirteen-, fourteen-year-old groups. Functional illiteracy means they can go through the sensorimotor motions of literacy, but there's not carry-over into contextual meaning, so they can't grant it meaning. This is a breakdown in the relationship between the three brains. It's a breakdown in the limbic structure's ability to transfer information from one part of the brain to another.

MISHLOVE: It sounds like a massive overhaul of our educational and child-raising system is going to be essential to correct this.

PEARCE: Well, we've known that for a long time, but we knew that back in the sixties, and it's only worsened since, and I see no possibility of that happening. I don't think you change institutions at all. There's no possible way in the world to change the American educational system as I see it now. It's just like hospital technological childbirth, which is without doubt the most damaging, destructive thing on earth, including the bomb and pollution. and yet it comes as a great shock to people. Research has gone into this now for forty years, and the evidence has been conclusive over a long period of time, but you're dealing with a fifty-billion-dollar-a-year industry, and there is not one chance of changing that.

MISHLOVE: You mean the child comes out, you whack him on the back.

PEARCE: That's only the beginning. It's a series of serious disasters, all of which, by the way -- the damage is all primarily to the limbic structure of the brain.

MISHLOVE: Well, perhaps we can't change the whole educational system, but there may be some recommendations you might have for our viewers about what individuals can do.

PEARCE: Well, of course what I think individuals can do and must do is to examine their own hearts, examine their own life, and remember that there's no way on earth to heal the child except to heal the adults and models that they're following. That means the teachers, the parents, and people who are working with children. If they are fragmented, if they're at war with themselves, then they're going to pass that on to the child. You find, for instance, the total lack of love in a child's life. The child is absolutely starved for emotional nurturing and love. But how can you love until you have first been loved, you see? And so again we find that all of the intelligences that we are given - and love would be the greatest of all intelligence, that's kind of the intelligence of all intelligences. We do know this from developmental psychology, that no intelligence can unfold in the child from its potential state until it's given the stimulus of an intelligence developed already out there in the world.

MISHLOVE: You need a model.

PEARCE: Language learning begins in the seventh month in utero, in the womb -- provided the mother is a speaking mother.

MISHLOVE: This is one of the extraordinary pieces of research you've quoted.

PEARCE: Forty years we've been working on this.

MISHLOVE: The infant -- not the infant, the fetus actually --

PEARCE: At seven months you've got a pretty functional infant.

MISHLOVE: What would you call it?

PEARCE: I would call it the infant in the womb, at seven months.

MISHLOVE: The infant in the womb shows distinct motor responses to particular phonemes that it hears.

PEARCE: It has one muscle for each of the fifty-two phonemes that it responds to. There are fifty-two muscles in the child's body. It varies with every child; each one will respond to each of the phonemes as he builds up his sensorimotor aspect of language. The point in this is, if he's given the model, so no intelligence can unfold without the model given out there. By the model I mean a person who has developed that intelligence. Furthermore you find that the intelligence that then unfolds in the child, from his potential intelligent state into its actualized state, is determined to probably virtually a hundred-percent degree by the character and the nature and the quality of the models that the child follows. So there again you have your father sets the son's teeth on edge when he eats the sour grapes.

MISHLOVE: We've got a little less than five minutes now, Joe, and I think what you're saying -- and we should really bring this point across strongly -- is that for parents who are really concerned about their children's development, the number one thing they can do is work on their own development.

PEARCE: They have to bring themselves into wholeness. Now, wholeness is determined, strangely enough, by the heart. All of the new research which is now piling in, in mass amounts, is that the heart is one of the major governors of the entire human experience. The heart governs the limbic structure, which governs all of our immune and healing systems, so the heart is intimately connected with the whole healing process.

MISHLOVE: You mention in your book that the heart is directly related to the middle of the three brains.

PEARCE: That's the emotional-cognitive structure. The heart directs all the emotional energies of the brain, literally directs all of our response to the world out there in relationships.

MISHLOVE: So there's something to this notion of the heart being associated with love.

PEARCE: The heart is a universal consciousness. As McLean says, the individual ego translates through the brain; universal consciousness translates through the heart. That's why the heart can relate all information together. What has happened to us in this day and time is a breakdown in mind-heart dialogue - a breakdown literally in the mind-heart connection. The way to reachieve, or open that mind-heart connection up, is to come across someone who has opened that mind-heart connection up, and who operates out of the heart. We have the statement, "The cave of the heart wherein God lives." That is, in my yoga we believe thoroughly that God dwells within the heart, and that until you open up and get in touch with that God in the heart, you are isolated and estranged from everything. The minute you are opened up to the heart, you are intimately related and a part of and one with everything. We find that immediately the heart integrates the brain structure, so that that which we're thinking, that which we're feeling, and that which we're acting are a single integrated whole. That gives us a great deal more power and effectiveness in our life than we ever had before. And so meditation is the answer to the whole thing. And this sounds phony, but you see, meditation is one of the natural circadian rhythms that we're born with, and it's lost in ninety-seven percent of the population. So it's rediscovering meditation, as I've been following siddha meditation, an ancient system, for ten years. All I can say is it has radically transformed my life.

MISHLOVE: The other thing you seem to be saying here is that in terms of parents and child raising, that more important than providing children with intelligent role models, or athletic models, are loving role models.

PEARCE: Kagan's work in Guatemala, Kagan at Harvard, proves conclusively - I can't go into all the ramifications of it in one minute flat -- that strong emotional nurturing of a child is the whole determining part of the development of intelligence. They can be brought up in a pigpen with absolutely no standards of life at all, with just an abysmally low standard of living, but with a high quality of life, because the only quality of life of a child is their emotional relationships. Give them a high quality of emotional relationships and you'll have a brilliant, happy child.

MISHLOVE: That's extraordinary, and I think it's very profound.

PEARCE: But who can do that for a child until they themselves are integrated and well-knit, you see? You cannot love until you have first been loved.

MISHLOVE: Well, Joseph, you've been talking about some extraordinary, deep problems that we have, and of course we haven't had time to cover all the solutions. But I think what you're saying is, if we're going to look at solutions at all, we have to start with this simple issue of love.

PEARCE: Love, getting in touch with the heart, and a kind of surrender of the ego-intellect to the great intelligence of the heart, and then everything is radically changed, including your intellect. My intellect, seriously, can outperform itself ten to one of what it could ten years ago, before I found siddha meditation.

MISHLOVE: Joseph Chilton Pearce, it's been a pleasure having you with me. Thank you very much.

PEARCE: Thank you, Jeffrey. It's been my pleasure.


Joseph Chilton Pearce is well-known as author of six books: The Crack in the Cosmic Egg; Exploring the Crack in the Cosmic Egg; Magical Child; Magical Child Matures; Bond of Power; and Evolution's End.

Also well-known as an exceptional public speaker on human intelligence, creativity, and learning, Pearce has presented over 2,500 programs to date at most major universities in the United States and various institutions worldwide. His most recent addresses have been as a participant in a closed symposium on computers in education, U.C. Berkeley; in a closed symposium on educating for healthy children, Columbia University Teacher's College; at a conference on education in Bangkok, Thailand; and two addresses at a medical conference on birth-bonding in Chiang Mia, Thailand, sponsored by W.H.O. and UNICEF.

All of our perennial philosophies, spiritual paths, religions, dreams and hopes, have spun out of an intuitive knowing that these higher intelligences exist, that life is more than just an economic knee-jerk reflex, that we are not just glorified Skinner-box pigeons or naked apes. On the one hand we have divinized our potential, projecting who we are designed to be onto an abstracted cloud nine rather than fulfilling our evolutionary potential, and falling victim to the politics of that projection. On the other hand, and far more destructively, we have denied our evolutionary nature, grounding ourselves in the more primitive, physically bound modes of our brain/mind, and subjecting ourselves to the magician-priests who can best manipulate that physical realm. Evolutions End,pp.xvi-xvii

Split between these lower and higher neural systems, with evolution pressing to break through into its new modality, our situation can get precarious. Our personal awareness, with its ego-intellect, makes up an estimated 5 percent of the total intelligent energy of our brain/mind. (The rest provides the environment and maintains the conditions of, this personal 5 percent.) Yet with this paltry percentage we try to manipulate universal forces of unknown magnitude and then wonder why everything goes wrong. Over and again we hear the clarion call that we must take evolution in our hands and do that which bumbling nature, in its fifteen billion years of incredible creation, has obviously not had the intelligence to do. While the ego-intellect loves such arrogant, bootstrap nonsense, operations of this sort plunge us from one personal, social, and ecological catastrophe to another, and we are apparently incapable of catching on to our error. As architect Henry Bergman once said, "Each and every problem we face today is the direct and inevitable result of yesterday's brilliant solutions." Evolutions End pp.xvi-xvii