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The Alphabet Versus the Goddess
by Leonard Shlain
Web site: http://www.alphabetvsgoddess.com
Page:
http://www.alphabetvsgoddess.com/synopsis.html

 


Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse."
- Sophocles

In this groundbreaking book, Leonard Shlain, author of the bestselling Art & Physics, proposes that the process of learning alphabetic literacy rewired the human brain, with profound consequences for culture. Making remarkable connections across a wide range of subjects including brain function, anthropology, history, and religion, Shlain argues that literacy reinforced the brain's linear, abstract, predominantly masculine left hemisphere at the expense of the holistic, iconic feminine right one. This shift upset the balance between men and women initiating the disappearance of goddesses, the abhorrence of images, and, in literacy's early stages, the decline of women's political status. Patriarchy and misogyny followed.
Shlain contrasts the feminine right-brained oral teachings of Socrates, Buddha, and Jesus with the masculine creeds that evolved when their spoken words were committed to writing. The first book written in an alphabet was the Old Testament and its most important passage was the Ten Commandments. The first two reject any goddess influence and ban any form of representative art.

The love of Mary, Chivalry, and courtly love arose during the illiterate Dark Ages and plummeted after the invention of the printing press in the Renaissance. The Protestant attack on holy images and Mary followed, as did ferocious religious wars and neurotic witch-hunts. The benefits of literacy are obvious; this gripping narrative explores its dark side, tallying previously unrecognized costs.

Shlain goes on to describe the colossal shift he calls the Iconic Revolution, that began in the 19th century. The invention of photography and the discovery of electromagnetism combined to bring us film, television, computers, and graphic advertising; all of which are based on images. Shlain foresees that increasing reliance on right brain pattern recognition instead of left brain linear sequence will move culture toward equilibrium between the two hemispheres, between masculine and feminine, between word and image. A provocative, disturbing, yet inspiring read, this book is filled with startling historical anecdotes and compelling ideas. It is a paradigm shattering work that will transform your view of history and mind.


PREFACE
The thesis of this book occurred to me while I was on a tour of Mediterranean archaeological sites in 1991. Our group had the good fortune to have for its guide a knowledgeable University of Athens professor. At nearly every Greek site we visited, she patiently explained that the shrines we stood before had originally been consecrated to a female deity. And, later, for unknown reasons, unknown persons reconsecrated them to a male one.

We then traveled to Crete to wander among the impressive remains of Knossos. Elegant palace murals depicted festive court women, girl acrobats, and snake-holding priestesses-mute evidence of women's seemingly high status in Bronze Age Minoan culture.

The trip ended at Ephesus on the Anatolian coast - the site of the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, the largest shrine to a female deity in the Western world. Until Christian authorities closed it in the late fourth century, a woman (or a man) could officially worship a goddess and priestesses could officially perform major sacraments. As our group contemplated these facts, our guide told the legend of Jesus' mother, Mary, coming to Ephesus to die. The guide then pointed out the hillside on which Mary's remains were purported to have been buried.

On the long bus ride back to the airport, I asked myself why Mary would have chosen a place sacred to a "pagan" goddess as her final resting place. Even if the legend was a fiction, why did it gain credence? This led me to ponder a larger question hovering over the entire trip - what caused the disappearance of goddesses from the ancient Western world?

There is overwhelming archaeological and historical evidence that during a long period of prehistory and early history both men and women worshiped goddesses, women functioned as chief priests, and property commonly passed through the mother's lineage. What in culture changed to cause leaders in all Western religions to condemn goddess worship? Why were women forbidden to conduct a single significant sacrament in these religions? And why did property begin to pass only through the father's line? What event in human history could have been so pervasive and immense that it literally changed the sex of God?

I was familiar with the current, most commonly accepted explanation: just before recorded history began, invading horsemen sweeping down from the north imposed their sky gods and virile ethics on the peaceful goddess cultures they vanquished. Somehow, this answer seemed to me inadequate to explain a worldwide social phenomenon that occurred everywhere civilizations emerged and which took a millennium to unfold. My Mediterranean journey coincided with the publication of my first book, Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light, which put forth the idea that innovations in art prefigure major discoveries in physics. Art and physics are two different languages; the artist uses image and metaphor; the physicist uses numbers and equations. To sharpen the ideas I put forth in Art & Physics, I had immersed myself in the study of how different communication media affect society.

While on that bus ride, and perhaps because of my heightened interest in how we communicate, I was struck by the thought that the demise of the Goddess, the plunge in women's status, and the advent of harsh patriarchy and misogyny occurred around the time that people were learning how to read and write.

Perhaps there was something in the way people acquired this new skill that changed the brain's actual structure. We know that in the developing brain of a child, differing kinds of learning will strengthen some neuronal pathways and weaken others. Extrapolating the experience of an individual to a culture, I hypothesized that when a critical mass of people within a society acquire literacy, especially alphabet literacy, left hemispheric modes of thought are reinforced at the expense of right hemispheric ones, which manifests as a decline in the status of images, women's rights, and goddess worship. The more I turned this idea over in my mind the more correlations appeared. Like a dog worrying a bone, I found this connection compelling and could not let it go until I had superimposed it on many different historical periods and across cultural divides. The book that you now hold in your hand is the result of my teeth-gripping, head-shaking, magnificent obsession.

By profession, I am a surgeon. I head a department at my medical center and I am an associate professor of surgery at a medical school. As a vascular surgeon operating on carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain, I have had the opportunity to observe firsthand the profoundly different functions performed by each of the brain's hemispheres. My unique perspective led me to propose a neuroanatomical hypothesis to explain why goddesses and priestesses disappeared from Western religions. My hypothesis will ask readers to reconsider many closely held beliefs and open themselves up to entirely new ways of looking at familiar events. In an effort to prevent factual errors from detracting from my ideas, I enlisted many experts to help me along the way, and the manuscript continually became smoother and finer as it sifted through the collective sieve of their multiple intelligences.

Because there is patriarchy even in non-alphabetic Eastern cultures, I felt compelled to make a brief detour into their history to see if it would fit within the framework of my thesis. The result is a book covering many centuries and many belief systems, a few of which, unfortunately, received short shrift. My mission was to present my reasoning in a manageable space while providing a panoramic view of the human condition. I am aware that numerous other respected explanations have been given for the dramatic events I recount. I could not in this book present accounts of all other historical theories, and chose to focus on the relationship between literacy and patriarchy.

I am by nature a storyteller. I have tried to make this book a lively read devoid of technical jargon. I had to balance this goal with my love for the luxuriant diversity of English. At times, I could not restrain myself from trying to rescue a few of my favorite words from what I fear may be their impending extinction due to neglect. Therefore, in the following pages the reader may occasionally sight an unfamiliar member of an endangered species of the English language. I ask the reader's indulgence.

As I sit here on a beautiful spring day thumbing through the freshly printed, hefty cube of manuscript that sits upon my desktop, I realize that my part in this engaging, maddening, wonderful, complicated, exciting writing project is complete. Now it is your turn. Have

CHAPTER 1 - IMAGE / WORD
But of all other stupendous inventions, what sublimity of mind must have been his who conceived how to communicate his most secret thoughts to any other person, though very far distant either in time or place? And with no greater difficulty than the various arrangement of two dozen little signs upon paper? Let this be the seal of all the admirable inventions of man.
-Galileo

Even a positive thing casts a shadow... its unique excellence is at the same time its tragic flaw.
-William Irwin Thompson

Of all the sacred cows allowed to roam unimpeded in our culture, few are as revered as literacy. Its benefits have been so incontestable that in the five millennia since the advent of the written word numerous poets and writers have extolled its virtues. Few paused to consider its costs. Sophocles once warned, "Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse." The invention of writing was vast; this book will investigate the curse.

There exists ample evidence that any society acquiring the written word experiences explosive changes. For the most part, these changes can be characterized as progress. But one pernicious effect of literacy has gone largely unnoticed: writing subliminally fosters a patriarchal outlook. Writing of any kind, but especially its alphabetic form, diminishes feminine values and with them, women's power in the culture.

The reasons for this shift will be elaborated in the coming pages. For now, I propose that a holistic, simultaneous, synthetic, and concrete view of the world are the essential characteristics of a feminine outlook; linear, sequential, reductionist, and abstract thinking defines the masculine. Although these represent opposite perceptual modes, every individual is generously endowed with all the features of both. They coexist as two closely overlapping bell-shaped curves with no feature superior to its reciprocal.

These complementary methods of comprehending reality resemble the ancient Taoist circle symbol of integration and symmetry in which the tension between the energy of the feminine yin and the masculine yang is exactly balanced. One side without the other is incomplete; together, they form a unified whole that is stronger than either half. First writing, and then the alphabet, upset this balance. Affected cultures, especially in the West, acquired a strong yang thrust.

In the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan proposed that a civilization's principal means of communication molds it more than the content of that communication. McLuhan classified speech, pictographs, ideographs, alphabets, print, radio, film, and television as distinctive information-conveying media, each with its own technology of transmission. He declared that these technologies insinuate themselves into the collective psyche of any society that uses them, and once embedded, stealthily exert a powerful influence on cultural perceptions. McLuhan's aphorism, "the medium is the message," is the leitmotif of this book. Robert Logan, the author of The Alphabet Effect, expounded on this idea.

A medium of communication is not merely a passive conduit for the transmission of information but rather an active force in creating new social patterns and new perceptual realities. A person who is literate has a different world view than one who receives information exclusively through oral communication. The alphabet, independent of the spoken languages it transcribes or the information it makes available, has its own intrinsic impacts.

While McLuhan, Logan, and others have explored many of the effects that alphabetic literacy has had upon Western history, I wish to narrow the focus to a single question: how did the invention of the alphabet affect the balance of power between men and women?

The proposition that the alphabet has hindered women's aspirations and accomplishments seems, at first glance, to be antithetical to historical facts. Western society, based on the rule of law and constitutional government, has increasingly affirmed the dignity of the individual, and in the last few centuries Western women have won rights and privileges not available in many other cultures. Most people believe that the benefits that have accrued to women are due primarily to a high level of education among the populace. But a study of the origins of writing in less complex times thousands of years ago reveals how writing, first, and then the alphabet, altered the balance of power to women's detriment.

Anthropological studies of non-literate agricultural societies show that, for the majority, relations between men and women have been more egalitarian than in more developed societies. Researchers have never proven beyond dispute that there were ever societies in which women had power and influence greater than or even equal to that of men. Yet, a diverse variety of preliterate agrarian cultures-the Iroquois and the Hopi in North America, the inhabitants of Polynesia, the African !Kung, and numerous others around the world-had and continue to have considerable harmony between the sexes.

Anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss was one of the very few scholars to challenge literacy's worth.
There is one fact that can be established: the only phenomenon which, always and in all parts of the world, seems to be linked with the appearance of writing. . . is the establishment of hierarchical societies, consisting of masters and slaves, and where one part of the population is made to work for the other part.
Literacy has promoted the subjugation of women by men throughout all but the very recent history of the West. Misogyny and patriarchy rise and fall with the fortunes of the alphabetic written word.

The key to my thesis lies in the unique way the human nervous system developed, which in turn allowed alphabets to profoundly affect gender relations. The introductory chapters will explore why and how we evolved in the manner we did. In later chapters, I will reinterpret a number of myths and historical events, making correlations based on circumstantial evidence. Correlation, however, does not prove causality-the disappearance of the stars at dawn does not cause the sun to rise. As we examine various sets of facts, I will appeal, therefore, to the court of what archaeologists call competitive plausibility, and I will ask the reader to consider with me which of the hypothetical explanations of historical events is the most plausible.

Although each of us is born with a unique set of genetic instructions, we enter the world as a work-in-progress and await the deft hand of the ambient culture to sculpt the finishing touches. Among the two most important influences on a child are the emotional constellation of his or her immediate family and the configuration of his or her culture. Trailing a close third is the principal medium with which the child learns to perceive and integrate his or her culture's information. This medium will play a role in determining which neuronal pathways of the child's developing brain will be reinforced.

To observe an enthralled four-year-old mastering the letters of the alphabet is to witness the beginning of a lifelong method central to the acquisition of knowledge. Literacy, once firmly rooted, will eclipse and supplant speech as the principal source of culture-changing information. Adults, for so long enmeshed in the alphabet's visual skein, cannot easily disentangle themselves to assess its effect on culture. One could safely assume that fish have not yet discovered water.

Imagine that you came of age in a non-literate culture and were unaware of the impact the written word could have on your life. Suppose that as an adult you then found yourself in a literate society confronted by others who seemed to possess magical powers. Your reaction probably would not differ much from that of Prince Modupe, a young West African who, in his autobiography, related his encounter with the written word:

The one crowded space in Father Perry's house was his bookshelves. I gradually came to understand that the marks on the pages were trapped words. Anyone could learn to decipher the symbols and turn the trapped words loose again into speech. The ink of the print trapped the thoughts; they could no more get away than a doomboo could get out of a pit. When the full realization of what this meant flooded over me, I experienced the same thrill and amazement as when I had my first glimpse of the bright lights of Konakry. I shivered with the intensity of my desire to learn to do this wondrous thing myself.

The prince could not know that in his attempt to free the doomboo, the pit itself would trap him in an unforeseen way: written words and images are entirely different "creatures." Each calls forth a complementary but opposing perceptual strategy.

Images are primarily mental reproductions of the sensual world of vision. Nature and human artifacts both provide the raw material from the outside that the brain replicates in the inner sanctum of consciousness. Because of their close connection to the world of appearances, images approximate reality: they are concrete. The brain simultaneously perceives all parts of the whole integrating the parts synthetically into a gestalt. The majority of images are perceived in an all-at-once manner.

Reading words is a different process. When the eye scans distinctive individual letters arranged in a certain linear sequence, a word with meaning emerges. The meaning of a sentence, such as the one you are now reading, progresses word by word. Comprehension depends on the sentence's syntax, the particular horizontal sequence in which its grammatical elements appear. The use of analysis to break each sentence down into its component words, or each word down into its component letters, is a prime example of reductionism. This process occurs at a speed so rapid that it is below awareness. An alphabet by definition consists of fewer than thirty meaningless symbols that do not represent the images of anything in particular; a feature that makes them abstract. Although some groupings of words can be grasped in an all-at-once manner, in the main, the comprehension of written words emerges in a one-at-a-time fashion. To perceive things such as trees and buildings through images delivered to the eye, the brain uses wholeness, simultaneity, and synthesis. To ferret out the meaning of alphabetic writing, the brain relies instead on sequence, analysis, and abstraction. Custom and language associate the former characteristics with the feminine, the latter, with the masculine. As we examine the myths of different cultures, we will see that these linkages are consistent.

Associating images with the feminine would seem to fly in the face of numerous scientific studies that demonstrate that males are better at mentally manipulating three-dimensional objects than their female counterparts. Also, numerous other studies reveal that young females are more facile with words, spoken and written, than are their male peers. Despite these studies attributing different image and word skills to each sex, I will present many cultural, mythological, and historical examples that will solidly connect the feminine principle to images and the masculine one to written words. Again, I will use the terms "masculine" and "feminine" in their transcendent sense. Every human is a blend of these two principles.

The life of the mind can be divided into three realms: inner, outer, and supernatural. The inner world of experienced emotions and private thoughts is essentially invisible to others. The outer, concrete world of nature constitutes our environment: it is objective reality. There exists also a third realm: some call it spiritual, some call it sacred, and some call it supernatural. Humans have acknowledged and incorporated this third realm into every culture ever created.

The cosmology of any given culture is analogous to the psyche of an individual. Its myths and religion reveal how the group psyche arrives at its values concerning sex, power, wealth, and gender roles. In hunter-gatherer societies, members generally worship a mixture of male and female spirits. In general, virile spirits tend to be more prestigious in societies that place a high value on hunting; nurturing ones are more highly esteemed wherever gathering is the primary strategy of survival. Humankind discovered horticulture approximately ten thousand years ago. In the Mediterranean, the most extensively studied region, archaeologists have uncovered strong suggestive evidence that in all emerging agrarian civilizations surrounding the basin, a mother Goddess was a principal deity. From the outer rim of history, we begin to learn Her name. In Sumer, She was Inanna; in Egypt, She was Isis; in Canaan, Her name was Asherah. In Syria, She was known as Astarte; in Greece, Demeter; and in Cyprus, Aphrodite. Whatever Her supplicants called Her, they all recognized Her as the Creatrix of life, nurturer of young, protector of children, and the source of milk, herds, vegetables, and grain. Since She presided over the great mystery of birth, people of this period presumed She must also hold sway over that great bedeviler of human thought - death.

Prior to the development of agriculture, male spirits embodied the attributes of bold, courageous hunters. But in the iconography of the Great Goddess, male imagery paled. Her consort was a companion who was smaller, younger, and weaker than She. A conflation of a son She loved in a motherly way, and a lover.

She discarded after he consummated his duties of impregnation, he was so dispensable in these ancient myths that he frequently died, either by murder or by accident. In many agrarian cultures, the yearly sacrifice of a young male surrogate in the consort's honor was a common ritual. The participants then plowed the victim's seed blood into the earth as "fertilizer" to ensure that the following year's crop would be bountiful. The clearest demonstration of the Goddess's power was Her ability to bring him back to life each spring. Whether She was resurrecting Her consort or regenerating the earth, Her adherents stood in awe of Her fecundity. For several thousand years, every people throughout the Fertile Crescent venerated a deity who personified the Great Goddess. When we speak of this area as the "cradle" of civilization, we tacitly acknowledge the superior role the feminine principle played in the "birth" of modern humankind.

Then, the Great Goddess began to lose power. The barely legible record of the earliest written accounts beginning about five thousand years ago provides intimations of Her fall. Her consort, once weak and inconsequential, rapidly gained size, stature, and power, until eventually he usurped Her sovereignty. The systematic political and economic subjugation of women followed; coincidentally, slavery became commonplace. Around 1500 b.c., there were hundreds of goddess-based sects enveloping the Mediterranean basin. By the fifth century a.d. they had been almost completely eradicated, by which time women were also prohibited from conducting a single major Western sacrament.

In their attempts to solve the mystery of the Goddess's dethronement, various authors have implicated foreign invaders, the invention of private property, the formation of archaic states, the creation of surplus wealth, and the educational disadvantaging of women. While any or all of these influences may have contributed, I propose another: the decline of the Goddess began when some clever Sumerian first pressed a sharp stick into wet clay and invented writing. The relentless spread of the alphabet two thousand years later spelled Her demise. The introduction of the written word, and then the alphabet, into the social intercourse of humans initiated a fundamental change in the way newly literate cultures understood their reality. It was this dramatic change in mind-set, I propose, that was primarily responsible for fostering patriarchy. The Old Testament was the first alphabetic written work to influence future ages.

Attesting to its gravitas, multitudes still read it three thousand years later. The words on its pages anchor three powerful religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Each is an exemplar of patriarchy. Each monotheistic religion features an imageless Father deity whose authority shines through His revealed Word, sanctified in its written form. Conceiving of a deity who has no concrete image prepares the way for the kind of abstract thinking that inevitably leads to law codes, dualistic philosophy, and objective science, the signature triad of Western culture. I propose that the profound impact these ancient scriptures had upon the development of the West depended as much on their being written in an alphabet as on the moral lessons they contained.

Goddess worship, feminine values, and women's power depend on the ubiquity of the image. God worship, masculine values, and men's domination of women are bound to the written word. Word and image, like masculine and feminine, are complementary opposites. Whenever a culture elevates the written word at the expense of the image, patriarchy dominates. When the importance of the image supersedes the written word, feminine values and egalitarianism flourish. In this book we will explore what this has meant throughout the human past, and in later chapters will consider what it says about the present and portends for the future.

Page: http://www.alphabetvsgoddess.com/chapters.html


CHAPTER 3 - RIGHT BRAIN/LEFT BRAIN

In each of us two powers preside, one male, one female, and in the man's brain, the man predominates over the women, and in the woman's brain, the woman predominates over the man...
If one is a man, still the woman part of the brain must have effect; and a woman must also have intercourse with the man in her. Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilised and uses all its faculties.
- Virginia Wolf

For the first two million years, both the hominid's body and brain slowly enlarged. And then over the next one million years, a remarkable change occurred; while its stature increased only minimally, its brain acquired one extra pound of neural tissue, primarily in the neocortex. At the same time, the brain's functions split in two - a revolutionary development made necessary because evolution had to rewrite one lobe to accommodate speech.

To place this event in context, a brief review of the brain is in order. All vertebrates, beginning with fish, have a bilobed brain. And each of these anatomically mirror-image hemispheric lobes perform the same type of tasks. The human brain lobes, while appearing symmetrical, are functionally different. This specialization is called hemispheric lateralization. There is evidence of this feature in some other vertebrates, but its manifestation in behavior (speech and handedness) are far more striking in humans than in any other species. A bridge of neuronal fibers called the corpus callosum connects and integrates the two cortical lobes so that each side knows what the other is thinking.

The popular press has widely disseminated the essential features of right/left brain asymmetry. Most well-informed people know that each hemisphere of the brain controls the muscles of the body's opposite side. Most people also understand that the hemisphere work closely in concert with one another.

But scientists have only recently discovered the attributes distinctive to each hemisphere. While poets and mystics have long alluded to sharp divisions within our psyche, it was not until the late nineteenth century that clinicians began systematically to take note of these differences. Patients who had traumatic injuries and strokes provided the most dramatic examples. In the last few decades, neuroscientists examining split-brain patients and using sophisticated brain mapping scanners on normal people have been able to study each hemisphere in relative isolation.

The dysfunction that occurs as a result of a left-brain injury in right-handers is so calamitous that neuroscientists traditionally call the left cerebral hemisphere to dominant lobe. While some have objected to oversimplifying the brain's lateralization scheme, certain facts remain beyond dispute. If a right-handed person has a major stroke in the controlling left hemisphere, with few exceptions, a catastrophic deficit of speech, right-sided muscle paralysis and/or dysfunction in abstract thinking will occur. Conversely, damage to the right brain will impair the afflicted person's ability to solve spatial problems, recognize faces, appreciate music, besides paralyzing the left side of the body.

Of the twin human hemispheres, the right side is the elder sibling. In utero, the right lobe of a human fetus's brain is well on its way to maturation before the left side begins to develop. The old, wise, right side, more familiar with the needs and drives stemming from earlier stages of evolution,, can be better relied upon to negotiate with them than the younger left side. The right hemisphere integrates feelings, recognizes images, and appreciates music. It contributes a field-awareness to consciousness, synthesizing multiple converging determinants so that the mind can grasp the senses' input all-at-once.

The right brain is nonverbal, and has more in common with earlier animal modes of communication. It comprehends the language of cries, gestures, grimaces, cuddling, sucking, touching, and body stance. Its emotional sates and under little volitional control and betray true feelings through forgetting, blushing, or smirking.

The right brain, more than the left, expresses being - that complex meshing of competing emotions that constitute our essential state at any given moment. In English, we ask someone, "How are you?" The answer begins, "I am...". The verb "to be" frames both question and answer.

The right brain more often than the left generates feeling states, such as love, humor, or aesthetic appreciation, which are non-logical. They defy the rules of conventional reasoning. When Blaise Pascal wrote, "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of," he was referring to the kind of knowing that goes on in the emotional right brain, and distinguishes it from that which occurs in the cerebral left.

The right brain's feeling-states are authentic. Once a person has experienced love or ecstasy, he or she knows it. An internal voice verifies the experience beyond debate. Feeling-states allows us to have faith in God, to grasp the essence of a joke, to experience patriotic fervor, or to be repulsed by a painting someone else finds beautiful. These states all possess a non-discursive quality. Standing inn the shadows of our ancient beginnings, feeling states overwhelm the brain's more recently evolved glib facility with words. No crisp nomenclature exists to describe them. When pressed to explain their emotional experiences, people, in exasperation, commonly fall back on tautology - "It is because it is!" The things one loves, lives, and dies for cannot be easily expressed in words.

Feeling-states do not ordinarily progress in a linear fashion, but are experienced all-at-once. "Getting" the punch line of a joke results in an explosion of laughter.An intuitive insight arrives in a flash. Newton and Einstein both reported examples of what the poet Rilke called "conflagrations of clarity." Love at first sight, such as what Dante experienced when he encountered Beatrice, happens in an instant. Religious conversions, such as the one that overwhelmed Paul on the road to Damascus, strike like lightning.

A feature of nonverbal communication is that no symbolization interferes with the direct appreciation of reality. The right brain perceives the world concretely. For example, a facial expression is "read" without any attempt to translate it into words.

The right hemisphere is also the portal leading to the world of the invisible. It is the real of altered states of consciousness where faith and mystery rule over logic. There is compelling evidence that dreaming occurs primarily in the right brain.

When people find it necessary to express in words an inner experience such as a dream, an emotion, or a complex feeling-state, they resort to a special form of speech called metaphor that is the right brain's unique contribution to the left brain's language capability. The word metaphor combines two Greek words - meta, which means "over and above", and pherein, "to bear across." Metaphors allow one to leap across a chasm from one thought to the next. Metaphors have multiple levels of meaning that are perceived simultaneously. They supply a plasticity to language without which communication would often be less interesting, sometimes difficult, and occasionally impossible. The objective world can be described, measured, and cataloged with remarkable precision, but to communicate an emotion or feeling-state we employ metaphors. To tell another than one's heart is "soaring like an eagle" or "as cold as ice" reveals the synergy between the right brain's concrete images and the left brain's abstract words. Metaphors begat poetry and myth, and are essential to the parables of religion and the wisdom of folktales.

The right brain is also distinguished by its ability to cognate images. It can simultaneously integrate the component parts in the field of vision, synthesizing incongruous elements all-at-once. The human face is the most compound images the right brain must decipher. Fluctuating facial expressions and the infinite variety of human faces adds to the complexity of the task, as does the possibility that the person behind the face is engaging in an act of deception. The right brain takes all these factors into account and usually turns in a virtuoso performance instantly.

One demonstration of the right-brain skill is the ease with which people can recognize the faces of others. An old friend's countenance may have been altered dramatically by wrinkles and baldness, yet we are still able to pick out that childhood pal in a crowd decades after we last saw him. But some unfortunate individuals, having suffered damage to the right hemispheres, cannot recognize even their own family and friends; a few are even unable to recognize their own faces in a mirror.

The right brain does not speak, yet it actively participates in the comprehension of the spoken word. By listening carefully to the forms of speech while the left brain is deciphering the content, the right brain is expert at ferreting out out hidden messages by interpreting inflection and nuance. It is aware of the speaker's posture, facial expression, and gesture. Jut below conscious awareness, it registers pupil size and hand tremors. This skill is not particularly useful when the information being transmitted is factual, such as legal, scientific, economic, or academic topics. But, when the conversation is personal, facial gestalts and vocal inflection can give the listener substantial insight into what is really going on, sometimes even more than whatever words are being said. Since it is virtually impossible to describe how the right side deciphers nonverbal language, most people refer to this skill as "intuition".

Another major right-brain feature is its ability to appreciate music; the perception of sounds which the right lobe integrates into an ALL-AT-ONCE harmonious feeling state. Though extremely difficult to define scientifically, each of us is quite sure we can distinguish music from noise. During World War I, doctors observed many soldiers who had sustained traumatic injuries to their dominant left hemispheres and as a result could not speak a word. This select group could, however, sing many songs they knew before they were injured. Alexander Luria, the Russian neurologist, reported the case of a composer who created his best work after he was rendered speechless by a massive stroke in his left hemisphere. These case histories lend credence to the tale that Mozart asked his wife to read stories to him while he composed. By distracting his brain with spoken language, the stories may have freed his music-oriented right brain to compose.

The right brain is better than the left is at perceiving space and making judgments as to balance, harmony, and the composition of gestalts, from which we make aesthetic distinctions between ugly and beautiful. Since the right hemisphere processes input instantaneously, it is the better side for appreciating dimensions and judging distances. Driving, skiing, and dancing are its province. The right brain's principal attributes concern being, images, holism, and music.

The left brain's primary functions are opposite and complementary to the right's. The right side is concerned with being, the left with doing. The left lobe controls the vital act of willing Its agent, the right hand, picks berries, throws spears, and fashions tools. The left lobe knows the world through its unique forms of symbolization - speech. In right-handed people, 90 percent of language skills reside in the left hemisphere. Speech gave the left brain the edge to usurp the sovereignty of the mind from its elder twin.
Speech and action are closely related. Words are tools; the very essence of action. We use them to abstract, discriminate, analyze, and dissect the world into pieces, objects, and categories. But speech is not only outer-directed; within the self, words are the implements of thought.

Analysis - reducing the components of sentences into their separate parts - is essential to speech, especially if the content of the message concerns objective facts. This key left brain task depends upon linear progression, in contrast to the holistic perceptions of the right brain.

Speech itself is also abstract and depends upon the left brain's unique ability to process information without the use of images. The mind arranges words, as children arrange Legos, as images substitutes, building concepts that allow us to thinking about freedom, economics, and destiny without needing to conjure images for these words. The ability to conceptualize that the abstract words crime, virtue, punishment and justice are all related is supremely human. To be able to leap from the particular and concrete has allowed us to to create art, logic, science, and philosophy. But this skill tore us out of the rich matrix of nature. The part torn away became the ego. The left brain cleaved the right brain's integrated sense of wholeness into a duality that resulted in humans creating a distinction between me-in-here and world-out-there. The ego requires duality to gain perspective. Dualism also enhanced the human penchant for objective thinking, which in turn increased our reasoning skills and eventually led to logic.

Logic is not holistic, nor is it conceived as a gestalt. It click-clacks along the left brain's linear railway of sequence. If-then syllogisms, the basis of logic, have become the most reliable method of foretelling the future. They have all but replaced omens, visions, and intuition. The rules of logic form the foundation of science, education, business, and military strategy.

Along with doing, speech, and abstraction, the fourth characteristic unique to the left hemisphere is numeracy. Although the ability to count began in the visio-spatial right brain, the ability to permutate larger numbers allows the left brain to build towering computations. While other animals are capable of distinguishing among one, two and many, we alone can conceive of algebra and Boolean logic. The close association between abstract speech and abstract numeracy is closely evident among small children who learn the alphabet and learn to count at the same stage of development.

All the innovative features of the left hemisphere - doing, speech, abstraction, and numbers - are linear. To develop craft, logic, strategy and arithmetic, the must must range back and forth along the lines of past, present, and future. The survival and then success of humans required that evolution set aside an area in the newly enlarging brain in which the concept of time could be contemplated free of the holistic and gestalt spatial perceptions of the earlier mammalian and primate brains. An appreciation of linear time was the crucial precondition for linear speech.

A conversation can be understood only when one person speaks at a time. In contrast, one's right brain can listen to the sounds of a seventy-piece orchestra and hear them holistically. Time and sequence are the very crux of the language of numbers; it is impossible to think of arithmetic outside its framework. I propose that the left hemisphere is actually a new sense organ designed by evolution to perceive time.

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CHAPTER 35 - PAGE / SCREEN

Competition between media contributes to the flowering of culture. -Harold Innis We must once again accept and harmonize the perceptual biases of both (the left and right brain) and understand that for thousands of years the left hemisphere has suppressed the qualitative judgment of the right, and the human personality has suffered for it. - Bruce Powers

In the aftermath of World War II, a nihilist philosophy called existentialism weighed like a wet blanket on the spirit of depressed intellectuals. The war had exposed a terrible truth about human nature and even the most sanguine were forced to admit that education and cultural sophistication were no guarantee against barbarity. Earlier national armies had more or less subscribed to the articles of the Geneva Convention. Not since the religious wars of the sixteenth century had combatants indulged in depravities like those perpetrated by the "civilized" Axis powers. World War II was a firestorm for modern civilization, but the conflict also marked the beginning of yet another massive shift in global consciousness. The combining of two "feminine" influences, photography and electromagnetism, was chiefly responsible for this change. In 1939, Philo T. Farnsworth invented television. After the war ended, television spread rapidly-literally house to house. One after another, living rooms were illuminated by the glow of fuzzy electronic pictures. The tube was an overnight sensation, and soon the amount of time people spent watching images flit on and off the front of the glowing box began to surpass the amount of time people spent reading linear rows of black letters. Comprehending television required an entirely different hemispheric strategy than that used in reading. Viewers called forth their pattern-recognition skills to decipher the screen's low-definition flickering mosaic mesh. The retina's cones need bright light to scan a static page of print, but television brings the eye's rods into play. They see best in dim surroundings and can detect the slightest movements. As people watched more and more television, the supremacy of the left hemisphere dimmed as the right's use increased. For 750,000 years, families had gathered around lit hearths whose flames supplied warmth, illuminated darkness, encouraged camaraderie, and encouraged storytelling. Campfires had been an essential ingredient for the evolution of oral epics. In 1950, a new kind of fire replaced the hearth; and it encouraged a different set of social qualities.

Previously, alphabetic print had exploded Western culture into millions of hard-edged shards of individualistic shrapnel. Both reading and writing are, in most cases, solitary endeavors. Television abruptly reversed the process, and the centripetal implosion not only pulled together individual families but also began to enmesh the entire human community into what McLuhan called "one vast electronic global village." Television was so startlingly original that many other adjustments in perception were necessary for the brain to make sense of it.

The electroencephalogram (EEG) brain wave patterns of someone reading a book are very different from those of the same person watching television. So fundamentally different, in fact, that there is little deviation in those patterns even when the content of the book or television program is varied.3 A network program about adorable koala bears elicits essentially the same brain wave pattern as a program containing violence or sexuality. Watching television and meditating generate the identical slow alpha and theta waves. These EEG patterns denote a passive, receptive, and contemplative state of mind. Reading a book, in contrast, generates beta waves; the kind that appear whenever a person is concentrating on a task.4 Corroborating evidence concerning the perceptual differences between these two modes comes from sophisticated brain PET (position emission tomography) scanners that demonstrate the circuits in the left hemisphere lighting up when the subject is reading (while the right hemisphere remains relatively dark). When the subject looks up from his or her book and begins to watch television, the right hemisphere switches on and the left begins to idle. Task-oriented beta waves activate the hunter/killer side of the brain as alpha and theta waves emanate more from the gatherer/nurturer side. Perhaps Western civilization has for far too long been stuck in a beta mode due to literacy, and striking a balance with a little more alpha and theta, regardless of the source, will serve to soothe humankind's savage beast. A clue to this reorientation: men, who traditionally favor logic over intuition, often engage in "surfing" when they watch television-that is, they watch many programs simultaneously. They would never try to read chapters of various books simultaneously. A hunter trying to stalk multiple animals simultaneously would go hungry. A man is much more susceptible to this adult "attention deficit disorder" behavior than a woman, because television, being a flickering image-based medium, derails the masculine-left-linear strategy, just as in parallel, the written word had earlier disoriented the gestalt-feminine-right one. The printing press disseminates written words. Television projects images. As television sets continue to proliferate around the world, they are redirecting the course of human evolution. The fusing of photography and electromagnetism is proving to be of the same magnitude as the discovery of agriculture, writing, and print. While most social commentators wring their hands over the dismal nature of much of television programming's content, they fail to accord the process of perceiving television's information its due as a factor reconfiguring society in a positive way. Similarly, when the printing press appeared, commentators were caught up in debating the content of books being printed. No one then appreciated the effects brought about by the process of becoming literate. While a medium's content surely is significant, the more important story is how the medium itself affects people's perception of reality. Fiercely loyal to the literate mode of the previous medium, many critics of television have missed the frisson of the present age.

Television's popularity greatly increased the power of images. Iconic information has superseded alphabetic information as the single most significant cultural influence. The first modern image to achieve universal recognition was the atomic bomb's mushroom explosion. The phallic cloud billowing up over Hiroshima symbolized the unbalanced masculine. It was the climactic end result of thousands of years of left-brain dominance. The world stared slack-jawed and wide-eyed at the awesome power of hunter/killer values carried to their farthest extreme. For all their virtues, abstract science, linear words, and sequential equations had led the world to the brink of extinction.

The eerie photographic sequence of the bomb's signature plume was shown over and over in theaters and on television screens until hardly anyone was unfamiliar with it. A great warning shock wave surged through the nervous systems of peoples of all nations. The arms race, consuming much of the left brain's talent for thousands of years, had reached an absurd zero-sum stalemate: to "win" all-out war meant to make the planet uninhabitable for all humans, as well as for most other species.

For the next fifty years, the superpowers bluffed and feinted, but managed somehow not to initiate Armageddon. If a written description of the atomic explosion's aftermath were all that had been available, the bomb would surely have been used. But the image of the bomb's destructive power was universally disseminated and that picture (worth many thousands of words) saved the world.

The ominous mushroom cloud warned humankind of collective death. The first photograph of Earth taken from space flashed around the world in 1968, celebrating the interconnectedness of life. Like a Chinese ideograph, NASA's photograph of our blue marble conveyed multiple values simultaneously, values more intuitive than rational. The masculine perception of nature and the Earth itself as "things" to be conquered made the space program possible. The photo it generated began to instill in everyone who saw it an understanding that the Earth must be honored, protected, and loved. That many environmentalists are men confirms this change in orientation. NASA's photograph of the Earth floating in space provided people with "the big picture." One sees the big picture with the entire retina and the combined hemispheres. The inviting, mute image of the home planet floating in dark space did more to change the consciousness of its residents than the miles of type concerning the subject generated by the world's writers.

Over the course of history, humankind has been profoundly influenced by the periodic emergence of powerful books. From the tablets Yahweh presented to Moses to the works of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Paul, Augustine, Mohammed, Aquinas, Galileo, Calvin, Descartes, Newton, Kant, Jefferson, Hegel, Darwin, Marx, and Freud-each stamped their age with a unique imprimatur. Since the atomic blast in 1945 and the Earth image that followed, not a single book has come close to the degree of impact this one photo has had. The written word's influence has been declining for the last fifty years, counterbalanced by the increasing power of the image.

The shift in orientation toward perceiving information with the right hemisphere instead of the left had significant ramifications for women's rights. The suffragette movement was just beginning to catch its second wind in the "flapper era" of the 1920s when it was overshadowed by two life-threatening events: the worldwide Depression of the 1930s threatened the survival of individual families; World War II threatened the survival of whole nations.

Authorities drafted able-bodied men to bear arms. Women were called upon to build war machines. "Rosie the Riveter" flexed her muscles as women took over technical positions and mastered dangerous tasks that previously men had performed. Women savored their paychecks and realized that an independent income was the hacksaw blade hidden in the cake that would help them gain their freedom by loosening their dependence on male breadwinners. Yet, when the men returned from the war and elbowed them aside, most women once again donned their aprons. Gender relations might have reverted back to prewar conditions, except for one new factor-television.

It was not mere coincidence that the most explosive feminist movement in the five-thousand-year history of patriarchy occurred during the first television generation. Certainly the birth control pill, with its power to disconnect sex from pregnancy, played an important role, but the advent of the pill does not explain why so many young men of the era were inclined to support their sisters' and girlfriends' aspirations. Boys who spent many hours of their childhood engrossed in the Howdy Doody show grew up to become the first generation of men that included many who applauded the aims of the women's movement. And what a movement-bold, courageous women of every age, color, and class altered the gender equation permanently. The meteoric rise of the image, resulting in an infusion of right-brained values into culture, was like a booster rocket that propelled the women's movement into stable orbit. Very few of society's prophets saw it coming. Looking to the past for models, they also missed clues that foretold cultural shifts that were to blast 1950s society to smithereens.

In 1958, a few years before the first generation weaned on television was about to enter college, the president of Harvard, James Conant, castigated the buttoned-down psyches of that year's graduating class in Time magazine. He labeled the college students the "Silent Generation" and blamed their apathy on the mind-numbing pabulum of the seditious new medium. Pundits predicted that when the first really "television-addled" generation entered college in the 1960s, it would be catatonic from all the hours this cohort had spent staring at the cathode tube; pontificating sages predicted that these youngsters would behave even more passively than the transitionally literate generation of the late 1950s.

But the counterculture ran counter to all conventional wisdom. The supposedly inert, troglodyte young people saw only too clearly the flaws in such hallowed phrases as "unquestioning patriotism," "trustworthy government," and "infallible military." A psychedelic-image-besotted, back-talking, tie-dyed, pot-smoking cadre of hirsute dancing fools forced the older alphabet generation to reassess their own cherished beliefs. The right-brained word fun, never before used to characterize a print-dominated era, epitomized the age. Beatlemania swept up the young in an ecstatic frenzy that Western culture had not witnessed since religious flagellants whipped themselves raw in the streets of medieval cities.

Demographic bulges, the Vietnam War, and affluence have all been cited as contributing causes for the outrageous phenomenon that was the sixties. However, the never-blinking, ubiquitous cyclopean television eye was the most overarching influence behind that generation's passionate involvement in Civil Rights marches, the anti-war movement, psychedelic experimentation, the Native American rights movement, the Peace Corps, ecology awareness, the back-to-the-earth movement, reinvigoration of the democratic process, communal living, the human potential movement, and women's equality. Despite fake wrestling matches, boring test patterns, inane sitcoms, and mindlessly violent Saturday cartoons, the first rugrats-turned-couch-potatoes sallied forth and brought about a societal change bearing all the hallmarks of a true Renaissance. Entirely new forms of art, music, dress, morals, and attitudes toward war, love, and sexuality bubbled up effervescently. No one confronted with the business end of a rifle had ever thought to respond by placing a flower in its barrel. The victory of television images over printed words was so sudden that society had little time to adjust. The bulwarks of written-word-based authority were repudiated. The black-and-white literalness of the Bible, the gray work ethic of corporate capitalism, and the bloodless white lab coat dispassion of science were all scrutinized and criticized as never before. The right brain, suppressed for so long, burst forth with an exuberance not seen since Dionysus cavorted with his retinue in the forests. The hippie god would have applauded the credo "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll."
But radical change does not occur without social upheaval. While previous populations had endured wars between tribes, empires, religions, classes, and nations, there had never been a war between generations. "Don't trust anyone over thirty" was the rallying cry of the image-tribe in its battle with the print-nation.

There were other indicators that something dramatic was afoot. Suddenly, Johnny couldn't read and a previously unrecognized affliction called dyslexia (nonexistent in ideographic China) broke out at alarming rates in classrooms all across Eurocentric TV-land. Dyslexic children, predominantly male (9:1), have difficulty deciphering the alphabet. One credible theory proposes that it is due to a failure of hemispheric dominance. Ninety percent of the language centers traditionally reside in the left hemisphere of right-handed people.* In the right-handed dyslexic, the distribution of language centers may be more on the order of 80/20 or 70/30. Although we cannot be sure that dyslexia was not always among us, it seems to have erupted at the very moment that an entire generation was devaluing the left hemispheric mode of knowing. Perhaps television is the agent equilibrating the human brain's two differing modes of perception.

The very concept of "brain dominance" is presently under scrutiny, as many dyslexics are talented artists, architects, musicians, composers, dancers, and surgeons. The idea that logical, linear thinking is better than intuition and holistic perception was a script written by left-brainers in the first place. Our culture has classified dyslexia as a disability. But as culture becomes more comfortable with its reliance on images, it may turn out that dyslexia will be reassessed as another of the many harbingers that announced the arrival of the Iconic Revolution.

As the influence of the written word declined after World War II, images rode a crest of ever-increasing popularity. Although more books are being published in the 1990s than ever before, a larger number of them contain illustrations. Books once stood at attention on shelves, straight-up and spine-out. Now many rest supine on the coffee table, face-up, revealing their beautiful covers. These kinds of books are not meant to be read so much as perused, like the superb decorative works of the Dark Ages. At the same time that attendance levels have fallen at libraries in the countries that embraced television, museums have enjoyed an unprecedented surge in membership applications. Tickets to traveling exhibits of the work of masters like van Gogh and Monet are in such demand that they must be purchased far in advance, and visitors at these exhibitions walk about with the same attitude of hushed reverence that pilgrims displayed reading the Bible five centuries ago. On Times Square in New York (as in other cities), the early reliance on word-text billboards has given way to neon displays of eye-catching, rapidly changing images. Business presentations, legal cases, medical conferences, scientific meetings, and military briefings increasingly rely on colorful charts and graphics.

Police routinely use cameras, and the line-up, mug shots, and fingerprints are familiar icons of our culture. In a recent turnabout demonstrating how deeply photography and electromagnetism have penetrated society, citizens now use camcorders to monitor the police.

The effect of this image bombardment is everywhere in evidence. Dinner conversations, water-cooler schmoozing, and car-pool chit-chat are riddled with the lingo of TV, ads, sporting events, movies, and computers. References to poets and authors, common a century ago among the educated, are increasingly rare. The right brain is the home of puns, jokes, and double entendres. One of North America's premier literary magazines, The New Yorker, has elevated cartoons to an art form. From bumper stickers to T-shirts, coffee mugs to aprons, we are surrounded by clever word play. In recent years, homogenous print cultures that had boasted high literacy rates prior to World War II have discovered that an alarming percentage of their populations have become functionally illiterate. Educators are aghast; finger pointing and accusations are traded back and forth in the media. Most involved in the debate are unwilling to consider that in the age of the image, literacy will inevitably decline. While this is a source of concern, it must be balanced with awareness that intelligence is not declining.*5 Human society lived for 2,995,000 years without the benefit of writing, and there is considerable evidence that many preliterate cultures behaved in a more humane manner toward one another and toward their environment than the literacy-based cultures that followed.

Not since the jousting tournaments of the oral Age of Chivalry have sporting events played such a prominent role in culture. For entire centuries, hunter-killer values informed the most popular (and atavistic) sport of all-the hunt. Following the invention of Gutenberg's press, few people "played." During the period of Newton's influence, croquet, with its linear, sequential application of force on balls, enjoyed a boom among the genteel. In the heyday of America's print literacy, baseball-a sport characterized by one event following another, from the batting order to the way in which a player rounds the bases-became the country's national pastime. It was the perfect sport to complement alphabet literacy.* After television sets filled the corner bar, baseball began to lose ground to sports that are more involving for the eye, such as football, basketball, and hockey-all sports in which multiple interactions between players occur simultaneously. Fans track the mosaic, jerky movements of these events with their right brains, grasping the gestalt of the overall field or court.

In the entertainment industry the symbolism of the right hemisphere pervades the language. Popular stars of film and television are referred to as "icons." Adoring, "worshipful" fans describe movie "idols" in mythological terms: "sirens," "sorceresses," and "enchantresses." Even the word goddess, so long forbidden in alphabet cultures, resurfaced. Nineteenth-century admirers of prominent female authors and poets rarely, if ever, used this terminology. The deeply felt connection to Princess Diana as evidenced by the amazing worldwide reaction to her death is another example of the power of the image. Her fame became widespread because of photographers. Those eulogizing her made constant reference to mythology, referring to her life as a "fairy tale" and a "Greek tragedy." The values she projected were compassion, kindness, vulnerability, style, and nurturing-all of which, along with mythopoesis, issue primarily from the right hemisphere.

Unlike photographs or film, television images can be simultaneous with the events they report. People watched the space walks and the standoff at Waco, Texas, as they were happening. Instead of reading about leaders' speeches, viewers could observe how they spoke. Nonverbal visual assessments of politicians' sincerity enhanced people's ability to evaluate them. The camera eye has affected the democratic political process more than any other invention since the ballot box. Photo-ops and sound bites have superseded backroom deals and smoky cigars. While many features of the changeover from print to television have been deleterious, many are not. A healthy distrust of all politicians immunizes a populace against the disastrous possibility that they will become mesmerized by the words of a demagogue.

Today advertising icons have become ubiquitous, while written copy has receded into the background to become clever word play. It would be difficult to find anyone unfamiliar with McDonald's golden arches or the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle. In classical times, the Greek logos meant "the word"; in the twentieth century, it contracted into logo, the icon. The daily newspaper, which became commonplace in the nineteenth century, initially relied exclusively on text. With the rise of photography, a newspaper's written words increasingly shared the pages with images. Today, largely in response to television, newspapers are filled with photos, color charts, weather maps, political cartoons, and comics.

Twenty years before the implosion of American culture by television, iconography was already present in the form of comic books. (Note that the generic word to describe these books-comic-is a right-hemispheric trait.) Like the crude wood-block engravings of the early Middle Ages, comics told a story using low-resolution pictures. Comics books were the province of children who were thereby prepared for their later meeting with the electromagnetic comics called television. Today, comic book characters have left the page and taken on lives of their own. Superman, Dick Tracy, and Batman have gone from static images to film and television. The Disney theme park phenomenon attests to comics' characters' pervasive, international popularity. In a sense, all left hemispheres must be checked at the gates of the Magic Kingdom, where right-hemispheric myth and fairy tale come alive.

Television's photographic images are supplanting the headline and the essay. It seems as though each week brings news that another newspaper has folded or that another bookstore has gone out of business just as another television station becomes the target of a telecommunication bidding war. Film has replaced the novel as the principal means to entertain and videos are increasingly used as educational tools. The last scene from Casablanca is familiar to more people than the last page of A Tale of Two Cities. While culture was still reeling from the introduction of television, another marriage of photography and electromagnetism reinforced the perceptual mode of the right brain. The personal computer has greatly increased the impact of the iconic revolution and continues to do so. A major criticism of television has been that it encourages viewer passivity.* The first television generation's intense social activism and the current craze for individual derring-do sports would seem to provide presumptive evidence to the contrary. The computer, however, converted the television screen from a monologue to a dialogue by making it interactive. And features peculiar to computers shifted the collective cultural consciousness of the men and women who used them toward a right-hemispheric mode, which in turn has further diminished male dominance.

The computer was originally designed to aid scientists, most of whom were male. Since the 1970s, therefore, males have rushed in droves to learn what their fathers and grandfathers contemptuously dismissed as a skill for women and sissies-typing. Unlike all the scribes of past cultures, men now routinely write using both hands instead of only the dominant one. The entry into the communication equation of millions of men's left hands, directed by millions of male right brains tapping out one half of every computer-generated written message, is, I believe, an unrecognized factor in the diminution of patriarchy.

Another feature of the computer that revolutionized how men and women relate to the written word was the cursor. The "mouse," the device that controls the cursor, liberated the right hand's need to stay within the confines of the lane markers on lined paper while writing. Computer-literates use a hand-eye coordination more spatial than linear: the mouse scurries across the corpus callosum, and invites right-brain pattern skills to participate in the maneuvers necessary to generate the written word.

The computer's unique word-processing programs added still another right-brained talent. The geometrical moving about of phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and whole passages increased the right hemisphere's influence on the composition of writing. And there are no pages to turn in a computer, which further discourages linear thinking. "Scrolling," with its reliance on rods and right-brain pattern-recognition skills, is more akin to deciphering vertical Chinese ideograms than reading horizontal alphabet text.* In another trend boosting gestalt perception, computer designers increasingly build in iconic commands accessed by clicking on them. "Window"-formatted information has become the worldwide standard. The picture of a trashcan has replaced the word t-r-a-s-h.

Five thousand years ago, writing initiated a long, painstaking process of converting images into letters. Since the invention of the computer, users have taken delight in ignoring the letters' phonetic values and instead have arranged them decoratively (confirming Picasso's and Braque's prescience). For example, Snoopys, Christmas trees, and other familiar cultural icons are assembled as a mosaic of alphabet letters, most commonly the letter A.

The computer's processes have unwittingly advanced the cause of women and images, even though these aspects of computer operation have nothing to do with the computer's content, which is the manipulation of information. The world of cyberspace is a computer-generated extension of the human mind into another dimension. The computer has carried human communication across a threshold as significant as writing, and cyberspace's reliance on electromagnetism and photographic reproduction will only lead to further adjustments in consciousness that favor a feminine worldview. Irrespective of content, the processes used to maneuver in cyberspace are essentially right hemispheric. The World Wide Web and the Internet are both metaphors redolent of feminine connotations.

Some fret that the computer is a dehumanizing machine that so mesmerizes its aficionados that they lose their ability to emote, but as has happened repeatedly in the past, contemporary critics are at a disadvantage when trying to gauge the effects of the technological revolutions of their age. Trapped in the center of a spinning washing machine, it is difficult for anyone so positioned to appreciate that the clothes tumbling violently about are becoming cleaner.

Today, CNN geopolitical bulletins assault the eye like an artillery barrage, flashing and exploding in our living rooms. Talking heads proffer facile explanations that do not satisfy our yearning to make sense of our century. Just as the inhabitants of one patch of the globe achieve the te mperament of a helpful, tail-wagging Saint Bernard, another previously dormant swatch lunges behind the wire fence, snarling like a junkyard dog. The stately Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Stockholm shares the same news programs with fist-waving rebels shouting unintelligible slogans from a former tranquil paradise. Perhaps some pattern can be discerned from these surrealistically juxtaposed events if we were to view them in the context of massive intrusions of unfamiliar mediums of communication into unprepared societies.

One of the disconcerting aspects of the present is the uneasy feeling one has that, as Shakespeare said of a different era, "time is out of joint." There remain many cultures still living in earlier stages of development. Unfortunately, they must make the passage into the approaching twenty-first century by first having to recapitulate the sublimity and mayhem that Eurocentric cultures experienced in their journey through these ages. The rolling advance of the printing press, which has rear-ended diverse countries, tribes, and nations in different centuries, has complicated attempts to identify history's patterns. Just as one country recovers from the alphabet's whiplash and begins to enjoy its benefits, another caroms toward madness. It is as if some parts of the

CHAPTER 35 - PAGE / SCREEN

Competition between media contributes to the flowering of culture. -Harold Innis We must once again accept and harmonize the perceptual biases of both (the left and right brain) and understand that for thousands of years the left hemisphere has suppressed the qualitative judgment of the right, and the human personality has suffered for it. -Bruce Powers

In the aftermath of World War II, a nihilist philosophy called existentialism weighed like a wet blanket on the spirit of depressed intellectuals. The war had exposed a terrible truth about human nature and even the most sanguine were forced to admit that education and cultural sophistication were no guarantee against barbarity. Earlier national armies had more or less subscribed to the articles of the Geneva Convention. Not since the religious wars of the sixteenth century had combatants indulged in depravities like those perpetrated by the "civilized" Axis powers. World War II was a firestorm for modern civilization, but the conflict also marked the beginning of yet another massive shift in global consciousness. The combining of two "feminine" influences, photography and electromagnetism, was chiefly responsible for this change. In 1939, Philo T. Farnsworth invented television. After the war ended, television spread rapidly-literally house to house. One after another, living rooms were illuminated by the glow of fuzzy electronic pictures. The tube was an overnight sensation, and soon the amount of time people spent watching images flit on and off the front of the glowing box began to surpass the amount of time people spent reading linear rows of black letters. Comprehending television required an entirely different hemispheric strategy than that used in reading. Viewers called forth their pattern-recognition skills to decipher the screen's low-definition flickering mosaic mesh. The retina's cones need bright light to scan a static page of print, but television brings the eye's rods into play. They see best in dim surroundings and can detect the slightest movements. As people watched more and more television, the supremacy of the left hemisphere dimmed as the right's use increased. For 750,000 years, families had gathered around lit hearths whose flames supplied warmth, illuminated darkness, encouraged camaraderie, and encouraged storytelling. Campfires had been an essential ingredient for the evolution of oral epics. In 1950, a new kind of fire replaced the hearth; and it encouraged a different set of social qualities.

Previously, alphabetic print had exploded Western culture into millions of hard-edged shards of individualistic shrapnel. Both reading and writing are, in most cases, solitary endeavors. Television abruptly reversed the process, and the centripetal implosion not only pulled together individual families but also began to enmesh the entire human community into what McLuhan called "one vast electronic global village." Television was so startlingly original that many other adjustments in perception were necessary for the brain to make sense of it.

The electroencephalogram (EEG) brain wave patterns of someone reading a book are very different from those of the same person watching television. So fundamentally different, in fact, that there is little deviation in those patterns even when the content of the book or television program is varied.3 A network program about adorable koala bears elicits essentially the same brain wave pattern as a program containing violence or sexuality. Watching television and meditating generate the identical slow alpha and theta waves. These EEG patterns denote a passive, receptive, and contemplative state of mind. Reading a book, in contrast, generates beta waves; the kind that appear whenever a person is concentrating on a task.4 Corroborating evidence concerning the perceptual differences between these two modes comes from sophisticated brain PET (position emission tomography) scanners that demonstrate the circuits in the left hemisphere lighting up when the subject is reading (while the right hemisphere remains relatively dark). When the subject looks up from his or her book and begins to watch television, the right hemisphere switches on and the left begins to idle. Task-oriented beta waves activate the hunter/killer side of the brain as alpha and theta waves emanate more from the gatherer/nurturer side. Perhaps Western civilization has for far too long been stuck in a beta mode due to literacy, and striking a balance with a little more alpha and theta, regardless of the source, will serve to soothe humankind's savage beast. A clue to this reorientation: men, who traditionally favor logic over intuition, often engage in "surfing" when they watch television-that is, they watch many programs simultaneously. They would never try to read chapters of various books simultaneously. A hunter trying to stalk multiple animals simultaneously would go hungry. A man is much more susceptible to this adult "attention deficit disorder" behavior than a woman, because television, being a flickering image-based medium, derails the masculine-left-linear strategy, just as in parallel, the written word had earlier disoriented the gestalt-feminine-right one. The printing press disseminates written words. Television projects images. As television sets continue to proliferate around the world, they are redirecting the course of human evolution. The fusing of photography and electromagnetism is proving to be of the same magnitude as the discovery of agriculture, writing, and print. While most social commentators wring their hands over the dismal nature of much of television programming's content, they fail to accord the process of perceiving television's information its due as a factor reconfiguring society in a positive way. Similarly, when the printing press appeared, commentators were caught up in debating the content of books being printed. No one then appreciated the effects brought about by the process of becoming literate. While a medium's content surely is significant, the more important story is how the medium itself affects people's perception of reality. Fiercely loyal to the literate mode of the previous medium, many critics of television have missed the frisson of the present age.

Television's popularity greatly increased the power of images. Iconic information has superseded alphabetic information as the single most significant cultural influence. The first modern image to achieve universal recognition was the atomic bomb's mushroom explosion. The phallic cloud billowing up over Hiroshima symbolized the unbalanced masculine. It was the climactic end result of thousands of years of left-brain dominance. The world stared slack-jawed and wide-eyed at the awesome power of hunter/killer values carried to their farthest extreme. For all their virtues, abstract science, linear words, and sequential equations had led the world to the brink of extinction.

The eerie photographic sequence of the bomb's signature plume was shown over and over in theaters and on television screens until hardly anyone was unfamiliar with it. A great warning shock wave surged through the nervous systems of peoples of all nations. The arms race, consuming much of the left brain's talent for thousands of years, had reached an absurd zero-sum stalemate: to "win" all-out war meant to make the planet uninhabitable for all humans, as well as for most other species.

For the next fifty years, the superpowers bluffed and feinted, but managed somehow not to initiate Armageddon. If a written description of the atomic explosion's aftermath were all that had been available, the bomb would surely have been used. But the image of the bomb's destructive power was universally disseminated and that picture (worth many thousands of words) saved the world.

The ominous mushroom cloud warned humankind of collective death. The first photograph of Earth taken from space flashed around the world in 1968, celebrating the interconnectedness of life. Like a Chinese ideograph, NASA's photograph of our blue marble conveyed multiple values simultaneously, values more intuitive than rational. The masculine perception of nature and the Earth itself as "things" to be conquered made the space program possible. The photo it generated began to instill in everyone who saw it an understanding that the Earth must be honored, protected, and loved. That many environmentalists are men confirms this change in orientation. NASA's photograph of the Earth floating in space provided people with "the big picture." One sees the big picture with the entire retina and the combined hemispheres. The inviting, mute image of the home planet floating in dark space did more to change the consciousness of its residents than the miles of type concerning the subject generated by the world's writers.

Over the course of history, humankind has been profoundly influenced by the periodic emergence of powerful books. From the tablets Yahweh presented to Moses to the works of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Paul, Augustine, Mohammed, Aquinas, Galileo, Calvin, Descartes, Newton, Kant, Jefferson, Hegel, Darwin, Marx, and Freud-each stamped their age with a unique imprimatur. Since the atomic blast in 1945 and the Earth image that followed, not a single book has come close to the degree of impact this one photo has had. The written word's influence has been declining for the last fifty years, counterbalanced by the increasing power of the image.

The shift in orientation toward perceiving information with the right hemisphere instead of the left had significant ramifications for women's rights. The suffragette movement was just beginning to catch its second wind in the "flapper era" of the 1920s when it was overshadowed by two life-threatening events: the worldwide Depression of the 1930s threatened the survival of individual families; World War II threatened the survival of whole nations.

Authorities drafted able-bodied men to bear arms. Women were called upon to build war machines. "Rosie the Riveter" flexed her muscles as women took over technical positions and mastered dangerous tasks that previously men had performed. Women savored their paychecks and realized that an independent income was the hacksaw blade hidden in the cake that would help them gain their freedom by loosening their dependence on male breadwinners. Yet, when the men returned from the war and elbowed them aside, most women once again donned their aprons. Gender relations might have reverted back to prewar conditions, except for one new factor-television.

It was not mere coincidence that the most explosive feminist movement in the five-thousand-year history of patriarchy occurred during the first television generation. Certainly the birth control pill, with its power to disconnect sex from pregnancy, played an important role, but the advent of the pill does not explain why so many young men of the era were inclined to support their sisters' and girlfriends' aspirations. Boys who spent many hours of their childhood engrossed in the Howdy Doody show grew up to become the first generation of men that included many who applauded the aims of the women's movement. And what a movement-bold, courageous women of every age, color, and class altered the gender equation permanently. The meteoric rise of the image, resulting in an infusion of right-brained values into culture, was like a booster rocket that propelled the women's movement into stable orbit. Very few of society's prophets saw it coming. Looking to the past for models, they also missed clues that foretold cultural shifts that were to blast 1950s society to smithereens.

In 1958, a few years before the first generation weaned on television was about to enter college, the president of Harvard, James Conant, castigated the buttoned-down psyches of that year's graduating class in Time magazine. He labeled the college students the "Silent Generation" and blamed their apathy on the mind-numbing pabulum of the seditious new medium. Pundits predicted that when the first really "television-addled" generation entered college in the 1960s, it would be catatonic from all the hours this cohort had spent staring at the cathode tube; pontificating sages predicted that these youngsters would behave even more passively than the transitionally literate generation of the late 1950s.

But the counterculture ran counter to all conventional wisdom. The supposedly inert, troglodyte young people saw only too clearly the flaws in such hallowed phrases as "unquestioning patriotism," "trustworthy government," and "infallible military." A psychedelic-image-besotted, back-talking, tie-dyed, pot-smoking cadre of hirsute dancing fools forced the older alphabet generation to reassess their own cherished beliefs. The right-brained word fun, never before used to characterize a print-dominated era, epitomized the age. Beatlemania swept up the young in an ecstatic frenzy that Western culture had not witnessed since religious flagellants whipped themselves raw in the streets of medieval cities.

Demographic bulges, the Vietnam War, and affluence have all been cited as contributing causes for the outrageous phenomenon that was the sixties. However, the never-blinking, ubiquitous cyclopean television eye was the most overarching influence behind that generation's passionate involvement in Civil Rights marches, the anti-war movement, psychedelic experimentation, the Native American rights movement, the Peace Corps, ecology awareness, the back-to-the-earth movement, reinvigoration of the democratic process, communal living, the human potential movement, and women's equality. Despite fake wrestling matches, boring test patterns, inane sitcoms, and mindlessly violent Saturday cartoons, the first rugrats-turned-couch-potatoes sallied forth and brought about a societal change bearing all the hallmarks of a true Renaissance. Entirely new forms of art, music, dress, morals, and attitudes toward war, love, and sexuality bubbled up effervescently. No one confronted with the business end of a rifle had ever thought to respond by placing a flower in its barrel. The victory of television images over printed words was so sudden that society had little time to adjust. The bulwarks of written-word-based authority were repudiated. The black-and-white literalness of the Bible, the gray work ethic of corporate capitalism, and the bloodless white lab coat dispassion of science were all scrutinized and criticized as never before. The right brain, suppressed for so long, burst forth with an exuberance not seen since Dionysus cavorted with his retinue in the forests. The hippie god would have applauded the credo "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll."

But radical change does not occur without social upheaval. While previous populations had endured wars between tribes, empires, religions, classes, and nations, there had never been a war between generations. "Don't trust anyone over thirty" was the rallying cry of the image-tribe in its battle with the print-nation.

There were other indicators that something dramatic was afoot. Suddenly, Johnny couldn't read and a previously unrecognized affliction called dyslexia (nonexistent in ideographic China) broke out at alarming rates in classrooms all across Eurocentric TV-land. Dyslexic children, predominantly male (9:1), have difficulty deciphering the alphabet. One credible theory proposes that it is due to a failure of hemispheric dominance. Ninety percent of the language centers traditionally reside in the left hemisphere of right-handed people.* In the right-handed dyslexic, the distribution of language centers may be more on the order of 80/20 or 70/30. Although we cannot be sure that dyslexia was not always among us, it seems to have erupted at the very moment that an entire generation was devaluing the left hemispheric mode of knowing. Perhaps television is the agent equilibrating the human brain's two differing modes of perception.

The very concept of "brain dominance" is presently under scrutiny, as many dyslexics are talented artists, architects, musicians, composers, dancers, and surgeons. The idea that logical, linear thinking is better than intuition and holistic perception was a script written by left-brainers in the first place. Our culture has classified dyslexia as a disability. But as culture becomes more comfortable with its reliance on images, it may turn out that dyslexia will be reassessed as another of the many harbingers that announced the arrival of the Iconic Revolution.

As the influence of the written word declined after World War II, images rode a crest of ever-increasing popularity. Although more books are being published in the 1990s than ever before, a larger number of them contain illustrations. Books once stood at attention on shelves, straight-up and spine-out. Now many rest supine on the coffee table, face-up, revealing their beautiful covers. These kinds of books are not meant to be read so much as perused, like the superb decorative works of the Dark Ages. At the same time that attendance levels have fallen at libraries in the countries that embraced television, museums have enjoyed an unprecedented surge in membership applications. Tickets to traveling exhibits of the work of masters like van Gogh and Monet are in such demand that they must be purchased far in advance, and visitors at these exhibitions walk about with the same attitude of hushed reverence that pilgrims displayed reading the Bible five centuries ago. On Times Square in New York (as in other cities), the early reliance on word-text billboards has given way to neon displays of eye-catching, rapidly changing images. Business presentations, legal cases, medical conferences, scientific meetings, and military briefings increasingly rely on colorful charts and graphics.

Police routinely use cameras, and the line-up, mug shots, and fingerprints are familiar icons of our culture. In a recent turnabout demonstrating how deeply photography and electromagnetism have penetrated society, citizens now use camcorders to monitor the police.

The effect of this image bombardment is everywhere in evidence. Dinner conversations, water-cooler schmoozing, and car-pool chit-chat are riddled with the lingo of TV, ads, sporting events, movies, and computers. References to poets and authors, common a century ago among the educated, are increasingly rare. The right brain is the home of puns, jokes, and double entendres. One of North America's premier literary magazines, The New Yorker, has elevated cartoons to an art form. From bumper stickers to T-shirts, coffee mugs to aprons, we are surrounded by clever word play. In recent years, homogenous print cultures that had boasted high literacy rates prior to World War II have discovered that an alarming percentage of their populations have become functionally illiterate. Educators are aghast; finger pointing and accusations are traded back and forth in the media. Most involved in the debate are unwilling to consider that in the age of the image, literacy will inevitably decline. While this is a source of concern, it must be balanced with awareness that intelligence is not declining.*5 Human society lived for 2,995,000 years without the benefit of writing, and there is considerable evidence that many preliterate cultures behaved in a more humane manner toward one another and toward their environment than the literacy-based cultures that followed.

Not since the jousting tournaments of the oral Age of Chivalry have sporting events played such a prominent role in culture. For entire centuries, hunter-killer values informed the most popular (and atavistic) sport of all-the hunt. Following the invention of Gutenberg's press, few people "played." During the period of Newton's influence, croquet, with its linear, sequential application of force on balls, enjoyed a boom among the genteel. In the heyday of America's print literacy, baseball-a sport characterized by one event following another, from the batting order to the way in which a player rounds the bases-became the country's national pastime. It was the perfect sport to complement alphabet literacy.* After television sets filled the corner bar, baseball began to lose ground to sports that are more involving for the eye, such as football, basketball, and hockey-all sports in which multiple interactions between players occur simultaneously. Fans track the mosaic, jerky movements of these events with their right brains, grasping the gestalt of the overall field or court.

In the entertainment industry the symbolism of the right hemisphere pervades the language. Popular stars of film and television are referred to as "icons." Adoring, "worshipful" fans describe movie "idols" in mythological terms: "sirens," "sorceresses," and "enchantresses." Even the word goddess, so long forbidden in alphabet cultures, resurfaced. Nineteenth-century admirers of prominent female authors and poets rarely, if ever, used this terminology. The deeply felt connection to Princess Diana as evidenced by the amazing worldwide reaction to her death is another example of the power of the image. Her fame became widespread because of photographers. Those eulogizing her made constant reference to mythology, referring to her life as a "fairy tale" and a "Greek tragedy." The values she projected were compassion, kindness, vulnerability, style, and nurturing-all of which, along with mythopoesis, issue primarily from the right hemisphere.

Unlike photographs or film, television images can be simultaneous with the events they report. People watched the space walks and the standoff at Waco, Texas, as they were happening. Instead of reading about leaders' speeches, viewers could observe how they spoke. Nonverbal visual assessments of politicians' sincerity enhanced people's ability to evaluate them. The camera eye has affected the democratic political process more than any other invention since the ballot box. Photo-ops and sound bites have superseded backroom deals and smoky cigars. While many features of the changeover from print to television have been deleterious, many are not. A healthy distrust of all politicians immunizes a populace against the disastrous possibility that they will become mesmerized by the words of a demagogue.

Today advertising icons have become ubiquitous, while written copy has receded into the background to become clever word play. It would be difficult to find anyone unfamiliar with McDonald's golden arches or the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle. In classical times, the Greek logos meant "the word"; in the twentieth century, it contracted into logo, the icon. The daily newspaper, which became commonplace in the nineteenth century, initially relied exclusively on text. With the rise of photography, a newspaper's written words increasingly shared the pages with images. Today, largely in response to television, newspapers are filled with photos, color charts, weather maps, political cartoons, and comics.

Twenty years before the implosion of American culture by television, iconography was already present in the form of comic books. (Note that the generic word to describe these books-comic-is a right-hemispheric trait.) Like the crude wood-block engravings of the early Middle Ages, comics told a story using low-resolution pictures. Comics books were the province of children who were thereby prepared for their later meeting with the electromagnetic comics called television. Today, comic book characters have left the page and taken on lives of their own. Superman, Dick Tracy, and Batman have gone from static images to film and television. The Disney theme park phenomenon attests to comics' characters' pervasive, international popularity. In a sense, all left hemispheres must be checked at the gates of the Magic Kingdom, where right-hemispheric myth and fairy tale come alive.

Television's photographic images are supplanting the headline and the essay. It seems as though each week brings news that another newspaper has folded or that another bookstore has gone out of business just as another television station becomes the target of a telecommunication bidding war. Film has replaced the novel as the principal means to entertain and videos are increasingly used as educational tools. The last scene from Casablanca is familiar to more people than the last page of A Tale of Two Cities. While culture was still reeling from the introduction of television, another marriage of photography and electromagnetism reinforced the perceptual mode of the right brain. The personal computer has greatly increased the impact of the iconic revolution and continues to do so. A major criticism of television has been that it encourages viewer passivity.* The first television generation's intense social activism and the current craze for individual derring-do sports would seem to provide presumptive evidence to the contrary. The computer, however, converted the television screen from a monologue to a dialogue by making it interactive. And features peculiar to computers shifted the collective cultural consciousness of the men and women who used them toward a right-hemispheric mode, which in turn has further diminished male dominance.

The computer was originally designed to aid scientists, most of whom were male. Since the 1970s, therefore, males have rushed in droves to learn what their fathers and grandfathers contemptuously dismissed as a skill for women and sissies-typing. Unlike all the scribes of past cultures, men now routinely write using both hands instead of only the dominant one. The entry into the communication equation of millions of men's left hands, directed by millions of male right brains tapping out one half of every computer-generated written message, is, I believe, an unrecognized factor in the diminution of patriarchy.

Another feature of the computer that revolutionized how men and women relate to the written word was the cursor. The "mouse," the device that controls the cursor, liberated the right hand's need to stay within the confines of the lane markers on lined paper while writing. Computer-literates use a hand-eye coordination more spatial than linear: the mouse scurries across the corpus callosum, and invites right-brain pattern skills to participate in the maneuvers necessary to generate the written word.

The computer's unique word-processing programs added still another right-brained talent. The geometrical moving about of phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and whole passages increased the right hemisphere's influence on the composition of writing. And there are no pages to turn in a computer, which further discourages linear thinking. "Scrolling," with its reliance on rods and right-brain pattern-recognition skills, is more akin to deciphering vertical Chinese ideograms than reading horizontal alphabet text.* In another trend boosting gestalt perception, computer designers increasingly build in iconic commands accessed by clicking on them. "Window"-formatted information has become the worldwide standard. The picture of a trashcan has replaced the word t-r-a-s-h.

Five thousand years ago, writing initiated a long, painstaking process of converting images into letters. Since the invention of the computer, users have taken delight in ignoring the letters' phonetic values and instead have arranged them decoratively (confirming Picasso's and Braque's prescience). For example, Snoopys, Christmas trees, and other familiar cultural icons are assembled as a mosaic of alphabet letters, most commonly the letter A.

The computer's processes have unwittingly advanced the cause of women and images, even though these aspects of computer operation have nothing to do with the computer's content, which is the manipulation of information. The world of cyberspace is a computer-generated extension of the human mind into another dimension. The computer has carried human communication across a threshold as significant as writing, and cyberspace's reliance on electromagnetism and photographic reproduction will only lead to further adjustments in consciousness that favor a feminine worldview. Irrespective of content, the processes used to maneuver in cyberspace are essentially right hemispheric. The World Wide Web and the Internet are both metaphors redolent of feminine connotations.

Some fret that the computer is a dehumanizing machine that so mesmerizes its aficionados that they lose their ability to emote, but as has happened repeatedly in the past, contemporary critics are at a disadvantage when trying to gauge the effects of the technological revolutions of their age. Trapped in the center of a spinning washing machine, it is difficult for anyone so positioned to appreciate that the clothes tumbling violently about are becoming cleaner.

Today, CNN geopolitical bulletins assault the eye like an artillery barrage, flashing and exploding in our living rooms. Talking heads proffer facile explanations that do not satisfy our yearning to make sense of our century. Just as the inhabitants of one patch of the globe achieve the te mperament of a helpful, tail-wagging Saint Bernard, another previously dormant swatch lunges behind the wire fence, snarling like a junkyard dog. The stately Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Stockholm shares the same news programs with fist-waving rebels shouting unintelligible slogans from a former tranquil paradise. Perhaps some pattern can be discerned from these surrealistically juxtaposed events if we were to view them in the context of massive intrusions of unfamiliar mediums of communication into unprepared societies.

One of the disconcerting aspects of the present is the uneasy feeling one has that, as Shakespeare said of a different era, "time is out of joint." There remain many cultures still living in earlier stages of development. Unfortunately, they must make the passage into the approaching twenty-first century by first having to recapitulate the sublimity and mayhem that Eurocentric cultures experienced in their journey through these ages. The rolling advance of the printing press, which has rear-ended diverse countries, tribes, and nations in different centuries, has complicated attempts to identify history's patterns. Just as one country recovers from the alphabet's whiplash and begins to enjoy its benefits, another caroms toward madness. It is as if some parts of the


EPILOGUE
Beauty will save the world.
- Dostoevsky
In laying out the considerable circumstantial evidence implicating the written word as the agent responsible for the decline of the Goddess, I have sought to convince the reader that when cultures adopt writing, particularly in its alphabetic form, something negative occurs.

Because of literacy's overwhelming benefits, this pernicious side effect has gone essentially unnoticed. My methods differed from most historical analyses in that I gave little weight to the content of the works of any period, and focused instead on the perceptual changes wrought by the processes used to learn an alphabet. Throughout, as a writer, as an avid reader, and as a scientist, I had the uneasy feeling that I was turning on one of my best friends.

All of my adult life I have lived in two worlds - one dictated by the exigencies of being a surgeon and the other inspired by the imaginary realm of literature. I am amazed at and humbled by the sheer volume of words in the medical textbooks I have read in order to learn my profession. I know that each written statement represents the accumulated wisdom of earlier physicians who had to endure the inevitable blind alleys associated with the imperfect process of trial and error. Without a means to organize, clarify, classify, and pass on this gleaned knowledge - not only in medicine, but in all fields - how far advanced would our culture be? But the neatly alphabetized indices appearing in our textbooks and encyclopedias represent only part of the great gift of literacy. There exists another dimension also: the sheer aesthetic pleasure that accompanies reading. Breaking the confines of the shell that more or less encases each individual, literature allows readers' minds to merge into the imaginations of the most thoughtful writers who have ever lived. I, personally, feel deeply grateful, privileged, and ennobled to count Yeats, Plato, Shakespeare, and Dostoevsky among my mentors. I am who I am because of alphabet literacy. To bring this charge against the written word, I had to use the written word to assist me in solving this complex whodunit - an irony not lost on me.

I acknowledge the analytic, linear, sequential skills of my own left brain without which I could never have kept track of the narrative arrow that aligns this work. My left hemisphere's gift of abstraction has permitted me to discern the connections among seemingly disparate historical events. My scientific side has persisted in badgering me like a pesky gadfly protesting, "yes but" throughout, and that skepticism resulted in a better book.

Perhaps in my zeal to make my points I have overstated the right/left, feminine/masculine, nurturer/killer, and intuiter/analyzer dualities. In individuals, the divisions are not so sharp, and there are dualities within each duality. Nevertheless, I believe overlaying these templates upon human history has helped clarify many complex currents and has made certain patterns apparent that otherwise would have remained murky.

I am aware that I have expended considerable ink bashing the left brain, whose wondrous achievements are celebrated on library shelves filled with the works of geniuses of logic, science, philosophy, and mathematics; I did not think it necessary to extol their contributions further here. The left brain's essential expression - masculine energy - has crafted many of humankind's great moments, but it has also informed the worst ones. For every Newton, there has been a Jack the Ripper. A subtheme of this book is that a lopsided reliance on the left side's attributes without the tempering mode of the right hemisphere initially leads a society through a period of demonstrable madness. It is only after this initial phase passes that literacy begins to work its salutary wonders for a culture. I have tended to characterize the right-hemispheric attributes as purely positive. But it is no less true that relying on them without the ordering balance which is the forte of the left hemisphere leads to a different kind of disarray and can result in mindless anarchy and sensuous excess. Emphasis on one hemispheric mode at the expense of the other is noxious. The human community should strive for a state of complementarity and harmony.

Another reason compelling me to write this book: I have been troubled since my youth by a question that surfaced as I became entranced by Greek mythology. I do not remember at what point it occurred, but I became aware that the Greeks did not engage in religious wars. Instead, they treated one another's belief systems with admirable tolerance and civility. What then, I asked myself, had changed in human culture?

Presently, to be a Jew, Muslim, Catholic, or Protestant seems to inspire suspicion and in many cases hatred of the other three. Growing up during World War II and the Holocaust made finding an answer to my question seem urgent. Nearly everyone in the Western world believes in one God. How could the adherents of the presumably lofty monotheistic belief system despise each other so since they all freely acknowledge that they worship the same deity? If there had been a time in the historical past when people did not kill each other over religion, then why did they start? What factor, I asked myself, could have exerted such a powerful influence upon culture? That I suspect it was the alphabet resonates with the quote from Sophocles I cited on page 1: "Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse." Writing was indeed vast and it was accompanied by a curse.

I began my inquiry intent on answering the question "Who killed the Great Goddess?" My conclusion - that the thug who mugged the Goddess was alphabet literacy - may seem repugnant to some and counterintuitive to others. I cannot prove that I am right. I have had to rely on the doctrine of competitive plausibility, arranging the tesserae chips of historical events into a mosaic of many periods and cultures. Any individual chip's texture and design can be (and has been) explained by local conditions, but when all of them are viewed juxtaposed together, I think a pattern can be discerned showing the shaping influence on culture of writing and particularly the alphabet. The rise and fall of images, women's rights, and the sacred feminine have moved contrapuntally with the rise and fall of alphabet literacy.

I am convinced we are entering a new Golden Age - one in which the right-hemispheric values of tolerance, caring, and respect for nature will begin to ameliorate the conditions that have prevailed for the too-long period during which left-hemispheric values were dominant. Images, of any kind, are the balm bringing about this worldwide healing. It will take more time for change to permeate and alter world cultures but there can be no doubt that the wondrous permutations of photography and electromagnetism are transforming the world both physically and psychically. The shift to right-hemispheric values through the perception of images can be expected to increase the sum total awareness of beauty.

Long before there was Hammurabi's stela or the Rosetta stone, there were the images of Lascaux and Altamira. In the beginning was the image. Then came five millennia dominated by the written word. The iconic symbol is now returning. Women, the half of the human equation who have for so long been denied, will increasingly have opportunities to achieve their potential. This will not happen everywhere at once, but the trend is toward equilibrium. My hope is that this book will initiate a conversation about the issues I have raised and inspire others to examine the thesis further
http://www.alphabetvsgoddess.com/timeline.html

3,000,000 - 2,900,000 years ago

  1. Hominids differentiate away from other primates by becoming meat-eaters instead of vegetarians.
  2. Extended childhood's of hominid babies require prolonged attention from hominid mothers.
  3. Males of the species predominately engage in hunting and killing.
  4. Females primarily engage in nurturing and gathering.
  5. Hominids become the first species of social predators in which the females do not participate in hunting and killing.

200,000 - 90,000 years ago

  • Language develops.
  • Homo Sapiens differentiate away from hominids.
  • Language requires complete rewiring of human brains.
  • · Over 90% of language modules placed in the left hemisphere of right handed humans who comprise 92% of the population.
  • Split Brain phenomenon becomes highly exaggerated only in humans.
  • Most hunting and killing strategies placed in left hemisphere.
  • Most nurturing and gathering strategies placed in the right side.

40,000 - 10,000 years ago

  • Homosapiens organize into highly effective hunter/gatherer societies.
  • Division of labor between sexes diverges more than in any other species.
  • Males hunt and females nurture.
  • Each sex develops predominate modes of perception and survival strategies to deal with the exigencies of life.
  • Left hemispheric specialization leads to an increased appreciation of time.
  • Humans become first animals to realize they will personally die.
  • Awareness of death leads to formation of supernatural beliefs.
  • Societies in which hunting is a more reliable source of protein than gathering elevate hunting gods over vegetative goddesses.
  • Societies in which gathering is a more reliable source of protein than hunting elevate vegetative goddesses over hunting gods.
  • In general, hunter/gatherer tribes worship a mixture of both spirits.

10,000 - 5,000 years ago

  • Agriculture discovered/ Domestication of animals discovered.
  • Crops need to be tended / flocks need to be nurtured.
  • Female survival strategy of gathering and nurturing supersedes male hunting killing one.
  • All early agrarian peoples begin to pray to an Earth Goddess responsible for the bountifulness of the land and fertility of the herds.
  • She awakens the land in springtime and metaphorically resurrects Her weaker, smaller dead son/lover.

5,000 - 3,000 years ago

  • Writing invented.
  • Left hemispheric modes of perception, the hunting/killing side, reinforced.
  • Literacy depends on linear, sequential, abstract and reductionist ways of thinking - the same as hunting and killing.
  • Early forms of cuneiform and hieroglyphics difficult to master.
  • Less than 2% literate.
  • Scribes become priests and new religions emerge in which the god begins to supercede the goddess.

45,000 - 3,000 years ago

  • Alphabet invented.
  • Extremely easy to use.
  • Near universal literacy possible.
  • Semites - Canaanites, Phoenicians, and Israelites - become first peoples to become substantially literate.
  • First alphabetic book is the Hebrew bible.
  • Goddess harshly rejected from Israelite belief system.
  • God loses His image.
  • To know Him, a worshipper must read what He wrote.
  • Images of any kind proscribed in first culture to worship written words.

3,000 - 2,500 years ago

  • Greeks become the second literate culture.
  • While not rejecting images, they suppress women's rights.
  • Athens and Sparta were two societies that shared the same language, gods, and culture and were in close proximity.
  • Women had few rights in Athens: Women wielded considerable power in Sparta.
  • Athenians glorified the written word: Spartan cared little about literacy.
  • Socrates disdained writing and wrote nothing down. He held egalitarian views.
  • Plato wrote extensively of what Socrates said. Not as generous toward women as Socrates.
  • Aristotle represents Greek passage from an oral society to a literate one. He taught that women were an inferior subspecies of man.

2,500 years ago

  • Buddha becomes enlightened in India. · Buddha, though literate, writes nothing down.
  • Teaches love, equality, kindness, and compassion.
  • His words are canonized in an alphabetic book 500 years later.
  • Book purports to show the Buddha had negative opinions about women, sexuality, and birth.
  • Taoism and Confucianism arise in China.
  • Taoism embodies feminine values: no attempt to control others, promotes Mother Nature as a guide.
  • Confucianism touts masculine values: structures patriarchal society, touts Father Culture.
  • Two systems of belief coexist in relative equilibrium until the Chinese invent the printing press in 923 AD Literacy rates soar.
  • Soon after, Taoism declines and Confucianism becomes China's dominant belief system.
  • Women's foot binding begins in 970 AD and becomes a common practice.
  • Taoism transmutes into a hierarchy with sacred texts and temple priests.
  • Taoist priests expected to be celibate Women's rights plummet.
  • In nearby Asian cultures that do not embrace literacy, women's rights remain high.

2,000 - 1,500 years ago

  • Roman Empire achieves near universal alphabetic literacy rates due to the stability of Pax Romana, tutors from Greece, papyrus from Egypt and an easy to use Greek and Latin alphabet.
  • New religion emerges based on the sayings of a gentle prophet named Jesus.
  • His oral teachings embody feminine values of Free Will, love, compassion, non-violence, and equality.
  • Jesus writes nothing down.
  • Women play prominent role in new religion.
  • Paul commits to writing what he interprets to be the meaning of the Christ event.
  • Subsequent Gospel writers detail Christ's crucifixion, death and resurrection.
  • Creed that evolves increasingly emphasizes masculine values of obedience, suffering, pain, death, and hierarchy.
  • Alphabetic text becomes canonized in 367 AD Women banned from baptizing or conducting sacraments.
  • Ordered to back of the church and ejected from the choir.
  • Christians destroy Roman images.

1,500 - 1,000 years ago

  • Rome falls to barbarian invasions.
  • Literacy lost in secular society.
  • Dark Ages begin.
  • When stage of history re-illuminated in the 10th century, women enjoy high status.
  • Age suffused with love of Mary.
  • People know her through her image not her written words.
  • Women mystics revered.
  • Women Cathars and Waldensians baptize.
  • Abbesses lead major monasteries.
  • Chivalric code instructs men to honor and protect women.
  • Courtly love becomes all the fashion.
  • Cathedrals dedicated to Notre Dame.
  • Religious art flourishes.
  • Few outside the Church can read and write.

1000 - 1453

  • High Middle Ages characterized by a renewed interest in literacy.
  • Commerce demands literate clerks. Literacy rates climb.
  • Masculine values begin to reassert dominance over feminine ones.
  • Renaissance begins. Cult of the individual encourages male artists, male thinkers, and macho themes in art.

1454 -1820

  • Gutenberg's printing press makes available alphabet literacy to the masses.
  • Books become affordable.
  • Literacy rates soar in those countries affected by the printing press.
  • Tremendous surge in science, art, philosophy, logic, and imperialism.
  • Women's rights suffer decline.
  • Women mystics now called witches.

1517 - 1820

  • Protestant Reformation breaks out fueled by many who can now read scripture.
  • Protestants demand the repudiation of the veneration of Mary, the destruction of images.
  • Protestant movement becomes very patriarchal.
  • Ferocious religious wars break out fought over minor doctrinal disputes.
  • Torture and burning at the stake become commonplace.
  • Hunter/killer values in steep ascendance only in those countries impacted by rapidly rising alphabetic literacy rates.

1465 - 1820

  • After the Bible, the next best selling book is the Witch's Hammer; a how-to book for the rooting out, torture, and burning of witches.
  • Witch craze breaks out only in those countries impacted by the printing press.
  • Germany, Switzerland, France, and England have severe witch-hunts. All boast steadily rising literacy rates.
  • Russia, Norway, Iceland, and the Islamic countries bordering Europe do not experience witch-hunts. The printing press has a negligible impact on these societies.
  • Estimates range that between 100,000 women to the millions were murdered during the witch-hunts.
  • There is no parallel in any other culture in the world in which the men of the culture suffered a psychosis so extreme that they believed that their wise women were so dangerous that they had to be eliminated.

1820 - 1900

  • Invention of photography and the discovery of the electromagnetic field combine to bring about the return of the image.
  • Photography does for images what the printing press had accomplished for written words: it made reproduction of images inexpensive, easy, and ubiquitous.
  • Right hemisphere called upon to decipher images more than the left.
  • Egalitarianism becomes a motif in philosophy.
  • Protestantism softens its stance toward women.
  • Mary declared born of Immaculate Conception by the Church elevating her status.
  • Nietzsche declares "god is dead." · Suffragette movement coalesces in 1848.

1900 - 1950

  • Photography and electromagnetism combine to introduce many new technologies of information transfer.
  • Telegraph, radio, film, and telephone reconfigure the world.
  • Communists demand redistribution of wealth.
  • Capitalists demand less government interference.
  • Natives restless, servants surly; everywhere paternalism is in retreat.
  • Women receive the vote in 1920 in the U.S. and 1936 in England.
  • Russia, an oral society recently becomes literate in the 19th century.
  • Great burst of male creativity.
  • Outbreak of religious intolerance against the Jews.
  • Russian Communism repeats all the madness of Europe's first brush with alphabet literacy.
  • Hitler, armed with a microphone and radio, hypnotizes Germany, one of the most literate countries of the world.
  • Mother Russia, an oral society, is bedeviled by literacy.
  • Germany, the Fatherland, becomes susceptible to madness by oral technology.

1950 - 2000

  • Popularity of television explodes after the end of WWII.
  • Television requires different mode of perception than reading.
  • Iconic information begins to supersede text information.
  • Image of the atomic bomb blast and earth beamed back from space change the consciousness of the world more than any written books.
  • Society begins to elevate feminine values of childcare, welfare, healthcare, and concern for the environment.
  • Feminist movement of the 60s occurs in the first television generation.
  • World wars abate among the literate countries affected by television image.
  • Invention of personal computer greatly changes the way people interact. Graphic icons increasingly replace text commands.
  • Internet and WorldWideWeb based on feminine images of nets and webs. Iconic Revolution begins.
  • Everywhere alphabets come into usage religions based on sacred alphabetic books come into being.
  • These all share certain characteristics.
  • Women banned from conducting religious ceremonies.
  • Goddesses declared abominations.
  • Representative art in the form of images declared "idolatry.