Talking with my son Elia last night (Elia is an anthropology major at Loyola), I brought up a conundrum that I’ve been playing with for a few years.  It has to do with the origin of language, metaphor and god.

I presuppose or assume that consciousness existed before humans evolved and probably always existed.  I don’t go so far as to define consciousness, though Gregory Bateson’s interpretation of Freud’s primary process has been a useful foundation for me.  According to that definition (extrapolating primary consciousness to god), god consciousness is not unlike that of an infant:  only one time, one place and no negatives such as “no.”  This consciousness is much like that experienced during dream.  In dream, you cannot imagine something without it becoming true.  You cannot be two places at once.  You cannot think of the future without being in the future.  You cannot read, because if the words acquire meaning, you travel to what the words describe.

So, I assume consciousness exists and always existed, existing up to, and including, the appearance of human beings.

I characterize human consciousness as split consciousness.  I hypothesize that when the right hemisphere began to reduce in size along with the corpus callosum brain bridge we acquired self-referential capabilities, were able to create pasts and futures, be two places at once and line up words in rows in ways that abstract worlds could be constructed.  Creating two differentiated cerebral hemispheres with diminished communication between the hemispheres promoted our experiencing ourselves as split.  Time was invented.  Language, formerly gesture, turned into speech and acquired legs.  Not unlike the Platonic myth, as speech makers we experience ourselves as isolated from a hidden half.

It fascinates me that we don’t just use speech to communicate with ourselves and our companions.  Speech provides us access to stories and metaphors, which we use to build deeply layered stories to explain the world.  We are split beings telling stories to ourselves.  We tell the stories and we listen to the stories inside our heads.  Human beings swim in a sea of stories that don’t even end when we go to sleep.  In dream, we become the story that is being told.

I’m presupposing that consciousness exists and perhaps always existed.  Let’s also presuppose that the nature of story or metaphor as it manifests itself in human beings offers a clue to the nature of consciousness.  Let us presume that consciousness without time is god, and that also consciousness with time has something to do with god.

Consider that split consciousness is a step toward god, coming to god from the opposite direction.

What would our experience be if instead of a split brain, experiencing the world as split in two, we were three brained or four brained?  What would it be like if we were a million brained, split into a million parts, experiencing a million tenses, available to a million nows?

I’m imagining being that million-brained creature, or perhaps twelve-billion-brained creature if we were every person on the planet times two, and I’m getting an inkling of how humans, as a split-brained speech user, have an opportunity to experience god in ways unavailable to other species on the planet.

There is a difference between the primary process ever present now and a split or fracture resulting in a multitude of nows.  Yet, they are feeling like different aspects of something that is the same.  It feels like as humans we have the potential to grasp both the ever present and every-present, humans being the flesh bridge between the two.

It also feels to me like the stories and metaphors manufactured by a single person, times six billion, create some kind of simulated matrix of possibility, a miniature universe of “what ifs”.  If one person, split, provides the leverage to estimate what god is–experiencing both the now and the every now–then society makes this even easier to understand.

When I have these discussions with Elia, it sometimes feels like I’m talking with myself.  I don’t think I mean this in the narcissistic sense, but sometimes there are two consciousnesses sitting at the table, and yet they are the same consciousness, and feeling this, I feel closer to my god.


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