Robert Bly speaks of the three brains of man – the reptilian, the mammalian and the new brain. The reptile brain is utterly cold and ruthless. It deals with, and grows on, survival issues. The mammalian deals with comforts, which include: family, friends, relationship, home, society, religion, etc. What scientists call “the new brain” is a very thin, incredibly dense, cellular layer surrounding the rest of the brain. They have found no purpose for it. Bly says that it deals with transcendence and grows on mystery.
All three exist simultaneously but shrink or grow depending on where we focus our energies. Each can seize control of available energy, and the first two try to do so when their own survival is threatened.
Could you please talk about this in the context of your work with us, the commune, and the New Man?
The scientific analysis of the mind, or more particularly of the brain, has nothing to do with my work with the New Man and the new humanity. The brain is part of the body; it dies with the body, it is born with the body. My work consists of provoking in you that which has been before birth and that which will remain even after your death. My concern is with your immortality. Hence, the difference is tremendous.
Scientists have not yet come to accept that which is beyond matter. Their whole work remains confined to material existence. They don’t think you have a soul; they don’t conceive of you as a spiritual being. And that is one of the most dangerous things about science: it destroys your basic dignity. It also destroys your most fundamental mystery.
What Robert Bly is talking about is very mundane. It is the analysis of how man’s brain has developed from the reptile to the mammalian. And now there is a third layer growing which he thinks is the transcendental. The transcendental, by its very nature, means that which is beyond the mind. The brain cannot have any layer for the transcendental.
It is true that the brain has three divisions. The first is certainly concerned with survival. You can give it any name – the reptile brain. It is very basic, because unless you survive, nothing else is possible. The second is mammalian. That reminds me of Jesus, when he says, “You cannot live by bread alone.” The bread is absolutely needed, but just bread is not enough for human beings. They need art, they need music, they need philosophy, they need religion, they need civilization; their needs grow to much greater heights than just survival. The third brain that is still growing consists not of the transcendental, as Robert Bly speaks of, it consists only of an effort to know the unknown – not the transcendental, but only the unknown.
There is a difference to be understood between the unknown and the transcendental. The transcendental is the unknowable: whatever you do, you will never be able to know it. You can experience it, you can have it, you can dance it, you can sing it, you can drink it, but you cannot make it part of your mind and part of your knowledge. But there is much that is still unknown; perhaps it is almost infinite, that which is unknown.
The third layer is trying to move into the unknown. And its effort is how to make the unknown known. The whole scientific endeavor is to demystify existence, to make everything known – nothing remains unknown. And science accepts only the division between the two; the whole existence is divided into the known and the unknown.