Gerald wrote:How does the well-established bilateral asymmetry of the brain relate to the Antahkaran?
From what I’ve read (mostly in Iain McGilchrist’s book, “The Master and His Emissary"), the two hemispheres of the brain are both involved in almost everything we do. But some functions tend to be concentrated in one or other of the hemispheres as follows:
- Left – Looking at things in detail and analysing them into separate components, logical reasoning, language, mental arithmetic, optimism and pleasurable emotions.
- Right – Seeing things as a whole, interpreting body language and intonation, understanding metaphor, processing visual and aural stimuli, creativity and understanding anything new, vigilance and arousal, depression, pessimism and negative emotions.
To try to work out how the parts of the Antahkaran relate to the two hemispheres, I’ve taken a specific example:
I am sitting outside on a hillside eating a sandwich, feeling happy and relaxed, and trying to keep the mind still. Just enjoying being aware of the taste of the sandwich and of all the countryside and sounds around. Something must be automatically processing the sounds and images, comparing against memory (Chitta). I think this is in the right hemisphere. Then something different is detected, Manas presents it to the left hemisphere and I feet a slight surge of energy in the body. Buddhi decides to look more closely – perhaps it’s an interesting bird. I pick up my binoculars, and suddenly, just for a moment, I ‘become’ a buzzard (Ahamkar). The left hemisphere identifies it, (using Chitta) and since I've seen plenty of buzzards before, I go back to my sandwich.
This time Manas reminds me of something I need to do when I return home and a whole train of imagination starts in the left hemisphere. There is a different “I” in control now (Ahamkar), and I suppose most of the ideas come from initially from Chitta. I’m not aware of Buddhi having chosen to allow this, but maybe it has.
This is interrupted by the sight of a dog galloping towards me. Manas alerted me (left hemisphere) and Buddhi decided to take the threat seriously. So something (in the right hemisphere) was still keeping a look-out despite the thoughts going round in my head. It could be a more primitive part of the brain – like an animal sensing a potential threat. There is a very slight feeling of tension, a mild kind of fear, in the body and I have now ‘become’ my body (Ahamkar). Does the dog want to bite me or is it after my sandwich? Something assesses this, presumably automatically comparing the dog's body language against memories of friendly and unfriendly dogs (Chitta?), and decides the dog is friendly and hungry, so I protect the rest of the sandwich. It is an almost instantaneous and entirely automatic reaction. It may come from the right hemisphere or possibly from lower levels in the brain.
I’m not quite sure what conclusions to draw from this, but some preliminary ideas are:
- Manas works mainly in left hemisphere
- Chitta mainly in right hemisphere
- Does Buddhi sit in the middle – in the corpus callosum? McGilchrist explains that the corpus callosum has mainly an inhibiting function to prevent the hemispheres interfering with each other, but also allows communication between the hemispheres. Perhaps that’s how Buddhi works? Or is it that Buddhi is in one or other of the two hemispheres and it simply uses the corpus callosum to prevent the other hemisphere interfering?
- It seems as though Ahamkar could be either – the buzzard seems more like right hemisphere, the “I” that took over from it was, I am sure, left hemisphere, and the feeling of being my body was probably right hemisphere.