In his excellent book, “The Alphabet Versus The Goddess”, Leonard Shlain provides compelling evidence for an astonishing phenomenon present in human history. His essential contention is that the rise of literacy in the form of alphabetic writing has led to an over-emphasis upon masculine left-brain thinking at the expense of the feminine right-brain.

Shlain is not alone in this contention. In fact, he is in good company. Neither Socrates, Buddha or Christ wanted their teachings committed to writing, but instead subscribed to the oral tradition. Their teachings were only preserved in written form decades or (in the case of the Buddha) centuries after their deaths.

In essence, the conflict is between Word and Image, and the way our brains accept and integrate information from both. The masculine left-brain function is primarily associated with logic, numeracy, abstraction, analysis, reduction, writing and speech. The feminine right-brain is non-verbal and its language is that of image. It controls non-logical states, views things in concrete fashion rather than abstract, and is connected to intuition. It is both creative and nurturing, and is holistic in viewing things in an “all-at-once” fashion.

Thus, the two are very different and both have valid contributions to make. Ideally, a balance of both is required. Yet, throughout history, it has been the masculine left-brain that has dominated, and this can be traced back to the profound change that writing has had upon us.

The earliest written work that continues to influence the modern world is the Old Testament. Of the Ten Commandments, the first is that there should be no other gods besides Jehovah. The second is that there should be no graven images or likeness of ANYTHING in heaven, on earth, on in the oceans!

Thus, in the first two commandments alone, we see the function of the right-brain/feminine function completely banned. Moreover, the previous rich diversity of gods and goddesses, representing all the aspects of creation’s mysteries in which we are immersed, are replaced by an abstract, single, “male” God who is “out there” somewhere, and definitely NOT part of Creation itself. We can only learn about this abstraction through the written and spoken word (left-brain masculine), and NOT through image and creativity (right-brain feminine).

In addition, and in contrast to the all-inclusive nature of other religions of the time, Judaism was peculiar in being the only religion in which God had seemingly created a “Chosen People” with whom he would share himself in exclusion to all other nations upon the earth. This divisiveness is a distinctively masculine function, and contrasts sharply with the more holistic all-inclusive universal character of the feminine archetype.

Indeed, this “chosen people” characteristic was later adopted from the religions that took Judaism as their root; namely Christianity and Islam. These religions, in their most extreme forms, adopted intensely repressive attitudes towards women.

It was only in the 20th century that woman’s rights began to truly recover. Interestingly, this was also the era that brought us Television, Cinema, a huge surge in interest in Art, and more recently, Computer Graphics. This may be no coincidence, since all of these communication media are IMAGE-oriented. They stimulate the right-brain feminine side.

The act of writing itself is now, for the first time in history, being carried out by both hands at once, through the use of computer keyboards. Thus, the left-brain/right-hand dominance is breaking down, and giving way to a more brain-balanced mode of putting words into print.

At present, the trap women find themselves in is that they can certainly succeed in a man’s world. However, to do so, they often end up behaving more like a man than most men do! In other words, a woman in today’s world may eventually get the top position she seeks, but somewhere along the line, she has lost some, or even most, of her femininity. Conversely, a man who seeks a top job must always over-emphasize his masculine traits, and rarely reveal his feminine ones.

The most desperately needed place for the feminine archetype at present is the arena of international politics. Here, the absurd polarization of left-brain dominated men threatens the whole human race with potential annihilation.

It is balance that we sought and true brain integration. Both sides have their vital parts to play. One is not better or worse than the other. They are just different.

Women prevent the threads of life from being broken. The greatest minds have always understood the peacemaking role of women. ~Mikhail Gorbachev

3 Responses

  1. FEMININE RIGHT BRAIN « FLOW PSYCHOLOGYApr 29, 2010 … walter gremillion, on April 28, 2010 at 10:19 pm said: Hello again Mr Sid. I spent time in S’pore and noticed a much more right brained method …

  2. Walt,

    It is interesting that our 2 global hemispheres developed similar to our 2 brain hemispheres…are we “one”after all ?…cultures develop consistent with their dominant brain awareness…this is particularly true of their language tools.

    But change is happening as the movement toward globalization progresses…international cultures are changing as their needs require integration of our 2 sides of the brain…this may help us understand our conflict with extreme Islam who see this integration as life/death struggle.


  3. Hello again Mr Sid.

    I spent time in S’pore and noticed a much more right brained method of thinking. Also chinese writing is in symbols rather than an alphabet, and spoken chinese has a tonal quality.(at least Hokien, cantonese and Mandarin) Do you think hemisphere preference and writing method are related? and which causes which? Do ocidentals develop an alphabet language because they are primarily left hemisphere, and orientals use symbols and tones because they are primarily right hemisphere? or is it the other way around?
    Hmm!!! walt

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