DJB: Do you think that there is a relationship between the two types of human civilization that you define, and the over-specialization of specific hemispheres in the brain?
RIANE: I think that that’s a very complex question, and David probably could answer it better. But I think that it’s a fallacy that people seem to think that this earlier archaic prehistoric period was all right brain. If you look at Crete, if you look at the technology, they obviously did some very logical, linear so-called left brain thinking. If you look at Stonehenge, at these massive ritual centers, they had to have had some left brain capacity to do this. And look at all the inventions that we owe to these people! Clearly prehistory wasn’t all right brain. I think it was more balanced, and I think in that sense you’re right about an over-specialization of the left brain in dominator societies. But of course you know it’s not that clear that they’re that localized either, these faculties. And David can tell you more about that. I think that when we’re talking about a partnership society, we are talking about an integration of what we now think of as right and left brain, about more of a system view, a holographic view.
DAVID L: Certainly, the earlier culture was more right brain oriented than our culture tends to be, but there is all this evidence indicating that it was a much more balanced holistic functioning, where you’re able to draw upon both halves of the brain with some facility. As Riane pointed out in the example of Stonehenge, there are indications of a high mathematical capacity in early partnership-oriented cultures. But at the same time there is a correlation between left brain dominance and the dominator system. We speak of right brain dominance, left brain dominance, and the reason we do is that brain research shows that one or the other can dominate and suppress the other modes. The prototypical situation for somebody today, particularly a male in the male dominant culture that has prevailed for five thousand years now, intensified by the so-called Age of Reason –is that you sop up a little bit of insight from the right brain half, but then you immediately suppress that original source of information. You shift wholly into the mathematics, or an elaborate left-brained rationality process. You develop the logic but suppress and shove under the whole feeling side of life, the whole realm of affectivity, which tends to be handled more by the right brain half. So there is a correspondence there, but it’s not this simplistic notion the earlier culture was just blindly right brained. Julian Jaynes popularized the idea the earlier culture was right brained, and the later dominator culture was left brained, and this later culture not only represented true civilization but also the first appearance in human evolution of consciousness!
DJB: Could you make use of Rupert Sheldrake’s recently refined theory of morphogenetic fields– that is, non-material regions of organic influence—to shed any more light on the evolution of dominator and partnership societies?
DAVID L: I recently finished writing an introduction to a new book by Ervin Laszlo in which he provides substantiation for Sheldrake and other morphogenetic field theorists from many different scientific fields. I think the easiest way to see the possible relation between Sheldrake’s theory and the shift to a dominator or a partnership system is what people have picked up on in the one hundredth monkey story. In other words, Sheldrake’s theory suggests that if you go back into the early partnership culture, there was a certain point at which the numbers of dominator-system-oriented nomads along the periphery, all carrying the same killer ethos, reached a critical point in imprinting this ethos on the morphogenetic field, or the “cosmic schmaz,” or whatever you want to call it, and it began to crowd out the other. I think in our time the same process is going on, only in reverse. And so it’s extremely important for those of us who have regained this partnership ethos to both increase in numbers and feel intensively about this to re-imprint this ethos with greater effect, greater force on the “cosmic schmaz.” I think there’s something there, and I think it relates to the dynamics, but of course we’re still a long way off from fully understanding it.
RMN: The gylanic principle flourished during the sixteenth century Renaissance with a partial marriage of art and science. What other historical examples have you observed where the symbiotic union of the subjective and objective realms are indicative of a gylanic society, and do you see the current interest in fractals, brain machines, and the poetic musings of quantum physics as being examples of a reunion between these two areas of human experience?
RIANE: I think that these may be manifestations of emerging gylanic consciousness. But I also think that a lot of the so-called leading edge thinking today continues to be the male intellectual game. Now certainly one of the very interesting things that’s happening with fractals, for example, is that it’s an image that’s very much like a mandala. If you look at some of the art of the Neolithic, the meanders, the serpentine lines, you see a lot of mandala-like images. These were epiphanies of the divine, of the Goddess. So I see a relationship, but I also see that without the partnership mythos, we are always back to the same thing. Without the integrative story, and without the understanding that a truly new science requires not only integrating the “feminine,” but real live people called women, we are just going to keep dancing around the problem and neither science nor art nor society is going to fundamentally change.
DAVID L: Yes. This is something about which I feel intensely as a male who has actively worked within male-dominated scientific contexts to try to inject the feminist perspective, to get more women involved. Take fractals, take chaos theory, this whole fascinating computer generated mathematical excitement without what Riane is talking about, without this larger balanced masculine/ feminine or feminine/masculine ethos, and all this “new science” will become merely another male head trip. That is, it will be reduced to merely another entertainment for primarily male academics who gather in symposia, which in one way or another are in the end sponsored by the military industrial complex, which all too often still pays the bulk of their salaries. This is the horrible alternative we face with every one of these great discoveries reconnecting with the past. There is this danger they will be co-opted, degraded and defused by the present system, unless the people who are leading the revolution in “new science” understand this larger picture and ethos. The man who wrote the enormously popular book Chaos, James Gleick, for example, has no understanding of this larger context that I can see. He’s done a beautiful job of providing information, but typically this can all go to simply serve the purposes of entertainment and the military industrial complex.
DJB: How do you envision civilization and human consciousness to be one hundred years from now?
RIANE: That depends on whether we take the dominator or the partnership route. But I’m convinced that if we take the dominator route, there won’t be much in the way of any kind of human consciousness in a hundred years, because chances are that we won’t be here. If we do take the partnership route, I see a tremendous growth of empathy in both women and men. Even in women in the dominator model it’s very selective. We’ve been permitted empathy for those around us, but we’re not permitted any action to follow that empathy. So what good does it do? I see a society where doing good will not be an insult, as it is now, as in the pejorative “do gooder” or “bleeding-heart.” I see a world where the most highly valued work will have the consciousness of caring. Marx spoke of the alienation of labor. I speak of the alienation of caring labor, which is the work that’s traditionally been relegated to women and to volunteers, and has not been paid or has been paid very poorly. So I think we’ll become much more conscious of what’s really valuable. I think that our consciousness will not make the artificial distinction between spirituality and nature, with the male being associated with the spirit and woman being associated with nature. We will also have gotten over our ridiculous love affair with technologies of destruction, which is inherent in the dominator system, because here the technological emphasis has to be on technologies that make it possible to more efficiently dominate–be it the new technologies of mind control, be it weaponry, or be it exploitative technologies. I think we’ll become conscious that women’s issues are not secondary or peripheral, but rather the most critical issues. Take population, for example. That’s a women’s issue, an issue of reproductive freedom, of access to birth control technologies. Even more important, it’s an issue of life choices for women other than breeders of sons for men. If you look at the most overpopulated, poorest, and most violent regions in the world today, the Middle East, Latin America, or parts of Africa and Asia, you see there the dominator configuration. So with a new partnership consciousness we will be able to see reality far more clearly. I think that we’ll be much saner.
RMN: Do you see man/woman teams presiding in future governments? Can you give us a historical perspective on this? What effects do you