Thursday, 23 August 2007

Inner eye

Well, how was it for you? Did yesterday's writing get you closer to thinking like a Neanderthal? For me, it was ok. Just about ok. It was interesting how the vocal contributions of the left and right hemispheres became 'personified' as the wise woman and the crone. I was not expecting that and this sails us straight into Jungian archetype territory, which could be quite significant.

I think that clues to Neanderthal thinking must be found in contemporary people whose brains are 'less integrated' than usual. For example, synesthetes, whose sensory experiences of taste, sound and colour get blurred.

'Maxtla stares into the cold flames of the fire and tastes her heartbeats...Her heartbeats taste as wet earth on tired bones.'

Well, its a start, but I think the blending could and should go further.

One symptom of schizophrenia is visual, auditory or olfactory (smell) hallucinations, thought to be caused by reduced activity of the pre-frontal cortex.

This moves the experience on one stop further down the tube line to the primitive. The voices - become personified - and are experienced 'out there' (in the 'real world') rather than 'in here' (in the unreal world of my head).

I remember reading Jung saying that the hallucinations of schizophrenics were not random rubbish, but revealed 'truths' that the schizophrenics could never have learned. This was evidence of the collective unconscious. In his book Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung describes encounters with unconscious objects in his mind, that read like ghostly projections.

A dark shadow, the aura of a raven’s wing, drifts across her eyes, blocking her view of the flames.

This is the most difficult passage in the writing, yet the most compelling. Where was the shadow? Was it on the outside of her eye (between the flames and the eye), within the eye (like a detached retina) or within the brain - in which case how could it 'block the view of the flames'?

There was a woman called 'Ruth' in the 1980's who was reputed to hallucinate solid objects. She was studied by Richard Gregory. She was apparently able to hallucinate the image of her daughter on her lap, and the amount of light entering her eyes was allegedly reduced in proportion. Gregory concluded that there was some evidence of this:

'the supposed hallucinations acted like coloured filters held over the eye.'

So, perhaps there is a continuum between 'in here' and 'out there', which the novelist could explore.

I was desperate to use the ideas of an inner (or third) eye, or chakra, but these are metaphysical or religious concepts, not physiological ones. Is the pineal gland the inner eye? I do not know. Aura has two meanings: the spiritualist one of a force field of psychic energy and also a medical one, the disturbance of vision (often a shadow) before an epileptic fit. I quite like the ambiguity of both meanings here.

Jung was very wary of the dissociation of the soul, which was greatly feared by primitive tribes.

We . . . can become dissociated and lose our identity. We can be possessed . . . by moods, or become unreasonable, so that people ask: "What the devil has got into you?" We talk about . . . "control", but self-control is a rare and remarkable virtue. (Jung, Man and his symbols).

Perhaps this lack of integration is the same as 'losing self-control', and was common in Neanderthal people.


Anonymous said...

There is more than just rods and cones. There are additional photo-receptors sensitive to the 470 and 525 nm range.

Blocking low-wavelength light prevents nocturnal melatonin suppression with no adverse effect on performance during simulated shift work.

Exposing lithium?s circadian action

The Biological Clock, Light, and Lithium (June 2006)

Kim Norton said...

Thanks. This is really interesting, and I did not know this at all. I will read this and get back to you.


Kim Norton said...

Fascinating. Thank you. For the ex-African Neanderthals moving North could have affected their circadian rhythms. SAD-like or cyclothymic symptoms are a real possibility, I guess. I worked with someone with bipolar disorder once and I can see that circadian rhythms are definitely disrupted at the hypomanic and hypermanic phases.

I read that Inuit women do not menstruate in the winter because of the inhibiting effects of melatonin on the menstrual cycle. This is really interesting. At the edge of the range, the Neanderthal fertility would be low during the winter and higher in spring. If the women conceived in May, the babies would be born in December - midwinter. Not a great time to raise newborns. I can see this would not really help to make the populations large enough to be above the effective population size.

This has been very helpful.

Thank you very much.