The God of the Left Hemisphere: Blake, Bolte Taylor and the Myth of Creation

Author(s) : Roderick Tweedy

The God of the Left Hemisphere: Blake, Bolte Taylor and the Myth of Creation

Book Details

  • Publisher : Karnac Books
  • Published : January 2013
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 352
  • Category :
    Culture and Psychoanalysis
  • Category 2 :
    Neuroscience
  • Catalogue No : 32946
  • ISBN 13 : 9781780491011
  • ISBN 10 : 1780491018
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The God of the Left Hemisphere explores the remarkable connections between the activities and functions of the human brain that writer William Blake termed 'Urizen' and the powerful complex of rationalising and ordering processes which modern neuroscience identifies as 'left hemisphere' brain activity. The book argues that Blake's profound understanding of the human brain is finding surprising corroboration in recent neuroscientific discoveries, such as those of the influential Harvard neuro-anatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, and it explores Blake's provocative supposition that the emergence of these rationalising, law-making, and 'limiting' activities within the human brain has been recorded in the earliest Creation texts, such as the Hebrew Bible, Plato's Timaeus, and the Norse sagas. Blake's prescient insight into the nature and origins of this dominant force within the brain allows him to radically reinterpret the psychological basis of the entity usually referred to in these texts as 'God'.

The book draws in particular on the work of Bolte Taylor, whose study in this area is having a profound impact on how we understand mental activity and processes. Bolte Taylor was listed as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2008 and her book recounting her research into left and right brain activity spent seventeen weeks in the New York Times best-seller list. The God of the Left Hemisphere also dovetails in many exciting and provocative ways with Iain McGilchrist's recent study of the impact of brain lateralisation on human culture in The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (2009). It is significant in this respect that McGilchrist also sees Blake’s figure of Urizen as an 'instantiation of the left hemisphere take on the world'.

In the second part of the book the author extends Blake’s understanding of Urizenic activities and functions into a broader discussion concerning the place of both religion and rationality in contemporary culture. In particular, he examines Blake’s contention that whilst religion and rationalistic science are supposed to be at loggerheads, symptomatic of a 'two cultures' divide, what they resemble more are different (or rival) versions of essentially similar systems of thoughts (‘R1’ and ‘R2'). In order to clarify the nature of this relationship the author updates Blake’s original imagery of mills and machinery to denote Urizenic processes and employs instead the more modern metaphor of rival operating systems, battling it out for supremacy of the left brain. Blake’s presentation of Urizen as the 'Holy Reasoning Power' succinctly captures what he saw as the underlying rationalizing processes of orthodox religion as well as the religious and largely unconscious nature of much post-Newtonian science.

Reviews and Endorsements

'Absolutely fascinating - in fact both revelatory and thrilling.'
- Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, and President of the Blake Society

‘Blake’s thought cries out to be understood in the light of cerebral asymmetry. This is a highly original and stimulating book, the best I have read on one of the greatest of English poets.’
- Iain McGilchrist, author of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

'This is a book to go on every Romantics reading list - a marvellous exposition of Blake's thought and writing. But it is also a deeply wise book, from which every one can learn something that might change their lives.'
- Lucy Newlyn, Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford University, and author of Reading, Writing, and Romanticism: The Anxiety of Reception and William and Dorothy Wordsworth: All in Each Other

'Roderick Tweedy’s book makes salutary reading and shows why Blake’s work is not solely a matter of historical interest but also has an important contribution to make to our contemporary intellectual life as well as our pedagogy.'
- Professor Christopher Rowland, Dean Ireland’s Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture at the University of Oxford, and author of Blake and the Bible

'The book is, in its exhilaratingly wide-ranging scope, reminiscent of Freud’s late work – ambitious and meta-theory building.
- Nigel Barrow, The Bulletin Book Review (2014), Association of Child Therapists

'A fascinating book, which unearths amazing parallels between the poetry of William Blake and modern neuroscience. This book shows that Blake's poetry was even more insightful and prophetic than previously thought. At the same time, the book is a very enlightening examination of the pathology of the human psyche, and the pathological culture it has given rise to, offering urgent suggestions on how a new self - and a new world - may come into being.'
- Steve Taylor, author of The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of a New Era and Back to Sanity: Healing the Madness of our Minds

'I found this book profoundly engaging, through its thesis that both individually and collectively humans in our social systems have privileged left hemisphere functioning (information processing, domination, atomising, rationalising, and mechanising) over more imaginative and intuitive apprehensions of reality, involving creativity and the discovery of meaning. This book promotes a form of learning that stimulates the growth of connections between the two cerebral hemispheres of the brain and allows people greater access to their creative, intellectual and emotional selves.'
- Dr. Mannie Sher, Director of the Group Relations Programme and Principal Researcher and Consultant at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, and author of The Dynamics of Change: Tavistock Approaches to Improving Social Systems

'Exhilarating reading' – Steff Oates, Review in The Transactional Analyst (Winter 2013/14)

'This is an important book in finally understanding Blake's astonishing insights into the human brain and his ability not only to deduce function but to also locate areas of functionality structurally. Dr. Tweedy's work is exceptionally erudite and compelling. He brings the subject to life and I expect this work will have a profound impact on Blake studies. I highly recommend this work.'
- John C. Espy, member of the American Academy of Psychotherapists, the American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, former neurotoxicologist with NASA, and author of the acclaimed trilogy Eat The Evidence.

About the Author(s)

Roderick Tweedy, PhD, completed his education at Oxford University in 1997, researching the poet Shelley's interest in contemporary science and natural philosophy. He has written a number of articles and reviews on Romanticism and the English Romantics, and is an active member of the Blake Society. He is currently editor for Karnac Books, and an enthusiastic supporter of the user-led mental health organization, Mental Fight Club.

Customer Reviews

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Roderick Mackenzie on 23/01/2013 13:45:56

Rating1Rating2Rating3Rating4Rating5 (5 out of 5)

Every once in while comes a book of profound importance. A book destined to shake the branches and rattle the cages.
That book is The God of the Left Hemisphere. A scholarly work that is clear, concise, masterfully written and available to the humblest literate. Tweedy's remarkable work opens up to us the astonishing wisdom of William Blake, he helps to reveal the Specter of rationalism which has enslaved us for thousands of years. Tweedy breaks the chains of the God who has held us fast in his glorious illusion, this book will have a huge impact on psychology, monotheistic religions and humble mortals. It could free you from 'The Holy Power of Reason'

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