Note: This is the 'most eagerly-awaited' second part of an article - Part One can be found in the November 2014 archives.
It's a theme that runs through a whole multitude of traditions and cultures across space and time. That the human species isn't living all that it's capable of. That something has gone wrong, maybe; that we have undergone a fall, even. It's there in the Bible, in the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. It's there in a variety of indigenous cultures, whose myths often contain reference to some kind of fall. It appears in the Gnostic notion of archontic infection. We can find it in the cosmic mythologies of Hindu and Buddhist traditions, which place us firmly in the Kali Yuga, a dark age of barbarism, far from spirituality. I suppose that even in phenomena such as the surging popularity of non-traditional political parties such as UKIP and the SNP we detect a sense, however vague and faint, that all is not as it could, or should, be with the world.
In 'Return to the Brain of Eden', Tony Wright and Graham Gynn propose that our fall can be largely attributed to a change from a diet based on fruit, a transition that may have occurred some 150000 years ago. This may appear a long time ago; in fact it is relatively recently in human prehistory, The typical brain size of humans was slightly larger then than now, it seems, a remarkable but little-considered piece of information. These were our true ancestors, but to realise their significance requires rejecting the notion that nothing relevant to the human condition took place before the times of Jesus and Buddha. We were around for a long time before then. What the hell were we doing with all that brain capacity?
There is something special about fruit, an obvious facet that is often ovelooked. Unique among the foodstuffs that make up the human diet, it is food that is intended to be eaten. This is its purpose: a plant produces fruit so that it is eaten by animals in order to disseminate its seeds. This is the precise opposite of meat, for example - the last thing an animal wants is to eaten, I suppose. So we might logically expect there to be something nutritionally excellent about fruit that is absent from our other food sources.
Not only, according to the authors, has our brain shrunk, it has also degenerated. This is particularly true of its left hemisphere. Very roughly, the left side of the brain is associated with the linear, rational, time-and-space aspects to reality, while the right side concerns itself more with imagination, intuition, non-linear and non-rational functions of reality. In the left hemisphere, therefore, we have a degenerate organ that has also made a smash-and-grab raid for dominion over the entire kingdom! Modern western culture and its attendant way of life is built almost entirely upon the characteristics of left brain function - an organ that is severely damaged. If there is any truth in all of this, the implications are profound indeed. It's no wonder that somehow, somewhere, in the depths of our being, we sense that we are in a mess, and that things have gone wrong on the way.
This is not all just a fantasy of the authors. A good deal of the book deals with scientific information, experiments, and other research, all pointing in the direction of their hypothesis. Some of the most remarkable work concerns how the left hemisphere actually confabulates reality. It is a degenerate organ that seeks to confirm its error through making up, inventing reality, nothing less. Aspects to reality that it doesn't like, or finds inconvenient, or that don't fit into its predetermined view of life, are rejected through an automatic and unconscious process of self-deception: lying to itself. '.....it turns out that perceptual organisation is powerfully determined by expectations built from past experience. The perceiver in effect finds it hard to come to terms with the new reality and tends to make up stories to cover over the incongruity.' And again: 'Could it be that though we routinely make our decisions subconsciously, our rationalization of our choices might be pure fiction?' (Chapter Six, section on 'Confabulation').
Personal reflection will reveal the extraordinary implications of all this on ourselves and the world we inhabit. Virtual reality is nothing new: we have been making up the reality we live in for millenia.
This is a remarkable book in my view, one that I have increasingly warmed to as the months have passed. And that's enough from me. There is an excellent review of the book by Kim Taggart on Reality Sandwich - follow the link below. Then go and buy the book. For the price of a four cheeses pizza you may read something that will alter your perception of reality.