Carole Brooks Platt – The Right Mind of the Poet


Audio download of Carole Brooks Platt’ lecture “The Right Mind of the Poet” [Inspired Poetry and Jaynes’ Bicameral Mind Theory].

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Audio download of Carole Brooks Platt’s lecture “The Right Mind of the Poet” [Inspired Poetry and Jaynes’ Bicameral Mind Theory].

From the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies.

Summary: Julian Jaynes identified the right temporal lobe as the source of the inspired voices of poets and prophets. In a number of studies in the 90’s, Michael Persinger used electromagnetic stimulation to induce a “God experience,” but also did a lesser known experiment with Katherine Makarec where 900 college students answered a questionnaire about their hallucinatory anomalies, a feeling of presence, and their predilections for creative writing. The researchers concluded that intense verbal meaningfulness in the dominant left hemisphere could produce a sense of alien presence in the non-verbal right hemispheric sense of self, along with messages of seemingly cosmic significance. Women seemed more prone than men to what the researchers dubbed the “Muse factor” effect. They linked their finding to Jaynes’s notion that the right or “god-side” of the preliterate bicameral mind could re-emerge in modern times in literary or musical creativity where consciousness is significantly altered. These authors, however, did not explain why their subjects were intensely emotional readers and writers of prose and poetry in the first place. …

… Right-hemispheric language dominance is rather rare. People with atypically lateralized brains are more likely to have mental illnesses or neurodevelopmental problems, like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism. They are more likely to experience alien voices, and/or hold paranormal beliefs. While it would be very interesting to put Blake, Milton, or our latter day poets in an fMRI to see what lights up, we are constrained to use psychobiography and poetry itself to hypothesize about their inspired or dissociative tendencies.

Studying the lives and words of great poets and mediums of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, I have concluded that a genetic predisposition to atypically enhanced right-hemispheric or bilateral dominance, combined with childhood trauma and life-long voracious reading, will entrain a sense of presence along with poetic and religious proclivities and telepathic possibilities. Blake and Milton described their experience as direct dictation. Rilke, who experienced perhaps the most traumatic childhood, also claimed direct dictation in some instances. Victor Hugo, W.B. Yeats, James Merrill, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Jane Roberts, all of whom experienced childhood trauma, used techniques such as Ouija boards, séances, possession states or automatic handwriting. To dissociate their creative words and wisdom required another person — a shared coupling with linked minds—to write down the words. There were gender differences too, stemming from both cultural bias and differing neural underpinnings. The male dissociative poets I have studied suffered maternal attachment issues, but tended to erect a hierarchical and self-confirming system to return to homeostasis. The female poets were more often victims of childhood sexual abuse, depression and/or father loss, and were more prone to suicide. However, depressed male poets who have also committed suicide certainly exist. In any case, collaboration between the hemispheres and in creative or therapeutic dyads produced literary genius with a sense of presence along with metaphors for poetry.

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