PREFRONTAL CORTEX: SCHUMACHER'S THEORY
In Requiem of the Human Soul, Alison - Julius' ex-wife - tells us about Julius Schumacher's theory of the prefrontal cortex.
Here, she remembers when she first read his book, On Being Human, where he describes how the prefrontal cortex carried out a coup in the human psyche:
on being human
"Julius sent me a draft copy of his book before he published it. I was awed and horrified. It encapsulated everything that was special in him. His neurographic research. His search for the mystery of the human soul. He had pulled it all together. He thought it would profoundly change society and my horror arose because I saw how wrong he was.
On Being Human attempted to explain what had happened to human consciousness since the early evolution of mankind. Julius saw a particular part of the human brain called the prefrontal cortex as the major protagonist in the story of human development. This was the area, Julius explained, that's used for abstract thinking, planning, suppression of primal drives, and what are known as the "executive functions" that separate mankind from other mammals.
from "the spirit" to "the soul"
"Julius showed how in early societies, the CONDUCTER process of the human mind was in harmony, in balance. However, over generations, helped by the development of language and then writing, the prefrontal cortex began to gain strength over the other, more primitive parts of consciousness.
This led to an imbalance that redefined the human race. It led to the great advances of mankind, from the invention of the wheel to the mapping of the human genome. But it also led to a contortion of the human spirit.
Julius described how, gradually, the human concept of what makes up the essence of life was transformed from the physical notion of "the spirit" to the abstract notion of "the soul".
He talked about how, for indigenous people around the world, the spirits exist within all aspects of their consciousness. Their ancestors' spirits are all around them, in the forests, in the animals and in the rocks; and during their ceremonies, their own spirits could commune with those of the world around them and of their ancestors.
"But the prefrontal cortex carried out a coup in the human psyche and transformed the earth-oriented concept of a spirit to the universal abstraction of the soul. The abstract soul of monotheism, which then gave rise to science.
Mankind's cognitive powers could have developed to enhance a person's relationship with his inner being. But since the coup of the prefrontal cortex, the spiritual healers and mystics of traditional cultures are instead viewed by our society as bizarre aberrations. The prefrontal cortex rules. Science rules. Abstraction rules.
Julius blamed the prefrontal cortex's domination for the breakdown of social cohesion, from the tribal group to the extended family to the nuclear family and finally, in modern times, to the breakdown of even the nuclear family.
But Julius went beyond our human breakdowns to global breakdowns – the catastrophes of climate change, our rape of the earth's natural resources, the ever-increasing extinctions of other species… all due to the domination of the prefrontal cortex over other parts of our consciousness."
[Read how the prefrontal cortex was in harmony with the rest of consciousness in indigenous cultures]