The Generation of Spirituality

A contribution toward a biological epistemology

The central question in biological epistemology concerns the premises on which understanding depends and how these premises evolved. It is the very biological contemplation of man, which was supposed to make us to understand, what allowed man to consider something "true" and by which means could his objectivity be improved.

The search after the nature of human spirit - itself a riddle - is supported by the following facts:
  1. The pre-human Australopithecus was an ape-like creature with a small brain and biped posture. The upright gait (bipedity) is not a "product" of the human being, but rather, the human is a "product" of upright gait. (The Oreopithecus bamboli living before eight million years in the territory of the present day Tuscany was already a biped monkey, without being accepted as an ancestor of man.)

  2. The upright gait enabled the sensibilization of the already existent claw hand. (This process is, like everything in evolution, neither compulsory, continuously ongoing.)

  3. The development of the proverbial "Fingertip-feeling"*, due, among other reasons, to the use of tools (i.e. work), made from the hand a target-oriented organ of comprehension. The strong connection between the two is easily recognized in the involuntary gesticulation which accompanies speaking. Deaf and blind people communicate (even details) with their hands.** Nowadays, dumb and blind men can with its help understand each other in details.

  4. The more the tactile sense evolved, the more it developed - due to its reliability - into a sensor of truths. This ascension in the hierarchy of senses had two reasons: a) his already mentioned sensitivity/finesse and b) his being a contact-action sense, which doesn´t need an intermediate medium able to distort the sense data. Under normal conditions there are no tactile illusions, like the highly misleading optical ones. Something which resists our hands we can understand: it exists and has such and such a consistency.

  5. During the history of humanoids and of their forerunners, the instinct-driven foot became the handling organ (i.e. the hand). With her help the early man got the opportunity to understand through handling and to begin to communicate with hand and fingers, to understand each other explicitly. This led to a marked reshaping of the left-brain, which, being connected to right handedness, has provided the basis for understanding.***

  6. The most difficult part of the most difficult problem is concept building. It has to be clear that concepts convey significance, which has been already worked out by the brain. If somebody sees gestures, or hears words, he has to know already their significance, in order to comprehend them. Alternatively, he has to try to extract their understanding from previously known significancies. Words and gestures are data and, like all data, they have to be grasped in order to become information. Beyond this one has to know: the brain is an interpretative organ, which orients itself on experiences and expectations. However, in order to get through the "I" (or the self), the brain behaves as if possessing objective knowledge. If somebody falls into this trap, he will never understand the brain and will follow, everywhere, only the self-generated illusions. All kinds of brain research can contribute to the understanding of the human spirit only marginally, so long the investigators are lead astray by the interpretative and plausibility-oriented nature of the brain and are not daring to accept their deception.

  7. All what has already been said allows the following conclusion: It is the ability to generate meanings and to develop a richer spiritual life which increased the humanization of the brain through the sensibilization of the hands. The real, understanding-driven appropriation of the external world went hand in hand: with the possibilities of grasping the ability to comprehend has increased, too. Concepts were extracted. From grasping with the hand came the grasping with the intellect out; hints crystallized into meanings. From the explanatory gestures of the wisdom came the rebuttal and the proof out. Key phrase and definition: The spiritual is the inside-turned confrontation with the world..

  8. Articulate expression (i.e. language) provides support to and finally replaces gestures, being more economical. In turn, the articulate language acts with positive feed-back on the ability of explicit thinking.

  9. The dialog between the "self" and the brain leads to the understanding of the world. To think, to give thought, means searching a meaning, an inner light, to connect things. Whether acting, or stating, it is meaningful only what is intellectually reconstructible. Spirituality unfolds, therefore, beyond the "true" and "untrue" kategories, following its own rules. Although satifying in many cases, for all who investigate, or try to model reality, it remains the self-critical task of sticking with reality and to find it again if it is lost.

*FOCUS 16/96 reports: "The secret of a good throw resides almost entirely in the fingertips, says Jonathan Hore von the University of Western Ontario. The fractions of a second, in which the fingers release the ball, rather than the oder motions of the body, decide whether the ball reaches its target, or not."

**In the SPIEGEL-magazine issue 48/98 there is a report about psychologists of the Indiana University in Bloomington (USA) who have tested children that had been born blind. They found out that the speaking with the hands is an 'integral part of the speaking process'. Gesture does neither need a model nor an observer. The results of the experiments at Bloomington only prove what everybody can observe with oneself and can thus not be surprising.

***FOCUS 3/98, page 177, reports in the rubric "Brain research" under the title "The roots of language": Until now, the asymmetrical increase of "Planum temporale" of the left-brain of Homo sapiens was considered unique and typically human. The ability to speak, the musical talent, the right- or left-handedness of man, as well as perturbations like schizophrenia, were all associated with the increase of the brain. It was considered textbook-knowledge, that all other Primates are lacking this characteristic, their left- and right-brains being (side) symmetrical. Investigations on 18 chimpanzee brains by an US-scientist, have shown recently an increase of the Planum temporale at 17 animals. According to the report in SCIENCE, there is an asymmetry like that connected with the center of speech. The scientists assume that the evolutionary origin of human language in this region of the brain was already present eight million years ago at the common ancestor of chimpanzee and man." This is, once again, a highly simplified representation, as if the language were identical with its roots. Language, however, began not with language, but rather with the ability of explicit thinking. The progress of this ability has driven the development of mimic and gestures, and only after then the ability of linguistic articulation, till with us. A look, a gesture can say, even today, more than thousand words; it would be a mistake to pay attention to verbal communication only.

translated by Dr. George Galeczki (Cologne/Germany)

© HILLE 1996-2001

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