Posted by: Bruce Proctor | June 26, 2016

Coleridge on Left/Right brain functioning


I ran across this in Richard Holmes’ Coleridge, to my earlier point, of the inability of so many to perceive beauty or wonder. For myself, I tend to think of it in terms of left brain/right brain or logical/intuitive functions. Our very dominant logical/left brain culture—even more so than in Coleridge’s time—so often thinks it is running the show, until it inevitably hits the wall of fragmentation and nihilism, and the meaninglessness of it all, when the need for a radical re-evaluation of worldview becomes glaringly apparent. I am not, by the way, favoring one side over the other. It seems to me the optimal mode is the balancing or resonance of both reason and wholeness/heart/intuition functioning together. But reason without heart at its center is a lost cause.

Coleridge, at twenty-five (1797), wrote this to Tom Poole:

‘I regulated all my creeds by my conceptions not by my sight—even at that age. Should children be permitted to read Romances, & Relations of Giants & Magicians, & Genii?–I know all that has been said against it; but I have formed my faith in the affirmative. I know no other way of giving the mind a love of “the Great”, & “the Whole” . . . I have known some who have been rationally educated, as it is styled. They were marked by a microscopic acuteness; but when they looked at great things, all became a blank & they saw nothing. . . and uniformly put the negation of a power for the possession of a power–& called the want of imagination, Judgment, & the never being moved to Rapture Philosophy.’

A few pages on, Coleridge has this to say about the logic of poetry (right brain functioning) being superior to that of science (left brain), and which bears out in my experience:

‘I learnt from him [Professor Bowyer], that Poetry, even that of the loftiest and, seemingly, that of the wildest odes, had a logic of it own, as severe as that of science; and more difficult, because more subtle, more complex, and dependent on more, and more fugitive causes.’




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