Channeling, Mental Process and Cerebral Asymmetry
Channeling, Mental Processing, and Cerebral Asymmetry
Most introductory psychology classes touch on the functions of the two hemispheres of the brain: The left hemisphere is largely associated with logic, analytical skills, and processing life’s experiences while the right brain is “characterized as imagistic, synthetic, spatial, imaginative, and involved with a holistic and symbolic processing of experience—that is, with a nonlineal, simultaneous or parallel processing of perceptual events” (Irwin 1994:16). In layman’s terms, the left hemisphere is associated with logic and mathematical skills, while the right hemisphere is largely associated with creativity. However, this poses an interesting position if one was to apply these brain hemisphere functions to channeling and how it manifests itself in both those individuals who are taught channeling and those individuals who learn it on their own (“wilders”).
But in order to properly discuss these functions and how they affect individuals who can channel, we must also look at altered states of consciousness. Altered states of consciousness are states of awareness that many people have experienced in the course of their daily lives, and range from hypnosis and dreaming to, perhaps, migraine headaches as some of the more common manifestations. Channeling, the ability to touch the True Source, appears to be The Wheel of Time version of an altered state of consciousness, as one exercise that channellers use is the image of a rosebud slowly opening so that they might attain a calm state in order to touch the True Source. Lee Irwin, an anthropologist and a professor of religion, claims that “right-hemisphere activity tends to be strongly associated with altered states of consciousness, such as hypnosis, dreaming, possession, and visionary trance. This cognitive asymmetry, characterized as a ‘verbal-visual’ tension, seems clearly subject to cultural learning processes that have resulted in the development of hemispheric dominance both individually and culturally” (1994:16-17).
Thus, it appears that channeling is associated with right-hemisphere activity in the human brain. It appears to be an altered state, and therefore, logically speaking, it should be categorized as an activity associated with the right hemisphere. As Irwin points out, “cultures outside the mainstream of Western intellectual tradition have been recognized as placing more emphasis on visual-spatial orientation and to be more emphatically imagistic and mythic in an interpretive context” (1994:17).
So what does this mean for wilders, the individuals who have learned channeling on their own? Irwin also points out that “affective and emotional response is strongly associated with right-hemisphere activity” (1994:17). Therefore, it might be safe to assume that the block that wilders often develop (such as the block Nynaeve al’Meara has through most of the series that allows her to channel only when she is angry) also take place in the right hemisphere, thus negatively affecting their ability to channel, especially if they do not understand the ability.
Lee Irwin, The Dream Seekers: Native American Visionary Traditions of the Great Plains, (Norman, Oklahoma: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1994).