Joseph Chilton Pearce – The Biology of Transcendence: Part 2 – The Evolving Brain
Living Dialogues
Duncan Campbell

Episode 20 - Joseph Chilton Pearce – The Biology of Transcendence: Part 2 – The Evolving Brain

In Part 2 of this immensely interesting three-part comprehensive dialogue, Duncan and Joseph Chilton Pearce explore the evolution of the adaptive human brain with the appearance of the pre-frontal lobes, going beyond the reptilian, limbic (emotional), and neo-cortex tri-partite brain functions to enable us to go beyond our limiting cultural conditioning to a transcendent awareness. This transcendent awareness will enable and express a planetary unifying worldview, without which large parts of our species may not survive. As Joe points out, no culture in human history has had a higher rate of young people attempting or committing suicide than what we witness today. More details on this episode go to



Joseph Chilton Pearce – The Biology of Transcendence:  Part 2 – The Evolving Brain

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Duncan Campbell:  From time immemorial, beginning with indigenous councils and ancient wisdom traditions through the work of western visionaries, such as Plato, Galileo, and quantum physicist David Bohm, mutually participatory dialogue has been seen as the key to evolving and transforming consciousness, evoking a flow of meaning a dia (flow) of  logos (meaning) -- beyond what any one individual can bring through alone. So join us now, as together with you, the active deep listener, we evoke and engage in Living Dialogues.  [music]

Duncan Campbell:  Welcome once again to Living Dialogues.  I’m your host Duncan Campbell and with me for this particular dialogue, I’m again delighted to have Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of “Crack in the Cosmic Egg”, the national best seller, “The Magical Child”, “Evolution’s End” and most recently “The Biology of Transcendence”.  Joe is an internationally acclaimed teacher, lecturer and speaker around the world on human development, the changing needs of children and the crisis of culture.  So Joe, once again it’s a real delight to have you here.

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  Well, thanks for having me, Duncan I’m glad to be here.

You know at a prior dialogue we spoke at some length about umm your comment of the conflict between culture and biology and that as humans umm we are programmed if you will within our developmental biological structure for transcendence and that at every stage we encounter uh a kind of set of belief systems, which we’re calling for this purpose culture, that embody religious political, economic, social constructs that tend to impede or even destroy this possibility to reach our natural fulfillment and realization as divine human manisfestations. So let’s take that on. Actually, we might start with your uh very provocative statement.  We’ve never quite recognized yet what the real enemy is in this process.

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  Well let’s use for instance the…the..  our response to the criminal mind in America.  We have more of our brothers in prison than any other country, I believe in the whole world including Russia certainly many more than in China.  Umm, about two million of our fellow citizens are in prison at any one time.  We spend huge amounts of money I guess second only to the Pentagon do we spend on our criminal population.  And our only result …resorting… the only thing we have ever resorted to about our criminal population is moral ethical invective. 

Duncan Campbell:  Umhmm

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  We point the finger of guilt and we say these are bad guys we put them away etcetera etcetera and the whole nation is behind it.  Everyone loves it.  All of our television and our media and everything hinges around the cops and robbers theme.  It’s one of the most popular things we have going.  Now the discovery now is that we’re dealing with biologically damaged individuals that we in our cultural process have seriously damaged. Uh so never …again, looking at the new brain scans of normal, so-called normal, people and violent people and find that the brain structures themselves, the actual cellular structures built in to them are radically different -- profoundly damaged in the case of the violent person.  And then we do a study of what has happened to that person in life and we find that they are profoundly damaged biological humans.  The things we have done to those children from conception on have brought about this particular kind of a brain structure and then they are violent and what do we do?  We very smuggly and self righteously go through all of our huge national passion for courts and trials and jails and cops and robbers to put ‘em away and we breed them far faster than what we can put them way. Now, what I’m calling for is dropping…to drop all moral ethical invective and for the first time in history look at our problem as a biological issue.  Now, in solving the biological problem of the root causes of crime and violence, you automatically get rid of virtually every problem the human is facing in this day and time.

Duncan Campbell:  In fact uh, I think that’s a very interesting way of putting it to get rid of the moral uh invective because it really is the cheap currency of political discourse.  It’s the cheap currency of the politician playing upon people’s fears and not only the politicians but advertisers themselves.

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  Oh oh the religious community!

Duncan Campbell:  Yeah the religious community - people being influenced based on their fear and as we go into this discussion, Joe, could you recap again your uh … description of how rage arises within culture as it thwarts this desire that’s inbuilt into the biological system for transcendence and ultimate cooperation and unity. 

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  Let’s approach that by backing up just a little bit and looking at neuroscience itself.  For instance the work of Paul MacLean, the great neuroscientist who for 40 years has head all brain research at the National Institutes of Health in Washington and his whole staff discovery that the three major areas of our brain or structures in our brain what we call the basal brain system and the limbic structure and the neocortex are literally the brain’s developed throughout evolutionary history.  The basic system on which we raised we’re… we’re based as a species, is reptilian and this is a survival mode.  It’s a sensory-motor instinctual pattern built in to us to survive as a species. 

Duncan Campbell:  Ummhmm

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  Now, culture is based on that reptilian survival mode and everything that happens to us from conception on is to enculturate us so that we are locked into and identified with this survival mode of our brain.  Now meanwhile nature has added the incredible limbic structure with the emotional cognitive brain from which we get what we call emotional intelligence uh the old mammalian brain.  On top of that and according to nature’s plan… evolutionary plan, this higher brain should incorporate the lower into its services and transform the nature of the lower into the higher. Uh all of our delevopmentalists recognize that very clearly even Antonio Dimaggio recognizes that.  That as the great limbic structure the emotional brain or what we call emotional intelligence develops.  It is designed by nature to profoundly change the nature of that survival mentality and then nature added the neocortex, the brain of thinking, language, creativity and all these higher things of life.  Now, what is that supposed to do?  It’s supposed to incorporate the old mammalian and reptilian into its services transforming them as it does so and then nature has added this fourth brain the newest one.  It’s brand new in evolutionary history called the prefrontal lobes.

Duncan Campbell:  When did that emerge, Joe?

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  Well you find traces of it just traces in the higher chimpanzees the higher apes but about 40,000 years ago it appeared in its present or that’s the best estimate we’ve got going in its present state in the human being and marks the difference between say Neanderthal and Cro-magnon man.

Duncan Campbell:  Now very interestingly on this precise point that Joseph Campbell uh at one point uh speculated that the beginnings of an evolution beyond the primary three determinants of human behavior which he said were pleasure, uh power or control and a collective moral order.  The first evidence he finds in human culture of moving beyond that he sees in the shamans who emerged 40,000 years ago who devoted their life to what we might call self realization to the full realization of an intelligence and a universal consciousness beyond those three limiting roles and it occurred in his research approximately the very same time that you’re now identifying as the emergence of the prefrontal roles.

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  Well in their present state.  Again, you’ve got to qualify that.  And I would say that, he would say that the emergence of certain shaman.  There is no reason in the world that it couldn’t have been emergence of entire societies and groups of people.

Duncan Campbell:  He was talking really yes as the shamanic ideal. Precisely.

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  Well but the shamanic ideal might be the vestiges or hangovers of a once very powerful culture not culture but civilization which develops the pre-frontal lobes and then simply goes on to something else.  It’s not around anymore uh but the issue we’re getting to is that … that in… in evolutionary history you’ve had this constant adding and there’s no no argument.  This is not hypothetical at all. Nature adding to evolutionary structures to her old ones.  For what purpose?  To rise and go beyond the limitations and constraints of the older system.  When Meister Eckhart who’s one of our great brilliant geniuses of the last seven centuries said when the higher incoporates the lower into its services, the higher transforms the nature of the lower into its own nature.  Now he was talking about the evolutionary structure of our brain itself. Now what has happened in the past I don’t know how many thousands of years but there’s a lot of speculation as to when it took place it might have taken place through a great cosmic catastrophe or cataclysm on earth in which we literally lost our nerve and went into a fear mode. But what has happened is the development of culture. What is culture -  it’s the synthetic counterfeit of transcendence that wherein transcendence doesn’t happen but you use the transcendent capacities of the mind to enhance and develop a  defensive mechanism which orients and identifies us with the ancient reptilian survival mode …methods of the brain structure.

Duncan Campbell:  What is it that’s promoting culture as opposed to transcendence?

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  Culture is its own self-perpetuating structure or force of thinking.  You uh we think of David Boehm and Rupert Sheldrake would refer to culture as a field effect a non-localized energy system which simply perpetuates itself and it does this through all these various … all the various things which we find in contemporary culture politics, religion, medicine, uh philosphies and so on all of these high minding propositions which do not change our nature.  We’re simply getting more and more destructive toward our own species and our planet generation by generation.  Now why?  Because culture is a synthetic counterfeit of transcendence and …and sidetracks the human growth process from its transcendent nature which is its true nature into this defensive legalistic, lawmaking uh fire and brimstone God all that rest of that stuff that goes with it  -- kind of a history that we’ve had here for thousands of years…

Duncan Campbell:  And if we skip ahead to contemporary television, we see one of the most popular shows on television is titled Law and Order and it reinforces this kind of fingerpointing which you called moral invective -- singling out deficient members of society for having transgressed the law of what Joseph Campbell is calling the collective world order and impeding the possibility of understanding the truer deeper dynamics of why that’s happening in the first place. 

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  Oh I, I look at our culture today.  We’re great ones for cultural stoning.  In fact I think we have bred certain minorities treating them in such a horrible way that literally we’ve bred out of them a kind of a criminal population you might say, that we can then turn around and stone in order to kind of expulgate or get rid of our own internal rage at our failure to transcend our state.  I, I again would point to our two million of our fellow human beings that we have in prison at any one time in this country and would have a lot more in prison if we could probably. 

Duncan Campbell:  And indeed in current political uhm observation, the phrase the prison industrial complex has come to compliment and replace even the phrase that Eisenhower made popular the military industrial complex and both of them at their core from this perspective have the demonizing of the other whether it’s an external enemy or an internal enemy in order to go into denial about the deep rage that the person experiences at not fulfilling its own inherent need to reach harmony or transcendence.

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  When I think of our young adolescents for instance and the fact that right now in our country, as of 2002, the third highest cause of death in American children between age 5 and 17 is suicide and were all suicide attempts successful, it would be by far the highest single cause of death in American children.  Now a culture that is driving its own children to a high level of suicide which has no historical precedence in history.  There are no accounts of this ever occurring before in history.  When the entire young society of people begun to destroy themselves as we have in America. Now why is this?  It’s the very same thing, this… this …this blocked transcendence and inherent rage that has to result from it.

Duncan Campbell:  This is really beautiful because normally we hear descriptions of the spiritual path in terms of the flip side of that same coin not talking about the rage but talking about the restlessness and talking about the yearning of the heart that knows that at some more profound level a destiny awaits it that is its true nature.  And, you say it very beautifully I think in the end of one of the chapters in your book, “Evolution’s End” and I’m going to quote here, uh you say that …for decades the highest percentage of suicides took place in the early twenties age group particularly among men.  Though dormant the fourth level intelligence never rests.  It is always waiting and occasionally when we get quiet for a moment we become aware that it is still there, a vague uneasiness a reslestness of heart end of quote. And so this fourth level intelligence is the one you’re talking about that the evolutionary pattern has given us in the way of the prefrontal lobes in our brain development and unless that impulse gets realized if it continues to get blocked by fear-based culture and people in power who want to remain at the level that Joseph Campbell talked about the seeking of pleasure, the seeking of power and the imposition of collective moral order and are not really dedicated to their own self transcendence or the liberation really of humanity to this higher order of being, then we have the situation that we have at present.

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  But now there you’re attributing this to a certain group of people.  I deny that.  There are no… there are no bad guys in this.  We’re not dealing nor are we dealing with with mistaken notions.  We’re dealing with culture as a psychic force field.

Duncan Campbell:  That’s a fair comment and I just want to clarify what I said that those people are not to be demonized either.  The quote “ruling elite”.  But they’re simply agents of culture. They’re simply manifestations of the same frustration and blockage that the entire population is experiencing.

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  But that assumes that anyone … I  say there are no exceptions to the cultural effect.  Culture effects everyone.

Duncan Campbell:  That’s what I’m saying.  I’m agreeing with you. 

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  Culture affects everyone… The spiritual paths that are set up they’re supposed to be so terribly difficult that we struggle so over them and it’s such hell to go through them and the dark night and so forth.  These are simply ways to try to escape culture itself because they’re simply trying to get to who we really are before we’re enculturated uh into this life.

Duncan Campbell:  So let’s talk about some of these dramatic escape attempts through history.  You’ve mentioned Meister Eckhart.  Let’s talk about him, the Dominican monk who eventually died during his trial during the Inquisition but before they caught on to him he had delivered himself of writings and observations that endure to this day as examples of someone who apparently, I’m using this in a slightly um uhm amusing way made a very successful escape attempt if you will who actually did embody transcendence and escape culture.

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  Oh they do this all the time.  We’ve had nothing but a constant stream of them uh and produced by the very church that then turns around of course and tries to fry them as quickly as possible and get them out of the way. Now the thing, you’ve got Eckhart you’ve got Murabi, the Sufi in Spain at the same time and you just go right on up …great people continually coming along but you can’t possibly stop that and all of that has come about I say because of an event two thousand years ago.  I’m profoundly anti-Christian and profoundly pro-Jesus.  I say you can’t have the two at the same time.  They don’t work.  They’re not…they might have sprung from the same source but they’re the dark and the light side of it.  So what you have found happening is this constant attempt to break through culture and a lot of people do it.  My argument is it has not broken culture because culture has never been identified as … as the real problem we have all these spiritual paths that are supposed to attain this very difficult enlightment, you see.  Very few people have done it.  It hasn’t changed human nature at all.  Why? Because of culture.  None of them have identified culture as the problem.  Instead they put our transcendent state as an almost impossible to achieve function. Why is it that? It’s because culture has such a strong hold on the neurostructure of our brain.  Culture has formed us neurally as we are and to break through that barrier is very very difficult.   Uh so but until we identify the enemy as culture as a force and realize that every aspect of culture produces the counterfeit of transcendence.  That includes our politics, our religions, our medicines, our educational systems, I will except Waldorf education from that.  I think Waldorf is one of the greatest things that’s happened.   But all these cultural counterfeits are what siphon our young people off. All of these essentially operate like the underground railway in 1984.  Uh the youngster wants to break desperately from a culture which is killing him or her.  They want to break from it.  Culture offers them the counter cultural movement which is of course the underground railway and it leads them right back into the cultural confines that they’re trying to escape but by the time they realize it’s happened they’re worn out the fire’s gone out and they quit and become one of us.

Duncan Campbell:  And we have also that book, “The Co-optation of Cool”, which talked about how the counter culture itself became completely absorbed into the meta advertising culture and exploit it for its own purposes…where you have even today, for instance, the Gap I belive using Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, figures of the beat revolution and anti-culture from that point of view, uh identified with their products so if you buy this product you will somehow magically obtain a uh liberating consciousness…

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  Liberating consciousness.  Now this is culture. This is the way culture functions. But we, we, we, make an error if we think we are not part of that. We are that.  I am culture and my attempt to break with culture and transcend myself uhm is purely personal.  I can do nothing about culture itself other than to break from it myself.

Duncan Campbell:  How can you make a successful escape attempt?  Let’s talk about that.  You yourself and let’s talk about our children and other people in society.  Umm what is the… the first uh point it seems that we need to do is to recognize as you put, the enemy and to see that as Pogo said, “We have seen the enemy and it is us.  It is our culture.”

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  And that’s the, that’s the most exciting point you could possibly come to.  Your great discovery is never to try to change culture.   Every ounce of energy you give to culture to change it simply feeds into the cultural pattern.  Culture doesn’t care what face it’s wearing whether it wears the face of Afro-American, Anglo-American uh whatever it is.  It doesn’t care what face it’s wearing.  It can wear a million faces.  The main thing that is any effort to change culture promotes culture and strengthens it.  This means that the ship of state, the… the… the noble statement, “Ask not what you can do for your country”… no I mean, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country is the absolute archetypal supreme statement of culture itself and is the absolute archetypal supreme antithesis to the statements made by Jesus.

Duncan Campbell:  Let’s hold, let’s hold on  just right there for a second.  This is very exciting for me to hear you say this for me personally because when I was a sophomore in college and it was a month before John Kennedy was assasinated.  In an Economics class, one of the students in our class had done research into Mein Kampf, the book by Hitler that really tells the story of his personal vision and he read us in German right out of Mein Kampf, a phrase in German and then translated and it said, “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” and a month later John F. Kennedy was dead but it was so astonishing to realize that those were the same words uttered by someone we had demonized and thought of as totally other.

Joseph Chilton Pearce:  Now here’s but here you have the whole thing and when I …when I got up to speak to young people, …I would say never waste one ounce of energy trying to save the ship of state. For one thing, it’s unsalvageable, it will always self-destruct of its own foul weight sooner or later.  Secondly, it’s not worth salvaging because it’s your basic fundamental enemy.  Now of course for this I will probably, I’m probably down on every blacklist of the FBI already anyway.  What we’re dealing with is we’re dealing with culture as a psychological you might say psychic entity a force field which has been in effect for thousands of years and nothing has ever changed it because we always are trying to change it through what? Through some religious path or political path or reformist movement utopian and so on and so forth.  No one has ever simply said withdraw all your energy from that and don’t give it one ounce of your energy.  There’s only one person who’s ever … I’ve ever found. They’re two, two great figures in history, Krishna and his, his advice to Arjuna there on the battlefield in the Bhagavad Gita. And Jesus say the almost identically the same thing.  They’re standing with the same thing.  Who is it that… that…that poor Arjuna must turn on and denounce or renounce and cut himself off from?  His aunts and his uncles and his cousins and so forth, his own family.  Jesus says members of your own household are your own greatest enemy and he says in effect you don’t try to save this ship of state uh you simply move for what? You move for this other state which is within you and you do that without wasting one ounce of your energy trying to change the external mechanisms of your culture.  Uh it’s interesting that, that umm Jesus never, he never cursed either the Pharisee and the phonies on the one hand nor did he curse the Roman soldiers on the other.  He cursed the barren fig tree.  What does this mean?  All he asks is that you take your life force and you give it to the life force.

For full transcript, please contact Duncan Campbell