Most of us are enchanted by the written word, and in western culture, literacy is a given high regard. Yet, author Leonard Shlain, M.D. believes that when the alphabet and the rise of literacy replaced the oral tradition, cultures went through a period of madness. Women, goddesses and sacred images suffered the most. He contends that when reading and writing were introduced, the left hemisphere of the brain became dominant at the expense of the right, and says, “Up to now we’ve been so enamored with our text culture that we never question the price we paid.” However, with the advances in image technology, Shlain thinks we are witnessing the dawn of a new language, which is reintroducing the voice of the right hemisphere. “I hear a lot of talk about how we’re destroying life as we know it. How about a different scenario that we are in the process of evolving into something different?” (hosted by Michael Toms)
Leonard Shlain, M.D. (1937-2009) was chairman of laparoscopic surgery at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, and Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. He has been a keynote speaker at the Smithsonian Institute, Harvard University, the Florence Academy of Art, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, among others.
His books include:
- Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light (William Morrow 2007)
- The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image (Viking 1998)
- Sex, Time, and Power: How Women’s Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution (Viking 2003)
- Leonardo’s Brain: Understanding Da Vinci’s Creative Genius (Lyons Press 2014)
To learn more about the work of Leonard Shlain go to www.leonardshlain.com/blog.
Topics Explored in This Dialogue
- How communication changes when written
- How image technology is related to the return of the feminine
- How the development of language has affected human evolution
- How the introduction of the alphabet is connected to environmental degradation
- Why the Age of Reason was destructive to future generations