‘The Neurobiology of the Gods’

51ZUBm5q4NL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_What does neurobiology, symbolic imagery and the writings of Jung all have in common? They are all featured and linked together in the book The Neurobiology of the Gods (2012) by Erik Goodwyn. The text takes CG Jung’s writing and applies the concepts to modern neuroscience. The result is an explanation for why human’s create symbolic imagery and could potentially be helpful for anyone trying to understand that kind of human experience, like analytical psychologists, traumatologists, or even evolutionary psychologists. Goodwyn says of the book that the primary focus “is in symbolic imagery- how the brain constructs it, interacts with it, and imbues it with numinous significance (in the case of gods).” In the work, Goodwyn also goes back and looks at the origins of when humans began using symbolic imagery in the evolutionary process.

Goodwyn looks at the neurobiological aspects of symbolic imagery using the framework of Jung’s ideas like collective unconscious, archetypes and dreams, as well as with the work of neuroscientists like Jaak Panksepp, Antonio Damasio, and Joseph Le Doux. Rather than discounting the work of either philosophy or modern science he uses both to compliment and support each other. Goodwyn concludes that symbolic imagery is how humans decide to make sense of experiences or concepts that they cannot understand. He states that symbolic imagery, meaning any “internally derived sensory impression” and images are really just ways that we guide ourselves mentally so that we have meaningful lives that we understand. Goodwyn writes, “the dream scientists Hall and Nordby, in analyzing some 50,000 dreams from subjects all over the world, found repetitive universal themes that included conspecific aggression and status striving, predatory animals, flying, falling, being pursued, landscapes, sex, misfortune, marriage and children, being socially scrutinized, traveling, swimming, watching fires and being confined underground. These elements they called ‘universal constants of the human psyche’…this data has held up remarkably well over time…Furthermore, when viewed cross-culturally, dreams ‘are more similar than they are different around the world’ … suggesting a common source of stock concerns that are resistant to cultural variation.” So our dreams are similar throughout culture and symbolic imagery remains an entirely human phenomenon. We need images and metaphors to understand what we go through emotionally and to help explain anything that does not make sense scientifically.

Yuri Kochiyama Passes Away

yurirally_vert-0c62c75e3b7214127057d0907da968c5be2c83b9-s3-c85Yuri Kochiyama was an amazing woman who stood up for the civil rights of Asian Americans, and others of color in California. Kochiyama was born in 1921 as a first generation Japanese immigrant living in San Pedro, CA just outside of Los Angeles. She was among those Asian Americans who were rounded up during WWII and put in camps by the U.S. government. 100,000 Japanese American families had their property stolen, their liberty taken away, and were moved into these camps. Kochiyama and her family were sent to a camp in Arkansas. This traumatic experience had a huge impact on Kochiyama and started her on her life-long quest for equal rights for those in marginalized and minority communities.

Kochiyama understood how the situation she went through was similar to that of African Americans in the segregated Jim Crow south. She and her husband Bill began to work towards equal rights, using the Civil Rights Movement as their context for fighting for all men and women of color in the United States. The activities that she organized and her prominence as a Civil Rights leader led to her acquaintance and friendship with Malcolm X. She was in the Audubon Ballroom in 1965 when he was assassinated. While everyone else ducked for cover after the shots started she ran to Malcolm X and cradled the Civil Rights leader as he died in her arms.

Later in life she used her position and activism experience to help others in a variety of social justice issues. She spoke about the rights of political prisoners, nuclear disarmament, Puerto Rican independence, and reparations for those, like her, who were Japanese American internees. She dedicated her life to uniting many in marginalized communities and was a model for other activists. The president of Advancing Justice- LA, Stewart Kwoh, said of Kochiyama, “We honor her memory by continuing to fight for justice for all marginalized communities and standing up for everyone whose rights have been infringed upon, regardless of race or ethnicity.”