Long awaited book explaining the link between the neurochemistry of our brains and our state of consciousness. It shows how the tropical forest environment and the biochemistry of our diet there may have started a feedback loop involving a massive increase in human brain size and function, which began to reverse when we left the forest, leaving us with a divided sense of self. Does this correlate with the mythical 'Fall from Grace'? In the light of this knowledge we may be able to find a way to open up new levels of perception and physiological function, greatly enhancing our sense of well-being and health, and maybe giving us the opportunity to live at levels of consciousness only dreamed of today. Food and botanicals are part of the key.
This second edition has a forward by Dennis McKenna and can be purchased at Food for Consciousness online shop.
An interview with Tony Wright, author of Left in the Dark
PDF: Can you give us a brief synopsis of what ‘Left in the Dark’ is about?
Tony Wright: Left in the Dark outlines a radical new interpretation of existing data re the evolution, development and functioning of the human brain. Specifically it proposes that the rapid and accelerating expansion of the human brain during the latter stages of its evolution was due to a feedback mechanism driven by our own hormone system in combination with complex plant bio-chemistry abundant in our evolutionary diet. Due to a change in our environment/ecology and the associated loss of the key plant chemicals the expansion of our brain stalled and its structure changed detrimentally, affecting our perception, psychology, behaviour and the societies we have created. Simplistically our perception is directly affected by the structure and bio-chemistry of our brain and this has changed out of all recognition in a relatively short time. I have also proposed that the condition was known to our distant ancestors and their attempts to describe and treat it can be recognised in oral tradition and mythology as well as 'religious' practice.
PDF: What are the main differences in function between the left and right brain hemispheres?
Tony Wright: The orthodox perspective suggests each hemisphere has its own specialisation and the characteristics of the dominant (left hemisphere) give us our unique and advanced abilities i.e. conceptual and rational thought processes and speech etc. My proposal is that the development of the brain and in particular one side of the neocortex is now incomplete; paradoxically the most retarded side has assumed control. This has severely limited our perception and compromised many abilities yet many of those abilities as well as a wholly different perception lie dormant in the right side of our brain, only occasionally glimpsed by a tiny minority. This also creates a paradox whereby the dominant side of the brain is assessing itself so while the concept of specialist abilities appears initially to make some sense on further investigation all is not as it appears. I have proposed that the abilities and perception facilitated by the left side of our brain are greatly reduced or distorted versions of what still remains locked away in the right.
PDF: How can the right hemisphere be accessed and what are some of the benefits we could enjoy by
minimizing the influence of the left hemisphere?
Tony Wright: I have proposed that the origins of religious or mystic practice and technique were borne out of
attempts to reduce the influence of the degenerating left and / or engage the slowly failing abilities of the
increasingly inhibited right. Techniques that combined minimising the left while simultaneously engaging the right were most effective though these more powerful approaches have become diluted or lost as the condition has worsened. Ultimately these approaches failed; however it is possible to make sense of the relic practices that survive when considered within the context of treating cerebral dominance as the symptom of a neurodegenerative condition rather than an advanced adaptive trait. So reducing the effects of the left would include disengaging it from its limited abilities i.e. not talking or thinking in a conceptual manner, tiring it out so its ability to dominate is reduced. Engaging the right would included singing, complex flowing movement/dance, imagination (i.e. thinking in pictures), or judicious supplementation of neurochemistry to ameliorate underlying deficiency. The left hemispheres damage has created a psychology of fear and this drives us in much of our lives, so removing the underlying fear is in its self one of the biggest rewards on offer. The profound sense of escape or liberation described by those who have experienced a window with a reduction in the influence of the left defies explanation.
PDF: You talk about humankind’s prior consumption of fruit a lot in your book. Exactly why do you consider
fruit to be a vital component in the evolution of mankind?
Tony Wright: The key components in fruit are the chemicals that give fruit its colour, many of which happen to be hormonally or neurochemically active. This is relevant to the real time functioning of the brain. However these effects are of much greater significance during the early development of the brain. Fruit is generally a 'free lunch', easy to digest and rich in simple sugars (rocket fuel for the brain). The possibility that humans became near specialist fruit eaters solves a lot of physiological enigmas without having to cobble together complicated theories based on hostile environments that have never produced such a large or complex brain for such a small species.
PDF: How about steroids? What are they and how do they impact us?
Tony Wright: Steroids are an extremely important class of hormones that include the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen's. They are essential in all stages of our growth and development as they are part of the mechanism that reads the DNA code. For example we all start off more or less female and it is primarily the influence of steroids that dictates our sexual characteristics. The level, ratio or activity of these hormones is sufficient to radically alter all aspects of our development and function. Another example, if a mature male takes sufficient oestrogen he will develop breasts. There is no change in the DNA code just a change in the way it is read. Apply these structural effects to the hormonally sensitive brain during its early development and it is clear that a change in steroid activity will impact on brain development and its permanent/lifelong function. Alter steroid levels or activity and you effectively change the DNA code.
PDF: If it is true that left hemisphere dominance is limiting our consciousness, what are we missing out on?
How would our experience of the world change if we had greater access to the right hemisphere?
Tony Wright: Aside from a whole raft of prodigy or savant like abilities that are now considered extremely rare our psychology would be radically different; we would all feel a strength of connection and empathy to each other that is now only typical of how most parents regard their young children. In other words our ability to harm each other is not about making inappropriate choices it is a symptom of neurological damage. Repair the damage and the potential to cause harm is no longer possible. That possibility alone is what has driven me for the last 15 years or so.
PDF: Can you briefly define confabulation and explain the impact this has on our lives and how it is related to left hemisphere dominance?
Tony Wright: I copied this from Wikipedia.....Confabulation is the formation of false memories, perceptions, or beliefs about the self or the environment as a result of neurological or psychological dysfunction.
This term is generally applied to specific conditions, however the orthodox neurological/psychological literature is full of examples that appears to accept confabulation in one guise or another as the normal mode of functioning for the dominant left hemisphere. Simplistically it seems to be accepted that the left hemisphere does not experience reality directly and instead it contrives an approximation. This is considered beneficial, yet it is also accepted that the right hemisphere perceives reality directly. Of course these are rational or left brain concepts to explain the data. Perhaps not surprisingly this paradox has escaped serious attention and the explanations that do exist seem a little confabulated! I have proposed that this is a serious symptom of our condition that in its extreme form explains a lot of the obvious insanity that goes for normality. It also ties in with many traditions that speak of humanity's separation from our real sense of who we are and our historic drift into an all encompassing state of delusion.
PDF: Based on your research and understanding, what are some practical steps we can all take to improve
the quality of our lives?
Tony Wright: I would suggest a number of steps that will at least begin to potentiate the latent abilities locked away in everyone.
* Moving towards a nutrient dense raw diet. This is really about improving the construction materials and biochemistry of the most complex thing we know. A bit of an engineering no-brainer (you would think)! Basically attempting to re-create the highly complex structural and biochemical regime that fueled tens of millions of years of neural evolution and development that eventually resulted in the rapid expansion of our brain and its acquisition of ever more complex/advanced abilities. Not so different to restoring a neglected hand-built Italian sports car; using anything less than the best quality parts and fuel would be unthinkable and would result in compromised performance. Yet apply the same basic philosophy to the human brain (infinitely more precise in its basic design) and apparently different rules apply. It is considered okay to build and run it from the poorest quality materials that were never part of its original development, the presumption being that it makes little difference. Just to confuse matters, the structural distortion that occurs at a sub cellular level during foetal development is now by far and away the most significant liming factor when it comes to left hemisphere perception and general function. This in turn appears to give support to the idea that the quality of the construction materials and fuels has minimal effect on how our brain works. This is effectively true for the left hemisphere, running it on the highest quality biochemistry or the worst quality junk will make little difference as neither regime will make much impact on the developmental damage. It will however affect the potential of the right hemisphere, as it still retains much of its structural integrity and requires the highest quality materials to fully engage. For most of us this is not much of an issue as we rarely escape the structurally distorted limits of the left hemisphere and if we do even the subconscious glimmerings of the dormant right hemisphere self can still be mind blowing relative to our normal self. Only by fully retrofitting the essential biochemical structure and then reducing the influence of the left is it possible to begin engaging the full potential of the right. Of course prior to the onset of the degenerative condition both hemispheres had the same essential requirements and phenomenal capacity and despite the physical separation worked as a seamless whole facilitating a single sense of self that we would currently attempt to describe in profound superlatives.
* Combining a number of traditional practices that enhance right brain function while simultaneously reducing the influence of the left. So some form of meditation, extended periods of reduced speech, or if you have the nerve sing your necessary dialogue! Listen to complex flowing music; the left brain cannot hear the irregular patterns and while it may become irritated or indifferent with time the right steps in and suddenly you can hear what the composer or artist intended. (Perhaps a bit like staring a the once popular 3D Magic Eye images, the ‘hidden’ image or information is there yet most people do not perceive it immediately no matter how hard they look. Then just when you give up it can apparently emerge as if from nowhere and whole new way of perceiving exactly the same information kicks in). Dancing or, more accurately, relaxing and allowing your body to move (apparently of its own accord) to the same kind of flowing music. The sense of your body beginning to move by itself is the conclusion of the dominant left; in reality it is simply signs of your right hemisphere beginning to stir.
* Sleep deprivation. This traditional technique is something I have experimented with for many years and it appears to be a powerful means of reducing the effects of the left. It may exploit the innate weakness of the left side of the brain as if its ‘batteries’ can no longer hold much charge, stay awake and its batteries run down much quicker than the right side. This inevitably leads to increased dysfunction, a sense of tiredness, irritability and clumsiness etc. However its ability to stay in charge is also reduced and with practice and appropriate preparation it appears possible to induce a temporary and partial shift in dominance with glimpses of enhanced perception. However it is not without some risk so I would generally suggest no more than a gentle experimental reduction in sleep if it causes no problems. The relics of prolonged sleep deprivation as an ancient technique survive in various writings such as the Epic of Gilgamesh as well as in vision quest, trance dance and in more diluted forms as intentionally breaking ones sleep to meditate or pray. Spending part of an occasional night in meditation possibly with friends is perhaps a safe option if one is not required to drive etc. the following day (i.e. no more than a nights partying while singing or dancing to music). Of course there is the risk of it being fun, something the left tends to frown on.