By Grace Lee Boggs
Feb. 11-25, 2012
While he was a medical student, Naranjo gave up music but remained interested in Art and the life of the spirit. Important influences from this period, he reports in his autobiography, were the Chilean visionary poet and sculptor Tótila Albert, poet David Rosenman Taub, and the Polish philosopher Bogumil Jasinowski.
In the 60s and 70s Naranjo came to the United States. On the east coast at Harvard, he encountered the psychogenic views of Jungian Henry Murray. On the west coast, at the University of California, he discovered the human potential movement at Esalen.
As a result, he decided that our whole civilization is sick and that the root cause of this sickness is the cultivation by our society of the patriarchal (technological, aggressive and warrior) brain at the expense of the feminine brain (nurturance) and the childhood brain (spontaneity).
To heal our civilization, he concluded, we as individuals need to transform ourselves by reunifying our three brains. At the same time we need to struggle against the domination of our educational institutions by patriarchal values, replacing these with the more feminine values which prevailed prior to the rise of patriarchal civilization in the late Neolithic. This was a matristic age during which women played key roles and the dominant values were the feminine ones of compassion, community and nurturance.
Naranjo’s book is a fascinating example of the diverse roads by which serious thinkers in different fields are arriving at the conclusion that we have come to the end of the period of pursuing rapid economic growth, which over the last few hundred years has done such great damage not only to our planet but to all living things, including ourselves.
“Getting and spending,” as Wordsworth, the early 19th century poet, put it, “ we have laid waste our powers.”
We have lived by the conviction that product is more important than process, that well-paid jobs are adequate compensation for our fragmentation and dehumanization on the assembly line.
Now we are in the midst of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called a “radical evolution of values” and Karl Polanyi called The Great Transformation.
“We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented to a person-oriented society,” warned King in his 1967 Beyond Vietnam speech.
“ The outstanding discovery of recent historical and anthropological research,” wrote Polanyi, “ is that man’s economy, as a rule, is submerged in his social relationships. He does not act so as to safeguard his individual interest in the possession of material goods; he acts so as to safeguard his social standing, his social claims, his social assets. He values material goods only so far as they serve this end. Neither the process of production or that of distribution is linked to specific economic interests attached to the possession of goods; but every single step in that process is geared to a number of social interests…. These interests will be very different in a small hunting and fishing community from those in a vast despotic society, but in either case the economic system will be run on non-economic motives.”