Classic Essays

A Difference of Minds: Jews and the Reptilian Brain

Alfred Flechtheim, a Jew, left; T.S. Eliot, a European, right

Whites use their human and mammalian brains; Jews use their human and reptilian brains.

A LONG, ENDURING metaphor of European man describes the mind as consisting of two parts, each competing for mastery. One is likened to man himself and is called by philosophers, in line with their vested interest, Reason. The other is likened to a brute mammal or beast.

In Plato this brute part of the mind or soul is divided into a good and bad beast, the former (the white horse in Phaedrus, the lion in the Republic) innately siding with Reason, the latter (the black horse in Phaedrus, the many-headed beast in the Republic) attempting to overthrow Reason. The same brute mammal may display submission to man (as a horse obeys its rider) or unruliness and violence (a horse throwing its rider).

Until fairly recently this enduring and pervading Western metaphor was no more than a figure of speech. Dissection and the study of anatomy had revealed no internal man and no internal beast — only flesh and bones and gray matter. In the last few decades, however, the electrical, chemical and behavioral probings of neuroanatomists have demonstrated that man’s brain is really three brains, each with its own particular sort of intelligence, sense of space and time, subconscious, memory and other functions. These three brains even contain significantly different distributions of the neurochemicals cholinesterase and dopamine (see Paul D. MacLean, A Triune Concept of the Mind, Toronto Univ. Press.)

Each brain represents a separate evolutionary step in man’s development. When reptiles evolved some hundreds of millions of years ago into higher life forms the reptilian brain was not discarded. It was built on, added to, articulated. When higher life forms appeared, the more primitive part of the brain went “underground.” The mammal possesses a peculiarly mammalian brain, but contains within it, still exercising distinctively reptilian functions, a reptilian brain (the R-complex, comprising the olfactor striatum and the globus pallidus). This brain is associated with such essentially reptilian traits and activities as mindless territoriality, emotionless ritual, the establishment of implacable hierarchies and coldblooded aggression (literally cold-blooded; not the often hot-blooded, uncalculated aggression of the mammal).

The limbic system, that part of the brain which marks the transition of reptile to mammal, is functionally related to such characteristically mammalian activities and emotions as parental care, fear, anger, love and concrete memory and perception. By concrete memory and perception we mean the ability to identify and remember selected individuals through long periods of time.

The most recently developed of man’s three brains, the outer neocortex, signals the change of brute mammal into hominid, opening up such essentially human activities as abstraction, reasoning and language. When higher mammals like gorillas and killer whales engage rudimentarily in such activities, we say they are acting “human.”

The hominid and mammalian brain dominate European man’s metaphor of the mind. The outer neocortex, functionally and evolutionarily, is the man within us or Reason. The limbic system is the brute mammal still lurking inside our skull.

The midbrain, hindbrain and spinal column are called by Maclean “the neural chassis.” This neural machinery is used by amphibians, fish and still lower forms of vertebrates for self-protection and reproduction. The function of the neural chassis has a pervasive effect upon all other neural activity. In fact, this oldest of our neural systems may be conceived as a sort of board upon which we play our mammalian and hominid games.

The reptilian brain has no place in the Western metaphor of the mind. Consequently, we may ask, How did European man, long before the discoveries of neuroanatomists, manage to capture in his metaphor of the mind the existence of a hominid and a mammalian brain? Secondly, why did his metaphor not include his reptilian part? If European man “felt” the presence of two brains, why was he not aware of his third and earliest brain?

Certain relevant considerations suggest a simple answer. Let us suppose the three brains we have been describing were functioning in perfect harmony within European man. If so, he presumably would not have been aware of the tripartite division. A harmoniously functioning stomach that never suffers cramps, pains or hunger does not batter its way into our consciousness.

Man may only become conscious that his mind is segmented if there exists some lack of harmony in its function. As an illustration, we might imagine the case where the functioning of a reptilian brain meshed perfectly with that of the two higher brains, the limbic and neocortical, but where the latter two systems did not mesh with each other. The mammalian brain might then perceive individuals as a concrete mass and the hominid brain perceive them as separate abstract entities. Detached from each other, both brain components could conceivably enter into competition for mastery of the whole brain. We could then, using the technical language of the neuroanatomists, refer to “inhibition centers in the lower temporal lobe” alternately exercising or losing control of the entire neural system.

In the case just described, a person would be aware of possessing a peculiarly human mind-part and a peculiarly mammalian mind-part, but would be unaware of possessing a reptilian mind-part. Strictly speaking, he would not possess the latter mind-part at all, for when we speak of minds, as opposed to brains, we speak of aspects of consciousness. The peculiarly human brain and peculiarly mammalian brain would intrude as aspects of consciousness, owing to their autonomous functionings and disharmonious competition, while the reptilian brain would not — in the same way an upset stomach or a rapidly beating heart imposes on our consciousness, while an undisturbed stomach or a regularly beating heart does not.

Though European man’s metaphor of himself does not project his tripartite brain, it does project his bipartite mind. Do other peoples — the Chinese, for instance — entertain the same mental picture of their mind? Since such pictures, seriously and literally understood, are the projections of neuroanatomical disharmonies and autonomies, these projections stand in a one-to-one relation to the mind and therefore to the nature of a people. As such, they provide a master key to understanding racial behavior.

Consider, for example, the Jew and his picture of his mind, or, equally important, the Jew’s reaction to European man’s picture.

Jewish literature and philosophy, ancient and modern, reveal the total absence of the European image of the mind. What appear as exceptions prove on closer examination to be more ornamental borrowings, like Freud’s description of the ego as the rider of an unruly horse. Superficially, the Old Testament’s conflict of the spirit and the flesh might be construed as a dichotomy of man and beast. Clearly, though, it is not, for the flesh referred to is human flesh.

Spinoza conceived of man as a compound of pure intellect and pure body, with these two “modes” of substance having no interaction at all (Spinoza’s psychophysical parallelism). In Ayn Rand, a contemporary Jewish philosopher and novelist, we find man defined simply as rational being (in contradistinction to Aristotle’s rational animal).

We must infer that European man’s metaphor of the mind as part hominid and part mammal an brute left no more impression on Jewish thinkers than a sound on a deaf ear. This leads to the surmise that Jewish neuroanatomy differs fundamentally from the Western variety. For the Jews there is no separation of the limbic (mammalian) and Neocortical (hominid) systems, and no disharmony of functioning between them. The mammalian brain must be dissolved into the hominid. But does this mean that the Jew is activated entirely by Reason? We know better. Not only no Jew, but no man of any race can be conceived of in purely neocortical or purely rational terms. What has happened is that the typical Jewish image of the mind has failed to project the peculiarly Jewish neuroanatomy.

But how can that be? Why do not Jews have a metaphor of the mind that projects and illuminates their own peculiar neuroanatomy? The answer should be instructive.

Prima facie there is the notorious imperceptiveness of Jews when it comes to understanding concrete realities, an imperceptiveness that would be precisely what one might expect should the limbic system or mammalian brain of a people play a subordinate role to the other two brains, the neocortical and reptilian. The neocortical brain of the Jews is apparently too abstract to be deeply impressed by concrete structures, while their reptilian brain is indifferent to all but its genetic programming. It may be assumed that a person with this kind of neuroanatomy would operate in a cold-blooded, programmed way that relied heavily on bloodless attractions.

It is significant that, once neuroanatomists had described man’s brain in abstract terms as consisting not only of a distinctively human and mammalian part but of a reptilian part as well, Jewish theorizing at once filled in the mammalian gap with a reptilian conception of the mind. The reader is referred to Carl Sagan’s The Dragons of Eden (Random House, 1977).

As Sagan projects this new and (to a European) basically unintelligible picture, the internecine strife that takes place within man is not between mammalian beast and reason — that is, between the limbic and neocortical systems — but between the neocortical and the R-complex or reptilian brain. Thus, where European theorists describe political and bureaucratic behavior in terms of a struggle or competition between man’s rational and brute natures, Sagan describes the struggles between a rational and reptilian nature (op. cit., p. 63). In this peculiarly Jewish scheme of things it is not man’s mammalian nature that must be overcome, but his reptilian (p. 159).

The European conception of the mind is so foreign to Sagan and his Jewish consciousness that he can only make sense of it by converting beasts into reptiles. He interprets Machiavelli’s advice to the Prince “knowingly to adopt the beast” as a recommendation to act in cold-blooded and therefore reptilian ways, even though Machiavelli explicitly tells us that the Prince must act either as a fox or a lion (p. 63). Then Sagan equates the Freudian id not with some sort of mammalian brute, but with the R-complex or reptilian brain.

The conclusion is inescapable that European man’s reptilian brain is dependent and non-autonomous. The active agents of his internal conflicts are his mammalian and distinctively human brains. His neuroanatomy structured the way it is, he mixes reason and abstraction with the concrete insights and warm emotions of the mammal.

In contrast, the Jew’s mammalian brain is dependent and non-autonomous. The active agents of his internal conflicts are his reptilian and hominid brains. Following the dictates of his neuroanatomical structure, he mixes reason and abstraction with the cold instinctive responses of the reptile.

In these two different neural systems and their correspondingly different mind-sets we are finally able to understand the specific traits, both mental and physical, that have always differentiated Europeans and Jews.

It is a common observation that Europeans find it difficult to separate principle from practice. Where and when such separations occur they frequently suffer intense feelings of guilt. But this close-knit connection between European man’s practical life and his principles is exactly what one should expect where the active agents of behavior are the rational (neocortical) and the mammalian (limbical) two-thirds of his brain. Mammals, though they may be unable themselves to propose general principles, are amenable in an appreciative way to rational exhortation and training. A dog appreciatively obeys commands, associates itself with his master emotionally, and even shows anxiety and concern when his master is in trouble or pain.

Acute observers have constantly been impressed by the way the Jew can separate principle from concrete behavior and action so effectively that it often seems as if he were two separate beings. Who has not seen and heard the very same Jew in one breath espouse the highest-sounding principles — universal fraternity, the abolition of nationalism, the absurdity of ethnic prejudice and a multitude of other rhetorical abstractions — and in the very next breath applaud the bombing of Palestinian refugee camps with all the single-mindedness of a crocodile? One moment he deplores capital punishment. The next he engages in the torture, mock-trial and execution of Eichmann, all with the heartless aplomb of a snake crushing a luckless mouse. This seemingly inexplicable, schizoid behavior becomes remarkably fathomable when we think of the unbridgeable gulf between the human and reptilian minds. To the ear of the reptile, unlike the ear of the mammal, the voice of reason and reciprocity conveys no command or injunction — merely a noise. Mammals can be touched by human affection and human beings by mammalian affection; but reptiles are as numb to affection as they are void of it. This is not to say that Jews are not affectionate. They, too, possess a mammalian brain. But for the reasons already stated, they can be and often are purely reptilian in behavior.

The same difference of minds will ex­plain why European man is so damaged by formal education, whereas no matter how much education he acquires, the Jew never loses sight of his race, culture and — nowadays — Israel. Obviously, there remains an inner core that the ratiocinative acids of formal education cannot dissolve his autonomous reptilian component. But these same ratiocinative acids can touch and affect and sear European man’s autonomous mammalian brain.

Unsurprisingly, essentially different neuroanatomies also produce fundamental differences in appearance. Europeans, when they assume grosser forms, acquire the aspects of mammalian brutes, appearing pig-like, horse-like, or weasel-like. But who has not observed the strange expressions of certain Jews, either in a crocodilian cast of mouth (a leading film star) or in a reptilian glassiness of the eye (a foreign-born “statesman”). We are reminded of T. S. Eliot’s prescient description of Bleistein, the “Chicago Semite Viennese,” who stares with a “lustreless protrusive eye” from “protozoic slime.” The reptile’s lustreless, protrusive eye, it might be noted, is covered with a film that reflects, depending on the light, a gleam of avarice or an unblinking ray of icy insensitivity.

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Source: Instauration magazine, July 1979

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1 Comment

  1. February 5, 2017 at 10:01 am — Reply

    E infatti inizialmente i Nazionalsocialisti avevano progettato di mandare gli ebrei in Madgascar.
    Forse era per mandarli in territorio adatto al loro livello evolutivo.
    Il Madagascar è un residuato del periodo della Lemuria probabilmente(e la sua strana fauna e flora lo prova) , civiltà fiorita in eoni lontanissimi del passato e di cui si narra dell’esistenza di uomini rettiliani.

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