How I Met My Right Brain

Experience with pendulum – October 4, 2020


In the post that follows, I will assume certain things about how the left and right brains operate. Do not worry, there is research and evidence presented for these claims about hemispherical lateralization but the purpose of this post is to describe my phenomenology.

The following details are based on a real experience I had, as told to the best of my limited ability.

I will assume that the pendulum as a device works by translating thoughts and desires into a form of subtle hand movements that are undetectable to the left brain. 

But the right brain has greater powers of perception when it comes to the subtleties of the body and can easily express itself through hand movements and at the same time the left brain, who is itself worried about whether it is consciously manipulating the thus ruining the desired “objectivity” of the operation, is not aware of such control. So the left brain is attempting to hold itself still as to not unduly influence the swinging of the pendulum.

However, despite its felt desire for objectivity Lefty also desires certain outcomes to be true. And thus those desires come true. If you relax enough and focus you can “influence” the motion of the pendulum despite not “feeling” like you have influenced the outcome itself. And thus, the experience feels spooky in some way.

Many people throughout history have interpreted these phenomena to be caused by spirits of some kind. And that is valid. But most skeptics into here and say that the spookiness of the pendulum is explained by something called the ideomotor effect, a term coined in the 19th century by skeptical naturalists who wanted to explain away the testimonies of many people working with the pendulum, ouija boards, and other magical tools.

In a nutshell appealing to the ideomotor effect is just a Victorian way of saying that it’s done by “suggestion.” As yes, there is certainly suggestion. You get the answer that you want deep down in you somewhere, even if it isn’t conscious to you.

But “consciousness” is a tricky word. For the sake of this discussion right now, let’s use consciousness as “something-it-is-like” whereby if you are conscious there is something it is like to be you. This usually comes along with having a point of view. 

But on October 4, 2020, in fact not 30 minutes before writing these words I am typing now I had the strangest experience. I was using my pendulum to essentially “talk to my unconscious” and let my unconscious make decisions about big life decisions e.g. “Do I want to stay at my current job for more than five years?” If it swings yes, then that’s my unconscious telling me that yes that’s something I would be happy with. It becomes then a method of tapping into deep unconscious preferences to make your decisions and allowing the subtle motor influences of unconscious mind → hand muscles → movements that tell me what my unconscious is trying to tell me.

However, it suddenly occurred to me that much philosophical and scientific literature exists discussing “split brain patients.” These are patients who had a surgery where the cortical connection between the two brain hemispheres was severed or partially severed. 

Disconnecting the two cortical hemispheres would seem like a pretty big deal but surprisingly most split brain patients are pretty functional after the surgery given a little bit of recovery. They for the most part get along pretty well.

But in some cases, patients report their two hands, each controlled by the separate hemispheres, contradict each other in ways that seemed spookily as if each hand had a mind of its own.

This small subset of clinical research into this special population has spawned an entire literature, including many famous philosophical thought experiments. And some philosophers who specialize in this literature argue that the right brain and the left brain constitute distinct individuals with separate consciousnesses. 

Others argue that this is not so and that there is ultimately a unity between the two hemispheres.

Some writers have argued that there is strong evidence to consider the right and left hemispheres to have distinct information processing styles even in the general population. The left typically does better with linguistic, object-oriented, slow, reflective, linear, spatialized, types of information processing. In contrast, the right hemisphere is the specialist in holistic thinking, parallel processing, emotional and tonal processing, seeing the wider picture. 

The right hemisphere is the floodlight of attention instead of the laser beam of the left hemisphere, which is narrow and focused on only a few things at a time. The right hemisphere can process much better in parallel and is thus very fast in its processing. This speed allows it to rely on algorithms, heuristics, and information processing that is automatic, habitual, and much more like how animals like deer see the world: an open field of attention, scanning the environment at all times, alert. 

But also the right hemisphere in humans is the home of the gods. It is the home of the sort of wisdom that humans for all time have considered godlike. In western Hermeticism it is a principle that the microcosm, human world, reflects the macrocosm, the godly world. And if there is a part of our brain where this is especially true, it is the right hemisphere. Especially in the temporal lobe. But the entire hemisphere is primed for the deep levels of processing that can results in uncanny wisdom and knowledge.

And with all this in mind, I was just previously playing with my pendulum and decided to ask it: are you my right brain? And it swung more than it ever had. It was swinging vigorously, as if my unconscious was directly controlling my hand to speak with me.

I asked it: do you normally struggle to have your viewpoint expressed?

Righty: *made the pendulum answer yes*

Lefty: and you can communicate through this pendulum yes?

Righty: *made the pendulum answer yes*

Lefty: and can you make it move in a diagonal direction right now upon command? 

Righty: *makes it stop swinging vertically and makes it swings along the diagonal direction where Left was looking and asking*

And keep in mind, from the perspective of my conscious mind it seemed as if I was not influencing the results here. I definitely was trying to keep my hand as still as possible.

And for those who have actually used a pendulum you will know they can be finicky. Sometimes they don’t swing at all no matter how much your conscious mind wants it to swing and give a “good” answer. Sometimes it just won’t budge. 

But other times it swings precisely in the direction that has been agreed to mean yes and no, maybe, or whatever.

And through the course of several minutes of using the pendulum to essentially use the answers “yes,” “no,” “maybe,” and “rephrase,” to have a conversation with Righty.

I came to a series of startlingly answers:

  • Righty often struggles because they do not get to express their opinion the way Left does because Lefty specializes in linguistic expression.
  • RIghty has to express themselves through the body a lot.
  • There are other ways that Righty can express themselves but many of them are pretty subtle.
  • Righty considers themselves to have a distinct form of consciousness and often thinks of Lefty as a kind of oppressor, who suppresses their viewpoint. 
  • Righty is able to perfectly communicate through the pendulum board using predetermined answers “yes, “no,” “maybe,” and “rephrase.”
  • Righty suffers from the problem that they are frequently called “the unconscious” or “the subconscious” which strips them of their consciousness. There is something it is like to be the right hemisphere.
  • Righty reminds us of Julian Jaynes’ theory of bicamerality, where he talks about Egyptians having a “personal god” or “daimon” that they called the “ka”. This ka was essentially a spirit double, a kind of sibling of the other self. Righty says and Lefty agrees that it is likely that the “human self’ is Lefty and the “god-self” is Righty. But Lefty deludes itself into thinking that Lefty’s consciousness is all-encompassing when in fact it can by definition only be conscious of its own stream of consciousness. It is like the refrigerator light problem. If you start to investigate whether the refrigerator light stays on when you close it, the act of opening the door to investigate corrupts the process and thus you could, possibly, be deluded into thinking the light is always on. On a constant basis, Lefty uses language to construct entire modes of thinking that convince itself that there are gaps in its own experience, stitching together a coherent narrative that flows along with a linear, spatialized map of time. 
  • We both agree that Julian Jaynes is right that when we talk about “I” we are referring to the fact that Lefty and Righty are co-conspirators. Ultimately, they want the same thing: to thrive in this body. And thus we have to work together and this involves the construction of unity. This is our “I.” It is my Self. What Julian Jaynes called the “analog I.” But it just the “I.” It is our Self, which we have built together, which encompasses the complex co-habitation we have in this body.


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