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I came across the work of James B. Ashbrook yesterday in my continued investigation of how the soul, mind, and body are interrelated. Ashbrook dedicated much of his career to studying the neuroscience of the brain and how the bimodal (right-brain/left-brain) consciousness is both analogous and metaphor of God. His work culminated in the books Minding the Soul and The Humanizing Brain.

Ashbrook’s theology is rooted in Rauschenbusch, Kierkegaard, Whitehead, and Tillich.

“Tillich opened for me experiential origins of the theological past. The main tributary of Christianity has been Antiochean incarnationalism, Jesus divine and human. I have resonated more with Alexandrian Logos Christology, Christ as the universal ordering of existence. This more cosmic view reduces the impulse to exclusiveness among the world religions. I prefer to think of religion as wholistic or whole-making, or, better yet, the dynamic integrity of Reality. For me, Jesus is the archetypal
prototype of what it means to be human rather than a perfect essence emanating from some Platonic realm.”1

These two paragraphs provide a summary of his work:

“The primitive and core brain focuses our attention. The old mammalian brain involves the psychosocial processes of belonging and connectedness and of owning and differentiating. The highest level of complexity, the neocortex, is the locus of conscious cognition and conceptual coherence or interpretive integration. Because of our genetic capacity for empathy and attunement, we are object seeking; because of our capacity for cognitive organization, we are makers of meaning.
I insist that these twin aspects of meaning making and object seeking represent the reality of religion. Religious understanding in its unconscious roots suggests there is “more” to God than rationalization of feelings. In the conscious reaches of religious understanding there is the “more” of imagination and mystery. With such a background of knowledge and understanding I link the cry for the other, including the cry for God, and the biocultural womb of human development.”2

I found Ashbrook thanks to the breadcrumbs left by Ted Peters in his article “The Soul of Trans-Humanism” in Dialog.3 Ashbrook represents a view of the soul/body relationship that Peters calls “Emergent Dualism.”

  1. Ashbrook, James B.. 1996. Making Sense of God : How I Got to the Brain. Zygon 31: 401-420, 403-404. []
  2. ibid, 419. []
  3. Peters, Ted. 2005. The Soul of Trans-Humanism. Dialog: A Journal of Theology 44: 381-395. []
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