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Glossolalia and the right hemisphere of the brain Mueller, Dieter Christian


This dissertation explores historical and contemporary occurrences of glossolalia or 'speaking in tongues', the production of a series of phonetically transcribable language-like but generally, non-cognitive sounds in a variety of (primarily religious; settings. The main issues are why some are susceptible to glossolalia, some may learn it, some crave the ability but cannot do so, and others are repelled. Divided into three parts, Part I of the dissertation considers the phenomenon of glossolalia itself and moves on to historical and cross-cultural contexts, relating glossolalia to that other realm often described as divine or mystical or supernatural or, as here, paranormal. While vocalizations of various kinds seem common to states of religious ecstasy cross-culturally, as a particular kind of vocalization (which need not occur in ecstasy) giossolaiia seems to be largely confined to, and has acquired a special significance in, Christianity. Further, it is regarded by modern Pentecosta1ists as a rite of passage known as a Baptism of the Holy Spirit which gives access to additional paranormal gifts: powers of wisdom, knowledge, prophecy, healing, exorcism. Part II examines theological, linguistic, and anthropological perspectives, and focuses on: the hostile attitudes of ecclesiastical orthodoxies towards glossolalia and the claims of glossolalists; the non-cognitive nature of glossolaliia despite the claims of Pentecostalists (albeit glossolalia may be a reiigious or 'praise' language) that glossolalia is cognitive and may be interpreted; the concept of taboo in its double sense of forbidden 'because dangerous/therefore attractive'; the validity of that basic assumption of social science, the psychic unity of mankind, in relation to intuitions of the dual nature of human personality and scientific knowledge of the nature and functions of the two hemispheres of the human brain. Giving particular attention to the cultural aetiology of glossolalia, especially in relation to authority, Part III analyses a series of interviews with, and C.L.E.M. tests of, glossolalists, would-be glossolalists and others, relating the results to present knowledge concerning the nature and functions of the Right and Left hemispheres of the human brain. While most people everywhere, responding to the requirements of their cultures, tend to activate their Left hemispheres, the research suggests that, in general, access to the paranormal, supernatural, or divine seems to be a function of the Right hemisphere, and in particular, that glossolalists tend to be Right hemisphere dominant.

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