‘Release the genius inside you – Shut down your brain’ announced the cover of the New Scientist in April 2004.

For the last three years scientists at the Centre for the Mind have been attempting to find out if a higher level of mental functioning may be available to all of us. Professor Allan Snyder has proposed that such functions are latent in everyone and are suppressed by the activity of the ‘evolutionary advanced’ rational side of the brain. By ‘switching off’ the left side of the brain, they hoped to turn ‘normal’ people into ‘geniuses’.

Initially treated with scepticism, recent results have caused shock waves in the scientific community. It appears that a whole new layer of function lies dormant in all of us. Have they found the key to our future evolution or have they unknowingly unlocked an ancient mystery that has its origins in prehistory?

A new theory of human evolution, proposed by Tony Wright and Graham Gynn in ‘Left in the Dark’, convincingly argues that the human brain owes part of its extraordinary development to the biochemistry of a specialist fruit diet. The hormone-related chemicals in tropical fruit initiated an internal hormone mechanism that increasingly promoted brain growth and elevated neural activity. When humans were forced from their tropical forest ‘Garden of Eden’ some two hundred thousand years ago, this link with biochemically rich fruit was lost.

The internal hormone mechanism that fuelled brain expansion stalled, and the process went into reverse. This caused a breakdown in part of the brain; some functions were lost and our sense of self changed for the worse – a golden age descended in stages to our present materialist, fear-based age of plastic and Prozac. These neurological effects are now being revealed and verified by today’s cutting edge science.

Professor Allan Snyder has suggested that the rational/conceptual mind functions by editing out much of the raw data (reality) that we gather via all our senses. He believes that many processes and skills are lost in this screening. The latest results from the Centre for the Mind do indeed show that if the rational brain areas are ‘shut down’ enhanced artistic and mathematical ability and improved memory emerge. These skills mirror those of autistic savants and also occur in some patients in which the left hemisphere has been damaged. Snyder thinks the human brain has ‘traded in’ these skills for the benefits of the logical reasoning mind. However his research may be beginning to uncover a much larger story. A number of his subjects have reported perceptual changes too – feelings of euphoria and bliss more normally associated with ‘peak experiences’ and meditation.

If the rational mind suppresses a ‘second self’ that, not only has a number of enhanced skills but also a sense of self that is vibrant, peaceful and connected, could there be something wrong with it? Could it be that all our stressful, niggling mental activity really does hide a place of energetic calm and well-being? It can be no coincidence that religious practices from all traditions and ages have been designed to pacify or negate the activities of the logical mind to allow a different sense of consciousness to come through.

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