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Sci Tech    H2'ed 1/9/09

From Reptiles to Humans: A Three Brain Odyssey

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From Reptiles to Humans: A Three Brain Odyssey


Rand Clifford

Heaven, and hell, they both shimmer in the neural universe behind our eyes—in the electrochemical flower we inherited in three parts. High in the blossom sparkles transcendence of miseries humans inflict upon the entire biosphere; down in the stem lurk thorns of greater misery.

Evolution of reptiles into mammals and then humans has given us three unique brain systems: the reptile brain; the mammalian brain; the human brain. Perhaps no story better illuminates the spectrum of potential in our triune brain than that of “The man who lit the world”...history’s premier visionary engineer, Nikola Tesla.

But first, a basic introduction to the brains:

Reptile Brain

The most primitive of our brains, also called the brainstem. The reptile brain is the fundamental core of our nervous system. Forming the upper part of the spinal cord, it’s something we have in common with all other reptiles. The reptile brain is our action, or power brain, center of the will to power. While survival is its main focus, also generated here are aggression, the drive to establish and defend territory, fight-or-flight, well as basic life support functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and digestion. Visceral stimulus-response is brainstem language.

Mammalian Brain

Also called the limbic system because it resembles canine hind limbs sprawled crookedly over the reptilian structures, the mammalian brain links our reptile brain with the more advanced structures. We share the limbic system with all other mammals. Opening a new horizon of humane conscious behavior, it gives us the power of feeling, as opposed to simply reacting. Complex care of young, and other behaviors not so purely instinctual flow from the limbic system; so do primal urges and powerful emotions that ensure self-preservation, such as terror, rage, sexual desire, hunger...and even more complex emotions such as love, compassion, empathy, envy, indignation and hope.

Human Brain

The neocortex. The thinking brain, seat of perception, center of the “soul”. Voluntary movement begins here, and integration of all sensory inputs. We share the neocortex only with higher apes, ours being more advanced. By far the largest brain, completely encompassing the limbic system, the neocortex is our path to words and symbols, logic and time, abstract thought...and magic such as Tesla’s....

Tesla’s story is a powerful example of the human and mammalian brains versus the reptile brain—of advanced intelligence and common good versus private accumulation, aggression and the will to power.

Astrophysicist Adam Trombly said in July 1988, at the International Tesla Symposium in Colorado Springs: (If society had followed up on the inventions Nikola Tesla envisioned at the turn of the century) “...we wouldn’t have a fossil-fuel economy today. And J. P. Morgan, Rockefeller and a number of others wouldn’t have amassed extraordinary fortunes on the basis of the fossil-fuel economy.”

Regarding what Tesla said of energy from the vacuum of space, specifically: “Electric power is everywhere, present in unlimited quantities and can drive the world’s machinery without the need of coal, oil, gas or any other fuels”, Trombly noted further that if Tesla’s vision had prevailed, we would be dipping into clean and abundant energy, like taking water from the well of space.

Tesla wrote: “Science is but a perversion of itself unless it has as its ultimate goal the betterment of humanity....”

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Rand Clifford lives in Spokane, Washington. His novels and earlier essays can be found at
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