Elaine de Beauport founded the innovative Mead School for Human Development in Greenwich, Connecticut. While director of Mead, she became interested in the emerging scientific work on how the right and left hemispheres of the brain reflect different modes of learning. She discovered the work of Paul MacLean, Chief of Brain Evolution and Behavior at the National Institutes of Health. MacLean had been researching and writing on what he called the triune structure of the brain.
MacLean said there were essentially three brains, each of which developed during a particular stage of evolutionary history. The earlier part of the brain, found in reptiles, could be called the reptilian brain, or R-complex. In mammals another structure appeared: the paleomammalian brain, with a new range of particularly mammalian behavior -- care of the young, mutual grooming.... With the development of human beings came the most recent evolutionary structure, the neomammalian brain -- with a hugely expanded neocortex. The neomammalian brain brought with it the capacity for language, visualization, and symbolic skills unique to human beings.
Although many problems arise because of a lack of coordination between what were originally three different brain systems, he stressed that these structures are not separate, but rather are three systems integrated into one -- hence, tri-une. MacLean argued that all the old structures were active in determining behavior, and that from these different, but connected brains, came not only different behavior, but also many of the problems human beings face every day.
For de Beauport, MacLean's physiological model of the brain provided a psychological model or metaphor by which we can better understand our behavior.
Elaine de Beauport studied at Smith and Georgetown, and received her Ed.D. from Farleigh Dickinson. She lives in New York City and Caracas, Venezuela. She lectures and gives frequent workshops in the US and in Venezuela, including a post graduate university course titled "The Mind and Peace" as part of UNESCO's "Towards a Culture of Peace curriculum. Her book The Three Faces of the Mind, was published by Quest Books in December 1996 .
For Information and her schedule contact:Mead Institute,
2109 Broadway Apt 820,
New York City, NY 10023
(212) 866-4229, or Diane Waller (212) 366-0065.
SW: When you founded the Mead School you began with a focus on working with children, but then you shifted to adults, why?
ED: Well, there is a really profound philosophy behind that. We did some really extraordinary things at Mead School in terms of expanding learning capacities and extending consciousness, but we noticed that our struggle was always with the parents.... The child wanted to be loved by the parents and please the parents. It became very, very evident that the limiting horizon was in the adult's mind, because anything we did with the child's mind would have to be limited by what the parents would be able to grasp or appreciate and encourage -- all of the above. So I like to say the future of the world is not in changing the children, the future of the world is in changing the adult mind. The child wants and needs the parents love, it's a very human reality.
SW: So at the same time you began presenting workshops, you're also going into MacLean's work more deeply. What happened?
ED: If we have these other two brain structures inside us as MacLean suggests, the educational game is about how you get in there. And even in terms of psychology, it would be much more dynamic to understand and communicate with the limbic part of the brain as a learning structure. It offers a perspective that is much larger; it isn't just about your relationship with your mother and father you have to get a grip on. It is really about developing...your emotional quality of life. That is what interests me -- that people know they have an emotional brain and know they have a behavioral brain as well, that reacts and interacts and forms patterns.
SW: So whatever your upbringing, your family life, the background in which you are set, being human entails particular physiological structures as well as particular psychological problems?
ED: Which is about the existence of these brain structures. You have to know that you have a hand, to learn how you use a hand. Parents know you have a mind, so they send you to school. So you say, "Oh boy, I have a mind!" but they don't tell you about the two other bases of the mind. You have a limbic brain structure and a basic brain structure.
SW: And with adults, how did you apply what you learned at Mead? You have a new book coming out.
ED: Well, the way it evolved, I took seriously the brain structures that MacLean proposed, and the research experience. If I'm going to educate adults, one of the things I know is that you have to present it a little bit logically. You have to present it to their neocortex. That's what psychology is doing. It is trying to get to them into the psyche. The challenge became could I invent the processes to enter the other brain systems in the same way. We have a well defined way to enter the rational process. We all know what you have to do to be rational. Not always true, but we can pretty much recognize the rational approach and follow it. It's available. So the work, the fifteen years of having workshops was based on formulating these different processes. First, I had to take the brain out of being a brain of parts. Then I think the most original thing I did was to see the brain as energy. I think this is still the most important thing I am doing. All matter is energy. You and I are energy Then I suppose you could say energy formed itself into a hand, an eye and nose and the three different brain systems, and once you understand the brain is energy...when you see the brain is really energy, then you can propose processes and those processes can go from the thick and very evident, to the thin. Then I proposed ten different intelligences and that's what is set forth in the book.
SW: But you are not doing physiology, you're approaching it from the other side. You're not doing brain dissection and brain scans and so forth. Your work struck me as very, very original. What convinced you to work in this way?
ED: I worked with individuals two or three years old for years, then all the way through graduate school. When you do this, the dominating question becomes: how do people learn? Over and over again, the question is how people learn? The school was called The Mead School for Human Development. I wanted to see what made people develop.
SW: How does the physiology of the brain, the difference between the two halves of the brain and so forth, help you do your work?
ED: Just about everything in life becomes different when you view it through the three different structures. For example, there are three Stephens sitting there and there are three Elaine's sitting here. If you pick the subtleties of the immune system that people are trying to get hold of -- there is no physical approach to the immune system unless you are a chemist. If you take MacLean's model of the brain stem and add the spinal column you get what could better be called the nervous system brain. "Reptile" just doesn't convey its significance. I believe it permits me to look at other people and to look at the patterns of my own life, in a more neutral way...as an inheritance of energy and with a kind of curiosity....
SW: It keeps the mind from being tempted to interfere with what it perceives?
ED: Yeah. Well, it gives me a freedom. I don't have to blame myself. I have a freedom to look at my behavior and say, "Oh, well...you being an educator and education in your family for several generations, those are some of the good patterns". There is no way I can answer this question in the most basic way, it's almost...it is all of my work that's the answer. It's almost...unless you look at your patterns in a detached way and become an observer, and appreciate the gifts your parents gave you, and observe the patterns they gave you in your life that aren't helpful and re-pattern them without guilt...it leads us to update the values of the past, to bring the values of the past into the present. Knowing that there are three brain systems can eventually be the healing of guilt itself. The value is, it enables us to look at emotions without analyzing them. It's so tremendous; you see emotions as energy, then you can enter the emotional energy without thinking you have to act on them or thinking you have to think about them; just feel about them. Then you can get in touch with the symphony or jazz inside you. To free yourself from analyzing your emotions or...yourself...I don't know if I can get across how tremendous that is. To have the freedom to live your inner being without having to act it out, or analyze it, or intervene in it. I think this is the excitement...that emotions are really an energy scale from the subtlest and quietest to the most exuberant. We don't have to act on them if we get that inner freedom to play our instrument. I can't tell you how great life is going to be. I believe that's the only answer to violence. Because there is violence in all of us. It's impacted energy that's in there.
SW: The individual realizes there is violence, but it can't be extracted, pulled out like a tooth and can't be finessed except through observation. The patterns are inherited in the reptilian brain?
ED: We inherit patterns, but when we're talking about violence we are talking about something a little different - the chemistry in your inner brain. A potency that keeps you alive. We're talking chemistry. It's different from the patterns. All of us have it, all of us have the chemistry that makes us hot. All of us get our power checked. For example, I want more cider, but there isn't any. Well, that frustrates me. It's our power brain really and when it gets checked, it gets frustrated. And it happens as soon as we get up in the morning. It gets frustrated. If you don't know you have a history of frustration, then you just level off at somebody, and then physically try to solve it. Well, I'll just get rid of you, I'll get you out of my way. I think only knowing that we've got three separate brain structures is going to let us look and say that intensity is part and parcel of the chemistry of the brain.
SW: What do most people want to get from your book?
ED: That they don't ever have to use the word unconscious again, that there are six ways into what they are now calling the unconscious, if they can learn them. That's the most important thing I want to communicate. They can also learn from the other intelligences that they can be psychic, they can develop their own intuitional ability. To never live their life again based on one intelligence. You can never be happy based on one intelligence.
SW: Your work doesn't seem to make people feel more mechanical, that they are divided up somehow, why is that? Why doesn't this work aggravate the feeling of being split, of alienation?
ED: Because underpinning all of this is love of human beings. But the love of human beings...my definition of God goes from the finite to the infinite. God is the word that defines the infinite, the mystery. However, I really see God as all of creation and therefore, humans better not leave themselves out. Every human who gets born is a divine being, already, at birth, there is only creation. And that comes out in all the work. This human piece of creation has finite possibilities and has infinite possibilities. And the name of the game is... which part in creation do we want to play. So.... I think I feel very exuberant. I feel very spiritually creative.
SW: There are many models. Every mysticism in the world is at play now in the United States. You are coming at all this from a very different angle, yet you are ending up in a similar place. It comes out very spiritual and mystical.
ED: Well, I have had two very parallel educations and I believe it's my job to translate it into a physically understandable language, that's the language of our age. I think we are in a time when all the mysticisms are merging, and that's beautiful. However, they will also be entrained by all of their past, and not be as free to speak to the moment. They will bring their history with them whatever they are doing and that's the great weakness to the great fertilization, the great awakening that has occurred. I believe the common language of all mysticism is energy. That's the common language -- energy is vibration. That is the common language that all people speak on the earth. The mysticisms are opening to us the thinner vibrations of the world which are tremendously important to us because we have gotten bogged down in the thicker vibrations. However, the new world, the new creation, will take us from the thicker honoring of creation here and now to the quantum realities of intuitive intelligence, of psychic and mystic phenomena.
SW: As a student of philosophy, I feel this contradiction. Logically your work is dependent on the correctness of the physiology on which it is based, yet at the same time it feels independent when you experience it in practice. If MacLean's theory is discovered to be wrong, are you trapped down to a particular physiology?
ED: No, because my work is not based on pure physiology; it is based on physiology plus new physics. I see the brain systems as energy vibrating from thicker to thinner realities, not as a system of fixed parts as presented in MacLean's research.
SW: Why doesn't this make people more self-conscious as opposed to "self" conscious? Why doesn't this make life more complicated?
ED: I don't know, perhaps the one thing to do is back away from your question. I mean, what I can say is, I am energy, I walk around town and I am energy. Ah.... when I come to reflect on the things that bother me. Then I have a different way of looking, then I look at my behaviors or my emotions or my thoughts. This morning I was out of kilter, I knew I had to meditate and retreat, go into the intuitive brain and then I realized I wanted to come talk to you and I moved myself to get here. So I use my three brains in preparing for the day and in taking a look at my life after.... I know I'm not going to walk out there (Broadway on Manhattan's Upper West side) in my emotional brain. I want to shift into my first brain. I'm going to get into a walking meditation and shift into a rhythm. I'm not going to take all that into my emotional being. I'm going to go to Zabar's and buy a few things then go to a four o'clock appointment. Use the routine brain. The emotion I feel here and now I'm not going to spend that on the street.
SW: When I walk across the park to pick up my son, I seem invariably to fall into the same route, like a kind of rut each time, my preferred route, unless I consciously decide to change it.
ED: Call what you are falling into, a rhythm, not a rut. The question you raised earlier does still haunt me. People have already knocked MacLean, the scientists say that everything is so complex in there, that it's all integrated and yet at the same time scientists show you can access each one of these separately. What I realize in my own personal experience is that it has been tremendously important to access them, so if the brain work is forgotten, what I hope won't be forgotten are these intelligences, these ten processes of consciousness. There is a routine intelligence, a parameter intelligence when you walk across the park and if you want to get out of that rut as you called it, you need basic intelligence to move yourself out of it. If you want to develop some other work you have to entrain yourself into new parameters. I think what I'm fully willing to walk with is the tremendous importance of these intelligences. I don't care if peoples brains interest them or not. In the final analysis I care if the human being knows that there is an affectional intelligence, knows how to get affected by someone. I really care if human beings know how to motivate themselves and to light their own internal flame and keep walking. I really care that we all know we are mystics. I mean I will really go down that road. In a way, I don't give a damn if we know there are brains attached. The reason I use the brains is that model helped me to see and know the intelligences and also because it is a rational language. We speak to the cognitive intelligence. My interest is the many-splendid human. Free my people, that's my interest. To free ourselves we are going to need many pathways. I don't think we need anymore fights with science. So I take the new physics and say that is the basis of energy and mysticism and I take the new model of the brain and say that's how come we can have multiple intelligences, that's all.
SW: How is it that you learn what you learn, is it introspection?
ED: It's introspection and it's intuitive experiencing that have lead me to find these particular pieces of research that have been meaningful. And still, when I go about creating a workshop, I go into visual intelligence and intuitive intelligence. I'll tell you about the last part of the book, it's entitled Towards the year 2000.
SW: There seems to be such chaos, political and cultural, in the US, if not over the world.
ED: It's all over the world. My perception is that the world is falling in on itself. The world is being drawn together in all senses: visually, economically, culturally drawn in, and in that falling in on itself there is the hurt, violence, refusal and resistance. "Yes, a little of that, no, none of that." It's a very powerful time, everyone trying to protect themselves, and yet not being able to really get away from being in the process.
SW: But yet, you're optimistic.
ED: Oh yes, yes. From the great clash, life has got to survive and it will. When I say let my people go -- I mean that there are ten pathways out of this...out of...Egypt. I think the kinks are coming from the human mind. I think we're the problem, and that's why anyone who can show us more ways to use the mind is doing something pretty great, something good, no matter how they do it.
In the last chapter of my book I do two things: I focus on social philosophy and individual action. The section on social philosophy talks about what religion, government and education have to do. I think the most important thing religion has to do is to allow its values to be updated. Because of it's tremendous impact, democracy has got to change. It's a talking brain, and now the talk can be seen on TV, and so the lack of action is very obvious. In terms of the three brain system, there is a tremendous amount we have to say to government, particularly to democracy. Living in Venezuela, one sees the impact the passionate limbic brain can have on democracy, with its long time pattern of dictatorship. In education, until every school system has a multiple intelligence center, a how-do-people-learn center, I don't think education will change.
In the section on individual action I have a little list, ten things you can do toward the year 2000. It's an easy formula to remember: ten things every human being can do to get in a happier state for the year 2000.
1. Decide how you value life itself. Be capable of describing it in a few words or with a symbol.
2. Pattern intelligence. Describe six patterns you have inherited from your father and mother that affect your behavior for good or ill and instead of cursing the darkness, find the pattern involved. For every darkness there is some pattern binding you.
3. Parameters. Make simpler one of those routines you have everyday. Become aware of an ancient value, myth, story or ritual that you've inherited. Bring it up to date, make it simpler and relate it to your everyday life.
4. Motivational intelligence. Know five things that excite you and be willing to use them to make it a great day.
5. Mood intelligence. Learn and practice at least one way of getting out of anger, frustration and sadness.
6. Affectional intelligence. Each day allow yourself to be affected by something you appreciate in someone or by something good that happened.
7. Rational intelligence. At least once a week, try to understand one of the events or issues in your daily life that bother you.
8. Associative intelligence. Every day, allow at least ten minutes to search for what you appreciate in someone or something.
9. Spatial intelligence. Select some image or words that are capable of inspiring or guiding you and place them in your environment somewhere that will enrich you.
10. Intuitive intelligence. Daily, practice meditation or quietness.
SW: What are you going to do next?
ED: We're considering creating a center in Venezuela for Latin America. The book is an introduction to the adult curriculum I've been working towards since I left the Mead School. What I'm playing with in my mind is that I've seen a way of creating an adult school on a "new school" model, to take the curriculum and set it out in a Club Mind format, instead of a Club Med. A place people would come for a learning vacation. And where there was mastery, rather than just a little of this, a little of that. You'd know there was something more involved. That's what has got me going now. It keeps my mind fresh.
Crossing the Threshold of the Unconscious
A selection from The Three Faces of Mind: Developing Your Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Intelligences -- Quest Books, 1996
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