Some time ago I attended a small but very stimulating anthropological conference on Prince Edward Island. (Yes, I flirt with the Julian Jaynes' theory.) At the conference a group of neurologists from Halifax talked about visual processing. As it happens, they accompanied their talk with spontaneous hand gestures. It was almost amusing to observe a group of neurologists waving their hands not in front of their faces but right behind their heads as they spoke about vision. Of course it made sense! The greater part and the final stages of our visual processing are located right there, on the back of our heads, in the occipital lobes.
Unwittingly these neurologists provided a marvelous modern illustration for my paper on historical determination of body image. The further back in time you go, the more unusual and strange body images and metaphors you can get. In the ancient Hebrew language, the heart was not a seat of emotions (such as love). It was a metaphor for energy and resolve. Emotions were seated in the liver for males and in the womb for females. Spirit was breath, but could be also poured out, because it was a container for life-giving blood. Similarly, ancient Greeks did not think with their brains, or at least they did not think they were; for them brains were for body-cooling purposes. Guts, on the other hand, were responsible for processing sympathy and care. Body image, self understanding and consciousness present us with a complex set of hermeneutic (interpretational) conundrums.
Well, why bother, you might ask. First, because it is interesting. Second, because we can better understand the Bible(and other ancient texts), third, we can better understand ourselves and unblock some of the limitations of our own self understanding.
Try to say: “I saw it with my own eyes!” and simultaneously tap the back of your head. It feels weird, does it not? But it is marvelous training to understand the otherwise obscure and dated saying ascribed to the synoptical Jesus: "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, also your whole body will be full of light." (Mat 6:22). This is not about any eye! This is about clarity of perception, or even better, about our mental health, about epistemology, how we perceive, know and process and react to the outside word. In the end, this is about clear thinking. You can read this verse and tap, this time, the top of your forehead - your frontal lobes - seat of your memory, self control and volition. Right there in the frontal lobes we all still need so much enlightenment!