Reverend Danny Nemu’s Neuro-Apocalypse is the second book in the Nemu’s End series. I haven’t read the first, Science Revealed, yet, but it would seem that the order isn’t too important.
In short, this book is a delight. It reminds me of the feeling I got when I read Robert Anton Wilson for the first time: dazzled, amused, and awakened. Although there is a focus on the Bible, Neuro-Apocalypse is no lesson in organised religion. This is a book about language, perception, cognition and revelation; the Bible passages are merely an illustration of what we take for granted as truth.
In the beginning, did God create or was God created in the head? Who defined good and evil? Does the snake really represent temptation, or a reality check? Oh, and did you know there were psychedelic drugs in the Bible?
“Like people in their multi-faceted complexity, like sub-atomic particles spinning spookily, the letters of the Hebrew Bible behave differently in different contexts, depending on the perspective of the person generating meaning from them.”
Because it’s not the words themselves, but the way we interpret them that’s important. Often we rely on culture, scholars or the media to do this for us, and in the process we allow ourselves to be guided down a path of their choosing. We follow what we think is well-worn knowledge, on autopilot. Then, somewhere down the line, an apocalypse happens; an unveiling of what was previously unconscious or unacknowledged. It may not be the end of the world, but it is enough of a shock to bring the walls that contained our ideas tumbling down.
That is what I believe Neuro-Apocalypse sets out to do. In a playful, humorous way, with science and etymology and anecdotes, Nemu uncovers common assumptions disguised as facts. It’s like a Scooby Doo reveal in the middle of a philosophy lesson.
“Something is what it is, it isn’t what it isn’t, and everything is either something or something else. These laws are the founding stones of western philosophy, and they rest squarely upon the solid, unambiguous bedrock of Greek grammar. If your thinking does not follow these laws, then you aren’t thinking straight, according to Aristotle. You are probably thinking bendy.”
One of my big interest areas is how much of what we perceive is genuine and how much is our brain’s ‘autocomplete’ function at work. Nemu offers practical ways to test this for ourselves over the course of this book. I had my own mini-apocalypse just staring at this image and insisting (for a worrying amount of time!) there was no mistake in it. Interestingly my husband, who has dyslexia, spotted it far quicker than me.
There are many other fascinating insights into the workings of the brain here, too. Nemu explains in simple language, with relatable examples, what different parts of our most precious organ are responsible for, and what happens to our perception when they stop functioning normally. With discussions on altered states of consciousness and psychosis, and case studies on Savant and Tourette’s Syndromes, it becomes obvious that ‘normal’ is only a matter of perspective.
“We tend to pathologise different modes of cognition rather than celebrate them, and this tells us more about the shortcomings of post-Enlightenment thinking than the minds of our autistic brothers and sisters. Autistic skills are completely under-valued by our economy.”
There is also some discussion on the way evolution has affected the brain and what remains of our roots.
Our neurology certainly gives us a powerful filter through which to understand the world, but I was pleased to see this book didn’t assume a purely reductive standpoint. For example, even though we know that stimulating the temporal lobe can produce the sensing of a presence (or even a hallucination), it is not enough to explain away spiritual experiences of this kind.
Yet another topic covered is the differences between cultural norms in the East and West. The Japanese language is focused very differently to English – nothing makes sense in isolation, for example – and this unconsciously affects both the behaviours and models of the world held by its speakers. This was a real eye-opener for me as I had no idea of the extent to which cultural quirk is locked up in our words.
All things considered, this is a profound yet entertaining book. It left me contemplating what might be lost in the gaps between things ‘in themselves’ and our names for them, and whether the translators of the Bible did a massive disservice to the intentions behind Christianity.
For most of the time I spent reading this book, I had a pen in my hand. There were so many useful nuggets of information I had to write down there and then, which will inform my own writing and perception of the world from now on. I regret that I couldn’t share more quotes with you here, but I am positive that, as with the Bible, every reader will absorb it in their own way and take what they need from it.
One more thing. I know everyone has their own preference, but the paperback copy of this book is really nice. The paper quality and weight contributed to a pleasant reading experience, and with some pictures and diagrams included, I recommend buying a physical copy. Available direct from the publisher’s shop here, as well as all the usual online stores.
Thank you to Psychedelic Press for providing me with another book I will treasure.