Scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg claimed that the Lord God had given him the gift to be able to see into the spiritual world. He enjoyed this capacity for the last three decades of his life while still living on earth. He not only recorded conversations with several historical figures (see my posts featuring his interview with Pope Sextus Quintus and Reformer Martin Luther) but he also described meeting beings from other parts of the universe.
This spiritual exploration included encounters with our ancient human ancestors. His description of these early humans has caused some Swedenborgian scholars to speculate that he had actually met with Neanderthals.
Swedenborg describes these early ancestors as being hard-wired from a completely different kind of brain system. Their brain function was cerebellum-based, that is, from the occipital area of the head.
It is well known that the skulls of Neanderthals (and those preceding them) display a bulging occipital bone called a “bun.” They also had lower, flatter foreheads. This suggests that the frontal lobes of the cerebrum were smaller and less important to this race of humans.
Cro-Magnons (early modern humans) are different. They had skulls with a higher forehead, which suggests some fundamental change occurred in their brain morphology and function. This change in brain function is supported by the fact they were the first to have created art and may well have been the first to enjoy vocalized language.
One of the biggest mysteries in anthropology is the sudden disappearance of the Neanderthals. Some theories maintain that they were outsmarted by the Cro-Magnons, or even killed by their superior weapons. Other theories suggest that they mated with each other and Neanderthals simply disappeared into the Cro-Magnon gene pool.
What is amazing is that the early humans Swedenborg met and described in the spiritual world represented a race that became extinct – and not for any of the reasons given by modern anthropologists. They became extinct for spiritual reasons.
Swedenborg knew, just as modern neuroscientists do, that the cerebellum is involved with our involuntary operations. But he also maintained that the cerebellum was synchronized to spiritual rhythms coming directly from God’s influence in heaven. In other words, the cerebellum operated in conformity with God’s divine order.
According to Swedenborg this allowed these early humans to be educated and taught directly by God from within. They enjoyed a profound inner perception of the ontological nature of things. This changed when, over time, early humans began to favor their own self-guidance from a principle of self-love (rather than a love of God). The results were disastrous.
The unique brain physiology of these early ancestors, described by Swedenborg, was that they were wired in such a way that the Cerebellum had full control of the Cerebrum and their breathing. When they changed from an innocent state of loving God to preferring a state of loving only themselves, evil and disorder entered into the functioning of their cerebellum.
This state of affairs blocked God’s living influence into their cerebellums and threatened their very ability to breathe. If Swedenborg did speak with Neanderthals, then they became extinct from suffocation!
To save humankind, God made two major modifications to the human brain. One was to re-wire humans so that the cerebrum could take more control of the breathing function. And two, gradually enlarge the cerebrum’s frontal lobes so that humans could learn about reality through empirical methods (through the five senses rather than from an immediate perception of God’s order).
The result of the human race moving from a cerebellum-based brain to a cerebrum-based brain ushered in the Cro-Magnons. They possessed a new cognitive quality that necessitated an extant culture. This is how art, writing, and vocalized speech made its first appearance in human history.
While modern anthropology is changing its view of Neanderthals as being lumbering brutes, they still fall way short of grasping the subtle and profound nature of their thought. Swedenborg provides an interesting answer to why Neanderthals had such big brains (bigger than our brains) yet left us with very little evidence of a sophisticated culture.
They had no need to learn by indirect or external methods.
Swedenborg died almost 85 years before the first Neanderthal skeleton was discovered and 95 years before these bones were identified as representing a new species of humanity.