There are those rare times in one’s life when a discovery of an idea or new theory opens up a new mode of thought, an almost transcendent moment of clarity. In the Author’s case, that moment was presaged many years ago. During the week of March 14th, 1977, he read a curious book review in Time Magazine, The Lost Voice of the Gods. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,947274-3,00.html, by Julian Jaynes.
It was a fascinating read for a kid that hid an intellectual kernel beneath an adolescent shell. But it was laid aside and the topic was only revisited a few times in the intervening 32 years. In February of this year the Author purchased the book “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” and is almost finished reading it. The thesis of the book remains controversial and on the fringes of accepted science. Yet the book remains in print and the ideas therein still banging around.
THE OWNERS MANUAL FOR THE HUMAN RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE?
According to Jaynes, humankind did not develop consciousness minds until approximately 3,000 years ago. Prior to that time, humans could think, speak, make decisions. But the introspective inner world, the “I-space” where we spend nearly all our conscious time, did not exist.
Rather, humans lived under the admonition and direction of the right hemisphere of the brain, voices that were deemed to be dead kings, and later, gods. “Greek Zombies” as one later author denoted bicameral man. (Bicameral is Jayne’s description of the condition where both sides of the brain were active in the auditory hallucinations.)
The evidence for this bicameral existence comes from the literature of the second and third centuries B.C.E. According to Jaynes, there is no consciousness in the writings extant from theses eras. From the Time magazine article in 1977:
As evidence of the switch from bicamerality to conscious life, Jaynes points to the ancient classics. "There simply is no consciousness in the Iliad, except for a few later accretions," he says. "The heroes do not wonder, ponder or decide. They are pulled around by the voices of the gods. The same is true in the early books of the Bible. Abraham isn't conscious, and Amos isn't either. Consciousness comes later, with Ecclesiastes."
In some of these later writings, Jaynes finds laments for the lost bicameral world. He notes that the Odyssey, probably coming at least 100 [1,000 is more probable] years after the Iliad, features "the wily Odysseus, the first modern hero, picking his way through a ruined and god-weakened world." In Hindu literature, the unconscious writings of the Veda give way to the subjective Upanishads, and in the Old Testament, the voices of Yahweh and prophets grow silent, replaced by subjective men wrestling with unanswered questions.
Though subdued, the voices of the right side of the brain still occasionally break through as, for example, the voices of Joan of Arc, some drug hallucinations and schizophrenia. Psychiatrists, says Jaynes, "seem to like my theory. They are literate men, and many of them say they sense something archaic in the hallucinatory voices of schizophrenics." Jaynes also folds poetry into his theory: it arose as unconscious divine speech, its mesmerizing rhythms produced by right-sided brain impulses.
EXPULSION FROM THE GARDEN OF EDEN-LOSS OF THE BICAMERAL MIND AND THE GODS THAT LIVED THEREIN?
HUMANS WERE NOT KICKED OUT OF THE “GARDEN”, THE “GARDEN” WAS KICKED OUT OF HUMANS…
Jaynes also sees the story of the Adam and Eve’s fall as a myth describing the breakdown of the bicameral mind. Writes Jaynes on page 299:
The serpent promises that “you shall be like the [gods] themselves, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5), qualities that only subjective conscious man is capable of.
Jaynes also notes that the qualities of deceit are a hallmark of consciousness, as the nonconscious bicameral humans lacked the ability to deceive. And now conscious, knowing what was gained-and what was lost-humans mourn the Fall and still seek the gods that assured them through uncounted days. And try to regain the “authority” of those voices, through oracles, divination, idols, prophecy, biblical literacy, and so-called “creation science”.
Over the next weeks and perhaps months the Author will continue to read and study the Origin of Consciousness in the Break Down of the Bicameral Mind and will likely post on the topic.