Think about consciousness for long enough, and you’ll drive yourself to distraction. To psychologist Julian Jaynes, the question of consciousness was big enough to last a lifetime. His answer? Consciousness is much smaller, much rarer, and much younger than we tend to think. Forget about wondering if a dog, cat, or earthworm has consciousness — Jaynes hypothesized that even the ancient Greeks failed to achieve it. “Now, hold on,” you might be saying. “Ancient Greeks wrote some of the most enduring literature of all time — ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey’ were written by non-conscious creatures?” To which Jaynes would reply, “Of course not. A conscious mind wrote The Odyssey.” An analysis of these two texts inspired the foundation of Jaynes’ metaphysical beliefs — the bicameral mind.
The bicameral mind (which may sound familiar to “Westworld” fans) is essentially a consciousness split in half. One half takes care of execution: When it receives the message that the body is hungry, it seeks and consumes food; when it gets the message that it has been wronged and insulted, it seeks vengeance. The other half is the one that sends those messages. Back before we had developed any sort of introspection, those messages would have hit the brain like the word of the gods. After all, where else could it have come from? The breakdown of the bicameral mind happens when that executive half starts really asking that question and finding the answer is “nowhere.” In other words, Jaynes says, consciousness didn’t arise until we stopped attributing our inner monologue to the gods. (1)
Trying to answer the big questions.
Trying to understand.
This is what started everything.
In the beginning we just accepted the cosmos.
Being an integral and active part of it.
But at one point we decided to leave home.
And deny our Father.
We wanted to “know”.
And the only way to do that was via defining everything else as “different” than us; thus, compatible with analysis and examination. We used to be part of the cosmos. Defining the universe while the universe defined us. Now we still see the stars. But as something distant. Longing to go there, even though we used to be walking on the Sun. Afraid that we will die if we touch them, while we used to play with them as kids.
Lying down on a forest clearing.
Listening to nothing.
Thinking of nothing.
Alone in the cosmos.
Who is talking?