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
Being an integral and active part of
But at one point we decided to leave
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?