Friday, 28 March 2008

Julian Jaynes - "The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

A huge influence upon me and my writing is a book entitled “The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” written by American psychologist Julian Jaynes. I first read this book in the early 1980's and its concepts fizzed around in my head for many years. In early 2000 when ITLAD began to formulate in my mind one of the first books I went back to re-read was this great work. Jaynes was stimulated to write his book by an absolutely classic Daemonic communication that took place when he was a post-graduate student. He describes it thus:

“In Boston, I had for about a week been studying and autistically pondering some of the problems in this book, particularly the problem of what knowledge is and how we can know anything at all. My convictions and misgivings had been circling about through the sometimes precious fogs of epistemologies, finding nowhere to land. One afternoon I lay down in intellectual despair on a couch. Suddenly, out of an absolutely quiet, there came a firm, distinct loud voice from my upper right which said, “Include the knower and the known”. It lugged me to my feet absurdly exclaiming “hello?” looking for whoever was in the room. The voice had an exact location."

This event so amazed Jaynes that he began researching the incidence of 'voices in the head', particularly ones that seem to guide and influence. After a few years he formulated a literally mind-blowing theory with regard to the evolution of human consciousness that has massive echoes of ITLAD. I could not do this book justice within posting but it is well worth a read.

The Julian Jaynes Society is an organisation that actively promotes JJ's theory of 'Bicameralism' and its website a veritable treasure-trove of itladian material. They also have a very interesting forum that I have contributed to once or twice. The website can be found by following this link:


Dreamer said...

The "voices in the head" phenomenon seems to be a common one, although different people attribute the voice to different sources -- God, the spirit of a deceased loved one, an ancient being, a "master," etc. I'm thinking it's probably the Daemon. I recall reading something about Philip K. Dick's March 1974 experiences, before he wrote "Valis," which included hearing a voice, and I seem to recall that his voice was female. I occasionally hear a voice just as I'm drifting off to sleep, or just as I'm waking up, between the dream state and ordinary consciousness. For me, that voice is male. Sometimes, the voice has said things that seem especially profound, and I note them down in the dream journal I keep beside my bed. Recently, just as I was waking, I heard the voice say, "You are not alone in this world, but did learn by trying to live that way." I wasn't sure if the "you" meant me in particular, or humanity as a whole -- I AM a bit of a loner, after all. :) As with many things, the answer is probably, "Both." I wonder if this voice actually "lectures" me all night long, imparting all sorts of enlightening information, only I'm not aware of it except when I start to wake up and "catch" it.

I'm also fascinated by the notion that the voice, or the Daemon, guides and influences people's work, either by speaking directly or by offering ideas in dreams, hallucinogenic states, etc. I like this story about how Francis Crick conceived of the double-helix shape for the structure of DNA:

"In late July 2004, the Nobel Prize-winning biologist Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, died at the age of 88, and soon afterwards a little-known fact of his life hit the tabloid press. This was that when he was working at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge in the early 1950s, he frequently used LSD (which remained legal until the mid-1960s) as a 'thinking tool' to boost his mental powers. According to a report published in London on 8 August 2004 in 'The Mail on Sunday,' Crick had privately admitted to colleagues that he was under the influence of LSD in 1953 at the moment when he 'perceived the double helix shape' and unravelled the structure of DNA."

-- from "Supernaturual: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind," by Graham Hancock

And there's this similar story about the discovery of the cyclical structure of benzine:

"Snakes are omnipresent not only in hallucinations, myths and symbols of human beings in general, but also in their dreams. According to some studies, 'Manhattanites dream of them with the same frequency as Zulus.' One of the best-known dream of this sort is August Kekules's, the German chemist who discovered the cyclical structure of benzene one night in 1862, when he fell asleep in front of the fire and dreamed of a snake dancing in front of his eyes while biting its tail and taunting him. According to one commentator, 'There is hardly any need to recall that this contribution was fundamental for the development of organic chemistry.'"

-- from "The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge," by Jeremy Narby

Anthony Peake said...

Dreamer: In my next book I will cite many examples of Daemon-instigated dream inspiration. Indeed I include the Kekule incident and I will have a whole chapter on Dick's march 1974 'Theophany'.

I am interested in your observation that when the Daemon manifests itself it usually does so as a being of the opposite sex to its Eidolon. I have discussed this with other Daemonic experiencers and we are very interested as to why this may be.

I am also fascinated by your suggestion that the voice lectures you all night. Maybe this happens to all of us but some are more sensitive than others and 'recall' what is imparted.