Consciousness and unconsciousness

both of them are total mysteries
Sub-Group of Cognitive Science

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976) [Julian Jaynes]

Bicameralism (the philosophy of "two-chamberedness") is a hypothesis in psychology that argues that the human mind once assumed a state in which cognitive functions were divided between one part of the brain which appears to be "speaking", and a second part which listens and obeys—a bicameral mind. According to Julian Jayne's hypothesis, bicameral mentality was the normal and ubiquitous state of the human mind only as recently as 3000 years ago.

Ancient people in the bicameral state of mind would have experienced the world in a manner that has some similarities to that of a schizophrenic. Rather than making conscious evaluations in novel or unexpected situations, the person would hallucinate a voice or "god" giving admonitory advice or commands and obey without question: one would not be at all conscious of one's own thought processes per se. Research into "command hallucinations" that often direct the behavior of those labeled schizophrenic, as well as other voice hearers, supports Jaynes's predictions.

Without the self-awareness characteristic of consciousness as most people experience it today, the bicameral individual was guided by mental commands believed to be issued by external "gods" — commands which were recorded in ancient myths, legends and historical accounts. This is exemplified not only in the commands given to characters in ancient epics but also the very muses of Greek mythology which "sang" the poems: the ancients literally heard muses as the direct source of their music and poetry.


    • Minister of Propaganda
      Minister of Propaganda

      About a related study: auditory hallucinations are more common than previously thought [LINK]. About 5-15 % of adults experience auditory hallucinations at least once in their lives. Most of them hear multiple, very distinct voices.

      • Minister of Propaganda
        Minister of Propaganda

        Excpert of Chapter 3:

        AN OLD SUMERIAN PROVERB has been translated as "Act promptly, make your god happy." If we forget for a moment that these rich English words are but a probing approximation of some more unknowable Sumerian thing, we may say that this curious exaction arches over into our subjective mentality as saying, "Don't think: let there be no time space between hearing your bicameral voice and doing what it tells you."

        This was fine in a stable hierarchical organization, where the voices were the always correct and essential parts of that hierarchy, where the divine orders of life were trussed and girdered with unversatile ritual, untouched by major social disturbance. But the second millennium B.C. was not to last that way. Wars, catastrophes, national migrations became its central themes. Chaos darkened the holy brightnesses of the unconscious world. Hierarchies crumpled. And between the act and its divine source came the shadow, the pause that profaned, the dreadful loosening that made the gods unhappy, recriminatory, jealous. Until, finally, the screening off of their tyranny was effected by the invention on the basis of language of an analog space with an analog 'I'. The careful elaborate structures of the bicameral mind had been shaken into consoiousness.

        In the contemporary world, we associate rigid authoritarian governments with militarism and police repression. This association should not be applied to the authoritarian states of the bicameral era. Militarism, police, rule by fear, are all the desperate measures used to control a subjective conscious populace restless with identity crises and divided off into their multitudinous privades of hopes and hates.

        In the bicameral era, the bicameral mind was the social control, not fear or repression or even law. There were no private ambitions, no private grudges, no private frustrations, no private anything, since bicameral men had no internal 'space' in which to be private, and no analog to be private with. All initiative was in the voices of gods. And the gods needed to be assisted by their divinely dictated laws only in the latee federations of states in the second millennium B.C.