Thursday, September 02, 2010

what are we?

organelle | This is not a primitive mind he is supposing, but instead a hyperconnective one. But I would also underline the principle that it is the mind of a planet, and a solar system — a galaxy and a universe — emerging reflectively as a connective consciousness in one of its children.

I believe that in the civilizations and cultures of the bicameral age what was happening in individual consciousness was not merely `hearing voices' as Jaynes consistently models it. I believe it was in fact a very different thing, more akin to having one's own mind regularly or spontaneously contained or directed by an apparently externally sourced mind. During such a circumstance, it is possible to have one's mind `conducted' like a musical orchestra — and this is very different from our common experience of linear consciousness, even during epiphanies. Nor is it hallucinogenic. It is also different from the common admonitory experiences of schizophrenics — who are in fact touching a something real, and ancient, in their struggle to live a life as a partially bicameral person in a time that cannot credential or explore these domains directly but instead functionally demonizes their experiencers.

This is not a primitive mind he is supposing, but instead a hyperconnective one. But I would also underline the principle that it is the mind of a planet, and a solar system — a galaxy and a universe — emerging reflectively as a connective consciousness in one of its children. As the animalian and human populations of Earth waxed and waned — an essential sentience was forming in the connectivities, rather than the individuals. And I believe this sentience to be at once terrestrial and extraterrestrial. What the bicameral peoples were 'listening' to was God. It was god with countless universes of living organs — even in a single animal or plant, each learning itself uniquely in the common quests for survival, elaboration, synthesis, and biocognitive uplift. It was speaking not to anyone, but within the constituents of its own cognitive person. Imagine a single cell hearing the cognitive maelstrom that is the simple thought 'I am thinking'. It would be as if the Sun had shouted the sound through every molecule of one's being. When the Gods were with and within us, this was, I believe our common experience. And more, it will be, again.

According to the bicameral hypothesis, our minds once housed what we can only really describe as an alien or celestially sourced intelligence — god(s). I believe firmly that regardless of the specific timeline we might speculatively craft, our species had a long sojourn with nothing but the personal and collectve experience of something like a god, or gods. This was not alike with our metaphors of deities today at all. It was much more similar to what we would term possession — however the sentience orchestrating the event was not `evil' or malevolent — but entirely the opposite in many cases. It was not mere hallucination, and when Jaynes compares it to the hallucinatory voices of the schizophrenic patient, he is examining something we've not seen the healthy version of.

The dominance of language over our mind has dimensions we've never explored — and we are obliged to use language to explore them. This essential problem must change its shape. We must be empowered to explore and authorize our explorations beyond language, into the domains from whence it arose. The sources and activities of the `inward voice' is likely to be something at once simpler and more profound than we imagine.

We can well recall in our recent and ancient histories the omnicidal chaos that results as gods inhabiting human forms compete for popularity and resources — cognitive and otherwise. Yet we may not be able to adequately imagine the power or unity inherent in a community that cohered through something akin to a limited version of group-telepathy. It is difficult to imagine a small society of people who are actively bicameral, and our records from the bible appear to be largely composed after this breakdown.

Even if we discard Jaynes as a radical iconoclast (which would be unfortunate for us), we must still examine the matter of gods, language, and the evolution of our consciousness in a vastly different light after encountering his library of related theses. It is perhaps in this function that his models and offerings of scholarship are most valuable. Not for their specificity, but for what they are pointing in general at.

The bicameral model is compelling for many reasons ranging from its complex musings on authorization and the origins of what we mean by consciousness to its incredibly insightful graphing of the changes in semantic spatialization over the course of the composition of the Illiad. As a structural place of departure, it is a fine inclusion in any library from which we may begin to experientially chart the terrains of the questions of what we are, as organisms and cognitive animals — alone and in connectivity. I do however intend to clearly and deeply explore the terrain related to what he calls auditory hallucinations and gods. I believe we must again open this domain to common exploration, for I feel that we do not yet understand what was, nor what was lost.

Many academics would likely consider Julian Jaynes to be a psuedoscientist — amongst the worst epithets a researcher can be burdened with. I would disagree — yet whether or not his specific timelines and theses are correct, his re-visioning of the human relationship with gods and, in turn, with metaphor, is something long overdue by any reasonable standard. His model of the emergence of the human consciousness from a more animalian precursor — however tentative in its formation — is striking for its congruence across many domains of evidence as well as for its inspiration and novel integrations of available data.

The majority of the academy appears in general agreement that we had our genesis-event with symbolic representation between 50,000 and 28,000 years ago, though some recent finds have positioned human graphic artifacts at 77,000 years. Dating methods are still in some general question. Yet Written (symbolic) language is generally suspected to have emerged 4000 to 5000 years ago, probably beginning as accounting. Most would levy this data against Jaynes' work, and rightfully so, from a scientific perspective. Again, it is not his timeline that interests me (though I find some of his theses compelling) but instead the broader strokes and details hidden in what he points toward like distant easter eggs, implied by a glorious basket containing an obvious clue.