Humans devised biblical fables
To the editor:
According to Julian Jaynes (The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) consciousness as we understand it today is a relatively new phenomenon. Tens of thousands of years ago humans didn’t have the sophisticated language that we have today. They went about their daily lives in a rather reactive state, similar to but more advanced than other hominids, and didn’t as yet develop an interior mind-space “I” where they could thoughtfully plan the future and/or carry on a conversation with themselves. Evidence indicated by Jaynes shows that they occasionally experienced hallucinated “voices,” similar to schizophrenics today, emanating from the right side of their brains and communicating with the left side, hence the bicameral brain. These voices usually occurred under various stressful situations and gave directions on how to proceed and act. The slow evolution of spoken and written language led to the breakdown of the bicameral mind three to five thousand years ago; the voices receded until they were silent, and this led to the consciousness that we have today: introspection of an interior mind-space, the ability to lie, deceive, and invent fantastic concepts of reality known as mythologies and religions. This transition is portrayed in the Homeric epics and the Hebrew Scripture. In the Iliad, the people heard and obeyed the voices of the gods, but later in the Odyssey, Odysseus could argue with the gods, deceive the Cyclops on his journey back to Ithaca, and trick the suitors of his wife Penelope. In the early Hebrew Scripture, God was talking to Adam and Eve and other patriarchs, but in later writings the voice of God was silent and the people resorted to sortilege to discern the Deity’s will. An interior mind-space is not mentioned in the earliest literature and Jaynes speculates that people had no words for it because they didn’t experience it.
Humans, with their new consciousness, devised the Biblical fable of Adam and Eve which can be interpreted as an analog of the breakdown of the bicameral mind. Adam and Eve were quite innocent and compliant creations of their God. However, when led astray by the serpent and having eaten the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (note that they didn’t do this by any interior mind-space reasoning), they now had a new view of reality, a new consciousness. And with this, disobedience entered the world.
David M. Keranen