Bicameralism and Bilingualism

A paper on multilingualism was posted by Eva Dunkel in the Facebook group for The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind: Consequences of multilingualism for neural architecture by Sayuri Hayakawa and Viorica Marian. It is a great find. The authors look at how multiple languages are processed within the brain and how they can alter brain structure.

This probably also relates to learning of music, art, and math — one might add that learning music later improves the ability to learn math. These are basically other kinds of languages, especially the former in terms of  musical languages (along with whistle and hum languages) that might indicate language having originated in music, not to mention the close relationship music has to dance, movement, and behavior and close relationship of music to group identity. The archaic authorization of command voices in the bicameral mind quite likely came in the form of music and one could imagine the kinds of synchronized collective activities that could have dominated life and work in bicameral societies. There is something powerful about language that we tend to overlook and take for granted. Also, since language is so embedded in culture, monolinguals never see outside of the cultural reality tunnel they exist within. This could bring us to wonder about the role played post-bicameral society by syncretic languages like English. We can’t forget the influence psychedelics might have had on language development and learning at different periods of human existence. And with psychedelics, there is the connection to shamanism with caves as aural spaces and locations of art, possibly the earliest origin of proto-writing.

There is no reason to give mathematics a mere secondary place in our considerations. Numeracy might be important as well in thinking about the bicameral mind specifically and certainly about the human mind in general (Caleb Everett, Numbers and the Making of Us), as numeracy was an advancement or complexification beyond the innumerate tribal societies (e.g., Piraha). Some of the earliest uses of writing was for calculations: accounting, taxation, astrology, etc. Bicameral societies, specifically the early city-states, can seem simplistic in many ways with their lack of complex hierarchies, large centralized governments, standing armies, police forces, or even basic infrastructure such as maintained roads and bridges. Yet they were capable of immense projects that required impressively high levels of planning, organizing, and coordination — as seen with the massive archaic pyramids and other structures built around the world. It’s strange how later empires in the Axial Age and beyond that, though so much larger and extensive with greater wealth and resources, rarely even attempted the seemingly impossible architectural feats of bicameral humans. Complex mathematical systems probably played a major role in the bicameral mind, as seen in how astrological calculations sometimes extended over millennia.

Hayakawa and Marian’s paper could add to the explanation of the breakdown of the bicameral mind. A central focus of their analysis is the increased executive function and neural integration in managing two linguistic inputs — I could see how that would relate to the development of egoic consciousness. It has been proposed that the first to develop Jaynesian consciousness may have been traders who were required to cross cultural boundaries and, of course, who would have been forced to learn multiple languages. As bicameral societies came into regular contact with more diverse linguistic cultures, their bicameral cognitive and social structures would have been increasingly stressed.

Multilingualism goes hand in hand with literacy. Rates of both have increased over the millennia. That would have been a major force in the post-bicameral Axial Age. The immense multiculturalism of societies like the Roman Empire is almost impossible for us to imagine. Hundreds of ethnicities, each with their own language, would co-exist in the same city and sometimes the same neighborhood. On a single street, there could be hundreds of shrines to diverse gods with people praying, people invoking and incantating in their separate languages. These individuals were suddenly forced to deal with complete strangers and learn some basic level of understanding foreign languages and hence foreign understandings.

This was simultaneous with the rise of literacy and its importance to society, only becoming more important over time as the rate of book reading continues to climb (more books are printed in a year these days than were produced in the first several millennia of writing). Still, it was only quite recently that the majority of the population became literate, following from that is the ability of silent reading and its correlate of inner speech. Multilingualism is close behind and catching up. The consciousness revolution is still under way. I’m willing to bet American society will be transformed as we return to multilingualism as the norm, considering that in the first centuries of American history there was immense multilingualism (e.g., German was once one of the most widely spoken languages in North America).

All of this reminds me of linguistic relativity. I’ve pointed out that, though not explicitly stated, Jaynes obviously was referring to linguistic relativity in his own theorizing about language. He talked quite directly about the power language —- and metaphors within language —- had over thought, perception, behavior, and identity (Anke Snoek has some good insights about this in exploring the thought of Giorgio Agamben). This was an idea maybe first expressed by Wilhelm von Humboldt (On Language) in 1836: “Via the latter, qua character of a speech-sound, a pervasive analogy necessarily prevails in the same language; and since a like subjectivity also affects language in the same notion, there resides in every language a characteristic world-view.” And Humboldt even considered the power of learning another language in stating that, “To learn a foreign language should therefore be to acquire a new standpoint in the world-view hitherto possessed, and in fact to a certain extent is so, since every language contains the whole conceptual fabric and mode of presentation of a portion of mankind.”

Multilingualism is multiperspectivism, a core element of the modern mind and modern way of being in the world. Language has the power to transform us. To study language, to learn a new language is to become something different. Each language is not only a separate worldview but locks into place a different sense of self, a persona. This would be true not only for learning different cultural languages but also different professional languages with their respective sets of terminology, as the modern world has diverse areas with their own ways of talking and we modern humans have to deal with this complexity on a regular basis, whether we are talking about tax codes or dietary lingo.

It’s hard to know what that means for humanity’s trajectory across the millennia. But the more we are caught within linguistic worlds and are forced to navigate our way within them the greater the need for a strong egoic individuality to self-initiate action, that is to say the self-authorization of Jaynesian consciousness. We step further back into our own internal space of meta-cognitive metaphor. To know more than one language strengthens an identity separate from any given language. The egoic self retreats behind its walls and looks out from its parapets. Language, rather than being the world we are immersed in, becomes the world we are trapped in (a world that is no longer home and from which we seek to escape, Philip K. Dick’s Black Iron Prison and William S. Burroughs Control). It closes in on us and forces us to become more adaptive to evade the constraints.

34 thoughts on “Bicameralism and Bilingualism

    • “There is something powerful about language that we”

      You Benjamin.

      “tend to overlook and take for granted.”

      We?

      “Also, since language is so embedded in culture”

      Coherency please.

      “monolinguals never see outside of the cultural reality tunnel they exist within.”

      Who is we? Robert Anton Wilson only spoke English. Ezra Pound could not speak Chinese or Italian and was copying blindly in many ways like RAW was.

      I enjoy your writing about salts and fats!

      • The word ‘we’ refers to plural. There is more than one person who shares this view. I’m not alone in this, whether or not you believe that the ‘we’ in question includes you. But as far as my argument goes, it does include you, like it or not. It includes you because, as with me, you are human. At least, I think you’re human… and I’ll assume such is the case until proven otherwise. About this ‘we’ that tends to overlook and take for granted, I’m speaking broadly. This ‘we’ is all of us as humans for, as I see it, this tendency is built into our humanity. That is the nature of language for it is not something separate from us that can be looked upon and handled like an object. Such is my perspective.

        There is nothing inherently incoherent about the statement that, “language is so embedded in culture”. That is basically referring to linguistic relativity or what Daniel Everett calls Dark Matter of the Mind. It’s a whole scientific field of study that goes back at least a century or, if you include von Humboldt, much further back. Assuming you want to comprehend the coherency, then read about the topic (I’ve written multiple posts detailing the scientific research and evidence)… or don’t… it’s the same difference to me. But maybe it just makes no sense to you and there is no particular reason for you to believe me when I claim that what I say makes sense. Meh.

        All I can say in my defense is that, from my perspective, you are not grasping my argument. As I see it, in your misinterpreting “monolinguals never see outside of the cultural reality tunnel they exist within”, you obviously missed a central point of the post. I thought I was being clear in communicating, but apparently not. I was expanding upon the paper that was talking about multilingualism in the formal sense. My point is about any study or learning of language, text, or linguistic worldviews, including professional lingoes like business management terminology or linguistic-like systems such as mathematics — any of this can force one into multiple perspectives that result in something similar to what the authors of the paper were discussing.

        Maybe look at the post again. Give it a closer reading. But if it doesn’t interest you, then ignore it. Just realize the coherency issue might simply be a lack of connection between our two mindsets and intellectual backgrounds. This post might be perfectly coherent to someone who is coming from a similar set of understandings and readings as I’m working with. There is also the issue of whether or not our personal experiences resonate, as my writings are almost always grounded in the personal, even when the personal is not explicitly mentioned. There is no way for me to bring you into the gravity of my personal sense of reality and my personal sense of fascination about topics such as these.

        My sense of what language means is not a mere intellectual understanding. If you’ve read a lot of Robert Anton Wilson, William S. Burroughs, and Philip K. Dick (combined with linguistic relativity), you’ll know exactly where I’m coming from and what I’m talking about when I discuss language. Otherwise, we likely will just talk past one another. I explored these thinkers and much else because of experiences I’ve had in life that forced me to see the world differently, that compelled me to probe the roots of language, often with a gnostic-like sensibility. Also, having grown up in New Thought Christianity, I was early on influenced by the notion that language has power over our reality or sense of reality. I can’t make you care about or see value in what matters to me. I can’t.

        If this post is incoherent to you, then communication between us on this topic might be futile. In that case, it’s likely there is no point of connection. We are maybe existing in separate worldviews, at least in this area. Obviously, my sense of language and linguistic reality is incomprehensible to you, for whatever reason. I don’t know that I have the ability to make you understand, even if I wanted to try. And I’m pretty sure I don’t want to try, as that sounds like an exercise in frustration. I know when to give up or at least I’m hoping to learn that lesson. Not everything is worth the effort that would be required. I’ve bashed my head against too many brick walls over the years and I’m thinking it isn’t the best hobby. So, I’ll simply accept of our lack of mutual understanding and agree to disagree or whatever.

      • You say that, “I enjoy your writing about salts and fats!” I fear you will be increasingly disappointed and dissatisfied with my blog over time. Over the decades, most of my reading and writing has revolved around the kinds of ideas expressed in posts like this. Even though I’ve off and on thought about health and diet going back to earlier in my adult life, I’ve never to the same degree made it a focus of intellectual interest. It’s only been this past year or so that I’ve written anything at all about “salts and fats”.

        I don’t know how long I’ll continue writing on nutrition and such. It’s only a focus at the moment because I’ve been experimenting with my diet. But at some point I’ll settle down with a particular eating pattern. When that happens, my interest will go elsewhere. Most likely, my focus will return more back to what has drawn my curiosity the most: language, consciousness, etc. There is a far greater probability that you’ll see greater number of posts like this in the future.

        You’ve been warned. I’ve long known that what interests me interests few others. My blog is directed at a very small and select potential readership. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that a miniscule number of people understand or care about such things as Julian Jaynes’ theory of the bicameral mind. I think consciousness, language, and all that is among the most important things to understand in all the world, as it touches upon the core of our humanity. Without understanding these, we can’t understand anything, not even about diet. I really do see it as that central, that important. It is the thread of my thought that, if you tugged at it, my mental worldview would unravel.

        This nexus of thought is what motivates me. It is the beating heart of my curiosity about the world. Those experiences I shared about psychedelic use and meditation practice, that is the kind of thing makes any of this relevant to me. Even diet matters to me mainly because of the impact it has on my mind and being, the way I feel, that is to say my consciousness. This is who I am. Without this focus of concern, I might never have started blogging in the first place. Diet, as important as it is, will always be secondary in my mind. It’s just one of my many side interests. But I’m sure I have many more posts in me about this topic. Or who knows… maybe it will manage to remain within the range of my curiosity. But I’m not promising anything.

        • I am not laying any claim to being human. If it seems that I am not human then assume I am not human like you and RAW and Dick are, human. Douglas Rushkoff is on team human. Not me. He will be nice to you. Jeremy Lent is even more human than Doug is. Sweet people…

          Who appeals to be labeled human seems robotic and reactionary?

          We are all alone in thought and a dog thinks like I do. Robot the dog found that cave in Southern France. (😄tangent-time) You can claim concensus as a cultural or social strategy, human. By all means. I am interested in creative exploration. Humanity is a word. Explore it. Dark Matter. Explore it. Why do humans resort to it? Dark Matter. I am not attacking or defending or obviously missing a point so much as you appear to be rambling hero-worshipping and offering projection. Appeals to reality tunnels existing and humans within them is fine for you humans. Wormholes to hide inside from the howling dog. I cannot engage in RAW Dick semantics OR even Dark Matter analogies. You are being clearly all too human and appealing to intellectual backgrounds as if I went to obedience school maybe – you attended a Hivey league finishing school for humans so much gravity of your personal sense of reality is yours – human. Not probing any roots as I can see. Exoloration please. I tried to spark a conversation with some jokes and books. You spend 1000 words on the word cogent – a joke. Robert Anton Wilson let his daughter go to work. He was home smoking dope. Sad stupid human bum. A dog would not be so lazy or careless.
          You can wallow in all the intellectual ism you want to wallow in. Don’t ask me to name anymore books or schools please. Also, keep rambling. I am listening. Keep typing more and more and more. Please. Don’t take a break to think. Impress me with your humanity some more please. I am entertained by it.

          • Here is what interests me. Even you as a non-human agree with the consensus of conventional thought among most humans that something like diets (that doesn’t challenge the world we know or think we know) is more interesting or important than the theory of the bicameral mind (that questions assumptions and explores consciousness, language, etc). Such is a typical human viewpoint. You are safely ensconced within the easily comprehended and already familiar, as is the case for most others.

            That is part of why I try to understand consciousness, specifically Jaynesian consciousness. There is something about it that constantly turns away from itself in defense, a maneuver I call symbolic conflation — as I’ve described it, a bird mimicking injury as it flutters away from its nest to draw a predator further on. It’s one of the strangest and most amazing things to see humans do but apparently also non-humans as well. This insight isn’t intellectual, at least not any more than your attempt at clever word play and tangents. It’s an observation, a rather simple observation at that requiring no books or thinkers to notice, and yet few notice it or want to notice it.

            If you don’t like posts like this, then why comment? You didn’t contribute anything relevant to the post itself. All you did was complain and throw out non sequiturs. You are free to do so, as I know you aren’t trying to be a troll or any such thing, although I do have my limits. Still, let me be clear. In the future, when your comments aren’t relevant (including complaints for the sake of complaining), I won’t approve them. What is the point of complaining to me on my blog for writing about what interests me? I’ve never forced my interests upon you. It is you who has chosen to visit my blog, read it, and engage. So, when only some posts seem of value to you, then focus on those and ignore the rest. I have little desire to constantly field criticisms and justify myself to strangers. This is my blog and there are no apologies.

            As someone who has dealt with depression for decades, I don’t need to be surrounded by those who antagonize me. And for whatever reason, you seem to want to antagonize me or think it is amusing or something. Well, to be honest, it rubs me the wrong way. I have immense tolerance up to a point. Consider this a warning. Maybe, like me, you have your own mental health issues that you struggle with. It’s obvious that, like me, you’re carrying a lot of personal baggage that gets in the way — I sense a lot of projection going on, maybe in both directions of the dialogue. It’s far beyond mere miscommunication.

            I know how it is, at least how it is for ‘we’ humans. I’m not asking everyone else to hold themselves to a higher standard than I hold to myself to nor do I want to attack anyone for disagreeing or having a different view. But for practical reasons, I acknowledge that I don’t always get along or resonate well with some people. I’ve learned to be highly discerning in who I allow into my personal space and this blog is my personal space. You are here as a guest. Act like a guest, as if I had invited you into my living room for a chat. Please don’t tromp around with muddy boots while knocking over my things and pointing out everything that is wrong with my home.

          • “I am interested in creative exploration… I am not attacking or defending… I tried to spark a conversation with some jokes and books.”

            I get what how you perceive yourself. But going by the pattern of your comments over a fairly long period of time, I doubt that is how most other people perceive you. It’s certainly not the vibe I’m getting from you, whether or not my intuition is correct. I suspect I’m not the first person to respond to you in this way, right? — maybe the whole world doesn’t understand you, something I’ve felt at times when I was in my deepest of depressive funks, a sense of being out of step with the rest of humanity.

            Keep in mind, though, the situation at hand. Ignoring who is to blame for the moment, pull back and consider how you would feel if someone treated you in your personal space in the same manner or whatever equivalent manner would irritate you. Would you invite someone back into your home who verbally accosted you about your failures and told you that you should be different? Probably not.

            You have a view that, in your own way, you are trying to communicate. What you don’t seem to realize is that your writing style is typically opaque and occasionally bizarre. I sympathize, as I realize I don’t always communicate well, even when I’m trying my best. The difference is this is my blog, not yours. If our styles of communication don’t mesh, then that isn’t a problem on my end in my own blog. That said, I’m not telling you to go away. Just be respectful and kind, and I’ll try to do the same in return. But sometimes the best thing to do is to simply back away from a situation when all attempts at resolution have failed.

            I write for those who on some basic level understand where I’m coming from. Without that basic level of understanding, hopefully mutual, there is no point in furthering miscommunication until all involved are in a bad mood. I can tell that what I’m saying here doesn’t contribute to your happiness any more than what you’re saying contributes to mine. So what is the point? You have expressed that I have misunderstood you. And I have told you the same about your misunderstanding me. Maybe we are both right. I don’t see what good can be done by adding more misunderstanding on top of that.

            This isn’t a battle I want to fight. There will never be a winning side. We simply disagree on some basic level about what we consider of value, maybe about what we think/believe/feel to be reality. Heck, we can’t even agree about the common usage of words like ‘human’. Without a shared language, there is no hope of communication. If every word to you has its own idiosyncratic meaning, then every single interaction between us will be an endless struggle. That doesn’t sound fun to me. I don’t want to be an asshole. But I know the more irritated I become the more my asshole-ish side will come out. This is my weakness and failure as a ‘human’. That is to say I’m not a saint. Knowing my own limitations, I withdraw and resign myself. I wish I were a better person.

            Blame me if you want. And if I amuse you, so be it. I amuse myself. All of humanity amuses me.

          • I don’t want to blame you. I will reiterate that I provided two books and a few jokes. I admitted my limited intellectual aspirations but, appealed to your intellect. If you have a mop and bucket handy I will clean up after myself. You get how I perceive myself and ignored the books I offered. Free books. Trust your intuition. Stop responding to me. Let me the last word. Listen to the Loan Woof podcast I offered you.

            I have not be diagnosed with a mental illness. I’m able to be sober and…cogent. I have not verbally accosted you. You admit mental illness. I challenged the use of broad terms as shamanism and psychedelics and employed the term cogent. Please humour me and listen to the podcast. You say you write for those. And for self. I am not offering a battle or a war Benjamin. Human, shaman, dog, robot – regardless. READ THE BOOKS. Blair Warren. Bob Trubshaw. Thank you for writing. I don’t want you to be an asshole or a saint. I cannot verbally accost you in text. I never did blame you for anything. Consider the books. The podcast. I will continue to read your blog. Be well. Sorry for the muddy living room rug and all the violent thrashing about in your textual parlour. 😂

          • I’m sorry about the minor conflict, rather minor in the big scheme of things. For whatever reason, I felt we simply were not connecting at all. Oh well…

            I do appreciate when someone recommends something to me. I’ll check out what you shared. And I’ll leave it that.

          • If you listen to the last podcast episode you may surmise that I was spoiling for a spat since Friday. Thank you for listening.

    • I’m not exactly sure what ‘cogent’ means in this context, specifically what it means to you. But I never claimed to be ‘cogent’ in every field of knowledge in the world. I follow my curiosity where it leads me. I’ve read thousands of books in my life at this point. Still, an individual can only learn so much, can only be ‘cogent’ to a certain degree. I’m merely human.

      Still, I have read about both psychedelics and shamanism for years, going back to the 1990s before I had internet. I certainly can’t claim personal experience as a shaman and my interest has been relatively mild compared to some subjects I’ve studied, but I did dozens of trips on psychedelics back in the day, for whatever that is worth. I’ve written about my own experience at times, not that it has been a major focus of my blogging. Even this post wasn’t particularly about either psychedelics or shamanism, other than briefly being mentioned in passing (the posts linked are mostly in reference to what some consider to be respected experts and public intellectuals in these fields), and so I’m not sure why you’re bringing up my ‘cogency’ in these areas. This post is primarily about bicameralism and linguistics, both of which are their own separate fields of study that don’t generally overlap much with psychedelics and shamanism.

      Many posts, besides this one and posts linked above, have been about these topics or else topics adjacent to them. I consider many, if not all, of my posts about the bicameral mind to speak to the issue of shamanism (however indirectly or implicitly), in that it’s hard to imagine shamanism without verbal ‘hallucinations’ as voice-hearing. I also have some posts on tribal possession states, animism, etc. I’d also see the posts on synaesthesia and mnemonic systems as closely related, as I’ve often referred to the non-ordinary experiences of drug-users and tribal societies. I’d throw in the the issue of schizophrenia as well, which obviously touches upon altered states, the bicameral mind, and much else.

      I suppose some might find my various posts ‘cogent’, while others not so much or not in all cases. That is fine. I must admit that I don’t write to please other people, whether or not one considers this a personal failing on my part, even as I hope to communicate something meaningful or at least mildly interesting. I haven’t a clue what seems ‘cogent’ to you in the context of what you bring up. As always, in what I offer here on this blog, take it or leave it. Anyway, here are a few posts I’d consider relevant to my own thinking on psychedelics, shamanism, and similar things (in the order of date posted):

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2009/08/07/synesthesia-and-psychedelics-and-civilization-oh-my/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/radical-human-mind-from-animism-to-bicameralism-and-beyond/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/on-being-strange/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2016/02/15/self-other-world/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/piraha-and-bicameralism/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/the-psychology-and-anthropology-of-consciousness/

    • Maybe I should inquire of you more directly. Why do you bring up ‘psychedelics’ and ‘shamanism’? They aren’t all that central to this post. Were you hoping for a more thorough and in-depth discussion of these topics and so did you feel disappointed that I gave them such short shrift? Out of curiosity, what would you consider to be examples of ‘cogent’ writing on either or both of these subject matters? Do you have some favorite writers in this field of study?

      In my various writings, I’ve referenced and quoted experts and popular thinkers on psychedelics and shamanism. Do you not find these people to be ‘cogent’? Or is it somehow my way of posting about these people that doesn’t seem ‘cogent’ to you? I’m just trying to understand where you’re coming from. I honestly don’t know what kinds of books you read or what thinkers you’re familiar with. Your standard of ‘cogency’ as mentioned here is a complete unknown to me.

      I’m trying to gauge your intellectual background since I’d like to better engage with people who comment on my blog. I’m always open to suggestions and recommendations. If it is within the range of my curiosity and capacity, I’ll do my best to be ‘cogent’. Certainly, I don’t aspire to lack ‘cogency’. But in any case, as one of my wise coworkers used to say, it’s all good in the hood. If I fail to live up to your expectations, I’ll somehow go on living. I try not to take myself too seriously these days. The world is serious enough as is.

    • You seem more cogent because I can understand nutritional science more better than the bicaramel secret reality tunnel maps you offer. You seem way more informed than I am on all these matters.

      • That makes sense. The bicameral stuff is extremely fascinating to me. It touches upon my most personal experiences and sense of reality, more personal than any diet ever could.

        But for anyone who doesn’t share such experiences, it very well might be meaningless, might sound like gibberish. Cogency, in this case, may require a minimal amount of shared experience or at least similar enough to allow for resonance. Being informed, more or less, might be irrelevant without that foundation to build upon for communication.

        As I’ve said, that is fine. either what I say speaks to you and makes sense to you or not. That isn’t necessarily a failure for anyone involved. As some of my experiences don’t resonate for you, no doubt some of your experiences wouldn’t resonate for me. That is the nature of being human in this world.

  1. Our manager suggested that I use ‘sugar’, in the context of human interactions at work. I suggested that vinegar was healthier in the long run, and made a joke about sugar in co-worker’s gas tanks. He chuckled at that.

    • I must say that at times I feel a bit lost with your comments. Some of them, as in this case, can seem like non sequiturs or else that I’m missing the context (or maybe the punchline?). I didn’t bring up ‘sugar’ in this post. But I assume that must be in reference to your previous comment where you mentioned my writing on nutrition.

      You seem to be a non-linear thinker with thoughts, like sparks, going off at odd angles. I’m sort of like that. My thought processes are extremely messy and meandering. It took many decades for me to develop enough writing skills to be ‘cogent’ at all. If you think I’m not ‘cogent’ about some of my writing now, you should have seen me in the past.

      By the way, there was a time when my thoughts were so unorganized and sometimes incoherent, shortly after a suicide attempt back in my early 20s, that the doctor put me on risperdal which is an anti-psychotic. He specifically diagnosed me, as I recall, with something like ‘thought disorder’ — that is a label that gets to the point, basically stating that my mind was fucked up.

      I guess it’s how I roll. I’m a creative thinker. My analytical side is a later addition, as imposed by my internalization of my professorial father’s example. I still struggle to put my thoughts in coherent form, rather than letting them sprawl like flabby cognitive adipose. I’m sure many of my own thoughts, when I speak them, seem like non sequiturs to others. Oh well. Such is life.

      • I have never tried suicide or psychedelics OR internalizing my Daddy. Keith Richards snorted his father’s ashes? Bucky Fuller thought about killing himself once? A few times? I do read books. Shamanism according to Bob Trubshaw in The Eyes of The Skull.

        Tim Leary and his government handlers popularized the term psychedelics? Coherence. Cogency in a word. Shamanism and psychedelics are tired feeble words due to word abuse maybe? “Fear of the word is the beginning of reading.” You tried to kill yourself? Exactly how? What did you ‘trip out’ on as psychedelics? I just finished the dishes after a pot roast and desire a cup of tea. Animism…a cup of tea is speaking to me right now.😁

        Thanks for writing. I appreciate it.

        • I didn’t try internalizing my daddy. There are many things I didn’t try to internalize (or inherit): my mother’s obsessive-compulsive thinking that runs on endless tape loops, worse still the bitter grudge-holding that comes from my mother’s side of the family, the depression and learning disabilities that come from both sides of my family, the impossible idealism of the new agey church I was raised in, the Midwestern culture I spent most of my life surrounded by, and on and on. The internalization process happened without any effort or intention (maybe ‘internalization’ isn’t even a useful way to think about the process). It just sort of worked out that way, for good or ill. It shaped who I became, and now here I am.

          About psychedelics, the word ‘trying’ might be even less appropriate. Maybe psychedelics tried me. The first trip I had just happened without any planning. A friend randomly offered me some LSD and it somehow ended up in my mouth. I don’t recall any decision point where my life could’ve forked in a different direction. It was a spontaneous moment. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It wasn’t a conscious choice I made nor was it necessarily a mindless impulse. I was simply deep in depression and was drifting along in life. Then LSD simply presented itself, like candy to a hungry child. I was in spiritual starvation and nothing had satisfied me up to that point. So, I shoved an unknown substance into my mouth, having no knowledge about what LSD was. That might not be the best way to go about things, but it was the place I was in at the time.

          I might add that it was shortly after my suicide attempt (by way of a bottle of sleeping pills, after working up to it by slicing at my wrists a number of times with a razor blade, leading to a stint in the psychiatric ward). In the years following, I was in a psychologically strange place at the time. I didn’t want to be part of this world. I even sought to escape by moving far away from everyone and everything I knew. I couldn’t escape, though. Loneliness and homesickness overtook me. I returned to what was the closest thing to home for me and that happened to be where LSD was waiting for me with open arms, in order to embrace me in a new understanding of reality. I was in a state of openness to the world, confused and ignorant and clueless. That first trip blew me away, what meager sense of self I was clinging to. What entirely represented that first experience with that ‘Other’ was going to the bathroom just as it was fully hitting me and my sense of self was dissolving as I looked into the mirror and I laughed and laughed and laughed — I was the funniest thing I had ever seen in all my life. Finally, I was in on the joke.

          That wasn’t my only experiences. Besides many other LSD trips, I also did magic mushrooms, another thing not exactly planned. My friends and I went for a walk in a local park, the same park I played in as a child, with woods and fields. I was in the middle of a field when a softness washed over me. Then I looked out across (or in upon?) a vast sense of beingness. The grasses, blowing in the wind, were shimmering with an internal light. And all the world was breathing in unison. That is something a person never loses, never forgets. I didn’t come back from that the same person as I was. It was a total sense of release, a knowledge that there is a different way of being that is as real or more real than anything I had ever experienced.

          I followed that up with years of meditation and other practices. At one point, after my closest friend had left town, I was so isolated and so deep in my ‘spiritual’ practice that I nearly lost myself. I peered over the edge into emptiness. My sense of identity became thin gruel, no longer my former self. The egoic self seemed like a paltry thing that barely existed at all, not particularly meaningful or compelling. To explain it in psychiatric terms, there was obviously some depersonalization going on at that point. I don’t know what would have happened if I continued to slip down that path of self-disintegration, but I had no sense that I was heading for enlightenment. It just felt like vast nothingness, not any ultimate truth or such comfort.

          I eventually stopped meditating so much and came back to ‘normality’. I’m more grounded these days, but I can’t say I exactly regret all that brought to where I am now. This might give you some idea why I’m obsessed with all things involving self, mind, and consciousness. It isn’t only speculation… for it’s quite personal to me, whether or not ‘cogent’ to anyone else. It was hardly cogent to me either at the time. Maybe there is more to life or to existence than being cogent. If I was limited to being cogent, there are times in my life when I would have remained entirely silent. There is a certain attraction to that. All the words in the world only go so far.

          • Nutrition is cut and dry and vacuum-packed compared to understanding cognition, and, writing about it. Blair Warren wrote a no-nonsense book about enlightenment.

          • I found Blair Warren’s book, The No-Nonsense Guide to Enlightenment.
            https://www.holybooks.com/wp-content/uploads/The-No-Nonsense-Guide-to-Enlightenment.pdf
            What is the takeaway message? Is there something specific that was most meaningful or interesting to you? I could skim the book a little, but it isn’t exactly where my focus is at the moment. I did notice the following:

            “Now there’s nothing wrong with playing the game according to the rules, if you enjoy doing so. But if the rules you’ve been given aren’t working for you, maybe it’s time to question them. Maybe it’s time to write your own. Or maybe it’s time to play a different game altogether”

            From my perspective, that is my purpose behind studying consciousness and such. I’m seeking to play by other rules. But first understanding the game is helpful, even necessary. That is the situation I see for most people or really pretty much everyone in this society. It’s easier to say to not to play by the rules than to actually play by different rules. The rules have been an inseparable part of our identity for our entire lives, unless you’ve had some kind of severely disruptive experience such as psychiatric breakdown.

            Imagining the bicameral mind is nearly impossible from the perspective of Jaynesian consciousness. The control of imagination has long been a central concern of mine. I don’t consider that to be empty talk. It cuts to the heart of our humanity. It’s also why my personal experiences inform my thinking. After having experienced the world and self in a radically altered way, there is no way going back. It gives you a permanent touchstone for what playing by different rules might be like.

            I don’t know what Enlightenment means to Warren. I’m not entirely sure what it means to me either.

          • “all of our beliefs share one common characteristic – we believe them because
            it makes sense to us to believe them, not simply because we consciously want to.
            Yes, changing your beliefs will change your life, but changing your beliefs isn’t up
            to you alone. It isn’t a question of willpower. It isn’t a question of affirmations.
            And it isn’t a question of understanding the benefits of changing your beliefs. It is
            a question of evidence. It takes evidence to change our beliefs, whether we find
            that evidence or it finds us.”

            Enlightened moments. Human moments. We are mammals; who will claim static state humanity or enlightenment as the default mode?

          • A good quote. I agree. And, yes, we are mammals.

            Denying static humanity or anything else is the point of looking deeper into ‘human’ nature. It doesn’t really matter what one calls it, the words used and how labeled. Still, we have to use a common language to communicate what seems common to our reality as we experience it. The fact that our species is capable of diverse states of mind and ways of being, from bicameral mind to Jaynesian consciousness and much else, demonstrates that there is immense plasticity within us. I never speak of the ‘human’ as static, much less singular.

            Also, I’m not a believer in ‘willpower’. That is partly because I see the ‘self’ as illusory. But it’s not fatalism. It’s simply seeing the world differently, what makes things go. We aren’t what we think we are. Our perceived motivations are mostly rationalizations. The rules of society we play by keep us in line, that is all. And I’ve argued that diet is one of the most basic methods of social control because changes in nutrition can alter our minds. The two are inseparable.

            There have been some posts where I combine my concern about diet with my focus on the human mind:
            https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2018/12/02/ketogenic-diet-and-neurocognitive-health/
            https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/01/30/the-agricultural-mind/

            I’ve been reading another blogger who takes a similar viewpoint. He has a bunch of posts on the topic, but here is one that gives an overview:
            https://empathy.guru/2017/12/03/the-case-against-sugar-a-true-psychodynamic-meta-review/

            If I continue writing about diet on a semi-regular basis for years to come, it will probably most often be along those lines.

        • I also found Trubshaw’s book.
          https://www.hoap.co.uk/through_the_eye.pdf

          “Literature as diverse as Old English poems and the tales of Scottish Travellers uses the first-person to give a voice, and personality, to a diverse range of non-human artefacts. By using this device for the metaphysical relocation of self, the author’s identity may become conflated with the artefact – or even a deity. ”

          That particularly sounds like it would touch upon themes of the bicameral mind. I’m familiar with some of this old literature. But I didn’t realize it was part of what appears to have been a tradition of thought that probably was indicative of experience. It surely would relate to the legal tradition of deodand, a topic I’ve written about before.

    • My life these days is much more stable and mundane. My depression is in check. Suicidal ideation is no longer an ever present thought at the back of my mind. I haven’t done any street drugs in many many years, nor have I done any psychiatric drugs in a long while. And I try to stay away from most things that are ‘artificial’, although difficult in a society such as this.

  2. You mention ancient Rome and its multiculturalism. One of the most mind blowing facts in human history is that this metropolis had a population of one million people two thousand years ago. It dwarfed any other city or city state and would for one thousand years. You allude to how multiethnic and multilingualism may have contributed to its immense power. Other cultures that did not subscribe to its domestic and foreign economic and military practices must have been quite fearful of such a place. Not to mention their pantheon of gods and goddesses and their belief in these all too humanistic myths and legends. Surely, Rome would have been a site to see for all the ages, and it still exists in one way, shape or form. Modern parallels can be drawn in most cosmopolitan metropolises especially New York, London and Paris with their relatively peaceful multiethnic blending of cultures and languages.

    To expand on this topic would require almost a dissertation as it eclipses the scope of the bilingual mind in reference to bicameralism. Also interesting to me are the smaller ancient city states of Athens and Spartan etc where democracy was able to take root without being crushed by their own weight of human capital and complex geopolitical enterprise.

    • You make a good point about how what once was rare has become widespread. Diverse metropolises aren’t particularly uncommon these days. But still, there was something unique about a place like Rome. You aren’t going to find hundreds of shrines to dozens of religions on a single street in a modern city.

      All those millennia ago, numerous tribes, villages, city-states, and regions had their own separate gods and cultures along with often separate languages. The immense diversity that once existed has been almost entirely wiped from existence and memory. A fraction of that diversity remains. Even the smaller populations in the ancient world would have been far different. They incorporated their own forms of diversity. The Greeks were more like the Celts, not actually a single ethnicity but a broad alliance of separate peoples. Many of what we think as ancient Greek thinkers and writers weren’t ethnically Greek. Or consider the Irish who, although originally Basque, became part of the Celt trading culture.

      That is how many early empires formed, a slow accruing of networked diversity. There was always some amount of commonality. In the Roman Empire, there was still the state religion. But within or beyond that commonality, there was a kind of diversity that is hard for us to imagine now. Even dialects of the same language from one town to the next could be so different as to sound like separate languages. That was true even into the 1800s. During the French Revolution, most French were incomprehensible to each other. And when the modern Italian nation-state was formed, most ‘Italians’ didn’t speak Italian.

      The enforcement of standardized monolingual nationalism is a rather recent invention. This goes along with national identities. Up to the world war era, most Europeans still identified themselves in terms of cities, provinces and regions — not nation-states. This goes with the rise of a medical condition called ‘nostalgia’ during the 1800s, although the idea of being homeless first became a more common concept during the Axial Age when it was incorporated into the new religions such as Christianity, that we humans aren’t at home in this world.

      Bicameral humans, similar to tribal hunter-gatherers, probably would have felt perfectly at home in their respective cultural and geographical worlds. Even the afterlife for the bicameral mind, according to Jaynes’ theory, wasn’t really separate from this world since the dead had a way of still speaking.

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