“As the stag pants after the waterbrooks, So pants my mind after you, O gods! My mind thirsts for gods! for living gods! When shall I come face to face with gods?”
~ Psalm 42
From the perspective of egoic individualism, what Julian Jaynes simply referred to as ‘consciousness’, there is a sense of loss and longing for the archaic authorization of the voices and visions from gods, spirits, and ancestors. But there is simultaneously a fear and denial of this archaic authorization that can undermine and usurp the walled position defended as the demiurgic ego’s domain.
The takeover of Jaynesian consciousness didn’t happen naturally, easily, and quickly. It was a slow process of suppressing and eliminating the voice-hearing bicameral mind, including the regular killing and sometimes wholesale slaughter of the remaining bicameral humans. This is attested to in the Old Testament where even voice-hearing children were not to be spared by their own parents who were commanded to murder them.
“And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.”
~ Zechariah 13;3
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There is a present and practical implication to these thoughts. Literalist fundies like to claim they follow all of the Bible without any personal interpretation or cultural bias, treating it as the actual voice of God whose meaning and intention are simply known to the Elect of God’s People. But that is obviously bull shit. Our grandfather, a minister, stated that anyone could find a Biblical verse to support anything they wanted to believe. Such self-serving delusion does not make one a good Christian.
The stories, histories, traditions, teachings, moralities, commandments, laws, etc accumulated from dozens of separate cultures and populations before finally being written down in the Tanakh during the Axial Age. There is no consistent and coherent theology that can be found, as the monotheist authoritarian priestly class that wrote it down was drawing upon the prior paganism, polytheism, and henotheism; the traces of which remain in the texts they recorded and rewrote, edited and interpolated.
One would literally be insane, dangerous, and criminal if attempting to apply everything in the Bible to modern life and society. The Tanakh is a holy text not only to the Jews but also to Christians, Muslims, and Bahai. Could you imagine all of the monotheistic fundies all over the world suddenly doing every batshit thing the Old Testament commanded, even killing their own children when they claimed to hear voices, even the voice of God?
Then there is the additional problem that so much of what is in the New Testament contradicts and opposes what is found in the Old Testament. In fact, that is why the New Testament canon was created by Marcion, specifically to show and prove that the loving God of Jesus was not and could not be the same as the bloodthirsty, tyrannical, and demiurgic Yahweh. Jesus’ teachings and example are dramatically different from everything that came before in the Jewish tradition.
In challenging the commandment to execute wrongdoers, Jesus confronted the righteous Jews ready to stone someone to death by saying that anyone without sin could cast the first stone. Yet no where in the Old Testament does it ever state or suggest that being free of all sin is a requirement for punishing other sinners. For Jesus to say that was a complete defiance and overturning of Jewish tradition, law, and practice.
Indeed, that was the whole point. Jesus stated in no uncertain terms that he came to fulfill the law, that is to say the old laws no longer applied — not abolished but simply irrelevant and moot, no longer applicable. He brought a new revelation, not anti-authoritarian revolt that reacts against the old but non-authoritarian love that manifests the radically new. Love was all that one needed to understand, as it always had been the one and only truth, so claimed Jesus.
Based on everything we know from the Gospels, Jesus would’ve condemned any parent who murdered or attempted to murder their child for hearing voices. When he was brought to a man possessed by demons, he didn’t declare the man must be punished, banished, or killed. No, instead, he healed the man of what was possessing him. Anyone who believes that they should fully and literally follow the Old Testament, even to the point of murdering children, whatever they might be they for certain are not a Christian or at least not a follower of Jesus.
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As supposedly described by the Hebrew prophet Zechariah and, below that, as explained by Julian Jaynes:
King James Bible
1 In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.
2 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.
3 And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.
4 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:
5 But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.
6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
7 Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.
8 And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.
9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God.
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
by Julian Jaynes
A further vestige from the bicameral era is the word ob, often translated as a “familiar spirit.” “A man also or woman that have an ob . . . shall surely be put to death,” says Leviticus (20:27). And similarly Saul drives out from Israel all those that had an ob (I Samuel 28:3). Even though an ob is something that one consults with (Deuteronomy, 18:11), it probably had no physical embodiment. It is always bracketed with wizards or witches, and thus probably refers to some bicameral voice that was not recognized by the Old Testament writers as religious. This word has so puzzled translators that when they found it in Job 32:19, they translated it absurdly as “bottle,” when clearly the context is that of the young frustrated Elihu, who feels as if he had a bicameral voice about to burst forth into impatient speech like an overfull wineskin.
The Last of the Nabiim
We began this chapter with a consideration of the refugee situation in the Near East around the latter part of the second millennium B.C., and of the roving tribes uprooted from their lands by various catastrophes, some of them certainly bicameral and unable to move toward subjective consciousness. Probably in the editing of the historical books of the Old Testament, and the fitting of it together into one story in the sixth or fifth century B.C., a great deal has been suppressed. And among such items of information that we would like is a clear account of what happened to these last communities of bicameral men. Here and there through the Old Testament, they appear like sudden glimpses of a strange other world during these periods which historians have paid too little attention to.
Groups of bicameral men certainly persisted until the downfall of the Judean monarchy, but whether in association with other tribes or with any organization to their hallucinated voices in the form of gods, we don’t know. They are often referred to as the “sons of nabiim,” indicating that there was probably a strong genetic basis for this type of remaining bicamerality. It is, I think, the same genetic basis that remains with us as part of the etiology of schizophrenia.
Edgy kings consulted them. Ahab, king of Israel in 835 B.C., rounded up 400 of them like cattle to listen to their hue and clamor (I Kings 22:6). Later, in all his robes, he and the king of Judah sit on thrones just outside the gates of Samaria, and have hundreds of these poor bicameral men herded up to them, raving and copying each other even as schizophrenics in a back ward (I Kings 22:10).
What happened to them? From time to time, they were hunted down and exterminated like unwanted animals. Such a massacre in the ninth century B.C. seems to be referred to in I Kings 18:4, where out of some unknown, much larger number, Obadiah took a hundred nabiim and hid them in caves, and brought them bread and water until the massacre was over. Another such massacre is organized by Elijah a few years later (I Kings 18:40).
We hear no more of these bicameral groups thereafter. What remained for a few centuries more are the individual nabiim, men whose voices do not need the group support of other hallucinating men, men who can be partly subjective and yet still hear the bicameral voice. These are the famous nabiim whose bicameral messages we have already selectively touched upon: Amos, the gatherer of sycamore fruit, Jeremiah, staggering under his yoke from village to village, Ezekiel with his visions of lofty thrones on wheels moving through the clouds, the several nabiim whose religious agonies are ascribed to Isaiah. These of course merely represent the handful of that much larger number whose bicameral voices seemed to be most consistent with Deuteronomy. And then the voices are as a rule no longer actually heard.
In their place is the considered subjective thought of moral teachers. Men still dreamed visions and heard dark speech per-haps. But Ecclesiastes and Ezra seek wisdom, not a god. They study the law. They do not roam out into the wilderness “inquiring of Yahweh.” By 400 B.C., bicameral prophecy is dead. “The nabiim shall be ashamed everyone of his visions.” If parents catch their children naba-ing or in dialogue with bicameral voices, they are to kill them on the spot (Zechariah 13, 3-4).That is a severe injunction. If it was carried out, it is an evolutionary selection which helped move the gene pool of humanity toward subjectivity.