Author: StJohn Piano
Published: 2020-09-12
Datafeed Article 174
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1585 words - 330 lines - 9 pages

I found a piece of evidence that indicates that Julian Jaynes was on the right track.

This excerpt is from the 1973 Encyclopedia Britannica's article on Socrates:

The evidence that Socrates had a markedly "mystical" temperament is abundant. Plato tells of his curious "rapts", in one of which he stood spellbound for 24 hours in the trenches before Potidaea, and there seems to be an allusion to this singularity in The Clouds (171, seq.).

The accounts of the philosopher's "Divine sign" tell the same story. This, according to Plato, was a "voice" often heard by Socrates from childhood. It forbade him to do things, but never gave positive encouragement. (Xenophon, who makes more of the matter, says, less probably, that it did give positive directions.) Plato treats the "voice" very lightly; by his account, it merely gave prognostications of good or ill luck, and the occasions of its occurrence were often "very trivial". Thus it was neither an "intuitive conscience" nor a symptom of mental disorder, but an "interior audition", a "psychic phenomenon" of a kind not specially uncommon.

I am quite struck by the implication that hearing a guiding voice was not particularly unusual. The other points in the excerpt were also in the linked article about Julian Jaynes, but not this one.

An interesting comparison point: Jung's view of dreams and the unconscious mind.

- Source: Modern Man in Search of a Soul
- Author: C G Jung
- Page: 11

The view that dreams are merely imaginary fulfilments of suppressed wishes has long ago been superseded. It is certainly true that there are dreams which embody suppressed wishes and fears, but what is there which the dream cannot on occasion embody? Dreams may give expression to ineluctable truths, to philosophical pronouncements, illusions, wild fantasies, memories, plans, anticipations, irrational experiences, even telepathic visions, and heaven knows what besides. One thing we ought never to forget: almost the half of our lives is passed in a more or less unconscious state. The dream is specifically the utterance of the unconscious. We may call consciousness the daylight realm of the human psyche, and contrast it with the nocturnal realm of unconscious psychic activity which we apprehend as dreamlike fantasy. It is certain that consciousness consists not only of wishes and fears, but of vastly more than these, and it is highly probable that the unconscious psyche contains a wealth of contents and living forms equal to or even greater than does consciousness, which is characterized by concentration, limitation and exclusion.

Key sentence: "The dream is specifically the utterance of the unconscious."

I think that the distinction between "dreams" and "conscious thought" was less sharp in the past. One can view the history of civilisation as the gradual emergence of the conscious mind, originally feeble and uncertain, struggling hazily against the dream-like nature of reality and the dream-like nature of the unconscious mind from which it emerged, but generally becoming a little stronger over time.

So: I find it entirely plausible that:
1) Socrates was a great thinker and philosopher in his conscious / waking life.
2) He also occasionally heard a divine voice that guided him. We experience something similar when we have a powerful dream that we can't ignore (although of course this is less immediate and arresting than an audible voice).

Don't forget: The unconscious mind of someone who truly believes in gods or God as the Ultimate Power is going to express itself as a divine voice or vision (while awake or while in a dream). The ways in which the unconscious mind of someone who believes in a different Ultimate Power (e.g. democracy, materialism, science, the laws of physics) expresses itself.... well, just find a believer in one of those Powers and get them to describe their dreams and nightmares. Or ask them what type of movies they like. [0]

cf. The importance of dreams in the Old Testament.

cf. The importance of visions, dreams, and The Voice Of God in many religions.

cf. The Australian Aboriginal idea of The Dreamtime.

cf. Excerpt from J A Froude's The Book of Job

cf. Drug trips: Certain hallucinogenic drugs can disrupt the functioning of the conscious mind and produce a "waking dream", with all the terrors and marvels that the word "dream" implies.

cf. This excerpt:

Source: Excerpts from a Q&A with Jordan Peterson

Jung's idea was that rationality is embedded in a dream. There's the infinite unknowable, and then there's the dream, and then inside the dream is the rational domain.

Let's go a little further.

If we view humans as the substrate on which a civilisational "culture-organism" runs, then we can see that "civilisation" is a pattern that is not passed down completely biologically. It is partially (mainly?) passed down via "culture", i.e. the training and discipline of the next generation into a set of:
- emotional touchstones ("sacred truths")
- behaviours
- ways of thinking

When a civilisational culture-organism begins to die, this transmission is broken / damaged. New generations cease to be rational and revert back down to the built-in biology, i.e. primitive behaviours. From this, it is not too difficult to picture the "lived reality" of the Fall of Rome and the disintegration of the Mayan cities. They were destroyed by their own barbarian children.

Full consciousness / rationality is not inherited by default, just by being biologically human. It is a trained / developed / cultured response. It exists only within a "mental garden", which is developed and protected by a culture, as opposed to the human animal's "mental state of nature", which is like a jungle i.e. resilient, very much alive, but chaotic and disorganised.

More relevant links:

A brief overview of psychoanalytic theory by Jordan Peterson
^ The psychoanalytic view of the structure of the human mind.

Excerpts from Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
^ Various ideas about culture, religion, history, and the human mind.

Excerpts from The Conan Chronicles by Robert E Howard
^ Stories that worship the vitality of the primitive barbarian mind.

The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats
^ I think that one of the themes of this poem is the disintegration of European Christian culture and its replacement by older (more basic, more vicious) cultural systems.

Excerpts from Human Behavioral Biology by Robert Sapolsky
^ Reality is actually, in its essence, very dream-like. Boundaries exist in the rational human mind, not in reality. Reality is happy to bend and twist in all sorts of ways that humans consider to be irrational (consider quantum mechanics). Human cultures impose a mental order, i.e. categories, on reality, but these never quite fit properly, and there are always edge cases at the boundaries of those categories. So: It's not an accident that the unconscious mind exists and "thinks" in the way that it does. It doesn't think rationally, with sharp categories and deductive logic, because the baseline nature of existence doesn't work that way. Alchemy exists first, then chemistry develops from alchemy, not the other way around.

The Palace by Rudyard Kipling
^ I think that this poem captures the experience of tracing through the viewpoint of a now-dead man (or of a now-vanished civilisation).

The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Norman Thomas Di Giovanni
^ This one could be called "a dream about the nature of knowledge in the form of a short story".

Stalky & Co. by Rudyard Kipling: An Unsavoury Interlude
^ A story set in a time when culture was effectively transmitted to the next generation via boarding schools.

Report on an Unidentified Space Station by J G Ballard
^ This story is written using scientific terminology, but it actually describes a dream-like interaction with the Divine Essence. If you consider yourself a modern / rational / scientific person, this story is probably one of the easier ways to briefly experience the viewpoint of a primitive human.

[start of footnotes]

Movies are shared consensual dreams.

From A brief overview of psychoanalytic theory by Jordan Peterson:

For Jung, the intellect, and articulated knowledge, occupied a very limited and circumscribed space. And then, outside of that area, there was the dream world, which included all of artistic production. And then, outside of that, was the unknown itself. And the way the unknown was transmitted to the conscious, articulated mind was through a lengthy process of dreamlike representation. And every time you go see a movie, or every time you read a book of fiction, or every time you have a fantasy or a dream, you're participating in the process by which what's truly unknown is transformed through the dream into articulated knowledge.

If a movie resonates effectively with an audience at the time of its release, it's a "box-office hit".

If it resonates effectively with an audience only at some later date, it's a "cult film".

If it resonates effectively with many different audiences from the time of its release all the way up to the present, it's a "timeless classic".

In order to resonate, it has to be "true" in the terms of the dreams of the audience.

So: The films someone considers to be important and worth re-watching are clues that indicate which Gods they worship.

[return to main text]

[end of footnotes]