JULIAN JAYNES PART ONE

SOME THINGS JAYNES MISSED

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One of Julian Jaynes’ pivotal insights in developing his theory of consciousness came from his study of preliterate poetry. The frequent occurrence of situations where the characters heard the Gods speaking to them as to how to proceed suggested to Jaynes that these poems might actually be reporting how pre-literate people experienced the world. It also led him to suggest that the mysterious Ka of Egyptian theology was none other than those same voices.

Prior to that time, most scholars took those voices to be metaphoric, or stylized ways of reporting insights, but Jaynes took them literally and for that we have to thank him.

The second insight Jaynes had came from his own personal experience with poetry, both as a writer and reader, where he quite correctly saw that the ecstatic mental and emotional state experienced by today’s poets during the advent of a poem was linked to what pre-literate people experienced when hearing bi-cameral voices.

Jayne’s lack of experience with spontaneous oral composition of poetry, however, led him to several inaccurate conclusions about the nature of preliterate poetry and the nature of the Muse’s voice, which is a quite different internal voice ( in its characteristics) from the guiding voices pre-literate peoples experienced and some 2% of us still hear in times of stress and high creativity.

My own experience with both kinds of voices leads me to believe that the Muse’s voice came out of a later evolutionary development that resulted from early humans imitating their right-brained guiding voices.

Jayne’s errors stemmed largely from the fact he was only acquainted with the written composition of a poem, which is quite different from spontaneous oral composition, the latter being a largely unconscious act, closer to dreaming while awake than conscious writing.

In addition, most of the scholarship on oral, preliterate composition that Jaynes relied on is inaccurate for the same reason: lack of actual experience. It is impossible to experience spontaneous oral composition from the fully conscious mindset of a scholar or scientist.

True oral composition It requires surrendering completely to the artistic unconscious, or more accurately, (in Jungian terms) to the Poetry “archetype” . My experience in doing so has led me to believe that the mindset I enter when spontaneously creating an oral poem is is not only very close what was experienced by preliterate poets, but also, very close to the mindset of preliterate humans when the heard bicameral voices.

Finally, I have pursued Jaynes’ insight into the nature of the Ka a bit further than he did. Based on my own experiences, I have come to believe that the Egyptians desire to keep the Ka alive was the seed that gave birth to their elaborate and totally consuming mummification practices.

OVERVIEW

Most of the criticism and explication of Jaynes work is from scientists from various disciplines but very little of it from poets, which I find appalling, since many of Jayne’s initial insights came from his acute observations on the nature of pre-literate poetry, in particular Homer’s great epics.

We should remember that Jaynes clearly loved poetry. More importantly, he knew it as much from the inside, that is emotionally, as he did from the outside. If you don’t see poetry that way, the way Jaynes saw it, you’re going to miss much of what Jaynes was about. I can understand that blind eye in scientists, but we shouldn’t see it in poets. Yet we do.

While poets almost to a man considered Jaynes’ revolutionary insights a confirmation of their own intuitive sense of the essential nature of poetry (the gods speak through us) they haven’t gone much further.

This silence stems partially from the fact that so little is really known about preliterate composition, by both poets and scholars. All that poets and scholars really know is the act of writing poetry, but speaking poetry, the spontaneous creation of poetry without any premeditation at all, is an entirely different animal.

I am one of the few poets today who can create poetry in much the same manner as pre-literate poetry was created. I can speak poetry.  Because of that, I am particularly well situated to shed additional light on why preliterate poetry was such a powerful indicator for Jaynes that preliterate man had a much different consciousness.

With all that said, I must add that Jaynes really didn’t know pre-literate poetry at the level he should have. That is understandable since most of the scholarship on it is woefully wrong. All he really knew was his own experience with literate, written poetry, which he used to intuit the nature of preliterate oral poetry.

That intuition was close enough to allow him to come close to grabbing the golden ring, but he missed by wide enough a margin to need some correction. Hopefully, this poet’s experience will supply that correction.

I want to make it abundantly clear that by the term oral poetry I am not talking about mentally composing and memorizing a poem and then speaking it out, or writing a poem and memorizing it and then speaking it out, but creating one out of nothing, with no premeditation of any kind.

Sing Muse and through me tell the story…” as Jaynes makes clear, describes exactly what Homer was doing: spontaneously creating poetry without any premeditation at all. It is what I do, and for that matter anyone can do with the proper preparation. I have hundreds of recordings that back up this claim.

My first encounter with Jaynes’ work took place in the late eighties, when I became curious about the possibility of creating poetry in the manner of the pre-iterate poets. Where that curiosity eventually took me is the subject of a recent biographical novel Alice Hickey: Between Worlds, but suffice it to say that it led me through a series of psychic experiences, not the least of which was the spontaneous oral creation of a long, mythic poem, whose meaning was a complete mystery to me. 

Although the existence of psychic phenomena is not generally accepted by scientists after the time of Newton and his peers, I can categorically state that none of the world’s great poetry would have been created without it. No Shakespeare, no Homer, no Emily Dickenson. None. Rein. Nada. Zilch.

 I consider all true poetry to be the result of a primal psychic act. I am not talking about the “poetry” of Dr. Zeuss, or Shel Siverstein or the overly conscious poetry of our academic journals, or the hundreds of bawdy limericks that float about boy’s locker rooms.

The poetry I am talking about is nothing less than the unbidden, ecstatic emergence of the unconscious into consciousness in the form of a rhythmic, metaphorical story.  It is the poetry that Robert Graves in The White Goddess says “..raises the hair on your neck.”

One last thing: the difference between writing a poem (which is a largely conscious process) and speaking poetry, lies in the fact that speaking poetry can only take place if the poet turns off his thinking , conscious mind (“Sing Muse and through me tell the story…”) and has the courage to remain on the hazy golden thread between consciousness and unconsciousness as the speaking unfolds itself .

 In my experience, it is a much more powerful physical and psychic experience than is encountered in writing poetry. I also believe it to be   very close to the mind state Jaynes’ posits as belonging to preliterate man.

 

 What I have to say about Jaynes in this knol , JULIAN JAYNES PART ONE, I have taken from my on-line journal and Alice Hickey .This knol is primarily concerned  with clarifying some of Jaynes theories about the Ka and the nature of  Muse’s voice. The accompanying knol, JULIAN JAYNES PART TWO, which was taken from an earlier non-fiction book, SOULSPEAK the Outward Journey of the Soul.  is primarily concerned with correcting some of Jaynes’ misconceptions about the nature of ancient oral poetry as well as providing some accurate information about how ancient oral epic poetry was actually created and how the great themes were continually recreated by each generation of poets.

NOTES:

SOULSPEAK” is a term often encountered in these excerpts. It is the name I eventually gave to the contemporary version of ancient, oral poetry I created with  poet Scylla Liscombe. I also created the term “speaking“   in order to distinguish the act of spontaneously speaking poetry  from the act of writing poetry.

“The Witnesses Log myth” I often refer to is the long mythic poem that wound its way out of my unconscious in December 2000 and eventually supplied me with many of my clarifications of  Jaynes’  thinking ..

The term “witness” is used extensively in these excerpts. Its  strict meaning within the context of these excerpts is “to observe and report” , or in simpler terms. to create a story.  In addition, if you so wish, you can equate soul to unconscious in reading these excerpts. Jung did so in much of his thinking, so  if soul bothers you, follow his lead.

 After wading through many of the academic papers on Jaynes, I decided not to reduce my excellent prose  to “paperspeak.” Instead I thought it might be enlightening for the scientifically minded to get a taste of how artist’s think.. Jaynes obviously appreciated it or he wouldn’t have been a poetry fan.


EXCERPTS FROM ON-LINE APPENDIX ( JOURNAL) AND THE NOVEL ALICE HICKEY  

 

FROM MY JOURNAL:  THE ON-LINE APPENDIX TO ALICE HICKEY 

Excerpt 2. Preliterate Consciousness And Poetry

The long myth [Witnesses Log ] that came to me seems to concern itself with only one thing: the nature of primal human consciousness—the consciousness that occurred when we changed from animal to man.  

The rough Biblical counterpart to this would be the first book of Genesis, when God creates man and has him name the animals. We sometimes ignore the import of that naming act. By having Adam name the animals, God acknowledges that man is God’s witness to creation. That is, early Genesis implies what this myth states directly: the nature of early consciousness was to witness. We might imagine Adam calling out: elephant, lion, snake, etc, but that is because we are out of touch with the nature of that witnessing. We only have to look at preliterate cultures, to see that the names of animals, and men as well, were little stories. In other words, to witness was to imitate. Thus “snake” might be: the one who swims on land; “elephant”: mountain that walks and sounds like thunder.  

Compare this if you will with, say, Darwin’s rational, categorizing description of each animal and I think you’ll see more clearly the difference between our current explaining consciousness and our early, imitative, artistic consciousness. Poetry held a special place in the life of preliterate man. It was the way in which the Gods spoke not only to him but also through him, and in doing so allowed him to create his own little worlds in imitation of the Gods’ larger world. When Homer says, “Sing Muse and through me tell the story of that man skilled in all ways of contending…” he is acknowledging the role of the Gods in creating his epic songs. Homer is acknowledging that he is merely responding, singing out, the story the Gods are singing through him.  

True poems are essentially felt messages, i.e., non-verbal emotional messages, from some unknowable, uncontrollable source. Whether that unknowable source is within us or outside us is not really important for the purposes of this commentary. What we can agree on is that those moments are transcendent events. When they occur, something deep within us reflexively transforms those felt messages into rhythmic stories, and sometimes, even today, those events are so powerful we actually do have a sense of hearing them. Preliterate man had the same experience, but it must have been overwhelming if Julian Jaynes is correct about that early consciousness..  

We must also remember that for preliterate man, poems were not written out in silence, but spoken out spontaneously and , in the very early stages, communally. He not only knew that his poems were different from his everyday stories but I will go one step further and say that preliterate man instinctively understood that poetry was prayer was prophecy.  

By that I mean preliterate poetry was not only the instinctive language for prayer but also for prophecy.  

Let me make an extremely delicate self-correction here, and say that the word “language” is perhaps misleading. It is putting the cart before the horse, especially if we are to understand this myth correctly. The horse that drives poetry is not “language”. Our common gossip stories also use “language”. “Language” cannot account for the truth of my proposition that, for preliterate man, poetry was prayer was prophecy. Because what drives poetry is not “language” but an emotional attitude, a surrendering to a specific intelligence within the soul, a surrendering that allows us to use language in a special way. That specific surrendering is the horse that drives poetry and prophecy and prayer. The cart is the finished, assembled language. I might also add, and this is important to understanding this myth, the “language” of poetry can take many forms, not just the solitary, written form we have today, a form that is a relatively late arrival as compared to oral poetry, which I believe has unique psychic characteristics and which existed for tens if not hundreds of thousands of years before the invention of writing some 4000 years ago.

Now that we have a tentative understanding of the fact that poetry, for preliterate man, was the way the Gods spoke to him, and through him to other men, let me add, as a corollary, that it also was the way he spoke back to the Gods, the way he responded to the Gods. That is to say, the praise act, the act of poetry constituted a complete, instinctive cycle: the Gods speak to man, man responds by speaking to the Gods (and to men). After all, oral poetry was a communal event: both men and the Gods were present. 
 

Excerpt 7. The Power Of Oral, Antiphonal Preliterate Poetry

Years of creating oral, antiphonal poems, or speakings as I call them, has convinced me that it  is a more powerful spiritual and emotional experience than creating the written poetry we are familiar with today. Quite simply, it is beyond the poetry we know today. Not only that, it has convinced me that the communal state is the most natural state for creating poetry, and not the isolated state in which we now create our written poetry. When we learned how to write, we began to move away from poetry’s most natural, most powerful, compositional state. And we have suffered because of it. In our distant past, we created a poetry that was like a butterfly in flight in all its dynamic, illusive beauty. Unfortunately, what we are creating today is a poetry that more closely resembles the desiccated, dry-mounted butterflies we see in the homes of collectors. 
 

Excerpt 19. Conscious And Unconscious

All of our conscious thoughts and words and pictures mean nothing to the unconscious. Only the feelings those words and pictures produce in us. Feelings are the lingua franca between our conscious and unconscious minds. In our everyday life, the unconscious is constantly speaking to us as through feelings. Those feelings can be powerful, or precise, or weak and everything in between. But they are always visiting us. It could be as a feeling to be fair. Or to kill. Or to love. Or all three at once. Our unconscious feelings rise and fall in their ability to direct our conscious decisions. Yet we are always under their influence.  

My own sense of the relationship of the conscious to the unconscious mind is of the surface of a lake to all that is below it. All we see is the glittery, ever-changing surface, but those surfaces are always being influenced by something more powerful beneath the surface. Something we never see.  

When we have a transcendent experience, what is really happening is that we are witnessing some part of the unknowable that we, in turn, make into something (a poem, a vision, a prophecy) that mirrors the feeling of that transcendent experience.

………

The important thing to realize is that the lingua franca between the two realms is feeling, not the story or vision or whatever. The story or vision is merely the trace in the atomic cloud chamber.  

That is the way the universe wants to flow: from the world of feeling to the world of time to the world of feeling. The Gods speak and we respond. But that is no longer important to us. We are no longer interested in following the way of the soul, of participating in its dance. We want our freedom. But we have paid a large price for it.  

We may succeed in escaping direct contact with the soul, but it never stops knocking on our door. The soul feeds us every moment of our waking lives through feelings that press against the wall of consciousness like silent whispers. When we meet the soul half way and honor it by surrendering to it and responding, thereby completing the cycle of feeling, a harmony is established between self and soul. That is why we should be doing it: it roots us in our deepest humanity.

Excerpt 27. Poetry As An Archetype

I should say something about Poetry being an archetype, as it may be confusing to some. The term archetype is Jungian terminology for a psychic form of energy residing in the collective unconscious that informs all our knowing, indeed makes knowing possible. It is how we know a table is a table or if something is beautiful. Like Plato’s Ideal Forms, of which it is a modern psychological counterpart, archetypes can never be approached directly; we can only detect their existence from their effects upon our conscious lives. And one of those effects is the miracle called Poetry.  

Poetry is normally thought of as a form of literature, a thing, and indeed it is, but what we are looking at there is a result of Poetry, not the cause. The cause is a more complex question, but we know this: a true poem can never be formed by the conscious mind alone. Bad poems can, but not true poems. The unconscious mind must be involved for a true poem to occur, and not only the personal unconscious, but the collective as well, because that is where the form or archetype called Poetry resides. That is how we know how to create a true poem, as well as know if something is, or is not, a true poem.  

I have come to believe that true poems occur whenever we are able to open ourselves to the archetype of Poetry. How that actually happens is a mysterious business. For sure it can’t be consciously commanded. But I do know one thing: the art of speaking is such a primal, true poetry that once we detect it is on the way, all we have to do is surrender to the archetype and everything will take care of itself. 
 

Excerpt 42. A Deeper Look at Poetry as a Psychic Event

The myth also intimates something we hold as being historically true, namely, we have never treated our stories as being of equal importance. As the saying goes, there are stories and then there are stories. That is because we have always recognized some of our stories as being special, as having a superior authority. Down through the ages, we have called those special stories poems. Some of those early poems became the myths that ultimately guided the formation of Western civilization. Over time, however, some of those mythic poems lost their original poetic form. The Old Testament is an example of this. Some, however, like Homer’s great epics, maintained themselves as poems although in somewhat desiccated state.  

What distinguishes those special stories we call poetry from our ordinary stories, the ones we call history, or gossip, has always been a matter of debate. There is perhaps no way to satisfactorily separate them. For right now, however, I would separate them this way: poems are stories rooted primarily in the unconscious, the unknowable—while our ordinary stories are rooted primarily in the conscious mind, the knowable world.  

…..we only have to go back to the theoretical first story to see that it was by its very nature a poem, a story rooted in the unconscious.  

I say this because at that theoretical point in time we had no conscious words, no examples of stories, only the desire to create something entirely new—a story. And it didn’t have to be a long story. It could have consisted of only a few sounds and gestures—or an act of mimicry saying the same thing. That jump from desire to story is the mystery of mysteries. It was every bit the equivalent of the Big Bang. Physicists assure us they will eventually be able to describe what took place after the first few milliseconds of the Big Bang, but as to what took place from time zero to those first few milliseconds—from nothing (which is unthinkable) to something (the first miniscule particle—we will never know. Never.  

The same holds with the first story. That is why, to my mind, the first story was every bit a poem. It was a true psychic event, one rooted completely in the unconscious, the unknowable. I will even go so far as to say that first story was the real Big Bang. It shook heaven to its roots. You might say that God was never the same. That tremendous event was most likely repeated over and over, so that for a very long time the stories of the very first humans were poems in every sense of the word. You might say it was a Big Bang that kept repeating itself, which I suspect was the way the other Big Bang really occurred.

These first stories/poems were most likely created completely without words—only sounds and gestures. In time, however, as our consciousness became more stable, thereby allowing the first tendrils of language and story-telling memory to become a part of it, witnessing became a more conscious activity as well. Yet my sense of it is that even after that, and for a very long time, the range and depth of emotions brewing in early humans far out-stripped their linguistic abilities. So that even in the everyday witnessing of events, early humans were often unable to actually say in words what was happening to them. How they coped, of course, was through employing instinctive sounds and mime and mimicry. You can see that even today among tribal people.  

This also indicates why early tribal poetry consisted of music and mime and movement and mask as well as words. If you had very few words, which was the condition of early man, you could still speak to the Gods through movement and mime and rhythmic music. What was impossible to stop was the desire to witness—to create stories out of our feelings.  

Today, we have plenty of words, yet a similar type of struggle exists whenever we create a poem. Sometimes I like to say that a poem says with words what can’t be said with words. What I mean by that is that there is something about the rhythm and structure and music of the words issuing from the unconscious that transforms them into poetry—that allows the words to go beyond their literal meanings and touch us on an unconscious level.  

….. One thing we can definitely say about the stories we call poetry, however, is that from the outset human beings recognized them as having a special authority. In other words, they represented a special kind of knowing we saw as superior to that carried by our ordinary stories. We paid attention to them for millenia.

 

Those of us who have a divided or dual consciousness, who for some reason have continued to have easy access to that older form, still value that kind of knowing, even if our peers see it as useless. We recognize it as making us more complete—similarly, we see its absence making us less complete. I’m not talking here about an intellectual commitment to the idea that poetry—an older form of knowing—is the way to a more complete life. That won’t get anyone anywhere, because it will be just one more idea, and we have enough of those already.  

Nor am I talking about observing the poetry of others, whether it be written or spoken or sung or mimed. At best, that is a secondhand experience, and while it can be powerful at times, it pales by comparison to what happens within us when we create poems ourselves.  

Observing the poetry of others does have one benefit however. If it’s a true poem, it can arouse our interest, because reading a poem or hearing a poem can touch something deep within us, something almost visceral—a kind of hunger. We may even feel a slight tinge of fear. That is because our modern consciousness fears it will lose control. It senses an interest it can’t control—the interest of our older consciousness.  

That is why the creation of some form of poetry, some form of metaphoric narrative driven by the unconscious, is so important to developing and maintaining contact with that older form of consciousness.  

In this light, a primal form of poetry like speaking can be extremely useful, as it happens quite naturally, like gossip. Unlike gossip, however, speaking requires a complete surrender of conscious control. Surrendering is not a parlor game you can put down when you want, and return to your old ways. You can treat it like that, but you’ll be wasting your time. You’ll go nowhere, because when you allow yourself to access that older consciousness, to enter its mysteries, it also means you’ll have to eventually allow whatever gathering wants to occur to have its head—because that is the only way this kind of knowing can flourish.  

It cannot grow if we remain rooted solely in this world, the conscious, physical world of time and space. This older kind of knowing exists only at the border between this world and the psychic world, or to be more precise, at those particular border crossings where visions and prophecies and poetry occur, or to be even more precise, those border crossings where the unruly, mysterious inhabitants of both worlds have learned to cooperate. After all, that is what a gathering is. There is no need, however, to worry about how the gathering will form, or when. That will take care of itself. All you have to do is follow your instincts, or as Alice Hickey was fond of saying, lean with your unfolding fate.


Excerpt 44. The Nature of Knowledge

We have few doubts today about the world and our place in it. Our modern view of the world, unlike earlier, non-scientific ones, is backed up by factual, bone-hard truths. Or so we would like to think. Those bone-hard truths, unfortunately, are really nothing more than stories we have collectively deemed to be true. And although those stories can change in the blink of an eye (just ask Ptolemy) we have always preferred to ignore we’re standing on quicksand. For good reason: those stories, be they Genesis, or E=MC2, are the bedrock foundation upon which we always have built the houses we call us.  

Most of our truths are given to us through teachers, parents, friends, clergy, books, television, movies, and a variety of other sources. We accept them without blinking. New truths are added from time to time, and those that fail to hold up are quietly let out to pasture. Some truths, however, we make up ourselves, without any help, or so we would like to think. And some we forget.  

Yet all those truths are no more than stories: stories about who we are, how we came to be, why we are as tall as we are, the nature of black holes, the speed of light, the ages of civilizations, the distance to the moon, the size of the atomic elements table, our ancestors’ beliefs, the nature of our emotions, what orgasms mean, why we hate, why we love. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. I’m not trying to make light of this kind of conscious knowing, after all, it is the very lifeblood of the knowing that has driven our western culture for the past 4000 years.

 

It is a kind of knowing, however, based almost solely on reason and our observations of the physical world. The psychic world, the world of the soul, the world of Jung’s collective unconscious, has been all but dismissed as a source of knowing. No one really planned it that way, or maybe they did, but it seems more the natural outcome of the fact that, for the past 4000 years or so, our culture has been driven by a world-view that has increasingly valued the conscious mind over the unconscious mind, reason over intuition, science over art, the self over the soul.

 

By dismissing the soul, however, we have denied ourselves the opportunity of incorporating this completely different way of knowing, because the soul is that mysterious part of us that straddles both worlds. And let me take all the mystery out of what I mean by soul by simply saying it is not only the essential us, what the Greeks called character, the part of us that is unique to us and that guides us (“Character is fate.”) through all of our waking and dreaming hours, but it is also that part of us that speaks to us through intimations, dreams, poems, visions, voices, prophecies.  

It can speak to us in these ways because the soul lives in both worlds: the conscious and unconscious worlds, the physical and psychic, heaven and earth. It can take us places where the conscious, reasoning mind simply falls to pieces. We have enough evidence of this that we shouldn’t even have to argue about it. But that hasn’t stopped us from believing, as a culture, that the psychic world is unreal, a hallucination not worth talking about.  

Our popular culture may like to picture Jesus and Buddha and Newton and Einstein as the sole discoverers of Great Truths, but each of them also stood on the shoulders of others as far back as they could see. What no one is really talking about, however, is that each of those others was also standing on the invisible shoulders of those from the Other World, the unconscious, who had come to visit for their own unknowable reasons.  

Only the densest among us would keep insisting Jesus and Buddha didn’t have psychic visitations. But Einstein and Newton, to our way of thinking, are a different matter: they are examples to us of the glory of our modern consciousness, a rational, self-reflective consciousness that refuses to believe in the existence of a non-physical world. Yet both Einstein and Newton would be the first to acknowledge the role of intuition in their discoveries. And I don’t think either of them would shy away from saying they were visited. Nor should we.


Excerpt  45. Jung, Jaynes and the Ka

If Jung had been aware of Jaynes’ insights into pre-literate voices and the Egyptian Ka, he would probably have agreed that Jayne’s voices were indeed very close to the commanding voices schizophrenics hear, although he would undoubtedly emphasize that those voices are destructive, while Jaynes’ voices clearly weren’t. Or at least the bulk of them weren’t, or they wouldn’t have been as revered as they were.

I believe Jung would also have said that Jayne’s voices have a very close counterpart in the intermittent guiding psychic voices heard by “normal” people today—by some accounts as much as 2% of the population. In most cases, Jung would see those voices as issuing from the individual unconscious, although he would also say that some percentage of them could also arise from the collective unconscious, and as such could be unpredictable as to their effect.  

So here we have some modern thinking about the Ka. Jaynes never tackles the problem of the ultimate source of these guiding voices. He is content to create a substantial body of evidence indicating that these voices originated in the now extinct language-forming capabilities of the right brain. So we are left with a mystery. If it is any comfort, we can comfort ourselves by saying it is essentially the same mystery as the source of the Muses’ voice during poetic creation. 
 

Excerpt 47. [Jaynes and ] Egyptian Thinking on The Soul and the Ka

Julian Jaynes makes some interesting observations about the Egyptian terms for the soul, of which there are five. He builds a substantial evidential case that the modern interpretation of one in particular, the Ka, as the Life Force, leads to a serious misinterpretation of Egyptian spiritual thought. Jaynes saw the Ka as being no other than the internal voices all preliterate peoples heard.  

I’ll add my own corrective two cents to Jaynes’ more incisive insight. I believe that the primal cultural/spiritual assumption of the Egyptians—that the body and soul are undifferentiated—is still being glossed over by our modern commentators. Unless we begin to accept it as the very seed that gave birth to all their spiritual thinking, our understanding of that thinking will remain distorted.  

It really doesn’t matter that the Egyptians had all these terms for the soul, including a separate, sixth one for the body. They are like the names of car parts. They are just stories. Important stories, perhaps, but they are not the seed, the main-spring that gave birth to the stories. In paying too much attention to them, we miss the point, which is the car—or if you’ll excuse the pun—the Ka.  

The Egyptians never took their eyes off the Ka. They might spend most of their waking hours chattering about the various parts, but that is the outcome of a culture with an intense curiosity about the nature of the soul. The Egyptians were clearly obsessed with it; which is why they were also obsessed with preserving the bodies of the dead.  

Our modern take on Egyptian mummification is that the bodies were preserved so that the dead could enjoy the physical “treats” of “the after life” once their souls had journeyed there. But that is somewhat off the mark, a westernization of the Egyptian afterlife. The Egyptians weren’t idiots. They knew the preserved bodies with their Canopic jars couldn’t enjoy anything. After all, the historical record shows their medicine was advanced enough to know that brain and organ damage resulted either in death or severely reduced capabilities.  

Yet they didn’t even bother to save the brains during mummification. They were scooped out onto the floor with a long hook-like pick, while the other critical organs—except for the heart—were carefully removed and placed in the jars that were to accompany the body. The heart was the one organ left in the body because they considered it the source of all feeling, intelligence and action.  

The only way we can explain this seemingly crazy contradiction is to say they threw out the brains because they knew they weren’t preparing the body to function as it did in life. They knew the body needed the brain for that. They were concerned with something else. They were concerned with preparing the body so that the soul, specifically the Ka, could continue to function.  

We know the Egyptians believed their mummified bodies would be rejuvenated in the afterlife by the power of the sun, just as Osirus and the sun rejuvenated each other when the sun descended to the underworld of night. I think we have to view that rejuvenation as being one where the body was indeed restored, but only to a state which allowed the soul to continue to function. The brains weren’t needed for that.  

The fact that this fine distinction doesn’t seem to be evident in the surviving texts shouldn’t bother us. Fine distinctions are often blurred in religious statements, especially those made for public consumption, which is what the hieroglyphic texts were. The whole issue of leaving food and comfort articles for the dead, the rejuvenation of the mummified body, the bodily pleasures of the afterlife, etc., are really nothing but stories. I don’t mean to belittle them, but they are stories in the same way that Aquinas’ and Augustine’s theologies are stories about Christianity. They are not, however, its primal seed.  

What we need to find is the ancient seed, the main-spring that gave birth to all these Egyptian stories of the soul. That seed, to my mind, is this: they came to believe at a very early stage of their spiritual development that the body and soul were inseparable—undifferentiated. When the body dies, the soul dies. When the body comes into existence, so does the soul.  

The Western mind tends to have a difficult time coming to this conclusion, as is evidenced by our much different philosophical and religious thinking about the nature of the soul. The intuitive, imitative mind, however, has no problem with it at all. My guess is that the Egyptians sensed—and who knows maybe even convinced themselves through experience—as unthinkable as that may seem to us—that if the dead body didn’t decompose into the elements of earth and air and water—that some part of the soul, specifically some part of the Ka—would remain alive.  

And if some part of it did not dissolve into the Life Force, it could speak to the deceased, it could guide him in the afterlife. This concern, needless to say, reached epic proportions in the case of the Pharoah, whose Ka was Osirus himself.  

Which brings us to the Ka; I think Julian Jaynes is right in interpreting the Ka not as the Life Force of the soul, which is how it is usually interpreted, but as the right-brained voices Jaynes says were heard by all pre-literate peoples. Those voices were always associated with the Ancestors and then, as those cultures developed spiritually, with the Gods. The Egyptian soul-texts simply make more sense with Jaynes’ interpretation of the Ka.  

Let me be as clear as I can on this. The special voices pre-literate peoples heard in their minds were psychic voices, voices they instinctively obeyed. They automatically assumed them to be the guiding voices of the Ancestors/Gods. For pre-literate peoples, life would be impossible without them, especially in critical times.  

Once we understand that the Egyptians believed keeping the body from disappearing would also keep their voices—their Ka—from disappearing, we can begin to see it was the seed that gave birth to their elaborate burial practices.  

Mummification was at the center of those practices. It was the key to keeping those guiding voices (the Ka) alive, because it would keep the body from dissolving. ….

Most psychic/spiritual thought over the millenia……doesn’t see the soul departing at the moment of modern clinical death. The soul was seen as remaining for a certain period of time. Forty days is a very common estimate, which is about the time when a decomposing body loses all its flesh and organs and enters the final stage of bone decomposition. Because this belief in the soul’s temporary existence after death was so widely held, we can easily see why the soul-obsessed Egyptians would suspect if the dissolution of the body could be stopped, its Ka would remain. Keep them close to you would have been the operative maxim.  

I think the Egyptian decision to mummify, which probably took place over a very long period of time, was not so much based on logical deductions, e.g., more body equals more Ka, but on psychic observations. It’s clear the Egyptians were trying to keep the voices of the Ka alive in every way they could, but unlike the logical Western mind, their exploration of mummification would have most likely been directed by psychic observations. It would have been the natural path for them to test its efficacy.

Such an approach may be difficult for the rational Western mind to envision, but there are many historical indications how adept they were in this area—from the Biblical stories to their own mysterious soul-texts to clear evidence of their extensive use of hallucinatory plants. After all, if you want to understand the soul—and the Egyptians were clearly a soul-obsessed culture—you have to enter the soul’s territory, which is a terra incognito in every sense of the word. The logical mind is useless. It falls to pieces. Only the most extreme, life-threatening, out-of-body shamanic practices will do.  

Don’t misunderstand me. The Egyptians could be extremely logical when it was appropriate. The pyramids are proof of that. They would have never used logical methods, however, to explore the psychic realm of the soul. They were smarter than that.  

This soul obsession can also be seen in their art. Egyptian art wasn’t concerned, as Greek art was, with the God-like attributes of man, a concern splendidly realized in the beautiful, writhing figures of the Parthenon friezes. Egyptian art was concerned with the soul. The sublime simplicity of their art—combined with the way it always imitated the frontal/sideways body outline of the Osirus/Orion constellation—the KA behind the Kas—is a powerful indication just how soul driven their art was. This imitation of the frontal/sideways body outline of the Osirus/Orion constellation reached its apex in the ground plan of the Great Pyramid complex. The latest research shows it is an exact mirror of the stars in that constellation and the heavens that surround it.  

The simple, majestic beauty of the pyramids suggests the Egyptians psychic travels took them far beyond the chaos of the Other World—with its many Gods and Demons—to that point where time and space collapse and there is only being. If we compare the Egyptian pyramids to the Cathedrals of Europe, or the temples of Greece, or the pyramids of Meso-America, or indeed any other monumental structure, the first thing we notice about the pyramids is the complete absence the Gods and Demons that simply pour out of these other structures. If the pyramids are not an expression of pure being, they are surely a suggestion that it lies beyond the chaos of the Other World.  

The fact that the Egyptian culture was so soul-driven also helps explain their obsessive need to physically align themselves (both in their art and the design of the pyramid complexes) with the heavenly constellation of Orion/Osirus, the Voice behind the voices, the KA behind the Kas. It’s clear the Egyptians were trying to keep the voices of the Ka alive in every way they could imagine. You might say their efforts to keep it alive amounted to nothing less than trying to stop the Life Force from completing its appointed rounds. When we look at Egyptian culture in this light, there is only one conclusion you can come to: the Egyptians were bold beyond all imagining. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

FROM THE NOVEL, ALICE HICKEY: Between Worlds  


Chapter 9: Speaking and the Psychic Roots of Poetry

March 2002, Sarasota 

…..I had been limping along for several years attempting to compose spontaneous oral poems, and then,

one day, a true speaking suddenly appeared on my lips and proceeded to complete itself of its own

accord. And when it did, all my ideas about the nature of poetry changed. …… 


It may be difficult for some to imagine that the act of speaking could have such power. But when

I was finally able to let go and truly speak, I knew something momentous had happened. And I

knew I would never turn back—I was finally home. Speaking poems was like charged

quicksilver. That’s how it felt at the time. I was in awe. I knew I had uncovered the mother of all

poetry.

…..Speaking is an instinctive act, or art. Like the act (or art) of love, it can only truly take place if we

surrender to it. That, however, is a big statement. Surrendering conscious control is perhaps one of the

most difficult things for us to do today because our desire for control, for self-domination, is absolutely

overwhelming. 


Surrendering cannot be learned. It is a spiritual decision—you have to feel your way toward it.

That is why speaking demands nerve: the process, while instinctual and automatic, requires that

you have enough courage to surrender conscious control and let yourself be guided by the deeper

interest of the speaking. 

Learning to surrender to it wasn’t easy for me. It took a great deal of courage, and in those early

years of limping along, I lacked the courage to completely let go. I had found that speaking could

be very scary—I had no idea where I was going or what was going to come out of my mouth. I

often lacked the nerve necessary to keep my hand in the fire and not revert to full consciousness

and the familiar, comfortable attitudes of written poetry. 

To create a speaking, you have to surrender to a twilight state that hovers near our normal state of

consciousness. This is true about creating a poem of any kind, written or oral. What is different in

spontaneous oral composition is that the twilight state must be maintained for the length of the

poem’s conception. There is no erasing, pausing, going back, modifying, as is possible in written

composition. None of that is possible. There is only going forward. To do otherwise is to lose the

golden thread, as I like to call it, and when that’s lost, everything is lost. 

It is possible, of course, to begin again from the start, but as in lovemaking, it is never quite the

same. This almost always results in a lost poem or an inferior poem, especially if the thread is

broken for lack of nerve. If it is broken because the poem was attempted before its time (and the

poet’s judgment of ripeness is everything in this matter) another attempt may well bring the poem

into full bloom. But the poet can’t be profligate. Too many false starts almost always results in the

loss of the poem. The Muse doesn’t like poets who keep shooting blanks is the best way I can put

it. 

Sometime before I had begun my attempts at spontaneous oral composition, I had encountered

Julian Jaynes’ groundbreaking book on preliterate consciousness and was intrigued by his

description of that early consciousness. Jaynes believed, from a great deal of accumulated

evidence, that early man existed in something like a state of natural meditation, a state that would

suddenly change to a heightened attentiveness when he experienced the internal, authoritative

voices he took to be the voices of the Gods. 

One of Jaynes’ revolutionary assertions is that those voices issued from a now defunct language

facility in the right side of our brain, at least that is how he accounts for what seems to have been

a real phenomenon, but there is no need for us to get entangled in that part of his thinking. 


What I do want us to get entangled in, however, is Jaynes’ assertion that what early man felt upon

hearing those voices was very close to what a poet feels when a poem comes to him. Jaynes

considered the poetic state to be a dim remnant of the voices heard by early man. For those who

have never experienced the arrival of a poem, I’ll simply say it is something like the onset of an

orgasm, in that one enters a heightened state that is not only charged with feelings but also with

words we sense as God-like because of their beauty, authority, and truth. 

It may come as a surprise to some that our first consciousness was different from our current self-reflective

consciousness. Yet, according to Jaynes, there is mounting evidence this is the case.

Perhaps the simplest way to explain it is to say that early man was not self-reflective, or as Julian

Jaynes says in The Origin Of Consciousness, he had no “subjectivity as we do; he had no

awareness of his awareness of the world, no internal mind-space to introspect upon.” 


Thus our early consciousness lacked the self-reflective capabilities that aid us today in deciding

on a course of action. In its place was a consciousness in which we constantly heard the Gods.

They were always advising us, directing us, singing to us. In this sense, our early consciousness

was similar to the state of mind we enter when a poem comes to us. When the Muse speaks to us. 


Jaynes further asserts that despite the overwhelming tenacity of our current consciousness, there

is considerable evidence that remnants of that early consciousness still exist, and that those

remnants can come into being under certain circumstances. He cites the voices associated with

schizophrenia as one proof of this, and the voices associated with the act of poetry as another, and

I doubt that any poet would disagree. I would even go so far as to say those remnants are what

make poetry possible; they are what allow the Muse to still speak to us. 


My experience with spontaneous oral composition and the state of mind from which it can issue

suggests that it is not an exact counterpart of Jayne’s pre-literate guiding voices. I hear that kind

of voice in periods of great stress and high intellectual creativity, but the voice I hear as a poem

comes to me, whether in oral or written composition, is somewhat different from those guiding

voices. I always recognize it as the voice of the Muse, but at the same time I sense it as belonging

to “me” and not exclusively to something or someone completely outside me, as I do with the

other psychic voices I hear. 


This is important because what distinguishes the Muse’s psychic voice from other psychic voices

is its “humanness.” Poetry is where the two realms meet on an equal footing, which is not the

case with other psychic voices. The psychic voices associated with directives are one-sided and

we bend to them. 


It is only in poetry that we stand equal to the Gods—that we sing back to them.

Unlike our current consciousness, which is tenacious in its hold on us, our early conscious and

unconscious minds seem to have been separated by a very hazy membrane that allowed

pre-literate humans to slip between the two in the blink of an eye. In other words, preliterate

humans were always surrendering. As to how that early consciousness may have felt, it probably

felt very fluid compared to ours because the waking state and dreaming states of very early

humans were undoubtedly quite similar. 

This may account for the importance preliterate man gave to his dreams. Our contemporary

consciousness is not that fluid. Our dreaming state is completely different from our waking state

and is highly unstable in matters of time and space, the cornerstone of our waking state. This is

one reason our dreaming state seems so illogical, and why we give so little weight to it.


One of the unfortunate prejudices of our modern world-view is that it prejudices us against

acknowledging the existence of the psychic world, the world we experience in our dreams.  

That same prejudice has almost destroyed poetry. Poetry is the way the soul speaks to us of the psychic

world, which is also our world, our other world. This holds, by the way, for all forms of poetry. If

we don’t acknowledge that fact, and honor it, poetry eventually shrivels into much of what we

have today: poetic, conscious thoughts—nice, but no brass ring. 

That is why speaking changed my life. Julian Jaynes says that what poets “hear” is but a whisper

of what preliterate poets heard. And he is right, because that is the effect writing has upon

poetry: it tends to make the act a highly conscious one in which we can barely hear the Muse. But

speaking—spontaneous oral composition—employs the remnants of our earlier consciousness far

more than it does our current consciousness. 

It allows the poet, in effect, to experience the act of poetry in something like its purest, most

primal form. I would add, however, that what I experience in a speaking, as striking as it is, must

be but a sliver of the light that engulfed pre-literate poets. They were living a largely unconscious

life by our standards and must have been open to the Muse to a degree we can barely imagine. 

Speaking also opened up a path to the psychic world for me. The two are inseparable. That is why

speaking has a sound all its own, and why Jane Washington’s reaction when she first heard me

speak was not an isolated case. Anyone attuned to the life of the soul generally has a similar

reaction upon hearing a speaking. They instinctively sense it is a sound that comes not from the

world of the self, but the soul. There is a slight, but undeniable, alteration in the sound of the

human voice that somehow comforts us. You can actually hear that alteration, although feel it

might be a better term. 

If you are a blues fan, it is the difference between the singing voice of Blind Willie Johnson and

that of Leadbelly. If you can hear, or feel, that difference, that is the sound I am talking about.

Johnson’s singing came from the soul, the unconscious—you can feel it. Leadbelly’s singing, as

striking as it is, comes more from the conscious mind—it may excite us, arouse us, disturb us,

anger us, sadden us, but it seldom comforts us. 

I sometimes like to say that poems are the soul’s Stations of the Cross: the times on the soul’s

journey when it stops and turns towards the sun, or the moon, and opens itself. We can react to

that opening by writing a poem or by speaking it. To speak, however, you have to forget almost

everything you know about poetry except its essence. That is almost impossible if you have never

completely let go, never desired to enter the Stream, never surrendered. But once you do, you

instinctively realize the power behind a speaking doesn’t lie in its form, its words, or sense,

although those are all important. It lies in its sound. What it feels like. It is the sound of beauty

and the sound of truth. It is the true sound of poetry. 
 
 


Chapter 17: I Take The Ball From Jane And Run

September 2004, Sarasota 


Jane made me so angry I snapped back to something like normal. I knew she was onto something.

I knew in my bones that “cavemen from way back in the beginning” meant the very first humans.

But what was she trying to say about them? Right then I saw one of the cavemen looking back at

the cave and a tumbler clicked in my head: it was about knowing. They wanted to know why they

had come out of the dark, become human, while some of their brothers and sisters had remained

in the dark—remained animals. It must have consumed them. 

Whatever genetic change had taken place with the advent of human consciousness, it was

probably very tentative. It was entirely possible that some of the brothers and sisters of those very

first humans would have been born without the human gene. The difference would have been

obvious after a few years. 

Any doubts I had about the myth were swept away, just like that. Jane’s insight had been like a

laser. It had gone right to the heart of the matter. The myth was about the nature of our first

consciousness; the one that formed when we changed from animal to man. 

I went back to reading about pre-literate cultures, especially what Julian Jaynes had to say about

their stories. Somewhere in my reading, another tumbler clicked. Not only was the myth about the

first human consciousness, it also had all the characteristics of a story from preliterate times. It

was concrete, immediate, straightforward, non-reflective—This happened, They appeared, We

went, They said. 


That is why the myth seems vague from a modern, explanatory point of view. Preliterate stories

were more concerned with passing on knowledge by imitating a truth than by logically explaining

it. Thus the myth is content to present us with a simple drama in which the four players “imitate”

the way our first consciousness operated.


Our modern minds, however, want much more detail on the four players. We never get that detail,

however, because the preliterate speakers of the myth assume we have a preliterate mindset and

are therefore aware of the full nature of the four players. 

Unfortunately we have a modern mindset and therefore must remain pretty much in the dark as to

their full nature. We can only guess. That’s the rub. If Columbus, however, had presented this

myth to the preliterate tribes he encountered, they—unlike us—would have immediately

recognized the four players for who they were. 

The myth had come from a dark place. It not only reflected what had to be the essential concern

of very early humans—why they were different from the rest of creation—but also, and here’s the

kicker, it was being told exactly as a preliterate human would have told it. 

I finally had a good handhold on the myth. I may not have sewn up all the loose ends, but I no

longer had any doubts the myth was about early preliterate consciousness. Nor did I have any

doubts that the myth was being told from the point of view of very early man. I had no idea,

however, how that had actually happened, outside of Jane’s belief that it had come from a

separate intelligence (something I still couldn’t accept). Yet I suspected I was going to have to

view it that way until I cracked the final code. It was just a matter of time, I kept telling myself. 

……..I wasn’t a stranger to that first form of consciousness by any means. Long before the myth came to

me, the work of Julian Jaynes had pretty much convinced me that we had indeed gone through a change of

consciousness about the time writing was being invented some 4,000 years ago. 


So that even before Jane pointed me way back towards that dark cave, some part of me was

already sensing the possibility that the myth might not be about our contemporary, self-reflective

consciousness, but the older, more primal one. Here are some of my thoughts at the time about

the nature of that older consciousness: 


“The Witnesses Log is a myth about the creation and nature of our very first state of

consciousness, the one that came into being when we changed from animal to man. Over

the millennia, we have chosen to describe that new human consciousness many different

ways: man became aware of himself as a being separate from nature; he became aware

of a Supreme Being; he became a rational creature; he became a tool-maker. This myth

doesn’t necessarily negate any of those descriptions, but suggests a much different way of

looking at early human consciousness. The myth says that what distinguishes early humans

from animals is that we are animals who somehow became storytellers. We became

witnesses to creation. 


“Although modern western culture has tended to regard the nature of human consciousness

as one that has remained essentially unchanged since our evolving into homo sapiens

some 100,000–200,000 years ago, there is growing evidence that our first state of

consciousness was quite different from the one we have today. 


“The work of Julian Jaynes in this area is extensive, and suggests that pre-literate man constantly heard

voices generated in the right side of his brain that guided him and that he took for the voices of

the Gods. Early man didn’t have a self-reflective mind space in which to plot alternatives

before taking action, only the voices to guide him.

I am going to also suggest that early man not only heard the Gods, but on the other side of

the same coin, reflexively imitated everything he encountered—the voices, visions, the

observed physical world—as a way of speaking back, of responding to the Gods. It is only

when we understand this that we can begin to understand, for example, the true

significance of pre-literate ceremonies that involved human sacrifice. 

Today, we see these ceremonies as barbarous, but to pre-literate man they were ceremonies

that imitated, that celebrated, the essential mystery of the world: that creation and destruction were

inextricably linked, and that to be human was to acknowledge this mystery by imitating it.

This is another way of saying that pre-literate man was essentially an artistic creature, an

imitator at heart. This initial, imitative state of human consciousness guided us over tens of

thousands of years until the advent of writing, about 4,000 years ago, at which time we

seem to have developed our current, self-reflective state with its ability to endlessly replay

our past and imagine our future. 

We don’t listen to the Gods anymore, rather we analyze our potential and past actions and

choose, we hope, the best course of action. It is this later state of consciousness that is

represented in the Genesis myth when the Serpent promises Eve that eating the forbidden

fruit will allow her and Adam to know what the Gods know. 

Eve took the bait, of course, and that change in consciousness turned us from artistic

creatures to systematically rational creatures, and we have been enjoying the benefits and

suffering the consequences ever since. You might say that our new consciousness was an

evolution that favored explanation over imitation as a way of understanding the world, of

knowing who we are. 

It may be news to some people that we possess a different kind of consciousness today

than we possessed 4,000 years ago, but a great deal of scholarly and anthropological

evidence points that way. I’m not talking about the common perception that we are

smarter than stupid preliterate man could ever be, the proof being our creation of atomic

bombs and the like. That type of thinking presumes that preliterate man wanted an atomic

bomb in the first place. The fact of the matter is that humans at any stage of development

are always smart about what is important to them. Preliterate man was always “smart” at

imitation, just as we’re always “smart” at explanation.

 

You just have to look at the incredible colored masks and body paintings of contemporary

pre-literate peoples like the New Guinea tribesmen to begin to see how proficient that first

state of human consciousness was at imitation. That imitation took many forms, but primary

among them was imitating the animals they took as soul guides, as totems. We may say

that such face and body painting didn’t take any talent at all, that we could do it in a snap,

but we’d be wrong. 

If you don’t believe me, stand in front of a mirror naked with some paint and feathers and

shells and leaves and vines and try to portray your deeper self, your soul, your shadow self.

Besides your powers of imitation being weaker, you’ll encounter the deeper problem of

having very little sense of what your deeper self  looks like. Oh, you’ll go ahead and do it,

because you’re stubborn and modern, but no matter how often you try, the result will look

just as stupid and incomplete as the attempts of a New Guinea tribesman to build an

atomic bomb. 
 
 
 

Chapter 19: The Market

November, 2004 Sarasota 

Psychic voices happen to everyday people, usually at critical times of their lives, turning points.

There is a knowing in those voices that we instinctively bend to, I don’t care who you are. If

you’re a rationalist to whom only the physical world exists, the rational part of you may try to

brush it off as some haywire neural discharge, but another part of you knows something

extraordinary has taken place—that you’ve been spoken to by a higher intelligence over which

you have absolutely no control, and no matter how much you may try to dismiss it, you’re going

to take it to your grave, especially if you’re an extremely scrupulous rationalist who keeps reexamining

his conclusions right down to the very last shovel of dirt. 

Schizophrenics report hearing psychic voices all the time. Julian Jaynes suggests schizophrenics

suffer from a neurological aberration that allows some part of our long-buried primal

consciousness to reappear and compete with our modern, self-reflective consciousness. Under

those circumstances, the conflict between the two can be overwhelming, because our first primal

consciousness was one through which the Gods spoke to us. And we obeyed. 

In lucid moments, many schizophrenics will tell you the voices they hear are irresistible—that it

is like being spoken to by a superior being, a God. That is why analysis is useless in dealing with

schizophrenics: the patient’s entire sense of what is right and true and good is telling them to

follow the voices, to obey them. Intellectually they may understand what their psychiatrist is

telling them, that the voices are not to be trusted, but their total feeling intelligence tells them

otherwise. 

It is a lopsided battle, because all that we really have in the end to guide us through our lives is

what we feel to be true. Thus schizophrenics will tell you that if they didn’t follow the voices,

they would be turning away from that part of themselves that had always guided them towards the

good and beautiful and true. In short, they would cease to be fully human. They would have to

rely on what others told them was true. 

John Nash, the young mathematician who descended into severe schizophrenia, eventually chose

this route of relying on others in order to have some semblance of a life. It is particularly poignant

once you know that when he was asked [earlier] why he hadn’t stopped listening to the voices, he replied,

“Because the voices come from the same place as the mathematics.” When he made that sad, final

choice to ignore the voices by force of will, Nash made it knowing he would never hear the

whispers of the genius within him again. It would be hard to think of a crueler prison. 

 
 

Chapter 25: I See the Muse in a New Light

April, 2005, Sarasota 

While Jane [Washington’s] insights into the pre-literate nature of the myth had been of enormous help, I

still didn’t understand how I had managed to create the myth exactly as it would have been created in

preliterate times. I knew very little about the preliterate mind when the myth came to me. Yet, I

had absorbed enough transcriptions of preliterate poetry in the course of my general reading to

supply my unconscious with sufficient fuel for a nice imitation of a preliterate myth. But that

didn’t explain everything. An unconsciously imitated style was one thing; the appearance of

completely alien ideas was quite another. If the myth was mine, I kept asking myself, how could

many of its concepts be as alien to me as 1 + 1 = 3? One thing for sure, I wasn’t ready to accept

that those ideas had simply appeared out of nowhere, all by themselves. Things don’t work that

way. Not in this world. 


I continued, however, to resist Jane Washington’s suggestion that the myth had come from someone else.

The only intelligence I had felt was my own. By that I mean I hadn’t felt the presence of a psychic

intelligence… When the myth came to me, I felt exactly like I do when any poem comes to me. There was

no difference. 

Here is a journal entry about the matter:

“. . . if the myth had come from another intelligence, as Jane had suggested, it would

explain why I couldn’t fully understand the poems that made up The Witnesses Log. They

had no roots in what I know as me . . . I had read enough Jung to know that such things

can happen if you hang around the well of the unconscious long enough. The art of

speaking had made me a regular at the lip of the well. There were any number of visitors

who had come up to make my acquaintance and I had never turned away. The witness in

me always kept watch. But it had missed this visitor. It would have been far better if I had

had a vision of some type, anything but the seamless, invisible invasion of intelligence that

had occurred.

When I say I felt no intelligence other than my own, I should qualify that by saying that I am

always aware of the intelligent energy of the poem itself, which I see as the unconscious

intelligence that drives a particular set of feelings into the conscious form we recognize as poetry.

How that happens, and why it happens at any particular time is a mystery, as is the final structure

of the poem itself.

…….

Let me clarify that. I believe that poems exist, prior to their emergence into consciousness, in a

nascent, wordless form, call it an intelligent complex of feelings for lack of a better description.

What causes that complex to form in the first place, and then push itself into consciousness, is a

mystery as far as I am concerned. 

My sense of it is that while the complex of feelings resides largely in the unconscious, it also has

tendrils that are rooted in the conscious mind. The tendrils seem to grow both ways as far as I can

tell. After all, feelings, emotions, are the lingua franca between the two worlds, the two minds.

They’re crossing the border all the time. 

When the time is right, that same intelligent energy drives that nascent, feeling complex into the

world of words, which is our world, the world of consciousness. I have always sensed that

intelligent energy as being completely different from our conscious intelligence. It is an

instinctive, intelligent energy—a desire, a hunger—that knows exactly what it has to do in order

to become a poem, which is to twine itself around our consciousness until a poem emerges. 


It isn’t a thinking intelligence, like our conscious intelligence, but something closer to an

instinctive intelligence. The best way I can describe it is this: it is the intelligence that determines

the rhythm and music and emotional attitude of the poem, and here is the real mystery, it

ultimately determines the words.  


Here is an entry from my journal that sums up my thinking on how poems are formed,

which I see as a very special way the unconscious speaks to us: 

“Our conscious, rational knowing cannot directly approach the unconscious. The

unconscious cannot be measured, seen, touched. It can only be sensed. And that

sensing cannot be accomplished in the same way as our everyday witnessing. Poetry is a

special kind of witnessing that reflexively creates a story that imitates the feeling of that

unknowable reality. 

“As an analogy, think of those 3-dimensional, many-pointed, many-faced glass stars we

often see in Mexican souvenir shops. The many-pointed star is constructed of hundreds of

tiny triangular and rectangular mirrors that reflect the world around it. Then think of the

unconscious as a complex of feelings; imagine it to be something like a highly fluid, ever-changing

shape of light and dark. Then think of the conscious mind and unconscious

mind somehow coming together to place hundreds of little mirrors (words) around that

complex of feelings so as to exactly capture its contours. The resulting star is a poem.

It’s a useful metaphor. We never see the unconscious; all we get to see is ourselves—and

the world around us—when we look at the star. The metaphor is saying that even though a

poem imitates the feeling of the unconscious, it does so by reflecting the conscious

knowable world. But even more importantly it consists of words or facets (reflections of the

world) we can examine for meaning, but we have to be careful to remember that those

facets are a metaphor, not the real thing.


Let me say something more about a poem having its own intelligence. That intelligence, that

energy, is what anyone feels when an unpremeditated poem comes to them. Historically, it has

been called the Muse. It is unmistakable…..  


That ecstatic moment can’t be fabricated. It is brought about by the instinctive and uniquely

human response to the world we call poetry. No thinking is required; a poem’s intelligent energy

knows exactly where it has to go and what it has to do in order to complete itself, just as the

instincts of hunger and love know what to do in order to complete themselves. …… 


I have perhaps taken the long way around, but I wanted to make clear my feelings about the

nature of poetry, because my problems in understanding why the myth took the form it did

eventually caused me to question my most basic thoughts about poetry. 


….. It eventually became clear to me that the intelligent energy of The Witnesses Log had fed not just on

the memories of my personal unconscious, but also on memories from the collective unconscious.


That may be a mouthful, but I wouldn’t take back a word of it. 


Why I had been so blind to that possibility, I can’t really say. I was aware that the great

myths/poems of the distant past had to have come from the level of the collective unconscious,

but I had never thought of the Witnesses Log myth—despite its strange concepts—in quite that

way. 

I had somehow still seen it as my poem if for no other reason than the myth felt like my other

poems. As naïve as it sounds, it seems I had always imagined that if a poem came to me from the

collective unconscious, I would experience it as something like the voice of my daimon. But I

was wrong….. What it had felt like was the voice of Poetry, the voice of the Muse,

which has a very different psychic texture. 

So in the end, Jane {Washington}had been right about everything—although it had taken me a long time to

really grasp the whole of what she was saying. ……I had never quite grasped what she had meant about

the myth belonging to somebody else. I had automatically assumed what she meant was that the poem had

been given to me by a psychic entity like my daimon …… 

I had never even considered that the intelligent energy of the poem itself could have been the

carrier of the myth’s mindset and concepts (in the form of memories from the collective

unconscious). What I had underestimated was …..how much the Muse can bring to the table.  


What I found out, of course, is that the Muse can bring anything she wants to, and we had better be

prepared for the possibilities. The myth, of course, also fed on memories from my personal unconscious,

which is why the myth did have some roots in me. The core of the myth, however, seems to have come

from the collective unconscious. Where the dividing line lies is almost impossible to say, because as Jung

takes great pains to point out, the collective unconscious always becomes visible in the company

of the personal unconscious. It is what makes visions particularly difficult to decipher. 


Our pre-literate consciousness may have died with the early cultures it created, but some form of

it survived down the long, dark chain of the collective unconscious, which, as Jung points out, is

the repository of all our memories going back to the creation of life itself. And some part of it

chose to come back into time as The Witnesses Log in Santa Monica, California on the evening of

December 14, 2000. 


All this took months to become completely clear to me. It didn’t happen all at once. But once I

saw that the intelligent energy of a poem can choose to feed where it wants and then come into

time as something completely beyond the ken of the poet, I had to step back and take a breath.


….., the intelligence that formed the myth seemed in a whole other league. The myth was not a momentary

directive; it was a complex, exquisitely formed poem about the nature of preliterate consciousness that

had come from the collective unconscious completely of its own accord. I was simply along for the ride. 


When the implications of that sank in and I began to see how complete and beautiful and strange

the myth was, my sense of poetry changed utterly. What I had only understood intellectually

before—poetry was the way the Gods spoke to men—came wheeling down around me like a

flock of crows. 


That’s an unlikely statement from someone who long ago rejected the religious thought of both

East and West. But I’ll tell you this: I was totally unprepared for it. Every time I thought about it

in the months that followed, I felt like the proverbial man downstairs waiting for the other shoe to

drop. 
 
 

Chapter 40: Mr. Fine Hairs Gets on a Soap Box

October, 2005, Sarasota 

According to Julian Jaynes, poetry was the lingua franca of prophecy for preliterate man. It was

the form in which the unconscious spoke to him of what was to come. For those who aren’t

familiar with his work, I’ll remind you of his basic premise: preliterate man constantly heard

guiding voices issuing from the right side of his brain, voices he took to be the voices of the

Gods. 

Jaynes, who was a scientist, had an aesthetic side and felt the origin of poetry also lay in those

voices. Thus, Jaynes says when Homer invokes the Muse (“Sing Muse and through me tell the

story”) he is requesting those voices assist him in creating the poem he is about to speak.


Jaynes comes to this conclusion not only from the historical evidence and but also from his

personal creative experience with poetry. Like Jaynes, poets over the millenia have reported

hearing a similar internal voice. Historically, that voice has been called the Muse. 

Jaynes believed that pre-literate poets experienced a much more formidable version of the Muse’s

voice than modern poets, who usually report it to be fleeting. I wouldn’t want the reader to come

away thinking Homer parroted the Muse’s internal voice to create his epics, although Jaynes

might lead you to think so. If he’d had a poet’s experience with composition, and spontaneous

oral composition in particular, his sense of Homer might have been a bit different. 

As Jane Washington so aptly put it, “the Miracles are always riffing on Smokey’s song“, to which I

will add this significant corollary: the poet is always riffing on the Muse. As a rule, nothing is

handed down verbatim. Of course, on those occasions where the Muse’s voice comes in the form

of a tangible audible phrase, the poet would be a crazy not to grab the golden goose. 


Most of the time, however, the Muse’s “voice” takes a different form. The poet usually feels that

“voice” as a non-verbal, emotional complex constantly rising up in search of words. That is a

given. The poet’s task is to find the correct words. Therein lies the rub. I sometimes liken that

task [ of creating a written poem] to trying to assemble a Swiss watch while falling off a cliff, which is why

there are so few truly great [written] poems. 

If the poet is very lucky, however, those words may begin spilling from his own lips or pen with

no effort whatsoever. None. The Muse has stopped kibitzing and moved over into the driver’s

seat. The poet and Muse have become one. 

This is the critical point where the poem either fails or succeeds. It will succeed if the poet

surrenders to what is happening; it will fail if the poet doesn’t. I have come to call this

surrendering staying on the “golden thread.” It is almost impossible to do in written composition,

but almost second nature in oral composition. 

I believe Homer “heard”’ the Muse’s voice essentially as I have described it, although that voice

was undoubtedly more tangible than the one we experience for the simple reason that Homer’s

consciousness was different. He was more “unconscious” than we are. 

I also differ from Jaynes in that I wouldn’t be quick to bundle the Muse’s voice in with the other

guiding voices heard by early humans. This comes from my own experience with the two kinds

of internal voices: directive and poetic. I believe the distinctive “human” nature of the Muse’s

voice—which is a more companionable voice than my directive voices—is the result of an

internal modification that occurred in the early stages of human development. 

It doesn’t take much of a leap to see that if early humans heard the Gods speak in rhythmic,

metaphoric, authoritative speech, that they would instinctively honor and imitate the Gods by

praising them in a similar manner. The sound of that praising, however, wouldn’t be exactly the

same as the “sound” of their internal voices, because the praising would come from their very

human vocal cords. I believe that over time some of our internal voices modified their texture in

imitation of our praising voices.  

They became less authoritative, more loving, more praising, more “human.” In time, those internal voices

became the Muses, and eventually the Muse. If my suggestion that the original, directive voices generated

by the unconscious modified their “sound” to conform with the more human, loving texture of our

“praising” voices seems outlandish to some, it is only because we have mistakenly come to view the

unconscious as a kind of emotional sump whose only function is to be dredged for meaning by

psychoanalysts and the like. It is a shallow view. Both modern and ancient investigators of the

unconscious, or soul, repeatedly remind us that the commerce between soul and self—between our

conscious and unconscious minds—is a two-way affair and always has been. 


We should remember that no aspect of that commerce is more “two-way” than the act of poetry.

It is the way the two halves of us—conscious and unconscious—come together to make us

complete. Poetry is not as much a one-way street as is prophecy—so it makes sense that the

Muse’s voice would become more “human sounding” or more “human feeling” than the directive,

prophetic voices associated with our daemons. …..

.

This explanation of the genesis of our “poetic voices” suggests that the unconscious mind

changes in its commerce with the conscious mind. In other words, it grows. This is not a new

thought. It is seen in Jung’s thinking about the Book of Job and the changing nature of God. Jung

explains the Book of Job by saying that Job’s moral leap—his wisdom in accepting he has no

control whatsoever over God’s conduct—forces God to match that leap by becoming less cruel,

less unconscious, more human. Jung goes on to say that the Bible is, in effect, a record of God

becoming more human, a process that he sees culminating in Jesus. 

What Jung is really saying, of course, is that the human unconscious became more conscious,

more “human” over time. I think we can say somewhat the same thing about the advent of poetry:

that it changed the nature of some of the directive voices heard by early man. And I’ll add one

more caveat to that: Jung and I are really talking about the same thing. 

Let me ratchet up my thinking on this one more click. Not only do we want to speak back to the

Muse when we hear her, but it is obvious, at least to poets, that the Muse wants to hear our

responses. Poets often refer to this aspect of the Muse as the Perfect Listener, the one who

understands everything. 

One question that comes immediately to mind is why the unconscious would be so curious, so

desirous, of our responding. The answer came to me while I was trying to determine what the

message, “The Gods speak and we respond” really meant. Specifically, I wanted to understand

why the unconscious would want us to respond to its poetic messages. 

My daemon broke through the fog. What it said to me was that the unconscious wanted to “hear”

its “message” come back “made glittery with time.” It wants to know what it feels like to be

human, to be conscious, because only humans live in a world of time, which is another way of

saying only humans live in a world of stories. 


Thus, if we can think of poetry as the way the unconscious speaks to the conscious mind, we also

have to think of it as the way the conscious mind speaks back to the unconscious, because that is

the true nature of poetry. It is a transcendent event that brings the two halves of us together. It is

the reason why poetry—of all our ways of witnessing—allows us to experience our total

humanity, which is another way of saying it allows us to experience our divinity. 

This may seem heretical to religious people, who see prayer as playing that role, but that is only

because our conception of poetry and prayer have changed so utterly over time. What we call

prayer and poetry and prophecy grew out of those guiding, directive voices. They were

adaptations that grew out of our desire to imitate those voices. 

Prophecy, of course, is the closest of those adaptations to the directive voices. Prayer and poetry

were more “human” adaptations. At one time, very early in our development, poetry and prayer

were indistinguishable. They were the same thing: a praise act. 

At some point in time during the late preliterate era, poetry began to separate itself from

prayer—but only by a hairbreadth. Even after that separation, poetry remained essentially a praise

act right up to the time of Homer, whose two great epics are most assuredly praise acts, even if

the surface stories take the form of adventures. 

Just how close poetry was to prayer, even after the separation, can be seen in the historical record,

which is filled with reports of the way Homer was honored and respected by the Greeks.

Arguments were settled and guidance determined based on what Homer said. For the Greeks,

those two great epics held the same authoritative position as the Bible did for the Hebrews. 


These great narrative poems, according to Jaynes, are nothing less than celebrations of the change

in consciousness the Greeks were undergoing at the time Homer chanted them—which was about

a hundred years before the Greeks discovered writing. The Iliad celebrates the heroic, non-reflective

nature of preliterate culture and poetry, whereas The Odyssey, via the character of the

wily Odysseus, celebrates the new (self-reflective) consciousness about to be born. Here is a

quote from an earlier book of mine about Jaynes’ insight: 

“As Jaynes points out, Homer’s greatness lies partly, and perhaps mainly, in the fact

that his poems reflect the immense change in consciousness that was stirring among the

Greeks. In this respect, his songs have the quality of myth. They represent one of those

transcendent leaps that sometimes occur in truly great art. Homer’s epics are about the

monumental transition in the nature of our consciousness. They are the Greek version of

our leaving the Garden of Eden. 

“Thus, in Homer’s lifetime we go from an heroic, pre-literate world that is consumed

by honor (while at the same time beginning to give evidence of the emergence of deceit)

to a world where the hero, by comparison, will stoop to almost anything to get his way. The

name Odysseus roughly translates as “troublemaker.” The job he does on the Cyclops is

enough to give you some idea how out of control he really was. The Greeks loved him.

There’s no doubt that of all the speakings young Homer heard, the themes and characters

and elements of the Trojan War must have been like gold laid at his feet. Indeed, after he

created The Iliad, it was only a matter of time before he reached back and pulled out the

wily, redheaded Odysseus again (only a bit player in The Iliad) and blew him up to the

proportions required. When Homer finally set him loose on the world in The Odyssey it was

unlike anything the Greeks had ever heard. 

“The Odyssey is a poem whose artistry transcended Homer’s time. The very depth

and magnitude of the mirror he held up to the Greeks is almost beyond comprehension. To

the Greeks, for hundreds of years afterward, the grotesque deceptions and heroic

endurance of Odysseus was impossibly beautiful and impossibly true. The man not only

slept standing up, he did it with his eyes open. Odysseus is none other than self-conscious

man stepping out of the eggshell and displaying himself in all his individualistic glory. What

is equally beautiful is that Homer had a sense of humor about the whole thing. And so did

the Greeks.

It is only in literate times that we see poetry begin to move away from being a praise act to one

reflecting the myriad concerns of the conscious mind, so that in time, poetry became completely

distinct from prayer. At the same time, the unconscious was beginning to give birth to our great

Eastern and Western religions—but through the gateway of our new self-reflective minds. 


Formal, fixed texts were created for those religions as a means of permanently recording and

clarifying the various psychic revelations that brought those great spiritual movements into being.

Those new texts also served another purpose: to make sure that prayer—the commerce between

God and man—was directed along proscribed channels and not left to the whims of the unruly

and unpredictable unconscious. Controlling the unconscious was a problem for religious systems

right from the start. 

Just how large a problem is evident throughout the Bible. One example can be seen in Moses’

journey to the Promised Land where, despite having been given the Commandments, his

leadership was constantly threatened by eruptions of earlier, polytheistic idols. So it is obvious

why prayer had to become more conscious. Prayer may have continued to imitate the form of

poetry (we can see it even today in the Catholic Church), but that was all. Prayer became a

conscious act, along consciously prescribed lines. 

Poetry, on the other hand, was under no such pressure. But there was the pressure of our modern

literate consciousness, which more and more sought to exert control over the essentially

unconscious process we call poetry, and as poetry became more written, the more it was able to

exert that control, and glory in it. 

END OF KNOL