The Dongola Times

(Anachronistic) Dispatches from the Kingdom of Makuria.
31st of May, 2013

The New Bicamerality

I am currently stopping myself from writing a long treatise—probably in series, as a collection of pieces—about the fact that what Julian Jaynes referred to as “bicameral man” is in fact what Paul is calling on the believers to be, in his epistles. But this time, in place of the numerous gods that moved Homer’s men, à la Julian Jaynes, here we have the Holy Spirit moving the person. Therefore Paul can say “For it is God who works in you to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Hence the strict de-emphasis of self in the Pauline epistles; hence the requirement to “rest from works” in Hebrews. And that rest is not inactivity, but rather activity animated[1] by the Spirit. This is why Jesus says hard things about those who boasted in their own righteousness.

In short form, the argument goes thus:
First, the introduction of literacy was attended by the breaking down of the bicamerality. The reversal of this breakdown would have to be attended by a cessation of reference to written codes. What Julian Jaynes calls the bicameral man is little short of a schizophrenic. He follows the rules in his heart. And Paul says “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

So the introduction of scriptural literacy enabled the introduction of the Law. The introduction of the Law had the effects Paul said it did. Then the Gospel comes, also written. But it seeks to be the last teaching (“torah” to a speaker of Hebrew); so the Hebrew says in his very first sentence: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,” emphasising that the old methods are mere shadows of the real deal. This theme repeats and repeats in Hebrews. This teaching, John later emphasises, is the teaching of love, which God expresses through grace as it is explained in the Gospel. And the commandment becomes one—the summary of the Law—which is: love. (I find it interesting that John says “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink.”) This commandment of love is not an injunction, like those of Moses, but a prediction: therefore sin (non-love) shall have no power over you, because you are not under the Law, but under Grace. (With Paul, the injunction was this: deem yourselves dead to the Law.)

There is a promise in this, namely that when you “strive to enter the rest”, you cease from justification by works. So “he who does not work” is the one who trusts the God who justifies the ungodly. And this one is considered righteous—the righteousness of God. And over such a one, sin (as noun) has no power. And now they can respond to the voice in their hearts—be bicameral men again—and yet not be transgressing the Law, because not only are they not under it—Adam’s problem of “knowledge of good and evil” having been reversed by the Second Adam—but also, since they consider themselves dead to the Law, sin has no power over them. Because they are not under the Law. Now it is God who works in them to will and to do His good pleasure. God’s good pleasure. It is important that Jesus promises to give the believers the Holy Spirit, by which (to quote Paul) we cry with wordless groans. Not unlike men possessed, then, eh?

This brings up the last problem of life philosophy. What would the modern life philosophy be, of a person who takes this argument seriously? In short, it would be fideism of one sort or another. (For reasons I would give in time, my own fideistic view begins and ends in the Gospel.) Paul emphasises the importance of faith, because on this foundation is built the entire Gospel; the modern disputer would have to render that as fideism. By its nature, it cannot be other than a life philosophy. Fideism doesn’t share philosophical space (as we would see), so this would require that fideism exist as the sole life philosophy. But faith, by its nature, points somewhere else. And in this case, given the weight of the Gospel in this argument, the faith would point to Christ. Pisteos Christou.

Now one of the scariest parts of the discussion: the role of the chemicals we now label “entheogens” in establishing bicamerality (usually temporary) in the minds of those who take them. This name, entheogen, is very interesting, having been generated by a strictly irreligious social system. It is Greek for chemicals that “bring out a god on the inside.” If this seems too similar to the state of mind that bicameral man endures, you are following. This would encompass cannabis on the one hand, LSD on the other, and encompassing everything of similar psychedelic effect (psilocybins, DMT, dreams, even wine!), and we would seek to link certain episodes of elevated awareness of God in the Bible back to a situation or, indeed, a substance that aided the prophets and priests to get into such a state. We would examine the interesting (but rarely-discussed) synchronicity between prophetic episodes and proximity to a place of worship (e.g., when Saul was also numbered among the prophets, when David danced unto disgrace, when Samuel’s mother mumbled to herself, when the boy Samuel heard voices and became the first of the post-Judges prophets, and so on).

The last part of that argument looks to defend the less-welcome implications of the argument. This part lays down no axioms; it just uses them from other parts of the argument and finds corollaries for this and that. From politics to religion, we would look at the implications of subjecting all legitimate external authorities and scriptures to the testimony of the voice in the heart—the Law written on tablets of human hearts. For example, it entails that we are to think of the Gospel as a particularly prescient and important set of documents in the evolution of the collective human mind; for now there is once again a system of faith that speaks to God in the same way that bicameral man would have; and this system claims to be a restoration of Adam to the state before the Fall. For many, such as myself, this will imply that the Gospel is of divine origin. (This theme shows up twice in the argument; the first time is on the origin of holy writ, as claimed by several origins myths, which I would examine in the first part of the argument.) There are hard implications in this theory, like the relevance of apocalyptism in this view. I would mount a purely-philosophical defence of apocalyptism (and other related religious future-phenomena) based on the axioms developed in earlier parts of the argument.
The other thorny issue is cultural taboos, especially those that even I would consider to be divinely inspired taboos (such as those present in the Law of Moses). Alas, Adam did not have the Law of Moses; and neither did Abraham. Yet Abraham was considered righteous (see why! see how bicameral!), and Adam’s problem was what he later came to believe (since knowledge of good and evil brings the ego as a parameter in the discussion of righteousness; which is what Paul says is reversed by with justification by God’s unilateral grace given on the basis of faith). We would discuss that.

So far, I have successfully stopped myself from writing out the whole thesis (often by writing it and deleting it). And I know the mechanism by which I stop myself writing such ideas, and I can call it up at will. I can decide to be too weak to finish the job. How? By looking to self, and depending on myself. By not being a bicameral man, in other words, and being too afraid of personal opinion. (Julian Jaynes notes that self-conscious would just not apply to bicameral man. There you go. “A new creation has come.” See how extremely bicameral 2 Corinthians 5 is! It only refers to self in order to elide self. “God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit … For we live by faith, not by sight. … take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. … If we are ‘out of our mind,’ as some say, it is for God … So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.”)
I am going to try and let the ideas rise out of the essaies, probably off this very blog (the original French meaning of “essay” is “attempt”). That way, I can actually managed to express ideas this weird.

[1] The word “animated” is from the Latin word animus, which means … soul. It shows up often enough in Western thought. The élan vital of Henri Bergson, for example, the “interaction problem” of the philosophers of mind, the “placebo effect” which is triggered by faith, the “collapse of the wavefunction” where a materialist physics declares mind prior to body. All this Paul corrects: “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” To quote one of the Prophets, the just shall live by faith.