Developing Consciousness (Saturnus shit :P)


This failure of a complete overview, the inability to simultaneously see the details and the complete picture, extends to art as well. It is apparent in the images of Sumer and also in the standardized Egyptian depiction of the human body on flat surfaces showing a frontal trunk but with the head and legs in profile. This was noted by Jaynes, who adds that this is also especially to be noted among early Greek two-dimensional figures, which are often shown as curiously disarticulated groupings of arms, legs, trunks, and heads. This does not extend to three-dimensional art. Even the earliest Egyptian sculptures in the round were totally realistic, even if somewhat idealized.

The failure in imagination is a lack of subjective consciousness and this shows also in the languages of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Julian Jaynes notes that the Sumerian, Akkadian, and Egyptian languages were “concrete from first to last.” The languages had no room for analogies or metaphors. The speakers could not imagine alternatives, perhaps could not imagine themselves. To imagine, one has to take a leap from the concrete. It requires the mental construction of imagined action beyond the exigency of the moment and the needs of the everyday. [note 7]

The method of overcoming this failure in imagination, Jaynes proposes, is through an extended use of metaphors. The primary trope is analogy, a space in the mind which is mapped to the equivalent space in the real world. With the addition of an imagined self inhabiting this imagined space, we are suddenly presented with ever-expanding possibilities of imagined actions in these places, interpretations of the effects of the imagined actions, and even the design of tools imagined as solutions to problems. We, in our age, do this sort of mapping to a mental space with past, present, and future experiences, testing the efficacy of possible actions by stepping through them in our mind. We also lay out time and mathematical concepts as viewable “spaces” in our mind.

Jaynes’s concept (in brief) of consciousness — more precisely, subjective consciousness — is exactly this placement of an “imagined I” into imagined spaces in the mind. It is not actually “you,” but a substitute, an analog. You can look through the “eyes” of this “substitute I” or even observe yourself from afar in your mind. If something in real space and time requires your attention, the “I” will shift to be located directly behind your real eyes. Note that, as so defined, “memories” (as we imagine recollections) and “self-awareness” are not part of “subjective consciousness.” These are biologically determined and are common to all animals. Jaynes suggests that historically, subjective consciousness was a late and learned acquisition for humans. Subjective consciousness is learned, and is culturally transmitted. Some people never learn it, yet they will appear fully functional.

The stupendous advantage of subjective consciousness is the ability of the mind (actually the speech areas in the left rear brain) to be able to analyze the outcomes of multiple alternative actions, to guess what others might think and do, and to understand how others see us. Our subjective consciousness is responsible for all our analytical abilities. We use this with such facility that it is almost impossible to recognize the part of us which does things without “thinking,” things which include all rote activities. [note 8]

Just as language is learned by children from their parents, so is subjective consciousness. You can watch parents proposing “what if” situations to small children. Learning subjective consciousness requires language as a base, the ability to use metaphors as a means, and the examples of others. Jaynes places the maturing of subjective consciousness by individuals at about age 7 or 8. Subjective consciousness involves the ability to recognize yourself as seen by others, as an “analog I” which is internalized and placed into the space of the imagination, and which enables you to vault through time. [note 9]

And, if not from parents, how is such subjective consciousness learned? It is also learned from meeting strangers (not friends and familiar faces), an experience which forces upon you the idea that others see you, and thus suggests a narratized space in the mind where you can see yourself being looked at by others. This reflected “analog I” becomes the first spark to light up the enormity of possible analogical mind-spaces which compose subjective consciousness.

Subjective consciousness can be learned quickly. The same Inca army which, on November 16, 1532, walked into the trap set by 110 Spanish soldiers and lost 8000 men because there was no Divine Guidance on how to respond to the novelty of metal-clad men on horses, became engaged in guerrilla warfare and laid ambushes for the Spanish within months after the death of the Emperor. [note 10]

Jaynes claims that in the Middle East subjective consciousness didn’t develop until after 1500 BC. In the immediate 2000-year period after the “Era of the Gods,” which had still looked with certainty towards the beginnings, subjective consciousness simply was not needed. As long as nothing changed, life was predictable and safe. It took a number of worldwide catastrophes, which Jaynes did not address and was not even aware of, to force a change.

According to Jaynes, the Middle East started to wake up to consciousness with the arrival of “strangers.” For Mesopotamia the strangers are the Indo-European invaders from the steppes of Russia and from India and Persia — the Hittites (1600 to 1200 BC), who settled in Anatolia, but especially the later Medes and Persian invaders of Assyria in 500 BC, followed by Alexander’s conquest of Persia somewhat later. Many of the Greeks, in fact, had already passed the consciousness horizon with their wide trade contacts with other peoples, and their near-wholesale rejection of the authority of kings. In contrast, Sparta, a Greek state which remained a kingdom through the Classical era, never produced anything of note except mindless warriors. [note 11]

Their constitution has stood them well for 400 years.
— concerning Sparta, paraphrased from Herodotus, The Histories (circa 400 BC)

We also have to wonder at the myths and legends which have come down to us, since the lack of subjective consciousness precludes detailed memories. We can all verify this for ourselves, for we remember little or nothing from the first few years of life — when we lack language — and little from before the age of seven or eight — when we lack the imagination to embroider remembered experiences, unless these were outstanding or later retold to us.

This suggests that mankind would not be able to recall its early history except for unusual experiences, and further might suggest that the myths and legends are fabrications of a later age. But, just as we remember some events from childhood if they are retold to us (or to ourselves), so humans would also have been able to recall stupendous past events if these were retold or replayed.

Retold as myths from generation to generation and acted out in ceremonies, these past events would have become concrete tribal memories. The accuracy of the retelling would then have been carefully protected. Note how small children will correct you if you diverge from the telling (or reading) of a story that they already know. Ancient festivals reenacted the events, preserved the memories, and, at the same time, fleshed out the stories to fill those memories with details. [note 12]

The stories (“myths” to us) and festivals spoke of the deeds of the Gods, copied their actions, and illustrated their appearance. Mexicans today still play a football game with a flaming ball called “Purepucha,” recreating the creation events described in Michoacan myths. Through this dramatization everything displayed in the heavens becomes part of the earthly domain and localizes the Gods to specific temples and cities. When mythologists today suggest that the Gods of mythology are only human heroes elevated to godly status, they have it backwards. We are seeing the celestial Gods made human. Which is also exactly how most of mythology reads today.

Baron Blade:

The problem is that we as humans lost the ability to speak a “concrete” languish. In comparison to the “fluid” languish we speak now. Witch is open for reasoning… therefore creates thoughts.


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