I have never wanted to recommend so wholeheartedly a book that I’ve felt was so preposterous. And I mean that most un-ironically. Is there a book anywhere so deeply weird and fascinating as this one?
In short, The Origin of Consciousness suggests that until well after the invention of writing mankind was not conscious. This is crazy. A totally crazy idea. Instead of what we think of as conscious thought—that is, the you inside of you that’s aware of itself and aware of you thinking—man’s mind was bicameral, or made up of two distinct separate parts. Two non-conscious selves, one that accepted orders and one that gave orders.
Oh, and the order-giver spoke in the voice of god.
Or rather, a cacophony of gods. And that’s just the beginning. It gets crazier from there. I wish I could graph just how crazy it gets as the whole history of western civilization is completely reinterpreted based on this insane idea but when the vertical gets too high graphs stop making sense.
I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything so good. Like me, you’ll probably think it’s totally crazy—and fascinating. Check out the Julian Jaynes Society for an introduction.