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Bicameral Mind and the Narcissan Conspiracy

Marcel Kinsbourne
Contemporary Psychology, November 1977, 22 (11): 801-2.


The voices of the gods pervaded and controlled human consciousness. The heroes of antiquity, noble automatons, marched to their command. To their instructions, the left chamber of the mind responded with instant, unquestioning obedience. Acting on and reacting to their surroundings, these bicameral humans lived from moment to moment, acting impulsively, unable to reflect or dissimulate, lacking inner speech, sense of personal continuity, or identity. They lacked self[consciousness. Free will was literally unthinkable for the bicameral puppets of the gods.

Then slowly here, abruptly there, no earlier than the second millenium, B.C., and later if at all in primitive cultures, self-consciousness emerged. By "cultural learning," a sense of personal identity and control new to the human species became widespread. But it is still denied to many of us even today, in the atavistic bicamerality of schizophrenia. And under direct stimulation of our brain by the neurosurgeon's electrodes, otherworldly voices whisper unintelligible mysteries. But for most of us in our everyday existence, the voices of the gods are stilled. In their place, internal speech has launched its interminable debate with itself. The voices that control us are our own. ...