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Voices Become Gods

Bill Rowe
In Marcel Kuijsten (ed.), Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind: The Theories of Julian Jaynes (Julian Jaynes Society, 2016).


... At the open-air Natufian site of Eynan, just north of the sea of Galilee, at around 9000 B.C.E., there is a burial tradition like nothing ever seen before. As Jaynes describes it, "An adult male, presumably the king, was partly covered with stones and partly propped up on stones, his upright head cradled in more stones, facing the snowy peaks of Mount Hermon, thirty miles away." Jaynes goes on to suggest that this dead king, propped up on a pillow of stones, was heard by those still living as giving forth commands much as he had done before he died. This, Jaynes believed, was the first god. To be sure, the hallucinated voices arose earlier in hunter-gather times as simple nonvoluntary auditory reminders of the current task. But at the opening of the Neolithic revolution, we see these auditory experiences recruited not as short-term individual task reminders but, rather, as organizing instructions for an entire group. ...