2.1. Gods, Graves, and Idols



Civilization is the art of living in towns of such size that everyone does not know everyone else. Not a very inspiring definition, perhaps, but a true one. We have hypothesized that it is the social organization provided by the bicameral mind that made this possible. In this and the ensuing chapter, I am attempting to integrate without excessive particularization the worldwide evidence that such a mentality did in fact exist wherever and whenever civilization first began.

While the matter is in much current debate, the view I am adopting is that civilization began independently in various sites in the Near East, as described in the previous chapter, then spread along the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, into Anatolia and the valley of the Nile; then into Cyprus, Thessaly, and Crete; and then somewhat later by diffusion into the Indus River valley and beyond, and into the Ukraine and Central Asia; then, partly by diffusion and partly spontaneously, along the Yangtze; then independently in Mesoamerica; and again, partly by diffusion and partly independently, in the Andean highlands. In each of these areas, there was a succession of kingdoms all with similar characteristics that, somewhat prematurely, I shall call bicameral. While there were certainly other bicameral kingdoms in the history of the world, perhaps along the margins of the Bay of Bengal or the Malay peninsular, in Europe, certainly in central Africa by diffusion from Egypt, and possibly among the North American Indians during the so-called Mississippi Period, too little has been recovered of these civilizations to be of assistance in checking out the main hypothesis.

Given the theory as I have outlined it, I suggest that there are several outstanding archaeological features of ancient civilizations which can only be understood on this basis. These silent features are the subject of this chapter, the literate civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt being reserved for the next.

THE HOUSES OF GODS

Let us imagine ourselves coming as strangers to an unknown land and finding its settlements all organized on a similar plan: ordinary houses and buildings grouped around one larger and more magnificent dwelling. We would immediately assume that the large magnificent dwelling was the house of the prince who ruled there. And we might be right. But in the case of older civilizations, we would not be right if we supposed such a ruler was a person like a contemporary prince. Rather he was an hallucinated presence, or, in the more general case, a statue, often at one end of his superior house, with a table in front of him where the ordinary could place their offerings to him.

Now, whenever we encounter a town or city plan such as this, with a central larger building that is not a dwelling and has no other practical use as a granary or barn, for example, and particularly if the building contains some kind of human effigy, we may take it as evidence of a bicameral culture or of a culture derived from one. This criterion may seem fatuous, simply because it is the plan of many towns today. We are so used to the town plan of a church surrounded by lesser houses and shops that we see nothing unusual. But our contemporary religious and city architecture is partly, I think, the residue of our bicameral past. The church or temple or mosque is still called the House of God. In it, we still speak to the god, still bring offerings to be placed on a table or altar before the god or his emblem. My purpose in speaking in this objective fashion is to defamiliarize this whole pattern, so that standing back and seeing civilized man against his entire primate evolution, we can see that such a pattern of town structure is unusual and not to be expected from our Neanderthal origins.

From Jericho to Ur 

With but few exceptions, the plan of human group habitation from the end of the Mesolithic up to relatively recent eras is of a god-house surrounded by man-houses. In the earliest villages,1 such as the excavated level of Jericho corresponding to the ninth millennium B.C., such a plan is not entirely clear and is perhaps debatable. But the larger god-house at Jericho, surrounded by what were lesser dwellings, at a level corresponding to the seventh millennium B.C., with its perhaps columned porchway leading into a room with niches and curvilinear annexes, defies doubt as to its purpose. It is no longer the tomb of a dead king whose corpse is propped up on stones. The niches housed nearly life-sized effigies, heads modeled naturalistically in clay and set on canes or bundles of reeds and painted red. Of similar hallucinogenic function may have been the ten human skulls, perhaps of dead kings, found at the same site, with features realistically modeled in plaster and white cowrie shells inserted for eyes. And the Hacilar culture in Anatolia of about 7000 B.C. also had human crania set up on floors, suggesting similar bicameral control to hold the members of the culture together in their food-producing and protection enterprise.

H?y?k, of which only one or two acres have been as yet excavated. Here the arrangement was slightly different. Excavations at levels dating from about 6000 B.C. show that almost every house had a series of four to five rooms nestled around a god’s room. Numerous groups of statues in stone or baked clay have been found within these god’s rooms.

At Eridu, five centuries later, god-houses were set on mud-brick platforms, which were the origin of ziggurats. In a long central room, the god-idol on a platform at one end looked at an offering table at the other. And it is this Eridu sequence of sanctuaries up to the Ubaid culture in southern Iraq which, spreading over the whole of Mesopotamia around 4300 B.C., lays the foundations of the Sumerian civilization and its Babylonian successor which I consider in the next chapter. With cities of many thousands came the building of the huge monumental god-houses which characterize and dominate cities from then on, perhaps being hallucinogenic aids to everyone for miles around. To stand even today under such mountainous ziggurats as that of Ur, still heaving up above the excavated ruins of its once bicameral civilization, with its ramps of staircases rising to but half the height it once had, and to imagine its triple tier of temples on top rising into the sun is to feel the grip such architecture alone can have upon one’s mentality.

A Hittite Variation

The Hittites in the center of their capital, Hattusas, now Boghazkoy in central Turkey,2 had four huge temples with great granite sanctuaries that projected beyond the main fagades of the limestone walls to obtain lateral lighting for some huge idols.

But, perhaps taking the place of a ziggurat, that is, of a high place that could be seen wherever lands were being farmed, is the beautiful outdoor mountain shrine of Yazilikaya just above the city, its sanctuary walls streaming with reliefs of gods.3 That the mountains themselves were hallucinatory to the Hittites is indicated by relief sculptures still clearly visible on the rocks within the sanctuary, showing the usual stereotyped drawings of mountains topped with the heads and headdresses used for gods. As the Psalmist sings, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills whence cometh my help.”

On one of the faces of this mountain temple, the robed king is carved in profile. Just behind him in the stone relief towers a god with a much loftier crown; the god’s right arm is outstretched, showing the king the way, while the god’s left arm is hugged around the king’s neck and grasps the king’s right wrist firmly. It is testament to an emblem of the bicameral mind.

The depicting of gods in long files, unique I think to the Hittites, suggests a solution to an old problem in Hittite research. This is the translation of the important word pankush. Scholars originally interpreted it as signifying the whole human community, perhaps some sort of national assembly. But other texts have forced a revision of this to some kind of an elite. A further possibility, I suggest, is that it indicates the whole community of these many gods, and, particularly, the choice-decisions in which all the bicameral voices were in agreement. The fact that during the last century or so of Hittite rule, from around 1300 B.C., no mention of the pankush appears in any text could indicate their collective silence and the beginning of the troublous change toward subjectivity.

Olmec and Maya

The earliest bicameral kingdoms of America are also characterized by these huge, otherwise useless centrally located buildings: the queer-shaped clumsy Olmec pyramid at La Venta of about 500 B.C. with its corridor of lesser mounds smothering mysterious jaguar-face mosaics; or the rash of great temple pyramids constructed about 200 B.C.4 The largest of them, the gigantic pyramid of the sun at Teotihuacan (literally “Place of the Gods” has a greater cubic content than any in Egypt, being an eighth of a mile long on each side, and higher than a twenty-story building.5 A room for a god on its summit was reached by systems of steep stairs. And on top of the god-room, tradition states, there was a gigantic statue of the sun. A processional way flanked by other pyramids leads toward it, and, for miles around on the Mexican plateau, one can still see the remains of a great city, houses for priests, numerous courtyards, and smaller buildings, all of one story so that from anywhere in the city one could see the great pyramidal houses of gods.6

Beginning somewhat later, but co-temporaneous with Teotihuacan, are the many Maya cities in the Yucatan peninsula7 showing the same bicameral architecture, each city centering upon steeply rising pyramids topped with god-houses and richly decorated with Olmec-type jaguar masks and other murals and carvings, in which an endless variety of dragons with human faces crawl fiercely through the intricate stone decoration. Exceptionally interesting is the fact that some of the pyramids contain burials as in Egypt, perhaps indicating a phase in which the king was a god. In front of these Mayan pyramids are usually stelae carved with the figures of gods and glyphic inscriptions which have yet to be fully understood. Since this kind of writing is always in connection with religious images, it is possible that the hypothesis of the bicameral mind may assist in unwinding their mysteries.

I also think that the curious unhospitable sites on which Mayan cities were often built and their sudden appearance and disappearance can best be explained on the basis that such sites and movements were commanded by hallucinations which in certain periods could be not only irrational but downright punishing ? as was Jahweh sometimes to his people, or Apollo (through the Delphic Oracle) to his, by siding with the invaders of Greece (see III.1, III.2, n. 12).

Occasionally, there are actual depictions of the bicameral act. On two stone reliefs from Santa Lucia Cotz umalhaupa, a non-Mayan site on the Pacific slope of Guatemala, this is very clearly the case. A man is shown prostrate on the grass being spoken to by two divine figures, one half-human, half-deer, and the other a death figure. That this is an actual bicameral scene is clear from modern observations of the so-called chilans or prophets of the area. Even today, they hallucinate voices while face down in this identical posture, although it is thought by some that such contemporary hallucinations are aided by eating peyote.8

Andean Civilizations

The half dozen or so civilizations of the Andes that precede the Inca are even more lost in the overgrowth of time.9 The earliest, Kotosh, dating before 1800 B.C., is centered about a rectangular god-house built on a stepped platform 25 feet high on a large mound, where it was surrounded by the remains of other buildings. Its interior walls had a few tall rectangular niches in each, in one of which was a pair of crossed hands modeled in plaster, perhaps part of a larger idol, now dust. How similar to Jericho five millennia earlier!

While it is possible that Kotosh was the work of migrants from Mexico, the next civilization, the Chavin, beginning about 1200 B.C., shows decided Olmec features: the cultivation of maize, a number of pottery characteristics, and the jaguar theme in its religious sculpture. At Chavin itself in the north highlands, a great platformlike temple, honeycombed with passages, houses an impressive idol in the form of a prismatic mass of granite carved in low relief to represent a human being with a jaguar head.10 Following them, the Mochicas,11 ruling the northern Peruvian desert from A.D. 400 to 1000, built huge pyramids for their gods, towering in front of walled enclosures which probably contained the cities, as can be seen today in the Chicama valley near Trujillo.12

Then on the bleak uplands near Lake Titicaca from A.D. 1000 to 1300 came the great empire of Tiahuanaco, with an even larger stone-faced pyramid, set about with giant pillarlike gods weeping tears (why?) of condor heads and snake heads.13

Then the Chimu, on an even vaster scale. Its capital of Chan-Chan, covering eleven square miles, was walled off into ten great compounds, each a city in miniature with its own pyramid, its own palacelike structure, its own irrigated areas, reservoirs, and cemeteries. Precisely what these neighboring separated walled compounds could mean in the light of the bicameral hypothesis is a fascinating problem for research.

The Golden Realm of the Incas

And then the Incas themselves, like a synthesis of Egypt and Assyria. At least at the beginning of their power about A.D. 1200, their realm was suggestive of a god-king type of bicameral kingdom. But within a century, the Incas had conquered all before them, perhaps thereby weakening their own bicamerality, as did Assyria in another age and another clime.

The Inca empire at the time of its conquest by Pizarro was perhaps a combination of things bicameral and things protosubjective. This meeting was probably the closest thing there is to a clash between the two mentalities this essay is about. On the subjective side was the vast empire which, if we suppose it was administered with the horizontal and vertical social mobility such an administration demands today,14 would be very difficult to control in a purely bicameral fashion. From hearsay reports, it is believed that conquered chiefs were allowed to retain their titles, and their sons sent to Cuzco for training and perhaps held as hostages, a difficult conception in a bicameral world. Conquered peoples seem to have retained their own speech, although all officials had to learn the religious language, Quechua.

But on the bicameral side, there are a large number of features which are most certainly bicameral in origin, even though they may have been acted out partially through the inertia of tradition, as the small city-state of Cuzco on the upper reaches of the Amazon exploded into this Roman empire of the Andes. The Inca himself was the god-king, a pattern so similar to Egypt’s that less conservative historians of American antiquity have felt that there must have been some diffusion. But I suggest that given man, language, and cities organized on a bicameral basis, there are only certain fixed patterns into which history can fit.

The king was divine, a descendant of the sun, the creator-god of land and earth, of people, of the sun’s sweat (gold) and the moon’s tears (silver). Before him, even his highest lords might tremble with such awe as to shake them from their feet,15 an awe that is impossible for modern psychology to appreciate. His daily life was deep in elaborate ritual. His shoulders were mantled in quilts of fresh bat-webs, and his head circled with a fringe of red tassels, like a curtain before his eyes to protect his lords from too awesome a view at his unwatchable divinity. When the Inca died, his concubines and personal servants first drank and danced, and then were eagerly strangled to join him on his journey to the sun, just as had previously happened in Egypt, Ur, and China. The Inca’s body was mummified and placed in his house, which thereafter became a temple. A life-sized golden statue was made of him sitting on his golden stool as in his life, and served daily with food as in the kingdoms of the Near East.

While it is possible that the sixteenth-century Inca and his hereditary aristocracy were walking through bicameral roles established in a much earlier truly bicameral kingdom, even as perhaps the Emperor Hirohito, the divine sun god of Japan, does to this day, the evidence suggests that it was much more than this. The closer an individual was to the Inca, the more it seems his mentality was bicameral. Even the gold and jeweled spools which the top of the hierarchy, including the Inca, wore in their ears, sometimes with images of the sun on them, may have indicated that those same ears were hearing the voice of the sun.

But perhaps most suggestive of all is the manner in which this huge empire was conquered.16 The unsuspicious meekness of the surrender has long been the most fascinating problem of the European invasions of America. The fact that it occurred is clear, but the record as to why is grimy with supposition, even in the superstitious Conquistadors who later recorded it. How could an empire whose armies had triumphed over the civilizations of half a continent be captured by a small band of 150 Spaniards in the early evening of November 16, 1532?

 It is possible that it was one of the few confrontations between subjective and bicameral minds, that for things as unfamiliar as Inca Atahualpa was confronted with ? these rough, milkskinned men with hair drooling from their chins instead of from their scalps so that their heads looked upside down, clothed in metal, with avertive eyes, riding strange llamalike creatures with silver hoofs, having arrived like gods in gigantic huampus tiered like Mochican temples over the sea which to the Inca was unsailable ? that for all this there were no bicameral voices coming from the sun, or from the golden statues of Cuzco in their dazzling towers. Not subjectively conscious, unable to deceive or to narratize out the deception of others,17 the Inca and his lords were captured like helpless automatons. And as its people mechanically watched, this shipload of subjective men stripped the gold sheathing from the holy city, melted down its golden images and all the treasures of the Golden Enclosure, its fields of golden corn with stems and leaves all cunningly wrought in gold, murdered its living god and his princes, raped its unprotesting women, and, narratizing their Spanish futures, sailed away with the yellow metal into the subjective conscious value system from which they had come.

It is a long way from Eynan.

THE LIVING DEAD

The burial of the important dead as if they still lived is common to almost all these ancient cultures whose architecture we have just looked at. This practice has no clear explanation except that their voices were still being heard by the living, and were perhaps demanding such accommodation. As I have suggested at Eynan in 1.6, these dead kings, propped up on stones, whose voices were hallucinated by the living, were the first gods.

Then as these early cultures develop into bicameral kingdoms, the graves of their important personages are more and more filled with weapons, furniture, ornaments, and particularly vessels of food. This is true of the very first chamber tombs all over Europe and Asia after 7000 B.C. and is elaborated to an extraordinary degree as bicameral kingdoms develop both in size and complexity. The magnificent burials of Egyptian pharaohs in a whole succession of intricately built pyramids are familiar to everyone (see next chapter). But similar emplacements, if less awesome, are found elsewhere. The kings of Ur, during the first half of the third millennium B.C., were entombed with their entire retinues buried, sometimes alive, in a crouched position around them as for service. Eighteen of such tombs have been found, their vaulted subterranean rooms containing food and drink, clothing, jewelry, weapons, bull-headed lyres, even sacrificed draft animals yoked to ornate chariots.18 Others, dating from slightly later periods, have been found at Kish and Ashur. In Anatolia, at Alaca Hliyiik, the royal graves were roofed with whole carcasses of roasted oxen to ease the sepulchral appetites of their motionless inhabitants.

Even the ordinary dead man in many cultures is treated as still living. The very oldest inscriptions on funerary themes are Mesopotamian lists of the monthly rations of bread and beer to be given to the common dead. About 2500 B.C., in Lagash, a dead person was buried with 7 jars of beer, 420 flat loaves of bread, 2 measures of grain, 1 garment, 1 head support, and 1 bed.19 Some ancient Greek graves not only have the various appurtenances of life, but actual feeding tubes which seem to indicate that archaic Greeks poured broths and soups down into the livid jaws of a moldering corpse.20 And in the Metropolitan Museum in New York is a painted krater or mixing bowl (numbered 14.130.15) which dates from about 850 B.C.; it shows a boy seemingly tearing his hair with one hand as with the other he stuffs food into the mouth of a corpse, probably his mother’s. This is difficult to appreciate unless the feeder was hallucinating something from the dead at the time.

The evidence in the Indus civilizations21 is more fragmentary because of the successive coverings of alluvium, the rotting away of all their writings on papyrus, and the incompleteness of archaeological investigations. But the Indus sites so far excavated often have the cemetery next to the citadel in a high place with fifteen or twenty food-pots per dead person, consistent with the hypothesis that they were still felt to be living when buried. And the Neolithic burials of the Yang-Shao cultures of China22, wholly undated except insofar as they precede the middle of the second millennium B.C., similarly show burials in plank-lined graves, the corpse accompanied by pots of food and stone tools. By 1200 B.C., the Shang dynasty has royal tombs with slaughtered retinues and animals so similar to those of Mesopotamia and Egypt a millennium earlier as to convince some scholars that civilization came to China by diffusion from the West.23

Similarly in Mesoamerica, Olmec burials from about 800 to 300 B.C. were richly furnished with pots of food. In the Mayan kingdoms, the noble dead were buried as if living in the plazas of temples. A chieftain’s tomb recently found under a temple at Palenque is as elaborately splendid as anything found in the Old World.24 At the site of Kaminal-juyu, dating A.D. 500, a chieftain was buried in a sitting position along with two adolescents, a child, and a dog for his company. Ordinary men were buried with their mouths full of ground maize in the hard-mud floors of their houses, with their tools and weapons, and with pots filled with drink and food, just as in previous civilizations on the other side of the world. Also I should mention the portrait statues of Yucatan that held the ashes of a deceased chief, the resculptured skulls of Mayapan, and the small catacombs for Andean commoners bound in a sitting position in the midst of bowls of chicha and the tools and things used in their lives.25 The dead were then called huaca or godlike, which I take to indicate that they were sources of hallucinated voices. And when it was reported by the Conquistadors that these people declared that it is only a long time after death that the individual ‘dies,’ I suggest that the proper interpretation is that it takes this time for the hallucinated voice to finally fade away.

That the dead were the origin of gods is also found in the writings of those bicameral civilizations that became literate. In a bilingual incantation text from Assyria, the dead are directly called Ilani or gods.26 And on the other side of the world three millennia later, Sahagun, one of the earliest reporters of the Mesoamerican scene, reported that the Aztecs “called the place Teotihuacan, burial place of the kings; the ancients said: he who has died became a god; or when someone said ? he who has become a god, meant to say ? he has died.”27

Even in the conscious period there was the tradition that gods were men of a previous age who had died. Hesiod speaks of a golden race of men who preceded his own generation and became the “holy demons upon the earth, beneficent, averters of ills, guardians of mortal men.”28 Similar references can be found up to four centuries later, as when Plato refers to heroes who after death become the demons that tell people what to do.29

I do not wish to give the impression that the presence of pots of food and drink in the graves of these civilizations is universal throughout all these eras; it is general. But exceptions here often prove the rule. For example, Sir Leonard Woolley, when he first started excavating the personal graves at Larsa in Mesopotamia (which date from about 1900 B.C.), was both surprised and disappointed by the poverty of their contents. Even the most elaborately built vault would have no furnishings other than a couple of clay pots at the tomb door perhaps, but nothing of the kind of thing found in graves elsewhere. The explanation came when he realized that these tombs were always underneath particular houses, and that the dead man of the Larsa Age needed no tomb furniture or large amounts of food because everything in the house was still at his disposal. The food and drink at the tomb door may have been like an emergency measure, so that when the dead man ‘mixed’ with the family, he came forth in a kindly mood.

Thus, from Mesopotamia to Peru, the great civilizations have at least gone through a stage characterized by a kind of burial as if the individual were still living. And where writing could record it, the dead were often called gods. At the very least, this is consistent with the hypothesis that their voices were still heard in hallucination.

But is this a necessary relationship? Could not grief itself promote such practices, a kind of refusal to accept the death of a loved one or a revered leader, calling dead persons gods as a kind of endearment? Possibly. This explanation, however, is not sufficient to account for the entire pattern of the evidence, the pervasion of references to the dead as gods in different regions of the world, the vastness of some of the enterprise as in the great pyramids, and even the contemporary vestiges in lore and literature of ghosts returning from their graves with messages for the living.

IDOLS THAT SPEAK

A third feature of primitive civilization that I take to be indicative of bicamerality is the enormous numbers and kinds of human effigies and their obvious centrality to ancient life. The first effigies in history were of course the propped-up corpses of chiefs, or the remodeled skulls we have referred to earlier. But thereafter they have an astonishing development. It is difficult to understand their obvious importance to the cultures involved with them apart from the supposition that they were aids in hallucinating voices. But this is far from a simple matter, and quite different principles may be intertwined in the full explanation.

Figurines

The smallest of these effigies are figurines, which have been found in almost all of the ancient kingdoms, beginning with the first stationary settlements of man. During the seventh and sixth millennia B.C, they are extremely primitive, small stones with incised features or grotesque clay figures. Evidence of their importance in cultures of about 5600 B.C. is provided by the excavations at Hacilar in southwest Turkey. Flat standing female effigies, made of baked clay or stone with incised eyes, nose, hair, and chin were found in each house,30 as if, I suggest, they were its occupant’s hallucinatory controls. The Amatrian and Gerzean cultures of Egypt, about 3600 B.C., had carved tusks with bearded heads and black ‘targets’ for eyes, each about six to eight inches and suitable to be held in the hand.31 And these were so important that they were stood upright in the grave of their owner when he died.

Figurines in huge numbers have been unearthed in most of the Mesopotamian cultures, at Lagash, Uruk, Nippur, and Susa.32 At Ur, clay figures painted in black and red were found in boxes of burned brick placed under the floor against the walls but with one end opened, facing into the center of the room.

The function of all these figurines, however, is as mysterious as anything in all archaeology. The most popular view goes back to the uncritical mania with which ethnology, following Frazer, wished to find fertility cults at the drop of a carved pebble. But if such figurines indicate something about Frazerian fertility, we should not find them where fertility was no problem. But we do. In the Olmec civilization of the most fertile part of Mexico, the figurines are of an astonishing variety, often with open mouths and exaggerated ears, as might be expected if they were fashioned as embodiments of heard voices with whom dialogue could be carried on.33

The explanation, however, is not simple. Figurines seemed to go through an evolution, just as did the culture of which they are a part. The early Olmec figurines, to stay with the same example, develop through their first period an exaggerated prognathism until they look almost like animals. And then, in the period of Teotihuacan, they are more refined and delicate, with huge hats and capes, painted with daubs of fugitive red, yellow, and white paint, looking much like Olmec priests. A third period of Olmec figurines has them more carefully modeled and realistic, some with jointed arms and legs, some with hollow reliquaries in their torsos closed by a small square lid and containing other minute figurines, perhaps denoting the confusion of bicameral guidance that occurred just before the great Olmec civilization collapsed. For it was at the end of this period of a profusion of figurines, as well as of huge new half-finished open-mouth statues, that the great city of Teotihuacan was deliberately destroyed, its temples burned, its walls leveled, and the city abandoned, around A.D. 700. Had the voices ceased, resulting in the increased effigy making? Or had they multiplied into confusion?

Because of their size and number, it is doubtful if the majority of figurines occasioned auditory hallucinations. Some indeed may have been mnemonic devices, reminders to a nonconscious people who could not voluntarily retrieve admonitory experience, perhaps functioning like the quipu or knot-string literature of the Incas or the beads of rosaries of our own culture. For example, the Mesopotamian bronze foundation figurines buried at the corners of new buildings and under thresholds of doors are of three kinds: a kneeling god driving a peg into the ground, a basket carrier, and a recumbent bull. The current theory about them, that they are to pin down evil spirits beneath the building, is scarcely sufficient. Instead it is possible that they were semihallucinatory mnemonic aids for a nonconscious people in setting the posts straight, in carrying the materials, or using oxen to pull the larger materials to the site.

But some of these small objects, we may be confident, were capable of assisting with the production of bicameral voices. Consider the eye-idols in black and white alabaster, thin crackerlike bodies surmounted by eyes once tinted with malachite paint, which have been found in the thousands, particularly at Brak on one of the upper branches of the Euphrates, that date about 3000 B.C. Like the earlier Amatrian and Gerzean tusk idols of Egypt, they are suitable to be held in the hand. Most have one pair of eyes, but some have two; some wear crowns and some have markings clearly indicating gods. Larger eye-idols made of terra cotta have been found at other sites, Ur, Mari, and Lagash; and, because the eyes are open loops, have been called spectacleidols. Others, made of stone and placed on podiums and altars,34 are like two cylindrical doughnuts positioned a distance above an incised square platform that could be a mouth.

 A Theory of Idols

Now this needs a little more psychologizing. Eye-to-eye contact in primates is extremely important. Below humans, it is indicative of the hierarchical position of the animal, the submissive animal turning away grinning in many primate species. But in humans, perhaps because of the much longer juvenile period, eye-to-eye contact has evolved into a social interaction of great importance. An infant child, when its mother speaks to it, looks at the mother’s eyes, not her lips. This response is automatic and universal. The development of such eye-to-eye contact into authority relationships and love relationships is an exceedingly important trajectory that has yet to be traced. It is sufficient here merely to suggest that you are more likely to feel a superiors authority when you and he are staring straight into each other’s eyes. There is a kind of stress, an unresolvedness about the experience, and withal something of a diminution of consciousness, so that, were such a relationship mimicked in a statue, it would enhance the hallucination of divine speech.

The eyes thus become a prominent feature of most temple statuary throughout the bicameral period. The diameter of the human eye is about 10 percent of the height of the head, this proportion being what I shall call the eye index of an idol. The famous group of twelve statues discovered in the Favissa of the temple of Abu at Tell Asmar,35 the symbols carved on their bases indicating that they are gods, have eye indices of as high as 18 percent ? huge globular eyes hypnotically staring out of the unrecorded past of 5000 years ago with defiant authority.

Other idols from other sites show the same thing. A particularly beautiful and justly famous white marble head from Uruk36 has an eye index of over 20 percent, the sculpture showing that the eyes and the eyebrows were once encrusted with dazzling gems, the face colored, the hair tinted, the head part of a life-sized wooden statue now dust. Around 2700 B.C. alabaster and calcite statues of fluffily skirted gods, rulers, and priests abounded in the luxurious civilization on the middle Euphrates called Mari, their eyes up to 18 percent of the height of the head and heavily outlined with black paint. In the main temple of Mari ruled the famous Goddess with the Flowering Vase, her huge empty eye sockets having once contained hypnotic gems, her hands holding a tilted aryballos. A pipe from a tank going within the idol allowed the aryballos to overflow with water which streamed down the idol’s robe, clothing her lower parts with a translucent liquid veil, and adding a sibilant sound suitable to be molded into hallucinated speech. And then the famous series of statues of the enigmatic Gudea, ruler of Lagash, about 2100 B.C., carved in the hardest stone, with eye indices of approximately 17 or 18 percent.

The eye indices of temple and tomb sculptures of pharaohs in Egypt are sometimes as high as 20 percent. The few wooden statues from Egypt that have remained show that their enlarged eyes were once made of quartz and crystal inserted in a copper surround. As might be expected from its god-king type of theocracy (see next chapter) idols in Egypt do not seem to have played so prominent a role as in Mesopotamia. 

Few examples of Indus stone sculpture survive, but these few show pronounced eye indices of over 20 percent.37 No idols are yet known from the bicameral period of China. But as civilization begins again in Mesoamerica around 900 B.C., it is as if we were back in the Near East several millennia earlier, though with certain unique prospects: huge heads carved out of hard basalt, often eight feet tall, usually with a cap, sometimes with large ear pads like a football helmet, resting bodiless on the ground near La Venta and Tres Zapoltes (some of them now removed to Olmec Park at Villahermosa). The eye indices of these heads ranged from a normal 11 percent to over 19 percent. Usually the mouth is half open as in speech. There are also many Olmec ceramic idols of a strange sexless child, always seated with legs spread-eagled as if to expose his sexlessness, and leaning forward to stare intently through wide slits of eyes, the full-lipped mouth half open as in speech. The eye index, if the eyes were open, in the several of them I have examined averaged 17 percent. Figurines in the Olmec culture were sometimes half life-sized with even larger eye indices 3 they are often found in burials as at the Olmec-influenced site of Tlatilco, near Mexico City, of about 500 B.C., as if the deceased was buried with his own personal idol which still could tell him what to do.

Mayan idols do not usually show such abnormal eye indices. But in the great cities of Yucatan, portrait statues were made of deceased leaders for, I think, the same hallucinogenic purpose. The back of the head was left hollow and .the cremated ashes of the dead placed in it. And according to Landa, who witnessed this practice in the sixteenth century, “they preserved these statues with a great deal of veneration.”38  

The Cocoms that once ruled Mayapan, around A.D. 1200, repeated what the Natufian culture of Jericho had done 9000 years earlier. They decapitated their dead “and after cooking the heads, they cleaned off the flesh and then sawed off half the crown at the back, leaving entire the front part with jaws and teeth. Then they replaced the flesh . . . with a kind of bitumen [and plaster] which gave them a natural and lifelike appearance . . . these they kept in the oratories in their houses and on festive days offered food to them .. . they believed that their souls reposed within and that these gifts were useful to them.”39 There is nothing here inconsistent with the notion that such prepared heads were so treated because they ‘contained’ the voices of their former owners.

Many other kinds of idols were also used by the Maya, and in such profusion that when, in 1565, a Spanish mayor ordered the abolition of idolatry in his city, he was aghast when “in my presence, upwards of a million were brought.”40 Another type of Mayan idol was made of cedar which the Maya called kuche or holy wood. “And this they called to make gods.” They were carved by fasting priests called chaks, in great fear and trembling, shut into a little straw hut blessed with incense and prayer, the god-carvers “frequently cutting their ears and with the blood anointing the gods and burning incense to them.” When finished, the gods were lavishly dressed and placed upon daises in small buildings, some of which by being in more inaccessible places have escaped the ravages of Christianity or of time, and are still being discovered. According to a sixteenthcentury observer, “the unhappy dupes believed the idols spoke to them and so sacrificed to it birds, dogs, their own blood and even men.”41,42

The Speech of Idols

How can we know that such idols ‘spoke’ in the bicameral sense? I have tried to suggest that the very existence of statuary and figurines requires an explanation in a way that has not previously been perceived. The hypothesis of the bicameral mind renders such an explanation. The setting up of such idols in religious places, the exaggerated eyes in the early stages of every civilization, the practice of inserting gems of brilliant sorts into the eye sockets in several civilizations, an elaborate ritual for the opening of the mouth for new statues in the two most important early civilizations (as we shall see in the next chapter), all these present a pattern of evidence at least.

Cuneiform literature often refers to god-statues speaking. Even as late as the early first millennium B.C., a royal letter reads: 

I have taken note of the portents .. . I had them recited in order before Shamash . . . the royal image [a statue] of Akkad brought up visions before me and cried out: “Wha t pernicious portent have you tolerated in the royal image?” Again it spoke: “Say to the Gardener . . . [and here the cuneiform becomes unreadable, but then goes on] . . . it made inquiry concerning Ningal-Iddina, Shamash-Ibni, and Na’idMarduk. Concerning the rebellion in the land it said: “Tak e the wall cities one after the other, that a cursed one will not be able to stand before the Gardener.” 43 

The Old Testament also indicated that one of the types of idol there referred to, the Terap, could speak. Ezekiel, 21:21, describes the king of Babylon as consulting with several of them. Further direct evidence comes from America. The conquered Aztecs told the Spanish invaders how their history began when a statue from a ruined temple belonging to a previous culture spoke to their leaders. It commanded them to cross the lake from where they were, and to carry its statue with them wherever they went, directing them hither and thither, even as the unembodied bicameral voices led Moses zigzagging across the Sinai desert.44

And finally the remarkable evidence from Peru. All the first reports of the conquest of Peru by the Inquisition-taught Spaniards are consistent in regarding the Inca kingdom as one commanded by the Devil. Their evidence was that the Devil himself actually spoke to the Incas out of the mouths of their statues. To these coarse dogmatized Christians, coming from one of the most ignorant counties of Spain, this caused little astonishment. The very first report back to Europe said, “in the temple [of Pachacamac] was a Devil who used to speak to the Indians in a very dark room which was as dirty as he himself.”45 And a later account reported that 

. . . it was a thing very common and approved at the Indies, that the Devill spake and answered in these false sanctuaries . . . It was commonly in the night they entered backward to their idoll and so went bending their bodies and head, after an uglie manner, and so they consulted with him. Th e answer he made, was commonly like unto a fearefull hissing, or to a gnashing which did terrifie them; and all that he did advertise or command them, was but the way to their perdition and ruine.46