Julian Jaynes and The God-Learners (Longish)

From: Mike Cule (mikec@room3b.demon.co.uk)
Date: Fri 03 May 1996 - 20:09:24 EEST


I started reading THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BI-
CAMERAL MIND by Julian Jaynes after seeing it referred to in the Glorantha
Digest a while back. And an interesting intellectual roller-coaster ride it was.
Although I'm convinced in some ways by the detail that the author comes up with
to tie much of human culture into his knowledge of the lateral specialisations
of the human brain, I remain unconvinced of his central hypothesis: that human
beings of the early historical period were totally unconscious, lacking the
'software', both personal and cultural, to make them aware of themselves as
individual beings. That he has shown that early man had a different set of
expectations of the unconscious processes of their own minds and often
experienced them as divine revalations I am (fairly) convinced. That there was
no true conscious mind there at all, I am unconvinced.

I'm reasonably sure that 'normal' human beings of the current time can access
such sub-concious messages and inspirations on a regular basis: it is part of
the process of being creative to learn to manage such things in an orderly way,
and no actor or writer ever thinks of operating on a purely conscious level.
But equally, the conscious mind has a far more important role in setting up the
problems that the unconscious mechanisms work on than Jaynes will admit.
Consciousness and individual will work (in healthy humans) hand in hand to
solve the person's problems. Early civilised man surely realised his subconsious
flashes of inspiration as god-given but he had, I continue to believe, a
conscious mind as well. (My friend Rob, when I was discussing these things with
him, said that he is convinced that cats have enough of a mental model of
themselves to plan new strategies and tactics to manage their lives and their
humans. So am I.)

But anyway, on to the Gloranthan related stuff. By the end of reading Jaynes'
book, I was sick and tired of his insistence that the 'bi-cameral' man's visions
of his gods were hallucinations. Actually, I was sick and tired of this after
the first two chapters. And it occured to me that the unbelievable quality of
his vision of early civilised man, obedient to the gods which were merely his
own internal processes telling him what to do, creating a civilisation from
such unpromising and unco-ordinated material, would be resolved if he would only
admit that there might be some connection between the individual unconscious
minds. That there might be a general mental process, a collective unconscious
of each culture. This of course means that there is a place for the gods to
dwell in and rule over. And that the 'hallucinations' of early man really were
the guiding of more complete and knowledgable beings than the individual man.
If we accept this idea (which I think on Occam's Razor grounds is a lot less
fantastic than Jaynes' hypothesis) then faith really does give the gods their
reality.

On Glorantha, this is not only so but the beings that dwell in the hidden
collective mind can affect the 'real' world directly and physically. For this
reason, the mental models that sustain and power the gods are not breaking down
rapidly as they did (speaking hypothetically) when the early civilisations of
Earth came into contact with each other. It is hard to maintain your mental
image of the One True Way Of The Gods when you meet up with people who have
never heard of your gods and appear to be doing very well without them. (They
are simultaneosly having the same difficulty maintaining their faith.)

But if your Sunspear or Lightning Bolt is still with you, faith is reassured
and can continue to provide you with a model for reality.

This also means that we don't have to regard un-Illuminated Gloranthans as
being automata like Jaynes vision of the early man. (Perhaps Pre-Dawn man was
like that.) Illuminates have perhaps seen how their own faith and vision of the
world gives form to the Gods and can so exploit the secrets of the Gods without
submitting to the punishments the Gods send, knowing that they are sustained by
the belief of their followers.

Which leads up to the following piece of God-Learnerism:

NOCHET KNOWLEDGE TEMPLE INDEX PL 13233-12-9913-K: MOST CONFIDENTIAL
NOT TO BE TAKEN FROM THE TEMPLE. NOT TO BE SHOWN TO ANYONE BELOW
PRIESTLY RANK WITHOUT SIGNED PERMISSION OF THE HIGH PRIEST. ALL
PERSONS READING THIS MUST SIGN THE ATTACHED LOG-BOOK FIRST.

A note by Anterinus the Black Sage: The following is believed to be a copy of
an early God-Learner document. It was written by a Jrusteli wizard who was
involved in the early missionary efforts of the revived Malkioni churches in
Seshnela at the start of the Second Age. It may reflect, if not the results of,
at least some of the causes for the research into the structure of Glorantha
that lead to the God-Learner Movement, the discovery of the RuneQuest Sight and
the subsequent mytho-ecological disaster.

My Lord,

        It is with distress that I attach the enclosed report on our missionary
failures in the territory that has been assigned to me. Neither the force of
arms of our Knights nor the mystical prowess of our Wizards has been able to
shift the souls of the majority of the local people any closer to the One God.
They remain tied to the primitive magics of their shamans and priests and to
the world view that blinds them to the promise of Solace. They are convinced
that our own spiritual practices are destroying us and are smugly sure that we
are not going to be their overlords forever.

        My Lord, I fear they may be right. Since I came to this place from our
island home, I have done some serious thinking that I might never have faced
had I not come into contact with these 'primitives'. Thinking about the roots
of our faith and theirs. Thinking about the nature of the world we live in.

        I have always wondered why people continue to place their souls in the
hands of those who are rudely ignorant and lack both learning and spiritual
power. I have learned since coming here that the 'gods' of the vulgar are
lacking neither in intellectual depth nor in power. The spiritual strength of
the polytheist priests is enough to sustain their cults despite the best that
our missionary wizards can do to establish the pre-eminence of our own skills.
True, we are more versatile, But their magics re-inforce the belief-structures
of their culture and are not to be despised. I have lost two Bishops and three
Archdeacons to the magics of the Death Cult and more than enough Knights to
their swords.

        I submit, my Lord, that it is imperative that we discover the sources
of the spiritual power of the infidels so that it may be either subverted or
turned to the service of the True God. Our own magics are individual, embodied
in each sorcerer-priest. Theirs are collective, with the faith of the
congregation giving power and the beliefs of the culture giving form to their
False Gods. And that power is not inconsiderable. I submit, my Lord, that we,
isolated from the mainland on our island have been too contemptuous of the
'lesser breeds without the Law'. We must seek out the source of their power and
turn it to our advantage if we are to prevail. I know of no prophecy or Prophet
who gives us a guarentee of prevailing against the Ungodly. Only the chance.
The One God will help those who help themselves.

        I prospose we take the following actions.....

(The foot of the page is torn off and blood spatters the remaining fragments....)

Mike Cule

Actor and Genius.
AKA Theophilus, Prince-Archbishop of the Far Isles
(Arms: Purpure, an open book proper, without clasps. On the dexter page the
Greek letter Alpha or. On the sinister page the letter Omega of the same.
Motto: nulla spes sit in resistendo.)
Ask me about the Far Isles Medieval Society:
Better living through pan-medieval anachronisms.

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