Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Philip K. Dick letter to editor Mark Hurst re: Julian Jaynes

**Probably should have posted this yesterday...from SELECTED LETTERS vol. 5**

March 17, 1977
Dear Mark,

Sorry I was somewhat abrupt with you the other night on the phone. It was an expression of my concern about Sherri, nothing more. Her friend Kathy had come over and told me, “I think now Sherri is dying.” Kathy is very practical and down-to-earth, and I never heard her say anything like this before. It fits my impression completely. Anyhow, that is our personal problem; on to news about VALIS.
The issue of TIME MAGAZINE which I told you about is off the stands, so I presume you were not able to get hold of a copy. I have the book which it discussed: Julian Jayne’s THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND (cost me $13, but it was well worth it). Here is his stunning theory, based on a decade of research:
Humans originally were bicameral—that is, they used two hemispheres of the mind (“bicameral” means “two-chambered”). The left hemisphere was used for speech; the right contained the inner voices of the gods or dead or living kings, which the bicameral man heard as commands to do what was socially necessary; i.e. the inner command voices kept him at his tasks. Extraordinary as it may seem to us, when a king died, his people continued to hear his voice—on an inner basis, for some time after he was dead; this is why in the most ancient cultures throughout the world the dead king’s body was provided with food, etc., since he, in the form of his voice, was very much alive to his followers. However, somewhere between two and one thousand B.C. man began not to hear these inner command voices; as Jaynes puts it, “The gods fell silent.” Man made frantic and even somewhat tragic efforts to get the gods to talk to him as before; for example, this is what the Delphic Sibyls did: they spoke for the god Apollo, but by that time (600 B.C. to 100 A.D.) only a few simple peasant girls could hear the godly voices. And finally even they could not. By 100 A.D. no one could hear the voices of the gods anymore.
In reading Jaynes’ book I discover that although he is very certain (and very correct) that these inner command voices issued out of man’s right hemispheres, in no way is Jaynes really sure what specifically the voices were, if you follow me. He does not even really claim to know, although he speaks of them sometimes as being introjected voices of former kings now dead. He does not seem to believe or claim that this is all that these voices were mainly he concentrates on the human agony of the loss of these voices, due, he says, to the rise of consciousness in the left hemispheres of men so that they so to speak gave themselves their own commands, were no longer automatons reacting to command voices from their right hemispheres. Bicameral man ceased to exist and modern man took his place. Modern man, as Ornstein says, is cut off from his right hemisphere, from whatever it is now doing—which seems to be a lot, according to Ornstein and Joe Bogen and other researchers, such as I quoted in A SCANNER DARKLY.
Nowhere, though, does anyone except Jaynes—and this is the marvel of his theory—advance the idea that at any tie did the right hemisphere speak to the left. Jaynes says, and I think rightly, that this falling silent of the godly voices is what has come down to us as the myth of the Fall. At one time man talked and walked with his god, but that all ended; hence we speak of the Fall. And the idea of Original Sin is that we ourselves were responsible for these godly voices falling perpetually silent, as they remain up to this day.
Well, now, consider my novel VALIS. Here is an ancient teaching satellite which is also an ancient invisible “godly” life form. Look at what I can add to my book based on Jaynes’ book—which due to the TIME article is probably being widely read and discussed, now. Obviously, VALIS/Zebra is the source of these inner godly voices; the right hemisphere is a transducer-receiver for VALIS/Zebra, and at one time VALIS/Zebra spoke to man in exactly the way that Jaynes describes. I therefore in VALIS am saying what the source of those now-silent voices is, which Jaynes does not for the simple reason that he cannot and hence does not try. I say, there was VALIS long ago, talking with man as I talk with other men now. However, I differ with Jaynes in certain crucial respects (and I wrote him a long letter yesterday to outline this); VALIS/Zebra still instructs man, but now it is done subliminally, in dreams, and in invisible manipulation of man’s acts through engramming and disinhibition. VALIS/Zebra works on, but in secret. Thus I wrote to Jaynes that although we do not hear the gods any more, that does not mean that they are no longer there and no longer active. To think that because we fail to hear them they no longer exist is a failure to think logically and in fact practically. It would be as if I believed that after you and I, Mark, ceased talking on the phone the other night, you ceased to exist—because I could no longer hear you. (I also pointed out to Jaynes that the voices of the gods still direct us in the form of what we call conscience, which I’m surprised he didn’t think of).
The main value for my book VALIS is that just as the work of Ornstein and Bogen formed a scientific basis for A SCANNER DARKLY, so will Jaynes’ revolutionary new work form a scientific basis for VALIS. Jaynes has not really gone far enough (he says, however, that he plans to push his work further in a forthcoming book). He makes a completely convincing case for the “lost inner command voices of the gods which have now fallen silent” but he does not try to explain the objective origin of the voices (by the way—he says that in our times, among modern man, the voices show up as the hallucinated voices which schizophrenics hear, that in fact schizophrenics are the remnants of bicameral man, unable to function, not understood or appreciate, in the modern world; also, the voices which schizophrenics hear tend to deride them rather than guide them: they are demon voices, not godly voices).
That fits in with my book VALIS inasmuch as Houston Paige either is schizophrenic or fears that he is. A good scene might be one in which Paige, tottering on the edge of schizophrenia, begins to hallucinate, but instead of hearing godly command voices which instruct him as to how to cope with stress situations, they, as is so common in such voices, mock and insult him, a travesty of the ancient godly voices—these voices, in fact, in degenerate form.
I will have Sadassa Sylvia be reading Jaynes’ book. She, of course, will suppose that the now-silent godly command voices issued from the Aramchek satellite. Meanwhile Paige, who also has read the book (or anyhow the article in TIME) supposes that these voices emanated from Zebra.
The point is, Jaynes’ theory, research and book form the first scientific basis for VALIS/Zebra that I’ve yet come across, except, of course, the gene pool abreaction and disinhibition which I believe I already mentioned to you. The advantage to this is that TIME has given it good publicity.
I frankly don’t think that Jaynes in his forthcoming work is going to be able to give a satisfactory account (assuming he tries to) of the objective origin of the right hemisphere command voices. Also, I am not thoroughly satisfied as to the reason he gives for them falling silent; i.e. the rise of modern conscious man; after all, aren’t there primitive tribes today who would have, we should suppose, whatever archaic kind of mind our own cultural ancestors once had? But they, too, no longer hear any godly inner voices, yet they are at least as primitive as the Greeks and Hebrews of one thousand B.C. It seems more likely to me that the source of these voices fell silent, rather than the way Jaynes supposes it: that we simply can’t hear them now because of changes in us.


No comments: