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Evolution and Inspiration

Judith Weissman
Introduction to Of Two Minds: Poets Who Hear Voices (Wesleyan, 1993).
Reprinted in Marcel Kuijsten (ed.), Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind: The Theories of Julian Jaynes (Julian Jaynes Society, 2016).

Excerpt:

... The voices that have inspired poets have given just what Plato and Derrida have said they did, clear commands from the past, exemplary narratives. To understand why voice should give clear, specific, and practical ethical messages instead of, say, abstract thoughts or descriptions detached from stories, we have to go beyond history to biology and to the theory of Julian Jaynes in The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. On the basis of neurological evidence about the function of the apparently useless speech area on the right side of the brain and from archeological evidence from many ancient cultures, Jaynes has suggested that hallucinated commanding voices were a part of our evolutionary development and that our own brains retain the ability to create such voices even though, as conscious and civilized beings, we no longer need them as our tribal ancestors did. Jaynes begins, as neither philosophers nor literary critics do, with the brain. This theory is that our brains evolved with the capacity to produce admonitory hallucinations - divine voices - because we once needed them to enforce social cohesiveness. ...