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The Men we call Homer. Some Brief Notes on the Iliad and the Odyssey.

“I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes.”

— James Joyce, Ulysses



It has been a given for some time that “Homer” “the author” of the Iliad and the Oddesy, may not have existed and that if he did, he was in fact several people not one seminal genius.

Written perhaps somewhere between 1200 BC and 800 BC* the epics were rewritten, shuffled, added to, subtracted from, fragmented, and rebuilt over centuries by many hands.

The Cypria, which we would now call a backstory, origin story, or prequel, is an example of this palimpsest process, that tells of the events that led to the Iliad but it survives only as a fragment.

A curious aspect of this puzzle is the etymology of “Homer.”

It likely means, either, hostage or pledge or both being derived from the word, Homeros.

This possible meaning offers an intriguing course.

Using Julian Jaynes theory of bicameralism as a starting point, we posit a centuries’ long transition period in which bicameralism ebbed and flowed. As food and more stable trade routes multiplied, barley cults increased.

Rather than the more diffuse and fluctuating ergot infected episodes of barley and wheat ingestion resulting in spasms of external voices of command, per Jaynes, we see a growing codification or ritualization of the process.

We go from Gilgamesh suddenly and for no discernable reason, slaughtering people, to the vacant eyed automatons of the Iliad as Jaynes describes them.

The transitional period takes in for example the clash between bicameral and post bicameral cults as described in the Old Testament.

Bicameral cults, “hearing” “external” voices of command experienced god as random, arbitrary, and full of rules. This god appears from nowhere, but is everywhere, and for example, commands Abraham to kill his son.

This god speaks from both a whirlwind and a burning bush but at his choosing.

Then there is the Tower of Babel which is undoubtedly a metaphor meant to represent a grain or food storage facility at the center of a barley cult.

The tower being synonymous in the ancient mind with the consumption of vision and voice inducing food – infected with ergot but understood then only as “sacred” because it created voices – external and all powerful leading to an ability to summon god versus being summoned by god.**

At the same time we find the rise of prophets who appear to come in from the wilderness to denounce the evil of cities.

Cities being ever larger cult centers in which the previously random arbitrary god has been brought inside and regulated in both temporal appearance and through intermediaries or priests or warrior priests.

The prophets in contrast demand obedience to a random wild and arbitrary god of whirlwinds and burning bushes.

The other classic example of this schism is the Trial of Socrates.

Charged with blasphemy for worshiping the “wrong” gods he was of course found guilty and sentenced to death.

Various descriptions tell us that Socrates (a possible invention of Plato) would randomly be taken over by his “Daemon” and obey its commands.

We posit “Socrates” as a cut out for a throwback to a bicameral mind confronted by the increasing ubiquity of ritualized visions in post bicameral cults.

These official cults like the famous Elysian Mysteries, were state sponsored, state controlled, and held regular hours with rules and administrators.

More similar to the SOMA of Huxley’s Brave New World than not, these cults represented a transformation from random to ritualized.

“Socrates” had to die because the state had taken the gods in hand and brought them within the city walls.

Other examples of this tension abound including but not limited to famous plays depicting clashes between random dangerous but liberating “nature” (i.e., outside the regulating and regulated city) in the form of Dionisius and the Maenads.

And here “Homer” as “Hostage” and/or “Pledge” becomes intriguing.

Consider the social tension inherent in tribes and cults as they transition spasmodically from a Jaynesian bicameralism with its vacant-eyed robotic violence to a more regulated “civilized” culture.

As food sources fluctuated, and the power of priests and assorted kings ebbed and flowed and bad harvests or blights, or wars or weather events or earthquakes all contributed to a wild back and forth between relative post bicameral calm and a more “barbaric” bicameralism, it is not unreasonable to imagine a cult dedicated to a calming ritualized story telling within a ritualized practice designed to explain, sooth, exorcise and control the otherwise out of control members of the tribe.

While there are hundreds of crucial important moments in the epics, consider the one in which Ulysses orders his men to tie him to the mast so that he can endure and experience hearing the Sirens.

Consider the Sirens as metaphors representing the experience of bicameralism and its inducing of uncontrolled fury.

” He was filled with such a fury of desire that he swelled his mighty muscles, burst the raw hide bonds like thread and dashed for the rail.”


” For now he heard the whistling gargle of a whirlpool, and he knew that they were approaching the narrowest part of the straight, and must pass between Scylla and Charybdis”

Multiple interpretations are possible but consider a rising culture wide sense that post bicamaerlism was better suited to stability even if at a great emotional cost.

And, then Scylla and Charybdis, as a binary danger encountered right after the Sirens is a reflection of a slowly growing realization that the individual is split between two impulses – two voices and with potentially deadly and catastrophic results.

Then as a “pledge” and “hostage” emerges “Homer” – they who are the embodiment of the transitional ordeal both bicameral and post bicameral, expressing the journey of the lunar/solar hero who in turn, tied to the crucifying mast, endures on behalf of the tribe, and the cult, the passion.

This hostage is held by various cults as a pledge to repeat the ritual of the transition but as hostage and pledge to not engage in bicameral spasms of violence, offers a safer, ritualized progression towards, in theory, stability.

“Homer” then would have been a living reliquary taken out during specific holy days, ritualized, and as a hostage and pledge, returned, until the next lunar or solar phase required their return.

As they returned to tell the story of the return of the hero who endures tests of uncontrolled bicameralism (Sirens, and being transformed into an animal by Circe, etc) only to return to the relative stability and predictability of Penelope and Ithaca.

Food, one might say, for thought.



*Estimates vary with much contemporary scholarship placing the composition closer to 800 BC.

** The catastrophe of The Tower of Babel is then contextualized as a reactionary narrative written or orally curated by anti-city bicameral cults who worshiped a god that was random, arbitrary and all powerful and saw cities as blasphemous.

For a look at our previous excavation of antiquity, ergot and Julian Jaynes, see the following:

Addendum: As a look at the comments section reveals, our colleague, David Benjamin Steel raises several interesting points and questions. Prompted by those issues we add the following:

The extant record of rituals and myths about solar heroes is extensive. A consistent feature across ancient cultures and over centuries, is of the hero for a year – the inevitably sacrificed vegetation demi-god, the fisher king, the man (usually though not always as Ariadne is of course a sacrificial female) who is elevated to an exalted position, provided women, food and comfort and then brutally sacrificed.

This sacrifice is in different forms ranging from being pulled apart by horses, cooked alive, tossed into a bog, or, nailed to a tree.

The body is then usually dived and consumed and the process is repeated.

While returning from defeating the Minotaur, Theseus accidentally raises the wrong flag (a false flag) and taking this as a prearranged sign of failure, his father, the king, jumps to his death from the Acropolis.

Following the problematic if still useful method of Robert Graves in his seminal work, The White Goddess, it is likely that this is a later addition or overlay of a much older mytho–poetic narrative.

In the older version the king probably would have either been compelled to jump or would have been ritually tossed off the cliff after a year of being feted as the solar hero.

In this possible reading, “Homer” as “Hostage/Pledge” makes perfect sense.

54 comments on “The Men we call Homer. Some Brief Notes on the Iliad and the Odyssey.

  1. Someone linked to your blog again in the Jaynes FB group:
    For a moment there, I was wondering how I missed this post. And then I realized it’s a brand spanking new piece. It most definitely is food for thought.

    You make a good case for Homer as a ritual ‘hostage’ figure in an urbanized cult. I’d have to think more about that. I get what you’re saying. But it is a different view. I’m trying to think about how it fits in with all the evidence. A couple things come to mind. First, the bicameral societies supposedly weren’t particularly violent or not typically. There is only evidence of brutal, oppressive, and organized violence rather late in the Bronze Age when, according to Jaynes, the bicameral societies were under strain from having grown so large.

    Second, I was thinking about the strange form of possession Daniel Everett observed among the Piraha. I’ve wondered if that might be more how the early bicameral societies operated. It is entirely informal and there is no official religion as such nor any overt belief system. People are spontaneously possessed and during that time everyone in that society considers them to be identical to the voice that possesses them. For some reason, it’s always men but it could be any man. There is no shaman or ritual figure. And one might note that the Piraha are pacifists these days. Anyone who commits violence is banished. But supposedly there is some memory of many generations before there having been warfare. That might fit the bicameral societies as well, typically nonviolent but once provoked terribly violent.

    Another complicating factor is Socrates was claimed to have been an urban man. It is said he hated to leave the city. So, he represented the first generation of the the fully urban man in the Axial Age that was taking shape, a time when urbanization meant something entirely new with growing cultural diversity, such that many famous Greek thinkers weren’t even ethnically Greek. That might support your theory here even more. Socrates is the bicameral voice fully tamed and contained within an urban religion of priests and rituals, dogma and rules. Just some thoughts. I’m not sure how any of it fits into your theory here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      It’s a brief and provisional piece so feel free to throw things against the wall to see what sticks.

      Violence is a relative concept in this narrative. I find an episode with Gilgamesh fascinating in this regard.

      I mention it in detail in the earlier piece “Faulkner’s Sparrows.

      Gilgamesh arrives on an island and for no reason kills everyone.

      Classic bicameralism I suspect.

      And I also mean “violence” in the sense of how its a violent scene in the story of Abraham and Isaac.

      And the Iliad is itself violent.

      Of course it’s possible earlier examples of extreme violence may not be extant but that’s just a guess.

      But again emphasis on subjective speculation.

      “Socrates” is a odd character no matter how it’s sliced.

      I think Plato invented him as a sacrificial figure who had remnants of the rural/nature bicameral consciousness and he represents the transition from that into a more ritualized urban culture.

      Around the same time the Great Dionysia festival began to take shape and extant records are a fascinating look into what appears to be a transition from rural/paga bicameralism with barley cults, ritualized sex, vulgarities and “violence” into something that was a hybrid – part wild part “civilized.”

      One of the surviving famous plays of course is about the failure of the city to worship Dionysus which results in a Maenad “riot” and the city being destroyed.

      Again, perhaps, a reflection of a centuries’ long transition period?

      Oh, just had a new idea!

      The solar hero or fisher king or John Barleycorn are all examples of the hero as hostage who is given a great year (food, women, comfort, etc) and then sacrificed – pulled apart by horses, tossed off a cliff, tossed into a bog, etc.

      It might be that “Hostage” “pledge “Homer” was one of the transitional figures in the evolution of the solar hero cult?

      I have a much longer rewrite of the original piece on Jaynes but I’ve been busy with other things.

      It dives in much deeper to examples of ancient sources possibly metaphorically discussing bicameralism and the long transition to a post bi-cameralism. It includes even more on Ulysses and “Homer” and it all can be read as dealing with the transition from Jaynesian to a post bicameralist culture.

      I’ll have to dig in and finish it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I see three stages of bicameralism. Let me start with the first two. There is pre-bicameral or semi-bicameral hunter-gatherers who are showing signs of what later would become bicameralism. Then there is bicameralism proper that shows up with the first city-states, but they are still rather informal communities carrying traces of tribalism. In both cases, these were small communities with limited contact with other communities and so most often little reason for conflict. There was no aspirations for expansive empires with either. They generally weren’t seeking conquest, accept maybe during hard times when food or water was scarce. It required some stressor to elicit violence. But in particular with bicameralism, once violence was elicited, it could have meant total war in a way that is rare among tribes. Hunter-gatherers can’t afford total war and being less settled it is easier for them to simply move elsewhere when necessary.

        Bicameral humans, on the other hand, had grown accustomed to the immense stability of sedentary life. But their stability was built into the culture itself and not dependent on extensive hierarchies of government and priesthoods nor dependent on standing armies and police forces, laws and court systems. The guiding voices of archaic authorization were so integrated into collective life that it would’ve been unimaginable to act outside of the social order, and with this they were more like the Piraha. They were self-contained societies with loose structures that would much later evolve into urbanization. This worked wonderfully for millennia. They became highly successful societies and so continued to grow over time. That brings us to the third stage of bicameralism. Their larger population sizes forced them to become more extensive and closely affiliated city-states that shifted toward trading empires. This made bicameralism precarious. There was no longer a single city-state with a single center of authority. A proliferation of voices forced greater regimentation. Instability followed and, in the late Bronze Age, the first written laws were seen and the first acts of mass violence to command obedience and punish disobedience. Social order was being enforced from above, as never before seen. The hierarchies grew accordingly and society became more overtly organized with infrastructure, trading networks, etc.

        The earliest people to shift out of bicameralism probably were the traders who traveled to different places, thus forcing them to learn new languages, cultures, and worldviews. And I bet those traders were also warriors, maybe initiating the first expression of warrior cults. Trading and marauding probably weren’t so far apart. Not being able to rely on the integrated archaic authorization of city life, they were thrown onto their own abilities. Sailors and shipbuilders were part of a new elite that had specialized knowledge and experience. But such people remained the exception and few bicameral humans envied their lifestyle.

        These bicameral societies were so finely tuned from millennia of success that their stability wasn’t shaken easily. No civilizations since have lasted so long. To finally take down the entire bicameral world, it required decades of earthquakes, volcanoes, tidal waves, and floods; starvation, plagues, refugees, and marauders. It was total chaos that probably would destroy any civilization. These bicameral societies had thousands of years of growth and prosperity. One of the most peaceful eras since civilization began. But bicameral humans required absolute stability and didn’t realize how easily it could be destroyed. They tended to stay within their enclosed societies and so that was their entire world. Within that safe social order, violence would have been rare because it simply was unnecessary. But outside of the that voice-mandated social reality, most bicameral individuals would have been stressed beyond capacity. That is probably what you see with Gilgamesh. Having left his society, he was psychologically and socially adrift. That would have been a horrible situation for a bicameral man and all constraints of behavior would have been thrown into the air. Everything would be a potential threat and the individual would have had few resources to deal with it, as stable individual identity had yet to form.

        That is what brings us to the world of the Iliad. It was the society that reformed in the centuries of aftermath of mass chaos and destruction. The sailor/trader/marauders had become the central pillar of society, having replaced the stable city-states. It was human hierarchies driven by brute force that maintained established order. The warrior cult had become fully formed. Yet the habits of the bicameral mind remained because nothing else had developed to replace it. And there was yet no centralized authority to genocidally wipe out the bicameral remnants. In the Homeric Age, it was still common for people to hear voices and do as they said. Free will was beyond imagining. They talked about various forces within the body and the world that animated behavior and motivated action. There was no singular and coherent self to be experienced as what we now think of as an ‘individual’, just lots of competing voices and urges. But the bicameral order that held it all together was gone. This required greater violence to maintain these simple societies that were more like a highly disorganized and decentralized feudalism.

        What appeared during this age were the prophets and bards. They heard the voices most clearly and, without bicameral societies to keep them in place, they tended to wander between communities. This was the transitioning to something new. The voice-hearing that was once the birthright of all bicameral citizens was becoming a skill held by rare individuals. For everyone else, the voices were becoming quieter and less reliable over time, still heard and central to life but no longer commanding the archaic authorization they once had. Increasingly, people had to turn to oracles and such or go through special rituals to amplify the voices. I’ve had another theory that it was the increase of a non-ketogenic high-carb diet from greater agriculture that undermined the bicameral voices more than anything, especially combined with the cultivation of addictive and stimulating plants during the Axial Age. It is noteworthy that one of the common ways that humans have sought to hear the voices of gods, spirits, ancestors, etc is fasting which forces the body-mind back into a ketogenic state. Maybe bicameral people had a more limited diet that allowed them to remain more continuously in ketosis. The greater amounts of grain in the later diet may have also encouraged the creation of cults around ergot.

        That brings us to your ‘hostage’/’pledge’ theory of Socrates, John Barleycorn, and such. The greater urbanization in the Axial Age allowed also greater agriculture and so a more reliable food source. Populations were growing back again and city-states took on greater structure. The hunter-gatherer remnants in the bicameral societies were fully eliminated at this point, at least for these new expressions of civilization. I suspect that the bicameral societies, although they had agriculture, were heavily subsisting off of hunting and gathering with grains stored for hard times. The slow shifting toward a grain-based diet entirely altered the social order and the psychological worldview. The bicameral city-states were much looser in organization, more like a constellation of homes without much holding them together other than the culture itself. But without pervasive and dominant voices to maintain that worldview, humans had to turn to more externally rigid methods and forms. Empires were returning and this time they were centralized and hierarchical in a way never before known. And with this came standing armies and all of that. Wars of this period were much more immense. The chariot in the late Bronze Age had begun this trend, allowing long distance travel of armies. In the Axial Age, the military order became even more important as a key expression of power, not through archaic authorization but through threat of violence.

        It was also an era of the formalization of religion. Bronze Age civilizations, as with hunter-gatherers, had no word for religion in the sense we mean. There was no such thing as a temple or church separate from the rest of society, no autonomous priesthood. It is interesting that at the heart of this new religiosity were sacrificial cults where violence was contained within ritual, initially actual violence and over time more symbolic. The deities and such from the former age were also being historicized as human figures: Socrates, Aesop, Jesus, etc. And all of these figures met their fates in being killed by the powers that be within the city-states and empires. They were outsiders and wanderers who challenged the new social order with their claim to the vestiges of archaic authorization. But likely none of them were ever actual people and instead probably representing the memory of the earlier mindset from stories passed down over the centuries. Forming religions around these figures was a way of controlling what they represented, bringing it into the mass urbanized society. The last populations of bicameral voice-hearers were wiped out, as described in the Old Testament. And all that was left were collective memories written down in books. The voices were now trapped on pages with the new magic of literacy. No one needed to hear the voices because they had been recorded for all time and interpretation guaranteed their application. Threats of new voices were systematically suppressed and carefully eliminated. The sacrificial godmen became permanent idols that were frozen in place, not actual living beings whose voices are unpredictable.

        I might add that some have speculated that ergot became better understood. Accidental ergot poisonings became less common. This was part of the advancements of agriculture. Everything was much more controlled. And so ergot itself became a controlled substance doled out by the priesthood and ritually contained to carefully laid out dogmatic practices and hypnotically-guided experiences to ensure conformity. The power of ergot was respected but also feared. Someone being able to experience visions and voices outside of a well-ordered religious context was forbidden. Initiates weren’t even supposed to talk about what happened in these rituals. A rigid boundary had to be maintained between religion and the rest of society. These kinds of rigid boundaries also were being internalized and brought on greater individualism. As society became highly controlled, so did the individual and his experience. Anyone hearing voices outside of the proper context was now demonically possessed, a witch, or otherwise dangerous. To be included within this social norm meant forcefully excluding anything but the one voice of the ego or else the one voice of the emperor. The multitude of bicameral voices had been silenced and reigned in.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. rauldukeblog says:

        I think were generally in agreement with some quibbles and some foggy uncertainty on my part due to not having all the details.

        Near as I can figure bicameralism proper as you call it (BP) is around the end of the last great ice age – a period of several centuries as the ice evaporates and it begins to rain – a lot.

        More room to roam, more ergot infected wheat and barley to eat (as suggested by the extant record) and then we begin to find evidence of W/B consumption, and a sudden rise in voices and language or first phase Bicameralism.

        Quite interesting as you say that there was little conflict.

        Probably because there were fewer people in a greater amount of space and a staggering amount of food relative to the previous ice age.

        I think you’re essentially correct about the era of the first cities/small communities. A recent book which I took a look at in some newer notes to my longer piece on Jaynes examines recent excavations of settlements from that era with fascinating details about stressors like an increase in rodent populations due to the gathering of grains which created stress on the inhabitants included changes in diet.

        Most telling of course is that the book doesn’t make the connection between the question it asks as to why people would be compelled to build stressful communities and the gathering of grains.

        Obviously my theory being it was an addiction.

        We’ve discussed this but the interesting possible analogy being with rats who become infected with an organism that attracts them to cat urine thus creating a compulsion in the rats to guide the organism to the cat and the cat gets food delivered.

        Not that ergot is the same but the loop is similar – ergot+grains+people+cities+stress=more of everything involved – people, grains, stress, etc.

        All of that appears to show up in the extant mythologies i.e., & e.g., The Tower of Babel etc.

        I agree also with your summary about external forces – earthquakes, bad weather, bad harvests, plagues.

        I think it’s a key factor your point about trade and marauding being two sides of the same coin.

        And I think your point about voice hearing and oralizing that experience on behalf of the community becoming a specialized skill.

        That makes sense in terms of “Homer” as “hostage” and “pledge.”

        And that mirrors your point about violence being ritualized within a relatively new priest class.

        We really can approximate a centuries” long transitional evolution.

        Regarding the growing understanding of ergot I recall reading a lengthy footnote that detailed an Apollonian cult in ancient Rome around the third century BC specifically centered on the consumption of wheat left to go moldy.

        Ergot itself wasn’t identified until the mid 19th century but obviously and in support of your point they were able to sus out a connection much earlier and knew how to cultivate what they wanted.

        Leave the wheat on the floor to become damp, grow the right color and texture, then mix with beverage of one’s choosing and voila – talk to the gods.

        But as you say it was brought inside the ever expanding purview of the caste system and away from a free range process.

        A resulting tension revealed in the consistent stories we have of people arguing over city vs nature.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. “Quite interesting as you say that there was little conflict. Probably because there were fewer people in a greater amount of space and a staggering amount of food relative to the previous ice age.”

        I’d like to see data on that. What were the size and concentration of populations over time? That is important to Jaynes’ theory on bicameral societies. He thought it was the growing of populations was precisely what set them up for being precarious. I know the early city-states were tiny by modern standards, sometimes only a few thousand people. Large by tribal standards, though.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. rauldukeblog says:

        One crucial factor is extant evidence – we may be missing entire strata. A “small” settlement has been uncovered just outside of Jerusalem – estimated population of 3,000 and dated to around 9,000 BC.

        That’s a relatively large number of people needing a relatively large amount of food and in turn infrastructure including relation to other communities.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. “One crucial factor is extant evidence – we may be missing entire strata.” No doubt we’re missing a lot. Very little evidence survives from those archaic societies. And so our ignorance is greater than our knowledge. It comes with the territory.

        “A “small” settlement has been uncovered just outside of Jerusalem – estimated population of 3,000 and dated to around 9,000 BC.” By modern standards, that seems miniscule. Even during the early Axial Age, city-states could be as large as several hundred thousand.

        “That’s a relatively large number of people needing a relatively large amount of food and in turn infrastructure including relation to other communities.” But size is relative. That would have seemed massive in comparison to the tribal societies.

        Most of those relatively larger towns probably would have been located near bodies of water and wilderness areas that allowed plenty of fishing and hunting. Those earliest towns were usually spaced widely apart and farming at the time was rather small-scale.

        Here is my understanding of early agriculture. Grains were useful for a number of reasons such as for trade but more importantly for storage. They weren’t necessarily used as a staple of the diet. Instead, they were saved for hard times and indeed hard times became more common once humans settled down.

        Planning and preparing for hard times was a major motivation for developing complex thought, from accounting to calendars. There was a constant fear of running out of food, as consecutive years of crop failure could threaten famine. Storing as much grains as possible was a necessity for collective survival.


      6. Ron Pavellas says:

        you fellows are totally deep (a compliment). I will dwell mostly on the idea that Socrates is Plato’s invention. thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. rauldukeblog says:

        Thanks! And the “Socrates” as Plato invention is not an original idea by me – part of a wider speculation but fascinating all the same.


      8. Ron Pavellas says:

        still learning…


    2. rauldukeblog says:

      Your comments gave me an idea and I added a footnote to the new piece.


    3. Your post even got an official endorsement, so to speak, from the Julian Jaynes Society. Presumably, it was posted by Marcel Kuijsten who runs the operation and has edited a number of collections of Jaynesian scholarship.


    4. Reading again my first comment, I realized I didn’t point out one example of this shift toward a new kind of violence. There is no evidence that, during most of the Bronze Age, there ever was major warfare in northern Europe. Then suddenly near the end of the Bronze Age, as seen elsewhere, mass violence erupted. This apparently was part of the basic time frame of the Bronze Age collapse. It’s not clear what caused it. What we do know is, after that point, such mass violence became increasingly common. But why did that change happen then and not earlier? That has been the million dollar question. Jaynes offers one possible explanation.

      The emergence of a warrior class comes up in this. That is what is seen in the early battle site. These were battle-hardened fighters, not like anything seen in earliest Bronze Age wars that typically were fought by the general population and did not involve a special class of warriors. And these combatants traveled long distances to engage in war, another thing that was new. This wasn’t like the older conflicts between nearby populations. Interestingly, the warriors came from all over Europe and so formed a diverse army, maybe a precursor to the more multicultural societies that would later develop (Greeks, Celts, etc; more trading alliances than ethnic identities).

      Then something happened to bring it all crashing down. War ravaged societies, refugees fled in every direction, and sea marauders appeared as if out of nowhere. Most of the civilizations collapsed and trade ended. That is the infamous 1177 BC.

      As another archaeological site shows, this violent chaos also made its way to Northern Europe. There was a battle as never seen before in the region, probably involving thousands of warriors and leaving behind hundreds of dead. The evidence offers a “picture of Bronze Age sophistication, pointing to the existence of a trained warrior class and suggesting that people from across Europe joined the bloody fray.” Something had changed, but the cause remains uncertain.

      “But why did so much military force converge on a narrow river valley in northern Germany? Kristiansen says this period seems to have been an era of significant upheaval from the Mediterranean to the Baltic. In Greece, the sophisticated Mycenaean civilization collapsed around the time of the Tollense battle; in Egypt, pharaohs boasted of besting the “Sea People,” marauders from far-off lands who toppled the neighboring Hittites. And not long after Tollense, the scattered farmsteads of northern Europe gave way to concentrated, heavily fortified settlements, once seen only to the south. “Around 1200 B.C.E. there’s a radical change in the direction societies and cultures are heading,” Vandkilde says. “Tollense fits into a period when we have increased warfare everywhere.”

      “Tollense looks like a first step toward a way of life that is with us still. From the scale and brutality of the battle to the presence of a warrior class wielding sophisticated weapons, the events of that long-ago day are linked to more familiar and recent conflicts. “It could be the first evidence of a turning point in social organization and warfare in Europe,” Vandkilde says.”

      In the centuries following, such things as the violent Greek epics would be produced. This would lead the way into the Axial Age. New kinds of civilizations arose. Besides the Greeks, one of the new societies were the Celts whose culture spread across much of Europe and Britain. Then came the empires that are most familiar to modern people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ron Pavellas says:

        I can’t recall where I read that there is a theory, or at least the idea, that the volcanic explosion of the volcano on Thera (now Santorini) was at least coincident, posiibly a significant contributing factor, to the ‘Axial Age.’
        From wikipedia:
        Although there are no clear ancient records of the eruption, it may have inspired certain Greek myths (especially Atlantis),[7] caused turmoil in Egypt,[8][9] and been alluded to in a Chinese chronicle. The exact date of the eruption is disputed, although it is believed to have occurred during summer, approximately around the 16th century BCE.[10][11]

        Liked by 1 person

      2. rauldukeblog says:

        The Thera event is often discussed as a cause for massive/widespread changes.

        It must have had a significant impact but of course exact details are hard to come by.


      3. @Ron – “I can’t recall where I read that there is a theory, or at least the idea, that the volcanic explosion of the volcano on Thera (now Santorini) was at least coincident, posiibly a significant contributing factor, to the ‘Axial Age.’”

        Julian Jaynes may talk a little about environmental factors that contributed to decline and instability. But the first time I saw a full argument based on such a theory was in reading Eric H. Cline’s book, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed. He doesn’t only write about the collapse itself but goes into detail of what kind of world that had existed and why collapse was so significant:

        “Such transfers of ideas undoubtedly took place not only at the upper levels of society, but also at the inns and bars of the ports and cities along the trade routes in Greece, Egypt, and the Eastern Mediterranean. Where else would a sailor or crew member while away the time waiting for the wind to shift to the proper quarter or for a diplomatic mission to conclude its sensitive negotiations, swapping myths, legends, and tall tales? Such events may perhaps have contributed to cultural influences spreading between Egypt and the rest of the Near East, and even across the Aegean. Such an exchange between cultures could possibly explain the similarities between the Epic of Gilgamesh and Homer’s later Iliad and Odyssey, and between the Hittite Myth of Kumarbi and Hesiod’s later Theogony.”

        It’s true that, “However the glass exchange almost stops around 1177 BCE – probably due to attacks by the Sea Peoples,” but that doesn’t explain where these Sea People came from and why they all of a sudden appeared after millennia of relative stability (Philippe Bohstrom, Beads Found in 3,400-year-old Nordic Graves Were Made by King Tut’s Glassmaker).
        Here is what Cline says about the Sea Peoples:

        “DECENTRALIZATION AND THE RISE OF THE PRIVATE MERCHANT There is one other point to be considered, which has been suggested relatively recently and may well be a reflection of current thinking about the role of decentralization in today’s world.

        “In an article published in 1998, Susan Sherratt, now at the University of Sheffield, concluded that the Sea Peoples represent the final step in the replacement of the old centralized politico-economic systems present in the Bronze Age with the new decentralized economic systems of the Iron Age— that is, the change from kingdoms and empires that controlled the international trade to smaller city-states and individual entrepreneurs who were in business for themselves. She suggested that the Sea Peoples can “usefully be seen as a structural phenomenon, a product of the natural evolution and expansion of international trade in the 3rd and early 2nd millennium, which carried within it the seeds of the subversion of the palace-based command economies which had initiated such trade in the first place.” 57

        “Thus, while she concedes that the international trade routes might have collapsed, and that at least some of the Sea Peoples may have been migratory invaders, she ultimately concludes that it does not really matter where the Sea Peoples came from, or even who they were or what they did. Far more important is the sociopolitical and economic change that they represent, from a predominantly palatial-controlled economy to one in which private merchants and smaller entities had considerably more economic freedom. 58

        “Although Sherratt’s argument is elegantly stated, other scholars had earlier made similar suggestions. For example, Klaus Kilian, excavator of Tiryns, once wrote: “After the fall of the Mycenaean palaces, when ‘private’ economy had been established in Greece, contacts continued with foreign countries. The well-organized palatial system was succeeded by smaller local reigns, certainly less powerful in their economic expansion.” 59

        “Michal Artzy, of the University of Haifa, even gave a name to some of the private merchants envisioned by Sherratt, dubbing them “Nomads of the Sea.” She suggested that they had been active as intermediaries who carried out much of the maritime trade during the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries BC. 60

        “However, more recent studies have taken issue with the type of transitional worldview proposed by Sherratt. Carol Bell, for instance, respectfully disagrees, saying: “It is simplistic … to view the change between the LBA and the Iron Age as the replacement of palace administered exchange with entrepreneurial trade. A wholesale replacement of one paradigm for another is not a good explanation for this change and restructuring.” 61

        “While there is no question that privatization may have begun as a by-product of palatial trade, it is not at all clear that this privatization then ultimately undermined the very economy from which it had come. 62 At Ugarit, for example, scholars have pointed out that even though the city was clearly burned and abandoned, there is no evidence either in the texts found at the site or in the remains themselves that the destruction and collapse had been caused by decentralized entrepreneurs undermining the state and its control of international trade. 63

        “In fact, combining textual observations with the fact that Ugarit was clearly destroyed by fire, and that there are weapons in the debris, we may safely reiterate that although there may have been the seeds of decentralization at Ugarit, warfare and fighting almost certainly caused the final destruction, with external invaders as the likely culprits. This is a far different scenario from that envisioned by Sherratt and her like-minded colleagues. Whether these invaders were the Sea Peoples is uncertain, however, although it is intriguing that one of the texts at Ugarit specifically mentions the Shikila/ Shekelesh, known from the Sea Peoples inscriptions of Merneptah and Ramses III.

        “In any event, even if decentralization and private individual merchants were an issue, it seems unlikely that they caused the collapse of the Late Bronze Age, at least on their own. Instead of accepting the idea that private merchants and their enterprises undermined the Bronze Age economy, perhaps we should consider the alternative suggestion that they simply emerged out of the chaos of the collapse, as was suggested by James Muhly of the University of Pennsylvania twenty years ago. He saw the twelfth century BC not as a world dominated by “sea raiders, pirates, and freebooting mercenaries,” but rather as a world of “enterprising merchants and traders, exploiting new economic opportunities, new markets, and new sources of raw materials.” 64 Out of chaos comes opportunity, at least for a lucky few, as always.”


      4. rauldukeblog says:

        I could have sword we discussed this?

        But regardless, it’s fascinating.

        Who knows what caused the events/changes?

        Geological events, like the volcanic eruption? Food issues, genetic issues?
        all of those or something else?

        For every fact or set of circumstantial evidence there’s always another mystery or half lit detail.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m reminded of something I posted about arete. It’s an intriguing concept that requires much digging to understand. It is alien to the modern mind. In the comments section, I described how the Homeric warrior cults represent a transitional stage between the Bicameral Age and the Axial Age. Here it is:

    There is something else from Jaynes’ book that reminded me of another aspect of the change. During the transitional period of archaic Greece, a warrior cult had formed with its manly virtues. But it never before or after existed in that exact same way and to that same degree. The Bronze Age civilizations, specifically the early city-states, were relatively isolated and didn’t require a martial culture, lacking even standing armies. Even chariots only appeared near the end of the Bronze Age, maybe helping to precipitate its ending.

    I mentioned that the trickster figure, such as the wily Odysseus, replaced the warrior as the ideal. But another value also came onto the scene, that of ‘love’. Jaynes writes that, “In these seven poets of the seventh century, then, we find a remarkable development, that, as the subject matter changed from martial exhortations to personal expressions of love, the manner in which the mental hypostases are used and their contexts become much more what we think of as subjective consciousness.”

    The godmen were intermediaries. This is what put them into a trickster role, but it is also what made them representatives of Axial Age values. There was no equivalent of love as it came to mean later on. A godman like Jesus had his trickster qualities while he also expressed love. His trickster behavior was turned toward subverting worldly power. Yet this bringing down of love to the human realm began most clearly with Isis worship, the model of Mary worship among early Christians.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      Very interesting.

      Lots to dig into but for now regarding Trickster Ulysses, it seems he is though to be a descendent of Sisyphus and in my much longer unfinished piece reworking my earlier Faulkner’s Sparrows piece I dig into Sisyphus, Tantalus, Prometheus and Ariande and Arachne as major transitional figures in the Bicameral transition evolution.

      Not only do the specifics of their stories match up but the form of the stories match as well with each other and with what we would expect to see if they are reflections of the bicameral transition.

      A key feature is as you say, the Trickster as the stand in for the community – Christ like.

      The beta test for Christ is then found in the earlier Tricksters like Sisyphus, Ulysses, Tantalus, and Prometheus.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There are a number of figures, likely fictional/mythological, that could be added for sake of interest. Jesus partly seems modeled on figures such as Aesop. The Gospels are directly in the tradition of the Greek romance novels.

        Odysseus is another key figure. there are a number of books I’ve come across about him. I’d like to explore some of them, as soon as I finish the hundreds of other books on my reading list. Some of these books discuss how Odysseus was taken as a model by certain later philosophers, such as the Stoics. As a side note, like Christianity, Stoicism became useful to the empire (something I’d relate to the Jaynesian link between emergent individualism and the new form of post-bicameral authoritarianism).

        The Return of Odysseus: Colonization and Ethnicity
        by Irad Malkin
        The Unknown Odysseus: Alternate Worlds in Homer’s Odyssey
        by Thomas Van Nortwick
        Homer’s Odyssey
        ed. by Lillian Eileen Doherty
        Odysseus, Hero of Practical Intelligence: Deliberation and Signs in Homer’s Odyssey
        by Jeffrey Barouw
        Black Ships and Sea Raiders: The Late Bronze and Early Iron Age Context of Odysseus’ Second Cretan Lie
        by Jeffrey P. Emanuel
        From Villain to Hero: Odysseus in Ancient Thought
        by Silvia Montiglio
        Wandering in Ancient Greek Culture
        by Silvia Montiglio

        About the last author, Montiglio, he has another book that is even more intriguing: Silence in the Land of the Logos. It completely fits into some of the passages I shared (from Darwin’s Pharmacy by Richard M. Doyle) in my post about psychedelics and language, the importance and power of silence in relation to the speech.

        It is in silence that we hear and it is in hearing that we speak (that we speak at all or else that we speak truly). See the related work Silent Statements by Michal Beth Dinkler. As with tribal and shamanistic cultures, the bicameral and early post-bicameral societies were extremely cautious about their use of language. Words had divine power. They were word magic and, as the likes of Socrates and Plato feared, they could be dangerous (the reason for Platonic philosopher kings and intellectual aristocracy whose voice of authorization could monopolize the public mind and maintain regimented social order).

        Along these lines, also read Shane Butler’s The Ancient Phonograph.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. rauldukeblog says:

        The Gospels of course were written by educated monks/scribes within a system that included Greek’s reading Aramaic and other languages and those languages are of course also organizational systems of thought/culture so the “text” we have is really a kind of inventory of multiple POVs.

        Christ of course is an updated Dionysius and a few hundred other archetypal figures.

        Odysseus/Ulysses is an amalgam and as you say worth digging into as he’s a pivotal figure.

        Have you read Joseph Cambel’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces? Campel is problematic but the book is endlessly fascinating.

        thanks for the list of books – like you I’ll add it to the hundred others I’m trying to wade through:-)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yep. Joseph Campbell is interesting, as is Carl Jung. I’m also a fan of the Christian mythicist and astrotheological schools of biblical studies. All of them look to parallels, whether from direct influence or underlying neurocognitive patterns. There are too many similarities across such vast distances to be dismissed.

        Even in the Americas, patterns of mythology, symbolism, and ritual have similarities to other parts of the world. It’s possible there was some contact with Polynesians, Scandinavians, etc, but for the most part the Americas had been isolated for millennia. It is hard to explain these kinds of observations without seeing something shared in human nature. That is where astrotheology comes in handy. No matter where humans live, we all evolved under the same basic conditions and under the same sky with more or less the same seasonal experience. Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that humans in their diversity would, nonetheless, come to kindred notions about the sun and moon, winter and summer, solstices and equinoxes, etc. After all, human populations all over the world were able to independently discover agriculture and develop it into advanced systems that share much in common. Environmental constraints create the conditions for particular ways of thinking, perceiving, and behaving. There is much diversity but within much commonality. No matter where we are, we remain a single species with a shared inheritance, more shared in terms of genetics than most other similar species.

        Three is a similar point I made in discussing Daniel Everett’s theory of dark matter of the mind. I disagreed slightly with him in that, although I find Noam Chomsky’s language module to be ridiculous, I still see underlying structures or tendencies. An example of this is the oddity that humans have such similar experiences under the influence of DMT, but maybe it isn’t so odd since humans evolved with DMT-producing plants and, in fact, with our brains producing DMT as well.
        Like Julian Jaynes, Everett thinks he disagrees with Jung.
        But Jung is often misunderstood. He clarifies his position by stating that, “It is not, therefore, a question of inherited ideas but of inherited possibilities of ideas.” That is from “Concerning the Archetypes with Special Reference to the Anima Concept”. Here is a larger chunk from that piece:

        “It is in my view a great mistake to suppose that the psyche of a new-born child is a tabula rasa in the sense that there is absolutely nothing in it. In so far as the child is born with a differentiated brain that is predetermined by heredity and therefore individualized, it meets sensory stimuli coming from outside not with any aptitudes, but with specific ones, and this necessarily results in a particular, individual choice and pattern of apperception. These aptitudes can be shown to be inherited instincts and preformed patterns, the latter being the a priori and formal conditions of apperception that are based on instinct. Their presence gives the world of the child and the dreamer its anthropomorphic stamp. They are the archetypes, which direct all fantasy activity into its appointed paths and in this way produce, in the fantasy-images of children’s dreams as well as in the delusions of schizophrenia, astonishing mythological parallels such as can also be found, though in lesser degree, in the dreams of normal persons and neurotics. It is not, therefore, a question of inherited ideas but of inherited possibilities of ideas.”

        I like that way of thinking. Jung was trying to get at a subtle understanding.


  3. About ergot, there is the long post about psychedelics and language. In one passage I shared there, ergot is briefly mentioned.The issue of voice-hearing, as I’ve argued in a number of posts (about the agricultural mind and tea banishing the fairies), relates to addiction and stimulants as opposed to psychedelics. I’ve had another post that has been in the works for a while. It’s also about these topics and I’ve gathered many more passages about ergot. Here is some of what I was looking at:

    Michael A. Rinella
    pp. 86-87

    Although various drugs have been nominated as the source of the Eleusinian epopteia, including alcohol,159 mushrooms,160 and opium,161 the most likely explanation for the phasmata experienced at Eleusis is the grain itself that was present in the kykeon.162 Up until the twentieth century “there was no such thing as a field of wheat or of barley.”163 Multiple weeds and infections grew and were harvested with the main cereal crop. Through a combination of evidence drawn from textual, archeological, and ethnobotanical sources, the source of the “hallucinatory reality” seen at Eleusis has been most persuasively identified as Claviceps purpurea, more commonly known as ergot.164 Ergot refers to the purple-black sclerotia that may be found on many plants, several of which were present in ancient Greece, such as barley, wheat, or darnel (Lolium temulentum).

    There is textual evidence that the ancient Greeks had some degree of awareness of ergot, which they called erysibe,165 The Etymologicum Gudianum (210.25) gives the Eleusinian goddess Demeter the epithet Erysibe, “as though her gift of grain could exist only through the aversion of the darker persona that was her own and its antithesis.”166 Ergot represented some aspect of Apollo’s supplanted avatar, the secret offering enclosed in the sheaf of wheat from the mythical Hyperboreans; in Strabo (ca. 63/64 BCE–24 CE) the god bears the epithet Erysibios (Geography 13.1.64), “literally the metaphor of the fungus as the reddening corruption or ‘rust’ (erysibe) upon the grain.”167 The Hippocratic works Diseases of Women and Sterile Women both mention a substance called melanthion (black flower). This substance, obtained from wheat and used for gynecological and obstetrical purposes, “cannot refer to an ordinary plant, but is more likely . . . the well known fungal parasite ergot, found on various grass-crops and cereals.”168

    Darnel, known to the Greeks as aira, was also called thyaros (the plant of frenzy), which appears to indicate “an awareness of the psychotropic properties of ergot itself.”169 Greek farmers also utilized a sieve-like implement called the airapinon to separate the aira from their cultivated grain. Meaning “aira drinker,” airapinon was apparently a folk metaphor for a person intoxicated by aira.170 Aristotle’s On Sleep (456b), in a list of plants called hupnotika (which produces a heaviness of the head), mentions the poppy, mandragora, wine and darnel. Darnel’s psychotropic effects are described or alluded to in several ancient sources, including Theophrastus (History of Plants 8.8.3), Plautus (Miles Gloriosus 315–23), Ovid (Fasti 1.691) and Pliny the Elder (Natural History 18.44). Plato, in what is widely agreed to be an allusion to the epopteia of the Eleusinian Mysteries in the Phaedrus (251a–c), practically gives a textbook description of darnel intoxication.171

    The ceremonial vessels used at Eleusis to prepare the kykeon, called kerna and kernoi, were themselves referred to as mixing bowels, “krateres of the Mystery.”172 As we saw above in chapter 1, the function of the krater in the aristocratic symposion was the ceremonial preparation of wine, during which time a variety of drugs might be added. Wine was forbidden at Eleusis but krater would have been the natural term to use “to describe the utensil for mixing other drinks also, especially if the drink like wine was an inebriant.”173 In the Republic (363c–d), Plato’s accusation, which refers to the reputed founder of the Eleusinian mysteries, Musaeus’ son (Eumolpus), as teaching “the finest wage of virtue is an eternal intoxication,” essentially an afterlife that is just one perpetual symposion, might be read as a further indication that the Eleusinian kykeon, the most famous mixture of all, also contained some sort of pharmakon, and that an initiate experienced the epopteia in a state of intoxication.174 Nietzsche, it turns out, may have been right all along.

    pp. 132-134

    Plato’s descriptive blend of divine inspiration and human infatuation draws its inspiration not from fantasy but from a pharmacologically induced bodily experience that occurred at the culmination of initiation into the religious mysteries of Eleusis.56 This can be demonstrated in two ways. First, it is widely agreed the passage is expressed metaphorically from within the language of mystic initiation. The ocular description contained in Phaedrus 251a–e, including an awe (deina) inspiring encounter with a divine apparition, is consistent with many of the other veiled descriptions of the Eleusinian epopteia written centuries before and after the composition of the dialogue.57 Second, initiates into the Mysteries, as we saw in chapter 4, above, culminated their experience by drinking the kykeon. Meaning “the mixture,” the kykeon contained barley (alphi, or more fully alphiton), mint (glechon/blechon), and water (hydron). The phasmata that followed drinking the potion, the essence of the sublime epopteia hinted at by Plato and many other ancient writers, strongly suggest that some form of ergot, a potent ecstasy-inducing pharmakon found attached to various cereal grasses, was present in the kykeon as well.

    The physiological discomfort described within Plato’s passage—trembling or shuddering (phrikes), sweating (idros), stinging sensations, and ocular visions—bears a noticeable similarity to the symptoms of darnel intoxication. What medical literature calls ergotismus convulsivus is characterized by “nervous convulsions and epileptiform symptoms,” as well as occasional delirium.58 Ergotismus convulsivus “begins with pain and itching of the extremities . . . [and] may end in a psychosis.”59 The symptoms of darnel poisoning in man consist of “apathy, giddiness, or a feeling of intoxication, accompanied by ataxia, various abnormal sensations, mydriasis, nausea, vomition, gastric pain, and diarrhea.”60 Bread making in the pre-industrial era “paid little attention to the quality of the mixtures, into which entered grasses with stupefying seeds such as darnel” and this bread “besides disturbing the mind by making people act as if drunk, causes much weariness and nausea.”61 The effects of the contemporary drug LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide), in addition to the to-be-expected visual disturbances, include “gastrointestinal upset, chills, hyperglycemia, hypertension, mydriasis, tachycardia and panic.”62 The mint in the kykeon may have helped alleviate the gastric discomfort an ergot-based pharmakon would have produced.63

    The parallels with Phaedrus 251a–e are easy enough to discern. Medical descriptions, however, are modern clinical assessments based almost entirely on laboratory experience with the drug’s pharmacology. They do not take into account the particular set of individual and cultural expectations an initiate into the Eleusinian Mysteries would have had, nor the unique ritual setting experienced by a drinker of the kykeon: thousands of fellow initiates crowded into a torch-lit temple; sonorous religious chanting; a gong being struck; an expectation of Persephone herself appearing along with the new-born Brimos; the promise—extraordinary in the context of the ancient Greco-Roman world’s deep pessimism “regarding the fate of the individual after death”64—of securing life eternal on the Isles of the Blessed after their passing.65 All these things would have shaped and influenced the kykeon drinker’s drug-taking experience.66

    There is additional evidence knowledge of ergot was widespread in the ancient world.67 The Hippocratic works Diseases of Women and Sterile Women both mention a substance called melanthion (black flower). This substance, obtained from wheat and used for gynecological and obstetrical purposes, “cannot refer to an ordinary plant, but is more likely . . . the well known fungal parasite ergot, found on various grass-crops and cereals.”68 Psychotropic alkaloids of the genus Claviceps may be found on several plants, each of which was present in ancient Greece: barley, wheat, and darnel.69 “The effects of darnel (the French ivraie, from the apparent etymology ivre or ‘drunk’), blended in excessive quantities with grain, have been known since remote times.”70 Known to the Greeks as air a, darnel was also called thyaros (the plant of frenzy). Aristotle’s On Sleep contains a list of plants called hupnotika (which produce a heaviness of the head) that mentions the poppy, mandragora, wine, and darnel (456b). Darnel’s mind-altering effects are described or alluded to in many ancient sources including Theophrastus (History of Plants 8.8.3), Plautus (Miles Gloriosus 315–23), Ovid (Fasti 1.691) and Pliny (Historia naturalis 18.44).

    pp. 134-135

    Plato’s Knowledge of Ergot

    Many scholars have noted “the depiction of coming to know the form of the good in [Book VII of Plato’s] Republic—ascending out of a cave, moving from darkness into bright light—also includes many elements of the epopteia of the Eleusinian Mysteries.”71 Less recognized is a discussion in Republic Book X. Between the famous discussion of poetry and the Eleusis-influenced myth of Er that concludes the dialogue, Plato provides a definition of the good and the bad that includes among the latter “blight for grain” which like “rot for wood” or “rust for iron and bronze” attaches itself to the good like “an evil and an illness” (608d–609a). Barley, the Eleusinian grain, was believed to be particularly susceptible to erysibe, “rust,” and Demeter, the “Barley Mother” of Eleusis, could be referred to as Erysibe (Demeter the Blaster), “as though her gift of grain could exist only through the aversion of the darker persona that was her own and its antithesis.”72 This passage of the Republic also compares favorably with the Roman poet Ovid (43 BCE–17 CE), who wrote “Rust, grip not the tender crops but rather grip the hard iron. Forestall the destroyer. Better that you should gnaw at swords and baneful weapons” (Fasti, Verses 4.901).73 In Latin robigo means “rust, blight, blast” and Robigus was the god who warded off grain mildew; the festival called the Robigalia was named for her/him.74

    Plato continues the same passage writing that “just as the badness of a body, which is a disease, melts and destroys a body and brings it to the point where it is not even a body” so the soul can be corrupted and reduced to a condition of vice. Vice, like the “rust” found to be infesting grain, would dissolve and destroy the soul to the point where it is not even a soul, or at least not a human soul. The destruction Plato speaks of in this passage of the Republic is not total, a complete annihilation. It is rather a transformation, or more accurately a reversion. Vice, as an alien presence, diseased and corrupting, threatens to revert the subjective to the pre-subjective, the civilized to the pre-civilized (610b). On an agricultural level the wild aira, the “plant of frenzy,” was similarly viewed as an atavistic reversion constantly threatening Attica’s cultivated barley. Theophrastus, for example, mentions aira as a weed found among food grains in his History of Plants (1.5.2).75 The Republic’s association of grain rust with external physical deterioration, which in turn is likened to an internal obliteration of the sober soul, may be seen as harnessing knowledge of the effects of ergot in a metaphorical manner to suit the needs of a philosophical argument.76

    Entheogens and the Development of Culture Kindle

    Locations 6061-6077

    “Democracy and the Dionysian Agenda”
    by Carl A. P. Ruck

    Strong Wine

    The wine drunk in the theater contained a special herbal additive.89 Greek wine in general was extremely intoxicating, even when drunk, as was the custom, diluted with three or four parts water, since its toxicity was enhanced by a variety of toxins and preservatives that intensified its potency far beyond its alcoholic content, which could not exceed the concentration achieved through natural fermentation, which at most would be about fourteen percent, before dilution.90 The additives altered the wine to produce various types of intoxication suitable for its particular use or ceremony, but there can be little doubt that small amounts were capable of inducing ecstatic states and even visionary experience.

    Like the Eleusinian ergot potion, wine was a magical and symbolic mingling of elements that reconciled the dichotomy of wild natural toxins, for which the ivy and similar plants were emblematic, and the civilized product of cultivation, the controlled fungal growth of the yeasts of fermentation upon the body of the god slain in the harvest of the grapes grown from the vine. Both the Eleusinian potion and wine represent the taming of the seedless wild mushroom by inducing a similar fungal growth upon a cultivated host, the grape of Dionysus or the grain of Demeter. Wine itself is emblematic of the political agenda enacted by the integration of the rural Thespian routines into the very heart of the city on the southern slope of the Acropolis.

    The philosopher Plato, who himself had written tragedies and who’s our most authentic witness to the dramas of the fifth-century, described the theater experience as a communal rapture or public spiritual possession, proceeding from the other world through the entranced actors on to the spectators seated in the natural amphitheater of the hillside, producing a harmonious togetherness like the pattern revealed by a magnet’s alignment of iron rings drawn ineluctably into a continuous chain of bondage.91 As such, in his opinion, it produced a dangerous homogeneity of indoctrination.

    Kindle Locations 6209-6215

    A God For All Seasons

    Only Dionysus, and perhaps Demeter of the Eleusinian Mystery, could be considered a patron of democracy. Apollo was much closer to the aristocratic ideals of the Dorian Spartans, whose response to popular dissent was to enslave those outside the wealthy noble oligarchy.119 They also discouraged the rise of a competing plutocracy by adopting an unwieldy archaic monetary system with little value as an international currency. With the importation of the Thespian mountain mushroom rites into the official calendar of the city’s religious celebrations, Athens became a democracy, or more exactly an aristocratic oligarchy of demagogues vying against one another for popular support.

    Kindle Locations 6248-6266

    It was at this time also that the Lesser Mystery was celebrated at the sanctuary of the huntress Artemis, just outside the city on the banks of Ilissos River. As an element of that preparatory purification for the Greater Eleusinian Mystery, the wife of the “king” archon united sexually with the god Dionysus through the medium of his bull sacrament, which was probably the wild mushroom,123 which in the potion ingested by the thousands of initiates later in September at Eleusis had similarly yielded to cultivation as the ergot fungus on the grain grown throughout the rainy winter months.

    Two months later, as the cultivated vines begin to sprout,124 the other civilized aspect of the god takes precedence at the city Dionysia, where originally the performances in the Theater were tragedies. The dual personae of the god are expressed in his two names, the Bacchus of the wild vegetation, as opposed to the cultivated Dionysus. Although the seas were now navigable, the timing of the city Dionysia was influenced by religion, rather than convenience, since the climate in late March, even on the south-facing and protected slope of the Acropolis, is still cold and not ideal for outside daylong performances.

    Perhaps in the rural Thespian celebration, these tragedies (or trugedies) were sung for the goat as the prize or pay of the dancers. As the genre developed, however, tragedy enacts the necessary sacrifice of the goat, as the primitive persona of the god and, in fact, a real threat to the cultivation of the vine of viticulture. The tragic hero generically represents the necessary downfall of someone worthy enough to bear the burden of primitivism and pollution in order to allow the emergence of its counterpoise in someone who is more essential for the foundations of culture and society. Comedy is exactly the opposite. Satyr plays, which along with the old dithyrambic dances, formed part of the entire theatrical bill, mediated between the two genres as a kind of comedic tragedy. The comedies and satyr plays would be the send-off for the audience to wend their way back home through the streets of the democratic city that the tyrant first put on the path of demagoguery by inviting Thespis in from the countryside.

    Aristophanes parodied this as a dance of the genital crab-son trugedians around the old Thespian lover of demagoguery, with his gigantic mushroom of a phallus.

    Kindle Locations 6636-6683

    “Virgil’s Edible Tables”
    by Carl A. P. Ruck and Robert Larner

    Fodder Food in Days of Yore

    Servius, the late fourth-century commentator on Virgil, attempted to offer help with certain details of the episode. Both the type of flat cake (libum) and its flour from spelt required notice. The libum cake should be composed of flour, honey, and oil, and is flat (placenta), often used as sacrificial offerings. “Spelt” is an ancient type of wheat (Triticum spelta), so named because it fruits with spikelets containing only two “split” red grains. Ordinarily, it is called far in Latin. Ador is a rare enough archaic word to require definition as a “type of spelt” (genus farris). It is named simply as something edible, derived from edere, “to eat.”25 It is, however, etymologically more like “fodder” than “food.”

    The earliest extant occurrence of the word as a noun is contemporary with Virgil in Horace’s Satires (2.6.89), where the country mouse, who offers dainty morsels of other foods to his city visitor, is content himself to dine on ador and ergot-infested darnel: (cum) esset ador loliumque, dapis meliora reliquens (“while he ate ador and darnel, leaving the better parts of the feast for his guest”). Pliny records that ador is what the ancients used to call far.26 Cato the younger (second-century BCE), the earliest occurrence of the adjective, advised that one plant it in poor soils and damp fields,27 where inevitably, like the darnel, it, too would be a host for the toxic ergots. Far itself is cognate with bar-ley.

    Ador, like darnel (lolium), was seen as the primitive weedy antecedent of the hybridized cultivated grains:

    pulcher fugatis
    ille dies Latio tenebris,
    qui primus alma risit adorea28

    “that beautiful day, when the shadows fled, which first smiled on Latium with bountiful spelt.”

    Horace is speaking of the removal of the threat of war, and here the archaic spelt (ador) connotes a return to the utopian days of yore. Horace’s country mouse may dine on old-time foods, but as any city dweller would know, the mouse is delusional. Ardor’s association with darnel (Lolium temulentum, “drunken lolium”) involves it in the traditions of altered eyesight from the psychoactive ergot toxins, which manifest on darnel as red enlarged kernels of Claviceps purpurea on its host weed grass, similar to the two red kernels of a corn of spelt.

    Darnel was “cheap flour” (vile triticum) and “feeding on it” (lolio victitare) made you see things that weren’t there.29 Ovid described it as “making the eyesight faulty, vitiating the eyes” (lolium oculos vitians).30 Bread made from it caused vertigo.31 Its biblical Greek name as zizania is derived from the Arabic ZDN for “nausea.”32 Greek bath-keepers tossed the ergots (“seeds,” semina) on the fire as an intoxicating fumigation.33 Cattle and other herded animals, like the Cattle of the Sun, that grazed upon it would become ecstatic. These effects are due entirely to the ergot toxins since darnel in itself is devoid of toxicity.34 The ergots were thought to be seed kernels, exceptionally enlarged by the heat of the sun. They resemble the cock’s spur (cockle), like the talons of the Harpies (uncaeque manus, “barbed hands,” 3.217).

    The ergot is actually a fungal growth, the mycelium completely permeating the host seed kernel, and it is clearly recognizable as a fungus when the mycelium under suitable conditions fruits into a cluster of tiny red mushrooms visible to the naked eye. The ergots, moreover, are a deadly poison, tabooed. Without the requisite pharmaceutical science for accessing their potential, the visions and the ecstasy were the prelude to death. Darnel was a wild weed that like a disease could attack the cereal grains, and, as it was thought, might reverse their hybridization back to the primordial spelt or the primitive grasses. The spread of the fungal infection from the darnel to the cultivated grains was a clear demonstration of its recidivist threat. Mushrooms are largely uncultivable and represent the wild antithesis to the cultivated foods. The Romans, like other ancient cultures, were well aware of the toxicity of the ergots and removed them from the grain spikes by hand. They also propitiated the chthonic deities by the annual festival of the Robigalia (named for the “redness” of the “rust,” a common designation of the ergots) by an animal sacrifice of a red dog, an animal that it was taboo to eat, as an offering to the netherworld Hecate, goddess of witchcraft and herbalists.

    It should be noted that the flat cakes (liba) of ador would be red circular disks (orbes), here in the picnic as prescribed by Jupiter, heaped with something defined as wild fruits (poma agrestia), specifically the “fruits” of trees, substituted for the noisome offal of the Harpies and the repulsive writhing still-living bits of flesh from the Cattle of the Sun. These flatbreads, as prescribed by Jupiter, symbolically represent the food of bygone times, the recidivist toxic fodder of primitivism. They resemble small pedestal tables.

    Kindle Locations 8489-8529

    “Sacred Mushrooms and Man”
    by Gastón Guzmán

    Sacred Mushrooms in Europe from Greek Times to the Middle Ages

    In addition to the examples cited earlier on the use of Amanita muscaria in Europe in the past, there is information of the use of other hallucinogenic fungi in the Middle Ages. However, the earliest use of fungi in relationship to religion began in ancient Greece, where in a city named Eleusis near Athens, a sacramental drink was used in mysterious rites (Kramrisch et al 1986), drunk from special porcelain vessels. On these vessels are depicted tassels of wheat, because of the relationship of the tassels with a hallucinogenic fungus. The nature of the drink remained a puzzle for centuries, until research conducted by Hofmann in the team of Wasson et al (1978) revealed it to be related to the indolic substance LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), the first psychotropic substance known to science. Hofmann isolated LSD as early as 1937, although its hallucinogenic properties were not recognized until 1943. Hofmann studied the special ceremonies that took place in Eleusis, and based on his chemical and physiological research on the Eleusis drink, Wasson et al (1978) concluded that the Greeks in Eleusis used the sclerotia of the ergot, Claviceps purpurea (Figure 12), which is a parasite on the tassels of wheat, rye, or barley.

    These sclerotia of the fungus have thirteen alkaloids, which produce contractions on the even musculature and in addition vertigo, trembling, cold perspiration, and visions. Hofmann observed that of these alkaloids, the ergonovine, which is the basis of LSD, is hallucinogenic and a water-soluble indolic substance. Hofmann experimentally drank the water solution and experienced symptoms like those from psilocybin. In this way, Wasson et al (1978) stated, therefore, that the Eleusian secret of why and how the Greeks got drunk in a psychotropic way was from ergot, which they drank dissolved in water. Moreover, Samorini and Camilla (1994) studied a Greek representation of a mushroom they found in the Louvre museum at Paris. Here Demeter and Persephone are apparently talking about a mushroom, an unknown agaric in the hand of Persephone. This mushroom is an indication of how little we know about the ethnomycology of the Greek culture. We also do know that Claviceps purpurea, through its sclerotia, produced great epidemics in Europe during the Middle Ages, when the flour used for baking bread became accidentally mixed with sclerotia. People intoxicated by eating the bread experienced psychedelic hallucinogenic perceptions. It is interesting to note, moreover, that in Europe and North America sclerotia were also used pharmaceutically, as a uterotonic agent in the control of postpartum hemorrhages, because of its action on the uterine musculature (more information on the uses of the ergot is in Ramsbottom 1953, Kramrisch et al 1986, García-Terrés 1994, and Samorini 2001).

    As for the Roman culture, in which edible mushrooms were very important (e.g. Amanita caesarea), an interesting carved stone mushroom was found in an old market in Algeria (Figure 41, Harshberger 1929). The mushroom is identified as an edible variety, probably Volvariella volvacea, which is a common species in tropical regions. On the other hand, two Roman mosaics in Tunisia depicted mushrooms (Samorini, 1998), which appear to be large agarics identified as Psilocybe mairei. This hallucinogenic species, which is known only from Algeria and Morocco (see above), produces macropsia, as do all hallucinogenic species. It is probably for this reason that the mushrooms in the mosaics are so very large, and linked with their profane use.

    There are several reports of the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms in Europe during the Middle Ages. All relate to the Amanita muscaria (Figures 14 and 24) or Psilocybe semilanceata (Figure 10) and are linked with either the mushroom-trees of early Christianity, or with colloquial expressions. Nevertheless, some churches contain frescoes of Genesis, depicting Adam and Eve with the tree in the Garden of Eden. The most famous mural is the one discussed here earlier from Plaincourault in France. Samorini (1998, 2001) studied another mural in the abbey of Saint Savin, France, where a scene from the Old Testament depicts two mushroom-trees, one of them resembling a Panaeolus, according to Samorini, or Psilocybe coprophila, according to Guzmán. Whichever the case, both mushrooms are poisonous, and their representation in the mural may imply that these mushrooms are dangerous. Additionally, Samorini (2001) and Gartz (1996) discussed the bronze doors of the cathedral in Hildesheim, Germany, which depict Adam and Eve below a mushroom-tree in the form of two tall Psilocybe semilanceata. Close by is God shown asking Adam, “Who ate the forbidden fruit?” As if in answer, Adam points to Eve and both cover their genitals with one of their hands. In this scene the macropsia produced by P. semilanceata is clearly evident. In another way, Gartz (1996) and Samorini (1998) discussed certain colloquial Catalan expressions such as “estar tocado de bolet” (to be touched by the mushroom) and “bruja picuda” (witch with a point). Both seem to relate to the practice of witchcraft, with the former referring to the effect of the mushrooms, probably Amanita muscaria, which when eaten causes a kind of craziness, while the second is related to Psilocybe semilanceata, a mushroom with a cone-shaped papillate cap. Samorini (1998) also comments that in Milan, Italy, in the ninth-century, the Amanita muscaria was famous for its property of producing pleasure. It was said that this mushroom “makes you sing.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      This is great stuff! Thanks!

      I’ll have to read it several times but provisional first read:

      The ancient cultures clearly knew what to look for and how to brew the “sacred” ingredients. tat as we’ve discussed goes some way towards the rise of specialist cult leaders.

      “Ergot” becomes both a catch all for several forms of hallucinogen while at the same time rust (which I’ve read about in multiple sources) was also specific.

      Ergot in the contemporary/modern sense was defined in France mid 19th century but in a sense vis the ancient understanding it comes close to a distinction without a difference as assorted ancient texts makes clear.

      Regarding ancient festivals like the Great Dionysia read a book some years ago that describes processions of drunk men dancing around large carved phalluses, hurling assorted obscenities and insults at people.

      Sex, ritual, “wild behavior” etc all slowly moving from outside the city into it and a more “organized” program with lapses back to less organized and more “wild” depending upon assorted factors like weather, poor/good harvests, plagues, blights, wars, earthquakes, as we’ve discussed.

      The extant texts offer both non fiction like Plato (though he too made things up) that describe details of the various rituals.

      Then there are the more obviously symbolic or metaphoric texts like “Homer” but both Plato’s political non fiction and “Homer” appear to represent the tension as societies moved back and forth from bicameral to transitional to post bicameral.

      It seems clear that the ingestion of various plants/fungi/spoors/mold not only caused visions/voices but that they may have been the evolutionary spur to consciousness and then language.

      Also clearly there was some understanding of the process though also the usual muddle and misunderstandings.

      I’ve been rereading my longer reworking of the Faulkner’s Sparrows piece and it’s a muddle (speaking of muddles) because it’s a muddled subject and because I view it as connected to other issues including various disciplines like Historiography, psychology and discourse on politics so hard to get all the ducks in a row.

      Thanks again – great material!


      1. Here is what I see as the key part. Agriculture began quite early. But it appears to have been quite primitive well into the Axial Age. The early grains were barely cultivated and still being grown in a semi-wild condition. This meant a number of things. The yields would have been small and so the population couldn’t have depended on it as a mainstay. The importance of it might have been as much of its connection to ergot. Maybe they used it more for its psychedelic effect than as food.

        Maybe psychedelics were central to the bicameral mind. The ergot-infested grains may have been more often imbibed as alcohol. And that imbibing may have been a regular activity to maintain the proper state of mind. That could relate to my post on tea and the fairies. The one guy’s theory from the early 1800s, when tea was being popularized, was that people were no longer drinking beer as much as they once had. And as one commenter suggested, that beer may have had more in it than only alcohol.

        As agriculture advanced, ergot became less common. But it continued to be an issue. It’s obvious that Europeans later in history maintained an understanding of the effect of psychedelic mushrooms, as seen in religious iconography. Even into the 1800s, Christmas cards would portray psychedelic mushrooms and, of course, Christmas is about divine birth. This makes me think about what happened after the Roman Empire. There was a reversion in the European diet and it led to an improvement in health. Europeans were forced back on more foods that were locally gardened, gathered, and hunted. Agricultural yields probably fell.

        Europe was regaining its footing in the Middle Ages, though ergot poisoning still was happening. Some of the knowledge probably was lost in how to deal with ergot. There was some knowledge, though, about psychedelics in general. Ecstatic festivals such as Carnival became important. In Dancing in the Streets, Barbara Ehrenreich writes about how Europeans at the time were involved in communal celebrations about as much as they were working. And churches at the time lacked pews because people would dance and move around even during service. Christianity was once an ecstatic religion. And I’d point out that Christianity formed out of and borrowed from those earlier ecstatic religions. Virgin Mary, for example, was based on the grain goddesses.


  4. I posted a comment that disappeared. Could you check for it?


    1. Never mind. It was posted but momentarily delayed.


      1. rauldukeblog says:

        Can you send me a list of the titles you referenced? I want to see if I can get them through the library.


      2. rauldukeblog says:

        Never mind I found it – realized it’s one book with several essays. Just have to track down a copy


      3. Actually, there are two books. I’m sorry that it was a bit confusing. The two titles are: Pharmakon by Michael A. Rinella (all the passages with page numbers); & Entheogens and the Development of Culture edited by John A. Rush (all the passages with kindle locations).

        In the same post I’m working on, there is a bunch of other info I’ve gathered. It includes passages from other books and articles on psychedelics, addictive substances, agriculture, etc. But what I shared with you was everything I had on ergot.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. rauldukeblog says:

        Got it – thanks!


  5. I was having a disagreement about the culture and consciousness of victimhood. I consider this central and foundational to our society.

    As with addiction, I see this as involved in the emergence of the post-bicameral Axial Age and all that followed from it. This is seen in how victimhood was not only idolized in religions like Christianity but became an ideal of selfhood through the invented history of martyrdom.

    I’m wondering about where this came from. It’s not that sacrifice would not have existed in the bicameral societies, but it would have meant something entirely else. There was no individual egoic consciousness to be the victim.

    What do you think? We’ve talked about this in the past. Though I can’t recall offhand all of what we might have discussed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      Complicated and fascinating question.

      It would seem likely that the emergence of the martyr/sacrifice comes along in the back and forth and slow evolution of the post BC consciousness.

      I was thinking about your question and was trying to work it into and around Gilgamesh which is the oldest extant narrative.

      On the one hand he’s a Jaynesian automaton but what’s curious is that the story was written.

      In other words someone had to have the idea that it should be written and that “Gilgamesh” existed.

      So it’s an ambiguous state – someone, an “individual” or a group of “individuals” decide to create or codify the narrative and it’s about someone with no individual identity – sort of because he becomes aware of death and recognizes his friend as distinct.

      What seems likely is that the very long process of transformation to the brain is represented in many places included these narratives which seem to swing back and forth from pure or at least a more forceful bicameralism to a less forceful and/or post BC.

      So one goes from “Homer” circa 1200-800 BC to “Socrates” around 500 BC but at the same time you have theater which resonates by presenting the tension between the evolutionary forces – and tackles the emergence of “scapegoats” and martyrs.

      The other issue though is how far back do narratives about characters like Theseus go?

      The problematic but useful Robert Graves makes the case that the bulk of the Greek myths are layers of multiple narratives one atopt the other.

      So when Theseus returns from dealing with the labyrinth, and raises the wrong flag, and his father jumps off the Acropolis, it’s most likely a reference to an even older narrative in which the solar hero gets tossed off a cliff or jumps.

      But then we’re back to a bit of a problem – who decided the SH should exit, should be “sacrificed” and how did that process begin?

      To have such a figure means some sort of recognition of individuation.

      But of course that doesn’t mean it was the same as we would conceive of it today or even in the centuries after it began.

      As you say sacrifice would have meant something very different and the gap between say Theseus’ father and Christian conceptions of the Passion are like the difference between Columbus and going to the moon – even if ancient sacrificial figures echo in the later Gospels.

      More to follow.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Here is the thing about the bicameral mind. People weren’t individuals. Instead, they were placemarkers and convergences of other forces that were beyond and yet overlapping with the body. Even the body, according to Jaynes, wasn’t perceived as singular.

        Sacrifice was always a mythological event that was greater than mere ‘human’, even as the role was played by a human. But many people could play that role. And when playing that role, they became perfectly identified with the role.

        That is why bicameral people, like animistic people (e.g., Piraha), are unrecognizable as individuals when possessed. And presumably, the bicameral mind is a permanent state of possession in that there is no individual to be possessed.

        You’ve mentioned this with one Greek story of one figure on a ship being misidentified. It only seems like misidentification to the post-bicameral mind. The identification shifting is perfectly real and absolute within the bicameral reality.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. rauldukeblog says:

        I generally agree but I think there’s some room for nuance as things like identity were fluid and I don’t mean fluid as it’s discussed today.

        When I say Theseus and his father misunderstood it’s not an exact sign in the structuralist sense but a set of imprecise language codes. The story is itself a screen for an older story/ritual.

        What it really represents is that theseus returning is the solar hero and his father is also Theseus and that speaks directly to your pint vis Jaynes.

        “Theseus” is both himself and the wider community and his “father” is also himself and the wider community and they are distinct but also the same person.

        Very odd sounding for the contemporary post BC mind.

        But this then opens the door to a different view of “sacrifice”

        The sacrificed figure was both an individual but also a living part of the whole community.

        That probably goes someway towards explaining the power of the scapegoat.

        The idea that collective sin or taboo could be embodied and expelled would almost certainly rest on a consciousness alien to our own.

        That would be the BC consciousness of the Jaynes’ automaton.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. “…identity were fluid and I don’t mean fluid as it’s discussed today.”

        It’s hard to know how identity might have been experienced in the distant past. But the evidence indicates it was far different in some sense. Exactly what those differences were is hard for us to imagine. And there are many possible interpretations.

        “When I say Theseus and his father misunderstood it’s not an exact sign in the structuralist sense but a set of imprecise language codes. The story is itself a screen for an older story/ritual.”

        It is the writing down of a still living but fading collective memory from an oral tradition that might be millennia old. We are forced to read into it the traces of some older significance.

        “The sacrificed figure was both an individual but also a living part of the whole community.”

        The ‘individual’ itself was communal. That is a point that is made by James Kugel in The Great Shift. Tribal people often have names that change and it represents change in individuality. There is no permanent, separate individuality.

        Looking at the ancient world, a name is inherited from family and being so named meant some part of an ancestor being reborn. This is why, in the Old Testament, it was so common for an entire family or tribe to be punished for what was done by an individual.


      4. Below is something else from the one link, an observation I’ve come across before in the anthropological and related literature:

        “The naming practices of certain indigenous peoples also suggest that their sense of individuality is less defined than the European-American. For us, a name is a permanent label which defines our individuality and autonomy. But for indigenous peoples this often isn’t the case. The anthropologist Clifford Geertz (1973) found that among the Balinese, personal names and even kinship names are rarely used. Instead the Balinese commonly use tekonyms – i.e. terms which describe the relationship between two people. As soon as a child is born the mother is called ‘mother-of ___’ and father is ‘father-of ____’, and when a grandchild is born they are called ‘grandmother-of ____’ and ‘grandfather-of ____’. As Gardiner et al (1997) note, this ‘denotes a very different understanding of the person, emphasising the connectedness of the individual with the family’ (p. 113). Similarly, Australian Aborigines do not have fixed names which they keep throughout their lives. Their names regularly change, and include those of other members of their tribe (Atwood, 1989).”


      5. The later sacrificial godmen stand outside. The archaic bicameral myths no longer play out within the human. The godmen become proxies, eternal and unchanging in written texts, no longer living and breathing oral traditions. The individuality of our egoic consciousness become a faint echo of that former archaic authorization. As the mythos is separated from us, each of us becomes separated from all else, including from our full self. Repression is the first victimization when bicameral sacrifice is lost. To be an individual is to be a victim, such is my present view anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. rauldukeblog says:

        There’s a good if overly complicated book called, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. At the end the author makes the pint that as the gods have been sent packing life is less dramatic and in a sense safer.

        I think you’re correct – as the mythological fades alienation as a biological process expands.

        As the post BC consciousness grew it manifested in societies that were themselves alienated and alienating and we have everything from Munch’s The Scream to Freud’s hysterics all the way until our time with cartoon fears via The Borg but all of which regardless of depth are reflections of authentic issues.

        The vanishing of hero rituals makes sense in this context and then people like Joseph Campbell end up sounding reactionary even if they don’t intend it that way. then there are authentic reactionaries. The Lobster King is a symptom of a culture evolving away from a communal consciousness but unlike JC who was whatever his faults an authentic scholar JP is an authentic charlatan but he is a mouthpiece for a culture that has lost its way.

        He speaks to and for people who are victims but are furious about it.

        Vs plenty of others who are also speaking to (at least symptomatically) and from the same process – an evolutionary process that they glimpse vaguely if at all – but with far less rage.

        “To be an individual is to be a victim” speaks directly to the modern crisis.

        It produces everything from superhero movies to Trump.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. “There’s a good if overly complicated book called, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony.”

        I read that book long ago, maybe in the late ’90s. It had a major impact on my thinking at the time. It was entirely different than anything I had read before. Maybe I should revisit it one of these days. I’ve been meaning to read more by the author.

        ““To be an individual is to be a victim” speaks directly to the modern crisis.”

        We could offer some nuance about individuation and such. But the fact remains that individuality first comes with loss, whatever else might be gained later on.


      8. I just now realized the connection to the post I linked, the post where the minor disagreement or misunderstanding occurred. That post begins with a quote by Jaynes that distinguishes between sensory pain, similar to biological reactivity, that is common among many species and conscious pain as suffering. Victimization requires conscious suffering for, without it, there is merely sacrifice. Here is the quote:

        “Pain in the conscious human is thus very different from that in any other species. Sensory pain never exists alone except in infancy or perhaps under the influence of morphine when a patient says he has pain but does not mind it. Later, in those periods after healing in which the phenomena usually called chronic pain occur, we have perhaps a predominance of conscious pain.”

        Liked by 1 person

      9. rauldukeblog says:

        For a BC consciousness pain would have been distinct from how a Post BC consciousness understood or experiences it. Within that the sacrifice/scapegoat would be alien to our current consciousness.


    2. Individuality given birth in struggle and suffering. It was a hardship that hardened the boundaries of mind, body, and self. And new structure was highly draining of psychic energy, as Jaynes and others have noted. The human becomes lesser in being isolated. Consciousness comes at the cost of unconsciousness.

      DeMeo’s monumental work Saharasia uncovers evidence of a massive environmental disaster which began at around 4000 BCE: the desertification of the large region of the earth which he calls ‘Saharasia’, which until that time had been fertile and widely populated with humans and animals. Parts of Saharasia – particularly central Asia and the Middle East – were the homelands of these groups, and this environmental change affected them massively. On the one hand, they were forced to leave their homelands (which explains the mass migrations of the Indo-Europeans and Semites over the following centuries), and on the other hand, the new living conditions they were forced to endure apparently transformed their psyche. DeMeo’s research strongly suggests that this was the historical point where war became rife, when societies became socially stratified, when patriarchy began, and when human beings began to experience guilt and shame towards bodily processes and sex.

      DeMeo himself interprets this transition in terms of Wilhelm Reich’s concept of ‘armoring’. The pain and suffering which the Saharasian peoples confronted with made them ‘wall themselves off’ from the world and also from their own feelings. They covered over their natural pleasure-seeking impulses with secondary pleasure-denying instincts, and impulses such as the maternal-infant and the male-female bonds, connection to nature, the sexual instinct, trust and openness to other human beings were disrupted.

      However, we can also, in a sense, bring DeMeo’s archaeological-geographical findings together with the theories of Cassirer et al. and suggest that the Saharasian environmental change was the cause of the ‘Ego Explosion’. The historical connection is clear – these were exactly the peoples affected by the environmental disaster, and they are the peoples who modern European-Americans are descended from (as well as many other Eurasian peoples who share our sharpened sense of individuality, such as the Semitic peoples and the Chinese and Japanese peoples).

      Perhaps the sheer hardship of these human groups’ lives when their environment began to change – when their crops began to fail, when the animals they hunted began to die, when their water supplies began to fail and so on – encouraged a spirit of selfishness. […]

      Perhaps most significantly, this transition entailed a loss of awareness of the presence of spirit force pervading the world, which can be explained in terms of a redistribution of psychic energy. In his essay ‘Meditation and the Consciousness of Time’ (1996), Philip Novak describes how, in normal states of consciousness, the ego monopolises our psychic energy. He notes that our ordinary consciousness is taken up with ‘endless associational chatter and spasmodic imaginative-emotive elaborations of experience’ (p. 275). Because of this, energy which could be ‘manifested as the delight of the open, receptive and present-centred awareness’ (ibid.) (as it is with indigenous peoples) is, in his words, ‘gobbled’ away. And we can see the Ego Explosion as the point when this state of affairs began. The Saharasian peoples’ more powerful egos required more of each individual’s psychic energy in order to function, and this was only possible by sacrificing energy which had previously been used by other functions. And in this case energy which had been devoted to ‘present-centred awareness’ was sacrificed. That energy was diverted to the ego; as a result there was less psychic energy to use perceptually, and the individual no longer perceived the phenomenal world with the same intense, vivid vision. As a result their attention became ‘switched off’ to the presence of spirit-force. And if we accept that spirits are objective realities, this was obviously the point when we ‘switched off’ to their presence around us too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. rauldukeblog says:

        This tremendous and I’ll have to take some time with it.

        Several talking points come to mind including Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy and the why of Joyce’s Ulysses – that is what evolutionary process created the conditions that gave rise to Joyce and the stream of consciousness technique.


  6. Jean Gebser is another thinker that explores this change. I just bought a book about him by Jeremy Johnson. Here are two videos by Johnson:


  7. Ron Pavellas says:

    (Thread is getting long: I’m responding to Benjamin’s most recent response to mine:)
    I cotton to James Muhly’s view of the sea people. The sea traders were, at some point identified as Minoans, Phoenecuíans, and then Greeks. I’ve always wondered why the Greeks, even though they shared language and religion and were spread all over the Mediterranean and Asia/Egypt, were so abominably contentious with each other (supreme example Sparta/Athens)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. About Sea Peoples, I’ve heard many theories about who they were. The Phoenicians are likewise hard to pin down. The ancient world doesn’t neatly fit into modern social constructs of ethnicity, race, or whatever. The same kind of confusion is seen with the ancient Jews. It was hard to tell who was Jewish or who wasn’t. The boundaries of identity were loose and often overlapping.

      The same goes for the ancient Greeks. They were like the Celts, not a single ethnic group but a trading alliance or rather various trading alliances over the centuries (e.g., the Irish originally were Basque who took on the trading culture of the Celts). Many ancient ‘Greek’ communities and thinkers weren’t actually ethnically Greek. They were contentious because they never were common people.


      1. Ron Pavellas says:

        Re ‘The Greeks’: my remembered reading of Christian Meier’s “A Culture of Freedom” tells me that, at least from some arguable beginning point, Greeks were ‘one people’ by virtue of a common language and religion (the Pantheon) no matter where located. Fast forward to post WWII Greece ( a new country, slightly over 100 years old), the civil war was full of factions and splinters. bloody and awful in every way. But, this may be hijacking your original theme and argument.


      2. That is what trading cultures were. It’s sort of like how India was ‘English’ while under British rule. They did adopt aspects of English culture, from governance to language. But Indians were not ethnically English. Even the English themselves developed out of a complex trading culture that arose from the mixing of Picts, Welsh, Germans, Scandinavians, Romans, etc. There is, in a sense, no original ‘English’ because they didn’t exist before mixing.

        Many of the ‘Greek’ communities were originally foreign populations that had adopted aspects of Greek culture. This actually developed into a new Greek culture, what we now think of as being Greek. Odysseus as a new kind of mythological figure became important for many of these non-Greek Greeks. A different Greek mythological system formed out of this that involved a lot of syncretism with nearby cultures. For example, Greeks inherited some of their high culture from the Egyptians. Also, Greek medical theory might have been influenced by Eastern systems.

        The Jews are an interesting case. We think of them as being purely ethnic today. But in the ancient world, there was high rates of conversion to Judaism. It was a syncretistic culture and religion, and so extremely diverse. Whatever original Jewish culture that came out of the wandering desert tribes was lost amidst this mixing millennia ago. The desert tribes themselves probably weren’t a single people either, as likely they were formed from the masses of refugees escaping the collapsing Bronze Age empires.

        This may have been something like the apocalyptic plains Indians that consisted of the survivors of hundreds of other tribes decimated by war, starvation, and disease. The apocalyptic religion and culture (e.g., Ghost Dance) had never existed before. A common culture did develop out of this. The point is that it was a new common culture. The emergent culture created a new people and that new people didn’t exist until that culture came into being. They had to reinvent themselves out of the ashes of the destruction of their previous cultures.


      3. Ron Pavellas says:

        So very interesting. Thanks for all of this. The current genealogy research through DNA analysis is, no doubt, adding to the story exponentially.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. “The Men we call Homer” Friedrich Kittler argue that the Iliad was rimed by a man, the Odyssey by a woman. The “real” story of the Sirens is that Odysseus and his men landed on the island. Kittler also mentioned Jaynes, I will look it up and translate it as I remember not to understand him when he said that Odysseus did not have conscious interiority.

    Liked by 2 people

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