Origin of Human Consciousness Dramatized In Ancient Myth and Visual Art
I was prompted to create this post after reading The Origin of Consciousness in the Break Down of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes and recognising similarities to my own theory of Dream Linguistics.
Jaynes argues that the breakdown of the Bicameral Mind and the appearance of human consciousness can in a large part be attributed to writing. Because he could now read an individual no longer heard the words of gods or kings The once direct communication that had existed between individuals from gods and ancestors was broken.
Dream Linguistics’ incorporation of image, scent, musical scale and other subtle vibrationary stimuli, including hallucinations, takes experiences that were once bicameral subliminal messages and filters them through knowledge achieved through personal experiences. It is an integration of earned experience and personal inner voice
Oil on canvas, 36 x 72 X 1 inches, 2010 Buy Original Painting from Saatchi Art
My painting illustrates the phenomena of enlightenment being shared prior to punishment being executed from two mythological perspectives.
From a Greek mythological perspective, we witness the transmitter of enlightenment to man, Prometheus, who will ultimately suffer the wrath of the Gods.
In the background looking down from his domain of Olympus is Zeus. He appears remote, almost disinterested in the dynamic being played out before him.
This attitude of disinterest is a perception of Bicameral man, who feels disconnected from entities who once were the source of guidance.
Catching the ray of knowledge that is expressed by Athena emerging from the brain of Zeus is Prometheus. Prometheus represents consciousness derived from personal experience. Symbolised as a thief, he is the conduit passing on Athena’s quintessence to the figure in the foreground, who is the “New Man”. For this deed Prometheus will suffer eternal punishment.
In Judaic/Christian philosophy, it is the receiver of enlightenment, the combination form of Adam and Eve, who suffer the wrath of God. The background figure of Olympian Zeus is now the God of the Judaic tradition, Jehovah.
Eve stands to the left holding the fruit of knowledge, a pomegranate, whose myriad seeds represent potentiality and choices through which she is now empowered. She is man’s awareness of himself aroused by her consort, the serpent coiled around her, representing knowledge through experience. The serpent is the redeemer, the rise of personal consciousness through learned experiences, freeing man from unconscious automatic responses imposed by Jehovah.
The figure in the foreground is Adam, the once Bicameral Man. However, Adam has evolved into Cain through a personal decision to slaughter, represented by the sacrificial ram before him.
Now the concept of guilt manifests itself, a repercussion from realizing our executed actions are through personal free will and not a directive from a source of external origin.
A pictorial depiction of our journey through life, Odyssey. Oil on canvas, 72 inches by 36 inches, 2008 refinished 2011. Buy Original Painting from Saatchi Art
I originally finished The Odyssey in 2008 but then reworked it in the fall of 2011 for my show “God Factory”.
The Odyssey, I believe as do many others, is one of the greatest stories ever told because it is an allegoric psychological portrayal of the unfolding drama of human experience from birth to death.
We are born and grow in the comfort of our family and then, often quite suddenly in our teens, are ripped out of this environment to enter the next phase of our journey.
This phase for Odysseus was fighting the Trojan War.
After many years, we achieve successful lives which was for Odysseus the defeat of Troy, and now begins our journey of introspection, our return voyage home.
After many adventures and delays, generally of our own making, we complete our circuit to return to our origin. A concept well summed up in the words of T.S. Elliott, “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”.
Human consciousness appears through adventure forcing us to become dependant on our our inner resources..
In the background of the picture are the two antagonists, Pallas Athena and Poseidon, who are the interplay of cosmic forces: fire and water. In center stage stands Odysseus himself, armed and poised ready for any eventuality. On his belt is the image of the Trojan horse, his inspiration that brought an end to the Trojan war. Above him hovers the totem animal of Athena, the owl, who transmits Athena’s wisdom to Odysseus. Around him in the realm of Poseidon we see the images of his lost comrades, representations of aspects of his own personalities, illustrating that only the true, inner part of ourselves can return. With our egos and life achievements having been stripped away on our journey home, we are left naked and vulnerable just as we began but clothed with the wealth of our experiences.
The following poem Ithaca by Constantine P. Cavafy I discovered after a visit to Ancient Olympia. I came across it quite by chance and was struck by the similarity of its image to my own interpretation..
When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.
Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy –
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.
Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.