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There's an interesting passage much later in the Bible, where Samuel hears God in a dream but is unfamiliar with God's voice because prophetic dreams have become much less frequent "in those days".

I think this chapter deserves a close and full reading.

Perhaps throughout the ages, human being's brains have tuned in more, to the greater mind or conciousness, filtering out less and resulting in greater thought or introspection. Or it could have filtered out more, resulting in a greater, more defined sense of self. Which one, which one?

??? While many most people nowadays do not have "sleep experiences " such as the ones described, many people do. Also, terming everything experienced in sleep state a "dream" also hinders open-minded examination of what transpired. It harkens to one effect of the materialism viewpoint.

Characters in ancient literature were archetypal. More 'realist' depictions began to be depicted as the medium evolved. The extrapolations Michael is making from all this is bordering on the ridiculous. Where will it end?

"Also, terming everything experienced in sleep state a "dream" also hinders open-minded examination"

In the Agamemnon story, the experience is explicitly described as a dream in the text. In the Jacob story, we are told that Jacob falls asleep, has the vision, and wakes up - which also suggests a dream.

These and other early dreams, though they don't constitute proof, are at least consistent with the idea that ancient people did not narratize their experience in terms of an analog 'I' moving through a mental space, and that, lacking reflective consciousness, they heard voices and saw visions that told them what to do.

As I have noted before, there is contemporary written evidence for the subjective sense of "I" and self reflection among the ancient Egyptians, dating back to before 2000 BC. This also extends into dreams.

There is a First Intermediate Period letter to the dead dated tentatively to the Tenth Dynasty (about 2050 BC), asking for protection based on a menacing dream:

"The author of the letter, Heni, writes to his dead father for help, first reminding his father of the fact that it is he, Heni, who continues to provide offerings for his well-being in the beyond. It seems that Heni is being bothered in a dream by his father’s servant Seni, who is also dead. Heni, in what looks to be a case of a guilty conscience, denies responsibility for the beating of the servant Seni, and requests that his father prevent Seni from watching him in his dreams as well.

This is actually a sort of nightmare for though he offers no details of the circumstances, the fact that this is an unwelcome vision is clear in Heni’s request that his father prevent Seni from harming him. Specifically, Heni wants Seni to be guarded to prevent him from looking at him (Heni), forever. It appears that not only can Seni force the sleeper to see him, but worse yet, the dead man can watch the sleeper. The writer, Heni, expresses his own guilt and anxiety concerning his relationship with the deceased Seni. Whether or not his guilt caused the dream, this is precisely the type of dream that is often recalled by the dreamer, and it certainly must have had a strong impact on Heni for him to have felt compelled to reach out for help from his dead father through a letter. Unfortunately, we have no evidence as to whether Heni’s plea was heard, and whether his father successfully prevented Seni from causing his son any more nightmares."
(From )

There is nothing strange in this dream relative to contemporary psychology. There is nothing here about hearing voices and seeing visions and getting orders.

In the Teachings for Merikare, dated in the same period around 2100 BC, Pharaoh Kheti advises his son that the key to the interpretation of dreams is that the dream means the opposite of its symbols. Therefore a joyous dream indicates upcoming adversity and vice versa.

Detailed examples of dream interpretations come from the New Kingdom, in the "Dream Book" from Deir el-Medina, Egypt, 19th Dynasty (around 1275 BC). This is a papyrus giving a list of dreams and their interpretations. On each page of the papyrus a vertical column of hieratic signs begins: 'if a man sees himself in a dream'; each horizontal line describes a dream, followed by the diagnosis 'good' or 'bad', and then the interpretation. For example, 'if a man sees himself in a dream looking out of a window, good; it means the hearing of his cry'. Or, 'if a man sees himself in a dream with his bed catching fire, bad; it means driving away his wife'. Or, 'if a man sees himself in a dream as dead, this means a good omen, long life'. Or, 'if a man sees himself eating crocodile flesh this is a good omen - he will become a village official'. (From ).

This text inherently describes a dream experiencing "I". In Egypt a psychology of a self-reflective "I" appears in texts as soon as an appropriate script (hieratic and hieroglyphic) and writing tradition appeared. Did a change in basic psychology cause the literary development, or was it just that the increasing sophistication of writing allowed these expressions to be recorded for posterity? I think it is the latter. Was there some sort of fundamental difference between ancient Egyptian psychology and that of the rest of the Near East? I guess we can't really know, but I doubt it.

Avery, thanks for the link to I Samuel 3. Very interesting. It certainly reads like a case of someone experiencing what would be described as either auditory hallucinations or mediumistic communications (take your pick), in a social context in which such occurrences were increasingly rare and hard to recognize.

Doubter, those are interesting comments. Let's take them one by one.

"It seems that Heni is being bothered in a dream by his father’s servant Seni, who is also dead."

I don't see how this necessarily suggests a subjective, reflective consciousness. Heni seems to be saying that in his dreams he sees Seni criticizing him. How is this different from Agamemnon seeing Oneiros (in the guise of Nestor) standing over his sleeping form in his dream? Perhaps you're thinking that bicameral people only heard comforting or caring voices, but this is not Jaynes' view. He thinks that, like modern schizophrenics, bicameral people heard mainly commands and criticisms. (BTW, they were able to function much better than modern schizophrenics because they had no sense of personal identity under attack by outside voices, and because they were not alienated from society.)

Heni also seems to feel he is being watched and criticized by Seni all the time. Again, this is not inconsistent with the idea of someone hearing voices or seeing visions on an everyday basis.

"The 'Dream Book' from Deir el-Medina, Egypt, 19th Dynasty (around 1275 BC)."

That date is late enough to be consistent with Jaynes' theory, or at least with my interpretation of it. I should add that Jaynes himself was skeptical of this Egyptian dream book, though his reasoning seems tendentious to me. He said in a lecture:

"Very briefly there are two so-called 'dream books'… What they are referring to is that in [Assyrian king] Ashurbanipal's library, in cuneiform, there are large numbers of omen texts. These omen texts go on and on to the effect of, 'if something happens, then something else is going to happen,' with no logical connection at all.

"In a few of these tablets, the statements begin with the phrase, 'If in a dream…' ... But neither in this so-called dream book or in the Egyptian one is a single dream ever mentioned. It might have the heading off to one side, 'If in a dream' and then it says 'if he washes his hand in his urine he will eat little; if he sprinkles with his urine his sheepfold will expand; if he directs his urine towards the sky the son of this man whom he will begat will become important but his days will be short.' ...

"If we look at Egyptian hieroglyphics, there is another omen book very similar to that, although it is supposed to predate it. It is not a dream book as we would think of it. It says things to the effect of, 'If you are shod in white sandals, it is bad, it means roaming the earth' – that kind of thing." (p. 205, The Julian Jaynes Collection)

Now, I don't find this argument convincing. For one thing, what would be the point of prefacing each column with "If in a dream" unless dreams were being described? For another, some of Jaynes' own examples clearly make no sense except in a dream context; e.g., why would you see wearing white sandals as an omen if you had put them on yourself? It would be an omen only if the image appeared to you as a vision or in a dream.

So I think Jaynes was reaching here, and as I've said elsewhere, he does have a tendency to select evidence that suits his theory and to explain away evidence that doesn't (e.g., his treatment of of Hesiod in "Origin"). As I've also said, I think his date of 1200-1000 BC for the shift in consciousness is too late, at least for Egypt, which was a very advanced society.

Since the dream book dates to 1275 BC, and since I think the shift in Egypt occurred earlier than that, it's not a problem for me. In fact, I would see it quite differently: it seems to me that this newfound interest in dream interpretation is possibly a consequence of the fact that subjective dreaming was a relatively new thing in the world, requiring an explanation.

My complaint about Jaynes' tendentious treatment of Hesiod is here:

The comments section following that post is pretty interesting, as I got into a polite discussion with a knowledgeable Jaynes enthusiast. The situation was reversed in that case: he was defending Jaynes, and I was criticizing.

I wrote: "I don't see how this necessarily suggests a subjective, reflective consciousness. Heni seems to be saying that in his dreams he sees Seni criticizing him."

But now that I think about it, I'm probably wrong. The idea that Seni is criticizing Heni isn't inconsistent with Jaynes' theory, but Heni's objection to the criticism, and his desire to make it stop, are more in line with reflective consciousness - a consciousness that distinguishes between the voices heard and the 'I' that hears them.

If Heni can say, in effect, "I want this voice to stop pestering me," then he is exhibiting an independent, subjective consciousness that is distinct from the voice(s) he hears. And with a date of 2050 BC, this material is certainly early enough to predate any claimed transition to a new mode of consciousness, even in my more cautious estimate.

Looking into it still further ...

I'm not quite clear on what Heni is actually saying. Here's a translation of the complete letter:

At first glance it appears he is saying that he has been haunted by Seni's harassing voice, both in his dreams and in his waking life. However, this book gives a subtly different interpretation:

"Heni wrote a letter to his dead father complaining that he was being bothered by their servant Seni who had died sometime in the past. He claimed to know that Seni was the cause of his problems because he saw the servant's bad behavior in a dream. Because the father appeared in that dream as well, Heni beseeched his father to keep Seni from harming him." (pp. 158-9)

In this interpretation of the letter, Heni is not necessarily troubled by hearing the voice of his dead servant, and he is not necessarily trying to make the voice stop. Instead, he may have suffered some sort of problems in his life, such as illness or financial reversal, and having seen the servant in a dream, he has concluded that the servant is responsible. It is not that he is actually seeing or hearing Seni in his everyday life, but rather that he assumes Seni is acting behind the scenes to trip him up. This interpretation is not necessarily suggestive of reflective consciousness, as I understand it. He is not necessarily distinguishing his personal self, his "I," from a critical voice.

All of which just goes to show that reading and interpreting these very ancient documents is not an easy task.

Or as I posted on Facebook recently, "I have some opinions on cuneiform, but it's not as if they're carved in stone."


Edifying post and comments!

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