When the deep purple falls
Over sleepy garden walls
And stars start to sparkle in the sky
In the mist of memory
You come drifting back to me
Breathing my name in a sigh
* * *
Now we know neurologically that there can be a spread of excitation from one point of the cortex to adjacent points. Thus it becomes likely that a buildup of excitation in those areas on the right hemisphere serving instrumental music should spread to those adjacent serving divine auditory hallucinations—or vice versa. And hence this close relationship between instrumental music and poetry, and both with the voices of gods. I am suggesting here that the invention of music may have been as a neural excitant to the hallucinations of gods for decision-making in the absence of consciousness.
It is thus no idle happenstance of history that the very name of music comes from the sacred goddesses called Muses. For music too begins in the bicameral mind.
We thus have some ground for saying that the use of the lyre among early poets was to spread excitation to the divine speech area, the posterior part of the right temporal lobe, from immediately adjacent areas. So also the function of flutes that accompanied the lyric and elegiac poets of the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. And when such musical accompaniment is no longer used, as it is not in later Greek poetry, it is, I suggest, because the poem is no longer being sung from the right hemisphere where such spreading excitation would help. It is instead being recited from left hemispheric memory alone, rather than being recreated in the true prophetic trance.
This change in musical accompaniment is also reflected in the way poetry is referred to, although a large amount of historical overlap makes the case not quite so clear. But more early poetry is referred to as song (as in the Iliad and the Theogony, for example), while later poetry is often referred to as spoken or told. This change perhaps corresponds roughly to the change from the aoidoi with their lyres to the rhapsodes with their rhapdoi (light sticks, perhaps to beat the meter) that took place perhaps in the eighth or seventh centuries B.C. And behind these particulars is the more profound psychological change from bicameral composition to conscious recitation, and from oral to written remembering. In much later poetry, however, the poet as singer and his poem as song are brought back metaphorically as conscious archaism, yielding its own authorization to the now conscious poet.
. . . A vocabulary, some syntax, and a few rules of lexical fit and measure can be punched into a computer, which can then proceed to write quite ‘inspired’ if surrealist verse. But that is simply a copy of what we, with two cerebral hemispheres and nervous systems, already do. Computers or men can indeed write poetry without any vestigial bicameral inspiration. But when they do, they are imitating an older and truer poesy out there in history. Poetry, once started in mankind, needs not the same means for its production. It began as the divine speech of the bicameral mind. And even today, through its infinite mimeses, great poetry to the listener, however it is made, still retains that quality of the wholly other, of a diction and a message, a consolation and an inspiration, that was once our relationship to gods.
toward the end of chapter three,
‘Vestiges of the Bicameral Mind in
the Modern World,’ from the book,
“The Origin of Consciousness
in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”
* * *
It’s far beyond a star
It’s near beyond the moon
I know beyond a doubt
My heart will lead me there soon
We’ll meet beyond the shore
We’ll kiss just as before
Happy we’ll be beyond the sea
And never again will I go sailing