Online Reflections



In my first chosen post I was inspired to recollect, and share, the experiences of my wife and myself, during and after the birth of our children. I particularly remember the passion, with which my wife embraced these online communities (Hamilton, Robert, Online Communities Post, Oct 19, 2010), and it was really my first conscious experience of the power of the Internet to forge and foster real communities. These online communities defied geography to bring together parents from all over Australia, to share their fears, excitement, opinions, knowledge and prejudices. I saw firsthand how the Internet serviced these community members by creating a portal, which uniquely provided for a subsection of society, who traditionally were often isolated by their condition – expecting mothers are often at home and out of the workforce. The 24/7 nature of the Internet and these website based forums – and – allowed members to share at any time of day or night, getting answers to questions about the health of expecting mothers and babies when they needed them.

The highlighted differences between the online community and the offline one in this particular section of our society were, I think, the bringing together of parents from all walks of life (Shafi. 2005). The Internet removed many of the usual barriers of class, economic status and the like, by its denuded nature – leaving content free of its dressing. People shared based on their need for knowledge rather than whether they were rich, beautiful or white.

Power was vested in those members who had and voiced natural wisdom (Liedloff, Jean, 1975), earth mothers who walked their talk when it came to having babies naturally and usually outside of the hospital system. The economy of these sites was more cottage industry through networking, with mum’s making cloth nappies and baby carriers out of hemp and other natural substances and selling them to other mums. Knowledge was the fore runner – teaching new mums about the natural way – and then merchandising followed.

I observed during this period that identity based on being a new parent and being a ‘natural parent’ was ‘über’ important to all the members of this online community. In fact it was a badge of courage or point of difference to most members in the face of the general apathy of the offline community of new parents.

In my second chosen post example I examine the innocence and naivety, through which the incredible burst of popularity has delivered an enormous amount of private information onto sites like Facebook, Amazon and MySpace (Hamilton, Robert, Online Behaviour post, 19 Oct 2010). Here we see people just not realising the consequences of their actions, when inputting personal information into these sites. Most people do not understand that these sites consider that they then own all the information and pages on their sites – these online diaries in the case of Facebook are not the individual’s diary but are actually owned by the provider of the technological medium.

With sites like Amazon it is simply one of the leading examples of online shopping sites, which are endlessly collecting and collating consumer information – so that every time you utilise the convenience of online shopping you are often, not knowingly, contributing data toward an ever increasing profile of yourself. This profile is quite likely being on sold to a variety of Internet interests, who are benefitting from the value of this information. The World Wide Web, having been created by Tim Berners-Lee as a basically free to user economic model- hence its massive popularity, forces providores of sites to generate income through secondary means. Examples of this are sites like Facebook and MySpace, who then sell advertising space and information to whoever will pay. Google, the search engine, has a similar economic model with AdWords  and AdSense.

Google (Mansell, Robin, 2004) in particular has revolutionised the advertising industry throughout the Western world, driving the incredible rise in online advertising dollars. Suddenly an advertiser can target his spend by having his ads appear in the search results list on the world’s most popular search engine. In this relatively new way of searching for consumerables, businesses who can supply the desired product or service can appear atop the page ranking list with a text ad, if they can afford the bid. This economic model has been abundantly successful Google and has provided in most cases cost effective advertising for advertisers.

In my third post I posit that the Internet is a boon for those seeking information regarding religion and a particular way of worshipping God. The Internet (Hamilton, Robert, Internet Religion Threat post, 1st Oct 2010) is all about freedom of information and the presentation of a multiplicity of views on any subject – when this set of conditions meets a topic like religion it breaks down much of the secrecy traditionally inherent in its offline reality.

Religion has a rich history of controlling access to its meta- data or the word of God. The dark ages in the Christian religion were characterised by the litany being only available in the Latin Language and with much of the general worshipping populace ignorant of this language it allowed the priest class to interpret the word of God without query. Further to this the Christian Church hierarchy controlled what texts or books were translated from the Greek into Latin, thus preventing much of the classical canon reaching the population until the Renaissance (Franklin, James, 1982) in the sixteenth century. This control of information, and thus power, has made the Christian religion a practised exponent in the art of secrecy.  The very nature of the Internet stands in stark contrast to this way of doing business.

I read with interest about ministers of religion purchasing sermons online (Van der Laan, J. 2009) and the Internet’s influence on the dispersion of inspirational texts to this online community of priests – I imagine that it would have an improving and yet homogenising affect upon these professional speech makers. Religions of all persuasions, being firmly rooted in an adherence to texts birthed in antiquity, are I think faced with great challenges being presented by the Internet and its unfettered access to knowledge. How to control your flock, if they are able to research the ‘so called’ word of God 24/7 and to discover conflicting information from other sources? Excommunication may have technological ramifications and I imagine the Vatican, for instance, probably has a pretty big IT department these days.

Having personally been a member of a religious cult – the ‘so called’ orange people, disciples of Osho Rajneesh, I know firsthand about reading online anti-cult information posted by disgruntled former devotees. In retrospect, I now see this freedom of information being a good thing, and a state of affairs which presents a balanced view of things. Religion is of course often a matter of the heart and objectivity is usually the last thing sort by those who classify themselves as true seekers.

In my fourth selection I shared my own experiences as a recent convert to Internet dating, after the cessation of my marriage. I must say I have really enjoyed the simultaneous studying and living out of an aspect of this unit – as it has given me a dual insight into an activity that I would normally be prone to be very subjective about in the circumstances. I have been able to see how the structure of the model itself is not conducive to the forming of relationships, as pointed out by Mike Kent (2010) in his lecture on the subject. It has been enlightening to see how the nature of the technological medium itself impacts on the desired outcomes of the participants in dating sites like RSVP. The site needs large numbers of people to be attractive to prospective clients and also to furnish its own economic model through advertising revenue, but getting people to form lasting relationships is not actually high up on its list of desired economic outcomes.

In conclusion I have found this unit and the processes involved – analysing the Internet through my own life experience and those around me – to be a fascinating and rewarding experience. It has brought a whole new level of awareness to what is happening around me and in the world today.

Internet Sex Study



‘Analysing the Internet & everyday life: looking at sex as a case study.’

by Robert Hamilton

In this essay I will be describing and explaining how everyday sexual experiences are now often accessed through the Internet by a broad cross section of community members in our developed western countries. I will be showing that the Sex Industry, in all its multitude forms, has embraced the Internet more fully and effectively than any other industry. I will also be illuminating the links that show the Internet to be an active agent in diminishing the power of sexual taboos by exposing more people to a greater variety of depicted sexual experiences and information. The Internet as a tool of communication and information has greatly increased accessibility to a much wider range of sexual choices and therefore fostered growing sub-communities, who base their exchanges on these shared peccadilloes and interests. Finally, I will be positing information which may suggest the Internet, and its visually arresting relationship to sex in our lives, has been a force for good in the reduction of sex crimes within our communities.

When looking at the Internet’s effect upon pornography, and its utilisation by the consumer, it is and has been clearly shown to be one of the most popular activities enjoyed online. The most recent research, by Online MBA (1), estimates that 12% of all sites on the World Wide Web are sexual in content. The amount of time and money being spent on Internet based sexual activity is simply huge. The technological leap, which has enabled the shift from pornography appearing in printed magazines to pornography displayed online, has clearly made explicit sexual content more accessible to a far greater percentage of the community. According to the 2008-09 Multipurpose Household Survey, by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 72% of Australian households had home Internet access(2).

The Internet makes pornography far more vivid, and also more importantly, brings the ‘dirty movie’ experience home into the privacy of your living room. This means that the consumer can enjoy the many Internet based pornography applications without having to obviously expose themselves as a pornography user –risking the clichéd identity of ‘dirty old men in raincoats.’ The rampant availability of sexual content on the Internet means that the use of pornography as a stimulant no longer needs to be supported by premeditated behaviour, like going to the newsagency to purchase sexually explicit printed material. Wanking has never been so spontaneously supported for so many thanks to technology, which for men has some health benefits – according to a study reported in the Journal of American Medicine(3).

In many cases Internet pornography is also now free (4) to the consumer; this is in contrast to the Sex Industries pre-Internet model, where pornography was relatively expensive for the end user, having to buy videos and magazines (5). This has provided an economic stimulus for the rise in pornography consumption among wealthier communities, with Internet access.

Feona Attwood (2007, 441-456) has also shown in her article No Money Shot? , that the Internet has broadened the public consumption of pornography, by servicing new sub-sections or niche categories. No longer is porn just ‘hard core’, showing images of genitalia and penile ejaculations into the faces of various ‘overly made-up’ models, stuff made for the more clearly defined, traditional, masculine porn consumer. It now encompasses softer porn images involving models, who display identification with certain sub-groups within the community; like emos, Goths and others who sport tattoos, dyed hair and piercings. This is fostering the enjoyment of pornography by members of the community who have traditionally shunned it. Lesbian pornography seems to be enjoyed both by homosexual women and by men, as can be seen by the content on many of these supposedly specialist sites (7). Other groups like vegans and vegetarians (8) have their own porn sites, demonstrating a far more natural or crunchy look in the way their models are portrayed. These sites share a disdain for the depiction of stereotypical models with are ‘blondes with big tits’, which are the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the more common porn sites (9).

These niche porn sites are usually membership based, charging a small monthly fee to access the full gamut of applications on offer. Members are also invited to submit sexual images of themselves to be paraded on the site, some sites offering rare financial inducements to do so (10). Many of these sub-genre type sites have ‘dating site’ like applications for their members, where they can post personal blogs and forum like comments about each other’s posts (11).  The Internet also offers sites that are more like, online magazines, but with a solid sexual orientation as well, bringing sex back into the fold, so to speak. Censorship laws (12) relating to the sale of printed media containing explicit sexual material would have contributed to the isolationist state of affairs that we had in the world of old media – where very few publications could afford to combine culture with sexually explicit images(13), as their sales were restricted to overage consumers and community attitudes to pornography have traditionally been very harsh – due to the ‘wowserish’influence of religious groups (14).

The rise in public consumption of Internet pornography has also shown, in certain studies, to have accompanied a decline in the incidents of reported rape (Kendall, Todd; 2006, 2). This correlation may show that consumption of Internet porn, by some likely transgressors of sexual criminal laws, may indeed satisfy their carnal appetites and prevent them from acting them out in ‘real life’. Of course conversely there are also numerous calls in the media linking the Internet, in particular to child sex offences, and there are studies which seem to indicate that the Internet is definitely a place where ‘grooming’ of potential targets happen (Wortley, Richard; 2006, 192). The commonly held idea, that for certain small sections of the community, repeated exposure to depictions of violent and degrading sexual activity encourages a dehumanising effect and may contribute to their involvement in carrying out real crimes of sexual violence, has not been clearly substantiated (15).

Drawing to a close, I would hope that I have, in the brief space so defined by this essay’s length, indicated and in places demonstrated the enormous level of sexual activity taking place over the Internet today, in our technologically advanced western societies.  Sex is big business within our communities, it is a major preoccupation for both individuals and societies, but it also has a great history of obfuscating itself and I would posit that the Internet is putting an end to that. Sex has been an activity, which traditionally took place behind closed doors and under the sheets, and now the Internet blurs the boundaries of private and public space. When sitting at home in front of your computer screen, perhaps masturbating to, sexually explicit images of someone else, being beamed around the planet from that person’s webcam – is that a private sexual experience or a shared public sexual experience? The Internet, I think, poses many questions that will ultimately change the way we view sex itself.






(2)  As of June 2009, just over five million households had broadband, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

This is an increase of 700,000 households or 16% on the previous year – nearly two-thirds (62%) of all households now have broadband.

The Australian Capital Territory continues to have the highest proportion of broadband connections, with nearly three-quarters (74%) of ACT households now connected. Lowest is Tasmania, at just under half (49%).

There are 6.4 million households with a computer; 5.9 million of these have internet access. This is an increase of 4.8 million connected households since 1998.

The ABS also found that households with children under 15 were more likely to have broadband access (77%) compared to households without (56%).

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of children accessed the internet from home, and almost one-third (31%) had their own mobile phones.

Children used the internet for educational activities (85%) and playing on-line games (69%). About half of older children (48%) used the internet to visit social networking sites and a further quarter (24%) created their own on-line content such as blogs or websites.

An estimated 72,000 children experienced personal safety or security problems on the internet, while 28,000 children had similar problems while using mobiles.

Further details are available in Household Use of Information Technology, Australia 2008-09 (cat. no. 8146.0).

This page last updated 5 February 2010


Michael F. Leitzmann; Elizabeth A. Platz; Meir J. Stampfer; Walter C. Willett; Edward Giovannucci
Ejaculation Frequency and Subsequent Risk of Prostate Cancer
JAMA, April 7, 2004; 291: 1578 – 1586.
……associated with risk of advanced prostate cancer. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that ejaculation frequency is not related to increased risk of prostate cancer. | Division of Cancer…Adult Aged Aged, 80 and over Ejaculation Follow-Up Studies Health……









(12)              Playboy Magazine; Penthouse Magazine.



(15)    ;jsessionid=7BB37434E9784C903CC2755600B0A580


Attwood, F. (2007). No Money Shot? Commerce, Pornography and New Sex Taste Cultures. Sexualities, 10(4), 441-456. doi: 10.1177/1363460707080982.

Todd D. Kendall (2006). Pornography, Rape, and the Internet. Clemson University, The John E. Walker Department of Economics.

Wortley, Richard; Stephen Smallbone (2006). Situational Prevention Of Child Sexual Abuse, Volume 19 of Crime prevention studies. Criminal Justice Press. p. 192. ISBN 1881798615.

Illicit Drugs Cultural Conflict Scapegoats

by Robert Hamilton

The banning of illicit drugs by governments, has, in a number of instances, involved measures  being taken against particular minority groups and racial subcultures, to limit or control their behaviour. The drugs have in fact become symbolic scapegoats for a law and order response to much more complicated social conflicts. It is often, an electorally popular move by governments, to focus on a possibly disturbing aspect of minority behaviour by a certain subcultural group, and to exaggerate this as a major problem, through the media and their own law enforcement policies. It seems that nothing garners  votes, as much as picking on unacceptably different behaviour, and demonising this behaviour through the press.


A keen example of this occurred in the United States of America, in the nineteen thirties, when itinerate Mexican labourers, who smoked marijuana, were depicted as violent criminal elements who became out of control on this, so called, ‘killer weed’ (Himmelstein:1983:13).  Himmelstein in his article, From killer weed to drop-out drug: The changing ideology of Marihuana, published in Contemporary Crises: Crime, Law, Social Policy, states that public discussion in the US in the nineteen thirties focused on the physically violent behaviours that marijuana was thought to engender (Gerber:2004:3). Cannabis, became more widely known as marijuana because this was its Spanish/Mexican name and through racial stereotyping of users it was associated in the public consciousness with poor, immigrant workers and their milieu. Remembering that the US was a prohibitionist state, moral crusaders were able to demonise poor people with darker skins, in their attempt to control the use of this recreational drug (Davenport-Hines:2004:14); (Hall; Pacula:1993:188). Racism and prejudice was also provided by upper class Mexicans, wishing to distance themselves from the poor, and by white North Americans of all persuasions.


Australia had a similar situation, during the Victorian gold rush of the eighteen eighties, where the proclivities of some Chinese immigrants toward smoking opium created a public backlash, based on barely disguised racism, with a report in the Australian Bulletin in 1886 labelling then dirty and smelly (Manderson 1995:801).[1] Australian’s did not want people from other countries taking their gold or jobs, and especially not people who looked, smelt and behaved so differently. Creating public condemnation for unacceptable behaviour allows for legislation like the White Australia policy to come into effect, masking the real reasons with a smokescreen of demonised villainy. Similarly laws against opium smoking were enacted in the US in the eighteen seventies, again specifically targeting the Chinese workers who had emigrated during their gold rush and railway boom (Hoffman:1990:57). Both these Australian and US drug policy changes were made despite the fact that the major user of opiates were white middle class females.


A more modern example, may be the legislative changes enacted by the Queensland government toward, so called, outlaw motorcycle gangs operating in their state. These prohibitive and restrictive new laws, are said, to be targeted at the bikies because of their dealings in the supply of illicit drugs and other illegal activities. Actual evidence of these activities are not usually forthcoming in the published media, rather spokespersons are quoted as saying, this is the case, but little proof is revealed. Perhaps the real reason behind this law enforcement action is the government’s desire to eradicate groups of powerful warrior type men from society. The fact that bikies sport tattoos is always front and centre with the media.


To conclude, there is substantial evidence to suggest that drug policies in countries like the US and Australia have, historically, been used to target racial subcultures. Mexicans in the US, and Chinese in both Australian and the US, have been vilified by these drug law enforcement policies, despite the fact that these two countries own majority white constituents have used other forms of these illegal drugs in far greater numbers. Perhaps a more modern example are the outlaw motor cycle gangs and the new laws targeting their activities, which supposedly are to limit their activity in the illicit drug trade. Illicit drugs, and their use, continue to be used to symbolise undesirable behaviour and to paint those users as undesirables.

 ©Robert Hamilton



[1] Himmelstein, Jerome L. “From killer weed to drop-out drug: The changing ideology of Marihuana”Contemporary Crises: Crime, Law, Social Policy , 7:1 , 1983. P – 13.

“We saw………rooms darker and more greasy than anything on the ground floor: rooms where the legions of aggressive stinks peculiar to the Chinaman seems ever to linger…. Yet the rooms are not naturally repulsive, nor would they be so when occupied by other tenants: but the Chinaman has defiled their walls with his filthy touch…”



Agar, Michael H. “Into the whole ritual thing: Ritualistic drug use among urban American heroin addicts” in Drugs, Rituals and Altered States of Consciousness , Du Toit, Brian M. , 1977.

Burr, Angela. “Chasing the dragon” British Journal of Criminology , 27:4 , 1987.

Carpenter, Lucas. “Enhancing the possibilities of desire: Addiction as postmodern trope” Southern Humanities Review , 35:3 , 2001.

Davenport-Hines, Richard Peter Treadwell. “Prologue” in Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics , Davenport-Hines, Richard Peter Treadwell , 2004.

Gerber, Rudolph J. “History of demonizing drugs” in Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics , Gerber, Rudolph J. , 2004.

Grund, Jean-Paul G.; Kaplan, Charles D.; De Vries, Marten. “Rituals of regulation: Controlled and uncontrolled drug use in natural settings” in Psychoactive Drugs and Harm Reduction: From Faith to Science , Heather, Nick; Wodak, Alex; Nadelmann, Ethan A.; O’Hare, Pat , 1993.

Hall, Wayne; Pacula, Rosalie Liccardo. “Policy alternatives (part 1 of 2)” in Cannabis Use and Dependence: Public Health and Public Policy , Hall, Wayne; Pacula, Rosalie Liccardo , 2003.

Harding, Wayne M.; Zinberg, Norman E. “The effectiveness of the subculture in developing rituals and social sanctions for controlled drug use” in Drugs, Rituals and Altered States of Consciousness , Du Toit, Brian M. , 1977.

Himmelstein, Jerome L. “From killer weed to drop-out drug: The changing ideology of Marihuana”Contemporary Crises: Crime, Law, Social Policy , 7:1 , 1983.

Hoffmann, John P. “The historical shift in the perception of opiates: from medicine to social menace” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs , 22:1 , 1990.


Krivanek, Jara. “Drug misuse, psychological dependence and addiction” in Understanding Drug Use: The Key Issues , Krivanek, Jara , 2000.

Manderson, Desmond. “Metamorphoses: Clashing symbols in the social construction of drugs” Journal of Drug Issues , 25:4 , 1995.

Montagne, Michael. “The metaphorical nature of drugs and drug taking” Social Science and Medicine , 26:4 , 1988.

Moore, David. “Beyond Zinberg’s ‘social setting’: A processural view of illicit drug use” Drug and Alcohol Review , 12:4 , 1993.

Robson, Philip. “The consequences of drug use” in Forbidden Drugs: Understanding Drugs and Why People Take Them , Robson, Philip , 1994.

Weimer, Daniel. “Drugs-as-a-Disease: heroin, metaphors, and identity in Nixon’s drug war” Janus Head , 6:2 , 2003.


Do You Ever Long For Certainty?

by Robert Hamilton

Do you wish that you had a direct line to God, especially during those times when you are really unsure about what direction to take in your life? Would you like to be able to reach deep inside yourself and just know the right answer? Well according to the theory of the bicameral mind, and its part in the origin of consciousness, we all do have that facility within our brains. In fact it was originally all we did have, as it preceded that sense of I or me, our very own subjective consciousness which we all have today. Julian Jaynes published his book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, in 1976 and the waves of influence have been spreading out ever since. The first sixty pages of his book are to me, the most immediately confronting and mind expanding – as they focus on what consciousness actually is or is not.

I mean consciousness is not mere reactivity or being awake, it is much more than that isn’t it? Think about what your sense of consciousness is to you. Where is your consciousness located? Is it somewhere on or in your body? What purpose does your consciousness serve? Is it so that you can learn things? Jaynes lists a number of scientific studies showing that our ability to learn things is not dependent upon our sense of consciousness and is actually impeded by it – a perfect example is when we are overly self-conscious we cannot perform basic tasks that involve motor skills like talking. Try it now, try speaking and at the same time focus on your articulation, bringing your full consciousness to bear on every enunciated syllable. How each vibrational sound is made inside your throat – you will just stop speaking as it becomes overwhelming.

Our consciousness is also not a perfect copy of our experiences; it is not some recording device taking impressions of memories and storing them. You can show this to yourself by asking yourself what information you can remember about walking into the last room you walked into. Try remembering what was in the room and where, get a piece of paper and write down your results. You will find that you have very little to show for it, so our consciousnesses are not providing this service. Jaynes goes on to say, that when we recall a memory, we do not call up the actual physical memory but a generalised version of it largely invented by ourselves to represent whatever it is – swimming or walking in a park. The memory is a construct involving thoughts we have about the activities and often is influenced by how we imagine others see us swimming or walking  – so our consciousness is not a faithful recording of reality.

What Julian Jaynes does posit, is where our sense of consciousness has come about from, and he points the finger at language and in particular languages love of metaphor. In fact he states language is largely metaphor and shows how many words have their roots in metaphor, for example the verb ‘to be’ comes from the Sanskrit ‘bhu’- meaning to grow, or make grow. Similarly our English words ‘am’ and ‘is’ have evolved from the Sanskrit ‘asmi’- meaning to breathe. Think to yourself now just how many times our language references other familiar pictures to describe less familiar things. For example how we use parts of the human body to describe parts of other things, like the face of a clock, cliff, card; and the eyes of needles, storms, potatoes; the lips of cups, craters; and the tongues of shoes, joints; and the teeth of winds, cogs etc. Indeed we reference and compare constantly with language, in the meaning of the words themselves and in the expressions we invent to make metaphors with. The vastness of language over several millennia means that we lose touch with its incredible elasticity and tend to think of it as some solid construct, missing the obvious evidence it has to show us about ourselves and the origin of consciousness.

It is through the ability to metaphor that the modern lexicon of our language is able to remain a reasonably finite collection of words. Otherwise like the Inuit we would have to have 150 different words for snow.  Jaynes talks about the function of metaphor being one of creating understanding through familiarity. We use a familiar example to shine a light on something less familiar, but ultimately this brings us a limited understanding based entirely on the quality of the metaphor employed. I would go on to say that it means we actually know far less than we think we do. An example of this would be our understanding of what happens during an electrical storm, we have learnt at school that it involves air pressure, vacuums and particle friction but we have no real direct experience of what happens and only a theoretical knowledge of it. Our sense of subjective consciousness is based on how we perceive existence through the use of language and referencing through metaphor. It is like the relationship between a map and the geographical reality of what has been mapped. So ultimately our knowledge of reality is a tenuous one at best and it is riddled with theoretical understandings based on metaphorical language constructs. You think you know stuff that you don’t really.

Where does that certainty principle, I mentioned at the beginning, fit into this? It seems like we are getting further and further away from that shore of assurance.  Well Jaynes postulates, that prior to the development of our illusory sense of subjective consciousness, we had a fully operating God spot in the right hemisphere of our temporal lobe and it was here that we received direct transmission from the divine.  He lists a number of studies into the brain, where scientists have removed sections and whole hemispheres to reveal what areas of the brain are responsible for particular functions and how the brain adapts. He gives a fascinating example where a dozen neurosurgical patients have undergone a complete commissurotomy, the cutting of all interconnections between the two hemispheres down the middle, as a treatment for severe epilepsy. For a period of about two months some patients lose the power of speech, but gradually they all return to a sense of being how they were prior to the operation. Normal observation of these patients shows nothing amiss either. However under rigorous study it becomes clear that these people cannot see things on their left side and the dominant left hemisphere projects a repeat of the right side vision to fill in the gaps. Even more astonishing though is that the right hemisphere is actually seeing  what is there on the left side but because of the cutting of the interconnections between the two sides of the brain has no way to communicate it. Tests have shown that these people using their left hand only can point out or draw what is on the left side but have no verbal or cognitive awareness of what is there. It is like there are two separate awareness’s, functioning independently within the same body.

Julian Jaynes goes on, in a satisfyingly erudite manner, to illustrate through countless examples taken from the great recorded histories like The Iliad, The Old Testament, Egyptian Papyruses, Babylonian Cuneiforms and more, how different humankind was at this time. That this difference in how they thought was because of this bicameral mind, that there were literally two separate minds at work within them. A dominant over mind or ‘God speak’ operating from the right hemisphere, which was triggered during times of stress or novel challenges outside the normal demands of the time, and the more prosaic left hemisphere ‘man brain’, which at this time had no subjective consciousness, no sense of I or me. Jaynes takes you on a journey from languages evolution from signalling and intentional calls to the development of nouns. Remember for a long time nobody had a name for things and for individuals. Death was a different beast when the one who died did not even have a name. Try and imagine a time when the sense of self was so small or non-existent and nobody had names. When there were no names for things and no words, how would you think?

It is an incredible theory and explains a great deal about why we worshipped statues of Gods and why we buried dead kings and priests surrounded by things to eat and treasures to keep. If these Gods and their stewards were continuing to speak inside our heads, beyond their allotted life spans, then it makes a lot more sense. Religion has always been about control and if that controlling centre is inbuilt inside our brains, then anthropologically a lot of stuff makes much more sense. It explains why we still cling to religions even now hundreds of years after science had ridiculed their fundamental platforms of belief. We are programmed to believe and to follow instructions, to understand – meaning stand under God. Jaynes maintains an aesthetic appreciation for the many wonders that humankind’s devotion to beliefs in Gods have produced and he is perhaps an example of his Christian American background. Still his insights and his theory are so startlingly original that he may have had no reason to bother with aggravating those of a more narrow minded persuasion.

The modern parallels with those suffering from schizophrenia are explored and Jaynes again proffers numerous scientific studies to illuminate his theoretical claims. Joan of Arc and many of the first testament prophets are prime examples of individuals recorded in history, who heard the passionate and insistent voice of God inside their heads. These individuals often laid down their own lives and willingly would lay down the lives of others to fulfil the ambitions of the voice within their head. Culturally now we have no room for those exhibiting a fully fledged bicameral mind and the voice of God; and so we lock them up and drug them.

Jaynes points out that it is poetry, and poetries link to music, which has been the favoured speech of the Gods, with most of our great and holy missives having been delivered in verse. This fact again links the right hemisphere of our brains with our connection to God, for it is in the right hemisphere where we process music and poetry. Music comes from the Muses, and they were the daughters of Zeus – bringers of divine inspiration; our connection to the Gods. Poets have, down through the ages, often been deliverers of God’s message, and the metre of verse can have a hypnotic, hallucinatory effect upon the listener. So many of the strands of evidence produced by Jaynes, to promote his theory, illuminates these aspects of humanity with a new understanding of where they actually fit in with the greater scheme of things.

What I particularly like about Julian Jayne’s theory of the bicameral mind is that it shatters the safe and often dry outcomes of much of the study of ancient history. We are so far removed from these ancient millennia’s, and the translations of these earliest languages are rife with modern approximations, making so many assumptions about who they were grossly incorrect. This book is a quantum leap into the unknown and really worth reading on so many levels.

©Robert Hamilton

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

By Julian Jaynes

First Mariner Books  ISBN 0-618-05707-2