Julian Jaynes and consciousness as ignorance

Julian Jaynes pinpointed the origin of consciousness as the emergence of language, but not just any form of language, this goes back much further, but rather metaphorical language. He means this not in the literary sense, but rather in the sense of language providing a substitutive function. The appearance of metaphorical language allowed for a meteoric shift in human cognizance, and allowed for the almost complete submergence of the Real, Das ding, the signified, – that is, reality beyond language and linguistic comprehension. The subsequent upsurgence of the symbolic order of metaphorical language became a reality encompassing veneer giving us the capability to logically and rationally comprehend and navigate our surrounding world (it also meant that humanity was no longer required to produce a specific biochemical found in schizophrenics which is naturally produced as a way to nullify the traumatic effect of confronting the Real – but that is for another discussion). The extraordinary deducement here then, is that consciousness is at its very core a process of ignorance, an ignorance which differentiates us from those who are still trapped within a purgatorial rift between real and symbolic (the archetype being the psychotic). As Jaynes professes, crucial to the function of consciousness is the ‘illusion of continuity’ (Jaynes, Origin of Consciousness, p. 25).

NB: featured image is Magritte’s ‘The False Mirror’ (1928)

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