Psychologist Julian Jaynes's 1976 book "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" was an extraordinarily ambitious but decidedly weird attempt to explain the human mind. Basically Jaynes argued that somewhere between the Iliad and the Odyssey we lost what he called the bicameral mind, and developed modern consciousness: the voices in our heads, which we originally labelled gods, had become internalised. I wrote about it here, with reference to Sebastian Faulks' Human Traces:
The change between the Iliad and the Odyssey, between aurally received instruction and greater independence of action, was not the result of a literary decision mysteriously communicated and agreed between illiterate bards over thousands of years. It was the story of what happened. Men of the Iliad era heard voices; those of the Odyssey could not.
As I commented:
It seems to me quite a smart move on Sebastian Faulks' part to have someone come up with Jaynes' theory some 80-odd years beforehand. It's such a strange left-field theory - completely wacky, but incredibly suggestive (not just for religion, but for mental illnesses like schizophrenia) - that it seems like it should have been propounded by some obscure German professor in the 1890s, when so many strange psychological ideas were appearing, rather than in the 1970s, by a Princeton psychologist.
Well, apparently someone has been taking Jaynes seriously enough to use his ideas in a radical new approach to the treatment of schizophrenia:
Hans used to be overwhelmed by the voices. He heard them for hours, yelling at him, cursing him, telling him he should be dragged off into the forest and tortured and left to die. The most difficult things to grasp about the voices people with psychotic illness hear are how loud and insistent they are, and how hard it is to function in a world where no one else can hear them. It’s not like wearing an iPod. It’s like being surrounded by a gang of bullies. You feel horrible, crazy, because the voices are real to no one else, yet also strangely special, and they wrap you like a cocoon. Hans found it impossible to concentrate on everyday things. He sat in his room and hid. But then the voices went away for good.
They went away for good because he joined a group in Holland which used the Hearing Voices method, based on Jaynes's ideas, where he was encouraged to talk back to the voices - to negotiate with them. Apparently it worked.
Some caution is needed. There's more than a whiff of the 0ld discredited Repressed Memory movement about it all (and it's not true that over here in Europe we escaped the resulting scandals of the childhood sexual abuse/satanic rituals type that made the headlines in the States in the Eighties and Nineties). The article makes for interesting reading, though.