In psychology, bicameralism is a hypothesis which argues that the human brain once assumed a state known as a bicameral mind
in which cognitive functions are divided between one part of the brain which appears to be "speaking", and a second part which listens and obeys.
The term was coined by psychologist Julian Jaynes, who presented the idea in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
, wherein he made the case that a bicameral mentality, that is to say a mental state in which there are two distinct sections of consciousness, was the normal and ubiquitous state of the human mind as recently as 3000 years ago. He used governmental bicameralism to metaphorically describe such a state, in which the experiences and memories of the right hemisphere of the brain are transmitted to the left hemisphere via auditory hallucinations. This mental model was replaced by the conscious mode of thought, which Jaynes argues is grounded in the acquisition of metaphorical language. The idea that language is a necessary component of subjective consciousness and more abstract forms of thinking has been gaining acceptance in recent years, with proponents such as Daniel Dennett, William H. Calvin, Merlin Donald, John Limber, Howard Margolis, Peter Carruthers, and Jose Luis Bermudez
In government, bicameralism (latin bi, two
+ camera, chamber
) is the practice of having two legislative or parliamentary chambers. Thus, a bicameral parliament or bicameral legislature is a legislature which consists of two chambers or houses. Bicameralism is an essential and defining feature of the classical notion of mixed government. Bicameral legislatures tend to require a concurrent majority to pass legislation.
Sefer Yetzirah, by Aryeh Kaplan, p95
Twenty-two foundation letters: Three Mothers, Seven Doubles, and Twelve Elementals. The Three Mothers are Alef Mem Shin (אמש
), Their foundation is a pan of merit, a pan of liability, and the tongue of decree deciding between them.
[Three Mothers, Alef Mem Shin (אמש
)] Mem hums, Shin hisses and Alef is the breath of air deciding between them.]
Twenty-two Foundation Letters
Having completed the initiation into the Ten Sefirot
[The 32 paths as defined by the Ari
, the text now discusses the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
The first set of letters are the Three Mothers, which will be discussed in further detail in chapter 3. Here they are introduced because they define the thesis-antithesis-synthesis
structure that is central to the teachings of Sefer Yetzirah. They also serve as an introduction to the meditative techniques involving the letters.
These three letters represent the three columns into which the Sefirot are divided. The right hand column, headed by Chakhmah, is represented by Mem. The left column, headed by Binah, is represented by Shin. The center column, headed by Keter, is represented by Alef. As discussed earlier, Chakhmah is water (which is here represented by Mem מ
), Binah is fire (which is Shin ש
), and Keter is breath-air (which is Alef א
A pan of merit
The Hebrew word for "pan" here is Kaf
. This word can denote the pan of a scale, but it also denotes the palm of the hand. Likewise, the word Lashon [+]
can be used for the tongue of a balance, the pointer which indicates when the two pans are in equilibrium. Its usual meaning, however, is the tongue that is in the mouth.1
[Yitzchak Sagi Nahor
, line 243.] [+][+][+]
Therefore, on one hand, the letters Alef Mem Shin (אמש
) represent the two pans and tongue of a balance. On the other hand, they represent the two hands, and the "covenant between them" (1:3), which is the tongue.
The tongue of decree
The Hebrew word for "decree" here is Chok (חק
). This comes from the root Chakak (חקק
), meaning to "engrave." It is the "tongue of balance" that "engraves" the letters. This is represented by the letter Alef (א
), the basis of the alphabet.
In the most elemental terms, Mem, Shin and Alef represent thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.
The analogy is that of a scale. (See figure 15.) There is a pan of merit and a pan of liability. This is very much like the scale used to weigh one's merits and sins, which is mentioned in the Talmud.2
167a. Cf. Rosh HaShanah
17a. See Avot
2:8.] In the center is the fulcrum and pointer, both represented by the Alef, which is the "tongue of decree."
In practical application, these letters can also be used. If one wishes to create a situation in which he himself or another person is to be brought to the side of merit, one does so by making use of the letter (מ
1:6. See Likutey Moharan
282.] The techniques shall be discussed later. Similarly, if one wishes to bring an enemy to the side of liability, so that he should be judged harshly on high, one makes use of the letter Shin (ש
). Alef (א
) is used to bring a person to be judged fairly and evenly.
These qualities also come into play in popular usage. Humming, which involves pronouncing the letter Mem, is usually seen as a happy, pleasant, positive activity. Conversely, one hisses at a villain or enemy, pronouncing the letter Shin.
Mem hums, Shin hisses
The Hebrew word for "hum" here is Damam
), in which the letter Mem is dominant. Similarly, the word for "hiss" is Sharak
), which begins with a Shin.4
, Barceloni, on 3:1. See Etz Chaim
, Shaar Derushey HaTzelem
2, p. 13b.]
The humming sound associated with Mem is very calm, and it is thus, the sound associated with water and Chakhmah consciousness
. If one wishes to attain Chakhmah consciousness, one repeats this sound in the manner described like the Kabbalists. The resemblance between this and the "Om
" chant is certainly more than coincidental.
This sound is also closely associated with prophecy, which involves Chakhmah consciousness. The Kabbalists say that the "fine still (damamah
) voice" (1 Kings 19:12
), heard by Elijah, was actually a "fine humming sound.".5
[Raavad, ad loc
.] This humming sound is used to attain such a state of consciousness, and as such, it is experienced when one is in a prophetic state.
Just as telling is a passage in Job, which, incidentally, also describes the prophetic experience very graphically (Job 4:12-16
A word was stolen to me
My ear caught a touch of it
In meditations from night visions
When a trance falls on man
Terror called me and I shuddered
It terrorized most of my bones
A spirit passed before my face
Made the hair of my flesh stand on end
It stood and I did not recognize its vision
A picture was before my eyes
I heard a hum (damamah) and a voice.
Table 16. Shin and Mem as pronounced with the five primary vowels [note: Hebrew omitted]
|ShoMo ShoMa ShoMe ShoMi ShoMu
|ShaMo ShaMa ShaMe ShaMi ShaMu
|SheMo SheMa SheMe SheMi SheMu
|ShiMo ShiMa ShiMe ShiMi ShiMu
|ShuMo ShuMa ShuMe ShuMi ShuMu
The letter Shin has the hissing sound of sh or s. This sound is associated with fire and Binah consciousness
The two sounds, M and Sh, may also be used as a device for oscillating between Binah and Chakhmah consciousness. One invokes a strong state of Binah consciousness by pronouncing the Shin, and then swings to Chakhmah consciousness by voicing the Mem. The pronunciation of these two letters can also include the five primary vowels, in a manner that will be described below (2:5
) in greater detail.