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The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

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At the heart of this classic, seminal book is Julian Jaynes's still-controversial thesis that human consciousness did not begin far back in animal evolution but instead is a learned process that came about only three thousand years ago and is still developing. The implications of this revolutionary scientific paradigm extend into virtually every aspect of our psychology, our history and culture, our religion -- and indeed our future.

491 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1976

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About the author

Julian Jaynes

9 books142 followers
Julian Jaynes was an American psychologist, best known for his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, in which he argued that consciousness is a cultural development based on metaphorical language that occurred 3,000 years ago. Prior to the development of consciousness, humans operated under a different mentality Jaynes calls "the bicameral mind." Jaynes argues that vestiges of the bicameral mind are still prevalent throughout the modern world.

Jaynes defines "consciousness" more narrowly than some philosophers, and his definition of consciousness is essential to understanding his theory. Jaynes' definition of consciousness is synonymous with what philosophers now call "meta-consciousness" or "meta-awareness" i.e. awareness of awareness, thoughts about thinking, desires about desires, beliefs about beliefs.

For more information on Julian Jaynes's theory, please visit the Julian Jaynes Society at julianjaynes.org

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Profile Image for Terence.
1,152 reviews386 followers
March 12, 2010
I am giving Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (The Origin) four stars not because I’ve become a devoted follower of his theory – I haven’t – but because it reflects exactly how I feel about it – I “really liked it.” Jaynes writes in such a commanding manner that you’re helplessly swept along to the end (at which point, you can finally catch your breath and begin to assess what’s just happened). Once he’s determined the correctness of his hypothesis to his own satisfaction, there are no wishy-washy cavils or cowardly hedging. And along the way, Jaynes calls into question everything you thought you knew about humans, consciousness and history. Don’t relegate Jaynes to the crackpot shelf of your library along with Zechariah Sitchin, Erich von Daniken, Graham Masterson and others of their ilk. Jaynes grounds his claims in actual psychology, literature, archaeology and history. As such, you have to take his assertions seriously even if you ultimately reject them. The author’s hypothesis can be summed up thusly:

1. Prior to the second millennium BC, humans were not conscious (by and large).
2. The right hemisphere of the brain was dominant and directed humans via auditory and visual hallucinations that became the “gods” (and God) that appear in ancient literature.
3. This condition Jaynes calls the Bicameral Mind (BM) (vs. the Conscious Mind (CM)).
4. The first chink in the BM came with the advent of language, when it became theoretically possible to construct an internal dialog and an analog “I.”
5. The final nails in the BM’s coffin were the invention of writing and the increasing complexity of urban civilization, which proved too much for the BM to cope with.
6. Consequently, the CM is a product of acculturation, not an emergent property of the brain.
7. The first stirrings of the CM came in the 2nd millennium BC; and by the 1st millennium, it had become the dominant hemisphere of the brain.
8. The BM remains with us but in modern society is found only with schizophrenics and under special conditions (such as hypnosis, deep meditation or religious frenzy).

In the early ‘70s, when Jaynes wrote, such an assertion found little empirical support but in light of modern research in language, evolution, archaeology and brain studies, it doesn’t seem as far fetched. I don’t believe in Jaynes’ stark demarcation between the BM and CM but having read works like Before the Dawn Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors, Inside the Neolithic Mind Consciousness Cosmos and the Realm of the Gods, The Singing Neanderthals The Origins of Music Language Mind and Body and (soon) The 10 000 Year Explosion How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution, it’s clear that human evolution is ongoing and can be found in surprisingly recent events. That pre-language humans processed thought differently seems unassailable. Equally certain is that evolution works with the material at hand – it could easily be the case that the BM (or some neurological process that was not consciousness) remained dominant for a long time because the human environment didn’t select for consciousness until we began living markedly different lifestyles from our origins. On the other hand, consciousness of a sort may have been the edge modern humans needed to crowd out their hominid competitors – most famously the Neanderthal – which would push Jaynes’ CM back a few millennia. If there is a solution to the question, it remains elusive pending further evidence for how the brain works.

Like Caesar’s Gaul, The Origin is divided into three parts. Part I is a bit of a slog as the author goes over current (as of the mid-1970s) research on brain functions and the nature of consciousness. It moves along well enough but can be tough going for those unfamiliar with the subject, despite Jaynes’ generally lucid and reader-friendly prose.

Chapter 1 surveys theories about the origins of the CM: (1) It’s a property of matter; (2) it’s a property of protoplasm – all organisms are conscious to a degree; (3) consciousness as learning – it’s present when an organism can learn from experience; (4) it’s a metaphysical imposition (today, Creationism and ID would fall under this category); (5) the “helpless spectator” theory; (6) emergent evolution – the CM emerges when brain development reaches a certain critical mass; (7) behaviorism, which denies consciousness altogether; and (8) consciousness arises from the firing of axions and dendrites, i.e., it’s a function of the nervous system. I tend to fall into camps (2) and (6) but Jaynes dismisses them all as inadequate and contends that its possible – indeed, it was our condition – to conceive of humans with all the traits of learning, reason, language, etc., but no “consciousness.”

In Chapter 2, Jaynes sets out the features of the CM: (1) Spatialization (objects of conscious thought are placed in a “mind-space”); (2) excerption (we think of particulars, not wholes); (3) the analog “I”; (4) the metaphor “me”; (5) narratization (the CM arranges facts into a story); and (6) conciliation (bringing narratives together into compatible schemata). As he writes: “Subjective conscious mind is an analog of what is called the real world. It is built up with a vocabulary or lexical field whose terms are all metaphors or analogs of behavior in the physical world. Its reality is of the same order as mathematics” (p. 55).

Jaynes briefly looks at The Iliad, which will be dissected in more detail in Part II, in Chapter 3. He considers it the first piece of writing that we have full confidence in translating, and which is a clear example of the transition from the BM to the CM.

Chapter 4 explains how the BM’s hallucinations worked. Essentially they were produced whenever a decision-point was reached, a novel experience that couldn’t be handled unconsciously. The mind obeys the voices because there’s no conscious distance between audition and volition (a similar phenomenon is found in hypnosis subjects and schizophrenics).

In Chapter 5, Jaynes presents his evidence for why humans functioning solely with BMs could function and conceive complex civilizations. As well, he argues that the right-hemisphere functions of the brain (guiding and planning, organizing experiences) mirror the traditional functions of antiquity’s gods, while the left hemisphere mirrors the functions of mere mortals (analysis and verbal tasks).

Chapter 6 is largely unverifiable speculation about how language developed, which I don’t believe holds up well in light of recent research, but for what it’s worth:

1. Sometime between 70,000 BC to 40,000 BC, vocal qualifiers are invented (his example: “wa+hee” = “look out, tiger!”; “wa+hoo” = “look out, leopard!”).
2. Between 40K and 25K BC, imperatives and further qualifiers were elaborated.
3. Between 25K and 15K BC, nouns were invented (bases this on the appearance of cave art).
4. 10K-8K BC, individual names develop (though he makes the point that often these incorporate divine names and don’t appear to signify a conscious awareness of individuality).

It’s also in this latest period that “gods” arise – most likely from the auditory and visual hallucinations of dead chieftains and other prominent members of a tribe. (In Part II, Jaynes theorizes that these deities and spirits became regularized through acculturation. Everyone in a particular culture knew that Kshumai, god of agriculture, appeared to tell the farmer when it was time to plant the wheat.)

Part II is my favorite part of the book – a tour de force of icon bashing that leaves you breathless. In brief, Jaynes believes that BM’ed humans coped quite well for millennia, though in more and more complex relationships, ultimately creating the elaborate city-states and early nations made possible by the Agricultural Revolution. Eventually, Sumer invented writing, which weakened the authority of the BM by making the gods’ commands silent and locatable. They no longer carried volitional power. The BM wasn’t immediately displaced. It wasn’t until the 2nd millennium BC that conditions were right for the fully conscious mind to emerge (and, even then, it would be another 1,000 years for it to become dominant).

I’m going to pass over Chapter 1 in this section as it’s primarily an introduction. Jaynes begins laying out his arguments in Chapter 2, where he explains his belief that all pre-CM civilizations were organized as hierarchical, absolute theocracies ruled either by steward-kings (Sumer) or god-kings (Egypt). People either interacted with representations of the gods (idols) or with their living avatars. Priest castes arose to regulate this heavenly diplomacy.

In Egypt, the pharaohs as god-kings lost control of the system, which crashed c. 2000 BC with the end of the Old Kingdom. Subsequent periods of political unity exhibit greater and greater consciousness. The BM’ed steward-kings of the Middle East exhibited greater flexibility and coped into the 18th century BC before utter social collapse.

Chapter 3 discusses the social chaos which ushered in the second millennium and the CM. Based on surviving inscriptions Jaynes believes that there were no private ambitions or grudges because there was no “private space.” Intercultural relations were carried on my men listening to the voices in their heads or form their idols. In times of plenty, relations were usually amicable; in times of want or stress, they deteriorated rapidly. The 2nd millennium BC was a period of high stress. Externally, populations were on the move, and nations such as Assyria and Babylon were expanding; internally, writing continued to weaken the BM’s hold on humanity, and men were losing the guidance of the gods’ voices. Jaynes characterizes the period as one of anomie and intense fear as humans found themselves “alone” as they had never experienced the sensation before. The response was a breakdown in authority and a calamitous rise in violence. Religions began to appear that were more than simply ritual but codified moral behavior and set down laws as well. It’s interesting to note the Jaynes’ timeline broadly reflects that of the Axial Age – the name historians have given to that period when the spiritual foundations of all modern civilizations were laid (see, Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions or Rodney Stark’s Discovering God The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief or, if you prefer it fictionalized, Gore Vidal’s Creation A Novel.

The first transitional culture, Assyria, arose c. 1400 BC – savage and semi-conscious. From 2000 to 1700 BC, the Assyrians had established themselves in a far-ranging network of trade missions. Jaynes suggests that Assyrian traders became “contaminated” by contact with foreigners and different gods, which brought about the consciousness of difference and the idea of another self. It also brought about the collapse of that first epoch and the eventual rise of the Assyrian Empire. Its legendary cruelty was not a manifestation of the CM but of the BM attempting to reassert control by prompting the Assyrians to destroy what was alien. (I’m reminded of the classic “Star Trek” episode, “Return of the Archons,” and the Body’s attempts to destroy Kirk and his crew.)

The chapter wraps up with a summary of the signs of the CM:

1. Observation of difference: Humans saw something “else” controlling strangers’ actions and inferred a similar “self” within themselves.
2. Narratization: Codification (through the written word) of past events. The birth of “cause and effect.”
3. The invention of lying: Not the movie but the idea’s the same. Humans became capable of projecting an outer persona that differed from their internal one.
4. Natural selection: Though Jaynes’ doesn’t believe the CM has a biological origin, he allows that it was a survival trait and that humans more capable of consciousness bred longer and faster than their BM cousins.

Chapter 4 continues to build on 3’s evidence (or “evidence” if you’re not buying Jaynes’ brand of snake oil). With the emergence of the CM, humans no longer have a direct connection to divinity. Because the gods have fallen silent for most, we see the emergence of angels and demons, ideas of “good” and “evil” and divinatory practices (where the increasingly rare human conduit still heard divine voices (e.g., Delphi) or rituals sussed out divine pleasure (e.g., casting lots). In the Abrahamic religions, the Fall of Adam reflected this falling away from the gods: Man becomes separated from God, who used to walk with him in the cool of the evening in Eden.

Chapter 5 turns to The Iliad as one of the clearest examples of the transition from the BM to the CM, focusing on several terms that begin as fully concrete behaviors or actions and wind up becoming metaphors of the CM. The oddest example being psyche, which began life as the verb “to breathe,” became “life” in the sense of an animating force, and ended up meaning “soul.”

Chapter 6 finishes the section by taking a look at the Jewish Testament (Christians’ OT). For Jaynes, even more than the Greeks, the Hebrews document the end of the BM. A summary of his arguments follows:

1. Contrasts Amos (8th century BC) with Ecclesiastes (2nd century BC) and argues that the former is clearly a BM. Amos speaks only as the voice of God, without introspection. Ecclesiastes, on the other hand, is full of introspection and rarely speaks in God’s voice or even as His agent.

2. Development of the nabiim (prophets). Jaynes believes that the proto-Hebrews (the khabiru) were the remnants of still-BM-dominated outcasts pushed to the edges of CM’ed civilizations. From these dregs emerged men like Amos who still heard gods’ (or God’s) voices and spoke for them (or Him).

Prophets became necessary because God was too remote. No longer heard, He was only seen, and then rarely in human form (such as a burning bush or a column of fire). They were required to bring some order to the inconsistent “voices.” The BM’s genius for enforcing social control and stable hierarchies was forever gone and God’s voice was saying different things to different people. Acceptable voices became orthodoxy; unacceptable ones became the ravings of the insane (a novel category as, in a BM’ed world, everyone was mad from a CM point of view).

3. Saul is the first fully conscious man in Hebrew history: He can’t hear God, he rebels against Samuel’s admonitions, and he lies.

I scant Part III because my fingers grow weary. It traces vestiges of the BM still found in the modern world. It will come as no surprise that schizophrenia is the clearest remnant but there are also oracles, possession (including glossolalia), poetry and music (see Singing for some recent speculations along these lines), and hypnosis.

As I’ve intimated, I’m not convinced Jaynes has stumbled upon the truth. His range of evidence is too narrow, too open to interpretation and largely unverifiable. But I also know that some remarkable evidence has emerged (see my recommendations above, among other works) that point to recent evolutionary changes in the human brain and it’s not inconceivable that our mentation could be markedly different even from that of ancestors within written memory. There is, too, the fact that we are only at the beginning of understanding the brain. Evolutionarily speaking, the CM is a newborn child of the mind, and how it interacts with its unconscious forebears is problematic.

In that spirit, I recommend reading this book.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
January 28, 2022
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes

At the heart of this classic, seminal book is Julian Jaynes's still-controversial thesis that human consciousness did not begin far back in animal evolution but instead is a learned process that came about only three thousand years ago and is still developing. The implications of this revolutionary scientific paradigm extend into virtually every aspect of our psychology, our history and culture, our religion—and indeed our future.

What is human consciousness, where did it come from, and how does it determine who we are and how we live in the world? At the heart of this book is the theory that human consciousness did not develop over time--that, in fact, ancient peoples from mesopotamia to Peru did not "think" as we do and therefore were not conscious. Drawing on laboratory studies of the brain and clos examination of archaeological evidence, the author concludes that consciousness is not a product of evolution but of catastrophic events in our own history, events that occurred as recently as three thousand years ago.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «خاستگاه آگاهی در فروپاشی ذهن دو جایگاهی»؛ «منشا آگاهی در فروپاشی ذهن دوساحتی»، نویسنده: جولیان (جولین) جینز؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز بیست و هفتم ماه ژانویه سال2014میلادی

عنوان: خاستگاه آگاهی در فروپاشی ذهن دو جایگاهی؛ نویسنده: جولیان جینز؛ مترجمها: خسرو پارسا؛ هما صادقی، اصلان ضرابی، احمد محیط، ع. بخل‌رحیم، رضا نیلی‌پور؛ تهران، آگاه، سال1382؛ در سه جلد؛ چاپ دوم تهران، آگه، سال1385؛ شابک جلد نخست9644161963؛ شابک جلد دوم9644162188؛شابک جلد سوم9644162307؛ مندرجات: ذهن انسان؛ گواهی تاریخ؛ چاپ سوم سال1389؛ در516ص؛ شابک9789643291341؛ چاپ چهارم سال1390؛ چاپ پنجم سال1392؛ چاپ هفتم سال1395؛ چاپ سیزدهم سال1399؛ چاپهای نهم و دهم سال1396؛ چاپهای چهارده و پانزده سال1400؛ موضوع خودآگاهی از نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده20م

عنوان: منشا آگاهی در فروپاشی ذهن دوساحتی؛ جولین جینز؛ مترجم سعید همایونی؛ تهران، نشر نی؛ سال1387؛ در496ص؛ شابک9789643129484؛ چاپ دوم سال1391؛ چاپ سوم سال1393؛ چاپهای چهارم و پنجم سال1395؛ چاپ ششم سال1396؛ چاپ هشتم سال1399؛

کتاب «منشا آگاهی در فروپاشی ذهن دو ساحتی» کتابی بسیار خواندنی و پرمغز است، که افشاگری‌های بزرگواری درباره‌ی انسان، خدا، زندگی، و جهان در آن آرمیده اند؛ «جولین جینز» در این کتاب می‌گویند: (انسان‌های دوران باستان آگاهی نداشته‌ اند؛ آن‌ها صداهای موهومی از منبعی ناشناخته می‌شنیدند که به رفتارهایشان سمت و سو می‌داده است؛ این صداها سپس به عنوان صدای سَروَر، پادشاه، یا وحی خدایان، انگار شده اند)؛ در این کتاب می‌خوانیم با اینکه آگاهیهای انسان باعث از بین رفتن این ذهن دوساحتی شده، اما همچنان نمودهای شاخصی از این نوع ذهنیت در انسانها وجود دارد؛ این کتاب شامل سه کتاب کوچک‌تر با فصل‌های گوناگون است؛ عنوانهای سه کتاب به ترتیب «ذهن انسان»، «گواه تاریخ»، «بقایای ذهن دو ساحتی در جهان مدرن» نام دارند

فصلهای نخست تا میانه های کتاب، بیشتر درباره ی «ذهن دوجایگاهی» میچرخد؛ و البته مثالهای بسیار جالبی درباره ی این موضوع بیان میشود، و نویسنده مینگارند که در هزاره های پیشین، و در دوران باستان، مغز انسانها، دارای دو بخش، با کنشهای گوناگون بوده اند که یکی به زبان گفتگو، و سخن گفتن و تصمیم گیری وابسته بوده، و بخش دیگر به فرمانبرداری از هرچیزی که خیال میکردند، از آنها بزرگوارتر و نیرومندتر است

نقل از متن: (تمایز میان آنچه دیگران درباره ما می‌دانند و درک ما از خویشتن و احساسات عمیق متعاقب آن امری حقیقی است؛ تمایز میان رفتار و ما و تمایز میان موقعیت تعیین‌ناپذیر اموری که بدان‌ها می‌اندیشیم، در افکار و رویاها و در گفت‌وگوهای خیالی‌مان با دیگران -و با آنان که ما را نمیشناسند- به دلیل بیم و امیدهای‌مان، یا از ویژگی‌ها و گذشته خود پوزش می‌طلبیم، یا از آن‌ها دفاع می‌کنیم و در موردشان سخن می‌گوییم: این تاروپود درهم تنیده خیال با واقعیت برساخته از طبیعت پیرامونی متفاوت است! چگونه تجارب گذرای منحصر به فرد ما با نظام طبیعت همخوانی دارد؛ نظامی که کانون شناخت آدمی را احاطه می‌کند و آن را در برمی‌گیرد؟
آدمیان کمابیش از زمانی که آگاهی موجودیت یافت، از مسئله آگاهی آگاه بوده، و در هر عصر به زبان روزگار خویش، توصیفی از آگاهی به دست داده‌اند؛ در عصر طلایی یونان، که گذران امور بر دوش بردگان بود، آزادیِ آگاهی با آزادیِ شهروندانی برابر بود، که با فراغ بال به اینسو و آنسو می‌رفتند؛ هراکلیتوس آگاهی را فضای بی‌کرانی نامید، که حتی با گذر از همه ی مسیرهایش، باز هم نمی‌توان به شناخت آن نائل شد؛ در هزاره ی بعد، اوگوستین در میان تپه‌های پر از غار کارتاژ از «بلندای خیال من» و از «دشت‌ها و غارها و شکاف‌های حافظه» در شگفت آمد؛ می‌بینید که چگونه ذهنْ جهان استعارات را درک میکند؟)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 07/11/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Peiman E iran.
1,394 reviews684 followers
June 3, 2022
‎دوستانِ گرانقدر، این کتاب زمانی که نوشته شد، در نوعِ خود بینظیر بود و مسائلی که در آن بیان شده حاصلِ دهه ها تلاش و پژوهشِ «جولیان جینز» است... جولیان جینز از آغازِ کتاب تعریفِ شما از آگاهی را تغییر میدهد و پله پله با بیانِ مثال و مسائلِ تاریخی، هدف و نظریه اش در این کتاب را به شما میفهماند... میدانیم که آگاهی عمدتاً زادهٔ فرهنگ است، بر اساسِ زبان آن را می آموزند و به دیگران می آموزانند.. اینکه آگاهی ارزشی برایِ بقایِ انسانها داشته است و هنوز دارد، نشان میدهد که انتخابِ طبیعی به ایجادِ آن، قدری کمک کرده است
‎طبقِ نظریهٔ جولیان جینز، انسانهایِ نخستین و تمدن هایِ نخستینِ انسان، ذهنیتی کاملاً متفاوت با ذهنیتِ ما داشته اند.. در واقع مردان و زنان همچون ما آگاه نبودند، مسئولِ اعمالشان نبودند و بنابراین نمیتوان به سببِ آنچه در خلالِ این هزاره ها انجام شده است، آنها را ستایش یا سرزنش کنیم.. هر شخصی سیستمی عصبی داشته که بخشی از آن الهی و توهمی بود و این بخش به او مانندِ برده ای دستورِ انجام دادنِ کارهایِ مختلف را میداده است.. صدا و یا صداهایی که ما آنها را اراده مینامیم، به دستوراتشان اعتبار میبخشیدند و در سلسله مراتبی به دقت ساخته شده با صداهایِ توهمیِ دیگران پیوند داشتند
‎از هزارهٔ نهم تا هزارهٔ دومِ پیش از میلاد، ذهنِ دو ساحتی بسیار کُند تحول پیدا کرد. واحدِ زمانِ ذهنِ دو ساحتی "هزاره" است... ولی سرعتِ تحولات دستِ کم در خاورِ نزدیک، هنگامی که به هزارهٔ دوم نزدیک میشویم، تند میشود... از جسدِ پادشاهی که بر بالشی از سنگ قرار دارد و از زیرِ دیوارِ سرخ محافظش در عیان هنوز در توهمِ مردمانش بر دهکدهٔ ناقوطیان حکومت میکند، تا موجوداتِ قدر قدرتی که باعثِ رعد و برق اند و خالقِ جهان و عاقبت در آسمانها ناپدید میشوند، خدایان، همه و همه برآیندِ ساده و فرعیِ تکاملِ زبان بودند و هم جالبِ توجه ترین جنبهٔ تکاملِ حیات از زمانِ پیدایشِ خودِ انسانِ خردورز بوده اند... خدایان به هیچ وجه زادهٔ تخیلِ کسی نبودند.. آنها خواستِ انسان بودند.. سیستمِ عصبیِ انسان را اشغال کرده بودند، احتمالاً نیمکرهٔ راستِ او را و تجاربِ هشدار دهنده و پندآموز را به گفتار تبدیل میکردند که از آن پس به انسان میگفت که چه کند و اینکه این گفتارِ درونی را غالباً باید از طریقِ نگهدارنده هایِ جسدِ رهبرِ قبیله یا بدنِ طلاپوشِ مجسمه ای با چشمانی جواهرنشان در خانهٔ مقدسش ایجاد کرد
‎جینز اینگونه یادآوری میکند که بسیاری از مردم تفکرِ خود را یک فرآیند گفتگویِ میانِ خود و یک حریفِ درونی مییابند. باورِ وی این است که در دورانِ باستان، همانطور که در ایلیاد و ادیسهٔ هومر میخوانیم مردمِ بیچاره نمیدانستند که صدایی که میشنوند از درونِ خودشان برمیخیزد و تصور میکردند که آن صداها، صدایِ یک خداست: مثلاً آپولو، یا الله یا یهوه یا هزاران خدایِ دیگر و خدایانِ محلی که به آنها فرمان میداد. جینز میگوید که خدایان صداهایِ توهم آمیز بوده اند که درونِ سرِ مردم سخن میگفتند.. که صدالبته برایِ نخستین بار این صدایِ خدایان، از خاطراتِ پادشاهان مُرده سرچشمه گرفته است. اصلاً باید اینگونه بگوییم که انسان به این صدایِ هشدار دهندهٔ توهمی نیاز داشته که به این ترتیب او را در کارهایش هدایت میکرده است... جولیان جینز، محل شکل گیریِ این صداهایِ عجیب را که مردم صدایِ خدا میدانستند و پیامبران وحی از خدایِ موهوم قلمداد میکردند، را در بخشِ پشتی نیمکرۀ چپ مغز میداند که امروزه خاستگاهِ کنترلِ گفتار شناخته میشود.. گفتار مربوط به نیمکرهٔ چپ میشود و آواز خواندن عمدتاً به وسیلهٔ نیمکرهٔ راستِ مغز، صورت میگیرد.. بیمارانی که نیمکرهٔ چپِ آنها مشکل پیدا کرده است، نمیتوانند سخن بگویند.. ولی عجیب آنجاست که آنها میتوانند آواز و شعر بخوانند.. آنچه از دورانِ باستان مشخص است، این است که، کسانی که تصور میکردند صدایِ خدایان را میشنوند، این صداها را به صورتِ شعر بازگو میکردند. پیامبرانی که ادعا داشتند از سویِ خدا سخن میگویند نیز سخنانِ خدا را به صورتِ شعر بیان میکردند و میتوان نتیجه گرفت که شعرِ باستان از قسمتِ لُبِ گیجگاهیِ راستِ مغز استفاده میکرده است. پس این نیمکرهٔ راستِ مغز بود که مسئولیتِ سازماندهیِ توهماتِ الهی را برعهده داشت.. امروزه میدانیم که وظیفهٔ شنیدنِ گفتار با نیمکرهٔ چپ و وظیفهٔ شنیدنِ آواز با نیمکرهٔ راستِ مغز میباشد
‎در هر حال، امروزه و با گذشتِ سده هایِ طولانی، انسانها دیگر این صداها را نمیشنود و هرکس صدای�� در مغزش بشنود، پزشکان او را بیمار میدانند.. جولیان جینز، گذار از این مرحلهٔ تاریخی برایِ انسان را خاستگاهِ آگاهی بشر میداند
‎امیدوارم این ریویو در جهتِ آشنایی با این کتاب، کافی و مفید بوده باشه
‎«پیروز باشید و ایرانی»
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.5k followers
January 19, 2010
Either a work of unparalleled genius, or completely out-to-lunch loopy. No one, not even Richard Dawkins, appears quite certain which description to apply.


There are surprising resonances between Jaynes's ideas and those proposed by Feyerabend in Chapter 16 of Against Method. I was particularly struck by the following passage (italics as in original):
The transition from [the Homeric/archaic Greek view of the world] to [the classical Greek view of the world] thus introduces new entities and new relations between entities (this is seen very clearly in painting and statuary). It also changes the concept and the self-experience of humans. An archaic individual is an assemblage of limbs, connections, trunk, head, neck, (s)he is a puppet set in motion by outside forces such as enemies, social circumstances, feelings (which are described and perceived as objective agencies): 'Man is an open target of many forces which impinge on him, and penetrate his very core'. He is an exchange station of material and spiritual, but always objective, causes. And this is not just a 'theoretical' idea, it is a social fact. Man is not only described in this way, he is depicted in this way, and he feels himself to be constituted in this manner. He does not possess a central agency of action, a spontaneous 'I' that produces its own ideas, feelings, intentions, and differs from behaviour, social situations, 'mental' events of [the Homeric/archaic view]. Such an I is neither mentioned nor is it noticed. It is nowhere to be found within [the Homeric/archaic view]. But it plays a decisive role within [the classical view]. Indeed, it is not implausible to assume that some outstanding peculiarities of [the classical view] such as aspects, semblances, ambiguity of feeling enter the stage as a result of a sizeable increase of self-consciousness.
Oddly enough, Feyerabend makes no reference to Jaynes, despite the fact that the third edition, which I am reading, was published in 1990, 14 years after Jaynes.
Profile Image for Prerna.
220 reviews1,258 followers
March 23, 2023
This was a roller-coaster of a book! The principle tenet on which Jaynes's theory of bicameral mind is based is that consciousness only developed in human beings with the evolution of language - in linking the two, he claims that a conscious mind did not exist before civilizations developed language structures. Bicameralism postulates that the subjective conscious mind is an operator generated by metaphors - in trying to understand something we are only finding a metaphor for it and thus the finite set of the lexicon of language is stretched over an infinite set of circumstances.

Through a thorough analysis of the Iliad which Jaynes regards as a psychological document offering insight into the mentality of the earliest mind, he suggests that originally human minds operated through two states - one of which listened and obeyed, while the other, the 'bicameral mind', spoke, narratized and commanded. Jaynes also suggests that there are several vestiges of the bicameral mind in the modern world and elaborates on this with the example of schizophrenic hallucinations - he explains that in normal people the stress threshold for release of hallucinations is extremely high, while in psychosis prone people it is somewhat lower.

While I am skeptical about the theory, this was an extremely enjoyable and informative read. I am not entirely convinced that consciousness developed with language as this would imply that consciousness is absent in species with no well developed language structures but science has shown us otherwise. I also suspect that some of the examples Jaynes outlines are cases of confirmation bias. I'm gonna have to agree with Richard Dawkins on this one: it is one of those books that is either complete rubbish or a work of consummate genius.

My dear friend Katia recommended this book and then buddy-read it with me, so thank you, Katia! Here's a link to her review of the book.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,911 followers
August 15, 2019
This book is very stimulating.

That is not to say it is correct or incorrect as a theory of consciousness, but there are enough examples and provocative ideas to make me *think* it might be right. And that's the whole problem. I can't immediately discount it. It keeps creeping back into my consciousness.

Even when reading it with deep suspicions, the very meme of this core idea breaks down the wall between my right and left hemispheres and I no longer have an external agent telling me what I must do. No voices, no riding in my body like I'm not an agent of my own destiny, and not even the god of the right side of my brain giving me instructions!

I jest, kinda. For this is the key to the book. It postulates that humanity was more like a zombie agent in the philosophical parlance than any true consciousness before the advent of writing. That language, itself, was a meme that forced us to develop, and re-develop our cognitions until we became our own agents, doing things by our own decisions.

Before, we were all highly perceptive creatures that always acted without reflection. We went through our lives, followed orders, did what needed to be done, but never thought of ourselves as actors. No "I". Language, as a meme, destroyed that boundary. Brought creativity into motive, the idea of self into all equations.

It explains why a mass of humanity could accomplish the pyramids on either side of the ocean, probably without complaint. There was no self. Death masks and spirits of the dead, gods, oracles, etc., could be heard by anyone and it all came from the "outside". Separate from us, but undeniable, like an edict from high. The theory is that these commands came from the right hemisphere. The creative center of the brain.

It fits. And so much of this book is devoted to the Homeric epics, to poetry, to possession, art, and music. When it became commonplace, the reliance on "gods" diminished. Rapidly. We internalized it, and it was thanks to language.

So seductive.

And it sparks my imagination, too. I think about how many people today want to submerge their consciousnesses again, be it by faith in God, alcohol, drugs, or any number of addictions (including internet!). It feels like a biological callback to the times when we did not have guilt or worry. We just followed outside orders from kings and gods, not caring if we lived or died because there was no "self" at all to care. It's a freedom in the most literal sense of the word. Freedom from self. I think of Buddhism. Or being welcomed in the arms of God in heaven. Of raptures and release.

This is what language freed us from. This is also the story of the Tree of Knowledge. Which happens to come from right after the time we developed this facility, according to Jaynes.

Interesting, no? Why have we come so far, so fast? Our humanity is much older than this timeframe, and yet it is not this chaotic, developed, or fractured. We selected ourselves, either genetically or socially, to increase the likelihood of a greater mix of both the left and right hemispheres of our brains. And here we are.

Very interesting.
Profile Image for Erik Graff.
4,995 reviews1,104 followers
December 18, 2013
This was one of the most stimulating and important books I've ever encountered by a psychologist. Although flawed in some important respects, it is profoundly provocative, suggesting areas for further speculation and research not only in psychology, but also in the cultural anthropology of religions.

The primary flaw of Jayne's work is his literary evidence for the claim that humans didn't develop reflective consciousness until ca. 1000 BCE. He relies too much on the earlier texts of the Iliad for his argument and one is suspicious that he is not really qualified to handle the material. Appendices by Homer scholars, particularly those specialized in the history of the texts of the Iliad, would have been valuable. Naturally, one would also like expert support, if available, from scholars specializing in other areas of ancient literature, particularly the most ancient literature of Sumer. No certain conclusions could be drawn as no such hypothesis is testable, but a stronger case might be made for plausibility.

The primary virtue of Jayne's work so far as I was, and am, concerned is that he encouraged me to rethink my attitudes about religion and the psychoses. My tendency had been to consider the claims made for supernatural interventions in human affairs, that is, much of religion, as being sinister contrivances or simple craziness, as being lies or loonyness. Jaynes' suggestion that auditions and hallucinations, that aural and visual apparitions, were at one time normative for everyone and still remain normal in the early stages of cognitive development helped me look at religious history much more sympathetically. His descriptions of how victims of certain forms of brain injury seem to experience similarly helped me see the psychotic more sympathetically as well. Few books I have ever read have so much contributed to me taking seriously what once I had rejected.
Profile Image for Katia N.
579 reviews637 followers
October 21, 2020
The idea that humans were not conscious for a long time even during the Trojan war is interesting and provocative if not falsifiable. The idea that consciousness emerged well after language and only due to language follows from the first one to some extent, but still even less likely. The idea that all people were then schizophrenics in our sense of the world now - hallucinating of the voices who guided them and were their gods - even more extreme. But interesting read and the analysis of the ancient texts.

I plan to write a longer review in due course.
Profile Image for mohsen pourramezani.
160 reviews123 followers
July 27, 2015
فرضیه‌ی کلی کتاب این است که انسان‌هایی که حدود ده هزار تا چهار هزار سال پیش از میلاد زندگی می‌کردند دارای آگاهی نبودند و ذهنی دوساحتی داشتند. انسان‌های اولیه مانند بیماران اسکیزوفرنیک صداهایی می‌شنیدند که به آنها امر و نهی می‌کرد و این صداها کارکرد همان آگاهی را داشت. پس از تغییراتی مانند به وجود آمدن خط و... این ذهن دوساحتی فروپاشید و آگاهی جای آن را گرفت

کتاب خیلی خوبی بود. از دسته‌ی کتاب‌های مغز شخم زننده همراه با لذتِ یادگیری
Profile Image for Taka.
678 reviews497 followers
July 30, 2015

Reading The Iliad and the Old Testament of the Bible, I've always wondered about one distinctive feature they both share: an utter lack of interiority, of introspection by the characters. I brushed it aside as the literary style of the times in which they were composed (orally and then textually), but Julian Jaynes has quite a different take: the characters—like the rest of their contemporaries—were not conscious at all.

This claim alone was enough reason to pick this book up. His thesis is simple. Consciousness, like everything else in evolution, must have arisen sometime in the history of the human race. When? Not until 1,000 BCE.

Mind-blown yet?

But wait a minute, you might ask, how in the world did we live before 1,000 BCE? What about those pyramids, the kingdoms, the ancient scripts? Jaynes has an answer: we created them all unconsciously, in the pre-conscious mentality he calls "the bicameral mind," where we were practically unconscious automatons obeying the hallucinated voices of gods. If you go through the book, these mind-obliteratingly strange claims stop being so ridiculous. He backs up his claims with a panoply of diverse evidence, from the philological (The Iliad, The Oddysey, the Bible among others) and the archeological (Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Mayans), to the neurological (the lateralized brain structure) and the psychological (schizophrenia and hypnosis).

Another important task he sets for himself is explaining the causes of consciousness. If bicameral kingdoms were doing fine without consciousness, what factors and forces selected the trait of consciousness to emerge in our evolutionary past? He attributes it to a few possible causes: 1) overpopulation; 2) chaotic social disorganizations (caused by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption and subsequent mass migrations and conquests); and 3) the rise of writing to replace the auditory mode of bicameral command.

The best part of this book in my opinion is Book I where he discusses what consciousness is and how it must have emerged. Short answer: language and its capacity to create metaphors. The long answer is that metaphor is the way we understand things in the world and that consciousness is essentially the metaphor of the world we have created in our mind. To understand this quite paradigm-and-mind-shifting argument, you need to grasp that consciousness really doesn't do as much as you think it does (which, by the way, is consistent with the recent "passive frame" theory of consciousness proposed by this psychologist). We do all sorts of activities rather unconsciously. From driving to learning any new skills, we do them unconsciously. Even the representative activities of consciousness—thinking and writing (and I can attest to this from experience)—are done without consciousness. Words come to us, or bubble up to consciousness from somewhere else. So do thoughts. And have you ever been in a situation where you were playing a sport you had been playing competitively for a long time and then in the middle of a game, you started becoming conscious of some aspect of it—such as the way you serve in tennis, for example—and you just crumble? Consciousness, it turns out, is detrimental to athletic performance beyond certain competence.

So what does consciousness do? Goal setting for one. And several other operations Jaynes lists in this section of his book: 1) spatialization (including of time), 2) excerpting (or the visually limited way we imagine and reminisce things), 3) the construction of the "I" (which, he argues is an analogue of the body—there's nothing in consciousness you can't find in the external world), 4) the construction of the metaphor "me" where we can look at ourselves doing things; 5) narratization, in which we are always telling stories about ourselves and things happening in the world; and 6) conciliation, which is basically the way we interpret the world to be consistent with what we believe.

One major dissatisfaction with this description of consciousness was that some of these "operations" purportedly done by consciousness seem to be done un- or subconsciously, such as narratization, the construction of the unified self, and conciliation. Do we consciously create an "I"? Do we not tell stories almost automatically? I mean think of the time when you saw someone cut in in front of you in traffic. You must have cursed under your breath or shouted, "Ass hole!" But what would have happened if you had learned later that the driver in question was rushing to the hospital to save his/her daughter who lay unconscious in the back seat? The point is, we automatically construct narratives all the time, unconsciously. So what does consciousness really do? That's something anyone serious about Jaynes's theory must address in the future.

Overall, it was a fantastic read—with a long middle portion that was rather bogged down but necessary. Given the nature of the investigation—I mean, how do you prove or disprove the existence of consciousness from what must be a fraction of the entire ancient artifacts and texts created by human civilizations of the past?—however, I came away still somewhat skeptical in the end, not just because the lack of evidence for consciousness can't be equated with the evidence for lack of consciousness (they are very, very different things), but because of Jaynes's propensity to exclude alternative explanations whenever he has a chance in order to affirm his position. E.g.: "It is difficult to understand [human effigies'] obvious importance to the cultures involved with them apart from the supposition that they were aids in hallucinating voices" (165), or discussing ancient chariot burials: "Why all this? Unless the dead kings were thought to still live and need their chariots and servants because their speech was still heard?" (163) And one more for good measure: "I find that the only notion which provides even a working hypothesis about this matter [of the tendency of schizophrenics to take hallucinated voices as authoritative and even religious] is that of the bicameral mind, that the neurological structure responsible for these hallucinations is neurologically bound to substrates for religious feelings..." (413). Then there's his obsession with hallucinated voice (which, incidentally, made me so interested in the whole topic that I went ahead and bought the audiobook for Oliver Sack's Hallucinations). It is a fascinating hypothesis to be sure (that we heard hallucinated voices of gods back in our bicameral days), but I got the impression that he makes way too much of the phenomenon, though of course there's no way to tell (yet?) if he was right or wrong in making it a cornerstone of his theory.

Whatever the weaknesses of his theory, though, this book is definitely worth reading for the sheer number of insights it contains about our consciousness, ancient Greek literature, psychology, history, and our modern world that may or may not exhibit relics of our bicameral past.

Five stars.
Profile Image for John Devlin.
Author 19 books69 followers
January 29, 2023
Revelatory!. Even if Jaynes is completely wrong the originality of thought is spellbinding. Simply put, Jaynes argues persistently and convincingly that humans were not actually conscious beings until about 1000bc. Before this humanity existed in a fog of hallucinated voices that were evidenced by their care and feeding of their dead and through the absence of any introspective in the works of the Old Testament and the Illiad. I can't do the thoroughgoing argument justice but its alluring and has since(he wrote this in the late 70's) been confirmed to some degree through the new MRI brain imaging.
Profile Image for Marcel.
Author 8 books308 followers
August 28, 2020
Viewed by many as one of the most important books of the twentieth century and "the most important ... theorizing since The Origin of Species."

Learn more about Julian Jaynes's theory and the follow-up books that have been published at julianjaynes.org
Profile Image for Jan Rice.
516 reviews434 followers
February 9, 2017
In the process of trying to decide where to begin my review of The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, it suddenly occurred to me that revisiting Julian Jaynes' 1976 book would be a place to start. Since this morning I've lost the thread of why I thought so, but maybe I'll remember as I go along.

I have the original 1976 hardback, but since there's a bookstore sticker on the back that says "2/28/78," I know I didn't read it until then. The impetus was that I was a graduate student in psychology and a professor spoke positively of it. It has been living in this room longer than there has been a computer here.

The thesis of the book goes something like this: ancient man wasn't conscious as we are. When he (or she) had to decide what to do in situations beyond the norm he heard what he accepted as God/the gods instructing him what to do, and then automatically did it. According to the hypothesis, that's how what we would now call decision making happened. Then (and here I refreshed my mind via Wikipedia), over the millennium running roughly from 1800 to 800 BCE, consciousness as we now experience it emerged, so that deciding what to do no longer consisted of hearing and obeying the voices of the gods.

Ah! That must be the connection. In The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis is writing about Daniel Kahneman (Thinking, Fast and Slow) and Amos Tversky and their work on how we make decisions.

Anyway, I think The Origins of Consciousness... deals also with such matters as why ancient man submitted docilely to conditions of abject slave labor, as well as hypothesizing that there were actual neural pathways in the brain to carry the voices of the divine slavemasters. It is the latter, implying as it does major physiological changes over a relatively few centuries, that is generally questioned.

From the start, I thought something else was wrong with the picture since I was doing my research on dreams and Julian Jaynes didn't mention dreams. How could you hypothesize that voices are exclusively a thing of the past or of pathology without considering the circumstance in which everyone hears them?

Well, it turns out that in the afterword of an edition a decade or more later, the author says he had to leave out two chapters on dreams at the behest of his editor. The book was deemed too long.

This isn't a book you forget. Plus, it continues to come up on occasion. Some time in 2009 the rabbi who was leading the weekly Torah study brought it up, seriously as far as I could tell, as a hypothesis about the auditory experiences of certain characters of the Hebrew bible. This was an erudite and scholarly young man who never would put forth that volcanic action can explain the stories of the ten plagues or suchlike. I couldn't believe he was serious.

I think that, just as people's understanding might err due to, say, Eurocentrism, or American exceptionalism, Julian Jayne's hypothesis erred due to "present-centrism." In other words, it's as though we are now at some pinnacle of behavior and understanding that differentiates us from the benighted people of pre-antiquity. We suppose ourselves, unlike them, to be independent individuals making rational judgments and decisions.

We are not tuned to social expectations. We are not at the back and call of our internalized families. We do not harken all unawares to the tidal pull of our communities. Oh, no. Not us. We are above our biology, or so we think.

Also see: Books, "The Voices in Our Heads" -- Why do people talk to themselves? by Jerome Groopman (Review of Charles Fernyhough's The Voices Within), The New Yorker, issue of January 9, 2017 http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/201...
Profile Image for Matt.
26 reviews1 follower
December 4, 2008
A mind-fuck of the highest order. A work of polymathemetical genius, probably wrong on many accounts but absolutely original in its approach. Extremely readable, unpretentious prose and probings into one of life's coolest mysteries. You'll never read the Oddessey the same way again, or think about schizophrenia or Ancient Sumeria in the same way. It's speculative power has made many a head spin, I think.
Profile Image for Alireza Sahafzadeh.
138 reviews35 followers
July 31, 2016
مدت زمان زیادی برای خواندن این اثر صرف کردم از آذر نود و چهار تا مرداد نود و پنج ، سه جلد که هر کدام نزدیک به دویست صفحه بود اما دویست صفحه ای که صفحه اش دنیایی از از گفتنی ها در خود داشت جلد اول در شرح آگاهی و بررسی زبان و جایگاه آن در مغز انسان با انبوه مثالها ، جلد دوم بررسی مفهوم دوجایگاهی بو.دن ذهن انسان در هزاره منتهی به میلاد مسیح و چگونگی گذر به آگاهی و در جلد سوم بررسی اشکال مختلف حضور خاطره ی دوجایگاهی در ذهن بشر امروزی از شعر و موسیقی تا حالات بیماران اسکیزوفرنی در مجموع بسیار کتاب پر مغزی بود دانسته های زیادی برای ارائه داشت؛ نویسنده کتاب جولیان جینز را از طریق لینک زیر بیشتر میتوانید بشناسید :
و در مورد موضوع دوجایگاهی نیز میتوانید اطلاعات مختصری از اینجا داشته باشید:
همچنین کتاب مورد بحث نیز در این آدرسها معرفی شده :
در آخر باید اضافه کنم که خو.اندنش از واجبات است :)
Profile Image for Vladimir.
42 reviews31 followers
July 21, 2022
This book is very strange. Julian Jaynes came out with a strong thesis that our consciousness is the result of culture i.e. that the organization of our mind was different two millennia B.C. and started to breakdown around the first millennium B.C. Highly speculative but at the same time very well founded. The author studied thoroughly the ancient texts in order to support his view. Definitely worth of reading.
73 reviews10 followers
December 13, 2018
ستاره‌ی کم‌ام به دلیل این بود که ده درصد هم از این کتاب نفهمیدم نه این که چیزی از ارزش‌های احتمالی کتاب کم کنه.
خیلی سخت بود آقا. خیلی. اشکم در اومد.
Profile Image for Murtaza .
664 reviews3,402 followers
February 18, 2022
The provocative argument of this book is that prior to the emergence of civilization human beings lacked psychological interiority. They were instead spoken to directly by the "Gods," which was what they considered the interior voices speaking to them from the right side of their brain. With the advent of literacy of increasingly complex civilized life, we began to consider these voices not as the direct auditory divine command but the voice of the subject "I" that we now refer to as a product of our own minds. It was very different in the past, argues Jaynes. The writings of a work like The Iliad in which divine voices play a prominent role in ordering and chastising characters to do things were never intended to be metaphorical but rather literal, as premodern man took these voices to be absolutely real. The ancient pantheons of Gods represented peoples shared agreement about the voices in their heads, whose orders they followed and whom they sought to placate in various ways. According to Jaynes they did not "think" for themselves but merely did what the voices said.

As our neurology has changed over centuries, our interpretation of the source of the voices in our head has changed. We are just us, "conscious" subjects whose inability to actually define consciousness is such that we can only grasp at it using metaphor. An incredible combination of polymathic arguments, I found that the core contention of this book was also completely unfalsifiable. It was very interesting, but it struck me as a very clever suggestion rather than anything remotely determinative to hang ones hat on if they were trying to investigate the deepest questions of life and existence (Which if you're picking up such a title, you just might be). It's an argument that makes you think and question things which is valuable, of course. But Jaynes plows very deep into detail without really convincing the reader of the premise beforehand. Despite that, its a surprisingly well written and even charming work. It defies categorization.
Profile Image for A.
356 reviews43 followers
April 13, 2022

A perennial question for we philosophers is, "when did man come to think as we do today?". At what point between monkey and man did we think as we did today? Did people in the Middle Ages think like we do? How about those in ancient Mesopotamia? The subjective experience of the individual does not allow for any general understanding of others' thoughts, but it is a reasonable proposition that consciousness can be generalized to others. Anything else leads to solipsism.

One may initially think about the differences of consciousness between people of varying intelligence levels. It seems reasonable that people with a higher IQ will have a higher self-consciousness: a greater understanding of their own thinking process. People with lower IQ will have a thought and immediately act it out, whereas higher intelligence beings can ponder an abstract thought in their head for longer. They can take themselves out of the present and project themselves into the past and future. They can think better about their emotional state in the future in relation to actions done in the present. But how did this consciousness of self originate?

Here is where Jaynes comes in. He believes that consciousness originated in humans when the two hemispheres of our brain were not connected, when we had a "bicameral mind". No corpus callosum was to be found in these earlier humans. Jaynes believes that man was initially not controlled by "himself" — a conscious self — but by the voices in the right side of his brain, which he hallucinated as God or gods. The left side of the brain was his conscious self and the right side was the god-voice center. Whenever man was in a stressful situation, the god-voice what trigger and would tell "him" what to do. What is the evidence for this theory?

Firstly, there are language abilities in both sides of the brain. Yet currently the language center in the right side is not used. Why would it be there? Why would it have evolved? It seems reasonable that it had some function in the past, i.e. as a godly director. The right side of the brain has also been shown to be the "holistic" side of the brain, as opposed to the analytical left side of the brain. The right side activates when listening to music, reading poetry, creating art, and meditating. The left side activates when processing language, computing numbers, and thinking logically/rationally. The word "rational" is derived from the word "ratio", which is a synonym with "fraction". So to be rational is to cut things up, to dissect them — in opposition to looking at them as a whole.

The interesting thing? In schizophrenics, the language center of the right side of the brain is hyperstimulated. It is especially so when they experience audio-visual hallucinations, precisely the type predicted by Jaynes. We have empirically demonstrated this by experimentally stimulating the right language center, which triggers audio-visual hallucinations in non-schizophrenics. I have had a similar "right-brain" experience myself. After reading Goethe's Faust, I could not stop myself from thinking in rhyme the whole rest of the evening — especially after I went to bed. The poem hijacked the right side of my brain and my conscious left side could not put a stop to the verbal deluge.

Now to archaeology. In ancient societies from Mesopotamia to Egypt to China to Mesoamerica, we see dead kings stuffed with food, wine, and diamonds. Why are they stuffing dead men with food and wine? Are they begging their subjects for nourishment? It makes no sense. However, it does if you take into account the hallucination theory. All ancient societies have their kings as gods or gods talking to the masses through the king. The king is divine — the king's voice is the hallucination voice. The king speaks to the city, and they then hallucinate his voice when they work. Humans falter under high stress: it is one of the most taxing psychological states. When in a tough situation, humans must make a decision fast. How can they do this without consciousness? Through a god-voice. It can tell them what to do. The god-voice (which is the king's) tells them what to do, being a decisive presence ever in their mind. When the king hallucinates, he believes it is God himself. When the king dies, the god-voice is still in the minds of the people. It tells them, "feed me!, gourge me!" and so they do.

Another widespread archaeological phenomenon is idols in all citizens' homes. In the ancient Aztec empire, they had idols in every house. These have massive eyes, way bigger proportionally than human eyes. Why are these in every house? As hallucination triggers! The god looks at them, thereby triggering its voice in the right side of the brain.

Literary evidence backs this theory up as well. Compare The Iliad and The Odyssey.The Iliad has almost no "I", no self-directing ego. Instead, when a character is in a tough situation, a god will come down from above and tell them what to do. This happens in the battle between the Trojans and Achaeans many times. This is the hallucination of the bicameral mind at work (The Iliad was first orally transmitted around the 12th century BC). But by the time of The Odyssey in the 8th century BC, we see a 20x greater appearance of the Greek word for ego. We also see no more gods coming down to make character decisions. What happened in the meantime?

There was a massive volcanic eruption in Crete. This volcano blast created 700 foot heigh waves going 350 mph which wiped out civilizations up to two miles inward on land. It darkened the skies, destroying the ability to farm and creating mass starvation. It caused a huge migration movement, with everybody fleeing into the Near East/Holy Land and the "sea migrants" coming from the Mediterranean into Egypt. Now all the Near Eastern civilizations are colliding. How can you keep up a bicameral civilization if the old order of god-voices goes into disarray? If the unwashed masses come to your shores with new gods and strange forms of worship, the voices start to get confused!

Thus the bicameral civilization falls. And what happens immediately afterward? The Old Testament. The gods go upwards in heaven! Men weep to hear them once again. Just read the Psalms and hear the weeping: "Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications" (Psalm 130:2). Man cannot hear God anymore! We must get His attention. Pray to Him, call out for His help, supplicate unto Him! Now begins Godly punishment. We must sacrifice to Him so He helps us, and if we do not He will punish us. He is so far above us now that we are nothing; all must be in service to Him to recapture the voices. Now starts divination: trying to use probabilistic methods to read what God says. The Eleusinian Mysteries begin; in them, a woman goes into a deep trance during the night, takes natural hallucinogenics, spins around in a cave, and comes out with what gods have told her. This is another way to recapture the lost bicameral voice. These are tried all over in the Mediterranean.

God transforms in other ways as well. He moves up from man and into the heavens (above man). Temples where God was once in-person are now landing-place for him to come down from above. Men plead and beg to hear God's voice, kneeling and bowing unto Him for a response. Remember who God is in the Bible: The Word (!). Then angels appear. Before them, gods of cities spoke to people through intermediary gods: top god to personal god to human, all on earth. But now we have angels, with wings to fly up to heaven. They have to fly up to God from earth! Then the demons come. They do not respond to people, but laugh at them and taunt them. Not responding to someone's plea is an evil move. These demons cause droughts, famines, hurricanes, earthquakes, and every other terrible thing. They do not respond to the pleas of humans, i.e. human voices.

Who is left to connect with the gods? Is there anyone? Yes: Prophets! Moses, Paul, and Joan of Arc can still communicate with God, and they are how we shall receive information from Him. But in the rest of humans, consciousness begins to grow. Writing begins to become subjective after its long roots in purely objective directives or facts. Human narratization of events begins to appear, taking into account time. Perception of time requires consciousness, time being a metaphor of space (think of a number line/timeline). At this same time we get the Garden of Eden and the beginning of deceit (trying to disobey/trick God), which is only possible if you can think of another person's mental state. This deceit may have evolved in the immensely chaotic atmosphere of Mesopotamia in the time period described above. It was to be the root of our modern consciousness and our loss of the direct connection to God.

There is nothing that precludes the god-voice from actually being God. We may have lost His voice, just as the many creation stories from around the world tell us we have. Most religions see Man as in a sort of spiritual muck, fallen from what he once was. Edenic bliss turns into humanistic folly, with our conscious selves trying to prop up ideal civilizations which always fall. Simple acceptance of teleological authority (bicameralism) transforms into childish revolt and the destruction of all natural hierarchies. I'm uncertain if the god-voice was actually God and would like the input of my religious readers on this question.

There is so much more in this book . . . Jaynes is a masterful writer and a true Renaissance man. Read this book and see if you find it interesting, because I believe you certainly will.
Profile Image for Kate.
761 reviews112 followers
July 23, 2007
I did read this book, or at least part of it, but really I just put it on here to impress people.
Profile Image for Paul H. .
802 reviews266 followers
May 11, 2021
(I feel really bad about writing a negative review of this book insofar as a couple of my GR friends seem to love it . . . but here I stand, I can do no other.)

So I once interned at an academic press that publishes theology/philosophy, where I worked under the acquisitions editor and was mostly tasked with the slush pile. For those who may not be familiar, this is basically a stack of random manuscripts sent into the publisher/press, which then needs to be sorted through, as there may occasionally be something worth publishing. So I dutifully spent my internship hours weeding out the cranks, the nonsense, the weaker academic work, etc.

Anyway there's one genre that we would see all the time -- it was always an older guy (post-retirement), a semi-expert in a single academic or professional field, who clearly spent a few years polishing his "theory of everything" book. These books were always badly written, usually very earnest (which was kind of sad) rather than grandiose; and the upshot was the same in every case, namely, the manuscript's mildly delusional author thought that he had figured out the key to the universe, which was somehow tied to his field/specialty, and this grand unified theory (whether based in engineering, botany, art history, whatever) needed to be published immediately so that the world could know. And the context was always a farrago of nonsense, the author's pet theories and favorite topics awkwardly shoved into a single narrative -- in short, the sort of thing that should remain in one's desk drawer and never be shown to anyone.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that I wish I'd been interning at Houghton Mifflin in 1973 so I could have stopped Bicameral Mind from entering the world.

Jaynes has created a series of unfalsifiable just-so stories about the development of consciousness that are semi-vaguely interesting as a speculative theory -- reminiscent of that one guy at every college party ("No but look, the early Greeks didn't have interiority at all! They were hallucinating! The DMT elves were talking through them!") -- but I have no idea how this was published as a supposedly truthful account of anything.

To be clear -- human interiority and consciousness developed at SOME point, historically (whether in Eden, on the plains of Africa, or etc.). This is definitely a thing; and for less technologically advanced cultures, this lack of interiority can still be observed to an extent. As one scientist put it:

I've done psychiatric evaluations of people from all over the world, and there is no question that in certain cultures the individual barely emerges out of the collective -- even out of their own body, to be honest. They don't have the problem of the body-mind dualism because they don't possess the latter. They are shockingly free of what we would call insight, reflection, interiority, detachment, etc. It's as if they do not live in their minds, but in their bodies. They are amazingly content to perform the most mindless and repetitive work -- in fact, in many ways, they are probably happier than the average American. They essentially don't think about things until something goes wrong with their body. Otherwise, "no brain, no problem."

But this lack of interiority in pre-modern cultures is not quite the same as bicameralism (as a theory), and furthermore, Jaynes claims to have effectively proved, through a series of just-so stories based in shallow folk psychology/history, that interiority suddenly developed when one half of our brain stopped ordering the other half of the brain via religious hallucinations. And that this happened at precisely the time of the Homeric Greeks, because they had to adapt to the Bronze Age collapse (had no human beings ever experienced hardship before then?).

The claim is so absurd that it can't even be responded to -- perhaps one could begin by pointing out that Gilgamesh and other texts written thousands of years earlier (e.g., letters from ancient Egypt, to give one of many examples) very clearly show interiority and self-reflection? But why bother, honestly.

Some might argue that at least Jaynes is making an interesting psychological argument about meta-consciousness or the origins of authority -- notably, Jung, Campbell, Neumann et al. have also made such arguments, all of them unconvincing -- but I would just note that a number of world-class geniuses have already covered that terrain (see Hegel, Schelling, et al.) without having to rely on wildly speculative claims about global neurological events in 1200 BCE.
Profile Image for Zidane Abdollahi.
125 reviews38 followers
April 18, 2020
دهان از شگفتی باز می‌ماند
تأثیرگذارترین کتابی بود که تاکنون خوانده‌ام؛ نظریه‌ای که نویسنده در این کتاب ارائه می‌دهد سبب تغییری شگرفی در دیدگاه ما به تاریخ، آثار ادبی، دین و فلسفه می‌شود. این جملۀ خبریِ کلیشه‌ای را دقیقاً با درنظر گرفتن معنایش بیان کردم؛ نظریۀ مطرح شده در کتاب پاسخی برای بسیاری از سؤالاتی که ذهن شاید بسیاری را مشغول کرده‌اند دارد؛ از جمله در رابطه با آگاهی، خدایان، نبوت، علل اسکیزوفرنی و بیماری‌ه��ی مشابه، هیپنوتیزم و ...
ایده‌ای که در این اثر مطرح شده بود، برای من کاملاً انقلابی بود و قبلاً در هیچ اثری و هیچ کتابی، از زبان هیچ کسی با چنین زاویه‌دیدی به «ذهن» انسان برخورد نکرده بودم؛ ناشناختگی اثر به‌ویژه جایی تعجب برانگیز می‌شود که در گودریدز هیچ خوانندۀ به فارسی، نظری درباب آن نداده و آن را نخوانده‌ است! خودم هم به اصرار یکی از دوستان دو سال قبل شروع به مطالعۀ کتاب کردم، اما متأسفانه سختیِ زبانِ کتاب مانع از مطالعۀ تمامی اثر شد. بی‌شک از امروز به هر فردی که به اساطیر، دین، تاریخ بشر و ذهن انسان علاقه داشته باشد، تنها این کتاب را معرفی خواهم کرد.

اثر از سه کتاب مجزا تشکیل شده‌ و حاصل سی سال تحقیق و مطالعۀ آقای جولین جینز و تنها اثرِ اوست. برخلاف ایران، هم کتابش، هم خودش به‌عنوان یک شخصیت علمی با مقالات متعددش (که تعدادی از آنها، در این کتاب استفاده شده‌اند)، شناخته شده است؛ تنها یک جستجو در گوگل کافیست تا متوجه شوید، همین کتابش چه سر و صدایی راه انداخته است! جدا از مطالب عنوان‌شده در کتاب، دو ویژگی زبان نویسنده بسیار برایم قابل ستایش بود؛ نخست آنکه در هیچ جایی با قطعیت تمام حرف نزد و تنها گفت می‌توان شواهد موجود در زمینۀ مورد پژوهشم را با نظریۀ من توجیه کرد. دوم آنکه برای هر وجهی از نظریه‌اش تا آنجا که ممکن بود، دلایلی را ارائه می‌کرد؛ این دو ویژگی به‌خصوص در مقایسه با کتاب ضعیفی چون انسان خردمند برجسته‌ می‌شوند؛ کتاب منشأ آگاهی نیز در قسمت‌هایی از تاریخ انسان حرف می‌زند و براستی بسیار واضحتر و قانع‌کننده‌تر (می‌توانم بگویم برخلاف سخنان آقای هراری که در خیلی قسمت‌ها شبه علم بودند!) از کتاب انسان خردمند مسئله را تشریح می‌کند.
کتابِ نخست که دشوارترین بخش کتاب از منظر فهم و خوانش است، مقدمات را برای بیان نظریه و خود نظریه را به‌طورکلی بیان می‌کند. متأسفانه فهم این قسمت بسیار دشوار است و درعین حال برای فهم مطالب دو کتاب بعدی ضروری. در کتاب دوم از شواهدی تاریخی برای نظریۀ ذهن دوساحتی صحبت می‌شود و هم‌چنین با استفاده از نظریه مسائلی تاریخی توجیه می‌شود؛ جذابیت کتاب از انتهای بخش اول شروع می‌شود و به‌خصوص در این کتاب خواننده را به خود میخکوب می‌کند؛ اما به گمانِ من «مغز به فاک‌دهنده‌»ترین کتاب، سومین است! این کتاب از فصل‌هایی تشکیل شده که موضوعی تقریباً مستقل از هم دارند و ردِ ذهن دوساحتی را در جهان مدرن می‌گیرند. فصل‌های «هیپنوتیزم» و « اسکیزوفرنی» گل سرسبد اثر هستند و در آخرین فصل کتاب هم، پیشگویی‌های علم، که اندکی نیز شامل فلسفۀ علم است، آقای جینز تقدس علم را زیر پایش له می‌کند (به زعم من البته!). برای من این فصل آن حرفی بود که شاید برای مدت‌ها ذهنم نیاز داشت. حرفی که باعث شد بتوانم دور از تعصب به علم نگاه کنم ...

دو ترجمۀ فارسی از کتاب موجود است؛ دیگر ترجمه که حاصل کار گروهی چند مترجم است، در ابتدا آسانتر از ترجمۀ پرویز همایونی (همین ترجمه) درک می‌شود اما برای ادامۀ کتاب کار را بسی سختتر می‌کند؛ برخلاف این ترجمه که در فصول ابتدایی، به‌دلیل معادل‌سازی‌های زیاد شاید اندکی خسته‌کننده باشد، اما پس از عادت به واژگان کتاب، خیلی بهتر می‌توان مفهوم موردنظر را برساند. درمورد خود اثر نیز همینطور است، زبان کتاب ابتدا دشوارتر است و نیاز خواندنی دقیق دارد تا تمام مفاهیم مطرح شده درک شوند، پس از آن است که خواننده می تواند سایر بخش‌های کتاب را درک کند.

پ.ن: به‌نظرم جذابیت خواندن گیل گمش، ایلیاد، ادیسه و کتاب مقدس پس از این کتاب است برایم دو چندان می‌شود.

واقعیات اگر چونان نمایندگان همۀ جهان در جهان به‌کار روند، خرافات می‌شوند.
جولین جینز بزرگ

Profile Image for shahriar johari.
Author 2 books29 followers
September 1, 2018
چرا این کتاب بسیار تعیین کننده و قابل اهمیت است؟ جون نگاهی قدسی زدایی شده و خود انتقاد گری دارد که به موضوعی مهم از زاویه دیدی شجاعانه و بدیع نگاه کرده است. این کتاب را به هر علاقه مندی به ساحت معنا پیشنهاد میکنم. همینقدر کلی چون مدعیات جولین جینز تاثیری همینقدر گسترده بر علم، فیزیولوژی، نورولوژی، الهیات کهن، الهیات نو، روان شناسی و جامعه شناسی دارد. تنها معضل کتاب به گمانم چیدمان نسبتا نا صحیح آن در فصول دوم و سوم است. فرضیات و پیش فرض های نسبتا سنگین او باعث میشود خیلی ها به فصل چهارم نرسند. به شما قول میدهم که اگر از سه فصل اول گذر کنید ، سواره آن را به پایان خواهید برد.
Profile Image for Eric Hertenstein.
44 reviews3 followers
February 9, 2017
Synopsis: "Consciousness" is a skill wherein people create a mental world analogous to the physical world in order to attempt hypothetical solutions to novel problems. This skill was developed over thousands of years, following the collapse of an earlier system for responding creatively to unique stimuli. This system, dubbed "the Bicameral Mind" involved the right hemisphere of the brain generating solutions and communicating them to the acting left hemisphere using language as the encoding system. As a result, Bicameral individuals "heard" these solutions spoken to them as if from an outside force. Ancient religions were social developments intended to reinforce and direct this system. All societies have experienced, at some point, a total failure of these Bicameral systems - the breakdown in the Fertile Crescent occurred around 1500 BC. A peiod of relative chaos follows this breakdown, after which new conscious systems are invented or adopted.

This is my favorite example of someone not just going out on a limb, but stepping out of the tree altogether, and succedding at miraculously floating in midair. After reading this book, I made it a point to direct all of my scholarly effort to convincing myself of its spuriousness, because if I could not, then all literary argument would seem to me to be completely inneffective.

In short, if Julian Jaynes could effectively prove his thesis in this book, then anyone could be capable of proving anything, regardless of validity. And Jaynes almost does it, which is a feat worthy of renown.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,656 reviews617 followers
October 17, 2022
I have absolutely no memory of how I came across 'The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind' or who recommended it to me. If it was you, many thanks. Not only was a fascinating read in its own right, it seems to have inducted me back into challenging nonfiction. For the last two months my mind kept skittering around too much for anything not focused on narrative. Jaynes is undoubtedly an engaging writer, with a delightful intellectual panache, for example: 'A theory is thus a metaphor between a model and data. And understanding in science is the feeling of similarity between complicated data and a familiar model.'

Jaynes starts strongly by briefly explaining why he considers all pre-existing theories of consciousness to be badly flawed. This is quite jaw-dropping for the casual reader like me who has not previously studied the subject, or even given it sustained thought. Despite his conviction and excellent explanations, though, I must admit that his sweeping theory on the bicameral mind did not entirely persuade me. His book was enjoyable in part because it gave me the opportunity to systematise my own thoughts about consciousness. The most satisfyingly thought-provoking books do this, by presenting a theory clearly and thoroughly but not dogmatically. I was pleased to find my main point of contention discussed in the 1990 afterword; the book was first published 1977. Consciousness is incredibly difficult to unpick, at least for me, as the experience of it seems so cohesive. It jolted me to realise that memory is not really part of consciousness, for instance, although the sense of self and process of contemplation both lean heavily upon it. Or rather, the presence of memory does not necessarily mean consciousness follows.

When I mentioned to people that I was reading this book, they tended to ask, "What is the bicameral mind?" It is the name Jaynes gives to his hypothesis of how pre-conscious human brains worked, based on changed relations between the right and left hemispheres. Bicameral humans did not have a sense of self or internal mindspace as we do, Jaynes claims. They made decisions based essentially on auditory and visual hallucinations, experienced as separate from their own minds. Perhaps more shocking, at least to me, is the timing that Jaynes suggests for the change from bicameral to conscious brains: a mere three thousand years ago. Personally, I found the proposition that the architecture, technology, organisation, and art created by early human civilisations did not require consciousness hard to accept. Indeed, I am only willing to agree with the weaker version of Jaynes' theory, which he admits to the existence of only in the afterword and of which more later. However, I found it invigorating to contemplate what consciousness actually is, whether what we call civilisation requires consciousness, and how the mental life of humans may have utterly changed over thousands of years.

One of the strongest points of the argument for a bicameral mind, in my view, was its explanation of the intense and consistent veneration of the dead across the ancient world. Jaynes suggests that statues of gods and bodies of rulers were accorded great privileges as their voices lived on as auditory hallucinations, which allowed power structures to persist. This is a compelling explanation for the fact that the spectacular ruins that survive to this day are mausoleums and temples, built to glorify the intangible and the dead rather than serve practical functions for the living. On the ancient Eygptian pantheon:

If it is assumed that all of these figures are particular voice hallucinations heard by kings and their next in rank, and that the voice of a king could continue after his death and 'be' the guiding voice of the next, and that the myths about various contentions and relationships with other gods are attempted rationalisations of conflicting admonitory authoritative voices mingled with the authoritative structure in the actuality of the society, at least we are are given a new way to look at the subject.

Osiris, to go directly to the important part of this, was not a 'dying god', not 'life caught in the spell of death', or 'a dead god' as modern interpreters have said. He was the hallucinated voice of a dead king whose admonitions could still carry weight. And since he could still be heard, there is no paradox in the fact that the body from which the voice once came should be mummified, with all the equipment of the tomb providing life's necessities: food, drink, slaves, women, the lot.

This is by no means the only point when Jaynes critiques translators for projecting modern ideas onto the distant past. He also does this in some detail for both the Iliad and Old Testament, as well as complaining that applying terms like 'money' to the Code of Hammurabi is simply inaccurate. (Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber echoed this, I believe.) While Jaynes certainly has a point, it is impossible to completely avoid projecting contemporary ideas on the past. Translation is an active interpretation of text by a mind anchored in a particular point in history. The history of the Iliad can be traced through its translations, all of which say something about the person who did the translating and the culture in which they lived.

An important feature of Jaynes' thesis is that consciousness cannot exist without language and that it began to emerge with writing. It is less plausible, at least to me, that written language developed for more than a thousand years in the absence of consciousness. The question is, what level of complexity in technical innovation, interpersonal organisation, and literary endeavour could be possible without consciousness? Many mammals, birds, and insects manage incredible feats of architecture and co-operation, apparently without consciousness. Constructing a pyramid perhaps did not require it, but I cannot believe that the Iliad was composed by pre-conscious minds. While reciting it from memory needn't necessarily require consciousness, its creation surely involved some sense of the characters as conscious beings. It cannot be only the act of translation that gives the Iliad its emotional depth. The poem begins with the anger of Achilles, based on vanity, frustration, and arrogance. I find it very hard to reconcile such emotions with a bicameral person whose every action is directly motivated by voices of the gods. Jaynes argues that the gods control everything that happens in the Iliad, which is broadly justifiable from what I know of it. I've only ever read the Iliad in translation, however I vividly remember the feelings of love, hate, compassion, and cruelty that the characters exhibit. To my mind, consciousness is a necessity for such depths of emotion. Is romantic love, resentment, or mercy possible without consciousness? I'm inclined to think not. Each requires a sense of self and of others as having selves separate from one's own. Perhaps translators have added all of this to the poem, however I think it more likely that the Iliad has retained its appeal through the ages in part due its intensity of feeling. Now I want to re-read it, of course.

Returning to what is and isn't possible without consciousness, I agreed with this comment:

Consciousness and morality are a single development. For without gods, morality based on a consciousness of the consequences of action must tell men what to do. The dike or justice of the Works and Days is developed even further in Solon. It is now moral right that must be fitted together with might in government (Fragment 36) and which is the basis of law and lawful action.

While the law of the Iliad is that of the gods, I still would not describe it as wholly amoral. Although that could be due to the work of translators. I'd love to discuss this book with my high school classics teacher, who actually knew ancient Greek.

The final third of 'The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind' considers the vestiges and legacy of the bicameral mind, including oracles, hypnosis, and schizophrenia. These are as ingenious and compelling as the theory itself. Given when the book was first published, the neuroscience and psychiatric material is rather speculative. I'd be very interested to find out whether Jaynes' hypotheses have been supported or not by more recent fMRI research. That said, a great strength of the book is the emphasis on neuroplasticity (which I know subsequent research has supported) and the culturally mediated nature of human consciousness. This is sensibly put and convincing:

The vestiges of the bicameral mind do not exist in any empty psychological space. That is, they should not be considered as isolated phenomena that simply appear in a culture and loiter around doing nothing but leaning on their own antique merits. Instead, they always live at the very heart of a culture or subculture, moving out and filling up the unspoken and the unrationalised. They become indeed the irrational and unquestionable support and structural integrity of the culture. And the culture in turn is the substrate of its individual consciousnesses, of how the metaphor 'me' is 'perceived' by the analog 'I', of the nature of excerption and the constraints on narratisation and conciliation.

That final sentence seems technical, but this book is very good at explaining its terms and is very readable even at its most theoretical.

Now back to the afterword, which considers the reception of the bicameral mind theory and research since. In this Jaynes touches upon the point about emotions, which I was apparently not the only reader to pick up on. He also concedes this:

The third general hypothesis is that consciousness was learned only after the breakdown of the bicameral mind. I believe this is true, that the anguish of not knowing what to do in the chaos resulting from the loss of the gods provided the social conditions that could result in the invention of a new mentality to replace the old one.

But actually there are two possibilities here. A weak form of the theory would state that, yes, consciousness is based on language, but instead of being so recent, it began back at the beginning of language, perhaps even before civilisation, say, about 12,000BC, at about the time of the beginning of the bicameral mentality of hearing voices. Both systems of mind then could have gone on together until the bicameral mind became unwieldy and was sloughed off, leaving consciousness on its own as the medium of human decisions. This is an extremely weak position because it could then explain almost anything and is almost undisprovable.

Although he presents this as the weaker theory, I consider it the stronger because I find it more plausible. I do not see why bicameral hallucinations could not coexist with some, initially subordinate, sense of self. As for disprovability, even if humanity developed time travel, we would struggle to conclusively determine exactly how the mental worlds of people in 3000BC differed from our own. Maybe if we developed telepathy, but even then I doubt it. (Parenthetically, I think telepathy would be a dubious research tool, because any mind-reading would require the mind-reader to engage in translation. Thoughts are slippery and ambiguous things. Surely two telepaths could read the same mind very differently; I wish more fiction explored this possibility.)

Jaynes convinced me that ancient peoples very likely heard the voices of the dead and of gods, and that such hallucinations preceded consciousness. He did not convince me that such hallucinations could not coexist with consciousness, albeit with a sense of self perhaps very different to our own. I very much enjoyed thinking this through and was thrilled by the vertiginous sense of how much consciousness could have changed in thousands of years, and how it might continue changing in the future. 'The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind' was an excellent lockdown read. I highly recommend it as an escape into the distant past and the recesses of the human brain.
Profile Image for Betawolf.
372 reviews1,472 followers
May 23, 2019

As an argument that Jaynes' thesis actually is true, severely disappointing. I can only assume that the people rating this as 5 stars are impressed by Jaynes' bold and outlandish theory, and not the actual argument that Jaynes sets out for it, which is quite clearly shoddy reasoning with the occasional lyrical flourish to smooth over the logical leaps. Some examples:

- Jaynes establishes that what he calls consciousness -- a sort of mind-scape -- depends on metaphor. He points out that language also depends heavily on metaphor. Therefore, consciousness must post-date language! (Uh, what?)
- Jaynes wants to review evidence for consciousness from the ancient world. But not the most ancient world, "in which modern scholars project their own subjectivity with little awareness of the importance of their distortion" (i.e., provide translations that challenge his thesis). He focuses primarily on the Iliad, which he claims has no words for thought, except the ones he lists which he insists shouldn't really be interpreted as being about thought, and except the sections that are probably later additions... I'm no classicist, but this comes off as an argument based entirely on special pleading. An extremely worrying amount of his argument is based on his own, highly selective reading of sections of the Iliad, with reference to his own (seemingly unvalidated and controversial) translations.
- He several times makes the strange assertion that bicameral people are not responsible for their actions, because their 'man' brain (left hemisphere) was just following orders from their 'god' brain (right hemisphere). This makes about as much sense as declaring that a man is not responsible for theft because his hand was just following orders from his brain. I think what has happened here is that Jaynes has let the labels he assigns to each hemisphere run away with him -- something certainly borne out by Jaynes' attempts to link all religious behaviour to bicamerality.
- Of which: In his review of ancient cultures, Jaynes proceeds from a tenuous and unverified speculative link between his bicameral thesis and religion, to taking any evidence of any religion, including ancestor-worship, as being evidence of a bicameral society. He ignores, in a manner I do not fully comprehend, the surely obvious fact that definitely 'subjective' modern humans also have all of those same structures in their societies, and so at best their presence in archaeological or historical accounts of cultures cannot be meaningful evidence either way.

There is much more, and it was hard to keep track of the numerous dubious-sounding assertions that would be worthy of fact-checking (a couple: there is "nothing like" possession in the Iliad? Ancients had no concept of 'madness'?). So much of Jaynes' argument, though, is just naked speculation piled on top of more speculation, in a towering construction of connections that has essentially no foundation at all.

As for Jaynes' idea about bicamerality, it was certainly an intriguing thought, but... Look, let's talk about Stargate. The premise of Stargate is that the ancient human world was actually ruled by technologically-advanced aliens, who presented themselves as gods. It's cool because it connects ancient deities like Ra and Kronos to modern sci-fi hijinks. It's especially fun, if you're into that sort of thing, to read histories and translations of ancient materials and search out things that conform to the theory. There are lots of easy wins -- gods living in the heavens, flying magic chariots through the air, things that you could read as energy weapons, references to other worlds, et cetera. Of course, you have to smooth out or ignore various details in order to make it fit properly, but that's perfectly harmless as a bit of fun.

Jaynes is doing that for his bicamerality thesis, but: 1. it's not just for fun, he's serious; 2. he does it quite poorly. The readings are obviously tortured in some places, and honestly the Stargate thesis makes for much simpler and more compelling answers to the things he describes. Example: people in certain ancient cultures talk about a war in heaven and then lament the absence of gods. Is this a) because they have all simultaneously gone through a profound psychological change for no clear reason and no longer collectively hallucinate the presence of their gods [though will continue to have religions and talk about talking to gods for millennia] or b) because their gods had a big space-battle and some of them died? Okay, the alien gods theory has a lot of hidden explaining to do, but so does Jaynes and at least Stargate's brain-control snakes seem logistically possible.

I tried to treat the book as an extended conjecture about what if Jaynes' (quite possibly unfalsifiable) thesis were true, but it was not really possible -- he kept reminding me inadvertently of a leap he had made previously (often by building on a speculation's conclusion as if it were now established), so I was often somewhere between annoyed and rolling my eyes. However, the book is not all negative. Jaynes is a good writer, and he holds your attention well on the page, something helped by his choice of topics -- he brings in interesting snippets from psychological studies, archaeology, ancient history, philosophy and poetry. His argument may be terrible, but it has some fascinating examples bound up in it which centre around 'weird brain stuff', and he might be worth reading for his coverage of these alone.

Profile Image for Josh Friedlander.
716 reviews102 followers
December 17, 2018
There seems to be a popular perception that this book is sort of "crazy, but might just be true" (possibly inspired by a Richard Dawkins quip). I'm here to say: this book is crazy! But it's a fascinating read, as sort of creative nonfiction. Jaynes, a pretty respected psychologist writing in a time that was perhaps more receptive to New Age-y big picture ideas, thinks that a) schizophrenia is the natural, pre-conscious state of humans, which b) explains idolatry, ancestor worship and basically all religion from ancient times, and that c) consciousness is a relatively recent phenomenon which developed when external stresses broke up the "bicameral" societies (people whose minds were split into a speaking part, a sort of auditory (or sometimes visual) hallucination), and a listening part. He evinces examples from Greek literature, the Bible, and ancient history, as well as neuropsychological studies, his own experiences with schizophrenic patients, and his consumption of hallucinogens. I haven't seen Westworld.
Profile Image for Richard.
Author 1 book38 followers
July 5, 2015
Here's an idea: what if consciousness - self-awareness, the 'I' and that private inner 'space' it seems to inhabit - is no emergent phenomenon, result of millions of years of brain evolution, but a purely cultural one derived from language, via metaphor, and which didn't appear sometime back in the Pleistocene, but recently (very recently, around 1200 BC in Julian Jaynes' estimation)?

As ideas go, it's a corker. By that date we were already tilling fields and founding the first cities, the Pyramids had been built and the Iliad written - all by non-conscious human beings according to Jaynes. He was no crank though: graduate of Yale and lecturer at Princeton, the nature of consciousness was the lifelong focus of his work as an ethologist. His theory was presented at a meeting of the American Psychological Society in Washington DC (admittedly to a mostly nonplussed audience) and The Origin of..., published in 1976, was runner-up in the USA's National Book Awards' nonfiction category a couple of years later. His theory rests on the brain's division into two hemispheres: earlier than around 1200 BC, instead of the introspective thinking familiar to us today, the right hemisphere solved problems non-consciously, passing on its instructions to the left where they were experienced as hallucinations (particularly auditory hallucinations) which the people themselves interpreted as the voices of gods. The gods, in other words, seemed entirely real to them and directed their lives; the resulting societies were authoritarian, rigidly stratified and stable, almost like those of social insects (think Ancient Egypt). In the Near East though, around Jaynes' critical date, this 'bicameral' mentality broke down due to demographic (and other) stresses, and was gradually replaced by the self-aware modern mind; the resulting societies, this time, were composed of true individuals.

This book is in three parts: the first outlines the theory, the second examines the evidence and the third considers possible vestiges of the bicameral mind still around today; and if all this sounds like Velikovsky or von Daniken, well it isn't exactly. In Jaynes' case the most common reaction, from academics in particular, has been a sort of head-scratching bafflement. I think this is at least partly because The Origin is beautifully written - even its trickiest ideas are explained simply, clearly, and in prose which a lot of good fiction writers would envy. What criticism there has been has focused mostly on the extraordinary timescale involved, and on Jaynes' interpretation of the Iliad - and anyone interested in Mesopotamian archaeology, or who knows the Iliad well (or the Old Testament, or the Epic of Gilgamesh) will soon see why.

I can't help wondering, too, how much of the scepticism is a gut-reaction to Jaynes' choice of the term 'hallucinations' (a word which comes with a lot of baggage: drug use, mental disorder) and the idea of Achilles and Abraham resembling schizophrenics. There's also the presence of the Julian Jaynes Society which issues newsletters and books defending and promoting the theory, but which has precisely the opposite effect (on me at least): it makes the whole thing look a bit cultish, like Scientology. My own scepticism comes from a different direction altogether though: another implication of this theory is that, if true, it would mean that only human beings are conscious - something I don't believe for a minute. Apes, elephants, cetaceans, corvids and perhaps others all show every sign of self-awareness.

Overall, I'm left with the feeling that this isn't all nonsense, that there's truth lurking at the heart of Jaynes' theory; I thought the first chapter, where he outlines what consciousness is not, what it doesn't do, by far the best - I agreed with every word of that. It's just that, from that starting point, he immediately veered off in a direction very different from the one I would have gone in. It's still, though, as thought-provoking a read as I've come across for some time.
Profile Image for Shakiba Abedzadeh.
38 reviews55 followers
August 13, 2019
خب بعد از یک تعطیلات تابستونی طولانی بنده برگشتم :)
ولی متاسفانه با چه کتابی... بیشترین حسرتِ من البته در مورد این کتاب به دلیل شوقی بود که قبل از خوندن داشتم اما کاملا ناامید شدم

آیا نویسنده تبیین می‌کند مراد از ذهنِ دو جایگاهی دقیقا چیست؟
به برداشتِ من کلِ ایده این است که در انسان تا قرن‌ها ارتباطِ خاصی میانِ نیمکره‌ی راست و نیمکره‌ی چپِ مغز برقرار نبوده است و همین موضوع باعث رشد و گسترش ایده‌ها و باورهای توهمی در انسان نسبت به محیط پیرامونش و حتی خودش شده... گرچه به نظرِ من این ادعا که جسمِ پینه‌ایِ مغز که مسئول ارتباطِ دو نیمکره است، ساختاریِ مربوط به زمان‌های متاخر است ادعای بزرگی‌ست و کار و تحقیق جدی در دنیای علوم اعصاب نیاز دارد... اما نویسنده چه می‌کند؟ 500 صفحه مطلب از ادبیات گرفته تا باستان شناسی فراهم می‌کند تا هی بگوید:
دیدی گفتم؟؟ اینم توهم... اینم ذهنِ دوجایگاهی...
مطالبی که به هیچ وجه استدلال‌هایی قوی در جهت تایید ادعا نیست.

آیا در موردِ آگاهی ادعای جدید مطرح می‌شود؟
به غایت خیر
خیلی ساده ایده این است که پس از دورانی!!! ذهنِ دوجایگاهی تبدیل به ذهنی با ارتباط دو نیمکره می‌شود و آگاهی از این ارتباط پدید می‌آید... توضیحاتی البته هست که چرا ذهنِ دوجایگاهی فرومی‌پاشد اما بیشتر نقل و قصه است تا علم. شاید همین وجه روایی و قصه‌گو و بعضا عجیبِ کتاب من را وادار کرد تا صفحاتِ آخر استقامت کنم :))

در مجموع
این کتاب برای دوستدارانِ علم حرفِ تازه‌ای ندارد. استدلال‌ها آبکی و پر از جزئیاتِ مفصلِ حوصله‌سر بر است... برای کسانی که اما به ادبیات یا باستان شناسی علاقه‌مندند شاید قدری جذاب باشد
حرف آخر
فکر می‌کنم کلِ کتاب در راستای ردِ تمامِ ادیان است.. اینکه نشان دهد اساسا وحی یا معجزه چیزی جز توهمِ انسان با ذهنی تکامل نیافته نبوده است. شاید به همین دلیل در ایران این کتاب این همه سر و صدا به پا کرد و تبلیغ شد... گرچه به نظرم اینقدر آبکی‌ست که حتی برای من که با اصلِ ایده موافقم بسیار نچسب و آزاردهنده بود.
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