The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

  • Desolous
  • Desolous's Avatar Topic Author
  • Guest
25 Sep 2016 21:18 #258338 by Desolous
Hey TOTJO!

So a friend of mine reccomended a great book to me by Dr Julian Jaynes (1920-1997) called 'The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind' , published in 1976. In it, Dr Jaynes states that he believes humans evolved modern consciousness around 2000-3000 years ago, and prior to that, executive decisions were made by auditory hallucinated voices (mostly of gods and similar authority figures), a concept he calls 'bicameral mind theory'. He goes into a great deal of background research on how he came to believe these, all of which is quite illuminating. He states that humans evolved out of this type of consciousness around the same time that writing began to be more widely used throughout civilizations of the time.

I find this concept fascinating. That modern sentient humans evolved from other types of beings we must first take as a scientific given. Then that humans thought, acted and behaved differently than modern humans, a concept that Dr Jaynes illustrates through ancient writings such as the Odyssey and Iliad, the epic of Gilgamesh, and others even older.

Anyway, I was hoping some other Jedi had read this as well, and what they thought of the book and its hypotheses. I highly recommend it if you have an interest in psychology or similar.

Please Log in to join the conversation.

  • Atticus
  • Atticus's Avatar
  • Guest
25 Sep 2016 23:14 #258349 by Atticus
I read it circa 1995 for a paper on the phenomenology of solipsism. (It wasn't all that closely related to what I was writing about, but I did manage to tie in the basic theory somehow.) It's an interesting hypothesis, that God used to speak to people more frequently because their hemispheres were more closely connected, allowing them to right-brain the hallucination of God into existence in a way that felt real. Probably not provable, but I suspect it's meant to be contemplated more than it's meant to be proved anyway.

I guess the broader point, that humans used to think and behave differently even in comparatively recent history, is just as intriguing. We're used to seeing evolution as this long, drawn-out process showing progress only after tens of thousands of years, so the suggestion that it might actually happen more suddenly, and more recently, than we have heretofore suspected is fun to contemplate.

Please Log in to join the conversation.

More
26 Sep 2016 01:01 #258354 by Alan
It is an interesting book. A worthy read. I don't think it has found many converts among philosophers. I encounter references to it in the footnotes only on rare occasions.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Desolous, Alexandre Orion

Please Log in to join the conversation.

  • Desolous
  • Desolous's Avatar Topic Author
  • Guest
26 Sep 2016 01:43 #258357 by Desolous
The main problem with the book and it's central hypothesis is that we cannot go back in time and directly test it, thus it will always be mostly conjecture. That said, we have the scientific ability now thru fMRI and the like to test those experiencing active auditory hallucinations and note the location of the brain from which they seem to originate . Members of the Julian Jaynes Society have published this research, which seems to validate Dr Jaynes ' hypothesis.

Please Log in to join the conversation.

  • Akkarin
  • Akkarin's Avatar
  • Guest
26 Sep 2016 18:48 #258491 by Akkarin
Frustratingly there isn't a kindle version available (if someone has an ebook version please let me know where to get one). What does Jaynes mean by Consciousness? Consciousness as something which didn't previously exist and did as a result of writing? Or consciousness which did exist and was altered by the invention of writing? How does the notion of writing differ from cave paintings? Does Jaynes suppose there were fundamental changes in brain structure? Or is consciousness more a development of the complexity of how brain regions process new information (which would be more prevalent once encoded in writing).

Please Log in to join the conversation.

  • MartaLina
  • MartaLina's Avatar
  • Guest
26 Sep 2016 19:00 - 26 Sep 2016 19:01 #258493 by MartaLina

File Attachment:

File Name: he361629.pdf
File Size:3,052 KB

Akkarin wrote: Frustratingly there isn't a kindle version available (if someone has an ebook version please let me know where to get one). What does Jaynes mean by Consciousness? Consciousness as something which didn't previously exist and did as a result of writing? Or consciousness which did exist and was altered by the invention of writing? How does the notion of writing differ from cave paintings? Does Jaynes suppose there were fundamental changes in brain structure? Or is consciousness more a development of the complexity of how brain regions process new information (which would be more prevalent once encoded in writing).




Does this work Akkarin ? Book
Attachments:
Last edit: 26 Sep 2016 19:01 by MartaLina.

Please Log in to join the conversation.

More
26 Sep 2016 19:14 #258497 by Carlos.Martinez3
* thank you for the read!

Contact The Clergy
Pastor of Temple of the Jedi Order
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The Block
Build, not tear down.
Nosce te ipsum / Cerca trova
The following user(s) said Thank You: Desolous, MartaLina

Please Log in to join the conversation.

  • Desolous
  • Desolous's Avatar Topic Author
  • Guest
11 Oct 2016 00:28 #260679 by Desolous
A Brief Summary of ‘The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind’, by Dr. Julian Jaynes
10/10/2016

I found Julian Jaynes’ masterpiece ‘The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind’ to be a fascinating work on the evolution of modern human psychology.

It began at the beginning, so to speak, with the very distant and earliest of recorded human history. Archaeological evidence showed early ritual burials and entombed kings, which became the origin of temples such as ziggurats and pyramids. This was around the same time that humans started naming each other and spoken language became more and more well developed. Dr. Jaynes lays out the evidence for his theory over the course of several chapters, primarily referencing ancient tests from Sumeria, Greece and so forth that seem to indicate men in conversation with the gods.

Over time, these direct conversations stopped. This seems to take place gradually throughout the world, at different times and in different places, but seems to track closely the advent of the written word. The speech center of the right brain, most likely the origin of the god authority voices, became dormant, except in rare cases such as schizophrenia.

Though not directly discussed, Bicameral Theory could have a lot to do with a personal question of mine, why there is such a difference between the Old Testament Christian God and the New Testament One. When seen through the lense of Bicameral Theory, we see that the authors of the OT still ‘talked with’ or ‘listened to’ God, while in the New Testament (written in the first millennium AD, when bicameral men had faded out) God was distant and unheard, except in the attributed physical embodiment of Jesus (itself questionable as to the veracity of His statements or even if He existed at all).

Written in 1976, Dr. Jaynes and his peers did not have access to modern scientific instruments in which to test aspects of the theory, such as fMRI and CAT scan machines. The Julian Jaynes Society (found at julianjaynes.org) addresses some of the findings of modern science in relation to the activation of the right hemisphere of actively hallucinating individuals. The short answer is that the current scientific evidence seems to support Bicameral Theory.

Over all, I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Jaynes’ work, and highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in evolutionary psychology (why we think the we way we think), origin of god mythologies and or theories of the mind in general.

Please Log in to join the conversation.

More
11 Oct 2016 08:45 #260713 by Gisteron
If conversations with gods are negatively correlated with the written word, how come all records of such conversations we have are found in written form from all that time ago? Some of the oldest remains of written language we have are from the fourth millennium BCE, rendering them about twice as old as Dr. Jaynes' dating of the fading away of hallucinated voices. Meanwhile undiagnosed though quite literate people report talking to their gods or to the spirits of their ancestors or deceased loved ones in shockingly great numbers to this very day.
Now, I'm no expert on either evolution or on psychology or on any of the ways philosophy departments try to inject themselves into the scientific discussion through what little remains of respectable psychology anymore, but it would seem to me that if at any point there was a selective pressure that favoured such errors of perception, we should expect to find evidence of that in other modern animals and their behaviour, specifically in other apes and their cultural quirks or at the very least in the works of other human species that are now extinct. We should further be able, now that the human genome project is concluded, to identify what parts of our genome were responsible for it and what about them changed and when. Of course, I haven't read the book yet, and neither did anybody else say that they agree with any part of it or why, so I apologize if I am beginning to discuss what nobody was interested in discussing.

Better to leave questions unanswered than answers unquestioned

Please Log in to join the conversation.

  • Desolous
  • Desolous's Avatar Topic Author
  • Guest
11 Oct 2016 13:38 - 11 Oct 2016 13:54 #260734 by Desolous
As to the written word part, early writing was mostly localized to scribes and the like for a long time, not the general population. So had little bearing on he Bicameral nature of the general population. Dr Jaynes lays his theory out very well, with a great deal of backing information over the course of 9 chapters organized in three books. This is just a brief summary.

"Meanwhile undiagnosed though quite literate people report talking to their gods or to the spirits of their ancestors or deceased loved ones in shockingly great numbers to this very day."
In the cases of people literally hearing the voices of Gods, most if not all would be considered psychotic or hallucinating and not taken seriously. Also, citation needed. In my 6 years in the mental health field, no one personally informed me they literally spoke to gods or an ancestors. I don't believe it's 'shockingly great numbers' that they do.

You should read it , gisteron . You'd probably like it. At least check out the Amazon page and whatnot for a bit more info on it first.
Last edit: 11 Oct 2016 13:54 by Desolous.

Please Log in to join the conversation.

Moderators: RexZero