books pdf The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind By Julian Jaynes –

Coming in a close third after Immanuel Kant s Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics That Will Be Able to Come Forward As Science and Beeban Kidron s To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar in the World s Clunkiest Title competition, TOoCitBotBM is surprisingly accessible given the amount of ground it covers Combining analyses of psychology, archeology, and ancient literature, Jaynes comes up with an astounding hypothesis early man s mind was nothing like the thing we carry around in our skulls today It was like that of a modern schizophrenic s, egoless and subject to manipulation by hallucinated gods This was not a defect Mass hallucination was an essential tool for early social organization, one that evolved into modern individuated consciousness only as circumstances changed Perhaps most intriguingly, Jaynes maintains that this variety of consciousness persisted until the dawn of recorded history So books like the Bible and the Iliad are glimpses not only into different eras, but entirely different modes of human thought Homer and Moses are as strange to us as Martians.As fascinating as Jaynes ideas may be, it s not clear what we re supposed to do with them Even at its most specific, his hypothesis is wholly unfalsifiable, and the supporting data, while extensive, is hard to evaluate The lay reader has to take Jaynes word for it when he uses linguistic evidence from ancient Greek to claim that somatic metaphors in the Iliad should be interpreted literally, or draws detailed inferences from the size of eye sockets in ancient Mesopotamian statues Despite the even scholarly tone, Jaynes often sounds like a crank, though it s not clear if it s his scholarship that s at fault or the fact that his thesis is just too marijuana friendly.This book s weirdness, however, is an essential part of its continued popularity Like C.G Jung, Jaynes has a mystical appeal He explores the spooky intersection of madness, consciousness, and the ancient world in a scientific theory that accounts for gods and oracles without wholly explaining them away Perhaps it s best to approach Origin as a masterfully detailed work of science fiction where Julian Jaynes is a pseudonym for Jorge Luis Borges Bicameral breakdown or no, human consciousness had to have an origin somewhere, and a meditation on where that origin might lie makes for heady reading. 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 . 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. . 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 sympathetically His descriptions of how victims of certain forms of brain injury seem to experience similarly helped me see the psychotic sympathetically as well Few books I have ever read have so much contributed to me taking seriously what once I had rejected. 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 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. paKL gULE m2Tthttp post 16. Amazing 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 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. 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 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