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

From the book’s jacket:

What is human consciousness, where did it come from, and what is its place in the material world? These are the questions that have puzzled mankind for centuries, and here presented in an entirely new, yet still soberly scientific way to look at human nature – one that demands a revolutionary reinterpretation of human history and human behavior.

Base on recent laboratory studies of the brain and a close reading of the archaeological evidence, psychologist Julian Jaynes shows us how ancient peoples from Mesopotamia to Peru could not “think” as we do today, and were therefore not conscious. Unable to introspect, theu experienced auditory hallucinations – voices of gods, actually heard as in the Old Testament or the Iliad – which, coming from the brain’s right hemisphere, told a person what to do in circumstances of novelty or stress. This ancient mentality is called the bicameral mind.

Only catastrophe and cataclysm forced mankind to learn consciousness, and that happened only 3,000 years ago.

Not a product of animal evolution, but of human history and culture, consciousness is ultimately grounded in the physiology of the brain’s right and left hemispheres.

Julian Jaynes examines three forms of human awareness – the bicameral or god-run man; the modern or problem-solving man; and contemporary forms of throwbacks to bicamerality: hypnotism, schizophrenia, poetic and religious frenzy, among other phenomena.

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

4 Responses to “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind – Julian Jaynes”

  1. January 31, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    I have a 1976 hard cover first edition which is on my “re-read – probably never finished” shelf. Also, right next to it on that shelf is the book Humanscale by Kirkpatrick Sale.

  2. February 1, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    I recently found a sweet 1978 hardback edition at my local used bookstore. Although not as fun as Terence McKenna’s stoned ape theory of human evolution, Jaynes’s view is quite compelling.

  3. 3 Gary
    February 1, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Definitely one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. If you can get your hands on a more recent copy Jaynes wrote an extensive Afterword in 1990. There’s also a follow-up I read last year called Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes’s Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited by Marcel Kuijsten with lots of good discussion.

  4. 4 dummidumbwit
    February 3, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Cool!! Good Post!!!

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Johnny Peepers

----> is a socio-pathetic degenerate with a penchant for cheap booze, ruphy-laden broads, and dim sum soup.


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