Selected articles and book chapters by Marcel Kuijsten on consciousness, Julian Jaynes’s bicameral mind theory, and related topics:
Introduction to Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind, in Marcel Kuijsten (ed.), Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind: Interviews with Leading Thinkers on Julian Jaynes’s Theory (Henderson, NV: Julian Jaynes Society, 2022).
“The history of ideas teaches us that new, paradigm-shifting theories typically face an uphill battle. Often they are initially rejected, then only gradually appreciated, with many details misunderstood. The concepts of plate tectonics and seafloor spreading were rejected (and often ridiculed) for decades. Glacial theory and the germ theory of disease were similarly dismissed. Many initially rejected Darwin’s theory of the origin of species by natural selection, and a widespread misunderstanding of the details of this theory continues to this day. Serious applications of Darwin’s theory to understanding human nature (beyond Darwin’s own early efforts) took nearly 100 years to get underway …”
Neuroscience Confirms Julian Jaynes’s Neurological Model, June 10, 2020
“Beginning in 1999, research began to emerge confirming Julian Jaynes’s neurological model for the bicameral mind: fMRI studies showing a right/left temporal lobe interaction during auditory verbal hallucinations. Yet, more than twenty years later, there remains ongoing confusion on this subject (for example, a recent post on Scott Alexander’s “Star Slate Codex” blog was completely wrong on this issue). To help clear up this lingering confusion, I revisit this topic with an excerpt from one of my related newsletter articles, followed by quotes from related research, related video, further reading, and additional resources. …”
Introduction to Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind, in Marcel Kuijsten (ed.), Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind: The Theories of Julian Jaynes (Henderson, NV: Julian Jaynes Society, 2016).
“In January 1977, the psychologist Julian Jaynes, who taught at Princeton University for nearly 25 years, released his seminal book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. In this work he proposed that consciousness is not innate, but rather a learned process built up through metaphorical language and taught to each successive generation. Jaynes specifically defines consciousness as the human ability to introspect, and not merely being awake or aware of one’s surroundings. According to Jaynes, human psychology underwent a profound transformation …”
Foreword to Brian J. McVeigh, How Religion Evolved: Explaining the Living Dead, Talking Idols, and Mesmerizing Monuments (Transaction Publishers, 2016).
“The origin and evolution of religion remains one of the great mysteries of human civilization. Today, we know more about the human genome than we do about our own religious history. One of the reasons for this has been the exalted status that religion has enjoyed – despite the Enlightenment, the origin of religion has been somewhat of a taboo subject, considered off-limits for research or discussion. Still, there have been occasional attempts at understanding it – Freud thought it was madness, Marx thought it was a means to control the masses – ideas that today seem simplistic and naïve. Yet more recent attempts, such as viewing god-beliefs as a kind of celestial extension of one’s parents, or religion having evolved for the purpose of social cohesion, while perhaps having elements of truth, in the end also seem lacking. No theory seems able to account for the full complexity of the phenomenon – taking into account its profound transformations throughout history, its cultural ubiquity, and its neurological underpinnings. …”
Foreword to Brian J. McVeigh, A Psychohistory of Metaphors: Envisioning Time, Space, and Self through the Centuries (Lexington Books, 2016).
“When asked about their thoughts on consciousness, most people view it as something that is biological, innate in all people, and present to a lesser degree in most higher mammals. This misconception arose largely as an extrapolation from Darwin’s theory of evolution: if all life evolved, then consciousness must also be a byproduct of evolution. One of the reasons for its persistence was the fact that, from roughly the 1920s to the 1960s, American psychology was dominated by behaviorism. Behaviorism, started by John B. Watson and later expanded upon and popularized by B.F. Skinner, emphasized the study of observable behavior and ignored (or even denied) inner mental life. Behaviorism resonated with the movement to make psychology as a field of study “more scientific” (and less philosophical) and the American ideal of unlimited potential — a form of rebellion against ideas about heredity. Consciousness, although a popular topic previously, became taboo. …”
Commentary on Frank S. Robinson’s “How Old is the Self?”, Julian Jaynes Society, September 2013.
“Recently a coin collector named Frank S. Robinson wrote an article titled “Julian Jaynes: How Old Is The Self?,” published in the magazine Philosophy Now, that contains a large number of egregious misunderstandings and misconceptions about Julian Jaynes’s theory. As I think I will show, Mr. Robinson clearly did not do his homework before writing this article. Because the article contains so many errors and misconceptions, tackling each one paragraph by paragraph will be easier than responding in essay form. Rather than fully expanding on each argument with all of the related evidence (which would quickly turn this into a book-length project), I will instead refer readers to the original research. …”
Hypnosis as a Vestige of the Bicameral Mind, in Contemporary Hypnosis & Integrative Therapy, September 2012, Vol. 29 Issue 3, p. 213.
“Biological theories of the origin of consciousness are unsupported by evidence and fail to account for altered states of consciousness such as hypnosis. Julian Jaynes’s theory of the origin of consciousness and a previous mentality called the bicameral mind better explain both the nature of consciousness and hypnosis. Evidence suggests that hypnosis may be a vestige of the bicameral mind. Hypnosis and bicameralism both involve compliance to an externally perceived voice, both are thought to involve right hemisphere dominance, several personality characteristics are associated both with individuals who are highly susceptible to hypnosis and Jaynes’s characterization of bicameralism, and historical accounts suggest hypnosis was even more effective in ancient history than it is today. …”
Introduction to The Julian Jaynes Collection, in Marcel Kuijsten (ed.), The Julian Jaynes Collection (Henderson, NV: Julian Jaynes Society, 2012).
“In January of 1977, Julian Jaynes released to the world his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. It was the culmination of decades of thinking and research and proposed a radical new theory on the origin of the modern mind. Integrating psychology, neurology, anthropology, ancient history, and linguistics, Jaynes argues that subjective consciousness is a learned process based on metaphorical language and, in historical terms, a relatively recent development. Prior to the development of consciousness, Jaynes argues that humans could communicate, learn, organize, and problem-solve, but did so without introspection. …”
Pu il linguaggio dar forma alla coscienza? (Can Language Shape Consciousness?) (with Roberto Bottini), in Alessandro Salvini & Roberto Bottini (eds.), Il Nostro Inquilino Segreto: Psicologia e Psicoterapia della Coscienza (Our Secret Tenant: Psychology and Psychotherapy of Consciousness) (Italy: Ponte alle Grazie, 2011). (in Italian)
“Nel Crollo della mente bicamerale e l’origine della conscienza, lo psicologo di Princeton Julian Jaynes parlava della coscienza come di un processo acquisito, basato sul linguaggio metaforico è prodotto di un recente sviluppo storico: « La mente cosciente soggettivsa e un analogo di quello che è chiamato mondo reale. Essa è costruita con un vocabolario o campo lessicale i cui termini sono tutti metafore del comportamento nel mondo fisico. » …”
Consciousness and Dreams, in The Jaynesian, Marcel Kuijsten & Brian J. McVeigh (eds.), Winter 2010, Volume 4, Issue 1.
“In The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes discusses a variety of forms of evidence for the transition from a bicameral mentality to consciousness. The study of dreams provides another window through which to examine this transition. By extension, historical changes in the nature of dreams support the idea that consciousness is in a learned process based on language and not biologically innate. There is a common assumption that the nature of dreams has been consistent throughout recorded history, yet this is not the case. If we analyze the first recorded accounts of dreams and compare these accounts with modern dreams, we see a stark contrast. …”
Close-Mindedness and Mysticism in Science: Commentary on John Smythies’s Review of Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness, in The Jaynesian, 2009, Vol. 3, Issue 2.
“In the decades after the publication of Julian Jaynes’s book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, occasional criticisms emerged. In some cases Jaynes responded, but in many cases he did not. There were probably many reasons for this. Jaynes was at times frustrated by the fact that many of his critics had not read or at least not fully understood his ideas. Perhaps engaging critics was not his personality style. While understandable, in some sense it is unfortunate, as criticisms, if unaddressed, can leave some with the impression that they are valid. I will be taking a more assertive role in countering criticisms and misconceptions. …”
Consciousness, Hallucinations, and the Bicameral Mind: Three Decades of New Research, in Marcel Kuijsten (ed.), Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes’s Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited (Henderson, NV: Julian Jaynes Society, 2006).
“In The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes proposes four main hypotheses: that consciousness is based on language; that preceding the development of consciousness there was a different mentality based on verbal hallucinations called the bicameral mind; that the development of consciousness dates to around the end of the second millennium B.C.; and that the bicameral mind is based on a double-brain neurological model. In the 30 years since the publication of Jaynes’s book, a substantial amount of research has emerged that provides new evidence supporting these hypotheses. Much of this research has been produced by neuroscientists, psychologists, and psychiatrists unfamiliar with Jaynes’s work. This chapter outlines developments in our understanding of consciousness, hallucinations, schizophrenia, and neuroscience over the past three decades that relate to Jaynes’s four hypotheses, as well as examines the significance of the theory to religion and mental health. …”
Introduction to Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness, in Marcel Kuijsten (ed.), Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes’s Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited (Henderson, NV: Julian Jaynes Society, 2006).
“It has now been 30 years since Julian Jaynes first published The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. In it he presented his theory that consciousness was a learned process based on complex metaphorical language, developed after the advent of writing to handle the growing complexities of large societies and trade between differing cultures. Jaynes asserts that prior to the development of consciousness around the end of the second millennium B.C., humans operated under a previous mentality called the bicameral mind, referring to the brain’s two hemispheres. When faced with a difficult decision or fight or flight situation, bicameral man experienced an auditory hallucination directing his action, much as modern schizophrenics do today. These hallucinations, the means by which the right hemisphere conveyed stored up experience in the form of behavioral commands to the left hemisphere, were interpreted as the voices of chiefs, rulers, or the gods. To support his theory, Jaynes draws evidence from a wide range of fields, including neuroscience, psychology, archeology, ancient history, and the analysis of ancient texts. …”