This strictly a resource page for further reading. What follows are Web-based summaries of the book by Julian Jaynes. No links areprovided. Please verify these cites before using them anywhere else. Please search using Julian Jaynes or Bicameral Mind as topics, and don'tbe surprised to have several sites pop up discussing bicameral legislatures.
The bicameral mind hypothesis gets acceptance. Even the UC Berkeley Psychology 101 course (on the web) mentions Jaynes'work as historical or factual. To wit:
"It should be understood that there was a time when nobody, even philosophers,
asking questions about the nature of the mind. Before the 9th centuryBCE, questions
about mental life weren't discussed by philosophers, at least in theWest. Julian Jaynes, in
his very provocative book, The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdownof the Bicameral
Mind (1976), notes that there are very few references to consciousnessor mental life in early
literature (e.g., the Iliad and the Odyssey). To the extent that characters in this ancient
literature had thoughts, feelings, and desires, these were not mentalacts of the person, but
rather things put into his or her mind by the gods.
"Around the 6th century BCE, things began to change. Characteristicof
tradition of the "Golden Age" of Greece (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle)was the recognition
that people's thoughts, feelings, and desires were their own. Thisis the origin of
consciousness to which Jaynes refers -- the point at which people becameaware of the
contents of their own minds as such, and also aware of their abilityto control these
contents themselves. Similar things were happening in Eastern philosophy, by the way: for
example, Buddha taught that ideas came from sensations, while Confuciustaught that
individuals could think for themselves. These were novel, revolutionaryideas at the time."
I found this a valuable summary of Jaynes' Conclusions:
(taken from a lengthy web page based on a book report by Shari Soza):
Consciousness is an operation rather than a thing, a repository, ora function.
It operates by way of Analogy, by way of constructing an Analog-spacewith
an Analog "I" that can observe that space, and move Metaphoricallyin it.
It operates on any reactivity, excerpts relevant aspects,
narratizes and conciliates them together in a Metaphorical space wheresuch meanings can be manipulated like things in space. Conscious mind isa spatial Analog of the world and mental acts are Analogs of bodily acts.
Consciousness operates only on objectively observable things. ...there is nothing in Consciousness that is not an Analog of something that wasin behavior first. Conscious Awareness is a Metaphorically generated modelof the world.
The Mind of Iliad
The first writing in human history in a language of which we have enough certainty of translation to consider it in connection with my hypothesisis the Iliad, regarded to have happened about 1230 BC, and written downabout 850 BC. No words for Conscious Awareness or mental acts. Words thatlater on come to mean mental acts have more concrete meanings in the Iliad.
No word for will. Iliadic men have no will of their own, and no notion of free will. Words for volition were invented later in Greek.
No words for the body as a whole, just different body parts. There isno subjective Conscious Aware-ness, no mind, soul, or will, and no conceptof the body as a whole.
Characters in the Iliad do not sit down and think out what to do; they
have no Consciously Aware minds and no introspections. It is a god whojumps
in and tells men what to do, at every
instance. In fact, the gods take the place of Conscious Awareness.
The beginnings of action are not in Conscious plans, reasons, and motives; they are in the actions and speeches of gods. The entire epic is the song of the goddess which the entranced bard 'heard' and chanted to his listeners. Except for its later accretions, then, the epic itself was neither Consciously composed nor Consciously remembered, but was successively and creativelychanged with no more awareness than a pianist has of his improvisations.
Who then were these gods that pushed men about like robots and sangepics through their lips?
They were voices whose speech and directions could be distinctly heard by the Iliadic heroes as voices are heard by certain epileptic and schizophrenic patients, or just as Joan of Arc heard her voices. The gods were organizations of the central nervous system and can be regarded as personae in the sense of poignant consistencies through time, amalgams of parental or admonitory images. The god is a part of the man. He simply leads, advises, and orders. The gods are what we now call hallucinations.
The Trojan War was directed by hallucinations. Iliadic men did not have
subjectivity as do we
he had no awareness of his awareness of the world no internal mind-spaceto introspect upon
We can call the mentality of the Myceneans a bicameral mind. Volition,
planning, initiative is organized with no Conscious Awareness whatever,and
then 'told' to the individual in his
familiar language, sometimes with the visual aura of a familiar friendor authority figure or 'god', or sometimes as a voice alone. The individualobeyed these hallucinated voices because he could not 'see' what to doby himself.
The Iliad As A Stage Musical
The Iliad was performed at various sites, but particularly at the Panathenaea every four years at Athens, where the Iliad was devoutly chanted alongwith the Odyssey to vast audiences by the so-called rhapsodes.
The Iliad As a psychological document
... the lack of mental language and the initiation of action by thegods. The divine machinery duplicates natural Consciously Aware causationssimply to present them in concrete pictorial form, because the aoidoi werewithout the refinements of language to express psychological matters. TheIliad is about action--constant action. ....that the presence of voiceswhich had to be obeyed were the absolute prerequisite to the ConsciouslyAware stage of mind in which it is the self that is responsible and candebate within itself, can order and direct, and that the creation of sucha self is the product of culture. In a sense, we have become our own gods.
The only possible way in which there could be a bicameral civilization would be that of a rigid hierarchy, with lesser men hallucinating the voices of authorities over them, and those authorities hallucinating yet higherones, and so on to the kings and their peers hallucinating gods.
The Authority Of Sound
To hear is actually a kind of obedience. In Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French, German, Russian, as well as in English, 'obey' comes from the Latin 'obedire', ...a composite of ob+audire, to hear facing someone. We control voice authority over us by distance and by our opinion of them.
If you wish to allow another's language power over you, simply holdhim higher in your own private scale of esteem, and get closer. To protectyourself from them controlling you, tell yourself that you don't reallythink very much of them, and avoid getting closer.
...volition came as a voice that was in the nature of a neurologicalcommand, in which the command and the action were not separated, in whichto hear was to obey.
Since we know that Greek culture very quickly became a literature ofConsciously Awareness, we may regard the Iliad as standing at the greatturning of the times, and a window back into those unsubjective times whenevery kingdom was in essence a theocracy, and every man the slave of voicesheard whenever novel situations occurred.
If we are correct in assuming that schizophrenic hallucinations aresimilar to the guidances of gods in antiquity, then there should be somecommon physiological instigation in both instances. This, I suggest, issimply stress. In normal people, as we have mentioned, the stress thresholdfor release of hallucinations is extremely high; most of us need to beover our heads in trouble before we would hear voices. But in psychosis-pronepersons, the threshold is somewhat lower. ... .This is caused, I think,by the buildup in the blood of breakdown products of stress-produced adrenalinwhich the individual is, for genetical reasons, unable to pass throughthe kidneys as fast as a normal person.
During the eras of the bicameral mind, we may suppose that the stressthreshold
for hallucinations was much, much lower than in either normalpeople or schizophrenics
today. The only stress necessary was that whichoccurs when a change in behavior
is necessary because of some novelty ina situation. Anything that could not
be dealt with on the basis of habit,any conflict between work and fatigue,
between attack and flight, any choicebetween whom to obey or what to do,
anything that required any decision at all was sufficient to causean auditory hallucination. The divine voice ends the decision-stress beforeit has reached any considerable level.
Which Brain Structures Is Jaynes Alleging Were At Work?
The stronger form of the hypothesis
... that the speech of the gods was directly organized in what corresponds to Wernicke's area on the right hemisphere and 'spoken' or 'heard' overthe anterior commissures to or by the auditory areas of the left temporallobe. ...that auditory hallucinations exist as such in a linguistic mannerbecause that is the most efficient method of getting complicated corticalprocessing from one side of the brain to the other.
The weaker form of the hypothesis
... that the articulatory qualities of the hallucination were of lefthemisphere origin like the speech of the person himself, but that its senseand direction and different relation to the person were due to right temporallobe activity sending excitation over the anterior commissures and probablythe splenium (the back part of the corpus callosum) to the speech areasof the left hemisphere, and 'heard' from there.
The central feature of both hypotheses is that the amalgamating of admonitory experience was a right hemisphere function and that it was excitation inwhat corresponds to Wernicke's area on the right hemisphere that occasionedthe voices of the gods.
The evidence to support this
that both hemispheres are able to understand language, while normallyonly
the left can speak;
that there is some vestigial functioning of the right Wernicke's areain a way similar to the voices of gods; that the two hemispheres undercertain conditions are able to act almost as independent persons, theirrelationship corresponding to that of the man-god relationship of bicameraltimes;
that contemporary differences between the hemispheres in cognitivefunctions at least echo such differences of function between man and godas seen in the literature of bicameral man; that the brain is more capableof being organized by the environment than we have hitherto supposed, andtherefore could have undergone such a change as from bicameral to ConsciouslyAware man mostly on the basis of learning and culture.
Is it possible to think of the two hemispheres of the brain almost astwo individuals, only one of which can overtly speak, while both can listenand both understand?
The function of the gods
was chiefly the guiding and planning of action in novel situations.The gods sized up problems and organized action according to an ongoingpattern or purpose, resulting in intricate bicameral civilizations, fittingall the disparate parts together, planting times, harvest times, the sortingout of commodities, all the vast putting together of things in a granddesign, and the giving of the directions to the neurological man in hisverbal analytical sanctuary in the left hemisphere. We might thus predictthat one residual function of the right hemisphere today would be an organizationalone, that of sorting out the experiences of a civilization and fittingthem together into a pattern that could 'tell' the individual what to do.Different events, past and future, are sorted out, categorized, synthesizedinto a new picture, often with that ultimate synthesis of Metaphor. Andthese functions should, therefore, characterize the right hemisphere.
Studies of patients who had the commissure severed, show that the right hemisphere is more involved in synthetic and spatial-constructive taskswhile the left hemisphere is more analytic and verbal. The right hemisphere,perhaps like the gods, sees parts as having a meaning only within a context;it looks at wholes, while the left or dominant hemisphere, like the manside of the bicameral mind, looks at parts themselves.
What Does Jaynes Say Changed Us So Much?
1) The invention of writing, which changed emphasis from auditory commands that they were unable to resist obeying, to visual versions that they could choose not to look at.
"In summary, I have sketched out several factors at work in the greattransilience from the bicameral mind to consciousness: (1) the weakeningof the auditory by the advent of writing; (2) the inherent fragility ofhallucinatory control; (3) the unworkableness of gods in the chaos of historicalupheaval; (4) the positing of internal cause in the observation of differencein others; (5) the acquisition of narratization from epics; (6) the survivalvalue of deceit; and (7) a modicum of natural selection." p221
2) Migrations and being refugees after cataclysmic climatic disasters; all the changes caused mental reprogramming, and pulled away from all that was familiar and unconscious habits, they were not able to hear their god voices as well any more.
3) For several hundred years, they apparently felt like their gods had abandoned them, and almost every civilization moved thru phases of talking statutes, from which they would hallucinate what to do, to having oracles channel what to do, to cataloging omens, to casting lots, to things likereading tea leaves or the entrails of sacrified animals, to other varietiesof human mediumship.
How can its function change over so short a period of time, such thatthe admonitory voices are heard no more and that we have this new organization called Conscious Awareness?
The brain teems with redundant centers, each of which may exert direct influence on a final common pathway, or modulate the operation of others, or both, their arrangements able to assume many forms and degrees of coupling between constituent centers. it protects the organism against the effects of brain damage, ...it provides an organism of far greater adaptabilityto the constantly changing environmental challenges. It is only in earlydevelopment that such reorganization of the systems of multiple controlcan take place. . . .in the bicameral epochs, what corresponds to Wernicke'sarea on the right nondominant hemi-sphere had its strict bicameral function,whereas after a thousand years of psychological reorganization in whichsuch bicamerality was discouraged when it appeared in early development,such areas function in a different way.
...each new stage of words literally created new perceptions and attentions, and such new perceptions and attentions resulted in important culturalchanges which are reflected in the archaeological record.
END of borrowings from this web-based "book report."
Finally there are several other short summaries of Jaynes' book on the web:
"Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind" byJulian Jaynes, 1990, Houghton Mifflin Company. (First issued 1976)
The startling thesis of this book is that, until the second millennium
B.C., human beings had no
subjective consciousness, but acted on the basis of hallucinated voices.These voices were
attributed to the king or the gods; Jaynes hypothesizes that they originated in the right brain
hemisphere. His extensive evidence is literary, archaeological, andneurological, and comprises a
compelling 475-page argument. It is proposed that bicamerality -- thecondition of acting on the
command of hallucinated 'divine' voices -- represents a specific stagein the evolution of human
civilization, that in fact the ancient ziggurat-building civilizationsof the Middle East (and later the
Americas) were 'bicameral civilizations.' Such civilizations were rigidly hierarchical, centralized
around the 'god-king', whose voice was heard by the citizenry to keepthem performing their
ordained roles in the absence of conscious volition. The central pyramidal structures, then, served
as hallucinatory catalysts for such social control.
Of especial value in this book is the discussion of what consciousness
is. Jaynes proposes that it is
specifically the projection of an analog self, the "I", into an imaginedmental 'space'. This is what
bicameral man lacked: the ability to narratize his existence, to envision himself acting in a
remembered past or in a hypothetical future. Jaynes further arguesthat this inner 'space' is a
linguistic creation, developed in response to the breakdown of bicamerality following massive
social upheaval. I especially enjoyed the analysis of ancient Sumerian,Assyrian, and Greek texts,
which reveals an almost complete lack of consciousness-related language.If you find all of this
terribly absurd, it is because it is impossible to do such a thesisjustice in a space like this. I highly
recommend this book -- not to 'convince', but to stir up the imagination. It is all the best of books
can hope for.
Another summary on the web:
Presents a theory of the bicameral mind which holds that ancient peoples could not "think" as we do today and were therefore "unconscious," a result of the domination of the right hemisphere; only catastrophe forced mankind to "learn" consciousness, a product of human history and culture and onethat issues from the brain's left hemisphere. Three forms of human awareness,the bicameral or god-run man; the modern or problem-solving man; and contemporary forms of throwbacks to bicamerality (e.g., religious frenzy, hypnotism,and schizophrenia) are examined in terms of the physiology of the brainand how it applies to human psychology, culture, and history.