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 Post subject: Bicameral Dream question
PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:24 pm 
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I got a great answer to my previous question, so if anyone is willing to help me out, here is another:
I don't quite understand how (and why) bicameral dreams prove that the individual is unconscious?
also along those lines: how does the ability to formulate plots which are deceitful (like Penelope does in the Odyssey) or the ability to plan ahead prove that the individual is concious?

Any suggestions or opinions on this topic are more than welcome...


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 Post subject: Re: Bicameral Dream question
PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 4:01 pm 
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Jaynes believes modern dreams are consciousness operating in sleep. We see elements of waking consciousness in dreams such as an analog 'I' narratizing in a mind-space. In cases where the dreamer simply experiences a visitation from a spirit or god issuing a command while asleep in his own bed, this aspect of consciousness is absent — i.e., the person does not see themselves as an actor in their dreams. So dreams do not "prove" but rather provide further evidence for a different pre-conscious mentality. We see these types of visitation dreams in ancient civilizations, pre-literate societies, and in children. As children develop consciousness, we see consciousness expand in their dreams.

For those reading this post who have not seen the newsletter essay on this subject, you can read it here: Consciousness and Dreams.

As for your second question, the formulation of plots provides evidence for the ability to spatialize time, i.e. see one's life on a time line where one can reflect on past events and plan for the future, as opposed to always acting in the present moment. According to Jaynes, the ability to spatialize time is another aspect of consciousness. See for example, The Awakening of the Greek Historical Spirit, in which the historian Chester Starr describes when the ancient Greeks first discovered the concept of history.

Again, I don't like to refer to these things as "proof," but rather patterns of evidence.


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 Post subject: Re: Bicameral Dream question
PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 5:24 pm 
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I believe a fully bicameral civilization would have had no way of distinguishing dreams from reality. It would only be with the development of a subjective consciousness that an individual would even realize that what happened yesterday in reality and what happened last night in their dreams are two separate and very unequal experiences. Could dreams have served to offer some form of instruction during the breakdown period that would have been evolutionary beneficial after the loss of true bicameral authorization? For example, could a change in weather observed while awake but not rationally comprehended trigger a dreamed instruction to harvest crops--or later a dream about oneself harvesting crops--based on the individuals past (but not consciously remembered) experiences? And would that individual then be driven to act on the dreamed stimulus while awake without yet being able to separate it from an actual event? Even today people have sexual dreams about someone and then become slightly more attracted to that person the next time they cross paths. Or randomly dream of going fishing after not having gone in years and then can't stop thinking about it all week. Or dream a tragedy struck their child and become a bit more apprehensive the next time they leave them in someone else's care. Our experience is not greatly influenced by these dreams, because we have the rational ability to separate them from the memories that collectively make up our reality, but what if we did not yet have that ability to consciously separate these dreams from the actual past? Wouldn't we act on them as if we had actually experienced them? And during the breakdown period, if the dreams were predominately taking place in the right hemisphere of our brain (which had previously been dominated by bicameral authorization), wouldn't we be even more compelled to follow these dreams than even an actual event observed while awake? And at what point did our brains develop the ability to dream anything other than recalled events that had previously been observed or experienced? Are children affected by their dreams more than adults because they have not yet developed the capacity to consciously separate them from real experiences and therefore experience the dream much more physically? Even when adults dream we often have physical responses. We may wake up suddenly from a dream and be sexually aroused, or our heart may be racing, or we might be profusely sweating. To me, this suggests that the areas of our brain that control these physical responses are still unable to separate a dreamed event from reality. Only the conscious, subjective mind is able to do this. The same is also true of someone with severe PTSD. When triggered the individual is unable to separate the physical reaction that occurred during the actual trauma from the new triggering event. The individual's "conscious" mind is unable to "convince" the unconscious mind that the event is not actually reoccurring, and so they experience the trauma physically over and over again. This again suggests to me that a bicameral civilization would have been unable to control their physical responses to their own dreams, and would have unconsciously acted on these dreams during their waking hours just as if the dream had been an actual observed event.


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 Post subject: Re: Bicameral Dream question
PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 3:58 pm 
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That's an interesting discussion, Adam1848. I am intrigued about the role dreams played during the breakdown period, and what you suggest, but would go further and posit that perhaps a dream to harvest the crops would have been interpreted as a message from the gods in a conscious mode after waking, whether or not it were narratized as such during the dream itself.

And your question: "And at what point did our brains develop the ability to dream anything other than recalled events that had previously been observed or experienced?" contains an assumption that we cannot verify in any way. Who is to say that preconscious humans dreamed only of recent actual events? The theories of what dreams are, are many: sorting through past events; imagery and sensations produced by random stimuli to the brain during sleep, which then are narratized consciously; a process akin to defragging a computer's hard drive, and random bits of information come to the surface while the filing system operates, then those bits are narratized; a process of intentional introspection, with subconscious desires and worries being played with, to name a few.

I think what is most pertinent to the discussion is how preconscious, breakdown, and conscious humans differ in what their interpretations and reactions to dreams are. I like your argument concerning the physical effects of dreams, and how that translates to action in a preconscious individual. You need to flesh out that idea and develop it into a full essay; I'd be most interested in reading it.


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 Post subject: Re: Bicameral Dream question
PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2011 7:46 pm 
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Thank you for the insightful reply JBrubaker. I completely agree with all of your points. To me the difference comes down to what period in the development of our mind we are talking about.

To understand where I believe the dreams and auditory hallucinations that people experienced during the breakdown period originated and what their function was, we need to look much further back, before the development of language, when humans functioned primarily with a very advanced system of instincts--not unlike those that guide a colony of termites in building a mound with complex tunneling and ventilation systems and multiple interconnecting chambers. The very fact that feats such as this can be accomplished by creatures without subjective consciousness demonstrates that they unconsciously receive impulses within their brain that give them instructions on how to perform complicated tasks. I believe these same types of internalized impulses, along with the instinctive inclination toward "parroting" observed actions, would have been the driving force behind most human behavior for hundreds of thousands of years.

It was during this time that I believe people (and all non human animals that dream today, for that matter) dreamed only of previously experienced or observed events. For these preconscious people I believe the dream imprinted an experience in their unconscious mind, where it could then be accessed in the future (again completely unconsciously) and acted on in a way that was evolutionary beneficial to that person. In other words, without a conscious memory to guide our waking actions, what we evolved was an internalized (yet intangible) mechanism within the electrical pathways of our brain which allowed our daily behavior to be influenced by previously experienced events that had been implanted in our unconscious minds through a primitive process of dreaming. They were then recalled as unconscious impulses to take one action or another when presented with a similar situation which required a decision.

With the development of basic language, these unconscious command impulses slowly become auditory in nature, and the bicameral mind is born. As language develops an increasingly complex system for labeling visual and auditory stimulation, with it comes a more complex understanding of events which will be internalized through dreaming, and this creates more involved and explicit auditory commands which were followed. So humans enter the breakdown period as an animal whose brain functions on two primitive levels: the genetic, intangible framework for how one's brain will respond electrically and chemically to encountered events (instinct), and an intangible capacity somewhere within the internal pathways of the brain which enabled our mind while asleep to reproduce the electrical impulses of a previously experienced event and therefore re-experience the event physically and psychologically through a dream in order to implant that experience as a preconscious memory where it can later be accessed in the form of an auditory command "hallucination" during a period of stress. This command would be obeyed not as a voice from an outside source, but from within one's own mind space.

Beginning with the breakdown period we slowly begin to form a subjective sense of self, and with that comes imagination, and this is when I believe that the auditory commands would first be labeled as something outside oneself, such as a god. It would not be until this time that humans would have the internal creative capacity to
formulate such an awesome idea as that of a god. It is also during this time that conscious, subjective memory begins to replace the two previous modes within our mind for determining behavior. Auditory command hallucinations lose their evolutionary value. As do dreams. While we sleep our dreams become overrun by impulses from our newly formed subjective consciousness and change from exact electrical reproductions of previously observed events to the jumbled mess of confusing yet entertaining brain-theater that we experience today. So basically I believe that dreams are our minds appendix; something that was evolutionary beneficial only a short time ago during our bicameral period but no longer serves any useful purpose except to remind us of our preconscious stumbling into self. Or if they do still serve a purpose, I believe it is in very early childhood before the full development of subjective consciousness.

Anyway, all of these ideas are part of something larger I'm just getting into about the development of the Id, Superego, and Ego as they exist today, and I know this contains a lot of assumptions and speculation, so I'd love to have holes punched in it so I can continue to evolve my ideas, which are changing rapidly. Looking forward to further discussion...


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 Post subject: Re: Bicameral Dream question
PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2011 3:25 am 
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Alright, this is not so much punching holes as challenging and asking for clarification on a number of points you raised.

Quote:
Could dreams have served to offer some form of instruction during the breakdown period that would have been evolutionary beneficial after the loss of true bicameral authorization?


Can we assert that all dreams during this period were evolutionary beneficial (I assume you mean culturally beneficial)? For every dream which gave one the proper or right instruction, there may have been many others which gave the wrong advice - history is written by the winners, who don't record (or at least emphasize) their mistakes. You won't find many kings telling of how their gods gave them bad advice in dreams.

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And during the breakdown period, if the dreams were predominately taking place in the right hemisphere of our brain (which had previously been dominated by bicameral authorization), wouldn't we be even more compelled to follow these dreams than even an actual event observed while awake?


Jaynes did hypothesize that dreams do occur in the right hemisphere, given the nature of our inability to perform logical operations such as reading text or arithmetic during a dream. But what leads you to say that dreams would be more compelling than waking objective reality during the breakdown period? And are you suggesting that dreams replaced the inner god during the breakdown period?

Quote:
And at what point did our brains develop the ability to dream anything other than recalled events that had previously been observed or experienced?


Your implication is that we did not have the ability of imagination until after the bicameral period. But what of the dreams and waking hallucinations of winged lions, or sphinxes, or angels that are recorded during the bicameral period? These certainly were not observed in the objective waking world; therefore they must have been the creative product of the brain at that time. I might suggest the font of these imaginary visuals as random bits of memory which are brought to the surface of the preconscious simultaneously, and thus associated with one another. (Does a cat dream of birds and mice, then dream of flying mice?)

Quote:
...very advanced system of instincts--not unlike those that guide a colony of termites in building a mound with complex tunneling and ventilation systems and multiple interconnecting chambers. The very fact that feats such as this can be accomplished by creatures without subjective consciousness demonstrates that they unconsciously receive impulses within their brain that give them instructions on how to perform complicated tasks.


Biologists would agree that these are not really complicated tasks, but very simple hard-wired instructions within the brains of even very small organisms, which have the cumulative effect of seeming to be designed by an overseer - an individual termite has only the instruction to carry a soil particle and place it next to another, perhaps dropping it upon an odor signal that another termite has glued the other particle in place. This is similar to a tree growing a leaf in a certain shape - how does the tree "know" when to stop growing cells at the end of a leaf? But this is a different order of instruction from that of bicameral (or even pre-bicameral) humans placing stones together to create a barrow - I think you forget the ability of the left hemisphere even in pre-bicameral times to learn, and to use unconscious reasoning - if stone A is placed here, it will support stone B and C. Even chimpanzees, who are most likely pre-bicameral, have a rudimentary ability to do such.
Further, I would caution you concerning your phrasing: ..they unconsciously receive impulses within their brain that give them instructions.... This seems to imply that the impulses do not originate within the brain, but from an exterior source. It may be more simply that the instructions are constantly being looped - smell X triggers activity Z until smell Y occurs.

Quote:
For these preconscious people I believe the dream imprinted an experience in their unconscious mind, where it could then be accessed in the future (again completely unconsciously) and acted on in a way that was evolutionary beneficial to that person.


No critique, just asking for clarification - are you proposing that dreams hard wired behavioral patterns, perhaps giving them more authority? Interesting concept.

Quote:
...an intangible capacity somewhere within the internal pathways of the brain which enabled our mind while asleep to reproduce the electrical impulses of a previously experienced event and therefore re-experience the event physically and psychologically through a dream in order to implant that experience as a preconscious memory where it can later be accessed in the form of an auditory command "hallucination" during a period of stress.


Again, I interpret this to mean that dreams were devices of reinforcing behavioral patterns, and hard wiring them so as to make them more "instinctive" (automatic response). But what if an individual dreamed of a previously experienced event that contained an improper or maladaptive response? Would not he have the wrong automatic response imprinted? Would it kill him? Probably - hence a process of selective adaptation - people who dreamed too much of wrong behavior died out more quickly than those who didn't.

Quote:
Beginning with the breakdown period we slowly begin to form a subjective sense of self, and with that comes imagination, and this is when I believe that the auditory commands would first be labeled as something outside oneself, such as a god.


Again, can we suppose that imagination (need a definition here) is a phenomenon of subjective consciousness, or was it existant in the bicameral period? And do not bicameral people consider the gods (and their commands) as being outside of oneself?


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 Post subject: Re: Bicameral Dream question
PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2011 6:32 pm 
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Thanks again for the interesting points, JBrubaker. I'm enjoying the discussion.

Quote:
Can we assert that all dreams during this period were evolutionary beneficial (I assume you mean culturally beneficial)?


I did mean evolutionary, as in helped them live longer and procreate more, but I need to backtrack here. I should have mentioned that this idea about the role dreams played in the breakdown period was a tangent from my more central point that the function of dreams originally came from the fully bicameral period when I believe they served to implant observed events in the mind so that they could be unconsciously access later and acted upon. It is during the fully bicameral period and at the very beginning of the breakdown period when I believe people would have been "even more compelled to follow these dreams than even an actual event observed while awake" because the dreamed event would have been better hard-wired into their unconscious mind then something they observed but did not yet have the ability to process while awake, due to a lack of conscious thought.

Quote:
And are you suggesting that dreams replaced the inner god during the breakdown period?


After the loss of their auditory hallucinations, I believe conscious individuals looked to their dreams for the authorization that the bicameral mind once provided. Also, during the fully bicameral period the auditory hallucinations experienced (that would later be labeled as god during the breakdown period) were directly derived from events that had been experienced and implanted in the unconscious mind through the process of dreaming.

Quote:
For every dream which gave one the proper or right instruction, there may have been many others which gave the wrong advice.


During the bicameral period, I don't think dreams gave advice at all; they were simply exact recreations of observed events. After the breakdown period has started and people begin to develop subjective consciousness, dreams become infused with conscious imagination and begin to take on the surreal quality that we associate with them today, and could often be interpreted however the conscious mind desired.

Imagination I agree is a key term that greatly needs proper definition, especially in terms of the bicameral discussion. I believe that imagination developed parallel with consciousness...that unconscious animals such as a cat do not have the ability to dream of a winged mouse. They simply replay an event in their unconscious mind exactly as it occurred.

Quote:
But what of the dreams and waking hallucinations of winged lions, or sphinxes, or angels that are recorded during the bicameral period?


I am interested to know what period this imagery was created in, as it may help me adjust the timeline in my own mind. I don't have much knowledge of this, but all of the early cave paintings and "sculptures" I have seen from 10,000 years ago and earlier have been fairly realistic depictions of animals or hunting scenes...recreations of observed events with no imagination present, which is one of the ideas I am basing this train of thought on. I would have expected the type of imagery you are referring to be no more than 5,000-10,000 years old and representative of the very beginnings of the breakdown period among a small minority of individuals, but I would be interested to expand the discussion on this topic.


Quote:
Further, I would caution you concerning your phrasing: they unconsciously receive impulses within their brain that give them instructions.... This seems to imply that the impulses do not originate within the brain, but from an exterior source. It may be more simply that the instructions are constantly being looped - smell X triggers activity Z until smell Y occurs.


The LAST thing I want to do is give the impression that the impulses did not originate within the brain, but from an exterior source. I will have to be more careful with my wording to make sure I am completely clear that none of these ideas are related to any type of "overseer" or "external source" in any form. The hard-wiring I am referring to is undoubtedly the product of millions of years of evolution, but I think it gives insight into the capacity of unconscious animals to create structures which--as you mention--defy the ability of any one member of the group to conceptualize.

Quote:
No critique, just asking for clarification - are you proposing that dreams hard wired behavioral patterns, perhaps giving them more authority? Interesting concept.


Yes...exactly. And also that these hard-wired behavioral patterns (with the development of rudimentary language) took on an auditory form and became the bases for bicameral hallucinations.

Quote:
But what if an individual dreamed of a previously experienced event that contained an improper or maladaptive response? Would not he have the wrong automatic response imprinted? Would it kill him? Probably - hence a process of selective adaptation - people who dreamed too much of wrong behavior died out more quickly than those who didn't.


I believe this is why we experience emotion along with our dreams as if it were an actual event, to recreate the experience as exactly as possible. If an animal observed a member of the pack climb a tree to get fruit and fall to his death, a negative emotion of fear would accompany the dream and that animal would be unconsciously afraid to climb trees. If the member of the pack climbed the tree and returned to the ground safely with some tasty fruit, a positive emotion would accompany the dream of that event and the dreamer would have an unconscious inclination toward climbing trees after the dream.

What (I think) is also fascinating is that our brains evolved the capacity to largely switch off the impulses to our muscle groups while dreaming so we don't sleep walk ourselves into the mouth of a predator or off a cliff, while still allowing the brain to experience the event as if it were actually occurring. I have seen video of animals that were given injections so that their brain was not able to turn off the impulses to the muscle groups and they actually stand up and physically reenact the event during the dream. Funny and fascinating!

Quote:
Again, can we suppose that imagination (need a definition here) is a phenomenon of subjective consciousness, or was it existent in the bicameral period? And do not bicameral people consider the gods (and their commands) as being outside of oneself?


I would enjoy hearing more thoughts on the origin of imagionation and if it did in fact exist before the beginning of the breakdown period. I personally don't think that it did or that fully bicameral people would have considered gods outside themselves, but again, I would enjoy hearing other thoughts...


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 Post subject: Re: Bicameral Dream question
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 7:02 pm 
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Regarding your statement, "I believe a fully bicameral civilization would have had no way of distinguishing dreams from reality", I would like to direct you to a thread right on this very site
http://www.julianjaynes.org/forum3/viewtopic.php?t=15

And if this topic of the distinction between dreams and reality is of interest to you, I would suggest reading Levy-Bruhl's entire book, Primitive Mentality. It really opened my eyes to an alternate mindset, while providing consistent support for Jayne's theory (though it was written prior). Ernest Gellner's Plough, Sword, and Book, in the first few chapters, does an even better job of articulating this 'primitive' (or bicameral, as Jaynes would probably have it) mindset.


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