Julian Jaynes Society Discussion Forum: Exploring Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind Theory since 1997

Temporary Bicamerality
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Author:  Kaori [ Sun Mar 28, 2010 8:38 am ]
Post subject:  Temporary Bicamerality


Since reading OC I must say that it really answers a lot of questions I have had about the origins of human consciousness and religion, but I have a little trouble accepting that bicamerality was once our natural state. Is it possible that bicamerality may have been a temporary state induced by environmental factors that were ubiquitous at the time, such as pathogens released into the environment as a result of deforestation to clear land for early agricultural endeavors? Also what part might our near extinction event of ~70,000 years ago have played in the development of bicamerality?

By the way, I'm not a psychologist, anthropologist or any other kind of -ologist :roll: :lol: so I hope I am making sense here. :)

Author:  Moderator [ Fri Apr 02, 2010 12:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Temporary Bicamerality

It seems that auditory hallucinations were a prominent factor in nearly all preliterate societies. What specifically are your objections to the idea? I realize it's not an easy concept to accept initially.

I would skeptical of environmental factors as the primary cause due to the pervasiveness of bicamerality, including Africa, Mesoamerica, the Far East, etc. It seems that auditory hallucinations likely evolved along with language.

Author:  JSJohnson [ Mon Apr 05, 2010 12:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Temporary Bicamerality

Hi Kaori,

No expert here, but OC has been food for years of thought. Bicamerality would seem to have existed as the early state prior to language and its utility for extending social organization/cooperation. What Jaynes describes so well is, to me, a critical moment in the development of the larger picture arising from the emergence of language.

The larger picture is the cosmic process of self-organization described so well by Stuart Kauffman in "Reinventing the Sacred." Physical science describes the early emergence of system complexity (creation) in objective terms, while evolution of organic and social system complexity gradually transcend objective causality into subjective, i.e. choice. The question is this: When does subjective choice have the potential to sustain what appears to be a cosmic process imperative, the ‘indefinite evolution of system complexity’ (IESC)? Today, our dominant choices promise extinction of our species.

If we are at least potentially the integral creative agents of the IESC then surely our naturally selected neural faculties provide both objective means and subjective direction, i.e. science and values. Normally we do not associate science and values but this is our mistake. The reduction path back from biology to chemistry to physics does not end at physics but reduces indefinitely into the more fundamental subjective realm of symmetry which we naturally associate with the still deeper concept of aesthetics associated with harmony, beauty, and relevant feelings of love that give most constructive direction to human choice. This is no accident.

Jaynes’ “moment” is the Dorian invasions, the unprecedented trauma that ended the Golden Age of bicameral society, giving rise to the guile and deception of modern subjective conscious mind, and setting man on the quest for objective truth; what would become science and technology – objective means, but obviously lacking sustainable direction.

Bicameral societies appear to have been the first organizations that carried the parent-child values and feelings into families and into whole communities in which leaders were followed earnestly and without guile and deception; presumably with what we now call love. ‘Golden Age’ suggests the unprecedented productivity of such harmonious bicameral societies. Their success would result in population pressure, migrations, and man’s first serious and bloody contact with whole communities of competing strangers. Those purely bicameral minds would resist and be killed, while those more evolved would survive through guile and deception, inclining the gene pool toward modern subjective conscious mind.

But if man would then pursue ‘means’ through science and technology, there also remained at that early time ‘a nostalgia for the gods who had spoken directly to man’; the consolidation of the sense of essential values with the emergence of the monotheistic religions. Not surprisingly, virtually all of them agree on the harmony, the reciprocity of the Golden Rule, presumably an insight carried forward from the earlier success of bicameral society.

But what is the still-larger picture behind the IESC? The principal product of the cosmic process is the possibility of eternal novelty. Given that the deeper reality is subjective (aesthetics and higher) then the cosmic process can be understood as subjective flight from eternal sameness. To achieve novelty there must be differences created by imposed limits, and all based on a totally coherent harmony. Where choices emerge for the subject agent there must be that same predominant sustaining harmony and balance guiding choice.

Hopefully we might manage to remove the stigma of “super-” from the natural order of the Golden Rule and devise a science of social and ecological harmony (survival) to which all might subscribe. Meanwhile, our bad choices are turning the oceans more acidic, killing the phytoplankton, our main source of oxygen renewal. Atmospheric O2 is 20.95% and measurably falling. We need 19.5% to survive. Go figure.

Author:  Kaori [ Sun Apr 11, 2010 5:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Temporary Bicamerality

Moderator wrote:
I would skeptical of environmental factors as the primary cause due to the pervasiveness of bicamerality, including Africa, Mesoamerica, the Far East, etc. It seems that auditory hallucinations likely evolved along with language.

Did language evolve before or after the near extinction event I alluded to?

Hi JSJohnson.

I read your post but I'm not quite sure what you're getting at. Can you summarize?

Author:  JSJohnson [ Mon Apr 12, 2010 12:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Temporary Bicamerality

Hi Kaori,

Bicamerality isn’t just a psychological status, but denotes brain structure.
Earliest bicamerality (as a brain structure) appeared some 365 m years ago in the Hylonomus, long before man and language. It seems to serve the basic essentials of analysis and synthesis, teamed with memory, that served even the early creatures with the essentials of analysis (left hemisphere) and synthesis (right hemisphere) in coping with the external world. For example, hunger prompts the ‘synthesis’ the composite memory of the location, appearance and taste of a red fruit found yesterday under a particular tree. The creature returns to the tree and finds two round fruit; one red, one green. He eats the red and bites the green (analysis). Bitter. When he sees another green fruit, the memory of the bitterness is synthesized into consciousness guiding an avoidance response. Earliest experience with language, predating modern subjective conscious mind (SCM), would suggest that remembered instructions of a leader would be accepted in a similar way without question. Guile and doubt seem possible only with the more developed SCM in which language begins to exploit the boundless analytic/synthetic potential of bicameral structure and function, resulting in science, social organization, etc.

Language seems to have been made possible by the erect posture of two-legged walking, resulting in the 90 degree rotation of the head to a forward-looking angle, resulting in the inflection of the pharynx – resulting in the ability to verbalize consonants so essential to complex language.

The elaboration of my first post was an attempt to go beyond, to show Jaynes’ insight as a key to understanding current problems and solutions.

Author:  JSJohnson [ Wed May 05, 2010 3:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Temporary Bicamerality

Emergence of the Subjective

In more detail of my last post, the development of the bicameral brain was naturally selected as a result of the increasing internal complexity of organic systems and resulting isolation from access to external nutrients via the usual deterministic processes such as absorption across cell membranes as with vegetation. This isolation of the internals from simple absorption of local nutrients rewarded the emergence of senses and increased reliance upon choices among sensory impressions, i.e. the path into subjectivity. Earliest choices were deterministic, and success only statistical, such as a moth endlessly circling a streetlight at night, but it rewarded increasingly sophisticated senses and neural processing.

The resulting early bicameral structure and function of the neural system guided emergent choice by reason of experience with analytic and synthetic neural processes (recognizing “similar differences and different similarities” Bohm – “Wholeness and the Implicate Order”, pp115-6).

Jaynes’ “Golden Age” marks the early social effect of language communicating useful experience into memory of others who, still bicameral, would interpret such instructions as no less imperative than pure memory, resulting in unquestioning compliance, with efficiencies enabling growth of the earliest large communities.

The stresses of clashing communities (Dorian invasions) gave rise to the modern subjective conscious mind and access to the full potential of conscious and deliberate analytic and synthetic processes. Objective analysis gives us boundless technological means while subjective analysis transcends physics into the necessity of symmetry and its still-deeper aesthetic qualities and relevant feelings that guide our choices, all most relevant to identifying values and creative direction such as the symmetry, reciprocity, of the Golden Rule, recognized so essential to a sustainable and creative social order by the several monotheistic religions.


Author:  tinkus [ Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Temporary Bicamerality

This is exactly the kind of thread which can be answered on a daily basis in an IRC channel .. at the same time it promotes a far more active and casual environment for conversational topics of all sorts of related things.

I asked the site owner, but he never replied.

Author:  JSJohnson [ Sat Jun 26, 2010 5:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Temporary Bicamerality

Hi Tinkus,
Give it a try. Glad for any comments.

Author:  JSJohnson [ Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Temporary Bicamerality

Further to my above discussion, in a universe naturally self-organizing (Kauffman) and with the emergence of subjective conscious mind (Jaynes) having essentially boundless creative potential as the integral agent of that cosmic process, and where ‘big bang’ simply represents the emergence of time and space from a prior, more fundamental state, imposing limits to subjective perceptions (introducing the possibility of ‘novelty,’ as in ‘the flight from eternal sameness into eternal novelty’), we now hear from Hawking and Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow (“The Grand Design”) who argue that “the quest to discover a final theory may in fact never lead to a unique set of equations. Every scientific theory, they write, comes with its own model of reality, and it may not make sense to talk of what reality actually is.” (Scientific American Oct. 2010, p. 71). Where biology reduces to chemistry which reduces to physics and to the still deeper constraint of symmetry on all forces of nature (Noether’s theorem) which is a particular of the still more general and inclusive subjective necessity of aesthetics, we may ask which is the more fundamental reality – the emergent big bang world of time and space (with little/no prospect of an objective TOE), or the deeper world of the subjective necessity, i.e. the Subject; creation being ‘play of the gods?’


Author:  Rollo [ Sun Oct 24, 2010 1:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Temporary Bicamerality

A beautiful question: "we may ask which is the more fundamental reality". Bus I think JJ has covered this -- by analogy at least.

Just as any particular description we may give will be metaphoric, so our attempts to describe the nature of experience will be done by metaphor. The Origin of Consciousness, for example, is the metaphier for the metaphrand that is consciousness. This is of course the ultimate extension of JJ's own description of language as metaphor.

Similarly, scientific study can be seen as the metaphier by which we are trying to understand the metaphrand that is the universe and everything in it. Since this world of humans creating these metaphors is in the universe, this process must necessarily continue ad infinitum. So we can't know "the emergent big bang world of time and space".

But if we agree with Jaynes that consciousness (or "the deeper world of the subjective necessity") is made in the most part of language, any attempt (such as Julian's) to describe that process in words will meet with the same fate. Ad infinitum, ad absurdum.

The question then, is not which is better -- for neither are. Only which excites us more, perhaps? But I think a piece such as The Origin of Consciousness shows that we can be scientific and artistic, that we can explore the same world that will reduce to the big bang and further, and we can explore the world that will reduce to inventions such as 'metaphrand' and 'metaphier', in one long, brilliant breath -- and have fun while we are doing it!

(If I may be so bold!)

Author:  JSJohnson [ Tue Oct 26, 2010 2:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Temporary Bicamerality

Well put, indeed. Thus far science has taken life to be no more than an accident of nature. Today, however, it appears that life is nothing less than an integral evolving agency of the larger cosmic creativity; an agency with choices to make that will sustain or defeat the process (and our species) on this planet. If this is so, then it is essential that our science expand its talent and attention to explore the essential aesthetics of social and ecological organization with respect to relevant neural faculties and feelings of human beings as well as the natural cycles of the ecology that sustains us.

What I find most striking is the similarity of the symmetry constraint upon all expressions of energy in nature, and the profound discovery and attention given the symmetry, the harmony of the Golden Rule subscribed to by the monotheistic religions of the world. We are on the right track.

While a “science of the aesthetics of constructive social organization” may sound challenging, quantum physics also took a while, and our neural faculties are uniquely evolved to succeed. On the other hand, if we do not find a way to encourage constructive choices across this planet, we are literally doomed. If wars don’t do us in, our tremendous and ongoing abuse of the ecological balance of nature that sustains us, will.

The question is not final truth or reality, it is species survival. We have the essential material, intellectual, and aesthetic sensitivities to succeed, if we only Will.

Author:  Rollo [ Fri Nov 12, 2010 9:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Temporary Bicamerality

And you sir! I like your rhetoric.

In regard to this 'cosmic creativity', or the tendency towards more and more complex organisations of information -- hadrons and whatnot at one end of the spectrum, human cognition at the other -- what do you think of the still-pseudoscientific field of memes, and of the larger systems such as law, government, and the now over-arching internet, and the part they play in our world?

I mean to imply that I think it not only our human 'material, intellectual, and aesthetic sensitivities' that will make or break us, but (and perhaps more) the systems within which these sensitivities are fostered and furthered. We are, perhaps, entering an age where it is not only we humans that we humans need worry about.

Author:  JSJohnson [ Fri Nov 12, 2010 11:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Temporary Bicamerality

Hi Rollo,
Nice to hear.
Memes as ‘the cultural counterpart of genes’ seem to speak of momentum, inertia of vested interest, belief in the larger systems – law, government, internet, and economy. Free enterprise/capitalism thrives on consumption – and so increasing population – for profits. Not bad in the beginning, but ultimately unsustainable. Given the combined effect I suspect that there is little hope to avoid climate catastrophe as a minimum, to say nothing of social, economic and political disasters due to the usual natural effect of any serious imbalance – in this case overpopulation and abuse of biosphere. Any surviving populations will likely reorganize around local organic agriculture. Cultural artifacts remaining (hopefully including the internet) should be sufficient to persuade them cooperate to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Indeed contradictions in and between existing intuitions need peaceful and equitable resolution. What Jaynes shows to be unique to humans with language and evolved emotions, feelings, and analytic/synthetic faculties, is the capacity, unlike any other animal, to extrapolate experience into coherent visions of the larger, deeper whole – half of what is needed. The other half is a free and creative forum to which the whole world has access such as the internet.


Author:  Rollo [ Sat Nov 13, 2010 8:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Temporary Bicamerality

Indeed, 'contradictions in and between existing intuitions need peaceful and equitable resolution', however I think this is only part of the problem I pose. That, however we reconcile these systems, there will still be inherit systemic effects -- that is to say that while the people make the system, the system ultimately shapes the people. The system unifying Wikipedia, for example, was created by a very small number of people -- but it is now the system itself that, in turn, effects people.

Wikipedia is a very excellent example of a system, one that I think works. However many of our systems, over to whom we have given a great deal of our decision-making power, are not so inherently benevolent.

And I fear we do not take these systems seriously enough -- we think we control them, while many of them are controlling, without any guiding cognition or mind, us.

Author:  JSJohnson [ Sat Nov 13, 2010 1:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Temporary Bicamerality

Agreed. I can imagine that most such systems represent answers to much smaller societies in response to earlier needs, systems that now burden the evolved society only because of public ignorance or the vested interests of the few. How would we begin to identify them all – seemingly an infinity in permanent flux? For most individuals the ‘larger picture’ is about finding their own way within the context of existing systems; i.e. survival.

Today with the world economy in flux, conflicting belief-systems, pending climate stress, and other major problems, the world needs more constructive unification so that the whole – rather than the few – may survive.

How to begin?

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