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Julian Jaynes Society Discussion Forum: Exploring Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind Theory since 1997 • View topic - Jaynes's View of Religion

Jaynes's View of Religion

Discussion of the implications of the bicameral mind theory for religion. Also neurotheology and the origin of religion.

Modern Monotheistic Belief

Postby Butterfly » Tue Apr 05, 2005 2:36 am

I just finished reading Julian's book for the first time, and I am fascinated! I too am a spiritual person. While I have never heard "voices," I have had a keen sense (consciousness?) of God's presence and guidance throughout my life. As I filter my spiritual experiences through the bicameral mind hypothesis, I find myself wondering about the role of "neurological pathways" in what has always been part of my reality. I'm not ready to concede that my belief system can be reduced to tricks of the mind, but I'm very intrigued. A lot of brain research has been done since this book was published. Can anyone recommend a more current writing about the conscious mind and monotheistic belief?
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Postby Soupdragon » Tue Apr 05, 2005 12:48 pm

I think it is important to understand that Jaynes work does not necessarily support or undermine spiritual belief. It can be interpreted either way.

The OFCITBOTBM contends that man has changed from a previous state of consciousness to subjective consciousness, where we are now. This has possibly happened for evolutionary reasons, and the nature of consciousness could possibly change again. Jaynes seems reluctant to discuss the nature of consciousness, other than to argue that our current subjective consciousness stems from language which derives from metaphor.

This is how I understand it, and I also think it is important that we resist the temptation to interpret his work according to our own belief systems. (The 'Voices of the Gods' does not literally mean Gods in any divine sense.)

I would love to discuss this with anyone with differing opinions...
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Postby sambrenton » Wed Apr 13, 2005 10:28 am

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Postby Moderator » Sat Apr 16, 2005 9:01 pm

Sambrenton, welcome to the forum. I agree with your interpretation, although not necessarily an attack, certainly an explanation.

Butterfly: You might enjoy Phantoms in the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran. However, only Chapter 9, "God and the Limbic System," deals with the issue of neuroscience and religious experience. You might also check out Chapter 12 of The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size, which discusses Jaynes's ideas as well as the relationship of consciousness to monotheism.
Last edited by Moderator on Mon Apr 24, 2006 10:25 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Butterfly » Mon Apr 18, 2005 11:43 pm

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Postby Soupdragon » Tue Apr 19, 2005 3:13 pm

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Postby Moderator » Tue Apr 19, 2005 9:02 pm

Butterfly: According to Jaynes it was not so much a yearning for God as it was the misattribution of hallucinations to the voices of dead leaders, thereby creating the notion of gods in the first place. While the idea you raise is certainly possible, I don't think that was Jaynes's interpretation, which seems to be that the gods were a psychological invention of man.

Soupdragon: Re: missing posts, I decided it would be better to 1. limit my role to facilitate discussion/clarify aspects of the Jaynes's theory when possible (thus encouraging others to post and not just read), and 2. keep the forum more "on point." The materialist/non-materialist issue can probably be debated until one of us ultimately finds out the answer (the hard way). Thanks for your continued participation!
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Postby Soupdragon » Mon Apr 25, 2005 2:53 pm

Well, I'm a little bit concerned about posts being deleted as this might easily be construed as revisionist.

I really can't see why you should worry about contributing to threads, especially when you have been fair and reasonable. Some BB moderators are quick to ban those of differing opinions ... usually for very spurious reasons indeed.

While our understanding of consciousness is very rudimentary (as we are agreed), I see no reason that science cannot make great strides in the not too distant future, and even if it is shown to exist outside the body in some fashion, this does not necessarily support religious and/or spiritual beliefs in quite the manner that some might imagine, although it would tend to support 'life-after-death/reincarnation' scenarios to a greater degree then they are presently tolerated in psych circles.
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Postby Moderator » Wed Apr 27, 2005 1:32 am

One of the difficulties with the discussion of consciousness is that it has an ambigious definition and means something different to everyone. This is why Jaynes went to such great lengths to clarify his definition of consciousness in the first two chapters of his book.

I'd like to clarify the discussion with what I see as two primary definitions:

C1. Jaynes's definition, as outlined in his book, consisting of our internal dialog, analog 'I', narratization and excerption, spatialized sense of time, etc. This is the definition he debates with the philosophers and psychologists who want to lump sensory perception and awareness into the mix.

C2. "New Age" (for lack of a better term) definition of consciousness. Relatively recently, those interested in life after death, ESP, reincarnation, and a range of other topics chose to label all of these areas "consciousness studies," as it has a more scientific ring to it, and the above mentioned terms now often elicit a knee-jerk negative reaction among mainstream scientists. What it boils down to is they are interested in studying things like "the soul," but now call it "survival of consciousness after death" instead.

It's unfortunate, as this has further muddied the waters of a term that is already vague in meaning and used too loosely.

I would submit that the origin of C1 (modern subjective awareness, to borrow Kretz's term) is the primary focus of Jaynes's book and lectures, and may in fact not have all that much to do with C2 (the ‘soul’ definition of consciousness).

[No doubt some will disagree, however I see no substantive evidence for any direct relation between C1 and C2. Surely if C2 exists it's been around far longer than 3000 years, which is when Jaynes postulates the origin of C1.]

What Jaynes seems most interested in is the neurological/psychological/cognitive aspects of consciousness — not the parapsychological aspects. I would suggest that for Jaynes, C1 resides in the brain, and ceases at death. No where in his writing or lectures have I found anything that would contradict this statement. If you review the intro to one of his lectures on this website (see "Origin of Consciousness" page), he dismisses other definitions of consciousness as non-useful at best.

The point of all this is that:

1. To have a productive discussion of consciousness we must first explain our operational definition (C1, C2, or other), and not use the term interchangeably.

and

2. There is an abundance of discussion of C2 on the internet, and it would be preferable, at least for now, to keep the focus of this forum on further elucidating issues surrounding C1 (a topic which has not been widely discussed), leaving C2 out of it -- which perhaps should not be labeled consciousness at all, and instead be referred to by a variety of more precise terms (ie. remote viewing, OBE, reincarnation, etc. etc.).

Hope that makes sense! :)
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Postby Butterfly » Thu Apr 28, 2005 6:22 am

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Location of Consciousness (C1)

Postby Ardery » Fri Apr 29, 2005 8:21 pm

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Postby Soupdragon » Sat Apr 30, 2005 2:56 pm

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Postby Moderator » Wed May 04, 2005 12:47 am

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Attack?

Postby Obdurately Conscious » Mon Sep 11, 2006 2:50 am

I am fascinated that 2 posters agree that the book was intended or read as an attack on religion. The Moderator's point that it is an explanation of religion, not an attack, is both simply exact and an explanation of why religion would be threatened by the book. Any explanation of religion would surely unfurl all mysteries and plainly deconstruct all notions of divine loftiness.

Anyone who then understands this and continues to speak of further divine intervention that must escape the scope of Jaynes' book is just not getting it and adding complications to the ideas that need not exist.
If you look around the table and can't tell who the sucker is, it is most probably you.
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Religion and the Bicameral Mind

Postby Helmut » Sat Dec 02, 2006 6:11 pm

What fascinates me most about Julian Jaynes' theory is his definition of consciousness by clarifying his thinking about what is NOT consciousness.

This leads to a much better understanding of the subconscious mind (the subconscious psyche) and the incredible abilities of the subconscious mind. What Jaynes calls the "bicameral mind" is actually identical with the subconscious mind. The architecture of the modern human psyche consists of both: the subconscious and the conscious mind. (There is actually a third level: the unconscious psyche).

When Julian Jaynes says: The bicameral cultures and civilizations have been created by humans without consciousness, I would add on that all creations of art and recogicions of science and inventions of technology still completely depend on the subconscious mind. But consciousness makes it more complicated to admit this important fact. Because the subconscious mind cannot express itself anymore directly, it must go through the instance of consciousness to reach the light, to become converted into form or shape or insight or expression.

What the bicameral humans could convert directly from hallucinated voices or images into real forms or expressions of art or social actions, we can only do the same thing through the instance of our conscious mind. But the origin of every great invention, work of art or scientific insight still comes from our subconscious mind, which flashes the results of our subconscious brain work to our conscious mind. Then we think the solution for the most complex scientific problems, the idea for a work of art, or the music or the poem came from our conscious mind. Wrong. It came from our subconscious psyche.

Religion was a result of conscious calculation of human needs. Consciousness brought the awareness of death, the greatest source of needs. The godlike ancesters, the godkings, they didn't die. They kept on living and talking and participating in common meals and festivities. They were still alive. There was no awareness of the irreversibility of death. Therefore there was no such thing as death. Consciousness brought this incredible abyss of irreversible death. Awareness of death brought an explosive new need, an explosive new opportunity for power for priest casts. Religions are the inventions of a calculating conscious mind. They still maintain the image of a personal god, as personal as the godkings who still didn't shut up once they were dead.

But the divine, (not an interacting divine!), the beyond, the metaphysical experience beyond space, time and causality is a completely new quality which couldn't have been experienced by the bicameral mind.
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