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 Post subject: Modern Monotheistic Belief
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2005 2:36 am 
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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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PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2005 12:48 pm 
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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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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2005 10:28 am 
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Interesting stuff (and hello to everyone).

I read the book as an attack on religion. This was amongst many other targets, and the death of God is almost a side-effect of the theory, rather than a key argument.

But doesn't he attempt to show that religious texts and records, iconography and various kinds of priesthoods are all the result of one thing - a yearning for the lost bicameral time when 'God' was aurally present in our heads?

Surely it's implicit that it was the falling-to-silence of these lost voices that created the eden-fall of modernity, and the nostalgia for aurally derived instruction crystallised as religion?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2005 9:01 pm 
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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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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2005 11:43 pm 
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Sorry to be so slow to get back in the discussion! A few comments:
Quote:
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.

Isn't the whole point of reading and thinking to help us challenge and redefine our own thoughts and beliefs?
Quote:
I read the book as an attack on religion. This was amongst many other targets, and the death of God is almost a side-effect of the theory, rather than a key argument.

That was my perception, as well. While it wasn't Jaynes' key argument, I think man's search for meaning through some ultimate authority is one of the crucial quests of consciousness. It's interesting to me that man, even in his bicameral state, had a yearning or need for God (as manifested in the hallucinations). For the sake of argument, while the hallucinations were not divine voices, could that state have been divinely inspired? What do you think about the concept of progressive revelation, that perhaps God has revealed himself to man progressively as man's brain has evolved? Perhaps the bicameral stage was just a stepping stone to future revelations (sacred writings, etc). As man learns more about consciousness and our intelligence continues to evolve, is it possible that there may yet be future revelations?
Thanks for the book recommendations! I plan to check those out.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2005 3:13 pm 
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Butterfly wrote:
Quote:
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.

Isn't the whole point of reading and thinking to help us challenge and redefine our own thoughts and beliefs?

I agree to a large extent, but my point is that we should be promoting Jayne's work before interpreting it within narrow materialist or religious dogma. I consider them both as bad for the most part.

Jayne's work promotes the idea of humans having a very different state of consciousness within recent millenia, and that this -- for whatever reasons -- changed to the subjective state where we are now.

The interpretations and implications all remain speculative...

(A lot of posts seem to have disappeared from this thread. It was on nearly 3 pages. Where did they go?)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2005 9:02 pm 
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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!


Last edited by Moderator on Mon Apr 24, 2006 10:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2005 2:53 pm 
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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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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 27, 2005 1:32 am 
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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! :)


Last edited by Moderator on Mon Apr 24, 2006 10:34 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2005 6:22 am 
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I appreciated the clarification, I understand the difference between C1 and C2, and I agree that Jaynes’s work focused on C1. I also appreciate your efforts to keep the discussion “on track,” but I have a couple of thoughts. If we stick to a strict interpretation of C1, then it seems that any dialogue about Jaynes’s view of religion would be irrelevant. Obviously, his work was not intended as religious commentary, but his theory has definite implications for established mythologies.
Quote:
C1. Jaynes's definition, as outlined in his book, consisting of our internal dialog, analog 'I', narratization and excerption, spatialized sense of time, etc.

Putting aside sensory perception, OBE, life after death, etc. (which we agree is not Jaynes's focus), even still, aren't our internal dialogs, narratizations, and excerptions the essence of who we are in this life? In the physical sense, our brains are the functioning organ of what some call the "soul." That's why it seems a little tricky to me to view consciousness in such a strict sense.


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 Post subject: Location of Consciousness (C1)
PostPosted: Fri Apr 29, 2005 8:21 pm 
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While I largely agree with the positions taken by the Moderator, and while I appreciate the industry of the Moderator in supporting this Forum, I wish to take issue with a remark in the Moderator's most recent post.

Moderator:
Quote:
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.


Jaynes (Origin, pp. 45-46):
Quote:
...[T]he habit of locating consciousness in the head is so ingrained that it is difficult to think otherwise....
That there is no phenomenal necessity in locating consciousness in the brain is further reinforced by various abnormal instances in which consciousness seems to be outside the body....
Let us not make a mistake. When I am conscious, I am always and definitely using certain parts of my brain inside my head. But so am I when riding a bicycle, and the bicycle riding does not go on inside my head.... In reality, consciousness has no location whatever except as we imagine it has.


As I read Jaynes, we err by talking about where consciousness (C1) may "reside." Origin, p. 55: "Like mathematics, [consciousness] is an operator rather than a thing or repository."


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2005 2:56 pm 
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Moderator wrote:
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.

I would say that this was far too simplistic, and Ardery's quote from Jaynes seems to support my contention.

Is it fair to suggest that only 'New Agers' are prepared to look beyond current psychological/psychiatric fashions?

Mother Nature has little respect for science or religion. Scientists told us that heavier than air flight was impossible, and religious fundamentalists tend to be equally narrow minded.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2005 12:47 am 
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Yes that is a good point made by Ardery. The "mind space" has an arbitrary location.

However, as Jaynes points out in the same quote, he sees it as based on brain activity, which is what I was trying to get at. In that sense I would disagree that this quote supports Soupdragon's contention (which, if I understand it correctly - and I'm not sure that I do - is that consciousness [C1? C2?] is not based in the brain but somehow separate from it).

There are so many examples in neuroscience (such as the famous case of Phineas Gage) of various aspects of consciousness and personality being altered by different types of brain damage or disease, not to mention precise neuroimaging studies of brain activity during various cognitive tasks, that the idea that consciousness in the C1 sense is not based on brain activity but rather takes place somehow outside the brain to me is not worth debating.

If we are talking about the C2 definition, again, that seems beyond the scope of this discussion and certainly not a topic ever discussed by Jaynes in anything that I have read.

Arguing that the evidence will only come as a result of future scientific discoveries (such as the flight example) in this case seems weak to me, as there is such a long trend of discovery going in the opposite direction.

Butterfly: I don't see Jaynes's views on religion as irrelevant based on the more limited C1 definition of consciousness. Based on my understanding, Jaynes argues that the notion of gods, resulting in religion, can be interpreted as a vestige of the bicameral mind. In other words, our modern belief in God or a supreme being and all modern religious activity is a direct result of the psychological transition from bicamerality to consciousness and is thus a vestige of the bicameral mind.

In an earlier post, you wrote
Quote:
It's interesting to me that man, even in his bicameral state, had a yearning or need for God (as manifested in the hallucinations).


Here I think you are putting a modern spin on the bicameral mind, or in a sense getting in backwards. Bicameral man did not have a yearning for gods any more than a modern schizophrenic yearns for their auditory hallucinations or a child yearns for their imaginary playmate. They simply experience them, and bicameral individuals interpreted these hallucinations as gods, after the death of their rulers did not result in the cessation of their auditory commands. When the voices fell silent, religion -- as viewed from a purely objective, historical perspective -- was born as a vain attempt to recapture the lost voices. It was not until after the development of consciousness that the "yearning" (a complex emotion that requires consciousness) for the lost voices of the gods takes place. Jaynes notes there was no concept of prayer before the breakdown of the bicameral mind.

So in this way, Jaynes's views are highly relevant as a possible explanation of religion. Topics that come to mind are: Is Jaynes's explanation of gods/religion/spiritual beliefs as a nostalgic longing for the bicameral mind convincing? What evidence supports or contradicts it? How does it compare to competing theories of the origin of gods? etc.

P.S. This aspect of Jaynes's theory can be difficult to swallow for those with a lifelong religious background. For those still interested in pursuing these ideas, perhaps the best place to start is an examination of religions other than one's own -- for example, if Christian, the other post on the trance states of Muhammad or the dissociative states of Joseph Smith (see Morain, 1998), returning later to a bicameral analysis of early Biblical prophets.


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 Post subject: Attack?
PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2006 2:50 am 
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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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 Post subject: Religion and the Bicameral Mind
PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 6:11 pm 
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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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