Praise for Julian Jaynes’s Bicameral Mind Theory

“Quite possibly a book of the century.”
—Douglas Adams, author of the best seller The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in The Guardian.

“… A theory that could alter our view of consciousness, revise our conception of the history of mankind, and lay bare the human dilemma in all its existential wonder.”

— James E. Morriss, co-author of The Brains of Animals and Men and How Animals Learn, in ETC: A Review of General Semantics

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind is one of those lush, overambitious books … that readers, on finishing it, find that they think about the world quite differently.”

“[Jaynes’s] basic hypothesis is probably right.”

— T.M. Luhrmann, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, Stanford University, in “What Book Changed Your Mind?,” Chronicle of Higher Education and “Knowing God,” The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, 2017, 35, 2.

“This book and this man’s ideas may be the most influential, not to say controversial, of the second half of the twentieth century. I cannot recommend the book emphatically enough. I have never reviewed a book for which I had more enthusiasm. . . . It renders whole shelves of books obsolete.”

— William Harrington, in The Columbus Dispatch

“[Jaynes] has one of the clearest and most perspicuous defenses of the top-down approach [to consciousness] that I have ever come across.”

— Daniel Dennett, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Tufts University, in Brainchildren

“The weight of original thought in it is so great that it makes me uneasy for the author’s well-being: the human mind is not built to support such a burden.”

— David C. Stove, Ph.D. (1927-1994), Professor of Philosophy, University of Sydney

“Julian Jaynes’s theories for the nature of self-awareness, introspection, and consciousness have replaced the assumption of their almost ethereal uniqueness with explanations that could initiate the next change in paradigm for human thought.”

— Michael A. Persinger, Ph.D., Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience,
Laurentian University, in Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness

“Having just finished The Origin of Consciousness, I myself feel something like Keats’ Cortez staring at the Pacific, or at least like the early reviewers of Darwin or Freud. I’m not quite sure what to make of this new territory; but its expanse lies before me and I am startled by its power.”

— Edward Profitt, in Commonweal

“Julian Jaynes was my teacher [at Princeton]. … Much psychological science since then points to the possibility that he was right. Right about consciousness, right about ancient history, right about evolution, right about language, even right about Homer.”

— Martin E.P. Seligman, Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, review of Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind

“[My favorite book is] The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes. This book explains the meaning of life.”

— Clive Svendsen, Ph.D., Executive Director, Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in Lancet Neurology

“The bold hypothesis of the bicameral mind is an intellectual shock to the reader, but whether or not he ultimately accepts it he is forced to entertain it as a possibility. Even if he marshals arguments against it he has to think about matters he has never thought of before, or, if he has thought of them, he must think about them in contexts and relationships that are strikingly new.”

— Ernest R. Hilgard, Ph.D. (1904-2001), Professor of Psychology, Stanford University

“Neuroimaging techniques of today have illuminated and confirmed the importance of Jaynes’ hypothesis.”

— Robert Olin, M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus in Preventive Medicine,
Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, in Lancet

“Jaynes had a gift for combining classics, psychology, psychiatry, religion, archeology, and anthropology. He smashes disciplinary silos and prompts dialogue in new areas of cognitive linguistics and rhetoric.”

— William R. Woodward, Professor of Psychology, University of New Hampshire, review of Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind

“When Julian Jaynes…speculates that until late in the second millennium B.C. men had no consciousness but were automatically obeying the voices of gods, we are astounded but compelled to follow this remarkable thesis through all the corroborative evidence…”

— John Updike, in The New Yorker

“Some of Jaynes’ original ideas may be the most important of our generation . . . And I feel weak as I try to convey some slight impression of Jaynes’ fantastic vision in this short review. Not since Freud and Jung has anyone had the daring and background to pull together such a far reaching theory.”

— Ernest Rossi, Ph.D., Professor of Neuroscience, in Psychological Perspectives

“Daring and brilliant … well worth reading by any person interested in theories of human learning and behavior, in theory devleopment, and in seeing a scholarly, fertile and original thinker at work.”

— Martin Levit, Ph.D., Professor of Education, in Educational Studies

“… Scientific interest in [Jaynes’s] work has been re-awakened by the consistent findings of right-sided activation patterns in the brain, as retrieved with the aid of neuroimaging studies in individuals with verbal auditory hallucinations.”

— Jan Dirk Blom, M.D, Ph.D., in A Dictionary of Hallucinations

“… [O]ne of the most thought-provoking and debated theories about the origin of the conscious mind.”

— Andrea Cavanna, M.D., in Consciousness: Theories in Neuroscience and Philosophy of Mind

“[Jaynes’s book] explains a lot, including the ghostly voices of schizophrenics and the heavenly visions of epileptics, to say nothing of the rampaging rages of the heroes and prophets of yore. …

Many of Jaynes’s predictions have since been confirmed by noninvasive brain-imaging techniques. This bicameral brain configuration … became the evolutionary springboard for god/s..”

— Athena Andreadis, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Cell Biology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, in 50 Voices of Disbelief

“… I sympathize with Julian Jaynes’s claim that something of great import may have happened to the human mind during the relatively brief interval of time between the events narrated in the Iliad and those that make up the Odyssey.”

— Antonio Damasio, Ph.D., Professor of Neuroscience, Psychology and Neurology,
University of Southern California, in Self Comes to Mind

“One’s first inclination is to reject all of it out of hand as science fiction, imaginative speculation with no hard evidence; but, curiously, if one is patient and hears out the story (Jaynes’s style is irresistible) the arguments are not only entertaining but persuasive.”

— George Adelman, Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, MIT, in Library Journal

“Genes affecting personality, reproductive strategies, cognition, are all able to change significantly over few-millennia time scales if the environment favors such change — and this includes the new environments we have made for ourselves, things like new ways of making a living and new social structures. … There is evidence that such change has occurred. … On first reading, Breakdown seemed one of the craziest books ever written, but Jaynes may have been on to something.”

— Gregory Cochran, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at the University of Utah

“He is as startling as Freud was in The Interpretation of Dreams, and Jaynes is equally adept at forcing a new view of known human behavior.”

— Raymond Headlee, M.D. in American Journal of Psychiatry

“[Jaynes’s] description of this new consciousness is one of the best I have come across.”

− Morris Berman, Ph.D., in Wandering God: A Study in Nomadic Spirituality

“Julian Jaynes is a scholar in the broad original sense of that term. A man of huge creative vitality, Julian Jaynes is my academic man for all seasons.”

— Hubert Dolezal, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology Northeastern Illinois University, in David Krech (ed.) The MacLeod Symposium

“I accept two and a half of Jaynes’s four hypotheses.”

— John F. Kihlstrom, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UC Berkeley, in Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind

“Nearly fifty years on, it is time for a new generation of neuroscientists, evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and deep thinkers at the heart of every discipline to rediscover Julian Jaynes’s tantalizing hypotheses concerning the origin and nature of human consciousness.”

— Christian Y. Dupont, Associate University Librarian for Collections and Burns Librarian, Boston College, review of Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind

“At one point in my life, an event of great personal significance took place for me: I encountered the work of Julian Jaynes.”

— Edoardo Casiglia, MD, Senior Scientist at the Studium Patavinum (Department of Medicine), University of Padova (Italy), in Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind

“While reading Jaynes’s book the first time — my copy of which is now held together by three layers of cellophane tape — I initially said ‘Yes!’ out loud in that chapter about how much we can do without calling on consciousness.”

— Laurence I. Sugarman, M.D., Research Professor and Director at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), in Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind

“If Jaynes’s theories are right, he could become the Darwin of the mind.”

— John Gliedman, in Science Digest

“It is one of those books that is either complete rubbish or a work of consummate genius, nothing in between …”

— Richard Dawkins, Ph.D., evolutionary biologist, Oxford University, in The God Delusion

“… [Jaynes’s] proposal is too interesting to ignore.”

— David Eagleman, Ph.D., neuroscientist, Baylor College of Medicine,
in Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

“… Read the book and make up your own mind. I can guarantee that you will be enormously interested if not entirely persuaded, as I am myself.”

— Charles Van Doren, in The Joy of Reading: A Passionate Guide to 189 of the World’s Best Authors

“… [The] more I thought about Jaynes’s thesis, the more reasonable it sounded, and the more I read in anthropology, in history, and above all, in poetry, the more evidence I found to support the idea that hallucinated voices still give socially useful commands.”

— Judith Weissman, Ph.D. (1946-1998), Professor of English, Syracuse University, in Of Two Minds: Poets Who Hear Voices

“I believe Jaynes is justified when he insists that the Greek revolution in thinking did not amount to a mere change of emphasis or of subject matter, or a tidying up of certain previously loose ends, but was nothing less than the development of a whole new mental faculty or organ.”

— David Martel Johnson, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, York University

“Love Jaynes or hate him, his theory remains, after 30 years, indisputably the single most comprehensive, wide-ranging, imaginative hypothesis available.”

— Bob Myers, Numenware

“[Jaynes’s] book is rich in consciousness-provoking material and is highly recommended.”

— Martin Levit, Ph.D., Professor of Education, University of Missouri, in Educational Studies

“The most significant book of our time . . .”

— D. N. Campbell, in Kappan Magazine

“It seems likely that the concept of the ‘bicameral mind’ advanced by Julian Jaynes will prove to be an insight of considerable significance.”

— T. Buchan, M.D., Department of Psychiatry, University of Zimbabwe, in Zambezia

“In a provocative theory that postulates a neurophysiological basis for religion, Jaynes links modes of human consciousness with forms of culture that have emerged through evolutionary history.”

— Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, in The Psychology of Religion

“A wonderfully intriguing and evocative book…”

— J. Harold Ellens, Ph.D., in Understanding Religious Experience

“…An interesting theory about the origins of prophetic speech based in brain physiology, and of the evolutionary steps that may have contributed to the ‘end of prophecy’…”

− John A. Buehrens, in Understanding the Bible

“[A] bold and extraordinary theory…”

— Gyorgy Doczi, in The Power of Limits

“…An astonishingly original and widely acclaimed book…”

— Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, in A Stranger in the Family

“Read this, wherever you dare, for the style if not for the science.”

— Mike Holderness, science journalist, in New Scientist

“A theory of consciousness that may be especially interesting to persons with bipolar disorder.”

— Wes Burgess, M.D., Ph.D., in The Bipolar Handbook

“Julian Jaynes … has made what is thus far the boldest proposal for explaining the slow emergence of the ‘I’ that is at the center of … modern consciousness.”

— Adolf Holl, Austrian theologian, in The Left Hand of God