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Introduction to The Julian Jaynes Collection

Marcel Kuijsten
In Marcel Kuijsten (ed.), The Julian Jaynes Collection (Julian Jaynes Society, 2012).


In January of 1977, Julian Jaynes released to the world his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. It was the culmination of decades of thinking and research and proposed a radical new theory on the origin of the modern mind. Integrating psychology, neurology, anthropology, ancient history, and linguistics, Jaynes argues that subjective consciousness is a learned process based on metaphorical language and, in historical terms, a relatively recent development.

Prior to the development of consciousness, Jaynes argues that humans could communicate, learn, organize, and problem-solve, but did so without introspection. The brain used language to convey experience from the right hemisphere to the left hemisphere in the form of verbal commands, which directed non-habitual behavior and were triggered by the stress of decision-making. Jaynes called this earlier mentality the bicameral mind. Today we see vestiges of the bicameral mind in a wide range of phenomena such as the command hallucinations of schizophrenia patients, the loss of personal authorization in hypnosis, "possession" and poetic frenzy, the imaginary companions of children, and the nostalgic quest of modern religions for the lost voices of the gods.