Aristotle through a Jaynesian Lens

Review of Modernizing Aristotle’s Ethics: Toward a New Art and Science of Self-Actualization

Modernizing the thinking of a philosopher who lived 23 centuries ago is fraught with peril. But in this accessible, well-argued, and insightful work, Bissell and Kolhatkar are up to the challenge. To make their arguments, their analysis and application of Aristotle engages with a range of developments in present-day social sciences and philosophy.

The first chapter sets the tone by asking age-old questions: What makes us happy? What is the good life? What is virtue? Is there a human essence? Can political economy help this essence unfold in a positive way? What is admirable about Bissell and Kolhatkar’s endeavor is that they do not accept Aristotle, a giant of the Western tradition, hook-line-and-sinker and actually do update his thinking, offering a fresh perspective. For example, they reject an Aristotelian activist state, and contend that government does not guarantee human success. Instead, the state makes fulfillment possible by protecting everyone’s self-directed actions from interference by others. Chapter 2 provides a brief history of Aristotelian thought, connecting it to pre-eminent Neo-Aristotelians, Aquinas, and Ayn Rand, the founder of Objectivism (who plays a key role in the book’s arguments). Chapter 3 explores the question of the essence of human nature. The meaning of the “fullest life” is examined in chapter 4. Here Bissell and Kolhatkar highlight Rand’s “metaphysical optimism” and a “heroic sense of life.” The ethics of what a humane, meaningful life might look like is the subject of chapter 5. Here the authors also clarify key terms: Flourishing, need, virtue, values, value equilibrium, and self-actualization. In order to enable the flourishing of individuals, a humane society is required. What such a social arrangement would look like is the topic of chapter 6.

Three themes of this book become salient if seen through a Jaynesian lens. The first has to do with how the authors base their approach on ontological realism (things do in fact exist) and epistemological realism (knowledge of things is gained from sensory perception and conceptual reasoning). Realism may seem like common sense to us moderns, but in historical perspective the Aristotelian approach was intellectually groundbreaking. I submit that such realism was a reaction to the emergence of Jaynesian consciousness about three millennia ago; thinkers like Aristotle, though they did not realize it, were working out intellectual responses to massive shifts in human mentality. By the mid-first millennium BCE, a completely new psychology suited to introspective human beings, established a dualism between what is “real” and what is in some sense “not real.” In other words, the emergence of Jaynesian consciousness introduced a new spatiality—the individual’s introcosm. But this metaphoric place established a dualism of objective–versus–subjective, with the latter regarded as somehow less “real” (behaviorism, which dominated American psychology until the 1960s or so, was an extreme and unfortunate example of denying the reality of this new dimension of interiorized experience). Unlike physical entities, subjective introspectable self-awareness is difficult to measure and defies quantification. In a positive sense Jaynesian consciousness set up an inner universe within each individual, pregnant with possibilities and potentialities. On the negative side, Jaynesian
consciousness, since it can be untethered from the limitations imposed by external reality, can encourage a hypotheticality that feeds dangerously idealistic and naïve ideologies (“ideology,” as a programmatic set of plans for action, came into existence only about two centuries ago).

The second Jaynes-related theme concerns the “essence” of human nature. For this reviewer this discussion was an especially interesting part of the book, as he was trained in interpretive cultural anthropology to view claims about an essential human nature with suspicion. He was advised that since the palette of cultures is so varied, diverse, and rich any notion of a delineable human condition is illusory (moreover, from a transhumanistic perspective, humans are ever-changing, so it seems untenable to posit some permanent, stable, and distillable principle that defines humanity). This malleable perspective of the human nature resonates deeply with the leftist impulse that downplays universals and conceptualizes humans as infinitely plastic. In contrast, Bissell and Kolhatkar’s arguments about a human essence are persuasive since they address actual biological, physiological, and sociopsychological facets of our existence. From these we can we extract some fundamental principles about being a social animal. By postulating parameters of human essence, the authors usefully balance the view of excessive, naive liberalism that assumes the human condition to be radically malleable. This is a welcome maneuver, and it resonates with the Jaynesian proposition that despite our impressive neurocultural plasticity, we come with a default mode: Bicameral mentality. While this two-tier neurocultural operating system can be overridden by learning consciousness, as a neuropsychological inheritance it nevertheless still configures much of human behavior (hallucinations, hypnosis, spirit possession, and other anomalous psychological behavior).

A third theme related to Jaynes involves positive psychology. While Jaynes never developed how his understanding of subjective introspection could have useful applications, he did hint at the possibility of what might be termed self-actualization. This topic links up with Bissell and Kolhatkar’s treatment of the teleological ethic in which the end goala purposeful, meaningful lifebuilds a bridge between the “is” and the “ought.” If there is any validity to the arguments of this book, we are forced to ask if people possess a predisposition to pursue “built-in teleological ends” (p. 8). Jaynesian consciousness, allowing us to overrule questionable
behaviors, offers a route to overcoming our unhealthy habits of thought, building more adaptive life narratives, and thereby self-actualizing our potential.

The authors skillfully demonstrate how Aristotle and debates from the ancient world should not be relegated to assigned readings on a syllabus for a required general education philosophy course. By integrating a host of topics into their agenda, the authors present a fascinating discussion and inject a much-needed real-world empiricism into an analysis that can easily become vague and overly-philosophical. This book’s bold and ambitious treatment of how to cultivate a purposeful life is a useful antidote to the alienation, disaffection, and cynicism haunting modern humankind.




Julian Jaynes Society Fall 2023 Newsletter

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Julian Jaynes Society Fall 2023 Newsletter

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Julian Jaynes Society

Fall 2023

Dear Members and Friends of the Julian Jaynes Society,

Please join us for our upcoming online event this Thursday, November 16th, and check out other recent Jaynes-related news:

  • RSVP for our online event: “The Psychology of Ancient Egypt” – Interview and Discussion with Brian J. McVeigh
  • “The Importance of Nailing Down the Basics” by Brian J. McVeigh
  • Fact-checking Scott Alexanders’s “Slate Star Codex” review of Jaynes’s Origin
  • A new, rare video of Julian Jaynes presenting his ideas to young students

Online Event: The Psychology of Ancient Egypt
Thursday, November 16th, 2023
4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern

The Psychology of Ancient Egypt

Join us for a 90-minute interview and Q&A session with Brian J. McVeigh on his latest book, The Psychology of Ancient Egypt: Reconstructing A Lost Mentality.

We will be delving into many aspects of ancient Egypt that are relevant to Julian Jaynes’s theory. This online event will be held on Thursday, November 16th, 2023 at 4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern. The hour-long interview will be followed by a 30 minute question and answer session with the event participants. Free and open to the public (RSVP required).

More Info/RSVP

New from the JJS Blog

The Importance of Nailing Down the Basics
The Importance of Nailing Down the Basics:
Commentary on the Jaynes Theory Quizzes

by Brian J. McVeigh

“A word of thanks to all those who tested their knowledge of Julian Jaynes’s theory by taking the JJS Quizzes on Jaynes’s Theory. In an earlier blog, I made the point that a major deterrent to understanding Jaynes is the …” Read more

JJS Blog

JJS Fact Checks

Fact Checking Scott Alexander's Discussion of Julian Jaynes's Theory on Slate Star Codex – Part 1
Fact Checking Scott Alexander’s Discussion of Julian Jaynes’s Theory on “Slate Star Codex” – Part 1
by Brian J. McVeigh

“Scott Alexander begins his review of Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness with an odd opening. He describes it as “brilliant” and writes that it only has “two minor flaws”: It purports to explain the origin of consciousness and it “posits a breakdown of the bicameral mind.” …” Read more

Fact Checking Scott Alexander’s Discussion of Julian Jaynes’s Theory on Slate Star Codex – Part 2
Fact Checking Scott Alexander’s Discussion of Julian Jaynes’s Theory on “Slate Star Codex” – Part 2
by Marcel Kuijsten

“In June 2020, the psychiatrist and blogger Scott Alexander wrote a review of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind for his popular “Slate Star Codex” blog. His discussion of Jaynes’s theory contains a number of misconceptions and errors, and I will attempt to clear those up here. …” Read more

JJS Fact Checks

New for JJS Supporters

A rare video of Julian Jaynes presenting his ideas to a group
of gifted students at the Talcott Mountain Science Center & Academy:

Julian Jaynes - Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind

If you haven’t logged in recently, be sure to check out the many new Julian Jaynes lectures and interviews we’ve added this year.

Log in or sign up to check out the latest Member Area updates.

Not a member or did your membership lapse? Stay up-to-date with the latest content on Julian Jaynes’s theory while helping to support our mission by joining the Julian Jaynes Society. All memberships are tax-deductible contributions. We appreciate your support!

Log in or Join

Coming soon: “Consciousness, Neuroimaging, and the Bicameral Mind,” my wide-ranging interview with neuroscientist and JJS Board Member Dr. Clive Svendsen. Stay tuned!

Sincerely,

Marcel Kuijsten,
Executive Director

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The Psychology of Ancient Egypt with Brian J. McVeigh

Join us for a 90-minute interview and Q&A session with Brian J. McVeigh on his latest book, The Psychology of Ancient Egypt: Reconstructing A Lost Mentality.

We will be delving into many aspects of ancient Egypt that are relevant to Julian Jaynes’s theory.

This online event will be held on Thursday, November 16th, 2023 at 4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern.

The hour-long interview will be followed by a 30 minute question and answer session with the event participants.

Free and open to the public (RSVP required).

More info and RSVP here: https://www.julianjaynes.org/event/the-psychology-of-ancient-egypt/

A Google Meet invitation with a link to join the event will be sent to all RSVPs.

Read The Psychology of Ancient Egypt: Reconstructing A Lost Mentality – on sale now.




In Case You Missed It…

Important Julian Jaynes Society updates and developments that you might have missed… also be sure to check out our latest blog posts in the menu to the right.

Sign up for our mailing list and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for the latest updates.

November 2023

RSVP for this upcoming event:
The Psychology of Ancient Egypt with Brian J. McVeigh, November 16, 2022

October 2023

New for supporters: Watch Julian Jaynes present his ideas to science-oriented children at the Talcott Mountain Science Center.

September 2023

Read The Psychology of Ancient Egypt: Reconstructing A Lost Mentality, by Brian J. McVeigh, just published by the Julian Jaynes Society.

As of September 3rd, Amazon is running a flash sale on our latest book, Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind. Take advantage of this very low price while it lasts! https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1737305534

Read our Fact Checks of psychiatrist Dr. Scott Alexander’s review of Julian Jaynes’s theory.

August 2023

Read the Summer 2023 Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.

Read our latest book, Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind, on sale through the September 8th.

Read “Consciousness as ‘Super-perception‘” by Brian J. McVeigh on the JJS Blog.

Read “Fact Checking Erik Hoel’s The World behind the World: Consciousness, Free Will, and the Limits of Science” by Brian J. McVeigh on the JJS Blog.

Watch “Julian Jaynes and Owen Barfield on the Origins, Nature & Trajectory of Consciousness” on the JJS YouTube channel.

June 2023

Watch “Stanford Anthropology Professor Discusses Julian Jaynes’ Theory” on the JJS YouTube channel.

May 2023

Read the Spring 2023 Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.

March 2023

Watch “The Gods of Mesopotamia and the Presentist Fallacy” on the JJS YouTube channel.

February 2023

Read “Consciousness Is More ‘Nurture’ than ‘Nature'” by Brian J. McVeigh on the JJS Blog.

Watch “The Why, What, and How of Human Consciousness” on the JJS YouTube channel.

Watch “How Languages Create Mind Space and the ‘Analog I’ on the JJS YouTube channel.

Watch “The Emergence of Psychotherapies in Modern Japan: A Jaynesian Interpretation” on the JJS YouTube channel.

January 2023

Watch “A Bicameral Semiotic: The Linguistic Sign as Image-Word Dyad” on the JJS YouTube channel.

December 2022

Read the November/December Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.

Read “Falling between the Cracks” by Brian J. McVeigh on the JJS Blog.

Watch “Q&A Session on “Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind” Part 1: Iliad/Odyssey/Sinuhe” on the JJS YouTube channel.

Watch “An Encounter of Julian Jaynes & Jacques Derrida: Consciousness, Divine Voice & Writing” on the JJS YouTube channel.

October 2022

RSVP for this upcoming event:
Q&A on Julian Jaynes’s Theory plus Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind Book Discussion, November 5, 2022

Read our latest book, Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind, on sale through the end of October.

Read “The Myth of “Pure Consciousness” by Brian J. McVeigh on the JJS Blog.

Read the September/October 2022 Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.

September 2022
Read “Animal Minds? Yes. Animal Consciousness? No.” by Brian J. McVeigh on the JJS Blog.

New articles, a new interview, and a new lecture by Gregory Conrow from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies posted in the Member AreaLog in or Sign up.

August 2022
Our latest book, Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind, was published on August 22! All pre-orders were shipped in early August and the book is now available for immediate shipping. It is also available on Amazon sites worldwide and via special order from most bookstores.

If you’ve already enjoyed the book, please take a moment to write a positive review on our website, Amazon, and Goodreads. We appreciate your support!

Watch “David Duchovny Explains Julian Jaynes’s Theory to Bill Maher” on the Related Interviews page.

Read the August 2022 Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.

July 2022
Test your knowledge of Julian Jaynes’s theory by taking our three new quizzes.

Read “Consciousness Is the Word Preventing People from Understanding Jaynesian Psychology” by Brian J. McVeigh on the JJS Blog.

Read the July 2022 Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.

A new documentary on preliterate societies, new Q&A, and a new lecture by Eric Alexander La Freniere from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies posted in the Member AreaLog in or Sign up.

June 2022
The Julian Jaynes Society is honored to welcome Dr. Clive Svendsen to the Science Advisory Board.

Pre-order our latest book: Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind

Read the May/June 2022 Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.

Watch the latest interviews on Julian Jaynes’s theory:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeoNH7dTwZc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAE5WL5XvDQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvIPCV_hCAY

Read “Julian Jaynes Is Not for the Intellectually Fainthearted” by Brian J. McVeigh on the JJS Blog.

New articles, dissertations, and a new lecture by Terryl Atkins from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies posted in the Member Area. Log in or Sign up.

April 2022
Pre-order our latest book: Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind
Read the Spring 2022 Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.
Read “The Need to Acknowledge Bicameral Vestiges” by Brian J. McVeigh on the JJS Blog.
New articles, dissertations, and a new lecture by Roy Baumeister from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies posted in the Member Area. Log in or Sign up.

December 2021
Read the November/December 2021 Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.

A newly discovered interview with Julian Jaynes, new related articles, and a lecture from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies posted in the Member Area. Log in or Sign up.

“They Were Noble Automatons Who Knew Not What They Did:” Volition in Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, by James W. Moore

October 2021
New articles, interviews, lectures, and new lectures from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies posted in the Member Area. Log in or Sign up.

Read the September/October 2021 Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.

September 2021
A new lecture by Julian Jaynes, new articles, dissertations, and a new lecture from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies posted in the Member Area. Log in or Sign up.

August 2021
New articles and a new lectures from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies posted in the Member Area. Log in or Sign up.

Read the July/August 2021 Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.

July 2021
The Julian Jaynes Society is honored to welcome Professor Martin Seligman to the Science Advisory Board:
Professor Seligman is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology and Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where he focuses on positive psychology, learned helplessness, prospection, optimism and positive education. He is a best-selling author of several books, including Flourish. His most recent book is The Hope Circuit, his autobiography. 
Read more about Professor Seligman.

New lectures from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies posted in the Member Area. Log in or Sign up.

June 2021
The hardcover edition of Der Ursprung des Bewußtseins durch den Zusammenbruch der Bikameralen Psyche (the German edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available in Germany (also serving many other EU countries), France, Italy, Spain & Portugal, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

New lectures from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies and our May 2021 Q&A Session posted in the Member Area. Log in or Sign up.

May 2021
We are pleased to announce that the revised hardcover edition of The Julian Jaynes Collection has just been released in the United States, France, Germany (also serving many other EU countries),, Italy, Spain & Portugal, and United Kingdom. It will soon be available for order wherever books are sold. This beautifully produced book has the cover art printed right on the case, similar to a textbook, so no dust jacket to lose or get torn. Perfect for Jaynes enthusiasts, collectors, and libraries.

The Julian Jaynes Society is honored to welcome Professor Edoardo Casiglia and Professor Laurence Sugarman to the Science Advisory Board:
– Professor Casiglia, MD, is Professor of Internal Medicine at University of Padova, Italy. He is a specialist in cardiology, pharmacology, anesthesia and intensive care, a clinical hypertension specialist, and an anthropologist and forensic archeologist. 
– Professor Sugarma, MD, is Research Professor and Director of the Center for Applied Psychophysiology and Self-regulation in the College of Health Sciences and Technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT); a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at the Easter Seals Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Rochester, New York; and Clinical Professor in Pediatrics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Read more about Professor Casiglia and Professor Sugarman.

The hardcover edition of La naissance de la conscience dans l’effondrement de l’esprit bicaméral (the French edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available in France, Germany (also serving many other EU countries), Italy, Spain & Portugal, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Read the May 2021 Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.

April 2021
RSVP for this Upcoming Event:
Q&A on Julian Jaynes’s Theory with Marcel Kuijsten, Brian McVeigh, and Special Guests, May 1, 2021

Watch the interview with Boban Dedovic: “The Evolution of Mind Words in the Iliad and the Odyssey (Julian Jaynes Society Interview Series). Log in or Sign up.

We are pleased to announce that the hardcover edition of Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind has just been released in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and United Kingdom. It will soon be available for order wherever books are sold. This beautifully produced book has the cover art printed right on the case, similar to a textbook, so no dust jacket to lose or get torn. Perfect for Jaynes enthusiasts, collectors, and libraries.

The Voice In Your Head,” by Sophie McBain, with discussion of Julian Jaynes’s bicameral mind theory and Jaynes’s influence on the Hearing Voices Movement.

Read the April 2021 Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.

March 2021
RSVP for this Upcoming Event:
Boban Dedovic – The Evolution of Mind Words in the Iliad and the Odyssey, March 20, 2021

Read the March 2021 Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.

February 2021
Watch the interview with Brian J. McVeigh: Evidence for the Bicameral Mind in the Old Testament” (Julian Jaynes Society Interview Series). Log in or Sign up. Watch the preview on YouTube.

Did the Bicameral Mind Evolve to Create Modern Human Consciousness?

Read the February 2021 Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.

We’ve dramatically expanded our global distribution for all Julian Jaynes Society Publications. Julian Jaynes Society books can now be ordered in many bookstores worldwide through their normal distribution channels.

January 2021
We’ve released updated versions of all of our Kindle publications. To get the latest version, log in to your Amazon account, go to “Manage content and devices,” and look for the “Update available” link under the book title.
See JJS Publications here:
https://www.julianjaynes.org/product-category/publications/
https://www.julianjaynes.org/product-category/publications-foreign/

Watch a new Interview with Marcel Kuijsten and Brian J. McVeigh on Julian Jaynes’s theory.

Additional lectures from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies posted in the Member Area. Log in or Sign up to view.

Read the January 2021 Newsletter.
Not on our mailing list? Sign up here: Join Our Mailing List.

The softcover edition of El origen de la conciencia en la ruptura de la mente bicameral (the Spanish edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available in Spain and 8 other markets: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain & Portugal, United States, United Kingdom

December 2020
Watch The Voices in Your Head: How God Became ‘I’ – An interview with Brian J. McVeigh on his latest book and Julian Jaynes’s theory.

The softcover edition of Der Ursprung des Bewußtseins durch den Zusammenbruch der Bikameralen Psyche (the German edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available in Germany and 8 other markets: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain & Portugal, United States, United Kingdom

November 2020
The softcover edition of La naissance de la conscience dans l’effondrement de l’esprit bicaméral (the French edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available in France, Canada, and 7 other markets: Australia, Canada , France
Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain & Portugal, United States, United Kingdom

October 2020
A rare audio lecture by Julian Jaynes posted in the Member Area. Log in or Sign up to listen.

El origen de la conciencia en la ruptura de la mente bicameral (the Spanish edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available for Kindle on all Amazon sites worldwide.

September 2020
Rare video of Julian Jaynes’s giving his lecture, “Consciousness and the Voices of the Mind,” posted in the Member Area, along with additional videos from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies. Log in or Sign up to view.

New book: The Psychology of the Bible: Explaining Divine Voices and Visions by Brian J. McVeigh.

August 2020
Lectures from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies posted in the Member Area. Log in or Sign up to view.

June 2020
Neuroscience Confirms Julian Jaynes’s Neurological Model

February 2020
In celebration of Julian Jaynes’s 100th birthday, we officially launched the completely redesigned Julian Jaynes Society website and Member Area. The new site has greatly improved functionality, features, security, a better user experience, new content, and is optimized for both computers and mobile devices. Special thanks to JJS member Boban Dedovic for volunteering his time and expertise to this project. Thank you also to the Julian Jaynes Society members — your ongoing support helped make this project possible!

May 2019
Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind is now available in Korean.

Expanded to include a new, previously unpublished 30-page in-depth interview with Julian Jaynes, the softcover edition of The Julian Jaynes Collection is now available in the U.S. as well as 8 other markets: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain & Portugal, United Kingdom

The softcover edition of Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind is now available for direct purchase in the U.S., Canada, and 7 new overseas markets:
Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain & Portugal, United States, United Kingdom

March 2019
The Julian Jaynes Collection Kindle Edition is now available on all Amazon sites worldwide.

February 2019
The Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind Kindle Edition is now available on all Amazon sites worldwide.

January 2018
The 20th Anniversary of the Julian Jaynes Society

January 2018
New book: The ‘Other’ Psychology of Julian Jaynes: Ancient Languages, Sacred Visions, and Forgotten Mentalities by Brian J. McVeigh.

September 2017
La naissance de la conscience dans l’effondrement de l’esprit bicaméral (the French edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available for Kindle on all Amazon sites worldwide.

May 2017
The Why Factor: Why Do We Talk to Ourselves?
Includes discussion of Julian Jaynes’s theory with Julian Jaynes Society Executive Director Marcel Kuijsten.

April 2017
Der Ursprung des Bewusstseins durch den Zusammenbruch der Bikameralen Psyche (the German edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available for Kindle on all Amazon sites worldwide.

January 2017
Celebrating the 10 Year Anniversary of our first book, Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness.

December 2016
The Trippy Theory of Consciousness at the Heart of Westworld

October 2016
The Bicameral Mind Explains What’s Next for “Westworld”
Interview with Executive Director Marcel Kuijsten on Julian Jaynes’s Theory and Westworld.

Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind May Provide the Key to HBO’s Westworld

Why The Bicameral Mind Theory Is Crucial To Unlocking “Westworld”

July 2015
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind Audible version is now available.

May 2014
Now available: The 2013 Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies Audio CD.

December 2013
The Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness Kindle Edition is now available on all Amazon sites worldwide.

November 2012
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind Kindle Edition is now available.




Fact Checking Scott Alexander’s Discussion of Julian Jaynes’s Theory on “Slate Star Codex” – Part 2

By Marcel Kuijsten

In June 2020, the psychiatrist and blogger Scott Alexander wrote a review of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind for his popular “Slate Star Codex” blog. His discussion of Jaynes’s theory contains a number of misconceptions and errors, and I will attempt to clear those up here. While the first three sections of his review are more or less just a summary of Jaynes’s main arguments and some topics he feels are related or supportive, the issues I’d like to address can be found in the fourth and fifth sections of his post.

Misunderstanding Jaynes’s Definition of Consciousness

Alexander asks the question: “Did he [Jaynes] literally believe that the Sumerians, Homeric Greeks, etc. were p-zombies? … I cannot be completely sure.” P-consciousness is a “type of consciousness,” according to the philosopher Ned Block, the “P” standing for “phenomenal.” It roughly equates to what Jaynes would more accurately call “awareness” or “sensory perception” — the world you perceive when you open your eyes. Block contrasts this with A- or “access” consciousness, which is more closely related to Jaynes’s definition of an introspectable mind-space. To wonder whether or not Jaynes believed that the ancient Sumerians and other ancient cultures lack “p-consciousness” is simply a gross misunderstanding of the theory, and readers that are unclear on this point would do well to re-read the first two chapters of Jaynes’s book, as well as the Afterword. Surprisingly, this same error was also made by Ned Block in his 1977 review of Jaynes’s book. This misconception, along with other misconceptions by Ned Block, are exhaustively addressed by the philosophy professor Jan Sleutels in his article “Greek Zombies,” which appeared in Philosophical Psychology and was updated and revised for the book Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness. Professor Sleutels also clarifies these issues in his interview in Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind.

To be clear, all animal life, including insects, has the experience of sensory perception, to widely varying degrees. This would of course include early, even pre-bicameral humans. Even microorganisms have fairly complex methods of navigating their environment, and habituate to stimuli in their surroundings (Lazova, 2011). But the experience of sensory perception — of sights, smells, sounds and colors — should not be confused with consciousness, because (among other reasons), much of what organisms (including humans) perceive and respond to happens nonconsciously, as Jaynes goes to great lengths to explain. We are consciously aware of only a small fraction of what we perceive (Kilhstrom, 1987; Nørretranders, 1991). Jaynes revisits this topic in the Afterword of his book (added to the 1990 and later editions):

Perception is sensing a stimulus and responding appropriately. And this can happen on a nonconscious level, as I have tried to describe in driving a car. Another way to look at the problem is to remember the behavior of white blood cells, which certainly perceive bacteria and respond appropriately by devouring them. To equate consciousness with perception is thus tantamount to saying that we have six thousand conscious entities per cubic millimeter of blood whirling around in our circulatory system — which I think is a reductio ad absurdum.

(Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, p. 448-449)

To try to make the distinction even clearer, infants of course have “wakefulness,” “awareness,” and sensory perception, but according to Jaynes — as well as Dennett (2005), Zelazo (1999, 2007), and others — they do not yet possess what we might call “Jaynesian” consciousness (others use the term “self-consciousness”), which develops as they learn metaphorical language. Similarly, a person with advanced dementia will likely see a diminishment of some or all of the features of Jaynesian consciousness, but of course still have “wakefulness,” “awareness,” and sense perception. Conversely, Jaynesian consciousness — “an analog ‘I’ narratizing in a mind-space” — can now be observed in some individuals that are in a vegetative state, who are shown to be able to visualize themselves playing tennis, or moving around their home, “in a manner indistinguishable from that of healthy volunteers” (Owen, 2006).

A prominent psychology professor often states that infants are more conscious than adults. In constructing this argument, the professor could just as easily have made the case that cats are more conscious than adults (or a variety of other non-human animals), because what is primarily being described are changes in attention — not consciousness. The fact that many theorists confuse consciousness with things like sense perception, wakefulness, awareness, and attention, or use the term “consciousness” in other vague, poorly defined ways, does not make it correct. In non-human animals (or pre-conscious humans), “sentience” is a better term for what is often referred to as consciousness.

Alexander also states that Jaynes seems to be “unaware of (or avoiding)” the “hard problem of consciousness.” However, that phrase was coined by David Chalmers in 1995 — 18 years after Jaynes’s book was published (in January of 1977), and two years before Jaynes’s death. As just discussed, Jaynes would likely have viewed this as the problem of the experience of sensory perception. To put it another way, it was not the issue he was primarily concerned with, which was the origin of our ability to introspect, to have what he called “an analog ‘I’ narratizing in a mind-space.” As a side-note, the philosopher Daniel Dennett — whose views on consciousness in certain ways are similar to Jaynes’s — has argued persuasively that in fact there is no “hard problem of consciousness” (Dennett, 2018).

Jaynesian Consciousness Is Not the Same As “Theory of Mind”

Next Alexander suggests that what Jaynes really identified was that the ancient Greeks and people in other cultures prior to 1500 B.C. simply lacked “theory of mind” — or a knowledge that other people have an inner mental life that differs from their own. However consciousness — as defined by Jaynes — and theory of mind are two completely different things. What Jaynes carefully documents, through a variety of different lines of evidence, is the lack of subjective interiority or “inner mind-space” in ancient cultures, as well as a previous “bicameral” mentality. In ancient Greece, the emergence of consciousness ushers in a “cognitive explosion,” and we see the beginnings of history, science, philosophy, and theater. Follow-up research has documented the transition from bicameral mentality to consciousness in cultures that Jaynes did not investigate, such as ancient China (Carr, 2006) and ancient Tibet (Gibson, 2016, 2022). The transition is also documented in the changing nature of dreams — from “visitation” to conscious (Atwan, 2016; Jaynes, 2012a; Kuijsten, 2022). We see a similar transition to consciousness through language development in children (Rowe, 2016, 2022; Zelazo, 1999, 2007). This is not simply the failure to recognize mental states different than our own in others (“theory of mind”).

At best we can say that theory of mind is a feature (or perhaps a sub-feature) of Jaynesian consciousness, and also perhaps one of the means by which we can measure consciousness, in child development, for example. Jaynes lists the features of consciousness on pages 59-65 and 449-452 of his book, and it is a much more extensive set of skills that simply possessing theory of mind. The changes Jaynes documents in ancient history are also more profound. For an in-depth discussion of why Jaynesian consciousness should not be confused with theory of mind, please see my interview with psychology professor John Kihlstrom in Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind (published after Alexander’s blog post), and Jaynes’s own brief commentary on this issue in The Julian Jaynes Collection (Jaynes, 2012b).

But why does Alexander propose that Jaynes identified the origin of “theory of mind,” rather than the origin of consciousness, in the first place? Alexander’s primary source of confusion — as is unfortunately so often the case with confusion about Jaynes’s theory — seems to stem from a failure to understand how narrowly and precisely Jaynes defines consciousness. It seems he did not do a careful reading of this section of Jaynes’s book, and he is likely (and perhaps unknowingly) substituting his own, broad (and vague) definition of consciousness for Jaynes’s very narrow, precise definition. While this may be a bit of informed speculation on my part, whenever people fail to grasp Jaynes’s narrow definition of consciousness, it generally leads to all of the predictable, “Ned Block-style” objections. Alexander’s own definition of consciousness has to be inferred, however, because — as is so often the case — he never explains his own definition of the term. His attempts to critique Jaynes’s arguments, then, seem to be based on a broad definition of consciousness that Jaynes would never have agreed with. The kinds of things that many writers and theorists often lump under the umbrella term of “consciousness,” Jaynes more accurately relegates to things like reactivity, sense perception, learning, and cognition. It often takes multiple readings of Jaynes, as well periods of reflecting on his ideas, to fully grasp his arguments.

Alexander then turns his attention to Jaynes’s discussion of bicameral mentality and Jaynes’s neurological model for bicameral mentality. He states:

I am not an expert in functional neuroanatomy, but my impression is that recent research has not been kind to any theories too reliant on hemispheric lateralization.

What follows are some examples of Alexander’s misunderstandings and mischaracterizations of Jaynes’s arguments on these topics — and, more specifically, mischaracterizations of the new evidence for Jaynes’s arguments — along with brief clarifications.

Confusion on Split-Brain Research

Alexander contends that findings of the split-brain experiments by Sperry, Gazzaniga, and Bogen “[don’t] replicate.” Here he is referring to the evidence from research on split-brain patients that suggests that, when the primary connection between the brain hemispheres is severed, the two hemispheres seem to operate much more independently, to the extent that two separate “spheres of consciousness,” one per hemisphere, seem to emerge. To back up his sweeping claim that findings from decades of research on this subject have somehow been refuted, he cites a Science Daily press release (University of Amsterdam, 2017) referring to research by the Dutch neuroscientist Yair Pinto (2017).

It is rare that a single study ever refutes the findings of decades of research on any subject, and in this instance, it certainly does not. The fact of the matter is that Yair Pinto is a well known skeptic of some of the conclusions of split-brain research — one might go so far as to say that he is something of a “split-brain research conclusions denier.” And while there is certainly nothing wrong with raising thoughtful objections to scientific research — indeed, that is a critical part of the scientific process — in my view, his arguments against the primary findings of split-brain research, although at times thought-provoking, don’t hold up to serious scrutiny or debate.

The fact is that many of the key findings from the split-brain experiments, as bizarre and provocative as they may be, have actually held up quite well (Gazzaniga, 2005). For an outstanding recent discussion of this research and its philosophical implications, see philosophy professor Elizabeth Schechter’s Self-Consciousness and “Split” Brains: The Minds’ I (2018). I highly recommend reading this book (while expensive, it can be obtained via inter-library loan), and also watching the 2018 debate “Do Split-Brain Patients Have Two Minds?” between Joseph LeDoux, Elizabeth Schechter, and the aforementioned Yair Pinto.

Again, it should be obvious that one article on any subject is rarely definitive, and citing a single article rarely conveys a balanced view of the current state of any controversial or evolving subject matter. You can’t simply dismiss decades of Nobel-prize winning experiments with a wave of the hand, a statement that “they don’t replicate,” and a link to a press release — as Alexander does in his post. (Here I might encourage Dr. Alexander to revisit his own post, “Beware the Man of One Study,” because in at least three places in his commentary on Jaynes, he very much is “the man of one study.”)

How does this research relate to Jaynes’s theory? It demonstrates that, in split-brain patients, the brain hemispheres operate in a more independent, or “bicameral,” manner. It is thus conceivable that this also occurred in the past, but for neuro-cultural (rather than surgical) reasons.

Confusion on the Neurology of Auditory Hallucinations & Jaynes’s Neurological Model

Alexander then makes the statement that

Jaynes says his theory implies that schizophrenic hallucinations come from the language centers of the right hemisphere, and I think the latest fMRI evidence is that they don’t.

Here he is referring to Jaynes’s fourth hypothesis: his neurological model for bicameral mentality, which is that auditory hallucinations emerge in the language areas of the right hemisphere and travel across the corpus callosum, to be “heard” in the language areas of the left hemisphere (in right-handed individuals). On this point, Alexander is simply egregiously wrong.

To support this claim, he again cherry picks one study, while simply ignoring the dozens of studies that provide strong support for Jaynes’s neurological model. Like the study of nutrition, brain science is highly complex, and if one looks hard enough, it’s easy to find a single study to support almost any conclusion. What matters is the preponderance of evidence, and, as we will see, the preponderance of evidence now clearly supports Jaynes’s neurological model.

Alexander does not cite — and appears to not have read — any of the follow-up publications on Jaynes’s theory, as I previously described many of the studies supporting Jaynes’s neurological model in my chapter “Consciousness, Hallucinations, and the Bicameral Mind: Three Decades of New Research” in Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness (2006) and in an article titled “New Evidence for Jaynes’s Neurological Model: A Research Update” (2007) in The Jaynesian newsletter. Both of these were available for more than a decade before Alexander wrote his blog post, and many of the relevant studies have also been posted in the Summary of Evidence and Supporting Evidence sections of the Julian Jaynes Society website, many also for more than a decade.

More recently — and partly in response to Alexander’s critique — I outlined many of the studies that show clear support for Jaynes’s neurological model in the post: “Neuroscience Confirms Julian Jaynes’s Neurological Model,” as well as in the book Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind. I encourage you to take a moment to look at the studies summarized in my post, compare those to the one study Alexander cites (“Tuning in to the Voices: A Multisite fMRI Study of Auditory Hallucinations“), and draw your own conclusions as to whether or not Alexander accurately represents the current state of evidence regarding Jaynes’s neurological model.

It is not at all clear why Alexander cites this one particular study, as the experimental design does not speak as directly to the issue of Jaynes’s neurological model as the many more relevant, better designed studies available — and many of these studies clearly support Jaynes’s early conjectures regarding the bicameral neurology of auditory hallucinations. How could anyone even briefly researching this issue miss, for example, the commentaries by Dr. Robert Olin (“Auditory Hallucinations and the Bicameral Mind,” 1999) and Dr. Leo Sher (“Neuroimaging, Auditory Hallucinations, and the Bicameral Mind,” 2000), both with the full text available online, and both calling attention to Belinda Lennox’s landmark 1999 study, “Spatial and Temporal Mapping of Neural Activity Associated with Auditory Hallucinations” (1999)? Lennox’s fMRI study of a hallucinating schizophrenic patient was the first fMRI study to show strong support for Jaynes’s neurological model. Her findings, or findings roughly similar to hers, have since been replicated by numerous other researchers over the past two decades — including recently.

If you search for “jaynes auditory hallucinations” on Google Scholar, Dr. Olin’s and Dr. Sher’s commentaries are the first and third results. We are left to wonder, 1) did Dr. Alexander not take the short amount of time necessary to locate and read the many more relevant studies that are highly supportive of Jaynes’s neurological model — despite the fact that this would have been very easy to do, or 2) for reasons unknown, did he deliberately mischaracterize the evidence supporting Jaynes’s fourth hypothesis by selecting one ambiguous study while ignoring the many more relevant and more favorable studies? I have no way of knowing, but am willing to give the benefit of the doubt that it was just exceedingly poor research on his part. Either way, he failed to accurately convey the evidence on this subject to his readers.

Confusion on Spirit Possession & the Right Hemisphere

In his book, Jaynes speculates that spirit possession and other trance states might indicate a temporary shift to right-hemisphere dominance. Alexander commits the same “single ambiguous study as definitive evidence” error with regards to Jaynes’s comments on spirit (or demon) possession. He reports one study (Vazquez, 2018) that had ambiguous results regarding right hemisphere activity during the “possessed” state. Yet he fails to mention the many other studies that do support Jaynes’s speculation about right-hemisphere involvement in spirit possession and other trance states. See, for example, Krippner & Combs (2002), Persinger (1993), and Flor-Henry, Shapiro & Sombrun (2016), who state:

We corroborated not only generalized right hemispheric dominance during shamanic trance but also a specific shift from the normative anterior prefrontal to the right posterior mode of awareness.

Once again, it seems that Dr. Alexander did not review all of the relevant research, but instead jumped to conclusions based on a single study, or perhaps looked for a study that seemed to support his pre-existing views. While I would not argue that the evidence for right-hemisphere involvement in trance states is conclusive, I would suggest that it was not accurately portrayed by Dr. Alexander in his post.

Confusion on Preliterate Societies & Vestiges of Bicameral Mentality

In the fifth and final section of his post, Alexander brings up the topic of preliterate societies. Here his misunderstanding of what it means to be a bicameral person (“Jaynes claims Bronze Agers heard gods literally all the time” — Jaynes never suggests this) causes him to question why there isn’t more overt evidence of bicameral mentality documented in preliterate societies. Alexander’s naiveté on the subject is summed up in his somewhat flippant statement that we should expect tribal people to have said things like, “That couple-year period when we all stopped hallucinating gods and became conscious — that was a weird time.”

Psychological transitions in any culture are often gradual, not well documented (if at all), and poorly remembered. Further, there is no reason to believe that some preliterate societies did not develop some of the features of consciousness on their own trajectories. Nonetheless, accounts of recently contacted tribes by Christian missionaries and others are filled with examples of vestigial bicameral practices and behaviors. To give just one example, a missionary reported that:

With these undesirable denizens of the spirit-world … the Ten’a may be said to have an almost continual intercourse” [i.e., communication]. “They hold themselves liable to see or hear them at any time.

Quoted in Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, Primitive Mentality

That sounds a lot like he is describing auditory and visual hallucinations, and one can read many similar examples associated with preliterate societies worldwide. For more examples, see the quotes from books such as Primitive Mentality, How Natives Think, and Do Kamo posted in the “The Mentality of Pre-Literate & Pre-Modern Peoples” section of the JJS Forum.

There are many challenges inherent in the study of the psychology and inner mental life of a given individual or culture. For one, anthropologists who studied recently contacted tribes were not familiar with Jaynes’s theory (in most cases, it had not yet been proposed) and were not focused specifically on psychological issues, thus generally they were not asking the relevant questions. A key point to understand, and one that Alexander seems to at least partly acknowledge, is that if you met a bicameral or semi-bicameral person (transported through time) on the street today, it would certainly not be immediately obvious to you. It would take time to develop an understanding of the extent to which their behavior was directed in times of stress by auditory hallucinations, the degree to which they had a well-developed analog ‘I’ narratizing in a mind-space, etc.

Similarly, it would not be immediately obvious to you if you met a conscious person who also frequently hears voices, as many people around the world still do, but rarely discuss. How many people today are aware that a significant percentage of the homeless they pass on the street every day are hearing voices (Desjarlais, 1997)? The fact is, we are surrounded by examples of vestiges of bicameral mentality in modern society — let alone in preliterate societies. Studies by psychologists such as Russell Hurlburt at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who for decades has been investigating inner experience (see Hurlburt, 1990, 2011), illustrate both larger than expected differences in the inner dialogue of even modern, conscious people, as well as the challenges inherent in this type of research. The bottom line is that understanding another person’s inner mental life, or lack thereof, is a lengthy, complex process and cannot be immediately gleaned merely from observable behavior.

An exhaustive review of the evidence for bicameral mentality and vestiges of bicameral mentality in recently contacted tribes has yet to be written, but in the meantime, interested readers should look at the source material by Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, Maurice Leenhardt, and other early investigators, as well as more recent investigators such as Daniel Everett (2009).

Summing Up

Scott Alexander’s blog post on Julian Jaynes’s book and theory contains a number of factual errors and significant misunderstandings of Jaynes’s arguments. Furthermore, it fails to mention the great deal of new evidence that supports Jaynes’s theory, instead misleading readers to believe that relevant new studies generally contradict the theory — the opposite of what is true. For those who feel that perhaps I’ve been a bit hard on Dr. Alexander (I have no doubt that he is a well intentioned person), I think it’s important to emphasize that, in my view, bloggers and other writers do their readers a disservice when they publish poorly researched content. By mischaracterizing Jaynes’s theory as essentially not having withstood the test of time — rather than what is in fact the case, that many aspects of Jaynes’s theory are well supported by new evidence — Alexander potentially turned off many of the readers in his large audience to learning more about Jaynes’s fascinating ideas.

Given that Alexander was so out of his depth on this review, and wrong on so many key points, one can only wonder as to the validity of his other posts. The problems seen in Alexander’s post are one of reasons that I’m not a fan of generalist blogs in the first place: authors often seem to feel pressured to constantly churn out new material, and thus are compelled to delve into topics and areas they are wholly unfamiliar with. A better approach is taken by bloggers that stick to their given areas of expertise.

It is my hope that, before writing about Jaynes’s theory, others will see that it is imperative to first familiarize themselves with all (or at least most) of the available literature on the subject, and not just skim Julian Jaynes’s book and think that that now makes them an “expert,” or even in a position to properly evaluate the theory. It is difficult to fully understand all of the nuances of Jaynes’s theory — and impossible to accurately evaluate the evidence for or against it — without also looking at the new evidence, clarifications, and extensions of the theory that have been published in the now more than 45 years since Julian Jaynes first published his book.

I welcome your comments below.

References

Robert Atwan, “The Interpretation of Dreams, The Origin of Consciousness, and the Birth of Tragedy”, in in M. Kuijsten (ed.) Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind (Julian Jaynes Society, 2016).

Michael Carr, “The Shi “Corpse/Personator” Ceremony In Early China,” in M. Kuijsten (ed.) Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness (Julian Jaynes Society, 2006).

Daniel Dennett, “What Do You Believe Is True Even Though You Cannot Prove It?” Interview for Edge.org, 2005.

Daniel Dennett, “Facing Up to the Hard Question of Consciousness,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 2018.

Robert R. Desjarlais, Shelter Blues: Sanity and Selfhood Among the Homeless (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997).

Daniel Everett, Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle (Vintage, 2009).

Pierre Flor-Henry, Yakov Shapiro & Corine Sombrun, “Brain Changes during a Shamanic Trance: Altered Modes of Consciousness, Hemispheric Laterality, and Systemic Psychobiology,” Cogent Psychology, 2017, 4, 1.

Michael S. Gazzaniga, “Forty-five Years of Split-brain Research and Still Going Strong,” Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2005, 6, 653–659.

Todd Gibson, “Souls, Gods, Kings, and Mountains: Julian Jaynes’s Theory of the Bicameral Mind in Tibet, Part One” and “Listening for Ancient Voices: Julian Jaynes’s Theory of the Bicameral Mind in Tibet, Part Two,” in M. Kuijsten (ed.) Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind (Julian Jaynes Society, 2016).

Todd Gibson, “Evidence for Bicameral Mentality in Ancient Tibet,” in M. Kuijsten (ed.) Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind (Julian Jaynes Society, 2022).

Russell T. Hurlburt, “A Schizophrenic Woman Who Heard Voices of the Gods,” in R. Hurlburt, Sampling Normal and Schizophrenic Inner Experience (Plenum Press, 1990). Reprinted in M. Kuijsten (ed.) Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind (Julian Jaynes Society, 2016).

Russell T. Hurlburt, Investigating Pristine Inner Experience: Moments of Truth (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Mariner Books, 1976/2000).

Julian Jaynes, “The Dream of Agamemnon” in M. Kuijsten (ed.) The Julian Jaynes Collection (Julian Jaynes Society, 2012a).

Julian Jaynes, “In A Manner of Speaking: Commentary on Cognition and Consciousness in Non-Human Species,” in M. Kuijsten (ed.) The Julian Jaynes Collection (Julian Jaynes Society, 2012b).

John Kihlstrom, “The Cognitive Unconscious,” Science, 1987, 237, 4821.

S. C. Krippner & A. Combs, “The Neurophenomenology of Shamanism: An Essay Review,” Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2002, 9, 77–82.

Marcel Kuijsten “Consciousness, Hallucinations, and the Bicameral Mind: Three Decades of New Research,” in M. Kuijsten (ed.) Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes’s Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited (Julian Jaynes Society, 2006).

Marcel Kuijsten, “Consciousness, Language, and Dreams,” in M. Kuijsten (ed.) Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind (Julian Jaynes Society, 2022).

Marcel Kuijsten, “New Evidence for Jaynes’s Neurological Model: A Research Update,” The Jaynesian, 2007.

Milena Lazova, et. al., “Response Rescaling in Bacterial Chemotaxis,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011, 108, 33.

Joseph LeDoux, Yair Pinto, and Elizabeth Schechter, “Debate: Do Split-Brain Patients Have Two Minds?” (NYU Center for Mind, Brain and Consciousness, 2018).

Tor Nørretranders, The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size (Penguin Books, 1991).

Robert Olin, “Auditory Hallucinations and the Bicameral Mind,” The Lancet, 1999, 354, 9173.

Adrian Owen, et al, “Detecting Awareness in the Vegetative State,” Science, 2006, 313, 5792.

Michael A. Persinger, “Vectorial Cerebral Hemisphericity as Differential Sources for the Sensed Presence, Mystical Experiences and Religious Conversions,” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1993, 76, 915–930.

Yair Pinto, et al. “Split Brain: Divided Perception but Undivided Consciousness,” Brain, January 2017.

Bill Rowe, “Two Origins of Consciousness” in M. Kuijsten (ed.) Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind (Julian Jaynes Society, 2016).

Bill Rowe, “The Development of Consciousness in Children” in M. Kuijsten (ed.) Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind (Julian Jaynes Society, 2022).

Elizabeth Schechter’s Self-Consciousness and “Split” Brains: The Minds’ I (Oxford University Press, 2018).

Leo Sher, “Neuroimaging, Auditory Hallucinations, and the Bicameral Mind,” Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 2000, 25, 3.

Jan Sleutels, “Greek Zombies,” in M. Kuijsten (ed.) Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes’s Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited (Julian Jaynes Society, 2006).

University of Amsterdam, “Split Brain Does Not Lead to Split Consciousness,” ScienceDaily, January 25, 2017.

Jose Luis Mosso Vazquez, et al., “Resting Stated-Tractography-fMRI in Initial Phase of Spiritual Possession – A Case Report,” Trends in Medicine, 2018.

Philip Zelazo, “Language, Levels of Consciousness, and the Development of Intentional Action,” in P.D. Zelazo, J.W. Astington & D.R. Olson (eds.), Developing Theories of Intention: Social Understanding and Self-Control (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999).

Philip Zelazo, et al, “The Development of Consciousness,” in P. Zelazo (ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

See also: Fact Checking Scott Alexander’s Review of Julian Jaynes’s Theory on “Slate Star Codex” – Part 1, by Brian J. McVeigh




Fact Checking Scott Alexander’s Discussion of Julian Jaynes’s Theory on “Slate Star Codex” – Part 1

By Brian J. McVeigh

Scott Alexander begins his review of Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness with an odd opening. He describes it as “brilliant” and writes that it only has “two minor flaws”: It purports to explain the origin of consciousness and it “posits a breakdown of the bicameral mind.” Given that these two issues are the work’s major arguments, I’m not sure why Alexander characterizes them as “minor.”

In any case, after critiquing Jaynes’s theories, Alexander contends that Jaynes should have written a different book in which “consciousness” would be replaced by “theory of mind.” In other words, for Alexander the ancients were conscious, but like children, they simply lacked a theory of mind. However, it stretches credulity to believe that for centuries, in every place in which we have records, people could not figure out how to express themselves. Surely a better explanation is called for, and I think Jaynes provides it. In what follows I deal with other problems and misinterpretations in Alexander’s evaluation of The Origin of Consciousness.

Like other critics, Alexander’s reading of The Origin of Consciousness is truncated, i.e., he ignores Jaynes’s comprehensive account of mentality that theoretically threads together numerous psychological anomalous behaviors — hypnosis, spirit possession, hallucinations, glossolalia, imaginary playmates, and felt presence (the striking lack of psychological vocabularies in ancient texts before the first millennium BCE is but one item on the Jaynesian agenda). It’s as if only certain chapters of Jaynes’s book were read so that the work’s actual import is missed.

Also, like other critics, Alexander neglects to incorporate in his appraisal research bolstering a Jaynesian psychology. Such scholarship is accessible in about a dozen books as well as numerous articles (refer to the Julian Jaynes Society website).

Alexander claims that Jaynes “blamed trade” for the breakdown of bicameral mentality. But Jaynes’s theorizings are much more nuanced, and he provides a number of reasons why the collapse of god-governed civilizations birthed consciousness: The inherent instability of hallucinatory governance; the inability of the gods to deal with historical upheaval caused by social complexity, invasion, migration, and environmental stressors; how the invention of writing weakened auditory control; and a “modicum of natural selection” (here it needs to be stressed that, for Jaynes, the emergence of consciousness was “chiefly a cultural introduction … rather than any biological necessity,” p. 220).

Alexander believes that Jaynesian psychology is weakened by what might be called small-scale tribal societies or “any other human group presumably isolated from second-millennium-BC Assyrians” … “If consciousness is an invention, and it didn’t spread to these groups, did these groups have it?” Alexander’s musings demand a few responses.

First, it is not clear why consciousness could not have spread to different groups, and not just from “Assyria” (Alexander writes that, according to Jaynes, bicameral mentality emerged in the Middle East, but Jaynes argued that the bicamerality-to-consciousness transition also occurred China, the Americas, and South Asia). Consciousness, like many other cultural forms, could have diffused from developed civilizational cores to smaller, less centrally-organized, peripherally-located societies. Though lacking written language, tribal societies could have transmitted consciousness via a psychologized vocabulary to their descendants the same way they conveyed other knowledge (if and when they became isolated). Second, it is a mistake to assume that tribal societies have always existed in their present (and for some, isolated) form. There is no reason to think that small-scale societies are not the successors of once great civilizations or complex cultures. Due to social collapse, migration, invasion, or absorption by bigger groupings, many societies undoubtedly followed a trajectory that saw a drastic reduction in demographic size.

Third, researchers have yet to come across any society, whether small or large, that lacks vestiges of bicameral mentality (spirit possession, hypnosis, mythologies, religious traditions, etc.). Indeed, Alexander’s neglect of global patterns of residual bicameral mentality is additional evidence that he did not read Jaynes in toto.

Alexander cites one article that supposedly contradicts Jaynes’s hypothesis about hemispheric interactions. However, numerous other publications support Jaynes. And note that Jaynes did not argue that the two hemispheres of preconscious, hallucinating individuals were not as integrated as that of conscious people. He did argue that at one time culture wired the linguistic regions differently, so that the right hemisphere generated hallucinations (which were a side effect of language comprehension). And Jaynes certainly understood that “all tasks require some input from both” hemispheres. In other words, contrary to much of the popular hype about left-brain versus right-brain thinking styles, Jaynes himself was well aware that such differences are relative and contextual, not absolute and categorical.

Finally, Alexander is egregiously wrong when he writes that Jaynes claimed that the ancients “heard gods literally all the time, as a substitute for individual thought.” In fact, Jaynes argued that most of the time people were guided by consciousless habit and ritualized routine; they only heard divine voices when confronted with novel situations or during times of stress.

See also: Fact Checking Scott Alexander’s Review of Julian Jaynes’s Theory on “Slate Star Codex” – Part 2, by Marcel Kuijsten




Julian Jaynes Society Summer 2023 Newsletter

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Julian Jaynes Society Summer 2023 Newsletter

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Julian Jaynes Society

Summer 2023

Dear Members and Friends of the Julian Jaynes Society,

We hope that you’re all enjoying a wonderful summer! We have a number of new items to share with you since our last update, including:

  • “End of Summer” Reading Sale: Enjoy 10% off Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind (ends August 31st)
  • Stanford Anthropology Professor Tanya Luhrmann discusses Julian Jaynes’s theory
  • “Consciousness as ‘Super-perception’” by Brian J. McVeigh
  • Fact-checking Erik Hoel’s The World Behind the World
  • Behind the scenes photos from the Jaynes documentary filming
  • New, rare Julian Jaynes lectures and interviews

“End of Summer” Reading Sale!

Now through Thursday, August 31st, enjoy 10% off our latest book, Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind on Amazon or the JJS website:

Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind

Including in-depth interviews with Stanford anthropology professor Tanya Luhrmann, UC Berkeley psychology professor emeritus John Kihlstrom, and many others, this book answers the most common questions people have about Jaynes’s theory and extends the theory into many new areas.

(If you live outside of the U.S., your best option is to purchase the book through your country’s Amazon website or via special order from your favorite bookstore.)

If you’re already enjoyed the book, please help others discover it by writing a positive review on Amazon, Goodreads, or the Julian Jaynes Society website.

Order Your Copy
Watch on YouTube

New from the JJS Blog

Falling between the Cracks
Consciousness as “Super-perception”:
Like Technological Innovations and Linguistic Coinages, Consciousness Greatly Extends Our Senses, Increasing Adaptability

by Brian J. McVeigh

“People commonly confuse and conflate sensory perception with Jaynesian consciousness. Indeed, this is why in much of my writing I have stressed their distinction. However, here I argue that despite their important differences, they are nevertheless intimately related. …” Read more

JJS Blog

JJS Fact Check

Falling between the Cracks
Fact Checking Erik Hoel’s The World behind the World: Consciousness, Free Will, and the Limits of Science
by Brian J. McVeigh

“In the second chapter of The World behind the World: Consciousness, Free Will, and the Limits of Science, Erik Hoel briefly treats the historical development of what he calls the “intrinsic perspective” (mental experiences). In doing so he brings up the contributions of Julian Jaynes but dismisses his theories. Whatever value the arguments of Hoel’s book might have, he greatly distorts and misrepresents the Jaynesian perspective. …” Read more

JJS Blog

Jaynes Documentary Production: Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Documentary Production

Documentary Production Documentary Production

Documentary Production Documentary Production

The Julian Jaynes Society’s Marcel Kuijsten and filmmaker Brendan Leahy filming an interview with Dr. Clive Svendsen for a potential Julian Jaynes documentary at the Regenerative Medicine Institute at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles. Stay tuned for additional updates and behind-the-scenes footage!

New for JJS Supporters

A rare Julian Jaynes video lecture and a radio interview with Julian Jaynes:

Julian Jaynes - Consciousness and the Voices of the Mind

Julian Jaynes Radio Interview

Plus Paul Evans, “Julian Jaynes, the Noosphere, Altered States and Consciousness Evolution,” and more!

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Coming later this year: More new audio and video of Julian Jaynes, new interviews on Julian Jaynes’s theory, video from 4-hour 2008 Tuscon Consciousness conference workshop on Jaynes’s theory, and much more. Stay tuned!

Sincerely,

Marcel Kuijsten,
Executive Director

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Fact Checking Erik Hoel’s “The World behind the World: Consciousness, Free Will, and the Limits of Science”

By Brian J. McVeigh

In the second chapter of The World behind the World: Consciousness, Free Will, and the Limits of Science, Erik Hoel briefly treats the historical development of what he calls the “intrinsic perspective” (mental experiences). In doing so he brings up the contributions of Julian Jaynes but dismisses his theories. Whatever value the arguments of Hoel’s book might have, he greatly distorts and misrepresents the Jaynesian perspective.

Let’s begin with the most egregious example. Hoel writes that Jaynes believed that “consciousness itself came about via the thickening of the communication between the two hemispheres” (p. 9). Even a perfunctory perusal of Jaynes’s book demonstrates that he argued that the appearance of consciousness was not due to neuroanatomical changes but was instead a language-based, sociocultural construction (in the aforementioned sentence Jaynes was merely describing a neural correlative operation of consciousness, not explaining it). That Hoel greatly misinterprets Jaynes’s cultural-historical explanation of consciousness is evident in how he writes that the sudden emergence of consciousness is “certainly untrue, especially given everything we know about the biology of the brain and evolution” (p. 10). Moreover, Hoel writes that while there have been some minor changes to the “human genome in the past several thousand years” (p. 10), the rapid emergence of consciousness is not one of them. Obviously Hoel misses Jaynes’s key point: Consciousness resulted from culture, not bioevolutionary forces.

A second problem is that Hoel seems to think that Jaynes only based his arguments on “careful textual analysis” (p. 9). This is a serious misreading, as Jaynes grounded his case on a sophisticated theoretical integration of present-day hallucinations, hypnosis, spirit possession, and other anomalous psychological behavior (see McVeigh, Spirits, Selves, and Subjectivity in a Japanese New Religion: The Cultural Psychology of Belief in Sūkyō Mahikari, 1997).

A third problem is that Hoel misses the nuances of Jaynes’s arguments. The latter never denied that the ancients had complex social relations (“social self”) (pp. 15–16). And examples Hoel presents as evidence of consciousness are suspect, e.g., his discussion of Egyptian “autobiographies” stretches the definition of this term to the breaking point (pp. 15–16) (see McVeigh’s The Psychology of Egypt: Reconstructing a Lost Mentality, in press).

Hoel zeroes in on two criticisms shared by critics of Jaynes. The first is that Jaynes supposedly marshals no “actual evidence that people were not conscious prior to the Homeric age” (p. 10). If Hoel wrote how he himself defines “evidence of consciousness” it would be easier to counter this charge. But given the wealth of data that Jaynes presents, this is a striking claim. The second alleged failing is commonly heard and easily dismissed: Jaynes was highlighting descriptions of mental states, not their existence per se. In other words, Jaynes “conflated having a mind” with the “ability to describe minds” (p. 18) (note here how Hoel is conflating “mind” with consciousness, two very different phenomena). Hoel relies on Ned Block’s 1977 review, in which he contended that Jaynes confused the “nature of people’s thought processes” with the “nature of their theories of their thought processes” (https://philpapers.org/archive/BLOROJ-2.pdf). The key point here is that whether a culture possesses a term for “consciousness” is beside the point; the real issue is whether or not a culture has a lexicon dedicated to the expression of subjective experiences. Jaynes addresses the “use/mention error” in the 1990 Afterword of his book, pointing out that, in many instances, a concept and the thing itself are identical. The philosopher Daniel Dennett makes the same point in “Julian Jaynes’ Software Archeology” (Canadian Psychology, 1986, 27:149–154). Philosophy professor Jan Sleutels, in his “Greek Zombies: On the Alleged Absurdity of Substantially Unconscious Greek Minds” (Marcel Kuijsten, ed., Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes’s Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited, 2006), also counters this argument. (We should note that Sleutels also refutes Block’s other criticisms.)

Hoel does acknowledge that ancient peoples lacked sophisticated psychological terms; but he appears to view this as a deficit in vocabulary, not one of a different mentality: The ancients “just gave [conscious] interiority short thrift” (p. 9). As languages evolved, the “richness of access consciousness began to approach the richness of phenomenal consciousness” [“intrinsic perspective”] (p. 18). However, we need to ask why in so many geographic locations — and for 15 to 25 centuries in some places — the extant textual records do not evidence clear-cut mental words (see McVeigh, The Psychology of the Bible: Explaining Divine Voices and Visions, 2020; The “Other Psychology” of Julian Jaynes: Ancient Languages, Sacred Visions, and Forgotten Mentalities, 2017; How Religion Evolved: The Living Dead, Talking Idols, and Mesmerizing Monuments, 2016). Moreover, the issues under discussion are not just linguistic; Hoel neglects the odd absence of concepts that a conscious people would write about, i.e., philosophical inquiries about the nature of the soul, time, and free will, etc. He is also unphased by the remarkably intensive religiosity of archaic civilizations, in which the very existence of supernatural entities was not questioned.

A general weakness with Hoel’s writing is that he lacks a clear and consistent definition of consciousness. He uses this word loosely, so the reader is not always sure if he means Jaynesian consciousness or psychological processes in general — a vital point for any debate about a Jaynesian analysis. And though it might seem nitpicking, Hoel writes that “early consciousness had taken the form of essentially auditory hallucinations” (p. 9); here Hoel is describing bicameral mentality, not “early consciousness” — as Jaynes denied that the ancients were conscious (as Jaynes carefully defines the term).

A final problem is how Hoel neglects to at least acknowledge the accumulating research bolstering the Jaynesian perspective, beginning with the Julian Jaynes Society (the Society’s “Myths vs. Facts” is particularly useful). Relevant works include Marcel’s Kuijsten’s four edited volumes that present not only other material by Jaynes, but original research, as well as responses to Jaynes’s critics. See: Conversation on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind: Interviews with Leading Thinkers on Julian Jaynes’s Theory (2022), Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind: The Theories of Julian Jaynes (2016), The Julian Jaynes Collection (2012), Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes’s Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited (2006). Other works include the late Rabbi James Cohn’s The Minds of the Bible: Speculations on the Cultural Evolution of Human Consciousness (2013) and this writer’s The History of Japanese Psychology: Global Perspectives, 1875–1950 (2016); Discussions with Julian Jaynes: The Nature of Consciousness and the Vagaries of Psychology (2016); A Psychohistory of Metaphors: Envisioning Time, Space, and Self through the Centuries (2016); and The Self-Healing Mind: Harnessing the Active Ingredients of Psychotherapy (2022).




Neuroscience Confirms Julian Jaynes’s Neurological Model

Posted June 10, 2020. Updated March 4, 2023.

Beginning in 1999, research began to emerge confirming Julian Jaynes’s neurological model for the bicameral mind: fMRI studies showing a right/left temporal lobe interaction during auditory verbal hallucinations.

Yet, more than twenty years later, there remains ongoing confusion on this subject (for example, a recent post on Scott Alexander’s “Star Slate Codex” blog was completely wrong on this issue). To help clear up this lingering confusion, I revisit this topic with an excerpt from one of my related newsletter articles, followed by quotes from related research, related video, further reading, and additional resources:

“Over three decades ago, Julian Jaynes introduced his theory of the origin of consciousness and a historically older mentality called the bicameral mind …

While the technology was not then available to test his ideas, Jaynes suggested a possible neurological model for the bicameral mind. Briefly stated, he reasoned that auditory hallucinations emanate from the areas of the right temporal lobe corresponding to the language areas in the left temporal lobe, and are subsequently processed (or “heard”) in the left temporal lobe language areas. Because of their external quality, the bicameral person experiencing auditory hallucinations interpreted them as the externally generated commands of a dead ancestor, chief, king, or god. To this day, those who experience auditory hallucinations often hear behavioral commands and experience them as being externally generated.

In my chapter in Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness, “Consciousness, Hallucinations, and the Bicameral Mind: Three Decades of New Research,” I discuss a number of neuroimaging studies that emerged over the past decade that provide support for Jaynes’s neurological model. These studies show brain activation in the right followed by the left temporal lobe at the onset of auditory hallucinations. Some researchers infer a possible interaction between these two areas — the language areas of the left hemisphere and the corresponding areas of the right hemisphere — during auditory hallucinations.

Since the publication of Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness, a number of new studies have been published that also show bilateral temporal lobe (‘bicameral’) activation during auditory hallucinations, providing further support for Jaynes’s neurological model specifically and his bicameral mind theory in general.

In 2007, French psychiatrist Renaud Jardri and his colleagues published a study in Molecular Psychiatry titled “Activation of Bilateral Auditory Cortex during Verbal Hallucinations in a Child with Schizophrenia.” They used functional MRI to study the “neural substrates of verbal auditory hallucinations in a child suffering from very early onset schizophrenia.” The analysis performed “shows bilateral activation of the superior temporal gyri” during auditory hallucinations (see the image above). This bilateral activation of the superior temporal gyri during auditory hallucinations is exactly what Jaynes predicted more than 30 years ago.

In an article published in 2007 in Schizophrenia Research, Dr. Iris E. C. Sommer and her colleagues in the Netherlands reported that “the majority of schizophrenia patients showed prominent activity in the right-sided homologues of the classical language areas during AVH [auditory verbal hallucinations] (i.e. in the right inferior frontal gyrus, right superior temporal and supramarginal gyrus), while normal language is generally produced in the left hemisphere in right-handed subjects.” Again, this corresponds precisely with Jaynes’s predictions.

In another study published in 2008, Sommer et al. measured cerebral activation using fMRI in 24 psychotic patients. They report that “group analysis for AVH revealed activation in the right homologue of Broca’s area, bilateral insula, bilateral supramarginal gyri and right superior temporal gyrus.” They go on to speculate that “the association between AVH and activity in right hemisphere language areas could explain the low linguistic complexity and derogatory content, characteristic for AVH in psychotic patients.”

In a 2008 article titled “Functional MRI of Verbal Self-Monitoring in Schizophrenia” published in Schizophrenia Bulletin, psychologist Veena Kumari and her colleagues in the United Kingdom conclude that positive schizophrenic symptoms (hallucinations and persecution) show “exaggerated activation in the right superior-middle temporal gyrus.

Also noteworthy, Dr. Yair Lampl in the Department of Neurology at Tel Aviv University and his colleagues published an article in late 2005 that studied auditory hallucinations in stroke patients. According to Lampl, auditory hallucinations occur only rarely after a stroke. Of the 641 stroke patients in the study, only four experienced auditory hallucinations. Of interest to the present discussion, all of the cases of auditory hallucinations “occurred after an ischemic lesion of the right temporal lobe.”

These new studies provide additional evidence in support of Jaynes’s neurological model. They have been published in peer-reviewed journals by a variety of researchers working in different labs around the world. While their research is highly supportive of Jaynes’s neurological model, these scientists did not have the goal of providing evidence for Jaynes’s theory and in some cases may not even be aware of it. …”

Reprinted from Marcel Kuijsten, New Evidence for Jaynes’s Neurological Model: A Research Update,” The Jaynesian, Volume 3, Issue 1. Read the full article.

Statements Supportive of Jaynes’s Neurological Model by Psychiatrists, Neurologists, and Neurosurgeons

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, 1999, 20, 354, 9173.

“In 1976 Julian Jaynes proposed in his book  [that] the left hemisphere was the site for speech, and the right hemisphere was the site for hallucinations that expressed voices and commands of gods and demons. … Their results provided direct evidence of the involvement of primary auditory areas in auditory hallucinations. … Contemporary neuroimaging data have been used to revive and support … [Jaynes’s] controversial hypothesis.
— Leo Sher, M.D., Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 2000, 25, 3, 239-40.

“… 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., in A Dictionary of Hallucinations (Springer,  2009).

“An interesting hypothesis is posed by Julian Jaynes on the “bicameral brain” (sic) where one hemisphere (right) gives orders and the other (left) listens and executes orders. … The latest studies have shown bilateral activation of Broca’s area instead of only left side activation that brings new life to the theory of mind bicameralism. The reduction of lateralization even correlated with the intensity of hallucinations.
— D.M. Pavlović, M.D., A.M. Pavlović, M.D., and Maja Lačković, M.D., “The Neuropsychology of Hallucinations,” Archives of Biological Sciences, 2011, 63, 1, 43-48.

“Jaynes claims that remnants of the ancient bicameral brain (sic) organization can still be found in the verbal or auditory hallucinations associated with hypnosis and schizophrenia. This hypothesis is consistent with the findings from recent neuroimaging studies, which identified the right temporal lobe as the source of auditory hallucinations in patients with schizophrenia.
— Andrea E. Cavanna and Andrea Nani, Consciousness: Theories in Neuroscience and Philosophy of Mind (Springer, 2014).

The theory of a bicameral mind evolved the psychology and neuropsychiatric concepts of some disorders including the one for schizophrenia. … Jaynes’ theories were further confirmed by … other authors. … According to all these findings and theories, it is postulated that anterior corpus callosotomy would be beneficial in controlling the auditory and visual hallucinations in those with schizophrenia refractory to the highest medical therapy.
— Mousa Taghipour, MD & Fariborz Ghaffarpasand, MD, “Corpus Callosotomy for Drug-Resistant Schizophrenia; Novel Treatment Based on Pathophysiology,” World Neurosurgery, August 2018, 116: 483-484.

Supportive Evidence from Peer-Reviewed Articles

The Neurology of Auditory Hallucinations: Evidence from Direct Stimulation, EEG, PET , & fMRI

Key Point: Numerous studies using a variety of techniques implicate the language areas of the non-dominant hemisphere in auditory verbal hallucinations.

Electrical stimulation of the temporal lobe was performed in chronic schizophrenic patients to treat the auditory hallucinations. During electrical stimulation, there appeared different kinds of hallucinations. … In most of these cases, craniotomy of the non-dominant side was performed, and the exposed temporal lobe cortex was electrically stimulated directly.”
— Ishibashi, et al., “Hallucinations Produced by Electrical Stimulation of the Temporal Lobes in Schizophrenic Patients,” Journal of Experimental Medicine, 1964, 82, 124-139.

“Penfield reproduced such experiences by electrical stimulation of the temporal lobe cortex. We have found that similar hallucinatory experiences may arise from subcortical stimulation of the temporal lobe.”
— M. J. Horowitz and J. E. Adams, “Hallucinations on Brain Stimulation: Evidence for Revision of the Penfield Hypothesis,” in W. Keup (ed.), Origin and Mechanisms of Hallucinations (Springer, 1970).

“In reviewing our series of patients it was of interest to note that hallucinations were produced by electrical stimulation of the depth structures of the temporal lobe in certain patients.
— Weingarten, et al. ,”The Relationship of Hallucinations to the Depth Structures of the Temporal Lobe,” Acta Neurochirurgica, 1977, Suppl. 24: “Advances in Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery 2”, 199-216.

Metabolism in Broca’s region and its right-hemisphere homologue correlated positively and significantly in the hallucinating group, as it did in anterior cingulate and left superior temporal areas, and in right frontal and parietal areas.”
— Cleghorn, et al., “Regional Brain Metabolism During Auditory Hallucinations in Chronic Schizophrenia,” British Journal of Psychiatry, 1990, 157, 562-570.

Left temporal lobe activity was found to be decreased with increasing positive symptom’s scores scores. … Patients with a recent history of auditory hallucinations showed an atypical right temporal lobe dominance, which occurred independently of medication status.
— Gordon, et al., “Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) Measures of Brain Function in Schizophrenia,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 1994, 28, 446–452.

“A large and significant decrease in SSVEP latency in the right temporo/parietal region occurred in the second prior to the report of auditory hallucinations. … This finding suggests that activity of fine temporal resolution in the neural networks in the right temporo/parietal area may be implicated in the genesis of auditory hallucination. …”
— Line, et al., “Steady State Visually Evoked Potential Correlates of Auditory Hallucinations in Schizophrenia,” NeuroImage, 1998, 8, 4.

Metabolism in Broca’s region and its right-hemisphere homologue correlated positively and significantly in the hallucinating group…”
— Cleghorn, et al., “Regional Brain Metabolism During Auditory Hallucinations in Chronic Schizophrenia,” The British Journal of Psychiatry, 1990, 157, 4, 562-570.

Results showed that activation [during auditory hallucinations] first appeared in the right middle temporal gyrus and then extended to a wider area of the right superior temporal and left superior temporal gyri (where the hallucination is “heard”), right middle and inferior frontal gyri, right anterior cingulate, and right cuncus.”
—- Lennox, et al., “Spatial and Temporal Mapping of Neural Activity Associated with Auditory Hallucinations,” Lancet, 1999, 353, 644.

The group of hallucinating patients demonstrated right medial and inferior frontal activations (BA 45/46), focal bilateral temporal lobe activations (BA 22, 37), and a left parahippocampal gyral activation.”
— Copolov, et al., “A PET Study of Brain Activation in Response to Auditory Hallucinations and External Speech in Schizophrenic Patients,” Biological Psychiatry, April 2000, 47, 8.

“Patients showed no differences while generating inner speech but experienced a relatively attenuated response in the posterior cerebellar cortex, hippocampi, and lenticular nuclei bilaterally and the right thalamus, middle and superior temporal cortex, and left nucleus accumbens during auditory verbal imagery.
— Shergill, et al, “Functional Anatomy of Auditory Verbal Imagery in Schizophrenic Patients With Auditory Hallucinations,” American Journal of Psychiatry, October 2000, 157, 1691–1693.

Auditory hallucinations were associated with activation in the … temporal cortex bilaterally (with greater responses on the right).
— Shergill, et al, “Mapping Auditory Hallucinations in Schizophrenia Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging,” The Archives of General Psychiatry, November 2000, 57.

Group analysis demonstrated shared areas of activation in right and left superior temporal gyri, left inferior parietal cortex and left middle frontal gyrus.
— Lennox, et al., “The Functional Anatomy of Auditory Hallucinations in Schizophrenia,” Psychiatry Research, November 2000, 100, 1, 13–20.

AVHs [auditory verbal hallucinations] were associated with increased metabolic activity in the left primary auditory cortex and the right middle temporal gyrus. Our results suggest a possible interaction between these areas during AVHs.
— Bentaleb, et al., “Cerebral Activity Associated with Auditory Verbal Hallucinations: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Case Study,” Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, 2002, 27, 2, 110.

Recent functional neuroimaging findings seem to confirm the hypothesis that the right middle temporal gyrus represents the source of auditory hallucinations in at least some schizophrenic patients. Arguably, this lateralization pattern could well be the reason why these inner voices lack the characteristic of being self-generated.
— Cavanna et al. “The ‘Bicameral Mind’ 30 Years On,” Functional Neurology, 2007, 22, 1, 11-15.

The majority of schizophrenia patients showed prominent activity in the right-sided homologues of the classical language areas during AVH [auditory verbal hallucinations] (i.e. in the right inferior frontal gyrus, right superior temporal gyrus and supramarginal gyrus), while normal language is generally produced in the left hemisphere in right-handed subjects.”
— Sommer, et al., “Can fMRI-guidance Improve the Efficacy of rTMS Treatment for Auditory Verbal Hallucinations?Schizophrenia Research, 2007, 93, 1, 406–8.

Group analysis for AVH revealed activation in the right homologue of Broca’s area, bilateral insula, bilateral supramarginal gyri and right superior temporal gyrus. … The association between AVH and activity in right hemisphere language areas could explain the low linguistic complexity and derogatory content, characteristic for AVH in psychotic patients.
Sommer, et al., “Auditory Verbal Hallucinations Predominantly Activate the Right Inferior Frontal Area,” Brain, 2008, 131, 3169-77.

The regions (Broca’s homologue and the right insula) coincide with the areas that showed greatest activation during auditory verbal hallucinations in our analysis of 24 patients (Sommer et al., 2008). It could therefore be hypothesized that auditory verbal hallucinations result from ‘release’ language activity in the right inferior frontal area that is inhibited in the healthy brain.”
— Sommer & Diederen, “Language Production in the Non-Dominant Hemisphere as a Potential Source of Auditory Verbal Hallucinations,” Brain, 2009, 132, 10, e124.

“… Group analysis for AVH [auditory verbal hallucinations] revealed activation in the right homolog of Broca’s area, bilateral insula, bilateral supramarginal gyri, [and] right superior temporal gyrus.
— Sommer, Iris & Kelly Diederen, “Auditory Verbal Hallucinations and Language Lateralization,” in Iris E.C. Sommer and René S. Kahn (eds.), Language Lateralization and Psychosis (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Patients experiencing AVHs demonstrated significantly increased activation likelihoods in a bilateral neural network, including the Broca’s area…”
— Jardri, et al., “Cortical Activations During Auditory Verbal Hallucinations in Schizophrenia: A Coordinate-Based Meta-Analysis,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, 2011, 168, 1, 73–81.

Findings suggest that heightened functional coupling between the left inferior frontal gyrus and right temporal regions leads to coactivation in these speech processing regions that is hallucinogenic.”
—- Hoffman, et al., “Time Course of Regional Brain Activity Accompanying Auditory Verbal Hallucinations in Schizophrenia,” The British Journal of Psychiatry, 2011, 198, 4, 277–283.

“Auditory verbal hallucinations are a cardinal symptom of schizophrenia … The current results indicate that spatial location of auditory hallucinations is associated with the right temporoparietal junction (rTPJ) anatomy, a key region of the ‘where’ auditory pathway.”
— Plaze, et al., “Where Do Auditory Hallucinations Come From?” A Brain Morphometry Study of Schizophrenia Patients with Inner or Outer Space Hallucinations,” Schizophrenia Bulletin, January 2011, 37, 1, 212-21.

Several common areas of activation were observed for the psychotic and nonpsychotic subjects during the experience of AVH, consisting of the bilateral inferior frontal gyri, insula, superior temporal gyri, supramarginal gyri and postcentral gyri, left precentral gyrus, inferior parietal lobule, superior temporal pole, and right cerebellum.”
— Diederen, et al., “Auditory Hallucinations Elicit Similar Brain Activation in Psychotic and Nonpsychotic Individuals,” Schizophrenia Bulletin, September 2012, 38, 5.

AVH [auditory verbal hallucination]-related activity was … observed in Broca’s area and its right hemisphere homologue…”
— Zmigrod, et al., “The Neural Mechanisms of Hallucinations: A Quantitative Meta-Analysis of Neuroimaging Studies,” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 2016, 69, 113-123.

AVHs [auditory verbal hallucinations] were associated with activation in bilateral language and motor regions.
— Ford, et al., “Neurobiology of Auditory Hallucinations,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, November 2019.

The group with complex hallucinations showed elevated activity in the bilateral temporal cortex including Wernicke’s area…
— Marschall, et al., “Spontaneous Brain Activity Underlying Auditory Hallucinations in the Hearing-Impaired,” Cortex, March 2021, 136, 1-13.

Language Lateralization and Psychosis

Key Point: Individuals that process language more evenly in both hemispheres (“less lateralized”) are more likely to experience auditory hallucinations.

Delay in establishing dominance in one hemisphere could be the critical factor that predisposes to schizophrenia.
— Crow, T.J., “Cerebral Lateralization is Delayed in Children who Later Develop Schizophrenia,” Schizophrenia Research, 1996, 22, 3, 181–185.

“These results show the strong association of the right middle temporal gyrus with the experience of auditory hallucination in this patient, supporting the hypothesis that auditory hallucinations reflect abnormal activation of auditory cortex. Language is more associated with the left hemisphere in normal subjects. This finding may therefore reflect the abnormal lateralisation of language function in schizophrenia.
—- Lennox, et al., “Spatial and Temporal Mapping of Neural Activity Associated with Auditory Hallucinations,” Lancet, 1999, 353, 644.

“Twelve schizophrenic patients and twelve healthy controls were scanned while they were engaged in a verb-generation and a semantic decision task. … The results indicate that language processing is less lateralized in patients than in controls. … Analysis of variance of the extent of activity … revealed a significant hemisphere by group interaction … which was due to increased activation in the right hemisphere of the patients.
— Sommer, et al., “Language Lateralization in Schizophrenia, An fMRI Study,” Schizophrenia Research, 2001, 52, 1-2, 57-67.

Schizophrenia patients showed reduced language lateralization in the frontal cortex, because of a more bilateral activation of Broca’s area compared with a primarily left hemisphere activation in healthy controls.
— Weiss, et al., “Language Lateralization in Unmedicated Patients During An Acute Episode of Schizophrenia: A functional MRI Study,” Psychiatry Research, March 2006, 31, 146.

Both the overall auditory cortex and planum temporale volumes and the lateralization to the left hemisphere were markedly reduced in patients. The decrease of lateralization correlated with increased severity of symptoms.
— Oertel, et al., “Reduced Laterality as a Trait Marker of Schizophrenia—Evidence from Structural and Functional Neuroimaging,” The Journal of Neuroscience, February 2010, 30, 6, 2289–2299.

Reduced cerebral lateralisation of language in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia has been documented in a substantial number of studies.
— Allen and Modinos, “Structural Neuroimaging in Psychotic Patients with Auditory Verbal Hallucinations,” in Blom and Sommer (eds.), Hallucinations: Research and Practice (Springer, 2012).

“…[R]educed language lateralization is a weak trait marker for schizophrenia as such and a strong trait marker for the experience of auditory hallucinations within the schizophrenia population”
— Ocklenburg , et al. “Auditory Hallucinations and Reduced Language Lateralization in Schizophrenia: A Meta-Analysis of Dichotic Listening Studies,” Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, April 2013, 19, 4, 410-8.

Patients with schizophrenia exhibited significantly decreased leftward hemispheric [language] lateralization.”
— Alary, et al., “Functional Hemispheric Lateralization for Language in Patients with Schizophrenia,” Schizophrenia Research, Sept. 2013, 149, 1-3, 42-7.

Right Hemisphere as “Alien Intruder”/Sensed Presence/Externally Perceived Voice

Key Point: The origin of auditory hallucinations in the non-dominant hemisphere may be what gives them their “external” quality.

In schizophrenia, defective interhemispheric integration, probably neurochemical, may lead to disinhibition of the awareness by the left hemisphere that it is being “influenced” by an unknown “external force” which is fact the right hemisphere.”
— Nasrallah, Henry A., “The Unintegrated Right Cerebral Hemispheric Consciousness as Alien Intruder: A Possible Mechanism for Schneiderian Delusions in Schizophrenia?Comprehensive Psychiatry, 1985, 26, 3, 273–282.

“The hypothesis of vectorial hemisphericity predicts that left hemispheric intrusions of the right hemispheric equivalent of the sense of self should be associated with the experience of a “presence” of someone else. The neurophenomenological profile of a woman whose medical history satisfied these theoretical criteria … is presented. ”
— Persinger, et al., “The Sensed Presence as Right Hemispheric Intrusions into the Left Hemispheric Awareness of Self: An Illustrative Case Study,” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1994, 78, 3.

“We report evidence of isolated conceptual knowledge in the right hemisphere of a woman with chronic anarchic hand sign after ischemic infarction of the central four-fifths of the corpus callosum.”
— Baynes, et al., “Isolation of a Right Hemisphere Cognitive System in a Patient with Anarchic (Alien) Hand Sign,” Neuropsychologia, 1997, 35, 8.

The second component is alienation, which is the failure to recognize the content of AVH as self-generated. This failure may be related to the fact that cerebral activity associated with AVH is predominantly present in the speech production area of the right hemisphere.”
— Sommer, et al., “Dissecting Auditory Verbal Hallucinations into Two Components: Audibility (Gedankenlautwerden) and Alienation (Thought Insertion),” Psychopathology, 2010, 43, 137–140.

[A] lack of synchronization between Broca and its homolog may lead to the erroneous interpretation of emotional speech activity from the right hemisphere as coming from an external source.”
— Ćurčić-Blake, et al., “When Broca Goes Uninformed: Reduced Information Flow to Broca’s Area in Schizophrenia Patients With Auditory Hallucinations,” Schizophrenia Bulletin, September 2013, 39, 5.

Alien hand syndrome after corpus callosotomy reveals its underlying mechanism. 3 out of a series of 18 patients demonstrated ALS after callosotomy. Distinct features were bihemispheric language dominance and genuine left-handedness. Both hemispheres come with capacities for independent action. Loss of contralateral inhibition appears a major mechanism underlying ALS.
— Helmstaedter, et al., “Dr. Strangelove Demystified: Disconnection of Hand and Language Dominance Explains Alien-Hand Syndrome after Corpus Callosotomy,” Seizure, 2021, 86.

Auditory and Visual Hallucinations and Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

Key Point: Patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (abnormal brain activity in the temporal lobes) also occasionally experience both auditory and visual hallucinations.

See Section 2, “Auditory Hallucinations in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy” (Case Reports)
— Shafica Karagulla, “Psychical Phenomena in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and The Psychoses,” British Medical Journal, March 1955, 1, 4916, 748–752.

“A case report is presented to illustrate problems in managing the schizophrenia-like psychosis of temporal lobe epilepsy.”
— Sidney Bloch, “Problems of Treatment in the Schizophrenia-Like Psychosis of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy-A Case Report,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 1968, 2.

“One of them — a 32-year-old female with a right temporo-occipital focus — had a seizure pattern which included a vision of Christ coming down from the sky.”
— Dewhurt and Beard, “Sudden Religious Conversions in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy,” British Journal of Psychiatry, 1970, 117, 540, 497-507.

“Hallucinations are infrequently seen in prepubertal children. … We here report the case of a child who presented with psychosis and nocturnal hallucinations and for whom temporal epilepsy was eventually diagnosed and successfully treated.”
— Kechid, et al., “Hearing Hallucinations in a 12-Year-Old Child: Psychotic Disorders or Temporal Epilepsy?”, The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2008, 10, 4, 328–329.

“MEG revealed interictal epileptic discharges within the anterior partition of the right superior temporal gyrus; signal-to-noise ratio of these discharges was overall poor in EEG. The findings suggest that auditory vocal hallucinations without verbal content can evolve in the right hemisphere and are probably independent of language lateralization.
— Hug, et al., “Voices Behind the Left Shoulder: Two Patients with Right-Sided Temporal Lobe Epilepsy,” Journal of the Neurological Sciences, June 2011, 305, 1–2.

“The psychoses of epilepsy are well recognized complications of seizure disorders, diagnosed easily from the history. However, in the absence of recognized seizures, the diagnosis can be challenging.”
— Edward Needham, “Temporal Lobe Epilepsy Masquerading As Psychosis – A Case Report and Literature Review,” Neurocase: The Neural Basis of Cognition, 2012, 18, 5.

“Hearing voices (i.e. auditory verbal hallucinations) is mainly known as part of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. However, hearing voices is a symptom that can occur in many psychiatric, neurological and general medical conditions. … The third patient is a 27-year-old woman with voices caused by temporal lobe epilepsy.
— I.E. Sommer and D.W. van der Spek, “Hearing Voices Does Not Always Constitute A Psychosis,” Nederlands Tijdschrift Voor Geneeskunde, 2016, 160, D492.

The purpose of this case report is to document a patient with cinematographic hallucinations, with corresponding right temporal lobe seizures on electroencephalogram (EEG).
— Nelson, et al., “A Unique Patient with Epilepsy with Cinematographic Visual Hallucinations,” Epilepsy & Behavior Case Reports, 2016, 5, 78-79.

“Psychiatric disorders are very common in epilepsy. … Here, we report a case of a young female who was suffering from complex partial seizure with secondary generalization and who subsequently developed schizophrenic symptoms. … the patient who had a right-sided lesion developed schizophrenic symptoms.”
— B. Sweetha, “A Case of Untreated Mesial Temporal Sclerosis in Right Hemisphere Presenting As Schizophrenia,” University Journal of Medicine and Medical Specialities, 2019.

Further Evidence from Split-Brain Experiments

Psychological experiments conducted with “split-brain” patients, who have had their corpus callosum severed (the primary connection between the two brain hemispheres), provide further evidence for Jaynes’s neurological model. These experiments suggest that the two hemispheres can in some ways operate independently, express different preferences, that one’s sense of self is associated with the language-dominant hemisphere, and that the actions of the right hemisphere can often feel “alien” to the person (with the right hand holding a newspaper to read and the left hand knocking it away, for example). See Elizabeth Schechter, Self-Consciousness and “Split” Brains: The Minds’ I (Oxford University Press, 2018) for a recent, extensive discussion of this fascinating research.

Related Video

Iris Sommer: Investigating Voices
Describes the experience and neurology of auditory hallucinations and shows the accuracy of Julian Jaynes’s neurological model.

2-Minute Neuroscience: Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)
Explains the basics of fMRI as well as some of its limitations.

Further Reading

Julian Jaynes, “The Double Brain,” in J. Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Houghton Mifflin, 1976/1990), Ch. I.5.

Marcel Kuijsten, “Consciousness, Hallucinations, and the Bicameral Mind: Three Decades of New Research,” in M. Kuijsten (ed.), Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness (Julian Jaynes Society, 2006).

Robert Olin, “Auditory Hallucinations and the Bicameral Mind,” Lancet, 1999, 354, 166.

Leo Sher, “Neuroimaging, Auditory Hallucinations, and The Bicameral Mind,” Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 2000, 25, 3, 239-40.

Elizabeth Schechter, Self-Consciousness and “Split” Brains: The Minds’ I (Oxford University Press, 2018).

Iris Sommer and Rene S. Kahn (eds.), Language Lateralization and Psychosis (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Mousa Taghipour and Fariborz Ghaffarpasand, “Corpus Callosotomy for Drug-Resistant Schizophrenia; Novel Treatment Based on Pathophysiology,” World Neurosurgery, August 2018,116, 483-484.

Review additional peer-reviewed supporting evidence for Julian Jaynes’s neurological model.

Brain fMRI image reprinted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: Jardri, et al, “Activation of Bilateral Auditory Cortex during Verbal Hallucinations in a Child with Schizophrenia,” Molecular Psychiatry, 12, 319, Copyright 2007.




Test Your Knowledge of Jaynes’s Theory!

Test your knowledge of Julian Jaynes’s theory by taking these three new quizzes:

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