The Prophet Mohammed, Islam, and the Bicameral Mind

Discussion of Julian Jaynes's second hypothesis - the bicameral mind, specifically the subtopics of the implications of the bicameral mind theory for religion, neurotheology, and the origin of religion.
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The Prophet Mohammed, Islam, and the Bicameral Mind

Post by Moderator »

This is a very interesting article on Mohammed's trance states (reminiscent of the Oracle at Delphi) and auditory/visual hallucinations:

Wahi: the Supernatural Basis of Islam

It raises the possibility that Islam was founded on the auditory hallucinations of Mohammed, who perhaps experienced a partial relapse to the bicameral mind.
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Post by Soupdragon »

Very interesting article. I particularly like chapter 3, the Hindu-Buddhist interpretation.
The specifically Hindu contribution to our understanding of the Quranic revelation is to bring in the yogic experience. As an example of how yogic practice can go wrong, warning against the dangers of experimenting with yoga without competent guidance, Vivekananda mentioned Mohammed: "The yogi says there is a great danger in stumbling upon this state. In a good many cases, there is the danger of the brain being deranged, and, as a rule, you will find that all those men, however great they were, who had stumbled upon this superconscious state without understanding it, groped in the dark...
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Re: The Prophet Mohammed, Islam, and the Bicameral Mind

Post by clivedurdle »

One of the major issues we are all facing is how to relate to others who commit extreme violent behaviour and also continually state they are obeying a god.

Jaynes has got some fascinating insights into religious behaviours that are very important.

For example, might the rituals of Islam, like the bowing, reinforce right brain activity? Are the calls to prayer hexamic?
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Re: The Prophet Mohammed, Islam, and the Bicameral Mind

Post by Mohieddin »

Of course , Julian Jaynes was one of greatest thinkers of humanity.

I think he was misunderstood not by his opponents only, but also by the proponents of his theory

First, Jaynes proposed a hypothesis for explaining the Mechanism of the emergence of the self-narrative consciousness as an abstract functional relationship on the ground of perceptions or what to be called animal consciousness (even if it's not true consciousness according to his definition, however we mean that vivid sensual experience of our minds). Jaynes noted that for the majority of our awakening times (as during performing most of our daily activities), we are not truly conscious about our inner selves. This doesn't mean that we have no awareness of these events and their memories during the day.

This is the background of awareness that Jaynes touched nothing of it. As he was aware of the vast perplexity of terms and definitions in this field. Worth noting that most of the current theories and studies about consciousness are considered with that background. From reductionists who see these experiences to be just an epiphenomenon of the electrical activities of the brain, to Roger Penrose who is convinced that it represents quantum actions (with all the mysteries of quantum physics and its superpositions that doesn't differ so much from the old age's superstitions), to the pan-psychists which include eminent characters like Erwin Shrodinger, who see it as in essential attribute of everything.

I mention this just to be oriented with the fact that the description of Jaynesian mechanism of consciousness as abstract functions derived from material perception, is something yet to be proved after proving that the mere sensual perceptions themselves are not abstractions performed by the brain at the mind-world boundary.

Second, I think Jaynes delivered his theory about the hallucinatory nature of religions to the world, and let the implications of this idea an open motto for those who are concerned.

Clearly, Jaynes himself confessed that the "Eureka moment" that solved his hard problem, and pushed forward the wagon of his magnum opus, was an event of auditory hallucinations telling him to merge the Known with the Knower. Just to be careful. Absolutely, he wanted not to invoke souls and oracles. Instead, he tried to emphasize that the right hemisphere is endowed with some sort of special abilities that aren't always false or misguiding.

He even tried to give famous and well recognized examples of great scientists from the 20th century, for whom the gates of science opened under the control of their un-consiousness (an idea, that was enough for Carl Jung, to suggest the existence of the collective Subconsciousness). Anyway, the great hierarchies of the old ages wouldn't be owed to just mere dictatorial voices keeping the order under control.

‌Third, unfortunately for who asks, Islam as well as Christianity and Judaism were ideological movements against the paganism (an explicit ancient form of bicameralism according to Jaynes. No, it is one of the fundamental producers and sustainers of bicameralism).

‌Moreover, a special religious tradition in Islam is to do a anything you do by your right side, open the door or the book or whatever by your right hand, enter the room or the mosque by your right leg. For example, If two persons are in front of an entrance and they are inviting each other respectfully to enter first. An end of discussion is to that who on the right side.

‌Even, there's a tradition that some Muslims laugh about it, when they learn their children to eat by their right hand, or otherwise the devil will eat with who uses his left. Some children may ask their dads: I ate with my left, and I saw nothing in short in the dinner !!!!!

‌Enough to say that in Islam, the right hemisphere-controlled left side of the body is recommended fiercely to be in dormancy !!! Needless to say that training either side of the body has a direct positive feedback on the hemisphere that controls it.

‌Even more, to know that sadly, some Muslim families in the past times were acting to enforce their child if they noticed that he is right-dominant and uses his left hand in manipulating his toys...... were acting to enforce him to use his right hand (e.g. by tying his whole left upper limb for some weeks).

Enough again to say that if Jaynes was true, the traditions of Islam regarding the human body are working (intentionally or not) against bicameralism.

Well, I don't think that citing a paper or a book from a religious or spiritual sect here or there while attacking another religious or spiritual sect there or here, just to support the idea of hallucinatory origin of both of them .. here and there !

I think not it's a smart strategy to work with.

I am Muslim and am committed to the my religion. This doesn't make the ideas of Jaynes (as demonstrated by himself in his book of dawn and breakdown) unacceptable to me, even if he declared his belief in the absence of God at the end of his book. I think this doesn't make difference to anyone who is concerned about science and only science. Max Planck declared as well his belief in cosmic consciousness, A God that's different from that known in human religions. Whatever, this made no difference to the generations of scientists that succeeded him.

‌What I want to say, Jaynes was battling hardly and honestly to solve the most or better to say the main and the only existential problem of human mind .. its essence .. and its deep longing for finding itself. Not to mock some people here or some nations there.

‌The theory of course should have brought an eagerly needed solace and consolation to the Subconsciousness of him, regarding the sorrowful sickness of his lovely sister. It should be helpful also, for finding new and highly effective therapeutic strategies ..(cognitive and behavioral).. to treat patients with different types of mental illnesses. A work on something like this, inspired by the main pillars of his theory, it by itself would give the truly needed credence for the theory.

‌Lastly, from the summit of the mount of our ignorance, we think that the very amazing sketches of Jaynes on the walls of the city of consciousness, to fulfill their (and his) purpose, need to not ignore the other theories advanced by Penrose, Jung and others. We think that at least some of them, even if modified, would provide a substantial help.

‌Best regards
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Re: The Prophet Mohammed, Islam, and the Bicameral Mind

Post by Tanker62 »

THanks for your explanation, it's rare to see in-depth explanations from an actual Muslim, that sort of long text often comes from people who have never read the Quran, don't speak Arabic, don't talk to Muslims yet are world class experts :lol:
I'll make sure to keep your comments in mind when I receive my copy of The Origin of Consciousness and read more into it.
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Re: The Prophet Mohammed, Islam, and the Bicameral Mind

Post by Moderator »

Mohieddin, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I'm glad you've been able to integrate Jaynes's theory into your existing beliefs. That's certainly what Jaynes encouraged. His theory of the origin of consciousness was the most important to him, and he did not want people to be potentially turned off to those ideas due to the implications of his theory for the origin of religion.

It's certainly not my intention to promote or attack one religion over another. You're responding to a post from 15 years ago. Articles are sometimes posted here quickly that may be items of interest. You certainly have more knowledge about Islam than I do, and the article may have additional layers of meaning associated with it for you than it does for me.

So again, Jaynes went out of his way to encourage people to view his theory within the context of their own religious (or non-religious) beliefs, and I'm glad you've done that.

In my own view, 40+ years on now since the publication of Jaynes's book, perhaps it is time to begin to challenge some of those beliefs. In my view, Jaynes's theory offers a compelling explanation for the origin of our god-beliefs and the modern religious that evolved from those beliefs. Obviously it's debatable, as there are many pros and cons, but in my view religion is a net-negative on our civilization, and the sooner we move beyond it, the better off we'll be... while at the same time perhaps replacing some of the positive elements with secular equivalents.

As to the value of Penrose's ideas on consciousness, we'll have to agree to disagree : )
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Re: The Prophet Mohammed, Islam, and the Bicameral Mind

Post by Mohieddin »

Tanker62 wrote: Sat Oct 31, 2020 9:14 am THanks for your explanation, it's rare to see in-depth explanations from an actual Muslim, that sort of long text often comes from people who have never read the Quran, don't speak Arabic, don't talk to Muslims yet are world class experts :lol:
I'll make sure to keep your comments in mind when I receive my copy of The Origin of Consciousness and read more into it.
Thanks a lot for your praise which I really don't deserve.

Unfortunately, I can't qualify your justifications about Arabs and Muslims as unfair. It's a true fact for which the explanation would be exhaustive and debatable as well.

For just one point that we could, easily agree about it: it's not because of the Quran or Islam itself as a religion. The same is to be said as well for Christianity and Galileo (put aside the church).

Or in Julian words:
" We sometimes think, and even like to think, that the two greatest exertions that have influenced mankind, religion and science, have always been historical enemies, intriguing us in opposite directions. But this effort at special identity is loudly false. It is not religion but the church and science that were hostile to each other. And it was rivalry, not contravention. Both were religious."

Whatever, thank you again.

And my best regards.
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Re: The Prophet Mohammed, Islam, and the Bicameral Mind

Post by Mohieddin »

Dear Moderator, Thank you very much Sir.

I'm really glad to hear your kind and polite response.

Indeed, I wasn't trying to accuse you of intentionally promoting a religion over another, I just think it's not a good way for an article like this to be posted here.
Koenraad Elst is a some sort of Hindu and Hindusim is one of the most ancient religions in the world before all the semitic religions (according to Jaynes, it should be the Diamond of bicamerality).
Yes, you could cite some points in his work (any thought or insight) after emphasizing what, why ..etc.
Otherwise, you may agree with me that almost everybody (except the very few) who believes in any religion in this world, looks at other religions and their apostles and saints as (they were deluded and hallucinating) !

And yes, I really was shocked after posting the reply when I realized that the post is very old !! The cause I found the post that I was searching for an article or lecture for Jaynes talking about Islam. For it was only once، when Jaynes talked about Islam in his book, and it was a vague translation of the meaning of poetry and poet in Arabic, and upon which he built his interpretation.

Anyway, we may disagree with you as Freeman Dyson disagreed with who says that religion is a mere evil or a net-evil in our world.

First of all, the existential point that seems to be missed in Jaynes' theory is that the religion (whatever hallucinatory in nature) is the fountain from which had springed our most precious privilege (Consciousness). These hallucinatory scenes are sparkled according to Jaynes, in due to some sort of great sympathy and love that early tribes of humans expressed towards their parents, leaders, friends and lovers. Love that tried to pass the snag of death to reach those who departed.

What we try to emphasize is that Jaynes himself, while seeing clearly that his theory disproves the religion, we by anyway are compelled to treat it reverently. If you're going to espouse the bicamerality, you should look at religion as a some sort of high-quality art .. much higher in quality than Davinci's or Michelangelo's. Forgive me for any rhetorics, but it's the very words of Jaynes (The Genie) in the last chapter of his magnum opus (The Auguries of Science):

" Indeed, the tough-minded materialist scientist today will feel uncomfortable with the fact that science in such divergent and various directions only two centuries ago was a religious endeavor, sharing the same striving as the ancient psalms, the effort to once again see the elohim “face to face.”
This drama, this immense scenario in which humanity has been performing on this planet over the last 4000 years, is clear when we take the large view of the central intellectual tendency of world history."

"In this period of transition from its religious basis, science often shares with the celestial maps of astrology, or a hundred other irrationalisms, the same nostalgia for the Final Answer, the One Truth, the Single Cause.

This is the impassable fence. That according to Jaynes religion is what did make and still make humans what they are !!!

For example, without the uprise of Christianity in Europe and the subsequent rise of Islam in the Middle East and the conflict that flared up between their territories, the history of science would never progressed in the way we see it now. Or as the Genie said it in much more eloquent way:

performed over the last four thousand years of history is directed and played by its single Playwright, that's religion.

In a short way, approve it or disapprove it, You Must Pay For It.
(Indeed religion in Arabic "Deen" means the same as "Debt" in English.. something to be paid. "Credit" in English fulfill the same meaning for both"

Second, for saying that religion is to be replaced by secular equivalents, you are of course meaning replacing it by law. Well, it seems obvious that the power of national laws (without deep ethics) disintegrate rapidly if people could safely avoid the punishment.

So we must say the equivalent would be ethics and morals, then let us be aware that any non-relegiously based morals (or in other words: any morals based on a view of the universe as messy and purposeless) is doomed for its very basics, to be also nonsense and inconsistent.
For absolutely we mean by religion not Christianity or Islam or any other formal religion, we clearly mean a Purposeful Universe. Although, it may seem an out of reach point today and needs much further explorations, we think it's an obligatory target, without which no light of hope is looming for humanity in this horizon.

I think that Jaynes in his last chapter was very aware of the point that his theory is still in its phases of backward exploration. And didn't give yet fill the full answers, to ask after that: what's the next move .. forward.

Third, then why religion is a net-negative choice? Violence?
Just remember that the two versions of World War are purely nonrelgious events!. Even more, they happened exactly at the climax of the age of materialism.
Moreover, Nazism is well known to be an explicit clinical application of darwinian evolution in its secular and random form !. Not trying then to say that Darwin' theory is a net-negative for our civilization, for Darwin is not to be blamed for anyone who misinterpreted or misused his book. The same is absolutely true for religion.

Fourth, one more point for which I couldn't pass over without commenting. The 3rd version of world war which flared up in the Middle East, after 2011 and still running in today, by what's said to be the Islamic state (ISIS) is worthy of some contemplation.
The war was ignited by the fighters who are descendents from the same unit, supported before by USA against the Russians in the cold war. But this time they are against Al-Assad, one of the greatest allies of Russia in the Middle East. The amazing coincidence is that in the same time they were fighting Al-Assad, USA was supporting another fighters (called the revolutionists), however they are not religious terrorists !!!. I mean that Al-Assad was attacked by both USA and ISIS in the very same moment ( this moment lasted about six hot years at least) !!!

Give me your mind, maybe i could understand ! Or read "Secret affairs" by Mark Curtis to get the point that ISIS and Muslim Brotherhood (the alleged religious warriors) are indeed fighting us !!!
Fighting the Muslims in Egypt, Syria, Libya ... etc. And the terroristic attacks that occur in the West from time to time is less than 1 part of millions from what's occuring everyday in our homelands.

I'm so sorry, not for those faked religious criminals, but for this digression away from the main subject of discussion. But it's actually a very abstract comment on this perplexing issue and we touched on it because it's one of the hot topics that are taken for granted today against religion generally and Islam particularly.

Lastly, the amazing Jaynes while he was telling the story of his own auditory hallucinations (about the known and the knower) which made the day of his theory, and his talking about (the three Bees) that used to be stinging the minds of the greatest scientists of the world, he was clearly redefining the meaning of hallucinations (as internal perceptions triggered without external stimulus, and that MAY or may-not BE truly INFORMATIVE).

An idea that's, As Niels Bohr said: (CRAZY ENOUGH), .. to be eagerly and keenly explored.

What I mean, is that his theory disproves the presence of Angels out there, but is leaving the door open for the Well-Known, Well-Knower, WHO once said:
What you're searching for is not out there,

"IT IS WITHIN" (Luke 17:21, King James)

Agree or disagree, let's wait and see :)

All wishes of Love and Peace, and my Best Regards.
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Re: The Prophet Mohammed, Islam, and the Bicameral Mind

Post by Moderator »

Thank you, you raise some good point. A lot to digest here. I hope to respond more fully soon.
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