Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind: Interviews with Leading Thinkers on Julian Jaynes’s Theory


Edited by Marcel Kuijsten.


SKU: JJS25 Category:



Hardcover Edition

“The most comprehensive and up-to-date discussion of Julian Jaynes’s ideas.”

How old is consciousness? What is the relationship of consciousness and language? What is the origin of gods in the ancient world? Did the brain hemispheres once operate more independently than they do today? Why do some people hear voices that command their behavior?

These are just a few of the fascinating questions posed by Princeton University psychologist Julian Jaynes’s influential and controversial theory and discussed in this book. A treasure trove of provocative ideas, Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind explains, extends, clarifies, and presents the latest evidence for Julian Jaynes’s theory in a series of highly engaging interviews with both voice-hearers and leading thinkers on the theory.

Includes in-depth interviews on Julian Jaynes’s theory with Tanya Luhrmann (Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University), John Kihlstrom (Professor Emeritus of Psychology at U.C. Berkeley), Edoardo Casiglia (Professor, Cardiologist and Senior Scientist at the University of Padova), Iris Sommer (Psychiatrist, Professor, and brain expert at University Medical Center Groningen), Laurence Sugarman (Research Professor and Director at the Rochester Institute of Technology), Jan Sleutels (Professor of Philosophy at Leiden University), Marius Romme & Dirk Corstens (Psychiatrists and experts on voice hearing), James Cohn (Rabbi and biblical scholar); Brian McVeigh (anthropologist, mental health counselor, and Jaynesian scholar), Marcel Kuijsten (Executive Director of the Julian Jaynes Society), and many others.

1st Julian Jaynes Society Hardcover Edition
August 22, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-7373055-3-8
376 pages

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Advanced Praise for Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind:

“… A marvel of collective scholarship across multiple disciplines. … In this book, you will hear the voices of the most open-minded scholars of our generation.”
— William R. Woodward, Professor of Psychology, University of New Hampshire, and author of Hermann Lotze: An Intellectual Biography

“Rich with ideas and fertile speculations, this outstanding collection of expert interviews advances the revolutionary work of the psychologist Julian Jaynes.”
— Richard Rhodes, Historian and Pulitzer Prize Laureate for The Making of the Atomic Bomb

“Julian Jaynes was my teacher [at Princeton]. … Much psychological science since then points to the possibility that he was right. Right about consciousness, right about ancient history, right about evolution, right about language, even right about Homer. This volume begins to close the gap, bringing Jaynes’s brilliance to the attention and appreciation of the contemporary public.”
Martin Seligman, Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, and author of The Hope Circuit and Learned Optimism

“I read Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind … with great delight. … The material in Conversations is rich in detail and a great way to assist people to understand better each of [Jaynes’] core elements of theorising. The interviewers show great patience and a depth of understanding of the issues in play, and the interviewees demonstrate the abundance of research that has taken place over the last four decades that corroborate and refine Jaynes’ early insights. … We are greatly indebted to Julian Jaynes’ insights … and to Marcel Kuijsten for these interviews that demonstrate so well how alive, rich, and extensive is the field opened up by Jaynes.”
Dr. Louis Arnoux, Managing Director, Fourth Transition Ltd.

“… It is time for a new generation of … deep thinkers at the heart of every discipline to rediscover Julian Jaynes’s tantalizing hypotheses concerning the origin and nature of human consciousness. This collection of interviews … will enable contemporary readers to understand why Jaynes’s style of inquiry remains as captivating and compelling as ever — and as provocative and controversial. Reader: take the plunge, and join the conversation!”
— Christian Y. Dupont, Ph.D., Associate University Librarian for Collections and Burns Librarian, Boston College, and author of Phenomenology in French Philosophy: Early Encounters

“… Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind helps us understand humanity’s development of consciousness over millennia, as well as how we learn it in our first years of life.”
Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D., author of Habits of a Happy Brain, The Science of Positivity, and Status Games

Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind is also available from Amazon in the following countries:

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Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind is also available via special order wherever books are sold, both in the U.S. and internationally.

Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind (product flyer with table of contents)

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Customer Reviews

Based on 11 reviews
Emilio LaMead
Great contribution of evidence to Julian Jaynes' theory

The book provides lots of new evidence to Jaynes' theory since the book's original publication. People in classical studies and ancient studies did not pay as much attention to the theory before. Now, it seems that it is gaining momentum with the likes of new empirical data and scholarship. I bought the book hoping for much new material, and this was exactly the case. I do recommend it for anyone interested in Julian Jaynes and his theory of the bicameral mind.

Torvald Fyord
Good book

This work offers more viewpoints on the ideas of Julian Jaynes with updates research. It is well done.


Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind: Interviews with Leading Thinkers on Julian Jaynes's Theory

Michaelangelo (posted on Amazon)
Endlessly fascinating, scintillating with insight and intelligence

This book has been endlessly fascinating, scintillating with insight and intelligence. As someone who has been ruminating on Jaynes for the past two decades it was surprisingly refreshing to find a collection of not essays, but a more easily digestible format—conversations—that clarify and expand upon this complex and often misunderstood/dismissed theory. Like a kaleidoscope, each chapter looks at the matters at hand through a different lens, with experts in different fields. For example, from a rhetorician’s perspective the creative potential of metaphor is highlighted, along with definitive insights about hallucination and ideology. Other outstanding chapters examine the vestiges of the bicameral mind through firsthand accounts of voice-hearers and TLE visionaries, all of them notably articulate. There are in-depth spelunks into the territories of child-development, imaginary friends, hypnosis, theory of mind, linguistics, psychology, history, Tibetan studies, religion, and philosophy. Kuijsten is a careful, diplomatic communicator who remains respectful and Socratic in debate, negotiating and adjusting perspectives wherever there are divergences in research or outlook. It is clear the intention here is an honest inquiry to further understanding, rather than a rigid imposition of ideas.

Paul (posted on Goodreads)
Five Stars

Outstanding interviews on Julian Jaynes' theory that are both highly readable and greatly clarify the theory. My personal favorite was with the Stanford anthropology professor Tanya Luhrmann. The wide-ranging discussions extend Jaynes's theory into new areas, address topics not covered in Jaynes' book, provide new evidence for the theory, and address objections that have been raised. Dividing the theory into four distinct hypotheses makes it much more understandable.