Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind: The Theories of Julian Jaynes


Edited by Marcel Kuijsten

SKU: JJS001 Category:


Does consciousness inevitably arise in any sufficiently complex brain? Although widely accepted, this view — inherited from Darwin’s theory of evolution — is supported by surprisingly little evidence. Offering an alternate view of the history of the human mind, Julian Jaynes’s ideas challenge our preconceptions of not only the origin of the modern mind, but the origin of gods and religion, the nature of mental illness, and the future potential of consciousness. The tremendous explanatory power of Jaynes’s ideas force us to reevaluate much of what we thought we knew about human history.

Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind both explains Julian Jaynes’s theory and explores a wide range of related topics such as the ancient Dark Age, the nature of dreams and the birth of Greek tragedy, poetic inspiration, the significance of hearing voices in both the ancient and modern world, the development of consciousness in children, vestiges of bicameralism and the transition to consciousness in early Tibet, the relationship of consciousness and metaphorical language, and how Jaynes’s ideas compare to those of other thinkers.

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From the back cover of Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind:

“… [O]ne of the most thought-provoking and debated theories about the origin of the conscious mind.” — Andrea Cavanna, M.D., in Consciousness: Theories in Neuroscience and Philosophy of Mind

“[Jaynes’s] proposal is too interesting to ignore.” — David Eagleman, Ph.D., in Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

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

“… Scientific interest in [Jaynes’s] work has been re-awakened by the consistent findings of right-sided activation patterns in the brain, as retrieved with the aid of neuroimaging studies in individuals with verbal auditory hallucinations.” — Jan Dirk Blom, M.D., Ph.D., in A Dictionary of Hallucinations

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Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind (product flyer)

Customer Reviews

Based on 13 reviews
Brain evolution and the origin of gods

I have not finished the book--preoccupied with life and work during a pandemic, but thus far, it is fascinating and answering some questions I have had since I was in Junior High. I cannot recommend this book too highly. It is liberating and thank my lucky stars I have found it (like "Caesar's Messiah) while cognitive function allows me to understand it and celebrate the thesis and the author.

Five Stars

A magnificent book of essays on Julian Jaynes fascinating theory, extending and enhancing his ideas for the 21st Century. The Julian Jaynes Society has done an excellent job (through Marcel Kuijsten) of presenting cogent and intelligent articles.

Educational for common folk like myself.

Great book! The bicameral mind theory is indeed very interesting. The evidence supporting this theory is educational for common folk like myself who are not up to speed with past or present compelling psychological hypotheses.

Five Stars


The Origin of Consciousness and the voices of bicameral man

Julian Jaynes's hypotheses about the origin of consciousness are as broad and deep in scope as culture itself, making his ideas so difficult to categorize. It is only too easy from a scientific view to say that these types of theories are not scientific or from a physicalist philosophical position to dismiss them as not being Philosophical, leaving such theories in a limbo from which Kuijsten attempts to rescue it.The broad sweep of the evidence marshaled for the thesis, that the structure and function of our brains at a particular point in time, was responsible for the experience of man blindly following the voices of Gods is indeed impressive. Many phenomena for which we no longer seek explanations, such as the power of hypnotism, schizophrena, the tradition of oracles, the hierarchical structure of theocracies, the influence of writing on the function of the brain loom into view like an armada appearing on the horizon. Kuijsten is not afraid of the accumulated prejudices of generations of scholars and bravely follows in the footsteps of Jaynes in reviewing new evidence for the theory presented ca 40 years ago.We are taken back in time over three thousand years and a picture of our life perfectly consonant with the theory of evolution and the ancient writings of the Bible emerges. The picture also provides explanation for many philosophical phenomena such as the importance of the emergence of Philosophy in the classical Greece of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The inner "voice" or daimon which Socrates listened to when in difficult situations also falls neatly into tapestry of evidence.The implications of Kant's philosophy that God was an idea in mans mind and not some external force guiding and directing the process of mans cultural evolution is given further support from the presentation of external evidence. The process of secularization started with the Philosophical argument of Kant is given further support and justification. The voices of the Gods are no longer "merely hallucinations" but placed in a cultural context which gives them a role and substance in our cultural development. The old Aristotelian idea that the divine in us is the thinking process has always metaphysically suggested that God was an important idea and should be correctly understood. This ancient spirit is resurrected with Jaynes's theories and Kuijsten's defense of them.This work also attempts to continue the work of Jaynes in broadening the horizon of Psychology into social and cultural dimensions which in turn links up with the heritage of humanism we acquired via the Classical Greek Philosophers, the Enlightenment Philosophy of Kant and the Philosophy of the later Wittgenstein.