Julian Jaynes and the Ancient Mindgods

John Gliedman, Science Digest, April 1982, 90, 84-87.

Excerpt: Princeton psychologist Julian Jaynes is gambling for high stakes. If human consciousness originated in the way he suggests, Jaynes could go down in history as the Darwin of the mind.

While most scientists have long assumed that consciousness, the citadel of the secret self, was part of mankind’s ancient biological heritage like upright posture and a large brain, Jaynes disagrees. He defines consciousness very simply as introspection or, in a more complicated fashion, as an analog ‘I’ narrating in a mind-space such that it can summon up memories, command thoughts, and direct mental activity. And he insists that it is just as much a cultural invention as writing and mathematics. In The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, published in 1977 and an underground best-seller ever since, the Princeton psychologist and classical scholar argues that children must learn to be conscious human beings in much the same way that they learn to develop other distinctly human abilities, such as reasoning and remembering.