Top Books on Julian Jaynes’s Theory

The top books we recommend for those interested in learning more about Julian Jaynes’s bicameral mind theory.

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
Julian Jaynes (Houghton-Mifflin, 1976, 2000)
At the heart of this book is the revolutionary idea that human consciousness did not begin far back in animal evolution but is a learned process brought into being out of an earlier hallucinatory mentality by cataclysm and catastrophe only 3,000 years ago and still developing. The implications of this new scientific paradigm extend into virtually every aspect of our psychology, our history and culture, our religion – and indeed, our future. In the words of one reviewer, it is “a humbling text, the kind that reminds most of us who make our livings through thinking, how much thinking there is left to do.”

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

Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind: The Theories of Julian Jaynes
Marcel Kuijsten (ed.) (Julian Jaynes Society, 2016)
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.

The Julian Jaynes Collection

The Julian Jaynes Collection
Marcel Kuijsten (ed.) (Julian Jaynes Society, 2012)
Princeton University psychologist Julian Jaynes’s revolutionary theory on the origin of consciousness or the “modern mind” remains as relevant and thought-provoking as when it was first proposed. Supported by recent discoveries in neuroscience, Jaynes’s ideas force us to rethink conventional views of human history and psychology, and have profound implications for many aspects of modern life. Included in this volume are rare and never before seen lectures, interviews, and in-depth discussions that both clear up misconceptions as well as extend Jaynes’s theory into new areas such as the nature of the self, dreams, emotions, art, music, therapy, and the consequences and future of consciousness.ideas force us to reevaluate much of what we thought we knew about human history.

Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes's Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited

Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes’s Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited
Marcel Kuijsten (ed.) (Julian Jaynes Society, 2007)
“In this book Marcel Kuijsten and his colleagues have integrated a quintessential collection of original thoughts concerning Jaynes’s concepts as well as some of Jaynes’s original essays. I have rarely read a manuscript that so eloquently and elegantly examines a complex and pervasive phenomenon. The contributors of this volume have integrated the concepts of psychology, anthropology, archaeology, theology, philosophy, the history of science, and modern neuroscience with such clarity it should be considered an essential text for any student of human experience.”
— from the Foreword by Dr. Michael A. Persinger, Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience, Biomolecular Sciences Program, Laurentian University

The Minds of the Bible: Speculations on the Cultural Evolution of Human Consciousness

The Minds of the Bible: Speculations on the Cultural Evolution of Human Consciousness
Rabbi James Cohn (Julian Jaynes Society, 2013)
In 1976, Julian Jaynes hypothesized that as recently as 2,500-3,000 years ago, human beings were non-introspective. Jaynes said that while we are acculturated from infancy on, to understand our mental life as a narratized interior mind-space in which we introspect in a ceaseless conversation with “ourselves,” our ancestors were acculturated to understand their mental life in terms of obedient responses to auditory prompts, which they hallucinated as the external voice of God. Although these “bicameral” people could think and act, they had no awareness of choices or of choosing — or of awareness itself. Jaynes claimed that one could trace this cultural transformation over the course of a scant millennium by analyzing the literature of the Hebrew Scriptures.

The 'Other' Psychology of Julian Jaynes: Ancient Languages, Sacred Visions, and Forgotten Mentalities

The ‘Other’ Psychology of Julian Jaynes: Ancient Languages, Sacred Visions, and Forgotten Mentalities
Brian J. McVeigh (Imprint Academic, 2018)
Though often described as boldly iconoclastic and far ahead of its time, Jaynes’s thinking actually resonates with a “second” or “other” psychological tradition that explores the cultural-historical evolution of psyche. Brian J. McVeigh, a student of Jaynes, points out the blind spots of mainstream, establishment psychology by providing empirical support for Jaynes’s ideas on sociohistorical shifts in cognition. He argues that from around 3500 to 1000 BCE the archaeological and historical record reveals features of hallucinatory super-religiosity in every known civilization. As social pressures eroded the god-centered authority of bicamerality, an upgraded psychology of interiorized self-awareness arose during the Late Bronze Age Collapse.

The Psychology of the Bible: Explaining Divine Voices and Visions

The Psychology of the Bible: Explaining Divine Voices and Visions
Brian J. McVeigh (Imprint Academic, 2020)
The Psychology of the Bible explores how the Old Testament provides perspective into the tumultuous transition from an earlier mentality to a new paradigm of interiorized psychology and introspective religiosity that came to characterize the first millennium BCE. By examining the Old Testament’s historical background and theopolitical context, utilizing linguistic analysis, and applying systems and communication theory, this book interprets biblical passages through a new lens.

How Religion Evolved: Explaining the Living Dead, Talking Idols, and Mesmerizing Monuments

How Religion Evolved: Explaining the Living Dead, Talking Idols, and Mesmerizing Monuments
Brian J. McVeigh (Transaction Publishers, 2016)
Why did many religious leaders — Moses, Old Testament prophets, Zoroaster — claim they heard divine voices? Why do ancient civilizations exhibit key similarities, e.g., the living dead (treating the dead as if they were still alive); speaking idols (care and feeding of effigies); monumental mortuary architecture and houses of gods (pyramids, ziggurats, temples)? How do we explain strange behavior such as spirit possession, speaking in tongues, channeling, hypnosis, and schizophrenic hallucinations? Are these lingering vestiges of an older mentality?

A Psychohistory of Metaphors: Envisioning Time, Space, and Self through the Centuries

A Psychohistory of Metaphors: Envisioning Time, Space, and Self through the Centuries
Brian J. McVeigh (Lexington Books, 2016)
How have figures of speech configured new concepts of time, space, and mind throughout history? Brian J. McVeigh answers this question in A Psychohistory of Metaphors: Envisioning Time, Space, and Self through the Centuries by exploring “meta-framing:” our ever-increasing capability to “step back” from the environment, search out its familiar features to explain the unfamiliar, and generate “as if” forms of knowledge and metaphors of location and vision. This book demonstrates how analogizing and abstracting have altered spatio-visual perceptions, expanding our introspective capabilities and allowing us to adapt to changing social circumstances.

Discussions with Julian Jaynes: The Nature of Consciousness and the Vagaries of Psychology

Discussions with Julian Jaynes: The Nature of Consciousness and the Vagaries of Psychology
Brian J. McVeigh (Nova Science Publishers, 2016)
McVeigh, a student of Julian Jaynes, took the opportunity in 1991 to record a series of informal, wide-ranging, and unstructured discussions with Jaynes, considered a controversial maverick of the psychology world. Themes include clarifying the meaning of consciousness, the relation between consciousness and language, the history of psychology and its prejudices, implications of Jaynes’s theory for therapy, and more.

In Their Right Minds: The Lives and Shared Practices of Poetic Geniuses

In Their Right Minds: The Lives and Shared Practices of Poetic Geniuses
Carole Brooks Platt (Imprint Academic, 2015)
In 1976, Julian Jaynes proposed that the language of poetry and prophecy originated in the right, “god-side” of the brain. Current neuroscientific evidence confirms the role of the right hemisphere in poetry, a sensed presence, and paranormal claims as well as in mental imbalance. Left-hemispheric dominance for language is the norm. An atypically enhanced right hemisphere, whether attained through genetic predisposition, left-hemispheric damage, epilepsy, childhood or later traumas, can create hypersensitivities along with special skills. Dissociative “Others” may arise unbidden or be coaxed out through occult practices. Based on nearly twenty years of scientific and literary research, this book enters the atypical minds of poetic geniuses – Blake, Keats, Hugo, Rilke, Yeats, Merrill, Plath and Hughes – by way of the visible signs in their lives, beliefs, and shared practices.

Of Two Minds: Poets Who Hear Voices

Of Two Minds: Poets Who Hear Voices
Judith Weissman (Wesleyan University Press, 1993)
Contains a lengthy discussion of the Iliad and the Odyssey with regard to Julian Jaynes’s theory of the origin of consciousness and the bicameral mind, as well as discussion and analysis of hallucinations and poetic inspiration in a variety of poets.

The Psychology of Westworld: When Machines Go Mad

The Psychology of Westworld: When Machines Go Mad
Brian J. McVeigh (2018)
What can we learn from the popular series Westworld? This work explores issues raised in the first season of this popular series through the lens of the philosophy of mind. What is consciousness? Can it be reduced to computational algorithms? Do the provocative theories of Julian Jaynes and bicamerality, as portrayed in Westworld, help us understand the nature and emergence of consciousness? Can machines eventually “experience” human consciousness? Or can they only mimic human intelligence? Can a human-made entity become a being possessed of the ability to experience themselves and the world the way people do? In what ways does the power of modern technology radically transform human nature and our understandings of what it means to be human? This work will be of interest to anyone who wants to know how science fiction intersects with science fact in the realm of psychology.

For Italian Readers:

Il Nostro Inquilino Segreto

Il Nostro Inquilino Segreto: Psicologia e Psicoterapia della Coscienza
(Our Secret Tenant: Psychology and Psychotherapy of Consciousness)

Alessandro Salvini and Roberto Bottini (eds.) (Ponte alle Grazie, 2011) (in Italian)
In this book are the contributions of an international group of scholars, constituted of researchers and clinicians inspired by the work of Julian Jaynes. The authors explore the plurality of the possible configurations of consciousness in its relationship with language and action. Consciousness isn’t something that exists ‘by itself’, a psychic object, but the name we give to a class of interactive operations. Among which, for example, the reflex of the relationships we entertain with our selves, with others, and with the world — a systemic ‘dialogue’ that contributes to shape the different ways of being and feeling conscious.

La natura diacronica della coscienza

La Natura Diacronica della Coscienza
(The Diachronic Nature of Consciousness)

Julian Jaynes (Adelphi, 2014) (in Italian)
In poche, densissime, appassionate pagine, la tesi molto poco ortodossa su cui si fonda l’intera opera di Jaynes: la coscienza non è data da sempre, e per sempre, ma – come tutto – ha una storia.
Traduzione di Isabella C. Blum