Bicameralism

"It is one of those books that is either complete rubbish or a work of consummate genius, nothing in between!" Richard Dawkins, on The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.

Extracts from wikipedia:

* The concept of schizophrenia as a result of civilization has been developed further by psychologist Julian Jaynes in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind; he proposed that until the beginning of historic times, schizophrenia or a similar condition was the normal state of human consciousness. This would take the form of a "bicameral mind" where a normal state of low affect, suitable for routine activities, would be interrupted in moments of crisis by "mysterious voices" giving instructions, which early people characterized as interventions from the gods. [Source page]

* According to Jaynes, ancient people in the bicameral state would experience the world in a manner that has similarities to that of a modern-day schizophrenic. Rather than making conscious evaluations in novel or unexpected situations, the person would hallucinate a voice or "god" giving admonitory advice or commands, and obey these voices without question; one would not be at all conscious of one's own thought processes per se. Others have argued that this state of mind is recreated in members of cults. In his 1976 work The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes proposed that human brains existed in a bicameral state until as recently as 3000 years ago.... Jaynes argued that the bicameral individual was guided by mental commands believed to be issued by external "gods"—the commands which were so often recorded in ancient myths, legends and historical accounts; these commands were however emanating from individuals' own minds....

Jaynes theorized that a shift from bicameralism marked the beginning of introspection and consciousness as we know it today. According to Jaynes, this bicameral mentality began malfunctioning or "breaking down" during the second millennium BC.... Jaynes further argues that divination, prayer and oracles arose during this breakdown period, in an attempt to summon instructions from the "gods" whose voices could no longer be heard.... Leftovers of the bicameral mind today, according to Jaynes, include religion, hypnosis, possession, schizophrenia and the general sense of need for external authority in decision-making. [Source page]

Comments

Butters said…
Religion is a leftover from the bicameral brain?

I can't takes Jaynes seriously after reading that one.
Awais said…
I think its a semi-anthropological approach to religion.

I am unaware of his views on religion in detail. Wikipedia's reference could have been an over-simplification.
Awais said…
Anyway, it wasn't the religious aspect which interested me. It was his idea of consciousness and its preceding state.

There is practically no hard evidence in the favor of this idea. But it just struck me with its innovation. A very interesting hypothesis.
Salman Latif said…
The idea isn't that novel - the notion of 'people hearing voices' has long been associated with the condition we know as schizophrenia.
However, even that be right, subjective experiences can't be disproved merely upon this possibility. And so can't be the importance and profoundness of the ideologies we know as religion be diminished by the fact.
Awais said…
@ Salman

But the notion that a schizophrenic state of consciousness might be predecessor of our current state of consciousness is a novel idea.