I was initially skeptical about Jaynes's core theory, which states that human consciousness began as recently as 5 -6 thousand years ago and that before that time humans were obeying hallucinated inner voices that they took to be the voice of gods.
At first glance it's a startling theory. At second glance, too - but in a different way, particularly when one looks at the world today to see that many, many people are still subservient to the inner commands of perceived deities.
Jaynes's insights are extraordinary. Essentially, he seems to be writing about self-awareness and introspection, but his evidence is convincing and painstakingly researched. He admits that many of his ideas are, at base, assumptions, albeit supported by detailed historical substatiation, but they are nonetheless plausible and compelling, and as an investigation into how the mind works it's revolutionary. Best followed up, for added clarity, with Marcl Kuijsten's 'The Julian Jaynes Collection', 'The Origin of Consciousness...' is a mind-changing work.
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The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind Paperback – 15 August 2000
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At the heart of this classic, seminal book is Julian Jaynes's still-controversial thesis that human consciousness did not begin far back in animal evolution but instead is a learned process that came about only three thousand years ago and is still developing. The implications of this revolutionary scientific paradigm extend into virtually every aspect of our psychology, our history and culture, our religion -- and indeed our future.
"When Julian Jaynes . . . speculates that until late in the twentieth millennium b.c. men had no consciousness but were automatically obeying the voices of the gods, we are astounded but compelled to follow this remarkable thesis." -- John Updike The New Yorker
About the Author
JULIAN JAYNES (1920-1997) was a researcher in psychology at Yale and Princeton, who achieved an almost cult-like reputation for the controversial book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, which was his only published work.
- Language : English
- Paperback : 512 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0618057072
- ISBN-13 : 978-0618057078
- Best Sellers Rank: 34,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer reviews:
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An astonishing read.Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on 1 April 2020
10 people found this helpful
Change the way you think about thinking.Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on 2 March 2021
This is a quite remarkable read. A bold premise bringing with it a new paradigm, but Jaynes does seem to deliver - each turn of the page brings another means by which to have you reconsider what you think you know on the topic of consciousness. Further, each claim he makes does seem to make sense, though it invariably propounds something utterly different to that with which the reader is familiar. I'd be very interested to read reviews, critiques and criticisms from people in the fields of psychology, neurology and the like, for I am a mere layman. However, from my classical and historical background, and having focused on religious history and questions of faith in my dissertations, I found no shortage of interest in this tome. It was highly recommended to me as something to have you thinking differently, and I in turn cannot recommend this highly enough.
5 people found this helpful
Read this, and you may never be the same again!Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on 1 March 2019
This is one of the most extraordinary books ever written. Richard Dawkins described it as a work of "consummate genius or absolute rubbish". I first read it in 1976 when it was first published and I was blown over by it then. Jaynes argues that there was a time, about 4000 years ago, when the human race, like all other creatures on the planet, had no self-awareness and was ruled by messages or voices emanating from the right side of the brain. But I assure you that Jaynes was no crank, and backs up his theories by convincing historic evidence, and, as far as I know, no-one has ever disproved his findings. Vestiges of this age remain with us today in the form of schizophrenics who hear voices over which the patient has no control. Well worth a read.
6 people found this helpful
Too many ifs, buts and maybesReviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on 7 July 2019
The book is thoroughly researched and well written, but the premise is never proven. Jaynes is at least honest about this and keeps repeating that his ideas are more or less provisional assumptions. But this creates an atmosphere of mistrust. So many assumptions make it read more like a Von Daniken extrapolation from archaeological data to prove a pet theory than a serious scientific investigation into the origin of the conscious mind.
2 people found this helpful
BrilliantReviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on 3 July 2014
It's hard for anyone not an up to date specialist in neurology and history to evaluate this fairly but I think that after 40 years it remains a fascinating classic. Jaynes was highly intelligent and his thesis is compelling. This book is an interdisciplinary marvel. Even if very misguided, it inspires many lines of thought. Actually I find the bicameral paradigm holds a lot of plausibility, maybe apart from the timing. One of the best books I've read in a long time.
4 people found this helpful