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

Charles Hampden-Turner
Maps of the Mind, Collier Books, 1981.
Reprinted in Marcel Kuijsten (ed.), Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind: The Theories of Julian Jaynes (Julian Jaynes Society, 2016).


Julian Jaynes, a professor of psychology at Princeton, is responsible for the most intriguing and extensive thesis yet to emerge from brain research. Did our ancestors have god-directed minds? Is consciousness little more than 3,000 years old? He starts by asking what consciousness is - that irradicable difference between what others see and our own sense of self. Consciousness is not the same as being awake. To be knocked "unconscious" is to lose many automatic functions. It is not continuity since even "stream of consciousness" is full of gaps. The Cartesian notion of "the helpless spectator" asks us to believe that the intensification of consciousness during decisions has nothing to do with outcomes. We know that we can learn, judge, think abstractly, and even generalize without consciousness. Many skills like oratory, music, and skiing fail us when consciousness interferes. Einstein had so many creative ideas while shaving that he would cut himself with surprise.