The best books on the bicameral mind

Who am I?

When I first read Julian Jaynes’s book more than 25 years ago, I was immediately struck by the fact that Jaynes’s theory addressed many of the questions I’d had about both modern society and ancient civilizations, and addressed them in a way that I thought was better than anything else that I’d seen previously. If you’ve ever wondered about things like the origin of subjective consciousness, mental illness, or the origin of religion, then Jaynes’s theory is a must-read. After Jaynes’s death in 1997, I founded the Julian Jaynes Society, and I have been studying different aspects of the theory ever since. I’ve published four books on Jaynes’s theory and I invite you to learn more about his theory and to join the Julian Jaynes Society.


I wrote...

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

By Marcel Kuijsten,

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

What is my book about?

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 forces us to reevaluate much of what we thought we knew about human history.

Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind both explains Julian Jaynes's theory and explores a wide range of related topics such as the ancient Dark Age, the nature of dreams and the birth of Greek tragedy, poetic inspiration, the significance of hearing voices in both the ancient and modern world, the development of consciousness in children, and how Jaynes's ideas compare to those of other thinkers.

The books I picked & why

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The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

By Julian Jaynes,

Book cover of The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

Why this book?

To understand the bicameral mind, start with Princeton psychologist Julian Jaynes’s own explanation of his theory. Jaynes carefully walks readers through all of the historical, literary, archeological, psychological, and neuroscientific evidence for the bicameral mind the mentality that humans operated under prior to developing subjective consciousness. Understanding precisely how Jaynes defines consciousness — and why his narrow definition is so important — is absolutely critical to understanding his theory. You will also learn how vestiges of the bicameral mind have shaped our modern world. Bolstered by recent findings in neuroscience as well as other new evidence, Jaynes’s theory remains as relevant and thought-provoking as when it was first proposed.


The Julian Jaynes Collection

By Julian Jaynes,

Book cover of The Julian Jaynes Collection

Why this book?

After reading Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, readers often have many questions about the theory. In this volume, Julian Jaynes answers all of the most frequent questions about his origin of consciousness and a previous mentality called the bicameral mind. The Julian Jaynes Collection includes rare and never before seen articles, 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. The Julian Jaynes Collection is guaranteed to greatly increase your understanding of Julian Jaynes’s fascinating theory.


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

By Rabbi James Cohn,

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

Why this book?

In The Minds of the Bible Rabbi James Cohn takes a deeply thought-provoking look at the Old Testament through the lens of Julian Jaynes’s theory. Rabbi Cohn explains how, when properly dated, the evolution of mental language can be traced through the oldest to the most recent books in the Old Testament, providing a written record of the development of subjective consciousness. Rabbi Cohn also explains how culture and language can have a profound impact on how we think. A gifted writer, Rabbi Cohn’s book is engaging, informative, and easy to understand.


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

By Brian J. McVeigh,

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

Why this book?

In The ‘Other’ Psychology of Julian Jaynes, Brian J. McVeigh  one of the world’s foremost scholars of Julian Jaynes’s theory — both provide new empirical evidence for the theory, extends Jaynes’s theory into new areas, and explains how Jaynes's thinking actually resonates with a “second” or “other” psychological tradition that explores the cultural-historical evolution of psyche. This thought-provoking book will deepen your understanding of many aspects of Jaynes’s theory, including evidence for the transition from bicamerality to subjective consciousness in ancient history, the surprising ubiquity of hearing voices in modern times (a vestige of the bicameral mind), the transformative power of metaphorical language to shape our thoughts, and much more.


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

By Marcel Kuijsten,

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

Why this book?

The first new book that was published on Julian Jaynes’s theory in several decades, Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness reignited the worldwide debate about Jaynes’s controversial theory of the origin of consciousness and a previous mentality called the bicameral mind. This book includes an in-depth biography of Julian Jaynes, essays by Jaynes, and the discussion and analysis of Jaynes's theory from a variety of perspectives such as clinical psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, anthropology, linguistics, and ancient history. Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness is a must-read for Jaynes enthusiasts or anyone seeking an in-depth understanding of Jaynes’s theory.


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