Universal versus Bicameral

Lecturer, actor and playwright Julian Jaynes, PhD, was the son of a famous Unitarian minister. In 1976, the younger Jaynes published a theory about the origin of consciousness that astounded people then and continues to astonish us to this day. Before his death in 1997, his theory had been debunked; however, in the last 20 years, scientists and philosophers have brought his essential idea back into serious consideration. Jaynes theorized that when an Egyptian in the ancient world prayed to an idol of Isis, the Egyptian actually heard the voice of the God admonishing him and guiding him through the difficult decisions of his life. Dr. Jaynes identified these hallucinated voices as the product of the bicameral mind. The bicameral mind refers to the hemispheres of the brain which, according to his theory, functioned more independently before the evolution of consciousness. The transition in the Mediterranean world occurred between 1800 and 900 BCE. Jaynes considered “schizophrenic” voices atavistic reminder of how humans functioned in the ancient world. His ideas may seem difficult, but they are fun and engaging, and have wonderful ramifications for a bird’s eye view of faith.

Our virtuoso violist Michael Alexander Strauss majored in English Literature at Yale, graduating in 1976. He has been studying Dr. Jaynes’ work, and the many auxiliary ideas surrounding the work, since 1984.