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    Thread: Bicameral mind.

    1. #1
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      Bicameral mind.

      I recently read a book about the concept of bicameral mind, that give a large explanation about the evolution of the human brain and how this evolution have affected human thinking and religious beliefs.
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      Lol, anything else to say about it that might make discussion on it a bit easier? Do you think the bicameral mind hypothesis makes sense or is a good explanation for how the mind works, etc.?

      In any case, I feel like the idea of the bicameral mind was on the right track but ultimately stops short of being correct. I find Jung's concepts of the mind to be much closer to describing the truth, personally. We're much more like an amalgamation of sub-personalities with motivations and desires that often intertwine but can and often do differ as well, with many of the sub-personalities existing more as part of the unconscious mind until some set of stressors and circumstances bring it more to the surface.

      In instances where this happens, people often describe the experience as though somebody other than themselves were controlling their body/their actions. Of course, how likely they are to describe it in that particular way depends mostly on how familiar they are with and whether or not they recognize these sub-personalities exist within and help to compose their psyche as a whole. For instance, in moments of intense anger, people often say and do things they wouldn't normally do or have any desire to do. In cases where it drives them to crimes of passion like violence or murder, they often find themselves taken aback and even in horror and surprise at their own behavior, having previously believed themselves incapable of such despicable acts prior to such an incident occurring. In a case like that, an unconscious part of them indeed desired to commit such actions, but their obliviousness to it or unwillingness to accept that part of themselves made them believe (incorrectly) that they would never ever do such a thing.
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      I first ran across the idea of the Bicameral Mind while watching Westworld (the new one). I only know that it proposes that our thoughts are the voices of the gods in our heads. I also read that it was a very old theory that had been throughly debunked.

      But, that said, from the very little I understand about it, it actually sounds like it plays perfectly into Jung's theories, since one of his major ones is that religions, mythology, fairy tales, etc, are all projections of the human psyche out into the world as gods, heroes, and creatures used to explain things at a time before we had the scientific method. So, assuming that my understanding of the Bicameral Mind theory is right as far as it goes, I'd say it hasn't been debunked so much as misunderstood. There's an alarming tendency in modern science to devalue older ways of expounding wisdom by seeing them as hopelessly primitive attempts at a scientific explanation, which is not really what they are.

      As Jordan Peterson puts it, science tells us what things are made of (to put it very basically), and religion tells us how to live our lives. Science then is good for developing technologies, while it fails to help with ethical dilemmas. That's what religion, myth and fairytales are for. And they don't just straightforwardly tell you what to do - it's couched in the language of the subconscious - very dreamlike storytelling, which actually is the way the mind works except when we kick in the purely conscious apparatus - which is not most of the time.

      We've learned in modern society to scoff arrogantly at the more poetic explanations of things - and to value only nuts-and-bolts, rational scientific fact. But where does that leave us? Crippled when it comes to helping understand much about our lives - in fact the deeper and more important things I'd say. For some things the metaphorical and surreal language of dreams and visionary states is the only way to access the deep wisdom.

      I think Jung would say that in a very real sense, those 'voices' speaking in our minds - the sub-personalities you mentioned Snoop - can indeed and correctly be called the voices of the Gods. After all, the parts of the Psyche are named largely after gods and mythological characters, and for good reason. That's what the gods were created to represent - Mars for the warlike attitude, Venus for the loving attitude - etc.

      I don't know if these ideas really relate well to the Bicameral Mind theory or not, since I'm not very familiar with it, but I just wanted to get this across and this thread seems like a good place to do it.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 10-21-2017 at 06:23 PM.
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      The most interesting part of the theory (at least for me) is telling that human were not self conscious a few thousands of years ago.
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      Hmm, I'm gonna have to look this all up. I thought the concept of the bicameral mind simply postulated that the mind and consciousness were more or less an amalgamation of two separate "minds" in a sense and that they were capable of forming different opinions and views that at times could clash with one another but ultimately wind up forming the gestalt whole "I"/identity of human beings.

      By the sound of what you guys have been saying, my understanding of the concept is flawed/mistaken.
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      Well, as soon as I saw what you wrote I immediately thought I must be mistaken - because as I mentioned, I just briefly looked into it and that was long ago (whenever Westworld was airing - a year ago or so?) So I Wiki'ed it: Bicameralism (psychology)

      Looks like we're all right. It's a two-part mind - one part does the 'talking' and the other part just listens and obeys with no introspection or meta-awareness equivalent to self-awareness. A little ways down - 5th paragraph or so, it does say that the talking voice is considered the voice of a god. And also that according to the research of the guy whose theory it was, the change from bicameral mind to modern mentality happened around the time of Homer or just before.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 10-22-2017 at 04:11 AM.
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      Ok, this is intriguing. On the issue of whether the theory is debunked or not. I thought it was an ancient theory - that's why I said I thought it had just been misunderstood, but it's really a modern theory. So the writer was projecting backwards into history and decided that people before the time of Homer were not consciously aware in the same sense that modern humans are. The problem with this is that Homer is the first written history we have available. So when the writer (too lazy to look up his name) says he found historical evidence that people previous to that time didn't exhibit consciousness, what kind of evidence is he talking about? Writings by Homer and other historians about earlier people? That would be the only sources he could have. But when people are writing about earlier times and there is no written record of those times, they have to rely on word of mouth that's been carried forward through the ages, and we all know how unreliable spoken testimony gets with even just a few repetitions (Chinese Whisper game). It's the same problem we run into with the older stories in the Bible and other ancient texts - the stories had been told so many times over a period of centuries or even millennia, that all but the essence of it got lost and possibly the essence itself has been corrupted. Because people say "I heard from my grandfather who heard from his grandfather etc etc...", you can't trust the accuracy of what's being told.

      Plus it's a well known phenomenon that the people of any given age believe they are the smartest people who ever lived and that people of the past were much stupider than they. That's just a common bias - really all that's gotten better is our technology and education (and that has also gotten worse over the last few decades or even longer). The intelligence of individuals, distinct from their level of education, hasn't really changed since we became modern humans - and again I'm too lazy to look up when that happened. But I'm talking about when Cro-Magnan man rose up and replaced Neanderthals. Much more than a few thousand years ago - tens if not hundreds of thousands at least. And the numbers keep getting pushed back farther into pre-history all the time. They keep discovering sites with tools and statues from much earlier than they ever suspected. And of course making tools and statues is a sign of conscious awareness - abstract symbolic thinking.

      It reminds me of the theory that humans couldn't see the color blue before a certain period, because previous to that the sea and sky were always described as "Wine-dark"and never as blue. There's no way to prove that it means what they claim - it could have just been a convention of the writers of the time. Or possibly there was blue wine?

      However - the time of Homer is also the time of the invention of written language. So that means it was an advance of symbolic thinking - of language, and language determines how well a people can think. Until you phrase your thoughts in language they're extremely vague and formless. This is why it's recommended to keep a written journal to develop your ideas - it's a good way to formulate them better and to work deeper into them, which is impossible to do otherwise except in dialogue, and dialogue often ends up going in directions you didn't intend because the other person might not want to talk about the same things you do. So I would say the development of written language represents a significant leap forward in human consciousness.

      I'm just getting my thoughts down here - no real conclusions. Trying to lay out the parameters of the problem.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 10-22-2017 at 05:32 PM.

    8. #8
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      Thanks for the link DarkMatters, you saved me a couple of seconds of googling haha. After brushing up on what the bicameral mind hypothesis entails, it sounds a lot to me like the identifiers of "god" and "gods" in this case are being used rather liberally. As a matter of fact, I would go as far as to say how liberally the terms are being applied (at least on Wikipedia) is excessive because how remarkably unclear the different intended meanings of the words are supposed to be considering the vastly different contexts they used them in.

      Of course, at the same time, a fundamental difference between what I incorrectly remembered the concept being about and what it actually appears to be is that Jaynes isn't asserting something about the nature of the mind and consciousness as we know it the modern sense. That is to say, it seems his idea is more geared towards building an understanding of and providing an explanation for ancient man's hypothesized lack of conscious self-awareness and their tendency to mistake a phenonemon wholly unrelated to external gods as receiving directives ordained by some sort of divine force.

      Still, I think for clarity's sake it's important to make an explicit distinction between ancient man's (alleged) schizophrenic-like auditory hallucinatory experiences being directives from what they believed to literally be gods and the usage of that term when ascribing the source of the voices resulting from the bicameral mind (or in the modern age, schizophrenic minds) as being from God or gods. I don't know, maybe I'm being too anal here in pointing that out and everybody already gets that, but I've got a penchant for stating things like this in as clear of terms as is humanly possible... actually almost more like an obsessive need to do so. Casually using the same terms when talking about people who truly believe they were voices from deities when a critical point to his hypothesis is that they are not in fact coming from deities (neither in a literal sense, nor any kind of metaphorical/symbolic sense) really only opens people up to the possibility of misunderstanding what he was actually saying. I guess the way I see it is that, when the goal is to get closer to the truth and intellectual enlightenment, the goal should be to explain your understanding in the least uncertain terms as you possibly can.

      In any case, the idea that modern society has caused a paradigm shift of sorts in the way human beings think and how they view reality in such a way that it has caused us to develop a more stringent/rigid sense of self-awareness doesn't seem all that farfetched. Neither does recognizing the parallels between ancient man's experience of receiving divine directives and the commanding hallucinations schizophrenics and positing that the two phenomena are at least in some way fundamentally related (if not, in some cases, outright what was actually responsible for the divine commands instructing their behavior). The idea that schizophrenia or the positive symptoms of psychosis in general are vestiges of man's old bicameral state on the other hand seems to be pushing the limits of credulity to me. There are simply too many assumptions going on when going on to make a leap that big and I feel coming to that conclusion sorely lacks so much needed nuance.

      For instance, from what I read, there doesn't seem to be much in-depth conscious recognition that who experiences these commands and the rather complex way human social interaction and society at large's views affect our belief systems make ideas like "man's earlier bicameral state (of mind)" seem poorly thought out. I would venture to guess that a significant portion of humanity, for lack of a better way of putting it, was simply gullible or perhaps rather all too ready accept ideas like God's or several gods' existence and their (in my opinion) almost inexplicable interest in beings like ourselves and our daily struggles (along with the idea that they intervened in our lives on a regular basis). A large proportion of people today seem to almost have a need to simply uncritically accept these kinds of ideas out of a need to justify their existence and that it has some kind of significance. I can only imagine living in a time where not only does deviating from socially expected behaviors and beliefs means total ostracization (at best, if not actually being harmed or killed), when getting something like an infenction carried a real chance for death or the need for amputation, and where life is just miserable toil in general.

      This would leave the entire society insanely vunerable to having firm conviction in the ideas that community members like medicine men, shaman, clergy, etc., that happened to experience these types of command hallucinations expressed. Especially when medicine men and shaman were commonly using psychotomimetic hallucinogenic drugs to regularly communicate with these supposed gods. I'm sure to a large degree most people would have a level of what Jaynes is calling bicameralism, but I feel like the problem was much more localized to a rather select group of society and the community and they simply had abnormally large influences on the beliefs of the general populace.

    9. #9
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      (I just re-read what you wrote, and I think I might have misunderstood you and made a gigantic post that misses your point entirely - or at least largely. But I'm going to leave it anyway because some parts of it do address your actual points, and the rest helps to set those parts up.)

      I'm just going to post my thoughts on what you said - this might be a little stream-of-consciousness and might wander off track a little bit. Sorry if it does, but it sounds like what you're thinking about is Jung's idea that God or Gods were always voices from the unconscious that people assumed came from 'out there' somewhere. And you also seem to be rather freely correlating schizophrenia with those voices - which it seems the authors of that Wiki article did as well, so I can see why you're doing it. I don't think we can assume that the actual theory itself is accurately represented by that article. But then I'm also too lazy to read much more about it lol!

      Let me see if I can clear up a few things concerning Jung's ideas. Several times you mentioned a distinction between 'real' gods and gods that are merely voices from the unconscious. Jung's theory is that every God was always a voce from the unconscious. This doesn't make them 'mere' - the unconscious is far and away the most powerful part of the mind. In fact he believes that all weird phenomenae are from the unconscious - things that people have chosen to call magic, telepathy, ghosts, etc.

      He says that God is a particular part of the unconscious - an archetype that he calls the Self (distinguished by the capital S from the Ego or small-s self). He actually refers to it as the God-Image, because he says - rightly so - that there's no way to tell if God is actually the Self or if the Self just allows us to commune with something external - though he believed it was strictly an internal psychological phenomenon.

      That said, there are also voices from the unconscious that are definitely not the voice of God. These would be what schizophrenics hear and mistake for God. Those voices would be complexes which are symptoms of psychological disruption, not an archetype of wholeness as the Self is. This is why there's always been a correlation between madness and holiness - it can be hard to tell the difference - especially in times previous to our modern understanding of psychology.

      He believed that up to a certain point in the evolution of human society we could only understand the voices as being the voices of actual deities that were somewhere, but we didn't know where (something like Plato's perfect forms, which of course were our own ideas of perfect forms, but he didn't seem to understand that). And the only way to talk about them was to find some place where these gods would dwell - on the highest mountain in Greece, or in a metaphysical Heaven that some people insisted must actually exist above the clouds but some thought must be a spiritual realm that has no physical existence. I think the main problem was that there was no theory of the unconscious then - when people heard vices or saw visionary images they had to find some way to talk about them, and so they used a metaphorical language. Apparently the people who actually experienced powerful visions - the ones who became known as Prophets etc - had managed to constellate the Self and benefitted from the wisdom it can bestow. It doesn't exist all the time - it must constellate, as an archetype can, when conditions are right - essentially when a person either is ready to understand some new level of wisdom or needs to. It can be done through a lot of contemplation of the spiritual (prayer, meditation) or can burst in suddenly and unexpectedly.

      Before our understanding of psychology and the discovery of the unconscious, people used metaphysical language - religious or spiritual language, to describe these visitations. But as Jung puts it - some time around the 15th century (the Renaissance and the Enlightenment - birth of the scientific Age of Reason) God fell from the sky and into Man's psyche. What he really means is that God (all the Gods) always existed in the psyche, but people just didn't understand that earlier and tended to project him (them) out onto whatever symbolism they understood at the time.

      Ok - I feel like I've just repeated the same thing a few different ways. But I also feel like it helps people to get it better.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 10-22-2017 at 06:40 PM.
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      Quote Originally Posted by snoop View Post
      I can only imagine living in a time where not only does deviating from socially expected behaviors and beliefs means total ostracization (at best, if not actually being harmed or killed), when getting something like an infenction carried a real chance for death or the need for amputation, and where life is just miserable toil in general.
      There was a really powerful movie made in 2016 called The Witch that really gets this across excellently.

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      Exactly, I took hundred of years for humans to become semiconscious . The concept of "I" appeared around that time at least on that region of the planet. According to the author , dementia and other hallucinations when people hear voices are i some way a reminiscence of the bicameral mind.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      (I just re-read what you wrote, and I think I might have misunderstood you and made a gigantic post that misses your point entirely - or at least largely. But I'm going to leave it anyway because some parts of it do address your actual points, and the rest helps to set those parts up.)
      You're right, I was actually pointing out what you elaborated on further on in your post, more or less. I just unleashed my own massive stream of consciousnesses with my own previous post so don't feel bad about doing it yourself, haha. I've actually got a bit of a problem with doing that in any serious discussion I get in, it's kind of a habit I need to break.

      My little tirade in the middle of my last post about the lack of clarity resulting from Jaynes usage of (or at least Wikipedia's usage of) the concept of gods and the commanding hallucinatory voices ancient people heard was something I rambled on about exactly for this reason--it has some serious potential to cause difficulty in accurately interpreting what's being discussed about Jaynes' hypothesis. I have to admit, in a way I'm a bit relieved my anal retentiveness was actually justifiable and I wasn't just spouting on about it like a pedant.

      I appreciate you explaining your thoughts on the subject though despite misunderstanding what I was saying, because you pretty much confirmed without much doubt that you are having a lot of the same ideas as me about Jaynes' theories. I find it unreasonable of him to seriously postulate and maintain a conviction for his opinion that these ancient day heavenly directives are sufficiently explained as essentially being schizophrenic or at least psychotic-like experiences. Of course, without having completed any appropriate level of research beyond digesting a Wikipedia article whose explanation of his hypothesis is dubious at best, I might simply be arguing against what's essentially a strawman here. Expecting a layman to provide a meticulous explanation of a topic so broad in scope is kind of like expecting a highschool student who doesn't really see how the higher level mathematics they're learning will ever apply to their real-life experience down the road to be capable of providing an error-free differential Calculus lesson that demonstrates a thorough level of understanding of all the concepts and principles involved in the execution of the operations involved.
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      Quote Originally Posted by snoop View Post
      You're right, I was actually pointing out what you elaborated on further on in your post, more or less. I just unleashed my own massive stream of consciousnesses with my own previous post so don't feel bad about doing it yourself, haha.
      Ok good to know. I guess we're birds of a feather in that regard.


      Quote Originally Posted by snoop View Post
      I find it unreasonable of him to seriously postulate and maintain a conviction for his opinion that these ancient day heavenly directives are sufficiently explained as essentially being schizophrenic or at least psychotic-like experiences.
      Agreed.


      Quote Originally Posted by snoop View Post
      ... Wikipedia article whose explanation of his hypothesis is dubious at best, I might simply be arguing against what's essentially a strawman here. Expecting a layman to provide a meticulous explanation of a topic so broad
      I suspect Jaynes himself might have been somewhat of a layman. Not sure, but I don't get the feeling he was well-versed in any real psychology. Or maybe he was just a crackpot? I need to look up when he was writing - it may have been before Freud and Jung. If so then it's understandable because nobody knew anything about psychology. Or if it was post Freud/Jung, maybe he just wasn't well studied in it? In which case how was he at all qualified to come up with psychological theories (not that being unqualified stops any of us obviously, but most of us don't write books and publish them! ~ We just publish our 'findings' (maybe a better term for most of them would be droppings? ) here on the internet.

      EDIT:
      Ok, he published the book in 1976! The part of the article called Reception has some very interesting commentary, both for and against his theory. Apparently Neal Stephenson wrote a novel called Snow Crash that's partly based on Bicameralism - people returning to that state of consciousness (or lack of I suppose). I wonder if that one is posted as a free download on his site? That's where I found Blindsight (thanks to a post by Sageous ) which was an excellent read.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 10-23-2017 at 02:48 PM.
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