Jaynesiana

I must admit that I’m fairly obsessed with the ideas of the late psychologist Julian Jaynes. If you’ve been following these posts, I’m sure you’ve noticed. Just about everything that Pat and I write has been influenced by his mind-blowing classic, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Our latest visionary novel Mayan Interface is steeped in his thinking.

I recently finished reading The Julian Jaynes Collection, a splendid new anthology of Jaynesiana edited by Marcel Kuijsten. I found the last half of the book to be a special treat. Consisting of interviews and discussions, it brings me closer to the man himself than I ever hoped to get.

Here’s an exchange that I particularly like. In an interview with Sam Keen, Jaynes says this about the ongoing evolution of human consciousness:

We are still in transition, entering into the gateways of a different kind of mentality.

At the end of the interview, Keen comes back to this point:

It would seem that we are becoming freer. Is history pushing us toward enlightenment, toward waking up from the illusion that we must be blindly obedient to external authorities?

I love Jaynes’s reply:

What interests me is the metaphors you use: freedom, awakening, the passage from darkness to light. You are creating or changing consciousness by metaphors. In my value system, the effect of those metaphors is to strengthen the individual, to change consciousness for the better. But I am mostly aware of what the metaphors are doing. When you ask me what we are becoming, it is like asking me to choose one of a thousand roads. It’s like asking how history is going to end up. To ask for an end or a purpose is to ask for a single path. And consciousness is always open to many possibilities. It is always an adventure.

Pat and I put it this way in an interview with each other:

Our protagonists learn to abdicate certainty and safety. Life is risk. Transformation means never knowing what will happen next—or even what or who you will become. Nothing that’s evolving ever knows exactly where it’s going.

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One comment on “Jaynesiana

  1. […] can’t say I much like this possibility. I prefer Julian Jaynes’s idea that the first words were warnings: not nouns or even verbs, but modifiers like “far,” […]

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