The ‘Other’ Psychology of Julian Jaynes

£14.95

Ancient Languages, Sacred Visions, and Forgotten Mentalities

Brian J. McVeigh

Brian J. McVeigh, a student of Jaynes, points out the blind spots of mainstream, establishment psychology by providing empirical support for Jaynes’s ideas on sociohistorical shifts in cognition. He argues that from around 3500 to 1000 BCE the archaeological and historical record reveals features of hallucinatory super-religiosity.

£14.95

Paperback 270 pages

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Description

In his provocative but critically acclaimed theory about the origin of introspectable mentality, Julian Jaynes argued that until the late second millennium people possessed a different psychology: a “two-chambered” (bicameral) neurocultural arrangement in which a commanding “god” guided, admonished, and ordered about a listening “mortal” via voices, visions, and visitations. Out of the cauldron of civilizational collapse and chaos, an adaptive self-reflexive consciousness emerged better suited to the pressures of larger, more complex sociopolitical systems.

Though often described as boldly iconoclastic and far ahead of it time, Jaynes’s thinking actually resonates with a “second” or “other” psychological tradition that explores the cultural-historical evolution of psyche. Brian J. McVeigh, a student of Jaynes, points out the blind spots of mainstream, establishment psychology by providing empirical support for Jaynes’s ideas on sociohistorical shifts in cognition. He argues that from around 3500 to 1000 BCE the archaeological and historical record reveals features of hallucinatory super-religiosity in every known civilization. As social pressures eroded the god-centered authority of bicamerality, an upgraded psychology of interiorized self-awareness arose during the Late Bronze Age Collapse. A key explanatory component of Jaynes’s theorizing was how metaphors constructed a mental landscape populated with “I’s” and “me’s” that replaced a declining worldview dominated by gods, ancestors, and spirits. McVeigh statistically substantiates how linguo-conceptual changes reflected psychohistorical developments; because supernatural entities functioned in place of our inner selves, vocabularies for psychological terms were strikingly limited in ancient languages. McVeigh also demonstrates the surprising ubiquity of “hearing voices” in modern times, contending that hallucinations are bicameral vestiges and that mental imagery—a controllable, semi-hallucinatory experience—is the successor to the divine hallucinations that once held societies together.

This thought-provoking work will appeal to anyone interested in the transformative power of metaphors, the development of mental lexicons, and the adaptive role of hallucinations.

2 reviews for The ‘Other’ Psychology of Julian Jaynes

  1. Post
    Author
    5 out of 5

    ‘One could say that McVeigh’s The “Other” Psychology of Julian Jaynes is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on Jaynes’s theory of consciousness. But that would be an understatement. Every chapter brings new insights to important topics, such as why hallucinations are not inherently pathological, linguistic change in ancient China, and the psychological terms of modern Mandarin. But, as important as these topics are, two further issues make this book a milestone
    . First is the historical contextualization of Jaynes’s theory. This is the “other” psychology referred to in the book’s title, i.e., the cultural-historical evolution of psyche. The second topic is the meticulous excavation of digitally available corpora of ancient languages. McVeigh’s statistical analyses reveal the rise of a lexicalized interiority on the timetable and in the manner that Jaynes predicted. These two issues have been conceptual stumbling blocks from the beginning. But by the time readers have finished chapter two they should be wondering why Jaynes’s theory was ever considered radical at all. McVeigh’s survey of ancient texts will certainly help put to rest challenges that we just don’t know enough about the dynamics and contents of ancient lexicons.’

  2. Post
    Author
    5 out of 5

    ‘An insightful and enjoyable contribution to the growing literature on Julian Jaynes’s theory written by one of the theory’s foremost experts. Highly recommended for those wanting to learn more about Jaynes’s fascinating ideas as well as anyone interested in gaining insights into the considerable role that culture plays in shaping our psychology.’

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