Julian Jaynes’ Theory of the Bicameral Mind and A Different Path to Subjective Consciousness in China                          
By You-Sheng Li (September 2008, written for The Jaynesian Newsletter; edited 15/02/2009)

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Abstract: That the man-made secondary society is foreign to humans is once more illustrated by the phenomenon of bicameral minds, first described by Julian Jaynes. According to Jaynes, people with bicameral minds followed auditory hallucination, the divine voice, in response to an enlarged community from 9000 to 1000 BC, and subjective consciousness appeared around 1000 BC. Unlike the Mediterranean civilizations on which Jaynes' theory is based, Chinese civilization started with genetically coded primary society and therefore, went through a different pathway in the evolution of human minds to subjective consciousness. This essay presents overwhelming evidence for the presence of subjective consciousness around 1400 BC in China, and therefore, subjective consciousness may have appeared in a primary society setting. The bicameral mind pervasive among the Mediterranean civilizations was likely a response to the sudden appearance of secondary society. The author believes that subjective consciousness might have first appeared with the tool explosion around forty thousand years ago and switched to the bicameral mind in early Mediterranean civilizations but not in early Chinese civilization. The left and right hemispheres of our brain and their connection provide a good neuropsychological explanation for the emergence of a complex secondary society five or six thousand years ago after humans had lived in primary society for millions of years. As the processor of visuospatial images and holistic or intuitive awareness, the right brain may be responsible for the primary society while as the processor of language and rational thought, the left brain may be responsible for the secondary society.          



            When I was once searching on Internet about poetic thought last year, a peculiar term came into my vision field and caught my full attention immediately: the bicameral mind. I spent the next few weeks reading about the theory of bicameral mentality and its author, American psychologist Julian Jaynes (1920-1997). According to Jaynes, humans once lacked consciousness but followed auditory hallucination, the divine voice, in response to an enlarged community and the subsequent hierarchal theocracy. Human consciousness is only a cultural artefact based on language, and it first appeared around 1000 BC.

            Thus both the division of human society into primary and secondary societies and the theory of the bicameral mind hold the insight that a fundamental culturally constructed change took place in recent human history due to a bigger society. As the theory of primary and secondary societies holds that Chinese civilization started with primary society while the Western civilization started with a typical secondary society. One may expect that the Chinese history of bicameral mentality may be fundamentally different from the Western one. Julian Jaynes based his theory, mainly on analysis of the Western history, including that of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Israel, and Greece. Very little study has been done regarding the application of Julian Jaynes' theory to Chinese history.

A primary analysis of available literature confirms that the phenomenon of the bicameral mind was much less visible in Chinese history. Divination by oracle bones appeared around 4000 BC in China, and the earliest records that are detailed enough for assessment yield overwhelming evidence for the presence of subjective consciousness around 1400 BC in the ruling class, but the bicameral mind seemed to prevail among the peasants. Records from around 2356 to 1400 BC also suggest subjective consciousness, though it is inconclusive whether those records are absolutely reliable. The idea of a morality apart from legality only began to appear in Greece in the 5th century BC while Chinese civilization started with a strong emphasis on morality. Therefore, Chinese history is more consistent with the weak form of Jaynes' theory that consciousness could have begun shortly after the beginning of language and co-existed with the bicameral mind before the latter was sloughed off. It is a striking contrast to the full-blown bicameral minds in the early Mediterranean civilizations.

            I will introduce Julian Jaynes' theory, the definition of subjective consciousness, and then concentrated on the documentation of the presence of subjective consciousness in China around 1400 BC followed by a short discussion.


            (1) Juilian Jaynes and his Theory of the Bicameal Mind

            Julian Jaynes was born in 1920 to a highly educated mother of 30 and a priest father of 66. His father died two years later of heart attacks and left him a fatherless childhood. Julian Jaynes attended Harvard University and was an undergraduate in McGill University. He received both his master and doctorate degrees from Yale University. He made significant contributions in the fields of animal behavior and ethology. After Yale, Jaynes spent several years in England working as an actor and playwright. Jaynes later returned to the states, and lectured in psychology at Princeton University from 1966 to 1990, teaching a popular class on consciousness for much of the time. He was in high demand as a lecturer, and was frequently invited to lecture at conferences and as a guest lecturer at other universities. He spent much of his summers at his home in Prince Edward Island, Canada while teaching at Princeton University. After he retired, he lived in Prince Edward Island and died in 1997.

            Julian Jaynes was best known for his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976)[1], in which he advanced his theory of the bicameral mind. Jaynes uses the word “consciousness” but does occasionally use the term “subjective consciousness” to talk about his theory on human consciousness. Since Jaynes's theory remains highly controversial and consciousness is a common word, the term “subjective consciousness” seems to be the preferred one for the “consciousness” Julian Jaynes describes .

            To help students master his concept of consciousness precisely, Julian Jaynes usually started his lecture by talking what consciousness is not. First, consciousness is not all of mentality, as so many things that the nervous system does for us automatically without our consciousness. For example, a large class of activities is termed as preoptive such as how we sit, walk, move. All those activities are done without consciousness, unless we decide to be conscious of them, the preoptive nature of consciousness. Even when we are speaking, the nervous system automatically picks up the right word from the lexical storehouse in the brain and adds it to a string of words framed in the grammar structure. What we are conscious of the actual speaking can only be best described as intentions of certain meanings. Consciousness should not be confused with simple sense perception. All worms have sense perception, and we cannot say worms have consciousness.

            Secondly, Consciousness does not copy experience, as we do not always remember what we have experienced. Our memories are even constructed differently from what we have experienced. Our memories of swimming tend to see ourselves from another point of view, a bird's eye view, which we have never experienced.

            Thirdly, consciousness is not necessary for learning. For example, learning motor skills seems to happen without much consciousness. When we are first to learn how to ride a bicycle, it requires our consciousness to plan and start the process of learning and practicing. The nervous system takes care of a major part of the learning process by the so-called automatization of habit: our feet are paddling for most of the time without our consciousness, and we are even surprised to find out that our skills have improved more than we have expected.

            Fourthly, consciousness is not necessarily for thinking or reasoning. Here I introduce a Julian Jaynes' term, the struction. Structions are like instructions given to the nervous system, that, when presented with the materials to work on, result in the answer automatically without conscious thinking or reasoning. Such phenomenon applies to most of our activities, from simple judging, solving problems, and to scientific and philosophical activity. Consciousness studies a problem and prepares it as a struction, a process may result in a sudden appearance of the solution as if out of nowhere. During World War II, British physicists used to say that they no longer made their discoveries in the laboratory, they had their three B's where discoveries were made, the bath, the bed, and the bus. It illustrates well that discoveries as an important process of thinking and reasoning can be achieved without much consciousness except for the consciousness starts the automatic process.

            Finally, most people would say consciousness is in our heads, but since we cannot say the location of bicycle riding is inside our heads, Julian Jayness thinks the phenomenal location of consciousness is arbitrary.

            Jaynes also lists several features of consciousness such as a mind space for introspecting, narratization or self-talk, an analog ‘ I' acts as the agency for the introspection and narration, and consilience. Consilience is the mental process to make things compatible with each other, or to narratize and consiliate all together into a story.

            Only after we get rid of all common misconceptions about consciousness, may we be in a position to understand Jaynes' theory of the bicameral mind. Jayness summarizes his theory in four ideas: 1) consciousness is based on language; 2) a different mentality, the bicameral mind, existed based on verbal hallucination before the development of consciousness; 3) consciousness appeared around 1000 BC; 4) the right hemisphere of the brain hears the auditory hallucination, a divine voice, and the left hemisphere carries out the order from the hallucinated devine voice.

            The three phases:

            Phase 1: Primitive Mentality, Homo Sapiens     

                        200,000 BC     language evolves                      

                        40,000 BC       tool explosion

                        10,000 BC       first gods

            Phase 2: Bicameral

                        9,000 BC         first towns

                        3,000 BC         writing begins

            Phase 3: Conscious      

                        1,000 BC         divination, prophets, oracles


                        1,000 AD

                        2,000 AD


            Jaynes termed the first phase as Neanderthals, and I changed it to primitive mentality and home sapiens. Now it is well established that Neanderthals are not our direct ancestors.

            Thus the West went through a bicameral phase from 9000 to 1000 BC, which was characterized by a forceful theocracy. They organized their complex city states under the name of gods, and people developed bicameral minds to hear the divine voice and obey those gods. The subjective consciousness emerged after the bicameral mind broke down. As pointed above, the early Chinese social environment allowed them to still live in primary and quasi-primary society, which was based on human nature. The ancient Chinese did not go through this bicameral phase though to a certain degree, they might still have the bicameral mind in a different context.

            (2) The Definition of Subjective Consciousness


            What constitutes the subjective conscious mind may be a matter for debate. In his essay entitled Consciousness and the Voices of the Mind [2], Julian Jaynes attempts to clarify what subjective consciousness is, “Subjective conscious mind is an analog of what we call the real world. It is built up with a vocabulary or lexical field whose terms are all metaphors or analogs of behaviour in the physical world …And it is intimately bound with volition and decision.”

            From the view of a society, this real world consists of many minds of the members of the society, and those minds communicate with each other by the vocabulary of metaphor. Thus impressions, feelings, emotions, concepts, imagery and other elements, which are available for introspection but may or may not be represented by words, are the building blocks of this real world or the subjective conscious mind. Each individual mind though may be different is greatly influenced by other minds and by the vocabulary they share. If we consider the analog of the real world as a perspective and consider volition and decision as free will, subjective consciousness essentially equals perspective plus free will.

            A fundamental question is why humans are able to build secondary society while animals are not. The answer is that humans have the ability of self-transcendence: They are continuously looking for something higher than themselves and their real life. This eventually lets them create new worlds for themselves. Under certain circumstances, people with primitive mentality and bicameral minds may be able to use rudimentary language in a creative way, but they use language just as other tools only to enrich their lives. Humans with subjective conscious minds use language to create totally new worlds such as many novels, especially scientific fictions. Each novel literally represents a new world created by man. Our secondary society is also one of those worlds created by humans. But this one is a real one, created not by one person but by numerous people over thousands of years. Such new worlds themselves are a result of free will, and those new worlds in turn show individuals how to execute free will to create unique lives for themselves.

            As mentioned above, one feature of subjective consciousness is narratization or self-talk and an analog ‘ I' acts as the agency for the narration. Our life may be considered as a novel or fiction narrated in multiple media, words, images, concepts, feelings, and so on for a life long time. As the narrator of this novel of life, we exercise free will all the time in our inner world. Neither primates nor early human beings could achieve such a life experience. What is the minimum requirement of vocabulary for subjective consciousness to appear? The number of words has to be enough for the members of society to create a new world or a new life in their minds first before a world or a new life is created in reality. A few hundred words may be enough for a modern writer to create a fiction, but I tend to think many more words may be needed for subjective consciousness to appear among ancient people.

            Each secondary society is a creation by man but primary society is the society humans are born with. With the above mentioned Chinese super state of primary society, the ruling class of the king and vassals might not be able to change the overall social structure to create a new sub-society but as an idle class, they might be able to develop sophisticated vocabulary and form a subgroup with a distinct culture, which might not suit the definition of secondary society but was certainly a creation of their own. When a particular social issue was elaborated and debated for a long time even in a primary society setting, it might have created free will and led to the emergence of the subjective conscious mind.           


            (3) Evidence for Subjective Consciousness Around 1400 BC: The Oracle Bones


            From the late Shang dynasty between 1400 and 1122 BC, some fifteen thousand pieces of oracle bone inscriptions have so far been excavated. It was in 1400 BC when King Pan-Geng gave his three speeches that are available for analysis. The reader should be reminded that the dating of Chinese history before 841 BC is only approximate.

            From 1400 to 1122 BC, the kings of the Shang dynasty, the ministers, and the diviner officials developed an extraordinary enthusiasm towards divination by oracle bones. It is very much like the Egyptian pyramids that stand out without any match in human history. They certainly created a life of their own, a life of divination by oracle bones.

            In the West, especially in Mesopotamia and Greece, civilization started with city states where primary society was broken to form a typical secondary society with free individuals. In its early stage, there were no well established laws and social structures to provide the cohesive force to stabilize the society. A forceful religious faith was a must, and the execution of Socrates shows how forceful the religious faith could be. Such social circumstances provided the cultural environment to hatch the bicameral mind. Thus, people heard divine voices, and they sought divine voices by divination when they could no longer hear the voice clearly.

            Chinese civilization started with primary society, and there was no forceful authority in primary society. The gods they imagined were just like their headmen, not forceful either. According to the belief system of the Shang dynasty, there was a natural deity for each of the natural forces they could perceive such as the sun, the moon, the wind, the rain, the snow, the cloud and so on. There was a super god, but their deceased ancestors seemed to be the most important ones. Those ancestors and gods had the power to influence the human world and their lives, but they represented a different world. People could seek favour but could not seek orders to organize their lives from those ancestors and gods, just as the members of a primary society cannot expect their headman to organize their lives. As a result, they had endless questions to ask and to ponder, which, facilitated by language development, eventually led to the emergence of subjective consciousness.

1. The divination by oracle bones was sophisticated enough to hatch subjective consciousness in the late Shang dynasty:

            As mentioned above, more than 150,000 oracle bones were found for the two hundred and seventy eight years from 1400 to 1122 BC. Considering that many may still lay underground and even more might have been lost during the last three thousand years, and that a piece of bone could be used repeatedly and one session of divination might contain several questions, the number of questions subjected to oracle bones may be several times of those discovered oracle bones. Curiosity and the idle lifestyle of the ruling class were apparently the major factors behind those questions. Those oracle bone inscriptions contain more than 5000 Chinese characters but only a third was deciphered. Nowadays, one needs only to master 1000 Chinese characters to be able to read newspapers, and university graduates only mastered some 4000 Chinese characters on average.

            A wide variety of topics were asked, essentially anything of concern to the royal house of Shang, from illness, birth and death, to weather, warfare, agriculture, tribute and so on. One of the most common topics was whether an illness of any member of the royal house and any member of the court officials was curable or not. As a topic of divination, the illness was often a minor one such as toothache.

            Each oracle bone inscription normally consists of four sections, preface, topic, reading, and verification. During a divination session, the shell or bone was anointed with blood, and an inscription starts with the date that was recorded using the Chinese system of Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches, the diviner's name was also noted. Next, the topic of divination was posed, such as whether a particular ancestor was causing a king's toothache. Then the bone was subjected to heat until it cracked. The diviner in charge of the ceremony read the cracks to learn the answer to the divination. The divined answer was sometimes marked either "auspicious" or "ominous". The king occasionally added a prognostication and his reading on the nature of the omen. On rare occasions, the actual outcome was later added to the bone in what is known as a verification. A complete record of all the above elements is rare; most bones contain just the date, the diviner, and topic of divination, and many remained uninscribed after the divination. There is some evidence that the divination was made on brush-written words, and those written words were inscribed later by a workshop.

            From the different names of diviners on the oracle bones, we know that the king had many diviner officials. Those officials prepared the oracle bones and kept them for late reference. One topic of divination could be raised multiple times, and often in different ways or by changing the date being divined about. This indicates that they concentrated their minds on one question for a period of time.

2. Two examples of the oracle bone inscriptions show the mind space of the people who were involved in the divination:

            The following is a typical oracle bone inscription:

            It will rain today? Rain will come from the west? Rain will come from the east? Rain will come from the north? Rain will come from the south? (郭沫若: 《卜辭通纂

The General Compilation of Oracle Bone Inscriptions, 375 )

            This oracle bone inscription shows that those people had a clear representation of the physical world and its four directions in their minds to enable them to ask and monitor the outcome of those questions.

            It is understandable to ask whether it will rain or not today but what is the point to ask a total of four questions about which direction the rain will come? It shows an essential part of human nature, the curiosity of an idle mind.

           The following oracle bone inscription is a completed one with the verification and was read by King Wu-Ding himself. King Wu-Ding ruled from 1350 to 1292 BC approximately.

            Divination date: Kui/Si; diviner: Hui; Topic: whether misfortunate events will happen within ten days; King Wu-Ding read the bone cracks and concluded: ominous, and misfortunate events will happen; Verification: misfortunate events came from the west after five days. Zhi-Huo reported that Tu babarians invaded our eastern suburb and destroyed two towns, and Shu babarians invaded our farm fields in the western suburb. (《菁》, 2)

            Those divining people apparently had a sense of time, the past, the future, and the present. Ancient Chinese people worshiped ancestors, and they often kept the shrines for each of their deceased ancestors in order of time from a generation to the next. This may give the Chinese a sense of time much earlier than in the West. For the same reason, Chinese kept good records about their ancestors: their deeds and their words from prehistoric time.

            Jaynes’ concept of the mind space is much broader than the actual represention of time and physical space. Nevertheless it is part of the mind space that enable to think about the answers to our questions.

3. Conscious dreams in oracle bone inscription:

            According to Julian Jaynes, there are conscious dreams and bicameral dreams. There are four oracle bones asking the meaning of a particular dream and whether the dream was auspice or ominous. In their dreams, one saw jades, and one (king) saw many sons, and two saw ghosts in several times (《合集》5649; 《合集》17383 ; 《合集》17451;《合集》17450 ). Those are apparently conscious dreams. The dreamer recalled their dreams and put them on oracle bones to seek the meaning of them. It is apparently self-introspection:

            ‘I’ ŕ[‘I’ saw ghosts or jade or many sons in dream]

            Those oracle bones are direct evidence for the presence of subjective consciousness.

4. Bone inscriptions of memorable events:

           Some bone inscriptions were records of a particular event. For example, the king once on a hunting tour (?1203 BC) killed a tiger, and he used the tiger bones to make table utensils, and then recorded this event on it (William Charles White: Bone Culture of China, the University Toronto Press, 1945, Plate XV). This clearly shows that the king was proud of what he had done. It is consisted with subjective consciousness.        

5. Conflicting Opinions and Book of Ancient texts

            After the Shang dynasty was overthrown by the Chou dynasty in 1122 BC, King Wu of  the Zhou dynasty sought governing experience from a Shang minister, Duke Ji. According to Duke Ji, the Chinese kings had ruled the country based on nine principles since Yu the Great around 2200 BC. The seventh of the nine principles is about divination. It is a reliable source to see how divination was carried out during the Shang dynasty. (Collection of Ancient Texts: Great Principles  尚書﹕洪範》)

            According to Duke Ji, the first thing for the king was to select and appoint the right persons as diviners. For one issue, the king had to ask three diviners to perform divination and take the two identical readings as the final result, which is consisted with the archaeological finding that divination was often repeated for a single issue.     

            According to Duke Ji, the king, when facing a difficult issue, had to think it over himself first, and then consult with his ministers, his people, and finally consult with divination. There were six possible ways of conflicting opinions among divination by oracle bones, divination by milfoil stalks, the king, the ministers, and the people (Table 1). It clearly indicates that the Chinese super state had no forceful authority. The ruling class had to learn how to deal with different opinions, and it might well have facilitated the development of subjective consciousness.


Table 1. The six different ways of conflicting opinions and their predicted outcomes


The king


The people

Oracle bones

Milfoil stalks

Predicted outcome when being carried out







Grand concord, best for the king and his family




























fortunate for internal operations but unlucky for external undertakings







fortunate for being still but

unlucky for active operations







            The different opinions held by the king, the ministers, and the people show that even the ordinary people had their own perspective and free will expressed in words. The following King Pan-Geng’s three speeches provide detailed records of a real situation of such conflicting opinions.



            (4)  Evidence for Subjective Consciousness Around 1400 BC: King Pan-Geng’s Three Speeches


            A notable Chinese historian considers Chinese society as classless primitive society before 1400 BC when the king took part in physical labour among other peasants. According to his study, the capital moved at least seven or more times from 1766 to 1400 BC as required by so-called mobile agriculture. [3]

            After 1400 BC, the king or emperor became a full time administrator and the capital did not move unless forced by war. King Pan-Geng used strong words to condemn the interest in gathering and accumulating wealth by his officials, ministers and local lords, because those officials felt it hard to abandon the wealth and move to a new place. It is likely that more accumulated wealth eventually enabled the capital to have permanent location after 1400 BC.

            As the last move of this kind in 1400 BC, King Pan met strong resistance from all levels of people. King Pan-Geng gave three speeches to persuade and motivate his officials and people for this move.

            Through Chinese history and up to today, Chinese scholars almost unanimously viewed the three speeches as genuine ones by King Pan-Geng himself. They were written down either when King Pan-Geng was alive or shortly after his death. Whether the text of the three speeches was edited by others in its early surviving years remains a matter for debate, though there is no evidence to support either view.

            The three speeches have 1400 Chinese characters, which equal about 4000 words in modern English translation. For a king to speak at such a length on a single issue but to different people and on different occasions is unique in early Chinese records: Collection of Ancient Texts (Shangshu, 尚書).        

1. They were trying hard to persuade each other and change each other’s mind:

            As pointed out by Ted Remington [4], “Persuasion, in any true sense of the term, could not exist without the type of consciousness Jaynes describes as only developing toward the end of the second millennium BC. One cannot persuade without the ability to see the world from the point of view of the one to be persuaded. Only by imaginatively inhabiting the mind-space of the other can persuasion be effected.”

            The three speeches by King Pan-Geng were the records of a long complex process of persuasion during which, the king was trying to persuade his officials and people who were, on the other hand, trying to persuade the king to change his mind. They all showed the vision of the world from the point view of the others, and claiming for the good of the others.

            The first speech was delivered to the officials including ministers, local lords, and tribal chiefs. The second speech was delivered to the ordinary people. The third was after the move and was for the officials. The following is from the speech to the people:


            “My present undertaking to move you to the new place, is for the long-lasting stability to our country. You, however, show no sympathy with the anxieties of my mind; but you all keep a great reserve in declaring your minds, trying respectfully by your sincerity to change my mind. You only exhaust and distress yourselves. The case is like sailing in a boat: if you do not cross the river in time, you will ruin the whole cargo. Your sincerity does not respond to mine, and we are in danger of going together to destruction. You do not examine the matter but anger yourselves, what cure will that bring? You do not plan for the future, nor think of the calamity that will come to you. You greatly encourage one another in what must prove to your sorrow. Now you have the present, but you will not have the future; what life can you look for from above? ….Do I force you by the terrors of my power? My objective is to support and nourish you all.”


            Using the sailing boat for the political situation as an analogy is itself a very abstract concept, a sign of subjective conscious mind. Persuasion also relies on a conception of time that, according to Jaynes, is only possible after the development of consciousness. The above quotation shows well that King Pan-Geng had a sense of time, since he talked about “future” and “long-lasting stability”.

2. The words used by King Pan-Geng that indicate subjective consciousness:

            Here I only list out three Chinese characters that indicate the presence of subjective consciousness in the speaker. They are plan (mou ), volition (zhi ), and heart (xin ). They appeared four, ten, and four times respectively.

            The Chinese character mou usually means plan, design or stratagem but can also be used as noun with the meaning, strategy plans. Since the left half of the character is the radical yan , speaking, there are usually a few people who are involved in the activity of mou like the king designing a path for the country with his ministers, but there can also be only one person in the activity of mou . The Chinese character mou indicates free will.

            One example of Pan-Geng’s words with the Chinese character mou are as follows in English translation:


            “As I see as clearly as one sees a fire, if I lack planning and strategy, it will be my fault.” (The underlined words are the English translation of the Chinese character in discussion, same below.)


            The Chinese character xin equals heart, mind, feeling, moral nature or character, and intention:


(1). I have now brought forward and announced to you my mind, whom I approve and whom I disallow; let none of you but reverence my will.

(2). Let every one of you set up the true rule of conduct in his heart.

(3). If you can put away your (selfish) thoughts,

(4). Take counsel how to put away your (selfish) thoughts.


            The English equivalents of the Chinese character zhi are will, aspiration, ambition, ideal. Two examples of the words with the Chinese characters zhi are translated as follows:

            (1). I have now brought forward and announced to you my aspiration, whom I approve and whom I disallow; let none of you but reverence my will.

            (2). Now I have disclosed my heart and belly, my reins and bowels, and fully declared to you, my people, all my mind and ideal.

            In the second example, the king spoke such words: “heart”, “belly”, “reins”, and bowels. It indicates the close relationship that was consistent with the historical fact: the king and his officials lived in a primary society.

3. The voice of human nature vs. divine voice: comparison of Pan-Geng’s move to a new capital with Moses’ move out of Egypt:


            All the difference between Pan-Geng's move to the new capital and Moses' move out of Egypt may be accounted for by the fact that China was modeled after primary society while Moses' people lived in a secondary society, or in other words, the voice of human nature vs. the divine voice.

            Moses led the Israelites, 600,000 men plus women and children and a mixed multitude, with their flocks and herds from Egypt into the wilderness of the desert for a few decades surrounded by hostile neighbouring states. In fact, they often battled through the way they were taking. Human nature was not enough to provide the needed cohesive force for such a goal. It was not surprising that the divine voice was heard all through the whole process of Moses' move out of Egypt. If we believe the bible, it was God not Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt. It suits well with the theory of the bicameral mind.

            In comparison with Moses and his people, Pan-Geng apparently had a better developed government: He was the king with several ministers to help him, and he also had a hereditary system to ensure the peaceful transition of power to the next generation. As a result of the limitation of primary society, Pan-Geng's move was much easier and simpler than Moses'. Pan-Geng's move took only a month or so, and it was a peaceful journey of some 150 miles. Pan-Geng also had much less people to move, as he called them to his palace to persuade them. For the ordinary people, they might not have the ability to see clearly the advantage this move would bring to them. For the officials, they might understand the political situation but did not want to lose their privileges and wealth. Pan-Geng's persuasion seemed to be much harder than Moses', and he had called both officials and people to his palace, and being friendly to them. He literally had to take his whole heart out to prove that he was sincerely dedicated to them, and his distressed heart also needed sympathy. It clearly shows that the social bond was emotional and psychological one in the primary society.

            Pan-Geng warned both the officials and people that they might face execution if they refused to co-operate with the king. Execution sounds harsh but it was almost the only punishment available to the king. This punishment could not be taken lightly, as the king's power was well balanced against by ministers, vassal lords, tribal chiefs, and the people. Chinese people lived in numerous colonies that scattered over a vast area with waste land and minority people of different ethical origin between. Unhappy individuals could easily run away, and dissident chiefs could lead their peasants to live among those minority people.

            One may expect that a few must be executed before the whole population gave up their resistance. Pan-Geng said in his third speech, “I have not punished any of you.” So he did not punish anyone for this controversial move, even some officials had instigated peasants to act against the king.

            What happened to those who resisted Moses' leadership? They were much less lucky than the ones who resisted Pan-Geng, since they were in a secondary society where the cohesive force was generated by reward and punishment expressed as divine will. Nobody gave them a clear warning before hand as Pan-Geng did to his officials and people. According to the Bible (Numbers 16:2-20-32-35), “Two hundred and fifty men of the son of Israel, chieftains of the assembly, summoned ones of the meeting, men of fame. So they congregated against Moses…Jehovah now spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying ‘Separate yourselves from the midst of the assembly, that I may exterminate them in an instant'…And the earth proceeded to open its mouth and to swallow up them…And a fire came out from Jehovah and proceeded to consume the two hundred and fifty men offering the incense.”

            Moses was apparently much more powerful than King Pan-Geng. Moses' power was not from a well developed law system and corresponding social structure but from religious faith and bicameral mentality. In contrast, Pan-Geng had a much more advanced government but much less power as the bicameral mind played only a minor role in Chinese social life. The social order of Chinese society was still based on human nature while the Western social order was pretty much man-made in the divine name.       


            (5) The Different Social Environments Hatched Different Ideologies      


            Julian Jaynes says, “It can easily be inferred that human beings with such a (bicameral) mentality had to exist in a special kind of society, one rigidly ordered in strict hierarchies with strict expectancies organized into the mind so that hallucinations preserved the social fabric. And such was definitely the case. Bicameral kingdoms were all hierarchical theocracies, with a god, often an idol, at their head from whom hallucinations seemed to come, or, more rarely, with a human being who was divine and whose actual voice was heard in hallucinations.” [2]

            I will explain why social conditions for such rigidly ordered hierarchical theocracies were not available in ancient China, and then I will present evidence that China was much less religious compared to the West.

            It is well documented that primitive hunters and gatherers lived an idle life as other animals do, and only infrequently did they have violent conflicts. Thus they lived in a relatively peaceful environment as ancient Chinese people did.

            The renown American anthropologist, Marvin Harris, listed many evidences to support his conclusion: “Archaeological evidence from the upper paleolithic period— about 30,000 BC to 10,000 BC— makes it perfectly clear that hunters who lived during those times enjoyed relatively high standards of comfort and security. They were no bumbling amateurs.”[5] According to Marvin Harris, those ancient hunters even knew how to control their population. Like other animals, early humans were motivated to intensify production only when they were in trouble. As pointed out in Essay 1, their insolvable trouble was caused by warring states.

            Anthropologists believe that the separation of work from entertainment started with the invention of agriculture which requires intensive invest in the future, but humans only worked in modern sense of work when the governments of states provided an idle class to supervise others' work. The transformation from a primitive peaceful idle life to a rigidly ordered hierarchical society in which most people were working day and night like ants is apparently not a natural and simple process. It requires special conditions and special circumstances which appeared in the Mediterranean civilizations but were absent in the ancient China.

            Marvin Harris lists three factors as the essential requirement for states to appear, namely population increase, intensive agriculture to produce enough plus food, and the so called circumscription. [6] Circumscription means the emigration of dissatisfied factions was blocked in such a way that factions of discontented members of a state cannot escape from their elite overlords without suffering a sharp decline in their standard of living. The earliest states like Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece were circumscribed by their dependence on modes of production associated with fertile river valleys surrounded by arid or semiarid plains or mountains. Circumscription was the critical factor for the three civilizations, as it generated the first genuine rulers in human history who were able to control access to basic resources. To control access to basic resources enabled the rulers to control people and set up a military power to kill people. Once the rulers have the power to kill, and the first forceful authority of secondary society is established. Slavery for massive scales of productive and constructive activities was then possible.

            In ancient China, such a circumscription was never available to set up any similar states. According to Wang [3], the locations Chinese lived scattered over a vast area but were mingled with minority ethical people until the Spring Autumn Period (771-476 BC). The royal clans and the peasants who lived in the capital practiced mobile agriculture at least until 1400 BC, and peasants were no doubt to practice mobile agriculture much later. As a result, it was almost impossible for the ruling class to execute strict control over its people, since the escape of dissatisfied factions was always possible. Without circumscription and the control of basic resources, the military power to kill was well balanced against each other by this super state structure of primary society. The king and his court, as the ultimate power of this super state, were the major check for any local power, but the power of the king and his court was in turn checked by the power of various vassal states. The cooperation of a few vassal states would easily overpower the king and his court.

            The first social implication of the above mentioned Chinese super state of primary society was that this super state saw itself as the only government for the whole humanity.

The second social implication of this Chinese super state of primary society was that the people were left on their own. In a primary society, people cannot expect very much from their powerless leader, the headman. Similarly ancient Chinese people could not expect very much from gods. Gods were an essential part of ancient Western society, and people expected gods to play a vital role in their lives. Gods and heaven played only a peripheral role in ancient Chinese life.       

            According to Collection of Ancient Texts (尚書), the famous minister Gao-Tao once said (?2300 BC):  “Heaven (God) hears and sees, but it hears and sees through our people. Heaven (God) delivers reward and punishment, but it delivers reward and punishment through our people.” This was a fundamental belief of ancient Chinese people. For the ruling class, the people were the God, and therefore, the ruling class had to fulfil the people’s need to please God. The expression of the same belief became more clearly stated in 706 BC:  “The people are the master of gods” ( Zuozhuan, 左傳). The headman’s leadership was based on persuasion and consensus, and so Chinese gods had to please the people to survive.

            According to Julian Jaynes, the bicameral mind hears the voice of gods only in stressful situation when a decision has to be made. It is understandable that ancient Chinese people heard less such voices, since they lived in a relatively peaceful environment. This was exactly the case. According to Julian Jaynes’ theory, divination appeared only after humans lost their bicameral minds and could no longer hear the voice of gods. Archaeological findings found that Chinese people performed divination using turtle and other animal bones at least six thousand years ago or 4000 BC. Xia listed three earliest findings of oracle bones, and they are dated 4070 BC, 3800 BC, and 3510 BC and from Henan, Gansu, and Inner Mongolia respectively. The finding of the oracle bones in 3800 BC from Gansu consists of six pieces of animal scapulae, which are all etched with marks and symbols and have been subjected to technical heat. Xia listed further 59 findings of oracle bones from the Longshan culture (2600-1900 BC), and mentioned the custom of burial turtle shells around 6000 BC. Those turtle shells were technically modified and decorated, and were only buried with elderly men and women. Those turtle shells are believed to be the precursor of oracle bones, since ancient Chinese people believed that turtles have spiritual power. [7]

            Chinese people also saw many less images of gods, statues and paintings.  David N. Keightley says, “Characteristically, there is no visual image or even textual description of any early Chinese ruler or deity to compare with the images and descriptions of particular rulers, heroes, and gods we have from Mesopotamia and Greece. There is no Chinese equivalent to the bronze head, which may depict King Sargon the Great, no Chinese version of a heroic, life size, naked bronze Poseidon.” [8]

            Since the very beginning, Chinese civilization lacked the giant temples dedicated to gods in the Middle East and in ancient Greece. In the ancient Chinese cities, the first eye-catching building was the palace. The shrines to the ancestors were usually inside the palace, occupying a minor part. The capital, Beijing, from the last dynasty of China, Qing (1644-1911), had four temples each in one of the four directions, the south, the north, the east, and the west for heaven, earth, the sun, and the moon respectively. Those four temples embrace the far larger central palace, which shows exactly that gods are peripheral in Chinese society.

            Many Chinese scholars believe that the Chinese character for the super god or God, di  , symbolizes an inverted triangle on a table for worshippers. The inverted triangle is the symbol for the female sex organ. From 221 BC, Chinese emperors took the same word to name themselves, which makes the Chinese God, di , a more personated figure. Chinese culture has never created a well-known personal image for the super god, di  , which is in line with the interpretation that God is essentially the female sex organ.             The national leader was called the son of Heaven, since the early Chou dynasty but remarks that depreciate Heaven have never stop. For details, the reader may read Essay 10.

            In summary, peaceful social environment, primary society, a culture based on human nature for the whole humanity, divination by animal bones, a ruling class who saw the people as the basis of their rule may each have contributed to the appearance of subjective consciousness mind in China.


            (6)  The Bicameral Mind in China


            Subjective consciousness, a perspective plus free will or in Julian Jaynes' term, the real world plus volition, can be greatly influenced by the different states of mind as discussed in Essay 1 and shown in Figure 2.

            One window to see what people really saw in their world is to see what their visual artists created for them in history. Those artists represent their culture and their people. Ancient Chinese artists painted mainly mountains, rivers, birds, flowers and so on, and if there is any figures in their paintings, those figures are tiny in vast landscapes. That's because Chinese people lived in a relatively peaceful environment, and they had a relaxing mind. It is breathtaking to notice that for more than a thousand years, the Western artists created nothing but human figures. Landscape as a subtype of painting first appeared in the 17th century in Holland. It shows clearly that war was the main force to shape the society and life in the West but not in ancient China. When your mind engaged in fighting with other people, you see nothing but people who are either your friends or enemies.

            Julian Jaynes used to say “consciousness is what is going on in the minds of any dozen people now on the street”. He talks about the idle mind or self-entertaining mind but not the goal-oriented or war-occupied mind. Even the stream of worries, regrets, hopes, and so on is constantly monitored and modified by a more general perspective which has been formed to reach some goals in the subject's mind. This perspective of goals is relatively stable in the subject's life and is integrated into the general perspectives of goals of the society he lives in.

            The human mind has to be rational when facing a war or being pressed to achieve a goal. While being idle, humans just as other animals want to enjoy themselves. When the only thing you care about is enjoyment, there is no point to care about rationality and subjective consciousness. There is even no point to worry about the difference between hallucination and reality.

            Levy-Bruhl's book "Primitive Mentality" was influential in Jaynes's thinking about the bicameral mind. Levy-Bruhl writes that in comparison to modern society, a greater number of individuals in primitive societies experiences hallucinations, experiences them more frequently, and the hallucinations play an important role in their day-to-day lives. Levy-Bruhl states: "To them the things which are unseen cannot be distinguished from the things which are seen. The beings of the unseen world are no less directly present than those of the other; they are more active and more formidable. Consequently that world occupies their minds more entirely than this one, and it diverts their minds from reflecting, even to a slight extent, upon the data which we call objective." [9]

            Further, Erika Bourguignon, from a study of almost 500 societies has shown that the frequency, accessibility and quality of religious experiences, correlate inversely with the complexity of social structure. In the simplest and most egalitarian societies, ritual trance states tend to be voluntary, conscious and accessible to most people who desire them. [10]

            Both Levy-Bruhl and Erika Bourguignon indicated that hallucination was more common in ancient primitive people. But it was only part of the idle mind in the primary society while it became the divine voice to dictate the people to obey their rulers in the secondary society.

            Such prehistoric primary society described by Levy-Bruhl equals Neanderthal from 200,000 to 9,000 BC in Julian Jaynes' term. Here I use the primitive mind to represent the mentality of this period of time before the first towns and the bicameral mind appeared around 9,000 BC. In primary society where the mentality is primitive, gods and people are on the same level, which is the reflection of the egalitarian society. Subsistence endeavour is not enough to shift people from an idle frame of mind to a rational goal-oriented mind. The bicameral mind serves as a transitional phase from the primitive mind to the goal-oriented conscious mind.

            As mentioned above, the Chinese super state of primary society enabled Chinese people to still live in primary or quasi-primary society. This makes the shift from the primitive mind to subjective conscious mind much less dramatic, though the bicameral mind was still visible as Julian Jaynes' theory is universally applicable.

            The ruling class, the king and vassals, and the peasants lived in separate societies. I have to address the ruling class and the peasants differently to show how the Julian Jaynes' theory of the bicameral mind and subjective consciousness applies to Chinese history. Contrast to the goal-oriented West where people had to look forward to an uncertain future, the Chinese had to look back to their traditions and ancestors to keep the harmony and unity of their society.

            There are no Chinese equivalents for the Iliad and the Bible stories, and gods stayed peripheral in the Chinese life. With the ruling class, they heard the voice of human nature and the voice of deceased ancestors instead of the voice of gods in the West. Furthermore, such voice usually appeared as conscience or a model to follow but not in spoken words. Michael Carr illustrates that the drunk corpse/ personators speak in the voice of the deceased ancestors as described in the Book of Poetry. Such descriptions are relatively rare in ancient Chinese literature. Furthermore, the spiritual voice speaks almost identical blessings for the descendants, ten thousand year happy life, in the three poems cited by Michael Carr. Those words seem to have been chosen before hand as part of the formality. They are not divine orders as heard by the bicameral man in the West. On contrary, like other Chinese gods, the ancestor spirits were keen to please the people for their survival: they offered ten thousand year happy life after receiving a simple ritual worship. [11]


            The process of changing mentality in the ruling class was described well by the following quotation from Lao Tzu:           


            When Tao is lost, there remains virtuosity. When virtuosity is lost, there remains benevolence. When benevolence is lost, there remains righteousness. When righteousness is lost, there remains ritual. When ritual is lost, what remains is the thinness of honesty and trustworthiness, and chaos is on its way. (Tao Te Ching, Chapter 38)

            The above quotation from Lao Tzu can serve as the description of the mental shift from the primitive mind to the bicameral mind and to subjective conscious mind. When Tao prevailed in ancient primary society, the mentality was primitive. That Tao is lost means that the primitive mind is lost. When a primary society is in trouble, people rely on collective unconsciousness to keep the harmony and unity of the society. It was natural that ancient Chinese called up on people's subconscious by emphasizing virtue, benevolence.

            The primitive mind must have been lost long before recorded history in China. The earliest Chinese records, Collection of Ancient Texts starts with the Yao Emperor ( 2356 BC). He was the first Chinese leader who emphasized virtue and set up as an example of virtue for his people to follow. This is the clear indication that the primitive mind had been lost, the society had to be reminded of virtue by the leader and by his example. The leader represents the people who had heard the voice of human nature and called on the society to behave according to the requirement of virtue.

            Both virtue and morality are the same word in Chinese, de . Such a Chinese concept of morality is based on human nature. According to the Taoist theory, de is essentially the obtainment of Tao, and Tao is nature itself that follows the natural way. We are born with the ability of empathy, an ability to understand the emotions and feelings of others and take on the perspective of others. Modern technology such as functional magnetic resonance imaging allows us to observe the brain when it is fully functional. We can see the same pattern of mental activity from both the brain of the patient who is having a surgical operation and the brain of the patient's wife who is watching beside. The sympathizer feels the pain of the sufferer.           

            The Book of Ancient Texts describes the Yao Emperor as such a good example for the society to look up to: “He was reverential, intelligent, accomplished, and thoughtful - naturally and without effort. He was sincerely courteous, and capable of all complaisances. The bright influence of these qualities was felt through the four quarters of the land, and reached to heaven above and earth beneath. He made the able and virtuous distinguished, and thence proceeded to the love of all in the nine classes of his kindred, who thus became harmonious. He also regulated and polished the people of his domain, who all became brightly intelligent. Finally, he united and harmonized the myriad states; and so the black-haired people were transformed. The result was universal concord.”

            When Emperor Yao chose a man to succeed his position as the emperor of China, he found such a man who was unmarried among the lower class of people, called Shun. The tribal chiefs told Emperor Yao, “He is the son of a blind man. His father is obstinately unprincipled; his (step-)mother was insincere; his (half-) brother Xiang was arrogant. He has been able, by his filial piety, to live in harmony with them, and to lead them gradually to self-government, so that they no longer proceed to great wickedness.”

            When the society became more complex and people's self-consciousness was growing, the society had to take further steps to keep the society stable. The Shang people seemed to worship various gods, spirits, ancestors. The Chou dynasty (1122-256 BC) introduced a complex system of rituals that emphasizes the ranking system of the society. This ritual system often requires the ruling class of different ranks and the people to participate in ritual performance with music. In a way, it was a resuscitation of ritual performance of ancient primitive society.

            During the so-called Spring Autumn Period (770-476 BC ), this ritual system was no longer enough to keep the society stable. Benevolence, righteousness, and ritual are the principle belief of Confucianism. When a primary society is in trouble facing an unwanted division, they called on members' subconscious to feel the emotional and psychological bond they have with the society. Confucian scholars are those who heard such voices and called on the society for benevolence and righteousness. According to Lao Tzu, violence-based legal system was invented only after chaos set in. Legal system represents the rational thinking, and therefore, the subjective conscious mind.

            As to the peasants, they seemed to acquire subjective conscious mind at the time as the ruling class did. This is likely as they communicated with each other and engaged in the same mental process. Of course, peasants might also have acquired their subjective conscious mind by following their leaders like today's children follow their parents. As mentioned above, the peasants had their own opinion that might be different from the king and his officials, and the peasants tried to persuade King Pan-Geng to change his mind.

            A few peasants might have a subjective consciousness but the majority of them might still have a bicameral mind while the majority of officials and the king had subjective conscious mind, because Pan-Geng talked to the officials and to the peasants differently. He mentioned ancestors only when he talked to the peasants. The following is what King Pan-Geng said to the peasants:


            I think that my king ancestors employed your forefathers, and I will  be enabled in the same way to greatly nourish you and cherish you. If I am to err in my government and remain long here, my founder king ancestor sends down on me punishment and scolds me, and says, “Why do you treat my people so bad?” If you myriads of people do not try to perpetuate your lives and do not cherish one mind with me, the One man, in my plans, the former kings will send down on you punishment, and say, “Why do you not agree with my young grandson, but go on to forfeit your virtue?” When they punish you from above, you are unable to escape.

            My king ancestors made your ancestors toil in the fields, you are all my people. You cherish wrongful intentions in your hearts. My royal ancestors treated your ancestors and forefather well, and your ancestors and forefather abandon you, and do not save you from death. If some of you try to damage my administration, and think only of hoarding up wealth, your ancestors and forefathers report it to my founder ancestor, saying, “Please execute punishment on our descendants.” So my founder ancestor sends great calamities on those men.

            The original text does not have a grammar tense, and so many translations use future tense for those remarks by the deceased ancestors. Here I use present tense for those remarks indicating that Pan-Geng not only considered his people as bicameral, so he spoke to them in the deceased ancestors' voice, but he also temporarily reversed to bicameral mind when he was saying in the deceased ancestors' voice. In other words, he was possessed by the spirits of those deceased ancestors when he spoke in their voices.

            Furthermore, Chinese bicameral men regarded their leaders and ancestor as the model to follow. The ancient Chinese corpse/ personators were grandchildren, and girls for female ancestors and boys for male ancestors. Acting out as their deceased grandparents in childhood on such a formal occasion might have planted a firm idea in their minds that they were going to model after their deceased grandparents, which was exactly what the society wanted.

            When King Wu of the Zhou dynasty talked to Duke Ji, he said, “Heaven, working unseen, secures the tranquillity of the lower people, aiding them to be in harmony with their condition. I do not know how the unvarying principles of the Heaven to govern the country. ''

            Duke Ji told the king nine principles, and the first is the five elements, water, fire, wood, metal, and earth. This is almost identical with the ancient Greek four elements, water, fire, air, and earth. But only the ancient Chinese regarded the five elements as the first principle of governing the country, which indicates that ancient China modeled after nature. The second principle of governing the country is so called the five personal matters. “The first is the bodily demeanour; the second, speech; the third, seeing; the fourth, hearing; the fifth, thinking. The virtue of the bodily appearance is respectfulness; of speech, accordance with reason; of seeing, clearness; of hearing, distinctness; of thinking, perspicaciousness. The respectfulness becomes manifest in gravity; accordance with reason, in orderliness; the clearness, in wisdom; the distinctness, in deliberation; and the perspicaciousness, in sageness.”

            Those words show that the model the leaders set up for their people and the ancestors set up for their descendants is not a particular method or ideology to achieve a particular goal but rather a general character or more specifically, a state of mind, as the ultimate goal of this ancient Chinese super state was to let the country remain in its original natural way of unity and harmony forever.   


(7) Discussion: Chinese History is More Consistent With the Weak Form of Julian Jaynes’ Theory


            When I first came to the idea of primary and secondary society a few years ago, I was possessed by the question what was the brain power storage for the sudden development of a complex new life in the man-made secondary society only five or six thousand years ago after humans had lived a simple life in primary society for at least two hundred thousand years? Now it seems clear that the left and the right hemisphere of our brain and their connection may be the neurological basis. When patients have half of their brain cut off in the surgical procedure known as hemispherectomy, they can survive and function pretty well, but they will have some physical disabilities. The patients may even overcome the physical disabilities by reorganization of the left over half of the brain especially when the patients who go through the procedure are young. Intellectually they are doing well in college, and one of them became the champion bowler of her class, and another, the chess champion of his state according to a neurologist John Freeman of Johns Hopkins University. [12] Thus humans might have half of their brain power stored for the emergence of a complex lifestyle created by humans themselves. According to Julian Jaynes, the connection of the two hemispheres is very limited, and the transferring of information through the two hemispheres must be coded. This also applies to the connection of primary and secondary societies. From primary society to secondary society, a coded system is a must, which may include language, value systems, codes for behaviour, law and so on.

            Julie Kane reviewed the literature and concluded, “Particularly in the decade of the 1970s, mass market publications popularized the notion of the left brain as the processor of language and rational thought and the right brain as the processor of visuospatial images and holistic or intuitive awareness.” [13] Such descriptions fit well with the concept of primary and secondary societies with the right hemisphere responsible for the primary society life and the left hemisphere responsible for the secondary society life.

            From the discussion above, we know Chinese civilization took a unique pathway that allowed Chinese people to remain in a primary or quasi-primary society. Because of the similar social environments, the reason for the Chinese to practice divination might have been the same around 4000 BC as in the late Shang dynasty. They did not seek the divine voice to guide their lives but trying to find answers to questions arising in their life, a sign of the subjective conscious mind. To the prehistoric people, the Mediterranean sea may be a much too more treachery physical environment than the isolated yet vast land of China. The latter might have accommodated a relaxing mind of curiosity but the former might not.

            Although all Chinese people regard the Yellow Emperor as their earliest common ancestor, the Collection of Ancient Texts starts with the Yao Emperor and the Shun Emperor, (?2356-2205 BC). A total of five short texts are from 2356 to 1400 BC, and all those texts provide further evidence for the presence of subjective consciousness.

            According to the text, the Emperor Yao ordered his men to use the configuration and movement of the stars at night to calculate the numbers of days a year, and concluded that there were 366 days in a year. Modern astronomic studies indicate that the special configuration of stars the Emperor Yao and his people observed occurs every 4000 years, and its last appearance was in 1800. Its previous appearance was around 2200 BC [14]. The Taosi archaeological site, Shangxi province, was considered to be the Emperor Yao's capital. A recent excavation reveals more than a dozen earth columns arranged in a half circle, which is apparently an ancient observatory. Those columns were thought to support stone columns five meter high. Therefore, the content of the text about the Emperor Yao is essentially true.

            The text about Emperor Yao uses 172 Chinese characters, which equals about six hundred modern English words, to describe how the Emperor Yao sent out people to observe the star pattern at four places, each in the south, the north, the east, and the west respectively, in order to assess the length of a solar year. I think this shows that the Yao Emperor and his people had a sense of space and time.

            There are numerous words used in the text suggest of subjective consciousness. During a conversation with his tribal chiefs, every time the tribal chiefs mentioned a name, the Emperor Yao recalled his memory and expressed his impression on the named. It indicates that the Emperor Yao had reminiscent memory available for introspection and recall, a feature of subjective consciousness. To send a man in charge of flood control, the Yao Emperor disagreeded with the tribal chiefs about the candidate they had recommended. But those tribal chiefs insisted, and the Yao Emperor gave in. Once again, it shows that conflicting opinions are commonplace in primary society, since there is no forceful authority. 

            The first text of Collection of Ancient Texts has the following phrases to describe poetry and songs, “Poetry is the expression of earnest thought; singing is the prolonged utterance of that expression; the notes accompany that utterance, and they are harmonized themselves by the standard tubes. 詩言志,歌永言,聲依永,律和聲。 Those words clearly indicate the presence of subjective consciousness.

           If we accept the divination around 4000 BC in China as an indication of subjective consciousness and accept the authority of the ancient Chinese texts from 2356 to 1400 BC, Chinese history is more consistent with the weak form of Julian Jaynes' theory that consciousness must have begun shortly after humans acquired language.

            An alternative interpretation of the burial goods with the deceased and the Chinese ancestor worship is that a subjective conscious mind has impassable difficulty to understand death. Some philosophers even noticed that man cannot imagine one's death and cannot imagine a world without him while he can vividly imagine how he was born. In other words, one cannot understand and cannot imagine how his or her subjective consciousness stops to exist. The death of one's subjective consciousness is only a culturally constructed idea enforced on man. The concept of immortal souls itself indicates the presence of subjective consciousness rather than a bicameral mind to hear the voice of the deceased. Therefore, I agree with those who put the time for the emergence of human subjective consciousness much earlier around forty thousand years ago along the tool explosion and the first ritual burials.

            Primates groom each other to solidify their social bond, and anthropologists believe that naked humans chat with each other in stead of grooming. Even today when people spend most time working, watching television, they still chat at home. Such chat does not necessarily function as exchange of information or discussion of a current issue, but it can be only for the enjoyment. I often see children of three or four years old chat this way: they giggle wholeheartedly at the nonsense they are talking. Such chat is a piece of pure art. Through such chat and other collective activities, all members integrate into a whole psychologically and emotionally in primary society. The cohesive force and the unity of secondary society rely on the uniform understanding of their collective goals. A highly developed system of communication that is based on exchange of information is a must. Thus subjective consciousness might be an unintended side product while humans enjoy themselves by doing nothing, and secondary society uses subjective consciousness as the basic engine to promote its goal.

            One goal of meditation is to seek a state of mind: thoughtless awareness. Thus it is not an easy job to stay wake and have nothing in the mind. No doubt ancient primitive people might have a drifting or wandering mind when they had nothing to do. Julian Jaynes thinks bicameral people do not have reminiscent memory, and their memories are supposed to be random and unorganized. The content of the drifting mind of primitive people includes such unorganized memories plus imagination. When they mastered enough words, nothing could stop them from communicating with each other what going on in their wandering minds. What they so expressed is called hallucination or imagination or spiritual experience or whatever you prefer but the result is the same that they relaxed and enjoyed themselves just as many animals do when they ha nothing to do. This process eventually led to the stage that their collective imagination had created a world of their own which has a set of metaphors or mental representations to describe the created world with the mind-space. That is exactly what subjective consciousness is.

            In response to a danger situation, one or two primates call out and the rest primates only hear the voice of the call but they do not see the danger situation themselves. Most of those primates take the same right action in response to the call. According to Jaynes, primitive people would similarly respond to a certain situation with the right words in their minds as auditory hallucination. The result is the same: they all response to the situation with the right action.

            John Hamilton reports auditory hallucinations in nonverbal quadriplegics [15]. He found nine out of 13 ( 69.2% ) such quadriplegics showed auditory hallucination. Hamilton even suggests, “…auditory hallucination, which for certain physically handicapped populations may be the rule, not the exception.” Those people are completely dependent on others for their physical and mental well-being.

As mentioned above, our civilization made uncivilized idle people all labouring themselves day and night like ants, especially in the early stage of civilization. Their conditions may be in a way similar to those quadriplegics. On the other hand, those quadriplegics hear voices when they have nothing do lying in bed. To hear those voices certainly requires mental concentration to a certain degree. Those voices may be more a result of subjective consciousness than a result of the bicameral mind, since mental concentration is no doubt an action of free will that directs the thought to certain direction. Of course those voices affected the way those quadriplegics respond to their care-givers afterwards. If those quadriplegics had only randomly drifting minds when they were alone and did not have any mental activity concentrating on certain topics, they would not have heard the voices they had. Those voices are all persistent and meaningful to the hearers. If the voices they heard were only part of their randomly drifting minds, they would not have been able to report any voices. Again it favours the weak form of the theory that subjective consciousness coexists with the bicameral mind: some heard voice because they had searched for the voice consciously, and some heard the voice only as a way to follow the authority.

            Hamilton discusses intuitions at length. Primitive people had quite different intuitions from modern civilized people. Primitive people's intuition is the result of human nature. Our intuition is the working of our minds without our awareness. Such intuitions have integrated into them all the information we have learned by subjective conscious experience.

            Since hypnosis, trance, religious experience, and even including poetry writing, are all considered as a temporary bicameral mind. Subjective consciousness and bicameral mentality can transform into each other in modern individuals. It is understandable that subjective consciousness and bicameral mentality could transform into each other in ancient society. Thus once acquired subjective consciousness could be lost afterwards in a small society. Sophisticated writing and sophisticated social structure based on subjective consciousness might have acted to prevent such loss. Of course, a large subjective conscious population itself is the ultimate blockage to such loss. One way for the loss of subjective consciousness is that some content of subjective consciousness becomes inheritance of the society such as mythology or divine voice heard by members, the bicameral mind. Thus the bicameral mind could be the relic of the previous conscious minds that had been lost.

            If subjective consciousness could be lost during the early stage of human development, the weak form and the strong form of Julian Jaynes's theory do not contradict each other. The West happened to be the strong form while China happened to go through a pathway of the weak form of the theory. The weak form indicates the coexistence of subjective consciousness and the bicameral mind in early Chinese history while the strong form indicates the absence of subjective consciousness before the documented presence of the bicameral mind in the West. Both remain speculative and unfalsifiable. Furthermore, the author believes that subjective consciousness likely first appeared with the tool explosion around forty thousand years ago and switched to a full blown bicameral mind in the early Mediterranean civilizations but not in Chinese civilization.

            Julian Jaynes made it clear that this weak form of his theory is almost unfalsifiable. He says, “I think we should have a hypothesis that can be disproved by evidence if we are going to call it a scientific hypothesis.” Thus Julian Jaynes did not necessarily believe less in his weak form than in his strong form of the theory.



[1] Julian Jaynes (1976): The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.

[2] Julian Jaynes (1986): Consciousness and the Voices of the Mind, Canadian Psychology, April 1986, Vol. 27(2).

[3] Wang Yuzhe 王玉哲 (2004) Ancient Chinese History, Shanghai: People’s Publishing House, 2004. (in Chinese)

[4] Ted Remington (2007): The Origin of Rhetoric in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, The Jaynesian Newsletter, Summer 2007. (http://www.julianjaynes.org)

[5] Marvin Harris (1977): Cannibals and Kings. New York: Random House. p9.

[6] Marvin Harris (1988): Culture, People, Nature. New York: Harper & Row Publishers. P377-78.

[7] Xia Zhenhao (2001): A General Cultural History: Xia and Shang. Shanghai: Shanghai Art and Literature Publishing House, p608-747. (in Chinese)

[8] David Keightley (1990): Early civilization in China. In Paul S. Ropp, eds: Heritage of China. Berkeley, University of California Press. p37.

[9] L. Levy-Bruhl (1973): Primitive Mentality. New York: Macmillan. (?p61-62).

[10] Erika Bourguignon (1971): Psychological Anthropology: an Introduction to Human Nature and Cultural Differences. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

[11] Michael Carr (2008): The Shi “Corpse/Personator” Ceremony in Early China. In Marcel Kuijsten, eds, Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness, Henderson: Julian Jaynes Society.

[12] Charles Q. Choi (2008): Do You Need Only Half Your Brain? Scientific American, March 2008, p104.

[13] Julie Kane (2004): Poetry as Right-Hemisphere Language. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 11, No. 5-6, p21-59.

 [14] Wang, Baolin (2003): A Modern Edition of Collection of Ancient Texts. Shanghai: Shanghai Ancient Book Publishing House. P36-37. ( Wang cites the 19th century sinologist Dr. M. H. Melhurst, English translator James Legge, and recent studies by Dr. H. K. C. Yee in his book. YSLi) (in Chinese)

[15] J. Hamilton (2008): Auditory Hallucinations in Nonverbal Quadriplegics. In Marcel Kuijsten, eds, Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness, Henderson: Julian Jaynes Society.

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