Friday, January 27, 2012

A Hidden Gem from the Origins of Consciousness

Reprinted from an Article I wrote for Evolution: This View Of Life

I was farming livestock for 8 years before my passion to probe the depths of evolutionary waters took me from a small beef operation in rural Pennsylvania, to a fascinating institute of Sustainable Agriculture - the University of Kassel in Witzenhausen, Germany. But how did I get here? Why did I drop everything to study applied evolution rather than a straight forward program in beef production?

Like so many of us in this cosmological  field - books are the primary, and most simple answer. I believe everyone has a sort of “tipping point” book - that jaw-dropping literature that burned the beauty of evolution into your mind. For many of course - this book would be Origin of the Species - I’m terribly embarrassed to admit - I have never actually read Darwin cover to cover (it’s on my list), and what I had read - was perhaps at too young a stage in my education to see the broader synthesis. A sad commentary on our educational system, indeed.

For me, the tipping point came  2 years ago - back at the grass-fed cattle farm, in the form of a dusty old book on my bosses shelf. It had been a long day of grazing, and as I was watching our herd of 100 thunder through the thickest of June grasses and on into the sun, I distinctly remember asking; “What was it like?” - what was it really like for evolving humanity to experience the ancient grazing of cattle and their bovid relatives. When I finished chores, I rushed back to the office and pulled out a book I’d earlier noticed, with a title of: The Origins of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind - by one Julian Jaynes.

It was a classic book from the 1970’s, about to fall apart, heavily noted in the margins by my boss while he was studying medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. I dove in head first, I think I stayed up till 2am that night, and I finished it within days despite my heavy grazing duties. The eloquence and complexity of what Jayne’s argues was so convincing, and such a synthesis of everything I’d already understood - both specifically about human evolution, and within the more meta-level of emergent complexity - that I imagine my response was nothing less than the thrill that Darwin and his countless intellectual descendants describe when they truly “get it” (or at least - when we  think they get it!).

It was my pleasure to interview the founder of the Julian Jaynes Society, and editor of now two collections of Jayne’s work on Bicameral Mind Theory, Marcel Kuijsten.

Enjoy our interview, and explore the work of Julian Jaynes further. Through his original press, as well as the unpublished works, and highly reflective commentary by Kuijsten and peers.
all through the link below:

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