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“In any such situation, where something is so resistant to even the beginnings of clarity, it is wisdom to begin by determining what that something is not. And that is the task of the next chapter.”
That is also the task of the next episode! Welcome to the God of Honeybees Podcast, I’m Justin Herb and I am so glad you’re here. On this episode we are into part 2 of the origin of Consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind by Julian Jaynes.
Really quick, I just wanted to remind you about Patreon. You can find the podcast on patreon.com by searching the podcast name. We have one tier at $5.00 a month to help keep the website up and if I’m able to reach my goal on there I will do a separate podcast where I will take your questions directly and discuss them.
With that, let’s get into it!
In this episode we will be examining what Consciousness is not, according to Julian’s interpretation. Julian starts the chapter by explaining what he thinks is a common misconception regarding Consciousness. He states that when we consider what Consciousness is, we become conscious of Consciousness. We then assume that awareness of being aware as what Consciousness is. According to Julian, this is an error. We assume that Consciousness is the basis of all concepts, learning, reasoning, etc. Since this aspect of awareness seems to store and recall our memories, opinions, and judgements, we think of this as us. But is it really?
Julian points out there are some common uses of the word, “Consciousness”, that are at best a misnomer, if not outright incorrect. For example, a person getting knocked out is said to “lose consciousness”. However, like I said in the last episode, there are so many cases of what Julian calls a somnambulistic experience where a person is not conscious but is still reactive to outside stimuli. This indicates a distinction between Consciousness as being awake and reactivity. Julian points out that we are not always conscious of what our body is reacting to. For example, your body makes numerous changes to the placement of your body weight while you walk or stand. These are not in our awareness, we simply have the experience of standing still or walking. What’s more, when these usually sub-conscious adjustments are in our awareness, it can make us feel quite uneasy or ill. There are many aspects of our life that make up our conscious experience without being in the light of our awareness.
One key concept of this chapter is realizing to what extent consciousness is required or even participates in our daily life. Julian uses an analogy of a flashlight to illustrate our bias toward consciousness. He explains that this aspect of our existence is actually a much smaller part of our lift than we believe it to be. Yet, since we cannot be conscious of what we are not conscious of, we are like a flashlight that is looking around for something that does not have light shining upon it. Since anywhere the flashlight points will have light, the flashlight would assume everything has light. In the same way we assume consciousness permeates all aspects of our existence but, as we will see, this is incorrect. He goes on to use different examples of cases where consciousness is not only not required but can be a hindrance. A runner in a race may be aware of where he is in relation to the other racers, but he is not conscious of the manner in which he places each and every step, or the positions of all his toes prior to hitting the ground. These examples can be found all around us as soon as we recognize the line between conscious and unconscious behavior. A pianist playing complex music would have needed consciousness to learn the key strokes, but that same level of attention to the position of the fingers, having learned the song, would likely cause mistakes. He has to let the unconscious muscle memory take over. These simple analogies are meant as an introduction to reshaping our concept of conscious awareness.
Julian then goes on to provide specific examples of what consciousness is frequently believed to be or be the cause of, and he provides detailed critiques of each.
First, consciousness is not a copy of experience. This relates to the concept of tabula rasa, or that the mind is a blank slate and consciousness is responsible for storing, categorizing, and recalling experiences in our lives. To explore this idea let's stop and consider a couple things first. See if you can recall these things without looking. At a stop light, is the red light on the top or bottom? Is your index finger longer, shorter, or equal with your ring finger? How about your third toe from your big toe? How many teeth do you see when brushing your teeth? We may not be entirely sure to the answers to these questions without specifically finding them out. However, Julian's point here is that if one of these things changed, you would know its different immediately. If you aren't sure of the color of the floor in the elevator you take every morning, but tomorrow it was different, you would know. What Julian is trying to show here is the distinction between recognition and recall. He states, "What you can consciously recall is a thimbleful to the huge oceans of your actual knowledge". This suggests that the idea of tabula rasa and consciousness being responsible for storing and recalling experiences is not as critical to our daily life as we think, since we "know" some things that are not consciously recalled. Furthermore, the mind will do a great job at telling us what "must" be the case, inferring conclusions from the most probable situation. This creation of the mind doesn't stop there. If you imagine the last time you went swimming or walked through your front door, put down your things, and sat on the couch, you will likely "recall" these events in the third person. You will see yourself as if watching a recording of you performing the actions, you will not however inhabit the same perspective that you had while actually performing. This is because, again, your consciousness is only aware of a few aspects of the experience. You don't necessarily notice the feeling of less weight on top of your feet when you sit down, or the tactile sensation of your hand leaving your coat as it rests on the hook. Our minds capability for recreating experience and filling in the gaps is an extraordinary feat, but is not required for performing the tasks.
The next key argument is that consciousness is not necessary for learning. This relates to what we discussed in part 1 of this series when Julian was trying to get his houseplant to "learn" to wilt at the signal of a light. Here, Julian addresses three kinds of learning and tries to examine if consciousness is required for the task. First let's look at signal learning, or more commonly known as Pavlovian conditioning. Consider this experiment. A volunteer has small puffs of air blown into his eye to bring about a blink of the eyelids. Each time the air is blown into his eye, a light bulb turns on. As the number of cycles of this conditioning increase, the volunteer will quickly start blinking at the lighting of the bulb even without the puffs of air. This is quite unconscious because if consciousness was introduced to the mix, the blinking would stop. Consider another example. If you are enjoying your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant as the speakers in the room play a specific song, your mind will create an association with many aspects of this experience with pleasure and food. The next time you hear the song, even if you are not consciously aware of it, your body will likely be releasing endorphins and you will have slightly more saliva in your mouth than usual. The association kick starts your body into preparing for eating and digesting, all without your involvement. What's more, if you are aware of this association creation beforehand and are thinking about it during the meal, the same learning does not occur.
Let's move to the learning of skills. Julian uses this example to illustrate his point. Take a coin in each hand, toss them in the air in such a way that they cross paths and are caught by the opposite hand. This can be accomplished rather quickly with some practice. The key here is this question; are you conscious of every thing you are doing while trying to learn this skill? The position of your elbow? How are you positioning your pinky on each hand to adapt to catching the coin? Where are your eyes moving to? Julian's point here is that consciousness will simply make the goal to be reached clear, and perhaps a game plan, but from there it takes a back seat to what he calls "organic" learning. The body, in many unconscious ways, takes over to create muscle memory and perform the task with success. If you started thinking about where your eyes were, the position of your pinky, ect., you would undoubtedly drop the coins. Again, consciousness takes a back seat.
Let's consider complex skills. Complex skills have the same lack, and necessary lack, of consciousness as the simple skills we discussed. Let's look at two examples. Taken from The Psychology of Skill (New York Gregg, 1925), is a study that looked at individuals learning typewriting. Under examination of adaptations of behavior, it was seen that any shortcuts or changes in methods used to properly type were made in an unconscious manner. An adaptation brought on unintentionally with no awareness from the individual except that he or she was all of a sudden performing better. Next example. A study from the American Journal of Psychology in 1955 explained how one volunteer would be instructed to say as many words as he could think of. The researcher would, after every plural noun for example, nod or smile or give some kind of slight affirmation. The volunteer would, without realizing it, learn to provide similar types of words that would bring about the affirmations of the researcher and would thus start providing similar words.
Next, let's consider whether or not consciousness is necessary for thinking. Julian is careful to point out that the specific kind of thinking he is referring to could be referred to as making judgments or free association as it relates to thinking about or thinking of something. In one study, called the Marbe experiment after the researcher Karl Marbe, asked volunteers to lift two weights and place the heavier one in front of the researcher. Julian doesn't explain how, but he suggests that this experiment proved that the judgement of which was heavier was never conscious. I tried finding more on this study but I couldn't dig up much. However, a counter argument is that perhaps the thoughts happened so quickly that the volunteer was not remembering them. Another experiment where a volunteer was asked to provide an associated term with one presented on flashcards as quickly as they could, except within a certain set of constraints, seemed to support the findings of the Marbe experiment. The thinking seemed to be automatic once the observer had an understanding of these constraints. Julian says "one does ones's thinking before one knows what one is to think about". Consciousness is required for grasping the instructions or goal, but once again, it takes a back seat once the brain starts the process. This same phenomenon can be seen in simple pattern recognition. In a series of two alternating images with one missing at the end, your brain already knows what it should be looking for before you are conscious of my question, "what is the next image in this sequence?" My very act of stating that question verbally is an example of a small amount of conscious intention bringing about the result of earlier automated processes.
Julian goes on to argue that consciousness is not necessary for reasoning. He uses some of he previous examples as proof for this argument. While I feel like I agree with him based on the ideas we just looked at, I have to say this may be a weak point in the book. For example, Julain argues that a boy tossing a particular piece of wood into a pond and noticing it floats, will know in future encounters with that same kind of wood that it will float. He is arguing that all of this happens rather subconsciously and does not require conscious gathering of past experiences. That much I feel like I can agree with to an extent. Then he mentions that this is simply expectation based on generalization and it is common to all higher vertebrates. Here I have two issues. One, simply the fact that some mental process we employ can be found in most animals does not serve as proof that the specific mental process has nothing to do with consciousness. It sounds like he is implying that animals are not conscious when he uses the commonality of the mental process among vertebrates. Second, I wonder how right he is about this expectation based on generalization. When the boy in his example picks up the piece of wood, it is likely he will automatically recall the experience of seeing the wood float, and will therefor conclude the new piece should float as well. The experience would look much different if the boy didn't actually know why he thought the wood would float but he just had a "feeling". Both the automatic recall of the memory informing his paradigm of the buoyancy of wood, or the simple knowledge that this particular kind of wood floats, requires another part of our mind "serving up" the information into the spotlight of our consciousness. I'm not sure it can be said that this example displays the lack of necessity of consciousness. It may display that information can become so internalized that consciousness is not required to recall it, but I think the spotlight of awareness would still be required.
That being said, Julian does provide some examples of famous discoveries in which they came to the researcher without the effort of conscious attention. Here is a quote from the book regarding the mathematician Poincare:
Poincaré was particularly interested in the manner in which he came upon his own discoveries. In a celebrated lecture at the Société de Psy- chologie in Paris, he described how he set out on a geologic excursion: “The incidents of the journey made me forget my mathematical work. Having reached Coutances, we entered an omnibus to go some place or other. At the moment when I put my foot on the step, the idea came to me, without anything in my former thoughts seeming to have paved the way for it, the transformation I had used to define the Fuchsian functions were identical with those of non-Euclidian geometry!" (Jaynes, 2000).
Here is another quote about Einstein:
"A close friend of Einstein’s has told me that many of the physicist’s greatest ideas came to him so suddenly while he was shaving that he had to move the blade of the straight razor very carefully each morning, lest he cut himself with surprise." (Jaynes, 2000).
So what Julian is trying to show here is that conscious attention is only required for setting up the framework of whatever problem is being considered. From there, the actual process of reasoning and deduction, has no place in consciousness at all. The workings are all below the surface until the answer is served up into the light of consciousness sometimes so abruptly that you may cut yourself shaving.
This chapter closes with what I think is the idea that sets up the rest of this book. Julian recounts all the aspects of living and learning that do not require consciousness such as experience, signal learning, judgments, creative reasoning, etc. He then suggests that if these reasonings are correct, there may have existed a period in human history where man went about doing all the things we do without being conscious at all. The majority of the rest of the book deals with this concept. which we will get into in a late episode. I'd like to take a break from this book to talk about some other things that have been on my mind lately. This is a good stopping point for this book because the arguments Julian provides helps us start reshaping the way we think about consciousness and it's role in our lives.
Don't forget, Patreon is up and running if you'd like to help support the show! Get all the extra content by singing up for the email at godofhoneybees.com, keep an eye out for the book that we probably be launching in December, and of course thank you for listening.
This has been God of Honeybees Podcast, I'm Justin Herb, thank you for being here.
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On this episode we've got updates from Spirit Fest in Anderson, Indiana and we are diving deep into the book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes.
Really quick, I'd like to thank the people that have signed up for the email newsletter. A while back I saw on Twitter, Tracy if you're listening or reading, that the sticker I sent out reached Tracy and I got tagged in a picture of it! That was awesome. I didn't realize how long it would take to get such a tiny envelope delivered but I'm glad it finally made it. If you want additional information on the content in these episodes, a readable, printable PDF copy of the episode, as well as a free God of Honeybees Podcast sticker or coaster sent to your door with a thank you note, sign up for free at godofhoneybees.com for the email newsletter.
Also I have got patreon up and running. One tier, 5 bucks a month to support the show if you feel like you are in a position to do so. The money will help keep the website alive and help me bring new ideas to you. If you are interested in the topics I'm diving into on the show, you will like my book. It goes deeper into some of the topics and ties them together into a fresh outlook on how we move through the world. Some quick updates on the book. Another author of whom I am a fan agreed to take a look at the book and let me know what they think. Also, I've received some positive early feedback from the one author that already has my book. We'll see if they like it enough to write a blurb for me. In October Patience Uhlman will be editing the book which I am really looking forward to. And I am currently working with David Provolo, a designer and art director, on the cover of the book. I got in contact with him through Reedsy.com, so I'll make sure to drop a link to his Reedsy profile in the show notes. Recently he sent me his updated version of the cover and I really like. It's got this vintage science book vibe; David said it's kind of like a DaVinci's notebook kind of look. Lastly, pre-orders. I am working on setting up a campaign on Publishizer which would allow you to get pre-order copies as well as some other little benefits, so if that comes through I will let you know. The other option I am looking at is just offering pre-orders through Amazon. Once it's ready to go I will let you know. In the meantime, if you have any info or experience in self publishing and how to go about pre orders, please reach out. I'd really appreciate it.
Let's start with Spirit Fest in Anderson, Indiana.
This event was a couple of weeks ago now, but I felt like reviewing our trip there. My wife and I were expecting booths representing different spiritual practices or maybe religions. Something centered around actual spiritual practice and exploration. Sadly, a majority of what we saw were booths selling handmade shit like jewelry or scarves or incense burners. One booth was selling hand made wood things, which of course was over priced. But my favorite thing they were selling was a slab of some log they lightly sanded, stained, and clear coated. It had to be at least an inch thick. They had it labeled as a "mouse pad" and were charging $25.00. Who the hell uses mouse pads any more? This isn't the 90's with rubber ball mice. And who would want their hand perched an inch in the air scraping against the rough hewn edges of a slab of log? Anyway, this was most of what we saw; over priced, spiritually oriented nick nacks. However, one booth my wife stopped at was Avalon Trading where we met Digby. He was up from Florida selling his products. When my wife was talking with him I was just a little ways down the sidewalk and she came back with a kick ass rock that Digby helped her find. Then I introduced myself to him and mentioned the podcast and he hooked me up with a little stained glass dragonfly. That was really nice of him and he was nice to talk to. So, while it was another booth selling goods, they looked like good products so I'll link to his business in the show notes. Digby, if you're listening, it was nice meeting you, keep up the good work.
Aside from the booths selling trinkets, there were a few booths centered around healing practices or psychics. I will say however, the Native American Experience seemed like bullshit. As I walked past there were a handful of people sitting on hay bales while a hillbilly lady dressed in native american attire explained that she was a feeler so she can feel things. And then it ended. So yeah.
What was most interesting about the festival wasn't the festival itself, but the place where it was hosted. This park in Anderson seems to be dedicated to spiritualism. As we walked around the park we came across permanent structures representing spiritual leaders, a labyrinth, and even a bookstore that was full of books for just about every alternative religion you could think of. From chakra healing, to meditation, to cults and wiccan rituals, it was all there. The park was essentially surrounded by houses and some of them had advertisements for psychics or things like that. So this park is literally dedicated to spiritualism which I think is really impressive for basically central Indiana. I wouldn't recommend spirit fest, but I would recommend checking out the park itself. I got a few pictures while I was there so I'll post those shortly.
One of the many handouts I was given was from the Fetzer Institute, which I will link to in the show notes. On the handout it had a link to get a free book from the foundation, so I of course did just that. I’ll just give you a brief overview of the foundation since I think it’s pretty interesting and then if I get a chance to dive into the book I might do an episode on it specifically. If you look at the Fetzer institutes website you'll find a learn more button right on the first page. Here is a snippet of what seems to be their mission statement: "We, the people, have the power to shape our democracy. Working together, we can transcend the labels that polarize us and realize what unites us. We can cultivate sacred connections with our neighbors and build a shared vision for our communities and our country.
From educators and philanthropists to religious and spiritual visionaries, we are partnering with leaders all over our country who are working toward this more loving world. Together, we are listening to and learning from students who are finding common values; citizens developing skills to communicate beyond political divides; and communities striving to heal after violent events."
This caught my attention because while it sounds like they aim to operate within the framework of politics, it also sounds like they are trying to re-invent or reshape the WAY we operate in that framework. Further down the page there were links to projects they are currently involved in. As far as the where they put their time and money, it's pretty interesting. I read somewhere on their site that the institute is not open to unsolicited submittals, rather they pick projects and initiatives on their own. Which is interesting because I'd image they would get bombarded with requests for money or backing, so I can see why they have to be insulated from that. However, the flip side to that is they will only be supporting causes that align with their outlook so I feel like that outlook should be examined carefully.
One project that caught my attention was the Practicing Democracy Project. I'll link to this specifically in the show notes. The project is a joint effort between the Fetzer Institute and the Center for Spirituality and Practice. In the description of the project it says "The Project assumes that American democracy can flourish only when citizens are united, at a deep level that transcends ideology, race, and class, to a shared spiritual and moral vision of what America should be." I like this idea because in my own view, a spiritual transformation on an individual, personal level is what I think may be the only hope for us going forward. I don't mean that we all need to become part of the same religion; I think religion and politics have run their course and are not sustainable methods moving forward. However, it sounds like they are saying something to the effect of we all need to be on team "us" or something like that. I would argue that if we all truly were on that team, the societal need for religion and politics would naturally dissolve but, that's tangential to what they are putting forward here.
Here's what I mean about examining the outlook they are promoting carefully. The page for the project states "On the Project’s website, you’ll find quotes on the language of democracy, recommended books and book excerpts, ways to honor democracy mentors and teachers, practices to observe flashpoints in American history, art reflections, music playlists..." and it goes on to list some other resources. What catches my attention is where it says "ways to honor democracy". Granted, I would need to investigate the project more thoroughly to give it a fair assessment, but that phrase just sounds very odd even though they are promoting equality among the human race. I'm assuming they are devoted to some kind of pure democracy ideal, but I'm not sure. To be fair, looking through the different resources they provide to align ourselves with their outlook are pretty good. For example, on the website for the Center for Spirituality and Practice, they have 3 ted talks that discuss what to do with anger and how to use it for good. I can get behind that. What I don't yet understand is how they see the institution of pure democracy working out. For example, in pure democracy, majority rules. So for that to be a positive feature of the arrangement, we have to know that the majority is operating with a moral compass that is aimed at the benefit for all involved. Otherwise, pure democracy does not directly correlate with ultimate freedom or even the flourishing of humans. Now, assuming that majority are all on the same page, let's say morally, we have to ask who's rules are they playing by? And are those rules so fundamental that they can be applied to every culture, in every place, at every time? As near as I can tell, humans have been debating, fighting, killing, and dying over what those rules should be. I think it may be rather presumptuous of this foundation to assume they have landed a one size fits all "human religion" for us all to follow. Like I said, I'll dive into this further and read the book and then possibly do a full episode on them in the future. Who knows, maybe I could even land an interview with a representative. That would be fantastic.
Let's get into The Origin of Consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind by Julian Jaynes. I want to start by giving you kind of an overview of where this book goes. Essentially because it is incredibly long. I have been reading it for months now and I am almost half way done. I might be a slow reader but it is two books and each chapter is super dense. What we will get into today is Julian explaining kind of the history of the study of consciousness. We'll also kind of touch on what he argues consciousness is not, but I think I'll get more into that on another episode. From there Julian goes way back into the past and explains the evidence he feels supports one main idea in the book. That idea is that early humans were not conscious in the same way we are. I know it sounds crazy but stick with me on this multi-parter because he presents some really interesting ideas later on. Let's crack the shell of this argument here and start with how we've considered consciousness in the past.
Julian was an American psychologist, born in 1920 and passed away in 1997. This book is his most famous work in which he analyzes the nature of consciousness and provides his definition for what it is. I had to look up what bicameral meant and it turns out Julian actually coined the term in this very book! Bicameral means , according to Wikipedia, (the condition of being divided into "two-chambers") is a hypothesis in psychology that argues that the human mind once operated in a state in which cognitive functions were divided between one part of the brain which appears to be "speaking", and a second part which listens and obeys. The title of the book kind of sums up where the author is aiming to go: he is asserting a theory about what the early form of human mind was like, and that the early makeup of the mind has changed with what he considers the advent of consciousness.
This will be a multi-parter because firstly, this is an enormous book. Second, the material is dense. Lastly, because I barely made it through chapter 1 and already had over 100 notes. I like the ideas in this book so much because they directly relate to my own arguments in my book. Like I said if you like this show I think you will like my book. Consider signing up on patreon to help me get the book completed! I will also be incorporating my thoughts on this very book into my assertions about consciousness. Anyway in this episode we are going to look at what is essentially chapter 1. To give you an overview of where we are going, this episode will be a look at the history of the study of consciousness and how we got to here.
One of the fundamental questions that this book aims to address is what is the consciousness that is me, you, all of us. And, where did it come from and why? Which is why the book is so effing long. Julian points out in the beginning this interesting trend of our metaphors for what consciousness is being closely tied to the most recent boom in science. For example, Augustine living among the amazing landscape of Carthage describes consciousness as vast, spacious physical landscapes such as hills, valleys, and caves. Later in the middle of the 19th century, apparently chemistry became the popular science, and thus, the way scientists thought about and studied the problem of consciousness was the way a chemist would analyze a molecule; as a conglomerate made up of smaller, definable parts. This trend carried on into the advent of the steam engine, describing consciousness and personality as built up steam that must have appropriate outlets. It's so interesting how the trend of what we perceive informs, through metaphor, that which we cannot perceive.
It's also interesting how eager we as humans are to ascribe our own brand of consciousness to other living things. One theory on consciousness that Charles Darwin thought to be simply unquestionable, was that consciousness was simply a basic building block of all living things. An idea like this mirrors the concept of panpsychism, the belief that everything material, however small, has an element of individual consciousness (dictionary.com). It's also very similar to my own thoughts on consciousness, but we will get into that later on.
The first problem Julian tackles is whether or not learning is the hallmark of consciousness. Or, to borrow the section title from the book, Consciousness as learning. Julian talks about how he tried a test with his plant to see if he could get it to start to associate a tactile input stimulus with a frequency of light with a drooping of one of its leaves. Julians conclusion was that the plant was not conscious as it could not learn to droop the leaf at the signal of the light. After related experiments with ever more complex organisms yielding the same results, Julian finally came to the conclusion that using the ability to learn in this way was by no means a measurement of consciousness. He says "Why then did so many worthies in the lists of science equate consciousness and learning? And why had I been so lame of mind as to follow them?" (Jaynes 2000). He argues that when we introspect, acting within consciousness, it is not dependent on some conditioned learning such as mazes or bells. This fundamental error in conflation of consciousness and learning, known as experience, has become embedded in the discussion. At this point Julian drops one of my favorite quotes, I even posted the quote on twitter and Instagram: "...it is now absolutely clear that in evolution the origin of learning and the origin of consciousness are two utterly separate problems" (Jaynes 2000).
So, we've established that consciousness is not simply being able to learn. In future episodes I'll get into Julians reasons for this theory, but for now lets assume this principal.
Next, let's look at whether or not consciousness is a metaphysical aspect of living things. The theory has been largely credited to Alfred Russel Wallace, who was the co-discoverer of the theory of natural selection. In a nutshell, the argument is that natural selection does not explain our desire for justice in the face of wrongdoing, the desire for certainty with which the scientist runs their studies, or any other uniquely human urge. Julian points out that it seems humans evolved along similar lines as all other creatures up until a certain point and then diverged to create a unique form of existence that has not been repeated anywhere else in nature. Wallace argued there were three distinct points at which some outside force directed evolution: at the beginning of life, the beginning of consciousness, and the beginning of civilized culture. This makes me think of all the theories around humans learning to plant seeds and grow crops. But that's for a different discussion. In response to these metaphysical explanations of consciousness, a materialist wave emerged.
In the materialist view, consciousness does nothing and cannot do anything. The argument is that there is simple continuity through natural selection and at some unknown number of synaptic nerve cells, consciousness emerges. That consciousness cannot influence anything though. The analogy Julian uses is consciousness is like a whistle on a train: it cannot influence the speed or direction of the train. The rails of natural selection decided that route long ago. The issue here, in what is sometimes called the conscious automaton theory, is how could consciousness be so disconnected from something it is so entwined with? And, as Julian argues, why is consciousness more present when physical action ceases? And vice versa? The two are obviously linked and assuming consciousness is a helpless observer of outside circumstances ignores this reality.
Coming to the rescue of the helpless observer theory is the Emergent Evolution theory. A simple analogy is the way the quality of wetness cannot be derived from hydrogen and oxygen alone, but emerges out of the sum of parts, so consciousness has emerged from the sum of the organisms parts or inner workings. Apparently this explanation was greeted with incredible fan-fare. Some biologists even called it a new declaration of independence from physics and chemistry (Jaynes 2000). The problem is the emergent evolution theory failed to answer critical questions. If consciousness emerged, when? Also, in what species did it emerge in? What kind of nervous system would be required? Also, when did it emerge? Answers to these questions would give light to the conditions that created consciousness.
Around the same time, another means to explain consciousness was emerging. Behaviorism. Apparently the operating principal in behaviorism was to deny that consciousness existed at all, rather all behavior can be explained as reactions to input or conditions. While this theory started out as a weak argument, it actually took off, influencing psychology up until the 60's. With World War I still in the rear view mirror, society was longing for objective, hard facts. Success in chemistry and physics were luring and any subjective interpretation of consciousness was largely squashed or ignored. What behaviorism amounted to was no more than a method of analyzing response, not a theory of consciousness.
The last point that Julian brings up was a look at the reticular activating system in the brain. It apparently extends from the top of the spinal cord, through the brain stem, into the thalamus and hypothalamus. It its directly connected to a whole bunch of critical neuron networks, and it is also the place where anesthesia takes effect in the brain. Julian points out that if is cut, it induces permanent sleep and coma. If it is stimulated by an electrode in an animal, the animal wakes up. However, this still does not solve the problem of what consciousness is for two reasons. One, we still have the issue of conscious experience even outside the waking state. This is well documented. Second, and this is a point that Julian points out, is that we would be making an error in reasoning if we draw direct lines between psychological occurrences and neuro-anatomy. Juilian states that even if we had a complete map of every single detail of the brain and nervous system, we still could not infer whether or not that brain had consciousness.
So we have thus far set the ground work for how we should think about consciousness within the argument of Julian Jaynes. We've got a long way to go; all that was just the effing introduction. Chapter one gives some excellent illustrations explaining what aspects of our lives consciousness isn't even required for. We will get into that in the next part of this consciousness series. That's a wrap for this episode.
Special thanks to Karn Beats for producing the music on this show. As always you can reach me on godofhoneybees.com and let me know what you think of the show. Sign up for the email version of the show and I will send you a free sticker or coaster, whichever I have available. You get a free item with the podcast logo as well as links to all the sources I reference to go deeper into the topic, and a fancy PDF version of the show. You can also find me on Instagram at godofbeespodcast, twitter at GOHPodcast, Facebook at God of Honeybees Podcast, or email at email@example.com.
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This has been God of Honeybees Podcast. I'm Justin Herb. Thanks for listening.
Watch the episode on YouTube here!
Welcome to the God of Honeybees podcast. I’m Justin Herb.
In this episode, I want to talk about how to reshape the way we think about a common phrase: Speak now or forever hold your peace
But first, let’s start with some announcements.
Work on the book is going well. The first printed version is on it’s way and then I’ll send it to the author who has agreed to read it and share her thoughts with me. Like I said in the last episode, I’m not going to name drop because I don’t know if the author would appreciate that, but I do want to tell you that I am very excited about it because I really really enjoyed her work. That being said, I have to raise money for the editor so that I can publish the book. This will hopefully be the last round of edits the book needs. If you have any ideas on how an author can raise money to get a book edited, please send them my way! You can reach me at godofhoneybees.com, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or firstname.lastname@example.org
I still have some stickers that I want to send you for free! They are badass stickers with our logo on them from stickermule.com. If you sign up for the email newsletter at godofhoneybees.com, I will send you a sticker for free with a personal thank you note. Not only will you get the sticker but you will also get additional resources on any articles, books, podcasts, speeches, etc. that I reference in the show. In the last episode, I talked about using rocks for meditation and in the email for that episode I included a link to a video of Krishnamurti giving a speech as well as a free online documentary about a study involving our consciousness and water. So the email newsletter is the absolute best place to get access to all the content and more from the God of Honeybees podcast.
Now, with that taken care of, let's get on with the episode.
A few mornings ago, my wife said to me, “speak now or forever hold your peace”. Usually I wouldn’t have thought twice about it but, maybe because I’ve been listening to meditations so much lately, or I’ve been occupying my time with my book more, but this phrase hit me in a different way. So, I want to go through it piece by piece.
Do you remember yesterday? Of course you do. Pick any event that you remember about that day: What was the weather was like? Did something piss you off? Did your shoes fit? Was the coffee in the break room strong enough? Where do these events exist? Can you take something you remember about yesterday, grab hold of it and bring to now? Can you grab the weather from yesterday and hold it in front of you? See, the only thing about yesterday that exists is the particular firings of groups of neurons in your brain, reconstructing the last time they reconstructed the memory of yesterday. This is the only place you can find anything about yesterday. It’s interesting then that we give so much weight to our thoughts about yesterday. In the last episode, when we talked about using rocks for meditation, we touched on why we should practice looking without identifying or labeling. Looking at the world around us in this way is an idea I first heard from Krishnamurti. In a nutshell, he explains that only by looking without categorizing can we dissolve the illusory delineation between observer and observed. A two-fold product of dissolving the boundary between observer and observed is firstly the slowing of mental chatter. This is because you are learning that thought is simply a tool to use in the world -- just like your other senses.
Second, the peace you feel from the slowing of mental chatter and therefore a loss of anxiety, shows you that anxiety comes solely from thought. Thoughts about yesterday or tomorrow create the illusion of passing time, indicating something is moving with or without you, so you’d better get your act together. Simply by starting out observing our world without putting it into boxes can lead us down a path that ends with the realization of our true nature and the nature of our existence.
Now, how much time should we spend concerning ourselves with yesterday? Or tomorrow? These reconstructed or hypothetical realities are creations of our minds. The moment we exist in as we sit and think about these other realities will soon become a yesterday as well, shifting into a reconstructed reality that we can’t do anything about. How much more important then is it to talk about now? Think about now? Where are you right now? Your thoughts are mere input stimulation categorized and organized by your mind -- no different than the sensation of touch or smell. Let that particular sensory input relax for a moment. Think about right now. Speak about now. Speak now.
Next, the choice to engage the goings-on around you is, of course, your choice. This is the beautiful aspect about our existence: we are simply awareness and we can choose to participate in the game, engage in the context our bodies are in, or we can choose to not engage. Not identify with the stimulus or with the input. This is a fruit of true growth -- being able to increase the space between stimulus and response. We have the capacity to recognize that we are the witness to these things, watching them like clouds passing. But they will come and go. Whatever instance you find your mind and body in will come and go. You can choose to engage it, or rest in awareness and watch the goings-on around you for what they really are: clouds passing by. It is at this point that you can truly play the game because you don’t think you are the game. You can hold your peace.
So if I might suggest an adjustment to the phrase to help keep this concept in mind, I think it would be something more like this: Speak about now and forever hold your peace.
Recognize that past and future only exist in thought. And that it is thought that creates the sense of anxiety because thought centered around the past and future creates the idea of time. Focus on now and be at peace.
Thanks for checking this out. I hope you enjoyed it. Here’s the thing: this is a conversation. I’m talking to you directly -- the individual. I want to hear from you! This podcast is hosted on Anchor. If you get the app, you can actually leave me a voicemail. Or you can tweet me @GOHPodcast, hit me up on Instagram @godofbeespodcast, or send an email to email@example.com. The best way to access all the content I provide or reference is to sign up for the email newsletter. You can sign up at godofhoneybees.com and get special content that doesn’t show up anywhere else, direct links to any source I reference in the episode, and a fancy PDF version of the show for reading later or sharing! Also, if you like the concepts presented in this show, you would probably enjoy my book, The God of Honeybees. I dive deeper into these concepts, how they relate to my background, and then tie them together to show you how this is all connected. I would love to share that with you! Consider signing up for 5 bucks a month to help keep the project going and help me get the book to my editor at patreon.com/godofhoneybees.
Special thanks to Videvo for footage used on this show as well as Karnbeats.com for the music you have heard.
This has been God of Honeybees Podcast. Talk to you soon.
Welcome to the God of Honeybees Podcast. I’m glad you’re here.
I’m Justin Herb and this is the God of Honeybees Podcast. In this update episode, I want to let you know about what I’ve been working on. First I need to say thank you to some people!
I’m recording this on July 21st but this episode will come out on July 16th. At the time of this recording, I have had 8 people signed up for the email newsletter! So I want to say thank you to Cheryl, Tracy, Rebecca, my brother Jeremy, my mom Sarah, my mother-in-law Julie, my editor Patience, and my wife Christianna. Thanks to all of you for being a part of the newsletter. I hope everyone is enjoying their custom sticker or coaster.
The newsletter that comes out with each episode provides additional context for any sources I reference during the episode as well as links to the content. Also, if you would like to read rather than listen to a podcast or watch the episode on YouTube, you will get a nice PDF version of the episode in those emails. Lastly, I still have some stickers left as well as coasters, all from stickermule.com. If you sign up for the newsletter, I will send you one of these items for free! Just include a shipping address when you sign up.
I want to tell you about what’s been happening lately with work around this podcast and the book. As far as the podcast goes, I have now got two working condenser mics. For anybody listening that might be interested in setting up a cheap rig to get better sound, you might consider these mics from Tonor. I got the whole set up, mic pop filter, wind screen, stand, from eBay for $20. I’ve then run the sound into a processing app to get some clearer sound. It’s not the best sound, but for $20, I’m pretty impressed with how much better it is than what I had. Also I have been on the hunt for quite some time to find an intro song that I could use commercially, meaning ads could be placed in the episodes. I came across a couple websites that offered licenses that would allow me to do this, but the songs were just lame as hell. I would spend hours on a site clicking next, next, next and just not get anywhere. Finally I came across a producer whose website is karnbeats.com and found some excellent music. The song you heard at the beginning of this episode is one I got a license for from Karn Beats. So if you are looking for music to use for your project, check them out. Not only did I stumble across great music from Karn Beats, but our friend Tyler Ott, known widely as the rapper onitty, has been helping me out in a huge way putting together a custom song for me to use on the show! Once that is ready, it will be on this very episode and I am so stoked. Like I mentioned in the last episode, I’m part of a band called the Bionic Monks and we have actually done some shows with Tyler. Music and the audio experience of each episode is of such a high concern for me, so I could not settle for basic music. That is why I’m so excited about the music I found from Karn Beats but even more so whatever might be cooking with Tyler.
On to the book! Recently I ordered a proof copy from Lulu.com and it was so great to see the work in actual book form. If you aren’t familiar with Lulu, it is a full service book self-publishing service. I believe they even have services that will help with cover design. Anyway, all it takes is uploading the typeset PDF of your work and the cover art, and Lulu creates a print-ready preview. They have fantastic prices on printing and even set your book up with an ISBN. From there you can publish the book to Lulu, making it a print-on-demand service. You can also publish to Amazon which is nice and easy. The reason for ordering my proof copy was so that I could put a personal thank you note inside for the author who agreed to give me her thoughts on the current draft. Like I’ve said, I won’t name-drop in case she isn’t cool with that. If I find out later that she is okay with that, then you know I will name-drop left and right. She told me she would start reading the book this past Friday, so I’m eagerly awaiting her feedback. Also I was able to send a copy of the book to arguably my favorite podcast and two of my favorite podcast hosts. I’ll wait to name-drop later, but they are from Australia and again, I am so excited to see what they have to say. Lulu notified me that there was a shipping delay so they will probably get the book this week or next.
My hope is to use the feedback I get to help bring the book to it’s final form. I’ve gone through and made sure every idea I present is fully explained without rambling on. But I want an outside view to get a new perspective. The next step will be to raise money for the editor. I’m going to have to find a way to raise $700 assuming the text doesn’t increase in size too much. The current idea is to offer pre-orders of the book on Patreon. If you aren’t familiar with Patreon, it’s a platform for creators and supporters to connect. Instead of something like Kickstarter that is a one-time donation in return for items or benefits, Patreon is aiming to craft long-term connections with supporters by providing a monthly support platform. This means that you can send X amount of dollars a month to your favorite creators. As far as the book is concerned, I’ll offer the pre-order option one time, and if we reach the $700 mark, then I can get the book edited by Patience Uhlman of 29Pilgrims.com. She does great work so if you are in the market for an editor, be it website content or print, I would recommend her. So I will post all kinds of updates once the pre-order option is ready to go. Until then, there is a simple $5/month option that just helps keep the project going. Like I’ve said in the past, if you can’t swing it, don’t worry about it. The shows that come out on the first and third Tuesday will always be free. If you can chip in, I fully appreciate it.
Special thanks to Karn Beats for producing the music on this show. As always, you can reach me on godofhoneybees.com and let me know what you think of the show. Sign up for the email version of the show and I will send you a free sticker or coaster, whichever I have available. You get a free item with the podcast logo as well as links to all the sources I reference and a fancy PDF version of the show. You can also find me on Instagram at godofbeespodcast, Twitter at GOHPodcast, Facebook at God of Honeybees Podcast, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This has been God of Honeybees Podcast. I’m Justin Herb. Thanks for listening.
Stock footage provided by Videvo, downloaded from https://www.videvo.net
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