- Hardcover: 308 pages
- Publisher: Transaction Publishers; 1 edition (June 28, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1412862868
- ISBN-13: 978-1412862868
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,544,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How Religion Evolved: Explaining the Living Dead, Talking Idols, and Mesmerizing Monuments 1st Edition
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"In this important and long overdue book, McVeigh resurrects Jaynes’s theory on the origin of religion, drawing upon his considerable knowledge and experience as an anthropologist and his decades of research into the various aspects of Jaynes’s theory to explain and expand upon Jaynes’s ideas."
—Marcel Kuijsten, Executive Director, Julian Jaynes Society
About the Author
Brian J. McVeigh received his PhD in anthropology from Princeton University. A specialist in Japan and China, he lived in Asia for 17 years and researches cultural psychology and historical changes in human mentality. He has published extensively on politics, education, intellectual history, and pop art. He is now training in mental health counseling at the University at Albany, SUNY.
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Keen to prove Julian Jaynes’s thesis in The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind that consciousness, or, in McVeigh’s term, “conscious interiority,” was a rather late entrée into the human mind, he supplies appendices, timelines, a glossary, and an extensive set of references to refine and embellish his short, engaging chapters, leading up to the era when individuals could decide to believe using their own mental resources.
An anthropologist with extensive experience in Asia, McVeigh supplies examples many of us could never have encountered. Following Jaynes, he asserts that religion initially arose when hallucinatory voices commanded human actions. The voices, coming from the right or non-dominant hemisphere, were deemed divine. How else to explain their eerie otherness and commanding tone? Stone monuments to the gods were erected, cultivated through elaborate rituals, and treated as if alive. Their striking inlaid eyes effectively entrained hallucinatory reactions. Prophets like Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Mohammed, and in later ages, Joan of Arc and Joseph Smith, all claimed to hear divine voices.
McVeigh traces Jaynes’s “bicameral” or two-chambered brain from the Neolithic-bicameral, through the semi-bicameral, to the post-bicameral, up to the age when Homer’s great works were written down. Along the way, he provides fascinating examples of just how real these gods and their voices were to the populace that propitiated, cared and fed them (even with blood sacrifices as in Mesoamerica). In this early age, politics was religion. The gods and the dead could talk, hence the book’s subtitle: “Explaining the Living Dead, Talking Idols, and Mesmerizing Moments.”
For a time, God-driven theophanies ruled the hearts and minds of the populace making individual conscious choices essentially impossible. Eventually, monotheism developed as a more efficient means to control larger populations, especially in trying times, with sacred books setting down eternal laws. McVeigh’s engaging and accessible writing style charms as it guides us through the historical and linguistic material with alliterative force from “tightening political control by trimming the theological tree” through to a modern God’s “transcendence” above and beyond the universe, as the voices fell silent.
This book is not just for academics or admirers of Julian Jaynes. It is an impressive and groundbreaking account of the origins and evolution of religion over longitudinal time and geographic space. It is literally mind-expanding!
It is a shame that his position is not taught at universities. His argument-although it may sound ridiculous to someone not familiar with Jaynes- actually works as a theory of everything for human society/religion. McVeigh directly focuses on how the theory explains the causes Axial Age and the Bronze Dark Age.
Please note: this book is for serious, open-minded truth-seekers. It breaks the Left/Right political and theist/atheist false paradigms. So be prepared to have your preconceived notions challenged (but in a very factual and polite way). It is so transforming that I believe most of academia and intelligentsia must be afraid to confront the implications.
I highly recommend this to all students of Jaynes.
Disclosure: I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.