The mystery of consciousness

Prospect Magazine

The mystery of consciousness

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Nicholas Humphrey’s latest book on the mystery of consciousness travelled with me to Crete, Latvia and America. And the intellectual journey it took me on has half-persuaded me that his evolutionary approach will one day provide an answer

One day I’ll be dead. The thought swirled by on a summer’s evening in Crete. There was cold beer at my elbow and my sandalled feet were up against the trunk of a pine. A book lay open in my hands but I wasn’t reading. I was noticing colours: the bark running blue-grey to rust, the red geranium. I was noticing insects and animals: the tiny green bug on my forearm, the microscopic orange thing that dropped on to the book, no bigger than a full stop, the ginger cat stretching in the shade. The air was filled with the din of cicadas and Mediterranean scents. I sipped my beer and savoured the moment.

The open book was Nicholas Humphrey’s Seeing Red: A Study in Consciousness. I’d stopped reading by the second page, derailed by Joe King’s email. Joe is 20 years old and severely disabled. He is writing to

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Paul Broks

Paul Broks
Paul Broks is a neuropsychologist and author of Into the Silent Land (Atlantic) 

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