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Consciousness (A Brief Insight)
by Susan Blackmore
Sterling Press 
Book Reviews
Reviewed by David Arnson, 2/25/2011

“Consciousness is at once the most obvious and the most difficult thing we can investigate.”

In this very short book, noted lecturer, author and psychologist Susan Blackmore expounds upon, parses, and analyzes the great question and subject of consciousness. Most of us can agree that there is a separation between our lumpy masses of physical brain and that of our individual minds and thoughts. But, as evidenced by the author here, there are myriad ways to define these differences.

Blackmore takes research from the past thousand years and succinctly summarizes the theories and philosophies of consciousness. One of my favorite things about this book is how she then methodically rips every one of these theories to bits! The elusive subject is often defined here by that which it is not, seemingly to home in on the “right” questions to ask…

A number of unusual case studies are described, for example, how some epilepsy patients in the 50s and 60s literally had their brains split in half to prevent seizures. Since they would perceive very different things with each eye and brain hemisphere, did they then have two consciousnesses? Another section features hypnotism and the rise of the “spirit medium” craze and movement of the late 1800s.

In one of the most fascinating chapters, covering ‘Altered States of Consciousness’, Blackmore looks at dreams, drugs, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, and meditation. She concludes the book with her own theories of consciousness and how to investigate the subject further. Reading this certainly expanded my own ideas of the mind’s workings…

Consciousness is part of the publisher’s Brief Insight series.

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