One of the unexpected (for me) perks of the academic life was book reviews. Some journal editor would send you expensive academic books you get to keep, just for reading them and giving your opinion in writing! Most academics, truth be told—at least old school ones—would work for books. But don’t—wait. I was going to say “don’t tell the dean,” but it is clear that administration is way ahead of me on this one. In any case, I miss not having a viable academic opinion any more. Not having an institution means journals no longer care what I think about books. Also, working in publishing, there may be a conflict of interest involved. That’s why I was so happy to learn that blogging also leads to free books, on occasion. Most of them aren’t university press books, but you don’t have to be a professor to have something profound or useful to say. So it is that I came to read Spirit: A Potential beyond Mind and Matter, by Reza Mohamed.
There were several points that stopped to give me pause in this book, but about half-way through an idea caught me and has stayed with me since. It revolves around the idea of consciousness, something that Mohamed writes quite a bit about. A number of sources lately have suggested that consciousness is not unique to humans. Clearly, to my mind, animals are also conscious, and I think evidence points to consciousness, on some level, for plants as well. Perhaps even what we call inanimate, or inorganic material. Indeed, perhaps the universe itself is conscious. What occurred to me in reading Spirit, is that perhaps consciousness is the primal element. Maybe it has always existed. Could it be possible that we, like riders on a train, borrow a bit of consciousness while our bodies last, and then when we expire we simply climb off that train and consciousness continues on down the track, waiting for the next passenger?
It is nearly impossible to determine whence consciousness arises. Believing that it always existed is more plausible to me than the odd suggestion that it is just what happens when neurons get all mushy from being too close together. All creatures, as Mohamed notes, have will. Plants that follow the sun—slowly, and over years—seem to have a purpose as well. Who’s to say that it stops there? What have we lost if consciousness is endemic to the universe? Of course I don’t have any answers. Just possibilities. Ideas can spring unexpectedly from books, and as a sometime writer, I can say they even surprise an author from time to time. Then, of course, my opinion is merely that of an independent scholar. But I still find myself working for books.