This book is an inquiry into the nature of consciousness. There is good reason
to seek understanding. When consciousness is properly understood, healthy life
choices become apparent. To understand consciousness, we need to understand
several related subjects. The journey is challenging but very much worthwhile.
The information compiled here allows for nothing less than an awakening as to
who we are in the universe. Though the evidence comes from naturalistic
observations and the methods are based on the principles of science, the
destination is ultimately spiritual.
Though I didn't know it at the time, I began writing this book as a psychology
professor at a small private college years before sitting down to compose it. I
enjoyed teaching. I wanted the course material to be both useful and exciting.
Teaching the same subjects day and night over several years, I began to see new
connections between psychological constructs. What today seems obvious to me
wasn't even on my radar screen back when I began teaching. I think I can help
Occasionally we come upon a map while at the mall or the zoo designed to help
visitors find their way. As we try to understand our situation, the arrow next
to the words "you are here" orients us. Knowing our position and the lay of the
land can help us identify the steps necessary to get where we want to go.
Psychotherapy and personal inventories are a lot like the "you are here" map
experience. If you listen carefully, many casual conversations are also like
the "you are here" experience. The social world is essential for our mental
health because it helps us stay oriented.
Successful navigation requires valid information. An accurate map, drawn to
scale is invaluable. In addition to our current location, it is helpful to know
where we have been and where we want to go. Lastly, we should understand the
properties of the vehicle in which we travel (ourselves). Payload, fuel
economy, road handling characteristics, service requirements all these play into
likely outcomes. People who consider these things carefully tend to succeed and
So this book comes to terms with some pretty big questions. What is the nature
of the universe, who am I, what is my purpose, and how do I get where I need to
go. As I look back at the map my own life, it seems the universe has an almost
magical way of revealing itself. I sometimes see associations that appear to be
too serendipitous to be coincidence, and one of these occurs to me now.
In my youth I read a book that captured my imagination, "The Hitchhiker's Guide
to the Galaxy," by Douglas Adams. It has something of a cult following. I
remember being comforted as I started grad school when I noticed a reference to
the book on the wall of my mentor's office. I was safe; he understood. Now,
many years later, I am in a state of mental goose flesh as I realize I have
taken on the audacious task of trying to answer that book's laughable central
question: "The Meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything." So the title of
my book, "The Nature of Consciousness, the Universe, and Everything," is in
honor of the joy and insight offered by Douglas Adams. As I begin the project,
it only now occurs to me I just happen to be living on Adams Street!