"The light of the spirit - How consciousness occurs"
Feelings, consciousness, spirit - only neurons firing? Whenever bright
new sensational reports on brain research are presented to us, we
immediately mentally oppose any findings that we feel would attack our
identity as humans. In the article, "Das Manifest", published at the
end of last year in the journal "Gehirn & Geist" (Brain &
Spirit), it was stated that the neuro-sciences are still far from
deciphering the last secrets of human existence - they are, on the
contrary, still at the very beginning. But it also stated that brain
research and its findings will be of ever increasing importance. The
authors of "Das Manifest" see it as the leading science of the 21st
If that which is going on in our brain is soon to become even more
important for each and everyone of us, then everyone should be
forearmed - with knowledge. That's what Gerald M. Edelman puts forward
in his book "Das Licht des Geistes – Wie Bewusstsein entsteht" ("The
light of the spirit - How consciousness occurs"). Edelman is one of the
most internationally renowned neuro-biologists; in 1972 he received the
Nobel prize for medicine. Ah, now it's going to get really tough one
might well think. Correct. One needs much concentration in order to
understand what author Edelman formulates in the preface as the guiding
question for his popular science book: "How can subjective impressions,
thoughts and emotions derive from the firing of neurons? Many hold that
the gap between the two levels cannot be bridged.
explanation must show a causal connection between both areas so that we
can connect aspects of one level with experiences in the other." Those
wanting to follow these arguments of the neuro-biologists will have to
fight their way through sentences such as: "A large part of the basal
ganglia, which is made up of input nuclei bound to the cortex, is the
stratium, which is composed of the nucleus caudatus and the putamen."
This is possible thanks to the extensive glossary at the back of the
book in which all technical terms are translated and explained. The
reward for the effort is at least a hunch of the origin, the
characteristics and mechanisms of human consciousness and an idea of
how strongly the individual identity depends on the functions of the
brain. And also how research into the subject will influence us during
the 21st century.
Gerald M. Edelman, "Das Licht des Geistes – Wie Bewusstsein entsteht",
190 pages, Patmos publishing house, Düsseldorf, 2004, €24.90.