Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating exploration of key philosophical issue, January 30, 2012
This review is from: Universal Awareness: A Theory of the Soul (Paperback)
This fascinating and well-written book represents the (provisional) results of psychologist Michael Heap's long-standing interest in one of the predominantly philosophical `Identity Problems'.
The key problem here involves the obvious fact that the relationship between each human being's consciousness and her/his own body, mind and person is utterly different from the relationship between that consciousness and the bodies, minds and persons of all other human beings, as perceived by the human being in question. Each of us is directly aware of much of our own mind, which we experience as embodied in a physical body of which we are also aware and which we can partly control. In contrast, our awareness of other minds is indirect; we observe other human beings (born before or after us) who are apparently similar to us in these respects, but we have no direct access to their minds or direct control over their bodies, and we learn about their thoughts, feelings and physical sensations by attending to what they do, say, etc. and comparing them with our own thoughts, feelings and sensations. Many of us have wondered why our consciousness and mind is inherently associated with this particular body and this particular person rather than with some other person.
Heap also considers other major issues regarding selfhood: whether our consciousnesses survive our physical deaths (perhaps as disembodied or reincarnated `souls'), the issue of the wholesale replacement of our physical parts over time and the appearance of continuing personal identity, and the relationship between the `host' (the physical body and mind), the `soul' (if this exists), and the person. He regards the mind/soul as something we do rather than `have' and the individual mind as a function of the physical person which ceases to operate on death.
However, Heap interprets the `individual' acts of persons in terms of the multiple influences which combine (not always through conscious thought processes) to enable such acts. He sees the universe as an organic whole, all parts of which exist permanently (although the passage of time within the universe is still considered real), and many parts of which (`hosts') possess consciousness. The conscious mental processes which constitute souls can be experienced individually only at the individual level and at specific times; but they pertain to a `Universal Soul' which is shared by all conscious beings acting as hosts. We survive death in the sense that what we commonly take to be our `own' soul/mind is in fact the `Universal Soul' and this obviously (on Heap's theory) does survive, as it is not subject to temporal restrictions at all. The `Universal Soul' includes all persons who are living at any given time, already deceased at that time or yet to be born. Each individual host is potentially aware of the consciousnesses of all these other hosts past, present and future, even if such awareness can actually occur only `one conscious event at a time'.
Heap acknowledges that most people will find it difficult to accept this theory, because it is counter to our `normal' interpretation of our mental lives. I suspect that his theory could not be refuted; but I can see no convincing positive evidence or argumentation suggesting that the world of conscious beings really does operate in this manner. The basic Identity Problem, in my view, remains unsolved.
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