The Evolution of Consciousness:
The Origins of the Way We Think


By Robert Ornstein
Illustrated by Ted Dewan

“One of those rare books that are so profoundly exciting they raise the hairs on the back of your neck.”

– James Burke

A provocative look at how our mind evolved and what this means for the human future

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What is your mind? How is it that, like the proverbial fish in the ocean, we know so little about something that controls every aspect of our individual and collective lives?

Passionate, entertaining and provocative, The Evolution of Consciousness is a fundamental challenge to our assumptions about the human mind and how it works. Ornstein tackles central mysteries of the mind: how the human brain size advanced so quickly; why we dream; how memory works.

Crediting the discoveries of Charles Darwin (whom Ornstein considers the central scientist of modern psychology), he shows how the mind evolved to help us survive—to avoid danger, procure food, and perpetuate the species—not to reason why. Through a panoramic history of the brain and mind’s evolution, he shows that our mind is not rational, but adaptive.

As a result, our mind is a “squadron of simpletons,” unconscious mind shifts geared to survival in a world long gone. Even what we call our “self” is just another of these simpletons with its own limited role and insight. He shows how, by remaining unaware of these mind shifts, we are left vulnerable to misjudgment and indoctrination, both individually and culturally.

With wit and wisdom, he points out that within us all is the potential to go beyond the simpletons. To solve the collective problems of the modern world we need urgently to develop this innate faculty — a perceptive capacity that has been called “higher consciousness” — a new level of understanding reality, a new altruism, in which everyone can take part. It is humanity’s next step.