Press release

States of Mind: Experiences at the Edge of Consciousness

To accompany a major exhibition opening in February 2016, Wellcome Collection will publish 'States of Mind: Experiences at the Edge of Consciousness'. The book is a collection of literature, science and art delving into the mysteries of human consciousness. It has a new introduction by Mark Haddon, author of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time'.

Understanding the nature of consciousness continues to challenge even the most progressive experts and thinkers. Yet we all experience some form of consciousness and make daily journeys between different conscious states as we sleep and wake.

Through the eyes of writers, artists, scientists and philosophers, States of Mind explores the meaning of consciousness and, in particular, the nature of interrupted or liminal conscious experiences, such as somnambulism, synaesthesia and disorders of memory. These diverse – even conflicting – perspectives pose fundamental questions about what it means to be alive, aware and human.

In his new introduction, 'The Hardest Problem', Mark Haddon asks: "When does consciousness begin and when does it end? Do dreams give us access to some deeper truth? Can evil spirits possess us? What happens on that strange borderland between the conscious and the unconscious?"

This lively collection probes these questions and more, spanning science and the soul, language and memory, being and not being. It draws on five centuries of thinking, and includes works by Jane Austen, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Arthur Conan Doyle, Francis Crick, René Descartes, Emily Dickinson, H L Gold, Franz Kafka, H P Lovecraft, Marcel Proust, Mary Shelley, Henry David Thoreau, Alan Turing, H G Wells and Emile Zola.

" one can imagine what it is to be unconscious – how far removed from the state of consciousness and all that we call 'this world' – until he has experienced it." Henry David Thoreau

"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends and where the other begins?" Edgar Allan Poe

"Try it for yourself: stop what you’re doing and try to listen in to the mind's ear. What can you hear? Indeed, are you hearing at all? Can you say, definitively, that your inner voice sounds in the sense that we usually understand it?" Jennifer Hodgson

"Perceptions of the most maddeningly untransmissible sort thronged upon us; perceptions of infinity which at the time convulsed us with joy, yet which are now partly lost to my memory and partly incapable of presentation to others…" H P Lovecraft

"There is a kind of sleep that steals upon us sometimes, which, while it holds the body prisoner, does not free the mind from a sense of things about it, and enable it to ramble as it pleases..." Charles Dickens

For more information and to order the book online, visit Wellcome Collection.