Book Reviews

Children's Dreaming and the Development of Consciousness by David Foulkes, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2002; ISBN 0674009711, 208 pages, paperback, $19.95.

Retired psychologist David Foulkes, internationally recognized for his empirical research on children's dreaming, here summarizes his lifework for a general audience, and shares his conclusions about how and when waking reflective self-awareness develops. He believes that "The study of dreaming is the royal road to understanding the unfolding of consciousness and personhood in early childhood," and that "The larger importance of dream reports is that they offer an unparalleled opportunity to learn if and when young children can experience conscious mental states and what kind of conscious mental states they can, and cannot, experience" (pp. 158, 3).

Because the methodology and value of his findings have been called into question by those whose theories disagree with his data, he describes in detail the research methods used in his sleep laboratories at the University of Wyoming and the Georgia Mental Health Institute in Atlanta, and the data obtained from children three to fifteen years old, in studies using both the same children over many years and age comparisons of different groups of children over shorter periods. He disputes the notion that children's dream-life and consciousness is essentially identical to that of adults. Rather, "The evidence of this book suggests that their approach to the world and the developing operations of their own minds is fundamentally different from our own, and that the difference is one of automatic versus conscious mediation" of experiences and behaviors (p. 156). Awake and in dreams, the "first mental imagery seems to be static and rather unversatile" (p. 150), and moving, transformational images generally appear at around seven or eight years old. Also, the dreamer generally does not perceive himself in the dream until at least that age, whereas in the earliest years dreams often feature animals, which stand in for the child and other people. "After its halting initial efforts, children's consciousness is organized narratively across time through the medium of a continuing sense of self" (p. 151). Before that, there is not a self-identity to "integrate the child's different behavioral selves" (p. 153). His evidence "suggests no miraculous, instantaneous, general shifts in the child's cognition, but rather a gradual and protracted set of developing competencies that eventually issue into something like the kind of conscious cognition with which we adults are familiar" (p. 157).

His data suggest that reflective self-awareness is a constructed process developed for the organization and integration of information. Interestingly, as with adults, most REM dream reports of children are not bizarre and illogical, as dreams are popularly considered, but quite pedestrian and logical. He is particularly critical of Freud and his dream analysis, which he finds not only completely without empirical basis, but actually contradicted by empirical findings. He also criticizes reductionist theories that hold that dreams and their content can be explained entirely by chaotic impulses originating in the lower brain. This book presents a thought-provoking look at the development of our distinctively human consciousness and sense of personhood. — Sarah B. Dougherty

God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time by Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams, Doubleday, New York, 2004; ISBN 0385477848, 144 pages, hardback, $16.95.

"Dear Child of God, I write these words because we all experience sadness, we all come at times to despair, and we all lose hope that the suffering in our lives and in our world will ever end. I want to share with you my faith and my understanding that this suffering can be transformed and redeemed." In simple language, illustrated with events from his life and the struggle against Apartheid, the author presents his vision of the possibilities which can be brought about when we "see with the eyes of the heart" and take responsibility for bringing about a world of peace and justice through our individual decisions and actions.

Much of the material appears scattered throughout No Future without Forgiveness, his longer 1999 book on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but as reworked here stands as a "cumulative expression" of the lifework of this Nobel Peace Prize winner. The greatness of the man shines through. Presented in Christian language, but with universal appeal, the book emphasizes the fact of brotherhood — that we are all children of one spiritual source — and the necessity of acting with love, compassion, forgiveness, and patience to bring about a better future for all. — Sarah B. Dougherty

Enemies of the Enlightenment by Darrin M. McMahon, Oxford University Press, London, 2002; ISBN 0195158938, 288 pages, paperback, $21.00.

Today it is fashionable in intellectual circles to criticize the Enlightenment of 18th-century Europe, and call destructive and misguided the ideas of thinkers who risked their lives to espouse freedom of thought, individual conscience, religious toleration, and the separation of dogmatic religion from philosophy, science, and the state. Depending on the source, it is blamed for secularism, materialism, rationalism, totalitarianism, universalism, racism, misogyny, and a host of other modern problems. This thoroughly-researched book describes and analyzes the groups and individuals who opposed the ideas of the Enlightenment, principally at its center in France. In so doing it reveals the causes behind the emergence of the Enlightenment and the activities not only of individual philosophers but of groups such as the Masons. It traces much in the modern world back to the militant conflict between these two factions, showing that the Counter-Enlightenment coexisted with those they opposed from the outset, and that both factions formed each other in large measure.

McMahon focuses on France from the 17th to the early 19th centuries. The counter-forces or Rightists, mainly members of the Catholic Church and aristocratic classes, labeled philosophes such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, and d'Alembert as English-lovers and Protestant followers, a godless force determined to destroy Christianity, morality, the patriarchal family, monarchy, and culture as it was then known, for the Rightists viewed Catholicism as the only true religion and the basis of the good in Western civilization. The philosophes made plain in conversations and writing that their object was not destruction but the establishment of equality, fraternity, and liberty, words that became the revolutionists' motto. Growing enthusiasm for the new ideas posed a real danger to those who stood to lose power, wealth, status, and control. In reply they warned that equality was impossible because inequality was the pattern of nature, and that such menacing ideas would lead to chaos and disaster. The ascendancy of Enlightenment ideas in France culminated in the Revolution, and the author brings out the extent to which revolutionary violence and extremism resulted from the violent and extreme opposition. Still, the horrifying violence seemed to confirm the prophesies of the Counter-Enlightenment, which rallied and eventually succeeded in bringing Bourbon King Louis XVIII to the throne in 1815 after the fall of Napoleon.

With the reestablishment of the interdependent monarchy and Catholic Church in France, Rightists felt secure that the old order had returned. But their victory was not complete — time could not be turned back. The king, for example, allowed the publication of the philosophes' writings, including the complete works of their greatest enemy, Voltaire. To dilute such pernicious influences, Rightists issued voluminous writings and burned the philosophers' works in public squares. Still, there were many divisions within the Right itself:

even the seemingly unbreakable Ultra [Rightist] consensus against freedom of expression and religious tolerance proved subject to dispute. Whereas the great majority of Ultras advocated careful control of the written and spoken word, some balked when Louis XVIII attempted to turn the censor against the Ultras themselves . . . , and they came to support, with varying degrees of sincerity, freedom of expression as a necessary means to guarantee the dissemination of their own views. — p. 191

With the fall of the Bourbon monarchy in 1830, the jockeying of these two forces continued, the word "philosopher" in time replaced with "liberal," though opponents considered the words synonymous. This book will appeal to those wanting a better understanding of the Enlightenment, the forces opposing it, and why conflict over these issues continues today, particularly with the resurgence of orthodox and fundamental religions in the political sphere worldwide. — Jean B. Crabbendam

 (From Sunrise magazine, June/July 2004; copyright © 2004 Theosophical University Press)

Back Issues Menu

I remember that in the time of childhood I was very religious: I rose in the night, was punctual in the performance of my devotions, and abstinent. One night I had been sitting in the presence of my father, not having closed my eyes during the whole time, and with the holy Koran in my embrace, whilst numbers around us were asleep. I said to my father, "Not one of these lifteth up his head to perform his genuflexions: but they are all so fast asleep that you would say they are dead." He replied, "Life of your father, it were better if thou also wert asleep than to be searching out the faults of mankind. The boaster sees nothing but himself, having a veil of conceit before his eyes. If he were endowed with an eye capable of discerning God, he would not discover any person weaker than himself." — Sadi