PRIVATE MYTHS: Dreams and Dreaming by Anthony Stevens

PRIVATE MYTHS: Dreams and Dreaming

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Wide-ranging essay on the importance of dreams by a Jungian analyst who maintains that they are the ""only natural oases of spirituality left to us."" Stevens (Archetypes: A Natural History of the Self, 1982, etc.) sees dreams as having the function of myths and religion, that is, the integration of old wisdom with new knowledge. Through dream work, he explains, we can get in touch with the primordial self--what Jung called the archetypal reality--and develop our capacity for consciousness. Stevens traces the development of theories about dreams from ancient writings to current work in neurobiology. Jung's theory of archetypes, which he discusses here at some length, is ""remarkably compatible"" with modern neuroscientific findings, especially in connection with the dreams of young children, which are full of archetypal implications. He discusses the capacity for the human psyche to fabricate images in a chapter on symbolism and describes his own three-stage approach to dream analysis (looking at the personal, cultural, and archetypal contexts) in a chapter on dreams in therapy. For those inspired to try their own hand, he offers practical advice and recommended readings. Besides relating his own dreams and those of his patients, he touches on the probable functions and origins of such common experiences as anxiety dreams, dreams of falling or flying, and sexual dreams, and he analyzes some famous dreams by Freud, Hitler, and Descartes. To Stevens, the findings of psychology, analysis, ethology, and neuroscience have now come together to produce the most exciting period in the history of the study of dreams. The enthusiasm that Stevens has for his fascinating subject is infectious. Not everyone will be persuaded that dreams and dreaming hold the key to the future of our planet, but it is an intriguing idea. Erudite and engaging.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.