Why has humankind developed so differently from other animals? How and why did language, culture, religion, and the arts come into being? In this wide-ranging and ambitious essay, Christoph Turcke offers a new answer to these timeworn questions by scrutinizing the phenomenon of the dream, using it as a psychic fossil connecting us with our Stone Age ancestors. Provocatively, he argues that both civilization and mental processes are the results of a compulsion to repeat early traumas, one to which hallucination, imagination, mind, spirit, and God all developed in response. Until the beginning of the modern era, repetition was synonymous with de-escalation and calming down. Then, automatic machinery gave rise to a new type of repetition, whose effects are permanent alarm and distraction. The new global forces of distraction, Turcke argues, are producing a specific kind of stress that breaks down the barriers between dreams and waking consciousness. Turcke's essay ends with a sobering indictment of this psychic deregulation and the social and economic deregulations that have accompanied it.
Christoph Turcke is professor of philosophy and religion at the Academy of Fine Arts in Leipzig, Germany, and the author of What Price Religion? Susan H. Gillespie has translated works by Theodor W. Adorno, Paul Celan, Helga Koenigsdorf, and Hanns Zischler, among others.