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 Türcke 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, Türcke argues, are producing a specific kind of stress that breaks down the barriers between dreams and waking consciousness. Türcke’s essay ends with a sobering indictment of this psychic deregulation and the social and economic deregulations that have accompanied it.