A neuroscientist explores the role of dreams in human existence and evolution, arguing that—from the earliest cave paintings to today's cutting-edge scientific research—dreams have contributed to humans' capacity to perceive past and future and our ability to conceive of the existence of souls and spirits.
The Oracle of Night makes a resounding case for the mystery, beauty and cognitive importance of dreams. Ribeiro marshals prodigious evidence to bolster his case that a dream is not simply 'fragments of memory assembled at random' (as he summarizes Francis Crick’s dismissive position), but instead is a 'privileged moment for prospecting the unconscious' ... this book is...the expression of remarkable, if sometimes all-over-the-map, scholarship, drawing on history, literature, biology, anthropology, neuroscience, sociology and psychology, among other disciplines ... His lyrical account is aided by Daniel Hahn’s beautiful translation from the Portuguese ... His accounts of rich, metaphorical dreams made me wish that my own weren’t so fragmented and elusive ... For those who want to examine the scientific underpinnings of Ribeiro’s thesis about the importance of dreams for synthesizing information and forming memories, The Oracle of Night somewhat exhaustively describes numerous studies, and the advances—or confusions—that they have brought to the field. Who knew that sleep researchers were such a fractious bunch? ... As in a dream, the reader can lose the thread. The technical research Ribeiro presents is hard for a lay person to understand. It feels as though there’s enough material here for at least two books ... But you can’t help being awed and enchanted by the wonder with which Ribeiro approaches his subject, by the depth of his knowledge and passion.
... a capacious examination of the phenomenon of dreaming ... Although some of the molecular, electrophysiological, biochemical, and morphological discussion is daunting, much of the book is accessible. Ribeiro urges readers to spend a few minutes after waking to recall their dreams and even to engage in lucid dreaming, in which the dreamer exerts control over the dream. A stimulating and informative overview.
Neuroscientist Ribeiro sheds light on the psychology, philosophy, and evolution behind dreams in his wide-ranging if far-fetched debut ... He provocatively, though not entirely convincingly, calls for a revival of Sigmund Freud’s ideas ... readers should be prepared to wade through thickets of jargon ... Still, there is much worth checking out for those with a deep interest in dreams.