It seems that everyone knows about the Senoi, a Malaysian tribe who have been celebrated for their use of dreams as a means of bringing peace to their culture. It is claimed that, at breakfast, Senoi families discuss dreams of the previous night and the parents make suggestions and give advice to their dreaming children based on the content of their dreams, and that because of this, these people have an unprecedented lack of violence and mental illness in their society. Here the author traces the origins of this myth and its influence on the “dreamwork” of late ’60s and ’70s America. He specifically looks into the character of one Kilton Stewart, a psychologist/anthropologist/beachcomber and follower of Otto Rank, who visited Malaysia in the 1930s and was the main source for the dissemination of these notions about Senoi dream theory. Dissecting Stewart's history and looking more closely into his message and motives, Domhoff concludes that it was Stewart, not the Senoi, who developed the idea that societies can benefit from sharing their dreams, and that they can shape them through principals of mind control. The Senoi do not practice dream theory, he states, nor is their society so free of conflict. As Domhoff shows in a later chapter, it took the dramatic social changes of the ’60s, which spawned the Human Potential movement, to bring Stewart's theories to a large and receptive audience which eagerly absorbed his utopian claims about the Senoi.
Publisher: University of California
Paperback: 156 pages