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Record Type: Review   ID: 390

Visions of Innocence: Spiritual and Inspirational Experiences of Childhood

Hoffman, Edward

 Hoffman, who is a psychologist specializing in child development, observed in working with children, that even pre-schoolers grappled with questions of a spiritual nature, sometimes set off by "a religious event, a vivid exposure to nature, or even an unusual dream" (p. xiv). In writing a biography of Maslow, he discovered that he, too, had become convinced that children have peak experiences, and he planned to investigate it, but unfortunately he died. Hoffman took up the quest and began to interview children. However, he found that as a rule they "lacked the ability to relate their subtle experiences meaningfully" (p. 17). He therefore decided to solicit reports from adults who were able to recall their childhood spontaneous experiences "of great meaning, beauty, or inspiration ... apart from institutional religion" (p. 17). The age limit was 14 years or younger. Most responses were followed by interviews. He received over 250 examples, and selected those that had "enduring significance to the narrator" (p. 19). He then classified them into nine categories of experience, and devoted a chapter to each. The categories are "uplifting experiences in places of scenic grandeur; inspiring encounters with nature in one’s own backyard, near-death or crisis episodes; peak moments during intense and personalized prayer; spontaneous moments of bliss or ecstasy; profound insights about self-identity and God, life and death, and related topics; exalted experiences in formal religious settings; uncanny perceptions with lasting import; and unforgettable dreams" (p. 20). Each chapter has a brief introduction and is followed by transcripts of the experiences, giving the person a false first name, last name, their age, and profession. The first chapter is a history of ideas about childhood spirituality and closes with one entitled "Understanding and Honoring Childhood Spirituality." He intended this volume to serve "as a gateway through which we can enter a forgotten world of beauty and order" (p. xv).
Publisher Information:Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1992. 190p. Bibl: 187-190; Notes: 185-186
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