Robert Coles is a Child Psychiatrist and researcher He has spent years interviewing children of may cultures about their spiritual lives The wonderful thing about Coles is that, to the best of his ability, he does not impose his own cultural norms and values on the children As you can imagine, a Harvard educated white man coming of age in the middle of the last century has quite a set of cultural norms and values Yet, when he interviews Hopi children they come alive with the spirit of their Robert Coles is a Child Psychiatrist and researcher He has spent years interviewing children of may cultures about their spiritual lives The wonderful thing about Coles is that, to the best of his ability, he does not impose his own cultural norms and values on the children As you can imagine, a Harvard educated white man coming of age in the middle of the last century has quite a set of cultural norms and values Yet, when he interviews Hopi children they come alive with the spirit of their people in his recording of the interviews The same is true for the American, European, African and Middle Eastern children They come from all socio economic backgrounds and from many faith traditions I was consistently astounded at the power and sophistication as well as at the simplicity not simplistic of these children s understanding of their spirits, their spiritual lives and their desire to BE the best that they can be which they understood, instinctively, as something other,than the obvious bits of their world What a favor Coles did me by writing this book He helped to bring me back to my self Reality and illusion are not contradictory terms Psychic reality whose depth Freud so brilliantly unveiled cannot occur without that specifically human transitional space for play and illusion Men cannot be without illusions The type of illusion we select science, religion, or something else reveals our personal history the transitional space each of us has created between his objects and himself to find a resting place to live in pg.5 The mind s search for meaning and purpose throug Reality and illusion are not contradictory terms Psychic reality whose depth Freud so brilliantly unveiled cannot occur without that specifically human transitional space for play and illusion Men cannot be without illusions The type of illusion we select science, religion, or something else reveals our personal history the transitional space each of us has created between his objects and himself to find a resting place to live in pg.5 The mind s search for meaning and purpose through fantasy and storytelling, through a face in received legends, handed down in homes and places of worship, in songs and poems and prayers, is not to be construed necessarily or arbitrarily as a lie or as a form of self delusion The issue, as always, is that of context and intention pg.21 Children try to understand not only what is happening to them but why and in doing that, they call upon the religious life that they ve experienced, the spiritual values that they have received, as well as other sources of potential explanation pg.100 The task for those boys and girls is to weave together a particular version of a morality both personal and get tied to a religious tradition, and then the essence of the spiritual life ponder their moral successes and failures and, consequently, their prospects as human beings who will someday die pg.109 It should come as no surprise that the stories of Religious tradition get linked in the minds of millions of children to their own personal stories as they explore the nature of sexuality and regard with all, envy, or anger the power of their parents, as they wonder how solid lasting the world is, as they struggle with brothers and sisters, as they imagine themselves as actual or potential lover, what is actual or potential antagonists pg.121 In some homes where religion isexplicitly and constantly evoked rituals practiced, mandates and rules enforced spiritual values become for children part and parcel of the emotional life they struggle to consolidate for themselves pg.127 In young spirituality that passion to reach and affect the entire universe is constantly given expression as children yearn to catch a moment s flicker or glimmer of recognition from even one star, it being left to others, grown and inspired, to attemptpg.166 Children, who often seek to exert control over their unfolding lives, are frank to wonder how it is possible even for an omnipotent and omniscient God exert control over everyone s life, in the sense that He is supposed to choose who goes where after that pg.197 The advisability of changing one s point of view and, with it, one s language The doctors, child psychiatrists, I sometimes plan to some aspects of what children present to us, even as we are alert to others We are not obliged to try knowing all things or being all things to our patients Nevertheless, it is in our own best interest that we not succumb to an occupational hazard, the psychiatric version of synecdoche confusing the whole lives children with the aspect of those lives to which we are privy pg.305 The subjectivity of doctors, our social values and our personal experiences, decisively influenced the way we responded to those two children If the observers personal life determines how he or she regards a child, the observers intellectual interest are also have considerable consequence pg.306 More andthese days we pay heed to the special problems of children with disabilities, into the special problems of children who have experienced the terrible stresses of war, of forced migration from their nation, of homelessness, of the racial or religious persecution None of these ways of thinking about children need to be exclusive, of course The child s house has many mansions including a spiritual life that grows, changes, responds constantly to the other lives that, in their sum, make up the individual we call by a name and know by a story that is all his, all hers pg.308 So it is we connect with one another, move in and out of one another s lives, teach and heal and affirm one another, across space and time all of us wanderers, explorers, adventures, stragglers, and ramblers, sometimes tramps or vagabonds, even fugitives, but now and then pilgrims has children, as parents, as old ones about to take that final step, to enter that territory whose character none of us here ever knows Yet how are young we are when we start wondering about it all, the nature of the journey and of the final destination pg.335 Nobody is better qualified to write about the spiritual life of children than Robert Coles As an MD trained by William Carlos Williams, and a trailblazing expert in phenomenological research, Coles studies children by letting them tell their own stories The results are profound, especially in this book about children and spirituality Remarkable and very moving. I appreciate how thoughtful and reflective Dr Coles is about both the children he s interviewed over the years and his own internal responses And the stories he tells of children s experience of God and prayer are powerful and often beautiful The story of the 8 year old s vision of God smiling at her while white women screamed abuse at her and her fellow students during integration was stunning 19 20 I appreciate his emphasis on the idea that children often experience and understand far be I appreciate how thoughtful and reflective Dr Coles is about both the children he s interviewed over the years and his own internal responses And the stories he tells of children s experience of God and prayer are powerful and often beautiful The story of the 8 year old s vision of God smiling at her while white women screamed abuse at her and her fellow students during integration was stunning 19 20 I appreciate his emphasis on the idea that children often experience and understand far beyond what we give them credit for since we base our evaluation on that displayed in a structured situation 23 The idea of the mutuality inherent in genuine hospitality is one that has come up for me in several ways in recent years based on the work of Nell Becker Sweeden Dr Coles tells the story of a child s satisfaction when he put off, for a moment, his clinical detachment and joined her in speculating about God 42 He confesses times when he suppresses temptations to argue with kids, correcting what he believes is their wrong view of God 54 It s noteworthy that the children who visualize God as angry or vengeful or express anger at God or ministers are poor or marginalized 56 57 91 93 This book is incredibly dense I was meant to have finished it months ago but poignant and profound It also bridges a scholarly rigor with Dr Coles very personal perspective He writes from the perspective of an agnostic and worked, joined at times by his sons, who are apparently also psychiatrists, for over three decades with children all over the world from all levels of wealth or lack and from various religious traditions including none Bonus points for including and referencing a fair number of the drawings kids made of their view of heaven, hell, God, and themselves over the years Coles writes about the qualitative interviews he s conducted with children as a child psychiatrist over the years, and what children from all reaches of the globe have to say about religion, spirituality, and God. I ve been meaning to read this book for about 20 years and I finally did it Interesting exploration of how children experience the Divine in their everyday lives Coles limits his discussion to children raised in the 3 monotheistic religions children raised without religion He clearly loves his work, and although the study sometimes drags, I admire his recognition of his own shortcomings Coles respects these children and their experiences, regardless of their backgrounds He is their eager I ve been meaning to read this book for about 20 years and I finally did it Interesting exploration of how children experience the Divine in their everyday lives Coles limits his discussion to children raised in the 3 monotheistic religions children raised without religion He clearly loves his work, and although the study sometimes drags, I admire his recognition of his own shortcomings Coles respects these children and their experiences, regardless of their backgrounds He is their eager student As a result of reading this book, I ve added severalof Coles works to my to read shelf But first, I m ready for some fiction A valuable resource for me as a pastor The stories are eye opening, showing me what treasures are there for those who can listen I ve been dipping into this book for years, and each time I findinsight Truly a book to have on one s shelves. Although somewhat dated, Robert Coles The Spiritual Life of Children, kept me wanting to readandof his interviews with children, trying to come to some conclusion whether children believed in God The chapter which I liked the best was, Secular Soul Searching I did not enjoy that the other chapters were written with each group or religion of kids were interviewed separately I also felt that Coles stayed out of most of the discussion, just steering the children back onto the Although somewhat dated, Robert Coles The Spiritual Life of Children, kept me wanting to readandof his interviews with children, trying to come to some conclusion whether children believed in God The chapter which I liked the best was, Secular Soul Searching I did not enjoy that the other chapters were written with each group or religion of kids were interviewed separately I also felt that Coles stayed out of most of the discussion, just steering the children back onto the subject of their beliefs.The edition of this book was copyrighted, 199o, so, a lot has changed I was saddened when reading the chapter which pertained to the Jewish Children s believes in God, since most of this chapter dealt with a 10 year old little girl who was already diagnosed with resistant chemo lieukemia Of course this little girl had very ambivalent feelings.I found the chapter about the Muslim Children s believes in God interesting as, in the Muslim faith there are no real pictures of God.although, as in most cases, some did believe in a God and some did not.The most important characteristic which stood out was to be Moral and Truthful and do well in school Although this book was written with the target audience being adults, I feel that Cole was a little too pedantic on this later message and to generalized when it came to the various groups.Laura Cobrinik,Boonton Township, NJ In this eighth and final volume in his Pulitzer Prize winning Children of Crisis series, Coles examines the religious and spiritual lives of children By using children s own words and pictures, Coles presents their deepest feelings No book of scientific analysis, this presents spiritual philosophy and idea from an honest and readily admitted subjective point of view.Robert Coles, as a psychiatrist of and for children, exerts much effort here in describing his own self consciousness and his own psychology, as he interacts with them This is a fascinating element of the book The psychiatrist is his own patient as he interacts with the spiritual thoughts, feelings, and philosophies of the children in his care In that sense, No book of scientific analysis, this presents spiritual philosophy and idea from an honest and readily admitted subjective point of view.Robert Coles, as a psychiatrist of and for children, exerts much effort here in describing his own self consciousness and his own psychology, as he interacts with them This is a fascinating element of the book The psychiatrist is his own patient as he interacts with the spiritual thoughts, feelings, and philosophies of the children in his care In that sense, the book takes a significant auto biographical or auto analytic approach It definitely deepens the authenticity of the narrative.What about the children They really take to heart the religious teachings they receive The book centers around children receiving specific religious education or influence from adults They have their own take on it their own individual ideas of God, faith, and salvation Coles takes them seriously as thinkers who wonder about the unfathomable He realizes that their inner lives are valid and precious in themselves, not just as developmental signposts along the way to adulthood.The drawings that the author presents throughout the text enrich the book greatly They give an important further glimpse into the psychology the children own