The Quest for Conscience and the Birth of the Mind examines conscience as an as-yet-unrealized human potential, but a potential toward which human beings are naturally driven. The notion of a "mature conscience" is distinguished from classical Freudian ideas of the superego, and Reiner postulates that the two may actually represent two separate lines of development. The more primitive superego is seen as an often pathological manifestation of this natural mental potential, while the development of a mature conscience is seen to have its foundation in the development of a true or authentic self. Detailed clinical case material illustrates the difficult process of this kind of development of the self, from which a true conscience can develop.
The book examines:
- Bion's ideas regarding the relationship between religious thought and a scientific perspective,
  and its relevance to psychoanalytic work
- Distinctions between Freud's and Bion's perspectives on religion, which reveal fundamental
  differences in their views of the mind
- Obstacles to the development of a healthy conscience and how these obstacles can be
  approached psychoanalytically

"God has done an uneven piece of work [when it comes to conscience], for a large majority of men have brought with them only a modest amount of it or scarcely enough to be worth mentioning."
Sigmund Freud (1933)