Abbildungen der Seite



come, except so far as was necessary to us, and could not be made out by human reason. For man acquainted with futurity would be both useless and miserable. For him all curiosity and enterprise would be at an end, and all hope extinguished; future evils would torment him before they came; and future good, by being anticipated, would lose every charm that surprise and novelty confer upon it. And he would sit down, motionless and stupid, in expectation of evil which he could not avoid, and of good which would give rise neither to activity nor desire. An oyster endowed with sight and hearing, consciousness and reason, would not be a more wretched creature. Even when God has foretold future events by his prophets, He has generally delivered the prophecy in terms that could not be fully understood till after it was accomplished, for otherwise it must have interfered with the principles of human action, and with the ordinary course of human affairs.

“ Is it not strange, if dreams are prophetical, that, after the experience of so many ages, we should never have found out any rational way of expounding them ? And if some are prophetical, but not all, is it not strange that every species of dream should be equally familiar to good men and to bad ? For of each character there are some superstitious people who believe in dreams, and some more rational who do not. To say that dreams are of divine origin, implies (as Aristotle has well observed) many absurdities, and this among others, that it is not to the wisest and best men they are sent, but to all indiscriminately.*

“The rules by which the vulgar pretend to interpret dreams are too ridiculous to be mentioned. They are indeed such as may make almost any dream prophetical of any event. If a dream and a subsequent occurrence be the same or similar, then they believe that the dream foretold it; if totally different, and even contrary, they still believe that the dream foretold it.

* Aristotle, “ De Divinatione per Somnia.”



“ That there may occasionally be a coincidence of a dream with a future event, is nothing more than one has reason to expect from the revolution of chances. It would indeed be wonderful, considering the variety of our thoughts in sleep, and that they all bear some analogy to the affairs of life, if this did never happen. But there is nothing more extraordinary in it than that an idiot should sometimes speak to the purpose, or an irregular clock once or twice a year point to the right hour. The same coincidence of a reality with a previous imagination is observable when we are awake, as when a friend whom we did not expect, happens to come in view the very moment we were thinking or speaking of him ; a thing so common, that both in Latin and in English, it may be expressed by a proverb.”—Dissertations, Moral and Critical.


"It is obvious, that in a prophetic dream, a person may have the conclusions of waking thoughts (he having deduced them unconsciously) re-excited and made manifest to his consciousness in a dream, under which circumstances they will appear new.

Or the thoughts may actually occur during the dream, as if in the waking state, at the same time becoming objects of consciousness, yet instinctively and automatically, and therefore with the precision of instinctive reasoning.

“ It is in this way, we suspect, that dreams have proved prophetic. Prescience,-one of the most striking and inscrutable of the instinctive faculties,--is also that which is most commonly in operation in instinctive life. Hence it is not remarkable that that faculty which dominates among all the instincts of irrational creatures, should re-appear in the human organism when it is thrown by suspension of the cerebral senses into the irrational condition. It seems strange that organized matter should have this innate prescience, but it is manifest throughout nature, from the evolution of the



gerin and the anticipatory formation of the organs necessary to successive phases of existence, to the prudent foresight of adult life. We may well ask, with Pope,

Who tanght the nations of the field and wood
To shun their poison, and to choose their food ?
Prescient, the tides or tempests to withstand,
Build on the wave, or arch beneath the sand ?
Who made the spider parallels design
Sure as De Moivre, without rule or line ?
Who bid the stork, Columbus-like explore
Heavens not his own, and worlds unknown before ?
Who calls the council, states the certain day?
Who forms the phalanx, and who points the way?

If, then, this anticipation of the future be so universally manifest in organized matter that there is no exception, can we with any inductive propriety, except the organism of man from the universal law ? We apprehend not. The simple fact that all nature anticipates a real future, is, indeed, the strongest argument in natural theology for the reality of a future state; because, since that anticipation is innate in organisms, as a law of their being, so it must needs be innate in man as a law of his being. And in what clime or region is man without a hope of future life?

Lo, the poor Indian, whose untutored mind
Sees God in clouds, or hears Him in the wind,
His soul proud science never taught to stray
Far as the solar track or milky way;
Yet simple nature to his hope has given,
Behind the cloud-topped hill a humbler heaven.

The apparently prophetic anticipation of events in dreams is, then, a natural phenomenon, and so far from being closely allied with the purely spiritual world in causation, it depends upon the special exercise of one of the most common, if not the most universal, of instincts. Our knowledge of the inner



workings of organism in reference to apparently rational prescient acts, and of the relations of the cerebro-spinal or central axis to the instinct in animals endowed with nerves and central ganglia, is so utterly imperfect, that we can advance no further, hypothetically, than the principles we have laid down. In a vast majority of prophetic dreams, the whole of the facts are not stated; consequently it is not possible to trace the dream ideas to their sources ; and even if they were it would still probably be impossible, because (as we have already shown) the mind may compare and deduce, and establish a conclusion, of which it does not become conscious until the whole series of ideas are acted in a dream. Consequently, results and events may be thus unconsciously anticipated in a waking state which appear as things done in a dream. For this reason, dreams of this kind should not be neglected.”—Journal of Psychological Medicine, vol. iv., October, 1851.



“There is surely a nearer apprehension of anything that delights us in our dreams, than in our waked senses. Without this I were unhappy; for my awaked judgment discontents me, ever whispering unto me that I am from my friend, but my friendly dreams in the night requite me and make me think I am within his arms. I thank God for my happy dreams, as I do for my good rest; for there is a satisfaction in them unto reasonable desires, and such as can be content with a fit of happiness. And surely it is not a melancholy conceit to think we are all asleep in this world, and that the conceits of this life are as mere dreams to those of the next, as the phantasms of thenight to the conceit of the day. There is an equal delusion in them both; and the one doth but seem to be the



emblem or picture of the other. We are somewhat more than ourselves in our sleeps; and the slumber of the body seems to be but the waking of the soul. It is the ligation of sense, but the liberty of reason; and our waking conceptions do not match the fancies of our sleeps. At my nativity, my ascendant was the watery sign of Scorpio. I was born in the planetary hour of Saturn, and I think I have a piece of that leaden planet in me. I am no way facetious, nor disposed for the mirth and galliardise of company; yet in one dream I can compose a whole comedy, behold the action, apprehend the jests, and laugh myself awake at the conceits thereof. Were my memory as faithful as my reason is then fruitful, I would never study but in my dreams, and this time also would I choose for my devotion; but our grosser memories have then so little hold of our abstracted understandings, that they forget the story and can only relate to our awaked souls a confused and broken tale of that which hath passed. Aristotle, who hath written a singular tract of sleep, hath not, methinks, thoroughly defined it; nor yet Galen, though he seems to have corrected it; for these noctambulos and night-walkers, though in their sleep, do yet enjoy the action of their senses. We must therefore say that there is something in us that is not in the jurisdiction of Morpheus; and that those abstracted and ecstatic souls do walk about in their own corpses, as spirits with the bodies they assume, wherein they seem to hear, see, and feel; though indeed the organs are destitute of sense, and their natures of those faculties that should inform them. Thus it is observed, that men sometimes upon the hour of departure do speak and reason among themselves. For then the soul begins to be freed from the ligaments of the body, begins to reason like herself, and to discourse in a strain above mortality.”–Religio Medici.

« ZurückWeiter »