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PREROGATIVES OF GREATNESS.
in all those imaginary transactions with which they are employed in dreaming.
There is a grotesque side to this faith in the supernatural origin and mission of dreams. Margaret of Navarre, a queen and woman of letters, considered striking dreams as a part of the appendages of high rank. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the French noblesse were accustomed to look upon
God as the head of the aristocracy; and it was gravely said by a lady of this persuasion, who had just been told by a friend of the death of an abandoned old member of their order, that the Divine Being “would hesitate before He decided to damn a man of that quality.” In such a spirit a certain French marquise entertained the notion that the Almighty particularly protects the great, and gives them secret forewarnings of future events, whether good or bad. Another opinion of this great lady was parallel : it was to the effect that God hears prayers couched in elegant language, in preference to those which are weighed down by heartiness or rusticity.
Catherine de Medicis dreamed of the victory of Jarnac the night before the battle was fought, she lying ill at the time of a fever at Metz; and her daughter bears this testimony :-“For myself, I declare that every signal accident of my life, happy or not, has been presaged to me by a dream, or otherwise.”
Such are samples of the opinions of people distinguished by illustrious worldly position. The following is one of the latest, as it is one of the most emphatic, illustrations of the intensity with which a belief in dreams as vehicles of supernatural power and knowledge is still held by some of the humbler classes in France. The anecdote appeared in November, 1864, in
Galignani's Messenger,” and was circulated by many English newspapers under the title of
SENDING A LETTER TO HEAVEN.
“A lady residing in the Rue de Rivoli returned some time since from a visit she had made in the department of Finisterre,
TO MY MOTHER IN HEAVEN."
bringing with her a young orphan girl, poor, but very pretty, named Yvonne S-, whom she engaged as her waiting-maid. Last month a short time after her return to Paris, the lady died. When the body had been prepared for the coffin, and was for a short time left alone, Yvonne was seen to go stealthily into the room, lift up the shroud, and then hastily leave. The first idea was that she had taken a ring which, at the express desire of the deceased, had been left on her finger. mination, however, the ring was discovered to be untouched, but a paper was seen attached with a pin to the shroud. On inspection, it was found to be a letter addressed by the young orphan to her mother, who died two years ago, and was as follows:-'My good Mother, I have to tell you that M. B-- has made me an offer of marriage. As you are no longer here, I beg you to make known to me in a dream whether I ought to marry him, and to give me your consent. I avail myself, in order to write to you, of the opportunity of my mistress, who is going to heaven.' The letter was addressed * To my Mother it heaven.' The person alluded to in the letter is one of the tradesmen of the deceased lady, who, having been struck with the good conduct of the young girl, has made her an offer of marriage."
We approach the conclusion of this part of our subject by asking the question whether God has ceased to reveal Himself and his will by dreams; does He still occasionally so manifest Himself ? Of course the question of power can be answered in only one way. We can understand the propriety of dreamrevelation during the infancy and youth of the world. Then it was fitting that revelations should be multiform : for man. kind had to be taught by instance and example that there was no side of their nature which was not en rapport with the supernatural and the divine. This truth must be an article of faith so long as humanity lasts ; but latterly it has been degraded to a considerable extent from its dignity as a practical belief, and it is now very much of a theory to which assent must be ARE DIVINE DREAMS TO BE EXPECTED NOW?
given, while—so far as dream-revelation is concerned—it is kept in the background as an elementary one, fitted especially for juvenility and for processes of education.
The question of power, we said, can be settled in only one way; for God is Lord of the universe of being-of material and ideal substances. It would be, therefore, to limit Him, to affirm that a revelation by dreams was antecedently impossible -priggish and impertinent to say that it was antecedently absurd. The unanimous voice, nemine contradicente, must be that He could so reveal Himself if He would; the general voice is, that it is possible He does; the more restricted opinion is that He does; and there is, in addition, an inner circle of persons who profess to have personal evidence, not of the possibility, not of the probability, but of the actuality of such illuminations. Such persons-following the canon of Cyprian, who, observing the edification which resulted to divers members of the congregation from revelations in sleep and dreams, was accustomed to attach a great deal of credit to them-appeal to results as evidence of divine operation. And while it must be conceded against such an argument, that in the infinite and multitudinous occurrence of dreams, it would be a wonder if some did not "come true," and there is yet much to be said, and perhaps even much to be tabulated, about the probability of improbabilia ; yet there is no room for the scorner to sit down and mock at men who appeal to beneficial results in morals and religion as an evidence that dream-agency is not yet effete in the economy of God.
CAUSES, USES, AND PHENOMENA OF DREAMS.
And Phansie, I tell you, has dreams that have wings,
We are now upon the plateau of ordinary life. It is, for the time, an indifferent matter whether exceptional dreams have anything or nothing of divine or angelic sanction; we have now to do with those dreams which are indigenous to the thinking systems of men asleep. What, then, is sleep? It is “primarily and chiefly an affection of the nervous system, in which, through exhaustion, the senses become inactive, and, as it were, dead; while at the same time, the nutritive systems and the functions essential to life, go on.” In consequence of this inactivity of the sensorium, there arise, (1) loss of consciousness, so far, at least, as regards all connection with, and relation to, external things; (2) loss of voluntary power over the physical and muscular frame; and (3) loss of voluntary control over the operations of the mind; the mind still remaining active, however, and its operations going on, uncontrolled by the will.
“The proximate cause of sleep has ever been a disputed question. Depressed nervous energy, exhausted irritability, congestion in the cerebral sinuses, afflux of blood into the pia mater, its reflex towards the heart, deposition of fresh matter in the brain, cerebral collapse, deficiency of animal spirits, vapor ETYMOLOGY OF THE WORD "DREAM."
39 quidem benignus, these and many other hypotheses may be merely convertible terms, and they explain nothing."*
Perhaps this is the place to propound another question; What is a dream ?—what is the word, and what the thing ? Etymologically the word has a scant history. In our language and its Teutonic relatives, it is a simple and radical one. One or two improbable attempts at classical derivation may be noticed. Skinner, with some ingenuity, would derive it, by metathesis, from the Latin dormire. Casaubon, with more poetry, and even less probability, from the Greek Opapa tow Biov, dreams being, as plays are, a representation
of something which does not really happen. Moses Amyraldus and Junius have each enlarged upon this conceit. Another philologer would derive it from the Celtic word trem. Such formal similarities amongst vocables of various significations, and in languages more remotely of kin to one another, are to be regarded as the result of accident rather than as being of any etymological value. Casaubon's derivation, for instance, includes a proposition to the effect that it is likely that the drama had emerged into human experience before the dream; which is inconceivable.
It will be enough for us to exhibit a few forms from which the affinities of our word dream may be understood, and from which it may be concluded that a settlement of ethnological precedence carries with it, in this case, a decision also of philological priority. Dream is an Anglo-Saxon noun, in Saxon, Spream, and in both languages having a primary meaning of melody, joy or gladness. The Dutch form is droom, the Swedish dröm, with a direct sub-assumption of idleness and vacuity; and the German traum. Dismissing the word, we may in one sentence epitomize all the current definitions of the thing. For all men are so well agreed upon this matter, that it is rather that their expressions vary, than that their ideas are dissimilar. We shall find enough contrariety of opinion by and by; but it will not be now and here. Every lexico
* " Journal of Psychological Medicine,” article The Pathology of Sleep, vol. v. 1852.