« ForrigeFortsett »
DREAMING. Ook iphone $93. Definition of dreams and the prevalence of them. AMONG numerous other subjects in mental philosophy which claim their share of attention, that of Dreaming is entitled to its place; nor can we be certain that any
other will be found more appropriate to it than the present, especially when we consider how closely it is connected in all its forms with our sensations and conceptions. And what are Dreams? It approaches, perhaps, sufficiently near to a correct general description to say, that they are our mental states and operations while we are asleep. But the particular views which are to be taken in the examination of this subject will not fail to throw light on this general statement.
The mental states and exercises which under this name have ever excited much interest. It is undoubtedly one reason of the attention, which the subject of our dreams has ever elicited among all classes of people, that they are so prevalent; it being very difficult, if not impossible, to find a person who has not had more or less of this experience. Mr. Locke, however, tells us of an individual who never dreamed till the twenty-sixth year of his age, when he happened to have a fever, and then dreamed for the first time. Plutarch also mentions one Cleon, a friend of his, who lived to an advanced age, and yet had never dreamed once in his life; and remarks that he had heard the same thing reported of Thrasymedes.
Undoubtedly these persons dreamed very seldom, as we find that some dream much more than others; but it is possible that they may have dreamed at some time and entirely forgotten it. So that it cannot with certainty be inferred from such instances as these, that there are any who are entirely exempt from dreaming.
94. Connexion of dreams with our waking thoughts. In giving an explanation of dreams, our attention is
first arrested by the circumstance that they have an intimate relationship with our waking thoughts. The great body of our waking experiences appear in the form of trains of associations; and these trains of associated ideas, in greater or less continuity, and with greater or less variation, continue when we are asleep.-Condorcet (a name famous in the history of France) told some one, that, while he was engaged in abstruse and profound calculations, he was frequently obliged to leave them in an unfinished state, in order to retire to rest, and that the remaining steps and the conclusion of his calculations have more than once presented themselves in his dreams.Franklin also has made the remark, that the bearings and results of political events, which had caused him much trouble while awake, were not unfrequently unfolded to him in dreaming.–Mr. Coleridge says, that, as he was once reading in the Pilgrimage of Purchas an account of the palace and garden of the Khan Kubla, he fell into a sleep, and in that situation composed an entire poem of not less than two hundred lines, some of which he afterward committed to writing. The poem is entitled Kubla Khan, and begins as follows:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
Down to a sunless sea. It is evident from such statements as these, which are confirmed by the experience of almost every person, that our dreams are fashioned from the materials of the thoughts and feelings which we have while awake; in other words, they will, in a great degree, be merely the repetition of our customary and prevailing associations. So well understood is this, that President Edwards, who was no less distinguished as a mental philosopher than as a theologian, thought it a good practice to take particular notice of his dreams, in order to ascertain from them what his predominant inclinations were.
Ø 95. Dreams are often caused by our sensations. But while we are to look for the materials of our dreams in thoughts which had previously existed, we
further find that they are not beyond the influence of those slight bodily sensations of which we are susceptible even in hours of sleep. These sensations, slight as they are, are the means of introducing one set of associations rather than another.-Dugald Stewart relates an incident which may
be considered an evidence of this, that a person with whom he was acquainted had occasion, in consequence of an indisposition, to apply a bottle of hot water to his feet when he went to bed, and the consequence was, that he dreamed he was making a journey to the top of Mount Ætna, and that he found the heat of the ground almost insupportable. There was once a gentleman in the English army who was so susceptible of audible impressions while he was asleep, that his companions could make him dream of what they pleased. Once, in particular, they made him go through the whole process of a duel, from the preliminary arrangements to the firing of the pistol, which they put into his hand for that purpose, and which, when it exploded, waked him.
A cause of dreams, closely allied to the above, is the variety of sensations which we experience from the stomach, viscera, &c.Persons, for instance, who have been for a long time deprived of food, or have received it only in small quantities, hardly enough to preserve life, will be likely to have dreams in some way or other directly relating to their condition. Baron Trenck relates, that, being almost dead with hunger when confined in his dungeon, his dreams every night presented to him the well-filled and luxurious tables of Berlin, from which, as they were presented before him, he imagined he was about to relieve his hunger. “The night had far advanced,” says Irving, speaking of the voyage of Mendez to Hispaniola, “but those whose turn it was to take repose were unable to sleep, from the intensity of their thirst; or if they slept, it was to be tantalized with dreams of cool fountains and running brooks.”
The state of health also has considerable influence, not only in producing dreams, but in giving them a particular character. The remark has been made by medical men, that acute diseases, particularly fevers, are often preceded and indicated by disagreeable and oppressive dreams.
8 96. Explanation of the incoherency of dreams. (1st cause.) There is frequently much of wildness, inconsistency, and contradiction in our dreams.
The mind passes very rapidly from one object to another ; strange and singular incidents occur. If our dreams be truly the repetition of our waking thoughts, it may well be inquired, How this wildness and inconsistency happen?
The explanation of this peculiarity resolves itself into two parts.—The FIRST ground or cause of it is, that our dreams are not subjected, like our waking thoughts, to the control and regulation of surrounding objects. While we are awake, our trains of thought are kept uniform and coherent by the influence of such objects, which continually remind us of our situation, character, and duties; and which keep in check any tendency to revery. But in sleep the senses are closed; the soul is accordingly, in a great measure, excluded from the material world, and is thus deprived of the salutary regulating influence from that source.
097. Second cause of the incoherency of dreams. In the second place, when we are asleep, our associated trains of thought are no longer under the control of the
We do not mean to say that the operations of the will are suspended at such times, and that volitions have no existence. On the contrary, there is sufficient evidence of the continuance of these mental acts, in some degree at least; since volitions must have made a part of the original trains of thought which are repeated in dreaming; and furthermore, we are often as conscious of exercising or putting forth volitions when dreaming as of any other mental acts; for instance, imagining, remembering, assenting, or reasoning. When we dream that we are attacked by an enemy sword in hand, but happen, as we suppose in our dreaming experiences, to be furnished in self-defence with an instrument of the same kind, we dream that we will to exert it for our own safety and against our antagonist; and we as truly in this case put forth the mental exercise which we term volition, as, in any other, we exercise remembrance, or imagine, or reason in our sleep.
Admitting, however, that the will continues to act in sleep, it is quite evident that the volitions which are put forth by it have ceased to exercise their customary influence in respect to our mental operations. Ordinarily we are able, by means of an act of the will, to fix our attention upon some particular part of any general subject which has been suggested, or to transfer it to some other part of such subject, and thus to direct and to regulate the whole train of mental action. But the moment we are soundly asleep, this influence ceases, and hence, in connexion with the other cause already mentioned, arise the wildness, incoherency, and contradictions which exist.
A person, while he is awake, has his thoughts under such government, and is able, by the direct and indirect influence of volitions, so to regulate them as generally to bring them in the end to some conclusion, which he foresees and wishes to arrive at. But in dreaming, as all directing and governing influence, both internal and external, is at an end, our thoughts and feelings seem to be driven forward, much like a ship at sea without a rudder, wherever it may happen.
0 98. Apparent reality of dreams. (1st cause.) When objects are presented to us in dreams, we look upon them as real; and events, and combinations and series of events appear the same. We feel the same interest and resort to the same expedients as in the perplexities and enjoyments of real life. When persons are introduced as forming a part in the transactions of our dreams, we see them clearly in their living attitudes and stature; we converse with them, and hear them speak, and behold them move, as if actually present.
One reason of this greater vividness of our dreaming conceptions and of our firm belief in their reality seems to be this. The subjects upon which our thoughts are then employed, occupy the mind exclusively. We can form a clearer conception of an object with our eyes shut than we can with them open, as any one will be convinced on making the experiment; and the liveliness of the conception will increase in proportion as we can suspend the exercise of the other senses. In sound sleep, not only the