Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

sight, but the other senses also, may be said to be closed ; and the attention is not continually diverted by the multitude of objects, which arrest the hearing and touch when we are awake.It is, therefore, a most natural supposition, that our conceptions must at such times be extremely vivid and distinct

. At § 64 we particularly remarked upon conceptions, or those ideas which we have of absent objects of perception, which possess this vividness of character. And it there appeared that they might be attended with a momentary belief even when we are awake. But as conceptions exist in the mind when we are asleep in a much higher degree distinct and vivid, what was in the former case a momentary, becomes in the latter a permanent belief. Hence everything has the appearance of reality; and the mere thoughts of the mind are virtually transformed into persons,

and varieties of situation, and events, which are regarded by us in precisely the same light as the persons, and situations, and events of our every day's experience. So

$99. Apparent reality of dreams. (2d cause.) A second circumstance which goes to account for the fact that our dreaming conceptions have the appearance of reality is, that they are not susceptible of being controlled, either directly or indirectly, by mere volition. We are so formed as almost invariably to associate reality with whatever objects of perception continue to produce in us the same effects. A hard or soft body, or any substance of a particular colour, or taste, or smell, are always, when presented to our senses, followed by certain states of mind essentially the same; and we yield the most ready and firm belief in the existence of such objects. In a word, we are disposed, from our very constitution, to believe in the existence of objects of perception, the perceptions of which do not depend on the will, but which we find to be followed by certain states of the mind, whether we choose it or not.But it is to be recollected that our dreaming thoughts are mere conceptions ; our senses being closed and shut up, and external objects not being presented to them. This is true.

But if we conclude in favour of the real existence of objects of perception, because they produce in us sensations independently of our volitions, it is but natural to suppose

that we shall believe in the reality of our conceptions also whenever they are in like manner beyond our voluntary control. They are both merely states of the mind; and if belief always attends our perceptions, wherever we find them to be independent of our choice, there is no reason why conceptions, which are ideas of absent objects of perception, should not be attended with a like belief under the same circumstances. And essentially the same circumstances exist in dreaming; that is, a train of conceptions arise in the mind, and we are not conscious at such times of being able to exercise any direction or control whatever over them. They exist, whether we will or not; and we regard them as real.

$ 100. Of our estimate of time in dreaming. Our estimate of time in dreaming differs from that when awake. Events which would take whole days or a longer time in the performance, are dreamed in a few moments. So wonderful is this compression of a multitude of transactions into the very shortest period, that, when we are accidentally awakened by the jarring of a door which is opened into the room where we are sleeping, we sometimes dream of depredations by thieves or destruction by fire in the very instant of our awaking:-“A friend of mine,” says Dr. Abercrombie, “ dreamed that he crossed the Atlantic, and spent a fortnight in America. In embarking on his return, he fell into the sea; and, having awoke with the fright, discovered that he had not been asleep above ten minutes.” Count Lavallette, who some years since was condemned to death in France, relates a dream which occurred during his imprisonment as follows. “ One night while I was asleep, the clock of the Palais de Justice struck twelve and awoke me. I heard the gate open to relieve the sentry; but I fell asleep again immediately. In this sleep I dreamed that I was standing in the Rue St. Honoré, at the corner of the Rue de l'Echelle. A melancholy darkness spread around me; all was still ; nevertheless, a low and uncertain sound soon arose. All of a sudden, I perceived at the bottom of the street, and

me.

advancing towards me, a troop of cavalry, the men and horses, however, all flayed. This horrible troop continued passing in a rapid gallop, and casting frightful looks on me. Their march, I thought, continued for five hours; and they were followed by an immense number of artillery-wagons full of bleeding

corpses, whose limbs still quivered; a disgusting smell of blood and bitumen almost choked

At length, the iron gate of the prison shutting with great force, awoke me again. I made my repeater strike; it was no more than midnight, so that the horrible phantasmagoria had lasted no more than two or three minutes; that is to say, the time necessary for relieving the sentry and shutting the gate. The cold was severe and the watchword short. The next day the turnkey confirmed my calculations."

Our dreams will not unfrequently go through all the particulars of some long journey, or of some military expedition, or of a circumnavigation of the globe, or of other long and perilous undertakings, in a less number of hours than it took weeks, or months, or even years in the actual performance of them. We go from land to land, and from city to city, and into desert places; we experience transitions from joy to sorrow and from poverty to wealth; we are occupied in the scenes and transactions of many long months; and then our slumbers are scattered, and behold, they are the doings of a fleeting watch of the night!

Ø 101. Explanation of the preceding statements. This striking circumstance in the history of our dreams is generally explained by supposing that our thoughts, as they successively occupy the mind, are more rapid than while we are awake. But their rapidity is at all times very great ; so much so, that, in a few moments, crowds of ideas pass through the mind which it would take a long time to utter, and a far longer time would it take to perform all the transactions which they concern. This explanation, therefore, is not satisfactory, for our thoughts are oftentimes equally rapid in our waking moments.

The true reason, we apprehend, is to be found in those preceding sections which took under examination the ap

parent reality of dreams. Our conceptions in dreaming are considered by us real; every thought is an action; every idea is an event; and successive states of mind are successive actions and successive events. He who in his sleep has the conception of all the particulars of a long military expedition or of a circumnavigation of the globe, seems to himself to have actually experienced all the various and multiplied fortunes of the one and the other. Hence what appears to be the real time in dreams, but is only the apparent time, will not be that which is sufficient for the mere thought, but that which is necessary for the successive actions.

“Something perfectly analogous to this may be remarked,” says Mr. Stewart, “ in the perceptions we obtain by the sense of sight.* When I look into a showbox where the deception is imperfect, I see only a set of paltry daubings of a few inches in diameter ; but if the representation

be executed with so much skill as to convey to me the idea of a distant prospect, every object before me swells in its dimensions in proportion to the extent of

space
which I conceive it to

оссиру; ;

and what seemed before to be shut within the limits of a small wooden frame, is magnified in my apprehension to an immense landscape of woods, rivers, and mountains.”

* Stewart's Elements, chapter on Dreaming.

« ForrigeFortsett »