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Whether for the notions of higher character of some
beyond reasonable doubt.* the ancients touching the dreams there be not, in exceptional cases, sufficient warrant, is a much more difficult question.†
Certain it is that the framework of many dreams is made up of suggestions derived from waking ideas or desires that have preceded them, or from occurrences that happen during their continuance and are partially perceived by the sleep-bound senses.
The ruling passion of a man's life is not unlikely to shape itself into dreams. The constant thought of the day may encroach on the quiet of the night. Thus, Columbus dreamed that a voice said to him, "God will give thee the keys of the gates of the ocean." And thus any earnest longing, experienced when we compose ourselves to sleep, may pass over into our sleeping consciousness, and be reproduced, perhaps, in some happy
* A disregard of these truths has led to fatal results. Aubrey, who will not be suspected of trusting too little to dreams, personally vouches, as will be observed, for the following:
of S- in the county of S
had a beloved daugh
"Mrs. Clter, who had been a long time ill and received no benefit from her physicians. She dreamed that a friend of hers, deceased, told her that if she gave her daughter a drench of yew pounded she would recover. She gave her the drench, and it killed her. Whereupon she grew almost distracted: her chambermaid, to compliment her and mitigate her grief, said, surely that could not kill her: she would adventure to take the same herself. She did so, and died also. This was about the year 1670 or 1671. I knew the family.”—“ Aubrey's Miscellanies," Chapter on Dreams, p. 64 of Russell Smith's reprint.
Such ideas are by no means confined to the ancients, but are to be found scattered through writings of repute in all ages. Here is an example :"That there are demoniacal dreams we have little reason to doubt. Why may there not be angelical? If there be guardian spirits, they may not be inactively about us in sleep, but may sometimes order our dreams; and many strange hints, instigations, and discourses, which are so amazing unto us, may arise from such foundations."-SIR THOMAS BROWNE: Chapter on Sleep.
Humboldt's "Cosmos," vol. i. p. 316.
DREAMS MAY BE SUGGESTED
delusion. As true to nature as graceful in art is that beautiful vision of home and its joys, described by the poet as occurring, after the battle, to the war-worn soldier,
"When sentinel stars set their watch in the sky, When thousands had sunk on the ground overpowered, The weary to sleep, and the wounded to die."
But it is worthy of remark that it is not alone dominant emotions, not mental impressions of a vivid character only, that become suggestive of dreams. Trifling occurrences, that have passed from our recollection before composing ourselves to rest, are sometimes incorporated into the visions of the night that succeeds. I find an example in my journal, under date Naples, May 12, 1857 :
"Last evening my servant informed me that a house, the second from that which I inhabit, and just across a garden on which the windows of my apartments open, was on fire, and that the furniture of several rooms was burning. As, however, the fire did not reach the outside walls, and as, during my four years' residence in Naples, where all buildings are fireproof, I had never heard of such a thing as a house burning down, I gave myself little uneasiness about it. Later I learned that the fire had been subdued; and before I went to sleep the circumstance had ceased to occupy my mind.
"Nevertheless, I had the following dream. I thought I was traversing a small town, in which a house was on fire. Thence I passed out into the open country, and arrived at a point where I had a view over a valley through which a river ran; and on the banks of that river were several large buildings. Of these I observed that two, at some distance from each other, were in flames. The sight instantly suggested to me the idea that the fires must be the work of incendiaries;
BY SLIGHT CAUSES.
since (it was thus I argued in my sleep) it was not likely that three buildings, quite disconnected, yet within a short distance of each other, should be on fire by mere accident at the same time. Is it some riot or revolution that is commencing?' was my next thought. And, in my dream, I heard several shots, as from different parts of the country, confirming (possibly creating) my idea of a popular disturbance. At this point I awoke, and, after listening a few moments, became aware that some persons were letting off fire-crackers in the street, -a common Neapolitan amusement."
The causes predisposing to such a dream are evident. I had heard, a short time before going to rest, of a house on fire; and the idea, in a modified form, was continued in my sleep. I was in a country where one lives amid daily rumors of a revolutionary outbreak: hence, probably, the suggestion as to the cause of the fires. This received confirmation from the actual detonation of the fire-crackers, which my dreaming fancy construed into a succession of musket-shots.
It is to be remarked, however, that these suggestive circumstances were by no means of a character to make much impression on my waking thoughts. I was not under the slightest apprehension about the fire; and I had lived so long amid daily reports of an impending revolution that I had ceased to ascribe to them any credit or probability. The inference seems to be, that even feeble waking impressions may become incentives to dreams.
Occasionally it has been found that dreams may be actually framed by the suggestions of those who surround the bed of the sleeping man. A remarkable example in the case of a British officer is given by Dr. Abercrombie, in which "they could produce in him any kind of dream by whispering in his ear, especially if this was done by a friend with whose voice he was fa
DREAMS INTENTIONALLY SUGGESTED.
miliar."* In this way they conducted him through the whole course of a quarrel, which ended in a duel; and finally, a pistol being placed in his hand, he discharged it, and was awakened by the report. Similar examples have been elsewhere noticed, as one of a medical student, given by Smellie, in his "Natural History;" and another, mentioned by Dr. Beattie, of a man in whose case any kind of dream could be induced by his friends gently speaking in his presence on the particular subject they wished him to dream about.
The same power seems, at times, to be exercised by a magnetizer over one whom he has been in the habit of magnetizing. Foissac relates of his somnambule, Mademoiselle Cœline, that, in her natural sleep, he could not only lead her on to dream whatever he pleased, but also cause her to remember the dream when she awoke from it. In the case mentioned by Abercrombie, the subject preserved no distinct recollection of what he had dreamed.
There is another remarkable phenomenon connected with the suggestion of dreams, which is well worth
"Intellectual Powers," pp. 202, 203.
"Rapports et Discussions," Paris, 1833, p. 438. In actual somnambulism artificially induced, this power of suggestion is more frequent and more marked. Dr. Macario, in his work on Sleep, relates a striking example, as having occurred in his presence. It was in the case of a certain patient of a friend of his, Dr. Gromier,—a married lady, subject to hysterical affections. Finding her one day a prey to settled melancholy, he imagined the following plan to dissipate it. Having cast her into a magnetic sleep, he said to her, mentally, "Why do you lose hope? You are pious: the Holy Virgin will come to your assistance: be sure of it." Then he called up in his mind a vision, in which he pictured the ceiling of the chamber removed, groups of cherubims at the corners, and the Virgin, in a blaze of glory, descending in the midst. Suddenly the somnambule was affected with ecstasy, sunk on her knees, and exclaimed, in a transport of joy, "Ah, my God! So long-so very long-I have prayed to the Holy Virgin; and now, for the first time, she comes to my aid!"
I adduce this example in evidence how closely the phenomena of natural sleep and artificial somnambulism sometimes approach each other. It may afford a clew, also, to the true origin of many ecstatic visions.
THE PAST RECALLED IN DREAM.
noticing. It would seem that as, in what Braid calls the hypnotic condition, there is sometimes an exaltation of the intellect and of the senses, so in dreams there is occasionally a sort of refreshening and brightening of the memory. Brodie gives an example from his own experience. He says, "On one occasion I imagined I was a boy again, and that I was repeating to another boy a tale with which I had been familiar at that period of my life, though I had never read it nor thought of it since. I awoke, and repeated it to myself at the time, as I believe, accurately enough; but on the following day I had forgotten it again." When, therefore, in sleep something is recalled to us which in our waking state we had forgotten, we ought not, on that account, to conclude that there is any thing more mysterious about it than there is in many other familiar, if unexplained, operations of the mind.
We should be on our guard, also, against another class of dreams, sometimes spiritually interpreted, which lie open to the hypothesis that they may have been the result of earnest longing and expectation in the dreamer. Such a one is given in the biography of William Smellie, author of the "Philosophy of Natural History." Intimately acquainted with the Rev. William Greenlaw, they had entered into a solemn compact, in writing, signed with their blood, that whoever died first should. return, if possible, and testify to the survivor regarding the world of spirits; but if the deceased did not appear within a year after the day of his death, it was to be concluded that he could not return. Greenlaw died on the 26th of June, 1774. As the first anniversary of his death approached and he had made no sign, Smellie became extremely anxious, and even lost rest during several successive nights, in expectation of the reappearance of his friend. At last, fatigued with watching, and having fallen asleep in his armchair, Greenlaw appeared