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I cannot suppose that Abercrombie here means a mental impression accidentally made on mother and son at the same time. He was too good a logician not to know whither such a doctrine as that would lead. If we are to imagine all the details adduced, as the fruitless attempt to enter the front door, the entering by the back door, the going up-stairs and passing on to the paternal bedchamber, the exact terms of the question, the precise words of the reply, finally, the cessation of the dream or vision by mother and son at the very same point,-if, I say, we are to permit ourselves to interpret coincidences so numerous and minutely particular as these to be the mere effect of chance, whero will our skepticism stop? Perhaps not until we shall have persuaded ourselves, also, that this world, with all it contains, is but the result of a fortuitous combination.
But if, as is doubtless the case, Dr. Abercrombie meant to intimate that this simultaneous impression on two distant minds must have occurred in accordanco with some yet undiscovered psychological law, which it would be interesting to trace out, we may well agree with him in opinion.
It does not appear, however, that he regarded the incident in any other light than as an example of coinciding and synchronous dreams. Whether that be the true hypothesis may be questioned. In another chapter* will be adduced such evidence as I have obtained that the appearance of a living person at a greater or less distance from where that person actually is, and perhaps usually where the thoughts or affections of that person may be supposed, at the moment, to be concentrated, is a phenomenon of not infrequent occurrence. If it be admitted, it may furnish the true explanation
* See Book IV. chap. ii., on “ Apparitions of the Living.”
AN OBSCURE EXPLANATION.
of the Wilkins dream, the Goffe dream, and others similar in character.
The ingenious author of the “Philosophy of Mysterious Agents," who eschews every thing like Spiritualism, in dealing with the Wilkins narrative, of which he admits the authenticity, says, “It certainly shows a strange and hitherto unknown physical agent in or by which the brain may act even at a great distance, and produce physical results perfectly representing the cerebral action when the mind's controlling power is suspended."*
If this, as may happen, should seem to the reader somewhat obscure, let him, to aid his conceptions, take another paragraph. After copying the story itself, Mr. Rogers subjoins, “This is easily accounted for by the method we are considering this class of phenomena; and we can see no other in which there are not insuperable difficulties. In this case we have again the condition required for the play of mundane powers in reference to the brain; and that in which the brain, as a point, being irritated, may act, and by the mundane agency represent its action (as in this case) fifty miles or more distant.”+
It does not strike me that by this method of Mr. Rogers the strange phenomenon we have been considering is, as he thinks, easily accounted for. How does he account for it? The doctrine of chance, he sees, is quite untenable. The doctrine of Spiritualism he repudiates. To avoid both, he suggests that the brain of the son, in Devonshire, being in activity during the suspended volition incident to sleep, represented its action on the brain of the mother, a hundred miles off, in
* “Philosophy of Mysterious Agenta, Human and Mundane," by E. C. Rogers, Boston, 1853, p. 283.
† Work cited, pp. 284, 285.
REPRESENTATION OF CEREBRAL ACTION.
Gloucestershire; and that this represented action was due to a mundane agency strange and unknown.
To say that the two minds were, in some mode or other, placed in relation, is only an admission that the coincidence of sensations and ideas in both was not fortuitous. If, as we may freely further admit, the agency be, as Mr. Rogers alleges, strange and unknown, why assume it to be physical? And by such assumption do we account for the phenomenon,-not to say easily, but at all? Have we done more than employ vague words ?--and words, vague as they are, wbich we do not seem justified in employing? What do we know about a brain, irritated, acting physically at a hundred miles' distance? What do we mean by such a brain representing its action, at that distance, on another? What sort of mundane agency can we imagine as the instrument of such action? And if we are to esteem a mere physical agent capable of thus connecting, without regard to distance, mind with mind, what need of any hypothetical soul or spirit to account for the entire wondrous range of mental phenomena?
Here again it behooves us to ask whither, in an attempt to escape the hypothesis of spiritual agency, our steps are invited ? To the confines, it would seem, of materialism.
As the class of phenomena we have been here examining will usually be regarded as among the least credible of those connected with the subject of dreaming, I may state that the above are not the only examples on record. Kerner, in his “Seeress of Prevorst,” furnishes one, attested by himself and by a physician attending the seeress's father.* Sinclair records another;t but
* "Die Seherin von Prevorst,” by Justinus Kerner, 4th edition, Stuttgart, 1846, pp. 132 to 134.
t In his “ Satan's Invisible World Discovered,” Edinburgh, 1789. It is the story of Sir George Horton, who is stated to have dreamed that he interfered to prevent his two sons fighting a duel, and actually to have appeared to them, and prevented it, sixty miles off, at the same time.
PRESCIENCE IN DREAMS.
how good the authority is in this last case I am not ablo
An important inquiry remains unbroached. Are there any reliable cases presenting, or seeming to present, evidence that the faculty of prescience in dreams is an actual phenomenon, and that this faculty is sometimes enjoyed, as clairvoyance is said to be, specially by certain persons ? Are there-as the phrase has been used in regard to the alleged second-sight of the Scottish Highlands-seers, thus habitually gifted ?
Distinguished men have asserted that there are; Goethe, for example, in regard to his maternal grandfather. I translate from his Autobiography.
THE GRANDFATHER OF GOETHE.
“But what still increased the veneration with which we regarded this excellent old man was the conviction that he possessed the gift of prophecy, especially in regard to matters that concerned him and his. It is true that he confided the full knowledge and particulars of this faculty to no one except our grandmother; yet we children knew well enough that he was often informed, in remarkable dreams, of things that were to happen. For example, he assured his wife, at a time when he was still one of the youngest magistrates, that at the very next vacancy he would be appointed to a seat on the board of aldermen. And when, very soon after, one of the aldermen was struck with a fatal stroke of apoplexy, he ordered that, on the day when the choice was to be made by lot, the house should be arranged and every thing prepared to receive the guests coming to congratulate him on his elevation. And, sure enough, it was for him that was drawn the golden ball which decides the
THE GRANDFATHER OF GOETHE.
choice of aldermen in Frankfort. The dream which foreshadowed to him this event he confided to his wife, as follows. He found himself in session with his colleagues, and every thing was going on as usual, when an alderman (the same who afterward died) descended from his seat, came to my grandfather, politely begged him to take his place, and then left the chamber. Something similar happened on occasion of the provost's death. It was usual in such case to make great haste to fill the vacancy, seeing that there was always ground to fear that the emperor, who used to nominate the provost, would some day or other re-assert his ancient privilege. On this particular occasion the sheriff received orders at midnight to call an extra session for next morning. When, in his rounds, this officer reached my grandfather's house, he begged for another bit of candle, to replace that which had just burned down in his lantern. "Give him a whole candle,' said my grandfather to the women: “it is for me he is taking all this trouble.' The event justified his words. He was actually chosen provost. And it is worthy of notice that, the person who drew in his stead having the third and last chance, the two silver balls were drawn first, and thus the golden one remained for him at the bottom of the bag.
“His dreams were matter-of-fact, simple, and without a trace of the fantastic or the superstitious, so far, at least, as they ever became known to us. I recollect, too, that when, as a boy, I used to look over his books and papers, I often found, mixed up with memoranda about gardening, such sentences as these :- Last night * * * came to me and told me * * *, -the name and the circumstance being written in cipher. Or, again, it ran thus :—Last night I saw ***,'—the rest in characters unintelligible to me. It is further remarkable, in this connection, that certain persons who had never pos