Popular Science Monthly/Volume 54/April 1899/The Stuff That Dreams are Made of

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APPLETONS’

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.


APRIL, 1899.



THE STUFF THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF.

By HAVELOCK ELLIS.

IN our dreams we are taken back into an earlier world. It is a world much more like that of the savage, the child, the criminal, the madman, than is the world of our respectable civilized waking life. That is, in large part, it must be confessed, the charm of dreams. It is also the reason of their scientific value. Through our dreams we may realize our relation to stages of evolution we have long left behind, and by the self-vivisection of our sleeping life we may learn to know something regarding the mind of primitive man and the source of some of his beliefs, thus throwing light on the facts we obtain by ethnographic research.

This aspect of dreams has not always been kept steadily in sight, though it can no longer be said that the study of dreams is neglected. From one point of view or another—not only by the religious sect which, it appears, constitutes a "Dream Church" in Denmark, but by such carefully inquisitive investigators as those who have been trained under the inspiring influence of Prof. Stanley Hall—dreaming is seriously studied. I need not, therefore, apologize for the fact that I have during many years taken note from time to time and recorded the details and circumstances of vivid dreams when I could study their mechanism immediately on awakening, and that I have occupied myself, not with the singularities and marvels of dreaming—of which, indeed, I know little or nothing—but with their* simplest and most general laws and tendencies. A few of these laws and tendencies I wish to set forth and illustrate. The interest of such a task is twofold. It not only reveals to us an archaic world of vast emotions and imperfect thoughts, but by helping us to attain a clear knowledge of the ordinary dream processes, it enables us in advance to deal with many of the extraordinary phenomena of dreaming, sometimes presented to us by wonder-loving people as awesomely mysterious, if not indeed supernatural. The careful analysis of mere ordinary dreams frequently gives us the key to these abnormal dreams.

Perhaps the chief and most frequent tendency in the mechanism of dreaming is that by which isolated impressions from waking life flow together in dreams to be welded into a whole. There is then produced, in the strictest sense, a confusion. For instance, a lady, who in the course of the day has admired a fine baby and bought a big fish for dinner, dreams with horror and surprise of finding a fully developed baby in a large codfish. The confusion may be more remote, embodying abstract ideas and without reference to recent impressions. Thus I dreamed that my wife was expounding to me a theory by which the substitution of slates for tiles in roofing had been accompanied by, and intimately associated with, the growing diminution of crime in England. Amid my wife's rather contemptuous opposition, I opposed this theory, pointing out the picturesqueness of tiles, their cheapness, greater comfort both in winter and summer, but at the same time it occurred to me as a peculiar coincidence that tiles should have a sanguinary tinge suggestive of criminal bloodthirstiness. I need scarcely say that this bizarre theory had never suggested itself to my waking thoughts. There was, however, a real connecting link in the confusion—the redness—and it is a noteworthy point, of great significance in the interpretation of dreams, that that link, although clearly active from the first, remained subconscious until the end of the dream, when it presented itself as an entirely novel coincidence.

The best simile for the mechanism of the most usual type of dream phenomena is the magic lantern. Our dreams are like dissolving views in which the dissolving process is carried on swiftly or slowly, but always uninterruptedly, so that, at any moment, two (often indeed more) incongruous pictures are presented to consciousness which strives to make one whole of them, and sometimes succeeds and is sometimes baffled. Or we may say that the problem presented to dreaming consciousness resembles that experiment in which psychologists pronounce three wholly unconnected words, and require the subject to combine them at once in a connected sentence. It is unnecessary to add that such analogies fail to indicate the subtle complexity of the apparatus which is at work in the manufacture of dreams.

It is the presence of the strife I have just referred to between apparently irreconcilable groups of images, in the effort of overcoming the critical skepticism of sleeping consciousness—a feeble skepticism, it may be, but, as many people do not seem to recognize, a real skepticism—that the impressive emotional effects of dreams are often displayed. It sometimes happens that two irreconcilable groups of impressions reach sleeping consciousness, one flowing from a recent stratum of memories, the other from an older stratum. A typical form of this phenomenon often occurs in our dreams of dead friends. Professor Sully remarks that in dreams of the dead "awareness of the fact of death wholly disappears, or reduces itself to a vague feeling of something delightfully wonderful in the restored presence." That, however, as I have elsewhere shown,[1] is not the typical process in dreaming of the dead; although in the later dreams of those who often see their dead friends during sleep, the process is abbreviated, and the friend's presence is accepted without a struggle—a very interesting point, for it tends to show that in dreams, as in the hypnotic state, the recollection of previous similar states of consciousness persists, and the illusion is strengthened by repetition.

In typical dreams of a dead friend there is a struggle between that stream of recent memories which represents him as dead and that older stream which represents him as living. These two streams are inevitably caused by the fact of death, which sets up a barrier between them and renders one set of memories incongruous with the other set. In dreams we are not able to arrange our memories chronologically, but we are perpetually reasoning and striving to be logical. Consequently the two conflicting streams of memories break against each other in restless conflict, and sleeping consciousness endeavors to propound some theory which will reconcile them. The most frequent theories are, as I have found, either that the news of the friend's death was altogether false, or that he had been buried alive by mistake, or else that having really died his soul has returned to earth for a brief space. The mental and emotional conflict which such dreams involve renders them very vivid. They make a profound impression even after awakening, and for some sensitive persons are too sacred to speak of. Even so cautious and skeptical a thinker as Renan, when, after the death of his beloved sister Henriette, he dreamed more than once that she had been buried alive, and that he heard her voice calling to him from her grave, had to still his horrible suspicions by the consideration that she had been tended by experienced doctors. On less well-balanced minds, and more especially in primitive stages of civilization, we can scarcely doubt that such dreams, resting as they do on the foundation of consciousness, have had a powerful influence in persuading man that death is but a transient fact, and that the soul is independent of the body. I do not wish to assert that they suffice to originate the belief.[2]

While dreams are thus often formed by the molding together of more or less congruous images by a feeble but still intelligent sleeping activity, another factor is to be found in the involuntary wavering and perpetually mere meaningless change of dream imagery. Such concentration as is possible during sleep always reveals a shifting, oscillating, uncertain movement of the vision before us. We are, as it were, reading a sign-post in the dusk, or making guesses at the names of the stations as our express train flashes by the painted letters. Any one who has ever been subject to the hypnagogic imagery sometimes seen in the half-waking state, or who has ever taken mescal, knows that it is absolutely impossible to fix an image. It is this factor in dreams which causes them so often to baffle our analysis. In addition to the mere, as it were, mechanical flowing together of images and ideas, and the more or less intelligent molding of them into a whole, there is thus a failure of sleeping attention to fix definitely the final result—a failure which itself may evidently serve to carry on the dream process by suggesting new images and combinations. I dreamed once that I was with a doctor in his surgery, and saw in his hand a note from a patient saying that doctors were fools and did him no good, but he had lately taken some selvdrolla, recommended by a friend, and it had done him more good than anything, so please send him some more. I saw the note clearly, not, indeed, being conscious of reading it word by word, but only of its meaning as I looked at it; the one word I actually seemed to see, letter by letter, was the name of the drug, and that changed and fluctuated beneath my vision as I gazed at it, the final impression being selvdrolla. The doctor took from a shelf a bottle containing a bright yellow oleaginous fluid, and poured a little out, remarking that it had lately come into favor, especially in uric-acid disorders, but was extremely expensive. I expressed my surprise, having never before heard of it. Then, again to my surprise, he poured rather copiously from the bottle on to a plate of food, saying, in explanation, that it was pleasant to take and not dangerous. This was a vivid morning dream, and on awakening I had no difficulty in detecting the source of its various minor details, especially a note received on the previous evening and containing a dubious figure, the precise nature of which I had used my pocket lens to determine. But what was selvdrolla, the most vivid element of the dream? I sought vainly among my recent memories, and had almost renounced the search when I recalled a large bottle of salad oil seen on the supper table the previous evening; not, indeed, resembling the dream bottle, but containing a precisely similar fluid. Selvdrolla was evidently a corruption of "salad oil." I select this dream to illustrate the uncertainty of dream consciousness, because it also illustrates at the same time the element of certainty in dream subconsciousness. Throughout my dream I remained, consciously, in entire ignorance as to the real nature of selvdrolla, yet a latent element in consciousness was all the time presenting it to me in ever-clearer imagery.

While the confusions of dreaming are usually the union of unconnected streams of imagery which have, as it were, come from widely remote parts of the memory system to strike together at the narrow focus of shaping consciousness, in some rarer cases the fused images are really suggested by analogy and are not accidental. Maury records successions of dream imagery strung together by verbal resemblances; I have found such dreams rare, but other forms of association fairly common. Thus I once dreamed that I was with a dentist who was about to extract a tooth from a patient. Before applying the forceps he remarked to me (at the same time setting fire to a perfumed cloth at the end of something like a broomstick in order to dissipate the unpleasant odor) that it was the largest tooth he had ever seen. When extracted I found that it was indeed enormous, in the shape of a caldron, with walls an inch thick. Taking from my pocket a tape measure (such as I always carry in waking life) I founds the diameter to be not less than twenty-five inches; the interior was like roughly hewn rock, and there were sea-weeds and lichenlike growths within. The size of the tooth seemed to me large, but not extraordinarily so. It is well known that pain in the teeth, or the dentist's manipulations, cause those organs to seem of extravagant extent; in dreams this tendency rules unchecked; thus a friend once dreamed that mice were playing about in a cavity in her tooth. But for the dream first quoted there was no known dental origin; it arose solely or chiefly from a walk during the previous afternoon among the rocks of the Cornish coast at low tide, and the fantastic analogy, which had not occurred to waking consciousness, suggested itself during sleep.

The following dream illustrates an association of quite a different order: I imagined I was sitting at a window, at the top of a house, writing. As I looked up from my table I saw, with all the emotions naturally accompanying such a sight, a woman in her night dress appear at a lofty window some distance off and throw herself down. I went on writing, however, and found that in the course of my literary employment—I am not clear as to its precise nature—the very next thing I had to do was to describe exactly such a scene as I had just witnessed. I was extremely puzzled at such an extraordinary coincidence: it seemed to me wholly inexplicable. Such dreams, reduplicating the imagery in a new sensory medium, are fairly common, with me at all events, though I can not easily explain them. The association is not so much of analogy as of sensory media, in this case the visual image becoming a verbal motor image. In other cases a scene is first seen as in reality, and then in a picture. It is interesting to observe the profound astonishment with which sleeping consciousness apperceives such simple reduplication.

It sometimes happens that the confused imagery of dreams includes elements drawn from forgotten memories—that is to say, that sleeping consciousness can draw on faint impressions of the past which waking consciousness is unable to reach. This is a very important type of dream because of its bearing on the explanation of certain dream phenomena which we are sometimes asked to bow down before as supernatural. I may illustrate what I mean by the following very instructive case. I woke up recalling the chief items of a rather vivid dream: I had imagined myself in-a large old house, where the furniture, though of good quality, was ancient, and the chairs threatened to give way as one sat on them. The place belonged to one Sir Peter Bryan, a hale old gentleman who was accompanied by his son and grandson. There was a question of my buying the place from him, and I was very complimentary to the old gentleman's appearance of youthfulness, absurdly affecting not to know which was the grandfather and which the grandson. On awaking I said to myself that here was a purely imaginative dream, quite unsuggested by any definite experiences. But when I began to recall the trifling incidents of the previous day I realized that that was far from being the case. So far from the dream having been a pure effort of imagination I found that every minute item could be traced to some separate source. The name of Sir Peter Bryan alone completely baffled me; I could not even recall that I had at that time ever heard of any one called Bryan. I abandoned the search and made my notes of the dream and its sources. I had scarcely done so when I chanced to take up a volume of biographies which I had glanced through carelessly the day before. I found that it contained, among others, the lives of Lord Peterborough and George Bryan Brummel. I had certainly seen those names the day before; yet before I took up the book once again it would have been impossible for me to recall the exact name of Beau Brummel, and I should have been inclined to say that I had never even heard the name of Bryan. I repeat that I regard this as, psychologically, a most instructive dream. It rarely happens (though I could give one or two more examples from the experience of friends) that we can so clearly and definitely demonstrate the presence of a forgotten memory in a dream; in the case of old memories it is usually impossible. It so happened that the forgotten memory which in this case re-emerged to sleeping consciousness was a fact of no consequence to myself or any one else. But if it had been the whereabouts of a lost deed or a large sum of money, and I had been able to declare, as in this case, that the impression received in my dream had never to my knowledge existed in waking consciousness, and yet were to declare my faith that the dream probably had a simple and natural explanation, on every hand I should be sarcastically told that there is no credulity to match the credulity of the skeptic.

The profound emotions of waking life, the questions and problems on which we spread our chief voluntary mental energy, are not those which usually present themselves at once to dream consciousness. It is, so far as the immediate past is concerned, mostly the trifling, the incidental, the "forgotten" impressions of daily life which reappear in our dreams. The psychic activities that are awake most intensely are those that sleep most profoundly. If we preserve the common image of the "stream of consciousness," we might say that the grave facts of life sink too deeply into the flood to reappear at once in the calm of repose, while the mere light and buoyant trifles of life, flung carelessly in during the day, at once rise to the surface, to dance and mingle and evolve in ways that this familiar image of "the stream of consciousness" will not further help us to picture.

So far I have been discussing only one of the great groups into which dreams may be divided. Most investigators of dreams agree that there are two such groups, the one having its basis in memories, the other founded on actual physical sensations experienced at the moment of dreaming and interpreted by sleeping consciousness. Various names have been given to these two groups; Sully, for instance, terms them central and peripheral. Perhaps the best names, however, are those adopted by Miss Calkins, who calls the first group representative, the second group presentative.

All writers on dreaming have brought forward presentative dreams, and there can be no doubt that impressions received during sleep from any of the external senses may serve as a basis for dreams. I need only record one example to illustrate this main and most obvious group of presentative dreams. I dreamed that I was listening to a performance of Haydn's Creation, the chief orchestral part of the performance seeming to consist chiefly of the very realistic representation of the song of birds, though I could not identify the note of any particular bird. Then followed solos by male singers, whom I saw, especially one who attracted my attention by singing at the close in a scarcely audible voice. On awakening the source of the dream was not immediately obvious, but I soon realized that it was the song of a canary in another room. I had never heard Haydn's Creation, except in fragments, nor thought of it at any recent period; its reputation as regards the realistic representation of natural sounds had evidently caused it to be put forward by sleeping consciousness as a plausible explanation of the sounds heard, and the visual centers had accepted the theory.

It is a familiar fact that internal sensations also form a frequent basis of dreams. All the internal organs, when disturbed or distended or excited, may induce dreams, and especially that aggravated kind of dreaming which we call nightmare. This fact is so well known that such dreams are usually dismissed without further analysis. It is a mistake, however, so to dismiss them, for it seems probable that it is precisely here that we may find the most instructive field of dream psychology. On account of the profoundly emotional effect of such dreams they are very interesting to study, but this very element of emotion renders them somewhat obscure objects of study. I do not venture to offer with absolute certainty one or two novel suggestions which dream experiences have led me to regard as probable.

Dreams of flying have so often been recorded—from the time of St. Jerome, who mentions that he was subject to them—that they may fairly be considered to constitute one of the commonest forms of dreaming. All my life, it seems to me, I have at intervals had such dreams in which I imagined myself rhythmically bounding into the air and supported on the air. These dreams, in my case at all events, are not generally remembered immediately on awakening (seeming to indicate that they depend on a cause which does not usually come into action at the end of sleep), but they leave behind them a vague but profound sense of belief in their reality and reasonableness.[3] Several writers have attempted to explain this familiar phenomenon. Gowers considers that a spontaneous contraction of the stapedius muscle of the ear during sleep causes a sensation of falling. Stanley Hall, who has himself from childhood had dreams of flying, boldly argues that we have here "some faint reminiscent atavistic echo from the primeval sea"; and that such dreams are really survivals—psychic vestigial remains—taking us back to the far past, in which man's ancestors needed no feet to swim or float. Such a theory may accord with the profound conviction of reality that accompanies such dreams, though this may be more simply accounted for, even by mere repetition, as with dreams of the dead; but it is rather a hazardous theory, and it seems to me infinitely more probable that such dreams are a misinterpretation of actual internal sensations. My own explanation was immediately suggested by the following dream. I dreamed that I was watching a girl acrobat, in appropriate costume, who was rhythmically rising to a great height in the air and then falling, without touching the floor, though each time she approached quite close to it. At last she ceased, exhausted and perspiring, and had to be led away. Her movements were not controlled by mechanism, and apparently I did not regard mechanism as necessary. It was a vivid dream, and I awoke with a distinct sensation of oppression in the chest. In trying to account for this dream, which was not founded on any memory, it occurred to me that probably I had here the key to a great group of dreams. The rhythmic rising and falling of the acrobat was simply the objectivation of the rhythmic rising and falling of my own respiratory muscles under the influence of some slight and unknown physical oppression, and this oppression was further translated into a condition of perspiring exhaustion in the girl, just as it is recorded that a man with heart disease dreamed habitually of sweating and panting horses climbing up hill. We may recall also the curious sensation as of the body being transformed into a vast bellows which is often the last sensation felt before the unconsciousness produced by nitrous oxide gas. When we are lying down there is a real rhythmic rising and falling of the chest and abdomen, centering in the diaphragm, a series of oscillations which at both extremes are only limited by the air. Moreover, in this position we have to recognize that the whole internal organism—the circulatory, nervous, and other systems—are differently balanced from what they are in the upright position, and that a disturbance of internal equilibrium always accompanies falling. Further, it is possible that the misinterpretation is confirmed to sleeping consciousness by sensations from without, by the absence of the tactile pressure

produced by boots on the foot, or the contact of the ground with the soles; we are at once conscious of movement and conscious that the soles of the feet are in contact only with the air. Thus in normal sleep the conditions may be said to be always favorable for producing dreams of flying or of floating in the air, and any slight thoracic disturbance, even in healthy persons, arising from lungs, heart, or stomach, and serving to bring these conditions to sleeping consciousness, may determine such a dream.

There is another common class of dreams which, it seems fairly evident to me, must also find their psychological explanation chiefly in the visceral sensations—I mean dreams of murder. Many psychologists have referred with profound concern to the facility and prevalence of murder in dreams, sometimes as a proof of the innate wickedness of human nature made manifest in the unconstraint of sleep, sometimes as evidence of an atavistic return to the modes of feeling of our ancestors, the thin veneer of civilization being removed during sleep. Maudsley and Mme. de Manacéïne, for example, find evidence in such dreams of a return to primitive modes of feeling. It may well be that there is some element of truth in this view, but even if so we still have to account for the production of such dreams. For this we must, in part at least, fall back upon the logical outcome of dream confusions, owing to which, for instance, a lady who has carved a duck at dinner may a few hours later wake up exhausted by the imaginary effort of cutting off her husband's head. But I think we may find evidence that the dream of murder is often a falsely logical deduction from abnormal visceral and especially digestive sensations.

I may illustrate such dreams by the following example: A lady dreamed that her husband called her aside and said: "Now, do not scream or make a fuss; I am going to tell you something. I have to kill a man. It is necessary, to put him out of his agony." He then took her into his study and showed her a young man lying on the floor with a wound in his breast, and covered with blood. "But how will you do it?" she asked. "Never mind," he replied, "leave that to me." He took something up and leaned over the man. She turned aside and heard a horrible gurgling sound. Then all was over. "Now," he said, "we must get rid of the body. I want you to send for So-and-so's cart, and tell him I wish to drive it." The cart came. "You must help me to make the body into a parcel," he said to his wife; "give me plenty of brown paper." They made it into a parcel, and with terrible difficulty and effort the wife assisted her husband to get the body down stairs and lift it into the cart. At every stage, however, she presented to him the difficulties of the situation. But he carelessly answered all objections, said he would take the body up to the moor, among the stones, remove the brown paper, and people would think the murdered man had killed himself. He drove off and soon returned with the empty cart. "What's this blood in my cart?" asked the man to whom it belonged, looking inside. "Oh, that's only paint," replied the husband. But the dreamer had all along been full of apprehension lest the deed should be discovered, and the last thing she could recall, before waking in terror, was looking out of the window at a large crowd which surrounded the house with shouts of "Murder!" and threats.

This tragedy, with its almost Elizabethan air, was built up out of a few commonplace impressions received during the previous day, none of which impressions contained any suggestion of murder. The tragic element appears to have been altogether due to the psychic influences of indigestion arising from a supper of pheasant. To account for our oppression during sleep, sleeping consciousness assumes moral causes which alone appear to it of sufficient gravity to be the adequate cause of the immense emotions we are experiencing. Even in our waking and fully conscious states we are inclined to give the preference to moral over physical causes, quite irrespective of the justice of our preferences; in our sleeping states this tendency is exaggerated, and the reign of purely moral causes is not disturbed by even a suggestion of mere physical causation.

There is certainly no profounder emotional excitement during sleep than that which arises from a disturbed or distended stomach, and is reflected by the pneumogastric to the accelerated heart and the impeded respiration.[4] We are thereby thrown into a state of uninhibited emotional agitation, a state of agony and terror such as we rarely or never attain during waking life. Sleeping consciousness, blindfolded and blundering, a prey to these massive waves from below, and fumbling about desperately for some explanation, jumps at the idea that only the attempt to escape some terrible danger or the guilty consciousness of some awful crime can account for this immense emotional uproar. Thus the dream is suffused by a conviction which the continued emotion serves to support. We do not—it seems most simple and reasonable to conclude—experience terror because we think we have committed a crime, but we think we have committed a crime because we experience terror. And the fact that in such dreams we are far more concerned with escape from the results of crime than with any agony of remorse is not, as some have thought, due to our innate indifference to crime, but simply to the fact that our emotional state suggests to us active escape from danger rather than the more passive grief of remorse. Thus our dreams bear witness to the fact that our intelligence is often but a tool in the hands of our emotions.[5]

I have had frequent occasion to refer to the objectivation of subjective sensations as a phenomenon of dreaming. It is, indeed, so frequent and so important a phenomenon that it needs some further reference. In hysteria (which by some of the most recent authorities, like Sollier, is regarded as a species of somnambulism), in "demon-possession," and many other abnormal phenomena it is well known that there is, as it were, a doubling of personality; the ego is split up into two or more parts, each of which may act as a separate personality. The literature of morbid psychology is full of extraordinary and varied cases exhibiting this splitting up of personality. But it is usually forgotten that in dreams the doubling of personality is a normal and constant phenomenon in all healthy people. In dreaming we can divide our body between ourselves and another person. Thus a medical friend dreamed that in conversation with a lady patient he found his hand resting on her knee and was unable to remove it; awakening in horror from this unprofessional situation he found his own hand firmly clasped between his knees; the hand had remained his own, the knee had become another person's, the hand being claimed, rather than the knee, on account of its greater tactile sensibility. Again, we sometimes objectify our own physical discomforts felt during sleep in the emotions of some other person, or even in some external situations. And, possibly, every dream in which there is any dramatic element is an instance of the same splitting up of personality; in our dreams we may experience shame or confusion from the rebuke or the arguments of other persons, but the persons who administer the rebuke or apply the argument are still ourselves.

When we consider that this dream process, with its perpetual dramatization of our own personality, has been going on as long as man has been man—and probably much longer, for it is evident that animals dream—it is impossible to overestimate its immense influence on human belief. Men's primitive conceptions of religion, of morals, of many of the mightiest phenomena of life, especially the more exceptional phenomena, have certainly been influenced by this constant dream experience. It is the universal primitive explanation of abnormal psychic and even physical phenomena that some other person or spirit is working within the subject of the abnormal experience. Certainly dreaming is* not the sole source of such conceptions, but they could scarcely have been found convincing, and possibly could not ever have arisen, among races who were wholly devoid of dream experiences. A large part of all progress in psychological knowledge, and, indeed, a large part of civilization itself, lies in realizing that the apparently objective is really subjective, that the angels and demons and geniuses of all sorts that seemed at first to take possession of the feeble and vacant individuality are themselves but modes of action of marvelously rich and varied personalities. But in our dreams we are brought back into the magic circle of early culture, and we shrink and shudder in the presence of imaginative phantoms that are built up of our own thoughts and emotions, and are really our own flesh.

There is one other general characteristic of dreams that is worth noting, because its significance is not usually recognized. In dreams we are always reasoning. It is sometimes imagined that reason is in abeyance during sleep. So far from this being the case, we may almost be said to reason much more during sleep than when we are awake. That our reasoning is bad, even preposterous, that it constantly ignores the most elementary facts of waking life, scarcely affects the question. All dreaming is a process of reasoning. That artful confusion of ideas and images which at the outset I referred to as the most constant feature of dream mechanism is nothing but a process of reasoning, a perpetual effort to argue out harmoniously the absurdly limited and incongruous data present to sleeping consciousness. Binet, grounding his conclusions on hypnotic experiments, has very justly determined that reasoning is the fundamental part of all thinking, the very texture of thought. It is founded on perception itself, which already contains all the elements of the ancient syllogism. For in all perception, as he shows, there is a succession of three images, of which the first fuses with the second, which in its turn suggests the third. Now this establishment of new associations, this construction of images, which, as we may easily convince ourselves, is precisely what takes place in dreaming, is reasoning itself. Reasoning is a synthesis of images suggested by resemblance and contiguity, indeed a sort of logical vision, more intense even than actual vision, since it produces hallucinations. To reasoning all forms of mental activity may finally be reduced; mind, as Wundt has said, is a thing that reasons. When we apply these general statements to dreaming, we may see that the whole phenomenon of dreaming is really the same process of image-formation, based on resemblance and contiguity, which is at the basis of reasoning. Every dream is the outcome of this strenuous, wide-ranging instinct to reason. The supposed "imaginative faculty," regarded as so highly active during sleep, is simply the inevitable play of this automatic logic. The characteristic of the reasoning of dreams is that it is unusually bad, and this badness is due chiefly to the absence of memory elements that would be present to waking consciousness, and to the absence of sensory elements to check the false reasoning which without them appears to us conclusive. That is to say—to fall back on the excellent generalization which Parish has elaborately applied to all forms of hallucination—there is a process of dissociation by which ordinary channels of association are temporarily blocked and the conditions prepared for the formation of the hallucination. It is, as Parish has argued, in sleep and in those sleep-resembling states called hypnagogic that a condition of dissociation leading to hallucination is most apt to occur.

The following dream illustrates the part played by dissociation: A lady dreamed that an acquaintance wished to send a small sum of money to a person in Ireland. She rashly offered to take it over to Ireland. On arriving home she began to repent of her promise, as the weather was extremely wild and cold. She began, however, to make preparations for dressing warmly, and went to consult an Irish friend, who said she would have to be floated over to Ireland tightly jammed in a crab basket. On returning home she fully discussed the matter with her husband, who thought it would be folly to undertake such a journey, and she finally relinquished it, with great relief. In this dream—the elements of which could all be accounted for—the association between sending money and postal orders which would at once occur to waking consciousness was closed; consciousness was a prey to such suggestions as reached it, but on the basis of these suggestions it reasoned and concluded quite sagaciously. The phenomena of dreaming furnish a delightful illustration of the fact that reasoning, in its rough form, is only the crudest and most elementary form of intellectual operation, and that the finer forms of thinking only become possible when we hold in check this tendency to reason. "All the thinking in the world," as Goethe puts it, "will not lead us to thought."

It is in such characteristics as these—at once primitive, childlike, and insane—that we may find the charm of dreaming. In our sleeping emotional life we are much more like ourselves than we are in our sleeping intellectual life. It is a mistake to imagine that our moral and aesthetic instincts are abolished in dreams; they are often weakened, but by no means abolished. Such a result is natural when we remember that our emotions and instincts are both more primitive and less under the dominion of the external senses than are our ideas. Yet in both respects we are removed a stage backward in our dreams. The emotional intensity, the absurd logic, the tendency to personification—nearly all the points I have referred to as characterizing our dreams—are the characteristics of the child, the savage, and the madman. Time and space are annihilated, gravity is suspended, and we are joyfully borne up in the air, as it were, in the arms of angels; we are brought into a deeper communion with Nature, and in his dreams a man will listen to the arguments of his dog with as little surprise as Balaam heard the reproaches of his ass. The unexpected limitations of our dream world, the exclusion of so many elements which are present even unconsciously in waking life, imparts a splendid freedom and ease to the intellectual operations of the sleeping mind, and an extravagant romance, a poignant tragedy, to our emotions. "He has never known happiness," said Lamb, speaking out of his own experience, "who has never been mad." And there are many who taste in dreams a happiness they never know when awake. In the waking moments of our complex civilized life we are ever in a state of suspense which makes all great conclusions impossible; the multiplicity of the facts of life, always present to consciousness, restrains the free play of logic (except for that happy dreamer, the mathematician) and surrounds most of our pains and nearly all our pleasures with infinite qualifications; we are tied down to a sober tameness. In our dreams the fetters of civilization are loosened, and we know the fearful joy of freedom.

At the same time it is these characteristics which make dreams a fit subject of serious study. It was not until the present century that the psychological importance of the study of insanity was recognized. So recent is the study of savage mind that the workers who have laid its foundation are yet all living. The systematic investigation of children only began yesterday. To-day our dreams begin to seem to us an allied subject of study, inasmuch as they reveal within ourselves a means of entering sympathetically into ideas and emotional attitudes belonging to narrow or ill-adjusted states of consciousness which otherwise we are now unable to experience. And they have this further value, that they show us how many abnormal phenomena—possession, double consciousness, unconscious memory, and so forth—which have often led the ignorant and unwary to many strange conclusions, really have a simple explanation in the healthy normal experience of all of us during sleep. Here, also, it is true that we ourselves and our beliefs are to some extent "such stuff as dreams are made of."



The harmonious and equitable evolution of man, says President Dabney, of the University of Tennessee, "does not mean that every man must be educated just like his fellow. The harmony is within each individual. That community is most highly educated in which each individual has attained the maximum of his possibilities in the direction of his peculiar talents and opportunities."
  1. On Dreaming of the Dead. Psychological Review, September, 1895. In this paper I reported several cases showing the nature and evolution of dreams concerning dead friends. I have since received evidence from various friends and correspondents, scientific and unscientific, of both sexes, confirming my belief in a frequency of this type of dream. Professor Binet (L'Année Psychologique, 1896) has also furnished a case in support of my view, and is seeking for further evidence.
  2. In Japan stories of the returning of the dead are very common. Lafcadio Hearn gives one as told by a Japanese which closely resembles the type of dream I am discussing. "A lover resolves to commit suicide on the grave of his sweetheart. He found her tomb and knelt before it and prayed and wept, and whispered to her that which he was about to do. And suddenly he heard her voice cry to him 'Anata!' and felt her hand upon his hand; and he turned and saw her kneeling beside him, smiling and beautiful as he remembered her, only a little pale. Then his heart leaped so that he could not speak for the wonder and the doubt and the joy of that moment. But she said: 'Do not doubt; it is really I. I am not dead. It was all a mistake. I was buried because my parents thought me dead—buried too soon. Yet you see I am not dead, not a ghost. It is I; do not doubt it!'"
  3. Many saints (Saint Ida, of Louvain, for example) claimed the power of rising into the air, and one asks one's self whether this faith may not be based on dream experiences mistranslated by a disordered brain. M. Raffaelli, the eminent French painter, who is subject to these sleeping experiences of floating on the air, confesses that they are so convincing that he has jumped out of bed on awaking and attempted to repeat the experience. "I need not tell you," he adds, "that I have never been able to succeed."
  4. Other pains and discomforts—toothache, for instance—may, however, give rise to dreams of murder.
  5. It may be added that they also present evidence—to which attention has not, I believe, been previously called—in support of the James-Lange or physiological theory of emotion, according to which the element of bodily change in emotion is the cause and not the result of the emotion.