Page images

found impressions abide, and act with calm thought in the now passive mind. This mental decay slowly progresses, like the lowering of a curtain over a stage scene, until the evening twilight descends upon us, and we fall into the "sere and yellow leaf.” The rapid association of ideas is no longer manifested. The brilliant repartee, the splendid imagery, the poetic fancy which captivated, and the rapid glowing eloquence which enchanted, are no longer at our command, to exercise a magic spell over our listeners.

The functions of the brain are consciousness (sensation), volition, and thought. Sleep is an inactive state of that organ, during which its functions are partly suspended. The faculties of the brain, become wearied by their exertions in the day, and rest is necessary to recruit them during the night by means of sleep. It may thus be defined as a repose of the proper instruments of thought, by which not only these, but the powers of the body also, are refreshed. Lichtenburg truly says, "The master-piece of creation must for a time become a plant, in order to be enabled to represent for a few consecutive hours, this same master-piece of creation.” How eloquently the incomparable Shakspere has described sleep :“Sleep knits up the ravelled sleeve of care,

The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great Nature's second course,

Chief nourisher in life's feast."
Nor second the exquisite apostrophe of Young :

“Tir'd Nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep!" There is, during sleep, a suspended communion of the mind with the external world, and a continuance of vegetative life. If sleep be perfect and profound (sopor), the whole of the functions of the brain are suspended, and there is no longer sensation, movement, will, or thought: but this is perhaps never the case during health. In ordinary sleep, as a beneficent safeguard, the mind remains partly awake to

sensations. Thus, a sleeping person will draw away a limb if tickled or irritated; turn aside the head from disagreeable and pungent vapours applied to the Dostrils, &c. The power of habit over sleep is very striking. Almost any one may acquire the habit of dividing his sleep, so as to take less at night, and a portion by day. Some become accustomed to have their rest broken at short intervals; and acquire the habit of waking at the least noise. Some, like Cæsar and Napoleon, can sleep at will, and wake at certain times. In the latter case, the mind unconsciously exerts its influence. After excessive fatigue, the desire of sleep becomes imperious and invincible. Thus, some of the Russian artillerymen were found asleep at their guns, amid the hideous din and sanguinary horrors of the siege of the Redan. Sleep, where either too brief or too prolonged, is highly detrimental both to mind and body; slowly, but surely, impairing their functions.

During sleep, false impressions on the senses are of frequent occurrence (subjective), which have the air of reality, from not being corrected, as in the waking state, by the judgment. The ideas thus produced in the mind associate loosely with each other. This is dreaming

Dreaming appears nothing more than the occupation of the mind in sleep, with the pictorial world of fancy uncontrolled. That we never sleep without dreaming, is, I think, highly probable; not so much from reasoning on the unceasing presence and activity of the mind, as from the fact that whenever we are awakened we are conscious of an image just vanishing; and that we always fall asleep with dreams which we afterwards forget. As the organs of perception are, in sleep, not dead but dormant, external impressions, when strong enough to interrupt the internal play of the fancy, but not strong enough to dispel sleep, penetrate obscurely and slowly to the sensorium: the mind then lightly interweaves them with its other images. For instance, if we are awakened by a noise as of a book falling, it may happen that in our dream we imagine a shamfight, which that noise terminates as a discharge of musketry. But, you will ask, how does it occur that we conceive the firing to be the result of an event which took place before we heard it? I can suggest but two solutions to this difficult problem. Either the fancy, with the rapidity of lightning, interweaves the impression on the senses in her ready weft (which seems incredible); or, the communication being checked in sleep, the internal perception follows, only after a while, the impression on the outer organ of hearing, so that we hear two noises as it were, and have time, by the power of imagination, to conjure up the scene of the sham-fight between the two.

Our ordinary ideas of time and space are entirely in abeyance in dreams. It is common to dream of a long chain of events apparently spread over a considerable period of time-hours, even days and weeks —when the whole time of our sleep has been but a few minutes. I will give two authentic illustrations : -Dr. Gregory gives the case of a gentleman, who from a disease of the nervous system, was for a long time liable to a feeling of suffocation whenever he slept in a recumbent posture; and this was always accompanied by a dream of a skeleton grasping him by the throat. After trying several expedients in vain, he had at last a servant placed beside him, with orders to wake him whenever he sank down. On one occasion, he was attacked by the skeleton, and a severe struggle took place, which he fancied lasted nearly an hour. On reproaching his attendant for allowing him to lie so long in such a state of suffering, he was assured that he had not lain one second, but had been awakened the moment he began to sink.

A friend of Dr. Abercombie, told him that he dreamed he crossed the Atlantic, and spent a fortnight in America. In embarking on his return, he fell into

the sea; awoke with the fright, and discovered (by a cxk in the room) that he had been asleep just ten inntes.

The same writer gives a striking instance of similar dreams being produced in two minds at the same tilue, anrl fronu the same cause—an impression on the Senise of hearing. It happened at a time when there was an alarm of a French invasion. The first notice of the landing of the enemy, which was hourly expected, was to be given by a gun fired from Edinbro' Castle. The gentleman to whom the dream hapfubed, and who was a zealous volunteer, was in bed 0 night, when he dreamed of hearing the report of å vigtial gum; and immediately he was at the castle, Bitw and heard a tumultuous bustle, troops, artilleryhar It. UC., assembling. At this time he was roused liv his wife, who awoke in a fright from a similar cream, connected with the supposed firing of a gun, and the enemy's landing. The origin of this singular occurrence was discovered in the morning to be the boise produced in the room above that in which the parties slept, by the fall of a pair of tongs. Dr. Reid I-lates a case where the application of a blister to a man's head, induced a dream of falling into the hands of the red-men, who scalped him. To this class of dreams, all caused by external impressions on the stises, may be referred those remarkable cases where dreanis of a particular character may be produced by vinering in the ears of sleeping persons.

Kant-that man of profound thought-observes, " Without the salutary pain of dreams, perhaps sleep would be death." Anl, in leed, sleep destitute of alreams (itters from death only in the continuance of ty vanic life. Surely no man should commit himself fu it without prayer.

Every one when dreaming, has his own world: vi-n awake, that of others. This inner world, too, is a listinet and continued whole, not interfering with he waking world. For when awake, we scarcely remember our visions of the night; whereas, in the dreams of to-day, we remember those of yesterday.

Dreaming-mental activity of all kinds during sleep, from the faintest and least distinct vision to actual somnambulism-is, as I have already said, a phenomenon attributable to partial and uncontrolled action of the brain. We meet in books, however, with a vast amount of verbiage and false reasoning on this subject. Mr. Colquhoun argued that in dreaming, the soul is struggling to act without the body. Lord Brougham in his “Discourse on Natural Theology,” in a passage which I think very unworthy of its great author, contends, that “the soul acts the better, the more the influence of the body is withdrawn; and that dreams are a proof of this.”— Dugald Stewart has advocated similar views. I cannot subscribe to these eminent authorities. If it be true that in dreams the soul is partially unfettered, and thinks for itself, it is surely matter for grave surprise that it should, in the great majority of cases, think so oddly, so inconsistently—nut to say so depravedly—and work so much worse, than when it has the full assistance of the bodily organs. Do we not, in fact, say commonly of a man who has talked or written nonsense, that he must be dreaming? The best of us frequently commit actions in our sleep, which are not only in direct violation of all religious and moral obligations, but would subject us, if perpetrated in a waking state, to punishment from a human tribunal. Many a man is a thief and assassin in his dreams, who would shrink with horror from the contemplation of the bare possibility of his committing such crimes by day. But a wiser and better man than myself, long ago refuted, by anticipation, such absurd and fanciful doctrines. Locke in his “Essay" (book II., chap. 1), says—“If its separate thoughts be rational, then these men must say that the soul owes its perfection of rational thinking to the body; if it does not, it is a wonder that our

« EelmineJätka »