Page images
PDF
EPUB

dreams should be for the most part so frivolous and irrational, and that the soul should retain none of its more rational meditations."

From our consideration of this interesting subject, I think we may draw a very important inference, viz:-the folly and impropriety of a belief in the prophetic character of dreams. It appears almost self-evident, that the understanding, fettered as it is in dreams, can give no instruction to the understanding when in the waking state. The truly religious man—the Christian philosopher-he who loves freedom for its own sake, will pay no regard to his dreams, however interesting they may be; even if they should here and there be verified in his future life. If a man pay attention to his dreams, he confesses himself a slave to superstition, and does not act, as he ought, from his own free resolve; but like a savage, is bound by his belief in the dark decrees of fate. Nevertheless, I think dreams may become mentally, morally, and physically of importance; and for these reasons :-it is often the oldest images in the memory, which had been thrust into the background in the waking state, that principally form the subject of dreams. Through this power, then, dreams may give us historical information concerning ourselves, and we may “divine like a prophet looking backwards." As, during the absence of the sun, the countless stars not visible in the day-time appear on the dark ground of the firmament,-so, at fancy's call, the forgotten images of bye-gone days rise up, and show the mind its former shape. We may be thus enabled to make the solemn comparison of ourselves at the present time, with ourselves in earlier days.

In its physical relations, I believe dreaming viewed in a scientific, medical, not a superstitious light, may often affordd us important warnings. This idea, ancient as Hippocrates, Galen, and Albers, is one of the few not exploded by the strictness of modern

science. Dreams of a peculiar and distinct character often accompany certain morbid states of the system; and precede the attack of certain maladies. Thus dreams of blood and blood-coloured objects denote inflammatory conditions. A patient of mine, just before a severe inilammation, dreamed repeatedly of the sea, which always appeared to turn into blood. Dreams of death often precede apoplectic seizures; of fire, hæmorrhages; of water in any shape, dropsy. This is indeed a subject well worthy the impartial observation of medical practitioners.

Dreaming, carried to a diseased exteut, furnishes the phenomenon of sleep-waking, or idio-somnambulism. The sleeper, generally in his first sleep, rises softly; performs various acts; enters into conversation with the bystanders; and, after an indefinite time, returns to bed with entire composure. When he wakes, he has not the smallest recollection of what has passed. In the next fit, however, he remembers the preceding, and enacts through successive fits the part he has commenced.

The eyes are generally open, but their sense is absolutely shut. The hearing is so closed, that the discharge of firearis will not waken the dreamer; to the call of his name, however, he is always sensible. carefully at these phenomena, bearing in mind what has been said of dreaming, they appear to be an advance of that state to a diseased condition. Hartmann represents somnambulism as partial waking: but I think it is, on the contrary, a sign of a very

intense sleep. Were that philosopher's theory correct it would be very easy to wake the somnambulist; whereas it is very difficult. Even in ordinary sleep, a person who talks in his dreams is held to be in a deeper slumber than one who is silent. The obscure images present to the ordinary dreamer become to the somnambulist so vivid, as to be invested with motive power: and take the place of spontaneous impulse. That sleep-wakers are easily roused at the

If we look

sound of their own names, is perhaps because there is no other ilea so closely interwoven as this, with the feeling of our empirical personality. Goëthe furcibly says, “A man's name sticks to him all over, like Liz owu skin."

A conuition very analagous to sleep-waking, is sometirues met with in the day time; either occuring Lantaneously, or produced artifically by the agency of others. In both cases the phenomena presented of the prschical state are identical. This is the state which is called idio-magnetism, or more commainly animal magnetism. It appears to present three degrees. The first presents in essentials the onlinary phenomena of sleep-waking; from which it difers only in not being preceded by healthy sleep. The second is a state of a more profonnd absorption in self-a vet more intense sopor. The third degree gives us the surprising phenomena of clairvoyance, or the lucid trance. In this condition the subjects speak of their own accord; and also answer others -just however as some somnambulists do. The marvellous stories that are told of such individuals coming inspired with the supernatural powers of divination, the gifts of prophesy, or the faculty of psychically speeding in the twinkling of an eye to the farthest ends of the earth, serve only to amuse the enlightened, and impose on the credulous. In all really reliable cases, the visions, prophecies, &c., were wholly in accordance with the previous education, mode of thinking, and habits of the individual, and never went beyond these. This magnetic sleep represents a very profound slumber (coma), in which the vitality of the cerebral nerves appears to be paralysed; whilst the automatic vitality (unconscious) predominates. In the third degree, this latter is increased to motor action. Sympathy, which has its root in the predominance of fancy, and exists in an inverse ratio to the strength of the spontaneous impulse, obtains the mastery over the individual. The wonderful phenomena, which unquestionably sometimes occur, are the results of an unrestrained fancy, whose marvellous flights, which often seem to call new worlds from the twilight of life, will not surprise the astute psychologist-the careful student of human nature; but will solemnly warn him of the many dangers of self-delusion. A man, even in a healthy and waking state, whose fancy is too frequently unchained, can scarcely avoid those dangers. Who that has ever wandered in thought amid the brilliant visions of Goëthe, or the gorgeous Utopian dreams of Shelley, can doubt this? I have never heard any credible statement of the strictly intellectual or moral improvement of the inner man, from the state of clairvoyance. Generally, indeed, the reverse obtains. It appears to me unquestionable, that the magnetic trance is not a superior, but a more fettered condition of the mind; in which it is subject not only to the rule of its own instincts and fancy, but to the will and sway of other minds. This then must, perforce, be a partial state; the value of which is far inferior to that of conscious waking; in which the spontaneous impulse does not allow itself to be governed by mental disturbances. And, though the mind at such times may be a conjuror, it is only at the moment, and involuntarily; which entirely deprives it of all merit and all claim to our regard. For, in what consists the behest of man? Assuredly in the ennobling of his moral nature; and in free self-regulation; which, the higher it rises above all sentimentality, the more efficient it is. We should aim.chiefly at good; and this towers loftily above all the creations of fancy. I entreat you not to be deceived by the specious attractions of clairvoyance and imposture; but to believe that the waking clairvoyance of a wise, virtuous, and pious man, is superior to the magnetic trance.

One word respecting the alleged value of animal magnetism, as a curative agent. I am ready to admit that it may prove serviceable in a few scattered cases of disease. But, as a physiologist, I am justified in saying that it cannot fail to prove a most dangerous agent when indiscriminately employed (as it has already been) by persons utterly ignorant of medical science, clergymen, and others. Nothing is more prejudicial to the brain and'nervous system, than an unnatural and prolonged tension of some fueulties and powers; as is exemplified in the subjects of sleep-waking, who often lapse into epilepsy, insanity, or idiotey.

As the subject-matter of the present lecture would not be so far complete, without appending to the view of the phenomena of Life a chapter on Death, we will now conclude by casting a glance at the mind on this dark path. This glance will not discover much. For where the synthesis is inconceivable, how can analysis be possible? Here therefore we have little but conjecture. Bichat reduced the various modes of death to three, viz.—1, by exhaustion (asthenia); 2, by suffocation (asphyxia); 3, by stupor (coma). This is doubtless a correct analysis. In the death by coma only, is the consciousness suspended, so that the mind expires before the body. But in the two former and most frequent modes of departing this life, there is mental action to the last. Hearing is the last of the special senses to expire. There can be little doubt that, apart from predominant religious hope, what was uppermost in the life of the individual--most exercised and most vigorous—abides with him in his last hour. Some vision of ideal beauty would still float before the dimming eye of a Raphael; some melody would linger in the ear of a Mendelssohn: nay, a Newton, a Shakspere, a Goëthe,-might even be capable of thought in his dying moments. But in general we may take it for granted, that thought, being the dominion of the spontaniety over the functions, is the first to perish; and that death is preceded by a

« EelmineJätka »