Back to Psych Web
Back to Table of Contents
In the following pages I shall demonstrate that there is a psychological technique which makes it possible to interpret dreams, and that on the application of this technique every dream will reveal itself as a psychological structure, full of significance, and one which may be assigned to a specific place in the psychic activities of the waking state. Further, I shall endeavour to elucidate the processes which underlie the strangeness and obscurity of dreams, and to deduce from these processes the nature of the psychic forces whose conflict or cooperation is responsible for our dreams. This done, my investigation will terminate, as it will have reached the point where the problem of the dream merges into more comprehensive problems, and to solve these we must have recourse to material of a different kind.
I shall begin by giving a short account of the views of earlier writers on this subject, and of the status of the dream-problem in contemporary science; since in the course of this treatise I shall not often have occasion to refer to either. In spite of thousands of years of endeavour, little progress has been made in the scientific understanding of dreams. This fact has been so universally acknowledged by previous writers on the subject that it seems hardly necessary to quote individual opinions. The reader will find, in the works listed at the end of this work, many stimulating observations, and plenty of interesting material relating to our subject, but little or nothing that concerns the true nature of the dream, or that solves definitely any of its enigmas. The educated layman, of course, knows even less of the matter.
The conception of the dream that was held in prehistoric ages by primitive peoples, and the influence which it may have exerted on the formation of their conceptions of the universe, and of the soul, is a theme of such great interest that it is only with reluctance that I refrain from dealing with it in these pages. I will refer the reader to the well-known works of Sir John Lubbock (Lord Avebury), Herbert Spencer, E. B. Tylor, and other writers; I will only add that we shall not realize the importance of these problems and speculations until we have completed the task of dream–interpretation that lies before us.
A reminiscence of the concept of the dream that was held in primitive times seems to underlie the evaluation of the dream which was current among the peoples of classical antiquity.* They took it for granted that dreams were related to the world of the supernatural beings in whom they believed, and that they brought inspirations from the gods and demons. Moreover, it appeared to them that dreams must serve a special purpose in respect of the dreamer; that, as a rule, they predicted the future. The extraordinary variations in the content of dreams, and in the impressions which they produced on the dreamer, made it, of course, very difficult to formulate a coherent conception of them, and necessitated manifold differentiations and group-formations, according to their value and reliability. The valuation of dreams by the individual philosophers of antiquity naturally depended on the importance which they were prepared to attribute to manticism in general.
*The following remarks are based on Buchsenschutz's careful essay, Traum und Traumdeutung im Altertum (Berlin 1868).
In the two works of Aristotle in which there is mention of dreams, they are already regarded as constituting a problem of psychology. We are told that the dream is not god-sent, that it is not of divine but of demonic origin. For nature is really demonic, not divine; that is to say, the dream is not a supernatural revelation, but is subject to the laws of the human spirit, which has, of course, a kinship with the divine. The dream is defined as the psychic activity of the sleeper, inasmuch as he is asleep. Aristotle was acquainted with some of the characteristics of the dream-life; for example, he knew that a dream converts the slight sensations perceived in sleep into intense sensations ("one imagines that one is walking through fire, and feels hot, if this or that part of the body becomes only quite slightly warm"), which led him to conclude that dreams might easily betray to the physician the first indications of an incipient physical change which escaped observation during the day.*
*The relationship between dreams and disease is discussed by Hippocrates in a chapter of his famous work.
As has been said, those writers of antiquity who preceded Aristotle did not regard the dream as a product of the dreaming psyche, but as an inspiration of divine origin, and in ancient times the two opposing tendencies which we shall find throughout the ages in respect of the evaluation of the dream–life were already perceptible. The ancients distinguished between the true and valuable dreams which were sent to the dreamer as warnings, or to foretell future events, and the vain, fraudulent, and empty dreams whose object was to misguide him or lead him to destruction.
Gruppe* speaks of such a classification of dreams, citing Macrobius and Artemidorus: "Dreams were divided into two classes; the first class was believed to be influenced only by the present (or the past), and was unimportant in respect of the future; it included the enuknia (insomnia), which directly reproduce a given idea or its opposite; e.g., hunger or its satiation; and the phantasmata, which elaborate the given idea phantastically, as e.g. the nightmare, ephialtes. The second class of dreams, on the other hand, was determinative of the future. To this belonged:
This theory survived for many centuries."
*Griechische Mythologie und Religionsgeschichte, p.390.
Connected with these varying estimations of the dream was the problem of "dream-interpretation." Dreams in general were expected to yield important solutions, but not every dream was immediately understood, and it was impossible to be sure that a certain incomprehensible dream did not really foretell something of importance, so that an effort was made to replace the incomprehensible content of the dream by something that should be at once comprehensible and significant. In later antiquity Artemidorus of Daldis was regarded as the greatest authority on dream-interpretation. His comprehensive works must serve to compensate us for the lost works of a similar nature.* The pre-scientific conception of the dream which obtained among the ancients was, of course, in perfect keeping with their general conception of the universe, which was accustomed to project as an external reality that which possessed reality only in the life of the psyche. Further, it accounted for the main impression made upon the waking life by the morning memory of the dream; for in this memory the dream, as compared with the rest of the psychic content, seems to be something alien, coming, as it were, from another world. It would be an error to suppose that theory of the supernatural origin of dreams lacks followers even in our own times; for quite apart from pietistic and mystical writers- who cling, as they are perfectly justified in doing, to the remnants of the once predominant realm of the supernatural until these remnants have been swept away by scientific explanation–we not infrequently find that quite intelligent persons, who in other respects are averse from anything of a romantic nature, go so far as to base their religious belief in the existence and co-operation of superhuman spiritual powers on the inexplicable nature of the phenomena of dreams (Haffner). The validity ascribed to the dream-life by certain schools of philosophy–for example, by the school of Schelling–is a distinct reminiscence of the undisputed belief in the divinity of dreams which prevailed in antiquity; and for some thinkers the mantic or prophetic power of dreams is still a subject of debate. This is due to the fact that the explanations attempted by psychology are too inadequate to cope with the accumulated material, however strongly the scientific thinker may feel that such superstitious doctrines should be repudiated.
*For the later history of dream-interpretation in the Middle Ages consult Diepgen, and the special investigations of M. Forster, Gotthard, and others. The interpretation of dreams among the Jews has been studied by Amoli, Amram, and Lowinger, and recently, with reference to the psycho–analytic standpoint, by Lauer. Details of the Arabic methods of dream–interpretation are furnished by Drexl, F. Schwarz, and the missionary Tfinkdji. The interpretation of dreams among the Japanese has been investigated by Miura and Iwaya, among the Chinese by Secker, and among the Indians by Negelein.
To write strongly the history of our scientific knowledge of the dream- problem is extremely difficult, because, valuable though this knowledge may be in certain respects, no real progress in a definite direction is as yet discernible. No real foundation of verified results has hitherto been established on which future investigators might continue to build. Every new author approaches the same problems afresh, and from the very beginning. If I were to enumerate such authors in chronological order, giving a survey of the opinions which each has held concerning the problems of the dream, I should be quite unable to draw a clear and complete picture of the present state of our knowledge on the subject. I have therefore preferred to base my method of treatment on themes rather than on authors, and in attempting the solution of each problem of the dream I shall cite the material found in the literature of the subject.
But as I have not succeeded in mastering the whole of this literature- for it is widely dispersed, and interwoven with the literature of other subjects–I must ask my readers to rest content with my survey as it stands, provided that no fundamental fact or important point of view has been overlooked.
Until recently most authors have been inclined to deal with the subjects of sleep and dreams in conjunction, and together with these they have commonly dealt with analogous conditions of a psycho-pathological nature, and other dream-like phenomena, such as hallucinations, visions, etc. In recent works, on the other hand, there has been a tendency to keep more closely to the theme, and to consider, as a special subject, the separate problems of the dream-life. In this change I should like to perceive an expression of the growing conviction that enlightenment and agreement in such obscure matters may be attained only by a series of detailed investigations. Such a detailed investigation, and one of a special psychological nature, is expounded in these pages. I have had little occasion to concern myself with the problem of sleep, as this is essentially a physiological problem, although the changes in the functional determination of the psychic apparatus should be included in a description of the sleeping state. The literature of sleep will therefore not be considered here.
A scientific interest in the phenomena of dreams as such leads us to propound the following problems, which to a certain extent, interdependent, merge into one another.
The naive judgment of the dreamer on waking assumes that the dream- even if it does not come from another world–has at all events transported the dreamer into another world. The old physiologist, Burdach, to whom we are indebted for a careful and discriminating description of the phenomena of dreams, expressed this conviction in a frequently quoted passage (p. 474): "The waking life, with its trials and joys, its pleasures and pains, is never repeated; on the contrary, the dream aims at relieving us of these. Even when our whole mind is filled with one subject, when our hearts are rent by bitter grief, or when some task has been taxing our mental capacity to the utmost, the dream either gives us something entirely alien, or it selects for its combinations only a few elements of reality; or it merely enters into the key of our mood, and symbolizes reality." J. H. Fichte (I. 541) speaks in precisely the same sense of supplementary dreams, calling them one of the secret, self-healing benefits of the psyche. L. Strumpell expresses himself to the same effect in his Natur und Entstehung der Traume, a study which is deservedly held in high esteem. "He who dreams turns his back upon the world of waking consciousness" (p.16); "In the dream the memory of the orderly content of waking consciousness and its normal behaviour is almost entirely lost" (p. 17); "The almost complete and unencumbered isolation of the psyche in the dream from the regular normal content and course of the waking state..." (p.19).
Yet the overwhelming majority of writers on the subject have adopted the contrary view of the relation of the dream to waking life. Thus Haffner (p.19): "To begin with, the dream continues the waking life. Our dreams always connect themselves with such ideas as have shortly before been present in our consciousness. Careful examination will nearly always detect a thread by which the dream has linked itself to the experiences of the previous day." Weygandt (p.6) flatly contradicts the statement of Burdach. "For it may often be observed, apparently indeed in the great majority of dreams, that they lead us directly back into everyday life, instead of releasing us from it." Maury (p.56) expresses the same idea in a concise formula: "Nous revons de ce que nous avons vu, dit, desire, ou fait."* Jessen, in his Psychologie, published in 1855 (p.530), is rather more explicit: "The content of dreams is always more or less determined by the personality, the age, sex, station in life, education and habits, and by the events and experiences of the whole past life of the individual."
*We dream of what we have seen, said, desired, or done.
The philosopher, I. G. E. Maas, adopts the most unequivocal attitude in respect of this question (Uber die Leidenschaften, 1805): "Experience corroborates our assertion that we dream most frequently of those things toward which our warmest passions are directed. This shows us that our passions must influence the generation of our dreams. The ambitious man dreams of the laurels which he has won (perhaps only in imagination), or has still to win, while the lover occupies himself, in his dreams, with the object of his dearest hopes.... All the sensual desires and loathings which slumber in the heart, if they are stimulated by any cause, may combine with other ideas and give rise to a dream; or these ideas may mingle in an already existing dream."*
*Communicated by Winterstein to the Zentralblatt fur Psychoanalyse.
The ancients entertained the same idea concerning the dependence of the dream-content on life. I will quote Radestock (p.139): "When Xerxes, before his expedition against Greece, was dissuaded from his resolution by good counsel, but was again and again incited by dreams to undertake it, one of the old, rational dream-interpreters of the Persians, Artabanus, told him, and very appropriately, that dream-images for the most part contain that of which one has been thinking in the waking state."
In the didactic poem of Lucretius, On the Nature of Things (IV. 962), there occurs this passage:
"Et quo quisque fere studio devinctus adhaeret, aut quibus in rebus multum sumus ante morati atque in ea ratione fuit contenta magis mens, in somnis eadem plerumque videmur obire; causidici causas agere et componere leges, induperatores pugnare ac proelia obire,"... etc., etc.* Cicero (De Divinatione, II. LXVII) says, in a similar strain, as does also Maury many centuries later: "Maximeque 'reliquiae' rerum earum moventur in animis et agitantur, de quibus vigilantes aut cogitavimus aut egimus."*(2)
*And whatever be the pursuit to which one clings with devotion, whatever the things on which we have been occupied much in the past, the mind being thus more intent upon that pursuit, it is generally the same things that we seem to encounter in dreams; pleaders to plead their cause and collate laws, generals to contend and engage battle.
*(2) And especially the "remnant" of our waking thoughts and deeds move and stir within the soul.
The contradiction between these two views concerning the relation between dream life and waking life seems indeed irresolvable. Here we may usefully cite the opinion of F. W. Hildebrandt (1875), who held that on the whole the peculiarities of the dream can only be described as "a series of contrasts which apparently amount to contradictions" (p.8). "The first of these contrasts is formed by the strict isolation or seclusion of the dream from true and actual life on the one hand, and on the other hand by the continuous encroachment of the one upon the other, and the constant dependence of the one upon the other. The dream is something absolutely divorced from the reality experienced during the waking state; one may call it an existence hermetically sealed up and insulated from real life by an unbridgeable chasm. It frees us from reality, blots out the normal recollection of reality, and sets us in another world and a totally different life, which fundamentally has nothing in common with real life...." Hildebrandt then asserts that in falling asleep our whole being, with its forms of existence, disappears "as through an invisible trapdoor." In one's dream one is perhaps making a voyage to St. Helena in order to offer the imprisoned Napoleon an exquisite vintage of Moselle. One is most affably received by the ex-emperor, and one feels almost sorry when, on waking, the interesting illusion is destroyed. But let us now compare the situation existing in the dream with the actual reality. The dreamer has never been a wine-merchant, and has no desire to become one. He has never made a sea-voyage, and St. Helena is the last place in the world that he would choose as the destination of such a voyage. The dreamer feels no sympathy for Napoleon, but on the contrary a strong patriotic aversion. And lastly, the dreamer was not yet among the living when Napoleon died on the island of St. Helena; so that it was beyond the realms of possibility that he should have had any personal relations with Napoleon. The dream- experience thus appears as something entirely foreign, interpolated between two mutually related and successive periods of time.
"Nevertheless," continues Hildebrandt, "the apparent contrary is just as true and correct. I believe that side by side with this seclusion and insulation there may still exist the most intimate interrelation. We may therefore justly say: Whatever the dream may offer us, it derives its material from reality, and from the psychic life centered upon this reality. However extraordinary the dream may seem, it can never detach itself from the real world, and its most sublime as well as its most ridiculous constructions must always borrow their elementary material either from that which our eyes have beheld in the outer world, or from that which has already found a place somewhere in our waking thoughts; in other words, it must be taken from that which we have already experienced, either objectively or subjectively."
That all the material composing the content of a dream is somehow derived from experience, that it is reproduced or remembered in the dream–this at least may be accepted as an incontestable fact. Yet it would be wrong to assume that such a connection between the dream-content and reality will be easily obvious from a comparison between the two. On the contrary, the connection must be carefully sought, and in quite a number of cases it may for a long while elude discovery. The reason for this is to be found in a number of peculiarities evinced by the faculty of memory in dreams; which peculiarities, though generally observed, have hitherto defied explanation. It will be worth our while to examine these characteristics exhaustively.
To begin with, it happens that certain material appears in the dream- content which cannot be subsequently recognized, in the waking state, as being part of one's knowledge and experience. One remembers clearly enough having dreamed of the thing in question, but one cannot recall the actual experience or the time of its occurrence. The dreamer is therefore in the dark as to the source which the dream has tapped, and is even tempted to believe in an independent productive activity on the part of the dream, until, often long afterwards, a fresh episode restores the memory of that former experience, which had been given up for lost, and so reveals the source of the dream. One is therefore forced to admit that in the dream something was known and remembered that cannot be remembered in the waking state.*
*Vaschide even maintains that it has often been observed that in one's dreams one speaks foreign languages more fluently and with greater purity than in the waking state.
Delboeuf relates from his own experience an especially impressive example of this kind. He saw in his dream the courtyard of his house covered with snow, and found there two little lizards, half-frozen and buried in the snow. Being a lover of animals he picked them up, warmed them, and put them back into the hole in the wall which was reserved especially for them. He also gave them a few fronds of a little fern which was growing on the wall, and of which he knew they were very fond. In the dream he knew the name of the plant; Asplenium ruta muralis. The dream continued returning after a digression to the lizards, and to his astonishment Delboeuf saw two other little lizards falling upon what was left of the ferns. On turning his eyes to the open fields he saw a fifth and a sixth lizard making for the hole in the wall, and finally the whole road was covered by a procession of lizards, all wandering in the same direction.
In his waking state Delboeuf knew only a few Latin names of plants, and nothing of any Asplenium. To his great surprise he discovered that a fern of this name did actually exist, and that the correct name was Asplenium ruta muraria, which the dream had slightly distorted. An accidental coincidence was of course inconceivable; yet where he got his knowledge of the name Asplenium in the dream remained a mystery to him.
The dream occurred in 1862. Sixteen years later, while at the house of one of his friends, the philosopher noticed a small album containing dried plants, such as are sold as souvenirs to visitors in many parts of Switzerland. A sudden recollection came to him: he opened the herbarium, discovered therein the Asplenium of his dream, and recognized his own handwriting in the accompanying Latin name. The connection could now be traced. In 1860, two years before the date of the lizard dream, one of his friend's sisters, while on her wedding-journey, had paid a visit to Delboeuf. She had with her at the time this very album, which was intended for her brother, and Delboeuf had taken the trouble to write, at the dictation of a botanist, the Latin name under each of the dried plants.
The same good fortune which gave this example its unusual value enabled Delboeuf to trace yet another portion of this dream to its forgotten source. One day in 1877 he came upon an old volume of an illustrated periodical, in which he found the whole procession of lizards pictured, just as he had dreamt of it in 1862. The volume bore the date 1861, and Delboeuf remembered that he had subscribed to the journal since its first appearance.
That dreams have at their disposal recollections which are inaccessible to the waking state is such a remarkable and theoretically important fact that I should like to draw attention to the point by recording yet other hypermnesic dreams. Maury relates that for some time the word Mussidan used to occur to him during the day. He knew it to be the name of a French city, but that was all. One night he dreamed of a conversation with a certain person, who told him that she came from Mussidan, and, in answer to his question as to where the city was, she replied: "Mussidan is the principal town of a district in the department of Dordogne." On waking, Maury gave no credence to the information received in his dream; but the gazetteer showed it to be perfectly correct. In this case the superior knowledge of the dreamer was confirmed, but it was not possible to trace the forgotten source of this knowledge.
Jessen (p.55) refers to a very similar incident, the period of which is more remote. "Among others we may here mention the dream of the elder Scaliger (Hennings, l.c., p.300), who wrote a poem in praise of the famous men of Verona, and to whom a man named Brugnolus appeared in a dream, complaining that he had been neglected. Though Scaliger could not remember that he had heard of the man, he wrote some verses in his honour, and his son learned subsequently that a certain Brugnolus had at one time been famed in Verona as a critic."
A hypermnesic dream, especially remarkable for the fact that a memory not at first recalled was afterwards recognized in a dream which followed the first, is narrated by the Marquis d'Hervey de St. Denis:* "I once dreamed of a young woman with fair golden hair, whom I saw chatting with my sister as she showed her a piece of embroidery. In my dream she seemed familiar to me; I thought, indeed, that I had seen her repeatedly. After waking, her face was still quite vividly before me, but I was absolutely unable to recognize it. I fell asleep again; the dream-picture repeated itself. In this new dream I addressed the golden-haired lady and asked her whether I had not had the pleasure of meeting her somewhere. 'Of course,' she replied; 'don't you remember the bathing-place at Pornic?' Thereupon I awoke, and I was then able to recall with certainty and in detail the incidents with which this charming dream-face was connected."
*See Vaschide, p.232.
The same author* recorded that a musician of his acquaintance once heard in a dream a melody which was absolutely new to him. Not until many years later did he find it in an old collection of musical compositions, though still he could not remember ever having seen it before.
I believe that Myers has published a whole collection of such hypermnesic dreams in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, but these, unfortunately, are inaccessible to me. I think everyone who occupies himself with dreams will recognize, as a very common phenomenon, the fact that a dream will give proof of the knowledge and recollection of matters of which the dreamer, in his waking state, did not imagine himself to be cognizant. In my analytic investigations of nervous patients, of which I shall speak later, I find that it happens many times every week that I am able to convince them, from their dreams, that they are perfectly well acquainted with quotations, obscene expressions, etc., and make use of them in their dreams, although they have forgotten them in their waking state. I shall here cite an innocent example of dream-hypermnesia, because it was easy to trace the source of the knowledge which was accessible only in the dream.
A patient dreamed amongst other things (in a rather long dream) that he ordered a kontuszowka in a cafe, and after telling me this he asked me what it could be, as he had never heard the name before. I was able to tell him that kontuszowka was a Polish liqueur, which he could not have invented in his dream, as the name had long been familiar to me from the advertisements. At first the patient would not believe me, but some days later, after he had allowed his dream of the cafe to become a reality, he noticed the name on a signboard at a street corner which for some months he had been passing at least twice a day.
I have learned from my own dreams how largely the discovery of the origin of individual dream-elements may be dependent on chance. Thus, for some years before I had thought of writing this book, I was haunted by the picture of a church tower of fairly simple construction, which I could not remember ever having seen. I then suddenly recognized it, with absolute certainty, at a small station between Salzburg and Reichenhall. This was in the late nineties, and the first time I had travelled over this route was in 1886. In later years, when I was already busily engaged in the study of dreams, I was quite annoyed by the frequent recurrence of the dream-image of a certain peculiar locality. I saw, in definite orientation to my own person–on my left–a dark space in which a number of grotesque sandstone figures stood out. A glimmering recollection, which I did not quite believe, told me that it was the entrance to a beer-cellar; but I could explain neither the meaning nor the origin of this dream-picture. In 1907 I happened to go to Padua, which, to my regret, I had been unable to visit since 1895. My first visit to this beautiful university city had been unsatisfactory. I had been unable to see Giotto's frescoes in the church of the Madonna dell' Arena: I set out for the church, but turned back on being informed that it was closed for the day. On my second visit, twelve years later, I thought I would compensate myself for this disappointment, and before doing anything else I set out for Madonna dell' Arena. In the street leading to it, on my left, probably at the spot where I had turned back in 1895, I discovered the place, with its sandstone figures, which I had so often seen in my dream. It was, in fact, the entrance to a restaurant garden.
One of the sources from which dreams draw material for reproduction- material of which some part is not recalled or utilized in our waking thoughts- is to be found in childhood. Here I will cite only a few of the authors who have observed and emphasized this fact:
Hildebrandt (p.23): "It has already been expressly admitted that a dream sometimes brings back to the mind, with a wonderful power of reproduction, remote and even forgotten experiences from the earliest periods of one's life."
Strumpell (p.40): "The subject becomes more interesting still when we remember how the dream sometimes drags out, as it were, from the deepest and densest psychic deposits which later years have piled upon the earliest experiences of childhood, the pictures of certain persons, places and things, quite intact, and in all their original freshness. This is confined not merely to such impressions as were vividly perceived at the time of their occurrence, or were associated with intense psychological values, to recur later in the dream as actual reminiscences which give pleasure to the waking mind. On the contrary, the depths of the dream-memory rather contain such images of persons, places, things and early experiences as either possessed but little consciousness and no psychic value whatsoever, or have long since lost both, and therefore appear totally strange and unknown, both in the dream and in the waking state, until their early origin is revealed."
Volkelt (p.119): "It is especially to be remarked how readily infantile and youthful reminiscences enter into our dreams. What we have long ceased to think about, what has long since lost all importance for us, is constantly recalled by the dream."
The control which the dream exercises over material from our childhood, most of which, as is well known, falls into the lacunae of our conscious memory, is responsible for the production of interesting hypermnesic dreams, of which I shall cite a few more examples.
Maury relates (p.92) that as a child he often went from his native city, Meaux, to the neighbouring Trilport, where his father was superintending the construction of a bridge. One night a dream transported him to Trilport and he was once more playing in the streets there. A man approached him, wearing a sort of uniform. Maury asked him his name, and he introduced himself, saying that his name was C, and that he was a bridge-guard. On waking, Maury, who still doubted the actuality of the reminiscence, asked his old servant, who had been with him in his childhood, whether she remembered a man of this name. "Of course," was the reply; "he used to be watchman on the bridge which your father was building then."
Maury records another example, which demonstrates no less clearly the reliability of the reminiscences of childhood that emerge in our dreams. M. F., who as a child had lived in Montbrison, decided, after an absence of twenty-five years, to visit his home and the old friends of his family. The night before his departure he dreamt that he had reached his destination, and that near Montbrison he met a man whom he did not know by sight, and who told him that he was M. F., a friend of his father's. The dreamer remembered that as a child he had known a gentleman of this name, but on waking he could no longer recall his features. Several days later, having actually arrived at Montbrison, he found once more the locality of his dream, which he had thought was unknown to him, and there he met a man whom he at once recognized as the M. F. of his dream, with only this difference, that the real person was very much older than his dream-image.
Here I might relate one of my own dreams, in which the recalled impression takes the form of an association. In my dream I saw a man whom I recognized, while dreaming, as the doctor of my native town. His face was not distinct, but his features were blended with those of one of my schoolmasters, whom I still meet from time to time. What association there was between the two persons I could not discover on waking, but upon questioning my mother concerning the doctor I learned that he was a one–eyed man. The schoolmaster, whose image in my dream obscured that of the physician, had also only one eye. I had not seen the doctor for thirty–eight years, and as far as I know I had never thought of him in my waking state, although a scar on my chin might have reminded me of his professional attentions.
As though to counterbalance the excessive part which is played in our dreams by the impressions of childhood, many authors assert that the majority of dreams reveal elements drawn from our most recent experiences. Robert (p.46) even declares that the normal dream generally occupies itself only with the impressions of the last few days. We shall find, indeed, that the theory of the dream advanced by Robert absolutely requires that our oldest impressions should be thrust into the background, and our most recent ones brought to the fore. However, the fact here stated by Robert is correct; this I can confirm from my own investigations. Nelson, an American author, holds that the impressions received in a dream most frequently date from the second day before the dream, or from the third day before it, as though the impressions of the day immediately preceding the dream were not sufficiently weakened and remote.
Many authors who are unwilling to question the intimate connection between the dream-content and the waking state have been struck by the fact that the impressions which have intensely occupied the waking mind appear in dreams only after they have been to some extent removed from the mental activities of the day. Thus, as a rule, we do not dream of a beloved person who is dead while we are still overwhelmed with sorrow (Delage). Yet Miss Hallam, one of the most recent observers, has collected examples which reveal the very opposite behaviour in this respect, and upholds the claims of psychological individuality in this matter.
The third, most remarkable, and at the same time most incomprehensible, peculiarity of memory in dreams is shown in the selection of the material reproduced; for here it is not, as in the waking state, only the most significant things that are held to be worth remembering, but also the most indifferent and insignificant details. In this connection I will quote those authors who have expressed their surprise in the most emphatic language.
Hildebrandt (p.11): "For it is a remarkable fact that dreams do not, as a rule, take their elements from important and far-reaching events, or from the intense and urgent interests of the preceding day, but from unimportant incidents, from the worthless odds and ends of recent experience or of the remoter past. The most shocking death in our family, the impressions of which keep us awake long into the night, is obliterated from our memories until the first moment of waking brings it back to us with distressing force. On the other hand, the wart on the forehead of a passing stranger, to whom we did not give a moment's thought once he was out of sight, finds a place in our dreams."
Strumpell (p.39) speaks of "cases in which the analysis of a dream brings to light elements which, although derived from the experiences of yesterday or the day before yesterday, were yet so unimportant and worthless for the waking state that they were forgotten soon after they were experienced. Some experiences may be the chance-heard remarks of other persons, or their superficially observed actions, or, fleeting perceptions of things or persons, or isolated phrases that we have read, etc."
Havelock Ellis (p.727): "The profound emotions of waking life, the questions and problems on which we spend 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."
It is precisely in connection with these characteristics of memory in dreams that Binz (p.45) finds occasion to express dissatisfaction with the explanations of dreams which he himself had favoured: "And the normal dream raises similar questions. Why do we not always dream of mental impressions of the day before, instead of going back, without any perceptible reason, to the almost forgotten past, now lying far behind us? Why, in a dream, does consciousness so often revive the impression of indifferent memory–pictures, while the cerebral cells that bear the most sensitive records of experience remain for the most part inert and numb, unless an acute revival during the waking state has quite recently excited them?"
We can readily understand how the strange preference shown by the dream- memory for the indifferent and therefore disregarded details of daily experience must commonly lead us altogether to overlook the dependence of dreams on the waking state, or must at least make it difficult for us to prove this dependence in any individual case. Thus it happened that in the statistical treatment of her own and her friend's dream, Miss Whiton Calkins found that 11 per cent of the entire number showed no relation to the waking state. Hildebrandt was certainly correct in his assertion that all our dream-images could be genetically explained if we devoted enough time and material to the tracing of their origin. To be sure, he calls this "a most tedious and thankless job. For most often it would lead us to ferret out all sorts of psychically worthless things from the remotest corners of our storehouse of memories, and to bring to light all sorts of quite indifferent events of long ago from the oblivion which may have overtaken them an hour after their occurrence." I must, however, express my regret that this discerning author refrained from following the path which at first sight seemed so unpromising, for it would have led him directly to the central point of the explanation of dreams.
The behaviour of memory in dreams is surely most significant for any theory of memory whatsoever. It teaches us that "nothing which we have once psychically possessed is ever entirely lost" (Scholz, p. 34); or as Delboeuf puts it, "que toute impression, meme la plus insignificante, laisse une trace inalterable, indifiniment susceptible de reparaitre au jour";* a conclusion to which we are urged by so many other pathological manifestations of mental life. Let us bear in mind this extraordinary capacity of the memory in dreams, in order the more keenly to realize the contradiction which has to be put forward in certain dream-theories to be mentioned later, which seek to explain the absurdities and incoherences of dreams by a partial forgetting of what we have known during the day.
*That every impression, even the most insignificant, leaves an ineradicable mark, indefinitely capable of reappearing by day.
It might even occur to one to reduce the phenomenon of dreaming to that of remembering, and to regard the dream as the manifestation of a reproductive activity, unresting even at night, which is an end in itself. This would seem to be in agreement with statements such as those made by Pilcz, according to which definite relations between the time of dreaming and the contents of a dream may be demonstrated, inasmuch as the impressions reproduced by the dream in deep sleep belong to the remote past, while those reproduced towards morning are of recent origin. But such a conception is rendered improbable from the outset by the manner in which the dream deals with the material to be remembered. Strumpell rightly calls our attention to the fact that repetitions of experiences do not occur in dreams. It is true that a dream will make a beginning in that direction, but the next link is wanting; it appears in a different form, or is replaced by something entirely novel. The dream gives us only fragmentary reproductions; this is so far the rule that it permits of a theoretical generalization. Still, there are exceptions in which an episode is repeated in a dream as completely as it can be reproduced by our waking memory. Delboeuf relates of one of his university colleagues that a dream of his repeated, in all its details, a perilous drive in which he escaped accident as if by miracle. Miss Calkins mentions two dreams the contents of which exactly reproduced an experience of the previous day, and in a later chapter I shall have occasion to give an example that came to my knowledge of a childish experience which recurred unchanged in a dream.*
*From subsequent experience I am able to state that it is not at all rare to find in dreams reproductions of simple and unimportant occupations of everyday life, such as packing trunks, preparing food in the kitchen, etc., but in such dreams the dreamer himself emphasizes not the character of the recollection but its "reality"–"I really did this during the day."
What is meant by dream-stimuli and dream-sources may be explained by a reference to the popular saying: "Dreams come from the stomach." This notion covers a theory which conceives the dream as resulting from a disturbance of sleep. We should not have dreamed if some disturbing element had not come into play during our sleep, and the dream is the reaction against this disturbance.
The discussion of the exciting causes of dreams occupies a great deal of space in the literature of dreams. It is obvious that this problem could have made its appearance only after dreams had become an object of biological investigation. The ancients, who conceived of dreams as divine inspirations, had no need to look for stimuli; for them a dream was due to the will of divine or demonic powers, and its content was the product of their special knowledge and intention. Science, however, immediately raised the question whether the stimuli of dreams were single or multiple, and this in turn led to the consideration whether the causal explanation of dreams belonged to the region of psychology or to that of physiology. Most authors appear to assume that disturbance of sleep, and hence dreams, may arise from various causes, and that physical as well as mental stimuli may play the part of dream-excitants. Opinions differ widely in preferring this or the other factor as the cause of dreams, and in classifying them in the order of importance.
Whenever the sources of dreams are completely enumerated they fall into the following four categories, which have also been employed in the classification of dreams: (1) external (objective) sensory stimuli; (2) internal (subjective) sensory stimuli; (3) internal (organic) physical stimuli; (4) Purely psychical sources of excitation.
The younger Strumpell, the son of the philosopher, whose work on dreams has already more than once served us as a guide in considering the problems of dreams, has, as is well known, recorded his observations of a patient afflicted with general anaesthesia of the skin and with paralysis of several of the higher sensory organs. This man would laps into sleep whenever the few remaining sensory paths between himself and the outer world were closed. When we wish to fall asleep we are accustomed to strive for a condition similar to that obtaining in Strumpell's experiment. We close the most important sensory portals, the eyes, and we endeavour to protect the other senses from all stimuli or from any change of the stimuli already acting upon them. We then fall asleep, although our preparations are never wholly successful. For we can never completely insulate the sensory organs, nor can we entirely abolish the excitability of the sensory organs themselves. That we may at any time be awakened by intenser stimuli should prove to us "that the mind has remained in constant communication with the external world even during sleep." The sensory stimuli that reach us during sleep may easily become the source of dreams.
There are a great many stimuli of this nature, ranging from those unavoidable stimuli which are proper to the state of sleep or occasionally admitted by it, to those fortuitous stimuli which are calculated to wake the sleeper. Thus a strong light may fall upon the eyes, a noise may be heard, or an odour may irritate the mucous membranes of the nose. In our unintentional movements during sleep we may lay bare parts of the body, and thus expose them to a sensation of cold, or by a change of position we may excite sensations of pressure and touch. A mosquito may bite us, or a slight nocturnal mischance may simultaneously attack more than one sense–organ. Observers have called attention to a whole series of dreams in which the stimulus ascertained on waking and some part of the dream-content corresponded to such a degree that the stimulus could be recognized as the source of the dream.
I shall here cite a number of such dreams, collected by Jessen (p. 527), which are traceable to more or less accidental objective sensory stimuli. Every noise indistinctly perceived gives rise to corresponding dream–representations; the rolling of thunder takes us into the thick of battle, the crowing of a cock may be transformed into human shrieks of terror, and the creaking of a door may conjure up dreams of burglars breaking into the house. When one of our blankets slips off us at night we may dream that we are walking about naked, or falling into water. If we lie diagonally across the bed with our feet extending beyond the edge, we may dream of standing on the brink of a terrifying precipice, or of falling from a great height. Should our head accidentally get under the pillow we may imagine a huge rock overhanging us and about to crush us under its weight. An accumulation of semen produces voluptuous dreams, and local pains give rise to ideas of suffering ill-treatment, of hostile attacks, or of accidental bodily injuries....
"Meier (Versuch einer Erklarung des Nachtwandelns, Halle, 1758, p.33) once dreamed of being attacked by several men who threw him flat on the ground and drove a stake into the earth between his first and second toes. While imagining this in his dream he suddenly awoke and felt a piece of straw sticking between his toes. The same author, according to Hemmings (Von den Traumen und Nachtwandlern, Weimar, 1784, p.258), "dreamed on another occasion, when his nightshirt was rather too tight round his neck, that he was being hanged. In his youth Hoffbauer dreamed of having fallen from a high wall, and found, on waking, that the bedstead had come apart, and that he had actually fallen on to the floor.... Gregory relates that he once applied a hot-water bottle to his feet, and dreamed of taking a trip to the summit of Mount Etna, where he found the heat of the soil almost unbearable. After having a blister applied to his head, another man dreamed of being scalped by Indians; still another, whose shirt was damp, dreamed that he was dragged through a stream. An attack of gout caused a patient to believe that he was in the hands of the Inquisition, and suffering the pains of torture (Macnish)."
The argument that there is a resemblance between the dream-stimulus and the dream-content would be confirmed if, by a systematic induction of stimuli, we should succeed in producing dreams corresponding to these stimuli. According to Macnish such experiments had already been made by Giron de Buzareingues. "He left his knee exposed and dreamed of travelling on a mail–coach by night. He remarked, in this connection, that travellers were well aware how cold the knees become in a coach at night. On another occasion he left the back of his head uncovered, and dreamed that he was taking part in a religious ceremony in the open air. In the country where he lived it was customary to keep the head always covered except on occasions of this kind."
Maury reports fresh observation on self-induced dreams of his own. (A number of other experiments were unsuccessful.)
1. He was tickled with a feather on his lips and on the tip of his nose. He dreamed of an awful torture, viz., that a mask of pitch was stuck to his face and then forcibly torn off, bringing the skin with it.
2. Scissors were whetted against a pair of tweezers. He heard bells ringing, then sounds of tumult which took him back to the days of the Revolution of 1848.
3. Eau de Cologne was held to his nostrils. He found himself in Cairo, in the shop of Johann Maria Farina. This was followed by fantastic adventures which he was not able to recall.
4. His neck was lightly pinched. He dreamed that a blister was being applied, and thought of a doctor who had treated him in childhood.
5. A hot iron was brought near his face. He dreamed that chauffeurs * had broken into the house, and were forcing the occupants to give up their money by thrusting their feet into braziers. The Duchesse d'Abrantes, whose secretary he imagined himself to be then entered the room.
*Chauffeurs were bands of robbers in the Vendee who resorted to this form of torture.
6. A drop of water was allowed to fall on to his forehead. He imagined himself in Italy, perspiring heavily, and drinking the white wine of Orvieto.
7. When the light of a candle screened with red paper was allowed to fall on his face, he dreamed of thunder, of heat, and of a storm at sea which he once witnessed in the English Channel.
Hervey, Weygandt, and others have made attempts to produce dreams experimentally.
Many have observed the striking skill of the dream in interweaving into its structure sudden impressions from the outer world, in such a manner as to represent a gradually approaching catastrophe (Hildebrandt). "In former years," this author relates, "I occasionally made use of an alarm-clock in order to wake punctually at a certain hour in the morning. It probably happened hundreds of times that the sound of this instrument fitted into an apparently very long and connected dream, as though the entire dream had been especially designed for it, as though it found in this sound its appropriate and logically indispensable climax, its inevitable denouement."
I shall presently have occasion to cite three of these alarm-clock dreams in a different connection.
Volkelt (p.68) relates: "A composer once dreamed that he was teaching a class, and was just explaining something to his pupils. When he had finished he turned to one of the boys with the question: 'Did you understand me?' The boy cried out like one possessed 'Oh, ja!' Annoyed by this, he reprimanded his pupil for shouting. But now the entire class was screaming 'Orja,' then 'Eurjo,' and finally 'Feuerjo.' He was then aroused by the actual fire alarm in the street."
Garnier (Traite des facultes de l'ame, 1865), on the authority of Radestock, relates that Napoleon I, while sleeping in a carriage, was awakened from a dream by an explosion which took him back to the crossing of the Tagliamento and the bombardment of the Austrians, so that he started up, crying, "We have been undermined."
The following dream of Maury's has become celebrated: He was ill in bed; his mother was sitting beside him. He dreamed of the Reign of Terror during the Revolution. He witnessed some terrible scenes of murder, and finally he himself was summoned before the Tribunal. There he saw Robespierre, Marat, Fouquier-Tinville, and all the sorry heroes of those terrible days; he had to give an account of himself, and after all manner of incidents which did not fix themselves in his memory, he was sentenced to death. Accompanied by an enormous crowd, he was led to the place of execution. He mounted the scaffold; the executioner tied him to the plank, it tipped over, and the knife of the guillotine fell. He felt his head severed from his trunk, and awakened in terrible anxiety, only to find that the head-board of the bed had fallen, and had actually struck the cervical vertebrae just where the knife of the guillotine would have fallen.
This dream gave rise to an interesting discussion, initiated by Le Lorrain and Egger in the Revue Philosophique, as to whether, and how, it was possible for the dreamer to crowd together an amount of dream-content apparently so large in the short space of time elapsing between the perception of the waking stimulus and the moment of actual waking.
Examples of this nature show that objective stimuli occurring in sleep are among the most firmly-established of all the sources of dreams; they are, indeed, the only stimuli of which the layman knows anything whatever. If we ask an educated person who is not familiar with the literature of dreams how dreams originate, he is certain to reply by a reference to a case known to him in which a dream has been explained after waking by a recognized objective stimulus. Science, however, cannot stop here, but is incited to further investigation by the observation that the stimulus influencing the senses during sleep does not appear in the dream at all in its true form, but is replaced by some other representation, which is in some way related to it. But the relation existing between the stimulus and the resulting dream is, according to Maury, "une affinite quelconque mais qui n'est pas unique et exclusive"* (p.72). If we read, for example, three of Hildebrandt's "alarm-clock dreams," we shall be compelled to ask why the same casual stimulus evoked so many different results, and why just these results and no others.
*A sort of relation which is, however, neither unique nor exclusive.
(p.37): "I am taking a walk on a beautiful spring morning. I stroll through the green meadows to a neighbouring village, where I see numbers of the inhabitants going to church, wearing their best clothes and carrying their hymn-books under their arms. I remember that it is Sunday, and that the morning service will soon begin. I decide to attend it, but as I am rather overheated I think I will wait in the churchyard until I am cooler. While reading the various epitaphs, I hear the sexton climbing the church- tower, and I see above me the
small bell which is about to ring for the beginning of service. For a little while it hangs motionless; then it begins to swing, and suddenly its notes resound so clearly and penetratingly that my sleep comes to an end. But the notes of the bell come from the alarm-clock."
"A second combination. It is a bright winter day; the streets are deep in snow. I have promised to go on a sleigh-ride, but I have to wait some time before I am told that the sleigh is at the door. Now I am preparing to get into the sleigh. I put on my furs, the foot-warmer is put in, and at last I have taken my seat. But still my departure is delayed. At last the reins are twitched, the horses start, and the sleigh bells, now violently shaken, strike up their familiar music with a force that instantly tears the gossamer of my dream. Again it is only the shrill note of my alarm–clock."
"Yet a third example. I see the kitchen-maid walking along the passage to the dining-room, with a pile of several dozen plates. The porcelain column in her arms seems to me to be in danger of losing its equilibrium. 'Take care,' I exclaim, 'you will drop the whole pile!' The usual retort is naturally made–that she is used to such things, etc. Meanwhile I continue to follow her with my anxious gaze, and behold, at the threshold the fragile plates fall and crash and roll across the floor in hundreds of pieces. But I soon perceive that the endless din is not really a rattling but a true ringing, and with this ringing the dreamer now becomes aware that the alarm-clock has done its duty."
The question why the dreaming mind misjudges the nature of the objective sensory stimulus has been answered by Strumpell, and in an almost identical fashion by Wundt; their explanation is that the reaction of the mind to the stimulus attacking sleep is complicated and confused by the formation of illusions. A sensory impression is recognized by us and correctly interpreted- that is, it is classed with the memory-group to which it belongs according to all previous experience if the impression is strong, clear, and sufficiently prolonged, and if we have sufficient time to submit it to those mental processes. But if these conditions are not fulfilled we mistake the object which gives rise to the impression, and on the basis of this impression we construct an illusion. "If one takes a walk in an open field and perceives indistinctly a distant object, it may happen that one will at first take it for a horse." On closer inspection the image of a cow, resting, may obtrude itself, and the picture may finally resolve itself with certainty into a group of people sitting on the ground. The impressions which the mind receives during sleep from external stimuli are of a similarly indistinct nature; they give rise to illusions because the impression evokes a greater or lesser number of memory-images, through which it acquires its psychic value. As for the question, in which of the many possible spheres of memory the corresponding images are aroused, and which of the possible associative connections are brought into play, that–to quote Strumpell again–is indeterminable, and is left, as it were, to the caprices of the mind.
Here we may take our choice. We may admit that the laws of dream-formation cannot really be traced any further, and so refrain from asking whether or not the interpretation of the illusion evoked by the sensory impression depends upon still other conditions; or we may assume that the objective sensory stimulus encroaching upon sleep plays only a modest role as a dream- source, and that other factors determine the choice of the memory-image to be evoked. Indeed, on carefully examining Maury's experimentally produced dreams, which I have purposely cited in detail, one is inclined to object that his investigations trace the origin of only one element of the dreams, and that the rest of the dream-content seems too independent and too full of detail to be explained by a single requirement, namely, that it must correspond with the element experimentally introduced. Indeed, one even begins to doubt the illusion theory, and the power of objective impressions to shape the dream, when one realizes that such impressions are sometimes subjected to the most peculiar and far-fetched interpretations in our dreams. Thus M. Simon tells of a dream in which he saw persons of gigantic stature * seated at a table, and heard distinctly the horrible clattering produced by the impact of their jaws as they chewed their food. On waking he heard the clatter of a horse's hooves as it galloped past his window. If in this case the sound of the horse's hooves had revived ideas from the memory-sphere of Gulliver's Travels, the sojourn with the giants of Brobdingnag, and the virtuous horse-like creatures–as I should perhaps interpret the dream without any assistance on the author's part–ought not the choice of a memory-sphere so alien to the stimulus to be further elucidated by other motives?
*Gigantic persons in a dream justify the assumption that the dream is dealing with a scene from the dreamer's childhood. This interpretation of the dream as a reminiscence of Gulliver's Travels is, by the way, a good example of how an interpretation should not be made. The dream-interpreter should not permit his own intelligence to operate in disregard of the dreamer's impressions.
All objections to the contrary notwithstanding, we must admit that the role of the objective sensory stimuli as producers of dreams has been indisputably established, and if, having regard to their nature and their frequency, these stimuli seem perhaps insufficient to explain all dream–pictures, this indicates that we should look for other dream-sources which act in a similar fashion. I do not know where the idea first arose that together with the external sensory stimuli the internal (subjective) stimuli should also be considered, but as a matter of fact this has been done more or less explicitly in all the more recent descriptions of the aetiology of dreams. "I believe," says Wundt (p.363), "that an important part is played in dream-illusions by those subjective sensations of sight and hearing which are familiar to us in the waking state as a luminous chaos in the dark field of the vision, and a ringing, buzzing, etc., of the ears, and in especial, subjective irritations of the retina. This explains the remarkable tendency of dreams to delude the eyes with numbers of similar or identical objects. Thus we see outspread before our eyes innumerable birds, butterflies, fishes, coloured beads, flowers, etc. Here the luminous dust in the dark field of vision has assumed fantastic forms, and the many luminous points of which it consists are embodied in our dreams in as many single images, which, owing to the mobility of the luminous chaos, are seen as moving objects. This is perhaps the reason of the dream's decided preference for the most varied animal forms, for owing to the multiplicity of such forms they can readily adapt themselves to the subjective luminous images."
The subjective sensory stimuli as a source of dreams have the obvious advantage that, unlike objective stimuli, they are independent of external accidents. They are, so to speak, at the disposal of the interpretation whenever they are required. But they are inferior to the objective sensory stimuli by the fact that their claim to the role of dream-inciters–which observation and experiment have established in the case of objective stimuli- can in their case be verified with difficulty or not at all. The main proof of the dream-inciting power of subjective sensory stimuli is afforded by the so-called hypnogogic hallucinations, which have been described by Johann Muller as "phantastic visual manifestations." They are those very vivid and changeable pictures which with many people occur constantly during the period of falling asleep, and which may linger for a while even after the eyes have been opened. Maury, who was very subject to these pictures, made a thorough study of them, and maintained that they were related to or rather identical with dream-images. This had already been asserted by Johann Muller. Maury maintains that a certain psychic passivity is necessary for their origin; that it requires a relaxation of the intensity of attention (p.59). But one may perceive a hypnogogic hallucination in any frame of mind if one falls into such a lethargy for a moment, after which one may perhaps wake up, until this oft-repeated process terminates in sleep. According to Maury, if one wakes up shortly after such an experience, it is often possible to trace in the dream the images which one has perceived before falling asleep as hypnogogic hallucinations (p.134). Thus Maury on one occasion saw a series of images of grotesque figures with distorted features and curiously dressed hair, which obtruded themselves upon him with incredible importunity during the period of falling asleep, and which, upon waking, he recalled having seen in his dream. On another occasion, while suffering from hunger, because he was subjecting himself to a rather strict diet, he saw in one of his hypnogogic states a plate, and a hand armed with a fork taking some food from the plate. In his dream he found himself at a table abundantly supplied with food, and heard the clatter of the diner's forks. On yet another occasion, after falling asleep with strained and painful eyes, he had a hypnogogic hallucination of microscopically small characters, which he was able to decipher, one by one, only with a great effort; and on waking from sleep an hour later he recalled a dream in which there was an open book with very small letters, which he was obliged to read through with laborious effort.
Not only pictures, but auditory hallucinations of words, names, etc., may also occur hypnogogically, and then repeat themselves in the dream, like an overture announcing the principal motif of the opera which is to follow.
A more recent observer of hypnogogic hallucinations, G. Trumbull Ladd, follows the same lines as Johann Muller and Maury. By dint of practice he succeeded in acquiring the faculty of suddenly arousing himself, without opening his eyes, two to five minutes after gradually falling asleep. This enabled him to compare the disappearing retinal sensations with the dream- images remaining in his memory. He assures us that an intimate relation between the two can always be recognized, inasmuch as the luminous dots and lines of light spontaneously perceived by the retina produce, so to speak, the outline or scheme of the psychically perceived dream-images. For example, a dream in which he saw before him clearly printed lines, which he read and studied, corresponded with a number of luminous spots arranged in parallel lines; or, to express it in his own words: The clearly printed page resolved itself into an object which appeared to his waking perception like part of an actual printed page seen through a small hole in a sheet of paper, but at a distance too great to permit of its being read. Without in any way underestimating the central element of the phenomenon, Ladd believes that hardly any visual dream occurs in our minds that is not based on material furnished by this internal condition of retinal irritability. This is particularly true of dreams which occur shortly after falling asleep in a dark room, while dreams occurring in the morning, near the period of waking, receive their stimulus from the objective light penetrating the eye in a brightly-lit room. The shifting and infinitely variable character of the spontaneous luminous excitations of the retina exactly corresponds with the fitful succession of images presented to us in our dreams. If we attach any importance to Ladd's observations, we cannot underrate the productiveness of this subjective source of stimuli; for visual images, as we know, are the principal constituents of our dreams. The share contributed by the other senses, excepting, perhaps, the sense of hearing, is relatively insignificant and inconstant.
If we are disposed to look for the sources of dreams not outside but inside the organism, we must remember that almost all our internal organs, which in a state of health hardly remind us of their existence, may, in states of excitation–as we call them–or in disease, become a source of the most painful sensations, and must therefore be put on a par with the external excitants of pain and sensation. Strumpell, for example, gives expression to a long-familiar experience when he declares that "during sleep the psyche becomes far more deeply and broadly conscious of its coporality than in the waking state, and it is compelled to receive and to be influenced by certain stimulating impressions originating in parts of the body, and in alterations of the body, of which it is unconscious in the waking state." Even Aristotle declares it to be quite possible that a dream may draw our attention to incipient morbid conditions which we have not noticed in the waking state (owing to the exaggerated intensity of the impressions experienced in the dream; and some medical authors, who certainly did not believe in the prophetic nature of dreams, have admitted the significance of dreams, at least in so far as the predicting of disease is concerned. [Cf. M. Simon, p.31, and many earlier writers.]*
*In addition to the diagnostic valuation of dreams (e.g., by Hippocrates) mention must also be made of their therapeutic significance in antiquity.
Among the Greeks there were dream oracles, which were vouchsafed to patients in quest of recovery. The patient betook himself to the temple of Apollo or Aesculapius; there he was subjected to various ceremonies, bathed, rubbed and perfumed. A state of exaltation having been thus induced, he was made to lie down in the temple on the skin of a sacrificial ram. He fell asleep and dreamed of remedies, which he saw in their natural form, or in symbolic images which the priests afterwards interpreted.
For further references concerning the remedial dreams of the Greeks, cf. Lehmann, i, 74; Bouche-Leclerq; Hermann, Gottesd. Altert. d. Gr., SS 41; Privataltert. SS 38, 16; Bottinger in Sprengel's Beitr. z. Gesch. d. Med., ii, p.163, et seq.; W. Lloyd, Magnetism and Mesmerism in Antiquity, London, 1877; Dollinger, Heidentum und Judentum, p.130.
Even in our days there seems to be no lack of authenticated examples of such diagnostic achievements on the part of dreams. Thus Tissie cites from Artigues (Essai sur la valeur semeiologique des Reves) the history of a woman of forty-three, who, during several years of apparently perfect health, was troubled with anxiety-dreams, and in whom a medical examination subsequently revealed an incipient affection of the heart, to which she presently succumbed.
Serious derangements of the internal organs clearly excite dreams in quite a number of persons. The frequency of anxiety-dreams in diseases of the heart and lungs has been generally realized; indeed, this function of the dream-life is emphasized by so many writers that I shall here content myself with a reference to the literature of the subject (Radestock, Spitta, Maury, M. Simon, Tissie). Tissie even believes that the diseased organs impress upon the dream-content its characteristic features. The dreams of persons suffering from diseases of the heart are generally very brief, and end in a terrified awakening; death under terrible circumstances almost always find a place in their content. Those suffering from diseases of the lungs dream of suffocation, of being crushed, and of flight, and a great many of them are subject to the familiar nightmare–which, by the way, Borner has succeeded in inducing experimentally by lying on the face and covering the mouth and nostrils. In digestive disturbances the dream contains ideas from the sphere of gustatory enjoyment and disgust. Finally, the influence of sexual excitement on the dream-content is obvious enough in everyone's experience, and provides the strongest confirmation of the whole theory of dream-instigation by organic sensation.
Moreover, if we study the literature of dreams it becomes quite evident that some writers (Maury, Weygandt) have been led to the study of dream- problems by the influence their own pathological state has had on the content of their dreams.
The enlargement of the number of dream-sources by such undeniably established facts is, however, not so important as one might be led to suppose; for dreams are, after all, phenomena which occur in healthy persons–perhaps in all persons, and every night–and a pathological state of the organs is evidently not one of the indispensable conditions. For us, however, the question is not whence particular dreams originate, but rather: what is the exciting cause of ordinary dreams in normal people?
But we have only to go a step farther to find a source of dreams which is more prolific than any of those mentioned above, and which promises indeed to be inexhaustible. If it is established that the bodily organs become, in sickness, an exciting source of dreams, and if we admit that the mind, when diverted during sleep from the outer world, can devote more of its attention to the interior of the body, we may readily assume that the organs need not necessarily become diseased in order to permit stimuli, which in one way or another grow into dream-images, to reach the sleeping mind. What in the waking state we vaguely perceive as a general sensation, perceptible by its quality alone–a sensation to which, in the opinion of physicians, all the organic systems contribute their share–this general sensation would at night attain a greater potency, and, acting through its individual components, would constitute the most prolific as well as the most usual source of dream-representations. We should then have to discover the laws by which organic stimuli are translated into dream–representations.
This theory of the origin of dreams is the one most favoured by all medical writers. The obscurity which conceals the essence of our being- the "moi splanchnique" as Tissie terms it–from our knowledge, and the obscurity of the origin of dreams, correspond so closely that it was inevitable that they should be brought into relation with one another. The theory according to which the organic sensations are responsible for dreams has, moreover, another attraction for the physician, inasmuch as it favours the aetiological union of the dream with mental derangement, both of which reveal so many points of agreement in their manifestations, since changes in the general organic massive sensation and in the stimuli emanating from the internal organs are also considered to have a far-reaching significance as regards the origin of the psychoses. It is therefore not surprising that the organic stimulus theory can be traced to several writers who have propounded this theory independently.
A number of writers have followed the train of thought developed by Schopenhauer in 1851. Our conception of the universe has its origin in the recasting by the intellect of the impressions which reach it from without in the moulds of time, space and causality. During the day the stimuli proceeding from the interior of the organism, from the sympathetic nervous system, exert at most an unconscious influence on our mood. At night, however, when the overwhelming effect of the impressions of the day is no longer operative, the impressions that surge upward from within are able to force themselves on our attention–just as in the night we hear the rippling of the brook that was drowned in the clamour of the day. But how else can the intellect react to these stimuli than by transforming them in accordance with its own function into things which occupy space and time and follow the lines of causality?–and so a dream originates. Thus Scherner, and after him Volkelt, endeavoured to discover the more intimate relations between physical sensations and dream-pictures; but we shall reserve the discussion of this point for our chapter on the theory of dreams.
As a result of a singularly logical analysis, the psychiatrist Krauss referred the origin of dreams, and also of deliria and delusions, to the same element, namely, to organically determined sensations. According to him, there is hardly any part of the organism which might not become the starting-point of a dream or a delusion. Organically determined sensations, he says, "may be divided into two classes: (1) general sensations- those affecting the whole system; (2) specific sensations–those that are immanent in the principal systems of the vegetative organism, and which may in turn be subdivided into five groups: (a) the muscular, (b) the pneumatic, (c) the gastric, (d) the sexual, (e) the peripheral sensations (p.33 of the second article)."
The origin of the dream-image from physical sensations is conceived by Krauss as follows: The awakened sensation, in accordance with some law of association, evokes an idea or image bearing some relation to it, and combines with this idea or image, forming an organic structure, towards which, however, the consciousness does not maintain its normal attitude. For it does not bestow any attention on the sensation, but concerns itself entirely with the accompanying ideas; and this explains why the facts of the case have been so long misunderstood (p.11 ff.). Krauss even gives this process the special name of "transubstantiation of the sensations into dream-images" (p.24).
The influence of organic physical stimuli on the formation of dreams is today almost universally admitted, but the question as to the nature of the law underlying this relation is answered in various ways, and often obscurely. On the basis of the theory of physical excitation the special task of dream-interpretation is to trace back the content of a dream to the causative organic stimulus, and if we do not accept the rules of interpretation advanced by Scherner, we shall often find ourselves confronted by the awkward fact that the organic source of excitation reveals itself only in the content of the dream.
A certain agreement, however, appears in the interpretation of the various forms of dreams which have been designated as "typical," because they recur in so many persons with almost the same content. Among these are the well–known dreams of falling from a height, of the dropping out of teeth, of flying, and of embarrassment because one is naked or scantily clad. This last type of dream is said to be caused simply by the dreamer's perception, felt in his sleep, that he has thrown off the bedclothes and is uncovered. The dream that one's teeth are dropping out is explained by "dental irritation," which does not, however, of necessity imply a morbid condition of irritability in the teeth. According to Strumpell, the flying dream is the adequate image employed by the mind to interpret the quantum of stimulus emanating from the rising and sinking of the pulmonary lobes when the cutaneous sensation of the thorax has lapsed into insensibility. This latter condition causes the sensation which gives rise to images of hovering in the air. The dream of falling from a height is said to be due to the fact that an arm falls away from the body, or a flexed knee is suddenly extended, after unconsciousness of the sensation of cutaneous pressure has supervened, whereupon this sensation returns to consciousness, and the transition from unconsciousness to consciousness embodies itself psychically as a dream of falling (Strumpell, p.118). The weakness of these fairly plausible attempts at explanation clearly lies in the fact that without any further elucidation they allow this or that group of organic sensations to disappear from psychic perception, or to obtrude themselves upon it, until the constellation favourable for the explanation has been established. Later on, however, I shall have occasion to return to the subject of typical dreams and their origin.
From a comparison of a series of similar dreams, M. Simon endeavoured to formulate certain rules governing the influence of organic sensations on the nature of the resulting dream. He says (p.34): "If during sleep any organic apparatus, which normally participates in the expression of an affect, for any reason enters into the state of excitation to which it is usually aroused by the affect, the dream thus produced will contain representations which harmonize with that affect."
Another rule reads as follows (p.35): "If, during sleep, an organic apparatus is in a state of activity, stimulation, or disturbance, the dream will present ideas which correspond with the nature of the organic function performed by that apparatus."
Mourly Vold has undertaken to prove the supposed influence of bodily sensation on the production of dreams by experimenting on a single physiological territory. He changed the positions of a sleeper's limbs, and compared the resulting dreams with these changes. He recorded the following results:
1. The position of a limb in a dream corresponds approximately to that of reality, i.e., we dream of a static condition of the limb which corresponds with the actual condition.
2. When one dreams of a moving limb it always happens that one of the positions occurring in the execution of this movement corresponds with the actual position.
3. The position of one's own limb may in the dream be attributed to another person.
4. One may also dream that the movement in question is impeded.
5. The limb in any particular position may appear in the dream as an animal or monster, in which case a certain analogy between the two is established.
6. The behaviour of a limb may in the dream incite ideas which bear some relation or other to this limb. Thus, for example, if we are using our fingers we dream of numerals.
Results such as these would lead me to conclude that even the theory of organic stimulation cannot entirely abolish the apparent freedom of the determination of the dream-picture which will be evoked.*
*See below for a further discussion of the two volumes of records of dreams since published by this writer.
When considering the relation of dreams to waking life, and the provenance of the material of dreams, we learned that the earliest as well as the most recent investigators are agreed that men dream of what they do during the day, and of the things that interest them in the waking state. This interest, continued from waking life into sleep, is not only a psychic bond, joining the dream to life, but it is also a source of dreams whose importance must not be underestimated, and which, taken together with those stimuli which become active and of interest during sleep, suffices to explain the origin of all dream-images. Yet we have also heard the very contrary of this asserted; namely, that dreams bear the sleeper away from the interests of the day, and that in most cases we do not dream of things which have occupied our attention during the day until after they have lost, for our waking life, the stimulating force of belonging to the present. Hence in the analysis of dream-life we are reminded at every step that it is inadmissible to frame general rules without making provision for qualifications by introducing such terms as "frequently," "as a rule," "in most cases," and without being prepared to admit the validity of exceptions.
If interest during the waking state together with the internal and external stimuli that occur during sleep, sufficed to cover the whole aetiology of dreams, we should be in a position to give a satisfactory account of the origin of all the elements of a dream; the problem of the dream-sources would then be solved, leaving us only the task of discriminating between the part played by the psychic and that played by the somatic dream-stimuli in individual dreams. But as a matter of fact no such complete solution of a dream has ever been achieved in any case, and everyone who has attempted such a solution has found that components of the dream–and usually a great many of them–are left whose source he is unable to trace. The interests of the day as a psychic source of dreams are obviously not so influential as to justify the confident assertion that every dreamer continues the activities of his waking life in his dreams.
Other dream-sources of a psychic nature are not known. Hence, with the exception perhaps of the explanation of dreams given by Scherner, to which reference will be made later on, all the explanations found in the literature of the subject show a considerable hiatus whenever there is a question of tracing the images and ideas which are the most characteristic material of dreams. In this dilemma the majority of authors have developed a tendency to belittle as far as possible the share of the psychic factor, which is so difficult to determine, in the evocation of dreams. To be sure, they distinguish as major divisions the nerve-stimulus dream and the association-dream, and assert that the latter has its source exclusively in reproduction (Wundt, p.365), but they cannot dismiss the doubt as to "whether they appear without any impulsion from organic stimuli" (Volkelt, p.127). And even the characteristic quality of the pure association-dream disappears. To quote Volkelt (p.118): "In the association-dream proper, there is no longer any question of such a stable nucleus. Here the loose grouping penetrates even to the very centre of the dream. The imaginative life, already released from the control of reason and intellect, is here no longer held together by the more important psychical and physical stimuli, but is left to its own uncontrolled and confused divagations." Wundt, too, attempts to belittle the psychic factor in the evocation of dreams by asserting that "the phantasms of the dream are perhaps unjustly regarded as pure hallucinations. Probably most dream-representations are really illusions, inasmuch as they emanate from the slight sensory impressions which are never extinguished during sleep" (p.359, et seq.). Weygandt has adopted this view, and generalizes upon it. He asserts that "the most immediate causes of all dream-representations are sensory stimuli to which reproductive associations then attach themselves" (p.17). Tissie goes still further in suppressing the psychic sources of excitation (p.183): "Les reves d'origine absolument psychique n'existent pas"; * and elsewhere (p.6), "Les pensees de nos reves nous viennent de dehors...."*(2)
*Dreams do not exist whose origin is totally psychic.
*(2) The thoughts of our dreams come from outside.
Those writers who, like the eminent philosopher Wundt, adopt a middle course, do not hesitate to assert that in most dreams there is a cooperation of the somatic stimuli and psychic stimuli which are either unknown or are identified with the interests of the day.
We shall learn later that the problem of dream-formation may be solved by the disclosure of an entirely unsuspected psychic source of excitation. In the meanwhile we shall not be surprised at the over-estimation of the influence of those stimuli which do not originate in the psychic life. It is not merely because they alone may easily be found, and even confirmed by experiment, but because the somatic conception of the origin of dreams entirely corresponds with the mode of thought prevalent in modern psychiatry. Here, it is true, the mastery of the brain over the organism is most emphatically stressed; but everything that might show that the psychic life is independent of demonstrable organic changes, or spontaneous in its manifestations, is alarming to the contemporary psychiatrist, as though such an admission must mean a return to the old-world natural philosophy and the metaphysical conception of the nature of the soul. The distrust of the psychiatrist has placed the psyche under tutelage, so to speak; it requires that none of the impulses of the psyche shall reveal an autonomous power. Yet this attitude merely betrays a lack of confidence in the stability of the causal concatenation between the physical and the psychic. Even where on investigation the psychic may be recognized as the primary cause of a phenomenon, a more profound comprehension of the subject will one day succeed in following up the path that leads to the organic basis of the psychic. But where the psychic must, in the present state of our knowledge, be accepted as the terminus, it need not on that account be disavowed.
That a dream fades away in the morning is proverbial. It is, indeed, possible to recall it. For we know the dream, of course, only by recalling it after waking; but we very often believe that we remember it incompletely, that during the night there was more of it than we remember. We may observe how the memory of a dream which in the morning was still vivid fades in the course of the day, leaving only a few trifling remnants. We are often aware that we have been dreaming, but we do not know of what we have dreamed; and we are so well used to this fact–that the dream is liable to be forgotten- that we do not reject as absurd the possibility that we may have been dreaming even when, in the morning, we know nothing either of the content of the dream or of the fact that we have dreamed. On the other hand, it often happens that dreams manifest an extraordinary power of maintaining themselves in the memory. I have had occasion to analyse, with my patients, dreams which occurred to them twenty-five years or more previously, and I can remember a dream of my own which is divided from the present day by at least thirty-seven years, and yet has lost nothing of its freshness in my memory. All this is very remarkable, and for the present incomprehensible.
The forgetting of dreams is treated in the most detailed manner by Strumpell. This forgetting is evidently a complex phenomenon; for Strumpell attributes it not to a single cause, but to quite a number of causes.
In the first place, all those factors which induce forgetfulness in the waking state determine also the forgetting of dreams. In the waking state we commonly very soon forget a great many sensations and perceptions because they are too slight to remember, and because they are charged with only a slight amount of emotional feeling. This is true also of many dream-images; they are forgotten because they are too weak, while the stronger images in their neighbourhood are remembered. However, the factor of intensity is in itself not the only determinant of the preservation of dream-images; Strumpell, as well as other authors (Calkins), admits that dream-images are often rapidly forgotten although they are known to have been vivid, whereas, among those that are retained in the memory, there are many that are very shadowy and unmeaning. Besides, in the waking state one is wont to forget rather easily things that have happened only once, and to remember more readily things which occur repeatedly. But most dream-images are unique experiences,* and this peculiarity would contribute towards the forgetting of all dreams equally. Of much greater significance is a third cause of forgetting. In order that feelings, representations, ideas and the like should attain a certain degree of memorability, it is important that they should not remain isolated, but that they should enter into connections and associations of an appropriate nature. If the words of a verse of poetry are taken and mixed together, it will be very difficult to remember them. "Properly placed, in a significant sequence, one word helps another, and the whole, making sense, remains and is easily and lastingly fixed in the memory. Contradictions, as a rule, are retained with just as much difficulty and just as rarely as things that are confused and disorderly." Now dreams, in most cases, lack sense and order. Dream-compositions, by their very nature, are insusceptible of being remembered, and they are forgotten because as a rule they fall to pieces the very next moment. To be sure, these conclusions are not entirely consistent with Radestock's observation (p.168), that we most readily retain just those dreams which are most peculiar.
*Periodically recurrent dreams have been observed repeatedly. Compare the collection made by Chabaneix.
According to Strumpell, other factors, deriving from the relation of the dream to the waking state, are even more effective in causing us to forget our dreams. The forgetfulness of dreams manifested by the waking consciousness is evidently merely the counterpart of the fact already mentioned, namely, that the dream hardly ever takes over an orderly series of memories from the waking state, but only certain details of these memories, which it removes from the habitual psychic connections in which they are remembered in the waking state. The dream-composition, therefore, has no place in the community of the psychic series which fill the mind. It lacks all mnemonic aids. "In this manner the dream-structure rises, as it were, from the soil of our psychic life, and floats in psychic space like a cloud in the sky, quickly dispelled by the first breath of reawakening life" (p.87). This situation is accentuated by the fact that on waking the attention is immediately besieged by the inrushing world of sensation, so that very few dream-images are capable of withstanding its force. They fade away before the impressions of the new day like the stars before the light of the sun.
Finally, we should remember that the fact that most people take but little interest in their dreams is conducive to the forgetting of dreams. Anyone who for some time applies himself to the investigation of dreams, and takes a special interest in them, usually dreams more during that period than at any other; he remembers his dreams more easily and more frequently.
Two other reasons for the forgetting of dreams, which Bonatelli (cited by Benini) adds to those adduced by Strumpell, have already been included in those enumerated above; namely, (1) that the difference of the general sensation in the sleeping and the waking state is unfavourable to mutual reproduction, and (2) that the different arrangement of the material in the dream makes the dream untranslatable, so to speak, for the waking consciousness.
It is therefore all the more remarkable, as Strumpell himself observes, that, in spite of all these reasons for forgetting the dream, so many dreams are retained in the memory. The continual efforts of those who have written on the subject to formulate laws for the remembering of dreams amount to an admission that here, too, there is something puzzling and unexplained. Certain peculiarities relating to the remembering of dreams have attracted particular attention of late; for example, the fact that the dream which is believed to be forgotten in the morning may be recalled in the course of the day on the occasion of some perception which accidentally touches the forgotten content of the dream (Radestock, Tissie). But the whole recollection of dreams is open to an objection which is calculated greatly to depreciate its value in critical eyes. One may doubt whether our memory, which omits so much from the dream, does not falsify what it retains.
This doubt as to the exactness of the reproduction of dreams is expressed by Strumpell when he says: "It may therefore easily happen that the waking consciousness involuntarily interpolates a great many things in the recollection of the dream; one imagines that one has dreamt all sorts of things which the actual dream did not contain."
Jessen (p.547) expresses himself in very decided terms:
"Moreover, we must not lose sight of the fact, hitherto little heeded, that in the investigation and interpretation of coherent and logical dreams we almost always take liberties with the truth when we recall a dream to memory. Unconsciously and unintentionally we fill up the gaps and supplement the dream-images. Rarely, and perhaps never, has a connected dream been as connected as it appears to us in memory. Even the most truth-loving person can hardly relate a dream without exaggerating and embellishing it in some degree. The human mind so greatly tends to perceive everything in a connected form that it intentionally supplies the missing links in any dream which is in some degree incoherent."
The observations of V. Eggers, though of course independently conceived, read almost like a translation of Jessen's words:
"...L'observation des reves a ses difficultes speciales et le seul moyen d'eviter toute erreur en pareille matiere est de confier au papier sans le moindre retard ce que l'on vient d'eprouver et de remarquer; sinon, l'oubli vient vite ou total ou partiel; l'oubli total est sans gravite; mais l'oubli partiel est perfide: car si l'on se met ensuite a raconter ce que l'on n'a pas oublie, on est expose a completer par imagination les fragments incoherents et disjoints fourni par la memoire... on devient artiste a son insu, et le recit, periodiquement repete s'impose a la creance de son auteur, qui, de bonne foi, le presente comme un fait authentique, dument etabli selon les bonnes methodes...."*
*...The observation of dreams has its special difficulties, and the only way to avoid all error in such matter is to put on paper without the least delay what has just been experienced and noticed; otherwise, totally or partially the dream is quickly forgotten; total forgetting is without seriousness; but partial forgetting is treacherous: for, if one then starts to recount what has not been forgotten, one is likely to supplement from the imagination the incoherent and disjointed fragments provided by the memory.... unconsciously one becomes an artist, and the story, repeated from time to time, imposes itself on the belief of its author, who, in good faith, tells it as authentic fact, regularly established according to proper methods....
Similarly Spitta, who seems to think that it is only in the attempt to reproduce the dream that we bring order and arrangement into loosely associated dream-elements–"turning juxtaposition into concatenation; that is, adding the process of logical connection which is absent in the dream."
Since we can test the reliability of our memory only by objective means, and since such a test is impossible in the case of dreams, which are our own personal experience, and for which we know no other source than our memory, what value do our recollections of our dreams possess?
In our scientific investigation of dreams we start with the assumption that dreams are a phenomenon of our own psychic activity; yet the completed dream appears to us as something alien, whose authorship we are so little inclined to recognize that we should be just as willing to say "A dream came to me," as "I dreamed." Whence this "psychic strangeness" of dreams? According to our exposition of the sources of dreams, we must assume that it is not determined by the material which finds its way into the dream-content, since this is for the most part common both to dream-life and waking life. We might ask ourselves whether this impression is not evoked by modifications of the psychic processes in dreams, and we might even attempt to suggest that the existence of such changes is the psychological characteristic of dreams.
No one has more strongly emphasized the essential difference between dream-life and waking life and drawn more far reaching conclusions from this difference than G. Th. Fechner in certain observations contained in his Elemente der Psychophysik (Part II, p.520). He believes that "neither the simple depression of conscious psychic life under the main threshold," nor the distraction of the attention from the influences of the outer world, suffices to explain the peculiarities of dream-life as compared with waking life. He believes, rather, that the arena of dreams is other than the arena of the waking life of the mind. "If the arena of psychophysical activity were the same during the sleeping and the waking state, the dream, in my opinion, could only be a continuation of the waking ideational life at a lower degree of intensity, so that it would have to partake of the form and material of the latter. But this is by no means the case."
What Fechner really meant by such a transposition of the psychic activity has never been made clear, nor has anybody else, to my knowledge, followed the path which he indicates in this remark. An anatomical interpretation in the sense of physiological localization in the brain, or even a histological stratification of the cerebral cortex, must of course be excluded. The idea might, however, prove ingenious and fruitful if it could refer to a psychical apparatus built up of a number of successive and connected systems.
Other authors have been content to give prominence to this or that palpable psychological peculiarity of the dream-life, and even to take this as a starting-point for more comprehensive attempts at explanation.
It has been justly remarked that one of the chief peculiarities of dream-life makes its appearance even in the state of falling asleep, and may be defined as the sleep-heralding phenomenon. According to Schleiermacher (p.351), the distinguishing characteristic of the waking state is the fact that its psychic activity occurs in the form of ideas rather than in that of images. But the dream thinks mainly in visual images, and it may be noted that with the approach of sleep the voluntary activities become impeded in proportion as involuntary representations make their appearance, the latter belonging entirely to the category of images. The incapacity for such ideational activities as we feel to be deliberately willed, and the emergence of visual images, which is regularly connected with this distraction- these are two constant characteristics of dreams, and on psychological analysis we are compelled to recognize them as essential characteristics of dream-life. As for the images themselves the hypnogogic hallucinations- we have learned that even in their content they are identical with dream-images. *
*Silberer has shown by excellent examples how in the state of falling asleep even abstract thoughts may be changed into visible plastic images, which, of course, express them. (Jahrbuch, Bleuler-Freud, vol. i, 1900.) I shall return to the discussion of his findings later on.
Dreams, then, think preponderantly, but not exclusively, in visual images. They make use also of auditory images, and, to a lesser extent, of the other sensory impressions. Moreover, in dreams, as in the waking state, many things are simply thought or imagined (probably with the help of remnants of verbal conceptions). Characteristic of dreams, however, are only those elements of their contents which behave like images, that is, which more closely resemble perceptions than mnemonic representations. Without entering upon a discussion of the nature of hallucinations–a discussion familiar to every psychiatrist–we may say, with every well-informed authority, that the dream hallucinates–that is, that it replaces thoughts by hallucinations. In this respect visual and acoustic impressions behave in the same way. It has been observed that the recollection of a succession of notes heard as we are falling asleep becomes transformed, when we have fallen asleep, into a hallucination of the same melody, to give place, each time we wake, to the fainter and qualitatively different representations of the memory, and resuming, each time we doze off again, its hallucinatory character.
The transformation of an idea into a hallucination is not the only departure of the dream from the more or less corresponding waking thought. From these images the dream creates a situation; it represents something as actually present; it dramatizes an idea, as Spitta (p.145) puts it. But the peculiar character of this aspect of the dream-life is completely intelligible only if we admit that in dreaming we do not as a rule (the exceptions call for special examination) suppose ourselves to be thinking, but actually experiencing; that is, we accept the hallucination in perfectly good faith. The criticism that one has experienced nothing, but that one has merely been thinking in a peculiar manner–dreaming–occurs to us only on waking. It is this characteristic which distinguishes the genuine dream from the day-dream, which is never confused with reality.
The characteristics of the dream-life thus far considered have been summed up by Burdach (p.476) as follows: "As characteristic features of the dream we may state (a) that the subjective activity of our psyche appears as objective, inasmuch as our perceptive faculties apprehend the products of phantasy as though they were sensory activities... (b) that sleep abrogates our voluntary action; hence falling asleep involves a certain degree of passivity... The images of sleep are conditioned by the relaxation of our powers of will."
It now remains to account for the credulity of the mind in respect to the dream-hallucinations which are able to make their appearance only after the suspension of certain voluntary powers. Strumpell asserts that in this respect the psyche behaves correctly and in conformity with its mechanism. The dream-elements are by no means mere representations, but true and actual experiences of the psyche, similar to those which come to the waking state by way of the senses (p.34). Whereas in the waking state the mind thinks and imagines by means of verbal images and language, in dreams it thinks and imagines in actual perceptual images (p.35). Dreams, moreover, reveal a spatial consciousness, inasmuch as in dreams, just as in the waking state, sensations and images are transposed into outer space (p.36). It must therefore be admitted that in dreams the mind preserves the same attitude in respect of images and perceptions as in the waking state (p.43). And if it forms erroneous conclusions in respect of these images and perceptions, this is due to the fact that in sleep it is deprived of that criterion which alone can distinguish between sensory perceptions emanating from within and those coming from without. It is unable to subject its images to those tests which alone can prove their objective reality. Further, it neglects to differentiate between those images which can be exchanged at will and those in respect of which there is no free choice. It errs because it cannot apply the law of causality to the content of its dreams (p.58). In brief, its alienation from the outer world is the very reason for its belief in its subjective dream-world.
Delboeuf arrives at the same conclusion through a somewhat different line of argument. We believe in the reality of dream-pictures because in sleep we have no other impressions with which to compare them; because we are cut off from the outer world. But it is not because we are unable, when asleep, to test our hallucinations that we believe in their reality. Dreams can make us believe that we are applying such tests–that we are touching, say, the rose that we see in our dream; and yet we are dreaming. According to Delboeuf there is no valid criterion that can show whether something is a dream or a waking reality, except–and that only pragmatically- the fact of waking. "I conclude that all that has been experienced between falling asleep and waking is a delusion, if I find on waking that I am lying undressed in bed" (p.84). "I considered the images of my dream real while I was asleep on account of the unsleeping mental habit of assuming an outer world with which I can contrast my ego." *
*Haffner, like Delboeuf, has attempted to explain the act of dreaming by the alteration which an abnormally introduced condition must have upon the otherwise correct functioning of the intact psychic apparatus; but he describes this condition in somewhat different terms. He states that the first distinguishing mark of dreams is the abolition of time and space, i.e., the emancipation of the representation from the individual's position in the spatial and temporal order. Associated with this is the second fundamental character of dreams, the mistaking of the hallucinations, imaginations, and phantasy-combinations for objective perceptions. "The sum-total of the higher psychic functions, particularly the formation of concepts, judgments, and conclusions on the one hand, and free self-determination on the other hand, combine with the sensory phantasy-images, and at all times have these as a substratum. These activities too, therefore, participate in the erratic nature of the dream-representations. We say they participate, for our faculties of judgment and will are in themselves unaltered during sleep. As far as their activity is concerned, we are just as shrewd and just as free as in the waking state. A man cannot violate the laws of thought; that is, even in a dream he cannot judge things to be identical which present themselves to him as opposites. He can desire in a dream only that which he regards as a good (sub ratione boni). But in this application of the laws of thought and will the human intellect is led astray in dreams by confusing one notion with another. Thus it happens that in dreams we formulate and commit the greatest of contradictions, while, on the other hand, we display the shrewdest judgment and arrive at the most logical conclusions, and are able to make the most virtuous and sacred resolutions. The lack of orientation is the whole secret of our flights of phantasy in dreams, and the lack of critical reflection and agreement with other minds is the main source of the reckless extravagances of our judgments, hopes and wishes in dreams" (p.18).
If the turning-away from the outer world is accepted as the decisive cause of the most conspicuous characteristics of our dreams, it will be worth our while to consider certain subtle observations of Burdach's, which will throw some light on the relation of the sleeping psyche to the outer world, and at the same time serve to prevent our over-estimating the importance of the above deductions. "Sleep," says Burdach, "results only under the condition that the mind is not excited by sensory stimuli... yet it is not so much a lack of sensory stimuli that conditions sleep as a lack of interest in them;* some sensory impressions are even necessary in so far as they serve to calm the mind; thus the miller can fall asleep only when he hears the clatter of his mill, and he who finds it necessary, as a matter of precaution, to burn a light at night, cannot fall asleep in the dark" (p.457).
*Compare with this the element of "Desinteret," in which Claparede (1905) finds the mechanism of falling asleep.
"During sleep the psyche isolates itself from the outer world, and withdraws from the periphery.... Nevertheless, the connection is not entirely broken; if one did not hear and feel during sleep, but only after waking, one would assuredly never be awakened at all. The continuance of sensation is even more plainly shown by the fact that we are not always awakened by the mere force of the sensory impression, but by its relation to the psyche. An indifferent word does not arouse the sleeper, but if called by name he wakes... so that even in sleep the psyche discriminates between sensations.... Hence one may even be awakened by the obliteration of a sensory stimulus, if this is related to anything of imagined importance. Thus one man wakes when the nightlight is extinguished, and the miller when his mill comes to a standstill; that is, waking is due to the cessation of a sensory activity, and this presupposes that the activity has been perceived, but has not disturbed the mind, its effect being indifferent, or actually reassuring" (p.46, etc.).
Even if we are willing to disregard these by no means trifling objections, we must yet admit that the qualities of dream-life hitherto considered, which are attributed to withdrawal from the outer world, cannot fully account for the strangeness of dreams. For otherwise it would be possible to reconvert the hallucinations of the dream into mental images, and the situations of the dream into thoughts, and thus to achieve the task of dream-interpretation. Now this is precisely what we do when we reproduce a dream from memory after waking, and no matter whether we are fully or only partially successful in this retranslation, the dream still remains as mysterious as before.
Furthermore, all writers unhesitatingly assume that still other and profounder changes take place in the plastic material of waking life. Strumpell seeks to isolate one of these changes as follows: (p.17) "With the cessation of active sensory perception and of normal consciousness, the psyche is deprived of the soil in which its feelings, desires, interests, and activities are rooted. Those psychic states, feelings, interests, and valuations, which in the waking state adhere to memory-images, succumb to an obscuring pressure, in consequence of which their connection with these images is severed; the perceptual images of things, persons, localities, events and actions of the waking state are, individually, abundantly reproduced, but none of these brings with it its psychic value. Deprived of this, they hover in the mind dependent on their own resources..."
This annihilation of psychic values, which is in turn referred to a turning away from the outer world, is, according to Strumpell, very largely responsible for the impression of strangeness with which the dream is coloured in our memory.
We have seen that the very fact of falling asleep involves a renunciation of one of the psychic activities–namely, the voluntary guidance of the flow of ideas. Thus the supposition obtrudes itself (though it is in any case a natural one) that the state of sleep may extend even to the psychic functions. One or another of these functions is perhaps entirely suspended; we have now to consider whether the rest continue to operate undisturbed, whether they are able to perform their normal work under the circumstances. The idea occurs to us that the peculiarities of the dream may be explained by the restricted activity of the psyche during sleep, and the impression made by the dream upon our waking judgment tends to confirm this view. The dream is incoherent; it reconciles, without hesitation, the worst contradictions; it admits impossibilities; it disregards the authoritative knowledge of the waking state, and it shows us as ethically and morally obtuse. He who should behave in the waking state as his dreams represent him as behaving would be considered insane. He who in the waking state should speak as he does in his dreams, or relate such things as occur in his dreams, would impress us as a feeble-minded or muddle-headed person. It seems to us, then, that we are merely speaking in accordance with the facts of the case when we rate psychic activity in dreams very low, and especially when we assert that in dreams the higher intellectual activities are suspended or at least greatly impaired.
With unusual unanimity (the exceptions will be dealt with elsewhere) the writers on the subject have pronounced such judgments as lead immediately to a definite theory or explanation of dream-life. It is now time to supplement the resume which I have just given by a series of quotations from a number of authors–philosophers and physicians–bearing upon the psychological characteristics of the dream.
According to Lemoine, the incoherence of the dream-images is the sole essential characteristic of the dream.
Maury agrees with him (Le Sommeil, p.163): "Il n'y a pas des reves absolument raisonnables et qui ne contiennent quelque incoherence, quelque absurdite."*
*There are no dreams which are absolutely reasonable which do not contain some incoherence, some absurdity.
According to Hegel, quoted by Spitta, the dream lacks any intelligible objective coherence.
Dugas says: "Les reve, c'est l'anarchie psychique, affective et mentale, c'est le jeu des fonctions livrees a elles-memes et s'exercant sans controle et sans but; dans le reve l'esprit est un automate spirituel." *
*The dream is psychic anarchy, emotional and intellectual, the playing of functions, freed of themselves and performing without control and without end; in the dream, the mind is a spiritual automaton.
"The relaxation, dissolution, and promiscuous confusion of the world of ideas and images held together in waking life by the logical power of the central ego" is conceded even by Volkelt (p.14), according to whose theory the psychic activity during sleep appears to be by no means aimless.
The absurdity of the associations of ideas which occur in dreams can hardly be more strongly stigmatized than it was by Cicero (De Divinatione, II. lxxi): "Nihil tam praepostere, tam incondite, tam monstruose cogitari potest, quod non possimus somniare."*
*There is no imaginable thing too absurd, too involved, or too abnormal for us to dream about.
Fechner says (p.522): "It is as though the psychological activity of the brain of a reasonable person were to migrate into that of a fool."
Radestock (p.145): "It seems indeed impossible to recognize any stable laws in this preposterous behaviour. Withdrawing itself from the strict policing of the rational will that guides our waking ideas, and from the processes of attention, the dream, in crazy sport, whirls all things about in kaleidoscopic confusion."
Hildebrandt (p.45): "What wonderful jumps the dreamer permits himself, for instance, in his chain of reasoning! With what unconcern he sees the most familiar laws of experience turned upside down! What ridiculous contradictions he is able to tolerate in the order of nature and of society, before things go too far, and the very excess of nonsense leads to an awakening! Sometimes we quite innocently calculate that three times three make twenty; and we are not in the least surprised if a dog recites poetry to us, if a dead person walks to his grave, or if a rock floats on the water. We solemnly go to visit the duchy of Bernburg or the principality of Liechtenstein in order to inspect its navy; or we allow ourselves to be recruited as a volunteer by Charles XII just before the battle of Poltava."
Binz (p.33), referring to the theory of dreams resulting from these impressions, says: "Of ten dreams nine at least have an absurd content. We unite in them persons or things which do not bear the slightest relation to one another. In the next moment, as in a kaleidoscope, the grouping changes to one, if possible, even more nonsensical and irrational than before; and so the shifting play of the drowsy brain continues, until we wake, put a hand to our forehead, and ask ourselves whether we still really possess the faculty of rational imagination and thought."
Maury, Le Sommeil (p.50) makes, in respect of the relation of the dream-image to the waking thoughts, a comparison which a physician will find especially impressive: "La production de ces images que chez l'homme eveille fait le plus souvent naitre la volonte, correspond, pour l'intelligence, a ce que sont pour la motilite certains mouvements que nous offrent la choree et les affections paralytiques...."* For the rest, he considers the dream "toute une serie de degradations de la faculte pensante et raisonnante"*(2) (p.27).
*The production of those images which, in the waking man, most often excite the will, correspond, for the mind, to those which are, for the motility, certain movements that offer St. Vitus' dance and paralytic affections...
*(2) A whole series of degradations of the faculty of thinking and reasoning.
It is hardly necessary to cite the utterances of those authors who repeat Maury's assertion in respect of the higher individual psychic activities.
According to Strumpell, in dreams–and even, of course, where the nonsensical nature of the dream is not obvious–all the logical operations of the mind, based on relations and associations, recede into the background (p.26). According to Spitta (p.148) ideas in dreams are entirely withdrawn from the laws of causality; while Radestock and others emphasize the feebleness of judgment and logical inference peculiar to dreams. According to Jodl (p.123), there is no criticism in dreams, no correcting of a series of perceptions by the content of consciousness as a whole. The same author states that "All the activities of consciousness occur in dreams, but they are imperfect, inhibited, and mutually isolated." The contradictions of our conscious knowledge which occur in dreams are explained by Stricker and many others on the ground that facts are forgotten in dreams, or that the logical relations between ideas are lost (p.98), etc., etc.
Those authors who, in general, judge so unfavourably of the psychic activities of the dreamer nevertheless agree that dreams do retain a certain remnant of psychic activity. Wundt, whose teaching has influenced so many other investigators of dream-problems, expressly admits this. We may ask, what are the nature and composition of the remnants of normal psychic life which manifest themselves in dreams? It is pretty generally acknowledged that the reproductive faculty, the memory, seems to be the least affected in dreams; it may, indeed, show a certain superiority over the same function in waking life (see chapter I, B), even though some of the absurdities of dreams are to be explained by the forgetfulness of dream-life. According to Spitta, it is the sentimental life of the psyche which is not affected by sleep, and which thus directs our dreams. By sentiment (Gemut) he means "the constant sum of the emotions as the inmost subjective essence of the man" (p.84).
Scholz (p.37) sees in dreams a psychic activity which manifests itself in the "allegorizing interpretation" to which the dream-material is subjected. Siebeck (p.11) likewise perceives in dreams a "supplementary interpretative activity" of the psyche, which applies itself to all that is observed and perceived. Any judgment of the part played in dreams by what is presumed to be the highest psychical function, i.e., consciousness, presents a peculiar difficulty. Since it is only through consciousness that we can know anything of dreams, there can be no doubt as to its being retained. Spitta, however, believes that only consciousness is retained in the dream, but not self-consciousness. Delboeuf confesses that he is unable to comprehend this distinction.
The laws of association which connect our mental images hold good also for what is represented in dreams; indeed, in dreams the dominance of these laws is more obvious and complete than in the waking state. Strumpell (p. 70) says: "Dreams would appear to proceed either exclusively in accordance with the laws of pure representation, or in accordance with the laws of organic stimuli accompanied by such representations; that is, without being influenced by reflection, reason, aesthetic taste, or moral judgment." The authors whose opinions I here reproduce conceive the formation of the dream somewhat as follows: The sum of sensory stimuli of varying origin (discussed elsewhere) that are operative in sleep at first awaken in the psyche a number of images which present themselves as hallucinations (according to Wundt, it is more correct to say "as illusions," because of their origin in external and internal stimuli). These combine with one another in accordance with the known laws of association, and, in accordance with the same laws, they in turn evoke a new series of representations (images). The whole of this material is then elaborated as far as possible by the still active remnant of the thinking and organizing faculties of the psyche (cf. Wundt and Weygandt). Thus far, however, no one has been successful in discerning the motive which would decide what particular law of association is to be obeyed by those images which do not originate in external stimuli.
But it has been repeatedly observed that the associations which connect the dream-images with one another are of a particular kind, differing from those found in the activities of the waking mind. Thus Volkelt (p.15): "In dreams the ideas chase and seize upon one another on the strength of accidental similarities and barely perceptible connections. All dreams are pervaded by casual and unconstrained associations of this kind." Maury attaches great value to this characteristic of the connection of ideas, for it allows him to draw a closer analogy between the dream-life and certain mental derangements. He recognizes two main characteristics of "deliria": "(1) une action spontanee et comme automatique de l'esprit; (2) une association vicieuse et irreguliere des idees" * (p.126). Maury gives us two excellent examples from his own dreams, in which the mere similarity of sound decides the connection between the dream-representations. Once he dreamed that he was on a pilgrimage (pelerinage) to Jerusalem, or to Mecca. After many adventures he found himself in the company of the chemist Pelletier; the latter, after some conversation, gave him a galvanized shovel (pelle) which became his great broadsword in the next portion of the dream (p.137). In another dream he was walking along a highway where he read the distances on the kilometre-stones; presently he found himself at a grocer's who had a large pair of scales; a man put kilogramme weights into the scales, in order to weigh Maury; the grocer then said to him: "You are not in Paris, but on the island Gilolo." This was followed by a number of pictures, in which he saw the flower lobelia, and then General Lopez, of whose death he had read a little while previously. Finally he awoke as he was playing a game of lotto.*(2)
*An action of the mind spontaneous and as though automatic; (2) a defective and irregular association of ideas./*(2) Later on we shall be able to understand the meaning of dreams like these which are full of words with similar sounds or the same initial letters.
We are, indeed, quite well aware that this low estimate of the psychic activities of the dream has not been allowed to pass without contradiction from various quarters. Yet here contradiction would seem rather difficult. It is not a matter of much significance that one of the depreciators of dream-life, Spitta (p.118), should assure us that the same psychological laws which govern the waking state rule the dream also, or that another (Dugas) should state: "Le reve n'est pas deraison ni meme irraison pure,"* so long as neither of them has attempted to bring this opinion into harmony with the psychic anarchy and dissolution of all mental functions in the dream which they themselves have described. However, the possibility seems to have dawned upon others that the madness of the dream is perhaps not without its method–that it is perhaps only a disguise, a dramatic pretence, like that of Hamlet, to whose madness this perspicacious judgment refers. These authors must either have refrained from judging by appearances, or the appearances were, in their case, altogether different.
*The dream is neither pure derangement nor pure irrationality.
Without lingering over its superficial absurdity, Havelock Ellis considers the dream as "an archaic world of vast emotions and imperfect thoughts," the study of which may acquaint us with the primitive stages of the development of mental life. J. Sully (p.362) presents the same conception of the dream in a still more comprehensive and penetrating fashion. His statements deserve all the more consideration when it is added that he, perhaps more than any other psychologist, was convinced of the veiled significance of the dream. "Now our dreams are a means of conserving these successive personalities. When asleep we go back to the old ways of looking at things and of feeling about them, to impulses and activities which long ago dominated us." A thinker like Delboeuf asserts–without, indeed, adducing proof in the face of contradictory data, and hence without real justification- "Dans le sommeil, hormis la perception, toutes les facultes de l'esprit, intelligence, imagination, memoire, volonte, moralite, restent intactes dans leur essence; seulement, elles s'appliquent a des objets imaginaires et mobiles. Le songeur est un acteur qui joue a volonte les fous et les sages, les bourreaux et les victimes, les nains et les geants, les demons et les anges"* (p.222). The Marquis Hervey,*(2) who is flatly contradicted by Maury, and whose essay I have been unable to obtain despite all my efforts, appears emphatically to protest against the under-estimation of the psychic capacity in the dream. Maury speaks of him as follows (p.19): "M. le Marquis Hervey prete a l'intelligence durant le sommeil toute sa liberte d'action et d'attention, et il ne semble faire consister le sommeil que dans l'occlusion des sens, dans leur fermeture au monde exterieur; en sorte que l'homme qui dort ne se distingue guere, selon sa maniere de voir, de l'homme qui laisse vaguer sa pensee en se bouchant les sens; toute la difference qui separe alors la pensee ordinaire du celle du dormeur c'est que, chez celui-ci, l'idee prend une forme visible, objective, et ressemble, a s'y meprendre, a la sensation determinee par les objets exterieurs; le souvenir revet l'apparence du fait present."*(3)
*In sleep, excepting perception, all the faculties of the mind intellect, imagination, memory, will, morality–remain intact in their essence; only, they are applied to imaginary and variable objects. The dreamer is an actor who plays at will the mad and the wise, executioner and victim, dwarf and giant, devil and angel./*(2) Hervey de St. Denys./*(3) The Marquis Hervey attributes to the intelligence during sleep all its freedom of action and attention, and he seems to make sleep consist only of the shutting of the senses, of their closing to the outside world; except for his manner of seeing, the man asleep is hardly distinguishable from the man who allows his mind to wander while he obstructs his senses; the whole difference, then, between ordinary thought and that of the sleeper, is that with the latter the idea takes an objective and visible shape, which resembles, to all appearances, sensation determined by exterior objects; memory takes on the appearance of present fact.
Maury adds, however, "qu'il y a une difference de plus et capitale a savoir que les facultes intellectuelles de l'homme endormi n'offrent pas l'equilibre qu'elles gardent chez l'homme eveille."*
*That there is a further and important difference in that the mental faculties of the sleeping man do not offer the equilibrium which they keep in the waking state.
In Vaschide, who gives us fully information as to Hervey's book, we find that this author expresses himself as follows, in respect to the apparent incoherence of dreams: "L'image du reve est la copie de l'idee. Le principal est l'idee; la vision n'est pas qu'accessoire. Ceci etabli, il faut savoir suivre la marche des idees, il faut savoir analyser le tissu des reves; l'incoherence devient alors comprehensible, les conceptions les plus fantasques deviennent des faits simples et parfaitement logiques" * (p.146). And (p.147): "Les reves les plus bizarres trouvent meme une explication des plus logiques quand on sait les analyser."*(2)
*The image in a dream is a copy of an idea. The main thing is the idea; the vision is only accessory. This established, it is necessary to know how to follow the progression of ideas, how to analyse the texture of the dreams; incoherence then is understandable, the most fantastic concepts become simple and perfectly logical facts./*(2) Even the most bizarre dreams find a most logical explanation when one knows how to analyse them.
J. Starke has drawn attention to the fact that a similar solution of the incoherence of dreams was put forward in 1799 by an old writer, Wolf Davidson, who was unknown to me (p.136): "The peculiar leaps of our imaginings in the dream-state all have their cause in the laws of association, but this connection often occurs very obscurely in the soul, so that we frequently seem to observe a leap of the imagination where none really exists."
The evaluation of the dream as a psychic product in the literature of the subject varies over a very wide scale; it extends from the extreme of under-estimation, as we have already seen, through premonitions that it may have a value as yet unrevealed, to an exaggerated over-estimation, which sets the dream-life far above the capacities of waking life. In his psychological characterization of dream-life, Hildebrandt, as we know, groups it into three antinomies, and he combines in the third of these antinomies the two extreme points of this scale of values (p.19): "It is the contrast between, on the one hand, an enhancement, an increase of potentiality, which often amounts to virtuosity, and on the other hand a decided diminution and enfeeblement of the psychic life, often to a sub-human level."
"As regards the first, who is there that cannot confirm from his own experience the fact that in the workings and weavings of the genius of dreams, there are sometimes exhibited a profundity and sincerity of emotion, a tenderness of feeling, a clearness of view, a subtlety of observation and a readiness of wit, such as we should have modestly to deny that we always possessed in our waking life? Dreams have a wonderful poetry, an apposite allegory, an incomparable sense of humour, a delightful irony. They see the world in the light of a peculiar idealization, and often intensify the effect of their phenomena by the most ingenious understanding of the reality underlying them. They show us earthly beauty in a truly heavenly radiance, the sublime in its supremest majesty, and that which we know to be terrible in its most frightful form, while the ridiculous becomes indescribably and drastically comical. And on waking we are sometimes still so full of one of these impressions that it will occur to us that such things have never yet been offered to us by the real world."
One might here ask oneself: do these depreciatory remarks and these enthusiastic praises really refer to the self-same phenomenon? Have some writers overlooked the foolish and others the profound and sensitive dreams? And if both kinds of dreams do occur–that is, dreams that merit both these judgments–does it not seem idle to seek a psychological characterization of the dream? Would it not suffice to state that everything is possible in the dream, from the lowest degradation of the psychic life to its flight to heights unknown in the waking state? Convenient as such a solution might be, it has this against it: that behind the efforts of all the investigators of dreams there seems to lurk the assumption that there is in dreams some characteristic which is universally valid in its essential features, and which must eliminate all these contradictions.
It is unquestionably true that the mental capacities of dreams found readier and warmer recognition in the intellectual period now lying behind us, when philosophy rather than exact natural science ruled the more intelligent minds. Statements like that of Schubert, to the effect that the dream frees the mind from the power of external nature, that it liberates the soul from the chains of sensory life, together with similar opinions expressed by the younger Fichte* and others, who represent dreams as a soaring of the mind to a higher plane–all these seem hardly conceivable to us today; they are repeated at present only by mystics and devotees.*(2) With the advance of a scientific mode of thought a reaction took place in the estimation of dreams. It is the medical writers who are most inclined to underrate the psychic activity in dreams, as being insignificant and valueless; while philosophers and unprofessional observers–amateur psychologists–whose contributions to the subject in especial must not be overlooked, have for the most part, in agreement with popular belief, laid emphasis on the psychological value of dreams. Those who are inclined to underrate the psychic activity of dreams naturally show a preference for the somatic sources of excitation in the aetiology of the dream; those who admit that the dreaming mind may retain the greater part of its waking faculties naturally have no motive for denying the existence of autonomous stimulations
*Cf. Haffner and Spitta./*(2) That brilliant mystic, Du Prel, one of the few writers for the omission of whose name in earlier editions of this book I should like to apologize, has said that, so far as the human mind is concerned, it is not the waking state but dreams which are the gateway to metaphysics (Philosophie der Mystik, p.59).
Among the superior accomplishments which one may be tempted, even on a sober comparison, to ascribe to the dream-life, that of memory is the most impressive. We have fully discussed the by no means rare experiences which prove this superiority. Another privilege of the dream-life, often extolled by the older writers–namely, the fact that it can overstep the limitations of time and space–is easily recognized as an illusion. This privilege, as Hildebrandt remarks, is merely illusory; dreams disregard time and space only as does waking thought, and only because dreaming is itself a form of thinking. Dreams are supposed to enjoy a further advantage in respect of time–to be independent of the passage of time in yet another sense. Dreams like Maury's dream of his execution (p.147 above) seem to show that the perceptual content which the dream can compress into a very short space of time far exceeds that which can be mastered by our psychic activity in its waking thoughts. These conclusions have, however, been disputed. The essays of Le Lorrain and Egger on The Apparent Duration of Dreams gave rise to a long and interesting discussion, which in all probability has not yet found the final explanation of this profound and delicate problem. *
*For the further literature of the subject, and a critical discussion of these problems, the reader is referred to Tobowolska's dissertation (Paris, 1900).
That dreams are able to continue the intellectual activities of the day and to carry them to a point which could not be arrived at during the day, that they may resolve doubts and problems, and that they may be the source of fresh inspiration in poets and composers, seems, in the light of numerous records, and of the collection of instances compiled by Chabaneix, to be proved beyond question. But even though the facts may be beyond dispute, their interpretation is subject to many doubts on wider grounds.*
*Compare Havelock Ellis's criticism in The World of Dreams, p.268.
Finally, the alleged divinatory power of the dream has become a subject of contention in which almost insuperable objections are confronted by obstinate and reiterated assertions. It is, of course, right that we should refrain from denying that this view has any basis whatever in fact, since it is quite possible that a number of such cases may before long be explained on purely natural psychological grounds.
For reasons which will be intelligible only after a consideration of my own investigations of dreams, I have isolated from the psychology of the dream the subsidiary problem as to whether and to what extent the moral dispositions and feelings of waking life extend into dream-life. The same contradictions which we were surprised to observe in the descriptions by various authors of all the other psychic activities will surprise us again here. Some writers flatly assert that dreams know nothing of moral obligations; others as decidedly declare that the moral nature of man persists even in his dream-life.
Our ordinary experience of dreams seems to confirm beyond all doubt the correctness of the first assertion. Jessen says (p.553): "Nor does one become better or more virtuous during sleep; on the contrary, it seems that conscience is silent in our dreams, inasmuch as one feels no compassion and can commit the worst crimes, such as theft, murder, and homicide, with perfect indifference and without subsequent remorse."
Radestock (p.146) says: "It is to be noted that in dreams associations are effected and ideas combined without being in any way influenced by reflection, reason, aesthetic taste, and moral judgment; the judgment is extremely weak, and ethical indifference reigns supreme."
Volkelt (p.23) expresses himself as follows: "As every one knows, dreams are especially unbridled in sexual matters. Just as the dreamer himself is shameless in the extreme, and wholly lacking in moral feeling and judgment, so likewise does he see others, even the most respected persons, doing things which, even in his thoughts, he would blush to associate with them in his waking state."
Utterances like those of Schopenhauer, that in dreams every man acts and talks in complete accordance with his character, are in sharpest contradiction to those mentioned above. R. Ph. Fischer* maintains that the subjective feelings and desires, or affects and passions, manifest themselves in the wilfulness of the dream-life, and that the moral characteristics of a man are mirrored in his dreams.
*Grundzuge des Systems der Anthropologie. Erlangen, 1850 (quoted by Spitta).
Haffner says (p.25): "With rare exceptions... a virtuous man will be virtuous also in his dreams; he will resist temptation, and show no sympathy for hatred, envy, anger, and all other vices; whereas the sinful man will, as a rule, encounter in his dreams the images which he has before him in the waking state."
Scholz (p.36): "In dreams there is truth; despite all camouflage of nobility or degradation, we recognize our own true selves.... The honest man does not commit a dishonouring crime even in his dreams, or, if he does, he is appalled by it as by something foreign to his nature. The Roman emperor who ordered one of his subjects to be executed because he dreamed that he had cut off the emperor's head was not far wrong in justifying his action on the ground that he who has such dreams must have similar thoughts while awake. Significantly enough, we say of things that find no place even in our intimate thoughts: 'I would never even dream of such a thing.'"
Plato, on the other hand, considers that they are the best men who only dream the things which other men do.
Plaff,* varying a familiar proverb, says: "Tell me your dreams for a time and I will tell you what you are within."
*Das Traumleben und seine Deutung, 1868 (cited by Spitta, p.192).
The little essay of Hildebrandt's from which I have already taken so many quotations (the best-expressed and most suggestive contribution to the literature of the dream-problem which I have hitherto discovered), takes for its central theme the problem of morality in dreams. For Hildebrandt, too, it is an established rule that the purer the life, the purer the dream; the impurer the life, the impurer the dream.
The moral nature of man persists even in dreams. "But while we are not offended or made suspicious by an arithmetical error, no matter how obvious, by a reversal of scientific fact, no matter how romantic, or by an anachronism, no matter how ridiculous, we nevertheless do not lose sight of the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice. No matter how much of that which accompanies us during the day may vanish in our hours of sleep, Kant's categorical imperative dogs our steps as an inseparable companion, of whom we cannot rid ourselves even in our slumber.... This can be explained only by the fact that the fundamental element of human nature, the moral essence, is too firmly fixed to be subjected to the kaleidoscopic shaking-up to which phantasy, reason, memory, and other faculties of the same order succumb in our dreams" (p.45, etc.).
In the further discussion of the subject we find in both these groups of authors remarkable evasions and inconsequences. Strictly speaking, all interest in immoral dreams should be at an end for those who assert that the moral personality of the individual falls to pieces in his dreams. They could as coolly reject all attempts to hold the dreamer responsible for his dreams, or to infer from the immorality of his dreams that there is an immoral strain in his nature, as they have rejected the apparently analogous attempt to prove from the absurdity of his dreams the worthlessness of his intellectual life in the waking state. The others, according to whom the categorical imperative extends even into the dream, ought to accept in toto the notion of full responsibility for immoral dreams; and we can only hope that their own reprehensible dreams do not lead them to abandon their otherwise firm belief in their own moral worth.
As a matter of fact, however, it would seem that although no one is positively certain just how good or how bad he is, he can hardly deny that he can recollect immoral dreams of his own. That there are such dreams no one denies; the only question is: how do they originate? So that, in spite of their conflicting judgments of dream-morality, both groups of authors are at pains to explain the genesis of the immoral dream; and here a new conflict arises, as to whether its origin is to be sought in the normal functions of the psychic life, or in the somatically conditioned encroachments upon this life. The nature of the facts compels both those who argue for and those who argue against moral responsibility in dream-life to agree in recognizing a special psychic source for the immorality of dreams.
Those who maintain that morality continues to function in our dream-life nevertheless refrain from assuming full responsibility for their dreams. Haffner says (p.24): "We are not responsible for our dreams, because that basis which alone gives our life truth and reality is withdrawn from our thoughts and our will. Hence the wishes and actions of our dreams cannot be virtuous or sinful." Yet the dreamer is responsible for the sinful dream in so far as indirectly he brings it about. Thus, as in waking life, it is his duty, just before going to sleep, morally to cleanse his mind.
The analysis of this admixture of denial and recognition of responsibility for the moral content of dreams is carried much further by Hildebrandt. After arguing that the dramatic method of representation characteristic of dreams, the condensation of the most complicated processes of reflection into the briefest periods of time, and the debasement and confusion of the imaginative elements of dreams, which even he admits must be allowed for in respect of the immoral appearance of dreams, he nevertheless confesses that there are the most serious objections to flatly denying all responsibility for the lapses and offenses of which we are guilty in our dreams.
(p.49): "If we wish to repudiate very decisively any sort of unjust accusation, and especially one which has reference to our intentions and convictions, we use the expression: 'We should never have dreamt of such a thing.' By this, it is true, we mean on the one hand that we consider the region of dreams the last and remotest place in which we could be held responsible for our thoughts, because there these thoughts are so loosely and incoherently connected with our real being that we can, after all, hardly regard them as our own; but inasmuch as we feel impelled expressly to deny the existence of such thoughts even in this region, we are at the same time indirectly admitting that our justification would not be complete unless it extended even thus far. And I believe that here, although unconsciously, we are speaking the language of truth."
(p.52): "No dream-action can be imagined whose first beginnings have not in some shape already passed through the mind during our waking hours, in the form of wish, desire, or impulse." Concerning this original impulse we must say: The dream has not discovered it–it has only imitated and extended it; it has only elaborated into dramatic form a scrap of historical material which it found already existing within us; it brings to our mind the words of the Apostle that he who hates his brother is a murderer. And though, after we wake, being conscious of our moral strength, we may smile at the whole widely elaborated structure of the depraved dream, yet the original material out of which we formed it cannot be laughed away. One feels responsible for the transgressions of one's dreaming self; not for the whole sum of them, but yet for a certain percentage. "In short, if in this sense, which can hardly be impugned, we understand the words of Christ, that out of the heart come evil thoughts, then we can hardly help being convinced that every sin committed in our dreams brings with it at least a vague minimum of guilt."
Thus Hildebrandt finds the source of the immorality of dreams in the germs and hints of evil impulses which pass through our minds during the day as mental temptations, and he does not hesitate to include these immoral elements in the ethical evaluation of the personality. These same thoughts, and the same evaluation of these thoughts, have, as we know, caused devout and holy men of all ages to lament that they were wicked sinners.*
*It is not uninteresting to consider the attitude of the Inquisition to this problem. In the Tractatus de Officio sanctissimae Inquisitionis of Thomas Carena (Lyons edit., 1659) one finds the following passage: "Should anyone utter heresies in his dreams, the inquisitors shall consider this a reason for investigating his conduct in life, for that is wont to return in sleep which occupies a man during the day" (Dr. Ehniger, St. Urban, Switzerland).
The general occurrence of these contrasting thoughts in the majority of men, and even in other regions than the ethical, is of course established beyond a doubt. They have sometimes been judged in a less serious spirit. Spitta quotes a relevant passage from A. Zeller (Article "Irre," in the Allgemeine Encyklopadie der Wissenschaften, Ersch and Gruber, p. 144): "An intellect is rarely so happily organized as to be in full command of itself at all times and seasons, and never to be disturbed in the lucid and constant processes of thought by ideas not merely unessential, but absolutely grotesque and nonsensical; indeed, the greatest thinkers have had cause to complain of this dream-like, tormenting and distressing rabble of ideas, which disturbs their profoundest contemplations and their most pious and earnest meditations."
A clearer light is thrown on the psychological meaning of these contrasting thoughts by a further observation of Hildebrandt's, to the effect that dreams permit us an occasional glimpse of the deepest and innermost recesses of our being, which are generally closed to us in our waking state (p. 55). A recognition of this fact is betrayed by Kant in his Anthropology, when he states that our dreams may perhaps be intended to reveal to us not what we are but what we might have been if we had had another upbringing; and by Radestock (p.84), who suggests that dreams disclose to us what we do not wish to admit to ourselves, and that we therefore unjustly condemn them as lying and deceptive. J. E. Erdmann asserts: "A dream has never told me what I ought to think of a person, but, to my great surprise, a dream has more than once taught me what I do really think of him and feel about him." And J. H. Fichte expresses himself in a like manner: "The character of our dreams gives a far truer reflection of our general disposition than anything that we can learn by self-observation in the waking state." Such remarks as this of Benini's call our attention to the fact that the emergence of impulses which are foreign to our ethical consciousness is merely analogous to the manner, already familiar to us, in which the dream disposes of other representative material: "Certe nostre inclinazioni che si credevano soffocate e spente da un pezzo, si ridestano; passioni vecchie e sepolte revivono; cose e persone a cui non pensiamo mai, ci vengono dinanzi" (p.149). Volkelt expresses himself in a similar fashion: "Even ideas which have entered into our consciousness almost unnoticed, and which, perhaps, it has never before called out of oblivion, often announce their presence in the mind through a dream" (p 105). Finally, we may remember that according to Schleiermacher the state of falling asleep is accompanied by the appearance of undesired imaginings.
We may include in such "undesired imaginings" the whole of that imaginative material the occurrence of which surprises us in immoral as well as in absurd dreams. The only important difference consists in the fact that the undesired imaginings in the moral sphere are in opposition to our usual feelings, whereas the others merely appear strange to us. So far nothing has been done to enable us to reconcile this difference by a profounder understanding. But what is the significance of the emergence of undesired representations in dreams? What conclusions can the psychology of the waking and dreaming mind draw from these nocturnal manifestations of contrasting ethical impulses? Here we find a fresh diversity of opinion, and also a different grouping of the authors who have treated of the subject. The line of thought followed by Hildebrandt, and by others who share his fundamental opinion, cannot be continued otherwise than by ascribing to the immoral impulses, even in the waking state, a latent vitality, which is indeed inhibited from proceeding to action, and by asserting that during sleep something falls away from us which, having the effect of an inhibition, has kept us from becoming aware of the existence of such impulses. Dreams therefore, reveal the true, if not the whole, nature of the dreamer, and are one means of making the hidden life of the psyche accessible to our understanding. It is only on such hypotheses that Hildebrandt can attribute to the dream the role of a monitor who calls our attention to the secret mischief in the soul, just as, according to the physicians, it may announce a hitherto unobserved physical disorder. Spitta, too, must be influenced by this conception when he refers, for example, to the stream of excitations which flow in upon the psyche during puberty, and consoles the dreamer by assuring him that he has done all that is in his power to do if he has led a strictly virtuous life during his waking state, if he has made an effort to suppress the sinful thoughts as often as they arise, and has kept them from maturing and turning into action. According to this conception, we might designate as "undesired imaginings" those that are suppressed during the day, and we must recognize in their emergence a genuine psychic phenomenon.
According to certain other authors, we have no right to draw this last inference. For Jessen (p.360) the undesired ideas and images, in the dream as in the waking state, and also in the delirium of fever, etc., possess "the character of a voluntary activity laid to rest, and of a procession, to some extent mechanical, of images and ideas evoked by inner impulses." An immoral dream proves nothing in respect of the psychic life of the dreamer except that he has somehow become cognizant of the imaginative content in question; it is certainly no proof of a psychic impulse of his own mind. Another writer, Maury, makes us wonder whether he, too, does not ascribe to the dream-state the power of dividing the psychic activity into its components, instead of aimlessly destroying it. He speaks as follows of dreams in which one oversteps the bounds of morality: "Ce sont nos penchants qui parlent et qui nous font agir, sans que la conscience nous retienne, bien que parfois elle nous avertisse. J'ai mes defauts et mes penchants vicieux; a l'etat de veille, je tache de lutter contre eux, et il m'arrive assez souvent de n'y pas succomber. Mais dans mes songes j'y succombe toujours, ou pour mieux dire j'agis par leur impulsion, sans crainte et sans remords.... Evidemment les visions qui se deroulent devant ma pensee, et qui constituent le reve, me sont suggerees par les incitations que je ressens et que ma volonte absente ne cherche pas a refouler."*–Le Sommeil (p.113).
*Our tendencies speak and make us act, without being restrained by our conscience, although it sometimes warns us. I have my faults and vicious tendencies; awake I try to fight against them, and often enough I do not succumb to them. But in my dreams I always succumb, or, rather, I act at their direction, without fear or remorse.... Evidently, the visions which unfold in my thoughts, and which constitute the dream, are suggested by the stimuli which I feel and which my absent will does not try to repel.
If one believed in the power of the dream to reveal an actually existing, but suppressed or concealed, immoral disposition of the dreamer, one could not express one's opinion more emphatically than in the words of Maury (p.115): "En reve l'homme se revele donc tout entier a soi-meme dans sa nudite et sa misere natives. Des qu'il suspend l'exercise de sa volonte, il devient le jouet de toutes les passions contre lesquelles, a l'etat de veille, la conscience, le sentiment d'honneur, la crainte nous defendent." * In another place makes the striking assertion (p.462): "Dans le reve, c'est surtout l'homme instinctif que se revele.... L'homme revient pour ainsi dire l'etat de nature quand il reve; mais moins les idees acquises ont penetre dans son esprit, plus 'les penchants en desaccord' avec elles conservent encore sur lui d'influence dans le rive."*(2) He then mentions, as an example, that his own dreams often reveal him as a victim of just those superstitions which he has most vigorously attacked in his writings.
*In a dream, a man is totally revealed to himself in his naked and wretched state. As he suspends the exercise of his will, he becomes the toy of all the passions from which, when awake, our conscience, horror, and fear defend us./*(2) In a dream, it is above all the instinctive man who is revealed.... Man returns, so to speak, to the natural state when he dreams; but the less acquired ideas have penetrated into his mind, the more his "tendencies to disagreement" with them keep their hold on him in his dreams.
The value of all these acute observations is, however, impaired in Maury's case, because he refuses to recognize in the phenomena which he has so accurately observed anything more than a proof of the automatisme psychologique which in his own opinion dominates the dream-life. He conceives this automatism as the complete opposite of psychic activity.
A passage in Stricker's Studien uber das Bewusstsein reads: "Dreams do not consist purely and simply of delusions; for example, if one is afraid of robbers in a dream, the robbers indeed are imaginary, but the fear is real." Our attention is here called to the fact that the affective development of a dream does not admit of the judgment which one bestows upon the rest of the dream-content, and the problem then arises: What part of the psychic processes in a dream may be real? That is to say, what part of them may claim to be enrolled among the psychic processes of the waking state?
A statement concerning the dream which seeks to explain as many as possible of its observed characteristics from a single point of view, and which at the same time defines the relation of the dream to a more comprehensive sphere of phenomena, may be described as a theory of the dream. The individual theories of the dream will be distinguished from one another by their designating as essential this or that characteristic of dreams, and relating thereto their data and their explanations. It is not absolutely necessary that we should deduce from the theory of the dream a function, i.e., a use or any such similar role, but expectation, being as a matter of habit teleologically inclined, will nevertheless welcome those theories which afford us some insight into a function of dreams.
We have already become acquainted with many conceptions of the dream, which in this sense are more or less deserving of the name of dream-theories. The belief of the ancients that dreams were sent by the gods in order to guide the actions of man was a complete theory of the dream, which told them all that was worth knowing about dreams. Since dreams have become an object of biological research we have a greater number of theories, some of which, however, are very incomplete.
Provided we make no claim to completeness, we might venture on the following rough grouping of dream-theories, based on their fundamental conception of the degree and mode of the psychic activity in dreams:
1. Theories, like those of Delboeuf, which allow the full psychic activity of the waking state to continue in our dreams. Here the psyche does not sleep; its apparatus remains intact; but under the conditions of the sleeping state, which differ from those of the waking state, it must in its normal functioning give results which differ from those of the waking state. As regards these theories, it may be questioned whether their authors are in a position to derive the distinction between dreaming and waking thought entirely from the conditions of the sleeping state. Moreover, they lack one possible access to a function of dreams; one does not understand to what purpose one dreams–why the complicated mechanism of the psychic apparatus should continue to operate even when it is placed under conditions to which it does not appear to be adapted. There are only two purposeful reactions in the place of the reaction of dreaming: to sleep dreamlessly, or to wake when affected by disturbing stimuli.
2. Theories which, on the contrary, assume for the dream a diminution of the psychic activity, a loosening of connections, and an impoverishment of the available material. In accordance with these theories, one must assume for sleep a psychological character entirely different from that given by Delboeuf. Sleep encroaches widely upon the psyche; it does not consist in the mere shutting it off from the outer world; on the contrary, it enters into its mechanism, and makes it for the time being unserviceable. If I may draw a comparison from psychiatry, I would say that the first group of theories construes the dream like a paranoia, while the second represents it as a type of mental deficiency or amentia.
The theory that only a fragment of the psychic activity paralysed by sleep finds expression in dreams is that by far the most favoured by medical writers, and by scientists in general. In so far as one may presuppose a general interest in dream-interpretation, one may indeed describe it as the most popular theory of dreams. It is remarkable how nimbly this particular theory avoids the greatest danger that threatens every dream-interpretation; that is, shipwreck on one of the contrasts incorporated in dreams. Since this theory regards dreams as the result of a partial waking (or, as Herbart puts it in his Psychologie uber den Traum, "a gradual, partial, and at the same time very anomalous waking"), it is able to cover the whole series, from the inferior activities of dreams, which betray themselves by their absurdity, to fully concentrated intellectual activity, by a series of states of progressive awakening, ending in complete wakefulness.
Those who find the physiological mode of expression indispensable, or who deem it more scientific, will find this theory of dreams summarized in Binz's description (p.43):
"This state (of torpor), however, gradually comes to an end in the hours of early morning. The accumulated products of fatigue in the albumen of the brain gradually diminish. They are slowly decomposed, or carried away by the constantly flowing blood-stream. Here and there individual groups of cells can be distinguished as being awake, while around them all is still in a state of torpidity. The isolated work of the individual groups now appears before our clouded consciousness, which is still powerless to control other parts of the brain, which govern the associations. Hence the pictures created, which for the most part correspond to the objective impressions of the immediate past, combine with one another in a wild and uncontrolled fashion. As the number of brain-cells set free constantly increases, the irrationality of the dream becomes constantly less."
The conception of the dream as an incomplete, partial waking state, or traces of the influence of this conception, will of course be found in the works of all the modern physiologists and philosophers. It is most completely represented by Maury. It often seems as though this author conceives the state of being awake or asleep as susceptible of shifting from one anatomical region to another; each anatomical region seeming to him to be connected with a definite psychic function. Here I will merely suggest that even if the theory of partial waking were confirmed, its finer superstructure would still call for exhaustive consideration.
No function of dreams, of course, can emerge from this conception of the dream-life. On the contrary, Binz, one of the chief proponents of this theory, consistently enough denies that dreams have any status or importance. He says (p.357): "All the facts, as we see them, urge us to characterize the dream as a physical process, in all cases useless, and in many cases definitely morbid."
The expression physical in reference to dreams (the word is emphasized by the author) points, of course, in more than one direction. In the first place, it refers to the aetiology of dreams, which was of special interest to Binz, as he was studying the experimental production of dreams by the administration of drugs. It is certainly in keeping with this kind of dream-theory to ascribe the incitement to dreaming, whenever possible, exclusively to somatic origins. Presented in the most extreme form the theory is as follows: After we have put ourselves to sleep by the banishment of stimuli, there would be no need to dream, and no reason for dreaming until the morning, when the gradual awakening through the fresh invasion of stimuli might be reflected in the phenomenon of dreaming. But, as a matter of fact, it is not possible to protect our sleep from stimuli; like the germs of life of which Mephistopheles complained, stimuli come to the sleeper from all directions–from without, from within, and even from all those bodily regions which never trouble us during the waking state. Thus our sleep is disturbed; now this, now that little corner of the psyche is jogged into the waking state, and the psyche functions for a while with the awakened fraction, yet is thankful to fall asleep again. The dream is the reaction to the disturbance of sleep caused by the stimulus, but it is, when all is said, a purely superfluous reaction.
The description of the dream–which, after all, remains an activity of the psychic organ–as a physical process has yet another connotation. So to describe it is to deny that the dream has the dignity of a psychic process. The old simile of "the ten fingers of a person ignorant of music running over the keyboard of an instrument" perhaps best illustrates in what esteem the dream is commonly held by the representatives of exact science. Thus conceived, it becomes something wholly insusceptible of interpretation. How could the ten fingers of a player ignorant of music perform a musical composition?
The theory of partial wakefulness did not escape criticism even by the earlier writers. Thus Burdach wrote in 1830: "If we say that dreaming is a partial waking, then, in the first place, neither the waking nor the sleeping state is explained thereby; secondly, this amounts only to saying that certain powers of the mind are active in dreams while others are at rest. But such irregularities occur throughout life..." (p.482).
The prevailing dream-theory which conceives the dream as a "physical" process finds a certain support in a very interesting conception of the dream which was first propounded by Robert in 1866, and which is seductive because it assigns to the dream a function or a useful result. As the basis of his theory Robert takes two objectively observable facts which we have already discussed in our consideration of dream-material (chapter I., B). These facts are: (1) that one very often dreams about the most insignificant impressions of the day; and (2) that one rarely carries over into the dream the absorbing interests of the day. Robert asserts as an indisputable fact that those matters which have been fully settled and solved never evoke dreams, but only such as lie incompleted in the mind, or touch it merely in passing (p.10). "For this reason we cannot usually explain our dreams, since their causes are to be found in sensory impressions of the preceding day which have not attained sufficient recognition on the part of the dreamer." The condition permitting an impression to reach the dream is, therefore, that this impression has been disturbed in its elaboration, or that it was too insignificant to lay claim to such elaboration.
Robert therefore conceives the dream "as a physical process of elimination which in its psychic reaction reaches the consciousness." Dreams are eliminations of thoughts nipped in the bud. "A man deprived of the capacity for dreaming would in time become mentally unbalanced, because an immense number of unfinished and unsolved thoughts and superficial impressions would accumulate in his brain, under the pressure of which all that should be incorporated in the memory as a completed whole would be stifled." The dream acts as a safety-valve for the over-burdened brain. Dreams possess a healing and unburdening power (p.32).
We should misunderstand Robert if we were to ask him how representation in the dream could bring about an unburdening of the mind. The writer apparently concluded from these two peculiarities of the dream-material that during sleep such an elimination of worthless impressions is effected somehow as a somatic process; and that dreaming is not a special psychic process, but only the information which we receive of such elimination. Moreover, elimination is not the only thing that takes place in the mind during sleep. Robert himself adds that the stimuli of the day are likewise elaborated, and "what cannot be eliminated from the undigested thought-material lying in the mind is bound up into a completed whole by mental clues borrowed from the imagination, and is thus enrolled in the memory as a harmless phantasy-picture" (p.23).
But it is in his criticism of the sources of dreams that Robert is most flatly opposed to the prevailing theory. Whereas according to this theory there would be no dream if the external and internal sensory stimuli did not repeatedly wake the mind, according to Robert the impulse to dream lies in the mind itself. It lies in the overloading of the mind, which demands discharge, and Robert considers, quite consistently, that those causes conditioning the dream which depend on the physical condition assume a subordinate rank, and could not incite dreams in a mind which contained no material for dream-formation derived from the waking consciousness. It is admitted, however, that the phantasy-images originating in the depths of the mind may be influenced by nervous stimuli (p.48). Thus, according to Robert, dreams are not, after all, wholly dependent on the somatic element. Dreaming is, of course, not a psychic process, and it has no place among the psychic processes of the waking state; it is a nocturnal somatic process in the apparatus of mental activity, and has a function to perform, viz., to guard this apparatus against excessive strain, or, if we may be allowed to change the comparison, to cleanse the mind.
Another author, Yves Delage, bases his theory on the same characteristics of the dream–characteristics which are perceptible in the selection of the dream-material, and it is instructive to observe how a trifling twist in the conception of the same things gives a final result entirely different in its bearings. Delage, having lost through death a person very dear to him, found that we either do not dream at all of what occupies us intently during the day, or that we begin to dream of it only after it is overshadowed by the other interests of the day. His investigations in respect of other persons corroborated the universality of this state of affairs. Concerning the dreams of newly-married people, he makes a comment which is admirable if it should prove to be generally true: "S'ils ont ete fortement epris, presque jamais ils n'ont reve l'un de l'autre avant le mariage ou pendant la lune de miel; et s'ils ont reve d'amour c'est pour etre infideles avec quelque personne indifferente ou odieuse."* But of what does one dream? Delage recognizes that the material of our dreams consists of fragments and remnants of impressions, both from the last few days and from earlier periods. All that appears in our dreams, all that we may at first be inclined to consider the creation of the dream-life, proves on closer investigation to be unrecognized reproduction, "souvenir inconscient." But this representative material reveals one common characteristic; it originates from impressions which have probably affected our senses more forcibly than our mind, or from which the attention has been deflected soon after their occurrence. The less conscious, and at the same time the stronger an impression, the greater the prospect of its playing a part in our next dream.
*If they are very much in love, they have almost never dreamed of each other before the marriage or during the honeymoon; and if they have dreamed of love, it was to be unfaithful with someone unimportant or distasteful.
These two categories of impressions–the insignificant and the undisposed-of- are essentially the same as those which were emphasized by Robert, but Delage gives them another significance, inasmuch as he believes that these impressions are capable of exciting dreams not because they are indifferent, but because they are not disposed of. The insignificant impressions also are, in a sense, not fully disposed of; they, too, owing to their character of new impressions, are "autant de ressorts tendus,"* which will be relaxed during sleep. Still more entitled to a role in the dream than a weak and almost unnoticed impression is a vivid impression which has been accidentally retarded in its elaboration, or intentionally repressed. The psychic energy accumulated during the day by inhibition or suppression becomes the mainspring of the dream at night. In dreams psychically suppressed material achieves expression.*(2)
*So many taut lines./*(2) A novelist, Anatole France, expresses himself to a similar effect (Le Lys Rouge): "Ce que nous voyons la nuit ce sont les restes malheureux que nous avons neglige dans la veille. Le reve est souvent la revanche des choses qu'on meprise ou le reproche des etres abandonnes." [What we see at night are the unhappy relics that we neglected while awake. The dream is often the revenge of things scorned or the reproach of beings deserted.]
Unfortunately Delage does not pursue this line of thought any farther; he is able to ascribe only the most insignificant role in our dreams to an independent psychic activity, and thus, in his theory of dreams, he reverts to the prevailing doctrine of a partial slumber of the brain: "En somme le reve est le produit de la pensee errante, sans but et sans direction, se fixant successivement sur les souvenirs, qui ont garde assez d'intensite pour se placer sur sa route et l'arreter au passage, etablissant entre eux un lien tantot faible et indecis, tantot plus fort et plus serre, selon que l'activite actuelle du cerveau est plus ou moins abolie par le sommeil." *
*In short, the dream is the product of wandering thought, without end or direction, successively fixing on memories which have retained sufficient intensity to put themselves in the way and block the passage, establishing between themselves a connection sometimes weak and loose, sometimes stronger and closer, according to whether the actual work of the brain is more or less suppressed by sleep.
3. In a third group we may include those dream-theories which ascribe to the dreaming mind the capacity for and propensity to special psychic activities, which in the waking state it is able to exert either not at all or imperfectly. In most cases the manifestation of these activities is held to result in a useful function of dreams. The evaluations of dreams by the earlier psychologists fall chiefly within this category. I shall content myself, however, with quoting in their stead the assertion of Burdach, to the effect that dreaming "is the natural activity of the mind, which is not limited by the power of the individuality, nor disturbed by self-consciousness, nor directed by self-determination, but is the vitality of the sensible focus indulging in free play" (p.486).
Burdach and others evidently consider this revelling in the free use of its own powers as a state in which the mind refreshes itself and gathers fresh strength for the day's work; something, indeed, after the fashion of a vacation. Burdach therefore cites with approval the admirable words in which the poet Novalis lauds the power of the dream: "The dream is a bulwark against the regularity and commonplace character of life, a free recreation of the fettered phantasy, in which it intermingles all the images of life and interrupts the constant seriousness of the adult by the joyful play of the child. Without the dream we should surely grow old earlier, so that the dream may be considered, if not precisely as a gift from above, yet as a delightful exercise, a friendly companion on our pilgrimage to the grave."
The refreshing and healing activity of dreams is even more impressively described by Purkinje (p.456). "The productive dreams in particular would perform these functions. These are the unconstrained play of the imagination, and have no connection with the events of the day. The mind is loth to continue the tension of the waking life, but wishes to relax it and recuperate from it. It creates, in the first place conditions opposed to those of the waking state. It cures sadness by joy, worry by hope and cheerfully distracting images, hatred by love and friendliness, and fear by courage and confidence; it appeases doubt by conviction and firm belief, and vain expectation by realization. Sleep heals many sore spots in the mind, which the day keeps continually open, by covering them and guarding them against fresh irritation. On this depends in some degree the consoling action of time." We all feel that sleep is beneficial to the psychic life, and the vague surmise of the popular consciousness is apparently loth to surrender the notion that dreaming is one of the ways in which sleep bestows its benefits.
The most original and most comprehensive attempt to explain dreaming as a special activity of the mind, which can freely unfold itself only in the sleeping state, is that made by Scherner in 1861. Scherner's book is written in a heavy and bombastic style and is inspired by an almost intoxicated enthusiasm for the subject, which is bound to repel us unless it can carry us away with it. It places so many difficulties in the way of an analysis that we gladly resort to the clearer and conciser presentation of Scherner's theories made by the philosopher Volkelt: "From these mystical conglomerations, from all these outbursts of splendour and radiance, there indeed flashes and shines an ominous semblance of meaning; but the path of the philosopher is not illumined thereby." Such is the criticism of Scherner's exposition by one of his own followers.
Scherner is not one of those writers for whom the mind carries its undiminished faculties into the dream-life. He even explains how, in our dreams, the centrality and spontaneous energy of the ego become enervated; how cognition, feeling, will, and imagination are transformed by this decentralization; how the remnant of these psychic forces has not a truly intellectual character, but is rather of the nature of a mechanism. But, on the other hand, that activity of the psyche which may be described as phantasy, freed from all rational governance, and hence no longer strictly controlled, rises to absolute supremacy in our dreams. To be sure, it borrows all its building-material from the memory of the waking state, but with this material it builds up structures which differ from those of the waking state as day differs from night. In our dreams it reveals itself as not only reproductive but also productive. Its peculiarities give the dream-life its singular character. It shows a preference for the unlimited, the exaggerated, the prodigious; but by its liberation from the inhibiting categories of thought, it gains a greater flexibility and agility, and indulges in pleasurable turns. It is excessively sensitive to the delicate emotional stimuli of the mind, to its stirring and disturbing affects, and it rapidly recasts the inner life into an external, plastic visibility. The dream-phantasy lacks the language of concepts. What it wishes to say it must express in visible form; and since in this case the concept does not exert an inhibitory control, it depicts it in all the fulness, power, and breadth of visible form. But hereby its language, plain though it is, becomes cumbersome, awkward, and prolix. Plain speaking is rendered especially difficult by the fact that it dislikes expressing an object by its actual image, but prefers to select an alien image, if only the latter is able to express that particular aspect of the object which it is anxious to represent. Such is the symbolizing activity of the phantasy.... It is, moreover, very significant that the dream-phantasy reproduces objects not in detail, but only in outline, and in the freest possible manner. Its paintings, therefore, are like light and brilliant sketches. The dream-phantasy, however, does not stop at the mere representation of the object, but feels an internal urge to implicate the dream-ego to some extent with the object, and thus to give rise to action. The visual dream, for example, depicts gold coins lying in the street; the dreamer picks them up, rejoices, and carries them away.
According to Scherner, the material upon which the dream-phantasy exerts its artistic activity consists preponderantly of the organic sensory stimuli which are so obscure during the day (cf. p.151 above); hence it is that the over-fantastic theory of Scherner, and perhaps too matter-of-fact theories of Wundt and other physiologists, though otherwise diametrically opposed to each other, are in perfect agreement in their assumptions with regard to dream-sources and dream-stimuli. But whereas, according to the physiological theory, the psychic reaction to the inner physical stimuli becomes exhausted with the arousing of any of the ideas appropriate to these stimuli (as these ideas then, by way of association, call to their aid other ideas, so that on reaching this stage the chain of psychic processes appears to terminate), according to Scherner, on the other hand, the physical stimuli merely supply the psyche with material which it may utilize in fulfilling its phantastic intentions. For Scherner dream-formation begins where, according to the views of other writers, it comes to an end.
What the dream-phantasy does with the physical stimuli cannot, of course, be regarded as purposeful. The phantasy plays a tantalizing game with them, and represents the organic source of the stimuli of the dream in question by any sort of plastic symbolism. Indeed, Scherner holds–though here Volkelt and others differ from him–that the dream-phantasy has a certain favourite symbol for the organism as a whole: namely, the house. Fortunately, however, for its representations, it does not seem to limit itself to this material; it may also employ a whole series of houses to designate a single organ; for example, very long streets of houses for the intestinal stimulus. In other dreams particular parts of the house may actually represent particular regions of the body, as in the headache-dream, when the ceiling of the room (which the dream sees covered with disgusting toad-like spiders) represents the head.
Quite apart from the symbol of the house, any other suitable object may be employed to represent those parts of the body which excite the dream. "Thus the breathing lungs find their symbol in the flaming stove with its windy roaring, the heart in hollow chests and baskets, the bladder in round, ball-shaped, or simply hollow objects. The man's dreams, when due to the sexual stimulus, make the dreamer find in the street the upper portion of a clarinet, or the mouthpiece of a tobacco-pipe, or, again, a piece of fur. The clarinet and tobacco-pipe represent the approximate form of the male sexual organ, while the fur represents the pubic hair. In the sexual dreams of the female, the tightness of the closed thighs may be symbolized by a narrow courtyard surrounded by houses, and the vagina by a very narrow, slippery and soft footpath, leading through the courtyard, upon which the dreamer is obliged to walk, in order perhaps to carry a letter to a man" (Volkelt, p.39). It is particularly noteworthy that at the end of such a physically stimulated dream the phantasy, as it were, unmasks itself by representing the exciting organ or its function unconcealed. Thus the "tooth-excited dream" usually ends with the dreamer taking a tooth out of his mouth.
The dream-phantasy may, however, direct its attention not merely to the form of the exciting organ, but may even make the substance contained therein the object of symbolization. Thus, for example, the dream excited by the intestinal stimuli may lead us through muddy streets, the dream due to stimuli from the bladder to foaming water. Or the stimulus as such, the nature of its excitation, and the object which it covets, are represented symbolically. Or, again, the dream-ego enters into a concrete association with the symbolization of its own state; as, for example, when in the case of painful stimuli we struggle desperately with vicious dogs or raging bulls, or when in a sexual dream the dreamer sees herself pursued by a naked man. Disregarding all the possible prolixity of elaboration, a phantastic symbolizing activity remains as the central force of every dream. Volkelt, in his fine and enthusiastic essay, attempted to penetrate still further into the character of this phantasy, and to assign to the psychic activity thus recognized its position in a system of philosophical ideas, which, however, remains altogether too difficult of comprehension for anyone who is not prepared by previous training for the intuitive comprehension of philosophical modes of thought.
Scherner attributes no useful function to the activity of the symbolizing phantasy in dreams. In dreams the psyche plays with the stimuli which are offered to it. One might conjecture that it plays in a mischievous fashion. And we might be asked whether our detailed consideration of Scherner's dream-theory, the arbitrariness of which, and its deviation from the rules of all forms of research are only too obvious, can lead to any useful results. We might fitly reply that to reject Scherner's theory without previous examination would be imposing too arrogant a veto. This theory is based on the impressions produced by his dreams on a man who paid close attention to them, and who would appear to be personally very well equipped for tracing obscure psychic phenomena. Furthermore, it treats of a subject which (though rich in its contents and relations) has for thousands of years appeared mysterious to humanity, and to the elucidation of which science, strictly so called, has, as it confesses, contributed nothing beyond attempting- in uncompromising opposition to popular sentiment–to deny its content and significance. Finally, let us frankly admit that it seems as though we cannot very well avoid the phantastical in our attempts to explain dreams. We must remember also that there is such a thing as a phantasy of ganglion cells; the passage cited (p.87) from a sober and exact investigator like Binz, which describes how the dawn of awakening floods the dormant cell-masses of the cerebral cortex, is not a whit less fanciful and improbable than Scherner's attempts at interpretation. I hope to be able to demonstrate that there is something real underlying these attempts, though the phenomena which he describes have been only vaguely recognized, and do not possess the character of universality that should entitle them to be the basis of a theory of dreams. For the present, Scherner's theory of dreams, in contrast to the medical theory, may perhaps lead us to realize between what extremes the explanation of dream-life is still unsteadily vacillating.
When we speak of the relation of dreams to mental derangement, we may mean three different things: (1) aetiological and clinical relations, as when a dream represents or initiates a psychotic condition, or occurs subsequently to such a condition; (2) changes which the dream-life undergoes in cases of mental disease; (3) inner relations between dreams and psychoses, analogies which point to an intimate relationship. These manifold relations between the two series of phenomena were in the early days of medical science- and are once more at the present time–a favourite theme of medical writers, as we may learn from the literature on the subject collated by Spitta, Radestock, Maury, and Tissie. Recently Sante de Sanctis has directed his attention to this relationship.* For the purposes of our discussion it will suffice merely to glance at this important subject.
*Among the more recent authors who have occupied themselves with these relations are: Fere, Ideler, Lasegue, Pichon, Regis Vespa, Giessler, Kazodowsky, Pachantoni, and others.
As to the clinical and aetiological relations between dreams and the psychoses, I will report the following observations as examples: Hohnbaum asserts (see Krauss) that the first attack of insanity is frequently connected with a terrifying anxiety-dream, and that the predominating idea is related to this dream. Sante de Sanctis adduces similar observations in respect of paranoiacs, and declares the dream to be, in some of them, "la vraie cause determinante de la folie."* The psychosis may come to life quite suddenly, simultaneously with the dream that contains its effective and delusive explanation, or it may develop slowly through subsequent dreams that have still to struggle against doubt. In one of de Sanctis's cases an intensively moving dream was accompanied by slight hysterical attacks, which, in their turn, were followed by an anxious melancholic state. Fere (cited by Tissie) refers to a dream which was followed by hysterical paralysis. Here the dream is presented as the aetiology of mental derangement, although we should be making a statement equally consistent with the facts were we to say that the first manifestation of the mental derangement occurred in the dream-life, that the disorder first broke through in the dream. In other instances, the morbid symptoms are included in the dream-life, or the psychosis remains confined to the dream-life. Thus Thomayer calls our attention to anxiety-dreams which must be conceived as the equivalent of epileptic attacks. Allison has described cases of nocturnal insanity (see Radestock), in which the subjects are apparently perfectly well in the day-time, while hallucinations, fits of frenzy, and the like regularly make their appearance at night. De Sanctis and Tissie record similar observations (the equivalent of a paranoic dream in an alcoholic, voices accusing a wife of infidelity). Tissie records many observations of recent date in which behaviour of a pathological character (based on delusory hypotheses, obsessive impulses) had their origin in dreams. Guislain describes a case in which sleep was replaced by an intermittent insanity.
*The real determining cause of the madness.
We cannot doubt that one day the physician will concern himself not only with the psychology, but also with the psycho-pathology of dreams.
In cases of convalescence from insanity, it is often especially obvious that while the functions may be healthy by day the dream-life may still partake of the psychosis. Gregory is said to have been the first to call attention to such cases (see Krauss). Macario (cited by Tissie) gives an account of a maniac who, a week after his complete recovery, once more experienced in dreams the flux of ideas and the unbridled impulses of his disease.
Concerning the changes which the dream-life undergoes in chronic psychotics, little research has been undertaken as yet. On the other hand, early attention was given to the inner relationship between dreams and mental disturbances, a relationship which is demonstrated by the complete agreement of the manifestations occurring in each. According to Maury, Cabanis, in his Rapports du Physique et du Moral, was the first to call attention to this relationship; he was followed by Lelut, J. Moreau, and more particularly the philosopher Maine de Biran. The comparison between the two is of course older still. Radestock begins the chapter in which he deals with the subject by citing a number of opinions which insist on the analogy between insanity and dreaming. Kant says somewhere: "The lunatic is a dreamer in the waking state." According to Krauss, "Insanity is a dream in which the senses are awake." Schopenhauer terms the dream a brief insanity, and insanity a long dream. Hagen describes delirium as a dream-life which is inducted not by sleep but by disease. Wundt, in his Physiologische Psychologie, declares: "As a matter of fact we ourselves may in dreams experience almost all the manifestations which we observe in the asylums for the insane."
The specific points of agreement in consequence of which such a comparison commends itself to our judgment are enumerated by Spitta, who groups them (very much as Maury has done) as follows: "(1) Suspension, or at least retardation of self-consciousness, and consequently ignorance of the condition as such, the impossibility of astonishment, and a lack of moral consciousness. (2) Modified perception of the sensory organs; that is, perception is as a rule diminished in dreams, and greatly enhanced in insanity. (3) Mutual combination of ideas exclusively in accordance with the laws of association and reproduction, hence automatic series-formations: hence again a lack of proportion in the relations between ideas (exaggerations, phantasms); and the results of all this: (4) Changes in–for example, inversions of- the personality, and sometimes of the idiosyncrasies of the character (perversities)."
Radestock adds a few additional data concerning the analogous nature of the material of dreams and of mental derangement: "The greatest number of hallucinations and illusions are found in the sphere of the senses of sight and hearing and general sensation. As in dreams, the fewest elements are supplied by the senses of smell and taste. The fever-patient, like the dreamer, is assailed by reminiscences from the remote past; what the waking and healthy man seems to have forgotten is recollected in sleep and in disease." The analogy between dreams and the psychoses receives its full value only when, like a family resemblance, it is extended to the subtler points of mimicry, and even the individual peculiarities of facial expression.
"To him who is tortured by physical and mental sufferings the dream accords what has been denied him by reality, to wit, physical well-being, and happiness; so, too, the insane see radiant images of happiness, eminence, and wealth. The supposed possession of estates and the imaginary fulfilment of wishes, the denial or destruction of which have actually been a psychic cause of the insanity, often form the main content of the delirium. The woman who has lost a dearly beloved child experiences in her delirium the joys of maternity; the man who has suffered reverses of fortune deems himself immensely wealthy; and the jilted girl sees herself tenderly beloved."
(This passage from Radestock is an abstract of a brilliant exposition of Griesinger's (p.111), which reveals, with the greatest clarity, wish-fulfilment as a characteristic of the imagination common to dreams and to the psychoses. My own investigations have taught me that here is to be found the key to a psychological theory of dreams and of the psychoses.)
"Absurd combinations of ideas and weakness of judgment are the main characteristics of the dream and of insanity." The over-estimation of one's own mental capacity, which appears absurd to sober judgment, is found alike in both, and the rapid flux of imaginings in the dream corresponds to the flux of ideas in the psychoses. Both are devoid of any measure of time. The splitting of the personality in dreams, which, for instance, distributes one's own knowledge between two persons, one of whom, the strange person, corrects one's own ego in the dream, entirely corresponds with the well-known splitting of the personality in hallucinatory paranoia; the dreamer, too, hears his own thoughts expressed by strange voices. Even the constant delusive ideas find their analogy in the stereotyped and recurring pathological dream (reve obsedant). After recovering from delirium, patients not infrequently declare that the whole period of their illness appeared to them like an uncomfortable dream; indeed, they inform us that sometimes during their illness they have suspected that they were only dreaming, just as often happens in the sleep-dream.
In view of all this, it is not surprising that Radestock should summarize his own opinion, and that of many others, in the following words: "Insanity, an abnormal morbid phenomenon, is to be regarded as an enhancement of the periodically recurring normal dream-state" (p.228).
Krauss attempted to base the relationship between the dream and insanity upon their aetiology (or rather upon the sources of excitation), thus, perhaps, making the relationship even more intimate than was possible on the basis of the analogous nature of the phenomena manifested. According to him, the fundamental element common to both is, as we have already learned, the organically conditioned sensation, the sensation of physical stimuli, the general sensation arising out of contributions from all the organs (cf. Peisse, cited by Maury, p.52).
The undeniable agreement between dreams and mental derangement, extending even to characteristic details, constitutes one of the strongest confirmations of the medical theory of dream-life, according to which the dream is represented as a useless and disturbing process, and as the expression of a diminished psychic activity. One cannot expect, for the present, to derive the final explanation of the dream from the psychic derangements, since, as is well known, our understanding of the origin of the latter is still highly unsatisfactory. It is very probable, however, that a modified conception of the dream must also influence our views regarding the inner mechanism of mental disorders, and hence we may say that we are working towards the explanation of the psychoses when we endeavour to elucidate the mystery of dreams.
I shall have to justify myself for not extending my summary of the literature of dream-problems to cover the period between the first appearance of this book and the publication of the second edition. This justification may not seem very satisfactory to the reader; none the less, to me it was decisive. The motives which induced me to summarize the treatment of dreams in the literature of the subject have been exhausted by the foregoing introduction; to have continued this would have cost me a great deal of effort and would not have been particularly useful or instructive. For the interval in question- a period of nine years–has yielded nothing new or valuable as regards the conception of dreams, either in actual material or in novel points of view. In most of the literature which has appeared since the publication of my own work the latter has not been mentioned or discussed; it has, of course, received the least attention from the so-called "research-workers on dreams," who have thus afforded a brilliant example of the aversion to learning anything new so characteristic of the scientist. "Les savants ne sont pas curieux,"* said the scoffer Anatole France. If there were such a thing in science as the right of revenge, I in my turn should be justified in ignoring the literature which has appeared since the publication of this book. The few reviews which have appeared in the scientific journals are so full of misconceptions and lack of comprehension that my only possible answer to my critics would be a request that they should read this book over again–or perhaps merely that they should read it!
*The learned are not inquisitive.
In the works of those physicians who make use of the psycho-analytic method of treatment a great many dreams have been recorded and interpreted in accordance with my directions. In so far as these works go beyond the confirmation of my own assertions, I have noted their results in the context of my exposition. A supplementary bibliography at the end of this volume comprises the most important of these new publications. The comprehensive work on the dream by Sante de Sanctis, of which a German translation appeared soon after its publication, was produced simultaneously with my own, so that I could not review his results, nor could he comment upon mine. I am sorry to have to express the opinion that this laborious work is exceedingly poor in ideas, so poor that one could never divine from it the possibility of the problems which I have treated in these pages.
I can think of only two publications which touch on my own treatment of the dream-problems. A young philosopher, H. Swoboda, who has ventured to extend W. Fliess's discovery of biological periodicity (in series of twenty-three and twenty-eight days) to the psychic field, has produced an imaginative essay,* in which, among other things, he has used this key to solve the riddle of dreams. Such a solution, however, would be an inadequate estimate of the significance of dreams. The material content of dreams would be explained by the coincidence of all those memories which, on the night of the dream, complete one of these biological periods for the first or the nth time. A personal communication of the author's led me to assume that he himself no longer took this theory very seriously. But it seems that I was mistaken in this conclusion: I shall record in another place some observations made with reference to Swoboda's thesis, which did not, however, yield convincing results. It gave me far greater pleasure to find by chance, in an unexpected quarter, a conception of the dream which is in complete agreement with the essence of my own. The relevant dates preclude the possibility that this conception was influenced by reading my book: I must therefore hail this as the only demonstrable concurrence with the essentials of my theory of dreams to be found in the literature of the subject. The book which contains the passage that I have in mind was published (in its second edition) in 1910, by Lynkeus, under the title Phantasien eines Realisten.
*H. Swoboda, Die Perioden des Menschlichen Organismus, 1904.
The above apologia was written in 1909. Since then, the state of affairs has certainly undergone a change; my contribution to the "interpretation of dreams" is no longer ignored in the literature of the subject. But the new situation makes it even more impossible to continue the foregoing summary. The Interpretation of Dreams has evoked a whole series of new contentions and problems, which have been expounded by the authors in the most varied fashions. But I cannot discuss these works until I have developed the theories to which their authors have referred. Whatever has appeared to me as valuable in this recent literature I have accordingly reviewed in the course of the following exposition.
On to Chapter Two
APA-style reference for this online book:
Freud, S (1911). The Interpretation of Dreams, 3rd edition (Brill translation). Retrieved from: http://www.psywww.com/
Table of Contents | Psych Web Index Page
Don't see what you need? Psych Web has over 1,000 pages, so it may be elsewhere on the site. Do a site-specific Google search using the box below.