S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Dreams are an instance of that agility and perfection which is natural to the faculties of the mind when they are disengaged from the body. The soul is clogged and retarded in her operations when she acts in conjunction with a companion that is so heavy and unwieldy in its motions. But in dreams it is wonderful to observe with what a sprightliness and alacrity she exerts herself. The slow of speech make unpremeditated harangues, or converse readily in languages that they are but little acquainted with. The grave abound in pleasantries, the dull in repartees and points of wit. There is not a more painful action of the mind than invention; yet in dreams it works with that ease and activity that we are not sensible of when the faculty is employed. For instance, I believe every one, some time or other, dreams that he is reading papers, books, or letters; in which case the invention prompts so readily that the mind is imposed upon, and mistakes its own suggestions for the compositions of another.
We are somewhat more than ourselves in our sleeps, and the slumber of the body seems to be but the waking of the soul. It is the litigation of sense, but the liberty of reason; and our waking conceptions do not match the fancies of our sleeps.
There is surely a nearer apprehension of anything that delights us in our dreams, than in our waked senses: without this I were unhappy; for my awaked judgment discontents me, ever whispering unto me that I am from my friend; but my friendly dreams in the night requite me, and make me think I am within his arms. I thank God for my happy dreams, as I do for my good rest, for there is a satisfaction in them unto reasonable desires and such as can be content with a fit of happiness.
The circumstances which a man imagines himself in during sleep are generally such as entirely favour his inclinations, good or bad, and give him imaginary opportunities of pursuing them to the utmost: so that his temper will lie fairly open to his view while he considers how it is moved when free from those constraints which the accidents of real life put it under. Dreams are certainly the result of our waking thoughts, and our daily hopes and fears are what give the mind such nimble relishes of pleasure and such severe touches of pain in its midnight rambles. A man that murders his enemy, or deserts his friend, in a dream, had need to guard his temper against revenge and ingratitude, and take heed that he be not tempted to do a vile thing in the pursuit of false or the neglect of true honour.
It is certain the imagination may be so differently affected in sleep that our actions of the day may be either rewarded or punished with a little age of happiness or misery. St. Austin was of opinion that, if in Paradise there was the same vicissitude of sleeping and waking as in the present world, the dreams of its inhabitants would be very happy.
If we can sleep without dreaming, it is well that painful dreams are avoided. If while we sleep we can have any pleasing dreams, it is, as the French say, tant gagné, so much added to the pleasure of life.
Dreaming is not hallucination, and hallucination is not dreaming, but there are obvious resemblances between them. In dreaming, the brain is neither quite awake nor quite asleep. The mind is a wizard chamber of dissolving views. In dreams, the picturing power of the mind is active, whilst the attention, the judgment, and the will are dormant. In dreams, the pictures pass of themselves, the dissolving views roll on, the images of the imagination shine and mingle uncorrected by the sensations and uncontrolled by the will. All the pictures apparently come and go incoherently. The recollections of dreams are confused and chaotic, but the recollections are not the dreams. The incoherence is not real. Proof of this fact is to be found in the observation that there is a similar incoherence in the successive pictures of the waking mind, when the images of the chamber of imagery are neither dominated by the will nor observed with attention. There is always a relation to the order of occurrence of the sensations in the order of the ideas. The incoherence of the dreams of the sound mind is simply imperfect recollection, and the absence or dormancy of attention and volition.
Dreams and prophecies do thus much good: they make a man go on with boldness and courage, upon a danger or a mistress: if he obtains, he attributes much to them; if he miscarries, he thinks no more of them, or is no more thought of himself.
A very remarkable circumstance, and an important point of analogy, is to be found in the extreme rapidity with which the mental operations are performed, or, rather, with which the material changes on which the ideas depend are excited in the hemispherical ganglia. It would appear as if a whole series of acts, that would really occupy a long lapse of time, pass ideally through the mind in one instant. We have in dreams no true perception of the lapse of timea strange property of mind! for if such be also its property when entered into the eternal disembodied state, time will appear to us eternity. The relations of space as well as of time are also annihilated; so that whilst almost an eternity is compressed into a moment, infinite space is traversed more swiftly than by real thought.