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minds; and if we are thus unconscious and unreflecting when we are awake, our unconsciousness in dreaming, when all sensation is suspended, ought not to be wondered at, and can be no objection to the opinion, that dreams are the productions of our own minds. As to the other argument drawn from the improbability of our tormenting ourselves with frightful images, it will have no weight with those who consider how apt our 'waking thoughts are to rove and wander, and that we are so far from having an absolute command over them, that, in spite of ourselves, they will often run out upon unpleasing, and even horrid and terrible subjects.
Dr. Cheyne, I think, somewhere gives us a less exceptionable rationale of dreaming: he contends, that all dreamig is imperfect and confused thinking, and that there are various degrees of it between sound sleep, and being broad awake; conscious regular thinking and not thinking at all, being the two extremes, and that in proportion as we incline to waking or to sound sleep, we dream more or less; and our dreams are more wild, extravagant and confused, or more rational and consistent. And indeed the Dr. seems to have truly explained the phenomenon in every respect, except in supposing the soul not to think or dream at all in sound sleep, for I imagine that in sound sleep the memory and reflective powers of the soul are so locked up, or rather so clouded and impeded by the indisposition and relaxation of the bodily organs, that when we awake we cannot recollect the least traces of the images which the soul amuses herself with at that juncture. Although I cannot be of opinion with the celebrated Des Cartes, that extension is the essence of matter, yet I cannot but agree with him, that thought, if not the essence, is at least essential to spirit, and that the soul always thinks, though she is not always conscious of, nor always reflects upon, her thoughts.
The soul and body being strictly united, mutually affect and act upon each other, and we find that the powers of the soul are more or less vigorous, in proportion as the humours of the body are healthy or morbid. A proper tone and vigour in the corporeal organs is therefore necessary for the perfect exertion and operation of the powers of the soul, but that particular disposition of the solids and fluids which inclines to sleep, impares this tone, relaxes the whole corporeal system, and superinduces a certain cloudiness, indolence, and inactivity on the soul. The more this sopori. fic disposition prevails, the more the soul is indisposed to thinking, and clogged and impeded in her operations: and
as the exertion of the nobler faculties of the niind requires more vigorous efforts, so we find that these are the power's affected and suspended by sleep, judgment, memory, reflection, and consciousness gradually ceasing, and the imagination alone being left awake; which active faculty being indeed the power of thinking and forming ideas, is not to be overpowered or suspended, for the soul must always necessarily think, although she may be so disturbed or restrained by the impressions of matter as not to be always capable of arranging her thoughts, and reflecting and reasoning upon them. The state of the soul in sleep therefore seems to me not to be the weakest proof of her immortality and excellence. Sleep is justly observed to be the image of death, and this temporary death, we see, does not destroy the power of thinking; the soul indeed seems to be deprived of her nobler faculties, but that is only caused by the still subsisting union hetween her and the sleeping body, which clogs and renders her less active and powerful. But were the death rendered perfect and complete by the disa solution of this union, and the soul quite disincumbered, then we might expect that she would not only exert all her present faculties with inconceivable vigour, but perhaps find new powers to which she is now quite a stranger. Her nobler faculties are impeded by the indisposition of the bodily organs, and suspended by her union with them whilst they are in a dead and torpid state, and rise in perfection and vigour according as her material fetters less incumber and sit lighter upon her.
In the argument I have considered dreaming in general as the effect of the operation of our own minds, as indeed I believe it is, but I do not absolutely deny that dreams may sometimes be suggested by superior spiritual beings. The properest time for such impressions, or infusions, is certainly when the soul is not conscious, nor under her own command, her powers suspended, and her most vigilant and discerning centinels asleep. The famous Sylla, a man not at all addicted to superstition, gave great credit to dreams; we have instances of several extraordinary dreams in holy writ, and we find all antiquity paid a great regard to them. But such predictive inspired dreams biust be very, rare, they must be also rational and consistent, and the impressions strong and lively, and therefore easily distinguishable from others, and not needing interpretation, so that those instances should afford no encouragement to a weak and superstitious anxiety and solicitude about every idle fancy that passes through our heads in sleep, nor induce us to pay any regard to the ridiculons and dreaming rules given by Artemidorus and other profound personages, for the interpretation of dreams.
II. Joy and Grief in Dreams, why superior to reality.
MR. URBAN, THE 'following speculations may, perhaps, not be thought unworthy of insertion in a Magazine, which, in the diversity of its contents, appears to embrace every possible subject of research. | That we are frequently affected in a much more lively manner with joy and grief in our dreams than we ever experienced when awake, is a fạct sufficiently notorious. There is often a peculiar glow of colouring in our raptures, and in our distresses, in these imaginary scenes, which no power of language can describe, nor any situation in actual life realize. Few persons, I believe, Sir, have ever passed through life without making this reflection. Philosophers, I know, have endeavoured to account for this phenomenon, by supposing, that the soul in sleep, being more abstracted from the body, is more open to those finer sensibilities which the grossness of our material organs either totally extinguishes, or considerably deadens, when we are awake : but, I must confess, Sir, the errors, the follies, the absurdities, of dreams are such, that I cannot draw any
inference from the superior perfection of the soul in that state, to explain any phenomenon whatever. An intelligent friend with whom I was conversing on the subject, has given a much more easy, and, as it appears to me, satisfactory, solution of the question. “When we are awake,” says he,
we are never entirely occupied with the object before us; we are either looking back on the past, or forward to the future, and our attention is always, in some degree, more or-less, diverted from the direct impression of the moment; but, in sleep, both memory and foresight are extinguished; we are solely occupied with the object before us; and we receive from that object the full impression it is capable of producing on our minds.".
There are not wanting a variety of topics to illustrate and enforce this opinion of my friend. Supposing the natural acuteness of feeling the same, a man possesses sensibility
in proportion as he is abstracted from the cares of life. A man immersed in business or pleasure can never be a man of sensibility. The man of sensibility is, if I may say so, in a state of perpetual dream; he lives and acts in a world of his own creation ; and attends to external circumstances little more than as they coincide with his internal system.--He feels more than other men on particular subjects, because he feels on other subjects less. The effect of ebriety is to make us forgetful of the past, and careless of the future: in this state we are particularly open to the impression of the moment; those impressions are generally pleasurable, and a state of moderate intoxication is a state of jo!lity; but we are highly susceptible on these occasions of grief as well as of joy, and the most affecting scenes I ever witnessed have taken place after a free circulation of the bottle. Madness, Sir,—that most dreadful and tremendous calamity which afflicts the human species--madness appears often to arise from excess of sensibility. A man of high and acute feelings is deeply struck with some momentous event; he broods over it day and night; his mind at length becomes totally occupied and possessed with this idea ; and we behold him a maniac. I speak, Sir, from observation. That there are“ in madness joys which none but madmen know”, has been affirmed by one who was not unacquainted with the sensations of that frightful malady; and I believe him. There appear, too, to be sorrows and anguish in that state, which no sound imagination can conceive.
I will not, at present, Mr. Urban, occupy any more of your time. The subject on which I have touchedi
, appears to me as a matter of mere curiosity, extremely interesting; if you and your readers should be of the same opinion, I may possibly resume it on some future occasion.
Yours, &c. 1793, May.
III. Effects of Imagination on Pregnant Women disproved. In a
Letter from an eminent Physician to a married Lady.
MADAM, YOU remember how much I astonished you, the other day, by calling in question the wonderful effects of the imagination in pregnant women. You told me, you had not supposed, till then, there was a man living who doubted so notorious a fact. You thonglit it had never been denied, that a fright, a longing, and various other passions of the mother, would affect the embryo in such a manner as to produce a deformity, or preternatural appearance, in some one part of its body. At the same time you declared, how happy it would make you, and many other women, could I explode this prejudice, if it were a prejudice, for that you were almost afraid to stir abroad, lest some strange object should injure your offspring; and, in short, that the whole term of your pregnancy, was on this account, a state of uneasiness and apprehension. In order, therefore, to remove this anxiety, I shall endeavour to demonstrate, that, notwithstanding the almost universality of the opinion, it is one of the superstitions of ancient times, and has no better authority for its support than prescription.
The histories of monstrous births, where the imperfection ör deforinity is ascribed to some affection of the mother, are numberless; and indeed so authenticated, that an advocate forthe power of imagination will triumphantly tell you, facts are stubborn things, and that all reasoning is sophistry, when opposed to facts : but the answer to this kind of argument is, that experience shews it is difficult to ascertain a fact; and that, when we coolly and carefully examine the truth of reputed facts, they are often discovered to have been advanced through hastiness and credulity, and to have been perpetrated through ignorance and servility. It is entirely owing to the fashion of scrutinizing into facts, that the arts and sciences have inade a greater progress within these last two centuries, than they had done the preceding two thousand years. Upon this principle, therefore, I shall inquire into the credibility of those histories; and, if I can demonstrate, that they are incredible, you will then grant, that these boasted facts are either innocent delusions, or downright impostures.
The productions of nature, in the several classes both of living and inanimate things, are not all equally perfect. We see in birds, beasts, and plants, every now and then, an irregular or preternatural formation; but when the accident happens to the human species, an opinion has been adopted, that a fright, or some other affection of the mother, in the course of her pregnancy, has wrought the change. They mean, if they mean any thing, that at the instant the mother received the impression, the child was of the natural form, but, by the power of her imagination, the structure of the parts was that moment altered, and assumed the appearance either suddenly or gradually, with which the child