Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/106

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
98
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

What is true is that when we are once awake we change our point of view, and our vision of the night then seems to have been wholly interior, solitary, and subjective. But, notwithstanding the common illusion, while we are dreaming affairs pass, to us, exactly as when we are awake. It is true that in the waking state we find ourselves mingled with other men, who perceive the same objects that we do. Do we not sometimes dream that we are one of an audience looking at a play? that we are talking with a friend, and exchange views with him? and that we understand one another perfectly? There is, therefore, in this aspect, not a difference but identity between the dream and the waking. The interior condition, the sensation, the credence, are identical. The dreaming man believes, sees, and feels himself in intercourse with his fellows, just as the man awake believes, sees, and feels it. When we wake, we discover our mistake, but what of that? It does not prevent us from believing completely in it while we are asleep. And this is the point; for, after all, am I sure that I shall not awake some day from what I now call my waking life? And who knows whether I shall not then judge that I have been dreaming a solitary dream? It may be added that the agreement of witnesses is not a decisive sign by which to distinguish the reality from the dream. There are collective hallucinations.

We come now to a more important difference, which includes the principle and has a characteristic apparently essentially distinguishing the dream—its looseness, disorder, inconstancy, and incoherence. In the dream visions succeed one another without connection; no law determines their order; an unrestricted fancy reigns among them, and the normal is broken up in them at every point. We are transported instantaneously from one country to another. We pass without transition from childhood to age, and causes have the strangest effects. The most essential laws of thought are constantly violated. There are facts without any causes, metamorphoses, magical disappearances. Even the absurd is realized, and the "principle of contradiction" does not seem to be any more respected than the others. We are at the same time in two places; we pronounce words, we hold conversations of which we can not when we wake recover the thread, so strange is their logic, so fugitive the sense, and so fanciful the combination. A practiced psychologist, M. Delbœuf, succeeded in taking down in the morning the last phrase of a book which he had been reading in a dream, and which had seemed then remarkably lucid. Here it is: "The man raised by the woman and separated by aberrations pushes facts disengaged by the analysis of the tertiary nature into the way of progress."

Is this distinction, then—that the dream is incoherent and the