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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/747

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THE STUFF THAT BREAMS ARE MADE OF.

cism, it may be, but, as many people do not seem to recognize, a real skepticism—that the impressive emotional effects of dreams are often displayed. It sometimes happens that two irreconcilable groups of impressions reach sleeping consciousness, one flowing from a recent stratum of memories, the other from an older stratum. A typical form of this phenomenon often occurs in our dreams of dead friends. Professor Sully remarks that in dreams of the dead "awareness of the fact of death wholly disappears, or reduces itself to a vague feeling of something delightfully wonderful in the restored presence." That, however, as I have elsewhere shown,[1] is not the typical process in dreaming of the dead; although in the later dreams of those who often see their dead friends during sleep, the process is abbreviated, and the friend's presence is accepted without a struggle—a very interesting point, for it tends to show that in dreams, as in the hypnotic state, the recollection of previous similar states of consciousness persists, and the illusion is strengthened by repetition.

In typical dreams of a dead friend there is a struggle between that stream of recent memories which represents him as dead and that older stream which represents him as living. These two streams are inevitably caused by the fact of death, which sets up a barrier between them and renders one set of memories incongruous with the other set. In dreams we are not able to arrange our memories chronologically, but we are perpetually reasoning and striving to be logical. Consequently the two conflicting streams of memories break against each other in restless conflict, and sleeping consciousness endeavors to propound some theory which will reconcile them. The most frequent theories are, as I have found, either that the news of the friend's death was altogether false, or that he had been buried alive by mistake, or else that having really died his soul has returned to earth for a brief space. The mental and emotional conflict which such dreams involve renders them very vivid. They make a profound impression even after awakening, and for some sensitive persons are too sacred to speak of. Even so cautious and skeptical a thinker as Renan, when, after the death of his beloved sister Henriette, he dreamed more than once that she had been buried alive, and that he heard her voice calling to him from her grave, had to still his horrible suspicions by the consideration that she had been tended by experienced doctors. On less well-balanced minds, and more especially in primitive stages of


  1. On Dreaming of the Dead. Psychological Review, September, 1895. In this paper I reported several cases showing the nature and evolution of dreams concerning dead friends. I have since received evidence from various friends and correspondents, scientific and unscientific, of both sexes, confirming my belief in a frequency of this type of dream. Professor Binet (L'Année Psychologique, 1896) has also furnished a case in support of my view, and is seeking for further evidence.