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happen that there shall be a likeness between a certain dream and a future occurrence; but in this there is nothing more supernatural, than that I should dream to-night of what I have been employed in today; for this is nothing more than a particular train of thought impressed upon us in sleep, by a certain previous train of thought into which reason and experience had led us when awake. For example, When I
see a man dissipating his fortune by debauchery, I may, with reason, apprehend that disease and poverty will soon overtake him.
If this conjecture trouble me in the day-time, it may also recur in sleep, accompanied with some visionary circumstances; and I shall dream, perhaps, that I see him in rags and misery. Suppose this really to happen soon after, what opinion am I to entertain concerning my dream ? Surely I have no more reason to consider it as prophetical, than I have to look upon the conjecture which gave rise to it as the effect of inspiration.
Some of our dreams bear little or no resemblance to any thing that ever before occurred to our senses, or fancy. But this is not common, except in bad health. It holds true in general, that dreams are an imitation, though often a very extravagant one, of reality.
There are people who observe, that one particular dream frequently returns upon.
them. Socrates, in the Phado of Plato, tells his friend, that he had all his life been haunted with a vision of this kind, in which one seemed to say to him, that he ought to study music. If this repetition of dreams be the effect of habit, which is not unlikely, we may from it learn the expediency of concealing such as are disagreeable, and banishing them from our thoughts as soon as we can. Indeed, it is a vulgar observation, that they who never speak of dreams are not often troubled with them.
Intemperance of every kind, in eating or drinking, in sleep or watching, in rest or exercise, tends to make dreams disagreeable ; and therefore, one end of dreaming may be, to recommend sobriety and moderation. For the time we may employ in sleep bears a great proportion to the whole of human life ; and, if there be any expedient for rendering that portion of our time agreeable, it is surely worth while to put it in practice. Habits of virtue and soberness, the repression of turbulent desires and the indulgence of pious, social, and cheerful dispositions, are, for the most part, effectual in giving that lightness to the animal spirits, and that calm temperature to the blood, which promote thoughts pleasurable through the day, and sweet slumber and easy dreams by night.
The ancients thought, that morning dreams come nearest the truth. In the morning, no doubt, the perspiration and digestion continued through the night will make the stomach, and the whole frame of the body, more composed and cool than when we go to sleep; and hence, perhaps, it is not absurd to say, that dreams may be more regular then, and more like real life. But if we have passed the earlier hours of the morning without sleep, and fall a dozing about the time we usually rise, our dreams are seldom agreeable, and our slumber is rather stupifying than salutary; whence we may perhaps infer, that it is the intention of Nature that we should rise early, and at a stated hour.
As agreeable thoughts accompany good health; as violent passions, and even phrenzy, are the attendants of certain diseases ; as dullness and confusion of thought may be occasioned by a loaded
stomach ; and as the swallowing of much strong
of our dreams might be accounted for in the same manner; and therefore, when we have an uncommon dream, we ought not to look forward with apprehension, as if it were to be the forerunner of calamity; but rather backward, to see whether we can discover its cause, and whether, from such a discovery, we may not learn something that may be profitable to our health.
In some constitutions, certain dreams do generally go before, or accompany the beginnings of certain diseases. When, for example, there is any tendency to fever, we are apt to dream of perform,
ing, with great labour, some work, we know not precisely what, in which we never make any progress. This imagination will occur in sleep, even while one has no means of observing, when awake, any symptom that could lead one to suspect one's health to be in danger; and, when it does occur, may it not give warning to make some change in the ordinary regimen, to eat or drink less than usual, or have recourse to some of those other methods whereby acute distempers are prevented ? In general, when one is haunted more than usual, with disagreeable dreams, it may, I think, be taken as a sign that something is wrong in the constitution ; and therefore that temperance, fasting, or exercise, may be requisite to avert the impending evil. And these are remedies which one may have recourse to; and in regard to which one may venture to make a few experiments, in almost any cir. cumstances. Agreeable dreams I would take for the signs of health, and accordingly consider them as good, and not evil.
If you approve of these remarks, you shall have more on the same subject, in a few days, from
N° 74. SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 1780.
To the Author of the MIRROR.
SIR, IN my
last I hinted that dreams may be useful as physical admonitions. What if I should go a step farther, and say that they may be serviceable as nieans of our moral improvement? I will not affirm, however, as some have done, that by them we may make a more accurate discovery of our temper and ruling passions, than by observing what passes in our minds when awake : For, in sleep, we are very incompetent judges of ourselves, and of every thing else; and one will dream of committing crimes with little remorse, which, if awake, one could not think of without horror. But as many of our passions are inflamed or allayed by the temperature of the body, this, I think, may be said with truth, that, by attending to what passes in sleep, we may sometimes discern what passions are predominant, and, consequently, receive some useful cautions for the regulation of them. A man dreams, for example, that he is in a violent anger, and that he strikes a blow which knocks a person down, and kills him. He awakes in horror at the thought of what he has done, and of the punishment he thinks he has reason to apprehend; and while, after a moment's recollection, he rejoices to find that it is but a dream, he will also be inclinable to form resolutions against violent anger, lest it should,