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قراءة كتاب Dreams

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Dreams

Dreams

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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feeds his crops. He makes the desert to blossom as the rose and out of the sea he draws forth dry land. He treats the earth as his habitation, remodeling it in accordance with his ever-varying needs and increasing ambitions.

This modern man, planning, contriving and making, finds Paley's watch as little to his mind as Lucretius's blind flow of atoms. A universe wound up once for all and doing nothing thereafter but mark time is as incomprehensible to him as a universe that never had a mind of its own and knows no difference between past and future. The idea of eternal recurrence does not frighten him as it did Nietzsche, for he feels it to be impossible. The mechanistic interpretation of natural phenomena developed during the last century he accepts at its full value, and would extend experimentally as far as it will go, for he finds it not invalid but inadequate.

To minds of this temperament it is no wonder that Bergson's Creative Evolution came with the force of an inspiration. Men felt themselves akin to this upward impulse, this élan vital, which, struggling throughout the ages with the intractableness of inert matter, yet finally in some way or other forces it to its will, and ever strives toward the increase of vitality, mentality, personality.

Bergson has been reluctant to commit himself on the question of immortality, but he of late has become quite convinced of it. He even goes so far as to think it possible that we may find experimental evidence of personal persistence after death. This at least we might infer from his recent acceptance of the presidency of the British Society for Psychical Research. In his opening address before the Society, May 28, 1913, he discussed the question of telepathy and in that connection he explained his theory of the relation of mind and brain in the following language. I quote from the report in the London Times:

The rôle of the brain is to bring back the remembrance of an action, to prolong the remembrance in movements. If one could see all that takes place in the interior of the brain, one would find that that which takes place there corresponds to a small part only of the life of the mind. The brain simply extracts from the life of the mind that which is capable of representation in movement. The cerebral life is to the mental life what the movements of the baton of a conductor are to the Symphony.

The brain, then, is that which allows the mind to adjust itself exactly to circumstances. It is the organ of attention to life. Should it become deranged, however slightly, the mind is no longer fitted to the circumstances; it wanders, dreams. Many forms of mental alienation are nothing else. But from this it results that one of the rôles of the brain is to limit the vision of the mind, to render its action more efficacious. This is what we observe in regard to the memory, where the rôle of the brain is to mask the useless part of our past in order to allow only the useful remembrances to appear. Certain useless recollections, or dream remembrances, manage nevertheless to appear also, and to form a vague fringe around the distinct recollections. It would not be at all surprising if perceptions of the organs of our senses, useful perceptions, were the result of a selection or of a canalization worked by the organs of our senses in the interest of our action, but that there should yet be around those perceptions a fringe of vague perceptions, capable of becoming more distinct in extraordinary, abnormal cases. Those would be precisely the cases with which psychical research would deal.

This conception of mental action forms, as will be seen, the foundation of the theory of dreams which Professor Bergson first presented in a lecture before the Institut psychologique, March 26, 1901. It was published in the Revue scientifique of June 8, 1901. An English translation, revised by the author and printed in The Independent of October 23 and 30, 1913, here appears for the first time in book form.

In this essay Professor Bergson made several contributions to our knowledge of dreams. He showed, in the first place, that dreaming is not so unlike the ordinary process of perception as had been hitherto supposed. Both use sense impressions as crude material to be molded and defined by the aid of memory images. Here, too, he set forth the idea, which he, so far as I know, was the first to formulate, that sleep is a state of disinterestedness, a theory which has since been adopted by several psychologists. In this address, also, was brought into consideration for the first time the idea that the self may go through different degrees of tension—a theory referred to in his Matter and Memory.

Its chief interest for the general reader will, however, lie in the explanation it gives him of the cause of some of his familiar dreams. He may by practice become the interpreter of his own visions and so come to an understanding of the vagaries of that mysterious and inseparable companion, his dream-self.

Edwin E. Slosson.

New York City,
February 10, 1914.


DREAMS

The subject which I have to discuss here is so complex, it raises so many questions of all kinds, difficult, obscure, some psychological, others physiological and metaphysical; in order to be treated in a complete manner it requires such a long development—and we have so little space, that I shall ask your permission to dispense with all preamble, to set aside unessentials, and to go at once to the heart of the question.

A dream is this. I perceive objects and there is nothing there. I see men; I seem to speak to them and I hear what they answer; there is no one there and I have not spoken. It is all as if real things and real persons were there, then on waking all has disappeared, both persons and things. How does this happen?

But, first, is it true that there is nothing there? I mean, is there not presented a certain sense material to our eyes, to our ears, to our touch, etc., during sleep as well as during waking?

Close the eyes and look attentively at what goes on in the field of our vision. Many persons questioned on this point would say that nothing goes on, that they see nothing. No wonder at this, for a certain amount of practise is necessary to be able to observe oneself satisfactorily. But just give the requisite effort of attention, and you will distinguish, little by little, many things. First, in general, a black background. Upon this black background occasionally brilliant points which come and go, rising and descending, slowly and sedately. More often, spots of many colors, sometimes very dull, sometimes, on the contrary, with certain people, so brilliant that reality cannot compare with it. These spots spread and shrink, changing form and color, constantly displacing one another. Sometimes the change is slow and gradual, sometimes again it is a whirlwind of vertiginous rapidity. Whence comes all this phantasmagoria? The physiologists and the psychologists have studied this play of colors. "Ocular spectra," "colored spots," "phosphenes," such are the names that they have given to the phenomenon. They explain it either by the slight modifications which occur ceaselessly in the retinal circulation,

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