תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

does not follow the application of the proper stimulus, unless that stimulus be of the requisite strength. In the ordinary condition of the eye, there is required for vision a certain (specific in each instance,) amount of light; in certain other conditions, there is required a certain other amount, etc. In sleep, this amount must be increased, sometimes to a very considerable extent, or vision does not result; but let this condition be complied with, and perception is as certain as in the period of wakefulness. There are, then, in either case, certain conditions, (different, it is true, in each instance, which must be regarded, if we would rouse a sense or faculty into action. These considerations show very distinctly, as we conceive, the resemblance between sleeping and waking, and the entire dissimilarity between these living conditions and death, -the cessation of every living phenomenon,—the annihilation of all power of action.

The human mind is considered, in most of the systems of philosophy, to be composed of a certain number of fundamental powers, or elementary faculties, from whose separate and combined action result all the phenomena of thought and feeling. These powers the phrenologists have endeavored to refer each to its appropriate and distinct organ in the brain, as we have attempted to show in our articles on phrenology. Perfect sleep is supposed to be a suspension of activity, by natural causes, of all these powers, and of course, a suspension of all thought and feeling. Whether there is any such thing as perfect sleep, in this sense, may be doubtful; though we have been accustomed to think, that there probably is. On such a subject, we can have only the evidence of some loose reasoning from analogy. Consciousness, in the form of remembrance, is silent, and ever must be in a case like the present, when, if there is any mental action at all, it is too feeble to leave durable impressions, or to be recalled by memory. The common metaphysical arguments, both pro and contra, which are adduced to give greater certainty to this question, we hold to be worth justnothing.

The prevailing theory of dreaming supposes, that these fundamental faculties go to sleep, not simultaneously, but one by one, and in succession, and, that the incoherence of our sleeping thoughts results from the loss of balance in the mind thus occasioned; one set of faculties continuing in action, while another set, which is usually associated with it, and whose joint action is essential to the perfection and truth of our ideas, is buried in the torpor of sleep. This theory looks extremely plausible at first sight, and on a superficial view; and, when considered only in the abstract, will even bear some scrutiny ; but the worst of it is, it utterly fails to account for facts. One of two things is certain ; either the theory in question is without truth or foundation Vol. VII.

54

in nature, or, in other words, is a pure fiction; or we have nothing like a true analysis and classification of the powers of mind, and have, therefore, no rule by which to test it and determine its just claims to belief. In either case, the theory is practically worthless. Even the phrenological form of it,—that form which assigns a distinct cerebral organ to each special faculty,-about which certain dreamy enthusiasts talk so pompously, can scarcely be considered an improvement. We can tell the phrenologists, (a class of men for whom, for reasons heretofore stated, we entertain a particular respect, notwithstanding the intolerable quackery of a set of itinerant vagabonds, calling themselves lecturers, who claim fellowship with them, and we tell them for their special information,—You must entirely re-model your classification of the mental faculties, before your science will serve to illustrate the phenomena of dreaming. We have often, in order to stop the mouths of cavilers, and to make our set of experiments complete, adopted your arrangement, as possibly the correct one, and then have faithfully applied the theory of dreaming, which has been under consideration, and which you adopt, to the solution of our own sleeping thoughts; and have as uniformly found ourselves bewildered and lost, -fast anchored, and far from shore, in “a continent of mud." The result has been the same, whatever arrangement has been adopted. Our feet stick fast, in whatever direction they are turned. It is impossible to proceed, and flouncing only sinks us deeper in the mire. We are compelled, then, either to reject all the systems of mental philosophy which have ever been invented, or to discard the notion, that the faculties go to sleep in succession, as a chimera; and, as it is not rational to forsake a philosopby which is supported at least by some proofs, in order to receive a hypothesis which is sustained by none, and which, in the present state of our knowledge, must remain a pure abstraction, we prefer the latter alternative.

We do not deny, that the hypothesis in question is countenanced by some facts, which, by the superficial, might be accounted as proof. The external senses do certainly seem to fall asleep and awake in succession; the sight first, it has been said,) then taste, smell, hearing and touch, all in regular order; and these faculties very commonly continue closed to impressions, while the others are busy in the dreamy occupations of the night. These facts, open to common observation, have doubtless given rise to the supposition, that all the faculties follow the same law. But if we take a broader view of the subject,-if we go from the surface to the depths of the mind, we shall be at once convinced of the limited application of this law. True, if we confine ourselves to reasoning abtractedly in the case, leaving entirely out of view the facts we would explain, we can get along well enough; but the

1

moment we come to employ ourselves about realities, perplexity assails us, and progress is at an end. Take any classification of the mental powers which you please, and see if the phenomena of dreaming, as they occur in the interior of the mind, can be explained by this law of the senses. Is memory a fundamental faculty? And will the supposition, that memory falls to sleep earlier or later than the other faculties, give to our sleeping vagaries the consistency and truth of waking thoughts? But memory is evidently exercised as well in our dreams as at other times. Take judgment, reason, imagination, association, volition, taste, or any of the affections, or any of the long list of faculties enumerated by Gall, and test the theory of dreaming which has been under examination. Why have not the advocates of this theory thus tested its claims to belief, and afterwards presented us with the result, instead of merely proclaiming and asserting its truth, as seems to have been the uniform practice? We have thus tested it over and over again. Our opinion of its merits the reader already knows. The truth is, in dreaming, as in waking, all the internal faculties seem to be called into action, either simultaneously, or successively, or interruptedly, according to the subject matter of thought; and the former state differs from the latter, not so much in the torpitude* of one set of faculties and the continued action of another, as in the irregular action of the whole. We judge, and reason, and remember, in both cases; but in the first we judge, and reason, and remember, falsely. We conceive and imagine as well in our dreams as at other times, but our conceptions and imaginations are strangely confused and distorted. In the visions of sleep, the tastes, and appetites, and affections, are changed. We have new desires. We love, and hate, and fear, new objects, and without adequate cause. The moral sense is perverted. We approve where we should disapprove, and the contrary. Truth and falsebood, reality and fiction, are mingled in the wildest confusion. New principles of association are developed, and regulate the successions of our ideas. The play of the faculties is disordered, both as to time of acting and mode of action. A given power is called into exercise when it should not be, and vice versa, remains at rest when it should be exercised, etc.

This sort of irregularity seems to be a usual characteristic of our dreams, but they are not regular even in this. Sometimes the balance of the mind, and the natural and harmonious relation of all its parts, seem to be perfectly preserved. It is then that our thoughts are as coherent and just, as in the period of wakefulness. Witness the extemporaneous performances of the “sleeping preachers," of whom so much has been said. Witness the instances of persons composing speeches, poems, &c., and solving mathematical problems, in their sleep; and when the train of thought has been recovered, finding it singularly happy, (often original,) connected and just. Dr. Abercrombie mentions an anecdote of a distinguished lawyer in Scotland, who had for several days been intently engaged in the investigation of a complicated and important case, and who was noticed one night to rise from his bed, seat himself at his writing-desk, and there write a long paper, which he put carefully by, and then returned to bed. On the following morning he told his wife, that he had dreamed of delivering a clear and luminous opinion respecting a case that had perplexed him exceedingly, and that he would give any thing to recover the train of thought. She then directed him to his desk, where he discovered the opinion clearly and fully written out, and which was afterwards found to be perfectly correct. It is mentioned by Dr. Franklin, that the bearings and issue of political events, which had puzzled him much when awake, were often unfolded to him in his dreams.

* It is true, some of these powers may be in a state of relative torpor in our dreams, acting with less than their accustomed vigor and ease; but this is no more than is liable to happen at any time during the meditations and imaginations of the

day. There are few subjects that employ the thoughts, which admit of the equal and uninterrupted operation of all the faculties.

It is not a little remarkable, that persons in their sleep, (and in other instances in which the brain is under excitement, as mania, and the delirium of fever, etc.,) sometimes show themselves capable of mental efforts, which, in point of argument, taste, and all the requisites of good composition and execution, entirely surpass any thing to which they are known to be equal at other times. Such persons at such times seem to rise far above the general level of their natures. Powers and “gists” which they are supposed never to have possessed, are brought suddenly into exercise. To vulgar minds, in fact, they seem to be inspired. Ignorant persons will converse with great propriety. Those who know little of music, will sing delightfully. The conceptions are quick. The connections and relations of things are caught at a glance. The judg. ments are rapid. The memory seems to have acquired vigor. Events which have long been forgotten,--scenes of former life, which have gradually faded away, and finally disappeared in the distance, are brought up once more to the mind, and represented there with all their original truth and freshness. All this, we need not now say, (as the subject will come up for full consideration in another place,) is the consequence of cerebral irritation.

Though the mind, in our dreams, and in instances of somnambulism, seems sometimes to act in a regular and connected manner, it very rarely does so for a long period at a time, and perhaps

[ocr errors]

never in reference to different and unrelated trains of thought passing through it in succession. Its tendency to fly off and revel in the extravagances of fiction, is almost incessant and irresistible. It has a fondness for the ridiculous, the impossible and the absurd, which is constantly gratified. It is forever under the influence of some false impression, which leads to error and extravagance.

The preceding remarks, we trust, will be sufficient to show, that the distinction between our sleeping and waking thoughts does not consist in that which has commonly been supposed, -in the quiescence or torpitude of one set of faculties, and the continued activity of another. All this we say in reference to the internal powers. The senses, it is true, do not, as a general rule, take part in our dreams; but this law of the senses should not, except for better reasons than we are able to find, be extended to the interior of the mind. Not even are the senses always asleep during the mental occupations of the night. They are sometimes, either part or all of them, fully awake, and take as active a share in whatever is to be done, as any of the faculties. We shall hereafter have occasion, in another connection, to refer to some instances in point.

Some may ask, in reference to cases in which the senses and internal faculties are all in a state of activity, what relation such cases have to sleep? On what principle are they embraced in treatises on sleep and its modifications, and excluded from those on the various forms of delirium and insanity? And when the mental powers are all awake, what propriety is there in considering a man in any other than a waking state? These may be difficult questions to answer satisfactorily, particularly if we confine ourselves to the consideration of present phenomena, leaving causes and the phenomena which precede and follow, out of the account. The subject about which we are engaged,—the irregular and anomalous manifestations of mind,-does not admit the use of accurate definitions, such as we are accustomed 10 meet with in natural history. The various mental affections are the worst of all things to classify. They are not substances, but modes of existence; not visible and tangible objects, having fixed qualities, but states of being, perpetually changing. They run into one another by imperceptible degrees; they blend in a hundred different ways, exhibiting cross-breeds of almost every description ; so that it is impossible to set the stakes and draw the lines, as we are able to do in natural history. The characteristics of insanity are so variable and indefinite, that it is often, as is well known to medical jurists, a matter of extreme difficulty and delicacy to distinguish it from eccentricity. It is frequently a thing of equal difficulty to draw the line between it and cases of proper

delirium, ungovernable passion, or somnambulism. Of the latter affection, the only

« הקודםהמשך »