Page images

suspend the power of volition, but to suspend the exertion of those powers whose exercise depends on volition. If it were necefsary that volition should be suspended before we fall asleep, it would be impoffible for us, by our own efforts, to haften the moment of rest. The very fuppofition of such efforts is absurd ; for it implies a continued will to fupend the acts of the will.

According to the foregoing doctrine with respect to the state of the mind in fleep, the effect which is produced on our mental operations, is strikingly analogous to that which is produced on our bodily powers. From the obfervations which have been already made, it is manifeft, that in fleep, the body is, in a very inconsiderable degree, if at all, fubject to our command. The vital and involuntary motions, however, suffer no interruption, but go on as when we are awake, in confequence of the operation of fome caufe unknown to us. In like manner, it would appear, that those operations of the mind which depend on our volition are suspended ; while certain other operations are, at least, occasionally, carried on. This analogy naturally suggests the idea, that all our mental operations, which are independent of our will, may continue during sleep; and that the phenomena of dreaming máy,

perhaps, be produced by thefe, diversified in their apparent effects, in confequence of the suspension of our voluntary powers.

If the appearances which the mind exhibits during fleep, are found to be explicable on this general principle, it will possess all the evidence which the nature of the subject admits of.

It was formerly shown, that the train of thought in the mind does not depend immediately on our will, but is regulated by certain general laws of affocia. tion. At the same time, it appeared, that among the various subjects which thus spontaneously prefent themselves to our notice, we have the power of

[ocr errors]

{ingling out any one that we chuse to consider, and of inaking it a particular object of attention; and that by doing so, we not only can stop the train that would otherwife have succeeded, but frequently can divert the current of our thoughts into a new channel. It also appeared, that we have power (which may be much improved by exercise) of recalling patt occurrences to memory, by a voluntary effort of recollection.

The indirect influence which the mind thus poffeffes over the train of its thoughts is so great, that during the whole time we are awake, excepting in those cafes in which we fall into what is called a reverie, and suffer our thoughts to follow their natural course, the order of their succession is always regulated more or less by the will. The will, indeed, in regulating the train of thought, can operate only (as I already thewed) by availing itself of the established laws of affociation, but still it has the power of rendering this train very different from what it would have been, if these laws had taken place without its interference.

From these principles, combined with the general fact which I have endeavored to establish, with re. fpect to the stais of the mind in sleep, two obvious consequences follow : First, That when we are in this situation, the succession of our thoughts, in so far as it depends on the laws of association, may be carried on by the operation of the same unknown causes by which it is produced while we are awake; and, Sec. ondly, that the order of our thoughts, in these two ftates of the mind, must be very different ; inasmuch as, in the one, it depends solely on the laws of affociation ; and in the other, on these laws, combined with our own voluntary exertians.

In order to ascertain how far these conclusions are agreeable to truth, it is necessary to compare them with the known phenomena of dreaming. For which purpose, I all endeavor to thew, First, That

the succession of our thoughts in 'sleep, is regulated by the same general laws of association, to which it is fubjected while we are awake ; and, Secondly, That the circumstances which discriminate dreaming from our waking thoughts, are such as muft necessarily arise from the suspension of the influence of the will.

1. That the succession of our thoughts in fieep, is regulated by the fame general laws of aflociation, which influence the mind while we are awake, appears from the following considerations.

1. Our dreams are frequently suggested to us by bodily sensations : and with these, it is well known, from what we experience while awake, that particular ideas are frequently very strongly associated. I have been told by a friend, that having occasion, in consequence of an indisposition, to apply a bottle of hot water to his feet when he went to bed, he dreamed that he was making a journey to the top of Mount Ætna, and that he found the heat of the ground almost insupportable. Another person, having a blister applied to his head, dreamed that he was scalped by a party of Indians. I believe every one who is in the habit of dreaming, will recollect inftances, in his own case, of a similar nature.

2. Our dreams are influenced by the prevailing temper of the mind; and vary, in their complexion, according as our habitual disposition, at the time, inclines us to cheerfulness or to melancholy. Not that this observation holds without exception ; but it holds fo generally, as must convince us, that the ftate of our fpirits has fome effect on our dreams, as well as on our waking thoughts. Indeed, in the latter case, no less than in the former, this effect may be counteracted, or modified, by various other cir. cumstances.

After having made a narrow escape from any alarming danger, we are apt to awake, in the course


of our sleep, with sudden startings ; imagining that we are drowning, or on the brink of a precipice. A fevere misfortune, which has affected the mind deeply, influences our dreams in a similar way; and suggests to us a variety of adventures, analogous, in fome measure, to that event from which our distress arises. Such, according to Virgil

, were the dreams of the forsaken Dido.

"-Agit ipse furentem,
“ In somis ferus Æneas; semperque relinqui,
“Sola sibi ; semper longam incomitata videtur,
" Ire viam, .et Tyrios desertâ quærere terrâ.”

8. Our dreams are influenced by our prevailing habits of affociation while awake.

In a former part of this work, I considered the extent of that power which the mind may acquire over the train of its thoughts ; and I observed, that those intellectual diversities among men, which we commonly refer to peculiarities of genius, are, at least in a great measure, refolvable into differences in their habits of afsociation. One man pofseffes a rich and beautiful fancy, which is at all times obedi. ent to his will. Another possesses a quickness of recollection, which enables him, at a moment's warning, to bring together all the results of his past experience, and of his past reflections, which can be of ufe for illustrating any proposed subject. A third can, without effort, collect his attention to the most abAtract questions in philofophy; can perceive, at a glance, the shortest and the most effectual process for arriving at the truth; and can banish from his mind every extraneous idea, which fancy or casual association may suggest, to distract his thoughts, or to mislead his judgment. A fourth unites all these powers in a capacity of perceiving truth with an almost intuitive rapidity; and in an eloquence which cna. bles him to coinmand, at picasure, whatever his

memory and his fancy can supply, to illustrate and to adorn it. The occasional exercise which such inen make of their powers, may undoubtedly be said, in one sense, to be unpremeditated or unftudied; but they all indicate previous habits of meditation or ftudy, as unquestionably, as the dexterity of the expert accountant, or the rapid execution of the profeffional musician.

From what has been said, it is evident, that a train of thought which, in one man, would require a pain. ful effort of study, may, in another, be almost spontaneous; nor is it to be doubted, that the reveries of ftudious men, even when they allow, as much as they can, their thoughts to follow their own course, are more or less connected together by those principles of association, which their favorite pursuits tend more particularly to strengthen.

The influence of the fame habits may be traced distinctly in fleep. There are probably few mathematicians, who have not dreamed of an interesting problein, and who have not even fancied that they were prosecuting the investigation of it with much fuccess. They whose ambition leads them to the study of eloquence, are frequently conscious, during sleep, of a renewal of their daily occupations ; and sometimes feel themselves poffefsed of a fluency of speech, which they never experienced before. The Poet, in his dreams, is transported into Elysium, and leaves the vulgar and unsatisfactory enjoyments of humanity, to dwell in those regions of enchantment and rapture, which have been created by the divine imaginations of Virgil and of Taffo.

" And hither Morpheus sent his kindest dreams,
« Raising a world of gayer tinct and grace ;
« O'er which were shadowy cast Flysian gleams,
“ That play'd, in waving lights, from place to place,
« And shed a roseate smile on Nature's face.


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »