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On Prophesying By Dreams   



Part 1

As to the divination which takes place in sleep, and is said to be
based on dreams, we cannot lightly either dismiss it with contempt or
give it implicit confidence. The fact that all persons, or many,
suppose dreams to possess a special significance, tends to inspire us
with belief in it [such divination], as founded on the testimony of
experience; and indeed that divination in dreams should, as regards
some subjects, be genuine, is not incredible, for it has a show of
reason; from which one might form a like opinion also respecting all
other dreams. Yet the fact of our seeing no probable cause to account
for such divination tends to inspire us with distrust. For, in
addition to its further unreasonableness, it is absurd to combine the
idea that the sender of such dreams should be God with the fact that
those to whom he sends them are not the best and wisest, but merely
commonplace persons. If, however, we abstract from the causality of
God, none of the other causes assigned appears probable. For that
certain persons should have foresight in dreams concerning things
destined to take place at the Pillars of Hercules, or on the banks of
the Borysthenes, seems to be something to discover the explanation of
which surpasses the wit of man. Well then, the dreams in question must
be regarded either as causes, or as tokens, of the events, or else as
coincidences; either as all, or some, of these, or as one only. I use
the word 'cause' in the sense in which the moon is [the cause] of an
eclipse of the sun, or in which fatigue is [a cause] of fever; 'token'
[in the sense in which] the entrance of a star [into the shadow] is a
token of the eclipse, or [in which] roughness of the tongue [is a
token] of fever; while by 'coincidence' I mean, for example, the
occurrence of an eclipse of the sun while some one is taking a walk;
for the walking is neither a token nor a cause of the eclipse, nor the
eclipse [a cause or token] of the walking. For this reason no
coincidence takes place according to a universal or general rule. Are
we then to say that some dreams are causes, others tokens, e.g. of
events taking place in the bodily organism? At all events, even
scientific physicians tell us that one should pay diligent attention
to dreams, and to hold this view is reasonable also for those who are
not practitioners, but speculative philosophers. For the movements
which occur in the daytime [within the body] are, unless very great
and violent, lost sight of in contrast with the waking movements,
which are more impressive. In sleep the opposite takes place, for then
even trifling movements seem considerable. This is plain in what often
happens during sleep; for example, dreamers fancy that they are
affected by thunder and lightning, when in fact there are only faint
ringings in their ears; or that they are enjoying honey or other sweet
savours, when only a tiny drop of phlegm is flowing down [the
oesophagus]; or that they are walking through fire, and feeling
intense heat, when there is only a slight warmth affecting certain
parts of the body. When they are awakened, these things appear to them
in this their true character. But since the beginnings of all events
are small, so, it is clear, are those also of the diseases or other
affections about to occur in our bodies. In conclusion, it is manifest
that these beginnings must be more evident in sleeping than in waking
moments.
Nay, indeed, it is not improbable that some of the presentations which
come before the mind in sleep may even be causes of the actions
cognate to each of them. For as when we are about to act [in waking
hours], or are engaged in any course of action, or have already
performed certain actions, we often find ourselves concerned with
these actions, or performing them, in a vivid dream; the cause whereof
is that the dream-movement has had a way paved for it from the
original movements set up in the daytime; exactly so, but conversely,
it must happen that the movements set up first in sleep should also

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