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On Prophesying By Dreams   


prove to be starting-points of actions to be performed in the daytime,
since the recurrence by day of the thought of these actions also has
had its way paved for it in the images before the mind at night. Thus
then it is quite conceivable that some dreams may be tokens and causes
[of future events].
Most [so-called prophetic] dreams are, however, to be classed as mere
coincidences, especially all such as are extravagant, and those in the
fulfilment of which the dreamers have no initiative, such as in the
case of a sea-fight, or of things taking place far away. As regards
these it is natural that the fact should stand as it does whenever a
person, on mentioning something, finds the very thing mentioned come
to pass. Why, indeed, should this not happen also in sleep? The
probability is, rather, that many such things should happen. As, then,
one's mentioning a particular person is neither token nor cause of
this person's presenting himself, so, in the parallel instance, the
dream is, to him who has seen it, neither token nor cause of its
[so-called] fulfilment, but a mere coincidence. Hence the fact that
many dreams have no 'fulfilment', for coincidence do not occur
according to any universal or general law.

Part 2

On the whole, forasmuch as certain of the lower animals also dream, it
may be concluded that dreams are not sent by God, nor are they
designed for this purpose [to reveal the future]. They have a divine
aspect, however, for Nature [their cause] is divinely planned, though
not itself divine. A special proof [of their not being sent by God] is
this: the power of foreseeing the future and of having vivid dreams is
found in persons of inferior type, which implies that God does not
send their dreams; but merely that all those whose physical
temperament is, as it were, garrulous and excitable, see sights of all
descriptions; for, inasmuch as they experience many movements of every
kind, they just chance to have visions resembling objective facts,
their luck in these matters being merely like that of persons who play
at even and odd. For the principle which is expressed in the gambler's
maxim: 'If you make many throws your luck must change,' holds in their
case also.
That many dreams have no fulfilment is not strange, for it is so too
with many bodily toms and weather-signs, e.g. those of rain or wind.
For if another movement occurs more influential than that from which,
while [the event to which it pointed was] still future, the given
token was derived, the event [to which such token pointed] does not
take place. So, of the things which ought to be accomplished by human
agency, many, though well-planned are by the operation of other
principles more powerful [than man's agency] brought to nought. For,
speaking generally, that which was about to happen is not in every
case what now is happening, nor is that which shall hereafter he
identical with that which is now going to be. Still, however, we must
hold that the beginnings from which, as we said, no consummation
follows, are real beginnings, and these constitute natural tokens of
certain events, even though the events do not come to pass.
As for [prophetic] dreams which involve not such beginnings [sc. of
future events] as we have here described, but such as are extravagant
in times, or places, or magnitudes; or those involving beginnings
which are not extravagant in any of these respects, while yet the
persons who see the dream hold not in their own hands the beginnings
[of the event to which it points]: unless the foresight which such
dreams give is the result of pure coincidence, the following would be
a better explanation of it than that proposed by Democritus, who
alleges 'images' and 'emanations' as its cause. As, when something has
caused motion in water or air, this [the portion of water or air],
and, though the cause has ceased to operate, such motion propagates
itself to a certain point, though there the prime movement is not
present; just so it may well be that a movement and a consequent

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