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On Prophesying By Dreams   


sense-perception should reach sleeping souls from the objects from
which Democritus represents 'images' and 'emanations' coming; that
such movements, in whatever way they arrive, should be more
perceptible at night [than by day], because when proceeding thus in
the daytime they are more liable to dissolution (since at night the
air is less disturbed, there being then less wind); and that they
shall be perceived within the body owing to sleep, since persons are
more sensitive even to slight sensory movements when asleep than when
awake. It is these movements then that cause 'presentations', as a
result of which sleepers foresee the future even relatively to such
events as those referred to above. These considerations also explain
why this experience befalls commonplace persons and not the most
intelligent. For it would have regularly occurred both in the daytime
and to the wise had it been God who sent it; but, as we have explained
the matter, it is quite natural that commonplace persons should be
those who have foresight [in dreams]. For the mind of such persons is
not given to thinking, but, as it were, derelict, or totally vacant,
and, when once set moving, is borne passively on in the direction
taken by that which moves it. With regard to the fact that some
persons who are liable to derangement have this foresight, its
explanation is that their normal mental movements do not impede [the
alien movements], but are beaten off by the latter. Therefore it is
that they have an especially keen perception of the alien movements.
That certain persons in particular should have vivid dreams, e.g. that
familiar friends should thus have foresight in a special degree
respecting one another, is due to the fact that such friends are most
solicitous on one another's behalf. For as acquaintances in particular
recognize and perceive one another a long way off, so also they do as
regards the sensory movements respecting one another; for sensory
movements which refer to persons familiarly known are themselves more
familiar. Atrabilious persons, owing to their impetuosity, are, when
they, as it were, shoot from a distance, expert at hitting; while,
owing to their mutability, the series of movements deploys quickly
before their minds. For even as the insane recite, or con over in
thought, the poems of Philaegides, e.g. the Aphrodite, whose parts
succeed in order of similitude, just so do they
the 'atrabilious' go on and on stringing sensory movements
together.Moreover, owing to their aforesaid impetuosity, one movement
within them is not liable to be knocked out of its course by some
other movement.
The most skilful interpreter of dreams is he who has the faculty of
observing resemblances. Any one may interpret dreams which are vivid
and plain. But, speaking of 'resemblances', I mean that dream
presentations are analogous to the forms reflected in water, as indeed
we have already stated. In the latter case, if the motion in the water
be great, the reflexion has no resemblance to its original, nor do the
forms resemble the real objects. Skilful, indeed, would he be in
interpreting such reflexions who could rapidly discern, and at a
glance comprehend, the scattered and distorted fragments of such
forms, so as to perceive that one of them represents a man, or a
horse, Or anything whatever. Accordingly, in the other case also, in a
similar way, some such thing as this [blurred image] is all that a
dream amounts to; for the internal movement effaces the clearness of
the dream.
The questions, therefore, which we proposed as to the nature of sleep
and the dream, and the cause to which each of them is due, and also as
to divination as a result of dreams, in every form of it, have now
been discussed.

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