A. The Relation of the Dream to the Waking State

The naive judgment of the dreamer on waking assumes that the dream - even if it does not come from another world - has at all events transported the dreamer into another world. The old physiologist, Burdach, to whom we are indebted for a careful and discriminating description of the phenomena of dreams, expressed this conviction in a frequently quoted passage (p. 474): "The waking life, with its trials and joys, its pleasures and pains, is never repeated; on the contrary, the dream aims at relieving us of these. Even when our whole mind is filled with one subject, when our hearts are rent by bitter grief, or when some task has been taxing our mental capacity to the utmost, the dream either gives us something entirely alien, or it selects for its combinations only a few elements of reality; or it merely enters into the key of our mood, and symbolizes reality." J. H. Fichte (I. 541) speaks in precisely the same sense of supplementary dreams, calling them one of the secret, self-healing benefits of the psyche. L. Strumpell expresses himself to the same effect in his Natur und Entstehung der Traume, a study which is deservedly held in high esteem. "He who dreams turns his back upon the world of waking consciousness" (p. 16); "In the dream the memory of the orderly content of waking consciousness and its normal behaviour is almost entirely lost" (p. 17); "The almost complete and unencumbered isolation of the psyche in the dream from the regular normal content and course of the waking state..." (p. 19).

Yet the overwhelming majority of writers on the subject have adopted the contrary view of the relation of the dream to waking life. Thus Haffner (p. 19): "To begin with, the dream continues the waking life. Our dreams always connect themselves with such ideas as have shortly before been present in our consciousness. Careful examination will nearly always detect a thread by which the dream has linked itself to the experiences of the previous day." Weygandt (p. 6) flatly contradicts the statement of Burdach. "For it may often be observed, apparently indeed in the great majority
of dreams, that they lead us directly back into everyday life, instead of releasing us from it." Maury (p. 56) expresses the same idea in a concise formula: "Nous revons de ce que nous avons vu, dit, desire, ou fait."[5] Jessen, in his Psychologie, published in 1855 (p. 530), is rather more explicit: "The content of dreams is always more or less determined by the personality, the age, sex, station in life, education and habits, and by the events and experiences of the whole past life of the individual."

The philosopher, I. G. E. Maas, adopts the most unequivocal attitude in respect of this question (Uber die Leidenschaften, 1805): "Experience corroborates our assertion that we dream most frequently of those things toward which our warmest passions are directed. This shows us that our passions must influence the generation of our dreams. The ambitious man dreams of the laurels which he has won (perhaps only in imagination), or has still to win, while the lover occupies himself, in his dreams, with the object of his dearest hopes.... All the sensual desires and loathings which slumber in the heart, if they are stimulated by any cause, may combine with other ideas and give rise to a dream; or these ideas may mingle in an already existing dream."[6]

The ancients entertained the same idea concerning the dependence of the dream-content on life. I will quote Radestock (p. 139): "When Xerxes, before his expedition against Greece, was dissuaded from his resolution by good counsel, but was again and again incited by dreams to undertake it, one of the old, rational dream-interpreters of the Persians, Artabanus, told him, and very appropriately, that dream-images for the most part
contain that of which one has been thinking in the waking state."In the didactic poem of Lucretius, On the Nature of Things (IV. 962), there occurs this passage:

"Et quo quisque fere studio devinctus adhaeret, aut quibus in rebus multum sumus ante morati atque in ea ratione fuit contenta magis mens, in somnis eadem plerumque videmur obire; causidici causas agere et componere leges, induperatores pugnare ac proelia obire,"... etc., etc.[7] Cicero (De Divinatione, II. LXVII) says, in a similar strain, as does also Maury many centuries later: "Maximeque 'reliquiae' rerum earum moventur in animis et agitantur, de quibus vigilantes aut cogitavimus aut egimus."[8]

The contradiction between these two views concerning the relation between dream life and waking life seems indeed irresolvable. Here we may usefully cite the opinion of F. W. Hildebrandt (1875), who held that on the whole the peculiarities of the dream can only be described as "a series of contrasts which apparently amount to contradictions" (p. 8). "The first of these contrasts is formed by the strict isolation or seclusion of the dream from true and actual life on the one hand, and on the other hand by the continuous encroachment of the one upon the other, and the constant dependence of the one upon the other. The dream is something absolutely divorced from the reality experienced during the waking state; one may call it an existence hermetically sealed up and insulated from real life by an unbridgeable chasm. It frees us from reality, blots out the normal recollection of reality, and sets us in another world and a totally different life, which fundamentally has nothing in common with real life...." Hildebrandt then asserts that in falling asleep our whole being, with its forms of existence, disappears "as through an invisible trapdoor."
In one's dream one is perhaps making a voyage to St. Helena in order to offer the imprisoned Napoleon an exquisite vintage of Moselle. One is most affably received by the ex-emperor, and one feels almost sorry when, on waking, the interesting illusion is destroyed. But let us now compare the situation existing in the dream with the actual reality. The dreamer has never been a wine-merchant, and has no desire to become one. He has never made a sea-voyage, and St. Helena is the last place in the world that he would choose as the destination of such a voyage. The dreamer feels no sympathy for Napoleon, but on the contrary a strong patriotic aversion. And lastly, the dreamer was not yet among the living when Napoleon died on the island of St. Helena; so that it was beyond the realms of possibility that he should have had any personal relations with Napoleon. The dream-experience thus appears as something entirely foreign, interpolated between two mutually related and successive periods of time.

"Nevertheless," continues Hildebrandt, "the apparent contrary is just as true and correct. I believe that side by side with this seclusion and insulation there may still exist the most intimate interrelation. We may therefore justly say: Whatever the dream may offer us, it derives its material from reality, and from the psychic life centered upon this reality. However extraordinary the dream may seem, it can never detach itself
from the real world, and its most sublime as well as its most ridiculous constructions must always borrow their elementary material either from that which our eyes have beheld in the outer world, or from that which has already found a place somewhere in our waking thoughts; in other words, it must be taken from that which we have already experienced, either objectively or subjectively."

Interpretation of Dreams

Main Library