To the Editor.
(1) Are dreams always real? If so, what produces them? If not real, may they not nevertheless have in themselves some deep significance?
(2) Can you tell me something about antenatal states of existence and the transmigration of the soul?
(3) Can you give me anything that is worth knowing about psychology as suggested by this article? *
Yours most fraternally and obediently,
Jehangir Cursetji Tarachand
Bombay, Nov. 10th, 1881
To put our correspondent’s request more exactly, he desires The Theosophist to cull into the limits of a column or two the facts embraced within the whole range of all the sublunar mysteries with "full explanations." These would embrace:
(1) The complete philosophy of dreams, as deduced from their physiological, biological, psychological and occult aspects.
(2) The Buddhist Jâtakas (rebirths and migrations of our Lord Shâkya Muni), with a philosophical essay upon the transmigrations of the 387,000 Buddhas who "turned the wheel of faith," during the successive revelations to the world of the 125,000 other Buddhas, the saints who can "overlook and unravel the thousand-fold knotted threads of the moral chain of causation," throwing in a treatise upon the Nidânas, the chain of twelve causes with a complete list of their two millions of results, and copious appendices by some Arhats, "who have attained the stream which flows into Nirvâna."
(3) The compounded reveries of the world-famous psychologists; from the Egyptian Hermes and his Book of the Dead; Plato’s definition of the Soul, in Timæus; and so on, down to Drawing-Room Nocturnal Chats with a Disembodied Soul, by the Rev. Adramelech Romeo Tiberius Toughskin from Cincinnati. Such is the modest task proposed.
Our physical senses are the agents by means of which the astral spirit, or "conscious something" within, is brought, by contact with the external world, to a knowledge of actual existence; while the spiritual senses of the astral man are the media, the telegraphic wires by means of which he communicates with his higher principles, and obtains therefrom the faculties of clear perception of, and vision into, the realms of the invisible world. The Buddhist philosopher holds that by the practice of the Dhyânas one may reach "the enlightened condition of mind, which exhibits itself by immediate recognition of sacred truth, so that on opening the Scriptures (or any books whatsoever?) their true meaning at once flashes into the heart." (Beal’s Catena, p. 255.)
In dreaming, or in somnambulism, the brain is asleep only in parts, and is called into action through the agency of the external senses, owing to some peculiar cause; a word pronounced, a thought, or picture lingering dormant in one of the cells of memory, and awakened by a sudden noise, the fall of a stone, suggesting instantaneously to this half-dreamy fancy of the sleeper walls of masonry, and so on. When one is suddenly startled in his sleep without becoming fully awake, he does not begin and terminate his dream with the simple noise which partially awoke him, but often experiences in his dream a long train of events concentrated within the brief space of time the sound occupies, and to be attributed solely to that sound. Generally dreams are induced by the waking associations which precede them. Some of them produce such an impression that the slightest idea in the direction of any subject associated with a particular dream may bring its recurrence years after.
Tartini, the famous Italian violinist, composed his "Devil’s Sonata" under the inspiration of a dream. During his sleep he thought the devil appeared to him and challenged him to a trial of skill upon his own private violin, brought straight from the infernal regions; which challenge Tartini accepted. When he awoke, the melody of the "Devil’s Sonata" was so vividly impressed upon his mind that he there and then noted it down; but on getting as far as the finale all further recollection of it was suddenly obliterated, and he had to lay aside the incomplete piece of music. Two years later he dreamt the very same thing, and in his dream tried to make himself recollect the finale upon awaking. The dream was repeated owing to a blind street-musician fiddling on his instrument under the artist’s window.
Coleridge in a like manner composed his poem, "Kublai-Khan," in a dream. On awaking, he found the now-famous lines so vividly impressed upon his mind that he wrote them down. The dream was due to the poet falling asleep in his chair while reading the following words in Purchas’ Pilgrimage: "Here the Khan Kublai commanded a palace to be built . . . enclosed within a wall."
The popular belief, that among the vast number of meaningless dreams there are some in which presages are frequently given of coming events, is shared by many well-informed persons, but not at all by science. Yet there are numberless instances of well-attested dreams which were verified by subsequent events, and which, therefore, may be termed prophetic. The Greek and Latin classics teem with records of remarkable dreams, some of which have become historical. Faith in the spiritual nature of dreaming was as widely disseminated among the Pagan philosophers as among the Christian fathers of the church, nor is belief in soothsaying and interpretations of dreams (oneiromancy) limited to the heathen nations of Asia, since the Bible is full of them. This is what Éliphas Lévi, the great modern Kabalist, says of such divinations, visions and prophetic dreams, in his Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (i. 356, 357):
Somnambulism, premonitions and second sight are but a disposition, whether accidental or habitual, to dream, awake, or during a voluntary, self-induced, or yet natural sleep; i.e., to perceive (and guess by intuition) the analogical reflections of the astral light. . . . The paraphernalia and instruments of divinations are simply means for (magnetic) communications between the divinator and him who consults him; they serve to fix and concentrate two wills (bent in the same direction) upon the same sign or object; the queer, complicated, moving figures helping to collect the reflections of the astral fluid. Thus one is enabled at times to see in the grounds of a coffee cup, or in the clouds, in the white of an egg, etc., fantastic forms having their existence only in the translucid (or the seer’s imagination). Vision-seeing in the water is produced by the fatigue of the dazzled optic nerve, which ends by ceding its functions to the translucid, and calling forth a cerebral illusion, which makes the simple reflections of the astral light appear as real images. Thus the fittest persons for this kind of divination are those of a nervous temperament whose sight is weak and imagination vivid, children being the best of all adapted for it. But let no one misinterpret the nature of the function attributed by us to imagination in the art of divination. We see through our imagination doubtless, and that is the natural aspect of the miracle; but we see actual and true things, and it is in this that lies the marvel of the natural phenomenon. We appeal for corroboration of what we say to the testimony of all the adepts.
The Theosophist, January, 1882
H. P. Blavatsky