This section is from the book "Faith - Healing. Christian Science And Kindred Phenomena", by James Monroe Buckley. Also available from Amazon: Faith-Healing, Christian Science and Kindred Phenomena.
By some it is maintained that dreams are of great value in the argument for the immortality of the soul; the short method being that they prove the soul immaterial and independent of the body, and if immaterial then immortal. If this has any value it would apply equally to animals.
Others have held that we are responsible for our dreams. An article in the " Journal of Psychological Medicine" for July, 1849, says that we are as responsible for our dreams as for our waking thoughts; just as much so as we are told we shall be at the great tribunal for every idle word. And another writer affirms that in dreams each man's character is disintegrated so that he may see the elements of which it is composed. But few dreams are more absurd than such conceptions of them as these. Gluttony, evil thoughts, intemperance, vigils, and anxiety may affect dreams, but the responsibility is for the gluttony and other vices and sins; the dreams are simply the incidental results. Many most devout persons who have been unduly excited in religious work have been terrified and driven almost to doubt their acceptance with God by the fearful dreams of an impure or immoral character which have made their nights hideous. Religious biography abounds with such accounts. The sufferers have attributed them to the devil, of whom one of them naively said, " The evil spirit, having no hope of succeeding with me by day, attacks me in sleep." Intellectual persons of sedentary habits have also been troubled in this way. The explanation in such cases is simple. The "Journal of Psychological Medicine " for January, 1857, says:
When persons have been much engaged during the whole day on subjects which require the continued exercise of the intellectual and moral attributes, they may induce so much fatigue and exhaustion of those powers that when they are asleep, to their subsequent sorrow and surprise, they may have the most sensual and most vicious dreams.
The author of the foregoing proceeds to explain the fact upon the natural principle that the exhausted intellectual faculties, not being active and vigorous in the dream, the intellect received imperfect impressions ; while the animal propensities, having been in a state of comparative inactivity, manifested greater activity.
In the case of great religious excitement, the principle embodied in the stern saying of a writer, that " When one passion is on fire, the rest will do well to send for the buckets," is a sufficient explanation. The intellect and the will being subdued by sleep, the generally excited condition of the brain and the nervous system produces a riot in the imagination.
Some rely upon dreams for evidence of acceptance with God, and of God's love. Where they have other evidences and sound reason, they do not need the help of dreams. When destitute of other evidences, it lias been observed that their conduct is frequently such as no Christian, and sometimes as no moral person, could safely imitate.
One of the best observations in favor of dreams is by David Hartley, M. D.
The wildness of our dreams seems of singular use to us, by interrupting and breaking the course of our associations. For if we were always awake, some accidental associations would be so much cemented by continuance, as that nothing could afterwards disjoin them, which would be madness.
Nevertheless, I would prefer to take the risk of apparently dreamless sleep.
A marked increase in the number or change in the character of dreams should be seriously considered. They are sometimes the precursors of a general nervous and mental prostration. In such cases habits of diet and exercise, work and rest, should be examined. If dreams which depress the nervous energies and render sleep unrefreshing recur frequently, medical counsel should be taken. The habit of remembering and narrating dreams is pernicious; to act upon them is to surrender rational self-control.
A gentleman of Boston who travels much is in the habit of dreaming often of sickness and death in his family. He always telegraphs for information, but has had the misfortune never to dream of the critical events, and to be away from home when they came to pass. Still, like one infatuated with lotteries, he continues to believe in dreams. Another, wdiose dreams are equally numerous and pertinent, never so much as gives them a thought, and has had the good fortune to be near his family whenever urgently needed.
An extraordinary dream relating to probable or possible events may be analyzed, and anything which seems of importance in it from its own nature or the way things are stated, may wisely be made a subject of reflection. But to take a step upon a dream which would not be taken without it allies him who does it to every superstition that stultifies the godlike faculty of reason.