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- Dreams and Dream Stories - 2/44 -
always speedily reassure me; the necessary magnetic or psychic tension never fails to reassert itself; and before many weeks have elapsed my Diary is once more rich with the record of my nightly visions.
Some of these phantasmagoria have furnished me with the framework, and even details, of stories which from time to time I have contributed to various magazines. A ghost story,* published some years ago in a London magazine, and much commented on because of its peculiarly weird and startling character, had this origin; so had a fairy tale,** which appeared in a Christmas Annual last year, and which has recently been re-issued in German by the editor of a foreign periodical. Many of my more
--------------- * "Steepside" ** "Beyond the Sunset" ----------------
serious contributions to literature have been similarly initiated; and, more than once, fragments of poems, both in English and other languages, have been heard or read by me in dreams. I regret much that I have not yet been able to recover any one entire poem. My memory always failed before I could finish writing out the lines, no matter how luminous and recent the impressions made by them on my mind.* However, even as regards verses, my experience has been far richer and more successful than that of Coleridge, the only product of whose faculty in this direction was the poetical fragment Kubla Khan, and there was no scenic dreaming on the occasion, only the verses were thus obtained; and I am not without hope that at some future time, under more favorable conditions than those I now enjoy, the broken threads may be resumed and these chapters of dream verse perfected and made complete.
It may, perhaps, be worthy of remark that by far the larger number of the dreams set down in this volume, occurred towards dawn; sometimes even, after sunrise, during a "second sleep." A condition of fasting, united possibly, with some subtle magnetic or other atmospheric state, seems therefore to be that most open to impressions of the kind. And, in this connection, I think it right to add that for the past fifteen years I have been an abstainer from flesh-meats; not a "Vegetarian," because during the whole of that period I have used such
----------- * The poem entitled "A Discourse on the Communion of Souls; or, the Uses of Love between Creature and Creature, Being a part of the Golden Book of Venus," which forms one of the appendices to "The Perfect Way," would be an exception to this rule but that it was necessary for the dream to be repeated before the whole poem could be recalled. (Ed.) --------------
animal produce as butter, cheese, eggs, and milk. That the influence of fasting and of sober fare upon the perspicacity of the sleeping brain was known to the ancients in times when dreams were far more highly esteemed than they now are, appears evident from various passages in the records of theurgy and mysticism. Philostratus, in his "Life of Apollonius Tyaneus," represents the latter as informing King Phraotes that "the Oneiropolists, or Interpreters of Visions, are wont never to interpret any vision till they have first inquired the time at which it befell; for, if it were early, and of the morning sleep, they then thought that they might make a good interpretation thereof (that is, that it might be worth the interpreting), in that the soul was then fitted for divination, and disencumbered. But if in the first sleep, or near midnight, while the soul was as yet clouded and drowned in libations, they, being wise, refused to give any interpretation. Moreover, the gods themselves are of this opinion, and send their oracles only into abstinent minds. For the priests, taking him who doth so consult, keep him one day from meat and three days from wine, that he may in a clear soul receive the oracles." And again, Iamblichus, writing to Agathocles, says:--"There is nothing unworthy of belief in what you have been told concerning the sacred sleep, and seeing by means of dreams. I explain it thus:--The soul has a twofold life, a lower and a higher. In sleep the soul is liberated from the constraint of the body, and enters, as an emancipated being, on its divine life of intelligence. Then, as the noble faculty which beholds objects that truly are--the objects in the world of intelligence-- stirs within, and awakens to its power, who can be astonished that the mind which contains in itself the principles of all events, should, in this its state of liberation, discern the future in those antecedent principles which will constitute that future? The nobler part of the mind is thus united by abstraction to higher natures, and becomes a participant in the wisdom and foreknowledge of the gods . . . . The night-time of the body is the day-time of the soul."
But I have no desire to multiply citations, nor to vex the reader with hypotheses inappropriate to the design of this little work. Having, therefore, briefly recounted the facts and circumstances of my experience so far as they are known to myself, I proceed, without further commentary, to unroll my chart of dream-pictures, and leave them to tell their own tale.
I. The Doomed Train*
I was visited last night by a dream of so strange and vivid a kind that I feel impelled to communicate it to you, not only to relieve my own mind of the impression which the recollection of it causes me, but also to give you an opportunity of finding the meaning, which I am sill far too much shaken and terrified to seek for myself.
It seemed to me that you and I were two of a vast company of men and women, upon all of whom, with the exception of myself--for I was there voluntarily--sentence of death had been passed. I was sensible of the knowledge--how obtained I know not--that this terrible doom had been pronounced by the official agents of some new reign of terror. Certain I was that none of the party had really been guilty of any crime deserving of death; but that the penalty had been incurred through
------------------ * This narrative was addressed to the friend particularly referred to in it. The dream occurred near the close of 1876, and on the eve, therefore, of the Russo-Turkish war, and was regarded by us both as having relation to a national crisis, of a moral and spiritual character, our interest in which was so profound as to be destined to dominate all our subsequent lives and work. (Author's Note.) ---------------
their connection with some regime, political, social or religious, which was doomed to utter destruction. It became known among us that the sentence was about to be carried out on a colossal scale; but we remained in absolute ignorance as to the place and method of the intended execution. Thus far my dream gave me no intimation of the horrible scene which next burst on me,--a scene which strained to their utmost tension every sense of sight, hearing and touch, in a manner unprecedented in any dream I have previously had.
It was night, dark and starless, and I found myself, together with the whole company of doomed men and women who knew that they were soon to die, but not how or where, in a railway train hurrying through the darkness to some unknown destination. I sat in a carriage quite at the rear end of the train, in a corner seat, and was leaning out of the open window, peering into the darkness, when, suddenly, a voice, which seemed to speak out of the air, said to me in a low, distinct, in-tense tone, the mere recollection of which makes me shudder,--"The sentence is being carried out even now. You are all of you lost. Ahead of the train is a frightful precipice of monstrous height, and at its base beats a fathomless sea. The railway ends only with the abyss, Over that will the train hurl itself into annihilation, There Is No One On The Engine!"
At this I sprang from my seat in horror, and looked round at the faces of the persons in the carriage with me. No one of them had spoken, or had heard those awful words. The lamplight from the dome of the carriage flickered on the forms, about me. I looked from one to the other, but saw no sign of alarm given by any of them. Then again the voice out of the air spoke to me,--"There is but one way to be saved. You must leap out of the train!"
In frantic haste I pushed open the carriage door and stepped out on the footboard. The train was going at a terrific pace, swaying to and fro as with the passion of its speed; and the mighty wind of its passage beat my hair about my face and tore at my garments.
Until this moment I had not thought of you, or even seemed conscious of your presence in the train. Holding tightly on to the rail by the carriage door, I began to creep along the footboard towards the engine, hoping to find a chance of dropping safely down on the line. Hand over hand I passed along in this way from one carriage to another; and as I did so I saw by the light within each carriage that the passengers had no idea of the fate upon which they were being hurried. At length, in one of the compartments, I saw you. "Come out!" I cried; "come out! Save yourself! In another minute we shall be dashed to pieces!"
You rose instantly, wrenched open the door, and stood beside me outside on the footboard. The rapidity at which we were going was now more fearful than ever. The train rocked as it fled onwards. The wind shrieked as we were carried through it. "Leap down," I cried to you; "save yourself! It is certain death to stay here. Before us is an abyss; and there is no one on the engine!"
At this you turned your face full upon me with a look of intense earnestness, and said, "No, we will not leap down. We will stop the train."
With these words you left me, and crept along the foot-board towards the front of the train. Full of half angry anxiety at what seemed to me a Quixotic act, I followed. In one of the carriages we passed I saw my mother and eldest brother, unconscious as the rest. Presently we reached the last carriage, and saw by the lurid light of the furnace that the voice had spoken truly, and that there was no one on the engine.
You continued to move onwards. "Impossible! Impossible!" I cried; "It cannot be done. O, pray, come away."
Then you knelt upon the footboard, and said,--"You are right. It cannot be done in that way; but we can save the train. Help me
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