Are Dreams But Idle Visions?
H P Blavatsky
Dreams are interludes which fancy makes," Dryden tells us—perhaps to show that even a poet will make occasionally his muse subservient to
The instance of prevision in dream given above [in a letter addressed to The Theosophist] is one of a series of what may be regarded as exceptional cases in dream-life, the generality of dreams being, indeed, but "interludes which fancy makes." It is the policy of materialistic, matter-of-fact science to superbly ignore such exceptions, on the ground, perchance, that the exception confirms the rule – or, we rather think, to avoid the embarrassing task of explaining such exceptions. Indeed, if one single instance stubbornly refuses classification, with "strange coincidences" – so much in favour with sceptics – then prophetic, or verified, dreams would demand an entire remodelling of physiology; as in regard to phrenology, the recognition and acceptance by science of prophetic dreams (hence the recognition of the claims of theosophy and spiritualism) would, it is contended, "carry with it a new educational, social, political, and theological science." Result: Science will never recognize either dreams, spiritualism, or occultism.
Human nature is an abyss, which physiology (and indeed modern science in general) has sounded less deeply than some who have never heard the word physiology pronounced. Never are the high censors of the Royal Society more perplexed than when brought face to face with that insolvable mystery – man’s inner nature. The key to it is – man’s dual being.
It is that key that they refuse to use, well aware that if once the door of the adytum be flung open they will be forced to drop one by one their cherished theories and final conclusions – more than once proved to have been no better than hobbies, starting from false or incomplete premises.
If we must remain satisfied with the half explanations of physiology as regards meaningless dreams, how account in such case for the numerous facts of verified dreams? To say that man is a dual being, that in man (to use the words of Paul) "there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body"; and that, therefore, he must of necessity have a double set of senses – is tantamount in the opinion of the educated sceptic to uttering an unpardonable and most unscientific fallacy. Yet it has to be uttered, science notwithstanding.
Man is undeniably endowed with a double set of senses; with natural or physical senses (these to be safely left to physiology to deal with); and with sub-natural or spiritual senses (belonging entirely to the province of psychological science). The word "sub," let it be well understood, is used here in a sense diametrically opposite to that given to it – in chemistry, for example.
In our case it is a prefix, as in "subtonic" or "sub-bass" in music. Indeed, as the aggregate sound of nature is shown to be a single definite tone, a key-note vibrating from and through eternity; having an undeniable existence per se, yet possessing an appreciable pitch only for "the acutely fine ear"* – so the definite harmony or disharmony of man’s external nature is seen by the observant to depend wholly on the character of the key-note struck for the outer by the inner man. It is the spiritual Ego or Self that serves as the fundamental base, determining the tone of the whole life of man – that most capricious, uncertain and variable of all instruments, which more than any other needs constant tuning; it is its voice alone, which like the sub-bass of an organ, underlies the melody of his whole life, whether its tones are sweet or harsh, harmonious or wild, legato or pizzicato.
Therefore, we say, man, in addition to the physical, has also a spiritual brain. If the former is wholly dependent for the degree of its receptivity on its own physical structure and development, it is, on the other hand, entirely subordinate to the latter, inasmuch as it is the spiritual Ego alone (according as it leans more towards its two highest principles,† or towards its physical shell) that can impress more or less vividly the outer brain with the perception of things purely spiritual or immaterial. Hence it depends on the acuteness of the mental feelings of the inner Ego, on the degree of spirituality of its faculties, to transfer the impression of the scenes its semi-spiritual brain perceives, the words it hears, and what it feels, to the sleeping physical brain of the outer man.
The stronger the spirituality of the faculties of the latter, the easier it will be for the Ego to awake the sleeping hemispheres, rouse into activity the sensory ganglia and the cerebellum, and impress the former (always in full inactivity and rest during the deep sleep of man) with the vivid picture of the subject so transferred.
In a sensual, unspiritual man, in one whose mode of life and animal proclivities and passions have entirely disconnected his fifth principle or animal, astral Ego from its higher spiritual soul; as also in him whose hard, physical labour has so worn out the material body as to render him temporarily insensible to the voice and touch of his astral soul – in both cases during sleep the brain remains in a complete state of anæmia or full inactivity.
Such persons rarely, if ever, have any dreams at all, least of all "visions that come to pass." In the former, as the waking time approaches, and his sleep becomes lighter, the mental changes as they begin to occur will constitute dreams in which intelligence will play no part; his half-awakened brain suggesting but pictures which are only the hazy grotesque reproductions of his wild habits in life; while in the latter (unless strongly preoccupied with some exceptional thought) his ever-present instinct of active habits will not permit him to remain in that state of semi-sleep during which, as consciousness begins to return, dreams of various kinds are seen, but will arouse him at once without any interlude to full wakefulness.
On the other hand, the more spiritual a man, the more active his fancy, the greater is the probability of his receiving in vision correctly the impressions conveyed to him by his all-seeing, ever-wakeful Ego. The spiritual senses of the latter, unimpeded as they are by the interference of the physical senses, are in direct intimacy with his highest spiritual principle. This principle (though per se a quasi-unconscious part of the utterly unconscious, because utterly immaterial, Absolute‡) having in itself the inherent capabilities of omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, as soon as its pure essence comes in contact with pure sublimated and (to us)
imponderable matter, imparts these attributes in a degree to the as pure astral Ego. Hence highly spiritual persons will see visions and dreams during sleep and even in their hours of wakefulness.
These are the sensitives, the natural-born seers, now loosely termed "spiritual mediums," there being no distinction made between a subjective seer, a "neurypnological" subject, and even an adept – one who has made himself independent of his physiological idiosyncracies and has entirely subjected the outer to the inner man. Those less spiritually endowed will see such dreams only at rare intervals; the accuracy of the dreams depending on the intensity of the dreamer’s feeling in regard to the perceived object.
Thus, in this question of verified dreams, as in so many others, modern science stands before an unsolved problem, the insolvable nature of which has been created by her own materialistic stubbornness, and her time-cherished routine-policy. For, either man is a dual being, with an inner Ego§ – this Ego being the "real" man, distinct from, and independent of, the outer man proportionally to the prevalency or weakness of the material body; an Ego, the scope of whose senses stretches far beyond the limit granted to the physical senses of man; an Ego which survives the decay of its external covering, at least for a time, even when an evil course of life has made it fail to achieve a perfect union with its spiritual higher Self, i.e., to blend its individuality with it (the personality gradually fading out in each case) – or the testimony of millions of men embracing several thousands of years – the evidence furnished in our own century by hundreds of the most educated men, often by the greatest lights of science – all this evidence, we say, goes for naught. With the exception of a handful of scientific authorities – surrounded by an eager crowd of sceptics and sciolists, who, having never seen anything, claim, therefore, the right of denying everything – the world stands condemned as a gigantic lunatic asylum! It has, however, a special department in it. It is reserved for those who, having proved the soundness of their minds, must of necessity be regarded as impostors and liars.
Has then the phenomenon of dreams been so thoroughly studied by materialistic science, that she has nothing more to learn, since she speaks in such authoritative tones upon the subject? Not in the least. The phenomena of sensation and volition, of intellect and instinct, are, of course, all manifested through the channels of the nervous centres, the most important of which is the brain.
The peculiar substance through which these actions take place has two forms, the vesicular and the fibrous, of which the latter is held to be simply the propagator of the impressions sent to or from the vesicular matter. Yet while this physiological office is distinguished, or divided by science into three kinds – the motor, sensitive and connecting – the mysterious agency of intellect remains as
mysterious and as perplexing to the great modern physiologists as it was in the days of Hippocrates. The scientific suggestion that there may be a fourth series associated with the operations of thought has not helped towards solving the problem; it has failed to shed even the slightest ray of light on the unfathomable mystery. Nor will they ever fathom it unless our men of science accept the hypothesis of Dual Man.
First Published 1882
H. P. Blavatsky
* This tone is held by the specialists to be the middle F of the piano.
† The sixth principle, or spiritual soul, and the seventh – the purely spiritual principle, the Spirit or Parabrahman, the emanation from the unconscious Absolute. (See "Fragments of Occult Truth," Theosophist, October, 1881.)
‡ To this teaching every kind of exception will be taken by the theists and various objections raised by the spiritualists.
It is evident that we cannot be expected to give, within the narrow limits of a short article, a full explanation of this highly abstruse and esoteric doctrine. To say that the Absolute Consciousness is "unconscious" of its consciousness (hence to the limited intellect of man must be "Absolute Unconsciousness") seems like speaking of a square triangle. We hope to develop the proposition more fully in one of the forthcoming numbers of "Fragments of Occult Truth," of which we may publish a series.
We will then prove, perhaps, to the satisfaction of the non-prejudiced that the Absolute, or the Unconditioned, and (especially) the Unrelated, is a mere fanciful abstraction, a fiction, unless we view it from the standpoint, and in the light of, the more educated pantheist. To do so, we will have to regard the Absolute merely as the aggregate of all intelligences, the totality of all existences, incapable of manifesting itself except through the interrelationship of its parts, as it is absolutely incognizable and non-existent outside its phenomena. and depends entirely on its ever-correlating forces, dependent in their turn on the One Great Law.
§ Whether with one solitary Ego, or Soul, as the spiritualists affirm, or with several – i.e., composed of seven principles, as eastern esotericism teaches – is not the question at issue for the present. Let us first prove by bringing our joint experience to bear, that there is in man something beyond Büchner’s force and matter.
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