The Scientific Literature of Dream-Problems (up to 1900)
In the following pages, I shall demonstrate that there is a psychological technique which makes it possible to interpret dreams, and that on the application of this technique, every dream will reveal itself as a psychological structure, full of significance, and one which may be assigned to a specific place in the psychic activities of the waking state. Further, I shall endeavour to elucidate the processes which underlie the strangeness and obscurity of dreams, and to deduce from these processes the nature of the psychic forces whose conflict or co-operation is responsible for our dreams. This done, my investigation will terminate, as it will have reached the point where the problem of the dream merges into more comprehensive problems, and to solve these, we must have recourse to material of a different kind.
I shall begin by giving a short account of the views of earlier writers on this subject and of the status of the dream-problem in contemporary science; since in the course of this treatise, I shall not often have occasion to refer to either. In spite of thousands of years of endeavour, little progress has been made in the scientific understanding of dreams. This fact has been so universally acknowledged by previous writers on the subject that it seems hardly necessary to quote individual opinions. The reader will find, in many stimulating observations, and plenty of interesting material relating to our subject, but little or nothing that concerns the true nature of the dream, or that solves definitely any of its enigmas. The educated layman, of course, knows even less of the matter.
The conception of the dream that was held in prehistoric ages by primitive peoples, and the influence which it may have exerted on the formation of their conceptions of the universe, and of the soul, is a theme of such great interest that it is only with reluctance that I refrain from dealing with it in these
pages. I will refer the reader to the well-known works of Sir John Lubbock (Lord Avebury), Herbert Spencer, E. B. Tylor and other writers; I will only add that we shall not realise the importance of these problems and speculations until we have completed the task of dream interpretation that lies before us.
A reminiscence of the concept of the dream that was held in primitive times seems to underlie the evaluation of the dream which was current among the peoples of classical antiquity.1 They took it for granted that dreams were related to the world of the supernatural beings in whom they believed, and that they brought inspirations from the gods and demons. Moreover, it appeared to them that dreams must serve a special purpose in respect of the dreamer; that, as a rule, they predicted the future. The extraordinary variations in the content of dreams, and in the impressions which they produced on the dreamer, made it, of course, very difficult to formulate a coherent conception of them, and necessitated manifold differentiations and group-formations, according to their value and reliability. The valuation of dreams by the individual philosophers of antiquity naturally depended on the importance which they were prepared to attribute to manticism in general.
In the two works of Aristotle in which there is mention of dreams, they are already regarded as constituting a problem of psychology. We are told that the dream is not god – sent, that it is not of divine but of daimonic origin.