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Published by Mustafa
Dreams, by Henri Bergson
Dreams, by Henri Bergson

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Published by: Mustafa on Apr 06, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Dreams, by HenriBergson
DREAMS The subject which I have to discuss here is so complex, itraises so many questions of all kinds, difficult, obscure,some psychological, others physiological andmetaphysical; in order to be treated in a completemanner it requires such a long development--and wehave so little space, that I shall ask your permission todispense with all preamble, to set aside unessentials,and to go at once to the heart of the question.A dream is this. I perceive objects and there is nothingthere. I see men; I seem to speak to them and I hearwhat they answer; there is no one there and I have notspoken. It is all
as if 
real things and real persons werethere, then on waking all has disappeared, both personsand things. How does this happen?But, first, is it true that there is nothing there? I mean, isthere not presented a certain sense material to our eyes,to our ears, to our touch, etc., during sleep as well asduring waking?Close the eyes and look attentively at what goes on inthe field of our vision. Many persons questioned on thispoint would say that nothing goes on, that they seenothing. No wonder at this, for a certain amount of practise is necessary to be able to observe oneself satisfactorily. But just give the requisite effort of 
attention, and you will distinguish, little by little, manythings. First, in general, a black background. Upon thisblack background occasionally brilliant points whichcome and go, rising and descending, slowly andsedately. More often, spots of many colors, sometimesvery dull, sometimes, on the contrary, with certainpeople, so brilliant that reality cannot compare with it. These spots spread and shrink, changing form and color,constantly displacing one another. Sometimes thechange is slow and gradual, sometimes again it is awhirlwind of vertiginous rapidity. Whence comes all thisphantasmagoria? The physiologists and thepsychologists have studied this play of colors. "Ocularspectra," "colored spots," "phosphenes," such are thenames that they have given to the phenomenon. Theyexplain it either by the slight modifications which occurceaselessly in the retinal circulation, or by the pressurethat the closed lid exerts upon the eyeball, causing amechanical excitation of the optic nerve. But theexplanation of the phenomenon and the name that isgiven to it matters little. It occurs universally and itconstitutes--I may say at once--the principal material of which we shape our dreams, "such stuff as dreams aremade on." Thirty or forty years ago, M. Alfred Maury and, about thesame time, M. d'Hervey, of St. Denis, had observed thatat the moment of falling asleep these colored spots andmoving forms consolidate, fix themselves, take ondefinite outlines, the outlines of the objects and of thepersons which people our dreams. But this is anobservation to be accepted with caution, since itemanates from psychologists already half asleep. Morerecently an American psychologist, Professor Ladd, of  Yale, has devised a more rigorous method, but of difficultapplication, because it requires a sort of training. Itconsists in acquiring the habit on awakening in the
morning of keeping the eyes closed and retaining forsome minutes the dream that is fading from the field of vision and soon would doubtless have faded from that of memory. Then one sees the figures and objects of thedream melt away little by little into phosphenes,identifying themselves with the colored spots that theeye really perceives when the lids are closed. One reads,for example, a newspaper; that is the dream. Oneawakens and there remains of the newspaper, whosedefinite outlines are erased, only a white spot with blackmarks here and there; that is the reality. Or our dreamtakes us upon the open sea--round about us the oceanspreads its waves of yellowish gray with here and therea crown of white foam. On awakening, it is all lost in agreat spot, half yellow and half gray, sown with brilliantpoints. The spot was there, the brilliant points werethere. There was really presented to our perceptions, insleep, a visual dust, and it was this dust which served forthe fabrication of our dreams.Will this alone suffice? Still considering the sensation of sight, we ought to add to these visual sensations whichwe may call internal all those which continue to come tous from an external source. The eyes, when closed, stilldistinguish light from shade, and even, to a certainextent, different lights from one another. Thesesensations of light, emanating from without, are at thebottom of many of our dreams. A candle abruptly lightedin the room will, for example, suggest to the sleeper, if his slumber is not too deep, a dream dominated by theimage of fire, the idea of a burning building. Permit meto cite to you two observations of M. Tissié on thissubject:"B---- Léon dreams that the theater of Alexandria is on
; the flame lights up the whole place. All of a suddenhe finds himself transported to the midst of the fountain

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