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incidentally in his study of imagery, association and the speed of thought. But now a
change has come over the spirit of the times. The subject of the significance of
dreams, so long ignored, has suddenly become a matter of energetic study and of
fiery controversy the world over.
The cause of this revival of interest is the new point of view brought forward by
Professor Bergson in the paper which is here made access ible to the English-reading
public. This is the idea that we can explore the unconscious substratum of our
mentality, the storehouse of our memories, by means of dreams, for these memories
are by no means inert, but have, as it were, a life and purpose of their own, and
strive to rise into consciousness whenever they get a chance, even into the semi-
consciousness of a dream. To use Professor Bergson's striking metaphor, our
memories are packed away under pressure like steam in a boiler and the dream is
their escape valve.
[Pg 7]
That this is more than a mere metaphor has been proved by Professor Freud and
others of the Vienna school, who cure cases of hysteria by inducing the patient to
give expression to the secret anxieties and emotions which, unknown to h im, have
been preying upon his mind. The clue to these disturbing thoughts is generally
obtained in dreams or similar states of relaxed consciousness. According to the
Freudians a dream always means something, but never what it appears to mean. It is
symbolic and expresses desires or fears which we refuse ordinarily to admit to
consciousness, either because they are painful or because they are repugnant to our
moral nature. A watchman is stationed at the gate of consciousness to keep them
back, but sometimes these unwelcome intruders slip past him in disguise. In the
hands of fanatical Freudians this theory has developed the wildest extravagancies,
and the voluminous literature of psycho -analysis contains much that seems to the
layman quite as absurd as the stuff which fills the twenty-five cent dream book.
It is impossible to believe that the subconsciousness of every one of us contains
nothing but the foul and monstrous specimens which they dredge up from the
mental depths of their neuropathic patients and exhibit with such pride.
[Pg 8]
Bergson's view seems to me truer as it is certainly more agreeable, that we keep
stored away somewhere all our memories, the good as well as the evil, the pleasant
together with the unpleasant. There may be nightmares down cellar, as we thought
as a child, but even in those days we knew how to dodge them when we went after
apples; that is, take down a light and slam the door quickly on coming up.
Maeterlinck, too, knew this trick of our childhood. When in the Palace of Night scene
of his fairy play, the redoubtable Tyltyl unlocks the cage where are confined the
nightmares and all other evil imaginings, he shuts the door in time to keep them in
and then opens another revealing a lovely garden full of blue birds, which, though
they fade and die when brought into the light of common day, yet encourage him to
continue his search for the Blue Bird that never fades, but lives everlastingly. The
new science of dreams is giving a deeper significance to the trite wish of "Good night
and pleasant dreams!" It means sweet sanity and mental health, pure thoughts and
good will to all men.