Friedrich Nietzsche, Human All Too Human (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches), subtitled A Book for Free Spirits (Ein Buch für freie Geister).

First published in 1878.   A second part, Assorted Opinions and Maxims (Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche), was published in 1879, and a third part, The Wanderer and his Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten), followed in 1880.

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Previous Section   13. THE LOGIC OF DREAMS   Next Section

THE LOGIC OF DREAMS.  In sleep our nervous system is perpetually excited by numerous inner occurrences; nearly all the organs are disjointed and in a state of activity, the blood runs its turbulent course, the position of the sleeper causes pressure on certain limbs, his coverings influence his sensations in various ways, the stomach digests and by its movements it disturbs other organs, the intestines writhe, the position of the head occasions unaccustomed play of muscles, the feet, unshod, not pressing upon the floor with the soles, occasion the feeling of the unaccustomed just as does the different clothing of the whole body: all this, according to its daily change and extent, excites by its extraordinariness the entire system to the very functions of the brain, and thus there are a hundred occasions for the spirit to be surprised and to seek for the reasons of this excitation; the dream, however, is the seeking and representing of the causes of those excited sensations, that is, of the supposed causes.  A person who, for instance, binds his feet with two straps will perhaps dream that two serpents are coiling round his feet; this is first hypothesis, then a belief, with an accompanying mental picture and interpretation - "These serpents must be the causa of those sensations which I, the sleeper, experience” so decides the mind of the sleeper.  The immediate past, so disclosed, becomes to him the present through his excited imagination.  Thus everyone knows from experience how quickly the dreamer weaves into his dream a loud sound that he hears, such as the ringing of bells or the firing of cannon, that is to say, explains it from afterwards so that he first thinks he experiences the producing circumstances and then that sound.  But how does it happen that the mind of the dreamer is always so mistaken, while the same mind when awake is accustomed to be so temperate, careful, and sceptical with regard to its hypotheses?  So that the first random hypothesis for the explanation of a feeling suffices for him to believe immediately in its truth?  (For in dreaming we believe in the dream as if it were a reality i.e. we think our hypothesis completely proved.)  I hold, that as man now still reasons in dreams, so men reasoned also when awake through thousands of years; the first causa which occurred to the mind to explain anything that required an explanation, was sufficient and stood for truth.  (Thus, according to travellers' tales, savages still do to this very day.)  This ancient element in human nature still manifests itself in our dreams, for it is the foundation upon which the higher reason has developed and still develops in every individual; the dream carries us back into remote conditions of human culture, and provides a ready means of understanding them better.  Dream thinking is now so easy to us because during immense periods of human development we have been so well drilled in this form of fantastic and cheap explanation, by means of the first agreeable notions.  In so far, dreaming is a recreation for the brain, which by day has to satisfy the stern demands of thought, as they are laid down by the higher culture.  We can at once discern an allied process even in our awakened state, as the door and ante room of the dream.  If we shut our eyes, the brain produces a number of impressions of light and colour, probably as a kind of after play and echo of all those effects of light which crowd in upon it by day.  Now, however, the understanding, together with the imagination, instantly works up this play of colour, shapeless in itself, into definite figures, forms, landscapes, and animated groups.  The actual accompanying process thereby is again a kind of conclusion from the effect to the cause: since the mind asks, "Whence come these impressions of light and colour”?  It supposes those figures and forms as causes; it takes them for the origin of those colours and lights, because in the daytime, with open eyes, it is accustomed to find a producing cause for every colour, every effect of light.  Here, therefore, the imagination constantly places pictures before the mind, since it supports itself on the visual impressions of the day in their production, and the dream imagination does just the same thing, that is, the supposed cause is deduced from the effect and represented after the effect; all this happens with extraordinary rapidity, so that here, as with the conjuror, a confusion of judgment may arise and a sequence may look like something simultaneous, or even like a reversed sequence.  From these circumstances we may gather how lately the more acute logical thinking, the strict discrimination of cause and effect has been developed, when our reasoning and understanding faculties still involuntarily hark back to those primitive forms of deduction, and when we pass about half our life in this condition.  The poet, too, and the artist assign causes for their moods and conditions which are by no means the true ones; in this they recall an older humanity and can assist us to the understanding of it.  

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