The Universe in a Nut-Shell
Theosophist, January, 1882
The article on dreams alluded to in the following letter is reprinted with the desired explanatory notes for the information of our readers:—
TO THE EDITOR.
The accompanying extract is from an article in a recent issue of Chamber’s Journal. I hope you will reprint the same and kindly give full explanations upon the following subjects:—
(l) Are dreams always real? If so, what produces them; if not real, yet may they not have in themselves some deep significance?
(2) Tell us something about our antenatal state of existence and the transmigration of soul?
(3) Give us anything that is worth knowing about Psychology as suggested by this article?
Your most fraternally and obediently,
JEHANGIR CURSETJI TARACHAND, F.T.S.
Bombay, November l0, l881
To put our correspondent’s request more exactly, he desires the Theosophist to call into the limits of a column or two the facts embraced within the whole range of all the sublunar mysteries with “full explanations.” These would embrace—
(1) The complete philosophy of dreams, as deduced from their physiological, biological, psychological and occult aspects.
(2) The Buddhist Jatakas (re-births and migrations of our Lord Sakya-Muni) with a philosophical essay upon the transmigrations of the 387,000 Buddhas who “turned the wheel of faith,” during the successive revelations to the world of the 125,000 other Buddhas, the Saints, who can “overlook and unravel the thousand fold knotted threads of the moral chain of causation,” throwing in a treatise upon the Nidhanas, the chain of twelve causes with a complete list of their two millions of results, and copious appendices by some Arahats, “who have attained the stream which floats into Nirvana.”
(3) The compounded reveries of the world-famous psychologists; from the Egyptian Hermes, and his Book of the Dead; Plato’s definition of the Soul, in Timæus; and so on, down to the Drawing Room Nocturnal Chats with a Disembodied Soul, by Rev. Adramelech Romeo Tiberius Toughskin from Cincinnati.
Such is the modest task proposed. Suppose we first give the article which has provoked so great a thirst for philosophical information, and then try to do what we can. It is a curious case—if not altogether a literary fiction:—
DREAM-LAND AND SOMNAMBULISM.
“The writer of this article has a brother-in-law who has felt some of his dreams to be of a remarkable and significant character; and his experience shows that there is a strange and inexplicable connection between such dreams and the state of somnambulism. Before giving in detail some instances of somnambulism as exhibited by him and also by his daughter, I will give an account of one of his dreams, which has been four times repeated in its striking and salient points at uncertain periods, during the past thirty years. He was in his active youth a practical agriculturist, but now lives retired. All his life he has been spare of flesh, active, cheerful, very companionable, and not in any sense what is called a bookworm. His dream was as follows: He found himself alone, standing in front of a monument of very solid masonry, looking vacantly at the north side of it, when to his astonishment, the middle stones on the level of his sight gradually opened and slid down one on another, until an opening was made large enough to uphold a man. All of a sudden, a little man, dressed in black, with a large bald head, appeared inside the opening, seemingly fixed there by reason of his feet and legs being buried in the masonry. The expression of his face was mild and intelligent. They looked at each other for what seemed a long time without either of them attempting to speak, and all the while my brother’s astonishment increased. At length, as the dreamer expressed himself, ‘The little man in black with the bald head and serene countenance’ said: ‘Don’t you know me? I am the man whom you murdered in an ante-natal state of existence; and I am waiting until you come, and shall wait without sleeping. There is no evidence of the foul deed in your state of human existence, so you need not trouble yourself in your mortal life—shut me again in darkness.’
“The dreamer began, as he thought, to put the stones in their original position, remarking as he expressed himself—to the little man:—’This is all a dream of yours, for there is no ante-natal state of existence.’ The little man who seemed to grow less and less, said: ‘Cover me over and begone.’ At this the dreamer awoke.
“Years passed away, and the dream was forgotten in the common acceptation of the term, when behold! without any previous thought of the matter, he dreamed that he was standing in the sunshine, facing an ancient garden-wall that belonged to a large unoccupied mansion, when the stones in front of it began to fall out with a gently sliding motion, and soon revealed the self-same mysterious person, and everything pertaining to him, including his verbal utterances as on the first occasion, though an uncertain number of years had passed. The same identical dream has since occurred twice at irregular periods; but there was no change in the facial appearance of the little man in black.”
Editor’s Note.—We do not feel competent to pronounce upon the merits or demerits of this particular dream. The interpretation of it may be safely left with the Daniels of physiology who, like W. A. Hammond, M. D., of New York, explain dreams and somnambulism as due to an exalted condition of the spinal cord. It may have been a meaningless, chance-dream, brought about by a concatenation of thoughts which occupy mechanically the mind during sleep—
twilight of the mind,
When Reason’s beam, half hid behind
The clouds of sense, obscurely gilds
Each shadowy shape that fancy builds.
—when our mental operations go on independently of our conscious volition.
Our physical senses are the agents by means of which the astral spirit or “conscious something” within, is brought by contact with the external world to a knowledge of actual existence; while the spiritual senses of the astral man are the media, the telegraphic wires by means of which he communicates with his higher principles, and obtains therefrom the faculties of clear perception of, and vision into, the realms of the invisible world. 1 The Buddhist philosopher holds that by the practice of the dhyanas one may reach “the enlightened condition of mind which exhibits itself by immediate recognition of sacred truth, so that on opening the Scriptures (or any books whatsoever?) their true meaning at once flashes into the heart.” [Beal’s Catena, &c., p. 255.] If the first time, however, the above dream was meaningless, the three following times it may have recurred by the suddenly awakening of that portion of the brain to which it was due—as in dreaming, or in somnambulism, the brain is asleep only in parts, and called into action through the agency of the external senses, owing to some peculiar cause: a word pronounced, a thought, or picture lingering dormant in one of the cells of memory, and awakened by a sudden noise, the fall of a stone, suggesting instantaneously to this half-dreamy fancy of the sleeper walls of masonry, and so on. When one is suddenly startled in his sleep without becoming fully awake, he does not begin and terminate his dream with the simple noise which partially awoke him, but often experiences in his dream, a long train of events concentrated within the brief space of time the sound occupies, and to be attributed solely to that sound. Generally dreams are induced by the waking associations which precede them. Some of them produce such an impression that the slightest idea in the direction of any subject associated with a particular dream may bring its recurrence years after. Tartinia, the famous Italian violinist, composed his “Devil’s Sonata” under the inspiration of a dream. During his sleep he thought the Devil appeared to him and challenged him to a trial of skill upon his own private violin, brought by him from the infernal regions, which challenge Tartinia accepted. When he awoke, the melody of the “Devil’s Sonata” was so vividly impressed upon his mind that he there and then noted it down; but when arriving towards the finale all further recollection of it was suddenly obliterated, and he lay aside the incomplete piece of music. Two years later, he dreamt the very same thing and tried in his dream to make himself recollect the finale upon awakening. The dream was repeated owing to a blind street-musician fiddling on his instrument under the artist’s window. Coleridge composed in a like manner his poem “Kublai Khan,” in a dream, which, on awakening, he found so vividly impressed upon his mind that he wrote down the famous lines which are still preserved. The dream was due to the poet falling asleep in his chair while reading in Purcha’s “Pilgrimage” the following words: “Here, the Khan Kublai commanded a palace to be built . . . enclosed within a wall.”
The popular belief that among the vast number of meaningless dreams there are some in which presages are frequently given of coming events is shared by many well-informed persons, but not at all by science. Yet there are numberless instances of well-attested dreams which were verified by subsequent events, and which, therefore, may be termed prophetic. The Greek and Latin classics teem with records of remarkable dreams, some of which have become historical. Faith in the spiritual nature of dreaming was as widely disseminated among the pagan philosophers as among the Christian fathers of the church, nor is belief in soothsaying and interpretations of dreams (oneiromancy) limited to the heathen nations of Asia, since the Bible is full of them. This is what Eliphas Lévi, the great modern Kabalist, says of such divinations, visions and prophetic dreams. 2
“Somnambulism, premonitions and second sights are but a disposition, whether accidental or habitual, to dream, awake, or during a voluntary, self-induced, or yet natural sleep, i.e., to perceive (and guess by intuition) the analogical reflections of the Astral Light. . . . The paraphernalia and instruments of divinations are simply means for (magnetic) communications between the divinator and him who consults him: they serve to fix and concentrate two wills (bent in the same direction) upon the same sign or object; the queer, complicated, moving figures helping to collect the reflections of the Astral fluid. Thus one is enabled, at times to see in the grounds of a coffee cup, or in the clouds, in the white of an egg, &c., &c., fantastic forms having their existence, but in the translucid (or the seer’s imagination). Vision-seeing in the water is produced by the fatigue of the dazzled optic nerve, which ends by ceding its functions to the translucid, and calling forth a cerebral illusion, which makes to seem as real images the simple reflections of the astral light. Thus the fittest persons for this kind of divination are those of a nervous temperament whose sight is meek [weak?] and imagination vivid, children being the best of all adapted for it. But let no one misinterpret the nature of the function attributed by us to imagination in the art of divination. We see through our imagination doubtless, and that is the natural aspect of the miracle; but we see actual and true things, and it is in this that lies the marvel of the natural phenomenon. We appeal for corroboration of what we say to the testimony of all the adepts. . . .”
And now we give room to a second letter which relates to us a dream verified by undeniable events.
Are Dreams but Idle Visions?
TO THE EDITOR OF THE THEOSOPHIST.
A few months ago, one Babu Jugut Chunder Chatterjee, a Sub Deputy Collector of Morshedabad, in Bengal, was stationed pro tem on duty at Kandi—a sub-division of the Morshedabad District. He had left his wife and children at Berhampore, the head-quarters of the District and was staying at Kandi with Babu Soorji Coomar Basakh (Sub-Deputy Collector of the Sub-Division), at the residence of that gentleman.
Having received orders to do some work at a place some ten miles off from Kandi, in the interior, Babu Jugut Chunder made arrangements accordingly to start the next day. During that night he dreams, seeing his wife attacked with cholera, at Berhampore, and suffering intensely. This troubles his mind. He relates the dream to Babu Soorji Coomar in the morning, and both treating the subject as a meaningless dream, proceed without giving it another thought to their respective business.
After breakfast Babu Jugut Chunder retires to take before starting a short rest. In his sleep he dreams the same dream. He sees his wife suffering from the dire disease acutely, witnesses the same scene, and awakes with a start. He now becomes anxious, and arising, relates again dream No. 2, to Babu Soorji, who knows not what to say. It is then decided, that as Babu Jugut Chunder has to start for the place he is ordered to, his friend, Babu Soorji Coomar will forward to him without delay any letters or news he may receive to his address from Berhampore, and having made special arrangements for this purpose, Babu Jugut Chunder departs.
Hardly a few hours after he had left, arrives a messenger from Berhampore with a letter for Babu Jugut. His friend remembering the mood in which he had left Kandi and fearing bad news, opens the letter and finds it a corroboration of the twice-repeated dream. Babu Jugut’s wife was attacked with cholera at Berhampore, on the very night her husband had dreamt of it and was still suffering from it. Having received the news sent on with a special messenger, Babu Jugut returned at once to Berhampore, where immediate assistance being given, the patient eventually recovered.
The above was narrated to me at the house of Babu Lal Cori Mukerjee, at Berhampore, and in his presence, by Babus Jugut Chunder and Soorji Coomar themselves, who had come there on a friendly visit, the story of the dream being thus corroborated by the testimony of one who had been there, to hear of it, at a time when none of them ever thought it would be realized.
The above incident may, I believe, be regarded as a fair instance of the presence of the ever-watchful astral soul of man with a mind independent of that of his own physical brain. I would, however, feel greatly obliged by your kindly giving us an explanation of the phenomenon. Babu Lal Cori Mukerji is a subscriber to the Theosophist and, therefore, this is sure to meet his eye. If he remembers the dates or sees any circumstance omitted or erroneously stated herein, the writer will feel greatly obliged by his furnishing additional details and correcting, if necessary, any error, I may have made after his consulting with the party concerned.
As far as I can recollect the occurrence took place this year 1881.
NAVIN K. SARMAN BANERJEE, F.T.S.
Editor’s Note.—“Dreams are interludes which fancy makes,” Dryden tells us; perhaps to show that even a poet will make occasionally his muse subservient to sciolistic prejudice.
The instance as above given 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.” And, 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,—we rather think, to avoid the embarrassing task of explaining such exceptions. Indeed, if one single instance stubbornly refuses classification with “strange co-incidences”—so much in favor 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 recognise either dreams, spiritualism, or occultism.
Human nature is an abyss, which physiology and human science in general, has sounded less 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, false as everything built upon, and 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, most unscientific fallacy. Yet it has to be uttered—science notwithstanding.
Man is undeniably endowed with a double set: 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 Latin word “sub,” let it be well understood, is used here in a sense diametrically opposite to that given to it—in chemistry, for instance. In our case it is not a preposition, but a prefix as in “sub-tonic” or “sub-bass” in music. Indeed, as the aggregate sound of nature is shown to be a single, definite tone, a keynote vibrating from and through eternity; having an undeniable existence per se yet possessing an appreciable pitch but for “the acutely fine ear” 3 —so the definite harmony or disharmony of man’s external nature is seen by the observant to depend wholly on the character of the keynote struck for the outer by 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, and 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, and accordingly as it leans more towards its two highest principles, 4 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, arouse into activity the sensory ganglia and the cerebellum, and to 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—during sleep the brains of both these men remain in a complete state of anæmia or full inactivity. Such persons rarely, if ever, will 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 beginning to take place, they 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 consciousness beginning to return we see dreams of various kinds, but will arouse him, at once, and without any interlude to full wakefulness. On the other hand, the more spiritual a man, the more active his fancy, and the greater probability of his receiving in vision the correct impressions conveyed to him by his all-seeing, his 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; and the latter though per se quasi-unconscious part of the utterly unconscious, because utterly immaterial Absolute 5 —yet having in itself inherent capabilities of Omniscience, Omnipresence and Omnipotence which as soon as the 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 but at rare intervals, the accuracy of the latter depending on the intensity of their feeling in regard to the perceived object.
Had Babu Jugut Chunder’s case been more seriously gone into, we would have learned that for one or several reasons, either he or his wife was intensely attached to the other; or that the question of her life or death was of the greatest importance to either one or both of them. “One soul sends a message to another soul”—is an old saying. Hence, premonitions, dreams, and visions. At all events, and in this dream at least, there were no “disembodied” spirits at work, the warning being solely due to either one or the other, or both of the two living and incarnated Egos.
Thus, in this question of verified dreams, as in so many others, 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 6 in him, this Ego “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 him 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 to 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 mind, 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 centers the most important of which is the brain. Of the peculiar substance through which these actions take place—a substance the two forms of which are the vesicular and the fibrous, 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 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.
1. See Editor’s Note, on the letter that follows this one “Are Dreams but Idle Visions?”
2. Rituel de la Haute Magie. Vol. I, p. 356-7.
3. This tone is held by the specialists to be the middle F of the piano.—Ed. Theosophist.
4. The sixth principle, or spiritual soul, and the seventh—its purely spiritual principle, the “Spirit” or Parabrahm, the emanation from the unconscious ABSOLUTE (See “Fragments of Occult Truth.” October number Theosophist. 1881).
5. To this teaching every kind of exception will be taken to 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 ABSOLUTE CONSCIOUSNESS is Unconscious of its consciousness, hence to the limited intellect of man must be “ABSOLUTE CONSCIOUSNESS,” 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” mercy as the aggregate of all intelligences, the totality of all existences, incapable of manifesting itself but 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.—Ed.
6. Whether with one solitary Ego, or Soul, as the Spiritualists affirm, or with several—i.e., composed of seven principles, as Eastern esoteric[ism] 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 Buchner’s Force and Matter.—Ed.