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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


Veracious Dreams. Past, Present and Future unknown Events "revealed". Theory of "Mental Telegraphy" or "Telepathy" fails to meet Dreams of the unknowable Future. Dreams of unrecorded Past, how alone they can be corroborated. Queen Mary's Jewels. Story from Brierre de Boismont. Mr. Williams's Dream before Mr. Perceval's Murder. Discrepancies of Evidence. Curious Story of Bude Kirk. Mr. Williams's Version. Dream of a Rattlesnake. Discrepancies. Dream of the Red Lamp. "Illusions Hypnagogiques." The Scar in the Moustache. Dream of the Future. The Coral Sprigs. Anglo-Saxon Indifference. A Celtic Dream. The Satin Slippers. Waking Dreams. The Dead Shopman. Dreams in Swoons.

Perhaps nothing, not even a ghost, is so staggering to the powers of belief as a well-authenticated dream which strikes the bull's eye of facts not known to the dreamer nor capable of being guessed by him. If the events beheld in the dream are far away in space, or are remote in time past, the puzzle is difficult enough. But if the events are still in the future, perhaps no kind of explanation except a mere "fluke" can even be suggested. Say that I dream of an event occurring at a distance, and that I record or act on my dream before it is corroborated. Suppose, too, that the event is not one which could be guessed, like the death of an invalid or the result of a race or of an election. This would be odd enough, but the facts of which I dreamed must have been present in the minds of living people. Now, if there is such a thing as "mental telegraphy" or "telepathy," {28} my mind, in dream, may have "tapped" the minds of the people who knew the facts. We may not believe in "mental telegraphy," but we can _imagine_ it as one of the unknown possibilities of nature. Again, if I dream of an unchronicled event in the past, and if a letter of some historical person is later discovered which confirms the accuracy of my dream, we can at least _conceive_ (though we need not believe) that the intelligence was telegraphed to my dreaming mind from the mind of a _dead_ actor in, or witness of the historical scene, for the facts are unknown to living man. But even these wild guesses cannot cover a dream which correctly reveals events of the future; events necessarily not known to any finite mind of the living or of the dead, and too full of detail for an explanation by aid of chance coincidence.

In face of these difficulties mankind has gone on believing in dreams of all three classes: dreams revealing the unknown present, the unknown past, and the unknown future. The judicious reasonably set them all aside as the results of fortuitous coincidence, or revived recollection, or of the illusions of a false memory, or of imposture, conscious or unconscious. However, the stories continue to be told, and our business is with the stories.

Taking, first, dreams of the unknown past, we find a large modern collection of these attributed to a lady named "Miss A---". They were waking dreams representing obscure incidents of the past, and were later corroborated by records in books, newspapers and manuscripts. But as these books and papers existed, and were known to exist, before the occurrence of the visions, it is obvious that the matter of the visions _may_ have been derived from the books and so forth, or at least, a sceptic will vastly prefer this explanation. What we need is a dream or vision of the unknown past, corroborated by a document _not known to exist_ at the time when the vision took place and was recorded. Probably there is no such instance, but the following tale, picturesque in itself, has a kind of shadow of the only satisfactory sort of corroboration.