Dreams are another form of the unknown about this phase of the subconscious. Volumes have been written, but they all end with a question mark. So we may as well leave it to Freud to explore this region. As for the interpretation of the dream, we have had no lack of interpreters from the time of Belshazzar to the present day.
Many prominent psychologists maintain that dreams are not meaningless. Many instances can be cited to prove that dreams have a parallel in conscious life. Subconscious intelligence often works out very practical problems, as in the case of the girl who had been trying desperately for weeks to find a lost check, and finally found it in a dreamhidden between the pages of a book. Freud goes so far as to say that all dream images, whether recognized as composite or not, are in reality made up of memories, and that not only is their combination effected according to definite principles, but that in the dream the combination itself performs definite functions of great biological importance.
Not only do dreams mean something, but the dream process is intelligent, according to Professor Pear of the University of Manchester.
” And, moreover, the dream mind pounces rapidly upon similarities between things; accepts and develops them in a way which is seen only occasionally in the waking personality. It may be that the comparative monoideism of the dream allows it to weave its fantasies unchecked, just as a creative artist works best when unburdened with domestic and business cares. But like the cartoonist, the dream achieves far more than the mere seeing of similarities. It uses his subtlest trick, if indeed the borrowing is not on the other side. By depicting a superficial, extrinsic similarity between two subjects it expresses in a veiled manner a deeper, more intimate likeness. The student of political cartoons will need no illustration of this. So the dream condensation turns out to be an old acquaintance.”
After all, there is much of dreaming in our waking hours, which has less of reality t han those dreams which come during our hours of slumber. Dreams of the night often come nearer to the truth than the thinking done when we are awake. No one knows the extent or bounds of this conscious dreaming, and but few recognize it when it comes. It is within the bounds of possibility that there is a dream cycle in the life of man, recurring only at long intervals, or possibly only once within a lifetime and extending over a period of several years. During 1 hi s dream cycle, all former life experience may seem unreal as a dream, while the dream in which he is lost seems to him to be the real. Passing out of this waking dream cycle, which may be marked by a violent mental upheaval or reactionhe is as a man who has been suffering from a temporary aberration, or a lapse of memory. He awakens in a strange land far from his old moorings, like a bark which has drifted far in a storm. It is difficult to connect the cable where it was broken from anchorhis thoughts and acts during the period of his dream cycle do not fit in with his former life experience, nor harmonize with his former hopes, ambitions, and ideals. Now the situation is reversed and the old life seems the real, while the cycle period seems only a dream which he can hardly believe is true. Yet it has been just as vivid as any of his life experiences and at the time it was of the very essence of his being. I sometimes think this is what Shakespeare had in mind when he wrote the lines, ” For we are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
THE CYCLE PRINCIPLE
Cycles occur in so many ways, both in life and nature, that it is only reasonable to suppose that there *is some great universal law as yet undiscovered back of the-cycle idea, nor is it unreasonable to believe that the theory of memory cycles is sound. We have observed the cycle idea in all the manifestations of nature. Nature demands cycles of growth and rest. Rhythra is not confined to the celestial bodies, but is found through all the universe. Rhythmical vibrations of ether cause sight. Rhythmical vibrations of air cause sound. Rhythmical vibrations moving in regular cycles give us heat and electricity.
The sun rises and sets with unfailing regularity as the earth moves in exact cycles of time around the sunthe recurrent movements of the moon divide the year into its months–the tides ebb and flow, the rays of light that corae to us from trillions of miles away record on our sensitive scientific instruments a pulsating rhythm, the seasons come and go in orderly cycles and all nature seems to keep step with the cycle idea. Men have applied this theory in different fields of human endeavor, the farmer claims that there are cycles of wet years and dry years, of good crops and poor crops, while the business man believes in cycles of prosperity and cycles of depression, and the financial statisticians diagnose and forecast the market by means of ingenious charts based upon price cycles. In memory, we have all noticed that we recall certain things at certain times of the year. Some events seem to be subject to a sort of perennial memory. For example, have you not noticed that when the apple-trees bloom you think of some person or some event connected with your lifebut at no other time of the year? Or possibly it is at Thanksgiving time, or when the first snow comes each year that your memory cycle develops.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to recall things away back in your childhood? Partly because your impressions were more vivid, but chiefly because suggestion applies in calling up those particular things. Have you ever noticed that if a particular event has happened in your life at a certain time of the year, we will say in October, that as the seasons roll around you are more likely to recall that thing during October than at any other time of the year? The very suggestion of the season is working as a powerful force to recall that fact. There may be some event in the storehouse of your memorysomething that happened twenty years ago, and it happened, we will say, in the spring of the year, and every spring as the season rolls around you are likely to recall that event, even if you have not thought of it during the whole year,
Some authorities claim that a good memory never really forgets anythingthat if it is once stored away it is never forgotten, though years may elapse. Generally it will recur in cycles, but there are many cases where a fact stored away in the memory twenty years ago had never re-turned, and then when the owner of that; memory thinks he has utterly forgotten it, it suddenly recurs without effort.
A story is told about a prominent French scientist in Paris who was lecturing before a convention and was arguing that it was possible for a good memory to forget a fact, even if it had been indelibly impressed on the memory tablets. He said, ” Twenty years ago I met a young man in this city who was a student. We became friendswe were classmates and finally we occupied the same roomroommates for the better part of a year–worked together-studied together. At the end of the year we ,;el)arated; soon after that I lost his address, we had no communication and I could not recall his name. I have tried again and again to retrieve that name, but it would not come back. There has not been a year since then that I have not tried to recall that name, but it is absolutely gone.” And he said, ” I tell you, gentlemen, I am convinced that it is possible for memory absolutely to for-get that which we once knew perfectly, and I think my own case is proof of the assertion. From that day to this I have never been able to recall the name of Henry Blanchard.”
His own argument went against him at the last moment. For twenty years that name had been stored away in some nook of the subconscious mind, only to leap into life as he concentrated his attention on that fact and developed it before his audience.
There may be some room for argument here, but it emphasizes the fact that there is a great difference between remembrance and recollection. We must develop our recollectors so that we can recall the fact at will. This law of association works in the past as in the present. So easily do we recall those things away back in childhood, and when they come they are almost invariably brought up by some related or associated point or factsome little thing happens that reminds you of that event so far away. Of course, we can easily jump to the conclusion that this is due to the power of suggestion, based on the law of Association, as in many cases it is, but I am not convinced that this is a full explanation, or that it applies at all in many cases So many times there is no apparent cause for suggestion, no visible basis for association, absolutely nothing to account for the image that suddenly springs to life in our memories it a given time every year. Nor is this memory always perennial, it may come in three-year cycles as in many cases which have come under my observation. The time may vary in different cages, but the cycle idea is always there.
This leads me to believe that there is an unknown law operating in the field of the subconscious which has nothing to do with suggestion or association, but manifests independently in accordance with the cycle idea. In what other way can we reasonably account for these certain periods and at no other time of the year? As a rule they come spontaneously with no effort of the will to recall them. Why does the subconscious mind which has held them long in the treasure-house suddenly release them I When there has been no suggestion, no association, no effort on our part to bring them back, what mysterious call summons them forth over the threshold of consciousness, only to repeat the process when the next cycle has rolled around? Nobody knows. Psychologistspsychiatristspsycho-analysts, every brand of experts known to mental science may attempt or presume to answer but nobody knows. (Possibly there is a divine law operating beyond the ken of mortal mind.)
MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD
But we do know how the law of Association works in the lives of all of us from childhood to old age and to it we owe a debt of gratitude for many of the joys of recollection. Precious images it brings forth from the kingdom of the subconscious, many of them images of the long ago. And as our life-cycle rounds out toward a close, how the memories of youth live again, with all the color and glory of days long gone by. Imagination paints again those early scenes in our lives, and at the touch of memory’s magic wand they become moving pictures of the present. To every one with a retentive memory, this joy is given, no matter what his early environment may have been.
You may have been born in the Southland, and now every time you hear the tinkle of a banjo, or the rollicking carefree laughter of a. darky, you see once more the old plantation; that Southern mansion with its wide verandas and white pillars, where the doves flutter down through the golden air, and the balmy breeze of the South is fragrant with magnolia blossoms, and the cotton whitens underneath the stars. You may be a Northerner, and the sight of a snowdrift will set you dreaming of the great storms of the Northland, the giant shaggy firs of the north woods in the icy grip of King Winter and the long wailing howl of the timber wolf across the miles of snow while you huddled closer to the roaring blaze of a great log fire in the fireplace. You may be New England born, and even now when the years have touched your hai – with silver, whenever you hear the chime of sleigh-bells your heart stirs with memories of the long ago. Again you are a little boy back in the old home out coasting on the hillside, your cheeks tingling with the frosty airlater tucking your head snugly under the bed covers while the wind howled mournfully around the corners of the old house. You may have lived your youth in the far West born of the Pioneer stock that crossed the plains in a covered wagon, but though you may now be living a life of luxury in an Eastern city, every time you see a saddle, memory paints a background of wide plains covered with cattle and you ride your pony once more through the sage-brush with the sweet dry air of the desert surging against your face.
Ah, memoriesmemoriesmagic memories. But whether our childhood memories lead us back to the North or the South, East or West, we can all see once more the faces of father and mother, brother and sister, and the old friends of our youth. And, I doubt not that to many of us, the last memory of all to linger with usjust before the curtain fallswill be the face of a sainted mother bending over our cradle bed as we fall asleep.