Dream Gates

Dream Gates


Smellie’s school of dreams

posted by Robert Moss

- Wiliam Smellie National GalleryHe was the first editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and his racy style and talent for aphorisms made it an immediate popular success. He was a friend of the poet Robert Burns, who described him as “that old Veteran in Genius, Wit and Bawdry.”

Scientist, writer, master printer, natural philosopher, encyclopedist, bon vivant, William Smellie (1740-1795) was a man of many parts with very definite ideas about dreams. He was a Scot who wanted to rescue the study of dreams from the “dark theological horror” of the Calvinist imagination that had taken hold of many of his countryman.

Smellie (wonderful name!) insisted that dreams are neither escapist fantasies nor wiles of the devil, but a mirror in which we see the true shape of our desires. We may deceive ourselves, but dreams do not lie. In his article on dreams in the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, he declared that “the imaginary transactions of the dreamer always bear some relation to his particular character in the world, his habits of action, and the circumstances of his life.” Therefore, “a person whose habits of life are virtuous does not in his dreams plunge into a series of crimes; nor are the vicious reformed when they pass into this imaginary world.”

Smellie took this argument further in The Philosophy of Natural History:

The vice which is most frequently and luxuriously indulged in our dreams, may safely be esteemed our predominant passion. Though motives of interest, decency, and the opinions of our friends, may have restrained us from actual gratification, and created a delusive belief that we are no longer subject to its solicitations; yet, if the imaginary gratification constitutes an agreeable dream…we may freely conclude..that those motives which deter from actual indulgence are not the genuine motives which virtue inspires…We should reflect that, during sleep, the mind is more ingenuous, less inclined to palliate its real motives, less influenced by public opinion, and in general, more open and candid, than when the sense are awake.

Let’s notice that this philosophy of dreams implies that we are responsible for our actions in dreams, just as in waking life. We should compare our behavior in dreams to our behavior in regular life and use the dream mirror to correct our performance.

 

Image: Portrait of William Smellie by George Watson in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery



Previous Posts

Dreamwork, the antidote to the League of Fear and Contempt
Why do so many adults in Western society deny that they dream or insist that dreams do not matter? These attitudes are partly the work of societal pressures, and of the authority we have assigned to two kinds of authority: those who have aspired to control our inner lives and those who have sugge

posted 6:10:51pm Sep. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Traveling dream souls of indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples recognize multiple aspects of soul, with different destinies after death and different degrees of mobility during life. Thus the Chiquitano believe a human has three souls, called the shadow soul, the blood soul and the breath soul. During dreams the blood soul (otor) can wande

posted 4:16:01am Sep. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Rumi-nation
A quick way of getting a message for any day is to open a book at random and see what is in front of you. The fancy name for this process is bibliomancy. The favorite book that has been used for such purposes in the West, for as long as we have had printed books, is the Bible. Abraham Lincoln used h

posted 4:58:36pm Aug. 28, 2014 | read full post »

Enter lucid dreaming like a sleeping tiger
Chen Tuan (871-989) was a celebrated Taoist sage who lived a secluded life in mountain caves in China, where he created kung fu and a method of conscious dreaming. He was an ardent student of I Ching. He reputedly wandered the country in disguise, and sometimes provided warnings of impending events

posted 12:21:15am Aug. 28, 2014 | read full post »

Walking Your Dreams
Janice likes to walk dreams, as you or I might walk the dog. Sometimes she walks her own dreams. As a teacher of Active Dreaming who plays guide for others, she often walks other people’s dreams, like one of those professional dog-walkers you see with half a dozen canines of all sizes on a fistful

posted 11:32:50pm Aug. 17, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.