Jun 12 2012

Reading Ellis’s The World of Dreams

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A book I’d ordered through Inter-Library Loan showed up. Havelock Ellis, The World of Dreams, from 1922. There’s a chapter in there devoted to dreams of the dead. Ellis’s p.o.v. on the subject can be more or less summed up in this paragraph:

Just as the savage or the child accepts as a reality the illusion
of the sun traversing the sky, just as the paranoiac accepts the reality of the
hallucinations he is subjected to, and gradually weaves them into a more or
less plausible theory, so the dreamer seems to employ all the acutest powers
of sleeping reason available to construct a theory in support of the reality of
the visions of his dead friend.

Or, to elaborate:

The dreamer is in the same position as a paranoiac who constantly
seems to hear threatening voices; henceforth he is absorbed in inventing a theory
(electricity, hypnotism, or whatever it may be) to account for his hallucinations,
and his whole view of life is modified accordingly. The dreamer, in the cases I am
here concerned with, sees an image of the dead person as alive, and is therefore
compelled to invent a theory to account for this image…

Despite our disagreement (or my insanity, per Ellis), there are some good historical and anecdotal bits to the chapter that I’ll look further into. Regardless, it’s good to have Ellis’s viewpoints for my literature review as well. Despite his rather vehement conclusions, he does have some interesting ideas as to why these dreams are memorable.

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