All this was explained by the patient. If he had been told the probable meaning of the dream he might have believed it; but the result would have been valueless–it was necessary that he should bring up the memories himself. The dream is unusually coherent, but serves as a good example of the modern methods of dream interpretation.
Half-conscious fears or desires are often represented by symbolisms apparent to the analyst but unrecognised by the dreamer. A man told me of a dream in which he met some one whom he had defeated in a business disagreement, and, to his surprise, he shook hands with his old opponent. I told him that he felt the pricking of conscience and was desirous of making amends. This was little more than a guess, but its truth was admitted though the dreamer said that he had hardly realised his feelings before. It is characteristic of dreams, as of the slips of the tongue discussed in Chapter I, that there is an obstacle to the dreamer’s unaided understanding of them. A simple dream of my own will illustrate this: When going upstairs at a seaside hotel my wife, noticing a stuffed bird, said to me, ‘Is that a sea-gull?’ and I answered ‘Yes’. The next morning I remembered a dream for which I could trace no cause, and said to my wife, ‘I wonder why I dreamed of my old schoolmaster last night?’ At this she asked, ‘Which one?’ and when I answered, ‘Mr. Gull’, the connection at once became obvious, though something had prevented my seeing the obvious without aid.
Since a dream is a product of dissociation, we expect to find in it the same qualities that belong to the product of other dissociations. The world of the dream is pictured as something external to the dreamer and not arising from his own mind, just as the revelations of automatic writing or the movements of the divining-rod are accepted as coming from some one or something other than the agent.
The dream taps the unconscious, the stories about poets and musicians who rise in the night-watches to pen their elusive inspirations being paralleled by the poetic imagery in the automatic writings of the Glastonbury archæologists.
Lost memories appear in the dream and the dreamer may deny the incidents, as mentioned in Chapter III. In the same way the apparently honest medium may produce a memory, more or less distorted, as a revelation, and deny that it is a memory.
The dissociated stream is hypersensitive and makes use of hints and fears that have passed unperceived by the consciousness. This use accounts for prophetic dreams, which are, like intuitions, the result of unconscious processes. In my own experience I have known but two circumstantial accounts of dream prophecies which were claimed to be fulfilled: One concerned a railway accident, and the other the destruction by fire of a distant house. Both the dreamers, who were of the male sex, had suffered from gross hysterical manifestations, or, in other words, had been woefully led astray by the unconscious concerning something other than prophecy. Accounts of prophetic dreams must always be suspect because of their origin in the unconscious and the inability of the dreamer either to interpret them or trace their origin. It is to be noted that psychologists who work at dream analysis make no mention of dream prophecies, although the fact that ‘the wish is father to the thought’ explains why a dream sometimes expresses an unconscious desire that later attains fulfilment in reality.
The Biblical account of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the idol with feet of clay bears the stamp of genuine history. The king, like the neurotic sufferer of to-day, ‘dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.’ The magicians, called upon to interpret, asked that the king should first tell his dream; but the king answered, ‘The thing is gone from me; if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces and your houses shall be made a dunghill.’ The magicians and astrologers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans, failed, but the prophet Daniel took up the task and told the king his forgotten dream. We can only imagine his method, but it is possible to revive a dream by using the emotion felt on waking, and such a method, or even direct hypnosis, may have been available to Daniel; and if we regard the interpretation, not as prophetic, but as revealing to the king his forebodings of future disaster, then the chapter accords with modern conceptions of dream analysis. Nebuchadnezzar was already a psycho-neurotic on the borderline of insanity, as his subsequent history shows, and would easily come to rely upon and reward a psychologist like Daniel, who convincingly laid bare to him the working of his unconscious. By tradition the old civilisations of the East were the sources of occult knowledge, and this view of a scrap of Old Testament history gives a hint how the tradition arose. If there existed an esoteric knowledge of psychological technique such as I ascribe to Daniel, then its possessors would easily obtain reputations for more than worldly wisdom.