The Bible, as well as other great books of historical and revealed religion, shows traces of a general and substantial belief in dreams. Plato, Goethe, Shakespeare and Napoleon assigned to certain dreams prophetic value. Joseph saw eleven stars of the Zodiac bow to himself, the twelfth star.
The famine of Egypt was revealed by a vision of fat and lean cattle. The parents of Christ were warned of the cruel edict of Herod, and fled with the Divine Child into Egypt.
Pilate’s wife, through the influence of a dream, advised her husband to have nothing to do with the conviction of Christ. But the gross materialism of the day laughed at dreams, as it echoed the voice and verdict of the multitude, “Crucify the Spirit, but let the flesh live.” Barabbas, the robber, was set at liberty.
The ultimatum of all human decrees and wisdom is to gratify the passions of the flesh at the expense of the spirit.
The prophets and those who have stood nearest the fountain of universal knowledge used dreams with more frequency than any other mode of divination.
Profane, as well as sacred, history is threaded with incidents of dream prophecy. Ancient history relates that Cennadius was convinced of the immortality of his soul by conversing with an apparition in his dream.
Through the dream of Cecilia Metella, the wife of a Consul, the Roman Senate was induced to order the temple of Juno Sospita rebuilt.
The Emperor Marcian dreamed he saw the bow of the Hunnish conqueror break on the same night that Attila died.
Plutarch relates how Augustus, while ill, through the dream of a friend, was persuaded to leave his tent, which a few hours after was captured by the enemy, and the bed whereon he had lain was pierced with the enemies’ swords.
If Julius Caesar had been less incredulous about dreams he would have listened to the warning which Calpurnia, his wife, received in a dream. Croesus saw his son killed in a dream. Petrarch saw his beloved Laura, in a dream, on the day she died, after which he wrote his beautiful poem, “The Triumph of Death.”
Cicero relates the story of two traveling Arcadians who went to different lodgings—one to an inn, and the other to a private house. During the night the latter dreamed that his friend was begging for help. The dreamer awoke; but, thinking the matter unworthy of notice, went to sleep again. The second time he dreamed his friend appeared, saying it wou be too late, for he had already been murdered and his body hid in a cart, under manure. The cart was afterward sought for and the body found. Cicero also wrote, ” If the gods love men they will certainly disclose their purposes to them in sleep.”
Chrysippus wrote a volume on dreams as divine portent.
He refers to the skilled interpretations of dreams as a true divination; but adds that, like all other arts in which men have to proceed on conjecture and on artificial rules, it is not infallible. Plato concurred in the general idea prevailing in his day, that there were divine manifestations to the soul in sleep. Condorcet thought and wrote with greater fluency in his dreams than in waking life.
The writers of Creek and Latin classics relate many instances of dream experiences. Homer accorded to some dreams divine origin. During the third and fourth centuries, the supernatural origin of dreams was so generally accepted that the fathers, relying upon the classics and the Bible as authority, made this belief a doctrine of the Christian Church.
Synesius placed dreaming above all methods of divining the future; he thought it the surest, and open to the poor and rich alike.
Aristotle wrote: “There is a divination concerning some things in dreams not incredible.”
Camille Flammarion, in his great book on “Premonitory Dreams and Divination of the Future,” says:
” I do not hesitate to affirm at the outset that occurrence of dreams foretelling future events with accuracy must be accepted as certain.”
Joan of Arc predicted her death.
Cazotte, the French philosopher and transcendentalist, warned Condorcet against the manner of his death……