An Historical View of Dreams and the Ways to Direct Them;
Practical Observations by Marie-Jean-Leon Lecoq,
le Marquis d’Hervey-Saint-Denys1


Utrecht, The Netherlands

In 1867, Librairie d’Amyot at Paris published a book entitled Les Rêves et les Moyens de les Diriger; Observations pratiques (trans.: Dreams and the Ways to Direct Them; Practical Observations.) Henceforth we will refer to it as Les Rêves. Originally the work appeared anonymously but eventually its authorship was attrib-uted to the famous French scientist, le Marquis d’Hervey-Saint-Denys. With its publication, for the first time in Western history, a detailed personal report on lucid dreaming over a 32-year period was available. Among other things, in this book, Saint-Denys describes his interest in dreams from the age of thirteen, how he devel-oped lucidity in them, and how he partially mastered the direction of his dreams.

Almost every book on lucid dreams refers to Saint-Denys’ work (e.g. Patricia Garfield (1974), Celia Green (1968), and Stephen LaBerge (1985, 1988)). Although we may consider the author of Les Rêves the father of modern lucid dream research, very little information about the book or its author has been available. Thus the purpose of this article is to present new information as a result of a search for the original publication of Les Rêves.

The Original Work of Les Rêves

The original work may have only been available to a few, as copies were scarce. Sigmund Freud (1900) states, "Maury, le sommeil et les rêves, Paris, 1878, p. 19, polemisiert lebhaft gegen d’Hervey dessen Schrift ich mir trotz aller Bemühung nicht verschaffen könnte" (trans.: Maury, Sleep and Dreams, Paris, 1878, p. 19, argues strenuously against d’Hervey, whose book I could not lay hands on in spite of all my efforts). Others like Havelock Ellis (1911), Johann Starcke (1912), and A. Breton (1955) refer to the fact that the original was very hard to get.

We have been able to trace original copies of Les Rêves to:

1. University Library, Utrecht, The Netherlands, Ex Libris 171. F.30;

2. Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France. Ex Libris Res. p.R. 774 (R.71436 micro-film);

3. Yale Medical School Library, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. Ex Libris; EBL 175;

4. New York Library, New York, New York, USA. Ex Libris; no data available; and

5. National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Ex Libris; no data available.3

Description of Les Rêves

The information concerning Les Rêves presented here has been based upon the original copy of the University Library in Utrecht. This copy was probably rebound by the Institute. It contains 496 pages; the content is as follows:

Part 1. (Four chapters): Ce qu’on doit s’attendre à trouver dans ce livre et comment il fut composé (trans.: What you can expect to find in this book and the way it was composed).

Part 2. (Six chapters): Ou, tout en rapportant les opinions des autres, l’auteur con-tinue d’éxposer les siennes (trans.: Information on the opinions of others. The author continues to explain his own).

Part 3. (Eight chapters): Observations pratiques sur les rêves et sur les moyens de les diriger (trans.: Practical observations on dreams and the ways to direct them).

There is also a summary, an index, and an appendix entitled, Un rêve après avoir pris du hatchich (trans.: A dream after I took hashish).

On the frontispiece there are seven color pictures with references to them in the text (pages 381, 421, 422). These have been reprinted with the kind permission of the University Library, Utrecht [Editor’s Note: See the front cover of the December, 1988 issue of Lucidity Letter for these illustrations.] Six drawings of hypnagogic images, derived from the personal dream notebooks of the author of Les Rêves, have appeared as reprints in books by Coxhead and Hiller (1975) and Mackenzie (1966).

You can see that above these hypnagogic pictures there is a drawing of a dining room into which a painter and a completely nude young woman are entering. Al-though the text refers to this picture, it is not clear if this one is drawn by the author of Les Rêves. However, we are inclined to think so.4

The original work had a cover with allegorical color drawings. [Editor’s Note: See the back cover of the December, 1988 issue of Lucidity Letter for the original Les Rêves front and back covers.] The back cover has geometric maze patterns on grey paper with the publisher’s name, Librairie d’Amyot, Éditeur, 8, Rue de la Paix, Paris. It also contains a printed list of their titles. In contrast to the alphabetical order of the other author’s names on the back cover of Les Rêves, the first name is "Hervey Saint-Denis (Marquis d’),"5 and refers to two of his works: Histoire de la Révolution à Naples depuis 1793 (trans.: History of the Revolution at Naples Since 1793) and Poésies chinoises de l’époque des Thangs (trans.: Chinese Poetry from the T’ang period).

In his book Le Sommeil et les Rêves (trans.: Sleep and Dreams) Vaschide (1918) gives a description of this cover and suggests that the drawing is by the author of Les Rêves. We don’t know on what information Vaschide has based his assumption, because we could not find any reference to it in the text of the original Les Rêves.

The original cover is not available at the University Library of Utrecht, or the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, or the New York Public Library. With regard to the copy from the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, we have no in-formation. Fortunately, the Yale Medical School Library possesses this cover, but it is in poor condition. Although in the right corner of the cover, there is a signature with the name (A. Danyou?, A. Darjou?, or A. Dayay?), this library could not vouch for the signature. We assume that A. Danyou (?) may be the designer of the cover.6

Likewise, on the original we did not find an author’s name. The main clue of the writer’s wish to remain anonymous is found on page 339: ". . . L’autre me fut communiqué par un mathématicien illustre que je ne saurais nommer dans un livre ou je garde moi-même l’anonyme" (trans.: I was informed by a well-known mathe-matician whose name I shall not reveal in a book in which I remain anonymous myself.) On page 48 the "anonymous" writer refers in a footnote to "le Marquis d’Hervey-Saint-Denys"7 as translator of Chinese poetry of the T’ang period. Also on page 457 the author writes that he is in possession of an original Chinese book. We know that Saint-Denys was a sinologue, so he probably had a copy.

A number of writers (e.g. Harald Meder, 1982) suggest that Les Rêves is an ac-count of 1,946 dreams, gathered in 22 notebooks (cahiers) during a period of more than five years. Although the author of Les Rêves describes these cahiers, complete with color drawings on page 13, it is erroneous to think that Les Rêves was based only upon these. The author quotes dreams other than those from the cahiers and also presents dreams of others (e.g. pages 323, 420, & 435). We have not been able to trace these cahiers.

The Term Rêve Lucide (Lucid Dream)

Morton Schatzman writes in his shortened English version of Les Rêves (1982) that the author uses the expression rêve lucide (trans.: lucid dream) several times. But, according to Schatzman, we should not conclude that this expression has been used in the same manner as we use it today, i.e., for a dream in which the dreamer is aware of dreaming while dreaming. The current meaning of the expression was used for the first time by the Dutch writer/psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden (1912–13), who refers also to "Marquis d’Herve."8 Indeed, the author of Les Rêves uses the term "lucid dream" as we define it today in the sentence, "aware of my true situa-tion." On page 287 he writes: "C’est-a-dire le premier rêve lucide au milieu duquel je posséderais bien le sentiment de ma situation" (trans.: That is to say, the first lucid dream in which I had the sensation of my situation). With the last part of this sentence, he states that he knew that he was dreaming.

Role of A.F. Alfred Maury

As noted earlier, Freud stated that Maury argued strenuously against d’Hervey. The mentioned work Le Sommeil et les Rêves appeared originally in 1861, six years before the publication of Les Rêves. The author of Les Rêves discusses many times the ideas of Alfred Maury, with whom he disagrees. In the fourth edition (1878) of Le Sommeil et les Rêves, Maury takes issue with the ideas of d’Hervey.

On page 1 of the 1878 edition there is a footnote in which Maury writes: "De-puis que j’ai écrit ces lignes, M. le marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denis,9 aujourd’hui professeur de chinois au Collège de France, a publié sous le voile de l’anonyme, un livre intitulé ‘Les Rêves et les Moyens de les diriger’" (trans.: Since I have written the above lines, M. le Marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denis,10 today the Chinese teach-er at the College de France, has published, under the cover of anonymity, a book entitled Les Rêves et les Moyens de les diriger.) This is the first time, to our know-ledge, that the authorship of Les Rêves became publicly known. Because Maury was, like Saint-Denys, allied to the College de France, and because of the other indi-cations mentioned in this article, we assume there remains little doubt Saint-Denys was indeed the author of Les Rêves. Although Maury disagrees with d’Hervey-Saint-Denys’ ideas, he writes on page 49: "Nous avons parfois des rêves très lu-cides, le matin, peu avant le réveil" (trans.: Sometimes in the morning we have very lucid dreams just before awakening.)

The Contribution of N. Vaschide and W. Leertouwer

In 1911 Vaschide published Le Sommeil et les Rêves, in which he summarizes and reviews the works of Maury, Freud, Mourly, Vold, and Saint-Denys. One chap-ter (pages 136–175) has been dedicated to d’Hervey-Saint-Denys, entitled Les re-cherches sur les rêves, du marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denis11 (trans.: The Investi-gations of dreams, by the Marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denis.) Those interested in this work will find an adequate description of Les Rêves.

The Dutch psychologist, W. Leertouwer, also reviews the Saint-Denys book in his book, Droomen en hun Uitlegging (pages 53–60). He indicates the author is "the French Marquis d’Hervey." Because this book has no publication date, we are not certain in which year it appeared. The old-fashioned Dutch language suggests it must be from the beginning of this century. No further clues can be found in either book concerning the author of Les Rêves.

Secondary Sources

It must be noted that Freud got his information on Les Rêves from the publica-tions of Alfred Maury and N. Vaschide. In his Traumdeutung he quotes Vaschide, who describes the ideas of d’Hervey concerning the coherence of dreams. We emphasize that Vaschide paraphrases d’Hervey. It is not, as Freud believed, a literal quotation. In fact, information used by many authors on Les Rêves does not come directly from the original publication (e.g., Freud refers to Maury and Vaschide and Johann Starcke refers to Vaschide). More recently a similar reference style appears. (e.g., Schatzman refers to the editor of the reissue from Les Rêves, Claude Tchou, and Tchou refers to no one.

1964 Reissue of Les Rêves

In 1964 editor Claude Tchou published a reprint of Les Rêves in Paris. In this issue the author was indicated as "Hervey de Saint-Denys"12 and the title has been shortened to Les Rêves et les Moyens de les Diriger (Tchou, 1964). This reissue is also difficult to find. We found a copy at the University Library Leiden, Holland (Ex Libris B43). This edition seems to be an exact version of the original, but it is not. No indication of the frontispiece drawings or the appendix have been included, for example. This appendix is interesting because the author reveals not only that he has been ill for a long period of time but that he has been administered strong doses of opium and that for a while he was very afraid of going mad. Further, he describes a horrible dream under the influence of hashish. [Editor’s Note: See the appendix of this article for the first English translation of the appendix of Les Rêves.]

Furthermore, we found that the editor of the 1964 reissue, in some cases, mixed his own footnotes with the original ones, again without acknowledgement (e.g., on page 50 of the original you read "1. Diodore XXV." The editor writes the same sentence on page 383, adds seven lines, and indicates that the entire footnote is his). Changes have been made in the text, again without appropriate indication (e.g., on page 339 from the original we read "L’anonyme" whereas, the reissue contains the word "l’anonymat").

The reissue contains an extensive foreword by Robert Desoille, author of Le Rêve Éveillé en Psychothérapie (1945) (trans.: The Induced Dream in Psychother-apy). Desoille discusses Les Rêves; his contribution is worthwhile reading. Also a short Essai de biographie d’Hervey de Saint-Denys13 (trans.: Essay on biography of d’Hervey de Saint-Denys) is included.

We were surprised to discover that the reissue was not an identical version of the original, not only because this edition (on pages 306, 316, & 343) contains references to the color drawings and Appendix, but also because a lot of authors referred to the reissue without indicating it was not complete.

We asked Tchou about this in March of 1988. He stated that he could not re-member this reissue of Les Rêves because he has published thousands of books, and he had no time for research on a publication that appeared nearly 25 years ago. Christian Bouchet (personal communication, August, 1988) informed us that Jacques Donnars was responsible for the Tchou edition and that the omission of the appendix was not a mistake, but a deliberate act due to its contents. If you read this appendix you’ll discover that it is indeed not stimulating reading.

Other Editions of Les Rêves

In 1982 Schatzman edited an English version of Les Rêves which is a shorter version of the 1964 reissue and thus does not include the drawings or appendix (nor does it refer to their existence). Although a shortened version is better than none at all, we conclude that this version should not be considered a translation, but rather an adaptation. Complete parts have not been included. In addition, the whole atmo-sphere of the original—almost totally a "flowery" text—has vanished in the short, dry English sentences.

This edition contains misleading and/or erroneous information, e.g. contrary to what was written on page 166 of this version, the original did not appear in 1869, but in 1867. The Marquis did not marry in 1870, but in 1868. Schatzman refers on page 3 of his version to an Italian edition of Les Rêves, edited by Laura Forti. Upon fur-ther discussion we were informed by him that the Italian publisher decided not to publish the book, after having contracted the translation.

In the bibliographic list from the German edition of Patricia Garfield’s Pathway to Ecstasy (1981), there was an announcement that a German version of Saint-Denys’ book was in preparation. To our knowledge no such publication has appeared yet. We were informed by F. Maissan (Amsterdam) and C. Bouchet (Paris) of the exis-tence of a reprint in French of Les Rêves. It appeared a few years ago at Éditions d’Aujourd’hui, but we have no further information about it at this time. In Decem-ber of 1987, we were informed by a spokesman of Elsevier Science International in Amsterdam that their organization prepared a complete English reprint. A few months later, however, the same spokesman withdrew his statement and said he knew nothing about it.

One wonders if a reprint of Les Rêves means "trouble" for publishers! As the area of lucid dreaming grows there is clearly a need to issue a more complete version of Les Rêves.

Biographical Details on Saint-Denys (1822-1892)14

In the Essai de biographie d’Hervey de Saint-Denys, the editor describes how he searched for biographical data on the author but was surprised to find so little information on such an erudite person. An interesting chapter: it seems almost as if d’Hervey Saint-Denys erased his personal history.

Hervey was a respectable member of his society. He was awarded the Legion d’Honneur, and was president of the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, pro-fessor at the College de France, sinologue, ethnologue, and author of several books.

He was born on the 6th of May, 1822, in Paris. We know little of his childhood and adolescence except that he had a private tutor. d’Hervey’s original name was Marie-Jean-Leon Lecoq, Baron d’Hervey de Juchereau, who became, due to adop-tion, Marquis de Saint-Denys. At the age of 19, the Marquis went to a school for oriental languages, where he studied Chinese and Tartaro-Manchu. At the age of 22, he started a literary career by translating a Spanish play into French—Le poil de la prairie (trans.: The Bareness of the Prairie). Other works include: Recherches sur l’agriculture et l’horticulture des chinois (trans.: Investigations of the Agriculture and Horticulture of the Chinese), La Chine devant l’Europe (trans.: China Before Europe), Poésies chinoises de l’époque des Thangs (trans.: Chinese Poetry from the T’ang Period), Histoire de la Révolution à Naples depuis 1793 (trans.: History of the Revolution in Naples since 1793). Five years before his death on November 2, 1892, he published a work on the Chinese philosopher, Confucius.

One year after the publication of Les Rêves, at the age of 46, the Marquis mar-ried a 19-year-old Austrian orphan, Louise de Ward. They had no children. From the text of Les Rêves, we can conclude that he had at least one sister.15

We believe that the available information on the book Les Rêves and its author is still limited. Nearly 120 years after its publication, we are still not even sure of the correct spelling of the author’s name! This is indicative of the many unanswered questions concerning Les Rêves and its author.

Appendix: Dream After I Took Hashish16

English Translation by C.M. den Blanken

I have voiced the opinion—which has been shared by a lot of physiologists—that the somnabulistic and magnetic dreams, the ecstatic visions and hallucinations, as well as the dreams which are provoked by any sort of poison or narcotic, are more or less morbid modifications of the natural dream. But, in a book17 which has been exclusively dedicated to the study of natural sleep, I would be remiss by not includ-ing any observation on the psychological phenomenon of normal sleep. As an ap-pendix, a complementary document, the experience which follows shall not be without interest. You’ll find in it, I think, elements of analytical comparison. I will show that a cerebral overexcitement which exaggerates and precipitates the move-ment of ideas, does not change at all the habitual laws of association.

The vividness of the illusions which bombard us when we are under the influ-ence of narcotics like opium and hashish, cannot be ignored. A point which is probably not well-known, is that on taking those substances for the first time, you will seldom experience those delightful feelings which are reserved for those who have regular recourse to it. I suppose it is in this case a little like the first cigar; the physical unpleasantness gets the upper hand. Because I have been frequently ad-ministered strong doses of opium during a long illness, I have noted that gradual transition from gloomy and awkward dreams to those of idealism and excitement. As far as hashish is concerned, I had the rare opportunity to experiment while in ex-cellent health. Here is my first dream:

It seemed to me that something had left my brain, like a spring in a defective watch, and that the chain of my memories wanted to unroll with an incoherent and unprece-dented rapidity. In a faintly lit, uneven street I saw an interminable suite of marching people, dressed in black or brilliant uniforms, thin waifs, horrible street Arabs, women crowned with flowers seated on coffins or walking with the hearse. Next came carriages that stopped in front of me with their doors half-opened, as if they wanted to encourage me to make use of them. A mysterious attraction came over me, but, at the moment of stepping in, I shrank back with an inexpressible horror. I did not know which instinct told me that the carriage would take me to something horrible. I decided to go on foot. Bumping against passers-by, I headed quickly to a spot which I felt an urgency to arrive at yet not knowing where this place should be. I dared not ask the numerous people who bumped against me, because I was convinced they were my enemy. Finally I arrived at the unknown place and found I was with a young lady in an apartment belonging to someone else, whom I feared would be back any moment.

From there I am transported, I don’t know how, to a magnificent and splendidly lit salon. I am dressed in a ball costume. Evidently, I am to assist at a great feast. I regard my dress and notice it is smeared with a strange foam. I raise my eyes. In front of me is the image of the woman I love, but twenty years older and dressed in monastic clothing.

While at the salon, an elegant crowd enters. I notice that chandelier is about to extinguish, but I realize at the same that if I look at the candles one at a time, they will relight. Within a short time, fire lights up everywhere my eyes look. The gowns of the most charming ladies seem to become consumed with fire at my glance. Ashes fall, and now, horrible skeletons, purple mummies, or monsters eaten away by ulcerations, take the place of their ravishing bodies. Only the head remains charming and casts sad, wraithlike glances at me. What has not been set on fire by my eyes takes the most fan-tastic and unreasonable forms. A sofa elongates itself and becomes an extravagant lad-der. I want to flee. The stairs change into an open wall. However, I escape from that evil place. I jump into one of those half-open door carriages of which I spoke. This time I refuse to return to the mysterious destination from which I wanted rapidly to flee.

I sit down, and the carriage departs. Horror! It is filled with blood. I want to leave, but it is too late. We drive at an incredible speed. Where am I going? I don’t know. I only see on the road thousands of horrible indefinite things which fill me with great fear. I imagine that I hear a friend’s voice in space. It seems as if he is with me but doesn’t realize his morbid state. He curses me when he dies. I would rather have died myself in order to be rid of that pool of cruel thoughts; but a voice shouts at me that this despairing wish shall not be answered.

At rare moments I know this is not real. I understand that I have "brain troubles," but don’t know if this is momentary or forever. A terrible thought comes to my mind that my family, because of their blind concern for prolonging my life, would prolong my torture in that infernal shadow-play. I would never be able to express what I felt because I was, so to speak, isolated from the real world.

One moment I remember that I have seen myself before in an analogue state and that I have discovered a way to escape from it. I make an enormous effort to keep that thought, to make it clear, to remember. But such an effort causes me horrible pain in my brain. In another bizarre twist, I then imagine I see that thought as some kind of leech that tries, in vain, in a bloody way, to attach to the interior cavities of my skull, while an irresistible force reaches it and forces it to roll along with others in a general whirlpool.

Now there are some gaps. Humiliating images and scenes occur (e.g., I see myself with decorations and a uniform, at a dirty place, overcrowded with road-sweepers and drunken people who cover me with sarcasm and mud). Or, I imagine I have stolen, under the influence of some inexplicable hallucination, something insignificant. They drag me away to prison. All the folks whom I thought I could cling to seem to have an appoint-ment to watch me pass by. Somehow I succeed in moving away by walking. I have cre-ated an enormous road. I arrive at the gates of a town, where I hope to find safe refuge. I have troubles with a strange customs-officer. They shoot just above my head, because they want to investigate my thoughts and not my luggage. An inner revelation comes over me. I have been transported to a world where the ideal replaces the real, where intellectuality is a contraband, where you are provided thoughts rather than acquire them [Editor’s Note: Literal translation reads, "where you are provided with thoughts like on earth with comestibles."]. I tremble and hope that the customs-officers will not discover something wrong with me. I believe I have committed a crime, although I don’t have the slightest idea what it is. However, I enter. They compel me to leave my body behind at the gate. I notice they put it in a box with a label carrying my name. I wander around town as a shadow, hearing voices of invisible people like myself. I perceive thousands of strange impressions from the real world. Whether it was intellectual affairs which were locked up in golden or lead boxes, or whether it was essential material objects which moved by themselves, they came to talk to me. And I understood it all completely.

Soon I see myself carried away to an amphitheatre-theatre where a terrible surgical operation will take place. It will be performed on a prisoner who had tried to filch his body from customs. I am moved by the victim. Afterward, when the surgeon pricks his scalpel into the patient’s flesh, I feel a deep grief. I recognize that it is me who must endure all the suffering from those cruelties. I want to flee, but they have tied me up. The condemned joke terribly about the transition of sensibilities.

The violence of that situation takes me out of that critical atmosphere. I don’t know how, but I undergo a new series of internal surprises. First, I am absorbed by a vague and sudden fear. I find myself in a marvelous boudoir with several entrances. I see sinister apparitions arriving. As soon as I half-way open a door, some heart-rending sighs are emitted. Several friends come to embrace me. They are covered in a repulsive mud, but I don’t dare resist. I hear them laughing derisively, and then they leave. Next, I see my stomach swelling out of proportion. I remember I have swallowed an unknown reptile which is now developing itself. It makes a hole in my chest and puts its stinking and horrible head in front of my face. Then everything is over.

I return to my thought of investigating my own brain. I notice admirable hidden treasures, and I have the feeling I will never be able to retrieve them. I recognize also several abominable instincts, and I shiver at the thought of what they could bring. I ig-nore, by the way, how to handle those indescribable instruments of that immense labo-ratory. By accident I touch one and a formidable noise emits. I have the conviction that my brain-pan will collapse under the pressure of some unheard vibration-hurricane if I don’t open some part as an escape. Can I trepan myself. . . ?

In this manner that crazy dream went on. Several times I tried in a violent attempt of willpower to combat the tyranny of those disheartened illusions. But I was without a force to wake myself, and the dream returned with doubled intensity.

Mocking heads appeared from all sides. Finally, from time to time, the idea that I was killing myself travelled through my troubled mind, like a lurid flash of lightning in a stormy night. I asked myself if what I experienced was not a moral disorder of agony, or if that state was not Death itself, and as a consequence, the eternal rest which I had searched for.

These are the impressions I can remember. Probably, it is only a thousandth part of what went through my mind. The exaltation of the moral sensibility was violent; but, in the nature and lapses of thought I can’t discover anything that would not affirm my opinion that the analytical study of natural dreams is sufficient to explain the most varied morbid phenomenon. The awakening arrived gradually. At the same time that my visions lost their clarity, they became more relaxed. I had a rather slight somnolence period filled with fleeting impressions, several of which were graceful, and I opened my eyes five or six times without really seeing, before my real life took definite possession of me.

I found myself in a state of physical and moral numbness on the day that fol-lowed that agitated night. My memory was especially poor. However, convinced that this situation was very favorable for the analysis of the particular disorder of my mind, I took pen with a very heavy hand and made, with half-closed eyes, notes of my impressions. If this other fragment is not as interesting as I supposed on writing it, it offers, however, as an intermediate state between waking and sleeping—some significant indications which have made me decide to present it here fully. It is as follows:

It’s an uncommon state of mind in which I find myself. It seems to me like an induced dream which I see develop, like a fog which expands through my thoughts, a series of closely related reminiscences. I am aware of myself, but I don’t perceive any clear distinguishing ideas. I feel that if I could stop one, it would become the key to the preceding and succeeding ideas. But, apart from some vague extractions which don’t say anything to me, all of them escape before I’ve been able to catch them. Is it not so that a dream without images shows the same incoherence, the same spontaneous overflow of reminiscences?

If I make an effort to break through the fog which enwraps this daydreaming, I immediately feel a rather vivid pain in my head. If I want to return to reality, instead of letting my thoughts run by themselves, I have for a moment lost the memory of my own existence. The things which I know best, escape me. Every fleeting impression evapo-rates with such great rapidity, that not more than one sentence which I want to write down on paper arrives there. The sentences that I do scribble at this very moment write themselves mechanically, so to speak, by the instinctive correlation which is formed between the words that come into my mind and the letters which correspond to them. I haven’t enough liberty and mind to think it over.

If I want to preserve some recollection of this strange chaos, it’s necessary to let my pen write as quickly as possible, without re-reading those fleeting impressions and without understanding why it was spoiled. The domain of my thoughts seems to me like a white curtain on which, without letting a trace behind, the images of a magic lantern pass by.

The stenography itself is not able to record certain observations which strike me instantly by their precise lucidity, but demands other sentences which hardly remain present one second in my mind. Soon my hand is very tired. Regarding those elusive thoughts, I suppose there are resemblances to the images of the magic lantern. They are only reflections and not new conceptions.

The concatenation of thoughts which produce themselves this very moment, start almost always by an indefinite notion, which I try in vain to clarify. That in-definite notion directs me to a second impression which is no less fleeting. And that second one guides me to a third and so on, without becoming more clear. I suppose that if I was sleeping, those incomplete ideas would precisely form some horrible and indescribable dreams, of which the images escape even logical analysis.

Having an opportunity to take hashish again, and this time influenced by gay music and suitable circumstances by which I could direct my thoughts in a more agreeable direction, I had a dream very different from the one described. Concern-ing my state of mind the next day, it was exactly like the first time.18

Fin (Written in 1867)19

End (Translation in 1988)

Note on the authors: Dr. Carolus M. den Blanken was born in Utrecht (The Nether-lands). He works as a psychotherapist in private practice and as a free-lance man-agement trainer. Dr. Eli J.G. Meijer was born in Rotterdam (The Netherlands). He works as a psychopathologist at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Utrecht University and as a psychotherapist at RIAGG Institute, Utrecht.

18 Translator’s Note: For those interested in the relationship between narcotics and (lucid) dreams, I refer you to: Roos, M. (1984). Vergleichsstudie zwischen Klartraumerfahrungen und Erlebnisse unter dem Einfluss psychodelischen Drogen (trans.: Comparative study be-tween lucid dream experiences and experiences under the influence of psychedelic drugs.) Doctoral Dissertation. Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe Universität, Frankfurt a/M, Germany.

19 Original year of publication: 1867 by Librairie d’Amyot, Paris. Les Rêves et les Moyens de les Diriger; observations pratiques avec appendixe Un Rêve apres avoir pris du hatchich. Published anonymously.


Anonymous (1867). Les rêves et les moyens de les diriger; Observations pratiques. Paris: Librairie d’Amyot, Éditeur, 8, Rue de la Paix.

Breton, A. (1955). Les vases communicants. Paris.

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