an image diary

"And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you'd be? ... You'd be nowhere. Why, you're only a sort of thing in his dream! If that there King was to wake you'd go out -- bang! -- just like a candle!"

"Hush! You'll be waking him, I'm afraid, if you make so much noise."

"Well it's no use your talking about waking him when you're only one of the things in his dream. You know very well you're not real."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

. . . . . .


The third dream from Descartes' lost Olympica manuscript:

"Shortly afterwards he had a third dream, which contained nothing terrible like the first two. He found a book on his table, though without knowing who had put it there. He opened it and, seeing that it was an encyclopedia, he was struck with the hope that it might be very useful to him. At the same instant he found another book... a collection of the poems of different authors entitled Corpus Poetarum. He was curious to read something, and opening the book he came to the verse Quod vitae sectabor iter? ['What road in life shall I follow?'] At the same instant he saw a man whom he did not know, but who gave him a piece of verse beginning Est et Non... The first book then appeared once more at the other end of the table, but he found that the Encylopedia was no longer complete, as it had been when he saw it before.

Beginning to interpret the dream while still asleep, he considered that the encyclopedia signified all the sciences collected together, and that the anthology of poetry indicated philosophy and wisdom combined... He then woke up quite calmly and continued the interpretation of his dream. The collected poets he took to signify revelation and enthusiasm, with which he had some hope of seeing himself blessed. The piece of verse Estet Non - the 'yes and no' of Pythagoras - he took to stand for truth and falsity in human knowledge... (Adrien Baillet, La Vie de Monsieur Des-Cartes [1691], Bk I, ch. i)."

The Great Philosophers--from Socrates to Turing (pages 41-42)


the other two paraphrased and translated again:

He went to bed 'quite filled with mental excitement' and preoccupied with the thought that that day he had 'discovered the foundations of a wonderful system of knowledge'. He then had three consecutive dreams, which he imagined could only have come from above. First he was assailed with the impression of several phantoms, which came up to him and terrified him to such an extent that (thinking himself to be walking along a street) he was obliged to cross over onto the left side, in order to get to where he wanted to go; for he felt such a great weakness on his right side that he could not stand up. Being embarrassed to walk in such a fashion, he made an effort to stand upright, but he felt a violent wind which swept him round in a kind of whirlpool, making him spin round three or four times on his left foot. But this was still not what terrified him most. The difficulty which he had in standing made him believe that he would fall down at each step, until he noticed a College that opened onto his road, and went in to find a refuge and a remedy for his trouble. He tried to reach the college, (*) chapel, where his first thought was to go and pray; but noticing that he, -had passed someone whom he knew without greeting him, he decided to turn back to pay his respects, and was violently pushed back by the wind which blew against the chapel. At the same time, he saw in the middle of the college quadrangle someone else, who addressed him by name in very civil and obliging terms, and told him that if he wanted to look for Monsieur N., he had something to give him. He imagined that this was a melon brought from some foreign country. But what surprised him more was to see that the people who gathered round the man to talk were upright and steady on their feet, while, on the same ground, he was still bent double and reeling, although the wind which had tried to blow him over several times had much lessened ...

Another dream came to him in which he thought he heard a loud and violent noise which he took for a thunderclap. The terror which he felt at this woke him up at once, and opening his eyes he saw many fiery sparks scattered throughout the room ...

The Great Philosophers--from Socrates to Turing (pages 41-2)



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