Wednesday, 1st July, 2009


“In healthy sleep we often fly rather than walk, our dimensions are enlarged, our resolutions have more force, our actions are less confined. And though all this depends on the body, as the least circumstance respecting the soul must harmonize with it, as long as her powers are so intimately incorporated with its structure; yet the whole of the phenomena of sleep and dreaming, which are certainly singular, and would greatly astonish us, were we not accustomed to them, shows us, that every part of the body does not belong to us in the same manner; nay, that certain organs of our machine may be unstrung, and the superior power act more ideally, vividly, and freely, from mere reminiscence. Now since all the causes that induce sleep, and all its corporal symptoms, are, not metaphorically, but physiologically and actually analogous to those of death; why should not the spiritual symptoms of both be the same? Thus, then, when the sleep of death falls on us from weariness or disease, still the hope remains, that death, like sleep, only cools the fever of life, gently interrupts the too uniform and long-continued movement, heals many wounds incurable in this life, and prepares the soul for a pleasurable awakening, for the enjoyment of a new morning of youth. As in dreams my thoughts fly back to youth; as in them, being only half-fettered by a few organs, but more concentred in myself, I feel more free and active: so thou, revivifying dream of death, wilt smilingly bring back the youth of my life, the most pleasing and energetic moments of my existence, till I awake in its form—or rather in the more beautiful form of celestial juvenility.”

Johann Gottfried Herder, Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man, trans. by Thomas Churchill (London: J. Johnson, 1800), p.122.

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