Vatican Saying 24

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Epicurus here dispells two widely held beliefs of his contemporary society regarding the nature of dreams. Whereas many ancient Greeks (and Romans, and subsequent peoples) shared the superstition that dreams were god-sent and/or were portents of things to come, Epicureanism totally debunks both strongly, deeply held beliefs.

Dreams, Epicurus teaches, are no such things; they are neither "messages" from the gods, nor are they able to offer any prophetic, predictive information regarding the future. They are rather reflections, flashbacks from the past. Impressions we have had in the past (i.e. before the moment we "see" dreams in our sleep) have remained on our minds. As the human brain does not of course cease operation altogether, but runs automatically, subconsciously in our sleep, such images cross our mind, accidentally, involuntarily. Combined (often irrationally, bizarrely) with other impressions we have also had in the past, they are interwoven into the complex experience that are dreams.

That is all that dreams truly are: recollections of impressions we have had in the past, an "echo" of experiences we have had while awake, now re-experienced in our sleep-- often with all sorts of additional, irrational interconnections. We must therefore neither be alarmed by them (as if, say, the gods were sending us some ominous message), nor should we heed them as guides to our conduct once we wake up again (as if we had been "instructed" to do some thing or other). This view of dreams, deliberately prosaic yet strongly rational, is yet another contribution of Epicureanism to our ataraxia.

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