Nightmares as the Experiential Base of Religion

by Esteban

“The nightmare reveals this, par excellence. There the healing reeducation might begin because there the instinctual soul is most real. Jones (p. 71) reminds us that “the vividness of Nightmares far transcends that of ordinary dreams.” Roscher and Laistner both observed this, and Jones (Ibid.) quotes others who have stressed this reality:

“The degree of consciousness during a paroxysm of Nightmare is so much greater than ever happens in a dream….Indeed I know no way in which a man has of convincing himself that the vision which has occurred during a paroxysm of Nightmare is not real…( J.Waller).

“The illusions which occur are perhaps the most extraordinary phenomena of nightmare; and so strongly are they often impressed upon the mind, that, even on waking, we find it impossible not to believe them real….(R. Macnish).

“From this kind of experience Jones draws his main point condensed into the second motto I placed above: the vividness of the nightmare experience has given rise to the belief in the objective reality of personified demons and Gods: the nightmare is the experiential base of religion.”

–W.H. Roscher, Pan and the Nightmare: Ephialtes–A Pathological-Mythological Treatise on the Nightmare in Classical Antiquity, & An Essay on Pan by James Hillman, 1972. Pp. lxii. (James Hillman, “An Essay on Pan.”)