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Feuer, L.S. (1963). The Dreams of Descartes. Am. Imago, 20(1):3-26.

(1963). American Imago, 20(1):3-26

The Dreams of Descartes

Lewis S. Feuer

On the night of November 10, 1619, the young René Descartes, soldier in the army of the Holy Roman Emperor, “had three consecutive dreams which he believed could have come only from above.” During that day, in a stove-heated room in the little town of Neuberg on the Danube River, the fundamentals of science, Descartes believed, had been revealed to him; the dreams conveyed a mystical experience of God's blessing on his new insights as well as on his vocation as a scientist. “He believed he saw through their shadows the indications of the road which God had traced for him to follow his desire in his choice of life, and in the search for that truth which was the subject of his anxieties.”() Modern philosophy, we might say, was born during the night of Descartes' three dreams.() They have drawn the attention of several philosophers and psychoanalysts, including Freud himself, but the connective lines between Descartes' philosophic ideas and the underlying anxieties which his dreams expressed still remain obscure. To this effort we shall address ourselves.

The night of November 10, 1619 was St. Martin's Eve. People in France used to spend it in debauchery. Descartes, however, had passed the whole day with sobriety; indeed, he hadn't had any alcoholic drink for three month. That it was St. Martin's Eve, however is a circumstance to be noted for this was a holiday customarily given to liberating repressed sexual emotion. Descartes' thought was liberated on this ritualistic evening of sexual freedom.

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