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Hypnogogic Assault

Dreamed 1559-1563 by Dr. Simon Forman

Here's a very early description of hypnogogic images--the quick, vivid, not-quite dreams that many experience during the onset of sleep. It's by Simon Forman, an Elizabethan doctor and astrologer. Writing forty years after the fact, in 1600, he says that, as a child of six,

So soon as he was always laid down to sleep he should see in visions always many mighty mountains and hills come rolling against him, as though they would overrun him and fall on him and bruise him, yet he got up always to the top of them and with much ado went over them. Then should he see many great waters like to drown him, boiling and raging against him as though they would swallow him up, yet he thought he did overpass them. And these dreams and visions he had every night continually for three or four years' space."
He believed they were sent him by God to signify the troubles of his later years.


Hypnogogic scenes often rush toward you like this, but few sleepers are assaulted so physically--more often, you're a passive witness--a channel-surfer! What Forman faced does sound like a nightly boot camp in confidence-building.

He needed it. "The troubles of his later years" were no joke. Forman's doctorate was self-granted; he made up his own alternative medicine. Accused by the Guild of Surgeons of being a quack (true, but just as true of the Guild, of course), Forman was jailed at least once and constantly threatened. He was embroiled in political controversies, too. But Forman rode out the flood of assaults much as his childhood visions had taught him to.

--Chris Wayan

Source: Simon Forman's Autobiography c.1600; biographic details paraphrased from Havelock Ellis's The Dream World, 1922; dates from Wikipedia.

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