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The Laboratory Underground

Dreamed 1880s? by Anna Kingsford

I dreamed that I found myself underground in a vault artificially lighted. Tables were ranged along the walls of the vault, and upon these tables were bound down the living bodies of half-dissected and mutilated animals. Scientific experts were busy at work on their victims with scalpel, hot iron and forceps.

But, as I looked at the creatures lying bound before them, they no longer appeared to be mere rabbits, or hounds, for in each I saw a human shape, the shape of a man, with limbs and lineament resembling those of their torturers, hidden within the outward form.

And when they led into the place an old worn-out horse, crippled with age and long toil in the service of man, and bound him down, and lacerated his flesh with their knives, I saw the human form within him stir and writhe as though it were an unborn babe moving in its mother's womb.

And I cried aloud--"'Wretches! you are tormenting an unborn man!" But they heard not, nor could they see what I saw.

Then they brought in a white rabbit, and thrust its eyes through with heated irons. And as I gazed, the rabbit seemed to me like a tiny infant, with human face, and hands which stretched themselves towards me in appeal, and lips which sought to cry for help in human accents.

And I could bear no more, but broke forth into a bitter rain of tears, exclaiming--"O blind! blind! not to see that you torture a child, the youngest of your own flesh and blood!"

And with that I woke, sobbing vehemently.

From Anna Kingsford's Dreams and Dream-Stories 1888, quoted in The Oxford Book of Dreams (ed. Stephen Brook) 1983


Kingsford endured slurs and snubs in medical school to became only the second female doctor in England. Her nightmare is not fantasy; she knew the labs of her time.

Kingsford became a vegetarian and backed the anti-vivisectionist and animal rights movements. She lived and died her ideals: never robust, she died of pneumonia probably caught by protesting outside Louis Pasteur's laboratory in a cold rainstorm.

She left two books of extraordinary dreams and visions: Dreams and Dream-Stories and Clothed With the Sun. For the period they're extraordinarily modern: feminist, anti-specist, humane. She saw three great evils in the modern world: blood (violence), idols (religious dogmatism) and the Curse of Eve (sexism). Her visionary writing influenced the Order of the Golden Dawn, Yeats and the Celtic Renaissance, and thus shaped today's New Age movement, Wicca and Goddess-worship.

--Chris Wayan

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