Saint-Denys, Hervey De
Saint-Denys, Hervey De(dreams)
The Frenchman Hervey de Saint-Denys (1822–1892) was a professor of ethnography, specializing in Chinese and Tartar-Manchu. His book Les Rêves et les Moyens de les Diriger was originally published in French in 1867. The English translation, Dreams and How to Guide Them, was not published until 1982. Saint-Denys gained recognition as one of the founders of the technique known as lucid dreaming.
Saint-Denys first started to record his dreams at the age of thirteen. His dream diaries are extensive: twenty-two in total. He reported 1,946 nights in which he recalled his dreams. After the first year he even included pictures of images he remembered from his nocturnal experiences. His first lucid dream is recorded in the 207th entry. After that, he developed a series of mental exercises to increase his ability to achieve lucidity. Within the first six months of practicing these exercises, he was achieving lucidity two out of five nights, on average, which increased to an average of three out of four nights of lucidity after a year. Since, after only fifteen months, Saint-Denys was achieving lucidity almost every night, he inferred that with his exercises anyone seriously interested could achieve the same results.
By taking this approach to nightmares, it is possible to apply one’s will to the incoherent qualities of dreams and make them less destructive. The emotional, tumultuous and unpleasant qualities of dreams can be replaced with images that are more enjoyable when the dreamer develops the ability to impose her or his will on the dreaming process. By focusing on the foolishness of the nightmarish aspects of the dream, the dreamer is able to impede the offending aspects of the dream and thus lessen the fear it causes. And when dreamers are able to confront their fears and demonstrate power over nightmares, they decrease and sometimes stop altogether.