Dreams of Prague

Lombroso, the sorrowful anticipant of the dogmas of Schizophrenia, tells this story, which he attests was verified by the court. Miss Loganson, a nineteen-Year-old in Chicago, saw in a dream the murder of her brother Oscar, a farmer in Marengo, fifty miles northwest of Chicago. For several days she insisted that her brother's neighbor, also a farmer, had murdered him. At first no one paid any attention to her: finally, however, they allowed her to send a telegram. The reply came: Oscar had disappeared. The girl set off for Oscar's farm, accompanied by another brother and a police officer. She led them straight to the house of a certain Bedford. It was locked and the police had to break down the door. In the kitchen they found traces of blood. But Miss Loganson did not stop there: she rushed to the henhouse in the paved courtyard. "My brother is buried here," she said, indicating the pavement in front of the henhouse. The policeman pointed out that the pavement had remained the same since the henhouse was built, but at the girl's insistence he had the spot dug up. Under the pavement they found Oscar's coat, and when they had dug down about five feet they saw his corpse. A description of Bedford was immediately telegraphed to police stations around the country, and he was arrested in Ellis, Nebraska. Miss Loganson said that her brother's spirit had pursued her constantly and urged her on for several days.

In this case a dream prophesied the past. To claim such a thing is almost the same as to attempt to demonstrate that the genius and the criminal are blood brothers in one individual.

It seems that the Congregation of the Devine Office or some other body, perhaps a special Commission, has already proceeded to correct the famous Second Nocturn in the Roman Breviary. That is a great blow to my heart, for whenever I heard the expression, “It lies like the Second Nocturn," my soul would rejoice that at least Rome does not give its blessing to that "scientific truth." Since I am writing as though this were my last will, I publicly declare that the faith of my heart allows and permits – even demands – much greater and "more senseless" miracles than those related by the Second Nocturn. Love is so critical that it excludes all absurdity a priori. Prophecy will be exhausted, nations will cease to exist and art will be corrupted, but love will neither be exhausted nor cease to exist, unless it is corrupted. Now these three remain: faith, hope and love: but the greatest of them is love!

And only through love and in love is it possible to explain, and to explain love itself, that the Dream prophesies the future as well! In this case, dear friends, love and the dream have interpenetrated one another to such an extent that it is not possible to take one of them away without taking the life of the other as well. Either you love and the Dream speaks to you, who are born of Love, or you do not love, and then it does not matter at all what language you speak, or what language you hear, as you have evidently sunken below humanity and its future!

The higher we have ascended in our knowledge and in our love, the more exquisite the whips with which the Lord of life and death lashes us, and man in his weakness frequently falls subject to the temptation of giving in to the Devil and settling for the truth of his ridiculously wretched reason, just as a completely ordinary and vulgar man is content if he gets his satisfaction in newspapers...

The suffering of our soul is exquisite, the Chinese nation has a great future in Catholicism and we thank God that during our lifetime Chinese theology has been giving the Catholic Church an almost imperceptible contribution – we must speak the language of contemporary science in order to be able to breathe in at least a bit of air beneath the vacuum pump of Truth, for otherwise the present day deadens us so much we cannot move; this deceitful time has killed in us not only laughter, not only controversy, but even the slightest interest!

We can breathe only in a miracle!
We can love only in the future!

When I love, like God, or like the Devil, I want only the soul, knowing full well that the rest will be given to me as well.

“But we must fathom that when the Savior was born. an Angel appeared to shepherds in Judea, whereas not an Angel, but a star led the Magi from the Orient to adore Him!” St. Gregory explains this by stating that a rational being, i.e., an Angel, had to preach to the Jews because they used reason, but the Pagans, who did not know how to use reason, had to be led to recognize the Lord not by a voice, but by a sign. It seems that is why St. Paul says: "Prophesies are given to believers, and not to unbelievers: signs to unbelievers, and not to believers!”

Thus we who are given signs can boast of absolutely nothing.

My dear brother, you may be certain this time too that I am not speaking lightly. It is said that from a well stars are visible in the day as well as at night. Believe my eyes, for I have been thrown into a well. Who has thrown me in! Brothers. Believe my eyes, for I am not speaking lightly. I see well. If I did not see, I would not suffer. If I am suffering, and suffering unspeakably, you must be able to tell from that that I say much less than I know.

A certain amount of time is necessary for the lips to open. And then a certain amount of time is necessary for the word to be pronounced.

We know from the Bible that everything has its time and all things under the sun run their allocated course. There is a time to be born, and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot what has been planted. There is a time to kill and a time to heal! A time to destroy and a time to build. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to lament and a time to rejoice. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them together. A time to embrace and a time to be far from embracing. A time to gain and a time to lose. A time to set aside and a time to cast away. A time to tear apart and a time to stitch together. A time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for battle and a time for peace.

Everything has its time. Thought is subject much more precisely and strictly to the laws of the seasons than oats, potatoes, grapevines or apple-trees. In order to sprout it needs a certain amount of warmth, contact with the earth, rain, dryness, air and sun. No one must step on the sprouting seed, and it must not be pecked out by a sparrow, crunched by a mouse, constricted by an earthworm or parched by frost. This is a parable. I once wrote to Leon Bloy how much it hurt me that I could not help him. And he answered: "If you want to help, give everything!" it took many years for me to understand that word. Only at death will we perfectly understand our dreams, for let us be aware that in accordance with the laws of the Communion of Saints there are among them dreams sent by God for the merits of someone we do not know on earth or in eternity and for the good that we have done or will do in the future. We must not forget that that great battle between Good and Evil, between Light and Darkness is far from over, and in ceaseless and measureless inspiration God calls forth ever new warriors to fill the places left empty in the unfathomable battle-lines by the fallen or the already triumphant in heavenly Jerusalem. This is what the Savior means by the hiring of workers for the Lord's Vineyard.

God has to frighten us with some dreams, just as little children are frightened with the Troll so that they do not drown. I gladly admit and believe that there are people who do not need any dreams, either because they are enlightened enough by reason to do good, or because they are already predestined to be lost eternally for having squandered and disdained the gifts of God's mercy. However, we must not overlook the possibility that God may use even these reprobates as instruments of his most sacred will, giving them for instance dreams that are and remain without benefit for them, but that, like a forest planted by our forefathers, will render benefit a hundred times greater to their heirs and descendants. Even Cain, Nadab, Abihu, and that blasphemer who was stoned to death, the son of Shelumith, daughter of Dibri the Danite, and Korah, son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On, son of Peleth the Reubenite, and Absolom, Holofernes, Herod, Judas, Ananiah, Saphir, Simon Magus and Julian the Apostate: like their father the Devil, all of them, certainly against their will, served the work and purpose of God on this earth!

This much at least was necessary as a preface so that I might find the proper distance between myself and Prague, between my dream of Prague and that which opposes it in my own views and also in my life. If anyone should be hurt, feeling that an injustice has been done to us, may he remember that only for earthly eyes is life poor in interpretation and that thanks to God, we are neither guilty nor deserving of each of our dreams.

* * *

Yes, dear Evermod_1, I want to tell you something about my dreams. Well then, I have dreamed of PRAGUE many times. The first time was several years ago. In that dream I saw the tower of St. Vitus's Cathedral. I was awestruck by this night vision, for I had grown up, so to say, in poor conditions. I say "night vision," because I dreamed of it at night, but in my dream I saw the tower of St. Vitus's in the evening, Prague was in twilight like a petrified lake, and I saw no people at all, for the enormity and height of the tower of St. Vitus's overwhelmed all other magnitude around it from horizon to horizon. I caught my breath and, had I been capable of any literary or historical reminiscence, I would certainly have recalled Libuše's augury:

Lo, I see a great city, whose glory reaches the stars.!

In all of Prague there were no lights, but I nevertheless distinctly perceived the ridges of the nearest roofs, but only as one might perceive the spines of fish breaking the surface of an enchanted lake, whereas the cathedral tower somehow gleamed from its own venerable mass, as though in those colossal granite ashlars from which I saw it grow there was nothing at all dark, or as though it were illuminated from bottom to top by some great and invisible source of light, and that light was immeasurably powerful at its source, but, having to spread out its rays on the surfaces of such an enormous body, for our eves it lost its intensity and we were seeing no longer the light of the present, but the light of a Legend, tempered by millenia. I had to tilt my head back as much as possible and I still could not see the end. In great awe I thought: "Neither man, nor time! Only a nation can accomplish this, and only with the special help of God:"

The second time (as far as I can remember) I dreamed of Prague was last year_2 on the day of SS. Peter and Paul. I gave part of this dream to Ludvík Bláha, a cleric at Strahov, as I had no one in Prague to whom I might confide it and for certain pious reasons I desired that my dream, though it be merely felled by hoarfrost on the branches of my speech, should return to the places from whence it had come.

I know nothing about it, that is, nothing about what I expected in PRAGUE.

But precisely at that time my dream was interpreted to me by a person I did not know, and who was distant from me.

I must believe in what is admittedly absolutely inexplicable.

Not long ago a certain person, severed from the world for good, wrote to me: "What kind of word is suffering? I heard it and I do not know what it is!" She dreamed that she saw some of the deceased popes (whom she names) and other personages... Then everything was lost and a voice was heard:

Our souls are suffering!

Well then, this person who heard this voice in her dream and did not understand the word "suffering" interpreted my dream for me.

I recognize PRAGUE in parts: in the first dream I recognized the Cathedral of St. Vitus, in the second dream the Prague clergy and others, and in the third dream, the university. I had this dream fourteen days ago._3 It is embarrassing both to write and to speak about it. A large male ape – not a monkey, but an ape – was giving lectures, speaking demonstratively to a monkey, before an audience of both sexes. The faces of these brutes were hairless. The monkey was standing as a model on a pedestal as a sphinx is usually depicted – that is, in the position of a sphinx. Only it was not a sphinx, but a monkey, though as motionless as a sphinx.

The loathsome male ape had arrived together with a professor and, stopping beneath the gallery, just a few steps from the door, he gave the first lecture; the shaggy tail of some kind of skunk – I don't know whether it was a marten or a polecat – was hanging there from the wall; the ape brushed the fur on the tail from underneath two or three times with his fist so that it moved a bit, and he said: "A comet!"

Then the professor proudly swung himself up onto the desk, proud of his ape, proud of the knowledge that no one had ever lectured that way before - the professor spoke only in gestures, I heard nothing from his lips – and the ape gave the second lecture sitting on the "sphinx."

I was surprised to see the sphinx squat, as at first it had seemed to me that it was a stuffed monkey.

After that lecture I saw one of the gentlemen carrying out a lady on his shoulder as though he were carrying a beam: the lady was so stiff. In the corridor the professor opened the nearest door, some kind of office, for the couple.

The room was packed with listeners and everyone, sitting, watched the ape attentively and breathlessly, turned backwards on their seats.

* * *

The fourth time I dreamed of Prague was a week ago._4 I saw some kind of large editorial board. They welcomed me as a man with a name, but I was ashamed of myself for their respect, as it was associated with the sense that I had come there among my peers and they recognized me. I was overcome by utter disconsolation and my heart felt like the wreckage of a ship moving forward senselessly and becoming lost in the waters near the North Pole.

And then I saw – oh, yes, the editorial office was a vast expanse, extraordinarily similar to the common room of a mill, and it was really filled with the kind of twilight one finds in a milling chamber, and it suddenly occurred to me: the sower has come out to sow his seeds – the word is the grain, but in such places they do not sow the grain, but grind and crush it, i.e., destroy it!

I do not know anymore how I got there, but I do remember well how I got out: you do not leave that editorial office as human beings would, but rather on your back, spine down and belly up, down wooden stairs that are so timbered that they look very much like a cellar vent and wooden chute through which potatoes are dropped down into the cellar. Yes, you must come out of that editorial office on your back, which is very unnatural for a human being and consequently very exhausting, for me at least it was excessively difficult and when I saw two men "walking out" of the editorial office in this manner, against all expectations I involuntarily recalled the distasteful and thus unpleasant image of sloths on the one hand and glistening fish on the other. From what I saw, the center of gravity of the entire body was neither in the breast nor in the head, but in the rear end.

We descended to some kind of passage. You see, I almost forgot to say that they had appointed a guide for me in the editorial office: he was a member of the editorial board, a pale, thin young man – I hesitate to say shabby-looking, as until that time I had never seen him before – however, I must affirm that bodily he appeared really rather feeble, even a bit greenish, and without a doubt it was only his youth that saved him from looking downright sickly at first glance. Well then, this guide of mine as if by chance (to this day I tremble in horror at the thought that all of this had been perfectly arranged long before according to some secret regulations and statutes!) meets in the passage a bearded man in plain clothes, they look one another in the face just as two hunting dogs would look at each other upon meeting, and the bearded fellow assumes a sacerdotal posture and says: unfortunately, I have already forgotten his words, but I know for sure that he asked whether the young man had undergone the prescribed "penance"!

The young man then responded using the prescribed formula that he had indeed undergone it. But that question, it seems to me, was asked not as a question, but as a password: it was merely a test for the "Master" to see whether he was dealing with an "Initiate" or a layman.

And when the young man gave his answer, I saw his repentance, for it somehow perceptibly permeated his face, which was suddenly translucent...

And that formula was in biblical style, I believe he said: "...LASHES OF SCOURGING."

I should also mention how everything else seemed to disappear for both of these men when they met: "they died to the world," but at the same time, o horror, they did all of this after all only for the sake of the world!

This was a rite, yet only a dreadful, cold, dismal rite – like a rite of the damned, who preserve and execute all of the formulae and gestures of holiness but no longer believe in God. It was like the piety and acts of a man placing a beautiful wreath on the grave of his father, having murdered him very deliberately and consequently with impunity._5

The second question (again an established formula): what rank had he assumed?

The young man answered: "Deacon!"

Yes, now I remember quite clearly, he had answered the first question thus:

"Through baptism by scourging!"

Thus not only in biblical style, but indeed in the style of the Catholic Church!

And when both questions had been answered, the "Master" kneeled down on both knees, showing the disciple what to do: on each calf four small crosses.

And the disciple made the sign of a cross on the designated places with his fingers – his thumb and pointer finger. As soon as he had done so he turned into a Black Knight with a crest. His clothes were all black, adorned in silver only in certain places, but the silver did not shine. His face was like that of a wax figure: everything was so distinct, mercilessly immutable: his eyes, his lips, all of his features. Not only the silver, but also his face did not shine with life, for such stiff precision is a sign of non-life.

And suddenly more Knights like the young man stood around him, each one like the next...

If I remember correctly, the "Master" did not change.

But my dream continued: I am on a very spacious square; in front of me on the left, up on high, is the Prague castle – and directly beneath it is the ancient little Church of St. Agnes, so old that its masonry reminds me very much of the body of a white old woman. Such dilapidated masonry, evidently consumed by time both inside and out. Not gnawed, but consumed, nice and white and consumed right down to its bones...

I thought: I will go look inside it again before it disintegrates... And I was frightened in spirit, indeed, I was terrified that it would collapse before I got there – I was just a few steps away...

I am walking – I don't know why; I am walking atop a hill - i.e., along some road from the castle – yes, my God, the stairway, the wide stairway leading to the Prague Castle, is overgrown with grass – I reach the place where the roof of the little church runs parallel to the road, which stretches off into the distance along very solid and extraordinarily high ramparts.

Walking along this road, above the little church at the very edge of its roof, I knocked a stone down with my foot, and it seemed to fall, I do not know how, onto the middle of the roof, and the roof fell in...

I looked in front of me: on the other side of the square, which was rising, the towers of a sturdy cathedral were shining with gold: it was certainly Prague’s dominant cathedral, unless perhaps it was Strahov monastery. Have you ever found a leaf from last year or the year before, consumed so that only its outlines and veins remained? But the church of St. Agnes reminded me so much of the Eucharist and the white ashes of burned-up things which, even after complete incineration, still retain the likeness and form of the original object, but finally disintegrate when we blow on them, or of their own accord.

Translated by Kirsten Lodge, Columbia University


Written on February 25, 1911 to Evermod Balcárek, a monk at Strahov Monastery.

I.e., 1910!

I.e., around February 10, 1911!

I.e., around February 18, 1911!

Through reason it is possible to demonstrate quite eloquently that old fathers are good for nothing in this world.