"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What Did the Fathers Dream About?

Freud, of course, called dreams the "royal road to the unconscious." But long before Freud, the capacity of dreams to reveal important messages was known by Jews and Christians as seen by the number of dreams of significance that show up in the Bible. Biblical dreams have been studied by scholars, but analysis of the uses of dreams and visions in post-biblical and especially patristic literature has tended to be piecemeal. But now we have a book-length study recently released:

Jesse Keskiaho, Dreams and Visions in the Early Middle Ages: The Reception and Use of Patristic Ideas, 400-900 (Cambridge, 2015), 240pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Dreams and visions played important roles in the Christian cultures of the early middle ages. But not only did tradition and authoritative texts teach that some dreams were divine: some also pointed out that this was not always the case. Exploring a broad range of narrative sources and manuscripts, Jesse Keskiaho investigates how the teachings of Augustine of Hippo and Pope Gregory the Great on dreams and visions were read and used in different contexts. Keskiaho argues that the early medieval processes of reception in a sense created patristic opinion about dreams and visions, resulting in a set of authoritative ideas that could be used both to defend and to question reports of individual visionary experiences. This book is a major contribution to discussions about the intellectual place of dreams and visions in the early middle ages, and underlines the creative nature of early medieval engagement with authoritative texts.

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