An Enquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul is a philosophical and scientific work first published in 1733. This enlarged second edition dates from 1737. Its author, Andrew Baxter, argues that all matter is inherently inactive, and that the soul and an omnipotent divine spirit are the animating principles of all life. In making this argument, Baxter is rejecting the beliefs of more atheistic and materialist thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes and Baruch Spinoza, as well as the immaterialist philosopher and clergyman George Berkeley, who believed that existence is not in the physical body, but in the capability of being perceived.
The pages shown here are taken from a chapter called An Essay on the Phenomenon of Dreaming. Baxter writes about how people, places and objects we have never seen before may seem familiar to us in a dream, and we seem to have a kind of knowledge in sleep that we lack in real life.
An Enquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul and Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s fascination with An Enquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul began when he was a young man. In 1795, aged 22, he ‘walked with Southey [his close friend, the poet Robert Southey] on a desperate hot summer day from Bath to Bristol with a Goose, 2 vol. Of Baxter on the Immortality of the Soul, and the Giblets in my hand’. He admired Baxter’s work more than 30 years later, saying ‘I should not wonder if I found that Andrew had thought more on the subject of Dreams than any other of our Psychologists, Scotch or English’.
Coleridge’s interest in dreams is evident in both his poetry and his letters. According to his preface to ‘Kubla Khan’, he composed the poem after waking from an opium-fuelled dream, having read a description of Xanadu in Purchas His Pilgrimage
, by the cleric Samuel Purchas.