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her own rationality, and so were those friends who really visited her; for they never could find any one circumstance in her conduct and conversation to lead them to suspect her in the smallest degree deranged, though unwell. This complaint was entirely removed by cataplasms to the feet, and gentle purgatives; and terminated, a short time afterwards, in a regular slight fit of the gout. She has remained ever since, now somewhat more than a year, in the perfect enjoyment of her health and faculties.” *
The first object of this dissertation has at length been completed. It is manifest, that with numerous morbid affections of the body, arising from variously excited states of the circulating system, or of the nerve ous influence, the production in the mind of spectral illusions is necessarily connected. Of such affections, Scot, in his Discovery of Witchcraft, has well remarked, that “though they appeare in the mind of man, yet are they bred in the bodie, and proceed from this humor, which is the very dregs of blood, nourishing and feeding these places, from whence proceed fears, cogitations, superstitions, fastings, labours, and such like. This maketh sufferance of torments, and (as some saie) foresight of things to come.”
* Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, vol. vi. p. 291.
PROOFS THAT THE OBJECTS OF SPECTRAL ILLUSIONS ARE FREQUENTLY SUGGESTED
BY THE FANTASTIC IMAGERY OF
EXPLANATION OF THE MODE IN WHICH THE IDEAS
WHICH ARE SUGGESTED BY VARIOUS POPULAR SUPERSTITIONS BECOME RECALLED IN A HIGHLY VIVIFIED STATE, SO AS TO CONSTITUTE THE IMAGERY OF SPECTRAL ILLUSIONS.
“ Each molehill-thought swells to a huge Olympus.”—DRYDEN.
In this department of our investigation an attempt will be made to show, that in well-authenticated ghoststories of a supposed supernatural character, ideas, which are rendered so unduly intense as to induce spectral illusions, may be traced to such fantastical objects of prior belief, as are incorporated in the various systems of superstition, which for ages have possessed the minds of the vulgar. But before this object can be satisfactorily accomplished, it will be necessary to take a brief review of the progress
of our research. By this means we shall be better prepared to notice
an important law of the mind, by which past sensations may be recalled in various states of faintness or intensity.
This inquiry has hitherto proceeded upon the general view, that an undue sanguineous action imparts a disproportionate degree of vividness to our ideas. Nicolai, indeed, in the narrative read by him to the Royal Society of Berlin, from an attentive consideration of the phenomena which attended his illusions, could not refrain from expressing the same suspicion, namely, that they had some inexplicable connexion with the state of the circulating system. His words are these : “ The natural vivacity of imagination renders it less wonderful, that after a violent commotion of the mind, a number of phantasms should appear for several weeks in succession. Their leaving me on the application of leeches, shews clearly that some anomaly in the circulation of the blood was connected with their appearance; though it may perhaps be too hasty a conclusion to seek for the cause in that alone. It seems, likewise, remarkable, that the beginning of the apparitions, after the disturbance in my mind was settled, as well as the alteration which took place, when they finally left me, happened exactly at the time when digestion commenced. And it is no less remarkable, that the apparitions, before they entirely ceased, lost their intensity of colours ; and that they did not vanish or change as formerly, but seemed gradually to dissolve into air."
From the doctrine inculcated in this dissertation,
* Nicholson's Journal, vol. vi. p. 176.