Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

felt myself particularly agitated by these apparitions, as I considered them to be what they really were, the extraordinary consequences of indisposition; on the contrary, I endeavoured as much as possible to preserve my composure of mind, that I might remain distinctly conscious of what was passing within me.” As it is evident, from this admission, that Nicolai's phantasms had occasionally some little power in disturbing him, we shall inquire into the effect that the agitation had upon his mind :-"In the afternoon,” says Nicolai,

or a little after four o'clock, the figure which I had seen in the morning again appeared. I was alone when this happened,-a circumstance which, as may easily be conceived, could not be very agreeable. I went therefore to the apartment of my wife, to whom I related it. But thither also the figure pursued me. Sometimes it was present, sometimes it vanished, but it was always the same standing figure. A little after six o'clock, several stalking figures also appeared, but they had no connexion with the standing figure. I can assign no other reason for this apparition than that, though much more composed in my mind, I had not been able so soon entirely to forget the cause of such deep and distressing vexation, and had reflected on the consequences of it, in order, if possible, to avoid them; and that this happened three hours after dinner, at the time when digestion just begins.

“ At length I became more composed with respect to the disagreeable incident which had given rise to the first apparition ; but though I had used very excellent medicines, and found myself in other respects perfectly well, yet the apparitions did not diminish,

but, on the contrary, rather increased in number, and were transformed in the most extraordinary manner.

It is apparent from this confession, as well as from that of Beaumont, that when any phantasm has the effect of exciting strong emotions of the mind, the illusion may not only be prolonged, but repeated. The latter result occurs when the recollected ideas of former spectral impressions are subjected to a fresh morbific excitement, and when this effect is increased by the vivifying influence of the particular Hope or Fear, which the remembrance of the apparition may have induced.

An illustration to this effect is given by a writer on phantasms produced by disease, the account of which appeared in Nicholson's Journal :-“I know a gentleman,” he says, “in the vigour of life, who, in my opinion, is not exceeded by any one in acquired knowledge and originality of deep research ; and who, for nine months in succession, was always visited by a figure of the same man, threatening to destroy him, at the time of his going to rest. It appeared upon his lying down, and instantly disappeared when he resumed the erect posture." It is evident, from this narrative, that the most vivid idea in this individual's mind at his time of going to rest, was the remembered impression of the phantasm ; and hence the same illusion was most likely to be renewed by a subsequent morbific cause of excitement.

The foregoing remarks will probably afford us an explanation of many cases of apparitions, in which an

* Nicholson's Journal, vol. vi. page 166.

individual has been haunted for many years by a si. milar description of phantasm, as by a good or evil genius, or by some supposed emissary from Satan, under the name of a familiar. In short, ideas which may be vivified by Hope or Fear, are, by the co-operation of morbific excitements, most easily converted into apparitions. They are then dispelled with considerable difficulty, and are rendered the more liable to return.

3

CHAPTER VII.

THE ILLUSIONS WHICH HOPE AND FEAR ARE CAPABLE

OF EXCITING INDEPENDENTLY OF THE CO-OPERA

TION OF MORBIFIC CAUSES.

Then, led by thee to some wild cave remote,
My taste I ply—the study of myself.
Or, should the silver moon look kindly down,
The vision’d forms of ages long gone by
Gleam out from piled rock, or dewy bush-
Mellow to kinder light the blaze of thought,
And sooth the maddening mind to softer joy.

Lord LEVESON GOWER's Faust.

An apparition is, in a strict sense, a past feeling, renovated by the aid of morbific agents with a degree of vividness, equalling, or exceeding, an actual impression. If the renewed feeling should be one of vision, a form may arise perfectly complete ; if of sound, a distinct conversation may be heard: or, if of touch, the impression may be no less complete. The question then is,-What illusions are Hope and Fear capable of exciting independently of the co-operation of morbific causes ?

In this investigation a preliminary remark may be made, that all emotions which arise from such innate

U

causes of them, as by their durable influence on our selfish and social dispositions or habits, have acquired the name of moral, are indicated by the same general effects on the circulation that result from the action of foreign agents introduced into the system, such as the particular gases to which I have alluded. For, while pleasurable excitement arising from sources of mental vividness is indicated by an increasing expansibility of the vital fluid, by a corresponding state of the diastole of the heart, and by a fulness and force of the arterial pulse, affections of a painful nature are manifested by an opposite tendency of the blood to reduce its volume ; when a hard pulse, as well as that constricted state of the capillaries is induced, which bears the name of the cutis anserina. Such circumstances, then, are essential to the general susceptibility of the human frame to be affected in a definite manner, agreeably to the selfish and social nature of man.

I would next observe, that on laws connected with the various combinations of matter that more or less forcibly impress our sensitive organs, depend the occasions on which different susceptibilities of feeling are called forth. Particular hard or soft substances; for instance, luminous particles, sapid bodies, &c., in impressing with greater or less force any particular organ

of sense, bear a reference to the definite susceptibility of the sensitive part to receive such impressions; and, accordingly, definite qualities of pleasure or of pain are produced in different states of vivid

ness.

Again, when we contemplate man as a social being, we shall find, that his innate and individual suscep

« AnteriorContinuar »