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Of shapes and airy forms an endless rout.
An actual instance, however, of spectral impressions undergoing successive changes in the subject of them, is afforded in the ecstatic illusions which Cardan experienced. These are minutely related. "I saw," he observes on one occasion," different figures, as of brazen substances. They seemed to consist of small rings, like links of mail (although I had never yet seen chain-armour), ascending from a low corner of my bed, moving from right to left in a semicircular direction, and then melting as into air. I descried the shapes of castles, of houses, of animals, of horses with their riders, of herbs, of trees, of musical instruments, of the different features of men and of their different garments. Trumpeters appeared to blow their trumpets, yet no voices or sounds were heard. I saw, moreover, soldiers, people, fields, and the form of bodies even to this day unknown to me; groves and woods, some things of which I have no remembrance, and a mass of many objects rushing in together, yet not with marks of confusion, but of haste."
4th Stage of Excitement.
I have again supposed a fourth, or extreme stage of
general mental excitement, where ideas attain the 15th and sensations the 13th degree of vividness, the former being still more intense than the latter. This stage is shewn in the following table.
Of the two different Degrees of Excitements necessary for the Production of Spectral Impressions.
On a former occasion, I shewed that morbific excitements did nothing more than impart an addition of vividness to feelings, which, from moral causes, were of themselves either pleasurable or painful; but that, when inordinate vivifying actions were induced, spectral impressions followed, the subjects of which were alternately of a pleasurable and painful quality.
This, then, is the peculiar character of the 4th and last stage of mental excitement, an illustration of which is afforded in the visions of Kotter, who, as Dr Ferriar has remarked, 66 was sincere in his enthusiasm, and was as much a seer as any second-sighted prophet of the Hebrides." In the year 1616 an angel appeared to this prophet, who ordered him to inform
the civil powers that great evils were impending over Germany. He had, accordingly, many visions, which were supposed to have reference to the future, but they were not declared on oath to the magistrates before the year 1619. I shall pass over several of the phantasies he experienced, contenting myself with the notice of one ecstacy only, which was so extremely intense as to shew evident marks that it was alternately pleasurable and painful. Supposing himself to be attended by two angels, Kotter thus proceeds: -"On the 13th day of September," says he, "both the youths returned to me, saying, 'Be not afraid, but observe the thing which will be shewn to thee.' And I suddenly beheld a circle like the sun, red as it were bloody, in which were black and white lines, or spots, so intermingled, that sometimes there appeared greater number of blacks, sometimes of whites; and this sight continued for some space of time. And when they had said to me, 'Behold! attend! fear not! no evil will befall thee!' lo, there were three successive peals of thunder, at short intervals, so loud and dreadful, that I shuddered all over. But the circle stood before me, and the black and white spots were disunited, and the circle approached so near, that I could have touched it with my hand. And it was so beautiful, that I had never in my life seen any thing more agreeable; and the white spots were so bright and pleasant, that I could not contain my admiration. But the black spots were carried away in a cloud of darkness, in which I heard a dismal outcry, though - I could see no one. Yet these words of lamentation were audible: Woe unto us who have committed
ourselves to the black cloud, to be withdrawn from the circle covered with blood of Divine Grace, in which the grace of God, in his well-beloved Son, had enclosed us!'"*
I have at length concluded my account of the various degrees of vividness which our mental feelings undergo in a transition from the ordinary tranquil state of our waking moments to that extreme mental excitement, which gives rise to spectral impressions. It has been assumed, that ideas, from being more faint than sensations, become more intense.
Another transition remains to be briefly noticed, which is from the highest pitch of mental excitement to those medium states of the mind, which are characterized by coolness and tranquillity. But it is useless to dwell long upon this depression of mental feelings, as it presents phenomena the exact reverse of the last-described stages of excitement. Ideas, from being more intense than sensations, are, first, reduced to the same degree of vividness as actual impressions, when a mental unconsciousness, generally momentary, ensues; and, lastly, they become more faint than sensations.
* This vision I have quoted from Dr Ferriar's illustrations. See his Theory of Apparitions, page 78.
THE IMAGES OF SPECTRAL IMPRESSIONS DIFFER FROM THOSE OF DREAMS IN BEING MUCH MORE VIVID.
Videre somnia est à fortitudine imaginationis; sicut intelligere ea est à fortitudine intellectûs. ABDALA.
IN a former part of this work it was explained, that when ideas became more vivid than sensations, they were contemplated as present, or as actual impressions; while the least vivid feeling suggested the notion of past time. I then added, that the partial resemblance of spectral impressions to dreams would now perhaps be apparent; but that there was still a difference to be noticed in the circumstances under which they are severally produced. Before spectral impressions could arise, the vivid ideas of our waking hours must be raised to an unusually high degree of intensity; but during our moments of mental repose, a very slight degree of vividness imparted to the faint ideas of perfect sleep was sufficient to excite a similar illusion. Hence the images of spectral impressions differ from those of dreams, in being much more vivid.
It is then my object to illustrate, by a tabular view, the comparative degrees of vividness which subsist between the impressions of dreams and the illusive phantasms of our waking moments.