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EFFECT OF MEDICINE ON PERCEPTIONS.
Before doing so, however, one or two remarks touching current objections may here be in place.
It has usually been taken for granted that, if medicine shall have removed a perception, it was unreal. This does not follow. An actual perception may, for aught we know, depend on a peculiar state of the nervous system, and may be possible during that state only; and that state may be changed or modified by drugs. Our senses frequently are, for a time, so influenced; the sense of sight, for example, by belladonna. I found in England several ladies, all in the most respectable class of society, who have had, to a greater or less extent, the perception of apparitions; though they do not speak of this faculty or delusion (let the reader select either term) beyond the circle of their immediate friends. One of these ladies, in whose case the perception has existed from early infancy, informed me that it was suspended by indisposition, even by a severe cold. In this case, any medicine which removed the disease restored the perception.
Some writers have attempted to show that hallucination is epidemical, like the plague or the small-pox. If this be true at all, it is to an extent so trifling and under circumstances so peculiar that it can only be regarded as a rare exception to a general rule.* De Gasparin
* I find in De Boismont's elaborate work on Hallucinations but a single example detailed of what may be regarded as a collective hallucination, and that given (p. 72) on the authority of Bovet, and taken from his "Pandemonium, or The Devil's Cloyster," published in 1684, (p. 202;) not the most conclusive evidence, certainly. It is, besides, but the case of two men alleged to have seen, at the same time, the same apparition of certain richly-dressed ladies. But one of these men was at the time in a stupor, apparently suffering from nightmare, and did not speak of the vision at all until it was suggested to him by the other. We know, however, that suggestions made to a sleeping man sometimes influence his dreams. (See Abercrombie's "Intellectual Powers," 15th ed., London, 1857, pp. 202, 203.) A case cited and vouched for by Dr. Wigan (“ Duality of the Mind,” Lon
IS THERE EVIDENCE
seeks to prove the contrary of this* by reminding us that in Egypt, in the time of Justinian, all the world is said to have seen black men without heads sailing in brazen barks; that during an epidemic that once depopulated Constantinople the inhabitants saw demons passing along the streets from house to house, dealing death as they passed; that Thucydides speaks of a general invasion of specters which accompanied the great plague at Athens; that Pliny relates how, during the war of the Romans against the Cimbrians, the clash of arms and the sound of trumpets were heard, as if coming from the sky; that Pausanias writes that, long after the action at Marathon, there were heard each night on the field of battle the neighing of horses and the shock of armies; that at the battle of Platea the heavens resounded with fearful cries, ascribed by the Athenians to the god Pan; and so on.
Of these appearances some were clearly illusions, not hallucinations; and as to the rest, M. de Gasparin is too sensible a writer not to admit that "many of these anecdotes are false and many are exaggerated."+ For myself, it would be almost as easy to convince me, on the faith of a remote legend, that these marvelous sights and sounds had actually existed, as that large numbers of men concurred in the conviction that they
don, 1844, pp. 166 et seq.) does not prove that hallucination may be of a collective character, though sometimes adduced to prove it.
Writers who believe in second-sight (as Martin, in his "Description of the Western Islands of Scotland") allege that if two men, gifted with that faculty, be standing together, and one of them, perceiving a vision, designedly touch the other, he also will perceive it. But we have no better evidence for this than for the reality of the faculty in question. And if secondsight be a real phenomenon, then such seers are not deceived by a hallu
"Des Tables Tournantes, du Surnaturel en Général, et des Esprits," par le Comte Agénor de Gasparin, Paris, 1855, vol. i. pp. 537 et seq. † De Gasparin's work already cited, vol. i. p. 538.
FOR EPIDEMICAL HALLUCINATIONS?
saw and heard them. The very details whicn accompany many of them suffice to discredit the idea they are adduced to prove. In the relation of Pausanias, for example, touching the nightly noises on the battle-field of Marathon, we read that those who were attracted to the spot by curiosity heard them not: it was to the chance traveler only, crossing the haunted spot without premeditation, that the phantom horses neighed and the din of arms resounded. Imagination or expectation, it would seem, had nothing to do with it. It was a local phenomenon. Can we believe it to have been a perversion of the sense of hearing? If we do, we admit that hallucination may be endemic as well as epidemic.
I would not be understood as denying that there have been times and seasons during which instances of hallucination have increased in frequency beyond the usual rate. That which violently excites the mind often reacts morbidly on the senses. But this does not prove the position I am combating. The reaction consequent upon the failure of the first French Revolution, together with the horrors of the reign of terror, so agitated and depressed the minds of many, that in France suicides became frequent beyond all previous example. Yet it would be a novel doctrine to assert that suicide is of a contagious or epidemical character.
De Boismont reminds us that considerable assemblages of men ("des réunions considérables") have been the dupes of the same illusions. "A cry," he says, "suffices to affright a multitude. An individual who thinks he sees something supernatural soon causes others, as causes others, as little enlightened as he, to share his conviction.' sions, both optical and oral, this is undoubtedly true; more especially when these present themselves in times
"Des Hallucinations," p. 128.
As to illu
THE FANCIFUL AND THE REAL.
of excitement, as during a battle or a plague,—or when they are generated in twilight gloom or midnight darkBut that the contagion of example, or the belief of one individual under the actual influence of hallucination, suffices to produce, in others around, disease of the retina or of the optic or auditory nerve, or, in short, any abnormal condition of the senses, is a supposition which, so far as my reading extends, is unsupported by any reliable proof whatever.
The hypothesis of hallucination, then, is, in a general way, untenable in cases where two or more independent observers perceive the same or a similar appearance. But, since we know that hallucination does occur, that hypothesis may, in cases where there is but a single observer, be regarded as the more natural one, to be rebutted only by such attendant circumstances as are not explicable except by supposing the appearance real.
Bearing with us these considerations, let us now endeavor to separate, in this matter, the fanciful from the real. In so doing, we may find it difficult to preserve the just mean between too ready admission and too strenuous unbelief. If the reader be tempted to suspect in me easy credulity, let him beware on his part of arrogant prejudgment. "Contempt before inquiry," says Paley, "is fatal." Discarding alike prejudice and superstition, adopting the inductive method, let us seek to determine whether, even if a large portion of the thousand legends of ghosts and apparitions that have won credence in every age be due to hallucination, there be not another portion-the records of genuine. phenomena-observed by credible witnesses and attested by sufficient proof.
APPARITIONS OF THE LIVING.
WHEN, in studying the subject of apparitions, I first met an alleged example of the appearance of a living person at a distance from where that person actually was, I gave to it little weight. And this the rather because the example itself was not sufficiently attested. It is related and believed by Jung Stilling as having occurred about the years 1750 to 1760, and is to this effect.
There lived at that time, near Philadelphia, in a lonely house and in a retired manner, a man of benevolent and pious character, but suspected to have some occult power of disclosing hidden events. It happened that a certain sea-captain having been long absent and no letter received from him, his wife, who lived near this man, and who had become alarmed and anxious, was advised to consult him. Having heard her story, he bade her wait a little and he would bring her an answer. Thereupon he went into another room, shutting the door; and there he stayed so long that, moved by curiosity, she looked through an aperture in the door to ascertain what he was about. Seeing him lying motionless on a sofa, she quickly returned to her place. Soon after, he came out, and told the woman that her husband was at that time in London, in a certain coffeehouse which he named, and that he would soon return. He also stated the reasons why his return had been delayed and why he had not written to her; and she went home somewhat reassured. When her husband did return, they found, on comparing notes, that every thing