MESMERIC REVELATIONby Edgar Allan Poe
its startling facts are now almost universally admitted. Of these latter, those who doubt, are your mere doubters by profession - an unprofitable and disreputable tribe. There can be no more absolute waste of time than the attempt to prove, at the present day, that man, by mere exercise of will, can so impress his fellow, as to cast him into an abnormal condition, of which the phenomena resemble very closely those of death, or at least resemble them more nearly than they do the phenomena of any other normal condition within our cognizance ; that, while in this state, the person so impressed employs only with effort, and then feebly, the external organs of sense, yet perceives, with keenly refined perception, and through channels supposed unknown, matters beyond the scope of the physical organs ; that, moreover, his intellectual faculties are wonderfully exalted and invigorated ; that his sympathies with the person so impressing him are profound ; and, finally, that his susceptibility to the impression increases with its frequency, while, in the same proportion, the peculiar phenomena elicited are more extended and more pronounced.
question, (Mr. Vankirk,) and the usual acute susceptibility and exaltation of the mesmeric perception had supervened. For many months he had been laboring under confirmed phthisis, the more distressing effects of which had been relieved by my manipulations ; and on the night of Wednesday, the fifteenth instant, I was summoned to his bedside.
heart, and breathed with great difficulty, having all the ordinary symptoms of asthma. In spasms such as these he had usually found relief from the application of mustard to the nervous centres, but to-night this had been attempted in vain.
although evidently in much bodily pain, appeared to be, mentally, quite at ease.
to my bodily ailment, as to satisfy me concerning certain psychal impressions which, of late, have occasioned me much anxiety and surprise. I need not tell you how sceptical I have hitherto been on the topic of the soul's immortality. I cannot deny that there has always existed, as if in that very soul which I have been denying, a vague half-sentiment of its own existence. But this half-sentiment at no time amounted to conviction. With it my reason had nothing to do. All attempts at logical inquiry resulted, indeed, in leaving me more sceptical than before. I had been advised to study Cousin. I studied him in his own works as well as in those of his European and American echoes. The 'Charles Elwood' of Mr. Brownson, for example, was placed in my hands. I read it with profound attention. Throughout I found it logical, but the portions which were not merely logical were unhappily the initial arguments of the disbelieving hero of the book. In his summing up it seemed evident to me that the reasoner had not even succeeded in convincing himself. His end had plainly forgotten his beginning, like the government of Trinculo. In short, I was not long in perceiving that if man is to be intellectually convinced of his own immortality, he will never be so convinced by the mere abstractions which have been so long the fashion of the moralists of England, of France, and of Germany. Abstractions may amuse and exercise, but take no hold on the mind. Here upon earth, at least, philosophy, I am persuaded, will always in vain call upon us to look upon qualities as things. The will may assent - the soul - the intellect, never.
believed. But latterly there has been a certain deepening of the feeling, until it has come so nearly to resemble the acquiescence of reason, that I find it difficult to distinguish between the two. I am enabled, too, plainly to trace this effect to the mesmeric influence. I cannot better explain my meaning than by the hypothesis that the mesmeric exaltation enables me to perceive a train of ratiocination which, in my abnormal existence, convinces, but which, in full accordance with the mesmeric phenomena, does not extend, except through its effect, into my normal condition. In sleep-waking, the reasoning and its conclusion - the cause and its effect - are present together. In my natural state, the cause vanishing, the effect only, and perhaps only partially, remains.
results might ensue from a series of well-directed questions propounded to me while mesmerized. You have often observed the profound self-cognizance evinced by the sleep-waker - the extensive knowledge he displays upon all points relating to the mesmeric condition itself ; and from this self-cognizance may be deduced hints for the proper conduct of a catechism."
threw Mr. Vankirk into the mesmeric sleep. His breathing became immediately more easy, and he seemed to suffer no physical uneasiness. The following conversation then ensued: - V. in the dialogue representing the patient, and P. myself.
P. Are you asleep ?
I must die.
matter. The mesmeric condition is so near death as to content me.
feel able to make. You do not question me properly.
low, fluctuating tone, and with every sign of the most profound veneration.]
now it seems only a word - such for instance as truth, beauty - a quality, I mean.
is not matter, is not at all - unless qualities are things.
a thing difficult to tell. [Another long pause.] He is not spirit, for he exists. Nor is he matter, as you understand it. But there are gradations of matter of which man knows nothing ; the grosser impelling the finer, the finer pervading the grosser. The atmosphere, for example, impels the electric principle, while the electric principle permeates the atmosphere. These gradations of matter increase in rarity or fineness, until we arrive at a matter unparticled - without particles - indivisible - one and here the law of impulsion and permeation is modified. The ultimate, or unparticled matter, not only permeates all things but impels all things - and thus is all things within itself. This matter is God. What men attempt to embody in the word "thought," is this matter in motion.
motion and thinking, and that the latter is the origin of the former.
action of mind - not of thinking. The unparticled matter, or God, in quiescence, is (as nearly as we can conceive it) what men call mind. And the power of self-movement (equivalent in effect to human volition) is, in the unparticled matter, the result of its unity and omniprevalence ; how I know not, and now clearly see that I shall never know. But the unparticled matter, set in motion by a law, or quality, existing within itself, is thinking.
unparticled matter ?
gradation. We have, for example, a metal, a piece of wood, a drop of water, the atmosphere, a gas, caloric, electricity, the luminiferous ether. Now we call all these things matter, and embrace all matter in one general definition ; but in spite of this, there can be no two ideas more essentially distinct than that which we attach to a metal, and that which we attach to the luminiferous ether. When we reach the latter, we feel an almost irresistible inclination to class it with spirit, or with nihility. The only consideration which restrains us is our conception of its atomic constitution ; and here, even, we have to seek aid from our notion of an atom, as something possessing in infinite minuteness, solidity, palpability, weight. Destroy the idea of the atomic constitution and we should no longer be able to regard the ether as an entity, or at least as matter. For want of a better word we might term it spirit. Take, now, a step beyond the luminiferous ether - conceive a matter as much more rare than the ether, as this ether is more rare than the metal, and we arrive at once (in spite of all the school dogmas) at a unique mass - an unparticled matter. For although we may admit infinite littleness in the atoms themselves, the infinitude of littleness in the spaces between them is an absurdity. There will be a point - there will be a degree of rarity, at which, if the atoms are sufficiently numerous, the interspaces must vanish, and the mass absolutely coalesce. But the consideration of the atomic constitution being now taken away, the nature of the mass inevitably glides into what we conceive of spirit. It is clear, however, that it is as fully matter as before. The truth is, it is impossible to conceive spirit, since it is impossible to imagine what is not. When we flatter ourselves that we have formed its conception, we have merely deceived our understanding by the consideration of infinitely rarified matter.
of absolute coalescence ; - and that is the very slight resistance experienced by the heavenly bodies in their revolutions through space
the ratio of its apparent unanswerability. - As regards the progress of the star, it can make no difference whether the star passes through the ether or the ether through it. There is no astronomical error more unaccountable than that which reconciles the known retardation of the comets with the idea of their passage through an ether: for, however rare this ether be supposed, it would put a stop to all sidereal revolution in a very far briefer period than has been admitted by those astronomers who have endeavored to slur over a point which they found it impossible to comprehend. The retardation actually experienced is, on the other hand, about that which might be expected from the friction of the ether in the instantaneous passage through the orb. In the one case, the retarding force is momentary and complete within itself - in the other it is endlessly accumulative.
with God - is there nothing of irreverence ? [I was forced to repeat this question before the sleep-waker fully comprehended my meaning.]
mind ? But you forget that the matter of which I speak is, in all respects, the very "mind" or "spirit" of the schools, so far as regards its high capacities, and is, moreover, the "matter" of these schools at the same time. God, with all the powers attributed to spirit, is but the perfection of matter.
is thought ?
universal mind. This thought creates. All created things are but the thoughts of God.
matter is necessary.
unparticled or ultimate matter ; by "matter," I intend all else.
create individual, thinking beings, it was necessary to incarnate portions of the divine mind. Thus man is individualized. Divested of corporate investiture, he were God. Now, the particular motion of the incarnated portions of the unparticled matter is the thought of man ; as the motion of the whole is that of God.
is an absurdity.
corporate investiture man were God."
be unindividualized. But he can never be thus divested - at least never will be - else we must imagine an action of God returning upon itself - a purposeless and futile action. Man is a creature. Creatures are thoughts of God. It is the nature of thought to be irrevocable.
the body ?
corresponding with the two conditions of the worm and the butterfly. What we call "death," is but the painful metamorphosis. Our present incarnation is progressive, preparatory, temporary. Our future is perfected, ultimate, immortal. The ultimate life is the full design.
our rudimental body is composed, is within the ken of the organs of that body ; or, more distinctly, our rudimental organs are adapted to the matter of which is formed the rudimental body ; but not to that of which the ultimate is composed. The ultimate body thus escapes our rudimental senses, and we perceive only the shell which falls, in decaying, from the inner form ; not that inner form itself
resembles death. How is this ?
resembles the ultimate life ; for when I am entranced the senses of my rudimental life are in abeyance, and I perceive external things directly, without organs, through a medium which I shall employ in the ultimate, unorganized life.
brought into sensible relation with particular classes and forms of matter, to the exclusion of other classes and forms. The organs of man are adapted to his rudimental condition, and to that only ; his ultimate condition, being unorganized, is of unlimited comprehension in all points but one - the nature of the volition of God - that is to say, the motion of the unparticled matter. You will have a distinct idea of the ultimate body by conceiving it to be entire brain. This it is not ; but a conception of this nature will bring you near a comprehension of what it is. A luminous body imparts vibration to the luminiferous ether. The vibrations generate similar ones within the retina ; these again communicate similar ones to the optic nerve. The nerve conveys similar ones to the brain
rudimental thinking beings than man ?
nebulæ, planets, suns, and other bodies which are neither nebulæ, suns, nor planets, is for the sole purpose of supplying pabulum for the idiosyncrasy of the organs of an infinity of rudimental beings. But for the necessity of the rudimental, prior to the ultimate life, there would have been no bodies such as these. Each of these is tenanted by a distinct variety of organic, rudimental, thinking creatures. In all, the organs vary with the features of the place tenanted. At death, or metamorphosis, these creatures, enjoying the ultimate life - immortality - and cognizant of all secrets but the one, act all things and pass everywhere by mere volition: - indwelling, not the stars, which to us seem the sole palpabilities, and for the accommodation of which we blindly deem space created - but that SPACE itself - that infinity of which the truly substantive vastness swallows up the star-shadows -- blotting them out as non-entities from the perception of the angels.
life" there would have been no stars. But why this necessity ?
generally, there is nothing to impede the action of one simple unique law - the Divine Volition. With the view of producing impediment, the organic life and matter, (complex, substantial, and law-encumbered,) were contrived.
negative happiness. The result of law violate is imperfection, wrong, positive pain. Through the impediments afforded by the number, complexity, and substantiality of the laws of organic life and matter, the violation of law is rendered, to a certain extent, practicable. Thus pain, which in the inorganic life is impossible, is possible in the organic.
sufficient analysis will show that pleasure, in all cases, is but the contrast of pain. Positive pleasure is a mere idea. To be happy at any one point we must have suffered at the same. Never to suffer would have been never to have been blessed. But it has been shown that, in the inorganic life, pain cannot be thus the necessity for the organic. The pain of the primitive life of Earth, is the sole basis of the bliss of the ultimate life in Heaven.
impossible to comprehend - "the truly substantive vastness of infinity."
conception of the term "substance" itself. We must not regard it as a quality, but as a sentiment: - it is the perception, in thinking beings, of the adaptation of matter to their organization. There are many things on the Earth, which would be nihility to the inhabitants of Venus - many things visible and tangible in Venus, which we could not be brought to appreciate as existing at all. But to the inorganic beings - to the angels - the whole of the unparticled matter is substance - that is to say, the whole of what we term "space" is to them the truest substantiality ; - the stars, meantime, through what we consider their materiality, escaping the angelic sense, just in proportion as the unparticled matter, through what we consider its immateriality, eludes the organic.
As the sleep-waker pronounced these latter words, in a feeble tone, I observed on his countenance a singular expression, which somewhat alarmed me, and induced me to awake him at once. No sooner had I done this, than, with a bright smile irradiating all his features, he fell back upon his pillow and expired. I noticed that in less than a minute afterward his corpse had all the stern rigidity of stone. His brow was of the coldness of ice. Thus, ordinarily, should it have appeared, only after long pressure from Azrael's hand. Had the sleep-waker, indeed, during the latter portion of his discourse, been addressing me from out the region of the shadows ?
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