Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/726

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
"The lunatic, the lover, and the poet,

Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold;
That is the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet's eye, in a tine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothings
A local habitation and a name."

Or I might adduce the case of the great Protestant Reformer, Luther, who is said—I know not how truly—to have thrown his inkstand at the devil on one occasion; at any rate the mark of the ink is still shown on the wall of the chamber which Luther occupied. True or not, there is nothing improbable in the story; for Luther, though endowed with great sagacity and extraordinary intellectual energy, entertained the common notions of the personality and the doings of the devil which were current among the people of his age. He pictured him very much as a Saxon peasant pictured him. It was the devil, he believed, who caused a great storm, and he declared that idiots, the blind, the lame, and the dumb, were persons in-whom devils had established themselves, and that physicians who tried to cure their infirmities as though they proceeded from natural causes were ignorant blockheads who knew nothing of the power of the demon. He speaks of the devil coming into his cell and making a great noise behind the stove, and of his hearing him walking in the cloister above his cell in the night; "but as I knew it was the devil," he says, "I paid no attention to him, and went to sleep."

This, then, is one way in which hallucination is produced—by the downward action of idea upon sense. My illustrations of this mode of production have been taken from sane minds, but the hallucinations of the insane are oftentimes generated in the same way. A person of shy, suspicious, and reserved nature, who imagines that people are thinking or speaking ill of him or going out of their way to do him harm, nurses his habit of moody suspicion until it grows to be a delusion that he is the victim of a conspiracy; he then sees evidence of it in the innocent gestures and words of friends with whom he holds intercourse, of servants who wait upon him, and of persons who pass him in the streets; these he misinterprets entirely, seeing in them secret signs, mysterious threats, criminal accusations. It may be pointed out to him that the words and gestures were perfectly natural and innocent, and that no one but himself can perceive the least offense in them; his belief is not touched by the demonstration, for his senses are enslaved by the dominant idea, and work only in its service. Sometimes an insane patient, who tastes poison in his food