Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/729

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there." The religious ascetic who withdrew himself from the society of men to some solitary place in the desert or to some cave in the hills, there passing his lonely life in prayer and meditation, and mortifying his body with long fastings and frequent scourgings, brought himself to such a state of irritable exhaustion that he commonly saw, according to his mood of feeling, either visions of angels and saints who consoled him in his sufferings, or visions of devils who tempted and tormented him.[1] The shipwrecked sailor, when delirious from the exhaustion produced by want of food and drink, sometimes has attractive visions of green fields and pleasant streams, and cannot be prevented from throwing himself overboard in the mad desire to reach them. The dying person, in the last stage of exhaustion from a wasting disease, has had his deathbed visions of joy or of horror; the good man, whose mind was at rest, has been comforted by visions of heaven; the wicked man, whose troubled conscience would not let him die in peace, has been terrified with spectres of horror—the murderer, perhaps, by the accusing apparition of his victim. These were thought at one time to be supernatural visitations; they are known now to be for the most part hallucinations, such as occur in the last stage of flickering life, when, to use Shakespeare's words—

"His brain doth, by the idle comments that it makes,
Foretell the ending of mortality."[2]

  1. This is a Mohammedan receipt for summoning spirits:

    "Fast seven days in a lonely place, and take incense with you, such as benzoin, aloes wood, mastic, and odoriferous wood from Soudan, and read the chapter 1001 times (from the Koran) in the seven days—a certain number of readings, namely, for every one of the five daily prayers. That is the secret, and you will see indescribable wonders; drums will be beaten beside you, and flags hoisted over your head, and you will see spirits full of light and of beautiful and benign aspect."—"Upper Egypt; its People and Products," by Dr. Klunzinger, p. 386.

    An acquaintance of his, who had undergone the course of self-mortification, said that he really saw all kinds of horrible forms in his magic circle, but he saw them also when his eyes were shut. At last he got quite terrified and left the place.

  2. In the second part of "Henry VI.," Shakespeare gives an instance of a fearful death-bed hallucination, when Cardinal Beaufort is at the point of death:

    "King. How fares my lord? Speak, Beaufort, to thy sovereign.
    Cardinal. If thou be'st death, I'll give thee England's treasure,
    Enough to purchase such another island,
    So thou wilt let me live, and feel no pain.
    King. Ah, what a sign it is of evil life,
    Where death's approach is seen so terrible!
    Warwick. Beaufort, it is thy sovereign speaks to thee.
    Car. Bring me unto the trial when you will.
    Died he not in his bed? where should he die?
    Can I make men live, whether they will or no?
    Oh, torture me no more! I will confess.
    Alive again? then show me where he is:
    I'll give a thousand pounds to look upon him.
    He hath no eyes, the dust hath blinded them.
    Comb down his hair; look, look, it stands upright,
    Like lime-twigs set to catch my wingèd soul.
    Give me some drink; and bid the apothecary
    Bring the strong poison that I bought of him."