Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/730

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I cannot, of course, enumerate all the bodily conditions in which hallucinations appear, but there is one more which I shall mention particularly, because it has been the foundation of a prophetic or apostolic mission. It is not at all uncommon for a vivid hallucination of one or other of the senses, of hearing, of sight, of smell, of touch, of muscular sensibility, to precede immediately the unconsciousness of an epileptic fit. It may be a command or threat uttered in a distinct voice, or the figure of a person clearly seen, or a feeling of sinking into the ground or of rising into the air; and a common visual hallucination on such occasions is a flash, a halo, or a flood of bright or colored light, which makes a strong impression before the person falls unconscious. When he comes to himself he remembers it vividly, and believes, perhaps, that it was a vision of an angel of light or of the Holy Ghost. There can be no doubt that angelic apparitions and heavenly visions have sometimes had this origin. Proceeding from the sensory centre, not from the higher centres of thought, they are calculated to produce the stronger impression of their miraculous nature; for, if the person knows that he was not thinking of anything of the kind when the vision occurred, he will naturally be the more startled and affected by it. I might give many striking examples in proof of what I say, but I will content myself with an ordinary and comparatively recent one. Two or three years ago a laborer in the Chatham dock-yard, who was epileptic, and had once been in an asylum for insanity, suddenly split the skull of a fellow-laborer near him with an adze. There was no apparent motive for the deed, for the men were not on bad terms. He was, of course, tried for murder, but was acquitted by the jury on the ground of insanity, in accordance with the medical evidence, but directly in the teeth of a strong charge of the judge, and much to the disappointment of certain newspapers, whose editorial feelings are sadly harrowed whenever an insane person escapes from the gallows. He is now in the criminal asylum at Broadmoor, and he has told the medical officers there—what was not known at the trial—that some years before the murder he had received the Holy Ghost; that it came to him like a flash of light, and that his own eyes had been taken out, and other eyes, like balls of fire, substituted for them. A characteristic epileptic hallucination! Let us suppose that this man had undertaken some prophetic mission, as epileptics have done, and had put into it all the energy of his epileptic temperament, he would have declared with perfect sincerity, so far as he was concerned, that the Holy Ghost appeared to him in a vision as an exceeding bright light, and, behold! his own eyes were taken out and balls of fire were in their places.

Some persons maintain that the earliest visions of Mohammed, who, like Cæsar, was epileptic, were of this kind, and that his change of character and the assumption of his prophetic mission followed an epileptic vision. Tradition tells us that he was walking in solitude in the lonely defiles and valleys near Mecca, when every stone and tree greeted