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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/546

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

although they may be really no more than the products of one portion of the brain, which another portion of the same brain is engaged in contemplating, they often, through error, receive a religious sanction. This is notably the case among half-civilized races.

The number of great men who have been once, twice, or more frequently subject to hallucinations is considerable. A list, to which it would be easy to make large additions, is given by Brierre de Boismont ("Hallucinations," etc., 1862), from whom I translate the following account of the star of the first Napoleon, which he heard, second-hand, from General Rapp:

In 1806, General Rapp, on his return from the siege of Dantzic, having occasion to speak to the Emperor, entered his study without being announced. He found him so absorbed that his entry was unperceived. The General, seeing the Emperor continue motionless, thought he might be ill, and purposely made a noise. Napoleon immediately roused himself, and without any preamble, seizing Rapp by the arm, said to him, pointing to the sky, "Look there, up there." The General remained silent, but, on being asked a second time, he answered that he perceived nothing. "What!" replied the Emperor, "you do not see it? It is my star, it is before you, brilliant"; then animating by degrees, he cried out, "It has never abandoned me, I see it on all great occasions, it commands me to go forward, and it is a constant sign of good fortune to me."

It appears that stars of this kind, so frequently spoken of in history, and so well known as a metaphor in language, are a common hallucination of the insane. Brierre de Boismont has a chapter on the stars of great men. I can not doubt that fantasies of this description were in some cases the basis of that firm belief in astrology which not a few persons of eminence formerly entertained.

The hallucinations of great men may be accounted for in part by their sharing a tendency which we have seen to be not uncommon in the human race, and which, if it happens to be natural to them, is liable to be developed in their overwrought brains by the isolation of their lives. A man in the position of the first Napoleon could have no intimate associates; a great philosopher who explores ways of thought far ahead of his contemporaries must have an inner world in which he passes long and solitary hours. Great men are also apt to have touches of madness; the ideas by which they are haunted, and to whose pursuit they devote themselves, and by which they rise to eminence, have much in common with the monomania of insanity. Striking instances of great visionaries may be mentioned, who had almost beyond doubt those very nervous seizures with which the tendency to hallucinations is intimately connected. To take a single instance, Socrates, whose daimon was an audible not a visual appearance, was subject to what admits of hardly any other interpretation than cataleptic seizure, standing all night through in a rigid attitude.

It is remarkable how largely the visionary temperament has manifested itself in certain periods of history and epochs of national life.