Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/110

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

subject after she had passed a few minutes in the syncope already described. She then returned to ordinary somnambulism, but Lucie 2 could not tell me a word of what had happened to Lucie 3, and supposed she had been asleep and said nothing." Thus we have the same difference between two successive stages of somnambulism as between the dream and the waking state. But as the stages 2 and 3 are evidently of the same nature, so we have a right to suppose that the dream and the waking, whose phenomena as to each other are similar, are likewise of the same nature.

In the ordinary experience of mankind we do not awake from our normal condition; but is it proved that there is never any awakening, any third state into which we may pass? The supposition of some such state into which we pass by death is one of the fundamentals of nearly all religions; and in this sense we might contemplate the possibility of an awakening in which we shall be astonished at having given ourselves up so completely to the world of sense, at having taken a passing state for the definite one, an ephemeral world for the sole and absolute world, a provisional existence for the real one.

Even among men as we find them, we see some making an approach to a third state, if not living in it. What is science but the revelation of a new world, different from the visible one? When we see light and colors, they tell us of an invisible ether with particles vibrating with almost incalculable rapidity; when we hear faint or loud sounds, sharp or grave, they tell of the more or less ample and rapid vibrations of matter. When we perceive a multiple or varied reality, it shows us the single phenomenon of motion. These formulas do not, however, signify, as some mistake, that light, color, and sound do not exist, but that there is something else; and that if we could gain new senses, a new universe would open out to us. This means, simply, that the scientific man is already half waked up from his ordinary life, and has half entered a new world.

Metaphysics is a waking up of this kind. A metaphysician who really believes his doctrines, like Plato or Spinoza, is already living in a new world and contemplating the supposed reality in which we are still immersed as a matter of indifference away off in the dim twilight. To him, what we regard as reality is only appearance, while the eternal rain of atoms or the play of immaterial forces, or whatever he supposes the world to be made of, is the true reality.

Religion is another such awakening, and to the devout man this life is only a provisional one, a trial, the prelude to the true life; and while he may regard the world of sense as real too, he looks forward to the superior reality, which it is the privilege of the elect