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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/71

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MESCAL: A STUDY OF A DIVINE PLANT.

to prevent himself from staggering and more than usual energy to per-form even the simplest action. This may affect space-relations and one of my subjects found that in lifting a cup to his lips the distance traversed seemed very much more than usual; the same subject found that his ideas of time seemed to be disturbed, but on testing him with the watch his estimates were found to be fairly accurate.

The positive and active manifestations of mescal are always mainly if not entirely on the sensory side, and the motor weakness and sense of lassitude which is often present only throw the subject of mescal intoxication more absolutely at the mercy of the waves of unfamiliar sensory impetus which strike him from every side. Every sense is affected: apart from the various visionary influences, sounds become unfamiliar and abnormally acute, the sense of smell is stimulated or olfactory hallucinations may occur, the simplest food seems to possess an added relish, while there are vague skin sensations, and to the sense of touch the body seems as unfamiliar as everything else has become. I have elsewhere remarked, in illustration of the peculiar effects of this drug, that mescal seems to introduce us into the world in which Wordsworth lived or sought to live. The 'trailing clouds of glory,' the tendency to invest the very simplest things with an atmosphere of beauty, a 'light that never was on sea or land,' the new vision of even 'the simplest flower that blows,' all the special traits of Wordsworth's peculiar poetic vision correspond as exactly as possible to the actual and effortless experiences of the subject of mescal.

It should be added that a sense of well-being is not an essential part of these sensory manifestations. In this respect mescal is entirely unlike those drugs of which alcohol is the supreme type. Under the influence of a moderate dose of alcohol the specific senses are not obviously affected at all, but there is a vague and massive consciousness of emotional well-being, a sense of satisfaction tending to a conviction that 'all's well with the world.' Alcohol has a dulling influence on sensory activity and on the intellectual centers; and it may indeed be said that for the brain-worker whatever value the moderate use of alcohol may possess chiefly lies in the fact that after brain-work is over it helps to soothe undue brain-activity. Mescal, on the other hand, is not mainly emotional in its effects but mainly sensory and it leaves the intellect almost unimpaired even in large doses. It is true that at one stage of mescal intoxication, and more especially in quite healthy persons, there is a feeling of well-being, and even of beatitude, accompanied by an illusory sense of quite unusual intellectual activity; but there is no stage of maudlin emotionality; on the whole there is a condition of fairly unimpaired and alert intellect, untiringly absorbed in the contemplation of the strange world of new sensory phenomena into which the subject has been introduced.