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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/75

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MESCAL: A STUDY OF A DIVINE PLANT.

real resemblance, sometimes in a striking manner, between the prevailing nature of the visions and the name of the piece. This was especially the case as regards Schumann's music. It would be worth while to carry out further experiments along this line, and on a variety of people, preferably non-musical people. It may be added that under some circumstances music itself evokes a train of visual imagery. Heine has somewhere described in detail the imagery called up when listening to Berlioz's music, and in 'Florentine Nights' he describes, in the person of his hero, the elaborate imagery evoked on hearing Paganini play, and remarks: "You know my second sight, my gift of seeing at each tone a figure equivalent to the sound, and so Paganini with each stroke of his bow brought visible forms and situations before my eyes; he told me in melodious hieroglyphics all kinds of brilliant tales; he, as it were, made a magic lantern play its colored antics before me, he himself being the chief actor." It would seem that in Heine's case music produced actual visual imagery, as under the influence of mescal. In this connection I may recall an account of visual imagery, as seen at a concert, recorded by Dr. Robert MacDougall.[1]

One is tempted to ask by what process we should conceive to ourselves that the action of mescal works on the organism. I think it is not impossible to hazard such an explanation, provided that we avoid the risks attending undue precision in our explanations. We are justified, it seems to me, in supposing that mescal effects its peculiar actions by producing a kind of violent but temporary neurasthenia and cerebrasthenia. In other words, it rapidly overstimulates and exhausts the nervous and cerebral apparatus, more especially on the sensory side. It is true that such an explanation might be said to apply to the action of many drugs, including all those that are commonly called stimulants. The day has gone by when it could be supposed that a stimulant put anything into the system. It acts not by putting energy into the system but by taking it out, and so rapidly producing a state of fatigue. The careful experiments of Féré with the ergograph have lately shown that all sorts of sensory stimulants, acting on various senses and not necessarily involving the use of drugs, produce an immediate increase in the output of muscular work, but that no sensory stimulant of any kind will enable us to do a total amount of work equal to that we can achieve without stimulants, because the sudden rise of output is more than compensated by the subsequent fall. So that by the use of stimulants, so far as output of work is concerned, we not only draw on our capital,


  1. 'Music Imagery,' Psychological Review, September, 1898. The cases in which some definite appearance is regularly associated with the sound of each instrument belong to an allied though different class; a case of this kind is recorded in Nature, March 6, 1890. Here, we approach the best known group of 'secondary sensations.'