Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mesmeric Revelations

Adam Fuss, My Ghost, 1999

A Doctor speaking to a Patient under hypnosis (mesmerized), 1844

Dr. P: Are you asleep ?

Vankirk (patient): Yes - No I would rather sleep more soundly.

P: Do you sleep now ?

V: I must die.

P: Does the idea of death afflict you ?

V: No - no !

P: Are you pleased with the prospect ?

V: If I were awake I should like to die, but now it is no matter. The mesmeric condition is so near death as to content me.

P: I wish you would explain yourself, Mr. Vankirk.

V: You must begin at the beginning.

P: The beginning ! but where is the beginning ?

V: You know that the beginning is GOD.

P: What then is God ?

V: I cannot tell.

P: Is not God spirit ?

V: While I was awake I knew what you meant by "spirit," but now it seems only a word - such for instance as truth, beauty - a quality, I mean.

P: Is not God immaterial ?

V: There is no immateriality - it is a mere word. That which is not matter, is not at all - unless qualities are things.

P: Is God, then, material ?

V: No.


P: I do not comprehend. You say that man will never put off the body ?

V: I say that he will never be bodiless.

P: Explain.

V: There are two bodies - the rudimental and the complete ; corresponding with the two conditions of the worm and the butterfly. What we call "death," is but the painful metamorphosis. Our present incarnation is progressive, preparatory, temporary. Our future is perfected, ultimate, immortal. The ultimate life is the full design.

P: But of the worm's metamorphosis we are palpably cognizant.

V: We , certainly - but not the worm


As the sleep-waker pronounced these latter words, in a feeble tone, I observed on his countenance a singular expression, which somewhat alarmed me, and induced me to awake him at once. No sooner had I done this than, with a bright smile irradiating all his features, he fell back upon his pillow and expired. I noticed that in less than a minute afterward his corpse had all the stern rigidity of stone. His brow was of the coldness of ice. Thus, ordinarily, should it have appeared, only after long pressure from Azrael's hand. Had the sleep-waker, indeed, during the latter portion of his discourse, been addressing me from out the regions of the shadows?


Hippolyte Bayard, Self Portrait as a Drowned Man, 1840

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