Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/69

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59
MYTHOLOGIC PHILOSOPHY.

broken and inverted sequences. Now and then the dream-scenes are enacted in real life, and the infrequent coincidence or apparent verification makes deep impression on the mind, while unfulfilled dreams are forgotten. Thus the dreams of sleepers are attributed to their immaterial duplicates—their spirits. In many diseases, also, the mind seems to wander, to see sights, and to hear sounds, and to have many wonderful experiences, while the body itself is apparently unconscious. Sometimes on restored health, the person may recall these wonderful experiences, and during their occurrence the subject talks to unseen persons, and seems to have replies and to act, to those who witness, in such a manner that a second self—a spirit independent of the body—is suggested. When disease amounts to long-continued insanity, all of these effects are greatly exaggerated, and make a deep impression upon all who witness the phenomena. Thus the hallucinations of fever racked brains, and mad minds, are attributed to spirits.

The same conditions of apparent severance of mind and body witnessed in dreams and hallucinations are often produced artificially in the practice of ecstacism. In the vicissitudes of savage life, while little or no provision is made for the future, there are times when the savage resorts to almost anything at hand as a means of subsistence, and thus all plants and all parts of plants, seed, fruit, flowers, leaves, bark, roots—anything in times of extreme want—may be used as food. But experience soon teaches the various effects upon the human system which are produced by the several vegetable substances with which he meets, and thus the effect of narcotics is early discovered, and the savage in the practice of his religion oftentimes resorts to these native drugs for the purpose of producing an ecstatic state under which divination may be performed. The practice of ecstacism is universal in the lower stages of culture. In times of great anxiety, every savage and barbarian seeks to know of the future. Through all the earlier generations of mankind, ecstacism has been practiced, and civilized man has thus an inherited appetite for narcotics to which the enormous propensity to drunkenness existing in all nations bears witness. When the great actor in his personation of Rip Van Winkle holds his goblet aloft and says, "Here's to your health and to your family's, and may they live long and prosper," he connects the act of drinking with a prayer, and unconsciously demonstrates the origin of the use of stimulants. It may be that when the jolly companion has become a loathsome sot, and his mind is ablaze with the fire of drink, and he sees uncouth beasts in horrid presence, that inherited memories haunt him with visions of the beast-gods worshiped by his ancestors at the very time when the appetite for stimulants was created. But ecstacism is produced in other ways, and for this purpose the savage and barbarian often resorts to fasting and bodily torture. In many ways he produces the wonderful state, and the visions of ecstasy are interpreted as the evidence of spirits.