Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/327

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315
ON ACQUIRED PSYCHICAL HABITS.

duration, and can be less frequently procured by a voluntary effort; for the internal tempest becomes more violent, the torrents of disconnected ideas are so powerful as completely to arrest the attention, and the mind is gradually withdrawn altogether from the contemplation of external realities, being conscious only of its own internal workings. There is always preserved, however, a much greater amount of "self-consciousness" than exists in ordinary Dreaming; the condition rather corresponding with that in which the sleeper knows that he dreams, and, if his dream be agreeable, makes an effort to prolong it, being conscious of a fear lest he should by awaking cause the dissipation of the pleasant illusion.

It is another characteristic of the action of hashish that the succession of ideas has at first less of incoherence than in ordinary Dreaming, and the ideal events do not so far depart from possible realities; the disorder of the mind being at first manifested in errors of sense, in false convictions, or in the predominance of one or more extravagant ideas. These ideas and convictions are generally not altogether of an imaginary character, but are rather suggested by external impressions, these impressions being erroneously interpreted by the perceptive faculties, and giving origin, therefore, to fallacious notions of the objects which excited them. It is in that more advanced stage of the "fantasia' which immediately precedes the complete withdrawal of the mind from external things, and in which the self-consciousness and power of the Will are weakened, that this perverted impressibility becomes most remarkable, more especially as the general excitement of the Feelings causes the erroneous notions to have a powerful effect in arousing them.

"We become," says H. Moreau, "the sport of impressions of the most opposite kind; the continuity of our ideas may be broken by the slightest cause. We are turned, to use a common expression, by every wind. By a word or a gesture our thoughts may be successively directed to a multitude of different subjects with a rapidity and a lucidity which are truly marvellous. The mind becomes possessed with a feeling of pride corresponding with the exaltation of its faculties, of whose increase in energy and power it becomes conscious. It will be entirely dependent on the circumstances in which we are placed, the objects which strike our eyes, the words which fall on our ears, whether the most lively sentiments of gayety or of sadness shall be produced, or passions of the most opposite character shall be excited, sometimes with extraordinary violence; for irritation shall rapidly pass into rage, dislike to hatred and desire of vengeance, and the calmest affection to the most transporting passion. Fear becomes terror, courage is developed into rashness, which nothing checks, and which seems not to be conscious of danger, and the most unfounded doubt or suspicion becomes a certainty. The Mind has a tendency to exaggerate every thing; and the slightest impulse carries it along. Those who make use of the Hashish in the East, when they wish to give themselves up to the intoxication of the fantasia, take care to withdraw themselves from every thing which could give to their delirium a tendency to melancholy, or excite in them any thing else than feelings of pleasurable enjoyment; but they profit by all the means which the dissolute manners of the East place at their disposal."