Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/807

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789
DELUSIONS OF DOUBT.

'God thirteen!' or else, 'Infinity thirteen! eternity thirteen!' Yet he was perfectly accountable, for he wrote to me himself that it was absurd to figure God as thirteen for an instant, to prevent his ever being it. But, pursued by this incessantly returning obsession, he kept on repeating his mental prayer at every instant, and ended with not being able to continue his studies, or to devote himself to any serious occupation."

We come now to the history of a patient whose case I have especially in view, who presents to us an example of the delirium in its purest, most elevated, and most metaphysical form, and least complicated with any foreign element. He is a young man of about twenty-eight years, of an agreeable and intellectual appearance and a fine physical development. He is the fifth son of his father, who is still living, and has no other infirmity than a light trembling. No hereditary vice exists in his family, but the patient had convulsions in his infancy, the last of which occurred when he was eight years old; since then he has had no other sickness. The normal soundness of his development is proved by the fact that he is now the support of his family. He is employed in a bank, and his services are much appreciated there. He is very intelligent, but has never received any but a rudimentary education. He has never read Descartes nor the other philosophers, and, when he involuntarily touches upon the most abstruse questions, it may be said that he makes metaphysics without knowing it. He was working diligently and regularly at his desk in the bank, when, one morning in June, 1874, he observed a sudden and curious change occur in the appearance of objects, concerning the nature of which I can not give a clearer idea than by repeating his own description of his impressions:

"In the month of June, 1874," he writes, "I felt quite suddenly, without any pain or giddiness, a change in the aspect of my vision. Everything seemed to me strange and queer, although the same forms and colors were preserved. Under the mistaken thought that the disagreeable sensation would pass away as it had come, I gave myself no more-trouble about it, till a polypus made its appearance in my left nostril. I then went to a doctor and had him remove the polypus, without telling him anything about the new state of my vision. I thought the polypus was the cause of the strange appearance things presented to me, and that, when it was taken away, I would be all right again. But nothing of the kind came to pass. No remarkable change occurred till December, 1880, more than five years afterward, when I felt myself diminishing, and finally to disappear. Nothing was left of me but an empty body. From that time my personality has wholly vanished, and, in spite of all that I can do to get back that self that has escaped, I can not. Everything around me has become more and more strange; and now, not only do I not know what I am, but I can not give any account of what is called existence, reality.