restricted access Chapter 7: The Night of Apotheosis
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VII. THE NIGHT OF APOTHEOSIS1 It may be thought strange that, after that experience of infinite agony which I have last related, I should ever take hasheesh again. “Surely,” it will be said, “another experiment with the drug would be a daring venture into the realms of insanity and death. The gentlest name that could be applied to it is foolhardiness.” The morning immediately succeeding my night of horror found me as vigorous and buoyant as I ever was in my life. No pain, no feeling of lassitude remained, and on my face there was not the faintest record of the tortures through which I had passed. In the midst of the very astonishment with which I noted this fact, I felt assured that I had done myself no injury. Yet, mentally, I had the conception of being older by many years than on the night previous; all past experiences in life seemed separated from me by a measureless gulf of duration, and when the demon faces or the hellish songs of my vision flashed up into memory, I shuddered and turned my head as if they were close at hand. Quietly I made a resolve that I would experiment with the drug of sorcery no more, for I dreaded another plunge into the abyss of terror as I dreaded hell itself. Slowly passed away from my mind the image of my sufferings. The elastic force of thought threw off the weight of all direful remembrances , and whenever I recalled my last night of vision it was only to dwell with tenderness upon the roses of my valley, and exult in the echo of the pæans which had glorified my march. So beautiful did such memories make the inner world, that I wearied of the outer till it became utterly distasteful, like a heavy tragedy seen for the fortieth 020 c5-c11 (48-116) 4/26/06 10:28 AM Page 66 time. I tried in vain to detect in the landscape that ever-welling freshness of life which hasheesh unveils; trees were meaningless wood, the clouds a vapory sham. I thirsted for insight, adventure, strange surprises , and mystical discoveries. I took hasheesh again. I was sitting at the tea-table when the thrill smote me. I had handed my cup to Miss M‘Ilvaine to be replenished for the first time, and she was about restoring it to me brimming with that draught “which cheers but not inebriates.” I should be loth to calculate the are through which her hand appeared to me to travel on its way to the side of my plate. The wall grew populous with dancing satyrs; Chinese mandarins nodded idiotically in all the corners, and I felt strongly the necessity of leaving the table before I betrayed myself. I rose and hurried from the room. A friend of mine, thinking that I had been taken suddenly ill, immediately followed me. The look of wild delight with which I greeted him would have revealed my secret, even had I not spontaneously imparted it to him. In the first stages of his singular life, the hasheesh-eater finds so much that is strange, beautiful, or appalling, that he can restrain neither his outbursts of enthusiasm nor of pain. He is big with infinite arcana, which he feels he must disclose or perish. Gradually selfcontrol becomes with him more of a possibility, and finally it is stereotyped into a habit. In my earlier experience I found it beyond my power, even with the most agonizing efforts, to keep back the wonders which I saw, and accordingly, the moment that I found my brain expanding into the hasheesh-dome, I made it my wont to rush from the presence of all who ought not to share my secret. When many days had taught me lessons of self-retention, I sat frequently for hours charred in demoniac flames, or lifted into the seventh heaven of ecstasy, with a throng around me who could not have gained the faintest intimation from my manner of the processes which were going on within. When Sam2 joined me I was on the eve of another journey through vast territories. I say “Sam,” for I shall take the liberty of calling all my friends by those familiar names which imbody to me all that is loving, genial, and belonging to idiosyncrasy in my remembrance of them. Doubtless such a practice is discordant with courtly style in the most THE NIGHT OF APOTHEOSIS 67...