restricted access Chapter 8: Vos Non Vobis -- Wherein the Pythagorean is a By-stander
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VIII. VOS NON VOBIS— WHEREIN THE PYTHAGOREAN IS A BY-STANDER1 The judgment that must be passed upon the hasheesh life in retrospect is widely different from the one which I formed during its progress. Now the drug, with all its revelation of interior mysteries, its glimpses of supernatural beauty and sublimity, appears as the very witch-plant of hell, the weed of madness. At the time of its daily use, I forgave it for all its pangs, for its cruel exercise of authority, its resistless fascination, and its usurpation of the place of all other excitement, at the intercession of the divine forms which it created for my soul, and which, though growing rarer and rarer, when they were present retained their glory until the last. Moreover , through many ecstasies and many pains, I still supposed that I was only making experiments, and that, too, in the most wonderful field of mind which could be opened for investigation, and with an agent so deluding in its influence that the soul only became aware that the strength of a giant was needed to escape when its locks were shorn. In accordance with these facts, I did not suppose that I was imperiling any friend of mine by giving him an opportunity to make the same experiment which he beheld producing in me phenomena so astonishing to a mind in love with research. Several of my intimate associates applied to me for the means of experimentally gratifying their curiosity upon the subject, and to some of them, as favorable opportunities presented themselves, I administered hasheesh, remaining by their side during the progress of the effects. In no other 020 c5-c11 (48-116) 4/26/06 10:28 AM Page 78 experience can difference of temperament, physical and mental, produce such varieties of phenomena; nowhere can we attain so well defined an idea of this difference. I shall, therefore, devote this chapter to the relation of some of the more remarkable of these cases. Upon William N——2 hasheesh produced none of the effects characteristic of fantasia. There was no hallucination, no volitancy of unusual images before the eye when closed. Circulation, however, grew to a surprising fullness and rapidity, accompanied by the same introversion of faculties and clear perception of all physical processes which startled me in my first experiment upon myself. There was stertorous breathing, dilatation of the pupil, and a drooping appearance of the eyelid, followed at last by a comatose state, lasting for hours, out of which it was almost impossible fully to arouse the energies . These symptoms, together with a peculiar rigidity of the muscular system, and inability to measure the precise compass and volume of the voice when speaking, brought the case nearer in resemblance to those recorded by Dr. O’Shaughnessy, of Calcutta,3 as occurring under his immediate inspection among the natives of India than any I have ever witnessed. In William N—— I observed, however, one phenomenon which characterizes hasheesh existence in persons of far different constitutions —the expansion of time and space. Walking with him a distance not exceeding a furlong, I have seen him grow weary and assume a look of hopelessness, which he explained by telling me that he never could traverse the immensity before him. Frequently, also, do I remember his asking to know the time thrice in as many minutes, and when answered, he exclaimed, “Is it possible? I supposed it an hour since I last inquired.” His temperament was a mixture of the phlegmatic4 and nervous, and he was generally rather unsusceptible to stimulus. I was anxious at the time that he should be favorably affected, since he had been, and afterward was still more so, in an eminent degree, the kind-hearted assuager of my sufferings and increaser of my joys in many an experience of hasheesh. To him I ran, many a time, for companionship in my hasheesh journeyings, and always found in him full appreciation and sympathy. WHEREIN THE PYTHAGOREAN IS A BY-STANDER 79 020 c5-c11 (48-116) 4/26/06 10:28 AM Page 79 I am now glad that he learned none of the fascination of the drug, for Heaven only, and not the hasheesh-eater in any wise, knows where it will lead him. One of my friends in college was a man to whom it would have been physically, spiritually, and morally impossible ever to have borne any other name than Bob,5 the name by which...