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 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----- 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, dilation 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, 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 phlegmatic 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.
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, the name by which he was called among all his intimates, and which has an air eminently expressive of his nature. Impulsive, enthusiastic in his affections, generous to a fault; excitable, fond of queer researches and romantic ventures, there is no other cognomen which would so typify him as to give more than a shadow image of his constitution -- none which would so incarnate him as not to leave some elbow of his inner being sticking out in the improper place. It is not surprising that a person of his temperament found much in the hasheesh condition that was strikingly attractive.
At half past seven in the evening, and consequently after supping instead of before, as I should have preferred, he took twenty-five grains of the drug. This may seem a large bolus to those who are aware that from fifteen grains I frequently got the strongest cannabine effect; but it must be kept in mind that, to secure the full phenomena, a much greater dose is necessary in the first experiment than ever after. Unlike all other stimuli with which I am acquainted, hasheesh, instead of requiring to be increased in quantity as existence in its use proceeds, demands rather a diminution, seeming to leave, at the return of the natural state (if I may express myself by a rather material analogy), an unconsumed capital of exaltation for the next indulgence to set up business upon.
From the untoward lateness of the hour at which the dose was administered, it was half past ten o'clock before any effects began to show themselves in this case. At that time Bob, and Edward, the reading man, to whose favorable notice I had presented myself under the guise of a hippopotamus, were both seated, together with myself, in a well-lighted room, conversing. Suddenly Bob leaped up from the lounge on which he had been lying, and, with loud peals of laughter, danced wildly over the room. A strange light was in his eyes, and he gesticulated furiously, like a player in pantomine. I was not in the least surprised by these symptoms, for I realized precisely the state of mind through which he was passing; yet my other companion was astonished even to terror with the idea that the experimenter would permanently lose his sanity. Suddenly he stopped dancing, and trembling, as with an undefinable fear, he whispered, "What will become of me?" This question distinctly recalled all the horrible apprehensions of my first experiment; and, though satisfied of the perfect harmlessness of the result, I saw the necessity of steadying the sufferer's mind upon my own firm assurance of his safety, for the sake of giving him quiet and endurance. I replied, "Trust me, however singularly you may feel, you have not the slightest cause for fear. I have been where you are now, and, upon my honor, guarantee you an unharmed return. No evil will result to you; abandon yourself to the full force of your feelings with perfect confidence that you are in no danger." Entirely new and unconceived as is the hasheesh-world, viewed for the first time, the man of greatest natural courage is no more capable of bearing its tremendous realities, unbraced by some such exterior support, than the most feeble woman.
The delirius, now rapidly mounting to its height, made it better that Bob should exert the supernatural activity with which he was endued out of doors, where the air was freer and less constraint was necessary. Clothing my words in as imaginative garb as I was master of, I therefore proposed to him that we should set out on a journey through the wonderful lands of vision. We were soon upon the pavement, he leaping in unbounded delight at the prospect of the grand scenery to come, I ready to humor to the utmost any pleasing fantasy which might possess him; and in the absence of such, or the presence of the contrary, to suggest fine avenues for his thought to follow-up.
It will of course be perceived that I labor under a great disadvantage from being compelled to relate the progress of subjective states from an objective point of view. My authority for all that I shall give in this case will be my own observation of outward phenomena and my friend's statement of interior ones, which he gave to me upon returning to consciousness. These latter were expressed with a height of ideality which I feel myself incompetent to give, and gave evidence of as remarkable an inner condition as I have ever known hasheesh to produce.
On our first leaving the steps of the building, a grand mosque rose upon his vision in the distance, its minarets flaunting with innumerable crescent- emblazoned flags. A mighty plain, covered with no other than a stinted grass, stretched between him and the mosque. Mounted upon Arab horses, with incredible swiftness we sped side by side toward the structure; and I knew when this imagination took place by the answers which he returned me upon my inquiry into the reasons of his prancing as we went. Before we reached the walls, arch and minaret had vanished, and, metamorphosed into an ostrich, he scoured the desert reaches, now utterly void of any human sign. Of this fact also I became aware at the moment from his own lips; for, although in perfect hallucination, the dual existence, as in me, was still perfectly capable of expressing its own states.
It is not one of the least singular facts of hasheesh that its fantasia almost invariably takes an Oriental form. This can not be explained upon the hypothesis that the experimenter remembers it as an indulgence in use among the people of the East, for at the acme of the delirium there is no consciousness remaining in the mind of its being an unnatural state. The very idea of the drug is utterly forgotten, and present reality shuts out all inquiry into grounds for belief. The only supposition which at all accounts for the fact to my own mind is that the hasheesh is the antecedent instead of the result of the peculiar characteristics of Oriental mind and manners. The Turk and the Syrian are indeed situated amid surroundings well calculated to stimulate the imaginative nature. A delicious sky, a luxuriant vegetation, and scenery like that of the Bosporous and Damascus are eminently calculated for fascination to dreams and poesy, but then hasheesh comes bearing an unutterably grander and richer gratification to the same music and odor haunted sense, and makes the highest tone in a harmony already beautiful almost beyond all that earth posesses.
To us, of a mistier atmosphere, yet far more lively perceptions of the very principle of beauty, the drug brings a similar wealth of visions, and, conjoining its influence with a greater scope of sight and strength of thought than the Oriental ever possesses, fills up all deficiencies of exterior sun and landscape by borrowing from the activities of the experimenter.
Eastern architecture, and, in fine, the sum total of Eastern manners, are all the embodiment and symbol of Eastern mind. That mind, or at least its specialty of condition, is very much the product of those stimulants which are in use throughout that portion of the world, and among these hasheesh holds the regency, as swaying the broadest domain of mind, and most authoritatively ruling all faculties within it. It is therefore the case that, wherever this drug comes into contact with a sensitive organization, the same fruit of supernatural beauty or horror will characterize the visions produced. It is hasheesh which makes both the Syrian and the Saxon Oriental.
That this hypothesis is more than mere vagary, it appears to me, may be proved by numerous parallels running through other nations than the Eastern. It is not mere murky weather, chill winds, and sudden changes of temperature which have built up the walls of reserve in manner and masonry in architecture around the Englishman. His national stimulus is beer, mildly toned by the moderate use of tobacco; his mental result is reticence, solidity, reflectiveness.
Nor does the newness of his country, the peculiarities of his climate, and the demand of his age for rapidity of action alone erect for the American his airy structures, rising with a fungus-vitality from basement to cope in a fortnight, and the pale fence of frankness, which permits insight into all his thoughts. His infants stretch supplicating hands from the cradle toward their father's tobacco-box; the olive-plants around his table are as regularly fumigated as if they were in a green-house; his gray-beard uncle (whenever an American takes time lo live so long) through all the house continually pipes a fragrant music, to which the remainder of the household do not refuse to dance, and from this most catholic transfusion of nicotine he results in that very anomalous, yet, on the whole, laudable product, our National Man. This man is a singular compound of the visionary and the actual: visionary, because (with other causes, to be sure) his stimulant makes him so; actual, because the necessity of hard work in the New World of intense activity demands it of him. His mind incarnates itself in structures whose decoration and rapidity of finish are accomplished at the risk of safety, permanence, and health, and in manners which caution and reserve only characterize when hard knocks against projecting angles of humanity have taught him the lesson of their needfulness.
His town house is the embodiment of the cigar, as the Briton's is that of the tankard, and the modes of living of both of them symbolize to a great degree the essence of their several stimulants.
In all civilized nations, the public works of architecture are an exception to this rule, for the design of the pile being more cosmopolitan, national idiosyncrasies are merged in the more comprehensive plan which contains within itself the garnered excellences of all worldly art. With the Turk it is not so; uncatholicized as is his nature, his mosque and his sultan's seraglio are as definite incarnations of generic peculiarity as his kiosk.
Excusing myself for this digression, I return to the details of the visions which I had commenced.
The night was much darker than it should have been for a hasheesh-eater's walk, who, it will be remembered, calls imperatively for light to tinge his visions. The hallucination of the ostrich still remaining, we passed out into the street through the stone gateway at the end of the college terrace. The sky above us was obscured by clouds, but the moon, now at her full, was about three breadths of her disk above the western horizon. I pointed through the trees to her radiant shield, and called Bob's attention to the peculiar beauty of the view. He clapped his hands in ecstasy, exclaiming, "Behold the eternal kingdom of the moonlight!" From that moment until the planet set, in this kingdom he walked. A silvery deliciousness transfused all things to his sight; his emotions rose and fell like tides with the thrill of the lunar influence. All that in past imaginings he had ever enjoyed of moonlit river views, terraces, castles, and slumberous gardens, was melted into this one vision of rapture.
At length the moon sank out of sight, and a thick darkness enveloped us in the lonely street, only relieved by the corner lamps, which dotted the long and drear prospective. For a while we walked silently. Presently I felt my companion shudder as he leaned upon my arm. "What is the matter, Bob?" I asked. "Oh! I am in unbearable horror," he replied. "If you can, save me!" "How do you suffer?" "This shower of soot which falls on me from heaven is dreadful!"
I sought to turn the current of his thoughts into another channel, but he had arrived at that place in his experience where suggestion is powerless. His world of the Real could not be changed by any inflow from ours of the Shadowy. I reached the same place in after days, and it was then as impossible for any human being to alter the condition which enwrapped me as it would have been for a brother on earth to stretch out his hands and rescue a brother writhing in the pains of immortality. There are men in Oriental countries who make it their business to attend hasheesh-eaters during the fantasia, and profess to be able to lead them constantly in pleasant paths of hallucination. If indeed they possess this power, the delirium which they control must be a far more ductile state than any I have witnessed occurring under the influence of hasheesh at its height. In the present instance I found all suggestion powerless. The inner actuality of the visions and the terror of external darkness both defeated me.
Again, for a short distance, we went without speaking. And now my friend broke forth into a faint, yet bitter cry of "Pray for me! I shall be lost!" Though still knowing that he was in no ultimate danger, I felt that it was vain to tell him so, and, granting his request, ejaculated, "Oh best and wisest God, give peace unto this man!" "Stop! stop!" spoke my friend; "that name is terrible to me; I can not hear it. I am dying; take me instantly to a physician."
Aware that, though no such physical need existed, there was still a great spiritual one if I would make him calm, I immediately promised him that I would do as he asked, and directed our course to the nearest doctor. Now, demoniac shapes clutched at him from the darkness, cloaked from head to foot in inky palls, yet glaring with fiery eyes from the depths of their cowls. I felt him struggling, and by main force dragged him from their visionary hands. The place wherein he seemed to himself to be walking wa a vast arena, encircled by tremendous walls. As from the bottom of a black barathrum, he looked up and saw the stars infinitely removed; they gazed mournfully at him with a human aspect of despairing pity, and he heard them faintly bewailing his perdition. Sulphureous fires rolled in the distance, upbearing on their waves agonized forms and faces of mockery, and demon watch-fires flared up fitfully on the impenetrable battlements around him. He did not speak a word, but I heard him groan with a tone that was full of fearful meaning.
And now, in the midst of the darkness, there suddenly stood a wheel like that of a lottery, surrounded by one luminous spot, which illustrated all its movements. It began slowly to revolve; its rapidity grew frightful, and out of its opening flew symbols which indicated to him, in refular succession, every minutest act of his past life: from his first unfilial disobedience in childhood -- the refusal upon a certain day, as far back as infancy, to go to school when it was enjoined upon him, up to the latest deed of impropriety he had committed -- all his existence flew before him like lightning in those burning emblems. Things utterly forgotten -- things at the time of their first presence considered trivial -- acts as small as the cutting of a willow wand, all fled by his sense in arrow-flight; yet he remembered them as real incidents, and recognized their order in his existence.
This phenomenon is one of the most striking exhibitions of the state in which the higher hasheesh exaltation really exists. It is a partial sundering, for the time, of those ties which unite soul and body. That spirit should ever lose the traces of a single impression is impossible. De Quincey's comparison of it to the palimpsest manuscripts, while it is one of the most powerful that even that great genius could have conceived, is not at all too much so to express the truth. We pass, in dreamy musing, through a grassy field; a blade of the tender herbage brushes against the foot; its impression hardly comes into consciousness; on earth it is never remembered again. But not even that slight sensation is utterly lost. The pressure of the body dulls the soul to its perception, other external experiences supplant it; but when the time of the final awakening comes, the ressurection of the soul from its charnel in the body, the analytic finger of inevitable light shall search out that old inscription, and to the spiritual eye no deep-graven record of its earthly triumphs shall be clearer.
The benumbing influences of the body protect us here from much of remorse and retrospective pining. Its weight lies heavily upon the inner sense, and deadens it to perception of multitudes of characters which, to be read, require acutest powers of discernment. When the body is removed, the barrier to the Past goes also.
This fact may perhaps be one of the final causes why the body exists at all. Why are we not born directly into the spiritual world, without having to pass through a weary preliminary experience hemmed in by the gross corporeal nature? May not the answer be something like this? Were the soul, at its first creation, introduced directly into the world where truth is an intuition, and stands in the dazzling light of its own essence, the dreadful sublimity of the view might prove its annihilation. We accordingly pass first through an apprenticeship, in which we have nothing colossal either to learn or to do; and eternal verities drawn on us slowly, instead of breaking in like lightning. The Phenomenal is at first all that we know; we have qualities and quantities, and through the period of infancy are content with novel acquisitions in this field. Next, we become aware of certain faculties of induction, investing us with the power of apprehending the Notional, which never comes within the grasp of Sense: we learn relations which exist only to the thought, yet are deemed still as valid experiences as if they were tasted or handled. Last of all, we mount into the Intuitional domain, and, without any of the props of Sense in any way to steady us, either by sensations perceived or suggesting relations, we know universal principles of Being face to face. Up this gradual stairway of Sense, Understanding, Intuition, we mount to that height from which we are able to behold, with some degree of calmness, the infinite fields of intuitive Beauty and Truth, when the screen of the bodily is removed, and the scope of vision belonging to our highest faulty is realized to be immeasurably beyond all that our most rapturous visions ever conceived it. Without this slow indoctrination, the soul might have flamed out in dazzling momentary irradiance, and then been extinguished in eternal nothingness.
If it be true that the bodily is thus our shield from the lethal glories of the purely spiritual world, and also from the full force of painful memories in the past, we can easily see how a most terrible retribution might be wreaked upon the soul by permitting it to stand through eternity without any covering to dim the events of its earthly time. Doubtless the spirit, interiorly in a state harmonious to the celestial concourse, will be invested with a spiritual body -- a body which, while it does not press heavily, like ours of the earthy, will still so condition states of mind as to permit no inflow but that of delightful impressions. But let the soul to which such societies and such garments are uncongenial, from the evils which he loves, stand bare in the presence of the Nemesis of his past life, with the wondrous light of the New World irradiating the terrors of her countenance, and all the symbols of fire and scorpion-stings will but faintly image the agonies of the view. Well, then, does Paul pray, "Not that I may be unclothed, but clothed upon."
I left the narration of my story while we were still walking toward the doctor's. At length, reaching there, we found him still sitting in his office, although it was now eleven o'clock.
I tried in vain to obtain the first word with him; for Bob, who seemed, according to the frequent nature of the hasheesh hallucination, suspicious of some wrong about to be done him, would not allow me to say any thing which might tinge the opinion of the physician. He persisted in affirming that he was at the point of death, although denying that he felt pain in any place which he could touch. He was totally unable to inform the doctor of the cause of his condition; but I at last managed to tell him myself. Like the great majority of practitioners, he knew nothing of the nature of the drug, and could only shake his head and presage evil from observing the singular phenomena which characterized his patient's outward conduct. He told Bob that he was very foolish to have made the experiment; was in imminent danger -- might die; would give him a powder -- ahem!
Whith such pre-eminent consolation he was poulticing the poor fellow's excited mind, when I took advantage of his going out for a dose of ipecac to follow him unostentatiously, feigning the intention of helping him to prepare the dose. The moment that we were in another room, I said, with as much vehemence as was possible without Bob's overhearing it, "For Heaven's sake, if you have any mercy, tell that man that he is in no danger! He is in none whatever. I have made the same experiment repeatedly, and I assure you that all he wants is the calm assurance of his safety."
My earnest manner satisfied him of my truth, and he accordingly went into the room where Bob was still sitting, and comforted him very much in the same manner that my doctor used with me when I was terrified in my first experiment. He told him, laughingly, to be in no apprehension whatever for results, as he would certainly recover from his present feelings intact.
In an instant Bob became perfectly calm, and the former state of happiness succeeded his agonies. We passed out of the doctor's office and began returning home. On the way he supposed himself a Mandarin freshly come from some triumph over invading tribes. Like myself, in the vision of my victorious march, he heard anthems of laud and glory pealing in his ears; but he did still more -- he played one of the instruments himself. Always a man of fine musical imagination, and quite a brilliant pianist, he now possessed a power of melodious creation unknown in his highest natural states. Setting his lips so as to send forth sounds in imiation of a bugle, he played in my hearing a strain of his own impromptu composition so beautiful that it would have done credit to any player upon wind instruments that ever obtained celebrity. For a quarter of a mile I enjoyed this unexpected rapture of music, in the utmost astonishment at a phenomenon I had never conceived of before.
We reached home. The experimenter lay down, and through all the night he was wrapped in visions of the utmost ecstasy. I sat beside his bed for hours, and always became aware of the moment of his highest exaltation by some strain after the manner of that which had cheered our way up the dark and lonely hill, bursting from his lips, even in sleep, with delicious melody. In the morning he awoke at the usual time; but, his temperament being perhaps more sensitive than mine, the hasheesh delight, without its hallucination, continued for several days. Bob never took it again.
The next case which I shall mention is that of my friend Fred W----, who, although now having abandoned hasheesh forever, still, from the first experiment he made with it, was so delighted with the spell that for several months he made trial of its powers, as successfully, if never to the same extent, as myself. His temperament was the sanguine and nervious commingled; his taste for the arts amounted to a passion. The initiatory test of hasheesh which he made gave him only its space and time expanding effects, but he had obtained a sufficient glimpse of its weirdness to make him try again.
Upon many a bright moonlight night have I walked with him through streets made balmy by the breath of the summer night, or rowed our boat along the silvery river while he lay in ecstatic musing upon the stern seat. In the dreams of such a man as he or the last one whom I mentioned, by sympathy I lived almost as delicious a hasheesh life as in my own. Once do I remember well, while we were floating noiselessly between those twin welkins, the glorious sky above us, and its image mirrored in the stream below, his beholding in the clouds that lifted their beamy masses on the western horizon a resplendent city, built amphitheatrically like Algiers, yet in every dome and architrave beautiful with the taintless lustre of marble. And now he cried, "Sing! my mood is congenial to the ethereal spirit of music." I softly hummed "Spargi d'amaro pianto." "That is ecstasy!" he broke forth once more. "Do you remember those words, 'Architecture is frozen music?' With your ascending notes I saw grand battlements rise immensely into the sky; with the descending tones they sank again, and through all your song I have sat enamored of one delicious dance of Parian marble."
But his most wonderful experience -- wonderful for its exceeding beauty, but still more so for the glimpse which it gave him of the mind's power of sympathetic perception, was a vision which he had after that which I have just related. Having taken hasheesh and felt its influence already for several hours, he still retained enough of conscious self-control to visit the room of a certain excellent pianist without exciting the suspicion of the latter. Fred threw himself upon a sofa immediately on entering, and asked the artist to play him some piece of music, without naming any one in particular.
The prelude began. With its first harmonious rise and fall the dreamer was lifted into the choir of a grand cathedral. Thenceforward it was heard no longer as exterior, but I shall proceed to tell how it was internally embodied in one of the most wonderful imaginative representations that it has ever been my lot to know.
The windows of nave and transept were emblazoned, in the most gorgeous coloring, with incidents culled from saintly lives. Far off in the chancel, monks were loading the air with essences that streamed from their golden censers; on the pavement, of inimitable mosaic, kneeled a host of reverent worshippers in silent prayer.
Suddenly, behind him, the great organ began a plaintive minor like the murmur of some bard relieving his heart in threnody. This minor was joined by a gentle treble voice among the choir in which he stood. The low wail rose and fell as with the expression of wholly human emotion. One by one the remaining singers joined in it, and now he heard, thrilling to the very roof of the cathedral, a wondrous miserere. But the pathetic delight of hearing was soon supplanted by, or rather mingled with, a new sight in the body of the pile below him. At the farther end of the nave a great door slowly swung open and a bier entered, supported by solemn bearers. Upon it lay a coffin covered by a heavy pall, which, being removed as the bier was set down in the chancel, discovered the face of the sleeper. It was the dead Mendelssohn!
The last cadence of the death-chant died away; the bearers, with heavy tread, carried the coffin through an iron door to its place in the vault; one by one the crowd passed out of the cathedral, and at last, in the choir, the dreamer stood alone. He turned himself also to depart, and, awakened to complete consciousness, beheld the pianist just resting from the keys. "What piece have you been playing?" asked Fred. The musician replied it was "Mendelssohn's Funeral March!"
This piece, Fred solemnly assured me, he had never heard before. The phenomenon thus appears inexplicable by any hypothesis which would regard it as mere coincidence. Whether this vision was suggested by an unconscious recognition of Mendelssohn's style in the piece performed, or, by the awakening of some unknown intuitional faculty, it was produced as an original creation, I know not, but certainly it is as remarkable an instance of sympathetic clairvoyance as I ever knew.
Dan, the partner of my hasheesh-walk mentioned as occurring in the town of P-----, was, at the same time as myself, a member of the college. The Coryphæus of witty circles, and the light of all our festivals, he was still imaginative in higher spheres, and as worthily held the rostrum and the bard's chair as his place by the genial fireside or generous table. A poet, and an enthusiastic lover as well as performer of music, I supposed that the effect of hasheesh upon his susceptible temperament would be delightful in the extreme. But to such a result, the time at which he took the drug was one of the most unfavorable in the world -- when his nervous system was in a state of even morbid excitability. We had started together on a walk when the thrill came on. And such a thrill -- or, rather, such a succession of thrills -- it is wonderful how a human organism could sustain. At first a cloud of impenetrable mystery inwrapt him; then upon the crown of his head a weight began to press. It increased in gravity without gaining bulk, and at last, breaking through the barrier of the skull, it slid down the spinal column like lightning, convulsing every nerve with one simultaneous shudder of agony.
This sensation was repeated again and again, until, with horror, he called on me to return, as assured as I had ever been in my first experiments that death was soon to be the result of the shock. I instantly obeyed his wish, and on reaching his room he lay down. Of a sudden all space expanded marvelously, and into the broad area where he reclined marched a multitude of bands from all directions, discoursing music upon all sorts of instruments, and each band playing a different march on a different key, yet all, by some scientific arrangement, preserving perfect harmony with each other, and most exquisitely keeping time. As the symphony increased in volume, so also did it heighten in pitch, until at last the needle-points of sound seemed to concentre in a demon music-box of incredible upper register, which whirled the apex of its scream through the dome of his head, inside of which it was playing.
Now, on the wall of the room, removed to a great distance by the hasheesh expansion, a monstrous head was spiked up, which commenced a succession of grimaces of the most startling yet ludicrous character. First its ferociously bearded under jaw extended forward indefinitely, and then, the jaw shooting back, the mouth opened from ear to ear. Now the nose spun out into absurd enormity, and now the eyes winked with the rapidity of lightning.
Yet suffering in Dan bore an excessive over-ratio to mirth. In his greatest pain he had framed a withering curse against some one who had entered the room, but when he tried to give it utterance his lips failed in their office as if paralyzed. I gave him water when his thirst had become extreme, and the same sensations of a cataract plunging down his throat which I have before described occurred so powerfully that he set the glass down, unwilling to risk the consequences of his draught.
Returning to consciousness, he did not, however, recover from the more moderate hasheesh effects for months. The nervous thrills which I have related reappeared to him at intervals, and his dreams constantly wore a hasheesh tint. Indeed, in all cases which I have known, this drug has retained a more enduring influence than any stimulent in the whole catalogue.
A number of experiments made upon other persons with more or less success, yet none of them characterized by any phenomenon differing from those already detailed, prove conclusively that upon persons of the highest nervous and sanguine temperaments hasheesh has the strongest effect; on those of the bilious occasionally almost as powerful a one; while lymphatic constitutions are scarcely influenced at all except in some physical manner, such as vertigo, nausea, coma, or muscular rigidity. Yet to this statement there are striking exceptions, arising out of the operation of some latent forces of vitality which we have not yet included in our physical or psychical science. Until the laws which govern these are fully apprehended, hasheesh must ever remain a mystery, and its operation in any specific case an uncertainty.
"The Night of Apotheosis"
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