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but also some morbid condition of the body, which might have contributed to render the ideas of his mind of such a high state of intensity, that they became no less vivid than actual impressions.
After these remarks, the general object of this Dissertation may admit of an easy explanation. An essay seriously written, with the view of confuting all the superstitious absurdities connected with the popular belief in apparitions, would, no doubt, in this philosophic age, be considered of the same importance as the publication of arguments, how weighty soever they may be, intended to weaken the confidence which some very well-disposed persons still choose to entertain on the subject of dreams, or upon the relation which is supposed to subsist between them and future events. At the same time, the utility of an inquiry into the rationale of our dreams has never been doubted, as every proper theory connected with a speculation of this kind must necessarily involve the successful investigation of certain primary laws of the human mind, by which our various states of mental feelings are governed. A similar argument applies to those embodied phantasies, which, under the general name of Apparitions, are the sportive images of what may, with the greatest propriety, be styled our waking dreams. To explain, therefore, the physical causes of such mental illusions, and, in connexion with this elucidation, to point out the origin of the popular belief in apparitions, is an attempt which precludes any notions that may be urged against it on the score of insignificance. The inquiry necessarily involves an accurate and extensive knowledge of the laws of thought, and a capability of applying them to cases, where, from the co-operating influence of certain constitutional and morbid causes incidental to the human frame, the quality and intensity of our mental states undergo very remarkable modifications. In this point of view, a theory of apparitions is inseparably connected with the pathology of the human mind.
But, before entering into an independent investigation of this kind, it may be proper to inquire, What have been the opinions hitherto entertained on the subject by such philosophers as have been the least desirous to contemplate it with the superstitious feelings of the vulgar? A few of these opinions will be explained in the First Part of this work.
THE REFERENCE OF APPARITIONS TO HALLUCINA
“ Now, whilst his blood mounts upward, now he knows
It has long been common to refer apparitions to hallucinations. For instance, a person, prior to an epilepsy, may see every thing crooked. In some affections of vision, objects are greatly magnified: thus, a gentleman whom I know in Edinburgh saw, about twilight, a cow magnified to ten or twelve times its original size, grazing on a field, like some of the Brob. dingnag cattle described by Swift.
Many ghost-stories, however, admit of still more familiar explanations, of which I shall give a few instances. The first is from the Statistical Account of Scotland, published by Sir John Sinclair.
“ About fifty years ago, a clergyman in the neighbourhood, whose faith was more regulated by the scepticism of philosophy than the credulity of superstition, could not be prevailed upon to yield his assent to the opinion of the times. At length, however, he felt from experience, that he doubted what he ought to have believed. One night, as he was returning home at a late hour from a presbytery, he was seized by the fairies, and carried aloft into the air. Through fields of æther and fleecy clouds he journeyed many a mile, descrying, like Sancho Panza on his clavileno, the earth far distant below him, and no bigger than a nut-shell. Being thus sufficiently convinced of the reality of their existence, they let him down at the door of his own house, where he afterwards often recited to the wondering circle the marvellous tale of his adventure." Upon this story, I find, in Mr Ellis's edition of Brand's Popular Antiquities, the following comment is made :
:-" In plain English, I should suspect that spirits of a different sort from fairies had taken the honest clergyman by the head, and though he has omitted the circumstance in his marvellous narration, I have no doubt but that the good man saw double on the occasion, and that his own mare, not fairies, landed him safe at his own door.”
Other explanations of ghost-stories are referable to optical mistakes of the nature of external objects. The phenomena connected with the Giant of the Broken * are known to every one. To the same class of pseudoapparitions belong the Fata Morgana, and the Mirage or Water of the Desert.
Sometimes, when the mind is morally prepared for spectral impressions, the most familiar substances are converted into ghosts. Mr Ellis gives a story to this effect, as related by a sea-captain of the port of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. “ His cook, he said, chanced to die on their passage homeward. This honest fellow, having had one of his legs a little shorter than the other, used to walk in that way which our vulgar idiom calls, ' with an up and a down.' A few nights after his body had been committed to the deep, our captain was alarmed by his mate with an account that the cook was walking before the ship, and that all hands were on deck to see him. The captain, after an oath or two for having been disturbed, ordered them to let him alone, and try which, the ship or he, should first get to Newcastle. But, turning out on farther importunity, he honestly confessed that he had like to have caught the contagion; for, on seeing something move in a way so similar to that which an old friend used, and withal having a cap on so like that which he was wont to wear, he verily thought there was more in the report than he was at first willing to believe. A general panic diffused itself. He ordered the ship to be steered towards the object, but not a man would move the helm ! Compelled to do this himself, he found, on a nearer approach, that the ridiculous cause of all their terror was part of a maintop, the remains of some wreck floating before them. Unless he had ventured to make this nearer approach to the supposed ghost, the tale of the walking cook had long been in the mouths, and excited the fears of many honest and very brave fellows in the Wapping of Newcastle-upon-Tyne."
* Note 2.