This section is from the book "Faith - Healing. Christian Science And Kindred Phenomena", by James Monroe Buckley. Also available from Amazon: Faith-Healing, Christian Science and Kindred Phenomena.
Another person, now a minister in New England, was so wrought upon at the moment he felt the sense of guilt and perplexity removed that he mistook the long stove-pipe in the country church for Jacob's ladder, and essayed to climb it. Not until restrained for some minutes by bystanders did he recognize tho situation.
Such hallucinations occur still; among the negroes they are almost the rule. Yet these persons are not insane, and resume their ordinary vocations as before.
Spectral illusions arc very common in children, and are most frequently, though not always, perceived in the night between waking and sleeping.
The persistence of dreams after one is fully awake is also a suggestive occasional experience. After the appearance of an article on " Dreams, Nightmare, and Somnambulism," in "The Century" the editor of that magazine received a letter written by a gentleman of the city of New York describing a dream which he had had a few weeks before, in which he dreamed thai he was lying on his back in his own room and saw a frightful black hobgoblin, well defined in shape, which stood by the side of his bed and acted as if about to attack him. In the midst of the horror produced by the specter, he awoke, found himself lying on his back just as he had dreamed, looked around the room, and recognized the furniture and other things in the room, but continued to see the hobgoblin as plainly as he saw anything else, heard him growl, and distinctly saw him going on with his hostile demonstrations. Reasoning upon what he should do, he struggled to move, was unable to stir hand or foot for some time, but finally did move, and that instant the uncanny specter vanished. He says: " I had my eyes on the hobgoblin at the moment when I made the movement, and at once tried to see whether there was any object in the room which I could have mistaken for it, but could find none".
Books of marvels contain narratives which sometimes afford the evidence of their explanation, but frequently omit details which a person not disposed to the marvelous would be sure to examine if he had the opportunity. In Stilling's " Pneumatology," translated from the German and edited by Dr. George Bush, there are many of these. Stilling endeavors to show that people who see themselves arc generally likely to die soon afterward. He says: "When a person sees himself out of himself, while others who are present observe nothing, the apparition may be real, or it may be merely imaginary; but when it is also perceived by others it is no fantasy, but something real." He then gravely adds, " I myself know of persons having seen themselves and dying shortly afterward".
He tells of one of the Government secretaries who went, as he was wont to do, to the archives to look for a paper which was very important. On arriving there, he saw himself sitting on a chair. Much terrified, he went home and sent a woman servant to fetch the documents. It is asserted that the woman found him there also. Dr. Stilling does not say that this man died "shortly afterward"; but that he did die some time after is probable, as the book is nearly a hundred years old.
Another case is that of a professor who was having a theological dispute with a number of his friends. Having occasion to go to the library for a book, he saw himself sitting on a chair at the table where he usually sat. Going nearer, he looked over the shoulder of the person and saw that this figure of himself pointed with one finger of the right hand to a passage in the Bible. He looked at the passage indicated, and saw that it was, " Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die." Full of astonishment and fear, he went back to the company and related the occurrence; and in spite of all they could say he was firm in the opinion that this apparition betokened his death, and accordingly took leave of his friends. " The day after, at six o'clock in the evening, he expired, being advanced in gears." Many not advanced in years would be killed by such an experience as this.
The origin of such visions is readily traced. To imagine one's self in a familiar place with almost the vividness of life is not uncommon. Whether the vision shall be that of one's self or of another, when the mind is in such a state as to develop visions, depends much on the general belief at the time. The same principle is illustrated where it seems impossible not to see, in his accustomed seat at the table, a person who has died; and when worn with anxiety and long watching, even strong-minded men have been for a moment almost certain that they saw the familiar figure pass through the room. They have felt "the touch of a vanished hand" and heard " the sound of a voice that is still." Add a belief in the marvelous to such impressions, and the vision is complete.
Sudden flashes of the imagination may develop the phenomenon instantaneously. Thus a sea captain engaged in his duty saw in the mist the figure of a boyhood companion beckoning to him. He was certain that it portended his death or that of the friend whose figure he saw, but nothing came of it. A gentleman passing along the street suddenly saw his brother whom he had not seen for twenty-five years. The figure was plain, and he was about to speak to him when he disappeared. Some time afterward the news came of his death at about the time of the vision. Taken alone, it might seem as if there was some connection between the two circumstances; but so many have such occasional experiences which seem remarkably real, and yet are not followed by any noteworthy event, that the natural explanation is adequate to cover the cases.
The visions and hallucinations of hypnotism and animal magnetism require special examination.