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.
Self-esteem is common and self-conceit general, yet few persons have an adequate idea of the resources of their own minds. Most fancy that what they recollect is the measure of what they know; whereas, in addition to every fact or idea that any person remembers, there are countless others which have entered his mind, and are liable at any moment to cross the plane of his consciousness. He who, when a thought arises, will ask, " How came I to think of this?" in the effort to trace the successive steps by which the mind traveled from the last conscious thought or experience to that which is the subject of retrospection, will be compelled to conclude that these lightning-like movements of the mind have as often been directed by associations of which we are unconscious as by those whose significance and relations are perceived. Experiments to determine the rapidity of thought, by uttering a sentence or command and noting the time before the rational perception of it is manifest, are deceptive, because they involve the rate of motion of the senses, which is slow compared with the movement of ideas in the mind.
Revery frequently affects the emotions powerfully, and produces an influence which is felt for days, and such presentiment as we are considering is ever imparted by the Spirit of God to human beings, two propositions may be supported without irreverence: first, that the human mind without special influence from God or other beings may originate presentiments; second, that the probability is that this is their true explanation even months, after the mind, calmly reflecting, rejects the idea that there is any cause for the depression. A common experience of foreign travelers is that the mind runs over the whole field of personal interest, illuminating it as with flashes, bringing before him who pursues his way " remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow," vivid thoughts of home and friends. Such pensive states are often accompanied by intense concern, which crystallizes into conviction, that death or some other calamity has already taken place. Thousands of letters and many telegraphic despatches inspired by such feelings cross the sea every summer, to elicit responses indicating that there is no occasion for anxiety. Many business men will also acknowledge that at different times in the course of their careers, for reasons which they have not been able to fathom, an impression of impending calamity has possessed them, which was so strong as to make them ready to dispute the truth of the trial balance showing them solvent and prosperous.
The observation of the reader will doubtless furnish instances of persons whose forebodings of calamity—sometimes confirmed by the event, but oftener otherwise — are recognized by their business partners and friends, and call for the exercise of patience and the use of every means to dissipate the mysterious, unwelcome, and paralyzing impression. A manufacturer whose name is known in every city in the Union, and in most foreign countries, whose riches are estimated at many millions, employees numbered by thousands, charities munificent, piety undoubted, and sanity unquestioned, has had presentiments of disaster a score of times within the last twenty-five years, not one of which has been fulfilled; but all, while they lasted, were as intense and overpowering as any could be.
Two other mental phenomena must be observed. No discipline, however protracted and rigid, can exclude thoughts which start mysteriously concerning life, business, home, friends, investments, etc. The mathematician may be engaged in solving the most intricate problems, the theologian in preparing discourses, the essayist in the flow of composition, the accountant in adding a column of figures, but none of these can be certain of fifteen consecutive minutes undisturbed by ideas or impressions almost as vivid as a living personality. The superiority of the disciplined to the undisciplined mind consists chiefly in ability to expel the intruder, and not in exemption from such visits.
The other phenomenon is, that the mind, in a voluntary or an involuntary review of the situation, will frequently pause upon one phase of it, which will predominate over others without any apparent reason. A parent absent from home may be particularly anxious about one of three children, and be for weeks under the shadow of a causeless fear. As every mental state must have a cause, in the labyrinth of associated ideas and feelings, some occasion must exist; but introspection may never reveal it. To demonstrate that the mind cannot originate presentiments is, therefore, impossible; and we are brought to the question whether, in the number or character of such presentiments, there be convincing evidence that they have a supernatural origin.
Many experiences called presentiments are not of that nature. Dr. Forbes Winslow's "Psychological Journal" gives a tragic account of a presentiment to the great master of kings, Talleyrand. Dr. Sig-mond received it from the widow of the private secretary and friend of Talleyrand, M. Comache. It shows signs of having been written afterward and embcllished. Talleyrand said, "Upon one occasion I was gifted for a single moment with an unknown and mysterious power." He had fled from France with an intimate friend named Beaumetz. They had arrived in New-York together, and considering that they could not return to France, decided to improve the little money that was left by speculation, and freighted a small vessel for India. Bills were all paid and farewells taken; but there was a delay of some days for a fair wind, during which the time of the departure was uncertain. Beaumetz was irritated to an extraordinary degree, and unable to remain quietly at home. He hurried back and forth from the city with an eager, restless activity. He had ever been remarkable for great calmness and placidity of temper. One day he entered, evidently laboring under great excitement, though trying to seem calm. Talleyrand was writing letters to Europe. Beaumetz, with forced gaiety, said: "What need to waste time penning those letters? They will not reach their destination. Let us take a turn on the Battery. The wind may be chopping round; we may be nearer our departure than we imagine." The language in which the denouement is described is graphic:
We walked through the crowded streets to the Battery. lie had seized my arm and hurried me along, seemingly in eager haste to advance. We had arrived at the broad esplanade, the glory then, as now, of New-York. Beaumetz quickened his steps still more until we arrived close to the water's edge. He talked loud and quickly, admiring in energetic terms the beauty of the scenery, the Brooklyn Heights, the shady groves of the island, the ships riding at anchor, and the busy scene on the peopled wharf, when suddenly he paused in his mad, incoherent discourse, for I had freed my arm from his grasp, and stood immovable before him. Staying his wild and rapid steps, I fixed my eye upon his face. He turned aside, cowed and dismayed. "Beaumetz," I shouted, "you mean to murder mo.
You intend to throw nie from the height into the sea below. Deny it, monster, if you can/' The maniac stared at me for a moment, but I took especial care not to avert my gaze from his countenance, and he quailed beneath it. He stammered a few incoherent words, and strove to pass me, but I barred his passage with extended arms. He looked vacantly right and left, and then flung himself upon my neck and burst into tears. " 'T is true, 't is true, my friend. The thought has haunted me day and night like a flash from the lurid fire of hell. It was for this I brought you here. Look! You stand within a foot of the edge of the parapet. In another instant the work would have been done." The demon had left him. His eye was unsettled, and the white foam stood in bubbles on his white lips, but he was no longer tossed by the same mad excitement under which he had been laboring, for he suffered me to lead him home without a single word. A few days' repose, bleeding, abstinence, completely restored him to his former self, and, what is more extraordinary, the circumstance was never mentioned between us. My Fate was at work.
What there is in this narrative to imply anything extraordinary, in view of the extraordinary circumstances, I am unable to perceive. Beaumetz had been unusually calm; he became greatly excited. Every action he performed and every word he said, for sev eral days, was sufficient to excite alarm as to his mental condition. He was on the verge of an attack of acute mania. That Talleyrand had recognized his condition to some extent is apparent; that his mind perceived the danger, and that he took the only natural course to escape, is also clear; and the history of lunatic asylums abounds in accounts by friends or attendants of their discerning at the right moment that the maniac meant to perpetrate a tragic deed. In some instances it has been foreseen, and the wife, after predicting her own death at his hands, has succumbed to the maniacal fury of the onee loving husband rather than allow him to be placed under restraint. A case of this kind, originating in the: