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The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Raven Edition Volume 2
"I repeat, then, that I only half felt, and never intellectually believed. But latterly there has been a certain deepening of the feeling, until it has come so nearly to resemble the acquiescence of reason, that I find it difficult to distinguish between the two. I am enabled, too, plainly to trace this effect to the mesmeric influence. I cannot better explain my meaning than by the hypothesis that the mesmeric exaltation enables me to perceive a train of ratiocination which, in my abnormal existence, convinces, but which, in full accordance with the mesmeric phenomena, does not extend, except through its _effect_, into my normal condition. In sleep-waking, the reasoning and its conclusion - the cause and its effect - are present together. In my natural state, the cause vanishing, the effect only, and perhaps only partially, remains.
"These considerations have led me to think that some good results might ensue from a series of well-directed questions propounded to me while mesmerized. You have often observed the profound self-cognizance evinced by the sleep-waker - the extensive knowledge he displays upon all points relating to the mesmeric condition itself; and from this self-cognizance may be deduced hints for the proper conduct of a catechism."
I consented of course to make this experiment. A few passes threw Mr. Vankirk into the mesmeric sleep. His breathing became immediately more easy, and he seemed to suffer no physical uneasiness. The following conversation then ensued: - V. in the dialogue representing the patient, and P. myself.
_ P._ Are you asleep?
_ V._ Yes - no I would rather sleep more soundly.
_P._ [_After a few more passes._] Do you sleep now?
_P._ How do you think your present illness will result?
_V._ [_After a long hesitation and speaking as if with effort_.] I must die.
_P._ Does the idea of death afflict you?
_V._ [_Very quickly_.] No - no!
_P._ Are you pleased with the prospect?
_V._ If I were awake I should like to die, but now it is no matter. The mesmeric condition is so near death as to content me.
_P._ I wish you would explain yourself, Mr. Vankirk.
_V._ I am willing to do so, but it requires more effort than I feel able to make. You do not question me properly.
_P._ What then shall I ask?
_V._ You must begin at the beginning.
_P._ The beginning! but where is the beginning?
_V._ You know that the beginning is GOD. [_This was said in a low, fluctuating tone, and with every sign of the most profound veneration_.]
_P._ What then is God?
_V._ [_Hesitating for many minutes._] I cannot tell.
_P._ Is not God spirit?
_V._ While I was awake I knew what you meant by "spirit," but now it seems only a word - such for instance as truth, beauty - a quality, I mean.