[Note: the following is a verbatim reproduction of the story as it first appeared in The Theosophist. For the enlarged, posthumous edition, see Nightmare Tales.]
It was a chilly, dark night in September, 1884. A heavy gloom had descended over the streets of Elberfeld, and was hanging like a black funeral-pall over the dull factory town. The greater number of its inhabitants, weary after their long day’s work, had retired hours before to stretch their tired limbs and lay their aching heads upon their pillows. All was quiet in the large house, all was quiet in the deserted streets.
I was lying in my bed too; alas, not one of rest, but of pain and sickness and to which I had been confined for some days.
So still was everything in the house, that, as Longfellow has it, its stillness seemed almost audible. I could plainly hear the murmur of my blood, as it rushed through my aching body, producing that monotonous singing in the ears, so familiar to one who is listening silence. I had watched it until it grew in my nervous imagination, into the sound of a distant cataract, the fall of mighty waters . . . when, suddenly changing its character, the ever growing “singing” merged into, and was drowned by, other and far more welcome sounds. It was the low, scarce audible whisper of lips made holy by the daily and nightly intercourse throughout long years; a voice familiar and welcome ever; doubly so, during moments of mental, or bodily, suffering, since it always brings with it, hope and consolation.
“Courage,” it whispered in sweet, mellow tones. “Think of the days at Elberfeld, and try to add to them the experience of a night in that city—Let the narrative of a strong life, that will interest you, help to shorten the hours of suffering. . . Give it your attention—Look yonder before you!”
“Yonder”—were the clear, large windows of an empty house across the narrow street of a German town. They faced my own in almost a straight line across the street. My bed faced those windows; and as, obedient to the suggestion, I glanced at them across the way, what I saw made me forget for the time being the pain and agony of a rheumatical swollen arm and body.
A mist was creeping over them; a dense, heavy, serpentine, whitish mist, that looked like the huge shadow of a gigantic boa uncoiling on the opposite windows and wall: gradually it disappeared leaving a lustrous light, soft and silvery, as though the window-panes behind it reflected a thousand moon-beams, a tropical star-lit sky—first from the outside, then from within the empty rooms. Then I saw the mist elongating itself and throwing a fairy bridge across the street, from the bewitched windows to my own balcony—nay, to my own bed. As I kept looking on, the wall and windows of the opposite house suddenly vanished. The space occupied by the empty rooms had changed into the interior view of another smaller room, in what I knew to be a Swiss châlet—into a study, with its old, dark walls covered from ceiling to floor with book-shelves and antiquated folios; and a large, old fashioned writing desk in the center of the study all covered with manuscripts and writing materials. Sitting at it, quill-pen in hand, was an old man; a grim-looking, skeleton-like personage, with a face so thin, so pale and yellow, that the light of the solitary little student’s lamp, threw two shining spots on the high cheek-bones of his emanciated face which looked as though it was cut in old ivory.
As I was trying to get a better view of him by slowly raising myself upon my pillows, the whole vision—châlet and study, desk, books and scribe—seemed to flicker and move. Once set in motion, it approached me nearer and nearer, until, gliding noiselessly along the fleecy bridge of clouds across the street—it floated through my closed windows and wall into my room and settled finally beside my bed. . . . “Listen to what he thinks and is going to write,”—said soothingly the same familiar, far off voice—“Thus, you will hear a narrative, the interest of which may help to shorten the long sleepless hours, and may even make you forget for a while your very pain . . . Try . . .”
I tried, doing as I was bid. I centered all my attention on that solitary, laborious figure that I saw before me, which saw me not. At first, the noise of the quill-pen with which the apparition was writing suggested to my mind nothing better than the whispered, low murmur of a nondescript nature. Then, gradually, my ear caught the indistinct words of a faint and distant voice, and I thought that the figure bending before me over its manuscript was reading aloud its tale instead, of writing it. But I soon found out my error. I caught sight of the old scribe’s face and saw at a glance that his compressed lips were motionless, the voice too thin and shrill to be his voice. At the same time I saw at every word traced by the old feeble hand, a light flashing from under his quill-pen, a spark that became as instantaneously a sound, or, became so to my inner perceptions—which is the same thing. It was indeed the small voice of the quill that I heard, though scribe and pen, were perchance, at the time, hundreds of miles away from Germany. Such things will, and do, happen occassionally, especially during night, in whose “starry shade” Byron tells us we—
“. . . Learn the language of another world. . . .”
Anyhow, every word uttered by the quill I rememberd days after. Nor had I any great difficulty in retaining them, as when I sat down to record the story, I found it impressed, as usual, with indelible materials on the astral tablets before my inner eye.
I have but to copy it, and give it as I received it. I failed to learn the name of the unknown nocturnal writer. For those who prefer to regard the whole story as a made-up one for the occassion, perchance a dream, its incidents. I hope will prove none the less interesting.
. . . My birth-place is a small mountain hamlet. A cluster of Swiss cottages hidden deep in a sunny nook between two, tumble-down glaciers and a peak covered with eternal snows. Thither, thirty-seven years ago, I had returned—a cripple mentally and physically—to die. The invigorating, pure air or my birth-place decided otherwise: I am still alive; perhaps left for the purpose of giving evidence to facts I had kept profoundly secret from all—a tale of horror I would rather conceal than reveal. The reason for such unwillingness on my part, is due to my early education and subsequent events that gave the lie to my most cherished prejudices. Some people might be inclined to regard these events as Providential, I, who believe in no Providence and yet an unable to attribute them to mere chance—I connect them in their ceaseless evolution of effects engendered by certain direct causes with one primary and first cause, from which ensued all that followed: a feeble old man. It is these results that furnish me with an additional proof of the actual existence of one, whom I would fain regard—oh that I could do so!—as a creature born of my fancy, the evanescent production of a feverish horrid dream! It is that paragon of all the virtues who embittered my whole life; who, punishing me violently out of the monotonous but secure groove of daily life, was the first to force upon me the certitude of a life hereafter, thus adding an additional horror to this one.
With a view to a clearer comprehension of the situation, I must interrupt these recollections by saying a few words about myself.
Born on Switzerland, of French parents, who centered the whole world-wisdom in the literary trinity of Voltaire, J. J. Rousseau and d’Holbach, and educated in a German university, I grew up a thorough materialist, a confirmed atheist. I could have never even pictured to myself any beings—least of all a Being,—above or even outside of visible nature, as distinguished from her; hence I regarded everything that could not be brought under the strict analysis of physical senses as a mere chimera. A soul—I argued—even supposing man has one, must be material. Origen’s definition of incorporeus—the epithet given by him to his God—signifies a substance only more subtile than that of physical bodies, and of which, at best, we can form no definite ideas. How then can that, of which our senses cannot enable us to get any clear knowledge, how can that make itself visible or produce any tangible manifestations? As a result, the tales of nascent spiritualism were received by me with a feeling of utmost contempt, and the overtures made by some priests with derision, often akin to anger. The latter feeling has never abandoned me.
In the eighth Act of his “Thoughts,” Paschal confesses to a most complete incertitude upon the existence of God. During the Whole of my life I professed a complete certitude as to the non-existence of any such extra-cosmic being, and repeated with that great thinker the memorable words in which he tells us:
“I have examined, if this God of whom all the world speaks might not have left some marks of himself. I look everywhere, and everywhere I see nothing but obscurity. Nature offers me nothing that may not be a matter of doubt and inquietude.”
Nor have I found, to this day, anything that might have unsettled me in precisely the same but still stronger feelings. I have never believed, nor ever shall believe in a Supreme Being. As to the phenomena proclaimed far and wide in the East relating to the powers of man, potentialities so developed in some persons as to make virtually gods of them—I laugh no more at these. My whole, broken life, is a protest against any such further negation.
Owing to an unfortunate law-suit, at the death of my parents, I lost the, greater part of, my fortune, and had resolved—rather for those I loved best than for my own sake—to make one for myself. My elder sister, whom I adored, had married a poor man. I accepted the offer of a rich Hamburg ﬁrm and sailed for Japan, as its junior partner.
For several years my business went on successfully. I got into the conﬁdence of many influential Japanese, through whose protection I was enabled to travel into, and perform business in, many localities that, in those days especially, were not easily opened to foreigners. Indifferent to every religion, I became interested in the philosophy of Buddhism, the only religious system, I thought, worthy of being called philosophical. Thus, in my moments of leisure, I visited the most remarkable temples of Japan, the most important and curious of the ninety-six Buddhist Monasteries of Kioto. I have examined in turn: Day-Bootzoo with its gigantic bell; Tzeonene, Enarino Yassero, Kie-misoo, Higadzi-Hong-Vonsi, and many other famous temples.
Several years passed away, and during that whole period I had not been cured of my skepticism, nor did I ever contemplate to have my opinion on this subject altered. I derided the pretensions of the Japanese bonzes and ascetics; as I had those of Christian priests and European Spiritualists. I could not believe in the acquisition of powers unknown to, and never studied by, the men of science; hence I scoffed at all such ideas. The superstitious and atrabilious Buddhists, teaching us to shun the pleasures of life, to put to rout one’s passions, to render oneself insensible alike to happiness and suffering, in order to acquire such chimerical powers—seemed supremely ridiculous in my eyes.
I had made the acquaintance, at the foot of the golden Kwon-on of a venerable and learned bonze, one named Tamoora-Hideyeri, who had since then become my best and most trusted friend.
But my respected friend was as meek and forgiving as he was erudite and wise. He never once resented my impatient sarcasms, only bidding me to wait and see.
He belonged to the temple of Tzi-onene, a Buddhist monastery as famous throughout Tibet and China as in all Japan. None other is so venerated in Kioto. Its monks belong to the sect of Dzeno-doo, and are considered as the most learned among the many erudite fraternities. They are, moreover, closely connected, and allied with the Yamaboosi, (the ascetics, or “hermits”) who follow the doctrines of Lao-tze.
But, the more I admired and learned to love him personally, the less I could get reconciled to his wild ideas about some people acquiring supernatural powers. I felt particularly disgusted with his reverence for the Yamaboosi, the religious allies of all the Buddhist sects in the country. Their claims to the “miraculous” were simply odious to my materialistic notions. Indeed, to hear every Jap of thy acquaintance at Kioto—even to my own partner; the most shrewd of all the men of business came across in the East—mentioning these followers of Lao-tze with downcast eyes, reverentially folded hands and afﬁrmations to their “great” and “wonderful” gifts—was more than I was prepared to patiently bear in those days! And who were they, after all, those great magicians with their ridiculous pretensions to supra-mundane knowledge; those “holy beggars,” who, as I then thought, dwell purposely in the recesses of unfrequented mountains and unapproachable craggy steeps to afford no chance to the curious intruders to ﬁnd out and watch them in their own dens? Simply—impudent fortune-tellers, Japanese gypsies who sell charms and talismans, and no better! In answer to those who sought to assure me, that, if the Yamaboosi lead a mysterious life, admitting no profane one to their secrets, that they still do accept pupils, however difﬁcult for one to become their disciple, and that thus they do have living witnesses to the great purity and sanctity of their lives—in answer to their affirmations I opposed negation and stood firmly by it. I insulted both masters and pupils, classing them under the same category, that of fools, when not knaves. I went so far as to include the Sintos (worshippers of nature spirits) in this classification, and got thereby many enemies. For the Sinto Kanusis (gurus, spiritual teachers) are looked upon as the highest in the upper classes of Society, as they all belong to the most cultured and educated men in Japan.
Years passed; and as time went by, my ineradicable skepticism grew stronger and ﬁercer every day. As the Kanusi of the Sintos form no caste or class apart, and they do not pass any ordination—not one, at least, known to outsiders; and as they claim publicly no special privilege or power, even their dress being in no wise different from that of the laity, and they being simply in the world’s opinion professors as well as students of occult and spiritual sciences, I came very often in contact with them without in the least suspecting that I was in the presence of such personages.
I have mentioned already an elder and much beloved sister, my only surviving relative who was married and had just gone to live at Nuremberg. Regarding her with feelings more filial than fraternal, her children were as dear to me as might be my own. In fact this large family of eleven persons, her husband included, was the only tie that attached me to Europe; Twice, during the period of nine years, had I crossed the ocean with the sole object of seeing and pressing the dear ones to my heart. I had no other business in the West, and having performed that pleasant duty, I had returned each time to Japan to work and toil for them, for whose sake I had remained a bachelor, that the wealth I might acquire should go undivided to them alone.
Hitherto, we had corresponded as regularly as the long transit of the (then) very irregular service of the mail-boats would permit. Then came a sudden break in my letters from home. For nearly a year I had received no intelligence; and day by day, I became more restless, more apprehensive of some great misfortune. Vainly I looked for a letter, a simple message; fruitless were my efforts to account for such an unusual silence.
“Friend”—said to me one day Tamoora Hideyeri, my only conﬁdant,—-“Friend, consult a holy Yamaboosi, and you will feel at rest.”
Of course the offer was rejected with as much moderation as I could command under the provocation. But, as steamer after steamer came in without bringing any news, I felt a despair which became daily more pronounced. It degenerated finally into an irrepressible craving, a morbid desire to learn—the worst—as I then thought. I struggled hard with the feeling, but it had the best of me. Only a few months before—a complete master of myself; now, an abject slave to fear. A fatalist of the school of de Holbach, I who had always regarded belief in the system of necessity as the only promoter of philosophical happiness, as having the most advantageous inﬂuence over our human weaknesses, I felt a craving for something akin to fortune telling! I had gone so far as to forget the ﬁrst principles of that doctrine—the only one suitable to calm our sorrows, to inspire us with a useful submission, a rational resignation to the decrees of blind destiny with which foolish sensibility causes us so often to be overwhelmed—that teaches us that all is necessary. Yes; forgetting all this, I was drawn into a shameful superstition toward stupid, disgraceful desire to learn—if not futurity, at any rate that which was taking place at the other end of the globe. My conduct seemed utterly modified, my temperament and aspirations wholly changed; and as a nervous weak girl, I caught myself, straining my mind to the very verge of lunacy, to look—as I had been told one could sometimes do—beyond the oceans, and learn, at last, the real cause of that long unexplainable silence!
One evening, at sunset, my old friend, the venerable bonze Tamoora appeared on the veranda of my low wooden house. I had not visited him for many days, and he had come to know, how I was. I took this opportunity to sneer once more at one, for whom, in reality, I felt a most affectionate respect. With equivocal good taste—for which I repented almost before the words had been pronounced—I inquired of him why he should have walked all that distance when he might have learned about me any thing he liked by simply putting the question to a Yamaboosi? He seemed a little hurt, at first: but after having keenly scrutinized my dejected face, he mildly remarked that he could only insist upon what he had advised before. Only one of that holy order could give me consolation in my present state.
An insane desire possessed me from that moment, to defy any of his alleged magicians to tell me who the person I was thinking of, was, and what he was doing, at that moment. He quietly answered, that the desire could be easily satisfied. There was a Yaboo, two doors from me, visiting a sick Sinto. He would fetch him—if I only said the word. I said it, and from the moment of its utterance my doom was sealed.
How shall I ﬁnd words to describe the scene that followed! Twenty minutes after the desire had been so incautiously expressed, an old Japanese, uncommonly tall and majestic for one of that race, pale, thin and emaciated was standing before me. There, where I had expected to find servile obsequioueness, I only discerned an air of calm and digniﬁed composure, the attitude of one who knows his moral superiority, and scorns, therefore to notice the mistake of those who fail to see it. To my rather irreverent and mocking questions, offered with feverish eagerness, he gave no reply; but gazed on me in silence as a physician would a delirious patient. From the moment he had ﬁxed his eyes upon mine, I felt—or shall I say saw—as though a sharp my of light, a thin silvery thread, shooting out from the intensely black oblong and narrow eye so deeply sunk in the yellow old face—penetrated into my brain and heart like an arrow and was performing the operation of digging out from them every thought and feeling. Yes; I both saw and felt it, and very soon the double sensation became unendurable.
To break the spell I deﬁed him to tell me what he had found in my head and heart. He quietly gave me the correct answer.—“extreme anxiety for a female relative, her husband and child,” who were inhabiting a house, the correct description of which he made as though he knew it as well as myself. I turned a suspicious eye upon my friend, the bonze to whose indiscretions I thought, I was indebted for the quick reply. Remembering however that Tamoora could know nothing of the appearance of my sister’s house, and that the Japanese are proverbially truthful, and as friends faithful to death—I felt ashamed of my suspicion. To atone for it before my own conscience I asked the hermit whether he could tell me anything of the present state of that beloved sister of mine—The foreigner—was the reply—would never believe in the words, or trust to the knowledge of my person but himself. Were the Yamahoosi to tell him, the, impression would wear out hardly a, few hours later, and the inquirer ﬁnd himself as miserable as before. There was but one means; and that was to make the foreigner (myself) to see, and thus learn the truth for himself. Was the inquirer ready to he placed by a Yamaboosi, a stranger to him, in the required state?
I had heard in Europe of mesmerized somnambules and pretenders to clairvoyances, and having no faith in them, I had, therefore, nothing against the process itself. Even in the midst of my never ceasing mental agony, I could hot help smiling at the ridiculousness of the operation I was willingly submitting to. Nevertheless I silently bowed consent.
The old Yamaboosi lost no time. He looked at the setting sun, and finding, probably, the Lord Ten-zio-Dai-zin (the spirit who darts his rays) propitious for the coming ceremony, he speedily drew out a little bundle. It contained a little lackered box, a piece of vegetable paper, made from the bark of the mulberry tree, and a pen, with which he traced upon the paper a few sentences in the Naiden character—a peculiar style of written language used only for religious and mystical purposes. Having ﬁnished, he exhibited from under his clothes a small round mirror of steel of extraordinary brilliancy, and placing it before my eyes, asked me to look into it.
I had heard of these mirrors which, are used in the temples, and I had often seen them. It is claimed that under the direction and will of instructed priests, there appear in them the Daij-zin, the great spirits who notify the enquiring devotees of their fate. I first imagined, that
his intention was to evoke such a spirit, who would answer my queries. What happened, however, was something of quite a different character.
While I was examining the mirror the Yamaboosi said rapidly a few words to the Bonze Tamoora. I threw a furtive and suspicious glance at both. I was wrong once more. The holy man desires me to put you
a question and give you at the same time a warning, remarked the Bonze. If you are willing to see for yourself now, you will have—under the penalty of seeing for ever, in the hereafter, all that is taking place at whatever distance, and that against your will or inclination—to submit to a regular course of purification, after you l have learned what you went through this mirror.
You must, therefore, promise him to submit to the process, lest he should hold himself responsible for life and before his own conscience for having made an irresponsible seer of you. Will you do so, friend? There will be time enough to think of it, if I see anything—I replied, adding under my breath—something I doubt a good deal, so far. Well, you are warned, friend. The consequences will now remain with yourself.
I glanced at the clock and made a gesture of impatience which was seen and understood by the Yamahoosi. It was just seven minutes after five.
Define well in your mind what you would see and learn, he said, placing the mirror and paper in my hands, and instructing me how to use them.
To this I replied, while fixing the mirror;—I desire but one thing—To learn the reason or reasons why my sister has so suddenly ceased writing to me.
Had I pronounced these words in reality and in the hearing of the two witnesses, or, had I only thought them? To this day I cannot decide the point. I remember now distinctly but one thing; while I sat gazing in the mirror, the Yamaboosi kept gazing at me. But whether this process lasted half a second or three hours, I could never since settle in my mind, with any degree of satisfaction. I can recall every detail of the
scene just to that moment when I got hold of the mirror with the left hand, holding the paper with the mystic characters between the thumb and finger of the right, when all of a sudden I seemed to lose all
consciousness of the surrounding objects. The passage from the active waking state to one that I could compare with nothing I had ever experienced before, was so rapid, that while my eyes had ceased to perceive external objects and had completely lost sight of the Bonze, the Yamaboosi and even of my room, I could yet see distinctly the whole of my head and my back, as I sat leaning forward with the mirror in my hand. Then came a strong sensation of making an involuntary rush forward, of snapping off, so to say, from my place—I
had almost said from my body,—and then while every one of my other senses had become totally paralyzed, my eyes, as I thought, caught unexpectedly a clearer and far more vivid glimpse than they had ever done in reality, of my sister’s new Nuremburg house that I had never visited, and other scenery with which I had never been very familiar. Together with this, and while feeling in my brain what seemed like flashes of a departing consciousness—dying persons must feel so, no
doubt—the very last, vague thought, so weak as to have been hardly perceptible was,—-that I must look very, very ridiculous.
How strange . . . where was I now? It was evident to me that I had once more returned to my senses, since I found myself vividly realizing that I was rapidly moving forward, while I had a queer, strange sensation
as though I was swimming without impulse or effort on my part and—-—in total darkness. The idea that first presented itself to me was that of a long subterranean passage, of water, earth and stifling air, though bodily I had no perception, no sensation, of the presence or contact of either of these. I tried to, utter a few words, to repeat my last sentence—“I desire but one thing: to learn the reason or reasons why my sister has so suddenly ceased writing to me”—but the only words
I heard out of the twenty-one, were the two words “to learn,” and these, instead of their coming out of my wry larynx, come back to me in my own voice, but entirely outside myself, near, but not in me. In short they were pronounced by my voice not by my lips . . .
One more rapid, involuntary motion, one more plunge into the Cymmerian darkness of a (to me) unknown element, and I saw myself standing—actually standing—underground, as it seemed. I was compactly and thickly surrounded on all sides, above and below, right and left, with earth, and yet it weighed not, and seemed quite immaterial and transparent to my senses; and I did not realize for one second the utter absurdity, nay—impossibility, of that seeming fact! One instant more, one short instant, and I perceived—oh, inexpressible horror,—when I think of it now, for then, although I perceived, realized, and recorded facts and events far more clearly than ever I had done before, I did not seem to be touched in any other way by what I saw. I saw a coffin at my feet. It was a plain, unpretentious bier, made of deal, the last couch of the pauper, in which, notwithstanding
its closed lid, I saw plainly a hideous grinning skull, a man’s skeleton, mutilated and broken in many of its parts, as though it had been taken out of some hidden chamber of the defunct Inquisition, where it had been subjected to torture. “Who can it be?” . . . I thought.
At this moment I heard again my own voice . . . . . . . . . . “learn the reason or reasons why” . . . . . it said, as though the words it pronounced were the unbroken continuation of the same sentences. It sounded near and yet as from some incalculable distance; giving one the idea that the long subterranean journey, the subsequent mental reflections and discoveries, had occupied no time, had been performed during the short, quasi instantaneous interval between the ﬁrst and the middle words of a sentence, begun, at any rate, if not actually pronounced by my voice in Japan, and which it was ﬁnishing now.
Gradually, the hideous, mangled remains begun assuming a form, and a, to me, but too familiar appearance. The broken parts joined each other; the bones became covered with flesh, and I recognized, with some surprise, but not a trace of feeling at the sight, in those disfigured
remnants, my sister’s dead husband, my own brother-in-law, whom I had so loved for her sake! How was it, and how did he come to die such a terrible death? I asked myself. To put oneself a query seemed during
the state I was in, to solve it instantly. Barely had I asked myself the question, when I saw, as if in a panorama, the retrospective picture of poor Karl’s death in all its horrid vividness and with every thrilling detail. Here he is, full of life and joy at the prospect and hope of a lucrative employment from his principal, examining and trying a monster steam engine sent from America, in a wood-sawing factory. He bends over, to examine closer an inner arrangement, to tighten a screw. His clothes are caught by the teeth of the revolving wheel in full
motion, and suddenly he is dragged down, doubled up, and his limbs half severed, torn off before the workmen—unacquainted with the arrangement—can step it. He is taken out, or what remains of him, dead, mangled, a thing of horror, an unrecognizable mass of palpitating flesh and gore! I follow the remains wheeled in a heap to the hospital, hear the order brutally given that on their way the messengers of death should stop at the house of the widow and orphans,—I follow them, and find the unconscious family quietly assembled together. I see my sister, the dear, and the beloved, and remain indifferent at the sight, only feeling highly interested in
the coming scene. My heart, feelings, even my personality, seem to have disappeared, to have been left behind, to belong to somebody else, as I stand there, and see her receiving without preparation the unexpected news; realizing clearly, without one moment’s hesitation or
mistake, the effect of the shock upon her, seeing the inner process that takes place in her. I watch and remember, missing not the slightest detail.
I hear the long agonizing cry, my own name pronounced, and the dull thud of the falling living body upon the remains of the dead one; I follow the sudden thrill and the instantaneous perturbation in the brain after it, and watch with attention the worm-like, precipitated, and immensely intensiﬁed motion of the tubular fibres, the instantaneous change of colour in the cephalic extremity of the nervous system, the ﬁbrous nervous matter passing from white to bright red and then to a dark-red bluish hue. I notice the sudden ﬂash of a phosphorus-like, brilliant radiance, its tremor and its sudden
extinction followed by darkness,—complete darkness in the region of memory: as the radiance, comparable only to a human shape, oozes out suddenly from the top of the head; and I say to myself “this is insanity, life-long, incurable insanity, for the principle of intelligence is
not temporarily asleep but has deserted the tabernacle for ever.” I hear my far off and near voice pronouncing emphatically and close by me the words . . . . . “why my sister has so suddenly ceased writing . . . . .”. Before the two final words—“to me” have completed the sentence, I see a long series of sad events.
I behold the mother, a helpless grovelling, idiot, in the Lunatic Asylum attached to the city hospital, the children admitted into a Refuge for paupers. Finally I see them, a boy of fifteen, and a girl a year younger,
my favourites, both taken by strangers into their service. A captain of a sailing vessel carries away my nephew, an old Jewess adopts the tender girl. I see the events with all their horrors and thrilling details.
And mark well: when I use such expressions as “horrors,” etc., they are to be understood as an after-thought. During the whole time of the events described I experienced no sensation of either pain or pity. My feelings seemed to be paralyzed as well as my external senses; it was only after “coming back” that I realized my losses, to their full extent.
I had hardly had time to see my niece in her new Israelite home when I felt a shock of the same nature as the one that had sent me “swimming” through the bowels of the earth, as I had thought. I opened my eyes, and the first thing I ﬁxed them upon by accident—was
the clock. The needles showed on the dial seven minutes and a half past five!
For one brief instant I recollected nothing of what I had seen. The interval between the time I had glanced at the clock when taking from the Yamaboosi’s hands the mirror, and this second glance, seemed to me merged in one. I was just opening my lips to hurry on the Yamaboosi with his experiment, when the full remembrance of what I had just seen ﬂashed lightning-like into my brain. Uttering a cry of horror and despair, I felt as though the whole creation was crushing me under its weight. For one moment I remained speechless, the
picture of human ruin amid a world of death and desolation. My heart sunk down in anguish; my doom was closed; and a hopeless gloom seemed to settle over the rest of my life for ever!
Then came a reaction as sudden as was my grief. A doubt had arisen in my mind which had forthwith grown into a fierce desire of denying the truth of what I had seen. A stubborn resolution of treating the whole
scene as an empty, meaningless dream, the effect of my overloaded mind, had taken possession of me. Yes; it was but a lying vision, an idiotic cheating of my own senses, suggesting pictures of death and misery evoked by weeks of incertitude and mental depression.
“How could I see all that I have seen in less than half a minute? I exclaimed. Alone the theory of dreams, the rapidity with which the material changes on which ideas in our visions depend are excited in the hemispherical ganglia, would account for that long series of events I had seemed to view. In dream alone are the relations of space and time so completely annihilated. The Yamaboosi is for nothing in this
disagreeable nightmare. He is reaping only that which was sown by myself, and, by using some infernal drug, of which they have the secret, he contrived to make me lose consciousness for a few seconds and see that vision—lying as it was horrid!—avaunt all such thought! I believe it not. In a few days there will be a steamer sailing for Europe. I leave Kioto tomorrow!
This disjointed monologue was pronounced by me aloud, regardless of the presence of my respected friend, Bonze Soomara and the Yamahoosi. The latter was standing before me in the same position as when placing in my hands the mirror, and kept looking at me, I should perhaps say looking through me—calmly, and in digniﬁed silence. The Bonze, whose kind countenance was beaming with sympathy, approached me as he would a sick child, and laying gently his hand on mine:
-—“Friend;”-—he said—“ you must not leave this city before you have been completely purified of your contact with the lower Daij-Dzins (spirits) and the entrance to your inner self closed against their intrusion.”
For all answer, he received from me a stern rebuke, a violent protest on my part against the idea that I would regard the vision I had had in any other light save that of an empty dream, and his Yamaboosi as anything better than an impostor—“I will leave to-morrow, had I to
forfeit as a penalty my whole fortune!” I exclaimed.
“You will repent during the whole of your life if you do so before the holy man shuts every entrance in you against intruders ever on the watch and ready to enter an open door,” was the answer. “The Daij-Dzins will have the best of you!”
I interrupted him with a brutal laugh and a still more brutally-put enquiry about the fees I was expected to give the Yamaboosi for his experiment upon me.
“He needs no reward”—-was the reply. “The order he belongs to is the richest in the world, since its adherents need nothing, being above all terrestrial, hence, venal desires. Insult him not, the good man who came to help you out of pure love for the suffering and to relieve you of mental agony.”
But I would listen to no words of reason and wisdom. The spirit of rebellion and pride had possessed itself of me and made me disregard every feeling of personal friendship, even of simple propriety. Luckily for me, as I was going, turning round, to order the mendicant
monk out of my presence, he had gone.
I had not seen him move, but attributed his stealthy departure to fear at having been detected and understood.
Fool, blind, conceited idiot I was! Why did I fail to recognize the Yainaboosi’s power, and that the peace of my whole life was departing with him, from that moment for ever. But I did so fail. Even the fell
demon of my long fears—uncertainty, had now become entirely overpowered by that great fiend—the silliest of all—Skepticism. A dull, morbid unbelief, a stubborn denial of the evidence of my own senses, and a determined will to regard the whole vision as a fancy of my overwrought mind had resolutely got hold of me; so much so indeed, that I failed to pay any attention to the advice of my old friend, who suggested that I should telegraph to Nuremberg to the authorities that
I was coming, in case, if anything had happened to the parents, the children should be cared for. I repudiated the advice with scorn. To do so, amounted to virtually admitting that there may be some truth in
the foolish vision, after all, that I allowed the possibility that my mind’s eye (absurd term!) should have really seen something more than a dream.
“My mind”—I argued—“what is it? Shall I believe with the superstitious and the weak that this production of phosphorus and gray matter is indeed a superior part of me; that it can act and see independently of my physical senses? Never! Far rather, ‘dwell in air,
rarified to nothing by the air-pump of wholesome unbelief,’ than in the dim fog of silly superstition!” I argued, periphrasing Richter’s remark, “ I will not believe” I repeated; “but as I can stand such uncertainty
about my sister no longer—I will go to Europe.”
And I did sail, three days later, during which time I saw my friend the Bonze, no more. He had been evidently annoyed, perhaps seriously offended, with my more than irreverent, insulting remarks about one whom he is so justly respected; and his last words of parting on that for ever memorable evening were: “Friend of a foreign land, I pray that you should not repent of your unbelief and rashness. May the Holy One (Kwan-on, the goddess of mercy) protect you from the Dzins—for, since you refuse to submit to the process of puriﬁcation at the hands of the holy Yamboosi, he becomes powerless to defend you from the evil influences evoked by your unbelief and defiance of truth. Farewell!”
I had answered his sad words of parting with a scornful smile, and, for a few days, gave them no thought. I had not been at sea for a week, when I had cause to remember them! From the day of my experience with the magic mirror, I perceived a great change in my whole state, and attributed it, at ﬁrst, to the mental depression I had struggled against for so many months. During the day I found myself very often entirely absent from the surrounding scenes, losing for several minutes sight of things and persons. My nights were disturbed, the dreams oppressive and at times horrible. Good sailor I certainly was; and besides this the weather was unusually fine, the ocean as smooth as a pond. Notwithstanding this I often felt a strange giddiness, and the familiar faces of my fellow passengers assumed at such times the most
grotesque appearances. Thus, a young German I used to know well, was once suddenly transformed before my eyes into his old father, whom we had laid in the little burial place of the European colony some three years earlier. We were talking on deck of the defunct and of a certain business arrangement of his, when Max Grunner’s head appeared to me as though covered with a strange film. A thick grayish mist was surrounding him, and that gradually condensing around and upon his healthy countenance, settled suddenly into the grim old head I had myself seen covered with six feet of sod. At another time, I saw near the captain, who was talking of a Malay thief whom he had helped to secure and lodge in gaol, the yellow, villainous face of a man
answering to that description. I kept silent on such hallucinations; but as they became more and more frequent, I felt very much disturbed, though still attributing them to natural causes such as I had read about
in medical books.
One night I was abruptly awakened by a long and loud cry of distress. It was a woman’s voice, plaintive like that of a child, full of terror and helpless despair. I awoke with a start to find myself in a strange room,
on land, and the witness to the following brutal scenes. A young girl, almost a child, was desperately struggling; against a powerful middle-aged man, who had surprised her in her own room and during her sleep. Behind the closed door, which was moreover locked, I saw listening an old woman, whose face, notwithstanding the fiendish
expression upon it, seemed familiar to me, and which I immediately recognized; it was the Jewess who had adopted my niece in the dream I had at Kioto. She had received gold to help the perpetration of the foul crime and was now keeping her part of the covenant. But who was the victim? Oh horror unutterable! unspeakable horror! when I realized the situation after coming back to my normal state—it was my own child-niece.
But, as in my ﬁrst vision, I felt nothing in me of the nature of that despair born of affection at the sight of a wrong done to or misfortune befalling those we love; nothing but a manly indignation in the presence of suffering inflicted upon the weak and the helpless. I rushed, of course, to her rescue, and seized the wanton, brutal beast
by the neck. I fastened upon him with powerful grasp, but, the man heeded it not, he seemed not even to feel my hand—The coward seeing himself resisted lifted his powerful arm; and the thick fist coming down like a heavy hammer upon the sunny locks, felled the child to the ground. It was with a loud cry of indignation, or one of a tigress defending her cub, that I sprang upon the lewd beast and sought to throttle him. I then remarked, for the ﬁrst time, that, a shadow myself, I
was grasping but another shadow!
My loud shrieks and imprecations had awakened the whole steamer. They were attributed to a nightmare. I did not seek to take any one into my confidence, but, from that day forward, my life became a long series of mental tortures. I could hardly shut my eyes without becoming witness to some horrible deed, some scene of misery, death, or crime, whether past, present or even future,—as I ascertained later on. It was as though some mocking fiend had taken as his task to make me go through the vision of everything that was bestial, malignant, and hopeless in the world of misery. No radiant vision of beauty or virtue ever lit with the faintest ray these pictures of awe and wretchedness that I seemed doomed to witness. Scenes of wickedness—of
murder, treachery, and lust—fell dismally upon my visions, and I was brought face to face with the vilest results of man’s passions, the outcome of his material earthly cravings.
Had the Bonze foreseen, indeed, the dreary results, when he spoke of Daij-Dzins to whom I left “a door open” in me? Nonsense! There must be some physiological, abnormal change in me. Once at Nuremberg,
when I shall have ascertained how false was the direction taken by my fears—I dared not hope for no misfortune at all—these meaningless visions will disappear as they came. Even the fact that my fancy
follows but one direction, that of pictures of misery, of human passions in their worst, material shape, is a proof.
“If, as you say, man consists of one substance,—matter, the object of the physical senses; and perception with its modes is the result of the organization of the brain only, then should we be naturally attracted but to the material, the earthly” . . . I thought I heard the familiar
voice of the Bonze interrupting my reflections and repeating an often used argument of his in his discussions with me.
“There are two planes of vision before men,” I again heard him say—“the plane of undying love and spiritual aspirations, the efflux from the eternal light; and the plane of restless, ever-changing matter, the light in which the misguided Daij—Dzins bathe.”
In those days I could hardly realize the absurdity of a belief in any “spirits,” good, bad or indifferent; I now understood, if not believed, what was meant by the term, though I still persisted in hoping it would finally prove some physical derangement or nervous hallucination.
I was doomed to the most cruel disappointment. Hardly at Nuremberg, I ascertained that I had seen the terrible tragedy with all its heart-rending details correctly! My brother-in-law killed under the wheels of a machine; my sister insane and now rapidly sinking toward her end; my niece,—the sweet flower of nature’s fairest work—dishonoured, in a den of infamy; my last surviving nephew at sea, no one knew where! A whole house—a home of love and peace—scattered; and I left alone, a witness to this world of death, of desolation and dishonour. At the news I felt inﬁnite despair, and sunk helpless before this pomp of horror befalling me all at once. The shock proved too much and I fainted. The last I heard before entirely losing my consciousness
was a remark of the Burgmeister:—“Had you telegraphed to the city authorities before leaving Kioto, of your whereabouts, and intention of coming home to take charge of your young relatives, we might have
placed them elsewhere, and thus saved them from their fate. No one knew the children had a-well-to-do relative. They had remained paupers and had to be dealt with as such. They were strangers at Nuremberg, and under the unfortunate circumstances you could
hardly have expected anything else; I can only express my sorrow.”
It was this terrible news that I might have saved, at any rate my young niece, from her unmerited fate, had I but followed the friendly advice of the Bonze Tamoora, and telegraphed to the authorities some weeks previous to my return, which, coupled with the fact that I could no
longer doubt clairvoyance and clairaudience—the possibility of which I had so long denied—that brought me so heavily down at once. I could avoid the censure of my fellow-creatures; I could never escape the stings of my conscience, the reproaches of my own aching heart—
no, met as long as I lived! I cursed my stubborn skepticism, my denial of facts, my early education. I cursed myself and the whole world.
For Several days I contrived not to sink beneath my load, for I had a duty to perform to the dead and the living. But my sister once rescued from the pauper’s asylum, placed under the care of the best physician with her daughter to attend to her last moments, and the Jewess,
whom I had brought to confess her crime, safely lodged in gaol—my fortitude and strength suddenly abandoned me. Hardly a week after my arrival I was myself no better then a raving maniac, helpless in the strong grip of a brain-fever. For several weeks I was between life and death, the terrible disease defying the skill of the best physicians. At last my strong constitution prevailed and they proclaimed me saved.
I heard the news with a bleeding heart. Doomed to drag the loathsome burden of life henceforth alone, hoping for no help or remedy on earth, and still refusing to believe in the possibility of existence beyond the grave, this unexpected return to life added one more large drop of gall to my bitter feelings. They were hardly soothed by the immediate return, during the ﬁrst days of my convalescence, of these unwelcome and unsought for visions, whose correctness and reality I could deny no longer. Alas! they were no longer in my skeptical, blind mind:—
“The children of an idle brain.
“Begot of nothing but vain fantasy;”
But always the faithful photographs of the real woes and sufferings of my fellow-creatures, of‘my best-friends . . . Thus, I found myself doomed to the torture and helplessness of a chained Prometheus at the sight of the wretchedness of my relatives; whenever I was left for a moment alone. During the still hours of night, as though held by
some pitiless iron hand, I found myself led to my sister’s bedside, forced to watch and see hour after hour the silent disintegration of her wasted organism, to witness and feel sufferings that her own tenantless brain could no longer reflect or convey to her perceptions. And what was still more horrible, I had to look at the childish innocent face of my young niece so sublimely simple and guileless in her pollution; to see how the full knowledge and recollection of her dishonour, of her young life now forever blasted, came back to her every night in her dreams,—dreams which, for me, took an objective form, as they had done on the steamer, and I had to live over, night after night, the same terrible pangs. For now, since I believed in the reality of seership, and
had come to the conclusion that in our body lies hidden, as in the caterpillar, the chrysalis which may contain in its turn the butterfly—Greek symbol of the soul—I no longer remained indifferent as of yore to what I witnessed in my visions. Something had suddenly developed in me, had broken loose from its icy cocoon; for now, not an unconscious pang in my dying sister’s emaciated body, not a thrill of horror in any niece’s restless sleep at the recollection of the crime perpetrated upon the innocent child—but found a responsive echo in my bleeding heart. The-deep fountain of sympathetic love send sorrow had gushed out from the physical heart and was now loudly echoed by the awakened soul separated from the body. It was a daily and nightly torture; Oh! how I mourned over my proud folly; how punished I was for having neglected to avail myself at Kioto of the preferred purification! A Daij-Dzin had indeed obtained control over me; and the fiend had let loose the dogs of hell upon his victim.
At last the awful gulf was crossed, and the poor insane martyr dropped into her dark and noisome grave, leaving behind her, but for a few short months, her young daughter. Consumption made short work of that tender childish frame; hardly a year after my arrival I was left alone, my only surviving nephew having expressed a desire to follow his sea-faring career.
A wreck, a prematurely old man, looking at thirty as though sixty winters had passed over my doomed head, and owing to the never ceasing visions, myself on the verge of insanity, I suddenly formed a desperate resolution. I would return to Kioto and seek out the Yamaboosi. I would prostrate myself at the feet of the holy man and would not leave him before he had recalled the Frankenstein he had raised, but with whom I would not part at the time through my own insolent pride.
Three months later I was in my Japanese home again, having sought out my old, venerable Bonze Tamoora Hideyeri, and supplicating him to take me without an hour’s delay to the Yamaboosi, the innocent cause of my daily tortures. His answer made my despair tenfold
intensified. The Yamaboosi had left the country—for lands unknown. He had departed one fine morning into the interior, on pilgrimage, and according to custom, would be absent, unless natural death shortened the period, for no less than seven years!
I applied for help and protection to other Yamaboosis. No one of them could promise me to relieve me entirely from the demon of clairvoyant obsession. He who raised certain Daij-Dzins, calling on them to show
futurity, or things that had already passed, had alone full control over them. Thus, partially relieved and taught how to conjure the visions away, I still remain helpless to prevent them from appearing before me now and then. I have learned many a nature’s secret out of the secret folios of the library of Tzion-ene; obtained mastery over several kinds of invisible beings of a lower order. But, the great secret of power over the terrible Daij-Dzins, remains with the initiates of Lao-tze, the Yumaboosis alone. One has to become one of them to get such a control, and, I was found unfit to join them, owing to many insurmountable reasons, though I tried hard for it.
“My son,”—-said to me the old Bonze—while explaining the difficulties—“No one who has subjected himself either willingly or otherwise to the power of a Daij-Dzin, can hope to become a real Yamaboosi. At
best he may become fitted to oppose, and successfully fight them off. Like a scar left after a poisoned wound the trace of a Daij-Dzin can never be effaced from our inner nature until changed by a new rebirth.”