The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 2

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 52

finally,
that his susceptibility to the impression increases with its frequency,
while, in the same proportion, the peculiar phenomena elicited are more
extended and more _pronounced_.

I say that these--which are the laws of mesmerism in its
general features--it would be supererogation to demonstrate; nor shall I
inflict upon my readers so needless a demonstration; to-day. My purpose
at present is a very different one indeed. I am impelled, even in
the teeth of a world of prejudice, to detail without comment the very
remarkable substance of a colloquy, occurring between a sleep-waker and
myself.

I had been long in the habit of mesmerizing the person in
question, (Mr. Vankirk,) and the usual acute susceptibility and
exaltation of the mesmeric perception had supervened. For many months he
had been laboring under confirmed phthisis, the more distressing effects
of which had been relieved by my manipulations; and on the night of
Wednesday, the fifteenth instant, I was summoned to his bedside.

The invalid was suffering with acute pain in the region of the
heart, and breathed with great difficulty, having all the ordinary
symptoms of asthma. In spasms such as these he had usually found relief
from the application of mustard to the nervous centres, but to-night
this had been attempted in vain.

As I entered his room he greeted me with a cheerful smile, and
although evidently in much bodily pain, appeared to be, mentally, quite
at ease.

"I sent for you to-night," he said, "not so much to administer
to my bodily ailment, as to satisfy me concerning certain psychal
impressions which, of late, have occasioned me much anxiety and
surprise. I need not tell you how sceptical I have hitherto been on the
topic of the soul's immortality. I cannot deny that there has always
existed, as if in that very soul which I have been denying, a vague
half-sentiment of its own existence. But this half-sentiment at no
time amounted to conviction. With it my reason had nothing to do.
All attempts at logical inquiry resulted, indeed, in leaving me more
sceptical than before. I had been advised to study Cousin. I studied
him in his own works as well as in those of his European and American
echoes. The 'Charles Elwood' of Mr. Brownson, for example, was placed
in my hands. I read it with profound attention. Throughout I found it
logical, but the portions which were not _merely_ logical were unhappily
the initial arguments of the disbelieving hero of the book. In his
summing up it seemed evident to me that the reasoner had not even
succeeded in convincing himself. His

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