The Squaw Hollow Sensation: Part 6 – Dr. Von Herbst’s Thoughts

“Mountain Democrat,” July 19, 1879 (continued)


“Now, memory is s storehouse of the mind, where mental impressions are preserved. In the brain communication is carried on between its different organs or parts by means of certain nerves ore wires, actuated by a subtle fluid, being the psychic telegraphy, and the result is ‘thought’, but the curious thing remains, and is a real curiosity in mentality, that it is not the ‘sensorium’, or consciousness, that does the thinking. There are certain parts of the brain, as I have above hinted, dedicated to special functions, and their inner office is to color thoughts or objects with their peculiar shades. Here is a mutual process which may look slow and tedious when you consider how mechanical most of your thoughts seem to you. An impression is made on the retina of the eye (which you will remember is nothing but the division of the optic nerve into numerous delicate filaments, and their expansion into a delicately sensitive surface) by the impinging waves of light reflected and the extra vibrated from any object. The vibration is then taken up by the delicate little nerves, and they all vibrating in unison is communicated by psychic force or mental electricity to the inner consciousness. From there it may be sent to the organ of Veneration, or Firmness, or Amativeness, or any other organ, to be colored by such organ according to its own strict qualities. In the cerebrum thought originates, and yet we are unconscious of having thought, but by nerve telegraphy this thought or idea is made known to the sensorium, where it may be sent to the organ of Comparison, and thence back again in like manner. After a number of such processes the sensorium is conscious of a digested thought, and then it becomes manifest by the will acting, and the ‘impression’ thus produced is stored up as a picture in the organ called Memory. The thought, or consequences of the though, may be then sent to the organs of the same body, or, if there were a nerve reaching between two brains, could be transmitted from one brain to another, and at times, although such a connecting nerve may be wanting, yet, if other conditions are favorable, the mental fluid may leap through vacant space from one brain to another, just as the electric fluid will leap a river when the opposite poles of a battery are each dipped into the water. And remember that the thought you communicate to another goes by vibration as far as the nerves will reach, and, like the elastic fluid through vacant space, to the sensorium of the receiving brain, which considers, not the various processes through which yours has gone, but in fact and reality the results of some of your conclusions, and really sees your thought itself, and this he proceeds to store up in Memory, where it becomes in turn a factor in his mined forever, coloring and influencing all later thoughts and mental processes of his won, Thus, you see, mental impressions are mere pictures of events, stored up in a certain recording spot called Memory, and the process by which the sensorium gets possession of, or becomes conscious of, said impressions, is identical with that process by which Mrs. Professor Denton reproduced the stored-up impression from the rock (Note: It was previously indicated that Mrs. Denton could tell about the terrible fire in the Yellow Jacket mine by simply holding a rock from there in her hand). Why should not a person at times become conscious of vibrating light, or similar vibrating thought, through other channels than the organs of sense? You can hear a watch ticking quite a distance away, when your ears are stopped up, by placing a stick between or against the teeth and extending it to the watch. Now, with one or two familiar instances, taken from our own daily experience, I will carry my point with you, and you will be forced to admit that there is a force in the body that can and does convey impressions from one brain to another without the intervention of any of the usual means of communication. Have you not impressions sometimes that you could not have received through sight, or hearing, or smell, or taste, or touch? Think well before you answer. What are the premonitions we sometimes experience? Think of the warnings you have had in dreams, special and specific warnings. Think of the many times a certain impression takes possession of your mind in regard to the happening of an event still ‘in future’. Have you never been walking along the street, in an abstract mood, and suddenly ‘felt’ or ‘known’, without seeing or hearing it, that someone was walking behind you? There are many well authenticated instances of the safe passage of sleep-walkers through difficult or perilous situations, which all must admit as beyond ordinary mind action. In the case of the sleep-walker the mind seems to outside of the body, leading it about and watching its steps for its own amusement.

“It has been said that a thing once learned is never forgotten. I will go further, and say that an impression once made is never eradicable. Bear it in mind not to confuse ‘Memory’ with ‘recollection.’ They are entirely different. We all have equal Memories, or places in the brain for storing up impressions, but Recollection is the energy, or power, or mental force that can search out among the stored-up impressions, and choose the one that is needed or called for. What a queer thing it is! Your sensorium of Consciousness, the great head and center of the brain as it were, sits in his office quietly awaiting business. A telephone at his side gives notice that customer wants the particulars of a past event. Ego turns lazily in his great easy-chair, and telegraphs to Memory for the wanted article. Recollection, Memory’s clerk, hunts among the musty records on the dusty shelves, but cannot find it. Ego fumes, the customer frets, Recollection is horrified and worried, but all to no purpose. Finally, the turmoil over and forgotten, when the tired clerk is putting things to rights again, suddenly, unsearched for and unexpectedly, the missing impression reveals itself! Such experiences explain the general phenomena of Impressions. What I have by implications striven to show is, that impressions are not ideas, but can be and are communicated outside of the regular and ordinary means of organs and senses.

“Now I come to a statement of facts. From the moment of the wonderful revival of Sethos in the Aztec cave at Squaw Hollow, I shall skip to the point where the Editor and his party were good enough to call on me in my quarters at the Continental Hotel, Ringgold, when, as you will remember, the only inspection allowed by the attendant consisted in examining the bandages and inscriptions, and a single glance through an open door at the outstretched form of the Aztec.

(Note: Ringgold was once a prosperous mining town on a tributary of Weber Creek called Ringgold Creek, to the north and east of Diamond Springs. It is believed to have been named for Cadwalader Ringgold of the Wilkes Expedition, who explored the region in 1841. The name is often misspelled Ringold).

“I partially recovered my health and sprits, and about three weeks ago took exclusive charge of Sethos myself. Entering the room the first time since leaving my bed, I was astonished at the fearful change that had come over him. From that well developed, finely formed man of the cave, he had now shrunk to mere skin and bones; but I need not have been so surprised had I but remembered that in restoring him I had filled his veins successively with nutrient matter and pure living blood which, however, had necessarily been appropriated by the animal economy, in the great effort at life.

(Note: It was sheep’s blood that was used)

“His eyes now burned and sparkled with an unearthly gleam, like the eyes of the fabled ‘basilisk.’

(Note: According to European legends, a basilisk is a reptile reputed to be king of the serpents and said to have the power of causing death by a single glance).

“I asked Dr. Spencer (who, but the way, came all the way from San Francisco when he heard of my illness) how his patient behaved, but he answered that there was no “behavior” at all. I learned in addition, from one of the attendants, that he had shown no signs of sleep since his resurrection. “I guess,” he added, with something like an attempt at a joke, “after a thousand-years’ sleep a man don’t get tired in a month or so.” I looked severely at the man, but believing that there was no intended sarcasm hidden beneath his light words, I instantly forgave him, whereat he expressed himself as being very happy.

“But I was troubled and the more I thought about it the more perplexed and vexed and disordered did I become. Of what avail were my labors in reviving this being from his long sleep of death, since on awakening him I find him without mind? Here was a body, and nothing but a body. True, he was alive to a degree, but what did that signify? He might lie there like a log for years and years, and I, who had striven, and thought, and worried my brains out almost, in hopes of gaining information about ancient life, language and customs of an interesting people, would have gained nothing but the ridicule which my first over-sanguine letters to the Society would certainly reflect on me, unless I could verify my statements and in some degree justify my predictions.

“The continual worry, and fret, and excitement gradually weakened me and broke down my more fleshy habit, but seemed to leave my nerves in a most tense and sensitive condition. I seemed no longer to need sleep, and a mere suggestion of a thought would send me off for hours into the most abstruse and torturous reasonings. I determined, therefore, as the case seemed to depend on but one point, which point, as you divine, was to restore conscious mind-action or cerebration to the subject, to take full charge of the invalid myself, and try a last and most forlorn hope. I had thus attended him for nearly twenty-four hours at a stretch, occasionally getting up to administer a few spoonfuls of iced milk, and to look for the lost expression of the eye, when, with my hand on the mummy’s head, I fell asleep.

“In my sleep my disordered fancy shaped my thoughts naturally toward the subject uppermost in my mind. I seemed to be making my whole investigation over again. I had greatly feared the bad results of the mummy discovering his awful situation, midway twixt life and death, and had consequently made a small hole in his skull, by which I had put a pressure on the seat of consciousness. I was now in my dream at this point of the investigation, when I passed, without being conscious of any awakening, into a fully conscious state. The singular and always-to-be-wondered-at instance was, that I did not seem to have been fully asleep at all, but, continuing my sleep, was awake at the same time. Indeed, I had gone into that peculiar state of magnetism or mesmerism when my body seemed to have no further connection with my will. I could see, yet I did not seem to use my eyes. It was a most peculiar sensation. At any rate, I knew this much, that in the state immediately preceding my magnetization my had had gradually wandered back over the head of Sethos until I had felt the wound which I had made at the time of my last experiments, and that, in my horror at finding the wire still in position where I had placed it, I tore it away suddenly and lost consciousness for a while.”

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