"Now that a year and a half has
passed, I may tell you my experience. Then, it was such a very personal
matter that I kept it to myself.
"I woke to find that
eighteen months had passed since I fell asleep. That year and a half was
blank. I could vividly remember my life from very infancy, but the
experiences of those eighteen months were not a part of it.
"I could remember what I
had done during this period in somewhat the way we remember the daily doings
of an acquaintance, though far less vividly, and it seemed it was not me,
though I know full well it was. This was sufficient to enable me to keep my
engagements, and so my acquaintances, though noticing a change in me, did
not know what had happened.
"Really my mental
life in the two phases of personality is as different as day and night, but
the habits, being well organized, persist through both, and the habits are
the most noticed characteristics of those we know except in the case of some
few intimate friends.
"The change or waking
occurred not quickly, but gradually. I was sitting by my window reading—as
it happened-something of Herbert Spencer’s. Something there touched a chord
that had ceased to vibrate over a year before. One point in the chain of my
past experience found, all was quickly regained.
"Looking out of the
window things seemed real—as I compared the view out of the window with what
it was a minute before. It was a real living view to be seen with the eyes
where there was a flat, faded, uninteresting picture.
"The great, great world
opened up before me, not to the ocular vision tone, but to the mental eye.
Again I felt the thrill of living awaken those chords of sympathy that bind
each thing that is with all that is, has been, or is to be.
"During that day and the
next, I made a great many observations, comparing the two phases of
personality—the strong and the weak, as I will call them.
"Alas! I woke to fall
asleep again. I hope, I pray, there is a waking, for one day of life is
worth more than a year of sleep.
"It was only a few days
later, I don't know exactly how long, when going back into precisely the
same environment, routine habit in its favor, the weaker proved the
stronger, and pulled me, dragged me back.
"For a few months the
personality was very unstable, changing phase slightly from day to day. It
finally settled down, but is a very weak personality. I go on without much
interest in the world, able to make a living, but having few joys and few
sorrows, a dull, dull life. The past forgotten, almost as fast as passed,
little thought of the future, and little of the great world about me. I know
it is a great world, because I once could see, but that now to
me is less than another’s testimony.
"As a boy I went to
school very little, but read much; I read because there was something in
books I wanted to get at. I took especial delight in scientific study.
Except the writing of a few scientific thinkers I never read a book through
from cover to cover, but searched through it for the particular mental food
I was in need of. What I read I sifted into two parts: the bulkiest, useless
to me, I slung away; the substance of the other was bound up in my mental
growth, and became a part of me, never to be lost or
forgotten. Oh, where now? My books were my companions.
"Having saved a little
money for the purpose, I quit work three years ago and entered high school.
Decided to study Latin, and found it difficult. Not being accustomed to give
up what I had undertaken, I determined to conquer it. As it became more
difficult, my determination became one fixed idea to which everything else
"The studies I loved and
all of my pleasures were given up.
"In eighteen months I
had exhausted myself mentally. As I had felt my powers failing, life had
been one living torment. Happy for me, each day was forgotten as it passed.
"From sheer exhaustion
I gave up the fight. From that moment a load was off my mind. I felt
"It was a few days after
this, a Friday or a Saturday, I think, I had the experience I have related.
It was going back into the same school-room that brought me back.
"During the remaining
two months of school I read other things during study time, and studied none
of my lessons, but found I could recite and stand my exams far better than
before. One exception, I spent three hours a week at Latin with my teacher.
"During these two months
everyone thought me very original, but the fact is, every original thought I
expressed during those two months had its birth and growth to maturity in
those two days previous, and the thought, being put into word form was
carried over the gulf that separates the two periods.
"I could not remember in
itself that period of the strong personality, I could not call to mind its
feelings and aspirations, but I could remember its thoughts, because
they seemed to have been stereotyped into word (language) form. Language
seemed to be the intermediate link that connected the two phases. Throughout
the two months the thought of those two days seemed to have made a far
deeper impression on memory than anything else, and, except as counted by
days and hours, those two days were a longer period of time than the
previous eighteen months.
"A few days or weeks, I
don't remember now, though I can look it up, after my experience of the
strong personality, feeling that it was fast fading from memory, I wrote an
account of it, some sixty pages, taking great care to make it accurate.
Unfortunately, that record has been destroyed. I have no direct memory of
the period of strong personality now, and all I may say about it is based on
my memory of that record.
"It was written between
midnight and three o'clock, and I got up from bed to write it. I had
previously come to the conclusion it must be consigned to writing for fear
of my death, as I believed it might be of value to someone.
"When I found it fast fading from memory, and realized that when it was
forgotten I should cease to endeavor to let the prisoner out and he should
lie unconscious in his prison till its threescore and ten were out, and then
cease to exist without having known of his own existence, except for the
period of his first score of years. It was this thought that took me out of
bed at midnight to record the experience, for 1 thought even if it were
forgotten, if I had it recorded in my own handwriting, I should know
something of the prisoner, and though having no personal interest in him,
should do something to set him free.
"At the end of the
school-year I graduated, Latin not excepted, and then began work at a trade,
and in that change of environment have almost forgotten my two years of
school-life, which shows what a weak personality I have now. However, I have
done better than I once expected, for I have made a living, and am giving
satisfaction to my employers, have been advanced, and have good promise of
"In the weak phase it is
characteristic that thought and language are inseparable. It is impossible
to think faster than speak (or speak mentally). In the strong, vigorous
thought is so independent of words or verbal representation that I can think
ten or even twenty times as fast as I can speak. In the weak, I think in
images of words; in the strong, I think in images of things.
"In both phases of
personality life is made up of seeing and doing, and what I do is adapted
and directed by what I see, but there is this vast difference: in the one,
the connective link is only habit, in the other it is a vast network of
thought and feeling that constitutes mental life.
"In the weak I may speak
of ‘what I believe’ just as I do in the strong, forgetting that it is of no
importance what I believe about most things, as it has no part in directing
my conduct, that being really (however I may deceive myself) controlled by
habit. In the strong, previous to every act throughout the day, is a long
but quick train of thought which determined it, and this train of thought is
controlled by my beliefs.”