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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.
Simon P. Goodhart, M.D.
AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF DUAL LIFE EXPERIENCE
ABOUT six months after Mr. Hanna’s complete recovery, at our request he furnished us with the following personal account of his experience since the accident, April 15, 1897:
The first return to consciousness on the night of April 15, 1897, may be understood only by comparing it to the birth of a person possessed immediately of matured mental and physical functions. The first memories are the most vivid of all, and the difficulty in describing them is from want of a parallel as comparison. During the first rudiments of consciousness, there was absolute lack of knowledge that an outside world was in existence. The eyes were closed, there were no sounds to be heard and the power of motion was not yet known. How long this first state, without knowledge of anything in the material world, really lasted, is not possible to say. Simple memory would represent it as a period of many years, so great was the mental activity and so wonderful were even the meagre facts of consciousness. But the fact that absolutely no motion was made, even of the eyelids, and that no sound was heard, although the room was full of watchers, apparently indicates that the state was of but an instant’s duration. In fact, later experiences which left on me the impression that would now be made by the life-happenings of many years, really continued only for a few moments, according to the positive testimony of others who observed them. Thus, if memory, with its present habits of comparison, was to be trusted for a verdict, my life for the first few days would be declared to cover a few centuries, and this impression has been corrected only by force of the most vigorous reasoning on my part and the exercise of the perfect power of the will in forming beliefs.
The mental tension of the first state was relieved by a sensation of breathing. This was the first breath since the return of the sense of touch or “feeling,” which was doubtless at the same time as the return of consciousness, and the sensation brought a feeling of intense wonder. Consciousness had apparently returned at the time of the full breath as the first sensation was of exhaling, as the lungs became empty and the heart-beat was felt. This was a new object of study and the mind was not slow to direct itself toward it. It is necessary to state in this connection that the local physicians of Plantsville, then attending, report that during the last half hour of unconsciousness the breathing was so faint and the heart-action so weak that at times even the most careful observation failed to distinguish either. This shows that at the first moment of consciousness the sense-perception was acute. There seems to have been an immediate complete restoration of every mental and physical power, as the subsequent narration will continue to show. Inhalation and exhalation followed normally.
Although breathing was involuntary, yet the fact was noticed that its rapidity varied according to the degree in which the attention was fixed upon it. I remember the great effort to vary the breathing to every form from a short, quick gasp to a deep sigh. This I have been told was the first sign to the watchers of returning consciousness. In spite of all that the mind had experienced in that wonderful moment, those who had watched so carefully had been able to observe absolutely nothing of the return to conscious life or rather the birth into a new life. The violent exertion in varying the breathing brought to those present grave fears, although there was actually no danger. There were merely the experiments of a man who had just found that he could breathe. During this breathing also the sense of hearing was first discovered, and it was almost instantly learned that the breathing could be made more or less distinctly heard according to the wish. In this way the breathing became at times inaudible and again so loud as almost to a snort. At this time the power of motion in the face was learned principally by the mouth and nostrils, and it was no wonder that those taking care of me were alarmed by the contortions of the face and the spasms of the chest.
Voices and movements were now heard in the room, breathing paused for a moment, arrested by this new wonder. On commencing once more violent breathing and the movements of the face, the eyes suddenly opened quite involuntarily, and here indeed was like a new world of wonder and study. Objects were all alike as to distance, shape and thickness, but the variety of color was the feature of interest. The room was a great, beautiful picture, absolutely without distance beyond the eye. There was as yet no motion of the head or limbs, but the eyes were restlessly moving about as far as the field of vision allowed. Yet at the next breath the motion of the chest was seen and in watching that, the head was felt to move. Having learned this new power, the head was soon turned here and there and rolled about in ceaselessly until the violent effort soon caused a motion of the shoulders and then of the arms, which were tossing backward and forward and groping and feeling about in the great desire to learn all that was to be learned.
At this time one of the attendants standing near the door moved a step or two. Expecting that this motion, like the others, was connected with my own power, I reached out toward the person who had moved, and was much surprised at not being able to touch the object and repeat the movement. In the effort to reach farther and farther, the body and limbs came into use. After some effort I learned to walk imperfectly a step or two, and persisting in the search, I reached the person who had moved, and gave him a vigorous push. I was well rewarded by seeing him move, but surprised that he directed his motion violently toward me. The other men in the room also came forward, and the fact dawned upon me, now too late, that there were others like myself in existence, and that they expected to have an influence in regulating my movements. They pushed me without much trouble back to the bed, but my unwillingness to be opposed was very great and another effort placed me beyond their control.
I have been asked many times to account for the remarkable strength then at my command, but I cannot do so. Furthermore, it is now my desire to give facts, not theories. My only thought was to resist with my utmost exertion the well-meant efforts of the men, who in turn misunderstood my motives. My only wish was to defeat them that I might be free from them. There wag no idea of personal danger, and consequently no sense of fear. I gave myself to the object in view with a complete abandon that is proved by the wounds and bruises received which an experienced person would have guarded against, perhaps, by withholding same of his strength.
The three men who were first engaged with me in the struggle were all heavier than I and one was far taller. The first man to interest me was the one who had first moved and he was thrown to the door, and the others were pushed back. Another man caught me by the throat and this transferred my interest to him. He was soon thrown down and held fast, regardless of the efforts of the other two men to gain control. I meant no harm, and although two of the men were where I could have inflicted serious injury, I was satisfied to keep affairs in status quo and none of us suffered except by bruises and lameness and dishevelled clothing. However, it was impossible for me to rise without releasing the one against whom I felt the greatest opposition as being the one who had caught me by the throat. And thus we remained, neither side being able to gain the desired advantage until another man was summoned from the neighborhood. After another severe struggle, the four gained control, and my arms were tied behind my back. This produced considerable pain, but worst of all was the hateful feeling of helplessness, and so I was tossing and writhing as though in great agony.
At this time the family to whose house I had been brought returned and learned of the evening’s experiences, and the desire was to release me from the painful restrictions. This was done without the knowledge of the attendants. I was heartily glad to be released and glad that there was no attempt to renew hostilities. The time was spent in watching those present, and wondering at the strange sounds and movements by which they seemed to understand each other.
I was beginning to see that people were kindly disposed toward me after all, and it was a great trial indeed that I was not able to talk as I saw them do, in order that I might tell them that my previous actions had resulted from a misunderstanding and not from intentional harm on my part. However, I was still suspicious of the attendants and would not allow anyone’s hand near my throat or face. Soon exhaustion overcame me, and, as I now told, the remainder of the night was spent in a comatose state.
The next day (Friday) the awakening brought a continuance of the experiences of the preceding evening. My great desire was to learn to talk and to this end I repeated every phrase I overheard but I found that people either were puzzled or misunderstood my meaning. And so I gave up this attempt for the time being. I was suffering from great hunger, but did not know that it was possible to satisfy my wants until at last a little food was brought and I was taught to drink from a glass. Having learned how to eat, I took nourishment so eagerly that there was fear to provide more, and my greatest inconvenience for the first two or three days was from hunger and the inability to state the need.
One of the friends at last appreciated the fact that I was fully able to learn to talk, but had merely lost the use of words, and she consequently set to work to teach me to talk. The first lesson was “apple.” After hearing the word repeated several times, I understood that it was desired that I should say it likewise, and so I did, and was rewarded by being taught to eat the apple. Yet my idea of the meaning of the word was very vague. To me “apple” was an expression of the thought “food,” and my constantly calling for “apple” was simply the expression of my desire to eat, although it was interpreted as an expression of an inordinate desire for fruit, and consequently my diet was even more restricted.
The next words were the imitation of the “tick-tick” of the watch, and the word “watch” itself. After this, words were learned with remarkable rapidity, needing to be explained only once in order to become permanently a part of my vocabulary. Of course, parts of speech other than nouns and verbs were more difficult of explanation, but everything was well understood as soon as it was made clear to me. It was, however, a long time before the use of the pronoun was substituted for the use of the proper name.
Strictly speaking, there was not a question of learning to talk, but rather of learning to understand. Every word could be correctly repeated without difficulty, and as soon as once satisfactorily explained, was always correctly used. The arduous task was to define each word in terms of the limited vocabulary already at command. Concrete nouns, especially the names of objects in the room, were easily learned, but certain verbs and other parts of speech were hard of illustration. Expression by the hands and face were of great effect in presenting the root idea of a word, but often failed to make clear whether a noun, or verb, or adjective was intended.
After learning in this way by repetition, it was natural that the personal pronouns should present some difficulty. For example, “you” was understood as being the denominative applied to me, and “me” as applied to the one addressing me. Consequently, on commencing to use these words, I referred to myself as “you,” and to the interlocutor as “me” or “I.” It was some time before the fact could be learned that "I" and "you" might refer to the same person if used by different speakers.
While stating that a word once defined was always remembered, it must be acknowledged that a great many ridiculous mistakes were made, from the fact that only the first bare definition was known in exclusion of any shades of meaning, or of the scope of the term. A fowl was seen through the window and was described as a “black hen.” I had already been taught the names of two or three colors, white, green and pink, but did not know the word “black” or the word “hen,” consequently I understood “black-hen” as one word, the name of the creature. A moment later, seeing another fowl which was white, I referred to it as a “white black-hen.” Having learned imperfectly the use of the word “talk,” and understanding that it referred to the motion of the mouth, I at first described the process of eating as “talking” the food.
Long argument was required to convince me that I was a human being, or, as I then expressed it, “people.” I had noticed that I had many of the physical characteristics of others, but as they were always walking or standing fully dressed for active daily life, able to talk and to act freely, while I was kept in bed and obliged to learn everything laboriously, led me to think that I was a creature of a different order. When told that some day I would walk about and look like other people, I at once wished to know whether I would wear a dress, or a coat, or trousers.
Ideas of time were taught to me by holding a watch and naming as a minute the time required for the revolution of the second hand. Large divisions were defined with relation to this, but were at first scarcely understood, or at least scarcely realized, although constant reference to the watch and a comparison of its different indices were of assistance.
There was no idea of distance beyond a few feet. The out-door world appeared through the window as a picture whose details occasionally moved, as when a man or a dog passed or when the trees waved. The room was the world, into which persons came into existence or were annihilated at the doorway. It was soon evident, however, that persons carried on an existence outside the room, and later that by mentioning a person’s name he would appear on the scene. And so everyone who had visited the room and whose name I had heard was called for, and I could by no means understand what was meant by saying that so-and-so was many miles away, or “lived down in Plantsville.” I entertained the idea that everyone I had seen was just outside the door, and could have been reached at a moment’s notice.
A mirror was given to me by chance, and seeing my image in it, I attempted to find the face behind the glass, but it had disappeared. Again and again the effort was made to find the person who had eyes and mouth which he could move as other persons could do. There was no idea that the face was a picture of anyone in the room until by chance the glass was turned so that other objects and persons were seen reflected in it, and on using a larger glass, the whole matter was explained.
Saturday morning, the absence of pain in the head was noticed. This pain had been severe, but had been ignored by me, I suppose, because, being constant, I was not aware of it as an abnormal condition. Now that it was absent mostly, yet returning by spells, the difference between the normal condition and the condition of pain was appreciated, but it was puzzling to the attendants to hear now of severe pain in the head, when formerly none had been complained of. The pain was an intense, hot pressure, such as would be felt under a great weight of hot metal on the head. The periods of relief were so welcome that there was a desire to laugh hysterically or to get up and jump about. The pain was described by me as “big push on the head,” which was to be interpreted as severe pressure on the head.
There was a great desire to see and become acquainted with people and to hear them talk. An extraordinary memory was manifested in afterward recognizing people once introduced to me. A general lively conversation was scarcely understood at all, but the meaning of a detached sentence could often be guessed by thinking over the words in all possible relations, so that sometimes much more was overheard by me than others suspected. However, as most of the remarks had reference to the accident or to my former life, their bearing was wholly incomprehensible, as there was no idea in my mind of my former life.
When my former life was first mentioned to me, I refused to accept it, being still suspicious of everything but the evidence of my own senses. This opinion would probably have been held until the general credibility of the friends had been established by other facts had it not been for one or two chance suggestions. Inquiring into the cause of the different color of the hands, face and neck from that of other portions of the body, it was accounted for as resulting from the sunlight upon such portions of the body as were unprotected by clothing. This was further illustrated by the same effect in the case of other men, and as it was a plausible explanation, there seemed a probability that I also had at one time worn clothes like other men. This suggestion opened a new and wonderful world, and there was feverish eagerness to learn all the details of that other life.
These details seemed incredible, but there was no flaw in the consistency of the accounts given by different persons, and in fact other proofs were brought, such as my photograph, unmistakably like my own image in the mirror, yet dressed in clothing which I could not remember wearing at any time. Great was my disgust at being obliged to depend on others for an account of what I was accustomed to say and do, and of my appearance in that other life. Having learned that I had dressed and walked about, like other people, it was almost impossible to persuade me to remain in the bed, and in fact the only successful persuasive was the promise of the desired liberty in the near future.
The first attempts at walking were very crude, and the instructions of other persons only increased the awkwardness of the ludicrous performance. The promenade was confined to the one room, but a view had been obtained of the adjoining room, and great was the curiosity to learn the mystery of the other room.
The next day a conversation was overheard in which it was stated that “the men will come again.” Now it must be explained that "the men" to my mind referred to the four people as they appeared and acted on the first night during the fearful struggle. Since then all the men had seen me and had excited no alarm or antagonism in my mind. There was a belief in my mind that the person as known by the expression of the face and by the name applied. Thus while the name of some of them indicated the kindly, genial persons who came occasionally to chat with me and aid me in ever way, on the other hand, “the men” indicated the harsh, determined fighters of the memorable Thursday night. Yet both were recognized as having the same general appearance and bodily form. As soon as it was known that “the men” were coming, there was an irrepressible desire to leave the bedroom. So persistent was this wish that after repeated refusals by different friends, and with an unwillingness on my part to use violence again, the most earnest pleadings were entered upon. The pleadings were so urgent that some left the room from pity, and the others were at last persuaded to grant the request. The developments showed the fears to have been without foundation. A part of the night was passed in the other room, as it was termed, and then finding that “the men” did not return, and after obtaining the promise of going again to the other room at any time, I was satisfied to return to bed.
The next day, while walking in the other room it became evident that the great blanket used as a garment was impeding the process of walking, and the piece of rope was picked up which had been used to secure my arms during the struggle of the first night, and which had caused me not only some pain, but a great horror of helplessness in the hands of “the men.” On seeing this rope was to be passed around me, I misunderstood its purpose, and snatching it from the hands of the others, hurled it violently across the room. It was two or three days before I learned to dissociate the events of the first night from the facts of every-day life, and to appreciate that “the men” had been kind-hearted, but mistaken.
In every respect the desire was to ape others and this willingness was often played upon by friends for their own amusement rather than for the cultivation of any dignity or even self-respect in me. I could be induced to imitate with the most serious face any ridiculous performance, until I came to distinguish between the desire to teach and the desire to make sport. It may be well to mention certain peculiar facts, which, though not scientifically ascertained, are positive facts of memory and are also vouched for by well-qualified observers. There was not only a remarkable acuteness of such faculties as sight, hearing, touch and memory, but there were well-witnessed feats which cannot ordinarily be accomplished by the five senses. A pair of handcuffs which had been brought for use on the night of the struggle, but were not used, happened to come to my passing notice. On observing that friends were reluctant about explaining their purpose, great curiosity and interest were aroused in me. As this interest grew, the apprehension of the friends also increased, and efforts were made to hide the articles in question. But wherever they were hidden, either up-stairs or down, even in an obscure closet at the other end of the house, I could, without hesitation, go to the spot and discover the article. This was without the article or its hiding-place being mentioned to anyone, and the latter being known only to the one having hidden the handcuffs. A small coin was many times held in a person's hand while I was asked to guess in which hand it was. The guess was correct in every case, and even when the coin was left out of both hands, I indicated the fact by a shake of the head. There was no consciousness of any faculty by which these things were ascertained, neither were the results by any means guesswork; there was a positive conviction. The sense appeared to be more like instinct. It was as though some reliable authority had told the fact, and then the telling had been forgotten, but the fact remembered.
Memory was extraordinarily acute. When a number of people were brought to the room, a complete mental picture was formed so that I afterward could tell everything each person had done the articles of dress, and a description of the features. This was the case even when there was a large number of persons, strangers even to my former life, and even when they remained but a. moment in the room. But beside this mental picture, there was memory of the names of the persons introduced, and of every word that they had distinctly spoken while present.
On going as before mentioned into other rooms, the fact was noticed that there were “two out-of-doors,” and later that there were four “out-of-doors,” as seen from the different windows. Still later it was learned by me with great wonder that the “four out-of-doors” were all one great “out-of-doors,” completely surrounding the house. It was with much caution and hesitation that the first steps were taken out of the house. Instead of a draught of air through a window as the room had been aired, there was a volume of delicious atmosphere which gave an almost fearful impression of vastness. Stepping on the piazza, great was the surprise to see a floor without carpet or rugs, and the ground had even a more treacherous appearance, as it was some time before I could be convinced that it afforded a safe footing.
After touching the soft turf and reaching out in the expectation of touching the distant trees of the orchard as a child reaches out to grasp the moon, an idea was formed the immensity of even that small portion of the world. A determination was at once arrived at to go as soon as permitted and walk and investigate all these wonders.
The distinction between animal and vegetable life was difficult to grasp. How could the trees wave if they were not alive? What was meant by growth when no motion was visible? The clouds in their motion were marvellous and were said to “boil,” because their appearance and motion were like the steam from the tea-kettle, and as words were often misunderstood in their exact reference, the word “boil” was taken as describing the outward, visible effect, rather than the unseen process.
But of all the mysteries, life itself was the greatest. The first ideas were that this life so mysteriously begun would be continued for but a few days, and that even while it existed other persons and things were constantly coming into being and going out again, as they appeared and disappeared. Even when told that life might last for many years, no conception of this fact was formed. There was no horror of the extinction of life. There was no knowledge of death. There was simply the thought that as there was a period of oblivion behind, so all at once again knowledge would cease. Later this brought great dissatisfaction, for the world was becoming so interesting, and life so dear, that it was with much regret that a thought was entertained of leaving everything. The belief was firm, probably taken for granted from the information that I had lived before the present consciousness, that there would be further future distinct existences, with complete forgetfulness of each preceding. These would differ from the separate experiences from day to day, because the latter were connected by a constant memory.
There was a noticeable passion for music. The first emotions on hearing beautiful vocal or instrumental music were pleasant, but this became so intense and such a powerful enthusiasm was felt as to have even a painful effect, and many times tears would flow down my cheeks. Hymns were the favorite selections, and yet the words were never listened to, but there was something direct and touching in the tune of such a hymn as “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.” In fact, the effort to grasp the meaning of the words had invariably the effect of almost entirely destroying this intense delight. In vocal music, nothing depended on the words sung, but everything on the tunes, and the quality of the voice that rendered the songs. Even in conversation, the first quality noticed in a person was the voice. A beautiful voice was far more attractive than beauty of feature or ease of manner even of a kindly disposition. There was no time when the kindly tone of voice could not prevail, when both harshness and inducement were useless. However, it must be said that this was not peculiar to the condition following the accident but was rather intensified at the time.
In music, there was a phenomenal ear for discord, and a decided dislike. Sometimes two or three persons in another room would strike a number of chords strongly and make one very slight discord. The effect was to disguise the discord so that well-trained ears failed to observe it, yet I always detected it the moment the false note was sounded. No such effect was noticed, when the same chords were played without the false note.
One afternoon a friend brought a banjo, and although I had never handled one before, I learned in about an hour to play three selections, none of which I had ever heard in my previous life. Thus, in many ways it was proven that the readiness to learn was not confined to subjects with which there had formerly been familiarity. Both the banjo and the piano were learned at this time by mere imitation of the motion of others.
In attempts at writing there was equal facility with both hands, although preference was given to the left. There was a great perplexity and disgust the use of so many forms of one letter, the printed and script, the capitals and lower case of letters, to say nothing of the different letters of one sound, and the different sounds one letter.
Yet there were desires to learn books and letters, and several hours were spent every day with a painstaking teacher in learning word by word of the mother-tongue as printed. A word once explained was permanent property, and yet there was one great difficulty on the part of the teacher in remembering what words I knew, and which could therefore be used in defining new words. In speaking, such expressions as a “pink pink” were confusing. “A white rose” or a “purple violet” were all well enough; but how could a flower be called by the name of a color, when some of the same were of other colors? What was the sense of a red pink or a white pink? Or if pink could be the name of a flower, how could there be a pink rose?
Long walks soon became the fascination, and it was during one of these that the whistling of the little brown frogs in a neighboring pond brought into reality what had been considered the vaguest, dimmest dream, so unreal as not to be worth relating to anyone. But now there was a suggestion of reality, and on inquiry it was learned that the dim dream was a meagre memory of an actual occurrence. The memory was of lying back in my carriage (which I had lately seen and examined with curiosity) and with eyes almost closed, seeing nothing but a few lights and shadows, and the indistinct figure of the horse ahead racing along, as it seemed to me, at a frantic speed. My brother’s voice was beside me, shouting loudly at the horse, but holding me with both hands and rubbing my cheeks and putting his face often to my lips. Then the last was the beautiful, soothing sound of the frogs whistling in the pond, and with an emotion of peculiar enjoyment I fell asleep, as it seemed, with that sound last in my ears. I attempted to recall something further, but nothing would return until the awakening and the awful struggle.
Carriage rides were soon permitted, but the walks were far preferable and I enjoyed them most when alone. It was vexatious to see some person coming over the hills to call me to dinner or with the announcement that some “friend,” who was nevertheless really a total stranger, had come and was very desirous of seeing me. Even to sit in one spot and think and dream by the hour was the height of enjoyment. At other times the endless flower life (just beginning to be seen) and the birds and trees and sky were all the heart could wish. A sunset was the acme of beauty.
I had been told that the other members of the family were to come soon to see me and after a description of them and an understanding as to what should be my bearing toward them, and what affection I owed them there did spring up a strong desire to meet those whom I came in this strange way to love. The situation was further made plain by the evident affection between others who were mutually related.
At this time the first trip to New York was taken for medical consultation. The journey was full of happenings of interest though the novelty was no more attractive than had been the visits to other houses in my native town. The whole world was so new and remarkable that a railway train or a twenty-story building were no more interesting than a cow or a hay-loft. It was later that these proportions were established. The ocean was the one view that made a truly powerful impression on the mind. The discussions with the doctor (not one of the two who finally and successfully took up the investigation of my case) were of interest and food for reflection. There was no encouragement to me in his statement of the possibility of recovery, because I was satisfied with the present condition, and in fact the descriptions given me of my former life had served only to confuse my mind, and I feared a recovery would involve an overwhelming and crushing revelation of multitudinous facts. It was later, on learning that the recovery would involve acquisition of the knowledge once possessed, and which was now so much envied in others, that there was that strong desire, peculiar to the latter condition of regaining the past life. The advice was that there was no mental or physical deficiency and that I should recommence the lessons of life.
It was in this process that the second accident occurred. The accident, however, was not due to the condition, but would have occurred to any other man in the same way. I was riding horseback, which was not difficult for me to learn. In riding at a high speed around a corner the stirrup strap broke under the strain, unavoidably throwing the rider. In falling, the saddle was caught and pulled awry, but despite this slight relief the fall was serious. The injury to the back was excruciatingly painful, and for a time prevented walking to the house. The after effects were even more serious, and compelled confinement under medical treatment for some weeks. The only disappointment to me was that I had not first learned more of the world before being shut out from it. Reading was also prevented almost wholly, although the lessons were in some measure continued.
A period of discouragement followed the first relief from the pain of injury. There was always the thought that if there had been a few more days to see the world, it would have been easy to bear the confinement. However, as the days passed, there was much more hope in the faces of friends, and the future again looked bright.
About this time the specialists from New York, to whom I owe so much, commenced their visits and afforded subjects of immense interest. The first visit by one of the specialists from New York was doubtless for the purpose of satisfying himself of the nature of the trouble.
The habit of implicit obedience to the attendants, carefully formed in the past weeks, brought now a serious difficulty, for I was commanded by the specialists to remember certain facts in my past life, and it was wholly impossible for me to do so. The effect of this condition can never be understood by others, because, in the first place, an ordinary lapse of memory is different. Though a person forgets, he realizes that he has forgotten and that at once makes a point of connection. In my case, while there was a vague belief in the testimony of friends that there had been a former life with such and such occurrences, yet this fact was not actually grasped in such a sense as to enable a realization of what remembering involved. In the second place, it is a frequent occurrence in ordinary life that a person is accustomed to forget, and by an effort, to remember, but in my case there had been absolutely no such thing as a conscious failure of memory since the accident, so that I did not know how to “remember,” and could not understand how it was possible to “forget.” Further, a person in ordinary life is accustomed to follow his own wish in questions of obedience, and the dilemma of an impossible obedience was a new one. There seemed to be something wrong with the machinery of the will.
Later, the memory tests under the direction of the specialists in charge of the case were of great importance to me, for while I evinced a memory far better than the normal, yet of course there were some figures or letters in the list that could not be recalled. This was the first conscious forgetting. There was a realization that something had been lost and a knowledge where to search for it. In a few cases the absent numbers were regained, and nearly all could be recognized when renamed by the examiner. This discovery of the possibility of forgetting and regaining made a profound impression upon me.
As to the character of my dreams, I may say that they were of two kinds, though it was not known that either kind was of importance till they were related by me at the request of the specialists. The ordinary dreams referred invariably to the life since the accident, and as this was the only life to me, these dreams were the only ones of interest to me. I found great amusement in comparing their circumstances with those of the real life, ridiculing their inconsistencies with those of real life, ridiculing their inconsistencies and wondering vastly at their connection with one another. These ordinary dreams differed from normal dreams only in that they were necessarily limited in their subjects and situations, and yet were more extravagant even “than a dream.” The other dreams were an unconscious reliving of the early life.1 To me they were the merest imagination, until I was assured by my friends that their scenes had been actual. They were not dreams in any true sense, but were actual memories by a mind so freed from the gross material of ordinary existence as to actually live in the past. Not only a faithful photograph was preserved, but a phonographic record as well, so that conversations could be remembered, and strange to say, conversation that otherwise have been wholly lost even to the normal memory. These were much more actual and vivid than dreams, and as I later learned were identical with the real experiences as far as the latter can now be remembered, the memory dreams reproducing details which are not now contradicted by memory, yet which have escaped amid a crowd of other matters.
In reference to the flashes2 of the past during waking hours, it may be said that they came without an effort of the will, but were forced upon the mind. These flashes I felt as violent intrusion of ideas seemingly foreign, yet unavoidable. That they referred to the past life was believed by me on authority, but was not yet realized. When, on listening to the reading of Hebrew verses, I was able to repeat other verses from memory beyond those read by the examiner, I felt as if they were being spoken by another mind using my tongue. When listening to a song, the names of two singers in a distant city came to my mind. I, however, had no memory of their having rendered the song or who they were. I could only remember the first names of the singers and the tones of their voices, and even these memories did not appear as such, but seemed like the statement of another person with my own voice.
I was again taken to New York to undergo a thorough examination and a course of treatment. The tests were very trying to me, yet there was so great an interest in the proceedings as to prevent a refusal to submit to the treatment. After the first day of the novelty of city life, a novelty more evident now because of a wider experience, I awoke after a good night's sleep at about four o’clock, with the full knowledge of the past life, except what had occurred since the accident. The surprise was exceedingly great to find oneself in bed in a typical New York home, when the last memory was driving over the country roads of Connecticut. Even this memory was not immediate, but rather a general remembrance of being at home and at work. Fortunately, the room-mate was recognized as my brother, and the latter being rudely awakened by me, was challenged for an explanation. This being made hastily, I was cautioned to remain quiet, while a “friend” was called. This friend proved to be one of the specialists. Questions and answers flew so fast that it was some time before I could realize the state of the case. I utterly refused to believe the story of the accident and of the following weeks and took the whole for a huge joke. This was natural, from the humor of the situation. The three persons by no means made a presentable appearance, yet all were apparently sincere, the doctor taking notes like a stenographer, the brother executing a war-dance in jubilation, and I racking my brains for some possible motive for such a practical joke. The doctor was then a stranger to me, so no confidence would be placed in him. The brother was continually bursting into fits of uncontrollable joy, the result of relief from so long a strain.
When questioned, I could recall events up to the time of my commencing to alight from the carriage. I told of having felt at the time an acute rheumatic pain in my knee which prevented its use. While attempting to relieve it by the other foot, the lap robe became entangled and swayed helplessly. This memory, then, harmonized with the statements of the others, and the conclusive proof was felt when a watch was seen to read 4.15, although daylight was appearing I remembered well that at the date of my memorable drive, daylight would not have come till much later than 4.15. This convinced me of the lapse of considerable time in accordance with the statement of the others.
The physical sensation was of great weakness. There was a slight feeling of pain in the head, and my back felt weak. Otherwise I felt as well as usual.
Before long, however, an uncontrollable drowsiness came, and after some attempts to keep awake, I was allowed to fall asleep. The feeling of sleepiness was at the first entirely within my control, but not realizing the necessity of remaining awake, a necessity that was later impressed upon me by the specialists, and having partially yielded to this feeling of drowsiness, the will was powerless even to respond to the urgent requests to resist sleep. The drowsiness powerful, bringing a delicious sense of rest hardly suggested by ordinary sleep. Being awakened out of a heavy sleep later in the morning, I knew nothing of the experience of the early hours, but was again living and acting according to the second life. It was only at a later date that I could learn what occurred during that half hour. The questions asked and the interest shown in regard to my condition, even while I was feeling as usual, aroused my curiosity and surprise. At the next awakening to the normal, or at least to the “primary”3 state, there was memory for what occurred in the last primary state. As the room and house were different, it was evident to me that there had been another lapse of time, and the first inquiry was, “How long has it been this time?” The next time curiosity was greatly aroused because, on coming into the secondary state, I found myself dressed and sitting in a chair, and with the comfortable feeling of a good breakfast already eaten, and an uncomfortable feeling of pin-holes in the flesh made by the doctor, while I was falling asleep. I had no knowledge of the pain when the needles pierced the skin, but felt a sharp pain on awaking. However, no information could be gained, and I was of the belief that I had fallen asleep, and during that time had been fed and dressed by others.
In the primary state I found myself, making thoughtlessly a resolution that on again awaking in the secondary state I would not be alarmed at the change; but of course, at the next change, there was no memory of the resolution, and consequently, distress was felt. While in the one state, I was informed of my experiences in the other, so that I knew in an indirect way the state of things. It was thus that in each state I came to a determination to assist the scientists in effecting a cure. Yet as each resolution was not known to the other state, there was not the necessary harmony of action. One resolution was that while in the primary state an effort would be made by me to remain awake at all hazards day and night until a continuance in that state seemed probable. The other resolution made in the secondary state was to cling to the facts of that state and that life with a grip of steel, yet to allow the passing into what the doctors called the intermediary state, when they would be able to give me the facts of the other life while I was holding to the present also.
The first mental struggle was during the very next primary state, which, by the doctors' earnest request and my own extraordinary effort, was already prolonged to three or four hours. All were assembled in the “laboratory”; the feeling of drowsiness had hitherto been resisted, but was growing continually more heavy, especially during the quiet of the experimenting.
In vain were these interesting proceedings watched by me, in vain were the efforts of all, even the needle-points, which were not felt yet were faintly known in the dim receding consciousness. Yet there was that determination to remain awake at all events, and the struggle continued in half-consciousness for a long time. Suddenly there was a. glimpse of the secondary life, only a glimpse, it is true, yet a revelation of infinite wonder as being the first real insight into one state from the other. Instantly the thought came, “What is the use of enduring this severe struggle when invited into that attractive life, the secondary state?” This statement was not thus carefully formulated, but that was the impulse of the moment, the feeling was just to that effect. But saying mentally again, “What is the use?” there was a letting go, and the primary life was again lost.
While in the last instant of the primary state, as has been said, there was a glimpse of the secondary state, there was in the secondary state no memory whatever of the primary, but just the old unshaken determination to carry out as far as possible the plan of the doctors. They had a full understanding of this peculiar mental state, and so everything was ready for the decisive battle.
It came in the same house in which the first awaking to the primary state had taken place. It was early evening, after a day of unusual activity and enjoyment, bringing great fatigue and drowsiness. Struggling against this, I felt a severe pain in the head. There was a regret of having bound oneself to such a resolution, yet a determination to stand by it at all hazards. There was every encouragement from the doctors, who were eagerly plying me with questions and insisting on facts of the experiences of the other state. The persons and places of the primary life (learned by the doctors by questioning friends and myself in my different states) were mentioned and strongly impressed upon my mind. Especially those persons whom I knew in both states, were referred to. I was still in the secondary state, but the other life dawned on me, and nothing but my will pertinaciously clung to the secondary state.
Both states were dim and only the doctors’ tiresome repetitions and persistent hammering on the reluctant mind made them gradually more real. I felt quite vexed at what seemed the obstinacy of the doctors, yet was coining more and more to feel the force of their statements. Yet even now only the first position was gained in the conflict, for while both lives were presented to the mind, where was the possibility of combining them? And had I not lived and felt each life? Yet how could one person live and feel both lives? Here was the critical point. But the doctors persisted they were both my lives, and indeed I knew each one was, though it is impossible to take two men and make them both into one. But the lives were constantly becoming more and more personal, until at last, by a deliberate, voluntary act, the two were seized, and have both remained for half a year to the present date, though for some time after the recovery it was difficult to dovetail together the detached portions of each life so as to present a continuous history.
Mr. Hanna has fully recovered, the detached portions have become dovetailed, the two sharply defined personalities have been fused into one healthy, normal person.
1 Mr. Hanna
refers here to hypnoidic states. He wrote this without reading our statement of
2 Mr. Hanna refers here to the hypnoidal states.
3 Mr. Hanna had become familiar with the use of the terms primary and secondary states.
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