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194 CONSCIOUSNESS UNDER NITROUS OXIDE.

were time it might be shown that it is not alone the consciousness of


the child and the rustic, but also that which has been rendered scien-
tific in such ways as a theory of evolution that involves the experience
for which we have contended. There are few who will to-day hand
in their assent to a purely determined view of knowledge, either sub-
jectively or objectively, but the surprising feature of the situation is
that so few see that the necessary correlate is the admission of the
mind's power to transcend its crude dualism, its cold Spinozism, and
seize the causal subject in its essence. Evolution is still the evolution
of some thing or mind, and of this we have, and can have, no knowl-
edge, if the reality of that thing or mind is separated from the primary
as well as the most highly cultivated and complex psychological expe-
riences in a permanent way. Essentially there is nothing unrelated
to reason; but we have to get our knowledge by degrees; and this is
possible only as the mind, possessing reality, is able to explore the
ocean of being which lies spread out before us, as in some real sense,
reflective of a life which, far transcending ours, is, nevertheless, iden-
tical with that which we ourselves experience.
Phenomenalism, therefore, must not simply deny an unpopular or
unrecognized truth, but go to work and disprove its right to existence.
Until it has been argued out of existence it is still truth, and will sur-
vive the shocks of debate. Meanwhile, awaiting the treatment, it will
continue to provide ground and cause to our higher ethical and aesthet-
ical experiences, as well as to those more primary questions. Phe-
nomenalism, with its implicit agnosticism, too, will continue, and mete
out denial to these claims. I hesitate to classify Dr. Miller among
this class of thinkers, therefore I can say without the suspicion of
offense that I regard phenomenalism as the worst of abstractions and
the veriest cant of current philosophy.
HENRY D
CONSCIOUSNESS UNDER NITROUS OXIDE.
An English correspondent sends me the following account of his
subjective experiences during nitrous-oxide intoxication. I place it
(with his permission) on record in the PSYCHOLOGICAL REVIEW.
Normal human consciousness is only a narrow extract from a great
sea of possible human consciousness, of whose limits we know nothing,
but of the nature of portions of which such documents as the following
may help to inform us. It were greatly to be wished that they might
be multiplied. W. J.
DISCUSSION AND REPORTS. 195
The note in your book, entitled ' The Will to Believe,' upon the
above subject, recalls to my mind a strange experience which I had in
June, 1895, while still an undergraduate at Oxford.
I had been studying philosophy, and had about as much acquaint-
ance with it as a man gets in two years, who has a good deal of natural
interest in abstract speculation, but very little natural talent for it.
The ideas of Hegel, though exercising a tolerable fascination over my
mind, were only known to me at second or third hand, through Eng-
lish and Scotch writers and casual conversation.
One morning in June, 1895, or certainly not later than the end of
May, I went round to a dentist's opposite Balliol College, to have a
tooth out. I had never ' taken gas' before, and never have since. My
experience was, as accurately as I can remember it at this distance of
time, as follows:
Either of set purpose, or to distract my mind from the intensely
uncomfortable process of ' going off,' I determined to observe very
carefully the changes in my conscious states.
What happened, I found, was that the contents of consciousness,
the feelings, gradually became reduced, till I came down nearly, though
not quite, to the bare uncolored fact of consciousness of existence al-
most divorced from sensation. By this time, of course, I was hardly
in a position to observe accurately, but when I came afterwards to think
the matter over, it seemed that I had spent an absurdly long time in
this state, and then suddenly, when I was hoping for it, but least ex-
pecting it, had ' gone out,' like a snuffed candle.
The next experience I became aware of, who shall relate! my
God! I knew everything! A vast inrush of obvious and absolutely
satisfying solutions to all possible problems overwhelmed my entire
being, and an all-embracing unification of hitherto contending and ap-
parently diverse aspects of truth took possession of my soul by force.
The odd thing, and one that sent a ripple of merriment through my
consciousness, was that I seemed to have reconciled Hegelianism itself
with all other schools of philosophy in some higher synthesis. The
biter bit!
Then, in a flash, this state of intellectual ecstasy was succeeded by
one that I shall never forget, because it was still more novel to me
than the otherI mean a state of moral ecstasy. I was seized with
an immense yearning to take back this truth to the feeble, sorrow-
ing, struggling world in which I had lived. I pictured to myself with
justifiable pride how they could not fail to recognize it as being the
real truth when they heard it, and I saw that previous prophets had
196 CONSCIOUSNESS UNDER NITROUS OXIDE.
been rejected only because the truths they brought were partial and on
that account not convincing. I had a balm for all hurts, and the pros-
pect of how entire humanity would crowd around to bless the bringer
nearly intoxicated me. But I thought I was dying and should not be
able to tell them. I had never cared much for life, but it was then
that I prayed and strove to live for the world's sake, as I had never
prayed and striven before. It seemed in vain, however, that I battled
for life, and I was just resigning myself to extinction when an im-
mense sense of relief and of some obstacle having given way broke
in upon me. This was, of course, succeeded by another fit of philan-
thropic ecstasy. Five or ten seconds more, and I should be able to
speak, and the world would really be redeemed, whether I lived on or
not. It was a moment of the supremest bliss, exceeding those former
ones. Suddenly I saw standing on a little pink stage a little pink
man with a kindly face which I seemed to recognize. Who could it
be ? Then, as the little pink man grew rapidly larger and less pink,
and I steamed into the position of normal consciousness (for that was
the sensation) I heard a voice, apparently not that of the little pink
man, but coming from some one out of my range of vision, say:
" That would have been a tough job without the elevator." These
words gave me power to speak out, and I shouted aloud: " That
would have been a tough job without the elevator; I've found out
some metaphysics!" Hardly had I said the words, however, than they
mocked me. The truth had evaporated, like a forgotten dream, and
left me with half-formed phrases on my lips and an ashen-gray delight
in my heart. The dentist asked me whether I wasn't suffering from
a sluggish liver, and the little pink man, the doctor, recommended
me to go away for a change of air. Shades of the prison-house have
since closed about me, and Professor Caird still reigns unchallenged at
Balliol.