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A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography

Creator: Clifford Whittingham Beers (author)
Date: 1910
Publisher: Longmans, Green, and Co., New York
Source: Available at selected libraries

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Page 25:


AUGUST 29,1902.


On last Wednesday morning a person who claimed to be George M. Beers of New Haven, Ct., clerk in the Director's Office of the Sheffield Scientific School and a brother of mine, called to see me.


Perhaps what he said was true, but after the events of the last two years I find myself inclined to doubt the truth of everything that is told me. He said that he would come and see me again sometime next week, and I am sending you this letter in order that you may bring it with you as a passport, provided you are the one who was here on Wednesday.


If you did not call as stated please say nothing about this letter to anyone, and when your double arrives, I'll tell him what I think of him. Would send other messages, but while things seem as they do at present it is impossible. Have had some one else address envelope for fear letter might be held up on the way.




Though I felt reasonably confident that this message would reach my brother, I was by no means certain. I was sure, however, that, should he receive it, under no circumstances would he turn it over to any one hostile to myself. When I wrote the words: "Dear George," my feeling was much like that of a child who sends a letter to Santa Claus after his faith in the existence of Santa Claus has been shaken. Like the sceptical child, I felt there was nothing to lose, but everything to gain. "Yours" fully expressed such affection for relatives as I was then capable of, -- for the belief that I had disgraced, perhaps destroyed, my family prompted me to forbear to use the family name in the signature.


The thought that I might soon get in touch with my old world did not excite me. I had not much faith anyway that I was to re-establish former relations, and what little faith I had was almost dissipated on the morning of August 3oth, 1902, when a short message, written on a slip of paper, reached me by the hand of an attendant. It informed me that my brother would call that afternoon. I thought it a lie. I felt that any brother of mine would have taken the pains to send a letter in reply to the first I had written him in over two years. The thought that there had not been time for him to do so and that this message must have arrived by telephone did not then occur to me.


What I believed was that my own letter had been confiscated. I asked one of the doctors to swear on his honor that it really was my own brother who was coming to see me. He did so swear, and this may have diminished my first doubt somewhat, but not much, for abnormal suspicion robbed all men in my sight of whatever honor they may have had.


The thirtieth of the month was what might he called a perfect June day in August. In the afternoon, as usual, the patients were taken out of doors, I among them. I wandered about the lawn, and cast frequent and expectant glances toward the gate, through which I believed my anticipated visitor would soon pass. In less than an hour he appeared. I first caught sight of him about three hundred feet away, and, impelled more by curiosity than hope, I advanced to meet him. "I wonder what the lie will be this time," was the gist of my thoughts.


The person approaching me was indeed the counterpart of my brother as I remembered him. Yet he was no more my brother than he had been at any time during the preceding two years. He was still a detective. Such he was when I shook his hand. As soon as that ceremony was over he drew forth a leather pocket-book. I instantly recognized it as one I myself had carried for several years prior to the time I was taken ill in 1900. It was from this that he took my recent letter.


"Here's my passport," said he.


"It's a good thing you brought it," said I coolly, as I glanced at it and again shook his hand -- this time the hand of my own brother.


"Don't you want to read it?" he asked.


"There is no need of that," was my reply. "I am convinced."


After my long journey of exploration in the jungle of a tangled imagination, a journey which finally ended in my finding the person for whom I had long searched, my behavior differed very little from that of a great explorer who, after a perilous trip through real jungles, found the man he sought and, coolly grasping his hand, greeted him with a now historic remark.


This was the culminating moment of my gradual re-adjustment. The molecules of my mental magnet had at last turned in the direction of right thinking. In a word, my mind had found itself. That this apparently instantaneous return to reason was for me an epoch-making event, no one will deny. I may be pardoned, then, if I dwell upon it at length. The dividing line between sanity and insanity has ever been a topic for discussion. In my own case I believe that I can safely state that the elapsed time between a condition of absolute insanity and comparative sanity was scarcely appreciable. This statement squares with the psychological fact that it takes about one tenth of a second for the mind to form a perception. The very instant I caught sight of my letter in the hands of my brother, all was changed. The thousands of false impressions recorded during the seven hundred and ninety-eight days of my depressed state seemed at once to correct themselves. Untruth became Truth. My old world was again mine. That gigantic web woven by an indefatigable yet tired imagination, I immediately recognized as a snare of delusions, in which I had all but hopelessly entangled myself. That the Gordian knot of mental torture should be cut and swept away by the mere glance of a willing eye is like a miracle; but not a few insane persons recover their reason -- or, more scientifically expressed, reach the culmination of their hitherto invisible process of re-adjustment -- in what might be termed a flash of divine enlightenment, though very few have documentary evidence to prove their instantaneous return to life.

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