“I still cannot believe what you tell me about obsessions. They may be simply a reflection of the subconscious mind. For do we not all hear and read and see all kinds of things during our lifetime? Then we forget them; but the fissures of our brain somehow retain these facts and then later, unexpectedly disclose them. Then they seem entirely foreign to us.”
Thus spoke a friend in Urga to me. He, being an official, regards skepticism as the supreme mark of dignity.
One must never insist, nor even try to convince. Often, it is only necessary to draw another’s attention to a slight incident, and at this sign of the semaphor, the entire trend of life may change its course. Hence, without insistence, our friend was informed of a few other events, which had obsession as their underlying theme. He was told about the Tibetan “Rollang”—the resurrection of the dead. But of course the skeptic only shrugged his shoulders; he disdained to speak of it.
We told him of an incident in the United States, where a person of high intelligence maintained that her deceased bridegroom had taken possession of her and was controlling her entire life, offering advice and giving her orders. In fact, her obsessor demonstrated such distinction from her own consciousness, that he caused her not only spiritual indisposition but even physical pain.
Our skeptic answered that such “obsessed” people could probably be found by the scores in our lunatic asylums and that in the practise of the law, such incidents of irresponsible consciousness were well known. However, this did not convince him in the least. We then told him how, according to the Chinese, the Tao-tai of Khotan had become obsessed by the Thai whom he himself had killed. And how the Chinese now point out that the murderer has adopted certain characteristic habits of the dead man and that even the face of the murderer has changed most characteristically within a short time.
The skeptic again only shrugged his shoulders.
Several days passed. Then one evening our skeptic came to visit us, looking somewhat strange. Apparently something perplexed him and he seemed to search for an opportunity to blurt it out. Finally he exclaimed:
“One listens to your tales—and then all kinds of strange things begin to happen. After the last conversation we had concerning the ‘obsessed’ people, as you call them, I dropped in to the Chinese photographer. He is married to a very simple Buryat woman, quite illiterate. I’ve known them for a long time. I noticed that the Chinese was somewhat sad, quite changed, so I asked him if he was ill.
“ ‘No,’ he answered me. ‘I’m all right—but it’s my wife. It’s bad. I don’t know how to cure her. Recently she began to talk of the strangest things! She says that some one has taken possession of her—not one person but two simultaneously. God knows where she gets the strange words from. It seems that one of them was drowned. The other died from over-drink. I know that things like that happen, because we used to have many cases like that at home in China.”
“I asked him to call his wife. In she came. She always was small and slight, but now she looked far thinner. You know, she is quite a simple Buryat woman, entirely illiterate. When she entered, her husband left the room. I asked her, ‘Won’t you have tea with me, too?’
“ ‘No,’ she answered, ‘he forbids me to drink tea with you because you do not believe and you wish me harm.’— ‘Who forbids you?’ I asked her. ‘Oh, it’s always he—the German.’—‘What German? Tell me where he comes from.’
“‘Well,’ she continued, ‘one is Adolph; the other is Felix. They are in me for three weeks already!’—‘And where are they from?’, I asked.
“ ‘Some time ago,’ she began, ‘a man came to see my husband, to have his picture taken. He was a fat German —maybe you have seen him in the street; he has some kind of business. These two were with him. He went away, but the two remained and they became tied up to me. One of them, Adolph, became a coolie after the war in Vladivostok. He was drowned when he went out boating. They had a fight. The other, Felix, is also a German, and he is always drunk and swears terribly!’
“And so she continued to tell me what they made her do, how they compelled her to eat much meat, especially uncooked, because they liked it with blood. They also suggested to her to drink wine because they liked it very much. One of them, the drunkard, continuously whispers to her to hang herself or to cut her throat and that then they could help her to accomplish anything.
“The Buryat woman told me the kind of things the men tell her. They seem to have traveled a great deal on ship, especially one of them. He must have been a sailor. Why, think of it, she gave me the names and descriptions of towns of which she couldn’t have had the slightest notion. Then she spoke of ships, and used such technical terms that only a person completely at home on sailing craft would know them. Many of the terms she was unable to explain, when I questioned her further, but she insisted she heard them from the men. I must confess that I left the Chinaman rather puzzled. This is the first time I ever heard such things with my own ears, and it all correlates with the things you have been telling me.
“I must confess I had an insatiable desire to go and see the people again, so I went to-day for the second time. When I asked the Chinese about his wife, he just waved his hands in despair and said that things had become worse. As I asked him whether I could see his wife again, she herself entered the room.—‘I cannot stay here with you,’ she said to me. ‘They forbid me; they say you want to harm me. They want me to be happy and you can spoil it all. Because you know some people who can drive them away.’ Then she left the room and her husband, waving his hands once again, muttered, ‘Bad, very bad indeed. Our home will be destroyed.’
“You see, I am a man of the law and I therefore like everything to be authentic. I confess that I did not believe the tales you told me last time, because nothing like it had ever occurred previously in my life. But since I have heard and have seen this thing myself, I can no longer doubt it, because I have known the woman for a long time and she now impresses me quite differently.
“She does not just talk, or talk nonsense as happens in cases of paralysis or pathological cases such as I have often had in my practise. No, in this case I can clearly see something foreign, not her own, with a decided and characteristic psychology. For when she repeats the sentences told to her by the sailor, one can distinctly feel the speech of a seaman, and a seaman of recent, prewar days. Thus also in the speech of the other man, the drunkard; it is precisely that of one of the derelicts whom the war cast into the far-off lands of Siberia.
“By the way,” suddenly the confused skeptic asked, “how does one proceed to drive away such obsessions? Because, when she hinted at people I know, I felt at once that she spoke of you.”
I laughingly remarked to the skeptic that it appeared as though we had changed roles, and that he would probably laugh if I told him that in such cases of obsession one puts pieces of bloody raw meat on the table and then pours strong-smelling intoxicants all around the room. Then every one must leave the house and the person obsessed must never return to it again. Of course, other methods may be used.