By Andrew Kennedy Hutchinson Boyd
Not entirely awake, I am standing on the platform of a large railway terminus in a certain great city, at 7:20am, on a foggy morning early in January. I am about to set out on a journey of a hundred miles by the 7:30 train, which is a slow one, stopping at all stations. I am alone; for more than human would that friendship be which would bring out mortal man to see one off at such an hour in winter. It is a dreamy sort of scene; I can hardly feel that it substantially exists. Who has not sometimes, on a still autumn afternoon, suddenly stopped on a path winding through sere, motionless woods, and felt within himself, Now, I can hardly believe in all this. You talk of the difficulty of realizing the unseen and spiritual: is it not sometimes, in certain mental moods, and in certain aspects of external nature, quite as difficult to feel the substantial existence of things which we can see and touch? Extreme stillness and location, perhaps, are the usual condition for this peculiar feeling….
You have climbed, alone, on an autumn day, to the top of a great hill; a river runs at its base unheard; a champaign country spreads beyond the river; cornfields swept and bare; hedgerows dusky green against the yellow ground; a little farmhouse here and there, over which the smoke stagnates in the breezeless air. It is heather that you are standing on. And as you stand there alone, and look away over that scene, you have felt as though sense, and the convictions of sense, were partially paralyzed: you have been aware that you could not feel that the landscape before you was solid reality. I am not talking to blockheads, who never thought or felt anything particularly; of coursethey could not understand my meaning. But as for you, thoughtful reader, have you not sometimes, in such a scene, thought to yourself, not without a certain startled pleasure—Now, I realize it no more substantially that there spreads a landscape beyond that river, than that there spreads a country beyond the grave.
There are many curious moods of mind, of which you will find no mention in books of metaphysics. The writers of works of mental philosophy keep by the bread and butter of the world of mind. And everyone who knows by personal experience how great a part of the actual phases of thought and feeling lies beyond the reach of logical explanation, and can hardly be fixed and represented by any words, will rejoice when he meets with any account of intellectual moods which he himself has often known, but which are not to be classified or explained. People are shy about talking of such things. I felt indebted to a friend, a man of high talent and cultivation, whom I met on the street of a large city on a snowy winter day. The streets were covered with unmelted snow; so were the housetops; how black and dirty the walls looked, contrasting with the snow. Great flakes were falling thickly, and making a curtain which at a few yards` distance shut out all objects more effectually than the thickest fog. It is a day, said my friend, I don`t believe in; and then he went away. And I know he would not believe in the day, and that he would not feel that he was in a world of reality, till he had escaped from the eerie scene out of doors, and sat down by his library fire.