This chapter explores the fascinating confluence of medicine and metaphysics during the nineteenth century, central to which was the discovery of anesthetics. Often a visit to the dentist led not only to a tooth extraction but also to a “sublime vision” and a revised understanding of the nature of reality. Accounts of such experiences inspired not only revealing popular works on the “laughing gas” phenomenon, such as Doctor Syntax in Paris or A Tour in Search of the Grotesque, but also discussions of the nature of mystical experience. This chapter analyzes the work of key figures influenced by the inhalation of nitrous oxide, including Humphry Davy, Benjamin Paul Blood, and William James, as well as its impact on the work of the Society for Psychical Research.
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