After his visit to the sick man, I said to him: ‘Your Excellency,’ (he had the rank of a general) ‘please explain to me why Yezidis cannot get out of a circle.’
‘Ah, you mean those devil-worshippers?’ he asked. ‘That is simply hysteria.’
‘Hysteria?’ I queried.
‘Yes, hysteria . . .’ and then he rattled off a long rigmarole about hysteria, and all I could gather from it was that hysteria is hysteria. This I already knew myself, as there was not a single book on neuropathology and psychology in the library of the Kars military hospital that I had not read, and read very attentively, carefully going over almost every line in my intense desire to find, through these branches of science, an explanation of the phenomenon of tableturning. Therefore I already well understood that hysteria is hysteria, but I wished to know something more.
The more I realized how difficult it was to find a solution, the more I was gnawed by the worm of curiosity. For several days I was not myself and did not wish to do anything. I thought and thought of one thing only: ‘What is true? What is written in books and taught by my teachers, or the facts I am always running up against?’
Soon another incident occurred and this time I was completely bewildered.
Five or six days after the incident of the Yezidis, while going one morning to the fountain to wash—it was the custom there to wash in spring water every morning—I saw a group of women at the comer talking excitedly. I went up to them and learned the following:
That night in the Tartar quarter a gornakh had appeared. This was the name there of an evil spirit which used the bodies of people who had recently died and appeared in their shape to do all sorts of villainies, especially to the enemies of the dead person.