By Dan McKenzie
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Extra resources for Aromatics and the Soul. A Study of Smells
There is about its representations a dulling in colour, a haziness in outline, a vagueness in detail, that serves to distinguish it from the harder, clearer pictures of the imagination. Its figures and their doings are like ghosts ; through them you can see the solid furniture of to-day. But from the olfactory miracle we are now considering the effect of time, the fraying effect of time and superimposed incident, is absent. That is still fresh, still, as we might say, in process of elaboration, the manifold and complicated experiences we have undergone since its occurrence being blotted for the moment out of the mind.
The bungalow, we gather, was haunted. It would be. Nevertheless, in spite of the keen olfaction of both of those writers, neither of them, as far as I can remember, weaves the memory-reviving power of olfaction into a plot. " The more recent English and foreign writers, however, give us a surfeit of odours—as if to prove their superiority in this as in all else. It seems strange, moreover, that the theatre should have overlooked this avenue to the memory and imagination of its audiences. The ancient Romans, to be sure, during the gladiatorial games, used to perfume the atmosphere of the Colosseum, whether to counteract the raw smell of dust, blood, and sweat, it were hard to say, as these rank odours play their part, again subtly, in stimulating the slaughterous passions of mankind.
But, as if to make up for a position so inferior, it is remarkable as being the most subtle of all our senses, possibly, as some hold, because of the ancestral appeal to our (more or less repressed) animal nature. So subtle is it, indeed, that I am persuaded its stimuli may not, on occasion, emerge into consciousness at all. They remain below the threshold. So that, although subjected to their influence, we may remain ignorant of the cause of that influence. For smell often operates powerfully, not only in surreptitiously enriching and invigorating the mental impression of an event, but also in directing at times the flow of ideas into some particular channel independent Olfactory Memory 45 of the will.