The story begins with the narrator introducing the concept of mesmerism. It is a method that induces a person into a sleep-like state. While normal senses are dulled, the individual gains a deeper understanding and can discover things previously unknown. The narrator recounts an experience with Mr. Vankirk, a patient suffering from tuberculosis, and describes how he found relief through mesmerism practice.

One evening, the narrator is called to the patient's bedside, who is suffering from intense pain and breathing difficulties. Mr. Vankirk wants to discuss the anxiety he feels from strange mental sensations and his doubts about life after death. Although he previously did not believe in the soul, he now feels something inside that causes him to doubt and wishes to better understand these feelings.

The patient proposes an experiment: to answer a series of questions while under the influence of mesmerism. He believes this might help resolve his doubts due to the heightened self-awareness experienced in this state.

During the mesmerism session, Vankirk enters a trance state and begins to answer questions. He acknowledges the imminence of his death but is not disturbed by it. He feels a sense of peace and serenity and faces death with calmness.

In essence, he suggests that everything that exists, including humans, is a manifestation of God's thought. When discussing how humans relate to this matter, he posits that our individuality originates from being fragments of this divine mind.

Moreover, when addressing the topic of death, Vankirk doesn't see it as an end, but as a transition to a higher form of life, where we are more connected to this ultimate matter and can perceive the universe more directly, without the need for our physical senses.

When Vankirk is awakened from the trance, he dies shortly thereafter. Yet, his face bears a serene expression. The narrator observes how quickly Vankirk's body becomes rigid, pondering the true nature of the patient's experience during the trance.

He wonders if, during that state, Vankirk was genuinely in touch with a superior or transcendental reality, as his descriptions and perceptions seemed to suggest. The serenity on Vankirk's face and his calm acceptance of death might indicate that he experienced or perceived something profoundly reassuring or enlightening.