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It is argued that the possession of might dispense with the post and
is evidence of the exist- telegraph as clumsy contrivances for ence of an immortal and immaterial
getting the news, compared with the 'soul in man. The logic of this argu- facility and despatch of soulography. ment is difficult of discovery. Reason But this will not be contended. As is unquestionably a wonderful attri- well might we say that the places bute and an incomprehensible func- and persons we see in our dreams tion of the mental machinery : but have a real existence. In both how can it be held to prove the exis
the phenomenon is the result tence of a something beyond know- of a process that takes place within ledge, since there can be no known the brain. Memory treasures imconnection between that which is pressions received, and reproduces incomprehensible and that which is them as occasion occurs-clear, calm (unknown ? To say that we have an and coherent, if the brain be in a indestructible soul, because we have healthy condition; confused disreasonable faculty, is to repeat the jointed, and aberrated, if the brain mistake of our forefathers of the last be disordered, whether in sleep or generation, whoreferred the achieve- out of it. In no case does reverie ments of machinery to Satanic involve an actual transit of the mind agency, because in their ignorance from one place to another; and hence they were unable to account for the “travelling "argument falls to them
the ground. If a man could go to may not be able to understand
China, while his body remained in how it is that reason is evolved Britain, and see the country and by the organisation with which people as they really are, there might God has endowed us,
but we be something worthy of consideraare compelled to recognise the self- tion, though even then it would not evident fact that it is so evolved.
prove the immortality of the soul, Again, it is argued that the power but only the wonderful power of the of the mind to “travel,” while the brain while a living instrument, in body remains quiescent, is proof of acting at long distances through an its immaterial and, therefore, immor- electrical atmosphere. tal nature. Let us see. What is this The power of dreaming is cited “ travelling " of the mind ? Does as another fact favourable to the the mind traverse actual space and popular doctrine ; but here again the witness realities? A man has been in argument fails ; because dreaming America, has seen many sights, and isinvariably connected with the living returns home ; occasionally he sees brain. Beside, whoever dreams a those sights over again; the im- sensible dream? Dreams, in general, pressions made on the sensorium of area confused and illogical jumble of the brain through the organs of facts which have at one time or other sight and hearing, while in America, been stowed away in the storehouse are revived so distinctly that he can of the brain ; and if they prove any. actually fancy himself in the place thing concerning a thinking spirit, he has left so many
thousands independent of the body, they prove of miles behind. Surely no one will that that spirit loses its power in contend that each time this reverie exact proportion to its separation comes upon hini, his mind actually from the assistance of the body; and goes out of his body, and transfers that, therefore, without the body it itself to the place thought of ! If this would presumably be powerless. is contended, it ought also to be It is next contended that the allowed that the man, when immateriality of man's nature is spiritually transferred, should witness proved by the fact that though he what is actually transpiring in the inay be deprived of a limb, he retains country at the time of his spiritual a consciousness of that limb, somepresence, and that, therefore, we times even feeling pain in it. The
argument is, that if the man is conscious of a part of himself when the material organ of that part is wanting, he will be conscious of his entire being when the whole body is want. ing. This looks plausible : but let us examine it. Why is a man conscious of an absent member? Because the independent nerves of that member remain in the system from the point of disseverment up to their place in the brain ; so that although the hand or foot may be absent, the brain goes on to feel as if they were present, because the nerves that produce the sensation of their presence are still active at the brain centre. But if, when you cut off a leg, you could also remove the entire nerves of the leg from the point of amputation up to their roots in the brain, and still preserve a consciousness of the severed member, the argument would be deserving of consideration.
The most powerfui natural argument in favour of the popular doctrine has yet to be noticed. It is the one mainly relied upon by all its great advocates. It is this : it is an ascertained fact in physiology that the substance of our bodies undergoes an entire change every seven years : that is, there is a gradual process of substitution going on, by which the atoms, one after another, are expelled from the body as their vital qualities are worn out, and their place filled up by new ones from the blood, so that at the end of the period mentioned, the body is made up of entirely new substance. Yet, notwithstanding this constant mutation of the material atoms of the body, and this periodical change of its entire substance memory and personal identi:y remain unaffected to the close of life, An old man at eighty feels he is the same person he was at ten, although at eighty he has not a single particie of the matter which composed his body when a boy: and the argument is that the thinking faculty and power of consciousness must be the attri. bute of some immaterial principie residing in the body, but under
going no change. Now this has all the appearance of conclusive. ness. However, let us look at it nar. rowly. The question to be considered is-whether this fact of continue ous identity amid atomic change, can be explained in accordance with the view which regards the mind as a. property of living brain substance. The question is answered by this well-known fact, that the qualities resulting from any organic combination of atoms are transmissible to other atoms which may take their place as organic constituents. An atom as it exists in food has no power of sensation ; but let it be assimilated by the blood, and incorporated with any of the nerves, and it possesses a sensitive power it formerly did not have. It becomes part of the organization, and feels whether in man or animal. Why? Because it takes up and perpetuates the organic qualities which its predecessor has left behind. On this principle, we find that the mark of a scar will be continued in the flesh through life ; and so also with discolourations of the skin, which exist in some persons from congenital causes, This perpetuation of physical disfigurement could not take place if it were not for the fact of the transmissibilty of corporate
qualities migratory corporate constituents. Now, it if we apply this principle to the brain, we have a complete solution of the apparent difficulty on which the argument of the question is founded. Mind is the result of im. pressions on the living brain, and personal identity of the sum of those impressions. This definition may be scouted, but it will quietly commend itself to honest reflection. It will not be questioned by the student of human nature, though it may not be understood. Mental impression is. a fact, though a mystery, alike in men and animals ; and facts are the things that wise men have to deal with. It is impossible to explain, or even to comprehend, the process by which thought is begotten in the tisa
sues of the brain ; but that the process takes place will not be denied. We are conscious of the process, and feel the result in the possession of separate individuality--the power of contemplating all other persons and things objectively. Now, in order to perpetuate this result, all that is necessary is to preserve the integrity of the organ evolving it. This, of course, involves the introduction of fresh material into its structure, but it does not imply an invasion of the process going on in it, which the argument in question supposes ; the process conquers the material, and converts it to its own uses, and not the material the pro
Who ever heard of a man's bone turning to wheat from the eating of flour? The nutritive apparatus assimilates, which is in fact the answer to the argument. The new material entering the brain is assimilated to its existing condition ; and thus, although the atoms come and
for a life-time, the condition remains substantially unaltered, like a fire kept up by fuel. If, then, we are asked how a man at eighty feels himself to be the same person that he was at ten, though his entire substance is changed, we reply,those brain impressions which enable him to feel that he is himself, have been kept up all along, though modified by the circumstances and conditions through which he has passed. The process of change is so slow that the new atoms take on the organic qualities of the old, as they are gradually incorporated with the brain, and sustain the general result of the brain's action in preserving its continuous function unimpaired. If cases could be cited in which identity survived the destruction of the brain, the case would stand differently ; but as a fact, it is only to be found in connection with a perpetuated brainorganization.
These are the main "natural" arguinents relied upon for proof of the current theological conception of the immortality of the soul. It will
be observed that none of them is really logical. Each of them falls through when thoroughly looked into. The natural argument on the other side of the question will be found to stand in a very different position. At the very outset we are confronted with the difficulty of conceiving how immateriality can inhere in a material organization. Cohesion and conglomeration require affinity as their first condition, but, in this case, affinity is entirely wanting. What connection can exist between “matter” and the immaterial principle of popular belief? They are not in the nature of things susceptible of combination. Yet in the face of this difficulty, we find that the mind is located in the body. It is not a loose etheral thing, capa. ble of detachment from the material person. It is inexorably fixed in the bodily framework, and never leave it while life continues. If we enquire in what portion of the body it is specially located, we instinctively answer that it is not located in the hand, nor in the foot, nor in the stomach, nor in the heart, nor in any part of the trunk. Our consciousness unerringly tells us that it is in the head. We feel, as a matter of experience, whatever our theory may be, that the mind cohabits with the substance of the brain.
Extending our observation externally, we never discover mind without a corresponding development of brain. Deficient brain is always found to manifest deficient reason, and vice versa. Master minds in science and literature have larger and deeply convoluted cerebrums. If the popular theory were correct, mind ought to be exhibited independently of either quantity or quality of organisation.
Again, if the mind were immaterial, its functions would be unaffected by the conditions of the body. Thinking and feeling would never abate in vigour or vivacity. We should always be serene and clear-headed-always ready for the “study," whatever might be the state of the bodily machinery; whereas we know that the opposite is the case.
Sickness or over-work will exhaust the mental energies, and make the mind a blank. Languor and dulness of spirits are of common experience. We can all testify to days of ennui, in which the mind has refused to perform its office ; and we can remember, too, the uneasy pillow when horrible visions have scared us. This never happens in a good state of health, but always when the material organization is out of order. How is this? Does it not tell against the theory which represents the mind as an immaterial, incorruptible, imperishable thing? The mind is the offspring of the brain, and is therefore affected by all its passing disorders.
Let us carry the process further. Let the brain be injured ; and we then perceive a most signal refutation of the popular idea; the mind vanishes altogether. The following extract illustrates :
then carried on Board the Dolphin Frigato to Deptford, and from thence was sent to St. Thomas's Hospital, London.
He lay constantly on his back, and breathed with diffi. culty: When hungry or thirsty he moved his lips or tongue.
Mr. Clyne, the surgeon, found a portion of the skull depressed, trepanned him, and removed the depressed poro tion. Immediately after this operation, the motion of his fingers, occasioned by the beating of the pulse, ceased, and in three hours he sat up in bed, sensation and volition re. turned, and in four days he got up out of his bed and conversed. The last thing he remem. bered was the occurrence of taking a prize in the Mediterranean. From the moment of the accident, thirteen months and a few days before, oblivion had come over him, all recollection ceased. Yet, on removing a small portion of bone which pressed upon the brain, he was restored to the full possession of the powers of his mind and body."
These cases are not in accordance with the popular theory of the mind. Here is suspension of mental action on the derangement of the material organization. Obviously, the mind is not the attribute of a principle existing independently of that organization. The facts show that thinking is dependent upon the action of the brain, and cannot, therefore, be the action of an immaterial principle, which could never be affected by any material condition.
There are other difficulties. If the mind be a spark from God-if it be a part of the Deity himself, transfused into material organizations (and this is the view contended for by believers in the immortality of the soul) our faculties ought to spring forth in full maturity at birth. Instead of that, as everybody knows, a new born-babe has not a spark of intellect or a glimmer of consciousness. According to the popu. lar belief, it ought to possess both in full measure, because of the immaterial thinking principle. No one can carry his memory back to his birth. He can remember when he was three years old, perhaps ; only in a few cases can he recall an earlier date. Yet, if the popular belief were correct, memory ought to be contemporaneous with life from its very first moment.
Again ; if all men partake alike of this divine thinking essence, they
"RICHMOND mentions the case of a woman whose brain was exposed in consequence of the removal of a considerable part of its bony covering by disease. He says, 'I repeatedly made a pressure on the brain, and each time suspended all feeling and all intellect, which were immediately restored when the pressure was withdrawn.' The same writer mentions another case. He says, “There was a man who had to be trepanned, and who perceived his intellectual faculties failing, and his existence drawing to a close, every time the effused blood collected upon the brain so as to produce pres.
Prof. CHAPMAN, in one of his letters, says, " I saw an individual with his skull perforated and the brain exposed, who was accustomed to submit his brain to be experimented upon by pressure and who was exhibited by the lale Prof. Weston to his class. His intellect and moral faculties disappeared on the application of pressure to the brain. They were held under the thumb, as it were, and restored at pleasure to their full activity by discontinuing the pres. sure.'
But of all facts, the following related by Sir Astley COOPER, in his surgical Lectures, is the most remarkable: “A man of the name of Jones, received an injury on his head while on board a vessel in the Mediterranean, which rendered him insensible. The vessel soon after made for Gibraltar, where Jones was placed in the hospital, remained several months in the same insensible state. He was
ought to manifest the same degree of intelligence, and show the same disposition. Instead of that, there is infinite diversity among men. One man is shrewd and another dull
vicious and depraved, and another high-souled and virtuousone good and gentle, another harsh and inconsiderate, and so on. There ought to be uniformity of manifestation if there be uniformity of power.
These are so many natural obstacles in the way of the doctrine which constitutes the very foundation of all popular religion. They disprove that man is an immaterial entity, capable of disembodied existence. They show him to be a compounda creature of material organization, endowed with life from God, and ennobled with qualities which constitute him “the image of God; but nevertheless mortal in constitution. Why so much opposition ? All natural evidence is in its favour. If there are mysteries in it, there is none the less obviousness. Mystery is no ground of disbelief. This is shown by the universal belief in the immortality of the soul. Surely this is “mysterious” enough. If it come to that, we are surrounded with mystery. We can only approximate to truth; the how of any organic process is beyond comprehension ; we can but note facts, and bow in the presence of undeniable pheno
Though we are unable to understand the mode in which nerve communicates sensation, muscle generates strength, blood supplies life, &c., we cannot deny that these agencies are the proximate causes of the results developed, whether in man or animals. Why should there be an exception in the case of thought ? What we know of it is all connected with physical organization. We have no experience of human mind apart from human brain. In fact, we have no experience of any human faculty apart from its material manifestation; and in ordinary sensible thinking, the various living powers of man are practically acknowledged to be the
properties of the numerous organs which collectively compose himself. If he sees, it is recognised as the function of the eye to see ; if he hears, that it is with the ear; and that without these organs, he can neither see nor hear. In proportion as these organs are perfectly formed, there is perfect sight or hearing. Why should this principle not be applied to the mind ?
The parallel is complete. Man thinks, and he has a brain to think with ; and in proportion as the brain is properly organized and developed, he thinks well. If it be large, there is power and scope of mind; if small, there is mediocrity: if below par, there is intellectual deficiency, and idiotcy. These are facts apart from theory of any kind ; and they prove the connection of mind with living brain substance, however mysterious that connection may be. "No" to all this; “the brain is simply the medium of the soul's manifestation : deficiency of intellect and other mental irregularities are the result of imperfection in the mediumship; but this begs the question. It assumes the very point at issue, viz., the existence of a thinking abstraction to manifest itself. But even supposing we accept the explanation, what does it avail for popular theory? If the soul cannot manifest itself-cannot reason, cannot reflect, be conscious, love, hate, &c.-without a material “medium," what is its value as a thinking agent when without that medium ; that is, when the body is in the grave ? The explanation, however, cannot be accepted. It is the ingenious sug. gestion of a philosophy which is in straits to preserve itself from confusion. How much wiser to recognise the fact which presents itself to our actual experience, namely, that all our conscious, as well as unconscious, powers as living beings are the result of a conjunction between the life-power of God and the substance of our organisation, and do not exist apart from that connection in which they are developed.