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Premonitory Symptoms of Insanity.

This subject is too important and comprehensive, to be analysed at any length in a work which professes to embody only an outline of incipient morbid cerebral, and psychical phenomena.

This section will be considered in the following order : 1. Anomalous, and masked affections of

the mind. 2. Stage of consciousness. 3. Exaltation of mind. 4. Depression of mind. 5. Aberration of mind. 6. Impairment, and loss of mind.

This classification of the phenomena of disordered thought will embrace the more prominent and salient points connected with the subject of incipient insanity.

Previously, however, to my considering any one of the preceding sections, I propose to discuss cursorily,

1. The present limited knowledge of the physiology of the nervous system, and ignorance of the phenomena of mind, and life.

2, Analogy between insanity and dreaming.

3. Stato of the mind, when passing into a condition of alienation, as deduced from the written confessions of patients after recovery.



4. Morbid phenomena of thought, as manifested during the states of transition, and convalescence from attacks of insanity.

In order to obtain a right appreciation of the mind in its incipient, as well as matured conditions of disorder, it will be requisite for the psychological physician to analyse with metaphysical exactness, and scientific, medical precision, the intellect, when in the preceding states of unhealthy manifestation. These are four philosophical points d'appui in this important inquiry, and if elaborately and, faithfully investigated, a clearer insight may yet be obtained of morbid psychical phenomena, hitherto deemed very obscure, if not, altogether inexplicable.

Before proceeding to an analysis of the premonitory symptoms of the various types and phases of mental and cerebral disorder, it will be well to refer to the following important preliminary interrogatories: they suggest themselves as prefatory, or starting points in this inquiry. What is insanity ? Is its nature known; its essence dis

; covered; the laws governing its phenomena understood ? What is the constitution of its materies morbi; the exact condition of the moral, and intellectual faculties, emotions, instincts, or passions, during, to use the significantly suggestive language of Coleridge, “the mind's own revolt upon itself”? In what does mental derangement consist? Is it an affection of the moral, intellectual, emotional, or perceptive faculties, and are the reason, judgment, comparison, memory, and imagination most implicated in the malady? Is there a type of insanity manifesting itself more in conduct, than in the ideas ? What is the nature, where the seat, of the alienation of mind? In which of the mental faculties does the disease commence its ravages, and where is the precise position, in the brain, of the latent insane nidus, or germ ?*

* The subjoined poetical description of insanity was written by a lunatic confined in the State Asylum, Utica, U.S.A. It is interesting as proceeding from the pen of a man in an unquestionable state of mental derangement.

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Has insanity a centrifugal or a centripetal, a subjective or, an objective origin? In less technical phraseology, do the disordered ideas of the insane depend upon centric causes of irritation and disease, operating from within to without, or are they the consequences of eccentric jective influences, acting from without to within; in other words, are we to consider the symptoms of mental alienation, as emanations from the brain, similar in character (to borrow an appropriate image) to the rays of light proceeding from a body which is itself ignited,” or, are they analogous to the rays reflected from a polished surface, in intimate organic sympathy with disordered action established in a remote part of the body?

Is insanity an affection of the mind per se? Has the disease a psychical or, a somatic origin? Is it possible for

“A maniac!
Know ye the meaning of that word,
Ye, who of health and reason art possess'd ?

Can ye scan
The tumult raging in the inner man ?
Could'st thou draw aside the curtain
That doth envelope his distracted sonl,
And see behind it, what he doth conceive is real,
Then might'st thou see him scorch'd
'Pon bars of iron, heated red by fire,
Enkindled 'neath them. On every side
Are those, whose office 'tis (it so doth seem to him),
To see it is not quench’d. Should this delusion leave him,
His poor distracted soul, will, by some new fear,
Be tempest toss'd. Then will he fancy
Everything that he doth see or hear,
And cannot comprehend, is but some method
To destroy or harm him.
Thou canst not know nor feel,
0! ye, whom God hath bless'd with reason,
A tithe of what he suffers :
For thus to know or feel,
Thou must become, like him,

A maniac!"
Asylum, l'tica, N.Y.

J. M. B.



thought, in the abstract, to be diseased, independently of images occupying the consciousness ? Does alienation of mind depend, not exclusively upon a psychical, or somatic cause, but upon a disturbance in the normal relations existing (in states of cerebral, and mental health) between the mental, and physical functions of the brain ?

Before endeavouring to solve these subtle and abstruse psychological problems, it will be necessary to ask what is mind ? Have we any knowledge of its nature, clue to its seat, accurate idea as to its mode of action, or anything approximating to a right conception, of its essence ? What are the modifications, the metamorphoses, organic or functional, which the vital principle, and nerve-force undergo, during their passage through the exquisitely organized, and highly vascular cineritious, or vesicular brain structure ?

How does the occult mental principle, believed by physiologists to be evolved or eliminated in the grey matter of the brain, become so mysteriously and marvellously changed from nerve, to mental force, and vice versá, in the hemispherical ganglia ? Is the development of psychical phenomena the result of what is termed, a correlation of the two preceding modes of dynamical action, or, is mind a new creation, essence, principle, or power, organized or elaborated in the vesicular portions of the cerebral mass ?

What is the nature of the vis nervosa of Haller? Is the brain a galvanic battery, and are the nerves constituted, for the transmission of impressions, like electric wires ? Is the mysterious and undefinable "fluid,” or “force,” circulating in the nerve tubes, a voltaic current, in other words, a principle identical with that of electricity, or one, in its essence, origin, and operations, entirely sui generis? What is the vis vite, and how is it associated with, and dependent upon, organized structures ? What are the


relations between the intellectual, and vital manifestations? Are not all these great problems of organic, and psychical life, still, with physiologists, sub judice ?* Have we arrived at any exact knowledge of the substratum of nervous matter? Are we not obliged to confess our ignorance of the ultimate principles of vitality, as well as of intelligence ? Do we know anything of their nature or essence ? Is not

our knowledge of mental, as well as of vital, phenomena, entirely confined to an acquaintance with these powers, as manifested during life?t If our igno

* Speaking of the mysterious union of mind and matter, St. Austin says

“Materiam spiritumque cognoscendo ignorari et ignorando cognosci." “ Man is to himself the mightiest prodigy in nature, for he is unable to conceive what is body, still less what is mind; but least of all is he able to conceive how a body can be united to a mind; yet this is his proper being.”—(Pascal). “A contented ignorance,” says Sir W. Hamilton, when referring to this subject," is indeed wiser than a presumptuous knowledge; but this is a lesson which seems the last that philosophers are willing to learn. In the words of one of the acutest of modern thinkers, ' Magna immo maxima pars sapientiæ est quædam æquo nescire velle.''

+ “The notion we annex to the words matter and mind,” says Reid, "is merely relative. If I am asked what I mean by matter, I can only explain myself by saying it is that which is extended, figured, coloured, moveable, hard, rough and smooth, hot or cold—that is, I can define it in no other way than by enumerating its sensible qualities. It is not matter or body which I perceive by my senses, but only extension, figure, colour, and certain other qualities which the constitution of my nature leads me to refer to something which is extended, figured, and coloured. The case is precisely similar with respect to mind. We are not immediately conscious of its existence, but we are of sensation, thought, volition-operations which imply the existence of something which feels, thinks, wills.”

Sir Isaac Newton was asked, why he stepped forward when he was so inclined, and from what cause his arm obeyed his will ? He honestly replied that he knew nothing about the matter. If we were to follow the example of this great philosopher, and modestly admit our ignorance of those subjects about which we really have no knowledge, we should have a just conception of the shallow pretensions of man. No undertaking would perhaps prove more beneficial to mankind than that which endeavoured to draw a correct line of demarcation between what is really known and that which is merely conjecture.

Our notion of the nature of mind is as limited as our knowledge of material substances. When we wish to have a rude knowledge of a piece of metal,” says a great French philosopher, we put it on the fire in a crucible; but have we any crucible wherein to put the soul ? Is it spirit ? says one ; but what is spirit? Assuredly no one knows. This is a word so void of


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