Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

which exists between them; the consequence of dyspeptic acidity in the same organ, is gloom, melancholy, irritability, and sometimes a total cessation of consciousness. The brain can be affected in the same way through the medium of the lungs; the inhaling of nitrous oxyde being attended with a variety of remarkable phenomena, according to the peculiarities of each individual constitution. One man is outrageously happy and joyous; another is excited to the most incredible muscular efforts; a third appears under the effects of simple intoxication ; a fourth will lose all power of volition; a fifth will fall into a state of stupid reverie, from which it is impossible to recall him ; while others will seem abstracted from the world, and will tell of the most blissful visions. Tobacco, opium, nightshade, henbane, stramonium, hemlock, foxglove, and many other herbs and drugs, act with varied effects upon the brain, and produce pleasant or unpleasant ideas; and give propensities and dispositions to certain acts, which exhibit the mind as deprived of some of its powers—the will and the judgment, while reason itself is toppled from its throne. The health of the body is intimately connected with the operations of the mind, and even with our moral actions; and not only the health of it, but even the state of it in many individuals. Some people are peculiarly morose and ill-tempered just before dinner; but after having partaken of a generous exhilirating meal are full of kindness, suavity, and even liberality. Dr. Johnson used often to say, “ I do not know how it is, but all my philosophy seems to me perfect nonsense as soon as I have dined.”

The brain has the most extensive sympathies with the heart, the blood, the organs of respiration, the stomach, the liver, the function of secretion in general, and with the skin. Of the first, we know that palpitation of the heart may be produced by surprise, joy, fear, desire, or every kind of mental emotion; in such cases the mind acts on the brain, and the brain, through the nervous system, on the body, and vice versa; and this double sympathy often produces fainting, and sometimes even death. If the blood become congested in it, a cerebral disturbance in the energy of its functions is experienced ; if on the contrary, the blood should be in too small quantities, and that improperly distributed, the individual will be feverish, feeble, irritable, and oftentimes essentially altered in his character. While affections of the liver and stomach, which invariably produce cerebral disturbance, often produce hypochondriasis and melancholy, overthrow its intellectual vigour, and sometimes destroy the balancing power of reason altogether. The brain's influence upon the secretions, is also remarkable.Joy and grief both exhibit themselves in tears. The muscular system is also peculiarly affected by the brain, and it is as well known that those who devote themselves to athletic pursuits, have a weight of intellect very small, and an aptitude for moral feeling far inferior to those whose sensibilities have been developed by intellectual studies. Cerebral sympathy is likewise connected with the skin. The influence of moral emotion of various kinds, produce that state of its surface, which is familiarly called goose skin; the agency of fear occasions paleness of the countenance,

0

by recalling the blood to the interior, or blueness of the lips, from congestion of the extreme vessels. The effects of those moral feelings shame and surprise, are to give a blush to the cheek; while the dryness of the skin is remarkable in those who suffer much from any mental anxiety.

Hitherto the object has been to show the sympathetic communications existing between the brain and many organs of the body; and it will readily be perceived, that the mind influences and affects the body more than the body does the mind: were it not so, we should be justified in concluding the body to be a merely animal machine; and we might plead bodily temperament as an excuse for moral obliquity. But this is not the case—the mind is master of the body, although the body may and does exercise a very powerful influence upon the mind. The organ of the mind—the brain, is liable to be excited by disturbance in any of the remote organs of the body, because it forms the link of connection between all these several organs; and the peculiar character of such disturbance will be more or less determined by the particular organ which forms the source of irritation, and by the kind and degree of morbid action to which it is exposed; and these facts should lead us in the education of the individual to pay the greatest attention to all bodily ailments, to watch them narrowly, and to mark their influence upon the mind and character.

This influence of the body upon the mind has given rise to a variety of phenomena, and has often changed the character of the mental and moral manifestations; and we need only to take a glance at the physiological phenomena of sleep to be convinced still farther of the truth of these remarks. In sleep the posture of the body very often gives rise to unpleasant dreams, and this may occur even in healthy sleep. But a hearty meal, taken just before going to bed, by persons whose digestion is bad, and by some who have good digestion, will produce very frightful dreams: the phenomena of nightmare is produced by purely cerebral affections, whether it arises from intellectual or mental over-action, or from disease of some of the organs of the body; and the intensity is completely governed by the more or less morbid state of the cerebral organ. It will be severe when that morbid condition is considerable: it will increase with the deepening shades of brainular malady, and it will diminish exactly in proportion with the gradual return to healthy action, and with the progress of convalescence, till the attack shall have become slight, and the images with which it is associated ludicrously harrassing, instead of being frightful; till a perfect restoration of the organ also restores the patient to that healthy state in which the “foul and midnight hag” no longer haunts his pillow.

The attack of night-mare is most common to those who possess an irritable brain ; and finally the illusions which attend it are complete, the patient verily believing in their actual existence: and it is only by the influence of the judgment, reason, and experience, that he is convinced of the contrary truth. The illusion is so complete that the existence of the ideas and images thus produced, is never doubted for a moment; and therefore there is nothing unreasonable in the supposition, that other morbid states of the same organ may give rise to varying, although analagous, phenomena.

Dreaming is thus to be ascribed to a condition of the material brain, not of the immaterial principle. And it must be seen that by doing so we vindicate the honour of God, and that we do not derogate from his wisdom, power, and goodness. The immaterial principle is not necessarily engaged in the phenomena of dreaming ; the brain is not its servant during sleep, because by that very state it is unfitted for intellectual operations, and when it does act, it is without the control of a presiding mind; and therefore the morbid state of dreaming, instead of the physiological process of correct thinking is produced. If we assumed the contrary, we must then concede that the immaterial spirit possesses very limited powers of intelligence, and that these require to be aided by its material connections-results which are falsified by daily experience, and which, if allowed, would leave us at once in the dark night of materialism. Dreams

may be defined to be trains of ideas and images, confusedly heaped together during sleep, and resulting from irritation of the brain ; that irritation admitting of many modifications, according to its peculiar condition, according to the endless variations of the general health, and according to the nature of any uneasiness, excess, or defect in any one organ of the body, arising to such a height, or continuing so long, as to produce sympathetic disturbance of the nervous system. There are no dreams in natural healthy sleep—that is, sound and quiet sleep. But mental emotion during the day, protracted study, morbid ac

the system, the sensation of cold or of heat, of too close an apartment, and any point of local irritation, according to the intimacy of its union or nearness of connection with the brain, have a direct tendency to produce and do produce a peculiar excitement in the cerebral organ ; and when in approaching or imperfect sleep, one of these irritants exists, it is very usual for unreal images to present themselves to notice-figures exhibiting the most grotesque and even horrible grimaces, and accumulation of objects, ideas, and shadows, which defy all the reasoning powers to classify, combine, or comprehend. But in all these instances we find, that in order to the production of dreaming, brainular action must be disassociated from the will; and then being submitted to its own agency, or to the impulse it has received from organic causes, these phenomena

There are other analogous brainular manifestations resulting from similar causes with those of dreams. The common form of somnambulism is one of them: this is a kind of dream during profound sleep, in which some actions intimately associated in the waking state, and rendered easy, and almost automatic, by long continued habit, are produced in sleep without apparent volition ; and where actions correspond with the ideas, feelings, and emotions, the succession and combination of which, form the intellectual and mental fabric of the dream. The phenomena of animal magnetism, is a state very nearly allied to somnambulism. The magnetic paroxysm is more easily produced upon a brain which is in an irritable and excited state,

Occur.

and the effects are similar to those for which a spiritual and supernatural agency has been asked ; and although it may be in some measure difficult to explain all the phenomena of this state, it is manifest that they are purely physical, resulting from the operation of brain upon brain, when placed within the sphere of a certain relation to each other—phenomena something analogous to the development of electricity by the friction of a stick of sealing-wax, or of the galvanic-aura by the union of two metallic bodies undergiven circumstances. Spectral appearances, visions of angels, the revelation of future glory, second sights, and presentiments of dissolution, may be referred to the same agency; for it is a peculiar state of irritation of the brain which gives rise to them. The demon of Socrates, the heavenly visitant of Tasso, the ghost of Cæsar which appeared to Brutus, and told him he should meet him at Philippi, would never have occurred, had those who imagined them to exist, been in a healthy moral, or mental condition. The spirit which animated the sublime philosopher of Athens, was doubtless a manifestation of the Divine Being in his heart: and who has not felt at times this “ still small voice” within him, as a guide and a comforter. But the angel spirits which appeared to visit the poet in his reveries, and the ghost that seemed to forewarn the murderer of his end, had their origin in over-heated imagination and cerebral excitement. The hypochondriac hears voices, sees visions, is assailed by unearthly visitants, and receives admonitions ; but all these voices, visions, and revelations are swept away by medical treatment—a clear proof of their origin and tendency. It will be objected by the pious, that vi sions of angels, a revelation of Divine glory, dreams, and other appearances have been seen by patriarchs, and prophets, primitive Christians, and even by modern ones; and we may say that where a clear necessity for their exhibition can be proved, we are not warranted in disallowing their agency. God has certainly not ceased to deal with his children: his Holy Spirit is shed abroad in our hearts; but how was it declared it should manifest itself? it was declared that it should be poured out upon all flesh, “that the young men should see visions,”

and that the old men should dream dreams.” Yes, perspective visions of glory, and dreams of holiness and happiness beyond the tomb. But the manifestations of this spiritual agency were to be “ love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.” In the sacred writings, we find much of their testimony based upon this evidence. Joseph affords us a remarkable illustration of this kind: but the whole is so clearly, so perfectly wrought out, the design of God to raise him up a people according to his covenant with Abraham, and the precise relation of the circumstance of the dream with the facts that followed, would make a child believe in it: the spirit of Samuel which appeared at the cave of Endor to Saul, was of the same description : and when Elisha prayed and said, “Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes

that he may see; and the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” Each of these were miraculous interferences of God, in his providence, for important ends, and necessary at various periods to keep up, as a connecting link, the

[ocr errors]

dealings of God with his servants, and have no relation whatever to those common every-day apparitions or visions of those who are either under disease of body or mind, or of both; which can be traced by many symptoms to the causes to which we have so repeatedly referred them.

Many very excellent persons are afraid of the liberality of the day and of the assumed expansion of intellectual manifestation with which it stands connected. It is with them almost a proof of heterodoxy, if sentiments like the above are avowed; and to impugn the long-received opinions as to the reality of apparitions, is placed to the account of a restless desire to be over-wise, and to explain natural phenomena, without the illumination of a superintending Providence. But this is unfair, and unconsequential; for the more intimately we become acquainted with the rationale of the operations of God in the works of nature, the more must the heart be affected with the wisdom, and knowledge, and power, and goodness, and love displayed in the endless and exquisite contrivance of his infinite mercy; and the more will it rest with confidence on the moral agency of this all perfect Being, and be prepared to serve him with full purpose of heart, and to receive with meekness and obedience the revelation of his will.

On the contrary, it requires the most inordinate stretch of imagination, to believe all the histories of apparitions, beatific visions, and heavenly hallucinations with which our ears areassailed. Yet, if the correctness of one tale be admitted without strict investigation, according to scriptural authority and philosophic reasoning, it will naturally be asked why not believe all, since all rest upon the same basis, namely human testimony. This basis, however, unless where the testimony is full and beyond the possibility of mistake or error, is not a safe foundation for belief; since it is become liable to be acted upon by so many prejudices, that its results are often erroneous, and demand the closest scrutiny. There is a species of spurious charity which affects a great degree of tenderness for the reports of individuals so circumstanced; while it estimates as of very little worth, theexplanations of reasonand science, and the declared experience, not of those who have never been the subject of these hallucinations, but those who having seen and known them as much as their more credulous neighbours, have not been deluded into a belief of their reality, but have been enabled to account for them upon physical principles.

When these ideas of omens, wonderful workings, signs and sounds miraculous, once get possession of the imagination, the cerebral mass is put under so strong anexcitement, that in some individuals it amounts to a total deprivation of reason. A friend of ours, a clergyman, who to the most sincere piety adds the great charm of a liberal and philosophic mind, told us that he was lately called in to visit a sick woman, who had been bed-ridden some months, and to administer the last consolations of religion: he was surprised to find the poor sufferer with that phrenzied redness of eye, which too surely indicates a high degree of brainular excitement. After a few minutes conversation, she distinctly told the minister that she was under the divine working, that Christstood on one side of the bed and Satan on the other, fighting for her soul ; and

« AnteriorContinuar »