ANIMAL IMPULSES AWAKEN AND DEVELOP THE IMPULSES OF THE SOUL.
S 7.—The Metho.
The surest way, perhaps, to throw some light upon this matter is the following: Let us detach from man all idea of what can be called organization,—that is, let the body be separated from the spirit, without, however, depriving the latter of the power to attain to representations of, and to produce actions in, the corporeal world; and let us then inquire how the spirit would set to work, would develop its powers, what steps it would take towards its perfection: the result of this investigation must be founded upon facts. The actual culture of the individual man is thus surveyed, while we at the same time obtain a view of the development of the whole race. In the first place, then, we have this abstract case: the power of representation and will are present, a sphere of action is present, and a free way opened from the soul to the world, from the world to the soul. The question then is, How will the spirit act?
S 8.-The Soul viewed as out of connection with the Body.
We can form no conception without the antecedent will to form it; no will, unless by experience of a better condition thereby induced, without [some] sensation; no sensation without an antecedent idea (for along with the body we excluded bodily sensations), therefore no idea without an idea.
Let us consider now the case of a child; that is, according to our hypothesis, a spirit conscious in itself of the power to form ideas, but which for the first time is about to exercise this power. What will determine him to think, unless it be the pleasant sensation thereby arising, and what can have procured for him the experience of this pleasurable sensation? We have just seen that this, again, could be nothing but thinking, and he is now for the first time to think. Further, what shall invite him to a consideration of the [external] world? Nothing but the experience of its perfection in so far as it satisfies his instinct of activity, and as this satisfaction affords him pleasure. What, then, can determine him to an exercise of his powers? Nothing but the experience of their existence; and all these experiences are now to be made for the first time. He must therefore have been active from all eternity—which is contrary to the case as stated—or he will to all eternity be inactive, just as the machine without a touch from without remains idle and motionless.
S 9.—The Soul viewed in connection with the Body.
Now let the animal be added to the spirit. Weave these two natures so closely together as they really are closely woven, and cause an unknown something, born of the economy of the animal body, to be assailed by the power of sensation,—let the soul be placed in the condition of physical pain. That was the first touch, the first ray to light up the night of slumbering powers, a touch as from a golden finger upon nature's lute. Now is sensation there, and sensation only was it that before we missed. This kind of sensation seems to have been made on purpose to remove all these difficulties. In the first case none could be produced because we were not allowed to presuppose an idea; here a modification of the bodily organs becomes a substitute for the ideas that were lacking, and thus does animal sensation come to the help of the spirits inward mechanism, if I may so call it, and puts the same in motion. The will is active, and the action of a single power is sufficient to set all the rest to work. The following operations are self-developed and do not belong to this chapter.
S 10.-Out of the History of the Individual.
Let us follow now the growth of the soul in the individual man in relation to what I am trying to demonstrate, and let us observe how all his spiritual capacities grow out of motive powers of sense.
a. The child. Still quite animal; or, rather more and at the same time less than animal—human animal (for that being which at some time shall be called man can at no time have been only animal). More wretched than an animal, because he has not even instinct—the animal-mother may with less danger leave her young than the mother abandon her child. Pain may force from him a cry, but will never direct him to the source from which it comes. The milk may give him pleasure, but he does not seek it. He is altogether passive.
His knowledge is but pain, hunger—and what binds these together.
b. The boy. Here we have already reflection, but only in so far as it bears upon the satisfaction of the animal impulse. "He learns to value," says Garve [Observations on Ferguson's "Moral Philosophy," p. 319], "the things of others, and his actions in respect of others, first of all through the fact of their affording him [sensuous] pleasure."
A love of work, the love to his parents, to friends, yea even love to God, must go along the pathway of physical sense [Sinnlichkeit] to reach his soul. "That only is the sun," as Garve elsewhere observes, "which in itself enlightens and warms: all other objects are dark and cold; but they too can be warmed and illumined when they enter into such a connection with the same as to become partakers of its rays." [Observations on Ferguson's "Moral Philosophy," p. 393.] The good things of the spirit possess a value with the boy only by transferrence—they are the spiritual means to an animal end.
c. Youth and man. The frequent repetition of this process of induction at last brings about a readiness, and the transferrence begins to discover a beauty in what at first was regarded simply as a means. The youth begins to linger in the process without knowing why. Without observing it, he is often attracted to think about this means. Now is the time when the beams of spiritual beauty in itself begin to fall upon his open soul; the feeling of exercising his powers delights him, and infuses an inclination to the object which, up to this time, was a means only: the first end is forgotten. His enlightened mind and the richer store of his ideas at last reveal to him the whole worth of spiritual pleasures—the means has become the highest end.
Such is the teaching more or less of the history of each individual man— whose means of education have been fairly good; and wisdom could hardly choose a better road along which to lead mankind. Is not the mass of the people even to this day in leading-strings?—much like our boy. And has not the prophet from Medina left us an example of striking plainness how to bridle the rude nature of the Saracens?
On this subject nothing more excellent can be said than what Garve remarked in his translation of Ferguson's "Moral Philosophy," in the chapter upon the Natural Impulses, and has developed as follows: "The impulse of self-preservation and the attraction of sensual pleasure first bring both man and beast to the point of action: he first comes to value the things of others and his own actions in reference to them according as they procure him pleasure. In proportion as the number of things under whose influence he comes increases do his desires cover a wider circle; as the road by which he reaches the objects of his wishes lengthens, so do his desires become more artificial. Here we come to the first line of separation between man and the mere animal, and herein we may even discover a difference between one species of animal and another. With few animals does the act of feeding follow immediately upon the sensation of hunger; the heat of the chase, or the industry of collection must come first. But in the case of no animal does the satisfaction of this want follow so late upon the preparations made in reference thereto as in the case of man; with no animal does the endeavor wind through so long a chain of means and intentions before it arrives at the last link. How far removed from this end, though in reality they have no other, are the labors of the artisan or the ploughman. But even this is not all. When the means of human subsistence have become richer and more various through the institutions of society; when man begins to discover that without a full expenditure of time and labor a surplus remains to him; when at the same time by the communication of ideas he becomes more enlightened; then he begins to find a last end for all his actions in himself; he then remarks that, even when his hunger is thoroughly satisfied, a good supply of raiment, a roof above him, and a sufficiency of furniture within doors, there still remains something over and above for him to do. He goes a step further, he becomes conscious that in those very actions by which he has procured for himself food and comfort—in so far as they have their origin in certain powers of a spirit, and in so far as they exercise these powers—there lies a higher good than in the external ends which thereby are attained. From this moment on he works, indeed—in company with the rest of the human race, and along with the whole animal kingdom—to keep himself alive, and to provide for himself and his friends the necessaries of physical existence;—for what else could he do? What other sphere of action could he create for himself, if he were to leave this? But he knows now that nature has not so much awakened in him these various impulses and desires for the purpose of affording so many particular pleasures,—but, and far more, places before him the attraction of those pleasures and advantages, in order that these impulses may be put in motion—and with this end, that to a thinking being there may be given matter for thought, to a sensitive spirit matter for sensations, to the benevolent means of beneficence, and to the active opportunity for work. Thus does everything, living or lifeless, assume to him a new form. All the facts and changes of life were formerly estimated by him only in so far as they caused him pleasure or pain: now, in so far as they offer occasion for expression of his desire of perfection. In the first case, events are now good, now bad; in the latter, all are equally good. For there is no chance or accident which does not give scope for the exercise of some virtue, or for the employment of a special faculty. At first he loved his fellows because he believed that they could be of use to him; he loves them now far more—because he looks upon benevolence as the condition of the perfect mind."
S 11.-From the History of Humanity.
Yet once more, a glance at the universal history of the whole human race—from its cradle to the maturity of full-grown man—and the truth of what has been said up to this point will stand forth in clearest relief.
Hunger and nakedness first made of man a hunter, a fisher, a cowherd, a husbandman, and a builder. Sensual pleasure founded families, and the defencelessness of single men was the origin of the tribe. Here already may the first roots of the social duties be discovered. The soil would soon become too poor for the increasing multitude of men; hunger would drive them to other climates and countries that would discover their wealth to the necessity that forced men to seek it; in the process they would learn many improvements in the cultivation of the soil, and perhaps some means to escape the hurtful influence of many things they would necessarily encounter. These separate experiences passed from grandfather to grandson, and their number was always on the increase. Man learned to use the powers of nature against herself; these powers were brought into new relations and the first invention was made. Here we have the first roots of the simple and healing arts—always, we admit, art and invention for the behoof of the animal, but still an exercise of power, an addition to knowledge; and at the very fire in whose embers the savage roasted his fish, Boerhaave afterwards made his inquiries into the composition of bodies; through the very knife which this wild man used to cut up his game, Lionet invented what led to his discovery of the nerves of insects; with the very circle wherewith at first hoofs were measured, Newton measures heaven and earth. Thus did the body force the mind to pay attention to the phenomena around it; thus was the world made interesting and important, through being made indispensable. The inward activity of their nature, and the barrenness of their native soil, combined in teaching our forefathers to form bolder plans, and invented for them a house wherein, under conduct of the stars, they could safely move upon rivers and seas, and sail toward regions new:—
(Their keels danced upon waves unknown.)
Here again they met with new productions of nature, new dangers, new needs that called for new exertions. The collision of animal instincts drives hordes against hordes, forges a sword out of the raw metal, begets adventurers, heroes, and despots. Towns are fortified, states are founded: with the states arise civic duties and rights, arts, figures, codes of law, subtle priests—and gods.
And now, when necessities have degenerated into luxury, what a boundless field is opened to our eyes! Now are the veins of the earth burrowed through, the foot of man is planted on the bottom of the sea, commerce and travel flourish:—
(The sea is hid beneath the fleets.)
The West wonders at the East, the East at the West; the productions of foreign countries accustom themselves to grow under other skies, and the art of gardening shows the products of three-quarters of the world in one garden. Artists learn her works from nature, music soothes the savage breast, beauty and harmony ennoble taste and manners, and art leads the way to science and virtue. "Man," says Schloezer [see Schloezer's Plan of his Universal History, S 6], "this mighty demigod, clears rocks from his path, digs out lakes, and drives his plough where once the sail was seen. By canals he separates quarters of the globe and provinces from one another; leads one stream to another and discharges them upon a sandy desert, changed thereby into smiling meadow; three quarters of the globe he plunders and transplants them into a fourth. Even climate, air, and weather acknowledge his sway. While he roots out forests and drains the swamp, the heaven grows clear above his head, moisture and mist are lost, winter becomes milder and shorter, because rivers are no longer frozen over." And the mind of man is refined with the refining of his clime.
The state occupies the citizen in the necessities and comforts of life. Industry gives the state security and rest from without; from within, granting to thinker and artist that fruitful leisure through which the age of Augustus came to be called the Golden Age. The arts now take a more daring and untrammelled flight, science wins a light pure and dry, natural history and physical science shatter superstition, history extends a mirror of the times that were, and philosophy laughs at the follies of mankind. But when luxury grows into effeminacy and excess, when the bones begin to ache, and the pestilence to spread and the air becomes infected, man hastens in his distress from one realm of nature to another, that he may at least find means for lessening his pains. Then he finds the divine plant of China; from the bowels of the earth he digs out the mightily-working mercury, and from the poppy of the East learns to distil its precious juice. The most hidden corners of nature are investigated; chemistry separates material objects into their ultimate elements, and creates worlds of her own; alchemists enrich the province of physical science; the microscopic glance of a Schwammerdam surprises nature in her most secret operations. Man goes still further; necessity or curiosity transcends the boundaries set by superstition: he seizes the knife, takes courage, and the masterpiece of nature is discovered, even man. Thus did it behoove the least, the poorest, to help us to reach the highest; disease and death must lend their aid to man in teaching him Gnothi seauton ("Know thyself!"). The plague produced and formed our Hippocrates, our Sydenhams, as war is the mother of generals; and we owe to the most devastating disease that ever visited humanity an entire reformation of our medical system.
Our intention was to show the influence upon the perfecting of the soul through the temperate enjoyment of the pleasures held out by the senses; and how marvellously has the matter changed, even while under our hands! We found that even excess and abuse in this direction have furthered the real demands of humanity; the deflections from the primitive end of nature—merchants, conquerors, and luxury—have, undoubtedly, tended to hasten a progress which had otherwise been more regular, but very slow. Let us compare the old world with the new! In the first, desire was simple, its satisfaction easy; but how mistaken, how painful was the judgment passed on nature and her laws! Now, the road is made more difficult by a thousand windings, but how full the light that has been shed upon all our conceptions!
We may, then, repeat: Man needed to be an animal before he knew that he was a spirit; he needed to crawl in the dust before he ventured on a Newtonian flight through the universe. The body, therefore, is the first spur to action; sense the first step on the ladder to perfection.
ANIMAL SENSATIONS ACCOMPANY MENTAL SENSATIONS.
The understanding of man is extremely limited, and, therefore, all sensations resulting from its action must of necessity be also limited. In order, therefore, to give these sensations greater impulse, and with redoubled force to attract the will to good and restrain it from evil, both natures, the spiritual and the animal, are so intimately connected with each other that their modifications, being mutually interchanged, impart strength to one another. Hence arises a fundamental law of mixed natures, which, being reduced to its primary divisions, runs thus: the activities of the body correspond to the activities of the mind; that is, any overstraining of a mental activity is necessarily followed by an overstraining of certain bodily actions,—just as the equilibrium, or harmonious action, of the mental powers is associated with that of the bodily powers in perfect accord. Further: mental indolence induces indolence in the bodily actions; mental inaction causes them to cease altogether. Thus, as perfection is ever accompanied by pleasure, imperfection by the absence of pleasure, this law may be thus expressed: Mental pleasure is invariably attended by animal pleasure, mental pain by animal pain. [Complacency and Displacency perhaps more aptly express the meaning of Lust and Unlust, which we translate by pleasure and pain.]
S 13.—Mental Pleasure furthers the Welfare of the Human Frame.
Thus, a sensation which embraces within its range the whole spiritual being agitates in the same measure the whole framework of the organic body,—heart, veins and blood, muscles and nerves, all, from those mighty nerves that give to the heart its living impulse of motion down to the tiny and unimportant nerves by which hairs are attached to the skin, share equally its influence. Everything tends to a more violent motion. If the sensation be an agreeable one, all these parts will acquire a higher degree of harmonious activity; the heart's beat will be free, lively, uniform, the blood will flow unchecked, gently or with fiery speed, according as the affection is of a gentle or violent description; digestion, secretion, and excretion will follow their natural course; the excitable membranes will pliantly play in a gentle vapor-bath, and excitability as well as sensitiveness will increase. Therefore the condition of the greatest momentary mental pleasure is at the same time the condition of the greatest bodily well-being.
As many as there may be of these partial activities (and is not every beat of the pulse the result perhaps of thousands?) so many will be the obscure sensations crowding upon the soul, each one of which indicates perfection. Out of this confused complexity arises entire sensation of the animal harmonies, that is, the highest possible combined sensation of animal pleasure, which ranges itself, as it were, alongside of the original intellectual or moral sensation, which this addition infinitely increases. Thus is every agreeable affection the source of countless bodily pleasures.
This is most evidently confirmed by the examples of sick persons who have been cured by joy. Let one whom a terrible home-sickness has wasted to a skeleton be brought back to his native land, and the bloom of health will soon be his again; or let us enter a prison in which miserable men have for ten or twenty years inhabited filthy dungeons and possess at last barely strength to move,—and let us tell them suddenly they are free; the single word of freedom will endow their limbs with the strength of youth, and cause dead eyes to sparkle with life. Sailors, whom thirst and famine have made their prey during a long voyage, are half cured by the steersman's cry of "Land!" and he would certainly greatly err who ascribed the whole result to a prospect of fresh food. The sight of a dear one, whom the sufferer has long desired to see, sustains the life that was about to go, and imparts strength and health. It is a fact, that joy can quicken the nervous system more effectually than all the cordials of the apothecary, and can do wonders in the case of inveterate internal disorders denied to the action of rhubarb and even mercury. Who then does not perceive that the constitution of the soul which knows how to derive pleasure from every event and can dissipate every ache in the perfection of the universe, must be the most beneficial to the whole organism? and this constitution of the soul is—virtue.
S 14.—Mental pain undermines the Welfare of the Whole Organisms.
In the very same way, the opposite result is brought about by a disagreeable affection of the mind. The ideas which rule so intensely the angry or terrified man may, as rightly as Plato called the passions a fever of the soul, be regarded as convulsions of the organ of thought. These convulsions quickly extend through the nervous system, and so disturb the vital powers that they lose their perfection, and all organic actions lose their equilibrium. The heart beats violently and irregularly; the blood is so confined to the lungs that the failing pulse has barely enough to sustain it. The internal chemical processes are at cross-purposes; beneficent juices lose their way and work harm in other provinces, while what is malignant may attack the very core of our organism. In a word, the condition of the greatest mental distress becomes the condition of the greatest bodily sickness.
The soul is informed of the threatened ruin of the organs that should have been her good and willing servants by a thousand obscure sensations, and is filled with an entire sensation of pain, associating itself to the primary mental suffering, and giving to this a sharper sting.
Deep, chronic pains of the soul, especially if accompanied by a strong exertion of thought—among which I would give a prominent place to that lingering anger which men call indignation—gnaw the very foundations of physical life, and dry up the sap that nourish it. Sufferers of this kind have a worn and pale appearance, and the inward grief betrays itself by the hollow, sunken eyes. "Let me," says Caesar, "have men about me that are fat":—
Yond' Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much—such men are dangerous.
Fear, trouble, distress of conscience, despair, are little less powerful in their effects than the most violent fevers. Richard, when in deepest anxiety, finds his former cheerfulness is gone, and thinks to bring it back with a glass of wine. But it is not mental sorrow only that has banished comfort, it is a sensation of discomfort proceeding from the very root of his physical organism, the very same sensation that announces a malignant fever. The Moor, heavily burdened with crimes, and once crafty enough in absolving all the sensations of humanity—by his skeleton-process—into nothing, now rises from a dreadful dream, pale and breathless, with a cold sweat upon his brow. All the images of a future judgment which he had perhaps believed in as a boy, and blotted out from his remembrance as a man, assail his dream-bewildered brain. The sensations are far too confused for the slower march of reason to overtake and unravel them. Reason is still struggling with fancy, the spirit with the horrors of the corporeal frame. ["Life of Moor," tragedy of Krake. Act. v. sc. 1.]
MOOR.—No! I am not shaking. It was but a dream. The dead are not beginning to rise. Who says I tremble and turn pale? I am quite well, quite well.
BED.—You are pale as death; your voice is frightened and hesitating.
MOOR.—I am feverish. I will be bled to-morrow. Say only, when the priest comes, that I have fever.
BED.—But you are very ill.
breeds strange mad dreams. Dreams mean nothing. Fie on womanish
cowardice! Dreams mean nothing. I have just had a pleasant dream.
[He falls down in a faint.
Here we have the whole image of the dream suddenly forcing itself upon a man, and setting in motion the entire system of obscure ideas, stirring up from the foundation the organ of thought. From all these causes arises an intense sensation of pain in its utmost concentration, which shatters the soul from its depth, and lames per consensum the whole structure of the nerves.
The cold horror that seizes on the man who is about to commit some crime, or who has just committed one, is nothing else than the horror which agitates the feverish man, and which is felt on taking nauseous medicines. The nightly tossings of those who are troubled by remorse, always accompanied by a high pulse, are veritable fevers, induced by the connection between the physical organism with the soul; and Lady Macbeth, walking in her sleep, is an instance of brain delirium. Even the imitation of a passion makes the actor for the moment ill; and after Garrick had played Lear or Othello he spent some hours in convulsions on his bed. Even the illusion of the spectator, through sympathy with acted passion, has brought on shivering, gout, and fits of fainting.
Is not he, then, who is plagued with an evil temper, and draws gall and bitterness from every situation in life: is not the vicious man, who lives in a chronic state of hatred and malevolence; is not the envious man, who finds torture in every excellence of his neighbor,—are not these, all of them, the greatest foes to their own health? Has vice not enough of the horrible in it, when it destroys not only happiness but health.
But a pleasant affection has sometimes been a fatal one, and an unpleasant one has sometimes worked a marvellous cure. Both facts rest upon experience: should they remove the limits of the law we have expounded?
Joy is fatal when it rises into ecstacy: nature cannot support the strain which in one moment is thrown upon the whole nervous system. The motion of the brain is no longer harmony, but convulsion, an extremely sudden and momentary force which soon changes into the ruin of the organism, since it has transgressed the boundary line of health (for into the very idea of health there enters and is essentially interwoven the idea of a certain moderation of all natural motions). The joy as well as the grief of finite beings is limited, and dare not pass beyond a certain point without ruin.
As far as the second part is concerned, we have many examples of cure, through a moderate fit of anger, of inveterate dyspepsia; and through fright,—as in the case of a fire—of rheumatic pains and lameness apparently incurable. But even dysentery has sometimes resolved an internal stoppage, and the itch has been a cure for melancholy madness and insanity: is the itch, for this, less a disease?—is dysentery therefore health.
S 17.—Indolence of Mind brings about greater Indolence in the Organic Movements.
As, according to the testimony of Herr von Haller, activity of mind during the day tends to quicken the pulse towards evening, will not indolence of mind make it more sluggish, and absolute inactivity completely stop it? For, although the circulation of the blood does not seem to be so very dependent on the mind, is it altogether unreasonable to suppose that the heart, which, in any case, borrows from the brain the larger portion of its strength, must necessarily, when the soul ceases to maintain the action of the brain, suffer thereby a great loss of power? A condition of phlegm is accompanied by a sluggish pulse, the blood is thin and watery, and the circulation defective in the abdomen. The idiots, whom Muzell has described for us [Muzell's "Medical and Surgical Considerations."], breathed slowly and with difficulty, had no inclination to eat and drink, nor to the natural functions; the pulse was slow, all bodily movements slumberous and indicative of weariness. The mental numbness which is the result of terror or wonder is sometimes accompanied by a general suspension of all natural physical activity. Was the mind the origin of this condition, or was it the body which brought about this torpid state of mind? But these considerations lead to subtleties and intricate questions, and, besides, must not be discussed in this place.
S 18.—Second Law.
All that has been said of the transferrence of the mental sensations to the animal holds true of the transferrence of animal affections to the mental. Bodily sickness—for the most part the natural result of intemperance—brings its punishment in the form of bodily pain; but the mind also cannot escape a radical attack, in order that a twofold pain may more powerfully impress upon it the necessity of restraint in the desires. In like manner the feeling of bodily health is accompanied by a more lively consciousness of mental improvement, and man is thus the more spurred on to maintain his body in good condition. We arrive thus at a second law of mixed natures—that, with the free action of the bodily organism, the sensations and ideas gain a freer flow; and learn that, with a corrupted organism, corruption of the thinking faculty and of the sensations inevitably follows. Or, more shortly, that the general sensation of a harmonious animal life is the fountain of mental pleasure, and that animal pain and sickness is the fountain of mental pain.
In these different respects, or from their consideration, soul and body may not unaptly be compared with two stringed instruments tuned by the same hand, and placed alongside of one another. When a string of one of them is touched and a certain tone goes forth, the corresponding string of the other will sound of itself and give the same tone, only somewhat weaker. And, using this comparison, we may say that the string of gladness in the body wakes the glad string in the soul, and the sad string the string of sadness. This is that wonderful and noteworthy sympathy which unites the heterogeneous principles in man so as to form one being. Man is not soul and body—but the most inward and essential blending of the two.
S 19.—Moods of Mind result from Moods of Body.
Hence the heaviness, the incapacity of thought, the discontented temper; which are the consequence of excess in physical indulgence; hence the wonderful effects of wine upon those who always drink in moderation. "When you have drunk wine," says Brother Martin, "you see everything double, you think doubly easily, you are doubly ready for any undertaking, and twice as quickly bring it to a conclusion." Hence the comfort and good-humor experienced in fine weather, proceeding partly from association of ideas, but mostly from the increased feeling of bodily health that goes along with it, extending over all the functions of our organism. Then it is that people use such expressions as, "I feel that I am well," and at such a season they are more disposed towards all manner of mental labor, and have a heart more open to the humaner feelings, and more prompt to the practice of moral duties. The same may be seen in the national character of different peoples. Those who dwell in gloomy regions mourn along with the dismal scenery: in wild and stormy zones man grows wild: where his lot is cast in friendly climates he laughs with the sky that is bright above him. Only under the clear heaven of Greece lived a Homer, a Plato, a Phidias; there were born the Muses and the Graces, while the Lapland mists can hardly bring forth men, and never a genius. While our Germany was yet a wild forest or morass, the German was a hunter as wild as the beast whose skin he slung about his shoulders. As soon as industry had changed the aspect of his country began the epoch of moral progress. I will not maintain that character takes its rise in climate only, but it is certain that towards the civilization of a people one main means is the improvement of their skies.
The disorders of the body may disorder the whole range of our moral perceptions, and prepare the way for an outburst of the most evil passions. A man whose constitution is ruined by a course of dissipation is more easily led to extremes than one who has kept his body as it should be kept. This is, indeed, the horrible plan of those who destroy our youths, and that father of robbers must have known man well, who said, "We must destroy both body and soul." Catiline was a profligate before he became a conspirator, and Doria greatly erred when he thought he had no cause to fear a voluptuary like Fiesco. On the whole, it is very often remarked that an evil spirit dwells in a sick body.
In diseases this sympathy is still more striking. All severe illnesses, especially those of malignant nature and arising from the economy of the abdominal regions, announce themselves, more or less, by a strange revolution in the character. Even while the disease is still silently stealing through the hidden corners of our mechanism, and undermining the strength of nerve, the mind begins to anticipate by dark forebodings the fall of her companion. This is a main element in that condition which a great physician described in a masterly manner under the name of "Horrores." Hence their moroseness of disposition, which none can account for, their wavering fancies and inclinations, their disgust at what used to give them pleasure. The amiable man grows quarrelsome, the merry man cross, and he who used to lose himself, and gladly, in the bustle of the world, flies the face of man and retires into a gloomy melancholy. But underneath this treacherous repose the enemy is making ready for a deadly onslaught. The universal disturbance of the entire mechanism, when the disease once breaks forth, is the most speaking proof of the wonderful dependence of the soul on the body. The feeling, springing from a thousand painful sensations, of the utter ruin of the organism, brings about a frightful mental confusion. The most horrible ideas and fancies rise from their graves. The villain whom nothing could move yields under the dominant power of mere animal terror. Winchester, in dying, yells in the anguish of despair. The soul is under a terrible necessity, it would seem, of snatching at whatever will drag it deeper into darkness, and rejects with obstinate madness every ray of comfort. The string, the tone of pain is in the ascendant, and just as the spiritual misery rose in the bodily disorder, so now it turns and renders the disorder more universal and more intense.
S 20.—Limitations of the foregoing.
But there are daily examples of sufferers who courageously lift themselves above bodily ills: of dying men who, amidst the distressful struggles of the frame, ask, "Where is thy sting, O death?" Should not wisdom, one might urge, avail to combat the blind terrors of the organic nature? Nay, much more than wisdom, should religion have so little power to protect her friends against the assaults springing from the dust? Or, what is the same thing, does it not depend upon the preceding condition of the soul, as to how she accepts the alterations of the processes of life?
Now, this is an irrefragable truth. Philosophy, and still more a mind courageous and elevated by religion, are capable of completely weakening the influence of the animal sensations which assault the soul of one in pain, and able, as it were, to withdraw it from all coherence with the material. The thought of God, which is interwoven with death, as with all the universe, the harmony of past life, the anticipation of an ever-happy future, spread a bright light over all its ideas; while night is drawn round the soul of him who departs in folly and in unbelief. If even involuntary pangs force themselves upon the Christian and wise man (for is he less a human being?), yet will he resolve the sensations of his dissolving frame into happiness:—
At the drawn dagger and defies its point.
The stars shall fade away, the sun himself
Grow dim with age, and nature sink in years;
But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth,
Unhurt amidst the war of elements,
The wreck of matter, and the crash of worlds.
It is precisely this unwonted cheerfulness on the part of those who are mortally sick which has often a physical reason at the basis, and which has the most express significance for the practical physician. It is often found in conjunction with the most fatal symptoms of Hippocrates, and without being attributable to any bygone crisis. Such a cheerfulness is of bad import. The nerves, which during the height of the fever have been most sharply assailed, have now lost sensation; the inflamed members, it is well known, cease to smart as soon as they are destroyed; but it would be a hapless thought to rejoice that the time of burning pain were passed and gone. Stimulus fails before the dead nerves, and a deathly indolence belies future healing. The soul finds herself under the illusion of a pleasant sensation, because she is free from a long-enduring painful one. She is free from pain, not because the tone of her instrument is restored, but because she no more experiences the discord. Sympathy ceases as soon as the connection is lost.
S 21.—Further Aspects of the Connection.
If I might now begin to go deeper—if I might speak of delirium, of slumber, of stupor, of epilepsy and catalepsy, and such like, wherein the free and rational spirit is subjected to the despotism of the body—if I might enlarge especially on the wide field of hysteria and hypochondria— if it were allowed me to speak of temperaments, idiosyncrasies, and constitutions, which for physicians and philosophers are an abyss—in one word, should I attempt to demonstrate truth of the foregoing from the bed of sickness, which is ever a chief school of psychology—my matter would be extended to an endless length. We have, it seems to me, enough to prove that the animal nature is throughout mingled with the spiritual, and that this combination is perfection.
PHYSICAL PHENOMENA EXPRESS THE EMOTIONS OF THE MIND.
S 22.—Physiognomy of Sensations.
It is just this close correspondence between the two natures which is the basis of the whole science of physiognomy. By means of this nervous connection (which, as we have seen, lies at the bottom of the communication of feelings) the most secret movements of the soul are revealed on the exterior of the body, and passion penetrates even through the veil of the hypocrite. Each passion has its specific expressions, its peculiar dialect, so to speak, by which one knows it. And, indeed, it is an admirable law of Supreme Wisdom, that every passion which is noble and generous beautifies the body, while those that are mean and hateful distort it into animal forms. The more the mind departs from the likeness of the Deity, the nearer does the outward form seem to approach the animal, and always that animal which has a kindred proclivity. Thus, the mild expression of the philanthropist attracts the needy, whom the insolent look of the angry man repels. This is an indispensable guide in social life. It is astonishing what an accordance bodily appearance has with the passions; heroism and fearlessness pour life and strength through the veins and muscles, the eyes sparkle, the breast heaves, all the limbs arm themselves alike for combat—the man has the appearance of a war-horse. Fright and fear extinguish the fire in the eyes, the limbs sink powerless and heavy, the marrow in the bones seems frozen, the blood falls back on the heart like a stone, a general weakness cripples the powers of life.
A great, bold, lofty thought compels us to stand on tiptoe, to hold up the head, to expand the mouth and nose. The feeling of eternity, the outlook on a wide open horizon, the sea, etc., make us stretch out our arms—we would merge ourselves into the eternal: with the mountains, we would grow towards the heavens, rush thither on storms and waves: yawning abysses throw us down in giddiness. In like manner, hate is expressed in the body by a repelling force; while, on the contrary, in every pressure of the hand, in every embrace, our body will merge into that of our friend, in the same manner as the souls are in harmonious combination. Pride makes the body erect as the soul rises; pettiness bends the head, the limbs hang down; servile fear is expressed in the cringing walk; the thought of pain distorts our face, if pleasurable aspects spread a grace over the whole body; anger, on the other hand, will break through every strong opposing cord, and need will almost overcome the impossible. I would now ask through what mechanism it happens that exactly these movements result from these feelings, that just these organs are affected by these passions? Might I not just as well want to know why a certain wounding of the ligament should stiffen the lower jaw?
If the passion which sympathetically awakened these movements of the frame be often renewed, if this sensation of soul become habitual, then these movements of the body will become so also. If this matured passion be of a lasting character, then these constitutional features of the frame become deeply engraved: they become, if I may borrow the pathologist's word, "deuteropathetic," and are at last organic. Thus, at last, the firm perennial physiognomy of man is formed, so that it is almost easier afterwards to change the soul than the form. In this sense, one may also say, without being a "Stahlian," that the soul forms the body; and perhaps the earliest years of youth decide the features of a man for life, as they certainly are the foundation of his moral character. An inert and weak soul, which never overflows in passions, has no physiognomy at all; and want of expression is the leading characteristic of the countenance of the imbecile. The original features which nature gave him continue unaltered; the face is smooth, for no soul has played upon it; the eyebrows retain a perfect arch, for no wild passion has distorted them; the whole form retains its roundness, for the fat reposes in its cells; the face is regular, perhaps even beautiful, but I pity the soul of it!
A physiognomy of (perfect) organic parts, e.g., as to the form and size of the nose, eyes, mouth, ears, etc., the color of the hair, the height of the neck, and such like, may perhaps possibly be found, but certainly not very easily, however much Lavater should continue to rave about it through ten quarto volumes. He who would reduce to order the capricious play of nature, and classify the forms which she has punished like a stepmother, or endowed as a mother, would venture more than Linnaeus, and should be very careful lest he become one with the original presented to him, through its monstrous sportive variety.
Yet one more kind of sympathy deserves to be noticed, since it is of great importance in physiology. I mean the sympathy of certain sensations for the organs from which they sprang. A certain cramp in the stomach causes a feeling of disgust; the reproduction of this sensation brings back the cramp. How is this?
S 23.—The Remains of the Animal Nature is also a Source of Perfection.
Although the animal part of man preserves for him the many great advantages of which we have already spoken, still, one may say that, in another aspect, it remains always despicable; viz., the soul thus depends, slave-like, on the activity of its tools; the periodical relaxation of these prescribes to the soul an inactive pause and annihilation at periods. I mean sleep, which, one cannot deny, robs us at least of the third part of our life. Further, our mind is completely dependent on the laws of the body, so that the cessation of the latter puts a sudden stop to the continuance of thoughts, even though we be on the straight, open path towards truth. If the reason have ever so little fixed upon an idea, when the lazy matter refuses to carry it out, the strings of the thinking organs grow weary, if they have been but slightly strained; the body fails us where we need it most. What astonishing steps, one may infer, would man make in the use of his powers if he could continue to think in a state of unbroken intensity! How he would unravel every idea to its final elements; how he would trace every appearance to its most hidden sources, if he could keep them uninterruptedly before his mind! But, alas! it is not thus. Why is it not so?
S 24.—Necessity for Relaxation.
The following will lead us on the track of truth:—
1. Pleasant sensation was necessary to lead man to perfection, and he can only be perfect when he feels comfortable.
2. The nature of a mortal being makes unpleasant feeling unavoidable. Evil does not shut man out from the best world, and the worldly-wise find their perfection therein.
3. Thus pain and pleasure are necessary. It seems harder, but it is no less true.
4. Every pain, as every pleasure, grows according to its nature, and would continue to do so.
5. Every pain and every pleasure of a mixed being tend to their own dissolution.
It is a well-known law of the connection between ideas that every sensation, of whatever kind, immediately seizes another of its kind, and enlarges itself through this addition. The larger and more manifold it becomes, so much the more does it awaken similar sensations in all directions through the organs of thought, until, by degrees, it becomes universally predominant, and occupies the whole soul. Consequently, every sensation grows through itself; every present condition of the feeling power contains the root of a feeling to follow, similar, but more intense. This is evident. Now, every mental sensation is, as we know, allied to a similar animal one; in other words, each one is connected with more or less movement of the nerves, which take a direction according to the measure of their strength and extension. Thus, as mental sensations grow, must the movements in the nervous system increase also. This is no less clear. Now, pathology teaches us that a nerve never suffers alone: and to say, "Here is a superfluity of strength," is as much as to say, "There is want of strength." Thus, every nervous movement grows through itself. Now, we have remarked that the movements of the nervous system react upon the mind, and strengthen the mental sensations;
Tears, tears! why we weep,
'Tis worth inquiry:—that we've shamed a life,
Or lost a love, or missed a world, perhaps?
By no means. Simply, that we've walked too far,
Or talked too much, or felt the wind in the east, etc.
vice versa, the strengthened sensation of the mind increase and strengthen the motions of the nerves. Thus we have a circle, in which sensation must always increase, and nervous movements every moment become more powerful and universal.
Now, we know that the movements of the bodily frame which cause the feeling of pain run counter to the harmony by which it would exist in well-being; that is, that they are diseased. But disease cannot grow unceasingly, therefore they end in the total destruction of the frame. In relation to pain, it is thus proved that it aims at the death of the subject.
But, the motions of the nerves under pleasant sensations being so harmonious to the continuance of the machinery that the condition of mind which constitutes pleasure is that of the greatest bodily well-being, should not rather, then, pleasant sensation prolong the bloom of the body eternally? This inference is too hasty. In a certain stage of moderation, these nervous motions are wholesome, and really a sign of health. But if they outgrow this stage, they may be the highest activity, the highest momentary perfection; but, thus, they are excess of health, no longer health itself.
We only call that condition of the natural motions health in which the root of similar ones for the future lies, viz., those which confirm the perfection of succeeding motions; thus, the destiny of continuance is essentially contained in the idea of health. Thus, for example, the body of the most debilitated profligate attains to its greatest harmony at the moment of excess; but it is only momentarily, and a so much deeper abatement shows sufficiently that overstraining was not health. Therefore one may justly accept that an overstrained vigor of physical action hastens death as much as the greatest disorder or the worst illness. Both pain and pleasure draw us towards an unavoidable death, unless something be present which limits their advance.
S 26.—Excellence of this Abatement.
It is just this (the limit to their growth) which the abatement of the animal nature causes. It must be no other than this limitation of our fragile frame (that appeared to have lent to our opponents so strong a proof against its perfection) which ameliorates all the evil consequences that the mechanism otherwise makes unavoidable. It is exactly this sinking, this lassitude of the organs, over which tinkers complain so much, that prevents our own strength destroying us in a short time; that does not permit our positions to be always increasing towards our destruction. This limitation shows each passion the period of its growth, its height and decline (if indeed the passion does not die out in a total relaxation of the body), which leaves the excited spirits time to resume their harmony, and the organs to recover. Hence, the highest pitch of rapture, of fear, and of anger, are the same as weariness, weakness, or fainting. But sleep vouchsafes more, for as Shakspeare says:—
The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great Nature's sweet restorer.
During sleep, the vital forces restore themselves to that healthy balance which the continuance of our being so much requires; all the cramped ideas and feelings, the overstrained actions which have troubled us through the day, are solved in the entire relaxation of the sensorium; the harmony of the motions of the mind are resumed, and the newly-awakened man greets the coming day more calmly.
In relation to the arrangement of the whole, also, we cannot sufficiently admire the worth and importance of this limitation. The arrangement necessarily causes many, who should be no less happy, to be sacrificed to the general order and to bear the lot of oppression. Likewise, many, whom we perhaps unjustly envy, must expend their mental and bodily strength in restless exertion, so that the repose of the whole be preserved. The same with sick persons, the same with unreasoning animals. Sleep seals the eye of care, takes from the prince and statesman the heavy weight of governing; pours new force into the veins of the sick man, and rest into his harassed soul; the daylaborer no longer hears the voice of the oppressor, and the ill-used beast escapes from the tyranny of man. Sleep buries all cares and troubles, balances everything, equips every one with new-born powers to bear the joys and sorrows of the next day.
S 27.—Severing of the Connection.
At length arrived at the point in the circle where the mind has fulfilled the aim of its being, an internal, unaccountable mechanism has, at the same time, made the body incapable of being any longer its instrument. All care for the well-being of the bodily state seems to reach but to this epoch. It appears to me that, in the formation of our physical nature, wisdom has shown such parsimony, that notwithstanding constant compensations, decline must always keep in the ascendancy, so that freedom misuses the mechanism, and death is germinated in life as out of its seed. Matter dissolves again into its last elements, which travel through the kingdom of nature in other forms and relations, to serve other purposes. The mind continues to practise its thinking powers in other circles, and to observe the universe from other sides.
We may truly say that it has not by any means exhausted this actual sphere, that it might have left this sphere itself more perfect; but do we know that this sphere is lost to it? We lay many a book aside which we do not understand, but perhaps in a few years we shall understand it better.