Page images
PDF
EPUB

more parts, which are components of some other following total impression, and so on ad infinitum) -any part of any impression might recall any part of any other, without a cause present to determine what it should be. For to bring in the will, or reason, as causes of their own cause, that is, as at once causes and effects, can satisfy those only who, in their pretended evidences of a God, having first demanded organization, as the sole cause and ground of intellect, will then coolly demand the pre-existence of intellect, as the cause and ground-work of organization. There is in truth but one state to which this theory applies at all, namely, that of complete light-headedness; and even to this it applies but partially, because the will and reason are perhaps never wholly suspended.

A case of this kind occurred in a Roman Catholic town in Germany a year or two before my arrival at Göttingen,* and had not then ceased to be a frequent subject of conversation. A young woman of four or five and twenty, who could neither read nor write, was seized with a nervous fever; during which, according to the asseverations of all the priests and monks of the neighborhood, she became possessed, and, as it appeared, by a very learned devil. She continued incessantly talking Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, in very pompous tones and with most distinct enunciation. This possession was rendered more probable by the known fact that she was or had been a heretic. Voltaire humorously advises the devil to decline all acquaintance with medical men; and it would have been more to his reputation, if he had taken this advice in the present instance. The case had attracted the particular attention of a young physician, and by his statement many eminent physiologists and psychologists visited the town, and cross-examined the case on the spot. Sheets full of her ravings were taken down from her own mouth, and were found to consist of sentences, coherent and intelligible each for itself, but with little or no connection with each other. Of the Hebrew, a small portion only could be traced to the Bible ; the remainder seemed to be in the Rabbinical dialect. All trick or conspiracy was out of the question. Not only had the young woman ever been a harmless, simple creature ; but she was evidently laboring under a nervous fever. In the town, in which she had been resident for many years as a servant in different families, no so

* (In February, 1799.-Ed.]

man.

lution presented itself. The young physician, however, determined to trace her past life step by step; for the patient herself was incapable of returning a rational answer. He at length succeeded in discovering the place, where her parents had lived : travelled thither, found them dead, but an uncle surviving; and from him learned, that the patient had been charitably taken by an old Protestant pastor at nine years old, and had remained with him some years, even till the old man's death. Of this pastor the uncle knew nothing, but that he was a very good

With great difficulty, and after much search, our young medical philosopher discovered a niece of the pastor's, who had lived with him as his housekeeper, and had inherited his effects. She remembered the girl ; related, that her venerable uncle had been too indulgent, and could not bear to hear the girl scolded ; that she was willing to have kept her, but that, after her patron's death, the girl herself refused to stay. Anxious inquiries were

of course, made concerning the pastor's habits; and the solution of the phenomenon was soon obtained. For it appeared, that it had been the old man's custom, for years, to walk up and down a passage of his house into which the kitchen door opened, and to read to himself with a loud voice, out of his favorite books. A considerable number of these were still in the niece's possession. She added, that he was a very learned man and a great Hebraist. Among the books were found a collection of Rabbinical writings, together with several of the Greek and Latin Fathers; and the physician succeeded in identifying so many passages with those taken down at the young woman's bedside, that no doubt could remain in any rational mind concerning the true origin of the impressions made on her nervous system.

This authenticated case furnishes both proof and instance, that reliques of sensation may exist for an indefinite time in a latent state, in the very same order in which they were originally impressed ; and as we can not rationally suppose the feverish state of the brain to act in any other way than as a stimulus, this fact (and it would not be difficult to adduce several of the same kind) contributes to make it even probable, that all thoughts are in themselves imperishable ; and, that if the intelligent faculty should be rendered more comprehensive, it would require only a different and apportioned organization,—the body celestial instead of the body terrestrial,—to bring before every human soul

the collective experience of its whole past existence. And this, this, perchance, is the dread book of judgment, in the mysterious hieroglyphics of which every idle word is recorded! Yea, in the very nature of a living spirit, it may be more possible that heaven and earth should pass away, than that a single act, a single thought, should be loosened or lost from that living chain of causes, with all the links of which, conscious or unconscious, the free-will, our only absolute Self, is co-extensive and co-present. But not now dare I longer discourse of this, waiting for a loftier mood, and a nobler subject, warned from within and from without, that it is profanation to speak of these mysteries rois μηδέ φαντασθείσιν, ως καλόν το της δικαιοσύνης και σωφροσύνης πρόσωπον, και έτε εσπερος έτε εωος έτω καλά. Το γάρ ορών προς το δρώμενον συγγενές και ομοίον ποιησάμενον δεϊ επιβάλλειν τη θέα. ου γάρ αν πώποτε είδεν οφθαλμός ήλιον, ήλιοειδής μη γεγενημένος: ουδε το καλόν αν ίδη ψυχή, μη καλή γενομένη*« to those to whose imagination it has never been presented, how beautiful is the countenance of justice and wisdom; and that neither the morning nor the evening star are so fair. For in order to direct the view aright, it behooves that the beholder should have made himself congenerous and similar to the object beheld. Never could the eye

have beheld the sun, had not its own essence been soliform," (i. e. pre-configured to light by a similarity of essence with that of light) “neither can a soul not beautiful attain to an intuition of beauty."

CHAPTER VII.

OF THE NECESSARY CONSEQUENCES OF THE HARTLEIAN THEORY

-OF THE ORIGINAL MISTAKE OR EQUIVOCATION WHICH PROCURED ITS ADMISSION-MEMORIA TECHNICA.

We will pass by the utter incompatibility of such a law-if law it may be called, which would itself be the slave of chances -with even that appearance of rationality forced upon us by the outward phænomena of human conduct, abstracted from our own

* (Plotinus, Enn. I. Lib. vi. ss. 4 and 9.-Ed.]

consciousness. We will agree to forget this for the moment, in order to fix our attention on that subordination of final to efficient causes in the human being, which flows of necessity from the assumption, that the will and, with the will, all acts of thought and attention are parts and products of this blind mechanism, instead of being distinct powers, the function of which it is to control, determine, and modify the phantasmal chaos of association. The soul becomes a mere ens logicum; for, as a real separable being, it would be more worthless and ludicrous than the Grimalkins in the cat-harpsichord, described in the Spectator. For these did form a part of the process ; but, in Hartley's scheme, the soul is present only to be pinched or stroked, while the very squeals or purring are produced by an agency wholly independent and alien. It involves all the difficulties, all the incomprehensibility (if it be not indeed, os žuolye SoxĒi, the absurdity), of intercommunion between substances that have no one property in common, without any of the convenient consequences that bribed the judgment to the admission of the Dualistic hypothesis. Accordingly, this caput mortuum of the Hartleian process has been rejected by his followers, and the consciousness considered as a result, as a tune, the common product of the breeze and the harp: though this again is the mere remotion of one absurdity to make way for another, equally preposterous. For what is harmony but a mode of relation, the very esse of which is percipi?-an ens rationale, which pre-supposes the power, that by perceiving creates it? The razor's edge becomes a saw to the armed vision; and the delicious melodies of Purcell or Cimarosa might be disjointed stammerings to a hearer, whose partition of time should be a thousand times subtler than ours. But this obstacle too let us imagine ourselves to have surmounted, and “at one bound high overleap all bound.” Yet according to this hypothesis the disquisition, to which I am at present soliciting the reader's attention, may be as truly said to be written by St. Paul's church, as by me : for it is the mere motion of my muscles and nerves; and these again are set in motion from external causes equally passive, which external causes stand themselves in interdependent connection with every thing that exists or has existed. Thus the whole universe co-operates to produce the minutest stroke of every letter, save only that I myself, and I alone, have nothing to do with it, but merely the

causeless and effectless beholding of it when it is done. Yet scarcely can it be called a beholding : for it is neither an act nor an effect; but an impossible creation of a something-nothing out of its very contrary! It is the mere quicksilver plating behind a looking-glass ; and in this alone consists the poor worthless I! The sum total of my moral and intellectual intercourse, dissolved into its elements, is reduced to extension, motion, degrees of velocity, and those diminished copies of configurative motion, which forin what we call notions, and notions of notions. Of such philosophy well might Butler say

The metaphysic's but a puppet motion
That goes with screws, the notion of a notion;
The copy of a copy and lame draught
Unnaturally taken from a thought :
That counterfeits all pantomimic tricks,
And turns the eyes, like an old crucifix;
That counterchanges whatsoe'er it calls
By another name, and makes it true or false;
Turns truth to falsehood, falsehood into truth,
By virtue of the Babylonian's tooth. *

The inventor of the watch, if this doctrine be true, did not in reality invent it; he only looked on, while the blind causes, the only true artist, were unfolding themselves. So must it have been too with my friend Allston, when he sketched his picture of the dead man revived by the bones of the prophet Elijah.t

* [Miscellaneous Thoughts.-Ed.]

+ [This expression of regard for the great painter of America may well justify the publication of the following beautiful sonnet, which Mr. Allston, a master of either pencil, did the Editor the honor to send to him :

SONNET

ON THE LATE SAMUİL TAYLOR COLERIDGE.
And thou art gone-most lov'd, most honor'd Friend !
No-never more thy gentle voice shall blend
With air of earth its pure, ideal tones,
Binding in one, as with harmonious zones,
The heart and intellect. And I no more
Sball with Thee gaze on that unfathom'd deep,
The human soul ;-as when, push'd off the shore,
Thy mystic bark would thro' the darkness sweep,
Itself the while so bright! For oft we seem'd

« PreviousContinue »