Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

In the first place, it is clear that certain arrangements are made in the universe, in virtue of which corresponding sensations are produced simultaneously in different individuals, while in other arrangements the sensations produced are the peculiar property of some one individual. The one set have come to be associated with objective realities, while the other set are concerned with subjective impressions. I am affected by a pain in my head, and I am also affected by the sun, but the one affection is the peculiar product of my brain, and I carry it about with me, while experience has shown me that I cannot appropriate the other; yet it also becomes mine so soon as it has reached my brain.

It will further be allowed, that there are certain material particles which may become vehicles for either or both of these kinds of sensations, while there are others which have the power of producing one only. Gold, silver, and platinum are substances which may become the vehicle of common impressions, but not of peculiar impressions, since they do not occur in our brains. Phosphorus, on the other hand, is a substance which may become the vehicle of either kind. When we burn a piece of phosphorus in a lecture-room it is the vehicle of a common impression, while the phosphorus in our brain is the vehicle of a peculiar impression. Now there is a very noteworthy difference between portions of phosphorus playing these two parts. When phosphorus is in the common state, we can experiment upon it and investigate its properties, but this we cannot do when it exists in the brain in its peculiar state. The assertion, therefore, that phosphorus and its allied particles,

whose motions and positions are accompanied by individual consciousness, are nevertheless, when in this state, essentially the same as they are in the ordinary state, appears to us to be altogether without foundation. We have no right thus to argue from the one state to the other. For that most peculiar and interesting condition of phosphorus and other matter in which it is intimately connected with the production of individual consciousness, and where some peculiarity of properties or behaviour due to this connection might most warrantably be expected, is the very thing which we cannot investigate. To say therefore that the living brain consists of particles of phosphorus, carbon, etc., such as we know them in the common state, and that when the particles of the brain have, in consequence of the operation of physical forces, a certain position and motion, then individual consciousness follows, is to assign a peculiar relation between the brain-particles and such consciousness for which we have no scientific warrant.

57. Allied to this assumption there is another in the materialistic argument as we have stated it. If in the body there be no other material than the visible particles, and in the brain no other material than a certain quantity of phosphorus and other things, such as we know them in the common state, and if individual consciousness depends upon the structural presence of these substances in the body and brain, then when this structure falls to pieces there are of course reasonable grounds for supposing that such consciousness has entirely ceased. But it is the object of this volume to exhibit various scientific reasons for believing that there is something beyond that which we call the visible universe; and that individual consciousness is in some mysterious manner related to, or dependent upon, the interaction of the seen and unseen.

58. There remains yet that part of the argument which hints that individual consciousness is less permanent than matter, inasmuch as such consciousness frequently departs from the universe for six or eight hours and then returns to it again. In one sense this is unquestionably true, while, however, there is a potential or latent consciousness or possibility of consciousness that remains behind. It will be seen in the sequel that this fact of latent consciousness will be used by us to strengthen our argument in favour of a future state.

59. We may conclude, as the result of this discussion, that the connection between mind and matter is a very intimate one, although we are in profound ignorance as to its exact nature.

The intimacy of this connection is a doctrine almost universally held by modern physiologists. Just as no single action of the body takes place without the waste of some muscular tissue, so, it is believed, no thought takes place without some waste of the brain. Nay, physiologists go even further, and assert that each specific thought denotes some specific waste of brain matter, so that there is some mysterious and obscure connection between the nature of the thought and the nature of the waste which it occasions. In like manner memory is looked upon as dependent

1

"A very striking analogy to this will be found in Chapter III., where it is shown that energy of visible motion often disappears by transformation into the dormant or latent energy of position.

[ocr errors]

upon traces, left behind in the brain, of the state in which it was when the sensation remembered took place. Thus Professor Huxley in his Belfast address (1874) tell us : It is not to be doubted that those motions which give rise to sensation leave on the brain changes of its substance which answer to what Haller called “vestigia rerum," and to what that great thinker David Hartley termed “Vibratiuncules.” The sensation which has passed away leaves behind molecules of the brain competent to its reproduction“sensigenous molecules," so to speak—which constitute the physical foundation of memory.'

60. It will be inferred from what we have said that one of the essential requisites of continued existence of the individual is the capability of retaining some sort of hold upon the past: and, inasmuch as we are unable to contemplate such a thing as a finite disembodied spirit, or, to speak more precisely, an unconditioned finite spirit, it is further evident that this hold implies an organ of some sort. This we conceive to be a perfectly general proposition. We do not limit ourselves in making it to any particular arrangement of bodily form, or to any particular rank of finite organised intelligence. From the archangel to the brute we conceive that something analogous to an organ of memory must be possessed by each. This is, in fact, merely a corollary to what has been stated in Art. 54 above, and does not require any further discussion.

61. But if one general requisite of independent and responsible life be a connection with the past, another is the possibility of action in the present. A A living being must have in his frame the capacity of varied movement. He must possess an organisation in which there is the power of calling internal forces into play at irregular intervals dependent on his will. We cannot imagine life to be associated with a motionless mass or with a mass which moves in an invariable manner.

The living being need not always be in motion, but he must retain the capacity of moving. He need not always be thinking, but he must retain the capacity of thought. He need not always be conscious, but he must retain the capacity of consciousness.

To sum up—it thus appears that there are two general conditions of organised life. There must in the first place be an organ connecting the individual with the past, and in the next place there must be such a frame and such a universe that he has the power of varied action in the present. We particularly request our readers to keep well in mind these two propositions, since it is upon them that our argument will ultimately in great part be built.

62. We come now to a very important part of our inquiry. It will be necessary to discuss that which we term the Principle of Continuity, and desirable to begin by defining exactly what is meant by us when these words are used. Let us introduce our definition by one or two illustrative examples.

Take a particular problem of astronomy, for instance, and, beginning at the very commencement, let us suppose an early Egyptian or Chaldean astronomer to be observing the sun in the middle of summer. Day after day, for perhaps a week, he has noticed that this luminary rises over a certain place

· See Essay on this subject by the Hon. Sir W R. Grove, in hiş book on The Correlation of Physical Forces.

« AnteriorContinuar »