convenient, and in exact analogy with every thing in our bodily system, in forming which nature has shown herself so exceedingly fond of bestowing pairs, that in the few instances where she has seemed to make a member single, it may hereafter be discovered that she has truly given a pair of halves. Whether the fact, that in your visions “the changes became more rapid” when the head was accidentally rubbed, tends to confirm the phreno-mesmeric theory or not, the most stubborn opposers must acknowledge, that all experience proves that any sudden impulse on the skull, such e. g. as when one strikes his head against a beam, or receives a blow from a cane or ferule, if the shock be not too great, serves considerably to quicken the ideas, and often produces very vivid images. Nor ought these facts to be thrown aside, until it has been ascertained by adequate experiments whether any such effects result from the sudden contact of other parts of the body with external objects coming upon them with a suitable momentum. Possibly something of the nature of evidence might be gathered from the experience of those boys and girls in the country who are obliged to go barefoot in summer; something too from the domestic history of those, whose parents have partially regarded the precept of Solomon in family government. Your experiment is not to be cast out for any want of skill in the performance. Nevertheless, there is a small difficulty in the way of any inference from it in favor of phrenomesmerism ; for, although instantly upon the rubbing, a seeming work of benevolence did commence— (certainly it looks very much like a work of benevolence to change “a piece of sole leather” first into “an acre or two” of Indian corn, and then into “loaves of well baked bread,” and afterwards carry “this

large supply of the staff of life” down to Cape Cod,)—yet the work was soon interrupted, and there is unfortunately, therefore, room for questioning what would have been finally done with the collected provisions; so that a dark-hearted cynic may insinuate, that the next image in the vision might have been such as to prove the whole movement to be one of supreme selfishness. And there is another difficulty, which to some may appear nearly as great; it is, that while benevolence is a disposition or desire to do good to others, in your experiment no new af. fection, wish or desire was aroused by the rubbing; before the rubbing you had a desire to see what would follow the exciting of that organ;– you rubbed in order to excite it; you then “waited to see what the organ would do,” and you saw certain images; your narrative does not indicate that any new desire or wish whatever arose after the rubbing or during it; the only desire you had was the one that previously existed, viz. to see what would take place. Some persons may find a further difficulty in the fact, that in this supposed excitement of the organ of benevolence, while there was no manifestation of that desire which constitutes the mental exercise of benevolence, there actually did exist other states or exercises, images or conceptions, which on the phrenological system could result only from the excitation of the organs of color, of size, and of comparison. But to speak more seriously, aside from such difficulties, and all the difficulties which some imagine to lie thick and tangled over the whole system, it furnishes nothing better than other systems to explain the peculiar vividness of the images in your visions, or the still greater vividness of the images of a dream. That the peculiar vividness of your conceptions in the sickness, so much greater than that of the ordinary conceptions of daily life, was occasioned in some way by the action of certain parts of your bodily organization, I have no doubt, and it is possible, that in a case of such visions occurring again, the vividness might be found to vary (if experiments could be made) according as different stimulants or sedatives were applied to the system ; thus you state that “bathing the forehead in sulphuric ether, always rendered the visions more distinct;” yet I should not expect from the experiments any important aid or new light in ascertaining precisely what organic or nervous action of the body held immediate connection with the vividness of the mental conceptions. The intrinsic obstacle in the way of settling such questions I have particularly mentioned in my former letter.—But since the tenor of your narrative makes it certain , that the images in your visions were less vivid, or at least never more vivid, than those of dreams, I feel no hesitation in saying that whatever is adequate to produce the vividness of images in a common dream, the same was adequate to produce the vividness of the images in your visions ; and therefore, in accounting for that vividness, it is after all unnecessary to suppose any physical influences differing either in nature or degree from such as operate on the mind when in the condition of dreaming, and especially unnecessary to suppose any at all differing from those connected with the more perfect dreams which you had in your sickness. Notwithstanding the length to which my remarks have been protracted, I will venture further on your patience, since you have asked me to philosophize, and will suggest that the peculiar vividness of the images forming your visions may be ascribed to a general fact in mental science, considered irrespective altogether of any physical influences; I mean the fact, that the mere men

tal conception of an object is always accompanied with a momentary belief of the present reality of that object. The fact, that conceptions awakened in harmony with some actual perception, are believed to be perceptions of real objects, I have already dwelt upon. That fact is somewhat different from the one now stated, although that is but a resulting consequence of this. III. What I now offer (and what may help to explain the vividness of the images in your visions) is, that mere conceptions, conceptions of and by themselves, tend to awaken a belief in the reality of the objects conceived. I do not mean that in every case they actually do awaken this belief in so distinct and enduring a manner as to be remembered ; for in a majority of cases, indeed in almost all cases, the belief is so transient as to escape entirely from recollection, and the person is ready to affirm that no such belief had existed; but I mean, that the belief is the natural accompaniment of the conception,-that in all cases the mere conception tends to produce the belief, and that in all cases, were not the belief instantly dissipated and destroyed by rapid counteracting judgments, it would be distinct and enduring, and be clearly remembered by the mind, as a part of its consciousness. If there be such a tendency in the mere exercise of conception, it is obvious that the question which really demands answering is not, Why are mere conceptions in some cases so vivid, that the objects conceived possess a seeming reality, and appear as if they were actually existing objects * but rather, Why are not mere conceptions always thus vivid That such is the tendency, appears to me to be sufficiently evinced by this one consideration, that in all cases where the mind is hindered from detecting, by some exercise of the judgment, the unreality of the objects conceived, it does take its own mere conceptions for actual realities. In the dreaming state, whatever attention the mind exercises is given to the conceptions themselves. The same is in great measure the case in the form of insanity above mentioned; the patient's mind is engrossed by its own imaginings; whatever perceptions or other notions may arise, they receive no attention, but vanish instantly without any comparison of them with the imaginings or mere conceptions, and of course without any of those relative suggestions or judgments, which would disclose to the mind the real nature of these conceptions, and would show them to be its own fabrications and nothing else. A full belief in the reality of the things imagined must ensue; and sometimes the deluded monomaniac or lunatic thus projects into outward space, as the forms and motions of material things and living beings, all the queer, odd, fantastic, beautiful, ugly or horrid combinations of his own prolific fancy. You will at once see the application of the principle here suggested, in its relation to your visions with the eyes shut. The mere conceptions, arising one after another by the laws of simple suggestion as before explained, were accompanied with that belief which, as I have just maintained, conception always tends to produce ; all volition, except to attend to these conceptions, was suspended, as you yourself testify ; those judgments, which usually check that belief so instantly as to hinder our noticing it, and thereby to hinder the seeming reality which our mere conceptions would otherwise possess, were not awakened so soon as usual, if at all ; in fact, there is not the slightest evidence in your narrative, that during the time of any vision there recorded, you had a single one of those judgments, or paid the least attention to a single object calculated to awaken any such judgment. Your actually describing

at the time to another person what you seemed to see, so far from having any tendency to awaken such judgments, had precisely the opposite tendency strongly to hinder them, and to increase that secret belief, which was imparting to the mere freaks of your own excited fancy the forms, colors, and motions of material objects and living creatures. The explanation here suggested is confirmed by the fact, that on opening your eyes the pictures vanished. Similar conceptions, it is probable, were continually arising in your mind, even while your eyes were open, at least during that part of your sickness in which you had the visions; but the eyes being open, these conceptions were constantly intermingled with perceptions that instantly awakened those counteracting and corrective judgments which I have described ; the conceptions therefore secured no attention, had . no peculiar vividness, and of course passed away just as the ordinary conceptions of common life; you yourself being aware of nothing remarkable in your consciousness, except perhaps an unusual activity of mind, to which you probably allude when you speak of the great clearness of your mind at the time. The above hinted explanation of the peculiar vividness of your conceptions is further confirmed by the fact, that the vision ceased at once if your attention was in any way interrupted. For the attention would be likely to be interrupted only by present perceptions or by remembrances of former perceptions not harmonizing with the conceptions; but the very existence of a remembrance would necessarily involve one of the judgments I have described. Thus it would appear, that the third class of the remarkable phenomena of your consciousness in your late sickness are explicable on established principles of mental science, being the very results to be

expected when the mind is active only or chiefly in attending to its own imaginings; as then, by well known laws, conception after conception will arise and bring along with it that belief which constantly imparts to the conception the apparent nature of perception, while there are not those acts of judgment which are requisite to hold that belief in check. The rise of the conceptions one after another, however strange any one or each of them may have been, presents nothing but what accords perfectly with the primary and secondary laws of simple suggestion; and their great vividness was but the natural result of there being at the time no check, or so little check, upon that tendency which mere conception always has to produce belief in the present reality of the object conceived. IV. But if you will have patience to bear with me a little longer, I will offer a conjecture respecting the mutual relations of the mind and the material organization with which it is now connected. It may be, that whenever the mind conceives any sensible object, there is a tendency in the appropriate sensorial organs or nerves to assume the same state as when the mind perceives that object. Suppose this to be the fact, and it is obvious, that just in proportion to the readiness and completeness with which the organ or nerves may assume the requisite state, the mere conception will seem to have the reality of an actual perception. And if there is generally some such tendency, we may easily see that in one condition of the nervous system, the nerves of a particular organ (the eye for instance) might much more readily and completely than at other times be, on the excitement of a mental conception, put into the correspondent state. Thus in your own case, on the supposition now made, the various conceptions, being awakened successively according to the well known laws which I have above

noticed, would be rendered vivid as they were, so as to seem objects actually pictured before you, because your optic nerves, being rendered peculiarly susceptible of changes by some unknown influence of your disease, did, on the rise of each conception in your mind, instantly and more or less fully assume the very state into which they would be put by the actual presentation of the object conceived. On the supposition here made, that the mere mental conception of an object tends to put the nerves into the same state as exists when that object is actually present and is causing sensation, we easily see why mere conception should be accompanied with some momentary belief of the present reality of the thing conceived, which I have already stated and illustrated as being a principle in mental philosophy. The supposition may also explain in general the vividness of our ideas in dreams. Taken in connection with one of the laws of habit, it also explains at once the well known fact, that most persons can conceive visible objects much more easily and vividly than they can conceive smells, tastes, or sounds; it is a law of habit, that repetition of any action, bodily or mental, increases the facility of such action; the action of no one of the organs of sense is so frequently repeated as that of the optic nerves; hence results a greater readiness of those nerves than of others to assume the state, or perform the action, requisite for perception ; and hence, if mere conception has a tendency to excite the nerves, as above supposed, mere conception would excite the optic nerve more readily than those of the other senses. These remarks have likewise an obvious bearing on the fact, that illusions by the eye are much more frequent than by the other senses. The first intimation of a view like the one I have above suggested, that I now remember having noticed in any author, is given by Mr. Scott, formerly professor of moral philosophy in King's College at Aberdeen, in his “Elements of Intellectual Philosophy,” p. 51, where he says, “when sensation is excited in the mind, it is generally in consequence of some impression first made upon the corporeal senses. But, in some instances, the cause originates in the mind, and is thence communicated to the bodily organs, while apparently an effect is produced precisely similar to that of the more usual kind of sensation. It is well known that the mere thought of pain in any particular part of the body is sufficient to excite the corresponding sensation to a certain degree ; thus the idea of sore eyes produces a certain degree of pain in those organs, and the strong imagination of any particular taste or flavor, is accompanied with a slight sensation of that taste or flavor.” Something similar is hinted in a passage of Dugald Stewart's “Outlines of Moral Philosophy,” where, speaking of conception, he says, “this faculty has obviously a very intimate connection with the body. The conception of a pungent taste produces a rush of saliva into the mouth. The conception of an instrument of torture applied to any member of the body produces a shock similar to what would be occasioned by its actual application.” Something more distinct is expressed by Prof. Upham, in his “Outlines of imperfect and disordered mental action.” He remarks, p. 81, “it is probable, (and in some instances is undoubtedly the fact,) that a very excited and unnatural state of the mind may, unaided by the presence of an outward body, produce in some part of the sensorial organ the precise state or affection which the presence of such a body would produce. And the natural consequence of this state of things will be a reaction upon the mind itself, and the production

of false sensations and perceptions.” But I have noticed no passage in either of the writers, which advances the precise view I have suggested, viz. that whenever the mind conceives any sensible object, there is a tendency in the appropriate sensorial organ to assume the same state or condition as when the mind perceives that object by means of sensation caused by its actual presence. But waving wholly this conjecture as to what may be uniformly or commonly the fact, it can not be doubted, that in particular cases of disease, the nerves of the several organs, or of some of them, are (as Mr. Upham states in another place) rendered so sensitive and active, that mere mental conceptions produce in them the very impressions which commonly result from the actual presence of the objects conceived. This is the fact, doubtless, in very many cases of false perception; although in many other cases the nerves are probably thrown into this state, in part at least, by the disease itself, without the preceding mental conception. The false perceptions which attend the delirium tremens, that horrid disease which is the drunkard's sure reward, are probably produced chiefly in the former way ; the morbid irritation of the general system first exciting the mind to intense activity and force of conception; and then the mere dreams of the wretched sufferer’s imagination producing an action of the appropriate nerves precisely like that which ordinarily causes sensations, and thus inevitably awakening as perfect a conviction of their present reality as ever accompanies the clearest and fullest perception. If in this way mere mental conceptions may be rendered so vivid as to be permanently mistaken for real perceptions, it is easy to see that in the same way, mere conceptions arising by the common principles of suggestion might possess that somewhat less degree of vividness, which

« 上一頁繼續 »