Imagini ale paginilor

from the soil, the sun and water.

But we have this advantage, every step we take is direct, we have no intervening medium, all is direct appeal to consciousness; but in all physical science the experiment has to be tried and the result observed, and then consciousness certifies the process. No higher authority is possible for objective knowledge than for the subjective of the spiritual life. It is said the scientist can repeat, and so verify his experiment. So also can we.

The mysterious entity, life, we cannot see; we only see its effects in the substance in which it resides, and all we can learn of it is its laws of operation. Thus only we find what is food, and what is poison. Pathology only treats of obstructions of life. The result of scientific investigation is that the laws of life are uniform, and that given conditions produce given results in invariable sequence. But this is equally so in the spiritual life; its results never fail. Sin as surely kills it as aconite kills an animals and all its phenomena are as easily recognised and traced as the phenomena of nutrition and disease in the body. We must not, however, be required to apply mechanical dynamics to the spiritual life, any

1 6

[ocr errors]

more than to the life of the body. Seeing, therefore, the directness of our knowledge on this subject, we are inclined to remind those who suppose that in physical science they have the advantage of us, that this vast, visible universe, to which we ourselves are merely atomic, has been built up by the marvellous combination of bodies too small to be seen, but which the doctors tell us are apparently manufactured articles,' and which the · New Chemistry' declares to be possessed of multiplied and various axial polarity, but which have only theory as their basis. And as no conclusion can go beyond its premises, we beg further to remind them that their conclusions can never go beyond their theory. They may tell us that it is a sound, workable theory, of superior authority to any other. So it is, but in every judgment the hypothesis must be recorded.

If A is B, then C is D. But in all the phenomena of the spiritual life we start from the judgment of the physicist's court of appeal. If our friends will give due consideration to this, perhaps they will be less impatient at our satisfaction with our more stable basis, and will refrain from what sometimes seems like

anger, because we cannot admit the equality of their inferior proof.

The physiologists of mind inform us of the admirable structure which has been furnished for the elaboration of all mental phenomena, and having shown that this is also in harmony with all vital forces, would persuade us that nothing more is necessary to account for all human character and action. And as it is impossible to furnish positive results pro or con, so much doubt is thrown upon the whole case that assurance as to our nature seems almost impossible beyond mere bodily existence. But we are relieved by remembering that this also is only theory, and theory which is incapable of proof. There are vibrations of the brain and nerves in all mental processes, more or less rapid according as the thought is vigorous. This is probably true, but direct proof is impossible; but if it were true, it would no more show that the brain thought, than the automatic and unconscious adjustment of the lenses of the eye, when turned to a near or distant object, proved that the eye saw.

Ribot, in his Doctrine of Heredity, p. 255, has the following note :

'We may cite, in confirmation of what we have said, some remarkable reflections of the great English physicist Tyndal. “Granted,” says he, "that a definite thought and a definite molecular action of the brain occur simultaneously, we do not possess the intellectual organ, nor apparently any rudiment of the organ, which would enable us to pass by a process of reasoning from the one to the other. They appear together, but we do not know why. Were our mind and senses so expanded, strengthened, and illuminated as to enable us to see and feel the molecules of the brain ; were we able to follow all their motions, all their groupings, all their electrical discharges, if such there be; and were we intimately acquainted with the corresponding states of thought and feeling, we should be ås far as ever from the solution of the problem, ‘How are these physical processes connected with the facts of consciousness?' The chasm between the two classes of phenomena would still remain intellectually impassable. Let the consciousness of love, for example, be associated with the right-hand spiral motion of the molecules of the brain, and the consciousness of hate with the left-hand spiral motion. We should then know that when we love, the

[ocr errors]

motion is in one direction, and when we hate that the motion is in the other; but the 'why' would remain as unanswerable as before.

““In affirming that the growth of the body is mechanical, and that thought, as exercised by us, has its correlative in the physics of the brain, I think the position of the materialist is stated, as that position is a tenable one. I think the materialist will be able to maintain this position against all attacks; but I do not think, in the present condition of the human mind, that he can pass beyond this position. I do not think that he is entitled to say that his molecular groupings and his molecular motions explain everything. In reality, they explain nothing. The utmost he can affirm is the association of two classes of phenomena, of whose real bond of union he is in absolute ignorance. The problem of the connection of body and soul is as insoluble in its modern form as in the pre-scientific age” (Fragments of Science, vi.).'

In the plant, structure is the immediate cause of all its functions; but neither structure nor substance will account for the diversities of foliage and fruit from seeds whose chemical difference cannot be detected, and which have


« ÎnapoiContinuați »