« السابقةمتابعة »
and tameness, as they stand in the pulpit, and afflict their hearers with the same oppressive qualities, let them read these sermons. If any are given to exquisitely fine spinning, or extravagantly high soaring, more in love with the sublimated than the sublunary, let them take in hand these coarser, rougher and weightier productions. They will do good by their astringency and their impulsiveness. They will help to make closer, warmer, manlier preaching. We trust the friends of Mr. Clark will continue to perpetuate his works in a convenient form, and an important service will be rendered thereby to the cause of truth and of God.
PSYCHO-PHYSIOLOGY, VIEWED IN ITS CONNECTION WITH THE RELIGIOUS EMOTIONS.
By Samuel Adams, M. D. Prof. of Chemistry, etc., Illinois College, Jacksonville, Illinois.
In a previous article,* we attempted to give a brief sketch of the connection between the body and the mind, and to classify and explain some of the phenomena, that result from that mysterious union. After a brief explanation of the laws of psychophysiological sympathy, we dwelt principally upon the action of the mind upon the body; and we noticed more particularly the influence of certain mental states, in disordering or suspending the action of the organs of sense. We beg leave to refer the reader to the above-named article, for the principles there laid down and illustrated, while we proceed to unfold, somewhat more fully than was there done, the connection of the mind with muscular action, and to make a direct application of our principles to the subject of the religious emotions. while we shall principally restrict our inquiries to the relations of the religious emotions to the bodily functions, we shall be free to adduce parallel illustrations from the whole range of mental excitement; for we regard the religious emotions as peculiar only in the nature and magnitude of the objects which
* Biblical Repository, April, 1839, Vol. I. p. 362.
excite them, and in the solemnity of the occasions, on which they arise. They do not differ physiologically from the other emotions of the mind.
If, in the remarks that we shall make upon the topics that fall within our path, we should seem to any to deal roughly with subjects, which are endeared by hallowed associations to many pious minds, we beg leave to assure all such that we are actuated by no fault-finding disposition, by no secret pleasure in exposing the weaknesses of any sect or party. Far be it from us to cast any censure upon religious excitement as such, though it rise to the loftiest pitch of emotion, of which the human mind is capable. If there be any motives within the range of human contemplation, which ought to stir up the inmost depths of the soul, and rouse to action all its powers of feeling, surely religion furnishes those motives. We have no sympathy with those cold critics, who sneeringly characterize as "animal excitement" every degree of religious emotion, that does not flourish within the narrow polar circle of their own feelings. Depth and intensity of religious excitement are not to be complained of, so long as that excitement is characterized by a solemn grandeur, befitting the themes of religious contemplation.
There are, however, certain "bodily exercises," sometimes connected with religious excitements, which have been regarded by some, both as the evidences and the effects of the best and most powerful operations of the divine spirit. These phenomena we propose to examine, and to show that some of them at least may be derived from a less exalted source; that they may result from the action and reaction of the powers of the human constitution, without the intervention of any supernatural agency. And if this be true, they may be no more the result of divine agency, than the ordinary functions of the body. We shall not attempt to decide, in any particular instances which we may adduce, whether the phenomena in question are from above, or from beneath. We shall, however, endeavor to make it apparent, that the functions of the nervous system, embracing the operations of the mind, present a wide field for philosophical inquiry, which ought to be carefully surveyed, before we resort to miraculous power, for an explanation of this class of phenomena. We hope thus to suggest some cautions against attributing to the agency of the Holy Spirit effects, which may not do much honor to that heavenly messenger.
Before entering upon the direct object of our inquiries, we are to examine the connection of the mental operations with muscular action. It is scarcely necessary to refer to voluntary motion as a standing illustration of the influence of the mind over the muscles. Every voluntary movement of the body depends upon a direct physiological connection between the mind and the muscles. Sever this connection, and voluntary motion ceases. The will may issue its mandates, but the muscles are beyond the reach of its control. Thus the fact of a connection between the mind and the action of the muscles is established. But no reason can be given, a priori, why other mental states, as well as volition, may not give rise to muscular contraction, or why the peculiar condition of the muscles may not react upon the mind, so as to affect its operations. Both of these points, we propose briefly to examine.
In looking at the effects of the various mental operations upon the muscular system, the physiology of expression presents itself as a subject of peculiar interest. It is a fact, familiar to all, that the strong and lively emotions of the mind are accompanied by a natural expression, distinctly marking the character of each. Who does not know that the lights and shadows, that vary the aspect of the "human face divine," are but glimpses of the serenity and gloom that alternate within? Even the habitual states of the feelings are strongly marked in the countenance. So true is this, that an attempt to mask the real feelings under a forced expression is not entirely successful. Even the practised dissembler carries a mystery in his countenance, which, while it perplexes, awakens a suspicion of his real character. A few examples will illustrate this point.
A peculiar emotion of pleasure, acting through the brain and nerves upon the muscles of the face, imprints a smile upon the countenance. A stronger emotion, but similar in kind, not only affects the features, but throws the muscles of respiration into violent convulsions, giving rise to loud laughter. Grief is not limited in its expression to a simple effusion of tears; it acts upon the muscles more or less extensively, from a slight depression of the angles of the mouth, to an entire distortion of the features, and even convulses the respiratory muscles, causing sobbing and loud weeping. In the same manner we account for the elastic step and bounding pulse of overflowing joy, the clenched fist and compressed lip of stifled anger, the knitted brow of frowning wrath, the fixed eye and curled lip of
SECOND SERIES, VOL. VI. NO. II.
indignant scorn, the trembling and agitation of fear and
The grace, dignity and ease, in the attitudes and gestures of an accomplished orator, are not so much the result of artificial rules, as the natural result of his own emotions. It is true, the rules of elocution are useful in correcting those habits and tendencies, which embarrass the free operation of psycho-physiological sympathy. But where the rules of elocution become the prominent characteristic of the style of oratory, where there is evidently a studied effort to apply these rules, the tendency is rather to prejudice than to win, rather to disgust than to please. He is the best orator who speaks without the embarrassment of a voluntary effort to apply the rules of his art, but yields himself freely to the spontaneous inspiration of his subject. Rules may assist in removing the impediments to a free operation of the sympathy between the body and the mind; but they can never create that sympathy; it is a part of the constitution with which man is endowed by his Creator. The ever-varying contour of the brow, the expressive glance, the fitful flashing of the eye, the playful turn of the lip, the changing attitudes of the whole frame, the harmonizing of all in one combined effect-these are not the offspring of art, but rise spontaneously from the emotions that, for the time, fill the mind of the orator.
But if the mind acts upon the muscles, why may not they, in their turn, react upon the mind so as to affect its states? This hypothesis is borne out by the analogies of the functions in health and disease, as well as by specific facts.
It is a law of our constitution, familiar to those who are conversant with the practice of medicine, that when two phenomena, either in the healthy or diseased states of the body, are connected together as cause and effect, or at least follow each other as antecedent and sequent, the order of antecedence and sequence is frequently reversed; so that sometimes one and sometimes the other is the first to show itself, or that which is ordinarily the antecedent may occasionally become the sequent. For example, the brain and liver are linked together by an intimate sympathy. Disease commencing in the brain is speedily followed by disorder of the liver. Disease commencing in the liver is followed by disorder of the functions of the brain. The same intimate sympathy exists between the brain and stomach, and any disorder in one speedily disturbs the functions of the other. Thus gloom and despondency are frequently the
consequence of indigestion; indigestion is frequently caused by mental depression. Cheerfulness promotes healthy digestion; healthy digestion promotes cheerfulness. It would not be difficult to multiply examples of this kind, all supporting an analogy which favors the supposition that, in the relations between the mind and the muscles, action and reaction are reciprocal; that is, if the mind acts upon the muscles, the relation of causation may be reversed, so that the muscles may react upon the mind.
Sir David Brewster in discussing the subject of apparitions,* after speaking of the images of past perceptions, and spectral illusions, as existing in the mind's eye, goes on to remark: "I purpose...to show that the mind's eye is actually the body's eye, and that the retina is the common tablet, on which both classes of impressions are painted, and by means of which they receive their visual existence, according to the same optical laws." Although Sir David makes no distinction between a colored image painted upon the retina and the sentient state of that organ produced by such an image, we presume that nothing more is meant by him, than that the retina is in the same state of functional activity, when the mind is occupied in the contemplation of some spectre, or recollected image of past perceptions, as when it is actually observing an external object, whose image is really depicted upon the retina. We are disposed to take up this hint, and construct upon it the hypothesis, that, whenever any part of the nervous system is, by any cause, thrown into a state of functional activity, all the other parts, which co-operate in the same function, will be brought into a corresponding state of activity. Thus, an excited imagination or some morbid agent may act upon that part of the brain, which belongs to the apparatus of vision; the optic nerve and retina will be simultaneously brought into a corresponding state, giving rise to a spectral illusion. Again, let the optic nerve or retina be brought into a morbid state, the brain will at once respond, and spectres, muscæ volitantes, etc., will be the result. Suppose now the muscles of expression, by an act of the will or any other cause, to be brought into action, the nerves connected with these muscles will partake of the new condition, and propagate a corresponding state to the brain; the mind, sympathizing with the brain, will enter into a corresponding state of emotion.
*See Letters on Natural Magic, Letter III.