صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

exercises a quicker instinct than ourselves: and the fawning caresses of the old dog Argus upon his remembered master, though Penelope has forgotten him, is not more touching in incident than true to nature.

Insanity is supposed to affect identity in a degree to render it most questionable. It may remain, however, though the knowledge of it may be disturbed. Consciousness, memory, association, may be vitiated, as may bodily senses. Yet the substance of mind may be the same, though it is misjudged,—as is each scene of nature though diseased vision has distorted it. The question is of mind in its healthy state: the loss of this knowledge, in perfect insanity, is rather a presumption that it is an attribute of undiseased mind. But should we repair to those abodes in which this dread malady presents its hideous forms,—

“Where laughter is not mirth, nor thought the mind,
Nor words a language, nor e'en men mankind,"_

we shall see much favourable evidence of our doctrine. When relatives and friends deplore the sudden change of madness upon the language and temper of a patient, they should reflect that those passions, the ebullitions of which are so affrighting, may have lurked and may have been fostered long. Their ignorance of the fact, is the most probable thing in the world, for not only would it be studiously concealed from them, but their very circumstances would blind them to it. Even in the wildest hallucination, the maniac observes a method, and should he announce himself the monarch or the Deity, he will trace the events of his life, though with shadowy dimness, as the steps by which he reached those elevations. In the cases in which the intellect seems quite prostrated and lost, (and I will not say it is impossible, though I do not credit Simon Brown) scarcely any operation of mind may be seen: but in all others there is at least an image of the remembered self, a trace of conscious identity.

This enquiry is not without its practical applications. In the philosophy of mind, identity holds a first consideration. It

Byron.-Lament of Tasso.

is the office of this philosophy to analyse the motions, to observe the states, of the intellect; to ascertain in what succession they arise, and by what connection they are associated. But it is a cheat if there be no mind, but only a rout of lawless vagrants.

In the philosophy of education, it is assumed. "Arduous task!" might each pædagogue sigh, instead of what he must now feel "delightful," were the tyro's identity as often rubbed out as his slate. The word education implies a drawing out, and it is the pupil's self which is educed.

In the philosophy of character this is a first principle. It is in all respects the self-evolved. It has its inconsistencies. "Nil fuit unquam sic impar sibi." A character may present the impostor and the dupe, may compound the tyrannical and the abject, but all this may be in the modification of the mind. It is so distinct that two characters were never seen so much alike as sometimes are found two faces. To borrow medical phrase, it is idiosyncrasous. In the child we prognosticate the man, and see "big passions strutting on a petty stage." The "ruling passion is strong in death." "E'en in our ashes live their wonted fires." The character we have worn still invests us, and to the last we fold it around us, as the dying Cæsar his robe.

In the philosophy of motive, this cannot be disregarded. Congeniality must exist between all motive and the mind it impels. Liberty supposes a law of action as much as necessity itself. We may, therefore, surmise, from a knowledge of the self-same mind, what, in particular circumstances, and under particular inducements, will be its course.

The philosophy of habit pre-supposes it. An act on repetition becomes easy, and then all but involuntary. Explain the process as you will, the repetition must be understood of one and the self-same agent.

The philosophy of experimental, inductive, observation implies it. All we chiefly know, of that which we denominate cause and effect, is a series of notices we have taken of certain things, some occurring according to a priority of time to others. But such knowledge, surely, depends for its arrangement and comparison upon the identity of the observer.

The philosophy of self-love is redeemed by it. It is not low or mean. A wretched selfism may pass under its name, but self-love is essential to conscious being. Its own interests can never clash with those of others: its interests cannot but promote the general welfare. Such is the construction of the universe, and such is the harmony of its arrangements! “Selflove and social is the same"!* Far from us the philosophy of those,

"Who when the human soul
Is of a thousand faculties composed,

And twice ten thousand interests, do yet prize
This soul and the transcendent Universe
No more than as a mirror which reflects
To proud self-love her own intelligence:
That one, poor, finite object in the abyss
Of infinite being, twinkling restlessly."+

Moral philosophy is founded upon it. The quality of every action depends on the disposition of the agent. An action cannot be considered apart. Its effect may, but it cannot be withdrawn from its moral relations. If man be always a new being, upon what agents can his actions be devolved? Still this identity is not at variance with a penitent disposition or a reformed life. Such questions, this is not the time nor place to agitate. Self may admit of different exercises under different impressions. As the wretched immortals in Vathek, the hand pressed upon the heart shows that with the new feelings may be mingled uneffaced recollections. And only in the boldest poetry can any say with our Fifth Henry—

"For heaven doth know, so shall the world perceive,
That I have turned away my former self!"

It is in the forgetfulness of this invincible, inevitable, identity, that sin principally consists. The thought of such continuity is shunned. We are held by it to the past and to the future. For the one we are accountable: we are hastening to "receive the things done in our bodies, according to that we have done, whether it be good or bad." The transgressor

Pope Essay on Man. Epis: 3.

+ Wordsworth.

would rush into dissipation, a word most expressive of his fond attempt. But he shall recognise his every act, he shall trace out his entire being, and find that in all the mysterious chain not a joint is wanting. The soul is a solitary essence, and its relation is with One who is only more alone! Its passage for Judgment is

“φυγη μονου προς Μονον.”

Happy are they who, on this necessary identity, graft an uniformity of virtuous and benevolent excellence, whose character, thus pure and good, is as sustained. Happy are they who can review the stages of their earthly course with an unshrinking glance, who can blend the sweet visions of youth with the more chastened aspirations of maturity; and who, whilst they see


"The child is Father to the man,

Can wish their days to be

Bound each to each in natural piety."

But most happy they (o terque quaterque beati !) who can calmly await, while they confidently believe, the immortal future, who can realise it as a condition of conscious identity with their present history and being without dismay, and who can hail the evolutions of their destiny without wishing the stupor of a Metempsychosis, or the oblivion of a Lethe!

Plotinus.-6 Enneas.-Lib: ix. cap: 11.

“ Πότερα δη κερτομῶν λέγεις ταδε;

Εν κερτόμησις ἐπὶ τἀληθῆ λεγαν.”
SOPHOCLES.-Philoct: lin: 1274.

"Et mala si qua tibi dixit dementia nostra,
Ignoscas: capiti sint precor illa meo."

TIBULLUS.-Lib: i. Eleg: 2.

"Our very priests must become mockers, if they shall encounter such

ridiculous subjects."


« السابقةمتابعة »