Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

To me it is very doubtful whether such sensations can rightly be called imaginary. There is no physical proof that they are not actual, but rather the contrary; for it can be shown that in all such cases there is an actual excitation of the neurility of a nerve.

They can only be called imaginary when the act of inference which accompanies them excludes, or only partially accepts, the counter-evidence of other senses. This is the case in any strong cerebral excitement whenever the faculty of inference becomes deranged, and a single sensation is consequently suffered so to domineer over all others as to become hallucination.

Between hallucination, therefore, and intelligent perception, this would seem to be the practical difference: intelligent perception qualifies the assertion of each sensation by comparing it with the testimony of all others; in hallucination, this power of comparison has become either imperfect or impossible, so that purely subjective sensation is attributed to an object which only exists in the imagination. This is generally the case in sleep, where sensation is almost invariably subjective, yet never consciously so; dreams being only the efforts of the imagination or the understanding to account objectively for subjective sensation.

It has been ascertained that the image even of an object in motion will remain on the retina, and continue to excite sensation in the nervous centre of the optic apparatus long after the object itself has been removed from the eye. And the sight of a horrible object will often haunt us for days or weeks, or a yet longer time after the horrible object has ceased to be

substantially before us. The duration of the spectre will in that case be probably proportioned to the horror occasioned by the object which has caused it, that is to say, to the shock upon the mind. But the shock upon the mind, if excessive or permanent, may react upon the body. A horrible sensation produces a horrible idea; the horrible idea reproduces a horrible

sensation.

Here it is obvious that all physiological inquiry touches very closely upon the domain of psychology. The practical physician can not refuse his serious attention to that great region of all inquiry into the complicated nature of human consciousness. For there is a constant interchange between sensation and thought, between action and contemplation, between the outward and the inward, between objects and ideas, between mind and matter. This is the point to which I have wished to bring inquiry, or on which, at least, I would fix conjecture.

men.

I dismiss from present consideration all those spectral phenomena of which the cause can be distinctly traced to conditions purely physical, such as the black dog of the Cardinal Crescentius and the like. These are nearly always amenable to medicaments and regiFor similar reasons I need not notice any of the current accounts of places supposed to be haunted. Whether these be old wives' fables or authenticated facts, they are equally removed from the scope of medical speculation, and have no interest for the present inquiry, which is solely concerned with the permanent relations between thought and sensation.

I assume a strong affection of the mind, either as

cause or effect, in its relation to the action of a man; for example, of a criminal.

Let us suppose some passion to have taken possession of this man's mind.

That passion henceforward determines the course of his actions to the exclusion of all normal manifestations of the man's free will. It becomes to him, so to speak, a fatum or destiny.

A human life obstructs the path of this passion. Passion marches straight to its object, and tolerates no obstacle by the way. Assassination has become a necessary step on the path prescribed to the man by the passion to which he has abdicated his will. The man avoids with horror the thought of this, which in turn pursues, and never quits him till it has made him familiar with its presence. Occasion puts the knife into his hand. The victim falls.

From the series of criminal thoughts issues the criminal act; from the abstract, the concrete. The murderer awakes from his long dream of murder with the bloody knife in his hand.

The series of criminal thoughts belonged to the domain of one man's imagination; the bloody knife belongs to the domain of reality for all men.

Here the line is indicated which unites two points whereof each is stationed in a different world.

Let A be the ideal world, and B the real world.
A has conducted to B.

Therefore B conducts to A.

That is to say, reality conducts to imagination, action to vision. But as, in the parallelogram of forces, the action here is the resultant of the various activi

ties contained in the imagination (i. e., the series of criminal thoughts), so the imagination, when acted on in turn, can take no other form than that which it has itself determined. And, either permanently or periodically, the murderer (supposing of course the case, as previously assumed, to be one of hallucination) renews the action in the vision, which shows him the bloody knife, and the victim's corpse, etc.

The vision exists for the actor, but for him only. Consequently, without preceding action, no permanent or periodical vision is possible. The series of criminal thoughts alone, without result of any kind in action (an A without a B), can not produce permanent or periodical spectres. At least I know of no such case. The blot upon the brain becomes palpable to the bodily eye only when the darkness of it has passed into the deed which stains a life.

The great poet of the English Commonwealth says well:

"Evil into the mind of God or man

May come and go, so unapproved, and leave
No spot or blame behind."*

* Were it not (as the dates sufficiently establish) that the doctor's speculations on this subject were written in the year 1836, I should certainly have surmised (notwithstanding a certain extravagance in his conclusions, to which a physiologist like Mr. Lewes would, no doubt, strongly demur) that he had previously read with attention that captivating work, "The Physiology of Common Life."

The dates, however, stubbornly forbid any such supposition.-Verbum Sap.-THE Editor.

CHAPTER V.

THEORY CONFOUNDED BY FACT.

It is not without blushes that I now place on record this somewhat silly ebullition of the vanity of juvenile speculation; but, at the time when I wrote the words just cited, the arrogant ardor of youth persuaded me that I had therein found safe foundation for a system of scientific thought; and yet, within a few weeks afterward, half a dozen pencil-marks scrawled by a stranger's hand on a piece of crumpled paper, blown into my possession by the wind of accident, sufficed to place me in perplexity and mistrust before my barelyacquired conviction.

In that scrap of paper had I not before my eye proof positive that Count R was under the dreadful dominion of some periodical apparition independent of his will? But was it possible to believe that the noble and imposing countenance of the count was simply a grimace assumed by a long-studied duplicity to mask the vulgar nature of a common criminal?

No, I could not do this. My whole mind indignantly revolted from such a suspicion. My theory, or this man's face-which was the liar?

A fico for all the theories that ever were invented, if they theorize away man's wholesome faith in man! But what then, in a soul so pure and lofty as that

« AnteriorContinuar »