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1829.]

Essay on Superstition.

distant associated organs is carried
on, and therefore we cannot ascer-
tain the mode in which it is disturb
ed, while this very mode consti-
tutes the essential character of
morbid vigilance. It is sufficient
for us to know, that the brain is
excited by various, and even oppo-
site, causes; and that these causes
produce effects varying in kind, and
differing in degree, though they are
all uniform in disturbing the mani-
festations of mind.

We must attend more particularly
to some of the morbid states of
sleep and, first, of waking dreams,
or reveries. To many persons there
is something so pleasing in the
this
semi-unconsciousness which
state involves, that they indulge it,
for the sake of enjoying the gratifi-
Ication it affords. Reverie consists
in dissociating the mind from such
external circumstances as would
tend to fix and controul its opera-
tions; and thus creating for itself
images of interest, and grouping
them together so as to produce
various emotions; and in imagining
situations for action or passion often
impossible, and generally monstrous
or improbable. Here there are no
impediments in the way; for every
difficulty is subdued by the power-
ful agency of a lawless imagination,
Now, in this state the patient is
often unconscious of all that passes
around him he is called absent
that is, he does not attend to ex-
ternal realities, because such atten-
tion would break the charm of
reverie by which he remains spell-
bound-yet without the slightest
consciousness of being so. Now,
let it be remarked, that here is con-
tinued action of the brain, without
the support of volition or the influ-
ence of judgment; and that in this
state unreal images are presented to
the mind with all the semblance
of truth and reality. The brain,
then, when left to itself, from the
disorder which is thrown into its
actions, is capable of producing
images, imagining situations, and
inventing consequences, without rea-

son or truth. And if so, it may
surely be granted-at least it may
be asked without presumption-that
some other analogous but unknown
action might be the result; and
this unknown action may be the
creation of spectral forms.

This opinion is confirmed by the
This
phenomena of night-mare.
mighty enemy to peaceful repose
generally depends upon the state
of the brain, either primarily or
secondarily. In the first place, it
is most frequent, and most complete,
in cerebral affections; and especi-
ally in that peculiar condition of
the brain which has arisen from in-
tellectual over-action; in which a
large quantity of blood has been
determined to that viscus; and in
which, the balance of power having
been overturned by some occasional
cause, the organ has become ex-
hausted, and has been rendered
irritable, as a consequence of such
excitement and exhaustion.

Moreover, the phenomena of night-mare are purely cerebral, and always disappear upon perfect waking: for the distress of the patient is occasioned by being placed in some imaginary situation of terror, or danger, and by his incapacity to escape; so that, in a severe paroxysm, he awakens, after a violent struggle, trembling, agitated, with palpitation of the heart, and in violent perspiration-all the symptoms pointing which out the really intense agony he has suffered from this visionary impression, produced by a physical condition of the organ of mind. They who have attended to this form of malady in themselves, will have observed, that the attack is very generally preceded by an unwonted drowsiness, shewing that the brain is oppressed; and indeed, the occurrence of sleep, and the invasion of the symptoms of nightmare, often happen so very rapidly after going to bed, that the patient fancies it has occurred before he could possibly have fallen asleep : as, in fact, it does before he would have been asleep under ordinary

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measure. I have been the more desirous of shewing that this state is an affection of the brain, because of the natural inference, that in one particular state of that organ images are produced with all the character of reality about them-speaking, moving, thinking, and acting. This illusion is so complete, that their existence is never doubted for a moment; and, therefore, there is nothing unreasonable in the supposition, that other morbid states of the same organ may give rise to varying, though analogous, pheno

circumstances. But this never really happens: the patient must be asleep, or he does not suffer from nightmare. This is another proof of the cerebral origin of this malady; so that, if it be remotely depending upon the state of the stomach-and we believe that it frequently may be so it is produced, not by the immediate agency of that viscus, but by its nervous and sympathetic connexion with the brain. And, again, if from any cause the latter organ shall have been powerfully excited late at night, that night will, in persons so predisposed, be almost certainly characterized by mightmare: so that, after a time, the patient may almost unerringly calculate upon the attack from his sensations before falling asleep.

Again: the intensity will be governed by the more or less morbid state of the cerebral organ; it will be severe when that morbid condition is considerable; it will increase with the deepening shades of brainular malady; and it will diminish exactly in proportion with the gradual return to healthy action, and with the progress of convalescence; till the attack shall have become slight, and the images with which it is associated ludicrously embarrassing instead of being frightful; and till a perfect restoration of the organ also restores the patient to that healthy state in which the ugly hag no longer haunts his pillow.

Once more: the attack of night mare is most common to individuals who possess an irritable brain. And, finally, the illusions which attend it are complete the patient verily believes in their actual existence; and it is only by the influence of the judgment, reason, and experience, that he can be convinced of the contrary truth. Now, these illusions involve the appearance of different individuals; their speaking and acting, according to certain supposed circumstances; and the consequences of such words and actions: all these being assuredly felt by the patient in no ordinary

mena.

We shall now proceed a step further, to the history and mystery of dreams.

Before, however, entering upon this subject more particularly, we must just notice the great activity of the brain during sleep.-It will be seen, also, that this is not the increased activity of the immaterial principle, when for the time dissociated from the entire agency of its cumbrous medium of manifestation; because, if this were the case, we should have to mention only perfect ideas, refined images, and correct notices, as resulting from such disencumbered action; instead of the common result, imperfect ideas, confused images, and incorrect impressions. Thus, again, at the outset of our inquiry we trace dreaming to a condition of the material brain, not of the immaterial principle: and it must be seen, that by so doing we vindicate the honour of God, and that we do not derogate from his power, or wisdom, or goodness. For if dreaming be produced by a peculiar condition of the organ of mind, that organ having been subjected to the perverting agency which accompanied man's lost and ruined state, the facts are accounted for; this is the result of the natural punishment which attaches to sin, and is itself a proof of its debasing influence, and forms a connecting link in the chain of the most perfect moral government of the world. But if the strange, and fantastic,

and heterogeneous groups of dreams do actually result from the uninfluenced associations of the immaterial spirit; and if these do actually require to be corrected by the waking state-that is, by the influence of the brain (the organ appropriated for exhibiting the manifestations of mind) upon them-two consequences will result: namely, That the immaterial spirit possesses very limited powers of intelligence; and, That these require to be aided by its material connexions;-results which are falsified by daily experience; and which, if allowed, would leave us at once in the darkness of the night of materialism.

The fact is, however, that the immaterial spirit is not necessarily engaged in the phenomena of dreaming: the brain is not its servant during sleep, because by that very state it is unfitted for intellectual operations; and when it does act, it is without the controul of a presiding mind; and therefore the morbid state of dreaming, instead of the physiological process of correct thinking, is produced.

That the mode of association, and the habit of brainular action, are most rapid, may be proved by the phenomenon of dreaming, when we are awakened by a servant's customary knock in the morning. Sometimes this regularly repeated sound will be received by the appropriate organ of sense, and will be transmitted to the brain; where it will produce, or at the least elicit, the customary automatic answer, without conveying any impression to the sentient principle; so that there shall have been no consciousness of having been called at all. At another time, when the sleep is less perfect, the momentary knock at the door will excite in the brain an action connected with a long train of associated images: so that in the second of time which elapses between the impression of that sound, and the state of absolute wakening, a long dream will be passed through; sometimes manifestly associated with

this atmospherical vibration, and at others not so; but uniformly marked by an inconceivable rapidity in the succession of images or impressions, which are dissipated as soon as perfect consciousness returns. Dreams, therefore, may be generally considered as resulting from some uncontrolled or morbid action of the brain; and this action may be either primary, and attaching immediately to that organ; or secondary and sympathetic, arising from the irritation of a distant organ in communion with the brain.

It is

This position is confirmed by the dreams of animals. It will not be contended that their dreams result from spiritual agency; yet we know that they do dream-as in the familiar instance of dogs-and that they will perform in consequence some of their peculiar functions, as barking, and various other automatic expressions of joy or sorrow. also known, that this disposition to disturbed sleep will be promoted by any cause which has powerfully excited their brain; whether this may have been exercise or disease. And we may trace in these circumstances the rationale of our own dreams-namely, that they arise from the brain's spontaneous action, when under the influence of excitement or irritation, either from its own peculiar morbid state, or from that of some one of its associated organs. We shall also probably find, that the great variety of dreams may be accounted for on the principle of the kind of disturbance to which it may be subjected from this primary or secondary irritation and it is further manifest, that in the latter case the kind and degree of excitement may vary, not only according to the organ which forms the first source of irritation, but also according to the nature and extent of its morbid actions, and to their special affinities with the nervous system; thus forming a groundwork capable of constant change, and of almost infinite variety.

Now, dreams may be defined to be trains of ideas and images confusedly heaped together during sleep, and resulting from irritation of the brain; that irritation admitting of many modifications, according to its peculiar condition-according to the endless variations of the general health-and according to the nature of any uneasiness, excess, or defect in any one organ of the body, arising to such a height, or continuing so long, as to produce sympathetic disturbance of the nervous system.

It is to be remarked, that there are no dreams in natural sleepthat is, in sound and quiet sleepthe body being healthy, and the mind at ease: but if the brain shall have been irritated by deep mental emotion, intense or protracted study, the commencement of impending fever, or by the existence of any morbid action in the system, then dreams will be produced; will be generally traced to some disordered function; and will often appear among the first phenomena of disease. Now it is to be recollected, that in sleep the intellectual faculties are suspended, so far as regards the manifestation of their action; and therefore they do not enter into the component phenomena of dreaming. For, however some dreams may appear to be almost rational and consecutive, it will be always found that they want at least one link to constitute them perfect mental operations; there is a something wrong -a want of cohesion in the causes and consequences; an absence of truth, which (however vraisemblable they may occasionally seem) destroys their title to credence, and stamps them with the character of deviation from correct thinking, Thus, there is no accurate perception of the bearing of associated circumstances; there is no attention to first principles; there is no proper memory for, however the reproduction of formerly associated images may seem to resemble memory, it will be found that it is

always the automatic calling up of impressions which have been previously made upon the sensorial organ;-there is no intellectual association; there is no judgment, which presupposes comparison, and a regular adjustment of the claims of imagination: in fine, there is no exercise of the will; a proof of which is to be found in the great difficulty with which the patient arouses from the uneasy slumber of night-mare. However, therefore, the intellectual faculties may seem to be occasionally associated with dreams, it will always be found that this semblance of action is only the automatic production of the brain, from impressions which have been previously made upon it, as the organ of men. tal manifestation; consequently, that the apparently intellectual trains are merely organic associations. And it is well that they are so: for, on the contrary supposition, we should have great reason to blush for them; and there would be at least one spot, and that the brightest in the universe, where we should fail to trace the footsteps of that Almighty Architect, who has created all things in wisdom.

It may be said, that these dreams are the result of sin, which, having entered into the world, pervades its remotest boundary, and more especially the heart of man, and all its thoughts and actions; and that dreams are sleeping thoughts characterized by this fatal influence. And this is true but not in the sense of the objector. For, as it has been shewn that the intellectual faculties are not directly implicated in dreaming, and as there is no exercise of the will, there can be no responsibility; consequently no infraction of the Divine law. But the organ of the mind has suffered, in common with the whole man, from the perverting influence of the Fall: its manifestations have become disordered; and dreaming is one of its diseases. Hence, though man is not responsible for his dreams, he is awfully so for any course of con

duct, any trains of thought, any indulgence of unhallowed passion, which may afford painful, though automatic associations, for an irritated brain to revive.

Still farther: during sleep the senses are not capable of receiving their customary impressions, or of exerting their regular influence in controlling the wanderings of the intellectual faculties; but if sleep be disturbed from any cause, then impressions made upon the senses will produce that irritation of their nerves which, when propagated to the brain, will form the basis of a dream, or of a succession of dreams; in which may be produced, according to circumstances of varied irritation, and not according to any principle of choice or selection, a multitude of ideas, thoughts, opinions, habits, and associations, which have been acquired by individual intelligence, or which have been wrought out of knowledge so obtained by the agency of the intellectual principle, and which during such process exerted a certain influence upon the intellectual organ. This influence may be re-excited by organic impressions, and may give the semblance of the immaterial mind being engaged in the pursuit. But it will be found, that these trains may be called up to an extent, and with a degree of association, which it is impossible to restrain within defined limits: they are often incomplete; they may be grotesquely grouped; they may be true or false; they may be utterly incoherent; they are generally extravagant, and exceed all the ordinary bounds of credibility. If, then, these manifestations were referred to a continued action of the immaterial spirit, independently of external impressions, it would follow, that the soul, when unassisted by these external material assistances, thought most incorrectly -that is, that its actions were more pure and perfect now, when confined within its material tenement, than when disencumbered of mortality-which is an absurd result.

But, on the contrary, when the process of dreaming is referred to a continued action of the brain, having during sleep escaped the controul of the immaterial principle, all is harmony and beauty, and the Creator's laws stand vindicated from the charge of unreasonableness.

Again: the impression of uneasiness, received by the sensorial organ during the day, will often form the germ of a dream during the night; and many bodily uneasinesses will arise during that period, which will produce a similar effect: these impressions cannot be estimated, or compared, or referred to their true cause, because, reason and judgment being suspended, erroneous perceptions are occasioned; and these may possibly produce consecutive trains of association. These associations are generally of the wildest character; and thus afford another proof that organic irritation, not mental operation, is the proximate cause of dreaming.

A great variety of circumstances will operate as exciting causes of dreaming: an uneasy position, and the automatic act of turning to relieve it; the sensation of cold, and the associated action of covering ourselves with bed-clothes; or of heat, with the consequent effort to dismiss all our coverings; the influence of habit-as in the act of instinctively answering to a knock at our door in the morning, passing through a long dream produced by this impression, and then continuing to sleep on, still pursuing during that sleep the associated trains which had been awakened by the first sensorial impressions, and had been then thrown together in the most dire and inextricable confusion. Moreover, the influence of opium, or hyosciamus, belladonna, or aconite, or any other similar narcotic; much previous fatigue; continued mental emotion of whatever character; long-sustained study; general febrile indisposition; congestion of the brain; any point of local irritation, according to the intimacy of its union, or nearness

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