Luther A Fox.

Evidence of a future life : from reason and revelation online

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space is a thought or feeling.

When explanation fails, recourse is had to the
mystical. We are told that we have thought too
meanly of matter, that there is mind-stuff in mat-
ter, that materialism does not degrade mind but
exalts matter. But that assumes the very point in
dispute, and leaves the subject just where it was.
Men with decided tendencies to materialism, like
Mr. Sully, admit that the question has not been
settled in favor of materialism by accepted scientific
methods. Mr. Spencer says that if we must choose
between the alternatives of translating the mental
into the physical or the physical into the mental,
he would take the latter.* If the mental has the
stronger ground for recognition, materialism has
not succeeded very well in making the mind a
result of physical organization.

The effort to translate the terms of the nervous
system into those of the mental is absurd. The

* Psychology, p. 156.


nerves are phospliorized and non-phosphorized.
They are eflferent and afiferent, reflex and inhibi-
tory. But we have no classes of phosphorized and
non-phosphorized thoughts, no afferent and eflferent
memories, no reflex and inhibitory imaginations.
So the attempt to classify the movements of the
molecules in the terms of the mind is equally ab-
surd. We must already know the laws of the
mind before we can detect the concomitance. The
closest study of the movements of the brain would
never suggest the idea of the mental correspond-

The mind is not only a subject, but it is a unit.
We refer all its actions to one source, the ego. I
suffer pain, I f^el a pleasure, I see a picture, I
will to write. Whatever is done or felt is referred
to myself. The mental phenomena are very com-
plex, but they are united in one whole. The color
of an object comes through the eye, its fragrance
through the smelling, its flavor through the taste,
its smoothness through the touch, its temperature
through another sense, its resonance through the
ear. Dififerent parts of the brain are affected. An
object is perceived to-day, and will be remembered
to-morrow. It is described by words expressive of
all its dififerent qualities. It suggests ideals. All


these acts involve different nerve fibres and different
faculties of the mind. But I take these different
sensations, and unite them in one act of percep-
tion. I remember it after all the sensations are
gone. I voluntarily make it the basis of new cre-
ations. There is one subject for all these intellect-
ual acts. Without the unit being there had been
no perception, no subsequent memory, no imagina-
tion. The series has a bond of union, a unifying
principle in the thinking subject.

Materialism not only fails to account for that
unity, but is inconsistent with it. Account for its
origin as we may,* or fail to account for it, that
unity is a fact assumed in all our thought, and is
always a factor in our consciousness. It is a fact
which must be brought into harmony with our
theory. Materialism fails to do it. The molecules
are continually changing, the old ones passing off
and new ones taking their places. But the thinking
subject is abiding. The molecules are indefinite
in number. That unity cannot exist in all together,
for nothing can be found in the aggregate which is
not in the parts. There can be no public sentiment

* The old psychology supposed we had an immediate con-
sciousness of that unity. Latterly it has been called a neces-
sary assumption and a necessary inference.


when every man has no opinion whatever. There
can be no common consciousness when the sepa-
rate molecules have none ; and if each one has a
consciousness, then there would be an indefinite
number of egos instead of one. There is no one
which has the consciousness for all, for there is no
common centre known, nor can there be such a
centre; for then it would be out of relation to the
others except in space, and an unrelated unit re-
peated is not consciousness. Materialism provides
for nothing but a succession which it calls a series;
but succession is not a series without a unifying
subject. The series consists of individuals united
in thought, and that thought must belong to £)ne
conscious subject. • Consciousness in its very nature
cannot be composite, and it is not strange that
Materialists, seeing the straits into which they are
driven, have tried to impeach the veracity of con-
sciousness and prove it delusive.

Memory, one of the higher faculties, reveals the
distinctive nature of the mind. The memory takes
the facts of the past, and by renewed images brings
them into a present experience. An image formed
by the mind's own powers is the recognized repre-
sentative of a former experience. There is a dis-
tinguishing activity. It is not merely a recurring


image, but a recurring image recognized as such
and distinguished from the first or original one.
The mind distinguishes also between ftself and its
thoughts. It distinguishes between its present
and past experience. This involves an abiding
self. If there had been nothing more than succes-
sion there might be repetition, but no recognition
of it. Former experiences are collected into a
connected whole, and a permanent self alone is
competent to do it. '' Memory can exist only
where there is a permanent self amid changing ex-

Memory is a fact that must be explained. The
Materialist says the brain remembers. Physiologists
assure us that the atoms of which the brain is com-
posed are continually changing. " Here is the pass-
ing stream of atoms, but here is the abiding person.
The atoms which had my former experience are
gone, and we should have supposed that they car-
ried the experience with them. But strangely
enough the experience remains, and these new
atoms know all about it. Did the passing atoms
whisper it to the new-comers as they slipped
away? Were they able to give a kind of pass-
word or countersign as they went out ? And were

* Dewey's Psychology, p. i86.


the incoming atoms able to so improve the hint
given that we sliould never dream of the change ?
But this would be to turn science into sheer fetish-
ism and to invoke magic as an explanation."*
The memory is certainly not in the elements. It
is certain also that it is not the product of nervous
action. The action of any fibre tends to repeat
itself. The muscles though constantly changing in
the particles retain their acquired facility of move-
ments and automatically repeat them. So in nerve
fibres. But the changed position in space of the
molecules of a nerve is not memory. There is no
place in this theory of nervous action for voluntary
memory, when the mind addresses itself to recall-
ing a past experience and only succeeds after long
efibrt. It fails also to explain the acts of memory
suggested by contrast. It fails equally to account
for the different things suggested by the same ob-
ject in the different mental states — sad things when
we are sad, and amusing things when we are
jovial. The added theory of nerve cells in which
the ideas and images are deposited and which
respond in the various moods, does not relieve the
difiiculties. Even though there be hundreds of
millions of these cells, psychology and physiology

*Bowne's Metaphysics, p. 369.


show no connection between their action and that
of the memory. Prof. Ladd concludes his patient
examination of the physical basis of memory with
these words: "None of the relations conjectured
as probably existing between the molecular consti-
tution and dynamical associations of the cerebrum
on the one hand and the facts of conscious experi-
ence on the other, even on the supposition that
these conjectured relations were all demonstrated
facts of psycho-physical science, would amount
to anything approaching the character of an ex-
planation. For none of these physical conditions
immediately concern the very mental activity
which constitutes the essence of memory. What
is explained, if anything, is simply why I remem-
ber one thing rather than another — granted the
miiKT s power to reiiiember anything at all. This
power is a spiritual activity wholly sin generis^ and
incapable of being conceived of as flowing out of
any physical condition or mode of energy what-
ever. ' ' *

Among the faculties denominated higher is the
will. It constitutes character, and is often said to
be the essential element in personality. It is, in
the universal spontaneous belief, held to be free,

* Physiological Psychology, p. 556.


and stands, therefore, at the furthest remove from
physical forces. It is conditioned in some degree
by physical states, but it also conditions them.

Will is not automatic activity. It cannot be re-
duced to reflex action. An impulse sent along an
efferent nerve to a nerve center and carried back
to the muscle is not an act of will. Whatever re-
lation the will may have to the nerve centers, no
one will call such muscle movements voluntary.

Will is not spontaneous impulse. There are
impulses which involve the mind. Sensuous im-
pulses of the general sense, as that for food or air,
impulses of the special senses, as of the eye for
light and the ear for sound, impulses toward per-
ception, impulses to imitation and impulses from
ideas, as that of a hypnotized person, are mental.
They fall under consciousness, and are thus dis-
criminated from reflex action, but they do not
involve conscious purpose. There is no end toward
which the energy is purposely directed. These
impulses are not purely or solely mechanical, but
they are blind, and are properly called instinctive.

Will is not desire. There is no will without
desire, for without feeling the will has nothing to
arouse it to action; but desire is not will. There
may be strong desire when we will the contrary.


The will holds in abeyance or guides the in-
stinctive impulses. It selects between the objects
of desire. As it is ruled by, or rules the lower
principles of action, it is degraded or ennobled.
It is in this power over the physical that the soul
comes to its clearest consciousness of being a dis-
tinct entity, a person, and not a brute, or a mere
thing. It censures or approves itself, and con-
demns and praises others, because it feels that soul
or spirit can and ought to control to its own inter-
ests the actions of the body.

In the face of the facts which lie at the bottom
of the universal moral judgments, and of all the
governments of the world, materialism regards the
will a mere function of the organism. It regards
it as only a more complex form of reflex action.
"When the automatic actions become so involved,
so varied in kind, and severally so infrequent as no
longer to be performed with unhesitating precision
— when after the reception of one or more complex
impressions the appropriate motor changes become
nascent, but are prevented from passing into im-
mediate action by the antagonism of certain other
nascent motor changes appropriate to some nearly
allied impression — there is constituted a state of
consciousness which, when it finally issues in ac-


tion, displays what we term volition."* "That
will comes into existence through the increasing
complexity and imperfect coherence of automatic
actions is clearly implied by the converse fact that
when actions which were once incoherent and vol-
untary are frequently repeated, they become cohe-
rent and voluntary, "t Mr. Spencer speaks of
"the illusion in which the idea of free will com-
monly originates." The same doctrine is taught
by Mr. G. H. Lewes. "There is no real and es-
sential distinction between voluntary and involun-
tary actions." "All actions are reflex, all are the
operations of a mechanism, all are because the
mechanism has sensibility as its vital property."
"By the will we must understand the abstract
generalized expression of all impulses which de-
termine when those impulses have an ideal origin;
by volition the still more generalized expression of
all impulses which determine actions. "J The ani-
mals are mere automata. The somnambulist is an
automaton. Sensation, consciousness and will are
physiological functions of the nervous system.
But there is after all a factor not accounted for.

* Spencer's Psychology, p. 496.
tDo., p. 499-

i Physical Basis of Mind, pp. 422, 427.


Mr. spencer concludes his discussion of the will by
saying: "The aggregates of feelings and ideas con-
stituting the mental I, have not in themselves the
principle of cohesion holding them together, as a
whole; but the I which continuously survives as
the subject of these changing states is that portion
of the unknowable power which is statically con-
ditioned in special nervous structures pervaded by
a dynamically conditioned portion of the unknow-
able power called energy."* There is the subject
of volitions which controls to its own ends the en-
ergy belonging to the organism. The profound
thinker is brought at last to recognize it.

Materialists confound the mechanism and the
conscious subject controlling it. They try to show
causes by indicating instruments. To point out
the keys and chords of the piano is not to account
for the grand anthem. But cerebral psychologists
have failed to explain voluntary motion upon their
own principles. The cerebral spinal system is
composed of a great number of nerve cords and
nerve centres. Each centre may be the source of
reflex action. All are under the control of one
power. Every one of them is an instrument of the
will. The theory of the Materialist to be complete

* Psychology, p. 504.


must find some one physical centre which has
command of all the others, but there is no such
special centre. The physical basis of the will,
contrary to the materialistic mechanism, is the
centres of the central hemispheres.

Materialism fails to account for voluntary atten-
tion. There are responses to stimuli that are invol-
untary. A sudden flash of light arrests involuntary
attention. But the mind may select the very
weakest of the stimuli and give it the most patient
attention. It may pour over a faded manuscript,
written in a strange language, oblivious of great
noises, or a burning fever or craving hunger, trying
to decipher the characters for the benefit of science.
It may in patriotic devotion hold the automatic
movements in check until the life is worn away by
torture. All the interest of the organism in such
a case is against it. The will destroys the organ-
ism. In the materialistic hypothesis, the function
consumes itself. Materialism has brought us under
obligations by exposing to us more of the physical
agencies of the soul, but has not made us better ac-
quainted with the mysterious being we call self.

The words of Gatien-Arnoult, quoted by Hamil-
ton, have lost none of their force: ''I turn my
attention on my being and find I have organs, and


that I have thoughts. My body is the complement
of my organs: am I then my body or any part of
my body? This I cannot be. The matter of my
body in all its points is in a perpetual flux, in a
perpetual process of renewal. I — I do not pass
away, I am not renewed. None probably of the
molecules which constituted my organs some years
ago form any part of the material system which
I now call mine. It has been made up anew,
but I am still what I was of old. These organs
may be mutilated; one, two, or any number of
them may be removed; but not the less do I con-
tinue to be what I was, one and entire. It is even
not impossible to conceive me existing deprived of
every organ; I, therefore, who have these organs,
or this body, I am neither an organ nor a body.
But if I try to conceive of myself without a thought,
without some form of consciousness, I am unable.
A suspension of thought is thus a suspension of my
intellectual existence; I am, therefore, essentially a
thinking, a conscious being; and my true character
is that of intelligence — an intelligence served by
organs. ' '



THOROUGH-GOING Materialism only can con-
dition the existence of the soul upon that of
the body. " Transfigured Realism," which re-
gards the substance of the mind unknowable, can-
not legitimately deny a future life. It must leave
its principles to become dogmatic. If it says that
science cannot prove a future life, the Christian is
willing to accept its statement as to its own impo-
tence and furnish upon other grounds the proof.
But thorough Materialism makes mind a function
of the nervous system, a product of vitalized matter,
a result of organism, and when the organism is
broken up the soul must perish. This form of
materialism identifies the mind with life, and life
with the physical forces. It makes the mind de-
pendent upon the brain, and the faculties of mind
upon nerve centres. It makes sensation the mental
unit, of which mind is the outgrowth. It then
identifies sensation with the movement of the
nerves. The vibration of the nerve is feeling, these

( 277 }


feelings are registered in the organism, these
through the nervous system are related and com-
pounded, and thus we have mind with all its
thoughts, feelings, and will. All are reducible to
vibrations of matter. Peculiar vibrations of matter
are thoughts; thoughts are peculiar vibrations of
matter. The movements among the molecules of
the nerve and the sensation are two sides of the
same force.

Mr. G. H. Lewes, in regard to the relation of life
to mind, says: ''The analogy of life and mind is
the closest of all analogies, if, indeed, the latter
is anything more than a special form of the other.
Both are processes, or under another aspect func-
tional products. Neither is a substance, neither is
a force.''* There is an analogy between life and
mind. "The Bioplasm is characterized by a contin-
uous composition and decomposition," and these
represent the neural tremors in the nervous system.
These tremors are "the neural units, the raw ma-
terial of consciousness." Corresponding to the
laws of life, called Biostatical laws, are laws of mind
which are named Psychostatical laws. "Both sets
may be reduced to one primary law in each.
Every vital phenomenon is the product of two fac-

* Problems of Life and Miud, Vol. I., p. 102.


tors, the organism and its medium in Biology ; and
every psychical phenomenon is the product of two
factors, the subject and object in Psychology."
*'But subject and object are not two independent
and unallied existences, as held by Dualism; they
are different forms of only one existence, as held by
Monism. " * ' ' The great problem of Psychology as
a section of Biology is to develop all psychical
phenomena from one fundamental process in one
vital tissue. The tissue is nervous; the process is a
grouping of neural units. A neural unit is a tre-
mor. Several units are grouped into a higher
unity or neural process which is a fusion of tre-
mors, and each process may in turn be grouped
with others, and thus from this grouping of groups
all the varieties emerge. What on the physiologi-
cal side is simply a neural process, is on the psy-
chological side a sentient process. We may liken
sentience to combustion, and then the neiu-al units
will stand for the oscilating molecules, "f The
action of mind is determined by stimuli, both in-
ternal and external, and, therefore, called reflex
action. "This reflex is a process of grouping un-
derlying all psychological phenomena. Its anima
genera are feeling and action." "Intelligence in

*Pp. 109, 112. fp. 125.


its rudementary form is simply discrimination in
feeling."* ''Every psychical fact is a product of
sense-work, brain-work, and muscle-work. Each
mental state is a fiuiction of three variables. ^^'\
"The subject and object are inseparable in any real
sense ; are separable only ideally. ' ' % 'I'he principle
upon which his book. Physical Basis of the Mind,
is based, is that sensation, consciousness, sensibility,
belong to the physiological properties of the nerv-
ous system in a vital organism, and the physiolo-
gical properties are inseparable from every segment
of that system.

In this system there are some radical points
which are only assumed or very unsatisfactorily
proved. It overlooks the fact, i. A nerve tremor is
not a sensation. There are nerve movements
which are not felt. This is true of the sympathetic
system as long as the action is healthy. It may be
replied |fhat sensation is limited to the cerebro-
spinal system. But we can discover no difference
in the constituents of the two systems either by the
microscope or by chemical tests, and we may ask
why nerve matter in the one system is sensation,
and not in the other. Diseased action of a sympa-
thetic nerve falls under consciousness, and the sys-

*p. 127. fP- 136. JP. 174.


tern therefore is not so far removed from conscious-
ness that if the movements of the fibres were sen-
sations they would not be known. The mere
vibration of a nerve is not sensation.

There are movements of nerves in the cerebro-
spinal system which are not attended by sensations.
Under the influence of morphiates there are often
violent actions of the fibres, but no known sensa-
tion. The patient often writhes under the surgical
knife, but does not remember any suffering. If
the anaesthetics only destroyed memory, their dis-
covery was not such an unquestionable benefit as
the w^orld believes. In cases of injuries of the
spinal cord there are reflex actions of the legs,
w^hile the subject declares that he has no sensation
whatever. When the mind is intently engaged
upon any subject or occupied by any great feeling,
there are not only no responses to the stimuli
which usually arrest the attention, but none also to
violent blows which leave the nerves seriously
affected for some days. Men have been sorely
blistered wnthout a consciousness of heat, and
bruised without being aware of any stroke. There
were movements of the nerves, vibrations, without
sensation. Mr. Lewes makes a distinction between
sensations. He repeats the story of Dr. Hunter's


patient whose leg was pricked, and to the in-
quiry whether he felt it replied, " No, but you see
my leg does." To most minds this is nonsense,
but Lewes calls it physiological truth. A sensa-
tion which the man does not feel is as absurd as a
motion when nothing moves.

Vibrations of the nerves and sensations, if two
sides of the same force, are as unlike as if from two
forces. They are as different as two facts can be.
The most perfect acquaintance with the nervous
mechanism would not make one acquainted with a
sensation he had never felt. No extent of study of
the nerves creates a sensation, nor study of sensa-
tion moves the nerves. The connection between
the nerve and the sensation is a mystery. No one
can tell how nerve tremor becomes sensation. To
account for it sub-conscious activities, and an un-
known subject of which both are phenomena, have
been hypothecated ; but neither is proved, or if
proved would explain it. The very attempt to
explain is an acknowledgment that they are not

Weber's law has been thought to show that both
are from the same physical cause. That law pro-
poses to give the ratio between the increase in in-
tensity of stimuli and the discriminative sensibility.


A slight increase of stimulus just above the
"threshhold" is discovered, but can not be de-
tected when the stimulus is greater. In order that
the intensity of a sensation should increase in
arithmetical progression, the stimulus must in-
crease in geometrical progression. Sully says :
"Observation does not fully support the generali-
zation ; that it holds good only with stimuli of
medium strength, and as we approach the thresh-
hold there are considerable deviations from it."*
But it applies to a sufficient number of cases to
show that the physical and mental are not two
sides of the same force, for then with every increase
of the one there must be an equivalent increase of
the other. The movement on the physical side by
a universal law of physics must be increased by
every increment of the stimulus. The deviations

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Online LibraryLuther A FoxEvidence of a future life : from reason and revelation → online text (page 14 of 19)