David Meredith Reese.

Phrenology known by its fruits; being a brief review of Doctor Brigham's late work, entitled Observations on the influence of religion upon the health and physical welfare of mankind. online

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Online LibraryDavid Meredith ReesePhrenology known by its fruits; being a brief review of Doctor Brigham's late work, entitled Observations on the influence of religion upon the health and physical welfare of mankind. → online text (page 1 of 12)
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BF 885 .R3 R47 1836
ReeseT-Bavid. Meredith, 1800

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Phrenology known by^rts

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♦• There seemeth to be a superfluity of books — but, shell no mere be made T
Yea! make more good books — which, like the ^eroeut of Moses, may devour
the serpenta of the enchanters." — ^Lokd Bacon.



Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1836, by David
Meredith Reese, M. D., in the Clerk's Office of the Distiict Court
o£ the Southern District of New- York.


No. Thomoc-street.




Dear Sm —

Your well known hostility to the whole Phreno-
logical fabric — because of your well founded apprehen-
sions of its deplorable moral influence — as well as the
profound esteem and respect I have always entertained
for your personal and professional character, have
emboldened me in the dedication of this humble effort
to you.

Accept, Sir, this small token of my affectionate
regard and friendship.


New -York, Octoher \st, 1836.


The author of the following pages, having more than once had
occasion to appear before the public in the unenviable character
of a poiemick, had become weary of controversy. With increas-
ing years, he had thought to have shielded the sword of wordy
conflict in its peaceful scabbard, and whether he had become
wiser or not, he verily thought to have "learned war no more."
In this pacific purpose he found no small share of self compla-
cency, and was already employing his leisure hours in the quiet
avocations of reading and study, preparatory to the completion of
some literary efforts, which have been long contemplated, and
still lie unfinished upon his escritoir, among the few manuscripts
which his time and opportunities have allowed him to begin, with
no other result than to " report progress."

After such a resolution to retreat from the din of polemical
strife, some explanation of the motives for his suddenly emerging
from his obscurity is due to his friends, to whom his purpose had
been communicated, and who will be surprised, and some of them,
perhaps, grieved, that he should so soon buckle on his armour.
To such he will only need to say, that the work of Dr. Brigham
had not then appeared, which has called forth this reply, nor was
it until a short time since, that it came under his notice. His at-
tention was first directed to it, by a distinguished literary friend,
in the city of Washington, who, in a letter referring to the work,
earnestly urged the importance of an early antidote to the moral
poison it contained, and made an appeal to the author, for a prompt
attempt to repel this assault upon both medical and theological
truth, and to refute the heresies it contains against science, as well
as religion. This appeal was rendered irresistible, by the im-
portunity of other judicious friends, who overcame all scruples
against farther controversial v/riting, by alleging that the minds
of the young and rising generation would readily imbibe the
prejudices against religion which Dr. B.'s book is so obviously
calculated to inculcate, coming as it purports to do, from a regu-


larly educated physician, and shielded from suspicion by tlic pre-
text of being dictated by iiliilosophy and science, and under the
imposing guise of a " profound respect" for religion itself. And
they still further urged the writer to this unwelcome service, by
the consideration that the characterof the work was such, embra-
cing the subjects of health and disease, and especially by reason
of the observations on insanity, that none but a physician could
be appropriately expected to reply to it. Constrained to concur
with them in the opinion that the book imperiously called for an
answer, the author has yielded to their judgment, rather than his
own, in becoming the writer of the following pages, but not until
he had waited several months in vain, in the hope that another
would undertake it.

Ever aware of the imperfections of his wisdom and piety, and
peculiarly sensible of his liability to an excess of zeal, and occa-
sionally to a degree of causticity in manner and style, the author,
while he regrets this torrid temperament, which may be ascribed
to his physical and phrenological " organization," can offer no
apology for " calling things by their right names." Towards the
author under review, he is conscious of no sentiment inconsis-
tent -with " the law of love ;" but with the book which bears his
name, he has no fellowship, and he is free to avow that he con-
temns and even abhors the errors on which he has animadverted,
and he "loves to abhor them." He has no kindred affiliation
with the sentiment, that because a man is a professor of the reli-
gion which inculcates " love to all men," that he is, therefore, to
** suffer sin in his neighb'^r" without uttering reproof; or to " pro-
phecy smooth things," when the *' citadel of this world's hopes,
the sacred edifice of our holy religion," is approached by the
brand of an incendiary, even though he should be "transformed
into an angel of light," or attempt the deed of darkness under
the specious guise of philosophy, or " science, falsely so called."
In humble imitation of an apostle, he would " withstand him to
the face, because he is to cc be blamed ;" yet, in doing so with
the plainness of speech, and just indignation which the cause of
truth demands, he trusts he has not betrayed a spirit of vindio-
tiveness, or unbecoming censoriousness. If it shall so appear to
any friend of the truth, it will be a subject of regret, and to none
more sincerely than to himself, since it would grieve him to find
that the infirmity of the writer should thus deteriorate from the


usefulness of his effort. He can, therefore, only say to the reader
as his apology for imperfections either in matter or manner, that
the reason why the task has not heenhettei' performed, is for want
of an abler hand, a wiser head, and a better heart. That it has
not been earlier published, is wholly owing to the incessant avo-
cations which other and imperative duties have imposed, by
which he has been deprived of those hours of leisure which he
would gladly have devoted to the work, and by which he has been
constrained to prepare detached parts at intervals, sometimes of
weeks together, and to write chiefly during those kw hours which
a laborious profession render needful for repose.

Having written the whole under these disadvantages, the author
can scarcely say that he is himself satisfied with the manner of
the performnnce ; nor can he hope to escape the ban of reproba-
tion from that class of critics, who make a man "an offender for
a word." As, however, he does not write for reputation, nor yet
for money, in the present case, but wholly for the purpose to ex-
pose error and vindicate truth, irrespective of any minor or per-
sonal consideration, he will lie content to bear with what grace he
may, the condemnatory sentence of such as demand perfect
symmetry of elocution in every page of an original work. He
"could not meet their requisitions if he would," and, in sober
verity, he may add, he " would not if he could." To have his
sentences stereotyped into conformity witli their archetype,
■would afflict him as grievously as to distort his own limbs, and
limit his locomotion by a straight jacket.

In respect to the views he expresses of Phrenology, and the
disrespect with which he treats that " science," the author deems
it proper to inform the reader, that his own opinions on that sub-
ject have recently undergone an entire revolution. Attracted by
the learning and labors of Gall, and admiring the genius and un-
tiring industry of Spurzheim, with many others he had hailed
phrenology as a science, and even jiartially invested craniology
itself with the merits of a philosophical system. It was, how-
ever, with anatomical views entirely that he had looked upon the
subject with f^ivor, and he had not been led to investigate its mo-
ral aspect or tendency until recently. He had regarded the
light which phrenologists claimed to have thrown upon tlie struo-
ture and functions of the brain, as calculated to contribute to the
business of education, to aid in some questions of medical juria*


prudence, and to facilitate the curative management of certain
obscure diseases of the head. Thus far he was disposed to look
into phrenology, and though aware of the crude and imperfect
condition of its doctrines, and the arbitrary character of niany of
its dogmas, still he hoped that as it should be studied and impro-
ved, valuable contributions to our stock of knowledge miglit be
the result. An expression of these views, has identified him
nominally with one or more phrenological societies, abroad as
well as at home; and he had consented thereto, that he might
learn whatever truth might be discovered, which could be useful
in his profession His relation, however, was purely nominal,
for he never found either leisure or inclination to attend a meeting
on the subject, nor ever thought it needful even to acknowledge in
any way, the compliment conferred by those phrenological socie-
ties wlio have elected him a corresponding member.

Some months since, however, he was led to consider the subject
for the first time, in its moral aspect, with the view of writing a
paper, which he had been invited to prepare for one of the " re-
views," vindicating Phrenology from the charge alleged by its
enemies, that it " savoured of materialism." Having thus been
constrained to look into Gall, Spurzheim, and others, with this
object in view, and thus brought to study hooks, into which before
he had only glanced by occasional reference, he was surprised to
find that all the evidence these works afforded was just that which
he did not want, and which until now, though often rallied on
the subject, he had not believed. He was, therefore, obliged to
decline preparing the proposed paper, and resolved to leave the
vindication of phrenology to others. Indeed, he then resolved to
abstain from the subject wholly, until it could be vindicated by
Bomebody, or until he could cultivate it in works written by other
than infidels.

Soon after this resolution was formed, it was confirmed by the
following circumstance. A friend of the author, himself a phre-
nologist, confessed that his religious convictions had been shaken,
and a most hazardous and df^plorable species of scepticism had
supervened. Being somewhat shocked at this unexpected dis-
closure, and led to remonstrate against what was truly regarded
as a calaMiity, it was soon manifested by unequivocal evidence,
that a SMMieu'hat ardent cultivation of phrenology, was the direct


and obvious cause. And notwithstanding the writer had become
fully persuaded of the infidelity of both Gall and Spurzheim, and
had often seen and heard the charge of materialism brought
tigainst the science by its enemies, he had never before had the
subject brought home to his heart.

Almost simultaneously with this event, the attention of the au-
thor was directed to the work of Dr. Brigham under notice, and
tlie convictions of the nature and tendency of phrenology, to
which his mind had arrived, he need scarcely say, were greatly
strengthened by its perusal. That the direct and legitimate ten-
dency of phrenology and craniology is to neology and essential
atheism, appeared to be demonstrated in the case of Dr. Brigham
and his book, and the author felt that the evidence here furnished
must be irresistible to every candid mind. He has little doubt,
that multitudes like himself, have been beguiled by the plausible
aspect of the system, anatomically considered, irrespective of its
moral tendency. And now that it is exemplified, as in the in-
stance before us, that the cultivation of this subject leads to coarso
infidelity and irreligion, it appears to be the dictate of duty that
all such should abjure their adhesion, or even connivance at the
subject. And even those who have regarded this species of
philosophy as a harmless humbug, impotent for good or evil ; a
mere puerile speculation, which might be innocently indulged by
children and fools, may discover their error in the light which
this work throws upon the subject, by its melancholy effect upon
its author.

As the following pages are designed as a reply to the work of
Dr. Brigham, though in the form of a review, it has been thought
necessary to indulge in some degree of amplification on two or
tliree important points. The prominence given in Dr. Brigham'g
book to the "religious sentiment," and upon which ignis fatuus,
the whole volume is based, has called for a more free and full
criticism, than it would otherwise be entitled to. And the extent
of his chapter on " revivals of religion,'^ against which Dr. B. has
put forth all his strength, together with the importance of the
subject, has required a more theological examination of that
topic, than under other circumstances would be expected from a
medical man, while the unphilosophical and mischievous doc-
trines in relation to the nature and causes of insanity, with which



tlxc "observations" of Dr. B. abound, have eeemed to demand a
somewhat extended notice of this whole subject. The hints
which are introduced with reference to the management of insane
persons, ahliough they may be somewliat novel to many, are the
result of no small share of diligent investigation of the subject,
and some considerable practical experience in the treatment of
diseases of the brain. Whether the theory of insanity, and the
«irative agencies deduced therefrom, which are here submitted,
will meet the favor of his professional brethren or not, the author
has full confidence that practical men will estim;ite them for what
they are worth. He trusts, however, that he has fully succeeded
in vindicating religion from the charge of being the cause of in-
sanity, and this is the important point at which he aims; nor, in
what ho has said on this whole subject, has he introduced a single
remark which is not designedly tributary to this primary object.

No one can candidly peruse the observations of Dr. Brigham,
without becoming lamentably assured, not only that he has fallen
into the mysticism of infidel philosophy, but it is equally clear
tiiat iiis scepticism has been recently acquired, ajul tiiat he is
wholly indebted for his present " bad eminence," to his reception
and cultivation of the science of phrenology. A remnant of the
" old leaven" still lingers in his mind, and though he has left the
vantage ground of truth, yet he retains sufficient respect for cer-
tain correct principles, to prevent his discovering fi-om what a
height, and into what a depth he lias fallen. Would that he might
pause, before the last ray of '* light that is in him becomes dark*
ness !" May the writer add, without presumption and without
offence, would to God that this reply to his book, might be instru-
mental in discovering to himself the fearful havoc upon his prin-
ciples which phrenology has wrought, and lead him to escape the
withering influence which has well nigh overwhelmed his

With such feelings, these pages are committed to the press, and
the humble hope is indulged, that they may be useful to the rising
generation ; and should they " pluck some brand out of the burn-
ing," or rescue one victim out of the devouring jaws of phreno-
logy, infidelity, and irreligion, this effort will never prove a source
of regret, whatever fate may be awarded to




Observations on the Influence of Religion ujwn the
Health and Physical Welfare of Mankind, By
Amariah Brigham, M, D. Boston : Marsh,
Capen & Lyon. 1835.'

r: »

Such being the title page of the work, which
has elicited the following pages, the reader will
perceive that, as its name imports, the book is of
a compound nature, being professedly both scien-
tific and religious. It is on this account, that our
criticisms must necessarily partake of the same
medico-theological character. And as we have
chosen the form and style of a review, for conve-
nience and greater brevity, we must be indulged
with a series of preliminary observations, without


being accused of introducing irrelevant topics, or
being justly chargeable with circumlocution,
since the design of this exordium is so obvious.
We wish to glance at the whole •* order" o{ jpseudo-
religious writers, which includes a diversity of
"genera and species," with a view that Dr.
Brigham's book ma}^ be classified by the reader
according to its merits ; and we do this because
the important bearings of the subjects upon which
he treats, will not be so apparent, if it be viewed
abstractly from kindred publications.

The Divine authority of the Hoty Bible, and
the truth of that system o^ Religion, denominated
Christianity, which is therein revealed, have been
so often demonstrated by the presentation of the
evidences and proofs which accompany both the
one and the other, that he who avows his infidelity,
at the present day, is justly regarded as proclaim-
ing his deficiency either of candor or intelligence.
And that such estimate of scepticism on these
subjects, is neither uncharitable nor unmerited,
receives confirmation from the well knov/n fact,
that very many of the most learned and able
among the enemies of the truth, have embraced
Christianity, and espoused the cause of the Bible,
so soon as their intelligence and candor permitted
a sober examination of these important subjects.
They had previously rejected the Scriptures,
without having investigated their merits, and, in
many instances, without having read the sacred


volume ; and their knowledge of our holy religion
having been derived from the writings and testi-
monies of its enemies, they were necessarily igno-
rant of its true nature, and blind alike to its claims
and its authority.

These examples have been so numerous in
every age, that the enemies of the truth have, for
the most part, despaired of making proselytes,
except by the art of depreciating or concealing
the sacred volume; and hence, the propagators
of every species of false religion, as well as the
advocates of irreligion, have expended all their
ingenuity in the effort to extinguish or obscure this
*'lamp of life." Priestcraft, when enlisted in an
unhallowed conspiracy against the truth, has
chosen for its motto, the convenient maxim, that
" ignorance is the mother of devotion," and hence
labored to close the volume of inspiration from
vulgar eyes, and claimed the book of God, de-
signed by Him to be the common property of all,
as the sole inheritance of their own order — arro-
gating the exclusive proprietorship both of its
possession and interpretation. Other enemies
have more plausibly, yet with equally hostile and
pernicious designs, corrupted and falsified the
contents of the " Book of Books," and by new
and unauthorized translations, forced interpreta-
tions, and pretended improvements, have grossly
and wantonly perverted the sacred text, and thus
conformed the revelation of Jehovah to their own


creeds and dogmas. These corrupted Scriptures,
they liberally consent, may be distributed and
read by all, and they claim for these the same
authority as though they had the seal of genuine-
ness and authenticity which the unadulterated
** word of God " bears on its front, the impress
of the Holy Ghost.

But while such are the devices of those who
claim to be religionists, and yet are the enemies
of the truth, there are those who seek, by mis-
representation of the sacred volume — by denying
the truth of its chronology — by questioning the
facts of its history — by declaiming against its
miracles and mysteries — and by the force of sar-
casm and ridicule, to cast it into utter contempt
and abhorrence, and they thus hope to inculcate
absolute irreligion, and teach men to despise the
Bible and the God of the Bible. These, however,
though the most virulent, are nevertheless the
least dangerous of all the foes of the truth, for
their very deformity renders them incapable of
extensive mischief. Every semblance of argu-
ment which their ablest champions have ever pro-
duced, and every vestige of their sophistry and
and false philosophy, have been fully and unan-
swerably met and refuted, and all their weapons
have been thus made to recoil upon their own
heads, by the contributions of those, whose sancti-
fied learning has been consecrated to the vindica-
tion of the truth.


So signal has been the defeat, so utter the over-
throw of the mightiest among the ranks of infi-
delity, during the last and present century, and
so multiplied are the tropliies of victory which en-
lightened philosophy, and the discoveries of sci-
ence, have furnished over the enemies of the Chris-
tian revelation, that few can be found in any
country, who make pretensions to real learning,
and yet have the temerity to proclaim themselves
the advocates of open and avowed infidelity. But
we are not thence to infer that there is less dispo-
sition to oppose the truth of God, or that the rejec-
ters of Divine revelation have abandoned their
hostility to Christianity. If such inference should
be drawn, it would be erroneous indeed, since
facts, deplorable facts, in our own and other coun-
tries, alas, too visibly demonstrate the con-

The infidelity of the heart, is one of the cha-
racteristics of fallen human nature, and it often
lingers here, after it has been driven from the
head by the force of truth, and clamors most loudly
when thus imprisoned. Indeed, in this fact, so
clearly and pathetically taught by the pen of in-
spiration, and so universally felt and seen in our
experience and observation, we have an argumeii-
tum ad homific?n, in fiivor of the truth of Divine
Revelation, which is and must be forever unan-
swerable ; and it is no marvel that so many have


been thus constrained to bow to the majesty of
truth, upon whom other and even potent means
had been employed in vain. But alas ! in a mul-
titude of instances, those who cannot resist the
external and internal evidences of Christianity,
as a system, nor gainsay the array of logical and
learned argumentation with which its enemies
have been confounded by the wise and good, are
nevertheless impelled by the infidelity of the
heart, to enter upon a warfare against some of the
distinguishing aiid essential features of the system,
either singly or together, while disavowing any
hostility to the system itself.

These who denominate themselves rational,
philosophical, or liberal Christians, are by far the
most dangerous, and most successful opposers of
the truth. They profess respect, and even reve-
rence for the Bible, and denominate it Holy ; and
in all their religious nomenclature, but little vari-
ation from the ordinary language of orthodoxy can
be detected by a superficial observer, while they
nevertheless utterly reject the doctrine of Divine
inspiration. They speak of " our Savior and
blessed Lord," though they disbelieve and deny
his Divinity, holding him to have been either " a
man, a mere man, a good man, a super-human, an
angelic, or super-angelic being,*'^ or perhaps a
*' greater than Moses, but less than God.^* They
even discourse upon the efficacy of his " suffer-
ings and death," and the " value of his blood,"


while at the same time they deny his " vicarious
sacrifice,*' and reject the scriptural doctrine of
the " atonement for sin." Such will even dwell
upon the " evangelical doctrine of regeneration,"
and sanctification, in Scripture language, while in
their philosophy they wholly reject the doctrine
of " Divine influence," and believe in a religion
without spirituality, and will employ their sophis-
try, and even ridicule, against all claims to expe-

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Online LibraryDavid Meredith ReesePhrenology known by its fruits; being a brief review of Doctor Brigham's late work, entitled Observations on the influence of religion upon the health and physical welfare of mankind. → online text (page 1 of 12)