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of germinal matter in the immediate neighbourhood, taking
upon themselves increased growth and multiplication, and
absorbing the excess of nutrient matter present. The
germinal matter of the connective tissue of the pia mater

* See my Report on the Cattle Plague, 1865.



152 OF MIND.



and adjacent cerebral tissue, that of the vessels and pro-
bably also that of the large caudate nerve vesicles of the
grey matter, may all be involved by inflammatory change,
and the germinal matter taking part in mental nervous
action escape. I think that the mechanism concerned in
expression may undergo the most serious changes while
the highest form of germinal matter may escape, and even
retain its integrity; although there is no longer any pos-
sibility of proving that this is so, if the nerve apparatus
concerned in expression is -deranged or destroyed.

And I may further remark that different forms of germinal
matter in all parts of the organism suffer in inflammation in
different degrees and in different order. Generally those
which are of least importance, and which, as regards their
formative capacity, are lowest in the scale, are the first to
suffer. The germinal matter of epithelium and connective
tissue are soon affected ; that of the capillaries, including the
white blood-corpuscles, follows next in order ; then that of
fibrous tissue, cartilage, and bone, the germinal matter of the
muscular fibre-cells of the small arteries and veins ; while
that belonging to the voluntary muscles, that of the peripheral
nerve organs and the peripheral ramification of the nerves
is the last to be involved. In like manner the germinal
matter of the several tissues entering into the formation
of the great central nerve organs, is affected in different
order. The connective tissues, fibrous tissues, capillaries,
arteries, and veins being involved before the nerve elements
themselves are attacked, and of these the lowest as regards
function suffer before those which are concerned in the
most exalted nerve actions. These last seem to be pre-



LIVING MATTER CONCERNED. 153

served from damage for a long while, but when at last they
become involved, death succeeds, before time has elapsed
for any great degree of morbid change to have taken place;
while in other cases the germinal matter with the tissue may
have completely degenerated without the death of the indi-
vidual having been occasioned.

The living matter concerned in mental operations is
that which is last formed, and is probably the highest con-
dition which living matter has yet assumed. Like other
forms taking part in the formation of the various tissues
and organs belonging to the organism, it has been derived
by direct descent from the original germinal matter of the
embryo. From the growth and subdivision of that primitive
mass have resulted, and in definite and prearranged order,
numerous forms endowed with marvellously different powers.
But the germinal matter which forms cuticle, that which
produces fibrous tissue, muscle, nerve or bone, the germinal
matter which gives rise to biliary secretion, to the saliva,
and to the gastric juice, as well as that which takes part in
mental nervous action have, so to say, one common parent-
age ; and if, as these several forms are evolving themselves,
or are being evolved, the conditions which alone render pos-
sible progress towards their highest state becomes modified,
the attainment of perfection is prevented. Such cases are
familiar to us under the term arrested development, in which,
up to a certain period of life, everything seems to have
proceeded correctly, but then in consequence of some dis-
turbing action modifying the process of nutrition and affect-
ing the division and subdivision of the germinal matter,
the structures which would at length have resulted in due



154



OF MIND.



course can never be formed. Of all the changes originating
in this way, those affecting the germinal matter taking part
in the development of the higher parts of the nervous
system of man lead to the most disastrous results. That
gradual development of the mental powers after the indi-
vidual has ceased to grow, which is one of the most re-
markable of the characters by which man is marked off
from the lower animals, is rendered impossible, and the
mental powers of the child or of the infant remain asso-
ciated with the organism of the adult.

The new powers which germinal matter acquires as
development advances arise in some way as the new
centres (nuclei, nucleoli) originate in pre-existing centres,
when, it may be said, matter comes under the influence of
the vital immaterial agency, and sets out upon a new
course which has been appointed. How the new powers
which it has acquired are communicated to it, it is as im-
possible to suggest as it is to explain how these new centres
originate. And it may be asked what is to be understood
by " centre," for it is obvious that the centre demonstrated
by low powers has within it numerous centres, as may be
proved by examination under glasses magnifying very
highly, and there is reason to believe that if our powers
were increased ten, twenty, or a hundred-fold, we should
approach but a little nearer to the unrealisable actual
centre; and I can conceive that in the highest forms of
germinal matter new centres of living matter are constantly
welling up, as it were, in already existing centres, having
within themselves infinite and inexhaustible power for the
endowment of new centres.



EFFECTS OF EXERCISE. 1 5 5

The germinal matter taking part in mental action, like
other forms, is no doubt liable to defective as well as irregular
and monstrous growth, even during and after the adult period
of life. These changes, which may be temporary or per-
manent, are probably more under the immediate influence
of the will than is the case as regards changes in other
forms of germinal matter. But there can, I imagine be
little doubt that, just as by exercise up to, and in many
cases even after, the middle period of life, we are enabled
to increase the power of certain muscles and the perfec-
tion of certain movements which are associated with in-
creased formation of nerves and nerve-cells in the nerve
centre governing them : so, by habitually indulging in
certain trains of thought, we may perhaps effect the
increase of the germinal matter concerned, until at last
this preponderates so much over other portions taking part
in other kinds of mental action that it alone is exercised,
while the rest remains hardly active at all or quite dor-
mant. Every lunatic asylum affords what I conceive to be
examples of this, and it is not impossible in certain
instances to distinguish the cases in which the mental
living matter itself is deranged from those in which the
mechanism concerned in the expression of ideas is the
seat of disease. On the other hand, what remarkable
instances do we meet with of the gradual but continuous
improvement of the mental powers even in advanced life,
where they have been subjected to unremitting but judi-
cious exercise from early youth onwards !

The mental excitement and incoherence, followed by
complete suspension of mental powers, which occur in
inflammation and other conditions where the germinal



156 OF MIND.



matter takes up an abnormal proportion of nutrient mate-
rial, are readily explained, as are also those cases in which
impaired intellectual action follows as a consequence of
the disease. Where the morbid change has proceeded to a
considerable extent, there may be permanent impairment,
while in cases where only slight change has occurred,
only temporary derangement may result.

Of the Nature of Will, and of the Life of Germinal
Matter taking part in Mental' Operations. Many considera-
tions lead me to conclude that will, so far from being a
result of certain chemical changes induced in matter, should
rather be regarded as the power which influences the material
particles and causes them to move and take up new positions.
It seems to me that this power is of the same order as that
which induces the movements in germinal matter, and which
I have ventured to call vital power. I conceive that the
change in form of the germinal matter is a consequence of
some influence exerted upon the particles immediately pre-
ceding their movement. This active cause, the nature of
which we know nothing, and which gives rise, we know not
how, to material changes which, in the case of some of the
lower forms of living matter, can be seen distinctly, con-
stitutes the vital power of the germinal matter. This is, as
it were, the starting point of all those complex phenomena
which occur whenever a voluntary, act is performed, and, as
regards the material changes in the germinal matter con-
cerned in mental operations, is the mind. The germinal or
living matter may be said to be the domicile of the ego;
but so rough are our methods of investigation that when
we commence to search for the ego we destroy its habitation,
and the ego escapes whither we cannot follow it. The par-



NA TURE OF WILL. 1 5 7

tides of the matter which were directed and changed by it

may be directed and changed in new ways ; but it is absurd

to think we can discover the directing, changing ego in the

dead and disintegrated matter which remains after it has

gone, and equally absurd to deny its existence because we

cannot find it, or to affirm that it is mere force which has

changed its mode or form. Certainly the dead matter we

see and touch may in some sense be regarded as having

once formed a part of the material framework of the living

being, but it was then in a very different state, for that

which gave it body and made it what it was has since gone.

To assert that the material elements of the grey matter of

the brain of a dead man are all that constituted the active

living organ of the mind, would, indeed be strange. It is

that which has escaped that alone acted through the living

matter upon the mechanism which is subordinated to it.

But the mechanism may work although in a different way

if affected by other influences. A chance breath of air

may throw the strings of the lyre into vibration and longing

listeners may even think they hear the measured strains

they know so well, but it is soon discovered how different

are the accidental unmeaning notes from the harmonious

cadences in which the successive undulations of the mind

were wont to be expressed. Again, the instrument may

be deranged, in which case not a conception of the most

vivid imagination can make itself known. The learned

declare that an instrument is hopelessly out of order, and

consider that that is all that need be thought or said about

the matter.

If my conclusions tend towards the truth, it almost
follows that before we can be in a position to form an



158 OF MIND.



opinion upon the nature of a mental process we must at
least be able to form a conception of the actions which
immediately precede the observed changes of form in a
mass of very simple living matter that can be easily subjected
to investigation, and of the antecedent change which determines
these actions. But unfortunately at present we have no means
of investigating this most important question. We cannot
explain why one part of a living mass should move in ad-
vance of another. To say the movement must be the con-
sequence of some antecedent phenomenon will only satisfy
those who are content to receive arbitrary assertions in
place of explanations. The supposed antecedent phe-
nomenon is unknown, and is, perhaps, in the present state of
things, unknowable. It is probably altogether wrong to use
the word phenomenon here at all, the antecedent in this case
not being a phenomenon. Until the movements of the living
matter of an amoeba or a white blood-corpuscle have been
satisfactorily accounted for, it is not likely we shall be able
to arrive at any positive conclusions concerning the nature
of the actual changes in the living matter which determine
mental nervous actions, but it is surely a step in advance if
it is rendered probable that these are intimately related to
the vital changes in germinal or living matter. The argu-
ments I have advanced in favour of the view that the highest
mental actions are associated with vital movements, and
are, in fact vital actions occurring in living matter, appear
to me to be justified by the facts I have adduced ; and
although there seems to be at present no possibility of
actual proof, I venture to think that the evidence upon
which my view rests, indirect though it be, will not be
regarded as inconclusive.



NOTE.

*** Since the first edition of this work was published, Mr. Huxley's
essay on the " Physical Basis of Life," has been submitted to a very just
but clear and searching philosophical criticism by Mr. James Hutchison
Stirling, of Edinburgh, whose excellent treatise I very strongly recom-
mend my readers carefully to study. I should have taken from it many
extracts, but the work is easily obtained, and readers should see it in a
complete form. Mr. Stirling concludes in the following words, "In
short the whole position of Mr. Huxley, that all organisms consist
alike of the same life matter, which life matter is, for its part, due to
chemistry, must be pronounced untenable nor less untenable the
materialism he would found on it."

" As regards Protoplasm in relation to Professor
Huxley's essay on the Physical Basis of Life," by James
Hutchison Stirling, F.R.C.S., LL.D. Edinburgh : William
Blackwood and Sons. is.



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Online LibraryLionel S. (Lionel Smith) BealeProtoplasm : or, Life, matter, and mind → online text (page 12 of 12)