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when a spirit rules to assign her to the pauper's gallery, as not quite presentable close to the stage of brilliant analysis! She sits and sees motion converted into heat, the lines of Orion's atmosphere described, chronology knocked away from under Adam's feet and fall, the cerebral and nervous system hunted down to within an inch of her life, and the final stroke only suspended out of regard to her feelings, but in amazement that she is present there at all. She listens to the proof of her functional position as the efflorescence of the polyp through a vast gradation of improving epochs. The Perseus of science, behind his fossil shield, waits till she, too, petrifies.
We need not trouble ourselves with the confusion of tongues which has descended upon theology. That is no longer of consequence while human nature is laid waste by this incursion of all the facts and all the conjectures. They penetrate into the solemn presence of our primitive beliefs, where that senate sits in composed silence. One of them, bolder than the rest, stretches forth his hand towards the Ancient of Days, and then a slaughter of the whole is easy.
When we look closely at the mental confusion that prevails, we find that it can be classified, dropping out the consideration of varying intelligence, and noting only its relation to spiritual ideas. There is a class of persons to whom the phrase, “invisible world,” has no meaning. They have learned to consider that the universe is occupied with the functions of matter, and that whatever these displace is superfluous and fantastical. There are more things in heaven and earth than we dream of; but, as fast as they are discovered, we find they are only things. This is the class that gets accentuated according to temperament, or divided into sub-classes; such as the one whose special distinction is to derive the moral law from the combinations of birth and physical organization, and to reduce accountability to a table of probable recurrences of vice and virtue. The distinction of another is to be incapable of conceiving of a personal continuance after the bodily functions are exhausted, or even of a transformation of its elemental force into some other element. And others surmise that the emotions of the friend, the lover, the poet and musician, the gladness that rises from the
heart's meadow and sings its path deep into the sky, the profound regret of self-dissatisfaction, the hungry and eager scent of the imagination upon some trail, the music as it opens, the straining of the body's leash outward towards some depth, and down through some perspective, to overtake fulfilment,—that all this is molecular distribution and arrangement, as the nimble atoms of the organism cling or fly apart, and assemble in varying ratios to condense a protean force. Whatever a man thinks that he feels is nothing but the rotation of these microscopic spheres. His most sanguine aspirations have been only the lifting of his brain, as the increased action of the heart sends blood to make it fit closely to the skull. And when it shrinks, that is his only mortification and regret. And when he is flush with perfectly assimilated food, it is his only manliness and ethical ability, his capacity for patriotism, to sacrifice his stimulated atoms upon the bed of honor. The very words we use, that pretend to independent beauty, are nothing but the dominos that conceal till midnight the hollowness of the masquerade.
We must not be deceived by a general healthiness of disposition that preserves people, who are profoundly materialistic, in moral relations with society, and secures from them many a noble action. Their hearts are nevertheless deeply stirred with regret and vexation as scientific facts encamp before the great natural reliances, besiege and undermine them. A man will learn to confide in the unvarying operations of laws, which persist in showing, by all public and domestic circumstances, that providence is only nature's obedience. But his admiration at the spectacle of consistency, does not quiet the heart, which inherited from father and mother, and from all parents of all mankind, the feeling that exacts paternity, and claims it at the hand of law, and puts all forces at the disposal of a Person. At the very moment when his mind lias plunged the world into the impassive ocean of mere sequence, and stamps upon it, waiting till it drown, there is a native revulsion at the deed. He drags it forth again, to listen if the heart yet beats. He is distracted between the inexorable facts and his equally inexorable hunger to regard himself as not a pawn of fate, but entitled to divine consideration by virtue of some moral and spiritual free
dom, which has a casting vote, or at least an influence in framing him. He sees a man's soul entirely disappear under pressure upon the brain, or submit to a modification of its qualities by removal of some portion of the cerebral material. A youth living in Chicago, who was very dull, and showed no tendency for anything, became a great lover of music, and a player upon the fute, after an accident to the head, by which he lost a portion of the brain. Can talent, then, be scooped in or out of the personality, or is the head a kaleidoscope which need only be well shaken to vary indefinitely its combinations? Professor Lourdat, of Montpelier, suffered from a typhoid fever, which destroyed the memory of five or six laborious years, so that he was obliged to recommence his medical studies from the beginning. What and where, then, was the substance of his person? If his knowledge lay minutely packed in brain-cells, was the soul merely a force that secures their normal action? The soul either shared, or did not share, this knowledge. If it did, the total wreck of memory is inexplicable. Death might do the same. If it did not, the brain's function is the only person. And there was George Nickern, of New Orleans, nearly killed by a fall from a platform, who lay unconscious several weeks.
He recovered his health and powers of mind, excepting memory. His new memory only dates from his recovery. Everything previous to that has been obliterated, and he is forced to learn his English and German again like a child. What relation, then, has memory to personal identity? We read in a foreign periodical the well-attested case of a workingman, well advanced in years, who had a violent attack of cholera in 1865. Up to that time he was coarse-grained, and stolid, and had manifested no spark of literary feeling or ability: but he emerged from the crisis of his malady with a lively fancy, and a strong capacity for literary expression; and he has published a volume of poems. Can cholera, then, fortunately also induce collapse of poetasters, who already lie under suspicion of living without soul?
But what is this arbitrament of change in the blood corpuscles, and deliquescence of the body's strength, which mounts with new spiritual expressions to the brain ? A man asks these questions with fear and wonder. He
watches nourishment as it eventuates in intellectual action, and narcotics exhale in fantasy: he traces melancholy and self-distrust to scrofulous conditions of the blood; temper and passion to hysteria; ideas of crime to chronic dyspepsia; the vices of forgotten ancestors create the bias of their posterity. He goes to hear the two-headed girl sing two parts of an air at once; and, finding that one trunk and one stomach buds, Astræa-like, into two brains, he is perplexed to decide where the real person is, or whether death itself will be able to establish two. And if the soul be, as Swedenborg affirms, in the form of a whole human frame, how can one frame be endowed with two spiritual essences? He gathers the accounts of foresight and adaptation displayed by the intelligence of animals, who seem able to invent new stratagems, to reflect upon unexpected conditions, and make them the grounds of fresh behavior; and he is incapable of assuming a difference in kind between this power of independent observation and his own, so that, if the one be purely automatic and instinctive, why, he surmises, should not the other be? The facts assail his instinct of independent personality; and he sees them springing out of all the graves upon the planet, the only things left vital enough to rise there, and to mark those pits of nothingness. But let one open near to him, and the old heart of mankind looks down through his eyes into a bottomless depth of personal continuance. He longs against, conspires against, rages against, the facts; glories in science, and yet accuses her; gives back her level and immutable look to-day, but to-morrow cannot see it for his tears.
What a country is this, that appears to smile from Atlantic to Pacific with strenuous satisfaction, as if all intelligences only cared to orient themselves through the Golden Gate, and overtake and out-time the light itself with their enlightenment! But there is not one commonwealth of the whole varied surface, over which the tracks of science are laid, that does not ache with the secret suspicion that we can only know what we perceive, and cannot touch higher than the arms will reach. Enterprise and competition blunt this instinctive disappointment, and the thin film of manners obscures it; but you may count upon it as
a prevailing quality of the times to which you are to bring the disinfectant of religion.
It is the gravest part of the service that you are to render to your fellow men, to restore the primitive truths and expectations of religion to their place in the critical intelligence. Nothing that you can do against separate vices, or characteristic excesses of the people, nothing to refine the average ambition, will avail like this to reconcile the finite with the infinite. You step from this secluded place into a mental transition that will swallow you up contemptuously if you undertake to pacify and convert it by the old didactic methods. Such a serious piece of work never devolved upon the servants of ideal truth. If you
follow certain denominational modes of action, that relate to church-extension, and the concentration of parochial life, I predict that you will gain a parish, and lose your hold upon the vital exigency of the times. Not even if you run in debt for stained windows and high-priced exclusiveness, and borrow from abroad cathedral habits and perspectives, which are for us like an opera imported in a hand-organ, will you succeed in stanching the country's wound. What does the deep distrust of American intelligence care for your elaborate service, with a leviathan of an organ wallowing and tossing up sonorous phrases at one end of the decorum, while you vie with it in a chest voice at the other end, to declare that the Lord is your shepherd, you will not want; or, “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him”? Distrust is not dissipated by the ästhetics of matins and vespers, even if you use them as a fine flourish of religiosity to introduce your faded sermon upon virtue or the miracles. And it is doubtful if, should you arrive at all the social advantages of vestries, with arrangements for unlimited tea and toast and clerical gossiping, for a united congregation, will much be done towards lifting the sublime shapes of God and immortality upon their pedestal of science. All the amiable and social feelings will hold a parish, like a club, together, provided you can also supply a pretty fair article of rhetoric, and, by manipulating the stock subjects of the pulpit, preserve the pews at their original estimate, or enhance them to the despair of would-be listeners. Will you mistake this for success? Twenty years of such a