Gentle reader -- not to make this one of my speculations more labyrinthine than nature, for I hate unnatural mysteries -- I will not, after the manner of an oracle, leave my title undefined until the sequel, but will here tell thee that the "labyrinths" are our bodily senses through which the outer world wanders in to commune with the soul. For a little while let us wander in together after the manner of the world, and if the clew of my speculation bring us not to the penetralia as surely as that of Ariadne, we may at least promise ourselves a safe-conduct out again. Let us try to discover the kind of communion which the world and the soul are holding together, and the manner in which they hold it.
Long before I had known hasheesh, and walked its weird uplands in pursuit of the secrets of mind, a revelation flashed upon me which, by its powers of amazement and perplexity, made the time and place of its occurrence forever memorial within me. It was a revelation in the same way that lightning is a revelation, clear in itself, yet showing hitherto unknown hills of unbroken midnight in the distance. While yet a mere boy, I was standing one afternoon by the side of two thinkers who talked metaphysics without taking me into their counsels, for they had no thought of my busying myself with any thing but the outside of nature as I met her laughing in my rambles.
"Yes, it is beyond dispute that our senses give us only appearances and not things -- certain qualities of the essence, not the essence out of which they rise."
In these words there was nothing to frighten a mind of ordinarily reflective habits; no barricade of "subjective" and "objective," or any thing else technical which I had not yet learned to scale. I was smitten with a sudden interest; I did not perfectly appreciate the meaning of the sentence, but wandered to a little distance to sit down and think it over till I had made it mine. There was a meaning there which held out the strongest fascinations to discovery.
"Our senses give us only appearances, qualities, and not things." Perhaps, thought I, this is only a sophism hurled down as a sort of challenge for argument. These metaphysicians love to argue.
Of course, I did not have to look far for a test. I was leaning against a tree, and Sense, in the support given me by its trunk, seemed to be triumphantly asserting her acquaintance with things -- stanch and stout things at that.
But hold! I said to myself; what do I find out in leaning here, which makes me think that I have found a thing? Why, resistance, hardness, to be sure. And it is a fact, these are qualities only. But this is nothing but feeling; let me try the senses of smell and taste. By applying nose and tongue to the tree, I perceived a fresh woody savor -- quality still! I put my ear to the tree and struck it: still nothing but quality resulted, the capability to beget sound. I began to be alarmed for the dignity of the Sense, as I saw her chance of proving herself worthy of my past consideration narrowed down to one single organ -- the eye. Alas for her! Quality still -- a brown tint, a faculty of transmitting certain rays of light, and absorbing others. It seems strange now, but it is true that, with my knife, I began blazing the side of the tree, with a sort of fond flattery of the Sense that, though the qualities lay in the bark, "the thing" was to be detected lurking underneath. In a moment, however, I laughed perplexedly, realizing that I could make the matter no better if I hacked the tree through.
Here ended my first lesson upon the domain of the senses. I know that this incident in itself can claim no such interest as to make it part of an experience which one man, without obtrusiveness, may press upon another's ear; but I have related it, believing that it may recall to some reader here and there the circumstances under which he made the same discovery. Still further, I mention it, since it may be a sort of common ground of sympathy between author and reader, upon which will be better understood something which I wish to say upon the philosophic sufferings of a great mind which it is our duty to appreciate as well as (and indeed in order to) pity.
David Hume, after having been fêted, buried, and reviewed, has been quietly laid upon the shelf by many serious men of the present century, in that especial niche devoted to "celebrated infidels." According to our different acceptance of the term, this verdict will be just or unjust. If just, a careful and discriminating generation ought to manifest their coincidence with it by permitting him to lie under the index of obloquy. If unjust, the sentence will, sooner or later, infallibly be reversed, and whatever light, however slight a pencil any man possesses for the illustration of the matter, is due no less to truth than to the shade of a philosopher.
Infidelity properly classifies itself under two divisions -- infidelity of the heart and infidelity of the intellect. The first of these is a malignant displeasure at truth for the obligations which it imposes upon life. It begins in a powerfully-felt repulsion between righteousness and the selfish will; it sometimes goes avowedly no farther, but leaves a man unjust, licentious, and in all respects, where the prudence of selfishness does not itself curb him, totally iniquitous.
In the case, however, of those who have carried on the offensive warfare of infidelity, one step farther has been taken, an utter and public rejection, namely, of the claims of truth upon self-interest. With this step has been conferred the degree, if I may so speak, of Grand Master of the Order of Heart Infidelity. It is not necessary that the man thus advanced should be pre-eminent, even above believers, in the prodigal gratification of passion and interest; temperament, society, a multiplicity of circumstances may serve as steering oars to his course, but circumstances only will direct him. The impelling force to any imaginable excess is present with him, and the certain compass of a felt obligation is gone. According to circumstances, he will go large before the wind with the graceful curvetings of a Bolingbroke, or stagger in a drunken sea like Paine.
The infidelity of the intellect is an entirely different thing. It arises, not from a hatred, but from an incorrect apprehension of truth.
When we remember how fundamental a part of human nature it is to systematize the dicta both of the written and the unwritten revelations, to build up the fragmentary formulas which express the manifold relations of our being into something like an orderly edifice, we must wonder, not so much that error infallibly vitiates to an extent more or less fatal some part of the workmanship, as that any structure so far resists gravity as not to tumble down. Not that this imperfection is to be ascribed to the habit of systematizing, but to the fact that it is human nature which systematizes — human nature, which never in any one age sweeps all truth in a comprehensive view and realizes at once the tendencies of opinions, but of necessity looks at half truths through a distorting medium, and sees only the present result of speculations. A corner-stone laid awry, some premise whose falsity is unnoticed because it has the sanction of antique opinion, may render the whole superstructure out of line and unstable, although it be reared by the most cautious workmen with unsparing scrutiny of square and plummet. In a former century, while men were contented merely with the foundation walls of a system, it mattered little whether every block was laid with perfect accuracy; there was as yet no edifice to be affected in its permanency by the error of the ground-work. But when, in the course of time, "other men builded thereon," accepting it with perfect faith as the careful structure of a master whose name was spoken reverently among men, what wonder that they pointed afterward to the marks of considerateness and caution with which they had built up their secondary walls of inference into a philosophy, as a proof that they must necessarily be stable and faultless, however much some of their compeers doubted it, though refusing to acknowledge any fault in the foundation?
The infidels of intellect have as often resulted from arguing logically upon some falsehood, hitherto universally accepted as a truism, as from any distortion of real truths of sophistical deductions from good grounds. That, if Hume was an infidel, he became one thus, we think it easy to show. Almost as easy is it to prove that, properly speaking, he was not an infidel at all.
As a central point for the consideration of Hume's infidelity, let us take the year 1746, the year in which he stood candidate for the Edinburgh chair of Moral Philosophy, and by the vote of the authorities (no doubt with the most perfect propriety) was defeated on account of his views of religion. Against the action which excluded him from a professorship so rigorously demanding an incumbent of Spartan principles upon the subject which was to be his speciality, certainly no thinking man can have aught to say. The fact of the exclusion is mentioned merely for the sake of determining some date when his bias was generally recognized among the people, who had treated with such neglect his "Treatise on Human Nature," published nine years before. In 1746, then, he had reaped the title of infidel.
For at least half a century previous, the speculative mind of the greater part of Europe (dynamically as well as numerically greater) had been under the dominion of John Locke, whose "Essay upon the Human Understanding" had been brought to light in 1690. It is perhaps rather an insincere compliment to speak of any mind as "speculative" which expatiated merely within his prescribed area. The system which bore his name is too well known to ask a statement, especially within these limits. Its parent he could hardly be called; certainly not with any more justice than we could ascribe to the man who casually remarks that it is a cloudy day the parentage of that meteorological phenomenon. His system consists mainly in the discovery that people generally get such and such ideas about their thinking faculty; that the said people have pretty nearly hit the nail on the head, and that he is glad to tell them so; all authenticated by John Locke, his mark. The majority of mankind attend to the knowledge secured through their bodily organs more closely than to any other; they elaborate truth by thinking upon this knowledge; and thus all truth comes to us through the organs, modified to a greater or less extent by reflection. In fine, sense, and reflection on its data, the sources of all knowledge, form the governing principle, the "articulum stantis aut cadentis ecclesiæ" of the Lockian philosophy.
Into this philosophy Hume, like all the other contemporary minds of his nation, was born as regularly as into the monarchical form of government. It was the nursery of his childhood and the school of his youth; his mind, when it wanted exercise, must run out and play in John Locke's small back yard, or not stretch its limbs at all.
Now there came a time when David Hume arrived at the very same point of speculation which I have previously mentioned as reached, on my supposition, by most of us who think. Let us see how he reasoned. Suppose him in soliloquy:
"I find that my senses give me nothing but the phenomena of things -- tell me merely how objects act upon me. My eye acquaints me with color and outline; my ear with vibrations of diverse intensities; and so on with all the rest of the organs. All give qualities of things, operations which things have a capability to perform on me, appearances of things, but never things themselves. How do I know that they do not? By reflection, certainly; reflection on the data afforded by sense. But why do we all believe, and act upon the belief, that we see, hear, feel, smell, and taste things? It must no doubt be sense that tells us so; that is the only conjoint source of knowledge with reflection. Then I have within me, and so has every one else, two exactly opposite verdicts. I do know things, and I do not know them. Now which is the lie?"
Hume did not decide. He did not pretend to stand arbiter between these two conflicting juries, which Locke fifty years before had impanneled to settle infallibly, and without appeal, all the questions of human science. He only hung in perfect equipoise between the reality and the nonentity of all being, himself necessarily included. He became, as a strictly logical consequence of that teaching which he had drunk with his mother's milk, and which he would have rejected as much in peril of being called an unnatural son by all his contemporaries, a Pyrrhonist, a universal doubter. And who, in the name of all candor, was the parent of his Pyrrhonism? Who but John Locke, who, while a believer himself, because he did not bowl far enough in his own direction, had nevertheless opened up an easy track to the most comprehensive system of skepticism in the universe.
There may be those who will think that we have made out no better case for Hume by proving him a skeptic than an infidel. What difference exists, they ask, between doubting and disbelieving? Every possible difference. Belief and unbelief are often wrongly taken as antipodes merely on account of their antagonistic sound, and doubting is often confounded with the latter. Unbelief is, in fact, the same mental act as belief, directed by evidence or passion to a different set of statements. Doubt recognizes an equiponderance of evidence, or a total lack of evidence on both sides. Now the impulses of hate, pride, and a thousand others may bear a man's belief one way or another, and so vitiate the sincerity of a judgment which ought to found itself calmly on proof. Doubt, where it is real, can never be thus produced by impulse. To sit upon the exact centre of the beam, it must be calm. Therefore, so far as any man is a sincere skeptic, so far is he proved guiltless of the charge of hostility to either side.
I do not assert this perfect calm for Hume. In the present imperfect condition of humanity we act so universally from intricately mixed motives, that it would not be safe to assert a purely ideal sincerity for any one. Doubtless Hume was influenced in the after maintenance of his Pyrrhonist principles by many of those partisan considerations which weigh with us all. But in the first susception of his doubt, acting, as he did, upon the every-where acknowledged basis that Locke was right, no man could have been more logical, more calmly, philosophically sincere. Ratiocination, and not hostility to religion, was the original cause of his skepticism.
It is particularly unfortunate for a man when he is thrown into the society of those who, by flattering that in him which his better nature feels to be a blemish and a disadvantage, if not a crime, lull his pain at its existence, and even persuade him to believe that it is his honor. We have to observe an exemplification of such misfortune in Hume, who, but for being lauded and fêted as the Coryphæus of infidels, for whom he felt no cordial attraction, might have outlived his skepticism through draughts of a better philosophy, or, at least, have kept it to himself as his most mournful secret.
Allowing himself to be applauded as the infidel which he was not, he fortified within himself the skeptic which he was; but that he never made a whole-hearted consecration of himself, as some would misrepresent him, to the cause of a malignant and offensive unbelief, is evident from many facts in its history; such, for instance was his indignant rebuff of the pert wife of the atheist Mallet, who took the liberty of introducing herself to him at a soirée: "We free-thinkers ought to know each other, Mr. Hume." "I am no free-thinker, madam;" and, turning on his heel, he strode angrily away.
There is a letter of his, also, which I only quote from memory, in which he exhibits the man he would have been if left alone, declaring that he never sat down to a game of chess with a friend, and thus threw off his logical panoply, without feeling his doubts vanish and the reality of things return. Yet this very letter has been quoted in evidence of his insincerity, because, it is said, he was forced to reason that he might support his doubts. But what if reasoning infallibly sustained them? Was he to trust in Hume playing chess or in Hume reasoning?
By his unnatural conjunction with infidels, he subjected himself to bear the obloquy of their praise. By their praise, an antagonist spirit of denunciation was excited in the society of believers. Denounced, he must reply, for the sake of his pride and his partisans. And thus, from the sincerely perplexed doubter, he came to be considered, and in a certain, though a far less degree to be, the sneering foe of Christianity.
I have dwelt thus long upon Hume and the circumstances which have tended to give him his present reputation, and to set upon the stamp of an odium in many respects unjust, because he is an example not less striking than painful of the evil which may be wrought for a man by some unnoticed error in his mental philosophy. How easily an error which is the germ of all things hurtful may escape the notice of men who accept without examining, can be seen from the fact that the good John Locke (for he was good) was never advised of the skeptical inference from his doctrine, but died as perfectly satisfied with it as he had lived.
Most gratefully do I remember that, at the time of my first discovery of the legitimate domain of the senses, I was not left, like many others in similar case, and Hume as the representative of them all, to retreat hopelessly into a negation of all knowledge.
It is the privilege and the glory of this day that its dominant philosophy is Transcendental. Much as this word, like its kindred visionary, is in the mouth of hawkers of theological small ware -- much as it has been applied, by a perversion, to all systems of error and nonsense -- much as it has been branded for a stigma upon the forehead of thinkers who would not travel in a go-cart, the idea which it represents has been the regeneration of speculative philosophy. The Transcendentalists are, indeed, climbers over, as their name signifies, yet not over sound reasoning nor the definite principles of truth, but over that ring-fence of knowledge brought in through mere physical passages, with which a tyrannous oligarchy of reasoners would circumscribe all our wanderings in search of facts and laws.
Older than its oldest historic supporting names, Transcendentalism still found champions in the more enfranchised minds of Greece, and from them we come per saltum to its German champions of the latter half of the last, and the elapsed half of the present century. Kant, awakened, as there is some reason to think, by the very perplexity which set boundaries to the mind of Hume, stands forth as the resurrectionist of the long-buried idea, and is followed, with more or less nonessential departure from his main track, by Fichte, Hegel, and Schelling; for, although the first of the trio may be styled a pure idealist, he follows Kant pre-eminently in the assertion of far higher grounds of knowledge than the sense. It is complained that these men, and chief of all Kant, are unintelligible; that their phraseology is cumbrous and obscure. It is not difficult, however, for any mind in charity with the direction of their efforts to see abundant reason why it should be so.
In the first place, while their language (when they did not write in Latin, and when they did their German modes of thought still went with them) is the most plastic in the world to all the moulds of mind, while it admits of endless word-compounding to give roundness or definiteness to ideas, still, from this very fact, it tends toward obscurity, for the reason that the compounds so lengthen a sentence as to make it very difficult to carry the meaning from beginning to end.
In the second place, it is to be remembered that the ideas which these men had to communicate were to a great extent new -- new even to one who looked at them fragmentarily -- new particularly in their combinations as a system. They who set them forth were the pioneers of Transcendentalism; they had nothing ready to their hand, nothing open or clear; and the first entrance into a territory is always of necessity by a rugged path; it is for those who enter into their labors, who come in upon the ground which they have opened, to attend to grading the causeway. First the military road, after that the turnpike. As well may we quarrel with Captain John Smith for not laying a railway through the forests of Virginia, as with Kant for not smoothing the passage into a philosophy through which he was the first traveler. It was enough for him that he had grappled with great ideas and fixed them; let his successors attend to polishing their surface.
Third, it has been put out of sight by the prevalence of a philosophy which calls itself that of common sense, but is much worthier of being named that of commonplace, that metaphysics is as true and distinct a science as chemistry, with its own peculiar and inalienable ideas, and in virtue of that prerogative demands, both as necessity and right, symbols to express its ideas which shall be its own exclusive property. Let the phrases of distinction, "objective" and "subjective," be an example. "Objective" is everything which, in the processes of mind, is not myself, but extraneous to me; "subjective," all that is myself and my own individual part of the operation. Now the sense philosophy could have no possible use for any such words as these, since it recognizes nothing but a paper distinction between a man and his objects for all purposes of perception, all his knowledge being gained through sense, and flowing into him as its passive receptacle. So sense philosophy sneers at such technical phraseology as pedantic. But, supposing it capable of requiring some symbols for such ideas, it would most likely adopt "outward" and "inward." For speculations, or rather assertions, so little analytic and accurate as its own, these might do well enough; but how inert, how useless, how vague would they be where any subtle mental fact was to be definitely expressed. We wish to give the idea of the mind as examined by itself. Transcendentalists call this treating the mind "objectively." Our sense men would be compelled to say, treating it "outwardly." How definite would be the idea conveyed in that!
When we complain of the sailor for speaking of his masts as spars, instead of calling them sticks, to meet the comprehension of some land-lubber who will not take the pains to learn practical navigation -- when the chemist is sneered at for saying crucible instead of pot -- when, in fine, public opinion shall compel all men to talk of the delicacies of their arts in street slang or boudoir twaddle, then, and not till then, will it be time to deride the science, wherein, more than all others, rigorous exactitude of expression is required, for having a peculiar, even though it be not a universally intelligible language. This talk about the pedantry of metaphysics is something which the age should be ashamed of as behind it, yet even now we occasionally light upon some reviewer who, in strains of touching pathos, laments to the public that he finds it impossible to read Hickok's Rational Psychology to his wife of an evening on account of the doctor's pedantic technicality, which makes him a sealed book even to that gifted woman.
In general, it is safe to lay down this proposition as a rule: first look cursorily over a book upon Mind, to see whether its general character for neatness and system proves that its author is neither fool nor sloven; and then, reading it through carefully and with candor, you will find that in proportion to its technicality is it the repository of new and deeper truths. This, of course, is to be understood of those books on Mind which, according to De Quincey's division in his critique on Pope, belong to the literature of knowledge, and not the literature of power. The same habit of mental indolence, which is loosening the cords of our American literature -- the loving such books as read themselves to us while we lie half asleep on a sofa; the greed for dainties which may be swallowed whole, and which tickle at a moment's warning -- this habit it is which has deprived of nine tenths of his legitimate number of readers such a man, for instance, as Hickok. Almost the only real metaphysician of America, perhaps the greatest now living any where, and worthy to be classed with the strongest and deepest thinkers of any age or land, he has, in his own country, about as many intelligent and appreciative readers as Pythagoras had of esoteric disciples. There is reason to fear that men love better to investigate how muslins, hay-rakes, and, above all and inclusive of all, money may be made, than how their own minds are constructed.
One might almost be content to leave them and their preference alone, on the ground that they are the best judges of the respective value of their own several commodities.
Great reason have I to be thankful, again I say, that I was suckled at the breast of Transcendentalism. I am doubtless not without sympathy in others when I say that the first moment when it flashed upon me how in the Reason might be found the laws and the essences of things, and that we were not confined for our knowledge to the mere ungrouped and unsettled appearances of the Sense, was like a revelation; it expanded and dignified the soul with a sudden access of glories such as no earthly kingship could give. At that moment spirit appeared to me for the first time something more than the hopeless bond-slave of matter. For the sake of experiencing that feeling again in its full force of grand joyousness, I would like to exchange places with Locke, at the instant of his disembodiment, when he found out that he was mistaken. In having gone astray as a philosopher, he suddenly had all the more glorious surprise as a soul.
There was one question, however, which for a long time troubled me, but to which I at length got a satisfactory, although, perhaps, most men may disagree with me in the belief that it is a true answer. This is the question, How does the outer world ever become apparent to the spirit? I could see very easily how in the Reason the law conditioning an outer world might be found, but how did the appearances themselves become known? The manner of intercourse between matter and matter, between spirit and spirit, or between any two individualities of the same kind, was plain enough, or at least such an intercourse was reasonable. But with our views of matter and spirit, two existences in their very essence utterly dissimilar, how could they ever become tangent?
Take, for instance, such a case as this: I am hit by a stone. The thrill conveyed along its appropriate nerve runs up the brain, and here we trace its ultimate footprint on the material organism. Yet an infinitesimal instant more, and my mind has learned it, is moved to anger, and reasons for revenge or remedy. I could not see the connection by which the fact of the blow, however refined by its passage, was prolonged from matter into spirit. The books said that, on reaching the brain, the fact became a tertium quid, a third something, neither matter nor spirit, but so etherealized that the mind could read it. What, however, was that tertium quid?
In the process of time, and by the aid of that ever to be blessed Transcendentalism which had helped me out of my earliest perplexity, I came to the conclusion that the tertium quid was a humbug, a metaphysical Mrs. Harris, upon whom the responsibility of all things impossible to be done or conceived was laid by psychological Mistresses Gamp. The answer which satisfied me was this: that there are only two kinds or modes of existence in the universe -- the one, self-conscious spirit; the other, the acts of such spirit. From these data arose such a theory of the universe as the following:
The Supreme Being, as Creator of all things, is ever in activity, according to certain eternal and universal laws of right and truth. Whatever else of self-conscious Being exists, came forth originally as an efflux from him, but is now in its will, though not for the continuance of its separate existence, independent of his direct action. As spirit, man is capable of communion with the supreme spirit. Since, however, spirit itself is in its very essence imperceptible to senses, the communion makes itself perceptible by appearances. These appearances, whose cause we call "matter," are therefore, in reality, but the effects of spirit's action upon spirit. In no sense, then, does any such thing as dead matter exist. It is God's thinking felt by us.
If it shall be said that there is no difference between this and Pantheism, let me be allowed to show how the two systems differ toto coelo. I do not assert that matter is God. I say that the actor is God, and the effects of his action upon other spirit, which we call matter, are neither God, nor in any sense self-conscious. To make it clear, let my reader suppose himself striking a blow. He here appears as the self-conscious actor; yet how great an absurdity would it appear to him to call the blow itself after his name, or to attribute self-consciousness to it. He would say, The act of striking is an abstract idea, to which the other idea of self-consciousness can not be pertinent.
To carry out the parallel for further illustration, let us suppose this blow to fall upon the cheek of a bystander. The man struck would gain, from the effect produced on him, a pretty correct idea of the state of the striker's feeling, notwithstanding he did not suppose that the blow was the striker, nor that it thought for itself.
Similarly in kind, let us suppose that the Deity is forever acting out through all the universe the principles of his infinite and righteous mind. By the effects of this action he becomes known to his spiritual creatures, and in reality manifests the state of his mind toward them. By such action, in its effect upon us known as matter, he attains the only incarnation of himself for reciprocal communion which could make him known.
I have said that this resolution of the problem of the Universe is the only one which ever satisfied me. The deductions which I made from it served to keep my own activity alive through many a day of suffering; and thus from it, in its satisfaction and its energizing, I received a double good. I will state some of the deductions.
Let me be permitted, for the sake of consonance with my theory, to speak, where accuracy is wanted, of matter, known in this light as the effect of the divine action, under the name of Force. I do not employ it in its mere mechanical sense, but as expressive of the manner of communion between two spiritual beings, to an extent metaphorically meaning something analogous to what in matter would be called the result of impingement.
1. In our bodily organism is one of the most cogent proofs of the Supreme good-will toward us. By his own act he has insphered us within a force, the body, which not only resists many other forces and preserves its own integrity, but, what is of much greater importance, modifies our reception of knowledge from without, and blunts the acuteness of our action within to such an extent that truth does not come to us with a fatal shock, but gradually and softened, until we are able to bear it. Viewed as a counteractive force, the body is thus one of the highest proofs of God's benignity, since, left in our present state of spiritual infancy without it, no lidless eyeball beneath a noonday sun might be more agonized. It is as much cause for thanksgiving as for aspiration to something clearer, that we now "see through a glass darkly." Let us not repine, for there is a reason in these half opaque and tinged panes. A sun as consuming as he is wondrously glorious is shining just outside.
2. We may here find a further illustration of that which in the previous pages has been said of the symbolization, by every existence of the world, of some spiritual fact. The incarnation is as the essence; the universe is as it is because God lives as he lives. He is making himself felt in the effects of his communion with us.
A thousand times in the year do we hear it said that every plant is an evidence of God's goodness; yet how much more amply, more nobly is this true than men generally suppose! Whatever of horror or deformity exists in the unconscious creation, is but the manifestation of Creative displeasure at our wrong; whatever of beauty (and how prodigally it is spread abroad!) is a testimony, rich with meaning, of that benevolence which mixes its displeasure with pity, and the return of wondrous good for an evil which is only less boundless. The continuance of Niagara, with its wealth of ennobling influences, is as speaking a proof to every man of God's good feeling to him as the continuance of his life. In the millennium to which men are looking forward, how easily conceivable is it that by the literal fulfillment of our grandest prophecies and hopes; that an unblemished scenery, an illimitable luxuriance of greenness in the fields, an inspiration of beauty by every visible thing, may be the exponent of the gladness in the Great Heart above us at the restoration into perfectness of his filial race.
But our philosophy does not limit us to an analytic gaze upon the earth alone. The firmament, from our eyes onward in all directions forever, is full of stars. Some of these, perhaps all of them, there is reason to believe are peopled; but, granting that they roll on in utter loneliness, what of that? They are there, and as they are, because God is acting grandly, wisely, and righteously, and that it is all-satisfying to know. Even now they teach us lessons nightly, speaking both of Beauty and Truth. But what if they may be, also, carrying on their far-off orbits some incarnation of an attribute of God, which in our present state, we are not sufficiently strong to bear?
It is the characteristic of the written revelation to be comprehensive. Doubtless all of God is there in the germ; yet how many a line is drawn purposely in deep shadow! We are not ready for it yet.
The natural revelation, the universe, is in itself as comprehensive; but, since we can never see it all at once, to us it must necessarily be fragmentary. Thus we now have Earth to read from; yet when we are disembodied and purified — when the incarnation through which the Divine is to come to us may with safety be made less gross than its form in the present matter, we shall learn through the stars, which have been kept waiting for us, sublimer and still sublimer truths of spirit throughout an ascending life.
Well may the man who, while his utmost gaze now catches them only as gleaming points, yet rejoices in the assurance of their significant harmony, break forth,
"O yet uninterrupted symbols, from afar I hail you as the promise of a truth which it is for Immortality to drink in! Beautiful, strange, yet not inexplicable; even now are ye beaming links of that chain which binds me to Deity; ye shall hereafter draw me close to his presence in a grander communion. Await me brightly while I calmly long for you."
In the closest circle of earthly fellowship wherein I have known what it is for heart to be knit with heart, it has ever been the beautiful custom to write the dead, who, though absent, were still one with the living brotherhood, under this title,
3. Upon the ground that all knowledge through sense may be resolved into the idea of force, there are some reasons for supposing that this force may in itself be simple, and only varied by its approach to the soul through the differently modifying organs. In fine, that sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell may be effects, to speak after the common nomenclature, of the same object, or one grand effect divided into several by transmission.
An inspection of the analogies of science must convince us that this proposition, if not à priori necessarily true, is, at any rate, extremely probable. The progress of philosophical research is invariably from the complex to the simple. The myriad phenomena of chemistry are all traceable to the action and reaction in various combinations of a very limited number of elements; these elements are still farther resolvable in their composition into still fewer and more ethereal bodies. In the same way, all the mechanical operations are due to differing applications of six motors; and these, by still further analysis, arrange themselves under the head of physical force. These are but two instances out of the multitude which prove the great law of simplification by research.
In many a field of inquiry the philosopher has reduced the agents effective for a given result to two or three; the next step would bring him to the all-comprehensive unity; but no, that step can not be taken, for nature here so suddenly subtilizes the springs of her activity, that she may float just before the face of her hierophant, and laugh invisibly at baffled microscope and hypothesis. Yet enough is known in all departments of investigation to prove that the tendency of discovery is invariably from the vast periphery of facts inward to one single central law.
Yet let us not leave the theory of the all-comprehensive oneness of sense to base its plausibility upon a general analogy. We are able to particularize. What reason, then, have we, from known facts, to suppose all the senses directly referable to force? A brief analysis will discover most of the evidence we have.
And, 1st. Touch, simply considered as the organ for determining the hardness, weight, and form of bodies. The two former will be seen to be directly resolvable into force, viz., the force of resistance, in the one case particularized as cohesion, in the other as gravitation. The distinction of form may be also comprehended as an idea of force by the following statement. I move my hand in all directions in the plane of the horizon, and, finding it every where resisted by an equal force from below, say, "This is a flat surface."
The resistance, in another instance, occurs in a different direction, and I express this fact by saying sphere, cone, ellipsoid, etc., as the case may be.
2d. Sight. It is, no doubt, well known to many of my readers that, in modern times, two theories have obtained upon the action of light, or, more properly, its origination. Both of them arose or were resuscitated from antiquity in the seventeenth century, but that which bears the name of Huygens is by a few years the earlier. This philosopher held that all luminous bodies are in a state of almost infinitely rapid, though infinitesimally small vibration; that this vibration propagates itself in all directions with an undulatory motion through an exceedingly subtle and elastic fluid, known as ether, which fills all space; that these undulations, impinging against any material body, bound back, or, in usual parlance, are reflected to the eye, and, striking upon the retina, give through the optic nerve, of which it is an expansion, the sensation of sight.
The second theory is that of Newton, who supposed that luminous bodies are continually giving off infinitesimal radiant particles, which, through the ethereal medium, impinge upon the eye in the same manner and with the same effect as the light-waves of Huygens' theory.
The former hypothesis (viz., Huygens') is that at this day entertained by the majority of savans, but the discovered laws of optics accord equally well with either. No further dissertation is necessary to show that in either case the conception of sight is resolvable into the idea of a perceived force.
3d. Hearing. Upon this sense there is certainly no need of enlarging, it being universally known that sound is the offspring of vibration, and therefore a force, subject in its transmission, reflection, etc., to laws precisely analogous to those of light, modified merely by the nature of the medium, viz., air or grosser bodies, through which it travels, in contradistinction to the infinitely subtle ether which propagates light. There is, however, one analogy upon which we may dwell for a short time, which would seem greatly to strengthen the general theory that all sensations are, in their essential agency, one.
The relationship between light and sound does not terminate in the fact, of itself sufficiently striking, that they both obey similar conditions of transmission and reflection. True, they each pass to the human organ, not by one unbroken leap, but by a series of waves. Literally, lightning no more darts upon the eye than the faintest beam of dawn; thunder comes undulating to the ear as truly as the softest sigh; and the light cast upon us from a mirror is only an echo through ether instead of air.
But there is a far more intricate affiliation between them. In the very possibilities of their existence they are the same. Every ray of light can be comprehended within the range of seven radical colors and the combinations of them. This law of but seven possible colors is not an accident, but a primeval and necessary accompaniment of the manner of transmission.
Every possible sound likewise lies between the two termini of a gamut whose number of root sounds is seven, and this septenary law of sound is as necessary as that of light.
The universality with which these laws are practically known by means of the prism and the octave, take off, as is the case in so many other habitual mysteries, the edge of our legitimate wonder. Yet when, for a moment, we reflect calmly upon the fact that we may analyze light of any possible kind with the most rigid scrutiny without adding a single principal color to a fixed range of seven; that we may utter any conceivable sound without escaping from the same mystic boundaries; that in both cases our only changes must be rung by reduplication or blending within those adamantine gamut walls; when we reflect, I say, on these two truths, each fit food in itself for wonder, and find that in fact they are but one truth, and that a characteristic of sensations which we have always treated as essentially different, we shall have reason to confess, with amazement, a far more intimate union between sight and hearing than any of outer coincidence. Indeed, excepting the before-mentioned difference, which their several media of travel impress upon them, philosophy can not find a mark of distinction between sight and sound.
How strong a claim to interior oneness this law of seven bestows can be fully felt only by realizing how essential a law it is. So essential is it that probably, in the whole universe, it may be impossible to find a complete range of any operations which does not, in its internal nature, submit to it. I say this perfectly aware that there are insuperable obstacles, while we enjoy no more than our present development of mind, to proving this to a logical certainty. Yet the vast probability which appears to me in the proposition rests upon one fact which I have never seen noticed in connection with these senses. Doubtless it has been noticed, however, for from time immemorial the significancy of the number seven has employed the researches of philosophers and theologians. The fact is this: In the Divine philosophy of Creation, which is, at the same time, the most reverend also for age, there is a stress laid upon the importance of this number as exponent of some law of completion, of perfectness, which, unless it be granted deeply significant, can be treated upon no middle ground between that and a puerility partaking of imposture. The seventh day as the one whose advent expressly witnessed the completion of the Kosmos (whatever of length we may give to the days of the creation); the impress of some secret import upon seven, by countless ceremonial symbols, inculcated to that people who, during the whole period of the Theocracy, held more direct communion with the Divine source of all Truth than any nation before or since; the constant recurrence, in the Word, of prophetic uses of the number, and such a phrase as this: "Wisdom hath builded her house; she hath hewn out her seven pillars:" all these seem to indicate, beyond the possibility, in my mind at least, of conceiving the contrary possible, that this number is a fundamental law of perfectness in the Universe.
As such, therefore, and comprehending under its rule the two senses of sight and hearing, it proves a oneness in their essential conditions which seems irrefutable. In some of the more intensely awakened hasheesh states, there was a great light thrown upon this subject, but, with many other views gained like it, through symbolization, on my return to the natural state it passed away from my mind forever.
4. Smell. Within the last ten years an attempt has been made by some Frenchman of speculative mind, whose name I forget, to determine if this sense a septenary gamut also, in which the only two tones that have not escaped me, to the best of my knowledge, were citron and rose. If the natural existence of such a gamut could be accurately determined, it would be a great auxiliary, certainly, to our argument; but I fear that our knowledge of the catalogue and relations of all possible odors is so very imperfect as to make the research only a fanciful recreation. From the great variety of the objects, and the lack of scientific delicacy of the sense of smell, it is a very difficult one to deal with. He who investigates it through its own instrumentality, which, of course, is the only possible method for an inductive science, is very much at the disadvantage of him who should try to dissect an animalcule with his finger nail.
Yet there is, even with such obstacles in the way, a possibility of proving odor ultimately resolvable into that force which we have discovered as the common idea of the preceding senses. I have held the opinion, whether original with me or not I can not say, that odor, like light and sound, may be propagated by undulations; if not as the only mode, at least as one of two modes, the other of which is immediate chemical action upon the organ. As an argument in favor of this, I would instance the grain of musk, which, without losing weight at all appreciably, will for years render the room in which it is kept intolerable to its enemies.
But, granting that the chemical action is its only one, this fact, so far from precluding the idea of force which we seek to make general, only illustrates it. The very chemical action is itself a force. As an example, notice the effect of some such odorous agent as makes its effect particularly marked; let us say hellebore, which, when smelled, causes odic action of the nerve, in some cases only less powerful than that appropriate to galvanism. The flower of the catalpa produces a similar effect upon myself, sufficiently severe to cause very troublesome bleeding; and I know several persons affected in like manner by the carnation pink and eglantine.
5. Taste. The theory supported by some physicists upon the operation of this very little scientifically understood sense is something such as this. The tongue, upon a foundation of muscular fibre, carries a nervous membrane, not wholly smooth even in the most delicate species, but bristling, more or less compactly, with highly sensitive minute nervous tufts, known to physiology under the name of "papillæ," literally, "little teats," from their peculiar form. Sapid substances being dissolved by the saliva, and thus resolved into their ultimate particles, in the form of these particles penetrate the papillæ. By something analogous to an exquisitely-refined sense of touch, these papillæ detect the peculiar form characteristic of every ultimate particle of the given sapid substance, and thus define it as a certain taste.
If this be the correct explanation of the taste-phenomena, they resolve themselves into a perceived force of form, and thus come within our law. But I imagine that the operation is still more subtle; and that in every substance possessing sapidity, there is, producing the sensation, a force by itself, possessing as true an individuality as the electric, and in each case bearing a specific characteristic which gives it its peculiar taste. Perhaps it may be akin to the galvanic fluid. This seems to be suggested by the result of an experiment very easily made, viz., placing a circle of zinc upon one side of the tongue and of copper on the other, when the curious possibility will be manifest of actually "tasting galvanism."
6. Feeling. I have made this distinction between feeling and touch for the reason that, although their sensations may be propagated along the same sets of nerves, the strongly-marked difference in nature between the facts which they separately apprehend renders it more philosophical to treat them apart. By feeling is meant here the sense of heat and its absence, pain of all kinds, and the sensuous pleasure not included under previously analyzed senses. In the latter part of this category, for instance, are included sexual gratification, the soothing effect of manipulation, whatever it may be styled, mesmeric or otherwise, and pre-eminently the exhilaration of narcotics and other stimuli.
The only argument which I shall adduce to prove the comprehension of the feeling-phenomena within the general idea of force will be simply to call to my reader's mind the fact that all such phenomena are spasmodic. Their idea is that of an injected energy of motion, manifest not only in the nerve, but in the brain, by contraction or relaxation or both, or the alternation of the two states of either.
Having endeavored, as briefly as an analysis at all satisfactory would permit, to test the truth of my theory with respect to each division of the sense, let me, in a few words, sum up the substance of that which has been sought to be proved.
It is this. That the soul in itself is capable of receiving all the impressions of all the senses from the action of the object which produces an impression upon a single sense; that in the bodily organs only and the media of transmission, which are relevant to the organs alone, lies the necessity for a divisory action; and, finally, as a consequence of these propositions, that the soul, either wholly freed from its present gross body, or so awakened, by any cause, as to be partially independent of the intervention of the corporeal organs, may behold the manifold impression from an object which now gives it only the fractional, thus seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling in the most exquisite degree the thing which, in the state of bodily dominance, was the source of but one of these.
An opinion similar to this was held by Coleridge; and I can not but believe that it was suggested to him by some intimation of its truth which he received while in the exaltation of opium. Certainly there is no corroboration greater than he might have thus acquired for it, if the effect of that drug ever reached with him the intensity which hasheesh reached with me. By evidence of the most startling character was I repeatedly, while using the indulgence, put beyond all doubt upon the point. Indeed, at this day it lies before me in the light of as distinct a certainty as any fact of my being. Because, from the very nature of its source, I could not transfer that certainty, in kind, to the mind of my reader, I have made the attempt to approximate it by the preceding argument, not because I felt at all the need of strengthening myself in the faith.
As, some distance back, I have referred to my own experience upon the subject, asserting my ability at times to feel sights, see sounds, &c., I will not attempt to illustrate the present discussion by a narrative of additional portions of my own case. It might be replied to me, "Ah! yes, all very likely; but probably you are an exception to the general rule; nobody else might be affected so." This was said to me quite frequently when, early in the hasheesh life, I enthusiastically related the most singular phenomena of my fantasië.
But there is no such thing true of the hasheesh effects. Just as inevitably as two men taking the same direction, and equally favored by Providence, will arrive at the same place, will two persons of similar temperament come to the same territory in hasheesh, see the same mysteries of their being, and get the same hitherto unconceived facts. It is this characteristic which, beyond all gainsaying, proves the definite existence of the most wondrous of the hasheesh-disclosed states of mind. The realm of that stimulus is no vagary; it as much exists as England. We are never so absurd as to expect to see insane men by the dozen all holding to the same hallucination without having had any communication with each other.
As I said once previously, after my acquaintance with the realm of witchery had become, probably, about as universal as any body's, when I chanced to be called to take care of some one making the experiment for the first time (and I always was called), by the faintest word, often by a mere look, I could tell exactly the place that my patient had reached, and treat him accordingly. Many a time, by some expression which other by-standers thought ineffably puerile, have I recognized the landmark of a field of wonders wherein I had traveled in perfect ravishment. I understood the symbolization, which they did not.
Particularly was this the case in the hasheesh experiment of a friend of mine, made not three months ago, spontaneously on his part, and unknown to me until I was "sent for." Not only was it for ecstasy and wonderful phenomena the most remarkable I ever had the care of, but so clear a light did it shed on the investigation of the few preceding pages, that I will give it here in place of any thing additional of my own, which, as I have said, I will not give.
B----, this friend of mine, for four hours supposed that he was in heaven. Infinite leagues below him he heard the old, remembered bells of the world, and their sound, as it came floating, diminished up through the immense sky beneath him, seemed the only tie which bound him to any thing not celestial.
As I sat by the side of the sofa on which he was lying, and held his hand for a greater part of the time, I became a convert to all the most marvelous articles of the mesmeric creed. The connection which his peculiar state of sensitiveness had established between us, made us, for all purposes of sensation and perception, wholly one. I was able to follow him through all his ecstatic wanderings, to see what he saw, feel what he felt, as vividly as it is possible without myself having taken hasheesh. This, however, as you will say, was nothing wonderful. It might have happened, and no doubt, in part, did happen, from my former thorough acquaintance with all such states.
But the connection did not end here. I drank a glass of water, and B. felt it as distinctly as if he had taken it himself. He experienced the spasm of the muscles of the throat, which always accompanies drinking in the hasheesh state, so vividly that he really supposed he was drinking himself, and implored me to give him no more water.
For another person in the room he had always felt strong sympathies; they were now developed to an extent most surprising. This person had a habit, when in a brown study, of industriously rubbing his forehead after a fashion painful to look upon. Suddenly I heard B. exclaim, "Oh, Bob, stop thinking! stop thinking! you don't know how it distresses my head!" My eyes had been upon B. all the time; his own had not once been opened; how could he have known that his friend was thinking? I looked around, and lo! Bob, in medio brown-studio, polishing his forefront with the usual assiduity. Merely by the sympathy between them B. had known it all. This may be laughed at, but, if necessary, I would willingly file my affidavit that B., with his outer eyes, had seen nothing for half an hour previous. I had not taken my eyes from his face once during that time.
But I will go on to the facts which more immediately bear on my theory. While, as I have said, he had not the remotest consciousness of the place in which he really was, he still conversed freely with us on the basis of his celestial locale.
To him, we all seemed to be together "in excelsis." Naturally he was a loving and gentle spirit; this characteristic the upper atmosphere brought out more fully. In terms which it would not be modest for any of us to have repeated for ourselves, he expressed his sense of the congenialities which bound us together. But this sense, no less ethereal than in the ordinary state, was something far more visible.
"I feel," said he, "that we have many mutual ties of fellowship, but, more than that, I see them. I know you are feeling kindly to me now, for there are a thousand golden and azure cords which run between us, making a network so exquisite that it is unspeakable delight to look thereon."
"Are you not fancying it?" said somebody. "Fancying it? how can I fancy that which is immediately before my eyes? Besides that, I realize that it is true; it can not be false; it is a part of each of us delicately prolonged. I see all our characteristics blended in it -- oh, it is beautiful -- beautiful!"
Here was that inner sense, to which, as most intuitive, we have given by analogy the name of "feeling," shown to be reciprocal, or, rather, one with sight. But the oneness of the outer senses was also to receive corroboration.
B. looked at us, and as our countenances changed in the course of conversation, that change was embodied to him in tones. "Do you know," said he, "that all your faces, your forms, have a musical idea? I hear you distinctly, in harp-like notes; each one of you, as you look upon me, has his melody; together your appearance is a harmony. Do you yourselves hear the music which you are?"
While he lay with closed eyes we still talked to him. Now, every sound which we uttered had its being to him, not only in music, but in visible form. Indeed, as he afterward assured me, when in a state to philosophize upon the subject, he read in figures, while we were speaking, every idea as distinctly as from a book. Landscapes, temples, lakes, processions of all kinds of being, passed before him, borne with our voices, and impressed, not with the artificial letter-symbols of our meaning, but with the meaning itself, as in my own case I have expressed it, like an essence made incarnate.
The only sense which was not tested in this experience was that of odor. I have deeply regretted the deficiency ever since, for I am convinced that its oneness with all the others would have been exhibited as clearly as that of the others among themselves. Taste we did try with the fullest result. After much persuasion (for it seemed a degradation of his celestial nature), we prevailed upon him to eat a small piece of an apple. I took a piece of it myself, and if I, who was in heaven, could eat, he might also. Its taste he expressed as giving him likewise the idea of a tone. It was winter, and not a flower of any fragrance was within reach; but I know from my former experience, as well as the fullness of his own in every other respect, that he would have emblematized it in music immediately.
I would that every man whose eye is met by this recital, instead of reading it from my pen, and saying as coldly as is the custom at the present day, "marvelous, but doubtful," with a shake of the head, could have sat as I did by that sofa, and have learned the truth of this strange theory by an eye-witness as delightful as it was convincing. In not one single lineament of this case have I poetized; indeed, I feel deeply my most signal failure to satisfy my own ideal of what I there saw and felt. I am not aware of any recompense which would tempt me, if I could, to blot out the memory of that most exquisite lesson which I learned at the side of B.
Yet it may be said, "Your own experience had probably been pretty well known to him already, and these perceptions of his were but re-embodiments of things he had heard from you." I assure you, my dear reader, that of my own experience upon the subject of this unity of sense I had not said a word to him, not even to any person in the place where he lived. His views, from this fact, were perfectly spontaneous, as, indeed, any one present could have seen from the manner of their natural and irrepressible outflowing in his words. The only possible explanation of such perceptions, occurring as they have in several other cases besides his without any acquaintance with my experience, is that they apprehend real truths, common to all our humanity, and needing but some instrument of intense insight to bring them forth.
Within a few days of this literally clinical lecture upon my theory occurred another case, in some respects almost as singular. Another person, making the hasheesh experiment for the first time, showed the following strange characteristic in the effect of its influence. Though as perfectly conscious as in his natural state, and capable of apprehending all outer realities without hallucination, he still perceived every word which was spoken to him in the form of some visible symbol which most exquisitely embodied it. For hours every sound had its color and its form to him as truly as scenery could have them.
The fact, never witnessed by me before, of a mind in that state being able to give its phenomena to another and philosophize about them calmly, afforded me the means of a most clear investigation. I found that his case was exactly analogous to those of B. and myself; for, like us, he recognized in distinct inner types every possible sensation, our words making a visible emblematic procession before his eyes, and every perception, of whatever sense, becoming tangible to him as form, and audible as music.
There is something more than the mere fascinating activity of speculation in knowing such things as these. The excellency of their office consists in acquainting us with the fact that in our minds we possess a far greater wealth than we have ever conceived. Such a discovery may do much for us in every way, making material ends seem less valuable to us as ultimate aims, and encouraging us to live well for the sake of a spirit which possesses fathomless capacities for happiness no less than knowledge.
There is a condition in which the soul may exist, which is possible (and when we have proved any thing possible for a soul, we have, at the same time, proved it probable), in which every object of our perception shall infuse into us all the delight of whose modifications now but one alone trickles in parsimoniously through a single sense. With a more ethereal organization, the necessity for dividing our perception into the five or six modes now known may utterly pass away, and the full harmony of all qualities capable of teaching or delighting us may flow in at once to ravish the soul.
In the cases which I have mentioned, hasheesh had nearly perfected this etherealization already. Yet hasheesh must be forborne; we have no right to succeed to the inheritance till we come of age. In our longing for that spiritual majority which is to invest us with our title, we may stay ourselves on prophecies as well as patience.
Perchance we may listen to some such prophecy as this: There is a land, oh dreamer, on which the sun rises in music, and his rays are heard sounding symphony to the greeting of Memnon. The ever-shifting tints of cloudland forever rise into brightness and anthems, and fall back again to softness and lullabies. The fingers of the harper paint exquisite green fields with the pencil of a tone, and the child that sings by his side fills the soul with Claude Lorraine sunsets. The clasp of a brother's hand returning from over sea is felt in a rosy heaven, or the light of one more star and a thrill of glad-hearted song. The meaning of the brotherhood between wine and carols is known by a strain of music from the terraces of Rhine and the vineyards of Xeres, bathing the lips of the poet in added melody. With the fall of the sun upon empurpled cloud-banks of the west, the fragrance of the flowers floats to him in a hymn of good-night, and the wind from his portals rings a curfew upon lily and rose. Land twice blessed, where all things are manifold in their melodies, harmonious in difference!
Thus did I prophesy to myself, as, according to my wont, with closed eyes I sat listening to a sonata of Beethoven. Within me the prophecy was even now half fulfilled, for I was dreaming in a land of palaces builded of tones, a country whose rivers ebbed and flowed with the modulations of the outer music.
Are we persuaded of these things that we may be deceived? is our hope in vain? There is nothing too beautiful to believe of the soul. If its visions seem falsified by matter, it is only because they are above matter; because in prophetic gazings it mirrors a higher, a more ethereal incarnation of the Creative Spirit than yet communes with it through the passages of the fleshly sense.
"Notes on the Way Upward"
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