Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/13

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3
MIND AND THE NERVOUS SYSTEM.

existence is a matter of faith in which, probably, most of us believe, but which is altogether beyond the limits of proof, or even of investigation. There is nothing tangible about it. We should not know how to proceed to ascertain the existence of the soul. No one could go into a court of justice and demonstrate by the rules of evidence that he himself, or his neighbor, has, as an integral part of his organization, a never-dying principle responsible to God for the deeds done in the body. He could riot say that life is the soul, for, if he did, he would have to accord souls to all living beings, vegetables as well as animals. And, if he were to declare that the mind and the soul are identical, he would be obliged to admit that the "beasts that perish," and even the vine that creeps up the side of his house and finds out where the supports are situated around which it sends out its tendrils, have souls which, if not as perfect as his own, are none the less real. No, his belief in the existence of his soul rests upon higher principles than those that govern earthly tribunals or scientific investigation. He believes through the faith that is in him, not through the impressions that have reached his central nervous organs through his eyes or ears or nostrils or tongue or fingers—the only mediums by which actual knowledge can be obtained.

But with the mind it is very different. Its existence, its powers, its aberrations, are proved in courts every day, and we are constantly demonstrating its reality in our physiological and pathological laboratories, and in our hospitals and in the practice of our physicians. In fact, it is being shown every instant, in the person of every man, woman, and child, and in every living being throughout the earth, that mind exists and is a power. We see it exhibited in all its varieties. We are all of us familiar with good and bad minds, and some of us see human beings with minds so degraded and undeveloped that they are lower, so far as regards intelligence, than dogs or canary-birds. They do not know enough to reach out their hands and take the food that is placed before them, whereas we have all seen canary-birds haul up with their beaks whenever they were hungry the little wagons of seed on the outside of their cages.

But, though the minds of these poor beings are many of them inferior to those of our domestic animals, it would be presumption in us to say that the soul of the veriest idiot that breathes is not as pure and as high in the scale of souls as that of a Plato or a Newton, If the mind and the soul are identical, all those predisposing causes inherent in the parents, and which are capable of causing imbecility and idiocy in the offspring, are also capable of damaging the immortal soul that we believe God has given to every human being. The little piece of bone of a fractured skull that, pressing upon the brain, stupefies the mind, at the same time damages the soul; the congestion or inflammation of the brain that converts a man of giant intellect into a maniac or a dement beyond the hope of cure, also irreparably ruins