An Antidote Against Atheism/Book I/Chapter XI

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Chap. XI.

1. A concerning Enquiry touching the Essence of the Soul of Man. 2. That the Soul is not a mere Modification of the Body, the Body being uncapable of such Operations as are usually attributed to the Soul, as Spontaneous Motion, Animadversion, Memory, Reason. 3. That the Spirits are uncapable of Memory, and consequently of Reason, Animadversion, and of Moving of the Body. 4. That the Brain cannot be the Principle of spontaneous Motion, having neither Muscles nor Sense. 5. That Phansy, reason and Animadversion if seated neither in any Pore, nor any particular part of the Brain, nor is all the Brain figured into this or that Conception, nor every Particle thereof. 6. That the Figuration of one part of the Brain is not reflected to the rest, demonstrated from the Site of things. 7. That the Brain has no Sense, further demonstrated from Anatomical Experiments. 8. How ridiculously the operations of the Soul are attributed to the Conarion. 9. The Conclusion, That the lmpetus of spontaneous Motion is neither from the Animal spirits nor the Brain. 10. That the Soul is not any Corporeal substance distinct from the Animal spirits and the Body; 11. And therefore is a Substance Incorporeal. 12. The discovery of the Essence of the Soul, of what great usefulness for the easter conceiving the nature of God. 13. And how there may be an Eternal Mind that has both Understanding and power of Moving the Matter of the Universe.

1.We have done with all those more obvious Faculties in the Soul of Man that naturally tend to the discovery of the Existence of a God. Let us briefly, before we loose from our selves and lanch out into the vast Ocean of the Externall Phænomena of Nature, consider the Essence of the Soul her self, what it is, whether a mere Modification of the Body, or Substance distinct therefrom; and then whether Corporeal or Incorporeal. For upon the clearing of this point we may haply be convinced that there is a Spiritual Substance really distinct from the Matter; which who so does acknowledge, will be easilier induced to believe there is a God.

2. First therefore, if we say that the Soul is a mere Modification of the Body, the Soul then is but one universal Faculty of the Body, or a many Faculties put together, and those Operations which are usually attributed unto the Soul, must of necessity be attributed unto the Body. I demand therefore, to what in the Body will you attribute Spontaneous Motion? I understand thereby, A power in our selves of moving or holding still most of the parts of our Body, as our hand, suppose, or little finger. If you will say that it is nothing but the immission of the Spirits into such and such Muscles, I would gladly know what does immit these Spirits, and direct them so curiously. Is it themselves, or the Brain, or that particular piece of the Brain they call the Conarion or Pine-kernel? Whatever it be, that which does thus immit them and direct them must have Animadversion, and the same that has Animadversion has Memory also and Reason. Now I would know whether the Spirits themselves be capable of Animadversion, Memory and Reason; for it indeed seems altogether impossible. For these Animal Spirits are nothing else but matter very thin and liquid, whose nature consists in this, that all the particles of it be in Motion, and being loose from one another, fridge and play up and down according to the measure and manner of agitation in them.

3. I therefore now demand, which of the particles in these so many loosely moving one from another has Animadversion in it? If you say that they all put together have, I appeal to him that thus answers, how unlikely it is that that should have Animadversion that is so utterly uncapable of Memory, and consequently of Reason. For it is as impossible to conceive Memory competible to such a Subject, as it is how to write Characters in the water or in the wind.

4. If you say the Brain immits and directs these Spirits, how can that so freely and spontaneously move it self or another that has no Muscles? besides, Anatomists tell us, that though the Brain be the instrument of sense, yet it has no sense at all of it self; how then can that that has no sense direct thus spontaneously and arbitrariously the Animal Spirits into any part of the Body? an act that plainly requires determinate sense and perception. But let the Anatomists conclude what they will, I think I shall little less then demonstrate that the Brains have no sense. For the same thing in us that has Sense has likewise Animadversion; and that which has Animadversion in us, has also a Faculty of free and arbitrarious Phansy and of Reason.

5. Let us now consider the nature of the Brain, and see how competible those Operations and Powers are to such a Subject. Verily if we take a right view of this laxe pithe or marrow in man's head, neither our Sense nor Understanding can discover any thing more in this Substance that can pretend to such noble Operations as free Imagination and the sagacious collections of Reason, then we can discern in a Cake of Sewet or a Bowl of Curds. For this loose Pulp that is thus wrapt up within our Cranium is but a spongy and porous Body, and pervious not only to the Animal Spirits, but also to more grosse juice and Liquor; else it could not well be nourished, at least it could not be so soft and moistened by Drunkenness and excess, as to make the Understanding inept and sottish in its Operations.

Wherefore I now demand, in this soft substance which we call the Brain, whose softness implies that it is in some measure liquid, and liquidity implies a severall Motion of loosned parts, in what part or parcel thereof does Phansy, Reason and Animadversion lye? In this laxe consistence that lies like a Net all on heaps in the water, I demand in what knot, loop or interval thereof does this Faculty of free Phansy and active Reason reside? I believe you will be asham'd to assign me any one in particular.

And if you will say in all together, you must say that the whole Brain is figured into this or that representation, which would cancell Memory, and take away all capacity of there being any distinct Notes and places for the several Species of things there represented.

But if you will say there is in every Part of the Brain this power of Animadversion and Phansy, you are to remember that the Brain is in some measure a liquid Body, and we must enquire how these loose parts understand one anothers several Animadversions and Notions: And if they could (which is yet very inconceivable) yet if they could from hence doe any thing toward the Immission and Direction of the Animal Spirits into this or that part of the body, we must consider that they must doe it (upon the knowing one anothers minds,) as it were by a joynt contention of strength; as when many men at once, the word being given, lift or tug together for the moving of some so massie a body that the single strength of one could not deal with. But this is to make the several particles of the Brain so many individual persons; a fitter object for Laughter then the least measure of Belief.

6. Besides, how come these many Animadversions to seem but one to us, our Mind being these, as is supposed? Or rather why, if the figuration of one part of the Brain be communicated to all the rest, does not the same Object seem situated both behinde us and before us, above and beneath, on the right hand and on the left, and every way as the Impress of the Object is reflected against all the parts of the Brains? But there pearing to us but one Animadversion, as but one site of things, it is a sufficient Argument that there but one; or if there be many, that they are not mutually communicated from the parts one to another, and that therefore there can be no such joynt endeavour toward one designe: whence it is manifest that the Brains cannot immit nor direct these Animal Spirits into what part of the Body they please.

7. Moreover, that the Brain has no Sense, and therefore cannot impress spontaneously any motion on the Animal Spirits, it is no slight Argument, in that some being dissected have been found without Brains; and Fontanus tells us of a Boy at Amsterdam that had nothing but limpid water in his head in stead of Brains; and the Brains generally are easily dissolvable into a watery consistence; which agrees with what I intimated before. Now I appeal to any free Judge, how likely these liquid particles are to approve themselves of that nature and power as to be able, by erecting and knitting themselves together for a moment of time, to bear themselves so as with one joynt contention of strength to cause an arbitrarious ablegation of the Spirits into this or that determinate part of the Body. But the absurdity of this I have sufficiently insinuated already.

Lastly, the Nerves, I mean the marrow of them, which is of the self-same substance with the Brain, have no Sense, as is demonstrable from a Catalepsis or Catochus, But I will not accumulate Arguments in a matter so palpable.

8. As for that little sprunt piece of the Brain which they call the Conarion, that this should be the very substance whose natural faculty it is to move it self, and by its motions and nods to determinate the course of the Spirits into this or that part of the Body, seems to me no less foolish and fabulous then the story of him that could change the wind as he pleased, by setting his cap on this or that side of his head.

If you heard but the magnificent stories that are told of this little lurking Mushrome, how it does not onely hear and see, but imagines, reasons, commands the whole fabrick of the body more dexterously then an Indian boy does an Elephant, what an acute Logician, subtle Geometrician, prudent Statesman, skilfull Physician, and profound Philosopher he is, and then afterward by dissection you discover this worker of Miracles to be nothing but a poor silly contemptible Knob or Protuberancy, consisting of a thin Membrane containing a little pulpous Matter, much of the same nature with the rest of the Brain; would you not sooner laugh at it then go about to confute it? And truly I may the better laugh at it now, having already confuted it in what I have afore argued concerning the rest of the Brain.

9. I shall therefore make bold to conclude, that the impress of Spontaneous Motion is neither from the Animal Spirits nor from the Brain, and therefore that those Operations that are usually attributed unto the Soul are really incompetible to any part of the Body, and therefore that the Soul is not a mere Modification of the Body, but a Substance distinct therefrom.

10. Now we are to enquire whether this Substance distinct from what ordinarily we call the Body, be also it self a Corporeal Substance, or whether it be Incorporeal. If you say that it is a Corporeal Substance, you can understand no other then Matter more subtile and tenuious then the Animal Spirits themselves, mingled with them and dispersed through the vessels and porosities of the Body; for there can be no Penetration of Dimensions. But I need no new Arguments to confute this fond conceit, for what I said of the Animal Spirits before, is applicable with all ease and fitness to this present case. And let it be sufficient that I advertise you so much, and so be excused from the repeating of the same things over again.

11. It remains therefore that we conclude. That that which impresses Spontaneous Motion upon the Body, or more immediately upon the Animal Spirits, that which imagines, remembers and reasons, is an Immaterial Substance distinct from the Body, which uses the Animal Spirits and the Brains for instruments in such and such Operations. And thus we have found a Spirit in a proper Notion and signification that has apparently these Faculties in it, it can both understand, and move Corporeal Matter.

12. And now the prize that we have wonne will prove for our design of very great Consequence: For it is obvious here to observe, that the Soul of man is as it were ἄγαλμα θεοῦ, a compendious Statue of the Deity; her substance is a solid Effigies of God. And therefore as with ease we consider the Substance and Motion of the vast Heavens on a little Sphere or Globe, so we may with like facility contemplate the nature of the Almighty in this little meddal of God, the Soul of Man, enlarging to infinity what we observe in our selves when we transferre it unto God; as we do imagine those Circles which we view on the Globe to be vastly bigger while we fancy them as described in the Heavens.

13. Wherefore we being assured of this. That there is a Spiritual Substance in our selves in which both these Properties do reside, viz. of Understandings and of moving Corpereall Matter; let us but enlarge our minds so as to conceive as well as we can of a Spiritual Substance that is able to move and actuate all Matter whatsoever never so farre extended, and after what way and manner soever it please, and that it has not the Knowledge only of this or that particular thing, but a distinct and plenary Cognoscence of all things; and we have indeed a very competent apprehension of the Nature of the Eternall and Invisible God, who, like the Soul of Man, does not indeed fall under Sense, but does every where operate so, that his presence is easily to be gathered from what is discovered by our outward Senses.