Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/553

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537
THE MATERIAL VIEW OF LIFE.

the winds. Now, is this rational? Is it impossible for the scientific mind to conceive of the existence of the soul? Certainly not.

When we seek for explanation of intellectual activity we find two views advanced—one, the purely material view that all thought comes uncontrolled from the decomposition of matter, from motion in the molecules; the other, the spiritual view that mental activity is under the domination of a soul. Under no circumstances can the soul be in a position to produce something out of nothing; it must rather, in the production of thought, utilize the materials furnished to the brain by the blood. The existence of the soul has never been scientifically proved; on the other hand, no material thinker can pretend that the purely material view explains the phenomena of intellectual activity. Let us see, therefore, if we can not employ some reasoning in support of the spiritual view, which declares the existence of the soul.

Matter is divided into ponderable and imponderable—ponderable, that which can be weighed; imponderable, that which can not be weighed. We place a body under the bell jar of an air pump and exhaust the air; all the ponderable air is thus removed. There still remains the imponderable ether. On this ether ligh-twaves travel, and the object in the vacuum therefore continues visible. Here, then, is a something in the vacuum which is invisible, imponderable, and yet whose existence is scientifically acknowledged as pervading all space. This ether is set in motion by the vibrating object we have under consideration; this motion is communicated to the nerve endings on the background of the eye, travels thence along the nerve, and produces in the visual sensorium of the brain the sensation of what we call light. The existence of this ether has never been scientifically proved, but it gives an explanation to something otherwise inexplicable.

A man dies; the spirit passes from him; the flesh is left. The man has not lost in weight; the spirit is imponderable. Now, as there is a connection between the luminiferous ether and the nerve endings for sight, why can not there be a connection between the spirit and the countless mass of cells and fibers where is what we call the intellect? And, likewise, may there not be a spiritual ether surrounding us, a medium through which impulses may come to the spirit from on high, and from the spirit be transmitted to the intellect? Such influences come to us strongly at times, as at the communion-table. The existence of the soul, I have said, has not been scientifically proved, but it is the explanation of something otherwise inexplicable.

We gain our experience of the world through our senses. Man is born with intellect, and through the senses that intellect is trained. The newborn baby possesses already some knowledge of touch acquired before birth, and this knowledge he afterward