Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/835

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
811
THE SELF AND ITS DERANGEMENTS.

apart from consciousness, there remains as the object of inquiry consciousness as we know it. In my first three papers (December, 1895, January and February-, 1896) I have given my reasons for thinking that we may conceive of it as a web containing manifold and constantly shifting strands. Sensations of all kinds, some vivid and some obscure, memories, anticipations, emotions, and deliberate volitions succeed one another in bewildering confusion. Yet at any given moment this apparent confusion is in reality a system the form and constitution of which is determined by laws as inflexible as any that rule in the physical world.

What, then, is my self? Is it merely another name for the whole? Or are there parts of this ever-shifting, kaleidoscopic phantasmagoria which are parts of my self in a more special sense than the others?

I think there are. In the first place, and in the broadest sense of the word self, all those sensations which go to make up my consciousness of my body as distinguished from the sensations which I regard as springing from the outer world are peculiarly mine. The appearance of my body from without, the double sensations that arise from contact of part with part, but especially the vague sensations that are always pouring in from every muscle and joint, from the heart, lungs, stomach, and intestines, these all blend into a confused mass which forms the background or stage upon which the more distinct elements that are supplied by the special senses play their parts. Any changes in this mass I feel as changes in my self. Emotions and moods, and the indefinable difference between the feeling of health and the feeling of disease spring from obscure changes in it, but I feel them as changes in my self.

But with reflection comes a tendency to narrow the meaning of the word self. Who has not gazed in the mirror at what others call his self until the sense of opposition between the real self and that at which he was looking became so intense that he turned away almost frightened and glad to sink again into the old familiar sense of unity with his body? The more I reflect the less does my body seem important to me. I am the inner life of thought. Most of my thoughts I acknowledge as truly mine, and most of the deeds that spring out of them I recognize as belonging to me. But occasionally a thought appears toward which a sense of strangeness arises—it seems none of mine. Possibly because it is so much better than my usual thoughts that it seems like a breath from a higher world, possibly because it is so wicked that I am almost tempted to believe it comes from a devil, possibly merely because it is insistent and does not go when I bid it. So of the impulses and desires that control me. Most of them are mine, but now and then I do something toward which I feel, when