Manifestly each school of medicine has for itself some peculiar institutes-some theory of life-some theory of disease-some theory of cure-some theory of their rodus operandi of drugs-and whatever theories we may adopt, the extent of our adherence to the particular school whose therapeutics is founded .upon them must be proportionate to their importance as elements of its formation.
The most fundamental of all institutes, and that on which all others, to a great extent depend, is that which involves The Theory of Life; and among the various opinions on this subject, that which we hold as at once the most philosophical and defensible, is best stated in the following proposition: THE LIFE OF MAN IS AN IMMATERIAL ENTITY, INDEPENDENT OF THE ORGANISM.
That the life of man is an independent entity, there are many who deny in toto. Bichat for instance has said, “ Life is the sum of the functions”, and this idea is very prevalent among the medical men of the present day. The late Dr. Bartlett, in his work on the philosophy of medical science, thus puts in a few words, the multitudinous dissent of the profession to the position we have taken- “There is no evidence whatever of the existence even, to say nothing of the alleged properties and relations of an independent dynamic force, presiding over and moving the organic structure. The existence of this force is an assumption just as perfectly and entirely gratuitous as it is possible to imagine. The whole doctrine of this dynamic force is nothing but physiological transcendentalism. Life is the sum of the organization and its actions. This is all we know-this is all we can know about it.”
On the other hand, Mr. Hunter, in whose far-reaching footsteps we may contentedly follow, has said that “Organization and Life do not in the least depend on one another,” and that “Life can never arise out of or produce Organization.“But it is no part of our purpose to cite authorities either in favor of or against the position we have taken.
We feel, we achieve, we know, that, we live. In this fact of living there is a result which must have followed from some antecedent cause. We name this cause a force, a dynamic, vita force, and as Newton called the force of gravitation, Gravity so its call the force of living, Life.
That Life is immaterial is shown by the fact that it pervades spirit as well as matter; and the same fact proves it independent of organization. Organization is also independent of Life. It always occurs in obedience to the laws of matter. The relations which the organization and the Life hold to each other are as a topographical point to a mathematical one; for the organism is a material aggregation, and as such must occupy space, while the Life is immaterial and requires only position. Life is a power under which the organism performs its functions; it is not “the sum of the functions,” but their moving cause. Function is caused by the Life, and is dependent on the organism for its manifestation.
Organs, or organizations, are aggregations of certain constituent elements drawn together under certain laws belonging to the individual molecules, chemical affinities, &c, being among these laws. No function can as yet be performed, until the immaterial Life takes position in the particles, when the prime function of growth immediately follows. The organization is primary, the function is secondary, to the Life. Organization is thus used to mean a simple aggregation of particles, without other power of action than that occurring under the molecular law. Organic function is the action occurring under the vital law, or the Life.
Manifestly the Life cannot cause the organization, because the one being immaterial cannot act as creative to the other, which is material. The three entities, Spirit, Matter, and Life, are the creations of the great first Cause, and are made to constitute, so to speak, a trinity of that Cosmos, of which man is the King. Each member of this trinity is governed by its own laws-the law of the Soul is psychical-the law of Matter is a law of molecules-the law of Life is a law of vitality.
Though Life, by reason of its immateriality, cannot so act upon matter, as to cause organization; yet as we have said, it can so act as to cause function, and this causing of function is its proper and only office. But as function is sometimes, as we have seen, an action of a material organization, it may at first sight appear impossible that the immaterial entity, which we have shown Life to be, should cause this material result. Though however immaterial entities cannot act upon material entities, it is manifest that as the laws of the immaterial are independent of the laws of the material, and the laws of the material are independent of the laws of the immaterial, one set of laws may act at the same time with the other, each ordering its peculiar subject, and confining its action to its own realm. These synchronous actions may take place in the same direction, tending in parallel lines, so to speak, toward the same objective accomplishment. The molecular law, for instance, under which certain atoms are aggregated into an organ, may continue its influence, and retain them there, and by means of chemical affinities govern their position, independently of the vital influence. We see this in cases of sudden death. The molecular structure of the human organs is not changed the moment vitality ceases, as would be the case if the vitality was influential over the law of the molecules. The molecular law, or the law of Matter, is operative both during and after the life: it has a material direction and acts upon Matter only.
In the same manner the laws of Life operate on Life alone. For an illustration of our idea, and to show how the laws of Matter and of Life act independently of one another, and yet tend to the same result, and to show at the same time how the functional result is accomplished by the Life as the directing agent, we will suppose an army in the field. This is, for the present purpose, a huge organism, a great organ, the function, of which cannot be performed without a commander. Each man in the army may represent an atom in the organ. If the individual peculiarities and attractions of each man are not ordered, if the peculiar chemical affinities of each atom are not directed, no function can occur, but all is confusion and chaos. The General is to be considered as the moving spirit and the Life of the army, and is to it, what the Life is to the organism. Ideas are communicated from his spirit, through his Life, to the living principle in the army, and thus material movements are made in obedience to an immaterial idea. The Life is thus seen to serve as a bridge for the passage of ideas from the soul of man to his body. The body and the soul, having thus this Life, as a common possession, are united by it, as the two edges of a deep abyss are joined by a bridge suspended in mid air.
And now to return to the function of a simple organ, we can easily see how the law of matter may operate, in harmonious relations with the Life, through which is communicated its peculiar function, the Life in its turn being under the influence of the laws impressed upon it by the first great Cause, God.
We have thus shown in part the truth of our propositions, that Life is independent of organization, and that it is the directing cause of organic function. It will be perceived, however, that the proof that Life is immaterial rests in a great measure upon the fact asserted that it is a property of Spirit. To make the argument complete, it remains to prove that such an entity as Spirit really exists. This therefore is our present purpose.
To those, into whose minds there has never entered a doubt as to the existence of their souls, and with whom the instructions of orthodox theologians have still an unquestioned force, it may appear strange that we should think it necessary to enter upon an argument to prove a spiritual existence. But with most philosophers to think is to doubt, and a blind faith has no place in true science. Nor can we forget how prone are many medical men to materialism. In the diagnosis of disease we are daily using our external senses, and in the application of remedies we are also governed by our external sense of symptoms, both of the remedy and of the disease; and being of the earth, earthy, we have in our daily contact with the world about us, constant use for our external senses. One may go through the world with ample means for getting his bread and his meat with nothing but a sense for externals.
But there are certain possessions of the human mind which cannot come through the external senses. These are called supersensuous ideas. They consist of ideas which have no more connection with the external senses, than has the message of the telegraph with the wire over which it passes. Now if we are able to prove man in possession of a single idea, which is, as we have termed it, supersensuous, we prove also the existence of a means of intelligence superior to, or at all events entirely different from, the means afforded by external eyes, ears, or other senses.
Now let us take the abstract idea of a Deity-we have never seen him, heard him, touched him, smelt him, or tasted him, and yet it is quite impossible that we should fail to conceive an idea of him. Through what recollected sensation of sight, or touch, or anything else, are we able to get the least conception, and yet we have a conception, of Deity. Suppose our idea to be that Deity is simply a Law. In that case, it may perhaps be said, that we perceive the out-working of a Law by the means of our external senses-and this is true, we do see the out-working of a Law-but we cannot see the Law itself, save by the operation of inner senses. The Law, and the Law maker and giver, is inferred by a simple process of reasoning, founded no more upon sensual fact than upon an innate logical necessity which demands a cause for every effect. The idea of Law is supersensuous, that is beyond the senses, for the power of sense is limited to the observation of the effect of Law. The cause of these effects is beyond the ken of our external senses, and the moment we begin to reason upon it, we pass beyond sense into the realm of Spirit. The abstract idea of Law, being a spiritual idea, requires a spirit for its appreciation, and this spirit is the Soul of man.
Again take the idea of abstract Beauty. No man has ever seen that, a more beautiful thing than which, he could not imagine. The most beautiful picture or landscape, the most delightful poem, the most gorgeous sunset sky, fails to fill the spirit utterly; there will still be room to conceive of something more beautiful. The most ravishing of all sensuous objects joined in one harmonious whole must fail to satisfy. We still conceive of something better. And we cannot form this, our conception, by any art, because form is material and sensuous, and our innate idea of a something better is beyond form-verily it is spirit. This idea of a God, and this other idea of a better something, are each of them, soul possessions, and as man has these ideas, he must have a soul to hold them and to grow them in.
The utterance of the great eternal fact of the ideal excellence, which no form can indicate, and which must therefore belong to an unformed and immaterial realm, has been most happily made by the veiled statue at Sais. Upon the hem of the veil which concealed the features of the Statue, was this legend in gold, “I am-I was-I shall be-and no mortal shall draw aside my veil.” The chisel of no sculptor could ever reach the ideal beauty hidden in the marble block. The artist hand comes infinitesimally near, but the spiritual idea is always infinitely removed from all material contact.
Before proceeding farther, let us pause a moment and see exactly where we are. We started with the axioms that we have a body, and that we live; we have shown the existence of a soul as well as a body, and also that life is a possession common to both, and because common to both, possessing the distinctive characteristics of neither. Life has been shown to be something different from Spirit, because Matter possesses it under certain circumstances. We are thus driven to the irresistible conclusion that Life is a distinct individual entity, through which the laws of Nature are communicated to and received by the soul and body of man. And now it may be asked-What is Life?-and there remains for us only to reply, it is the principle of being which the great ruler of the world has shed upon, and given position within all the works of his hand. It is the breath which God breathed into the nostrils of the first man, Adam.
It has long been the custom to consider the world as divided into two kingdoms only-the realm of matter, and the realm of spirit-but we have endeavored to show that a third something exists, which being a pertainer of both, forms a bond which unites them; and there is plainly a necessity for the existence of such a uniting influence between two entities, the one being precisely what the other is not, and each totally unable to appreciate the other, unless through some common property.
The external manifestations of this third something, this Life entity, are various. It may be that the lowest of these manifestations is found in the simplest chemical affinities, while the highest is found in the mind of man. There is no difficulty in supposing chemical affinities to be in some manner under the action-the very feeble impression, but still an impression-of the entity we call Life, when developed upward into organisms. For indeed, the molecular law, under which chemical affinities occur, must receive its direction and a continuous influence from the great cause; and there must therefore be still in existence some connecting link between these molecules and their ruler: and what better or more philosophical supposition, than that this Ghost of an entity, which is neither Spirit, nor Body, performs the holy office of communicating to the coarse, ultimate molecule, the mighty fiat and continuous influence of the Great Spirit Ruler.
If this is the lowest of the offices of the Life, the highest is, as we have said, the mental manifestation in man. Here in mind is the ultimatum of the Life in the Sphere of being which man now occupies. Here in mind we see the perfectness of the union of the two opposites, Spirit and Matter, united through their common pertainer, the Life which is in them. Through Life, the external senses are perceptive of form, and through Life, the internal or spiritual senses are perceptive of meaning; the picture and the idea are thus brought into contact in the Life, which thus becomes a storehouse of external and internal impressions, and is thus called Mind. Comparison, Judgment and Conclusion are the results of this contact in the Life, and bear the same correspondential relation to the growth of the mind, that material assimilation does to the growth of the body. That however which we call mental growth is not increase in either spiritual or material volume, if we may speak of volume in connection with Spirit; but is rather like putting a higher temper into a steel wire, which is not increased in volume, but responds more immediately and positively to the things which impress it.
In these mental manifestations in man, we find ourselves, so to speak, at the blossom of the Life. If we pass down the scale, we find the corresponding manifestation in the brute to be what men call instinct. It seems very certain that that which is instinct in animals would be mind as we see it in man, but for two things-the molecular law, and the law of the Life. A different molecular arrangement, and a higher temper to the Life, are required for mental, than for instinctive manifestations. Thus the instinct of animals seems to be a lower degree in the course of vital development, than that to which man has attained in the fulness of his mentality. The instinct of plants, for we can hardly call it anything else, is a still lower development of Life. The manifestations of this are seen in the greatest perfection, when two seeds, the one of a nutritious, and the other of a poisonous plant, are placed side by side, in the same soil, and surrounded by the same influences. The one becomes a fruit which shall bring strength and beauty to man, while the other becomes a deadly and disgusting weed. Now each seed is subjected to an aggregation of similar, in fact of identical, chemical affinities. It is the Life in each seed which determines which of the chemical constituents of the earth in which they are both placed, shall be assimilated by the one, and which by the other; and also that some of the chemical constituents common to both shall in the one case be appropriated to the uses of nutrition, and in the other applied to the purpose of toxical production. These things are all directed by the Life; the molecular law has its natural out working, and the spiritual law has its proper obedience, but the Life presides over, directs, and perfects, at the same time that it brings into relation all the operations both of Spirit and Matter, making that one, which before was two, by the addition of a third entity.
This doctrine may seem new, but a little thought upon the subject will show that it is not. The idea is mirrored in all the mythologies, more plainly perhaps in the Jewish, than in any other, but yet distinctly in all.
|The AMERICAN HOMOEOPATHIC REVIEW Vol. 01 No. 02, 1858, pages 49-57
|Theory of Life.
|errors only; interlinks; formatting