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Vital Forces Animal And Vegetable
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Theory Of Man
Category: FIRST PRINCIPLES.
Source: A Newly Discovered System Of Electrical Medication
Let the question now be raised--What is man? The answer will have much
to do with the remedial system which I aim to teach. For this reason it
is thus early introduced.
My answer to the above question is as follows: Man is a threefold
being, composed of a body material, a body electrical, and a spirit
rational and indestructible.
Let the elements of this definition be a little amplified:
1. The material body. This is composed of various metals, earths,
carbon, phosphorus, and gases. I need not go into a representation of
their multiplied and curious combinations to form the many parts of the
body complete. But these are the ultimate elements; and a most superb
and wonderful structure they here compose. Yet, notwithstanding all the
manifest skillfulness of its contrivance, and the power of its
accomplishment, and the niceness and beauty of its execution, it were a
useless display if unaccompanied with the invisible agents which compose
the two other grand constituents of man, to wit: the body electrical and
the spirit, or mind. Without these, it would quickly fall into decay, as
we see it when deprived of them, and would be resolved into its original
elements again. But to our gross material bodies the Creator has added,
2. The body electrical. By this, I mean that which has commonly been
termed "nervous influence," "nervous fluid," "nervo-vital fluid," and
"nervo-electric fluid." I object, however, to each and all of these
designations. They are too restricted and specific. They all seem to
imply that it is an agent or influence which appertains especially to
the nervous system; whereas the entire organism is under its pervading
force. I do not doubt but its chief action is in and through the nervous
system; but it also pervades and, as I think, vitalizes the whole body.
The nervous system seems to be created as one principal means for its
replenishment,[A] and to serve as the medium of its ministrations to the
body at large. I choose to term it electro-vital fluid, or
electro-vitality. My reasons for so designating it are the following:
(1) It is demonstrably electrical in its nature. (2) It appears to be
identified, or at least connected immediately, with the vitalization of
the body. (3) I wish, by its name, to distinguish it from mental
vitality, or the vitality of spirit. Whether, as a peculiar
manifestation of the electric principle, it vitalizes by its own nature
and action solely, or whether it be charged with another mysterious
element--a life-force--and vitalizes by ministering the latter to the
material organism, I will not positively affirm. Whichever it be, the
name I assign to it seems sufficiently appropriate. But I strongly
incline to the theory that this electro-vital principle does itself, by
virtue of its own nature, vitalize the system. In other words, I am
disposed to think that God makes it the immediate agent of
vitalization; having constituted it the vis vitae of both the animal
and the vegetable kingdoms. Nor does this idea, as I conceive,
necessarily conflict at all with the doctrine of cell-life, as
maintained by the best physiologists of the present day. I also
sometimes style this electro-vital element the body electrical,
because it is certainly an entity, coextensive with and, in greater or
less force, wholly pervading the visible, material body.
At this point I will take the liberty to introduce, although somewhat
digressively, a few thoughts on the DISTINCTIONS OF VITALITY OR LIFE.
There are, as I suppose, the following several kinds of life: (1)
Spirit life; (2) Moral life; (3) Electric life.
(1.) There is spirit life. And here are to be made several
[1.] Uncreated spirit life. This is the life of God. Of the nature of
the Divine Essence we know nothing; yet that God is a real, living
entity, we do know. My own conviction is that the divine essence and the
divine life are identical; that God, a spirit, is necessary, infinite,
conscious VITALITY--the voluntary Originator of all existencies besides
himself. But as to what is the essential nature of this vitality--this
eternal spirit-life--we can have no conception, only that this life is
[2.] Created spirit-life. And here we make another subdivision.
(a) The life of created immortal spirit. This is a rational,
intelligent entity, representing the spirit of man and of unembodied,
created intelligences above him. This spirit God created as it pleased
him--"in his own likeness"--a living, indestructible essence; and, as I
suppose, its essence and its life the same.
(b) The life of created mortal spirit, as the spirit of the beast.
Of the intrinsic essence of this spirit, we are also necessarily
ignorant. Yet, of its attributes we know that it has consciousness,
sensibility, and will. Of its life we know as little as of its
essence; both of which, however, as I conjecture, are also one and the
same--the spirit substance being itself essentially vital.
(2.) We pass next to moral life. This life is identical with
holiness--the very opposite of that defilement that characterizes
moral death, which is a state of sin. But let me again subdivide.
[1.] As to the moral life of God, it consists in his infinite moral
purity--his veracity, justice and benevolence or love--qualities
which, in their combination make up his holiness.
[2.] The moral life of man, as also of other rational creatures. This
consists in his sympathy of spirit with God in respect to those pure
qualities which constitute the Divine holiness.
(3.) Finally, there is electric or physical life. But here again
there are varieties.
[1.] There is animal life, as of man and the lower animals. This I
have already represented as consisting in the electro-vital force.
[2.] Vegetable life. This is another modification of the same
But now, to return to the physical or animal life of man--the
electro-vital element. While this is in such immediate relation to the
visible body on the one hand, it holds, also, on the other hand, an
immediate relation to the mental part, both of man and of the other
animated beings of earth. It serves to transmit, through the nervous
system to the mind, all sensations and impressions from the outer world.
It, moreover, receives from the mind the action of its volitions and
imaginary conceptions, and conveys through the nerves the impressions or
impulsions thus obtained to the various parts of the body, and there
secures the fulfillment of the mind's behests. It appears to be only in
this way that communication is had between the mind and its outer body.
The natures of spirit and of gross matter are so totally unlike, that it
seems impracticable for the mind and body to come into immediate
mutual relation, or to act reciprocally, without the aid of a
medium--ethereal, semi-material and semi-spiritual, such as is the
electro-vital fluid. And the Creator has accordingly provided this
mysterious, invisible medium between the two, and thus, in a degree,
extended man's likeness to himself by making him a trinity in unity.
3. The mind or spirit. This is immeasurably the highest and most
important constituent of man. His body material may fall back to dust.
His body electrical may be reabsorbed in the great ocean of natural
electricity that fills the earth and the heavens. But his mind is
immortal. His spirit, made in the divine image, lives and acts, thinks
and feels, independently of every other existence save Him from whom its
being came. While in connection with its visible body, its good or ill,
its bliss or woe, has, indeed, much to do with its bodily state. But,
when separated from this body, its high and more independent existence
is at once asserted; and then its good or ill are determined by its
Author only in accordance with the workings and affections within
itself. A spiritual and indestructible being like its Creator, it can
never cease to be while he exists.
But our present concern is with the mind in its relation to that
electro-vital medium between it and the body, and to the body itself.
The mind's influence upon both of these lower parts of the entire man is
truly wonderful, although perceptible mostly on the material body. Few
persons are aware how much the state of the mind affects the bodily
health, although the degree is often very great. Yet this is done by
the mind's action, first on the electro-vital functions, and through
these, by way of the nerves, upon the bodily tissue. Changes in the
mental states will, in this way, frequently produce changed polarization
in the physical organs, and thus determine infallibly the matter of
health or disease. So, too, the condition of the bodily health will
often determine irresistibly the mental state. Whatever bodily changes
affect the polarization of the electro-vital medium in any part of the
organism, do thereby produce corresponding changes in the mind.
These views of the reciprocal action between mind and body, through the
medium of the electro-vital element, may serve to explain those
psychological wonders exhibited in the cure of diseases by the
imagination, as well as in diseases and even death induced by the
imagination. I would much like to unfold and illustrate this bearing of
the subject; and, also, in the light of it, to show the philosophy of
one mind acting intelligibly on another mind, with, and even without,
the aid of the physical organs, as is sometimes seen in the facts of
mesmerism. This I have done in my written lectures, for the instruction
of classes; but my limits will not admit of it here.
There is another thought which I will offer in this connection. I
maintain that all functional action of our bodily organism, ab
initio, is conducted by thinking mind, through the medium of organic
electricity or the electro-vital fluid. Every organ as a whole, and
every life-cell in detail, is charged with this active principle. I
believe that every one of then is controlled and guided incessantly in
its propagating, organizing and entire functional force by intelligent
mind, acting through this wonder-working agent--the electro-vital
fluid. In respect to our voluntary exercises, this organic electrical
force is made subject to our own mental activities, and executes its
office upon the bodily organism mainly through the medium of the nerves.
But, as regards all the involuntary functions, I believe that control
is exercised directly by the omniscient and all-pervading God,
although in accordance with his own established laws.
Once more of the mind let me remark, that consciousness, sensation,
and will belong to it alone. The body never thinks nor feels; nor
does the organic electricity within it. The popular idea, especially
with the less educated masses, is that, if a man burn his finger, it is
the finger that smarts. But this can not be true. Pain can exist only
where consciousness is. And there is no consciousness in the finger, nor
in any material part. Only the mind is conscious of existence, even;
and hence only the mind can be conscious of pleasure or pain. If a limb
be paralyzed, by interrupting in any way the flow of the electro-vital
fluid through its nerves, and thus depriving the mind of its medium of
communication with it, you may burn that limb to a crisp and the subject
will feel no pain. When you burn your finger or break your arm, you
disturb the action of the electro-vitality in the injured part,
deranging its poles. This electric agent instantly communicates its
disturbance along the nerves to the brain, where it reports to the mind
and tells where the disturbance is. The conscious mind takes cognizance
of the fact and feels distress.
Next: The Lower Animals
Previous: Extent Of Electric Agency