The Works of Frederick Schiller Part 558

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S 18.--Second Law.

All that has been said of the transferrence of the mental sensations to the animal holds true of the transferrence of animal affections to the mental. Bodily sickness--for the most part the natural result of intemperance--brings its punishment in the form of bodily pain; but the mind also cannot escape a radical attack, in order that a twofold pain may more powerfully impress upon it the necessity of restraint in the desires. In like manner the feeling of bodily health is accompanied by a more lively consciousness of mental improvement, and man is thus the more spurred on to maintain his body in good condition. We arrive thus at a second law of mixed natures--that, with the free action of the bodily organism, the sensations and ideas gain a freer flow; and learn that, with a corrupted organism, corruption of the thinking faculty and of the sensations inevitably follows. Or, more shortly, that the general sensation of a harmonious animal life is the fountain of mental pleasure, and that animal pain and sickness is the fountain of mental pain.

In these different respects, or from their consideration, soul and body may not unaptly be compared with two stringed instruments tuned by the same hand, and placed alongside of one another. When a string of one of them is touched and a certain tone goes forth, the corresponding string of the other will sound of itself and give the same tone, only somewhat weaker. And, using this comparison, we may say that the string of gladness in the body wakes the glad string in the soul, and the sad string the string of sadness. This is that wonderful and noteworthy sympathy which unites the heterogeneous principles in man so as to form one being. Man is not soul and body--but the most inward and essential blending of the two.

S 19.--Moods of Mind result from Moods of Body.

Hence the heaviness, the incapacity of thought, the discontented temper; which are the consequence of excess in physical indulgence; hence the wonderful effects of wine upon those who always drink in moderation.

"When you have drunk wine," says Brother Martin, "you see everything double, you think doubly easily, you are doubly ready for any undertaking, and twice as quickly bring it to a conclusion." Hence the comfort and good-humor experienced in fine weather, proceeding partly from a.s.sociation of ideas, but mostly from the increased feeling of bodily health that goes along with it, extending over all the functions of our organism. Then it is that people use such expressions as, "I feel that I am well," and at such a season they are more disposed towards all manner of mental labor, and have a heart more open to the humaner feelings, and more prompt to the practice of moral duties. The same may be seen in the national character of different peoples. Those who dwell in gloomy regions mourn along with the dismal scenery: in wild and stormy zones man grows wild: where his lot is cast in friendly climates he laughs with the sky that is bright above him. Only under the clear heaven of Greece lived a Homer, a Plato, a Phidias; there were born the Muses and the Graces, while the Lapland mists can hardly bring forth men, and never a genius. While our Germany was yet a wild forest or mora.s.s, the German was a hunter as wild as the beast whose skin he slung about his shoulders. As soon as industry had changed the aspect of his country began the epoch of moral progress. I will not maintain that character takes its rise in climate only, but it is certain that towards the civilization of a people one main means is the improvement of their skies.

The disorders of the body may disorder the whole range of our moral perceptions, and prepare the way for an outburst of the most evil pa.s.sions. A man whose const.i.tution is ruined by a course of dissipation is more easily led to extremes than one who has kept his body as it should be kept. This is, indeed, the horrible plan of those who destroy our youths, and that father of robbers must have known man well, who said, "We must destroy both body and soul." Catiline was a profligate before he became a conspirator, and Doria greatly erred when he thought he had no cause to fear a voluptuary like Fiesco. On the whole, it is very often remarked that an evil spirit dwells in a sick body.

In diseases this sympathy is still more striking. All severe illnesses, especially those of malignant nature and arising from the economy of the abdominal regions, announce themselves, more or less, by a strange revolution in the character. Even while the disease is still silently stealing through the hidden corners of our mechanism, and undermining the strength of nerve, the mind begins to antic.i.p.ate by dark forebodings the fall of her companion. This is a main element in that condition which a great physician described in a masterly manner under the name of "Horrores." Hence their moroseness of disposition, which none can account for, their wavering fancies and inclinations, their disgust at what used to give them pleasure. The amiable man grows quarrelsome, the merry man cross, and he who used to lose himself, and gladly, in the bustle of the world, flies the face of man and retires into a gloomy melancholy. But underneath this treacherous repose the enemy is making ready for a deadly onslaught. The universal disturbance of the entire mechanism, when the disease once breaks forth, is the most speaking proof of the wonderful dependence of the soul on the body. The feeling, springing from a thousand painful sensations, of the utter ruin of the organism, brings about a frightful mental confusion. The most horrible ideas and fancies rise from their graves. The villain whom nothing could move yields under the dominant power of mere animal terror. Winchester, in dying, yells in the anguish of despair. The soul is under a terrible necessity, it would seem, of s.n.a.t.c.hing at whatever will drag it deeper into darkness, and rejects with obstinate madness every ray of comfort.

The string, the tone of pain is in the ascendant, and just as the spiritual misery rose in the bodily disorder, so now it turns and renders the disorder more universal and more intense.

S 20.--Limitations of the foregoing.

But there are daily examples of sufferers who courageously lift themselves above bodily ills: of dying men who, amidst the distressful struggles of the frame, ask, "Where is thy sting, O death?" Should not wisdom, one might urge, avail to combat the blind terrors of the organic nature? Nay, much more than wisdom, should religion have so little power to protect her friends against the a.s.saults springing from the dust? Or, what is the same thing, does it not depend upon the preceding condition of the soul, as to how she accepts the alterations of the processes of life?

Now, this is an irrefragable truth. Philosophy, and still more a mind courageous and elevated by religion, are capable of completely weakening the influence of the animal sensations which a.s.sault the soul of one in pain, and able, as it were, to withdraw it from all coherence with the material. The thought of G.o.d, which is interwoven with death, as with all the universe, the harmony of past life, the antic.i.p.ation of an ever-happy future, spread a bright light over all its ideas; while night is drawn round the soul of him who departs in folly and in unbelief. If even involuntary pangs force themselves upon the Christian and wise man (for is he less a human being?), yet will he resolve the sensations of his dissolving frame into happiness:--

The soul, secured in her existence, smiles At the drawn dagger and defies its point.

The stars shall fade away, the sun himself Grow dim with age, and nature sink in years; But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth, Unhurt amidst the war of elements, The wreck of matter, and the crash of worlds.

It is precisely this unwonted cheerfulness on the part of those who are mortally sick which has often a physical reason at the basis, and which has the most express significance for the practical physician.

It is often found in conjunction with the most fatal symptoms of Hippocrates, and without being attributable to any bygone crisis. Such a cheerfulness is of bad import. The nerves, which during the height of the fever have been most sharply a.s.sailed, have now lost sensation; the inflamed members, it is well known, cease to smart as soon as they are destroyed; but it would be a hapless thought to rejoice that the time of burning pain were pa.s.sed and gone. Stimulus fails before the dead nerves, and a deathly indolence belies future healing. The soul finds herself under the illusion of a pleasant sensation, because she is free from a long-enduring painful one. She is free from pain, not because the tone of her instrument is restored, but because she no more experiences the discord. Sympathy ceases as soon as the connection is lost.

S 21.--Further Aspects of the Connection.

If I might now begin to go deeper--if I might speak of delirium, of slumber, of stupor, of epilepsy and catalepsy, and such like, wherein the free and rational spirit is subjected to the despotism of the body--if I might enlarge especially on the wide field of hysteria and hypochondria-- if it were allowed me to speak of temperaments, idiosyncrasies, and const.i.tutions, which for physicians and philosophers are an abyss--in one word, should I attempt to demonstrate truth of the foregoing from the bed of sickness, which is ever a chief school of psychology--my matter would be extended to an endless length. We have, it seems to me, enough to prove that the animal nature is throughout mingled with the spiritual, and that this combination is perfection.


S 22.--Physiognomy of Sensations.

It is just this close correspondence between the two natures which is the basis of the whole science of physiognomy. By means of this nervous connection (which, as we have seen, lies at the bottom of the communication of feelings) the most secret movements of the soul are revealed on the exterior of the body, and pa.s.sion penetrates even through the veil of the hypocrite. Each pa.s.sion has its specific expressions, its peculiar dialect, so to speak, by which one knows it. And, indeed, it is an admirable law of Supreme Wisdom, that every pa.s.sion which is n.o.ble and generous beautifies the body, while those that are mean and hateful distort it into animal forms. The more the mind departs from the likeness of the Deity, the nearer does the outward form seem to approach the animal, and always that animal which has a kindred proclivity. Thus, the mild expression of the philanthropist attracts the needy, whom the insolent look of the angry man repels. This is an indispensable guide in social life. It is astonishing what an accordance bodily appearance has with the pa.s.sions; heroism and fearlessness pour life and strength through the veins and muscles, the eyes sparkle, the breast heaves, all the limbs arm themselves alike for combat--the man has the appearance of a war-horse. Fright and fear extinguish the fire in the eyes, the limbs sink powerless and heavy, the marrow in the bones seems frozen, the blood falls back on the heart like a stone, a general weakness cripples the powers of life.

A great, bold, lofty thought compels us to stand on tiptoe, to hold up the head, to expand the mouth and nose. The feeling of eternity, the outlook on a wide open horizon, the sea, etc., make us stretch out our arms--we would merge ourselves into the eternal: with the mountains, we would grow towards the heavens, rush thither on storms and waves: yawning abysses throw us down in giddiness. In like manner, hate is expressed in the body by a repelling force; while, on the contrary, in every pressure of the hand, in every embrace, our body will merge into that of our friend, in the same manner as the souls are in harmonious combination.

Pride makes the body erect as the soul rises; pettiness bends the head, the limbs hang down; servile fear is expressed in the cringing walk; the thought of pain distorts our face, if pleasurable aspects spread a grace over the whole body; anger, on the other hand, will break through every strong opposing cord, and need will almost overcome the impossible. I would now ask through what mechanism it happens that exactly these movements result from these feelings, that just these organs are affected by these pa.s.sions? Might I not just as well want to know why a certain wounding of the ligament should stiffen the lower jaw?

If the pa.s.sion which sympathetically awakened these movements of the frame be often renewed, if this sensation of soul become habitual, then these movements of the body will become so also. If this matured pa.s.sion be of a lasting character, then these const.i.tutional features of the frame become deeply engraved: they become, if I may borrow the pathologist's word, "deuteropathetic," and are at last organic. Thus, at last, the firm perennial physiognomy of man is formed, so that it is almost easier afterwards to change the soul than the form. In this sense, one may also say, without being a "Stahlian," that the soul forms the body; and perhaps the earliest years of youth decide the features of a man for life, as they certainly are the foundation of his moral character. An inert and weak soul, which never overflows in pa.s.sions, has no physiognomy at all; and want of expression is the leading characteristic of the countenance of the imbecile. The original features which nature gave him continue unaltered; the face is smooth, for no soul has played upon it; the eyebrows retain a perfect arch, for no wild pa.s.sion has distorted them; the whole form retains its roundness, for the fat reposes in its cells; the face is regular, perhaps even beautiful, but I pity the soul of it!

A physiognomy of (perfect) organic parts, e.g., as to the form and size of the nose, eyes, mouth, ears, etc., the color of the hair, the height of the neck, and such like, may perhaps possibly be found, but certainly not very easily, however much Lavater should continue to rave about it through ten quarto volumes. He who would reduce to order the capricious play of nature, and cla.s.sify the forms which she has punished like a stepmother, or endowed as a mother, would venture more than Linnaeus, and should be very careful lest he become one with the original presented to him, through its monstrous sportive variety.

Yet one more kind of sympathy deserves to be noticed, since it is of great importance in physiology. I mean the sympathy of certain sensations for the organs from which they sprang. A certain cramp in the stomach causes a feeling of disgust; the reproduction of this sensation brings back the cramp. How is this?

S 23.--The Remains of the Animal Nature is also a Source of Perfection.

Although the animal part of man preserves for him the many great advantages of which we have already spoken, still, one may say that, in another aspect, it remains always despicable; viz., the soul thus depends, slave-like, on the activity of its tools; the periodical relaxation of these prescribes to the soul an inactive pause and annihilation at periods. I mean sleep, which, one cannot deny, robs us at least of the third part of our life. Further, our mind is completely dependent on the laws of the body, so that the cessation of the latter puts a sudden stop to the continuance of thoughts, even though we be on the straight, open path towards truth. If the reason have ever so little fixed upon an idea, when the lazy matter refuses to carry it out, the strings of the thinking organs grow weary, if they have been but slightly strained; the body fails us where we need it most. What astonishing steps, one may infer, would man make in the use of his powers if he could continue to think in a state of unbroken intensity! How he would unravel every idea to its final elements; how he would trace every appearance to its most hidden sources, if he could keep them uninterruptedly before his mind! But, alas! it is not thus. Why is it not so?

S 24.--Necessity for Relaxation.

The following will lead us on the track of truth:--

1. Pleasant sensation was necessary to lead man to perfection, and he can only be perfect when he feels comfortable.

2. The nature of a mortal being makes unpleasant feeling unavoidable.

Evil does not shut man out from the best world, and the worldly-wise find their perfection therein.

3. Thus pain and pleasure are necessary. It seems harder, but it is no less true.

4. Every pain, as every pleasure, grows according to its nature, and would continue to do so.

5. Every pain and every pleasure of a mixed being tend to their own dissolution.

S 25.--Explanation.

It is a well-known law of the connection between ideas that every sensation, of whatever kind, immediately seizes another of its kind, and enlarges itself through this addition. The larger and more manifold it becomes, so much the more does it awaken similar sensations in all directions through the organs of thought, until, by degrees, it becomes universally predominant, and occupies the whole soul. Consequently, every sensation grows through itself; every present condition of the feeling power contains the root of a feeling to follow, similar, but more intense. This is evident. Now, every mental sensation is, as we know, allied to a similar animal one; in other words, each one is connected with more or less movement of the nerves, which take a direction according to the measure of their strength and extension. Thus, as mental sensations grow, must the movements in the nervous system increase also. This is no less clear. Now, pathology teaches us that a nerve never suffers alone: and to say, "Here is a superfluity of strength," is as much as to say, "There is want of strength." Thus, every nervous movement grows through itself. Now, we have remarked that the movements of the nervous system react upon the mind, and strengthen the mental sensations;

[Why, how one weeps when one's too weary!

Tears, tears! why we weep, 'Tis worth inquiry:--that we've shamed a life, Or lost a love, or missed a world, perhaps?

By no means. Simply, that we've walked too far, Or talked too much, or felt the wind in the east, etc.

--Aurora Leigh.]

vice versa, the strengthened sensation of the mind increase and strengthen the motions of the nerves. Thus we have a circle, in which sensation must always increase, and nervous movements every moment become more powerful and universal.

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The Works of Frederick Schiller Part 558 summary

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