Oldalképek
PDF
ePub
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

BERKELEY, CAL. EAVEN lay about us pendently of the flesh, and oftentimes in the infancy of our must be confined by bonds of linen to race. When the mind's prevent its imminent escape through the eye of the tribesman

gash of a desperate wound, or be held first opened upon a

down with weights of iron upon the head. world of mystery, to But even here, as into the jungle, the him the haunts of explorer came, and began an unending

good and evil spirits search for an ever-receding goal, a search lay no farther away than the jungle just which like that other led at first through beyond his hut. The jungle explored, the regions nearest home; for two thousand river followed to its head, mountain sum- years the pious hands of anatomists sought mits still remained untrodden, and here for the springs of life in the tissues of animals, a while dwelt the gods. Olympus at last and even attempted to find in the bodies ascended and found to be a vacant peak, of the dead the organic seat of man's the mountain-climber came down, his immortality. disappointment forgotten, to tell of gazing The first civilized dissectors were those across a vast ocean and of the Blessed Isles Sumerian priests and haruspices who drew which seemed to lie therein, beyond the auguries from the viscera of sacrificial setting sun; and when mariners returned animals. In this widespread rite it was the without news of such far shores, there were liver especially in which the omens were still the stars and the sun-god's chariot of sought; while in the earlier thought of the fire, beyond the reach of any mortal traveler. races which practiced it, Assyrians, He

So with the inward mystery of man's brews, and Greeks, the liver was also life; at first a mere wraith of fancy or of considered the seat of life, of heat, and of fear, a vague image of the body it in- whatever higher faculties distinguished man habited, the spirit could wander inde- from the animals, and animals from lower nature. The Psalmist literally said “The seat of understanding. Other early Greek liver of the righteous man shall be made investigators, as Alkmaion of Croton, began.fat.“My liver shall sing praise to to have glimmerings of the importance of Thee and not be silent." The learned the brain; but even these new organs studies of Professor Jastrow suggest, indeed, could not entirely dispossess the liver from that it was because of the importance its old place of honor. New philosophies, attached to this organ as of sacred function, , like new religions, build upon the old. that the rite of liver-searching became so There were metaphysicians as well as general and finally led, its original signifi- anatomists at work upon the problem of cance forgotten, to the immolation of ani- flesh and spirit; and there soon grew up mals with the more elevated conception of that half-shrewd, half-false doctrine which vicarious sacrifice. How in the first place is so clearly expressed by Aristotle, a docthe liver earned such important rank among trine which was still taught as fact in the the tissues, takes us perhaps into too dark Middle Ages, and survives in the etymology, a region of primitive symbolism, but where though lost to the thought, of the present the philologist did not tread, a casual day. Life is of triple nature (says Aristotle); wanderer in this field may rashly enter. the plants of the field are nourished and

[graphic]

Primitive man, opening the abdomen grow; beasts feel and move; man reasons of a beast, saw much that explained itself. and remembers, and knows that he exists. The stomach, the intestines, the kidneys, Possessors of threefold faculties, we live bespoke their own functions by their very and move and have our being, and for each contents or their connections, and being faculty an organ is set apart. As the ancients understood, were no cause for wonder. knew, the liver is the place of the vegetative But the liver—largest and heaviest mass soul, drawing nourishment from the stomof all, blood-hued, and as it seemed, the ach, and sending it through the hepatic source of all the veins; with spreading vein to the heart, where its more subtle lobes and the strangely colored vessel of portions are refined to form the sensitive gall-offered an inviting mystery, and soul, whose outward motions are felt in could not fail to be the seat of faculties less all the pulses. Over these lesser organs ignobly comprehensible than mere emunc- presides the brain, seat of the intellectual tion or digestion. Was it not, then, the faculties, the "animal soul.” A blow upon source of the blood, of bodily warmth, of the head, injury of the brain, may abolish life itself?

for a time all consciousness, but the vital Centuries later, with the practice of dis- spark remains alight until the last beat section as a scientific method, other regions of the heart. of the animal body were laid bare, and The anatomical theories upon which all heart and brain began to present new this was based were hardly modified until mystery and new opportunity for the seeker the Renaissance, except that discovery of of souls. In the Hippocratic writing “De the bile-forming function of the liver made corde,” the right cavities of the heart are that organ more or less comprehensible and represented as receiving the blood from so deprived it of its remaining share of the the liver and driving it out again through soul. The heart, needless to say, retains the veins; but the left ventricle (found its old place of honor, if not in the scientific empty after death) contains the vital prin- sense, at least in the speech of romance ciple or pneuma, which is to be sent through- and of worship. Buried in our language out the body by the arteries. The heart are curious traces of this and even older is thus the central organ of life and the philosophies; thus we say “frenzy” of an

ailment of the mind, but the phreniç nerves and vessels are those of the diaphragm-a relic of a pre-Aristotelian view that the diaphragm, placed between liver and heart, was itself the seat of the intellect.

The higher functions once established in the brain, the search was narrowed, and every recess of the cranium was invaded. At Alexandria, in the third century before Christ, Erasistratus and Herophilus added to other great achievements an exact study of the human brain. The first was the discoverer of the meningeal coverings, and placed in them the intellectual faculty, but later transferred it to the cerebellum, partly, we may suppose, because of its marvelous structure still called arbor vitæ, but also because he had seen the grave results of damage done to the cerebellum in animals. Herophilus went deeper, discovered the ventricles of the cerebral hemispheres, and gave to them the same interpretation, whence perhaps arose the quaint mediæval division of the brain-cavities into cells of imagination, reason, and memory. But most striking guess of all was Strato's of Lampsacus, who found, so Plutarch tells, the pars princeps animæ in the middle of the forehead, between the eyebrows. We need no flight of fancy to imagine his joy and awe, who must have been the first to drive chisel into the frontal sinuses. In the very substance of the skull, between brain and eye, where thought and vision meet, those dark caverns might well have seemed to him the abiding place of man's inner self.

But the inner self of these Greeks was in general no more than what we vaguely mean by the word life, without clear implication of anything immaterial. When the coming of Christianity, on the other hand, brought back in a nobler form that conception of the soul as an immortal entity, as a temporary dweller in the house of flesh, which is found alike in the thought of the savage and in the speculations of

Plato, it freed the soul from the trammels of body for eternity, yet it bound the spirit subject to the flesh during the span of earthly existence; and herein it raised a strange new problem for the anatomists of the soul.

The Christian Fathers did not seek new organs for the new soul; anatomy was stagnant, and they went to pagan Galen for physicians' lore as trustingly as to their sacred codices for texts. To many, indeed, the intellectual or animal soul, already firmly seated in the brain, was itself the immortal essence, though others imagined this a fourth entity for which Galen could have given them no new organ had they sought one; wherefore, with Augustine, they let it be diffused throughout the body. Thus it was not toward the science of completed form the Latin Fathers turned, but to embryology, for they were greatly troubled to know in what manner the soul comes at first to join the body. Whether created anew by God, or having waited from the beginning among a great throng of the other unborn; whether inherited from the parents, or given to the child at the moment of its first breath, or infused into the unborn embryo, were questions of vast argument.

In the debate Tertullian and Augustine were foremost; but it is curious that with all their insistence upon spiritualities, the only evidence they had to prove the presence of the soul in the embryo before birth was based upon such purely corporeal grounds as the early development of brain and heart and the existence of muscular movements in utero. There is a quaint account of the formation of the embryo which appears in a long series of books, lay and ecclesiastical. Aquinas took it from Augustine, who knew it perhaps from some forgotten physician of the third century; Dante from Aquinas, and versified it in his Purgatory. Henri de Mondeville put it in a book of surgery, and from him Thomas

Vicary gave it English words: “Thus is renewal of the old search than the middle of the childe bred foorth in four degrees . the seventeenth century, nor would any the thirde degree is, when the principals man seem less likely to pursue it than one be shapen, as the Hart, lyver, and Brayne: whose very methods of reasoning were the fourth and laste, as when al the other founded upon an attempt to abandon older members be perfectly shapen, then it re- ground. In 1543 Vesalius' “Fabrica” had ceyveth the soule wyth life and breath; broken anatomy's age-old chains of traand then it beginneth to moue it-selfe dition, and eighty-five years later Harvey's alone: so is ther xlvj. dayes from the daye discovery of the circulation threw her of conception vnto the daye of ful perfection shackles to the ground. After this the and receyving of the soule, as God best pulse-beat was not mysterious, and no more knoweth."

is heard of a soul in the heart or the arteries. It is obvious that the embryology of It was otherwise with the nervous system, Augustine finds a practical application in however, for not even the genius of Vesal the question of infant damnation; the could fathom the problem of muscles moving spirit is almost eight months a prisoner at the command of the will, nor tell how liable to the penalties of unchristened a pin-prick gets into consciousness. Moredeath, but without opportunity of rescue over, there was nothing, as yet, in the by baptism. Here is no place for the tender- new anatomy to replace or even to discredit hearted—or for the anatomist. Yet to the Galenic doctrine of the animal spirits, this day, when birth is impending in any which taught that in the brain the more household of the Church, the physician volatile parts of the blood are filtered out must be prepared to utter the hallowed and sent ebbing and flowing through the formula, and in times of emergency, when nerves (believed to be hollow) to carry two lives are committed to the hands of the sensation and volition back and forth. It surgeon, there takes place a dramatic was in the minds of many that somewhere repetition of the immemorial battle for in the brain, at the starting-place of this souls. The unorthodox physician who has living tide, must be the central point of witnessed or taken part in one of these existence; for all his originality, René sudden tragedies will be driven to marvel Descartes too was moving in the wellat the power of an ancient dogma in the trodden path when he made his famous modern hospital; the basin of sterile salt assumption that the pineal gland is the solution becomes, by miracles of faith, a seat of the soul. His reasons are hardly baptismal font, and solemn adjuration of more than Erasistratus or Strato might Father, Son, and Holy Spirit issues from the have given: there must be some point at swathed figure of a nursing Sister. But those which body and soul are joined; it must who believe must almost have heard din be a single structure, and in the middle of warfare and have seen the glitter of plane of the body, in order that impressions archangels' panoplies.

coming from double organs, like the eyes or We have had more than a hint that in all ears, may be combined into a single thought; times past the search for the soul has followed the pineal gland is the only organ in the the same path, every new seeker passing brain which his dissections had shown to over the familiar ground traversed by his be so placed; it lies in the third ventricle, predecessors, thinking the object of his in the very spot where the spirits of the hope lay in some place beyond, still mys- anterior cavities meet those of the posterior, terious and unexplored. Yet at first thought and it is well protected from outward no time would seem less likely to witness a harm.

« ElőzőTovább »