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every man is mortal, and any repetition of the meaning contained in these assertions is dull and stupid, instead of being wise.
Words become so associated with things, and are used so much to represent them, that our trains of thought are mostly series of words; these serve to mark our meaning, and make thought more vivid. Any train of thought that is not marked in this way by words, is of a confused unmeaning nature, so that the superior intellect of man is actually the result of this instrument, by which we think. Any one, who tries the experiment of thinking on any subject, without the aid of words, will soon discover that language is essential to thought. It is also the instrument by which individual endeavour is made to excite suggestions of memory, conception, &c., by the repetition of a given word with which a number of thoughts are associated; it is by this latter process that I think the writers on what is termed “ Mental Philosophy," have made so many mistakes relative to the faculties of the supposititious being they call mind, a thing which, as they define it, has no existence in nature.
CHAP. VI. Erroneous consciousness—Deceptions of the senses—
-Dreaming-Deranged consciousness resulting from disease-Vision-Inspiration—Madness, &c.
In our healthiest moments we are sometimes so acted on by external things, as to be completely deceived by them, having erroneous notions of their nature excited
At sunrise or sunset we look towards the horizon, and the vapourous foggy masses called clouds reflect the sun's rays to our eyes, and depict on the retina scenes of silvery rocks, and gilded cliffs, and dark blue mountains. These cloudy regions, and the more distant skies, called the heaven or heavens, have almost always been supposed to be the eternal home of the more favoured human beings.
The heavens, by the magnificence of its phenomena, -at day filled with the resplendence of the sun, and at night by the glory of the moon and stars, the region from whence comes the genial warmth, the fertilizing rains, the refreshing dews, and also the roar of the thunder and the destructive lightnings, the blighting frosts, and the terrific storms, has been in all ages an object of considerable awe among the more ignorant; and this feeling is not a little increased by the want of ability to demonstrate anything respecting the etherial space and the things which endure in it. The notions respecting the heavens common to the vulgar, together with other wild imaginations, were often suggested to me when a child, before I had ever read of anything of the kind, and of course before I had gained any correct knowledge of astronomy and meteorology. Indeed, to a person of little experience, the blue canopy of the sky is naturally considered as a sort of ceiling, studded over with twinkling ornaments, above which is some unknown land ; the clouds
appear of almost as solid a nature as the earth, and thoughts often arise respecting the habitableness of these etherial regions. The breath of man was anciently considered as the vital principle, and was called his spirit, soul, or animus, and this breath, passing away in the common air at death, was supposed to dwell in the clouds, a shadowy being, possessed of a sort of life, and thought, and feeling. Ossian illustrates this poetic superstition in the following passages :
“Peace,' said Cuthullin, 'to the souls of the heroes ! their deeds were great in fight. Let them ride around me on clouds. Let them shew their features of war. My soul shall then be firm in danger; mine arm like the thunder of heaven! But be thou on a moon-beam, O Morna! near the window of my rest; when my thoughts are of peace; when the din of arms is past.'
“As rushes a stream of foam from the dark shady deep of Cromla! when the thunder is travelling above, and dark-brown night sits on half the hill. Through the breaches of the tempest look forth the dim faces of ghosts. So fierce, so vast, so terrible rushed on the sons of Erin.”
“ The rest lay in the heath of the deer, and slept beneath the dusky wind. The ghosts of the lately dead were near, and swam on the gloomy clouds; and far distant, in the dark silence of Lena, the feeble voices of death were faintly heard."
Perhaps imaginary suggestions were confirmed into this permanent superstition, by the appearances called mirage, which among the ancients, living as they did so much in the open air, and leading a wandering life, were doubtless often observed. Scoresby gives the foldescription of mirage:
“There are several phenomena of the atmosphere caused by refraction, which deserve to be noticed. Under certain circumstances, all objects seen on the horizon, seem to be lifted above it a distance of 2 to 4, or more minutes of altitude, or so far extended in height above their natural dimensions. Ice, land, ships, boats, and other objects, when thus enlarged and elevated, are said to loom. The lower part of looming objects, are sometimes connected with the sensible horizon, by an apparent fibrous or columnar extension of their parts, which columns are always perpendicular to the horizon : at other times, they appear to be quite lifted into the air, a void space being seen between them and the horizon. This phenomenon is observed most frequently on or before an easterly wind, and is generally considered as indicative of such.
“When the glaciers, lying to the south of Bern and Neufchatel, appear nearer, plainer, and larger than usual, the countryman looks for rain to follow,' which commonly occurs the next day. And the Tartars at the mouth of the river Jenisei in Siberia, look upon a magnificent appearance of the islands, as the presage of a storm.'
“A most extraordinary appearance of the Foreland or Charles's Island, Spitzbergen, occurred on the 16th of July, 1814. While sailing to the southward along the coast, with an easterly wind, I observed what appeared to be a mountain, in the form of a slender but elevated monument. I was surprised that I had never
seen it before : but was more astonished when I saw, not far distant, a prodigious and perfect arch, thrown across a valley of above a league in breadth. The neighbouring mountains disclosed the cause, by exhibiting an unnatural elevation, with the columnar structure of looming objects. Presently the scene was changed; the mountains along the whole coast assumed the most fantastic forms; the appearance of castles, with lofty spires, towers and battlements, would, in a few minutes, be converted into a vast arch or romantic bridge. These varied and sometimes beautiful metamorphoses, naturally suggested the reality of fairy descriptions; for the air was perfectly transparent, the contrast of snow and rocks was quite distinct, even in the substance of the most uncommon phantasms, though examined with a powerful telescope, and every object seemed to possess every possible stability. I never before observed a phenomenon so varied or so amusing. The land was not alone affected by this peculiar refraction, since every object between the N.E. and S. E. points of the compass, was more or less deformed by it. A mass of ice on the horizon appeared of the height of a cliff, and the prismatic structure of its front, suggested the idea of basaltic columns. It may be remarked that these phenomena took place on a clear evening, after an uncommonly warm after
“Another similar appearance of the coast of Spitzbergen, though not quite so interesting, occurred on the 14th of June, 1816. The weather was clear and mild, the barometer low, the wind easterly. The lower part of the coast in sight, lying in the 80th degree of latitude, had its usual appearance; but the upper part of the hills, over which was spread in some parts a thin stratum of visible fog, was curiously distorted. The general appearance was that of variegated basaltic columns; but the tops of some mountains were extended into the air, in the form of monumental towers. An iceberg in one place was elevated in an extraordinary degree, and assumed the character of a prodigious cliff of alabaster pillars.
“Other peculiar effects of refraction I have observed, of which some instances shall be noticed. At 6 p. m. of the 13th of May, 1814, when the ship I commanded lay beset in the ice, the wind, which for some days had blown fresh from the N. W., veered to the S. E. and subsided. A dense appearance in the atmosphere arose to the southward of us, and advanced with the wind towards the N.W. When it came to the S.W. of us I first noticed that the horizon, under this apparent density, was considerably elevated; and that a separation of seven minutes extent of the altitude, showed the division of the true and refracted horizons. This disunion in the horizon was very similar in appearance to the natural horizon, when viewed through the horizon glass of a sextant, having a considerable index error. Viewed from the mast-head, the refracted horizon extended about 30, farther westward than when seen from the deck. It had the appearance of a line drawn nearly parallel to the true horizon, distant from it 7 minutes, with an open space between. Two ships lying beset about fourteen miles off, the hulls of which, before the density came on, could not be wholly seen, seemed now from the masthead, not to be above half the distance, as the horizon was visible considerably beyond them. The appearance of these ships was singular. Their hulls were much enlarged and elongated, and their masts very much shortened. They had precisely the prospective appearance of ships in a heeling position.
“Again, on the 16th of the same month, the ship I commanded being similarly situated with regard to the ice, the phenomenon was repeated, with some alteration. The refracted portion of the horizon appeared again in the south-east quarter : it was at first direct and undivided; but in a short time, it separated in several places, and each distinct portion was inclined at a small angle towards the true horizon. The effect of refraction was six minutes of altitude. A particular haziness was evident to the east and north of the broken horizon.
“ On the 28th of April, 1811, I had an opportunity of ascertaining the exact effect of a singular refraction,