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a number of facts strongly lead to the conclusion that it has a momentary existence.
(1.) A painter, in drawing the features and bodily form of an absent friend, may have so strong a conception, so vivid a mental picture, as to believe for a moment that his friend is before him. After carefully recalling his thoughts at such times, and reflecting upon them, almost every painter is ready to say that he has experienced some illusions of this kind. "We read," says Dr. Conolly, "that, when Sir Joshua Reynolds, after being many hours occupied in painting, walked out into the street, the lamp-posts seemed to him to be trees, and the men and women moving shrubs." It is true, the illusion is in these cases very short, because the intensity of conception, which is the foundation of it, can never be kept up long when the mind is in a sound state. Such intense conceptions are unnatural. And, further, all the surrounding objects of perception, which no one can altogether disregard for any length of time, tend to check the illusion and terminate it.
(2.) When a blow is aimed at any one, although in sport, and he fully knows it to be so, he forms so vivid a conception of what might possibly be the effect, that his belief is for a moment controlled, and he unavoidably shrinks back from it. This is particularly the case if the blow approaches the eye. Who can help winking at such times? It is a proof of our belief being controlled under such circumstances, that we can move our own hands rapidly in the neighbourhood of the eye, either perpendicularly or horizontally; and, at the same time, easily keep our eyelids from motion. But when the motion is made by another, the conception becomes more vivid, and a belief of danger inevitably arises.-Again, place a person on the battlements of a high tower; his reason tells him he is in no danger; he knows he is in But, after all, he is unable to look down from the battlements without fear; his conceptions are so exceedingly vivid as to induce a momentary belief of danger in opposition to all his reasonings.
(3.) When we are in pain from having struck our foo against a stone, or when pain is suddenly caused in us by any other inanimate object, we are apt to vent a moment
ary rage upon it That is to say, our belief is so affect. ed for an instant, that we ascribe to it an accountable existence, and would punish it accordingly. This is observed particularly in children and in Savages. It is on the principle of our vivid conceptions being attended with belief, that poets so often ascribe life, and agency, and intention to the rain and winds, to storms, and thunder and lightning. How natural are the expressions of King Lear, overwhelmed with the ingratitude of his daughters, and standing with his old head bared to the pelting tempest!
"Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire are my daughters;
(4.) There are persons who are entirely convinced of the folly of the popular belief of ghosts and other nightly apparitions, but who cannot be persuaded to sleep in a room alone, nor go alone into a room in the dark. Whenever they happen cut at night, they are constantly looking on every side; their quickened perceptions behold images, which never had any existence except in their own minds, and they are the subjects of continual disquiet and even terror." It was my misfortune," says Dr. Priestly, "to have the idea of darkness, and the ideas of invisible malignant spirits and apparitions very closely connected in my infancy; and to this day, notwithstanding I believe nothing of those invisible powers, and, consequently, of their connexion with darkness, or anything else, I cannot be perfectly easy in every kind of situation in the dark, though I am sensible I gain ground upon his prejudice continually."
In all such cases we see the influence of the prejudices of the nursery. Persons who are thus afflicted were taught in early childhood to form conceptions of ghosts, visible hobgoblins, and unearthly spirits; and the habit still continues. It is true, when they listen to their reasonings and philosophy, they may well say they do not believe in such things. But the effect of their philosophy is merely to check their belief; not in ten cases in & thousand is the belief entirely overcome. Every little hile, in all solitary places, and especially in the dark, it
returns, and, when banished, returns again; otherwise we cannot give an explanation of the conduct of these per
65. Conceptions which are joined with perceptions.
The belief in our mere conceptions is the more evident and striking whenever at any time they are joined with our perceptions.-A person, for instance, is walking in a field in a foggy morning, and perceives something, no matter what it is; but he believes it to be a man, and does not doubt it. In other words, he truly perceives some object, and, in addition to that perception, has a mental conception of a man, attended with belief. When he has advanced a few feet further, all at once he perceives that what he conceived to be a man is merely a stump with a few stones piled on its top. He pe ved at first, as plainly or but little short of it, that it was a stump, as in a moment afterward; there were the whole time very nearly the same visible form and the same dimensions in his eye. But he had the conception of a man in his mind at the same moment, which overruled and annulled the natural effects of the visual perception; the conception, being associated with the present visible object, acquired peculiar strength and permanency; so much so, that he truly and firmly believed that a human being was before him. But the conception has departed; the present object of perception has taken its place, and it is now impossible for him to conjure up the phantom, the reality of which he but just now had no doubt of.
One of the numerous characters whom Sir Walter Scott has sketched with so much truth to nature, speaks of himself as being banished, on a certain occasion, to one of the sandy Keys of the West Indies, which was reputed to be inhabited by malignant demons. This pe son, after acknowledging he had his secret apprehensions upon their account, remarks, "In open daylight or in absolute darkness I did not greatly apprehend their approach; but in the misty dawn of the morning, or when evening was about to fall, I saw, for the first week of my abode on the Key, many a dim and undefined spectre; now resembling a Spaniard, with his capa wrapped
around him, and his nuge sombrera, as large as an umbrella, upon his head; now a Dutch sailor, with his fough cap and trunk hose; and now an Indian Cacique, with his feathery crown and long lance of cane. I always approached them, but, whenever I drew near, the phantom changed into a bush, or a piece of driftwood, or a wreath of mist, or some such cause of deception."
But it is unnecessary to resort to books for illustrations of this topic. Multitudes of persons have a conceptive facility of creations, which is often troublesome and perplexing; especially in uncommon situations, and in the night. And in all cases this tendency is greatly strengthened, whenever it can lay hold of objects, the outlines of which it can pervert to its own purposes. In instances of this kind, where the conceptions are upheld, as it were, by present objects of perception, and receive a sort of permanency from them, nothing is better known than that we often exercise a strong and unhesitating belief. These instances, therefore, can properly be considered as illustrating and confirming the views in the preceding section.
66. Conceptions as connected with fictitious representations
These observations suggest an explanation, at least in part, of the effects which are produced on the mind by exhibitions of fictitious distress. In the representation of tragedies, for instance, it must be admitted, that there is a general conviction of the whole being but a fiction. But, although persons enter the theatre with this general conviction, it does not always remain with them the whole time. At certain peculiarly interesting passages in the poet, and at certain exhibitions of powerful and well-timed effort in the actor, this general impression, that all is a fiction, fails. The feelings of the spectator may be said to rush into the scenes; he mingles in the events; carried away and lost, he for a moment believes all to be real, and the tears gush at the catastrophe which he witnesses. The explanation, therefore, of the emotions felt at the exhibition of a tragedy, such as indignation, pity, and abhorrence, is, that at certain parts of the exhibition we have a momentary belief in the reality of the events
which are represented. And after the illustrations which have been given, such a belief cannot be considered impossible. The same explanation will apply to the emctions which follow our reading of tragedies when alone, or any other natural and affecting descriptions. In the world of conceptions which the genius of the writer conjures up, we are transported out of the world of real existence, and for a while fully believe in the reality of what is only an incantation.
§ 67. Origin of the distinction of simple and complex.
In looking at our thoughts and feelings, as they continually pass under the review of our internal observation, we readily perceive that they are not of equal worth; we do not assign to them the same estimate; one state of mind is found to be expressive of one thing only, and that thing, whatever it is, is precise, and definite, and inseparable; while another state of mind is found to be expressive of, and virtually equal to, many others. And hence we are led, not only with the utmost propriety, but even by a sort of necessity, to make a division of the whole body of our mental affections into the two classes of SIMPLE and COMPLEX. Nature herself makes the divis on; it is one of those characteristics which gives to the mind, in part at least, its greatness; one of those elements of power, without which the soul could not be what it is, and without a knowledge of which it is difficult to possess a full and correct understanding of it in other respects.
§ 68. Nature and characteristics of simple inental states. We shall first offer some remarks on those mental states which are simple, and shall aim to give an understanding of their nature, so far as can be expected on a subject, the clearness of which depends more on a reference to