Obrazy na stronie
[ocr errors]

which it is hid. Human passions, feelings and modes of thinking leave their traces on the countenance: but we have not, thus far, left the dame's school in this affair, and are not qualified to enter ourselves in the free-school for more liberal enquiries.

The writings of Lavater on the subject of physiognomy are couched in a sort of poetic prose, overflowing with incoherent and vague exclamations, and bearing small resemblance to a treatise in which the elements of science are to be developed. Their success however was extraordinary; and it was probably that success, which prompted Gall first to turn his attention from the indications of character that are to be found in the face of man, to the study of the head generally, as connected with the intellectual and moral qualities of the individual.

It was about four years before the commencement of the present century, that Gall appears to have begun to deliver lectures on the structure and external appearances of the human head. He tells us, that his attention was first called to the subject in the ninth year of his age (that is, in the year 1767), and that he spent thirty years in the private meditation of his system, before he began to promulgate it. Be that as it will, its most striking characteristic is that of marking out the scull into compartments, in the same manner as a country delineated on a map is divided into districts, and assigning a different faculty or organ to each. In the earliest of these diagrams that has fallen under my observation, the human scull is divided into twenty-seven compartments.

I would say of craniology, as I have already said of physiognomy, that there is such a science attainable probably by man, but that we have yet made scarcely any progress in the acquiring it. As certain lines in the countenance are indicative of the dispositions of the man, so it is reasonable to believe that a certain structure of the head is in correspondence with the faculties and propensities of the individual.

Thus far we may probably advance without violating a due degree of caution. But there is a wide distance between this general statement, and the conduct of the man who at once splits the human head into twenty-seven compartments.

The exterior appearance of the scull is affirmed to correspond with the structure of the brain beneath. And nothing can be more analogons to what the deepest thinkers have already confessed of man, than to suppose that there is one structure of the brain better adapted for intellectual purposes than another. There is probably one structure better adapted than another, for calculation, for poetry, for courage, for cowardice, for presumption, for diffidence, for roughness, for tenderness, for self-control and the want of it. Even as some have

inherently a faculty adapted for music or the contrary b.

But it is not reasonable to believe that we think of calculation with one portion of the brain, and of poetry with another.

It is very little that we know of the nature of matter; and we are equally ignorant as to the substance, whatever it is, in which the thinking principle in man resides. But, without adventuring in any way to dogmatise on the subject, we find so many analogies between the thinking principle, and the structure of what we call the brain, that we cannot but regard the latter as in some way the instrument of the former.

Now nothing can be more certain respecting the thinking principle, than its individuality. It has been said, that the mind can entertain but one thought at one time; and certain it is, from the nature of attention, and from the association of ideas, that unity is one of the principal characteristics of mind. It is this which constitutes personal identity; an attribute that, however unsatisfactory may be the explanations which have been given respecting it, we all of us feel, and that lies at the foundation of all our voluntary actions, and all our morality.

Analogous to this unity of thought and mind, is the arrangement of the nerves and the brain in the

+ See above, p. 29.

human body. The nerves all lead up to the brain; and there is a centrical point in the brain itself, in which the reports of the senses terminate, and at which the action of the will may be conceived to begin. This, in the language of our fathers, was called the “ seat of the soul.”

We may therefore, without departing from the limits of a due caution and modesty, consider this as the throne before which the mind holds its court. Hither the senses bring in their reports, and hence the sovereign will issues his commands. The whole system appears to be conducted through the instrumentality of the nerves, along whose subtle texture the feelings and impressions are propagated. . Between the reports of the senses and the commands of the will, intervenes that which is emphatically the office of the mind, comprising meditation, reflection, inference and judgment. How these func, tions are performed we know not; but it is reasonable to believe that the substance of the brain or of some part of the brain is implicated in them.

Still however we must not lose sight of what has been already said, that in the action of the mind unity is an indispensible condition. Our thoughts can only hold their council and form their decrees in a very limited region. This is their retreat and strong hold; and the special use and functions of the remoter parts of the brain we are unable to determine; so utterly obscure and undefined is our present knowledge of the great ligament which binds together the body and the thinking principle.

Enough however results from this imperfect view of the ligament, to demonstrate the incongruity and untenableness of a doctrine which should assign the indications of different functions, exercises and propensities of the mind to the exterior surface of the scull or the brain. This is quackery, and is to be classed with chiromancy, augury, astrology, and the rest of those schemes for discovering the future and unknown, which the restlessness and anxiety of the human mind have invented, built upon arbitrary principles, blundered upon in the dark, and having no resemblance to the march of genuine science. I find in sir Thomas Browne the following axioms of chiromancy: “that spots in the tops of the nails do signifie things past; in the middle, things present; and at the bottom, events to come: that white specks presage our felicity ; blue ones our misfortunes : that those in the nails of the thumb have significations of honour, in the forefinger, of riches, and so respectively in the rest.”

Science, to be of a high and satisfactory character, ought to consist of a deduction of causes and effects, shewing us not merely that a thing is so, but why it is as it is, and cannot be otherwise. The rest is merely empirical ; and, though the narrowness of human wit may often drive us to this; yet it is essentially of a lower order and description. As it depends for its authority upon an example, or

« PoprzedniaDalej »