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Bruno Castellucci Artist. To be blind and to think that one can do without this staff is the worst kind of blindness. How truly a contemporary writer says that only vanity fails to gather from secondary causes the same lessons as from primary [ 90 ] causes! One can and one even ought to admire all these fine geniuses in their most useless works, such men as Descartes, Malebranche, Leibniz, Wolff and the rest, but what profit, I ask, has any one gained from their profound meditations, and from all their works?
Let us start out then to discover not what has been thought, but what must be thought for the sake of repose in life. There are as many different minds, different characters, and different customs, as there are different temperaments.
Even Galen 8 knew this truth which Descartes carried so far as to claim that medicine alone can change minds and morals, along with bodies. Une obstruction dans la rate, dans le foie, un embarras dans la veine porte. In disease the soul is sometimes hidden, showing no sign of life; sometimes it is so inflamed by fury that it seems to be doubled; sometimes, imbecility vanishes and the convalescence of an idiot produces a wise man.
Sometimes, again, the greatest genius becomes imbecile and loses the sense of self. Adieu then to all that fine knowledge, acquired at so high a price, and with so much trouble! Here is a paralytic who asks if his leg is in bed with him; there is a soldier who thinks that he still has the arm which has been cut off. The memory of his old sensations, and of the place to which they were referred by his soul, is the cause of his illusion, and of this kind of delirium.
The mere mention of the member which he has lost is enough to recall it to his mind, and [ 91 ] to make him feel all its motions; and this causes him an indefinable and inexpressible kind of imaginary suffering. What was needed to change the bravery of Caius Julius, Seneca, or Petronius into cowardice or faintheartedness?
Merely an obstruction in the spleen, in the liver, an impediment in the portal vein? Because the imagination is obstructed along with the viscera, and this gives rise to all the singular phenomena of hysteria and hypochondria. What can I add to the stories already told of those who imagine themselves transformed into wolf-men, cocks or vampires, or of those who think that the dead feed upon them?
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Why should I stop to speak of the man who imagines that his nose or some other member is of glass? The way to help this man regain his faculties and his own flesh-and-blood nose is to advise him to sleep on hay, lest he break the fragile organ, and then to set fire to the hay that he may be afraid of being burned—a fear which has sometimes cured paralysis.
But I must touch lightly on facts which everybody knows. Neither shall I dwell long on the details of the effects of sleep. Here a tired soldier snores in a trench, in the middle of the thunder of hundreds of cannon. His soul hears nothing; his sleep is as deep as apoplexy. A bomb is on the point of crushing him.
He will feel this less perhaps than he feels an insect which is under his foot.
On the other hand, this man who is devoured by jealousy, hatred, avarice, or ambition, can never find any rest. The most peaceful spot, the freshest and most calming drinks are alike useless to one [ 92 ] who has not freed his heart from the torment of passion. The soul and the body fall asleep together. As the motion of the blood is calmed, a sweet feeling of peace and quiet spreads through the whole mechanism. The soul feels itself little by little growing heavy as the eyelids droop, and loses its tenseness, as the fibres of the brain relax; thus little by little it becomes as if paralyzed and with it all the muscles of the body.
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These can no longer sustain the weight of the head, and the soul can no longer bear the burden of thought; it is in sleep as if it were not. La circulation se fait-elle avec trop de vitesse? Is the circulation too quick? Is the soul too much excited? Such are the two opposite causes of insomnia.
A single fright in the midst of our dreams makes the heart beat at double speed and snatches us from needed and delicious repose, as a real grief or an urgent need would do. For if the soul is not fast asleep, it surely is not far from sleep, since it can not point out a single object to which it has attended, among the uncounted number of confused ideas which, so to speak, fill the atmosphere of our brains like clouds.
Opium is too closely related to the sleep it produces, to be left out of consideration here. This drug intoxicates, like wine, coffee, etc.
How sweet is this lethargy! The soul would long never to emerge from it. For the soul has been a prey to the most intense sorrow, but now feels only the joy of suffering past, and of sweetest peace.enter
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Opium even alters the will, forcing the soul which wished to wake and to enjoy life, to sleep in spite of itself. I shall omit any reference to the effect of poisons. Coffee, the well-known antidote for wine, by scourging the imagination, cures our headaches and scatters our cares without laying up for us, as wine does, other headaches for the morrow. But let us contemplate the soul in its other needs. The human body is a machine which winds its own springs. It is the living image of perpetual movement. Nourishment keeps up the movements which fever excites.