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THE OPINIONS WHICH ATTRIBUTE THE SUPPOSED INFLUENCE OF FANCY TO THE DIRECT OPERATIONS OF
"Mens sine pondere ludit."-PETRONIUS.
THE opinion entertained in the middle ages respecting the Soul was, that it possessed an immaterial and immortal nature, and that it was endowed with such intellectual powers as wit, reason, understanding, opinion, judgment, and wisdom. No sooner, then, was this doctrine taught, than the attention of the learned became no less bent upon determining its connexion with the body, than in hazarding speculations regarding its occasional resumption of a human form after the body had mingled with its parent dust. It was owing, therefore, to this reason, that perfectly different views in time arose regarding the nature of apparitions.
The first supposed indication of the Soul's existence was the exercise of her faculties upon the innate ideas, or intuitive truths, which she had received for her natural dowry. Other objects about which she was occupied were the new apprehensions that were each moment conveyed to her through the medium of the five Senses. Upon the forms of things which Memory
had stored up, she was employed in her private closet of the brain, where she determined the present and past, foresaw things to come, doubted and selected, traced effects and causes, defined, argued, divided compounds, contemplated virtuous and vicious objects, and reasoned upon general principles. But the result of her labours was not committed to Common Memory, but to another ministering principle named Intellectual Memory, where, in a separate storehouse, all acquired facts and general reasons were preserved, these even remaining after death.
The activity which the Soul was supposed to display upon ideas, even during sleep, gave rise to numerous learned speculations. Dreams," says Mr Addison," look like the relaxations and amusements of the soul when she is disencumbered of her machine; her sports and recreations when she has laid her charge asleep. The soul is clogged and retarded in her operations, when she acts in conjunction with a companion that is so heavy and unwieldy in its motions. But in dreams," he adds, "she converses with numberless beings of her own creation, and is transported into ten thousand scenes of her own raising. She is herself the theatre, the actor, and the beholder." The same view has been made the subject of Dr Young's reveries. But Sir Thomas Brown had previously extended this notion much farther. "It is observed," he says, "that men sometimes, upon the hour of their departure, do speak and reason above themselves; for then the Soul, beginning to be freed from the ligainents of the body, begins to reason like herself, and to discourse in a strain above mortality."
Such was the idea which prevailed regarding the activity of the Soul, when unfettered by the dull and lethargic matter of which the body was composed. In comparing, then, the operations of the Soul or Mind with those attributed by other metaphysicians to her handmaid, Fancy or Imagination, it will be perfectly evident that they are in every respect the same. Indeed, the subordinate principle of Fancy had been only invented by pneumatologists, in order to give a superior character of excellence to the unaided operations of the Soul. If any thing went wrong with our thoughts,-if wild and ill-assorted perceptions,-if monsters, ghosts, and different chimeras arose, instead of regular and well-arranged ideas, it was not the fault of the Soul, but of her wayward servant, Fancy. The different vapours sent from the heart, the seat of good or ill affections, could not injure the pure nature of the Soul, but might, very naturally, have an untoward effect upon her handmaid, Fancy. In short, there could not be læsa anima, but there might be læsa imaginatio.
when many metaphysicians were led to suppose that dreams were less attributable to Fancy than to the unaided activity of the Soul, they could not start this hypothesis without advancing arguments at the same time to shew, that such phenomena were rational, though far above all human comprehension; that they were truly worthy the pure character of the Soul, and of the divining faculty which, through this medium, she exercised. "In dreams," says Addison, "it is wonderful to remark with what sprightliness and alacrity the Soul exerts herself. The slow of speech
make unpremeditated harangues, or converse readily in languages that they are but little acquainted with. The grave abound in pleasantries, the dull in repartees and points of wit.”* But Sir Thomas Brown, to whom Addison refers for a similar opinion, had far exceeded this view. His words are these:-" Were my memory as faithful as my reason is fruitful, I would never study but in my dreams; and this time also would I choose for my devotions; but our grosser memories have then so little hold on our understandings, that they forget the story, and can only relate to our awakened souls a confused and broken tale of that that has passed." This is indeed a very curious view,-not ill calculated to explain the true origin of a few of the speculations entertained by the celebrated author himself of the religio medici. Nor can I help suspecting that some of the conjectures on the mind and its organs, which are inculcated at the present day, might have been no less studied in dreams,— that physiologists might have forgotten some connecting links of them when they awoke, and that, if there should be any imperfection in the doctrines which may have been derived from this source, it is owing to a part only of the vision having been remembered, so that, in the place of a well-arranged system, we are presented with what Sir Thomas Brown would style a confused and broken tale."+ It thus appears, that the power assigned to the Soul, or to her handmaid, Fancy, was inconceivably great. With regard to Fancy in particular, I have shewn
how it was at length argued, that this principle had not merely the power of compounding ideas or images from the less complicated forms that were either brought to her directly by the Senses, or that were recalled from the storehouse of Memory, but that she had even the independent power of creating to herself new ideas of her own; that metaphysicians did not even then place limits to their speculations, conceiving that the Fancy of one individual could so operate on the Soul of another, as to produce upon the mind that was passive a regular idea; and, if the action was very intense, a vivid phantasm. No investigation, therefore, could now remain, but to ascertain if Imagination or Fancy had not some influence upon external particles of matter, as well as upon the minds of others. It was accordingly debated in the schools,
-if Imagination could not move external objects? Thus, the evil eye of a witch, which could cause haystacks to be burnt, cattle to be killed, or corn blighted, might, with greater reason, be assigned to the power of Fancy, when heightened in its virulence by pernicious vapours sent from the heart, the seat of the affections; and, on the same principle, might be explained the effect affirmed to have happened when a pretty woman was in a vapourish mood, the glance of whose eyes was said to have shivered a steel mirror.
The last speculation entertained was, that the effects attributed to Fancy might be performed by the Soul herself. In the days of Leibnitz, there were some notions entertained by this philosopher with regard to matter and mind, which gave rise to an opinion that Souls immediately after death passed into new