BLTC Press Titles

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The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner

Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman

Brain exhaustion

by James Leonard Corning


* "The Connection and Equivalence of Forces," by Justus von Liebig, contained in his "Familiar Letters on Chemistry."

relation to other vital phenomena. No doubt the majority of biologists, and sociologists as well, have long since come to regard brain-force from a standpoint in harmony with the teachings of evolution. There are many persons, however, who still look with suspicion upon the physiological method of regarding mind; and for no other reason, apparently, than because of a morbid fear that such a manner of contemplating intellectual phenomena might result in abrogation of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Nothing more illogical, however, can be imagined than such a deduction. We are bound, indeed, to study the laws under which mind manifests itself in living organisms; but what has such investigation to do with the eventual destiny of the phenomena themselves when they escape beyond range of scientific inquest?

The law of the indestructibility of force is rather an argument in favor of the perpetuation of mental phenomena in some form than otherwise.

But to return to the specific subject of discussion.

This law of the convertibility and indestructibility of causes, this doctrine of the "conservation of forces," has received such substantial support from the researches of Joule, Grove, Farady, Tyndall, and Thomson, that it may now be ranked among the most thoroughly established generalizations of physics.

This is, however, not the place to enter upon the discussion of the application of the doctrine of the correlation of forces to the phenomena of the inorganic world. It is eminently proper, however, in the face of the great gain accruing to scientific investigation in the inanimate world by the application of this law, that an earnest effort should be made to apply the principles of its teachings not only to the contemplation of vital phenomena as a whole, not only to the general dynamics of the organism at large, but also to the economics of the individual organ.

First, then, as to the relation of the law of the convertibility of forces to the phenomena of vegetable and animal life in general.

When carbonic acid, water, ana zinc are brought together they exercise a certain effect upon each other. By reason of chemical affinity, a powdery compound is formed, which contains carbonic acid, zinc, and oxygen from the water. At the same time hydrogen is evolved.

In plants, the bud, or part of the plant, takes the place of the zinc. The growth of the plant results in the formation, from carbonic acid and water, of chemical compounds containing carbon and hydrogen, or carbon and elements of water, and oxygen is at the same time evolved.*

Sunlight acts upon the plant very much in the same manner as electricity, which neutralizes the attraction of the elements of water, thus separating them from each other. The light of the sun is therefore absolutely necessary to the growth of the plant. Moreover, heat is indispensably requisite to the evolution of the phenomena of plant-life. Not only, however, does the plant owe its development to heat, but the germ, that supposed

* Op. tit.

repository of an independent "vital principle" "bUdungstrieb," or "germ-force,'" is absolutely incapable of any specifically constructive act of its own, without the active assistance of heat. Thus, if the seed be excluded from a free access of air, if moisture be denied it, and if the temperature be maintained sufficiently low, it may be kept in a condition of perfect inaction for any length of time. When, however, the three requisites of air, moisture, and heat are again brought to bear upon it, germination takes place. It is therefore perfectly evident that heat can not be regarded simply in the light of "a vital stimulant" to the germ, as some would have us believe, but that it must rather be looked upon as the active constructive force. Otherwise, if heat were merely a primary "stimulus," the seed having germinated and the plant having started on its career of development, there should be no further use for this caloric "stimulus." As we have seen, however, heat is a developmental sine qua non throughout the entire career of the plant. Viewed in the light of the foregoing exposition, Carpenter's* proposition, to regard the functions of the germ in the light of a "directive agency" is particularly appropriate.

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