BLTC Press Titles

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Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

Digestion and its derangements

by Thomas King Chambers


The blood is the floating capital lying between absorption and nutrition—a treasury liable to continuous drafts from the latter, and requiring therefore constant supplies from the former to keep up its efficiency.

In the vegetable world truly it is difficult to point out where one act ends and the other begins. The nutriment of the plant dissolved in water is received by the terminal cell at the tip of the root, and handed on from closed cell to closed cell, passing through their membranous walls, till, as it approaches the goal of its journey, it supplies substance to the imperfect and new cells which it helps to form in fruit flower or leaf.


Here the first producer or receiver of the article is of the same nature as the consumer. But in animals, the higher we ascend in the scale of creation, the more strongly marked and easy to recognise is the distinction between the receiving and the using the means of growth,—the more special is the apparatus assigned to making and moving the blood,—the more obviously distinct is its devotion to what may be called " the carrying trade" of the bodily economy.

By this broad line of demarcation we are enabled to point to a separate series of organs appropriated to the offices of digestion, all of which are, physiologically speaking, anterior to the blood. Of these offices it is attempted in the following pages to offer such a picture as may be present in the miud of a practitioner in medicine during his daily task of modifying, mainly through their influence, the phenomena of life,—such as may assist him, as far as the actual state of knowledge will allow, in having a rational basis for empirical treatment, a picture, rugged indeed and imperfect in its outline, but capable of being filled up by observations derived from his own experience or contributed by the special researches of those purely devoted to a philosophical life.

The author believes that in no way is both the science and the art of healing so likely to be improved, as by the association in its literature, and through that in the minds of its practitioners, of pathology with physiology rather than with morbid anatomy;—that juster theoretical views are elicited by looking upon disease as part of the phenomena of life than as the producer of appearances seen after death;—and that patients are more likely to be cured by one, whether original observer or reader, who is considering even imperfectly the vital actions exhibited by them, than if he knew exactly what would be the consequences of the disease in the corpse.

In no department of medicine is this association so important as in that which relates to derangements of the digestive organs. Morbid anatomy here gives us less help than in any other classes of disease; the changes of those viscera found in the dead body have less relation to the phenomena during life than in other cases; and if the science is forcibly driven to answer questions for which it is not calculated, it will give erroneous information. For why?—the changes seen by the morbid anatomist are those of solids exhibiting faulty nutrition, a process essentially posterior to the blood—whereas the process whose derangements we have to consider in this volume are essentially anterior to the blood. Besides which, even when the derangement does depend on a faulty nutrition of a digestive organ, its constituent and most important parts are so delicate, that the rough process of death generally destroys all their peculiarities.

In this First Book, " On Digestion," a sketch will first be given of the several parts concerned in that function which are common to the whole alimentary tube; then the several portions will be examined connected with the several peculiar solvents which they possess; and then the substances which these parts are designed to receive.

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