Vital Energy Behind Brain Cells

In all of these phenomena there is something more than brain cells at

work. Brain cells are guided, co-ordinated, controlled, and even

overseen, in their labors. The same conclusion becomes inevitable with

regard to the action of the cells of the body generally. A generation

or two ago it was the custom to attempt to explain all the processes

in the body by chemical and physical principles. Respiration, for

instance, and absorption of gases into the blood in the lungs and the

expiration of gases that have been generated within the body during

vital processes, were supposed to be entirely explicable on the

principle of the diffusion of gases. The absorption of various

substances into the body proper from the intestinal tract, and the

excretion of various substances from within the body into the

excretory organs, as well as the process of secretion, were supposed

to be nothing more than varying phenomena of osmosis and exosmosis.

There has since been a general recognition of the fact that these

principles do not explain many of the incidents within the body in its

relations to its surroundings, and that vital processes are something

much more than merely manifestations of physics and chemistry.

The lungs are not mere laboratories in which refinements

of the laws of the diffusion of gases may be studied, for under

varying pressures from without that would vitiate the ordinary

laws of diffusion, inspiration and expiration continues. Fishes

live at depths where the pressure is so great that expiration

would seem to be impossible, yet they succeed in eliminating

harmful gaseous material. Prof. Haldane of Cambridge has

called attention to many of these processes. Animal stomachs

are not test-tubes. Animal excretion, and above all, secretion,

is carried on sometimes in accordance with but, almost more

often, in defiance of chemical and physical principles. The

individual, even in the lower animals, counts for much more

than the chemical constituents of the tissues and the physical

principles involved.

Besides, all the parts of the organism are co-ordinated, and

there are wonderful checks and counterchecks which show that

animals are much more than colonies of cells fortuitously

growing together and habituated to such common life by many

generations of heredity and environment and training. In a

word, the old vitalistic principle has become popular once

more and even great physiologists have insisted that there is a

principle of life which guides and controls and co-ordinates the

different portions of the body. Especially does this seem to be

true of the brain. We have here an intensely complex machine,

composed literally of billions of parts which work together, and

in doing so accomplish wonderful results. Of the existence of

this machine, much more of the great intricacy of its parts

and mechanism, we are quite unconscious. We learn to use it

in very early years with an assurance and a perfection that is

amazing, considering how complex it is. The less we think

about it and its workings, the better does it work and the less

disturbance of function is there in its accomplishment.

If a vitalistic principle were needed to enable us to understand the

workings of the ordinary body cells, how much more is it required for

the workings of brain cells. There is something behind that guides and

rules the brain, and through which it accomplishes its work. It is

this that brings about an unconscious cerebration accomplishing

intellectual results for us even when the brain machine itself is at

rest as when asleep, or fails, for some reason, to be in readiness to

take up the work that we demand of it. It is this vital principle that

coordinates the movements of brain cells which represent the

physical processes underlying memory and the nervous elements of the

sensitive and motor phenomena of the organism. Reflection on the

physical mechanism underlying mental operations of various kinds,

demands the vitalistic explanation much more than the physiological

phenomena which have converted physiologists to the old way of

thinking in our time. Our individuality is probably largely due to the

physical basis of our mentality, but there is something more than that

required for any theory of mental operations that would satisfy all

the questions that come to us. There is, then, actual proof of the

existence of a force that is part of us, that constitutes a bit of the

essence of our personalities, yet is capable of accomplishing results

that we cannot understand, and of managing a machine that transcends

any physical powers that we can think of.

This vital force behind the nervous system contains stores of energy

that can be called on for therapeutic purposes. It is the directing,

co-ordinating and energizing force which controls the central nervous

system, and enables it to accomplish its purposes. It is the

disappearance of this force at death which leaves the body without

vital activity, though no physical difference between the dead and the

living body can be demonstrated. Changes in the body follow death;

they are not simultaneous. This vital force supplies the energy that

we call the will, and underlies the process called "living on the

will" which so often serves to maintain existence when there is every

reason to think that a fatal termination is due. The amount of energy

thus available is limited, but is much more powerful than has

been thought. It is of the greatest possible service in preserving

health and eliminating disease. Its existence, demonstrated by the

complex nervous system which we employ with such confidence, though we

know nothing of it, furnishes the best possible basis for confident

attempts at rousing the patient to use the vital energy he possesses

for the strengthening of weakness, the correction of deficiency and

the control of evil tendencies.

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