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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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