Book: "Raymond or Life and Death"

Author: Sir Oliver Lodge FRS

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- (Part 3) - Chapter 6 - Life and Death -

Interaction of Mind and Matter


          LIFE and mind and consciousness do not belong to the material region; whatever they are in themselves, they are manifestly something quite distinct from matter and energy, and yet they utilise the material and dominate it.

Matter is arranged and moved by means of energy, but often at the behest of life and mind. Mind does not itself exert force, nor does it enter into the scheme of physics, and yet it indirectly brings about results which otherwise would not have happened. It definitely causes movements and arrangements or constructions of a purposed character. A bird grows a feather, and a bird builds a nest: I doubt if there is less design in the one case than in the other. How life achieves the guidance, how even it accomplishes the movements, is a mystery, but that it does accomplish them is a commonplace of observation. From the motion of a finger to the construction of an aeroplane, there is but a succession of steps. From the growth of a weed to the flight of an eagle,- from a yeast granule at one end, to the human body at the other,- the organising power of life over matter is conspicuous.

Who can doubt the supremacy of the spiritual over the material? It is a fact which, illustrated by trivial instances, may be pressed to the most portentous consequences.

If interaction between mind and matter really occurs, and if both are persistent and enduring entities, there is no limit to the possibilities under which such interaction may occur - no limit which can be laid down beforehand - we must be guided and instructed solely by experience.

Whether the results produced are styled miraculous or not, depends on our knowledge,- our knowledge of all the powers latent in nature, and a knowledge of all the intelligences which exist. A savage on his first encounter with white men must have come into contact with what to him was supernatural. A letter, a gun, even artificial teeth, have all aroused superstition; while a telegram must be obviously miraculous, to anyone intelligent enough to perceive the wonder. A colony of bees, unused to the ministrations or interference of man, might puzzle itself over the provision made for its habitation and activities if it had intelligence enough to ponder the matter. So human beings, if they are open-minded and developed enough to contemplate all the happenings in which they are concerned, have been led to recognise guidance; and they have responded to the perception by the worshipful attitude of religion. In other words, they have essentially recognised the existence of a Power transcending ordinary nature - a Power that may properly be called supernatural.

Meaning of the term Body

Our experience of bodies here and now is that they are composed of material particles derived from the earth, whether they be bodies animated by vegetable or by animal forms of life. But I take it that the real meaning of the term 'body' is a means of manifestation,- perhaps a physical mode of manifestation adopted by something which without such instrument or organ would be in a different and elusive category. Why should we say that bodies must be made of matter? Surely only because we know of nothing else of which they could be made; but that lack of knowledge is not very efficient as an argument. True, if they were made of anything else they would not be apparent to us now, with our particular evolutionally-derived sense organs; for these only inform us about matter and its properties. Constructions built of Ether would have no chance of appealing to our senses, they would not be apparent to us; they would therefore not be what we ordinarily call bodies; at any rate they would not be material bodies. In order to become apparent to us, a psychical or vital entity must enter the material realm, and either clothe itself with, or temporarily assimilate, material particles.

It may be that etherial bodies do not exist; the burden of proof rests upon those who conceive of their possible existence; but we are bound to admit that even if they did exist, they would make no impression on our senses. Hence if there are any intelligences in another order of existence interlocked with ours, and if they can in any sense be supposed to have bodies at all, those bodies must be made either of Ether or of something equally intangible to us in our present condition.

Yet, though intangible and elusive, we have reason to know that Ether is substantial enough, far more substantial indeed than matter, which turns out to be a rare and filmy insertion in, or modification of, the Ether of Space; and a different set of sense organs might make the Ether eclipse matter in availability and usefulness. In my book The Ether of Space this thesis is elaborated from a purely physical point of view.

I wish, however, to make no assertion concerning the possible psychical use of the Ether of Space. Anything of that kind must be speculative; the only bodies we now know of in actual fact are material bodies, and we must be guided by facts. Yet we must not shut the door prematurely on other possibilities; and we can remember that inspired writers have sometimes contemplated what they term a spiritual body.

'That a great poet should have represented the meeting between the still incarnate 'Eneas and his discarnatee father Anchises as a bodily disappointment, is consistent:

"Ter conatus ibi collo dare brachia circum; Ter frustra comprensa manus effugit imago, Par levibus, ventis, volucrique simillima somno."

Aeneid, vi. 700

It may be said that what is intangible ought to be invisible; but that does not follow. The Ether is a medium for vision, not for touch. Ether and Ether may interact, just as matter and matter interact; but interaction between Ether and matter is peculiarly elusive.

But why should anyone suppose a body of some kind always necessary? Why should they assume a perpetual sort of dualism about existence? The reason is that we have no knowledge of any other form of animate existence; and it may be claimed as legitimate to assume that the association between life and matter here on the planet has a real and vital significance, that without such an episode of earth life we should be less than we are, and that the relation is typical of something real and permanent.

"Such use may lie in blood and breath."- TENNYSON

Why matter should be thus useful to spirit and even to life it is not easy to say. It may be that by the interaction of two things better and newer results can always be obtained than was possible for one alone. There are analogies enough for that. Do we not find that genius seems to require the obstruction or the aid of matter for its full development? The artist must enjoy being able to compel refractory material to express his meaning. Didactic writings are apt to emphasise the obstructiveness of matter; but that may be because its usefulness seems self-evident. Our limbs, and senses, and bodily faculties generally, are surely of momentous service; microscopes and telescopes and laboratory instruments, and machinery generally, are only extensions of them. Tools to the man who can use them:- orchestra to the musician, lathe or theodolite to the engineer, books and records to the historian, even though not much more than pen and paper is needed by the poet or the mathematician.

But our bodily organs are much more than any artificial tools can be, they are part of our very being. The body is part of the constitution of man. We are not spirit or soul alone,- though it is sometimes necessary to emphasise the fact that we are soul at all, - we are in truth soul and body together. And so I think we shall always be; though our bodies need not always be composed  of earthly particles. Matter is the accidental part: there is an essential and more permanent part, and the permanent part must survive.

This is the strength, as I have said elsewhere and will not now at any length repeat, of the sacramental claims and practices of religion. Forms and customs which appeal to the body are a legitimate part of the whole; and while some natures derive most benefit from the exclusively psychical and spiritual essence, others probably do well to prevent the more sensuous and more puzzling concomitants from falling into disuse. 



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