The Smoke of the Soul: Medicine, Physiology and Religion in by Richard Sugg (auth.)

By Richard Sugg (auth.)

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In 1606 the lawyer Edward Forset comes close to this position, arguing that the soul may be said there to be resiant [resident], where his force and efficiencies be most discerned; when he attendeth the discussing of intelligence and reason, then is his chair of estate placed in the upper house, and so seemeth to dwell in the head. 86 Forset’s theory seems to fuse the pervasive physiology of the early modern soul with a more universal sense of the mutability of human consciousness. 87 Transhistorical parallels can, however, stretch only so far in this area.

Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep, And, as the sleeping soldiers in th’alarm, Your bedded hair, like life in excrements, Start up and stand on end. O gentle son, Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look? 4, 115–23) Once attuned to the heightened role of bodily spirits in moments of fear or horror, we can swiftly recognise some typical signals here. Bacon, for example, could explain the standing hair in terms of spiritual physiology, while he and numerous other writers would naturally realise that the ‘heat and flame’ are far from being purely metaphorical.

49 ‘Hatred and envy,’ he insists, ‘hinder the functions of the brains and nerves, and breed diseases and obstructions of the spleen’, because when the briskness of the vital heat is checked, and the contraction of the heart weakened, the blood grows thick and cold in the extremities of the vessels, and is not able to thrust it self forward through the remoter branches of the arteries into the fibres of the veins; but stagnates in all the more narrow passages of the body; especially in the more curious and delicate vessels that are everywhere spread up and down through the substance of the brain; from whence proceed tremblings in the heart, paleness in the face, and ...

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