Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/459

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MODERN LIFE AND INSANITY.

would wish to do; the former does injury, and the latter causes dissatisfaction.

Of mental stagnation among the poor we have already spoken; an analogous condition among the well-to-do classes, not to be confounded with that of the young lady already described as seen in the London physician's consulting-room, deserves a passing observation. Excessive activity and excessive dullness may lead to the same dire result. Hence both conditions must be recognized as factors in the causation of mental disease. We have said that the indirect action of the latter it more powerful than its direct action, but there are no doubt cases of insanity which arise from the directly injurious influence of intellectual inactivity. The intelligence is inert; the range of ideas extremely limited; the mind broods upon some trivial circumstance until it becomes exaggerated into a delusion; the mind feeds upon itself, and is hyper-sensitive and suspicious, or it may become absorbed in some morbid religious notions which at last exert a paramount influence and induce religious depression or exaltation. From the immediate surroundings of the individual, whether in connection with parental training or from ecclesiastical or theological influences, or perhaps a solitary condition of life, there may be a dangerously restricted area of psychical activity. Prejudices of various kinds hamper the free play of thought; the buoyancy of the man's nature is destroyed; its elasticity broken; its strength weakened; and it is in fine reduced to a state in which it is a prey to almost any assertion however monstrous, if placed before it with the solemn sanctions which, from education, habit, or predilection, it is accustomed to reverence. Fantastic scruples and religious delusions frequently spring up in this soil. Such persons have been saved from the evils of drunkenness and vice; they have also been sheltered from worry and excitement, yet, to the astonishment of many, they become the inmates of a lunatic asylum. They have in truth escaped the Scylla of dissipation or drink, only to be shipwrecked on the Charybdis of a dreary monotony of existence. On this barren rock not a very few doubtless perish, and if parents they transmit, to a posterity deserving our sincerest pity, mediocre brains or irritably susceptible and unstable nerve-tissue.

On the dangers arising from waves of religious excitement, it would be easy to dilate, but we shall content ourselves with remarking that, if they have been exaggerated by some, they have been improperly ignored or denied by others. They are real; and frightful is the responsibility of those who, by excited utterances and hideous caricatures of religion, upset the mental equilibrium of their auditors, whether men, women, or children.

One remarkable feature of modern life—spiritualism—has been said to produce an alarming amount of insanity, especially in America. It has been recently stated by an English writer that nearly 10,000