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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/423

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LITERARY NOTICES.

tion, which are, therefore, of fundamental importance. It is estimated that there are a thousand million cells in the human brain, all bound into a living unity by four or five thousand million nerve-fibrils of amazing tenuity, and this is the grand mechanism of registering, conserving, and elaborating impressions and turning them out as groups and systems of ideas. Consciousness is merely a door through which a small part of these cerebral elaborations emerge. Mind grows as this organism grows; its capacities are at bottom organic capacities, and its diseases are breaks, failures, debilities, and degenerations of the nervous sub. stratum of all psychical operations.

Memory is therefore not the faculty of an abstraction, but a phenomenon of nervous dynamics; and it is dependent upon the soundness, vigor, nutrition, and organic perfection of the nervous structure. It is not one thing, but our memories are innumerable. Investigating the problem from the biological point of view, our author is able to throw light on the many forms of failure to which the control of mental acquisitions is subject. He is, in fact, prepared to announce a law of the decay of memory, which explains the order in which acquirements disappear as the organ of thought declines in force by age or from various other causes. The import of the book is therefore highly practical, for in proportion as we have a correct understanding of the subject shall we be saved from the consequences of erroneous views. The subject is far enough from being cleared up, but this little book gives us more trustworthy knowledge about it than can be found in any preceding treatise upon it.

The Present Religious Crisis. By Augustus Blauvelt. G. P. Putnam's Sons. Pp. 196. Price, $1.

This is not at all a scientific book in the usual sense, but it raises the question in a very emphatic way that is fundamental to all science, namely, the question of liberty of thought. Whatever we may say in regard to the alleged conflict between religion and science, of one thing there can not be the slightest doubt: there is a radical and a desperate conflict between theology and liberty of thought. It is historic, and it is contemporaneous; and, if any doubt its inveteracy, let them read Mr. Blauvelt's book, which may be taken, in one of its aspects, as but a new illustration of the old experience in which religious bigotry is arrayed against free and independent inquiry.

In his preface, Mr. Blauvelt remarks: "When the author says that he was graduated from Rutgers College, at New Brunswick, New Jersey, and also from the Peter Hertzog Theological Seminary connected with the same institution, he has given a sufficient guarantee that his original instruction in divinity was of the most hyper-orthodox description. Nor does he concede that any alumnus of either Alma Mater ever went forth who was, to begin with, a more devout and implicit believer than he was in both the essentials and the non-essentials of the general orthodox theology, and notably that of the Calvinistic order.

"It is needless to assure the reader that, while he was a student at New Brunswick, the author was most securely guarded against all contamination from modern infidelity. He does not remember, for example, that in those days he ever heard so much as the mention of the name of Strauss. At the same time, he does have an indistinct recollection that, in a vague and general way, he was taught at once to dread and to abhor that modern theological monstrosity, namely, German rationalism."

It was not to be expected that an active minded man like Mr. Blauvelt, when he began to think for himself, would be content to remain in the mental condition induced by the theological seminary. Upon assuming the function of a public religious teacher, he found the necessity of a more thorough equipment for his work than his theological instructors had provided, and he therefore entered upon the systematic study of the traditional theology, from the point of view of modern criticism. The spirit in which he engaged upon the work of biblical and religious research is thus indicated. He says that "the specific purpose with which he originally took up these investigations was to vindicate the traditional Protestant conceptions about the Bible and religion against all the assaults of the modern unbelievers. But from the very outset