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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/687

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THE ANTECHAMBER OF CONSCIOUSNESS.

he, unconscious of his labor, acted or wrote or dreamed after an evening of sack at the "Mermaid" with "rare Ben Jonson."

That indefinable personal equation which distinguishes the individual from all others is the limit and condition of his unconscious intellectual activity. Newton discovered the workings of the law of gravitation and happily perceived it in his phase of consciousness, and the world has become so much the wiser on account of this accident. The workings of other laws of Nature he undoubtedly formulated to just as definite and logical conclusions, yet these he and the world have never known. It is most improbable that Sir Isaac Newton in consciousness or unconsciousness ever created a finished ideal like Becky Sharp or the Heathen Chinee. The novelist Dumas, after a period of active living and omnivorous reading, would board his yacht on the Mediterranean, and lie half torpid and dreaming day after day on her deck, hardly noticing his environment; then suddenly would change from this state and betake himself to work, summoning into existence the results of his unconscious intellectual activity, dashing off chapter after chapter, not of some work on theology, but of a novel. So perhaps were Chicot and the immortal Athos, Porthos, and Aramis conceived. The limitations of the personal equation forbid the idea of an intellectual activity existing in unconsciousness unlike that found in consciousness. On the contrary, we are forced to predicate an absolute relation in kind between the results of such activity in the two distinct phases of our life; just as when we see the fossil types characterizing a Silurian stratum cropping out horizontally on some hillside, we can as surely determine what will distinguish the fossil forms of the interior of that hill as if we summoned an army to remove the incubus and lay bare for our scrutiny the stratum at the center.

Having once possessed knowledge, we can never lose it; the power to use it may be temporarily lost, but there is no knowing when the proper chord may not be struck, and the old fact of memory or the old problem long worked out may not be regained. All our experiences may fade away into the realm of unconsciousness, yet they are not lost, they are only dormant and biding their time. In consciousness we find the means by which we can exercise self-consciousness, and thus know our own existence. In this most specialized form of purely nervous activity, the ego is discerned as an ego endowed with reason, will, and conscience. What the genesis of consciousness from unconsciousness is, we know not; there is as great a gap here as the step from nothing to life, and there we must stop, seeing our limitations with reverent agnosticism and recognizing the folly and futility of further investigations. The materialization of consciousness has been ordered by science and it must be recognized as a fact. Mind and body unquestionably react, but the psychologists have, in the past, mingled too great an amount of matter with mind, and science is now surely, but certainly and with pitiless accuracy, separating the