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Enquiries and Correspondence.
ANSWERS TO ENQUIRIES.
16. Memory. (see page 137.) It is by no means easy to analyse the several faculties of the human mind, or to discover in what degree we ourselves possess each individually. One of them alone being hardly ever sufficient for the performance of any single mental operation, they become interwoven among themselves in so complex a manner, that we are unable to distinguish nicely what is the particular province of each; and so fail to perceive whether they do, or do not, perform occasionally their respective fanctions.
Hence, on discovering within ourselves any mental deficiency, we are liable to attribute it either to the wrong cause, or else to suppose that some one faculty of our minds is weak, because upon the few occasions on which it may happen to act independently, it does not of course on the principle that “union is strength”) produce so great an effect as in combination.
However, amidst all the possible combinations of the mental powers, Memory usually forms a constituent part; for without Memory all our other faculties would obviously act to little purpose. This seems to be one of the chief reasons why the properties of Memory are so often mistaken, and why (as has been already stated generally) people attribute to weakness of memory the effects of a deficiency in some of their other faculties.
The department of Memory is simply this, to recall to the mind, as they may be required, things which have been presented to it on previous occasions.
The Mind has been frequently compared to a sheet of paper, those things which come under its notice being represented as types impressed upon it, deeply or lightly, according to the judgment passed on their merit by the particular faculties which they bring into exercise. Memory is the eye which reads them off if they be deeply impressed, or distinct: those which are indistinct it neglects; its attention being arrested by the others which are more prominent; just as our natural eye only conveys to the Mind those impressions which are most
vivid, the sight really taking in many objects besides that on which we look.
We shall now be prepared to admit that most people have probably good memories : and that it is not unlikely that many persons lay the fault on this faculty, when the evil complained of might be found elsewhere. It will not be to our present purpose enquire whether there are really three classes of memories, good, better, and best, but rather to shew that, independently of disease, either functional or organic, there is rarely such a thing as a bad one. It is scarcely necessary to state that our remarks will relate to persons in good health and of ordinary capacities, since the Memory, like every other of the intellectual powers, may be impaired or destroyed by physical
Most men are capable of remembering some things.
Few persons are to be found who could forget events which caused them any great emotion either of sorrow or of joy. It is plain that the reason why we all remember such things is because they made at the time a deep impression upon our minds. It follows, therefore, that if everthing which we meet with made a sufficiently deep impression, we should remember everything. And since no one will deny that it is totally out of the province of Memory to make mental impressions, it cannot be said to be the fault of our Memory that we do not actually remember everything! Moreover, we know that the most trivial things do make lasting impressions, if only they are sufficiently uncommon: for instance, anything unusually welcome, extremely ridiculous, rare, or surprising, is seldom forgotten by any one. By way of illustration, any child who has once read the story of Queen Eleanor's devotion to her husband, remembers it; he may very probably forget the names of the parties, but has always a recollection of the chief points of the story : first, because such self-devotion is extremely rare, and, secondly, because his mind has registered it as a circumstance which it regards with pleasure and approval. This is a good example, because we can trace very clearly how the impression came to be made upon the mind, and at the same time we see that the Memory as a consequence retained the fact. And this being
true with reference to all children, and not merely to those who may be supposed to have more than average abilities, there can be no reason adduced, so far as Memory itself is concerned, why every child should not remember everything.
Again, we never yet heard of a person who forgot that he had a near or dear relative abroad, however long he may
have been absent. Hence we may argue, that if all the acquaintances which a person may chance to have abroad could become equally dear to him, or in other words, could to an equal degree impress the other powers and affections of the mind, he would remember all the minute circumstances connected with each of them; which would most certainly require what is now commonly called a very good memory.
II. Whatever we thoroughly understand we are almost sure to recollect.
For example, every one who has read with any degree of thought and attention the history of the reign of William III., would be likely to remember that he married the daughter of James II., the former king of England; because he sees in this circumstance the only claim which William had upon the people of England to make him their king.
III. It does not at all affect the validity of our argument that some persons are, and others are not, able to remember apparently-isolated facts.
The utmost that it proves is, that possibly some persons have better memories than others. We may almost say that it is contrary to the nature of an isolated fact to make a deep impression upon the mind: and it has been fully shewn that he only could be truly said to have a bad Memory who was unable to remember facts which did impress the mind, since in that case only could the Memory be properly said to be at fault. Isolated facts however are probably very rare: and it would be illogical for us to suppose that because a person remembered what seemed to ourselves to be a fact of that nature, it was necessarily so to him, since it is quite impossible for us to say that he does not remember it in connection with anything else, indeed he might do so unconsciously to himself.
Again, with regard to dates, the recollection of which will perhaps be considered more purely a matter of memory than any other thing, there is much more connection than might be imagined. But the recollection of these dates will depend, as in the other illustrations, upon the accurate performance of the reasoning process by which they are laid up and located in the mind, and not upon the Memory abstractedly considered.
IV. While some persons are quite unable to remember certain things, they have an excellent memory for others.
For instance, one person might find it impossible to remember dates, who would never forget a piece of music after once having heard it; while another who could remember a long string of dates might be perfectly unconscious of ever having heard the tune before, though the same might be practised in his presence any number of times successively.
V. If the recollection of things depended upon the natural quality of our memories-study would then be of no use.
Once reading a thing would be to all intents and purposes as good as perusing it carefully several times. But as it is, we are obliged diligently to study a subject, in order to impress it deeply upon our minds, that we may make sure of remembering it permanently.
VI. It is a palpable fallacy then to speak of losing the Memory.
For if Memory were lost, it would be gone, and there would be no means of their remembering anything. But such persons tell us that it is not things difficult of remembrance, but common-place matters of every day life which they forget. The true solution of their fallacy is usually this—that the mind is incapable of thinking of two things at the same time; and, therefore, two things at the same time cannot impress it: loss of Memory then is frequently nothing more nor less than a want of proper attention to the circumstances which are expected to engross our thoughts at any particular time; and though it is true that it does not indicate weakness of intellect, it is doubtless the proof of an ill-regulated mind, which may and should be speedily corrected. A mind in proper subjection can generally abstract itself from other subjects, and devote its energies to present duties. But habits and natural defects are two widely different things, though we may frequently find ourselves excusing the former under pretence of the latter.
Memory is one of those “ good gifts” which proceed from the liberal hand of our Creator. Had He omitted to implant in our minds this quality, all the rest had been bestowed to no purpose.—Understanding, without Memory, would be worthless. Forethought, honesty, and affection would, but for Memory, be altogether unknown. Without it we should be a world of strangers! But Memory is the connecting link between families and friends, which no distance of time can sever. Let us praise God, then, that he has made us as we are: well might He look upon man in his sinless state and decide that he was a creature "very good !"
17.-Soul and Spirit. (p. 138.) THERE are two texts in which Soul and Spirit are mentioned together (1 Thess. v. 23, and Heb. iv. 12,) so that there can be little doubt, (putting all other passages out of the question, in which they are separately referred to,) that the Bible recognizes a belief in their individual existence. The opinion seems likewise to have been held by some of the old philosophers as well as many of the Jewish rabbins, and is beautifully illustrative of the Mosaic account of man's creation contained in Genesis ii. 7, where it is recorded that “the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of lives (marg.), and man became a living soul.” Unlike the beasts of the field, his physical organism was complete, before this “ breath of lives” was given-he was not a mere machine, but a rational and moral being, illuminated by the inspiration of the Almighty
Doddridge well defines the soul and spirit to mean respective principles of animal and rational life"—the first being common to the brute creation-the latter, peculiar to our own species.
So perfectly distinct, indeed, do they appear to be, that the apostle speaks of their being separated through the powerful agency of God's Word, (Heb. iv. 12,) which so works upon our better nature, as to withdraw it from all earthward and downward tendencies, taking us as it were out of the body for awhile, and transporting us, with Paul, to the third heavens.