« PredošláPokračovať »
guard, that they may not be made the prey of these vices.
But the march of craniology or phrenology, by whatever name it is called, is directly the reverse of this. It assigns to us organs, as far as the thing is explained by the professors either to the public or to their own minds, which are entailed upon us from our birth, and which are altogether independent, or nearly so, of any discipline or volition that can be exercised by or upon the individual who drags their intolerable chain. Thus I am told of one individual that he wants the organ of colour ; and all the culture in the world can never supply that defect, and enable him to see colour at all, or to see it as it is seen by the rest of mankind. Another wants the organ of benevolence; and his case is equally hopeless. I shrink from considering the condition of the wretch, to whom nature has supplied the organs of theft and murder in full and ample proportions. The case is like that of astrology
(Their stars are more in fault than they), with this aggravation, that our stars, so far as the faculty of prediction had been supposed to be attained, swayed in few things; but craniology climbs at once to universal empire; and in her map, as I have said, there are no vacant places, no unexplored regions and happy wide-extended deserts.
It is all a system of fatalism. Independently of ourselves, and far beyond our control, we are re
served for good or for evil by the predestinating spirit that reigns over all things. Unhappy is the individual who enters himself in this school. He has no consolation, except the gratified wish to know distressing truths, unless we add to this the pride of science, that he has by his own skill and application purchased for himself the discernment • which places him in so painful a preeminence. The great triumph of man is in the power of education, , to improve his intellect, to sharpen his perceptions, and to regulate and modify his moral qualities. But craniology reduces this to almost nothing, and exhibits us for the most part as the helpless victims of a blind and remorseless destiny.
In the mean time it is happy for us, that, as this system is perhaps the most rigorous and degrading that was ever devised, so it is in almost all instances founded upon arbitrary assumptions and confident assertion, totally in opposition to the true spirit of patient and laborious investigation and sound philosophy
It is in reality very little that we know of the genuine characters of men. Every human creature is a mystery to his fellow. Every human character is made up of incongruities. Of nearly all the great personages in history it is difficult to say what was decidedly the motive in which their actions and system of conduct originated. We study what they did, and what they said ; but in vain. We never arrive at a full and demonstrative conclusion. In reality no man can be certainly said to know himself. “The heart of man is deceitful above all things."
But these dogmatists overlook all those difficulties, which would persuade a wise man to suspend his judgment, and induce a jury of philosophers to hesitate for ever as to the verdict they would pronounce. They look only at the external character: of the act by which a man honours or disgraces himself. They decide presumptuously and in a lump, This man is a murderer, a hero, a coward, the slave of avarice, or the votary of philanthropy; and then, surveying the outside of his head, undertake to find in him the configuration that should indicate these dispositions, and must be found in all persons of a similar character, or rather whose acts bear the same outward form, and seem analogous to his. Till we have discovered the clue that should enable us to unravel the labyrinth of the human mind, it is with small hopes of success that we should expect to settle the external indications, and decide that this sort of form and appearance, and that class of character, will always be found together.
But it is not to be wondered at, that these disorderly fragments of a shapeless science should become the special favourites of the idle and the arrogant. Every man (and every woman), however destitute of real instruction, and unfitted for the investigation of the deep or the sublime mysteries of our nature, can use his eyes and his hands. The
whole boundless congregation of mankind, with its everlasting varieties, is thus at once subjected to the sentence of every pretender:
And fools rush in, where angels fear to tread.
Nothing is more delightful to the headlong and presumptuous, than thus to sit in judgment on their betters, and pronounce ex cathedrd on those, “whose shoe-latchet they are not worthy to stoop down and unloose.” I remember, after lord George Gordon's riots, eleven persons accused were set down in one indictment for their lives, and given in charge to one jury. But this is a mere shadow, a nothing, compared with the wholesale and indiscriminating judgment of the vulgar phrenologist.
It can scarcely be imputed to me as profane, if I venture to put down a few sceptical doubts on the science of astronomy. All branches of knowledge are to be considered as fair subjects of enquiry: and he that has never doubted, may be said, in the highest and strictest sense of the word, never to have believed.
The first volume that furnished to me the groundwork of the following doubts, was the book commonly known by the name of Guthrie's Geographical Grammar, many parts and passages of which engaged my attention in my own study, in the house of a rural schoolmaster, in the year 1772. I cannot therefore proceed more fairly than by giving here an extract of certain passages in that book, which have relation to the present subject. I know not how far they have been altered in the edition of Guthrie which now lies before me, from the language of the book then in my possession; but I feel confident that in the main particulars they continue the samea.
· The article Astronomy, in this book, appears to have been written by the well-known James Ferguson.