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The Soul and its Mechanism - The Nature of the Soul and its Location
The differentiations, the terminologies, and the tabulations in connection with these various approaches to truth are the cause of much of the confusion. We are engaged in separating a unified Reality into parts, and in so doing we lose our sense of proportion and over-emphasize that particular part which we happen temporarily to be dissecting. But the whole remains intact, and our realization of this Reality grows as we become inclusive in our consciousness and participate in a veritable experience.

The testimony to this experience can be traced from the very night of time. From the emergence [85] of the human family in the unfolding evolutionary development of the world plan there has been a paralleling progressive development of the God idea to account for nature and the soul idea to account for man. An anthology of the soul remains as yet to be compiled, the very magnitude of the task probably serving as a deterrent.

Speculation has always been rife as to where the soul was to be found, and where, within the human form, it might be located. A few of the theories propounded might be touched upon here.

  • Plato held that the vital principle was in the brain and that brain and spinal cord were coordinators of vital force, whilst
  • Strato placed it in the forepart of the brain, between the eyebrows.
  • Hippocrates placed the consciousness or soul in the brain and
  • Herophilus made the calamus scriptorius the chief seat of the soul.
  • Erasistratos located the soul in the cerebellum, or the little brain, and stated that it was concerned in the coordination of movement.
  • Galen, the great forerunner of modern medical methods, argued for the fourth ventricle of the brain as the home of the soul in man.
  • Hippolytus (3rd century A.D.) says: "The membranes in the head are gently moved by the spirit which advances toward the pineal gland. Near this is situated the entrance to the cerebellum which admits the current of spirit and distributes [86] it into the spinal column. This cerebellum by an ineffable and inscrutable process attracts through the pineal gland the spiritual and life giving substance.
  • St. Augustine regarded the soul as located in the middle ventricle.
  • The Arabian philosophers, who so strongly molded thought in the Middle Ages, identified the ventricles of the brain as the seat of the soul or conscious life.

Dr. Hollander tells us that: "The reason why the ancient philosophers, from whom the Arabs adopted this localization, placed the faculties in certain cells, meaning cavities or ventricles, probably was to give more room for the pneuma, the gaseous substance, to expand... Some distinguished four regions, as follows: The first or anterior ventricle of the brain, which was supposed to look towards the front, was the ventricle of common sense; because from it the nerves of the five outer senses were presumed to branch off, and into it, by the aid of these nerves, all sensations were brought together. The second ventricle, connected by a minute opening with the first, was fixed upon as the seat of the imaginative faculty, because the impressions from the five outer senses are transmitted from the first ventricle into it, as a second stage in their progress through the brain. The third ventricle was the seat of the understanding; and the fourth was sacred to memory, because it was commodiously situated as a storehouse into which the conceptions of the mind, digested in the second ventricle. might be transmitted for attention and accumulation. As a matter of fact, the so-called anterior ventricle consists of two ventricles: the right and left lateral [87] ventricles, which communicate with one another and are continuous with the third ventricle - called in ancient times the middle ventricle - by the Foramen of Monro; and the third ventricle communicates with the fourth ventricle - called by the ancients the posterior ventricle - by the Aqueduct of Sylvius.

The lateral ventricles are roofed over by the corpus callosum; the third is covered by the optic thalamus; and the fourth is situated between cerebellum and pons. ...If the sense of sight and sense of hearing are stimulated at the same time, their effects somehow cohere in consciousness, and the knowledge of this fact inspired the hypothesis of a sensory center to which the term sensorium commune or common sense was applied. By some this was regarded as the seat of the soul. As parts of the brain are double, the localities to be selected were very limited, and only structures in the middle line could be chosen; as, for example, the pineal gland by Descartes and, as late as the nineteenth century, the optic thalamus by W. B. Carpenter, and the pons cerebri by Herbert Spencer."
- Hollander, Bernard, M.D., In Search of the Soul, Vol. I, p. 97.

  • Roger Bacon regarded the center of the brain as the place where the soul could be found.
  • Ludovico Vives "regarded the soul as the principle, not only of conscious life, but of life in general; the heart is the center of its vital or vegetative activity, the brain of its intellectual activity."
    - Hollander, Bernard, M.D., In Search of the Soul, Vol. I, p. 119.
  • Mundinus, a famous anatomist of the Middle Ages, believed firmly in "animal spirits." He taught that these animal spirits passed into the third ventricle by a narrow passage. He also [88] taught that the cellules of the brain are the seat of the intellect.
  • Vesalius, the first to discern the difference between the gray and white matter of the brain and to describe the five ventricles, "distinguished three souls... and he assigned to the brain the chief soul, the sum of the animal spirits, whose functions were distinctly mental."
    - Hollander, Bernard, M.D., In Search of the Soul, Vol. I, p. 129.
  • Servetus located the soul in the Aqueduct of Sylvius, the channel connecting the third and fourth ventricle of the brain.
  • Telesio in De Rerum Natura "taught that the soul was the subtlest form of matter, a very delicate substance, enclosed within the nervous system and therefore eluding our senses. Its seat is chiefly the brain, but it extends also to the spinal cord, the nerves, arteries, veins, and the covering membranes of the internal organs... Recognizing that the nervous system is in close connection with soul-life, he acknowledged that the soul in man differs only in degree from the soul in animals. He assumed beside the material soul in man, a divine non-corporeal soul directly implanted by God, which united with the material soul."
    - Hollander, Bernard, M.D., In Search of the Soul, Vol. I, p. 132.
  • Willis ascribed the various faculties of the soul, such as mentality, vitality, memory, etc., to different parts of the brain.
  • Vieussens located the soul in the centrum ovale.
  • Swedenborg says: "The royal road of the sensations [89] of the body to the soul... is through the corpora striata... All determinations of the will also descend by that road... It is the Mercury of Olympus; it announces to the soul what is happening to the body, and it bears the mandates of the soul to the body."
    - Hollander, Bernard, M.D., In Search of the Soul, Vol. I, p. 186.
  • The corpora striata are a pair of large ganglia of the brain immediately under the anterior and superior region of the brain. Hollis concluded that "both sensation and movement have their power in the medulla of the brain. This therefore is the seat of the soul,"
  • Charles Bonnet said: "The different senses... with which we are endowed... have, somewhere, in the brain, secret communications by means of which they may act on one another. The part where the communications take place is that which must be regarded as the seat of the soul... It is by this part that the soul acts on the body, and by the body on so many different beings. Now the soul acts only by the agency of the nerves."
    - Hollander, Bernard, M.D., In Search of the Soul, Vol. I, p. 190.
  • von Sommering localized the scat of the soul in the fluid of the cerebral ventricles, whilst
  • W. B. Carpenter, the physiologist, regarded the optic thalamus as the scat of the soul life.

[The speculations of these various writers have been taken from Dr. Hollander's work quoted above.]

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