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Chapter 14 The Reflex Influence of the Stomach upon the Mind

The stomach, in consequence of its delicate network of nerves, supplied from the ganglionic system, is one of the most sensitive and easily affected organs of the body. It may with some show of propriety be denominated another brain. The more a person’s spiritual nature is developed, the more susceptible it becomes of impression from the semi-spiritual and generally unrecognized properties of things.

In the Seeress of Prevorst, the phenomena of whose life have been so accurately anti scientifically delineated by Dr. Justinus Kerner, we have a striking instance of the extreme sensitiveness of the nerve-center in the epigastric region, and of the reticular membranes of the digestive organs. She was able to read writing when laid upon the pit of the stomach. In fact she averrcd that she made no use of her brain, but lived wholly in the epigastric region. And an old philosopher gravely and seriously maintained, that the soul was located in the pit of the stomach. This is paltly true end partly false. The mind is there, but it is also in every part of the body.

In the case of the seeress, it is undoubtedly true, that the cerebrum, the organ of our voluntary life, was quiescent. But the cerebellum, which affords the peculiar brain-stimulus to all the involuntary vital processes and movements, was the organ of her thoughts and feelings. The nerves of the stomach, in her case, were extremely, and perhaps morbidly acute and sensitive. But it was only a larger degree of what really exists in every human body. It was only the intensity of this property of the epigastric nerves that was peculiar to her.

Before speaking of the states of the stomach in their influence upon the manifestations of the mind, it will be well to observe, that in all material things there is a spiritual essence. There is a sort of half psychical principle in all the objects around us through which mind acts upon them, and they react upon the mind. This interior principle is the life of the outward objects of nature, as is implied in the term essence (from the Latin esse, to be), and external things are only its manifestation to the sensuous degree of the mind. In stones, metals, plants, and animal substances, there exist many subtle, but important and influential elements and forces, that elude the grasp of our ordinary senses, and only become perceptible to those whose minds are elevated above the sensuous plane to a more interior range of action.

These invisible forces act with greater power upon some than others, owing to their peculiarly impressible organization. But all human bodies are like a delicately constructed Eolian harp, moved by the lightest airs that blow upon it: and our varying moods and frames of mind, our shifting joys and sorrows, and often even our volitions are under the influence of powers to us altogether imperceptible, but whose subtle effects we cannot escape.

Dr. J. R. Buchanan made the discovery in 1840, that certain persons possessed so acute a sensibility to these invisible effluvia and influences, that they were able to distinguish and name the different metals, and various substances, as sugar, salt, pepper, and acids, when inclosed in paper and brought in contact with them. Out of a class of one hundred and thirty students at the Eclectic Medical College of Cincinnati, forty-three of them signed a statement, that when various medicines were enveloped in paper; so as to be wholly unknown to them, by holding them, for a length of time, in their hands, the peculiar effects were produced upon them that would have followed their administration in the ordinary way. When an emetic was the subject of experiment, the individual was able to avoid vomiting only by removing the medicine.

There are those so sensitive that even the sight of certain drugs affects them. It is on this principle that amulets have been worn through the whole history of mankind. Their effects are not purely imaginary, but upon susceptible persons vitally real, though the law that governs their influence has but recently been made known to science. There are numerous individuals, who would declare, under oath if necessary, that a horse-chestnut carried in the pocket, is a preventive of piles. We know those who assert, that whenever they lose their precious amulet, they experience a recurrence of their hemorrhoidal difficulties. If this is a wild fancy, and only acts open the body by the faith of the patient in its potent virtues, such a remedy is a medicine not bad to take.

Frederica Hauffe, the Seeress of Prcvorst, whose opened interior perceptions detected the hidden subtle properties of various substances, and their influence upon the mind and body, often prescribed the wearing of different things as amulets about the person. She made much use of laurel leaves, as their effects were such as to open more fully her inner vision, and this may account for their use in the temples of Delphi and of Esculapius. She also found the hazelnut tree, which has long been used among the people for purposes of divination, to produce a powerful magnetic effect.

Here is an interesting field for scientific investigation. It is to be hoped that someone adapted to such inquiries will enter the already opened door, and take possession of the long hidden treasure. If anyone will carefully read the work of the pious and amiable physician of Weinsburg, together with Denton’s “Soul of Things,” he will gain some light upon the relation we sustain to external nature, and will find in many mysterious frames of mind and states of body, the conscious effccts of unseen causes.

The membranes of the stomtach, so highly nervous in their structure, are extremely susceptible to the influence of the hidden properties of things. Substances coming in contact with its reticular membranes, affect the mind immeditely, and long before they have been changed by the digestive process. Thus morphine is no sooner swallowed, than the spiritual essence it contains affects the mind. The same is true of tea, coffee, alchohol, and all other narcotics, and in fine, all articles of food and drink. The eating of some forbidden fruit by Eve, may be a myth that has some scientific meaning after all, and may have had sonething to do with her backsliding and mental deterioration.

There are substances, which through the stomach, or rather its nerves, affect the manifestation of the amative, or combative, or destructive propensities. Some, as rice, affect the reflectivc powers, others the powers of volition used in muscular movements, others still are anti-spasmodic in their effects. It is said of wine that it “maketh glad the heart of man.” But its exhilarating effects are more mental than physical, or rather, it affects the body through the mind. There is no doubt that the flesh of animals is pervaded to some extent with their peculiar spiritual properties.

The Ichthyophagi, or fish-eaters, were sensual and stupid. The modern Esquimaux are widely different from the rice-eating Hindoos, Carnivorous human beings, as well as animals, are unlike the herbivorous and graminivorous races. It is our conviction that no one can attain to a highly spiritual state who makes much use of a flesh diet. The state of the stomach, and what we place within its sensitive cavity, are not a matter of indifference. And yet nothing but the most general rules can be given as to the diet of patients. There are idiosyncracies, or peculiarities of mental and bodily character, that must not be overlooked. That diet must be recommended which is adapted to the peculiarities of the case, and this can properly be done only by an intuitive perception of what the person needs, and of the adaptedness of certain things to meet the special want.

The presence of food or medicine in the stomach excites or reacts upon the mind, and before those substances can be anything more than a lifeless, putrifying mass, it must receive the influx of those mental states and be animated by them, and be prepared to diffuse them with the circulation of the new particles through the whole physiological domain. Fermentation is not digestion. The gastric juice of the dead subject in the dissecting-room will digest nothing, because the influx of the spiritual principle has ccased. The living mind has much more to do with the mysterious chemistry of digestion, than is generally apprehended. All negative and depressing mental states, fear, grief, anxiety, melancholy, interfere with the healthful action of the digestive organs, while persons of a prevailing mirthful disposition, are seldom found in the number of dyspeptic patients.

We sustain a living connection with the spiritual world, and the men and women who have gone to inhabit it, and certain states of the stomach render us peculiarly receptive of influences from that realm of being. They constitute a plane into which influx naturally descends, and a form or attitude of the outward man that attracts the feelings of which they are the physiological manifestation — a law we shall more fully explain hereafter. Every abnormal state of mind, by an invariable law of our being, constitutes a bond of sympathetic and living connection with similarly diseased mind in the interior world. A stomach overloaded, and holding an indigested and putrifying mass, affects the diaphragm by drawing away from it its nervous force and thus destroying its contractility. The diaphragm losing its convexity, or falling down, the lungs are not emptied in expiration, and the chest feels oppressed and heavy as well as the mind.

But this is a physiological expression of the sentiment of fear, of which anxiety and melancholy are modifications, and consequently those feelings flow into this receptive form and aggravate the pathological state that already exists. For between the inner and outer man, there operates the law of action and reaction. A distinguished seer and philosopher has said, “When anxieties occupy the mind, the region about the stomach is tightly bound and sometimes pain is perceived there, also anxieties appear to arise thence; and hence also when a man is no longer solicitous about the future, or when all things go well with him, so that he is no longer afraid of any misfortune, the region about the stomach is free and expanded, and he experiences delight.”

A happy state of mind, as everyone knows, occasions a pleasant thrill in the epigastric nerves. Ask any man you meet, where he feels happy, and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred he will put his hand over the region of the stomach, supposing perhaps that he is putting it on his heart. Ask a child the same question, and be will give the same answer. It is, in fact, the seat of our pleasant emotions, or the point where, more than in any other, they ultimate themselves in the body. But unless this region is kept in a condition to receive the influx of such feelings, it becomes admissive only of the opposite, which arise from beneath, like vapors from the sulphorous waters of an extinct volcano.

When the mucous surface of the digestive apparatus is inflamed and a dry, it is attended with an irritable, impatient, excited, and hurried state of feeling. This hurry of spirits, so common in most chronic diseases, especially those of a nervous character, has its seat in the brain in or near the organ of individuality. And magnetism applied here affects the stomach. To induce upon ourselves the opposite state of feeling, as an habitual spiritual condition, will cure the disease. The cravings of hunger create a temporary inflammation of the kind just mentioned. And everyone must have observed both in himself and others, that when feeling the demands of appetite, he is more impatient and irritable. Animals of prey are also more fierce when their stomachs are empty, and they feel the pangs of hunger.

It is not unreasonable to supposc, that many crimes, especially those of violence and assault, which constitute a large fraction of those before our police courts, find herc their secret spring. It is a disease of mind and body, and the unfortunate beings should be sent to the hospital, rather than to prison, or rathcr, our penitentiaries should be turned into hospiitals for the souls of men. No dynasty in France could stand a week against the furious hunger of the Parisian masses. This the reigning powers have long known, learning the lesson from Roman history, and have always aimed to regulate the price of breadstuffs, so as to bring the necessaries of life within the reach of all.

Inflamed stomachs and violence in the social body go together. Hungcr, by the heat it occasions in the mucous surface, excites both combativeness and destruc-tiveness — a hint it would be well for that respectable, impersonal, and collectivc man we call society, to heed. A congested, heated state of the mucous membrane of the stomach, and impatience, irritability of temper, an instinctive tendency to attach, and to destroy, and a headlong hurry to do something, no matter what, are not accidental coincidences, but are cause and effect. One is action and the other reaction, one prior and the other posterior. There is here the relation of cause and effect, but an effect may become in turn a reactionary cause. He who adopts the principle as an axiomatic truth, that all causes are spiritual, will not hesitate in deciding which is prior and which is a sequence.

Of one thing we may be assured, that the opposite state of the affections, one of calmness, patience, loving gentleness, cheerful contentment, and an innocent mirthfulness that leaves no regret to cast a gloom over its spiritual sunshine, will avail more in the cure of this form of dyspepsia, than all the drugs, pills, powders, and potions, that would be necessary to fill the gulf of Mexico.

We have seen that all diseased conditions connect us with disordered and unhappy mind in the other world. To cure disease is to “cast out devils” or to break our sympathetic consociation with undeveloped spirits. But the demons that revel in the emanations of a diseased stomach, like vultures in the odor of a dead and decaying buffalo, will fly at the approach, or the return to the patient, of the playful innocence of restored childhood and youth.

He who is so benevolently happy, that he longs to share his bliss with the whole realm of created mind, can put them to rent like the sword of Michael in the battle of the angels, that felled squadrons at a blow. An undeveloped spirit will fly from the loving joyfulness of the soul, like a bird of night from the light of the sun, or will quietly and harmlessly stay to warm himself in its heavenly radiance.


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