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class of our perceptions. All, which we see by the eye,—even if superficial extension be truly seen by it, is a mere expanse of light, various perhaps in tint, more or less brilliant, and more or less extended. It is by the suggestion and combination of the associate ideas of another sense, that we seem to perceive longitudinal distance, and all the figures which depend on it. Yet the associate ideas, which are of course only imaginary, and the real sensations, are so blended in our mind, that we ascribe external reality equally to both parts of the complex whole. We do not see, and remember, or infer; but the sight, and the mere remembrance, or inference, form, as it were, one common and equal sensation, which we term vision. The diffusion, of which I spoke, or, in other words, the communication of the feeling of reality from an object of perception to conceptions suggested by it, and continuing to coexist with the direct perception, here unquestionably takes place, and takes place at every moment of vision. When I suppose, therefore, the Swiss, on hearing the familiar song of his native cottage, to spread over the image of his cottage that reality, which is actually felt in the song, I suppose only an operation, of precisely the same kind with that, which took place, as often as the cottage itself was a real object of his sight.
It is by a similar operation, that the superstitious, in twilight, incorporate their fears with the objects which they dimly perceive, till the whole thus compounded, assumes the appearance of external reality. The moanings of the wind are the voice of a spirit, to which their apprehension readily invents a language'; and the white sheet, or other shadowy outline, gives a sort of permanent and terrifying body to the spectres of their own mind. It is imagination, indeed, still; but it is imagination combined with perception, and readily harmonizing with it; and the spectral forms and voices seem truly to exist, because there are forms which are truly seen, and sounds which are truly heard.
THE DEGREE OF LIVELINESS OF THE SUGGESTING FEELINGS, AFFECTS THAT OF THE FEELINGS SUGGESTED.—ON THE VIRTUAL COEXISTENCE OF FEELINGS.
GENTLEMEN, my last Lecture was occupied with the consideration of a very important difference in our suggestions, according as they arise from the perception of objects really existing without, or from those mere conceptions of objects, which form a part of our trains of fancy. I quoted to you some ingenious remarks of Mr Stewart on this subject, in which he endeavours to account for the difference, by the longer duration of the perception, which allows more thought and feelings, in unison with it, to mingle together, and thus to heighten, by combination, the emotion, which each, separately, would have produced.
Of the very powerful influence which the greater permanency of our perceptions, than of our mere conceptions, must have,—by giving room for the coexistence of various relative feelings,there can be no doubt. But, as the emotion is, in many cases, almost instantaneous,-so rapid at least, that, if the difference of time were all, which in ordinary circumstances, distinguished the effect of the perception from that of the conception, the mere remembrance of the object which affects us, (being, though fugitive, at least as lasting, as the momentary interval, between the primary perception and the burst of feeling.) might equally have produced the overwhelming tenderness of sorrow;-it seemed to me necessary to have recourse to some other circumstance, in addition to that supposed by Mr Stewart.
This circumstance, which I conceived to be necessary for explaining fully the phenomenon, I represented to you to be the felt
reality of the object perceived, as coexisting and blending with the conception that harmonizes with it, and thus giving to the whole complex group the temporary illusion of reality. That this is only one of many analogous phenomena, and, indeed, that nothing more is assumed, in the explanation, than must be allowed truly to take place, at almost every moment of our waking hours, I proved to you, by various examples ;-particularly by the example of vision, -in which there is a constant extension to our mere conceptions of that external reality, which exists only in a part of the complex whole which we seem to perceive;-the form which we give to the bodies seen by us, and which we believe to be as much an object of our sight, as their colour, being the suggestion of our memory only, and as imaginary, in relation to our percipient mind, as any other conceptions, which any other perceptions excite. If, indeed, we admit, as we cannot but admit, that we do not see, visually, any space, larger than the mere plane of the nervous expansion in the eye-or rather, as I endeavoured to shew you in a former Lecture, that we do not see directly and originally any space whatever-and that, on either of these suppositions, the forms and distances, which we perceive, derive all their felt present reality, from the reality of the existing sensation of colours which blends with them,-it cannot surely seem a very bold assumption to suppose, that what is thus indisputably true, of one set of sensations, when coexisting with one set of conceptions, may be true, of the same set of sensations, when coexisting with another set of conceptions, at least as vivid as the former.
I may remark, as an analogous illustration of this tendency of the mind to combine the reality of perception with the harmonizing conceptions which it suggests, and with which it continues to blend, that an effect in some degree similar, different, indeed, as might be supposed, in force, but analogous in kind,-seems to take place, in the combination of any very vivid conception with other mere conceptions, when these two harmonize and unite readily as a complete whole. There is, as it were, a diffusion of the vividness of the one, over the faintness of the other. The more vivid, —that is to say, the more nearly approaching to the strength of reality, the one conception may be, the more fully is it diffused in unison with the other, and the more difficult, consequently, does it become, to regard this other as separate from it,--so difficult,
indeed, in many cases, as almost to resist the influence of the most undoubting speculative belief. In the case of our emotions,-the very nature of which is to throw a peculiar vividness on the conceptions that harmonize with them, there can be no doubt as to this diffusion of lively feeling,-by the influence of which, in impassioned reverie, our conceptions, that would otherwise be comparatively faint, sometimes appear to us more truly real, than the objects really existing without. It is not wonderful, therefore, that the effect which our emotions, as mere lively feelings harmonizing with certain conceptions, produce in vivifying those conceptions with which they harmonize, should be produced, in some degree, by our conceptions. When, for example, by the classical studies of our early years, our minds have become almost as well acquainted with the warriors of Greece and Troy, as with the warriors of our own time, and the gates and towers of Ilium seem, as it were, to be present to our very eyes,—if we strive to think of the Troad, in its present state of desolation, it is scarcely possible for us to conceive it as it is. Our livelier conception of the past diffuses itself in some measure over our conception of the present scene; and, notwithstanding all the information which we have received, and the full credit which we give to the veracity of the travellers from whose report we receive it, we still, when we think of the scene, imagine on it at least some vestiges of past grandeur existing, with a sort of shadowy reality. If we were on the very spot, our eye would still look in vain for these, as if the monuments that are present to our thought, when these, too, as feelings, are comparatively lively, in diffusing their own liveliness over the fainter conceptions that may harmoniously mingle with them, were necessarily to be as lasting as that remembrance of them, which is never to fade; and there can be no question that, even now, when so many ages have intervened, and when our knowledge of the state of the country admits not of the slightest doubt, we should feel, from moment to moment, some portion of the expectation, and, in no slight degree, the disappointment also, which Cæsar must have felt, in that visit to the ancient seat of his fabled ancestors, of which the Poet of Pharsalia has given so picturesque a narrative.
"Circuit exustæ nomen memorabile Troja,
Jam sylvæ steriles et putres robore trunci
Herceas, monstratur ait, non respicis aras?*
The difficulty which we feel in this case, in imagining the absolute desolation of the Troad, arises from the greater vividness of our conception of ancient Troy, than of our conception of the scene which the same spot now presents,―a vividness which almost incessantly mingles the more lively with the fainter conceptions, in spite of our effort to separate them. Our calm belief attends the latter of these conceptions; but there is an illusion of reality attached to the greater vividness of the former, which is almost every moment mingling with the other; though it is, every other moment, overcome by the opposite belief, which is too strong to be wholly subdued. This constant mingling and separation of the two, forms that feeling of perplexity and effort of which we are conscious, in attempting to consider, for any length of time, the scene as it truly is, and as we truly believe it to be. To lessen this feeling of effort, as if by a more ready transition, nothing is so effectual as the conception of that state of decay which is intermediate between grandeur and absolute desolation.
"Aspice murorum moles, præruptaque saxa,
Hæc sunt Roma. Viden, velut ipsa cadavera tanta
"See the wide waste of all-devouring years!
Pharsalia, lib. ix. v. 964-979.