Superphysics Superphysics
Part A

Nature and Formation of the Soul

by Titus Lucretius Carus
19 minutes  • 3869 words

The mind is a part of the body. We often call it as the understanding, in which is placed the reasoning and guiding power of life, is a part of a man no whit the less than hand and foot and eyes are created parts of the whole living being.

Yet many wise men have thought that the sensation of the mind is not placed in any part determined, but is a certain vital habit of the body, which the Greeks call a harmony, not a ‘harmony’. in that it makes us live with sensation, although in no part does an understanding exist: as when often good health is said to belong to the body, and yet it is not itself any part of a healthy man.

In this wise they do not set the sensation of the mind in any part determined; and in this they seem to me to wander very far astray. Thus often the body,1. Mind and body are independent in pleasure and pain. which is clear to see, is sick, when, all the same we feel pleasure in some other hidden part; and contrariwise it happens that the reverse often comes to be in turn, when one wretched in mind feels pleasure in all his body; in no other wise than if, when a sick man’s foot is painful, all the while, may be, his head is in no pain.

Moreover, when the limbs are given up to soft sleep,2. In sleep the body is senseless, but the mind active. and the heavy body lies slack and senseless, yet there is something else in us, which at that very time is stirred in many ways, and admits within itself all the motions of joy and baseless cares of heart. Now that you may be able to learn that the soul too is in the limbs, and that it is not by a harmony that the body is wont to feel,(b) The soul is in the body, not a harmony:

  1. it survives, when much of the body is lost, but

  2. the loss of particles of heat and air causes death. first of all it comes to pass that when a great part of the body is removed yet often the life lingers on in our limbs; and then again, when a few bodies of heat are scattered abroad and some air has been driven out through the mouth, that same life of a sudden abandons the veins and leaves the bones; so that you may be able to know from this that not all kinds of bodies have an equal part to play, nor do all equally support existence, but that rather those, which are the seeds of wind and burning heat, are the cause that life lingers in the limbs.

There is then heat and a life-giving wind in the very body, which abandons our dying frame. Wherefore, since the nature of mind and soul has been revealed as a part of man, give up the name of harmony,The notion of the vital principle as ‘a harmony’ must be abandoned. which was handed down to musicians from high Helicon: or else they themselves have dragged it forth from some other source, and brought it over to this thing, which then was without a name of its own. Whatever it is, let them keep it: do you listen to the rest of my discourse.

Mind and soul are one nature,Now I say that mind and soul are held in union one with the other, and form of themselves a single nature, but that the head, as it were, and lord in the whole body is the reason, which we call mind or understanding, and it is firmly seated in the middle region of the breast.but mind, in the breast, is supreme. For here it is that fear and terror throb, around these parts are soothing joys; here then is the understanding and the mind. The rest of the soul, spread abroad throughout the body, obeys and is moved at the will and inclination of the understanding.It has pain and joy by itself, The mind alone by itself has understanding for itself and rejoices for itself, when no single thing stirs either soul or body. And just as, when head or eye hurts within us at the attack of pain, we are not tortured at the same time in all our body; so the mind sometimes feels pain by itself or waxes strong with joy, when all the rest of the soul through the limbs and frame is not roused by any fresh feeling.but excessive feeling is shared by the soul and so communicated to the body. Nevertheless, when the understanding is stirred by some stronger fear, we see that the whole soul feels with it throughout the limbs, and then sweat and pallor break out over all the body, and the tongue is crippled and the voice is choked, the eyes grow misty, the ears ring, the limbs give way beneath us, and indeed we often see men fall down through the terror in their mind; so that any one may easily learn from this that the soul is linked in union with the mind; for when it is smitten by the force of the mind, straightway it strikes the body and pushes it on.

Mind and soul are corporeal. For mind acts on body by touch,This same reasoning shows that the nature of mind and soul is bodily. For when it is seen to push on the limbs, to pluck the body from sleep, to change the countenance, and to guide and turn the whole man—none of which things we see can come to pass without touch, nor touch in its turn without body—must we not allow that mind and soul are formed of bodily nature?

Moreover, you see that our mind suffers along with the body, and shares its feelings together in the body.and is affected by the body’s wounds. If the shuddering shock of a weapon, driven within and laying bare bones and sinews, does not reach the life, yet faintness follows, and a pleasant swooning to the ground, and a turmoil of mind which comes to pass on the ground, and from time to time, as it were, a hesitating will to rise. Therefore it must needs be that the nature of the mind is bodily, since it is distressed by the blow of bodily weapons.

Mind and soul are formed of very minute particles:Now of what kind of body this mind is, and of what parts it is formed, I will go on to give account to you in my discourse. First of all I say that it is very fine in texture, and is made and formed of very tiny particles. That this is so, if you give attention, you may be able to learn from this.1. because they are so mobile; Nothing is seen to come to pass so swiftly as what the mind pictures to itself coming to pass and starts to do itself. Therefore the mind bestirs itself more quickly than any of the things whose nature is manifest for all to see. But because it is so very nimble, it is bound to be formed of exceeding round and exceeding tiny seeds, so that its particles may be able to move when smitten by a little impulse.

For so water moves and oscillates at the slightest impulse, seeing it is formed of little particles, quick to roll. But, on the other hand, the nature of honey is more stable, its fluid more sluggish, and its movement more hesitating; for the whole mass of its matter clings more together, because, we may be sure, it is not formed of bodies so smooth, nor so fine and round. For a light trembling breath can constrain a high heap of poppy-seed to scatter from top to bottom before your eyes: but, on the other hand, a pile of stones or corn-ears it can by no means separate. Therefore, in proportion as bodies are tinier and smoother, so they are gifted with nimbleness. But, on the other hand, all things that are found to be of greater weight or more spiky, the more firm set they are. Now, therefore, since the nature of the mind has been found nimble beyond the rest, it must needs be formed of bodies exceeding small and smooth and round. And this truth, when known to you, will in many things, good friend, prove useful, and will be reckoned of service.2. because their departure at death makes no change in appearance or weight. This fact, too, declares the nature of the mind, of how thin a texture it is formed, and in how small a place it might be contained, could it be gathered in a mass; that as soon as the unruffled peace of death has laid hold on a man, and the nature of mind and soul has passed away, you could discern nothing there, that sight or weight can test, stolen from the entire body; death preserves all save the feeling of life, and some warm heat. And so it must needs be that the whole soul is made of very tiny seeds, and is linked on throughout veins, flesh, and sinews; inasmuch as, when it is all already gone from the whole body, yet the outer contour of the limbs is preserved unbroken, nor is a jot of weight wanting. Even so it is, when the flavour of wine has passed away or when the sweet breath of a perfume is scattered to the air, or when its savour is gone from some body; still the thing itself seems not a whit smaller to the eyes on that account, nor does anything seem withdrawn from its weight, because, we may be sure, many tiny seeds go to make flavours and scent in the whole body of things. Wherefore once and again you may know that the nature of the understanding and the soul is formed of exceeding tiny seeds, since when it flees away it carries with it no jot of weight.

Composition of the soul: wind, beat, air;Nevertheless we must not think that this nature is simple. For it is a certain thin breath that deserts the dying, mingled with heat, and heat moreover draws air with it; nor indeed is there any heat, that has not air too mixed with it. For because its nature is rare, it must needs be that many first-beginnings of air move about in it. Already then we have found the nature of the soul to be triple; and yet all these things are not enough to create sensation, since the mind does not admit that any of these can create the motions that bring sensation . 1 It must needs be then that some fourth nature n too be added to these.the fourth nature. But it is altogether without name; than it there exists nothing more nimble, nothing more fine, nor made of smaller or smoother particles.The course of sensation. It first sends abroad the motions that bring sensation among the limbs: for it is first stirred, being made up of small shapes; then heat receives the motions and the hidden power of wind, and then air; then all things are set moving, the blood receives the shock and all the flesh feels the thrill; last of all it passes to the bones and marrow, be it pleasure or the heat of opposite kind. Yet not for naught can pain pierce thus far within, nor any biting ill pass through, but that all things are so disordered that there is no more place for life, and the parts of the soul scatter abroad through all the pores of the body. But for the most part a limit is set to these motions, as it were, on the surface of the body: and by this means we avail to keep our life.

The combination of the elements in the soul.Now, as I long to give account in what way these parts are mingled one with another, and in what manner bound together so that they can act, against my will the poverty of my country’s tongue holds me back; yet, despite that, I will touch the theme, as best I can in brief. For the first-beginnings course to and fro among themselves with the motions of first-beginnings, n so that no single one can be put apart, nor can its powers be set in play divided from others by empty space, but they are, as it were, the many forces of a single body. Even as in the flesh of any living creature anywhere there is smell and a certain heat and savour, and yet of all these is made up the bulk of a single body. Thus heat and air and the hidden power of wind mingled create one nature together with that nimble force, which sends among them from itself the beginning of motion, whence the motion that brings sensation first arises throughout the flesh.The hidden fourth nature. For right deep within this nature lies hid far below, nor is there anything further beneath than this in our bodies, and it is moreover the very soul of the whole soul. Even as in our limbs and our whole body the force of the mind and the power of the soul is secretly immingled, because it is formed of small and rare bodies. So, you see, this force without a name, made of tiny bodies, lies concealed, and is moreover, as it were, the very soul of the whole soul and holds sway in the whole body.The other elements. In like manner it must needs be that wind and air and heat act mingled together throughout the limbs, and one is more above or below the rest, yet so that one single thing is seen to be composed of all; lest heat and wind apart, and apart from them the power of air, should put an end to sensation, and by their separation break it up.Heat causes anger; Moreover the mind possesses that heat, which it dons when it boils with rage, and the fire flashes more keenly from the eyes. Much cold breath too it has, which goes along with fear,wind fear; and starts a shuddering in the limbs and stirs the whole frame.air calmness. And it has too that condition of air lulled to rest, which comes to pass when the breast is calm and the face unruffled. But those creatures have more of heat, whose fiery heart and passionate mind easily boils up in anger.Illustrations from animals Foremost in this class is the fierce force of lions, who often as they groan break their hearts with roaring, and cannot contain in their breast the billows of their wrath. But the cold heart of deer is more full of wind, and more quickly it rouses the chilly breath in its flesh, which makes a shuddering motion start in the limbs. But the nature of oxen draws its life rather from calm air, nor ever is the smoking torch of anger set to it to rouse it overmuch, drenching it with the shadow of murky mist, nor is it pierced and frozen by the chill shafts of fear: it has its place midway between the two, the deer and the raging lions.and from men. So is it with the race of men. However much training gives some of them an equal culture, yet it leaves those first traces of the nature of the mind of each. Nor must we think that such maladies can be plucked out by the roots, but that one man will more swiftly fall into bitter anger, another be a little sooner assailed by fear, while a third will take some things more gently than is right.The power of philosophy to overcome natural habits. And in many other things it must needs be that the diverse natures of men differ, and the habits that follow thereon; but I cannot now set forth the secret causes of these, nor discover names for all the shapes of the first atoms, whence arises this variety in things. One thing herein I see that I can affirm, that so small are the traces of these natures left, which reason could not dispel for us, that nothing hinders us from living a life worthy of the gods.

Union of soul and body is the cause of life.This nature then of the soul n is protected by the whole body, and is itself the guardian of the body, and the cause of its life; for the two cling together by common roots, and it is seen that they cannot be torn asunder without destruction. Even as it is not easy to tear out the scent from lumps of frankincense, but that its nature too passes away. So it is not easy to draw out the nature of mind and soul from the whole body, but that all alike is dissolved.Each is necessary to the other, With first-beginnings so closely interlaced from their very birth are they begotten, endowed with a life shared in common, nor, as is clear to see, can the power of body or mind feel apart, either for itself without the force of the other, but by the common motions of the two on this side and on that is sensation kindled and fanned throughout our flesh.and cannot exist without it. Moreover, the body is never begotten by itself, nor grows alone, nor is seen to last on after death. For never, as the moisture of water often gives off the heat, which has been lent to it, and is not for that reason torn asunder itself, but remains unharmed, never, I say, in this way can the abandoned frame bear the separation of the soul, but it utterly perishes torn asunder and rots away. So from the beginning of existence body and soul, in mutual union, learn the motions that give life, yea, even when hidden in the mother’s limbs and womb, so that separation cannot come to pass without hurt and ruin; so that you can see, since the cause of their life is linked together, that their natures too must be linked in one.

The body itself feels owing to its combination with soul.For the rest, if any one is for proving that the body does not feel, and believes that it is the soul mingled with the whole body that takes up this motion, which we call sensation, he is fighting even against plain and true facts. For who will ever tell us what the feeling of the body is, if it be not what the clear fact itself has shown and taught us? ‘But when the soul has passed away the body is utterly deprived of sensation.’ Yes, for it loses that which was not its own in life, and many other things besides it loses, when it is driven out of life.

Example: the eyes themselves see and are not ‘doors to the soul’.To say, moreover, that the eyes can see nothing, but that the mind looks out through them as when doors are opened, is hard, seeing that the feeling in the eyes leads us the other way; for that feeling drags us on and forces us to the very pupils; 1 yea, for often we cannot see bright things, because our sight is thwarted by the light. But that does not happen with doors; for the doors, through which we see, do not suffer any pain when they are opened. Moreover, if our eyes are as doors, n then the mind, it is clear, ought to discern things better if the eyes were taken out and removed, door-posts and all.

Soul and body atoms do not alternate.Herein you could by no means accept the teaching, which the judgement of the holy man, Democritus, n sets before us, that the first-beginnings of soul and body alternate, set each next each, first one and then the other, and so weave the web of our limbs.Soul atoms are set at intervals. For, as the particles of soul are far smaller than those of which our body and flesh are composed, so too they are less in number, and only here and there are scattered through our frame; so that you may warrant this: that the first-beginnings of soul preserve distances apart as great as are the smallest bodies which, when cast upon us, can first start the motions of sensation in the body.Proof from things which we do not feel when they touch the body. For sometimes we do not feel the clinging of dust on the body, nor know that chalk has been shaken on us and settled on our limbs, nor do we feel a mist at night, nor the slender threads of the spider that strike against us, when we are caught in its meshes as we move, nor know that his twisted web has fallen on our head, or the feathers of birds or the flying down from plants, which from its exceeding lightness, for the most part falls not lightly; nor do we feel the passage of every kind of crawling creature nor each single footstep, which gnats and other insects plant upon our body. Indeed, so many things must first be stirred in us, before the seeds of soul mingled with our bodies throughout our frame feel that the first-beginnings have been shaken, and before they can by jostling in these spaces set between, rush together, unite and leap back in turn.

The mind is more essential for life than the soul.Now the mind is more the keeper of the fastnesses of life, more the monarch of life than the power of the soul. For without the mind and understanding no part of the soul can hold out in the frame for a tiny moment of time, but follows in its train without demur, and scatters into air, and deserts the chill frame in the frost of death. Yet one, whose mind and understanding have abode firm, abides in life. However much the trunk is mangled with the limbs hewn all around, though the soul be rent from him all around and wrested from his limbs, he lives and draws in the breath of heaven to give him life. Robbed, if not of all, yet of a great part of his soul, still he lingers on and clings to life.Illustration from the pupil of the eye. Even as, when the eye is mangled all around, if the pupil has abode unharmed, then the living power of sight stands firm, if only you do not destroy the whole ball of the eye, and cut all round the pupil, and leave it by itself: for that will not be done without the destruction of the eyes too. But if that tiny part in the middle of the eye is eaten away, at once light is gone, and darkness follows on, however much the bright ball is in other places unharmed. In such a compact are soul and mind ever bound together.