Passions and Perturbations of the Mind, how they cause Melancholy

Passions and Perturbations of the Mind, how they cause Melancholy

As that gymnosophist in Plutarch made answer to Alexander (demanding which spake best), Every one of his fellows did speak better than the other: so I may say of these causes; to him that shall require which is the greatest, every one is more grievous than other, and this of passion the greatest of all. A most frequent and ordinary cause of melancholy, fulmen perturbationum (Piccolomineus calls it) this thunder and lightning of perturbation, which causeth such violent and speedy alterations in this our microcosm, and many times subverts the good estate and temperature of it. For as the body works upon the mind by his bad humours,troubling the spirits, sending gross fumes into the brain, and so per consequens disturbing the soul, and all the faculties of it,

"-- Corpus onustum,
Hesternis vitiis animum quoque prægravat una."

(Hor. "The body oppressed by yesterday's vices weighs down the spirit also.")

with fear, sorrow, &c.,which are ordinary symptoms of this disease: so on the other side, the mind most effectually works upon the body, producing by his passions and perturbations miraculous alterations, as melancholy, despair, cruel diseases, and sometimes death itself. Insomuch that it is most true which Plato saith in his Charmides, omnia corporis mala ab animum procedere; all the mischiefs of the body proceed from the soul: and Democritus in Plutarch urgeth, Damnatum iri animam a corpore, if the body should in this behalf bring an action against the soul, surely the soul would be cast and convicted, that by her supine negligence had caused such inconveniences, having authority over the body, and using it for an instrument, as a smith does his hammer (saith Cyprian), imputing all those vices and maladies to the mind. Even so doth Philostratus; non coinquinatur corpus, nisi consensu animæ; the body is not corrupted, but by the soul. Lodovcus Vives will have such turbulent commotions proceed from ignorance and indiscretion. All philosophers impute the miseries of the body to the soul, that should have governed it better, by command of reason, and hath not done it. The Stoics are altogether of opinion (as Lipsius and Piccolomineus record), that a wise man should be απαθης (apathes) without all manner of passions and perturbations whatsoever, as Seneca reports of Cato, the Greeks of Socrates and Io. Aubanus of a nation in Africa, so free from passion, or rather so stupid, that if they be wounded with a sword, they will only look back. Lactantius 2 instit. will exclude "fear from a wise man:" others except all, some the greatest passions. But let them dispute how they will, set down in Thesi, give precepts to the contrary; we find that of Lemnius true by common experience; "No mortal man is free from these perturbations: or if he be so, sure he is either a god, or a block." They are born and bred with us, we have them from our parents by inheritance. A parentibus habemus malum hunc assens, saith Pelezius, Nascitur una nobiscum, aliturque, 'tis propagated from Adam, Cain was melancholy, as Austin hath it, and who is not? Good discipline, education, philosophy, divinity (I cannot deny), may mitigate and restrain these passions in some few men at some times, but most part they domineer, and are so violent, that as a torrent (torrens velut aggere rupto) bears down all before, and overflows his banks: sternit agros, sternit sata, (lays waste the fields, prostrates the crops), they overwhelm reason, judgment, and pervert the temperature of the body; Fertur equis auriga, nec audit currus habenas. Now such a man (saith Austin) "that is so led, in a wise man's eye, is no better than he that stands upon his head." It is doubted by some, Gravioresne morbi a perturbationibus, an ab humoribus, whether humours or perturbations cause the more grievous maladies. But we find that of our Saviour, Mat. xxvi, 41, most true, "The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak," we cannot resist; and this of Philo Judæus, "Perturbations often offend the body, and are most frequent causes of melancholy, turning it out of the hinges of his health." Vives compares them to "Winds upon the sea, some only move as those great gales, but others turbulent quite overturn the ship." Those which are light, easy, and more seldom, to our thinking, do us little harm, and are therefore contemned of us: yet if they be reiterated, "as the rain (saith Austin) doth a stone, so do these perturbations penetrate the mind:" and (as one observes) "produce a habit of melancholy at the last, which having gotten the mastery in our souls, may well be called diseases."

How these passions produce this effect, Agrippa hath handled at large, Occult. Philos. l. 11. c. 63. Cardan, l. 14, subtil. Lemnius, l. 1, c. 12, de occult. nat. mir. et lib. 1. cap. 16. Suarez, Met. disput. 18. sect. 1, art. 25. T. Bright, cap. 12. of his Melancholy Treatise. Wright the Jesuit in his book of the Passions of the Mind, &c. Thus in brief; to our imagination cometh by the outward sense or memory, some object to be known (residing in the foremost part of the brain), which he misconceiving or amplifying presently communicates to the heart, the seat of all affections. The pure spirits forthwith flock from the brain to the heart, by certain secret channels, and signify what good or bad object was presented; which immediately bends itself to prosecute, or avoid it; and withal, draweth with it other humours to help it: so in pleasure, concur great store of purer spirits; in sadness, much melancholy blood; in ire, choler. If the imagination be very apprehensive, intent, and violent, it sends great store of spirits to, or from the heart, and makes a deeper impression, and greater tumult, as the humours in the body be likewise prepared, and the temperature itself ill or well disposed, the passions are longer and stronger; so that the first step and fountain of all our grievances in this kind, is læsa imaginatio, which misinforming the heart, causeth all these distemperatures, alteration, and confusion of spirits and humours. By means of which, so disturbed, concoction is hindered, and the principal parts are much debilitated; as Dr. Navarra well declared, being consulted by Montanus about a melancholy Jew. The spirits so confounded, the nourishment must needs be abated, bad humours increased, crudities and thick spirits engendered with melancholy blood. The other parts cannot perform their functions, having the spirits drawn from them by vehement passion, but fail in sense and motion; so we look upon a thing, and see it not; hear, and observe not; which otherwise would much affect us, had we been free. I may therefore conclude with Arnoldus, Maxima vis est phantasiæ, et huic uni fere, non autem corporis intemperiei, omnis melancholiæ causa est ascribenda: "Great is the force of imagination, and much more ought the cause of melancholy to be ascribed to this alone, than to the distemperature of the body." Of which imagination, because it hath so great a stroke in producing this malady, and is so powerful of itself; it will not be improper to my discourse, to make a brief digression, and speak of the force of it, and how it causeth this alteration. Which manner of digression howsoever some dislike, as frivolous and impertinent, yet I am of Beroaldus's opinion, "Such digressions do mightily delight and refresh a weary reader, they are like sauce to a bad stomach, and I do therefore most willingly use them."

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