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CHAPTER II - THE GLANDS AND HUMAN BEHAVIOUR

CHAPTER II

THE GLANDS AND HUMAN BEHAVIOUR

The study of the glands is in its infancy. Throughout the literature on this subject, one finds statements to the effect that little is known, and that the inner essence—technically called "hormones"—of any particular glandular secretion has not yet been discovered, and that mystery veils the subject. It is true that the secretions of certain glands have been discovered, and that even in common parlance one hears of the thyroid gland and of the administration of thyroid extract in certain cases, but the secretions of most glands are unknown or have only partly been isolated.

Under these circumstances, an intelligent layman, even if not scientifically trained in medicine or in academic psychology, but armed with patience and a stout dictionary, need not hesitate to venture upon the subject of glands and their secretions and effects, and, after diligent study of the available material, to survey the field and report on it. Such a survey, in fact, may be of real value to the general public by supplying it with a ready summary of an important branch of inquiry. It may also be of substantial help even to the trained exponent, not merely enabling him to ascertain [31] the impression which the technical literature makes on others, but especially because a fresh mind, unhampered with scientific data, frequently gains a better perspective of the whole field. This would be particularly so if the one, so surveying and reporting, has long been versed in the race-old beliefs and age-long convictions of the East on the general subject of psychology.

In considering the endocrine system, it is not my intention to describe it in its ordinary physiological terms and effects, such as its relation to the growth of the body, to the hair, heart, blood and organs of generation. All this can be gathered out of any medical book, even those published in the last century. Rather is it my intention to ascertain what advanced and modern investigators, medical men and psychologists, infer from a study of the glands, and what they judge their effects to be on human behaviour, and to check the claims, so often made, that the mysterious internal secretions are responsible for man's actions, emotions and mentality—in short, for the man himself. Understand the glands, they say, and behold the man.

In considering glands in this sense, I shall quote largely from the available books, not merely because one is then more likely to speak as having authority, but also because one thus reflects the given view more freshly and vividly. A partial bibliography will be found at the close of this book.

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These books, and the trained investigators as a whole, use a terminology that staggers the general reader. The secretion of the thyroid gland, for example, has been labelled as "tri-iodo-tri-hydro-exygindole-propionic acid!" As far as possible, I shall avoid such playful expressions.

Before considering the glands themselves, it is well to decide what we understand by "psychology." In the West at least, it has abandoned its derivative meaning, already given, of the logos or law, of the psyche or soul. A recent and clear definition is given by Dr. Leary:

"The science of human behavior in the largest sense of the word behavior, the sense which includes all that human beings do, all that human beings have. In this sense of behavior it is the behavior of the whole, integrated personality which is under investigation.

"Psychology deals with the organism as a whole, as an integrated and orientated individual in contact with other individuals in a complex external environment, partly physical and partly social, in short, as a personality.

"The behavior of human beings, psychologically speaking, ... reduces to physiological facts and findings, in turn to those of the field of biology, then to those of bio-chemistry, then to chemistry in general and then, inevitably, to physics as the science of matter in motion." [xx]1

Psychology, therefore, is the science of the activity of man, as a living organism, in the environment [33] in which he finds himself—the science of the interplay between man and that environment. It is the science of human conduct, but not in the ethical sense of right or wrong conduct. It is the science of human behaviour, of personality. But what is there behind this behaviour? Hocking says, "The self is indeed a system of behavior. But it is a system of purposive behavior emerging from a persistent hope. The kernel of the self is its hope." [xxi]2

This hope that life may be made something that is greater than it has ever hitherto been, is indeed a persistent hope—we know, however, that if it is to be realised, we ourselves must help to bring about that realisation. Hence the purposive behaviour of which Hocking speaks.

In this field of human behaviour and personality, there are three main factors. There is, first, the environment. This is much more than a mere present fact, or set of facts, or a mere passive stage upon which the drama is played. It has been defined as "all that is not the organism, whether cultural, social, physical, or what-not, present in fact or in record." [xxii]3 There is, secondly, the human apparatus, especially the response apparatus which we shall presently discuss in greater detail. There is, finally, conduct, or the result of the interrelation between the environment and the response apparatus, and, given a certain environment and [34] a certain response apparatus, certain lines of conduct, it is claimed, are inevitable—the interplay of these three results in human behaviour.

Our concern here is naturally with the second main factor, the response apparatus.

In that apparatus, certain aspects of the mechanism warrant closer attention than others, namely the nervous system, and the system of ductless glands, which two systems are found functioning in close coordination in the human frame.

It is through the nervous system, perhaps the most intricate and wonderful part of the human structure, that we contact our environment, the external world, and are adapted to function in it. Through this system we become aware of the tangible, and through the network of nerves, plus the spinal cord and brain, we become aware of information ceaselessly conveyed to us. Messages are carried along the millions of telegraph lines of our nerves to the central power house of our brain, and are then transformed in some mysterious way into information. To that information we respond: a reverse activity is instituted and we are galvanised into action.

Along with this display of incoming and outgoing nervous energy there are parallel activities in the system of ductless glands (and the muscular system) and the interlocking of activity is so great that, unless the ductless glands are functioning normally, there will be no adequate response [35] to the information telegraphed and no transformation of one type of energy into another.

The whole response apparatus, and the mechanics of the case, have been summed up in the following terms:

"An organism is a transforming device which changes the incoming energy of the environment, received through the receptors, into outgoing energy in the form of the work of the muscles and glands and, at the same time, as transforming device, also transforms itself in terms of these and other, inwardly originating stimuli, both sets of stimuli and both outputs of energy co-operating in the complete act or behavior of the organism." [xxiii]4

The nervous system and muscles may be loosely described as the physical response apparatus, and the means by which physical response to the environment is made, but the nervous system and the ductless glands as the intelligent and emotional response apparatus, and the means by which actual response is made.

It is claimed that this latter interaction between the apparatus and the environment produces conduct and behaviour, that feeling and thought activity have their seat in the endocrine system, and that even the nature of man is thus accounted for!

"It is probably true," continues Dr. Leary, "that, in the long run, when present speculation has been replaced by more adequate and better [36] grounded knowledge, we will find the seat of temperament in, or in connection with, the ductless glands." [xxiv]5

Dr. Rubin says "we are now rapidly coming to believe that all we are and all we may ever hope to be, depends very largely upon whether or not we have been born with normal ductless glands." [xxv]6 And Dr. Leary says, "The emotions are more nearly concerned with interoceptors and unstriped muscles and ductless glands" than instincts are. [xxvi]7 Dr. Cobb tells us:

"... only three and a half grains of the thyroid secretion stands between intelligence and idiocy. It is a gruesome thought to realize that the absence of one chemical can result in a failure of development of the mind and body of an individual." [xxvii]8

Dr. Cobb also tells us in his Introduction that:

"The action of the glands in determining the bodily build is indisputable; and the mental outlook—the 'behavior complexes'—of the individual appears to depend on the physical well-being; and the physical well-being undoubtedly depends upon the successful action and interaction of the various glandular secretions....

"Although we are as yet only on the fringe of the subject, we have advanced sufficiently to realize that, just as certain patterns are formed in the body by a [37] particular arrangement of the ductless glands, so does the mind receive its quota from the same source." [xxviii]9

Professor J.S. Huxley in a recent lecture says, "It seems clear that temperament, even more important than pure intellect in achieving success, is largely an affair of the balance of the various glands of internal secretion—thyroid, pituitary, and the rest. It may well be that the applied physiology of the future will discover how to modify temperament." [xxix]10

In regard to this matter of temperament, Dr. Hocking remarks:

"There is not the slightest reason to doubt the broad fact of the profound effect on temperament exercised by the glands of internal secretion, such as the thyroid or the interstitial glands or the adrenals. The stimulation of certain of these glands, or the injection of their products, or feeding therewith, may produce changes which would once have been thought miraculous. By administering thyroxin a cretin may be brought to something resembling normality; if the dosage is stopped he returns to his original condition. If the dosage is increased, unfortunately, neither he nor anyone is raised from normality to genius; we only produce another form of abnormality. And so far, no chemical discoveries justify any bright hopes of improving the human normal. There are, indeed, certain drugs which make an individual feel like a genius, but unless the results are judged under the same influence they are strangely disappointing. We must, therefore, not build at once too high hopes for [38] the future of mankind on these discoveries. But there is a genuine sense in which the soul has its chemistry, and `a deficiency of iodine will turn a clever man into an idiot.'" [xxx]11

The consideration, therefore, of the ductless glands and of their effect not only on physical structure, but on conduct as well, is of vital importance. What then are the glands? And, especially, what are the ductless glands often mentioned? Dr. Cobb tells us:

"Glands may be divided into two main groups, those which are concerned with the drainage system—the lymphatic glands—and those which secrete products for use in the bodily work. The lymphatic glands do not concern us here. The second group, whose duty is to contribute fluids which, acting in concert with each other, control and regulate the bodily processes, consist of two subdivisions.

"The first of these contain glands with ducts, down which they discharge their contents. The second possess no ducts, and their secretions are absorbed directly into the blood stream. These are known as the ductless glands, or `endocrine organs' and their products have been called internal secretions. The term `endocrinology' has been applied to the study of the glands of internal secretion." [xxxi]>

The word "endocrine" it may be noted is from the Greek word "krinein," meaning "to separate."

Dr. Rubin says:

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"These ductless glands or organs of secretion are often referred to as the `endocrine glands.' Their secretions are absorbed directly into the blood, and into the streams of nutrient lymph—the body, it would appear, thereby dispensing its own drugs.

"These secretions contain the `hormones' or chemical messengers of the organism which excite some of the most marvellous reactions known in physiology. In fact, it has been stated that hormones are to physiology what radium is to chemistry." [xxxii]13

This system of endocrine glands forms a unit functionally, working in the utmost cooperation and interdependence. Dr. Berman tells us, "The body mind is a perfect corporation. Of this corporation the glands of internal secretion are the directors.... Behind the body, and behind the mind is this board of governors." [xxxiii]14 All the glands, in fact, work in unison. They are known to correlate their activity, to balance each other, and through their united effect, it is claimed, to make a man what he is.

They form, in fact, a close interlocking system with functions and organisms clearly distinct from those of other systems within the mechanism of the human frame. The blood system and the nervous system pursue their own activities, but are closely linked to the endocrine system. The blood acts mysteriously as the carrier of the peculiar hormones of the different glands, and the nervous system [40] seems more specifically related to the psychical development incident to the normal, or abnormal, functioning of the endocrine glands.

From this discussion of the endocrine system we come naturally to the question: What, then, are the ductless glands, one by one?

Beginning with the head, and working downwards, there are seven glands of special importance to be listed. These are:

 

 

Name

Location

Secretion

 

 

 

 

1.

Pineal gland

Head

Unknown

 

 

 

 

2.

Pituitary-
anterior
posterior

Head


Unknown
Pituitrin

 

 

 

 

3.

Thyroid

Throat

Thyroxin

 

 

 

 

4.

Thymus

Upper Chest

Unknown

 

 

 

 

5.

Pancreas

Solar Plexus
region

Insulin

 

 

 

 

6.

Adrenals-
cortex
medulla

Behind the
kidneys


Unknown
Adrenalin

 

 

 

 

7.

Gonads

Lower Abdomen

Of the testes and ovaries

 

(Publisher’s Note: Since this chapter was written, experiments with the ductless glands have continued. Details given here are not final or conclusive but the basic postulates of the Author remain untouched. F.B.)

Thus we have distributed over the head and torso a network of important glands, which, it is claimed, physiologically govern the structure, growth and chemical changes of the body, and, psychologically, are responsible for the emotional reactions and the thought processes of the human being. Hence, they would be the producers of his [41] qualities, good and bad, of his behaviour and conduct of affairs, and of his very character.

We shall now consider the seven glands mentioned, but confining our discussion to their mental and psychic effects.

1. The pineal gland—location, head—secretion, unknown.

The pineal gland is cone-shaped, about the size of a pea, and is in the centre of the brain in a tiny cave behind and above the pituitary gland which lies a little behind the root of the nose. The pineal gland is attached to the third ventricle of the brain. It contains a pigment similar to that in the retina of the eye, and also collections of what have been called "brain sand particles." Dr. Tilney says:

"Numerous attempts have been made to determine what function, if any, the pineal body possesses. Is it indispensable to life, or does it play some role important to a particular phase of metabolic activity? We may perhaps concede that this organ does possess a function in man and in most mammals. It is not improbable that this function is particularly determined by an internal secretion, a secretion, however, which is certainly not indispensable to life. The exact influence of the pineal secretion is still obscure."

 [xxxiv]15

It has also been suggested that this gland regulates our susceptibility to light, that it has a definite effect upon the sex nature, that it is related to brain growth and that its active functioning [42] causes intellectual precocity as is clearly indicated in the historic case discussed below. This gland has also been called the third eye, and the eye of the Cyclops. Beyond these facts or conjectures, investigators frankly say they know nothing, and experiments have produced little information. In the experiment of feeding pineal gland extract to children and to defectives the response was nothing when the subject was over fifteen years of age, and contradictory in all other cases, so deduction was impossible.

Until a few decades ago scant attention was paid to the pineal gland. Then came the case, noted by Dr. Berman, in which a child was brought to a German clinic suffering from eye trouble and headaches. He was five years old and very mature, and apparently had reached the age of adolescence. He was abnormally bright mentally, discussing metaphysical and spiritual subjects. He was strongly group-conscious and only happy when sharing what he had with others. After his arrival at the clinic, he rapidly grew worse and died in a month. An autopsy showed a tumour of the pineal gland. [xxxv]16

As will be seen later, this historic case has a special interest in view of the conclusions of Oriental philosophers.

Most of the books note that the pineal gland is stated by ancient philosophers to be the seat of the soul, and Descartes is frequently quoted as [43] saying, "In man, soul and body touch each other only at a single point, the pineal gland in the head."

In the ancient belief that the pineal gland is the seat of the soul and in the fact apparently established that the pineal gland is a distinctive gland of childhood and atrophies later, is there not, perhaps, some real connection, some indication of hidden truth? Children have a ready belief in God and recognition of Him. Christ said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you" and "Except ye become as little children ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."

One is mindful too, of Wordsworth's "Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood."

"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;

The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy.
The youth, who daily farther from the East
Must travel, still is Nature's priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;

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At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day."

Oriental philosophy confirms this possible connection between the pineal gland and the soul.

2. Pituitary—location head—secretion of anterior gland unknown, secretion of posterior, pituitrin.

Interest in the pituitary gland has been evidenced for centuries but until the late eighties so little was known about it that it was regarded as an organ of external secretion. It is really two glands in one. It is about the size of a pea and lies at the base of the brain a short distance behind the root of the nose.

This gland has been called "nature's darling treasure," being cradled in a niche, like a "skull within a skull." As most of the glands do, in some form or other, it has a close relation to sex, and is also related to such periodic phenomena as sleep and sex epochs. We are told that it is a gland of continued effort, of energy consumption, and is essential to life. It is believed to stimulate the brain cells and to have a "direct and important bearing upon the personality." We are also informed that insufficient pituitary development causes, or at least accompanies conspicuous moral and intellectual inferiority, and lack of self-control; but that with a good pituitary development there will also be pronounced mental activity and endurance. It seems to have a very close connection with our emotional and mental qualities.

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The pituitary, as we have said, is really two glands in one. The secretion of the post-pituitary is pituitrin.

"The post-pituitary governs the maternal-sexual instincts and their sublimations, the social and creative instincts.... It might be said to energize deeply the tender emotions.... For all the basic sentiments (as opposed to the intellectualized self-protective sentimentalism), tender-heartedness, sympathy and suggestibility, are interlocked with its functions."

The secretion of the ante-pituitary is unknown.

"The ante-pituitary has been depicted as the gland of intellectuality.... By intellectuality we mean the capacity of the mind to control its environment by concepts and abstract ideas." [xxxvi]17

Dr. Berman also adds, "Mental activity is accompanied by increased function of the ante-pituitary, if intellectual, or of the post-pituitary, if emotional." [xxxvii]18

From a study of these comments, it becomes apparent that the personality qualities—emotions, whether we mean maternal instincts shared with all animals, love of one's fellowmen, or love of God—are regarded as largely dependent upon the condition of the pituitary gland, as is also the ability to intellectualise.

Approaching the problem from a different angle, the student of the Eastern wisdom proves the relative correctness of all these inferences.

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3. Thyroid—location, throat—secretion, thyroxin.

Of the thyroid gland, more is known than of the pineal gland or the pituitary body, and from the standpoint of Eastern wisdom, this was to be expected. This gland is found astride the neck, above the wind-pipe, close to the larynx, and is a very large gland. It was once a sex gland, is frequently called the "third ovary," is always involved in ovarian cases. In the lower vertebrates it is clearly connected with the ducts of the sexual organs, but in the march of evolution upwards, "that relationship is lost, the thyroid migrates more and more to the head region, to become the great link between sex and brain." [xxxviii]19 We are told also that it is the great differentiator of tissues, and has anti-toxic power, preventing poisoning and increasing resistance to poison.

Above everything else, however, the thyroid gland is the controller of the metabolism of energy. It has been called the efficient lubricator of energy transformation, and is the great catalyst of energy in the body. It controls the speed of living and is the keystone of the endocrine system. It is indispensable to life.

Through the work done with subnormal people, deficients and idiots, investigators have come to the conclusion that, in the words of Dr. Berman:

"Without thyroid there can be no complexity of thought, no learning, no education, no habit-formation, [47] no responsive energy for situations, as well as no physical unfolding of faculty and function and no reproduction of kind, with no sign of adolescence at the expected age, and no exhibition of sex tendencies thereafter." [xxxix]20

We are also told that

"Sensitivity, the ability to discriminate between grades of sensation or acuteness of perception is another thyroid quality. Just as the thyroid plus is more energetic, so is he more sensitive. He feels things more, he feels pain more readily, because he arrives more quickly at the stage when the stimulus damages his nerve apparatus." [xl]21

The thyroid, like the pituitary, has also close connection with the memory.

"... the pituitary seems to be related to preservation of the memory deposit.... The thyroid memory applies particularly to perception and precepts, the pituitary to conception (reading, studying, thinking) and concepts." [xli]22

4. Thymus—location, upper chest—secretion, unknown.

Of the thymus gland, we know practically nothing, and it is one of the most mysterious of all. Like the pineal gland, it is regarded as a gland of childhood, but both as yet baffle investigation.

The thymus gland is situated in the chest, covers the upper portion of the heart, and, perhaps, has relation to nutrition and growth. It seems to be [48] connected with the irresponsible nature of children, and, when over-functioning in adult years, produces the irresponsible man or woman, and the amoral people.

5. Pancreas—location, solar plexus region—secretion, insulin.

Most of the information given in connection with the pancreas is strictly physiological, and, therefore, out of place here. Suffice it to say, however, that it lies in the abdomen and is close to the solar plexus (which is the brain of the instinctual animal nature) and is closely concerned with the "mobilization of energy for physical and mental purposes. It has two secretions, both insulin, one concerned with the digestive processes and the other known to be vital to the metabolism of sugar. Without sufficient sugar for the cells, no muscle work or nerve work—essentials in the struggle for existence—are possible." [xlii]23

6. Adrenals—location behind the kidneys—secretion of the cortex adrenals unknown, of the medulla adrenals adrenalin.

The adrenal glands are each of them dual and are situated on both sides of the abdomen, astride and back of the kidneys. They are concerned with general growth, and the growth of the brain cells. The adrenal cortex secretion (to which no name has been given) is one source of the internal secretions producing maturity.

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The adrenal glands, however, are primarily the glands of combat. They produce that immediate and active response which men exhibit in times of danger or anger, and their secretion is stimulated in times of emergency. Pain, rage and fear have a definite effect upon the discharge, and we are told, "all the evidence points to its medulla as the secretor of the substance which makes for the phenomena of fear, and to its cortex as dominant in the reactions of anger." [xliii]24

Also:

"Courage is so closely related to fear and anger that all are always associated in any discussion. Courage is commonly thought of as the emotion that is the opposite of fear. It would follow that courage meant simply inhibition of the adrenal medulla. As a matter of fact the mechanism of courage is more complex. One must distinguish animal courage and deliberate courage. Animal courage is literally the courage of the beast. As noted, animals with the largest amounts of adrenal cortex are the pugnacious, aggressive, charging kings of the fields and forests. The emotion experienced by them is probably anger with a sort of blood-lust, and no consideration of the consequences. The object attacked acted like a red rag waved at a bull—it had stimulated a flow of the secretion of the adrenal cortex, and the instinct of anger became sparked, as it were, by the new condition of the blood. In courage, deliberate courage, there is more than instinct. There is an act of volition, a display of will. Admitting that without the adrenal cortex such courage would be impossible, the chief credit for courage [50] must be ascribed to the ante-pituitary. It is the proper conjunction of its secretion and that of the adrenal cortex that makes for true courage. So it is we find that acts of courage have been recorded most often of individuals of the ante-pituitary type." [xliv]25

7. Gonads—location, lower abdomen—secretion, that of male testes and female ovaries.

The gonads or interstitial glands are the sex glands of external secretion, but are known to have an internal secretion also. Their gross secretion is the medium for reproduction. It is unnecessary to dwell at length upon the effects of the gonads on personality. The sex impulse and its various subsidiary effects, both physical and psychical, are well recognised and much studied, and this study, largely of perversions and inhibitions, has proved of paramount importance to the understanding of humanity. Some psychologists relate all human reactions—physical, emotional and mental—to sex and sex alone, and, back of every extreme position, we know there lies a substratum of truth. Others regard sex as playing an important part, but not as responsible for the entire story. The Eastern wisdom offers an interpretation which warrants consideration and which will appear when we consider the force centres and their relation to the glands.

Of all the foregoing, and of many books and articles on the subject, the following may be given as a brief summary.

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The whole subject is in an experimental stage, and much remains to be done. Clearly, however, there is a close relationship between the glands and a similarity of function, and most of them have to do with the metabolism of the body and with growth, and all of them seem closely related to sex life. Finally, they determine, apparently, the type and temperament of the personality.

Experimental as the science is, man seems to have been psycho-analysed and understood at last. Those elusive and intangible processes, called emotions and mental concepts, are accounted for in terms of matter. To the glands and to the nervous system, and to the poor or good development and functioning of man's apparatus of contact and response, is ascribed all that he is. A saint can be made into a sinner and the sinner into a saint, and this merely by increasing or decreasing certain internal secretions. Thus a man is no better, no worse, than the equipment with which he comes into the world and his mechanism is the sum total of him. He can improve it or misuse it, but the apparatus is the determining factor. Free-will is eliminated and immortality denied. The best a man can do is so to act that he is happy and, also, to shoulder the responsibility of building better bodies in order that the next generation can manifest better psychically.

Whether we agree with those conclusions or disagree, we must at least admit that, with the mechanism the object of all study, it should eventually [52] be possible to ascertain the laws and methods by which perfect bodies may be constructed which, in turn, can be the instruments through which a perfect psychic nature can function.

But are all these conclusions as to the endocrine glands, in fact correct? Has man, in outline, been classified and labelled, and does there remain only the filling of blanks in the general outline? Who can say? But to my mind the answer lies in two questions or groups of questions, the one primarily a matter of the individual, and the second all-embracing.

As for the individual, are glands and glandular functions primary causes, or are they merely effects or instrumentalities? Is there not, in truth, something greater which lies beyond? Is there not in each of us a soul which functions through the whole physical and psychic mechanism? Was not St. Paul, in short, right in saying that man has a natural body and a spiritual body, and in implying that the glory of the natural is one, and the glory of the spiritual another?

And as for the second and broader question, is a mere mechanism the be-all and end-all of existence, and our only guiding star the perfecting of that mechanism? Then, indeed, "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." Is it not that there is not only a finer self in us—call it spirit, soul, or what you will—but does it not, itself form a part of a transcendent whole—call it God as religion does, or Oversoul as Emerson does, or by any other [53] name—but in any case a transcendent whole, the glory and radiance of which surpass all understanding? Shall we never be at-one with That, and meanwhile the longing for that at-one-ment lead us onward? Shall this corruptible never put on incorruption, or this mortal never put on immortality? Shall death never be swallowed up in victory?

For answers to these questions, let us turn to the Wisdom of the East.

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