A Singular Case
Theosophist, May, 1884
A Correspondent writes:—
The Banner of Light has a curious case given in its columns. “There is,” it says, “a gentleman, in the city of New York who, until latterly, was one of its most able as well as respectable merchants. Loss of mental faculties is a frequent consequence of long-sustained application to a single subject, but in this case there is a peculiarity of affection that may interest many readers of the Banner:
“Notwithstanding the complete decay of this gentleman’s mental faculties, he writes as wise and sensible letters of business today as he ever did, and this, although he is utterly incapable of reading what he has written; a description of a case that is unprecedented, so far as this writer has witnessed.”
I suppose that in this case only the 4th Principle is active; but what has become of the fifth? Has it evaporated or become latent or paralyzed? Is a man in his dotage only a shell? Or has the connection ceased? If a shell, what has become of the fifth principle?
Editor’s Note. [H.P.B.]—We think it is the reverse. It is neither the 4th principle—the only one alive in the period “of dotage” or insanity—nor the 5th that is active, for both are, so to say, paralyzed, in the case of the New York gentleman. Everything in the brain is dead, or rather in a cataleptic stupor—with the exception of that portion called in physiology sensigenous molecules, which go to form the physical superstructure or foundation of memory in our brain. And even in that portion of the brain-substance only those molecules are really alive and active which are directly connected rather with mechanical impulses, long acquired habits, etc., properly speaking, than with memory in toto. We have heard of several cases of insanity upon all and every subject except that which had degenerated into a mental and physical habit. A portrait painter, a lunatic, when asked to draw some particular person whom he had known, would paint his likeness from memory far better than he might have done during his days of perfect health when having that person before him at a sitting. Nevertheless, as soon as the likeness was completed, he used to see invariably in it some animal, asking whether that dog, or cat, or bird was not “very, very natural and beautiful.”