"That Vital Sympathy, by which our Soul is united and tied fast, as it were with a Knot, to the Body, is a thing that we have no direct Consciousness of, but only in its Effects."

— Cudworth, Ralph (1617-1688)

Place of Publication
Richard Royston
1678, 2nd edition in 1743
"That Vital Sympathy, by which our Soul is united and tied fast, as it were with a Knot, to the Body, is a thing that we have no direct Consciousness of, but only in its Effects."
Metaphor in Context
17. However, that there may be some Vital Energy without Clear and Express [GREEK] and Consciousness, Animadversion, Attention, or Self-perception, seems reasonable upon several accompts. For first, those Philosophers themselves, who make the Essence of the Soul to consist in Cogitation, and again the Essence of Cogitation in Clear and Express Consciousness, cannot render it any way probable, that the Souls of Men in all profound Sleeps, Lethargies and Apoplexies, as also of Embryo's in the Womb, from their very first arrival thither, are never so much as one moment without Expresly Conscious Cogitations; which if they were, according to the Principles of their Philosophy, they must, ipso facto, cease to have any Being. Now if the Souls of Men and Animals be at any time without Consciousness and Self-perception, then it must needs be granted, that Clear and Express Consciousness is not Essential to Life. There is some appearance of Life and Vital Sympathy in certain Vegetables and Plants, which however called Sensitive Plants and Plant-animals, cannot well be supposed to have Animal Sense and Fancy, or Express Consciousness in them; although we are not ignorant in the mean time, how some endeavour to salve all those Phaenomena Mechanically. It is certain, that our Humane Souls themselves are not always Conscious, of whatever they have in them; for even the Sleeping Geometrician, hath at that time, all his Geometrical Theorems and Knowledges some way in him; as also the Sleeping Musician, all his Musical Skill and Songs: and therefore why may it not be possible for the Soul to have likewise some Actual Energie in it, which it is not Expresly Conscious of? We have all Experience, of our doing many Animal Actions Non-attendingly, which we reflect upon afterwards; as also that we often continue a long Series of Bodily Motions, by a mere Virtual Intention of our Minds, and as it were by Half a Cogitation. That Vital Sympathy, by which our Soul is united and tied fast, as it were with a Knot, to the Body, is a thing that we have no direct Consciousness of, but only in its Effects. Nor can we tell how we come to be so differently affected in our Souls, from the many different Motions made upon our Bodies. As likewise we are not Conscious to our selves of that Energy, whereby we impress Variety of Motions and Figurations upon the Animal Spirits of our Brain in our Phantastick Thoughts. For though the Geometrician perceive himself to make Lines, Triangles and Circles in the Dust, with his Finger, yet he is not aware, how he makes all those same Figures, first upon the Corporeal Spirits of his Brain, from whence notwithstanding, as from a Glass, they are reflected to him, Fancy being rightly concluded by Aristotle to be a Weak and Obscure Sense. There is also another more Interiour kind of Plastick Power in the Soul (if we may so call it) whereby it is Formative of its own Cogitations, which it self is not always Conscious of; as when in Sleep or Dreams, it frames Interlocutory Discourses betwixt it self and other Persons, in a long Series, with Coherent Sence and Apt Connexions, in which oftentimes it seems to be surprized with unexpected Answers and Reparties; though it self were all the while the Poet and Inventor of the whole Fable. Not only our Nictations for the most part when we are awake, but also our Nocturnal Volutations in Sleep, are performed with very little or no Consciousness. Respiration or that Motion of the Diaphragmae and other Muscles which causes it (there being no sufficient Mechanical accompt given of it) may well be concluded to be always a Vital Motion, though it be not always Animal; since no man can affirm that he is perpetually Conscious to himself, of that Energy of his Soul, which does produce it when he is awake, much less when asleep. And Lastly, the Cartesian Attempts to salve the Motion of the Heart Mechanically, seem to be abundantly confuted, by Autopsy and Experiment, evincing the Systole of the Heart to be a Muscular Constriction, caused by some Vital Principle, to make which, nothing but a Pulsifick Corporeal Quality in the Substance of the Heart it self, is very Unphilosophical and Absurd. Now as we have no voluntary Imperium at all, upon the Systole and Diastole of the Heart, so are we not conscious to our selves of any Energy of our own Soul that causes them, and therefore we may reasonably conclude from hence also, that there is some Vital Energy, without Animal Fancy or Synaesthesis, express Consciousness and Self-perception.
(I.iii, pp. 160-1)
Reading Lancelot Law Whyte, The Unconscious before Freud (London New York: J. Friedman; St. Martin's Press, 1978), 95.
4 entries in ESTC (1678, 1732, 1723). An abridgment was published in 1732.

Ralph Cudworth, The True Intellectual System of the Universe: Wherein all the Reason and Philosophy of Atheism is Confuted and its Impossibility Demonstrated (London: Royston, 1678). <Link to EEBO>

See also Cudworth, Ralph. The True Intellectual System of the Universe: The First Part; Wherein All the Reason and Philosophy of Atheism is confuted, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (London: Printed for J. Walthoe, D. Midwinter, J. and J. Bonwick, W. Innys, R. Ware, 1743). <Link to ECCO>
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.