The Spirit of Devouring

Why is it that studying all day makes me constantly hungry? I’m sure there is physiological energy, but that can’t account for it. I can’t really believe that my thinking is something the brain is doing, it is either a device for cooling the blood or a kind of modem, that is all.

You know, back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries persons (such as John Donne) believed the heart heated the blood and caused a vapor to arise from it. It seems to me you have to take an alchemical view to appreciate it: the blood is a rare liquid, keeping us as it does alive; and the heart is a special place. So when the blood is heated in the heart is gives off vital spirits (if I have the term right) and these precious vapors rise to the brain. In the brain, this subtle vapor which is substantial enough and subtle enough to connect the physical organism to the soul, because it is a third thing (tertium quid, in a learned tongue; I learned this from C.S. Lewis if memory does not fail me). This, I believe, Donne calls a subtle knot.

And it is in my soul I do my thinking, thank you very much, that self that is not part of the world of objects, but is joined to it by these vapors arising to the brain. I don’t believe thinking is something that arises from the physiological firing of neurons (whatever nonsense that stands for), but that that is entirely responsive to the greater influence of my soul, if it isn’t after all just my brain cooling my blood. If the thing is a kind of modem—which I am willing to allow as a figure—then it is busily passing things on, but they are the everyday things, not my thoughts. Why, after all, would my thoughts be passed on, except in the way of communication, such as this writing? My body hardly needs to know what I’m thinking, or cares. It is nurtured by the soul, cared for beyond my own consciousness, kept and rendered useful until the vapors fail and it falls into its own natural incoherence, my own coherence free of it—though I scarcely know what this means since there is no spatial restraint on my non-spatial self.

I think I am constantly hungry because the spirit of devouring things, the mood and gesture of assimilating and putting into place and ordering and of getting it is upon me, and I want all the help I can get, make all the gestures and echoes I can, use this vile body to help me as much as the poor thing is able. That is what I think.


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