What were you up to, Benjamin Blood?

Becky
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I've always been transfixed by anyone with the surname Blood, and Benjamin Paul Blood (1832-1919) is no exception. A contemporary of William James, he was similarly obsessed with the spectrum of religious experiences. He was particulary fascinated by the study of consciousness and how it was affected by artificial trances, e.g. nitrous oxide and other analgesic gases. In one of his pamphlets he writes about the revelations one can expect to experience upon awakening from the drugged state:

I think most persons who shall have tested it [i.e. waking up from laughing gas, ether, et al.] will accept this as the central point of the illumination: [i] that sanity is not the basic quality of intelligence, but is a mere condition which is variable, and like the humming of a wheel, goes up or down the musical gamut according to a physical activity; [ii] and that only in sanity is formal or contrasting thought, while the naked life is realized only outside of sanity altogether; [iii] and it is the instant contrast of this 'tasteless water of souls' with formal thought as we "come to," that leaves in the patient an astonishment that the awful mystery of Life is at last but a homely and a common thing, and that aside from mere formality the majestic and the absurd are of equal dignity.

Well, then. This seems a cross section rife with potential dissent. What do you think of Mr. Blood's musings...Is sanity a "mere condition" or a "basic quality" of intelligence? And what of the equality of the majestic and absurd?

July 25, 2007 - 5:46pm
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