The Ministry Of Pain -- By: Edward M. Merrins

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 069:275 (Jul 1912)
Article: The Ministry Of Pain
Author: Edward M. Merrins

The Ministry Of Pain

Edward M. Merrins, M.D.

A previous article indicated the great importance of the susceptibility to pain in connection with the development and nurture of the body, and the value of pain in the diagnosis and treatment of disease and injury. To guard against exaggeration it also pointed out that pain is not always so dreadful as it seems, as proved by the actual experiences of the sick and wounded, even death itself, in the great majority of cases, being accompanied by little or no physical pain.

2. Pain and the Development of Mind. In his mental attributes man is unique. The difference between him and the lower animals is not simply one of degree but of kind, corresponding to the fundamental difference between instinct and intelligence.1 “What a piece of work is man! How infinite in faculties! in apprehension how like a god! “Yet the lower animals though they do not possess our intensity of consciousness, and from the absence of language can have no trains of feelings, have a consciousness which more or less foreshadows our own. In the study of actions associated with this consciousness, as also in the study of the human mind, it is found that pain has been a most important factor in mental development.

In the evolution of the nervous system much has been gained when all the impulses and activities of the organism are ‘Bergson, Creative Evolution (1911).

brought under the control of one center or brain, which determines and directs the responses of the body, immediately and harmoniously, to environmental changes. Such reactions in the lowest forms of life are termed “fatal,” not because they bring certain death, but because the response is inevitable and indiscriminating, being fixed by the structure of the nervous system. In the dark, a moth is drawn irresistibly to small white objects. If the object is a flower, the impulse is advantageous to the moth. It is otherwise if the object is the flame of a candle, yet the impulse to fly towards it is equally irresistible. The first time the moth flies near or through the flame it may be scorched only; but, as it has no faculty to enable it to profit by its painful experience, the impulsive reaction is repeated until the moth is destroyed. Therefore, the next step in the ascent of the scale of life must be the modification of the nervous system so as to render possible the education of the individual by past experience. Consequently, a certain part of the developing” brain comes to act as an organ of memory. In this new nerve center, traversed by all the impulses coming from the lower centers, the response to the attractive impulse of the flame, after the first painful experience, is ...

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