“Great strides have since been made in the art of anatomy, physiology and all branches of science, and the workings of the man-machine are now perfectly clear. Yet the very fewest among us are able to trace their actions to primary external causes. It is indispensable to the arguments I shall advance to keep in mind the main facts which I have myself established in years of close reasoning and observation and which may be summed up as follows:
1. The human being is a self-propelled automaton entirely under the control of external influences. Willful and predetermined though they appear, his actions are governed not from within, but from without. He is like a float tossed about by the waves of a turbulent sea.
There is no memory or retentive faculty based on lasting impression. What we designate as memory is but increased responsiveness to repeated stimuli.
It is not true, as Descartes taught, that the brain is an accumulator. There is no permanent record in the brain, there is no stored knowledge. Knowledge is something akin to an echo that needs a disturbance to be called into being.
All knowledge or form conception is evoked through the medium of the eye, either in response to disturbances directly received on the retina or to their fainter secondary effects and reverberations. Other sense organs can only call forth feelings which have no reality of existence and of which no conception can be formed.
Contrary to the most important tenet of Cartesian philosophy that the perceptions of the mind are illusionary, the eye transmits to it the true and accurate likeness of external things. This is because light propagates in straight lines and the image cast on the retina is an exact reproduction of the external form and one which, owing to the mechanism of the optic nerve, can not be distorted in the transmission to the brain. What is more, the process must be reversible, that in to say, a form brought to consciousness can, by reflex action, reproduce the original image on the retina just as an echo can reproduce the original disturbance If this view is borne out by experiment an immense revolution in all human relations and departments of activity will be the consequence.”
“How Cosmic Forces Shape Our Destines.”New York American, February 7, 1915
The conversation turned to the subject of the human brain.
“We are all automatons,” he reflected, “obeying external influences. We are entirely under the control of agents that beat on our senses from all directions of the outside world. Being merely receivers from the outside, it is a very important question how good the receivers are – some are sensitive and receive accurately. Others are sluggish and their reception is blurred. The individual who is a better machine has so much greater chance of achieving success and happiness. An individual who is an offender of law is a machine in which one or another organ has been deranged, so that the responses are no longer accurate.
“There is no chance in nature, although the modern theory of indeterminacy attempts to show scientifically that events are governed by chance. I positively deny that. The causes and effects, however complex, are intimately linked, and the result of all inferences must be inevitably fixed as by a mathematical formula.
“I also absolutely deny the existence of individuality. It took me not less than twenty years to develop a faculty to trace every thought or act of mine to an external influence. We are just waves in time and space, changing continuously, and the illusion of individuality is produced through the concatenation of the rapidly succeeding phases of existence. What we define as likeness is merely the result of the symmetrical arrangement of molecules which compose our body.”
“How about the soul – the spirit?” he was asked.
“Ah,” he exclaimed, “but there is no soul or spirit. These are merely expressions of the functions of the body. These life functions cease with death and so do soul and spirit.
“What humanity needs is ideals. Idealism is the force that will free us from material fetters.”
“Tesla Seeks to Send Power to Planets.”New York Times, July 11, 1931.