THE LAW OF COMPLETION IN WEEKS.
THE WEEK IN RELATION TO THE PERIODICITY OF VITAL PHENOMENA. PERIODICITY IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF INSECTS, FISHES, BIRDS AND MAMMALIA.-PERIODICITY IN THE GROWTH AND FUNCTIONAL ACTIVITY OF MANKIND IN HEALTH AND IN DISEASE.
THE birth, growth, maturity, vital functions, healthy revolutions of change, diseases, decay and death, of insects, reptiles, fishes, birds, mammals, and even of man himself, are more or less controlled by a law of completion in weeks.
The hatching of the ova of insects occupies in a large number of cases, intervals varying from two to six weeks. Their continuance in the caterpillar or larva condition is seldom less than seven days, and varies from this period to four weeks, six Weeks, or longer periods. The exuviation, or change of skin, Which occurs during this larva state, frequently takes place at intervals of seven days. Animals are similarly regulated by a law of weeks. So are the periods of the laying of eggs, and of incubation, in many birds. The common hen, as is well known, sits three weeks; the pigeon two, after having laid eggs also for two Weeks. The seal calves on the rocks, and suckles its young for two Weeks, when the calf casts its coat and goes into the Water.
The ova of salmon are hatched in 140 days, or twenty weeks; arid those of the aquatic salamander in two Weeks or fifteen days. But the habits and physiology of fishes and reptiles are comparatively little known or observed, so that few confirmatory facts, can be drawn from this department of the animal kingdom.
The periods of utero-gestation in many of the mammalia, and of incubation in numbers of birds, have been accurately and carefully noted. Out of one hundred and twenty-nine species observed by Dr. Laycock, sixty-seven had periods which were an exact number of weeks or months, twenty-four were so within a day, and only four were exceptions to the rule, as far as could be ascertained.
And it is well known that when we mount still higher in the scale of animated existence, and study the entire system of vital periodicity impressed by its great Creator on the human family, this law of limitation by weeks becomes conspicuous and all-pervading. From the cradle to the grave, and from before the cradle, from the day of conception to the day of death, every man, woman and child of our race, is strangely amenable to it. Consciously to one sex, unconsciously, but none the less really to the other, there is an alternate loss and gain of physical substance, every four weeks.
In the human family, the period of utero-gestation, is accurately forty weeks, nor do differences of age, climate, or circumstances, cause any variation in this period. It is the rule, though it has of course exceptions.
Dr. Denman, in his work on midwifery, states, "The common time of utero-gestation is forty weeks. I do not mean that it is completed to a minute or an hour, as has been surmised, because the birth of the child may be delayed by a multiplicity of accidents. But parturition will be accomplished, or the parturient disposition will take place, before or at the expiration of forty weeks from the time of conception. Nor does it seem reasonable that A LAW OF NATURE, which is not altered by the differences of age, by the diet, by the extremes of climates, by the seventies of slavery, or the indulgences of luxury, should be changed by circumstances of less importance."
Thus throughout all ages, and in all countries, the initial stage of human existence, the intra- uterine life of every one born into the wide world, is measured by weeks, . and not till forty weeks have run their course, does the human being attain independent existence. These are phenomena of universal occurrence, and of fundamental importance in the natural history of mankind; they are leading and unquestionable physiological facts. The periodicity of life, and the periodicity of birth, need no demonstration, for the experience of every individual bears witness to it, as well as to the fact that it is regulated by a law of weeks. And if this be the case in health, and with normal functions, so is it also with disease, and in abnormal derangements. From time immemorial, it has been observed that fevers, and intermittent attacks of ague, gout, and similar complaints, have a septiform periodicity; that the seventh, fourteenth, and twenty-first, are critical days.
In his investigation into the phenomena of fevers, Dr. Lay-cock states that, Whatever type the fever may exhibit, there will be a paroxysm on the seventh day, and consequently this day should be distinguished by an unusual fatality or number of crises. For analogous reasons the fourteenth will be remarkable as a day of amendment, the last paroxysm of a quotidian taking place on that day, and the last of a tertlan on the day previous; for observation has established that if a tertian is to cease about the fourth paroxysm (the seventh critical day), the second paroxysm will be more severe than the first or third; but if the fourth be severe, and the fifth less so, the disease will end at the seventh paroxysm, and, of course, the change for the better, if this rule be applied to remittent or continued fevers, will be seen on the fourteenth day. Should, however, the exacerbation occurring on the thirteenth day end fatally, whether it be the seventh of a tertian or the fifth of a quartan, death will probably take place early on the fourteenth day, namely, about three or four o’clock, a.m., when the system is most languid."
That these theoretical inferences are borne out by facts, all medical writers agree, and indeed it may be proved numerically by tables of cases, compiled without the least reference to critical days.
Nor is it in fevers alone that this law of septiform periodicity is traceable.
Paroxysms of gout afford another illustration of its operation.
"A fit of the gout going regularly through its stages in a robust subject, observes the following order:- "The patient retires to rest well, or perhaps in better spirits than usual, and is awoke at two o’clock in the morning by rigors, thirst, asiA other febrile symptoms, and with pain in the great toe, or heel, or other part. This pain and the febrile action go on increasing for exactly twenty-four hours, that is to say, until two o’clock, a.m., comes again, when a remission takes place, sometimes an intermission; the interval it occupies being another nyctemeron, or period of twenty-four hours, at the end of which another febrile paroxysm comes on. And so paroxysm and remission or intermission alternate, until the fit terminates. A fit of the gout, under the circumstances stated, is a tertian intermittent (in the measure of its intervals), and, like a tertian, it terminates in fourteen days, or after seven Paroxysms.
"If the patient go on luxuriating in his diet, the next fit, if left to flannel and patience, will be of a double length, or occupy twenty-eight days, and have fourteen febrile paroxysms, or exacerbations; or it will be tripled, and be of six weeks’ duration, and so go on increasing in length by a definite ratio of weeks, as the predisposing and exciting causes become more efficient, until the Viscera and the general system become so deranged that no regular fit takes place."
It is important also to notice, that not only is the week an evident measure in such fevers, and intermittents, but the half week also. His investigations of the subject of vital periodicity forced ‘this fact on the notice of Dr. Laycock, and its agreement with the periods of prophecy, leads us to call attention to his statement.
"The complete day of twenty-four hours is the pathological period most generally noticed by physicians; but, as I have shown, there are also periods of three days and a half, or seven half- days. This is, in fact, the ancient division of the whole day into two parts. We must start with this half day, or day of twelve hours, as the unit which will comprise the phenomena of the best- marked class of periodic disease, the intermittents. Dr. Graves is, I believe, the only physician who has made this observation, and applied it to pathology. He observed that, if this period were adopted, ‘we should not count three days and a half but seven half-days: we would not say seven days, but fourteen half-days.’ Reckoning thus, many of the anomalous critical effects, and critical terminations in continued fevers, would, I have no doubt, be found strictly conformable to some regular law of periodicity."
The operation of the law we are considering may be traced also in the growth of children and young people from infancy to maturity, in the duration of the human powers, in their fullest perfection, and in their gradual decay.
Dr. Laycock divides life into three great periods, the first and last, each stretching over 21 years, and the central period or prime of life lasting 28 years.
The first, which extends from conception to full maturity at 21 years of age, he subdivides into seven distinct stages, marked by well defined physical characteristics, as follows
"1. Intra-uterine life
"2. The period between birth and the first dentition;
"3. The time occupied by the first dentition;
"4. The period between the first and second dentition;
"5. The time of the secoisd dentition;
"6. The period between the latter and commencing puberty;
"7. The time occupied in the evolution of the reproductive system.
"The second great period will comprise three minor periods
"1. The perfecting of adolescence, from 21 to 28;
"2. The climax of development, or status of life, from 28 to 42; and
"3. The septenary of decline in the reproductive powers, extending from 42 to 49 (after which latter age conception rarely takes place).
"The third great period comprises also three minor subdivisions
"1. The grand climacteric, from 49 to 63;
"2. Old age, from 63 to 70;
"3. The years of aetas ingravescence, or decrepitude, from 70 to death.
"In fixing these epochs," says Dr. Laycock, "I have followed the generally received septennial division, being reluctant to make any innovation thereon. It would I think, however, be more in accordance with modern science, to date, not from birth, but from the conception of the individual. If this be done, each great period, should be calculated as commencing forty weeks earlier."
The process of dentition affords also illustrations of the operation of the law of septiform periodicity in vital phenomena ; and viability, or the probability of life, is highest at 14 years of age. Dr. Laycock puts the results of his careful researches, into the five following propositions
"1. That there is a general law of periodicity which regulates all the vital movements in all animals.
"2. That the periods within which these movements take place admit of calculations approximately exact.
"3. That the fundamental unit, -the unit upon which these calculations should be based, -must for the present be considered as one day of twelve hours.
"4. That the lesser periods are simple and compound multiples of this unit, in a numerical ratio analogous to that observed in chemical compounds.
"5. That the fundamental unit of the greater periods is one week of seven days, each day being twelve hours; and that single and compound multiples of this unit, determine the length of these periods by the same ratio, as multiples of the unit of twelve hours determine the lesser periods. This law binds all periodic vital phenomena together, and links the periods observed in the lowest annulose animals, with those of man himself, the highest of the Vertebrata. .
He concludes his investigation with the following words:—-
"The sure and steady course of proleptical science will be from particulars to generals, and if its foundation be firmly established on severe induction, we may hope at some future day to extend its principles to the cycles of the seasons, and to comprise within its sphere, not only individual men and women, but societies generally, and even the whole human race. The axiom that the whole is equal to the sum of all its parts, is universally true, whatever the whole may be; and there is really no reason for despairing that we shall attain to a knowledge of the whole alluded to, (a knowledge which must necessarily be derived from a knowledge of its parts,) because those parts are microscopically small to the intellect. The boundaries of astronomical science have been pushed from small and obscure beginnings, into the infinite in space, time, and number; and who can tell but that Providence may so assist the humble inquirer into nature, that science shall be extended to the infinite in littleness, and so man be able to look down, by the light of philosophy, upon the varied phenomena of terrestrial life, -their multifarious combinations and complexities, their cycles and epicycles, -as he looks into the planetary world; and see nothing but order and simplicity where now there appears inextricable confusion."
"There is a harmony of numbers in all nature; in the force of gravity, in the planetary movements, in the laws of heat, light, electricity, and chemical affinity, in the forms of animals and plants, in the perceptions of the mind. The direction indeed of modern natural and physical science, is towards a generalisation which shall express the fundamental laws of all, by one simple numerical ratio. We would refer to Professor Whewell’s ‘Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences,’ and to Mr. Hay’s researches into the laws of harmonious colouring and form. From these it appears that the number seven is distinguished in the laws regulating the harmonious perception of forms, colours, and sounds, and probably of taste also, if we could analyse our sensations of this kind with mathematical accuracy.
"1- There are probably few branches of natural science from which additional facts in confirmation might not be culled. But the above may suffice, for our object is less to trace the extent of the dominion of this law, than to prove its existence in nature. The realm of entomology recognises this law, ichthyology and ornithology do the same, and the mammalia equally bear witness to its prevalence. As to man, his birth, -growth, dentition, development, maturity, vital functions, reproductive system, health, disease, life and death, all his times and all his seasons, are more or less distinctly controlled by the law of completion in weeks. His very pulse keeps time to the seven day period. Dr. Stratton states (as the result of several series of observations) that in health, the human pulse is more frequent in the morning than in the evening, for six days out of seven; and that on the seventh day it is slower.
And man’s life as a whole is a week, a week of decades. "The days of our years are threescore years and ten" and that by Divine appointment. Combining the testimony of all these facts, we are bound to admit that there prevails in organic nature a law of septiform periodicity, a law of completion in weeks. We turn now to consider, the prevalence of the same law in Scripture.