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The concept of Black Bile is utterly unique to Galenic medicine and therefore the most difficult to grasp in my experience.
34) This defect in the passions of mind and soul then corrupts the humoral balance of the patient, thereby facilitating the over-production and retention of black bile, the vapors from which press against the diaphragm, causing the patient to sigh uncontrollably; unrequited, the vapors then rise to the brain, where they first cause sleeplessness and lethargy and then, after a sustained period, a full episode of black-bile melancholy.
Galen, in particular, put great value on venesection for ridding the body of black bile.
According to Greek philosopher Theophrastus, the successor of Aristotle, the balance of these humors result in particular temperaments: Those with too much blood were sanguine or optimistic, those with too much phlegm were phlegmatic or indifferent, those with too much yellow bile were choleric or doers, and those with too much black bile were melancholic.
Lazure says April Fools Day is all about humiliation and notes that in the medical field the four humors were identified as black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood.
ONE of the strangest choices for this year's John Moores competition is Black Bile, by Alex Gene Morrison.
The four humors: choler, phlegm, black bile and blood, each have their own necessary use but too much of any one can result in both physical and mental illness.
Many illnesses are identified in the CH as the result of a disruption in the equilibrium of the four primary bodily fluids: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile.
In one of the earliest accounts on the subject, Aristotle associated melancholy with both brilliance and the fluctuating mood between confidence and fear, joy and grief, explaining its cause in terms of the vacillating temperature of the black bile.
Health and sickness, we can all recite, were once believed to hinge on the balance and imbalance of blood and phlegm, yellow bile and black bile, each of which represented differing mixes of the hot and the cold, the wet and the dry.
In truth, it is astonishing to behold, through a remarkable group of works on loan, the longevity of the posture of melancholy in painting, sculpture, and graphic arts across centuries during which the meaning of melancholia was continually reinvented: as frenzy, frustration, or despair; as a malady with natural causes (the imbalance of black bile, one of the four humors, according to Hippocrates); as a divine affliction and a cosmic source of creative inspiration or genius, and of heroic deeds; as a realm of the tormented psyche populated by demons; as a force of nervous debilitation (first subjected to modern clinical observation during the late nineteenth century by Charcot); as a spiritual or philosophical preoccupation with death.
Keeping with the Hippocratic notion that each humor gives rise to a different temperament, Aristotle decided that an abundance of black bile was not necessarily an illness, and that melancholy might even be a gift: "all men who have become outstanding in philosophy, statesmanship, poetry or the arts are melancholic.