The word “phenomenon” is usually defined as an appearance, but it includes anything which appears or becomes known, not only through vision, but in any way. A thought or any cerebral act or state capable of cognition, capable of becoming known, is a phenomenon. The word is very often used to designate appearances, visual or otherwise, which are unusual or not well understood.
The word, phenomenon, may perhaps be applied to a greater variety of subjects or objects, material and immaterial, than any other word in the language. But the thing which we call the phenomenon, is not the real phenomenon. The real phenomenon is the cognition of the thing, not the thing itself, not the juxtaposition of elements. The elements themselves cannot reach the brain. Only the transferred relations of the elements reach the brain, and the brain can take cognizance only of what reaches it.
When we speak of a gorgeously colored sunset sky as a beautiful phenomenon, we mean the cognition of this juxtaposition of elements. But we are obliged to use the same word to mean both the cognition and the cause of the cognition. We place a telephone to the ear and recognize the voice of a friend, who is a thousand miles away. Though we have not heard that voice for years, there is no doubt as to the recognition. We recognize the voice, yet we do not hear the words spoken by our friend.
The words are spoken in Denver and the voice is recognized in San Francisco, but the wire connecting these cities carries no sound. That long line of metal from end to end is as silent as the tomb of Pharaoh. It transmits only impulses of electrical energy.
The voice, the words which are recognized, originate in the brain of the one who hears in San Francisco. That voice is only a cognition produced in the brain of the hearer—a cognition of certain relations caused by energy transmitted from Denver to the brain of the hearer in San Francisco. And this transmission of energy and production of relations in the brain of the hearer is caused by correlative relations existing at Denver.
***Excerpt from Charles John Reed: The Law of Vital Infusion and the Phenomenon of Consciousness