The Quimby Manuscripts, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, ed. by Horatio W. Dresser , at sacred-texts.com
IDEALLY speaking it is of secondary consequence where an original mind begins to investigate human life. What signifies is the searching thought which discloses real conditions, laws, the causes of our misery and the way to freedom. Such thinking is likely to be productive in high degree if it be concrete, adapted to the actual state of the world, without too much theorizing, with a view to direct benefits.
In Mr. Quimby's preliminary researches we find a capital instance. He began with a purely conventional point of view, defending in thought and attitude the prevailing medical practice of the day, and so he took the world as he found it. Moreover, he had a personal need. This is the way he states the situation he was in in an article already published in part in "The True History of Mental Science." 1
"Can a theory be found, capable of practice, which can separate truth from error? I undertake to say there is a method of reasoning which, being understood, can separate one from the other. Men never dispute about a fact that can be demonstrated by scientific reasoning. Controversies arise from some idea that has been turned into a false direction, leading to a false position. The basis of my reasoning is this point: that whatever is true to a person, if he cannot prove it, is not necessarily true to another. Therefore, because a person says a thing is no reason that he says true. The greatest evil that follows taking an opinion for a truth is disease. Let medical and religious opinions, which produce so vast an amount of misery, be tested by the rule I have laid down, and it will be seen how much they are founded in truth. For twenty years I have been testing them, and I have failed to find one single principle of truth in either. This is not from any prejudice against
the medical faculty, for, when I began to investigate the mind, I was entirely on that side. I was prejudiced in favor of the medical faculty; for I never employed any one outside of the regular faculty, nor took the least particle of quack medicine.
"Some thirty years ago I was very sick, and was considered fast wasting away with consumption. 1 At that time I became so low that it was with difficulty I could walk about. I was all the while under the allopathic practice, and I had taken so much calomel that my system was said to be poisoned with it; and I lost many of my teeth from that effect. My symptoms were those of any consumptive; and I had been told that my liver was affected and my kidneys were diseased, and that my lungs were nearly consumed. I believed all this, from the fact that I had all the symptoms, and could not resist the opinions of the physician while having the proof with me. In this state I was compelled to abandon my business; and, losing all hope, I gave up to die,—not that I thought the medical faculty had no wisdom, but that my case was one that could not be cured.
"Having an acquaintance who cured himself by riding horseback, I thought I would try riding in a carriage, as I was too weak to ride horseback. My horse was contrary; and once, when about two miles from home, he stopped at the foot of a long hill, and would not start except as I went by his side. So I was obliged to run nearly the whole distance. Having reached the top of the hill I got into the carriage; and, as I was very much exhausted, I concluded to sit there the balance of the day, if the horse did not start. Like all sickly and nervous people, I could not remain easy in that place; and, seeing a man ploughing, I waited till he had ploughed around a three-acre lot, and got within sound of my voice, when I asked him to start my horse. He did so, and at the time I was so weak I could scarcely lift my whip. But excitement took possession of my senses, and I drove the horse as fast as he could go, up hill and down, till I reached home; and, when I got into the stable, I felt as strong as I ever did."
Here, then, was a significant fact, this reaction produced
by excitement, suggesting that medical diagnosis was wrong. No other experience seems to have followed this one, and when Quimby began to experiment with mesmerism he still accepted the prevailing medical theories. So, too, he began by taking devotees of mesmerism at their own word, since that appeared to be the best way to learn the truth concerning their phenomena.
There are two reasons for bearing these facts in mind, first that we may note how far he travelled to the point where he lost all faith in the medical faculty and proposed a theory of disease of his own; second, because we can hardly understand the interests of his intermediate period unless we realize that he was still in process and had not at first wholly rejected the physical theory of disease. Some other investigation might have been as profitable to him. The point is that he learned so much from his mesmeric experiments that he gave them up forever, and in giving them up came to himself and found a new truth of incalculable benefit to humanity.
There is no reason for apologizing as if it were discreditable that Quimby was once a mesmerist and was known through his ability to "magnetize" a patient or hypnotic subject. There was nothing to be ashamed of in this procedure. The only unpardonable thing that has been said about him is that he was "an ignorant mesmerist" and that he remained so. Ignorant he was not by any means, and he ceased to be a mesmerist because he was exceptionally skilful, so acute in exercising his powers that he learned the limitations of all such experiments.
We have his own statement to the effect that when he began to investigate mesmerism he was still an entire believer in the medical science and practice of the day. We also have his own exposition of the experiences which led to his change in point of view. We have contemporary testimony to his exceptional powers and the impression produced by his public experiments. Then too we have the testimony of his son, George, associated with his father as secretary when the mesmeric experiments were things of the past. Finally, we have the direct information coming to us from those who were most intimately acquainted with Quimby's practice in his later years, from 1859 to 1866 in Portland.
In the account of his father's life published in the New England Magazine, George Quimby says,
"He had a very inventive mind, and was always interested in mechanics, philosophy and scientific subjects. During his middle life, he invented several devices on which he obtained letters patent. He was very argumentative, and always wanted proof of anything, rather than an accepted opinion. Anything which could be demonstrated he was ready to accept; but he would combat what could not be proved with all his energy, rather than admit it as a truth.
"With a mind of this combination, it is not strange that, when a gentleman visited Belfast, about the year 1838, and gave lectures and experiments in mesmerism, Mr. Quimby should feel deeply interested in the subject. Here was a new, to him at least, phenomenon; and he at once began to investigate the subject; and on every occasion when he could find a person who would allow him to try, he would endeavor to put him into a mesmeric sleep. He met with many failures, but occasionally would find a person whom he could influence.
"At that time Mr. Quimby was of medium height, small in stature, his weight about one hundred and twenty-five pounds, quick motioned and nervous, with piercing black eyes, black hair and whiskers; a well-shaped, well-balanced head; high, broad forehead, and a rather prominent nose, and a mouth indicating strength and firmness of will; persistent in what he undertook, and yet not easily defeated or discouraged.
"In the course of his trials with subjects, he met with a young man named Lucius Burkmar, over whom he had the most wonderful influence; and it is not stating it too strongly to assert that with him he made some of the most astonishing exhibitions of mesmerism and clairvoyance that have been given in modern times.
"At the beginning of these experiments, Mr. Quimby firmly believed that the phenomenon was the result of animal magnetism, and that electricity had more or less to do with it. Holding to this, he was never able to perform his experiments with satisfactory results when the 'conditions' were not right, as he believed they should be.
"For instance, during a thunder-storm his trials would prove failures. If he pointed the sharp end of a steel instrument at Lucius, he would start as if pricked with a pin; but when the blunt end was pointed toward him, he would remain unmoved.
"One evening, after making some experiments with excellent results, Mr. Quimby found that during the time of the tests there had been a severe thunder-storm, but, so interested was he in his experiments, he had not noticed it.
"This led him to further investigate the subject; and the results reached were that, instead of the subject being influenced by any atmospheric disturbance, the effects produced were brought about by the influence of one mind on another. From that time he could produce as good results during a storm as in pleasant weather, and could make his subject start by simply pointing a finger at him as well as by using a steel instrument.
"Mr. Quimby's manner of operating with his subject was to sit opposite to him, holding both his hands in his, and looking him intently in the eye for a short time, when the subject would go into the state known as the mesmeric sleep, which was more properly a peculiar condition of mind and body, in which the natural senses would, or would not, operate at the will of Mr. Quimby. When conducting his experiments, all communications of Mr. Quimby with Lucius were mentally given, the subject replying as if spoken to aloud.
"For several years, Mr. Quimby traveled with young Burkmar through Maine and New Brunswick, giving exhibitions, which at that time attracted much attention and secured notices through the columns of the newspapers.
"It should be remembered that at the time Mr. Quimby was giving these exhibitions . . . the phenomenon was looked upon in a far different light from that of the present day. At that time it was a deception, a fraud, a humbug; and Mr. Quimby was vilified and frequently threatened with mob violence, as the exhibitions smacked too strongly of witchcraft to suit the people.
"As the subject gained more prominence, thoughtful men began to investigate the matter, and Mr. Quimby was often called upon to have his subject examine the sick. He would put Lucius into the mesmeric state, and prescribe remedies for its cure. 1
"After a time Mr. Quimby became convinced that whenever the subject examined a patient his diagnosis of the case would be identical with what either the patient himself or some one present believed, instead of Lucius really looking into the patient, and giving the true condition of the organs; in fact, that he was reading the opinion of some one, rather than stating truth acquired by himself.
"Becoming firmly satisfied that this was the case, and having seen how one mind could influence another, and how much there was that had always been considered as true, but was merely some one's opinion, Mr. Quimby gave up his subject, Lucius, and began the developing of what is now known as mental healing, or curing disease through the mind . . .
"While engaged in his mesmeric experiments, Mr. Quimby became more and more convinced that disease was an error of the mind, and not a real thing. As the truths of his discovery began to develop, and grow in him, just in the same proportion did he begin to lose faith in the efficacy of mesmerism as a remedial agent in the cure of the sick; and after a few years he discarded it altogether.
"Instead of putting the patient into a mesmeric sleep, Mr. Quimby would sit by him; and, having given him a detailed account of what his troubles were, he would simply converse with him and explain the causes of the troubles, and thus change the mind of the patient . . ."
Despite the fact, however, that Lucius when in the mesmeric sleep would often read what was in the mind of the patient and diagnose the case according to opinions expressed by physicians, Lucius also discerned at other times the actual state of the body. That he possessed remarkable clairvoyant power in such cases is shown by experiments in which Lucius described events and things at a distance, when en rapport with the mind of some one in the audience who thought of some distant place which he wanted Lucius to visit. There is also documentary evidence to show that Lucius could accurately describe the condition of the body after death.
There was much to learn from these experiments, therefore, besides the significant fact that a patient would often feel in regard to his own body as medical diagnosis suggested that he feel. Lucius would sometimes prescribe a remedy
so simple or so absurd that Mr. Quimby saw there could be no virtue in the medicine. Plainly, both the disease and its cure must be explained on another basis. This we see clearly when we realize that Mr. Quimby himself experienced the benefits of the clairvoyant descriptions, thereby overcoming what had appeared to be threatening diseases, although the true explanation was not the one offered by Lucius.
In the article quoted from above, written when Mr. Quimby had developed and proved his theory of disease so that he could look back and understand the whole phenomenon, so new and at first so baffling in his mesmeric period, he says,
"When I commenced to mesmerise, I was not well, according to the medical science; but in my researches I found a remedy for my disease. Here was where I first discovered that mind was capable of being changed.
"Also that, disease being a deranged state of mind, the cause I found to exist in our belief. The evidence of this theory I found in myself; for, like all others, I had believed in medicine. Disease and its power over life, and its curability, are all embraced in our belief. Some believe in various remedies, and others believe that the spirits of the dead prescribe. I have no confidence in the virtue of either. I know that cures have been made in these ways. I do not deny them. But the principle on which they are done is the question to solve; for disease can be cured, with or without medicine, on but one principle. I have said I believed in the old practice and its medicines, the effects of which I had within myself; for, knowing no other way to account for the phenomena, I took it for granted that they were the result of medicine.
"With this mass of evidence staring me in the face, how could I doubt the old practice? Yet, in spite of all my prejudices, I had to yield to a stronger evidence than man's opinion, and discard the whole theory of medicine, practised by a class of men, some honest, some ignorant, some selfish, and all thinking that the world must be ruled by their opinions.
"Now for my particular experience. I had pains in the back, which, they said, were caused by my kidneys, which were partially consumed. I also was told that I had ulcers on my lungs. Tinder this belief, I was miserable enough to be of no account in the world. This was the state I was in when
[paragraph continues] I commenced to mesmerise. On one occasion, when I had my subject [Lucius] asleep, he described the pains I felt in my back (I had never dared to ask him to examine me, for I felt sure that my kidneys were nearly gone) and he placed his hand on the spot where I felt the pain. He then told me that my kidneys were in a very bad state, that one was half-consumed, and a piece three inches long had separated from it, and was only connected by a slender thread. This was what I believed to be true, for it agreed with what the doctors told me, and with what I had suffered; for I had not been free from pain for years. My common sense told me that no medicine would ever cure this trouble, and therefore I must suffer till death relieved me. But I asked him if there was any remedy. He replied, 'Yes, I can put the piece on so it will grow, and you will get well.' At this I was completely astonished, and knew not what to think. He immediately placed his hands upon me, and said he united the pieces so they would grow. The next day he said they had grown together, and from that day I never have experienced the least pain from them.
"Now what is the secret of the cure? I had not the least doubt but that I was as he had described; and, if he had said, as I expected that he would, that nothing could be done, I should have died in a year or so. But, when he said he could cure me in the way he proposed, I began to think: and I discovered that I had been deceived into a belief that made me sick. The absurdity of his remedies made me doubt the fact that my kidneys were diseased, for he said in two days they were as well as ever. If he saw the first condition, he also saw the last; for in both cases he said he could see. I concluded in the first instance that he read my thoughts, and when he said he could cure me he drew on his own mind; and his ideas were so absurd that the disease vanished by the absurdity of the cure. This was the first stumbling-block I found in the medical science. I soon ventured to let him examine me further, and in every case he would describe my feelings, but would vary the amount of disease; and his explanation and remedies always convinced me that I had no such disease, and that my troubles were of my own make.
"At this time I frequently visited the sick with Lucius, by invitation of the attending physician; and the boy examined the patient and told facts that would astonish everybody,
and yet every one of them was believed. For instance, he told a person affected as I had been, only worse, that his lungs looked like a honeycomb, and his liver was covered with ulcers. He then prescribed some simple herb tea, and the patient recovered; and the doctor believed the medicine cured him. But I believed that the doctor made the disease; and his faith in the boy made a change in the mind, and the cure followed. Instead of gaining confidence in the doctors, I was forced to the conclusion that their science is false. Man is made up of truth and belief; and, if he is deceived into a belief that he has, or is liable to have, a disease, the belief is catching, and the effect follows it. I have given the experience of my emancipation from this belief and from confidence in the doctors, so that it may open the eyes of those who stand where I was. I have risen from this belief; and I return to warn my brethren, lest, when they are disturbed, they shall get into this place of torment prepared by the medical faculty. Having suffered myself, I cannot take advantage of my fellow-men by introducing a new mode of curing disease and prescribing medicine. My theory exposes the hypocrisy of those who undertake to cure in that way. They make ten diseases to one cure, thus bringing a surplus of misery into the world, and shutting out a healthy state of society. They have a monopoly, and no theory that lessens disease can compete with them. When I cure, there is one disease the less; but not so when others cure, for the supply of sickness shows that there is more disease on hand than there ever was. Therefore, the labor for health is slow, and the manufacture of disease is greater. The newspapers teem with advertisements of remedies, showing that the supply of disease increases. My theory teaches man to manufacture health; and, when people go into this occupation, disease will diminish, and those who furnish disease and death will be few and scarce."
27:1 By Julius A. Dresser, 1887.
28:1 This statement was written in 1863.
31:1 These descriptions and the remedies prescribed were in accord with the medical practice of the day, as Mr. Quimby was not yet enlightened in regard to the mental factors of disease. The discovery on Mr. Quimby's part that mind was the chief consideration marked a turning-point in his thought. Ed.