Healing Hypotheses  



The chief source of information on Warren Felt Evans is an article that contains references to "private journals and other material"1 furnished by the Evans family but no longer known of by the family nor thus far found anywhere [1962; later, some located in Dartmouth]. The article itself is scarce. It begins:

Next to Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, the founder of the modern spiritual healing movement, the first disciple of his to become a mental therapeutist, the Reverend Warren Felt Evans, M.D., was the most intuitive and original investigator and teacher that the movement has produced.2

Evans was born on December 23, 1817, in Rockingham, Vermont, and died on September 4, 1889, in Salisbury, Massachusetts.3

His boyhood was spent on his father's farm, and his early education was that furnished the youth of his day by the district school. No information is available respecting his mental habits at this time.


1 William J. Leonard, "Warren Felt Evans, M.D.," Practical Ideals, X (Sept.-Oct., 1905), 4.

2 Ibid., and X (Nov., 1905), 22; Dictionary of American Biography, VI (1931), 213-14.

3 Ibid., X (Sept.-Oct., 1905), 4.



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That he must have early developed a love of study is evident from the fact that he entered Chester Academy, in his native State, to fit for college when nearing his eighteenth year. This is all the more apparent when it is understood that his father was unable to assist him and that he had to depend upon his own efforts to meet the expenses of his education. This was true of him until the end of his college course.... He was admitted to Middlebury College in Vermont in the year 1837, where he remained until the following spring, when he entered Dartmouth College. He did not complete the course, but left in the middle of the Junior year. He makes no note of the reason for cutting short the usual college course. It may be conjectured that after five years of self-denying economy in procuring the means to carry him through his academic career, he was eager for the more independent position that the profession offered to which he had no doubt been looking forward since he began his studies. Two important incidents in his life at this period, which he recorded many years afterward in a brief chronological table, upon which I am drawing for some of these early data, point in this direction. One of these is found in the note concerning his first sermon, which he preached at Bellows Falls, Vermont, January l, 1839, only a very short time before he left college, which was in the spring of the year 1839. This was no doubt a trial sermon, given for the purpose of securing from the church authorities the necessary official sanction to become a minister. The other important incident recorded is his marriage, on June 21, 1840, to Miss Charlotte Tinker of Chelsea, Vermont.1


1 Ibid., pp. 4-5.

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On "July 1, 1840, he was appointed by the New Hampshire Conference minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Peacham, Vermont."1

His experiences were not unlike those of other Methodist clergymen of his time in New England. ... The itinerant system of his church carried him to many towns, nearly all of which were in New Hampshire after his first settlement. These were Goffstown, Pembroke, Northfield, Rindge, Marlow, Newport (1850), Concord (1852), Lisbon (1854), Claremont (1856), and West Unity (1860). His two last pastorates were in Massachusetts, at Lawrence (1858), and Salisbury (1861). He was recognized by his contemporaries of the pulpit as one of the most scholarly and most thoughtful of preachers. His assignment to Concord, New Hampshire, was a proof of this, for here his denomination had need of its most gifted clergymen, as it was the seat of a divinity school [that became Boston University] whose professors and students constituted an important part of the minister's congregation. He was a young man of 34 when assigned to this parish, and he discharged the duties so well that he was honored with a second appointment. His learning was also availed of by the theological school, when occasion required his services as a substitute for absent professors. His special qualifications for teaching in such an institution were his acquaintance with church history and his familiarity with the Greek text of the New Testament. He was, it may be said, a life-long student of the New Testament in the original Greek, which he read, as he somewhere says, with the same facility as he did the English


1 Ibid., p. 6.


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Apart from his academic services, the ministerial career of Evans was not so usual as the information thus far given indicates. He departed from the ordinary in both his health and his religious experiences.

He records, "In June, 1835, I turned my attention to religious things and connected myself with the Congregational Church."2 However,

Before he reached his twenty-first year, he had embraced what was then known as the Oberlin view of sanctification3 and left the Congregational Church to join the Methodist Episcopal body, where this view had a more hospitable reception than elsewhere. In his personal life and in his preaching, the phase of Christian experience fostered by this doctrinal belief was constantly emphasized. In his hands it developed into none of the extravagances and fanaticisms which have characterized many of its adherents. He never for a moment claimed to have attained perfection. What he was ever seeking was what he termed "a higher and deeper experience in religion," an experience that included a conscious communion with God, "a calm happiness of unbroken fellowship with Him," to give a favorite phrasing of his thought to be found quite often in his published works as well as in his or private


1 Ibid., p. 7.

2 Ibid., p. 11.

3 Stressing perfection, perhaps pointing toward New Thought. See Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, IX (1917), 736.

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Evans writes:

At times my soul has had a clearer sense of the Allness of God than I ever before experienced. One night on my bed my soul lost itself to the All. It seemed to me that there was nothing but God; that he was the life, the support, the substance of everything which exists. I thank God for rest in the All-pervading Deity. This inward consciousness of God, this living and moving in the Divine element has made all times and places alike. . . . Sometimes I find formal prayer to be an impossibility. I enter my closet and hold my soul in the Divine presence. I can only sweetly rest in the will of God, while my heart from its inmost centre silently breathes out the prayer, the holiest in earth or heaven:

"May thy will, not mine, be done, May thy will and mine be one." Prayer is becoming with me an inward life. The soul in a ceaseless current flows out after God. Its desires silently flow into my soul.2


I have recently enjoyed a deeper consciousness of the love of God, his boundless and everlasting love, than I ever before reached.... I have found that my growth in the spiritual life has gone forward by new manifestations of God to my consciousness and every successive stage of that


1 Leonard, op. cit., p. 12.

2 Ibid., pp. 12-13, ellipses by Leonard.


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growth has been based upon, and preceded by, some new and enlarged view of God. . . . Long have I found God so near to me that I could not move without moving in Him. I am floating in the depths of the ocean of the Infinite Life. But that Life seems to me to be Love.1


I feel a great love for spiritual truth. I love truth as intensely as a miser loves gold. I am not conscious in myself of any prejudice that would prevent my embracing what was clearly true. I throw open my soul and turn it imploringly towards the eternal source of light and knowledge.2

Dates for these quotations are not provided by the biographer, but they are from a "spiritual journal" that was "not carried beyond 1865."3 They are presented by the biographer as if recording events before those to be given next.

Writing probably in the early 1860's Evans says:

Several years ago while thirsting for a more satisfying knowledge of divine things than the current superficial literature of the church could supply, I was led to pray the Lord most sincerely to lead me to some book or books which could satisfy this inmost need. I had been previously led to study with interest and profit the mystic authors.


1 Ibid., pp. 13, ellipses by Leonard.

2 Ibid., pp. 13-14.

3 Ibid., p. 11.

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From Madam Guyon, Fenelon, Kempis, Tauler and others I found something that was valuable. But all was vague and indefinite. While in a book store in the city of Portsmouth I saw on the shelf a work entitled "Athanasia, or, Foregleems of Immortality." [A footnote adds: "By Rev. E. H. Sears, a Unitarian writer of wide reputation."] It was deeply impressed on my consciousness that this was an answer to my earnest prayer. I consequently bought two copies, retaining one and presenting another to a brother in the ministry. The views of that excellent little volume came to my soul as rain upon a thirsty soil. In a foot note I observed a reference to the work of Swedenborg on "Divine Love and Wisdom." It was forcibly impressed upon my mind that the views of the book were those of Swedenborg and that what I had earnestly longed for would be found in him. I accordingly sent to Boston and procured his principal works. I may truly say that what my soul long yearned for I had found. I believed his teachings, for I could not do otherwise. I inwardly saw their truth.1

The biographer observes:

The date of that momentous visit to Portsmouth is not given, nor is there anywhere an allusion to the exact time when he began the study of Swedenborg, though the year 1856 seems to be the date, as he notes in his journal on December 1, 1860, that for four years his theological opinions had been undergoing a revolution. Early in the year 1858 his recorded meditations show the


1 Ibid., p. 14.


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influence of the new teacher.1

He evidently believed at first that he could consistently hold these new views of religion and remain in his place in the Methodist pulpit, for he proclaimed these views, as he says in a published letter, "in private conversation and in the pulpit." He says: "it appeared to me that I might be called by Providence to diffuse those higher views and religious teachings through the church of which I had long been a member and a sincere preacher. It was very natural to suppose that truths which had been so greatly blessed to my comfort would be eagerly embraced by all, as soon as they were made acquainted with them."

So eager was he to propagate these "glorious and all-satisfying truths," as he called them, and so fully persuaded was he that they needed only to be proclaimed to his Christian brethren to be welcomed by them, that he wrote a book embodying them in a most lucid and impressive form. He called it "The Celestial Dawn, or, Connection of Earth and Heaven."2

The manuscript of this book was finished on February 19, 1861,3 and was published in the fall of


1 Ibid., p. 15.

2 I bid., p. 8.

3 Ibid., part 2, X (November, 1905), 7; since all references to Leonard before this have been to the first part, no mention of parts has been made. The article is divided into sections, but no reference is made to them in the citations here.

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Although Evans avoided referring to Swedenborg by name in advancing Swedenborg's views, "soon after this book was put in circulation, evidences accumulated of the dissatisfaction created among his Methodist friends with the views advocated."2 On April 4, 1864, Evans writes:

This day has been an epoch in my spiritual history. I have sundered my connection with the Methodist Episcopal Church. It is not a step that has been hastily taken, but has long been considered. For five years past the providence of the Lord seems to have led me to this result. The failure of my health while preaching at Lawrence, my partial recovery and then, after another attempt to preach in the old church, the failure of my health again, seemed to me the voice of God that my labors as a Methodist preacher were by his will closed. My poverty and sufferings while my health would not admit of my laboring, not calling


1 Ibid., part l, p. 8. This was not his first publication; Leonard notes:

His authorship dates from the year 1860, when he issued a booklet in advocacy of a higher Christian experience than it seemed to him to be the aim of the church to encourage. He entitled it "Divine Order in the Process of Full Salvation." It is not a polemic by any means, but a most kindly tender plea for a perfect consecration of the life to the will of God.... About the same time, perhaps a little earlier in the year, a larger book dealing with the same theme was issued and was named "Happy Island, or, Paradise Restored." No copy of this book has been accessible.... [part 3, X (December, 1905), 9.]

2 Ibid., part l, p. 9.


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forth any help from the church for which I had expended all my energies served to wean me from it. The suspicion of heresy and even of insanity that rested upon me for the views expressed in "The Celestial Dawn," and the cold shoulder that was turned toward me by my brethren, were a part of the permissive providence of the Lord leading in the same direction. I have been led to this decision by a higher power against which it has been vain to struggle. I have felt myself for years floating before a current of providences that was bearing me towards the New Church and out of the Old. I now feel a sense of freedom that is a great relief to my mind. I have been brought by the Divine mercy of the Lord from darkness into light. I wish here to record my grateful sense of the divine goodness to me in all His dealings with me. He has heard my sincere and oft-repeated prayer that He would lead me into all truth. I have learned to trust all to His management. I only pray to be of use to the souls of others. I long to impart the Divine treasures, in mercy given to me, to all receptive Souls.1

"A few days" later

he notes the baptism of himself and wife by Rev. Thomas Worcester, D. D., of the New Church, by which they became members at large of that religious body. He did not become a pastor in his new relations, but consented to serve as a missionary of the Massachusetts Association. He was still in feeble health and he says in his journal, "My consent was based on my confidence in the Lord and in his Word. One thing I know, that so far as a soul will hold itself in readiness to impart,


1 Ibid., part 1, p. 10.

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the Lord will give. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." I long to engage in some higher use than I have apparently filled the last few years--years of preparation."

These words were written in August, 1864. Little did he know that the yearning of his heart to be of "some higher use" was to be gratified in the way it was. He had been satisfied to have been physically able to carry the message of the New Church to the few in New England who might be willing to hear it. But his "years of preparation" were for a "higher use." Instead of being the prophet of a small religious body and the evangel of a narrow province, he was to become the pioneer apostle1 of a worldwide spiritual movement which many believe is destined to redeem the world from sin, sickness and death.2

For years Evans was burdened with sickness and also from time to time managed to overcome it through spiritual means.3 His biographer describes him when nearly 47 as

of medium stature, of slight build, and [carrying] an infirmity of many years standing, known in medicine by the name of fistula, which, together with a disordered nervous system, had caused him many a breakdown . . . and would have totally


1 A term used in the title of his earlier article, later issued as a pamphlet by H. H. Carter of Boston, "The Pioneer Apostle of Mental Science," Practical Ideals, VI (July-August, 1903), 30-37, a brief account of Evans.

2 Leonard, op. cit., part 1, pp. 10-11.

3 Ibid., part l, p. 7.


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wrecked the life of a less stalwart soul.1

"Before he had finished his studies preparatory to entering the ministry"2 he had a faith healing of "a most aggravated and obstinate dyspepsia."3

He gives a glimpse of how he must have been handicapped ... even in his earlier pastorates when he makes such a minute as this: "I have carried into the pulpit a load of bodily infirmities enough to cause me to sink in any other work. Sometimes Christ has stood by me, and the rush of the divine energy into my soul has raised me above all my weakness." He continued to grow more feeble, so that all the later years of his ministry were marked by periodical suspensions of his work from this cause, and even when he was at his post there was devotion to duty under great suffering a large part of the time.4

After one of the breakdowns spoken of, which occurred early in the year 1859, while pastor at Lawrence, Massachusetts, he makes this note in his journal on September 19, 1859: "My health so completely failed me last April that I could not preach. I have not preached for more than six months. There was a time when I could not so much as read. But during this complete prostration of my nervous system my soul has tranquilly reposed in God. Far down below my trembling


1 Ibid., part 2, p. 3.

2 Ibid., part 2, p. 4.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid., part 1, p. 7.

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nerves there is a region of soul where all is still and silent." Here is the earliest evidence we have that the new teaching [of Swedenborg] was enabling him to look away from the body and its sensations and to rest in the calm spot at the inmost centre.1

From his past expressions, one might think him perfectly capable of making such an observation irrespective of his new views.

"Early" in 1860 Evans writes:

I have thought much of the power of a living faith, by which I mean a faith that is connected with love, or which proceeds from love. Such a faith is power, and it seems to me that its power is but little understood. In the primitive church the power of faith was understood. In the church of the future it will be so again. Once faith had power over disease. Here, undoubtedly, was no violation of the laws of nature, but the unfolding of a higher law. A law is only the mode of the divine action. Faith once gave the mind power over the material world, to some extent. All causation, all force lies in the spiritual world or in some mind, untreated or created. The phenomena of the outward world are effects, the causes of which are in the world of mind. [A reference to the faith that removes mountains is omitted by the biographer.] Our Saviour expresses in these words, I believe, the law of the soul's power over matter. In the future this law will be more fully developed.


1 Ibid., part 2, p. 3.


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I pray the Lord to increase my faith.1

A month later,

under date of April 12, 1860, Dr. Evans is found dwelling upon his physical condition and utters the first word of his that I have met with as to the mental origin of disease. "My health," he writes, "is not yet adequate to the full work of the ministry. I long for strength to employ it in the work so dear to my heart. . . . I have hope of regaining my former power. The Lord is my strength. 'He is the health of my countenance and my God.' I will find in Christ all that I need. He can cure every form of mental disease, and thus restore the body, for disease originates generally, if not always, in the mind." There is little doubt that he was helped to this conclusion respecting the mental origin of disease by his study of Swedenborg's "Science of Correspondence," where he found such teachings as this: "There is not anything in the mind to which something in the body does not correspond, and this which corresponds may be called the embodying of that."

Three weeks later, under date of May 4, 1860, we find him taking a more positive attitude towards his infirmity and rallying his spiritual forces to overcome it. He writes: "My soul has great peace at the centre, through there is often much disturbance at the surface. My nervous system has been so prostrated that trembling seizes upon me in the performance of the simplest services. I know not the occasion of it nor the remedy for it. But relying on God, from whom is all life and all good, I am resolved to put it away as


1 Ibid., part 2, p. 4.

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an evil that is a sin against God, because it unfits me for His work. I consecrate myself and all that I am and hope to be to the uses of Christ's kingdom. This evil that has almost crushed the life out of me must cease. I will be myself, that is, what God would have me to be.1

Less than a year later, after finishing The Celestial Dawn,

he had so far triumphed over conditions that he was able to accept an invitation to the pastorate of the Methodist Episcopal church of Salisbury, Massachusetts. In making a memorandum of his settlement there, he says: "Through the blessing of God and in answer to prayer, my health is improved. I lay hold upon Christ as my life and as the 'health of my countenance and my God."' The day of his entire redemption was yet in the distance. Ill health was still to be his portion. But he was a student of his own case, and was gaining, all unaided, save by the Spirit, a deeper knowledge of the spiritual laws to be availed of in healing, of which in the coming years he was to become the first eminent expounder. His invalidism was being used by the Spirit to prepare him for the great service he was to render the world.2

On Sunday March 30. 1862, Evans writes:

It is now two months since I have preached otherwise than in private conversation. I have passed through a painful sickness, and am yet far


1 Ibid., part 2, p. 6, ellipsis by Leonard.

2 lbid., part 2, p. 7.


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from being fully restored. I have had some rich experiences of Divine things and some heavenly views. . . . God has given me an earnest spirit of supplication for some days past for restoration to health that I may be made the messenger of good to souls. My faith has grasped Christ as the Life, the eternal Life. My soul lives wholly from Him, and my body from my soul. Hence in saving the soul he saves the body.... That the body should be saved from an abnormal, disorderly condition by faith violates no law of nature, for it is the eternal order of God that faith saves the soul, and the body's life is derived wholly from the vital spirit it encloses. The omnipotence of God acts according to the eternal order He has established. This order is expressed by Christ when he said many times to those He healed in soul, and thus in body. "Thy faith hath saved thee." In absolute self despair, I have looked to Him who is the only Life. With stubbornness of faith-a faith He has imparted, hence the faith of God-I have said with humble boldness. "I know thou dost save.". .. Through faith I have conjunction with the one and only Life. "I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance and my God." I hear His voice, a voice that sent life to thrill through the decaying body of Lazarus. "Go in peace, thy faith hath saved thee." I have no hope from physicians and drugs. They are as powerless as the staff of Elijah in the hands of Gehazi to raise the widow's son. May Christ eternally unite me to Himself by granting me this great favor.1

Later in 1862 Evans records:


1 Ibid., part 2, p. 8, ellipses by Leonard.

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This has been a remarkable day in my experience, a new epoch in my spiritual history. My faith was put to the trial, and through Christ gloriously triumphed. I enjoyed an extraordinary season in prayer. Out of the deeps I cried unto the Lord and He heard me. While sinking, like Peter, I seized hold of Christ, and walked upon the abyss as if it had been marble. I touched Him who is the Life, and life thrilled through my whole being. More than twenty years ago, after a long season of desolation and self-imposed condemnation, Christ spake me whole, soul and body. There is a faith to which the Divine power always responds, "Go in peace, thy faith hath saved thee." With holy violence I laid hold upon Him who has become my salvation. I live because Christ lives. Here is the connection of cause and effect. I no longer live, but Christ liveth in me. I am dead and my life is hid with Christ in God. I feel myself saved-perfectly well, soul, spirit and body. The eleventh-day of August is laid up in everlasting remembrance. From this time forth I live a life of faith. There is a faith that puts the soul in vital connection with the one only Life. I am saved on this eleventh day of August. All is well. Christ is bringing me up to a higher plane of divine life. I now bid an eternal farewell to the experience described in the seventh chapter of Paul's epistle to the Romans. The day of freedom dawns at length.1

Eight months after this, Evans observes,

I see how it is that by believing I have the thing for which I am praying causes me to have it. It is


1 Ibid., part 2, pp. 9-10.


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implied that the faith is divinely imparted. It proceeds from God. Faith is truth and truth from God is something real and substantial. If one prays for recovery to health and the Lord gives him to believe that he is recovering, that faith is only the truth that it is so, received from the Lord. To believe that I am being recovered to health, if that faith is self originated, accomplishes nothing. But if my belief of it is a truth received from God, or if my faith is the faith of God, it becomes a substantial reality. Faith in its essence is truth, and truth is substance. Hence the author of the epistle to the Hebrews says, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for." Now if the Lord imparts to me a Divine conviction that a certain blessing is mine, that faith being the substance of what I desire, puts me into an actual realization of what I am praying for.1

It may have been about this time that Evans first went to Quimby. Not much seems to be known about this, although Leonard said that "every effort has been made to fix the time of the interviews, as well as to ascertain precisely what help Dr. Evans obtained from Dr. Quimby."2

Leonard reports,

I consulted George A. Quimby of Belfast, Maine, his father's secretary during the last years of his practice.... He writes, "I know nothing about Mr. Evans' connection with my father except that he came to Portland to see him. I was either away at the time or else his stay was so brief that it made


1 Ibid., part 2, p. 11.

2 Ibid., part 2, p. 1.

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no impression on my mind." The distinguished practitioner, Dr. J. H. Dewey, who was intimately acquainted with Dr. Evans, . . . was also requested to give such information as he might possess on the point in question. He says, "In our earlier conversations we often referred to Dr. Quimby and his healing work, in which Dr. Evans told me of his visit to him, which, I think, was while he was yet preaching in the Methodist church and before Mrs. Eddy was healed by Quimby. [Leonard here adds the footnote: This would make the time of the visit to be in 1862, as it was in October of that year when Mrs. Eddy went to be treated. Dr. Dewey, however, admits that he is not certain of the date.] It was his acquaintance with Dr. Quimby's method that led to the modification of his views on the law of mental, or spiritual, healing, which he afterward so fully set forth in his own books on the subject."1

It is to the father of Horatio W. Dresser that one must look for most of the information on this topic. Julius A. Dresser writes:

That able writer upon Mental Science, Dr. W. F. Evans, pays the following tribute to Quimby, in his second volume, entitled "Mental Medicine." He says: "Disease being in its root a wrong belief, change that belief, and we cure the disease.... The late Dr. Quimby, of Portland, one of the most successful healers of this or any age, embraced this view of the nature of disease, and by a long succession of most remarkable cures .. . proved the


1 lbid., part 2, p. 15. It will be noted that Dewey refers to only one visit, although no point is made of it, and it could be a typographical error.


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truth of the theory .... Had he lived in a remote age or country, the wonderful facts which occurred in his practice would have now been deemed either mythical or miraculous. He seemed to reproduce the wonders of the gospel history." Dr. Evans obtained this knowledge of Quimby mainly when he visited him as a patient, making two visits for that purpose, about the year 1863, an interesting account of which I received from him, at East Salisbury, in the year 1876. Dr. Evans had been a clergyman up to the year 1863, and was then located in Claremont, N.H. But so readily did he understand the explanations of Quimby, which his Swedenborgian faith enabled him to grasp the more quickly, that he thought he could himself cure the sick in this way. Quimby replied that he thought he could. His first attempts on returning home were so successful that the preacher became a practitioner from that time, and the result has been great growth in the truth and the accomplishment of a great and a good work during the nearly twenty-five years since then. Dr. Evans's six volumes upon the subject of Mental Healing have had a wide and well-deserved sale.1


1 Julius A. Dresser, op. cit., pp. 20-21, rev. ed., pp. 26-27, ellipses by him. The omissions, from p. 210 of the work cited, are "By faith we are made whole. There is a law here the world will some time understand and use in the cure of the diseases that afflict mankind." "effected by psychopathic remedies, at the same time" "and the efficacy of that mode of treatment." In an unindicated omission immediately after "wrong belief" is "in the sense explained above." Gospel is capitalized by Evans. Leonard quotes J. A. Dresser as above at part 2, pp. 1-2 and at greater length the Evans quotation on Quimby at part 2, pp. 12-13, and observes that this is the only

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Being desirous of having all the light possible thrown upon the relations which existed between Dr. Quimby and Dr. Evans at the time under review, I communicated with the widely-known writer and author, Horatio W. Dresser, asking for such recollections as he might have of his father's views. Through his courtesy I have permission to quote him as follows: "The impression I got from my father was that Dr. Evans' Swedenborgian belief and philosophical knowledge admirably fitted him to understand Dr. Quimby's theories and methods. It was evidently a case where a word to the wise was sufficient. Hence Dr. Evans very soon concluded that he could heal in the same way. Evidently, too, the method of silent treatment--this was probably the chief novelty to Dr. Evans--was one that he was prepared to appreciate at once. Of course the help which Dr. Quimby gave him was the convincing evidence. Dr. Quimby saw Evans' ability and encouraged him to take up the mental healing practice. My father always esteemed Dr, Evans highly and, so far as I know, held that his exposition of the mental method and theory was in entire harmony with the Quimby teaching.1

Leonard adds in a footnote, "Dr. Evans' publisher, H. H. Carter, of 5 Somerset street, Boston once remarked to the writer that Mr. [J. A.] Dresser always commended the books of Dr. Evans to his patients, especially 'The Divine


reference to Quimby published in the books on healing by Evans.

1 Leonard, op. cit., part 2, pp. 14-15.


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Law of Cure.'"1

Dresser says:

In 1863, Mr. Quimby received as a patient one who was to accomplish a very important work in the promulgation of the new theory and practice of healing. This was Rev. Warren Felt Evans, of Claremont, New Hampshire. Mr. Evans had been in poor health for several years, having suffered from a nervous breakdown coupled with a chronic disorder that had failed to respond to the methods of treatment then in vogue. Having heard of Mr. Quimby's remarkable cures [Leonard says that "how Dr. Evans learned of Dr. Quimby's work in Maine there is no means of determining"2], he visited Portland on two occasions to receive treatment by the new method. His expectations were more than realized. Mr. Evans was not only healed of his maladies, but became so deeply impressed by the practice and teachings of the new method and later began to apply it, having first developed the implied philosophy in his own terms. The turning-point came one day while in conversation with Mr. Quimby. Mr. Evans remarked that he believed he could cure by the same method and Mr. Quimby encouraged him to think that he could. Accordingly, Mr. Evans made the venture as soon as opportunity offered, after his return home, and the first attempts were so successful that the way opened for him to devote the remainder of his life to authorship and the


1 Ibid., part 2, p. 15n.

2 Ibid., part 2, p. 12.

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healing of the sick.1

Leonard is less sure about some of this:

When Dr. Evans learned the secret of Dr. Quimby's method, we can easily believe that he was captivated by it since he had long before come to believe that the healing works of Jesus were wrought through an understanding of mental and spiritual laws, and that it was along these lines, indeed, that he himself had been endeavoring to secure relief from his physical ills. It must have been an interesting moment when those two original thinkers came together to compare notes on this great subject, the one having proved himself a master in the practical application of principles which the other had intuitively discerned as possibly capable of such an application on the part of anyone. He was there as a patient, Mr. Dresser tells us, but with what benefit to his health we are not told. That he drew out of Dr. Quimby all that he had in him to give respecting his theories and methods we cannot for a moment doubt. Neither can we doubt that he was an apt pupil and carried away, and made his own, all that the teacher had to offer. The conviction that he could make use of the same methods in healing soon possessed him, and he was confirmed in it by the encouraging word of the veteran practitioner.2

While the date cannot be fixed with precision when Dr. Evans undertook to make a test


1 Dresser, A History of the New Thought Movement, pp. 71-72.

2 Leonard, op. cit., part 2, pp. 13-14.


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of healing others by spiritual methods, it is almost beyond question that it was not later than the year 1863. That even at this time he had any thought of giving his life to this work there is no reason to suppose, for we have already learned that in August, 1864, he was arranging to become a missionary of the New Church. More than a year after this date, he writes in his journal of his "great desire to preach the gospel again," and devotes several pages to setting forth what he conceives to be the preparation a minister needs to become an effective preacher. He probably had come to believes that a minister should fulfil the commission given by Jesus to the early disciples and add the ministry of healing to the preaching of the word, and intended to do so if he resumed the pastoral office. But the way to his return to that office, as we have noted, was still closed by reason of feeble health, though he preached more or less as a missionary of the New Church. Among his literary remains are the manuscripts of some of the sermons he prepared during that period. Like the true son of the spirit that he was, he waited only for Divine guidance. It came, and he consecrated himself to a healing ministry as wholly and unselfishly as he ever did to the work of the pulpit and the pastorate.1

If he did not begin [his healing practice] as early as the year 1863, he was evidently giving much attention to the practice in 1865, for there are indications in his journal of the study he was then making of disease and its treatment. In one place he says: "Last night, at 2 o'clock, I awoke from sleep and received an important suggestion relating to the removal of diseased conditions from


1 Ibid., part 2, p. 2.

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the body. Where a disease tends to produce a particular and unhealthy mental condition, as melancholy or low spirits by dyspepsia or diseased liver, if the opposed mental state can be induced it will tend to cure the disease. This is a principle of great extent. Disease should be studied in relation to its effects upon the mind and then the states of mind that are antagonistic to the disease may be induced through the spiritual world." As this is the very first deliverance of Dr. Evans on record after he began his mental healing practice, it will have special interest for his many friends. It is valuable also as giving a glimpse of the original and intuitive method that was to characterize his career as the first public expounder of spiritual therapeutics.

He was living in Claremont, New Hampshire, at this time, where he bought a little home five or six years before, and to which he returned in April, 1862, after his breakdown in his pastorate in Salisbury, which proved to be the conclusion of his pastoral career. During his forced retirement here he was not content to act the part of an invalid. He was busy in 1862 in getting his book, "Celestial Dawn," through the press and with official duties connected with the schools of the place. In the summer of 1863, to aid his son who had lost his right arm in the Civil War, he bought a periodical business and conducted it until the wounded boy was able to take charge. In the midst of these activities, he was consulting with Dr. Quimby, and making his first experiments in mental healing. Here in Claremont was the scene of his first triumphs as a practitioner and here he gathered the material for his first book, "The Mental Cure," which ... was the earliest work


Healing Hypotheses

to set forth the principles of metaphysical healing.1

The doctorate of Evans was in medicine. Leonard gives little information on it, but mentions that

medical science interested him from early life, and he pursued the study of it, not to gain a degree, but simply to add to his store of knowledge. After he began his practice as a mental healer he received a diploma from a chartered board of physicians of the Eclectic School, certifying to his qualifications and giving him the [space in original] M.D., a title which he used in his circulars, but never in his books.2

It is not clear when this took place.

From the first, patients were received in the home [of Evans]. When they removed from Claremont to Salisbury in 1869 this practice was followed during a part of every year. An office was probably opened in Boston about the year 1867, as certain data indicate, [at this point Leonard adds the footnote: It was in 1867 that Dr. Evans and his wife united with the New Church Society in Bowdoin street, Boston, having been members "at large" of the denomination. This indicates that they must have had an office in Boston at that date. This is the belief of the present senior pastor, Rev. James Reed, who was then an associate pastor.] when the custom of spending only the winter and spring months in the city was


1 Ibid., part 2, pp. 15-16.

2 Ibid., part 2, pp. 17n-18n.

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inaugurated which was continued for nearly twenty years. In 1873 they removed from a leased house in Salisbury to one they had purchased there. The summers were not the least busy part of the year with them. They maintained the home in the country for the purpose of serving the sick to greater advantage than was possible for them to do in Boston. The house was enlarged to accommodate a goodly number, and yet was often too small to meet the demands made upon it by applicants from all parts of the land. Here, as in Boston, this noble pair lived to serve, without money and without price if need be, all who came to them for help...His compensation consisted of freewill offerings.1

Mrs. Frances A. Pettengill, of Salisbury, remembers

seeing him and the impression the sight of him made on me with his long white beard and a sort of feeling of mystery. I am 85 yrs. old but was pretty young when I saw him about town.... I can't think of another person in town, my age, who would remember him.2

In an interview on May 28, 1962, she mentioned that he was individual in his characteristics, that she did not recall his treating sick people, nor his mingling with the townspeople, nor his attending the Methodist church that she had attended for 80 years, and that he served in 1861. Presumably, he did not attend it. She recalled that he used to go to some other place; presumably, it was Boston, although she associated him with Washington, D.C.


1 Ibid., part 2, pp. 19-20.

2 Letter of October 9, 1962.


Healing Hypotheses

He seems not to have made any very lasting impression on Salisbury. The Washington connection may have been from a Post Office job there of his wounded son, Franklin, reported by Mrs. Charlotte Marshall, great granddaughter of Evans, interviewed on May 29, 1962; she added that Evans had a winter apartment on Beacon Hill and an office nearby. Nothing was known about his connection with Quimby. Mrs. Marshall indicated that many of his patients were nervously unsettled women who had reached menopause.

The Salisbury death records list his September 4, 1889, death as from disease of brain and his occupation as doctor.

After the publication of his last book in 1886, he started another, but did not finish it.

According to information received from Horace B. Blackmer, Recording Secretary of the General Convention of the New Jerusalem in the U.S.A., on April 9, 1962, Evans was not ordained in the New Church, but was a licentiate or lay leader for five years,

authorized to teach and lecture about the doctrines of our church, and to conduct religious services upon request in the absence of an ordained clergyman. He entered into this work for the first year with considerable vigor, but his health gradually curtailed the extent of his efforts, and at the end of the time (1869) he "did not ask to have his license renewed." (His assistance in Sabbath services during most of this period were accorded our society in Contoocook, N.H.) From the point of view of our church, his books written after his acquaintance with Dr. Quimby, departed materially from Swedenborgian teachings.

Curiously enough, this town was rather near the birthplace of Mary Baker Eddy; there seems to be no indication that they ever met, but they were patients of Quimby probably within a year, apparently lived in

Healing Hypotheses


adjoining communities when Evans moved back to Salisbury, and of course shared Boston. Whether there is a justification for the suggestion that she was influenced by him1 is not within the scope of this study.

Presumably, the most important factor in the development of his thought was his own seeking attitude and mystical experiences that accompanied it. In addition to his religious experiences, he also had psychical ability. J. H. Dewey writes to Leonard:

I was quite intimately acquainted with Dr. Evans from the time he first came to Boston to begin his healing work. He was both a seer and healer. I had the most unmistakable evidence of his ability at times to accurately diagnose the conditions of an absent patient and to so effectually treat him that the patient was fully conscious of the treatment at the time, though no previous arrangement had been made for it. My acquaintance with him was at a time when it was of the greatest help to me in my own independent studies along these lines, and my memories of him are of the most agreeable kind. He was a man of unusual insight and ability and an absolutely independent and discriminating thinker, as his published writings most fully demonstrate.2

Dewey in a book quotes at length from Evans on the brain, including the following, and includes in his introductory remarks the observation, "It may be well . . . to remark that Dr. Evans writes from practical experience,


1 An unsigned entry on Evans in The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, XXIII (1932), 430.

2 Leonard, op. cit., part 4, Practical Ideals, XI (January, 1906), 16.


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having demonstrated the general truth of the doctrines in his own person."1

On the dividing line between sleeping and waking, the mysterious dream-land, the mental powers become greatly exalted and quickened, so that the experiences and perceptions of hours, and even weeks and months, are crowded into moments. The mind breaks loose from its material thraldom, the limitations of time, place, and sense, and asserts its innate freedom. It sees without the external eye, and to distances almost unlimited. It perceives distant objects, persons and things, something as we see the image of an absent friend in the mind, only with more objective clearness, and they do not appear to be in the mind, but external to it, like the scenery around us in our every-day life. There are those who can enter this state at will. It has become, in fact, their normal condition. We have experimented much with it, putting it to severe tests, a thousand miles away, and have found it as reliable as our ordinary vision. The power of thus suspending the action of the cerebrum, possessed by a scientific person, is of great value in the diagnosis of disease. It is a condition of the highest wakefulness, though physiologically it is a state of sleep, and has been denominated somnambulism. It may exist when the external senses are not oblivious to the objects surrounding us. It is a waking up from their usually dormant state of the undeveloped powers of our inner life.2


1 John Hamlin Dewey, The Way, the Truth and the Life (New York: J. H. Dewey Publishing Company, 1988, 1st ed.?), p. 259

2 W. F. Evans, The Mental-Cure, pp. 105-08.

Healing Hypotheses 


Especially since Leonard does not tell of such experimentation recorded in the Evans journal, it seems likely that it was something inspired by Quimby, quite possibly taken up as part of the silent method of healing.

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