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Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond

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Healing Hypotheses

CULTS AND
NON CONVENTIONAL
RELIGIOUS GROUPS

A Collection of Outstanding Dissertations
and Monographs

Edited by
J. GORDON MELTON
Institute for the Study of American Religion

Electronically Published by C. Alan Anderson, 2002

 

A GARLAND SERIES

Picture  

Horatio W. Dresser
Lent by his daughter, Dorothea Reeves

HEALING HYPOTHESES

Horatio W. Dresser and
the Philosophy of New Thought

C. ALAN ANDERSON

 

 

 

 

 

 

GARLAND PUBLISHING, INC.
New York & London
1993 

 

 

© 1993 C. Alan Anderson
All Rights Reserved

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Anderson, C. Alan, 1930-
        Healing hypotheses : Horatio W. Dresser and the philosophy of New
    Thought / C. Alan Anderson.
            p.   cm. - (Cults and nonconventional religious groups)
        Originally presented as author's thesis (doctoral-Boston University, 1962)
    under title : Horatio W. Dresser and the philosophy of New Thought.
        Includes bibliographical references.
        ISBN 0-8153-0778-0 (alk. paper)
        1. New Thought-History. 2. Dresser, Horatio W. (Horatio Willis),
b. 1866. 3. Philosophy, American. I. Title. II. Series.
BF639.A6776 1993
191-dc20
                                                                                                92-34575
                                                                                                    CIP

Printed on acid-free, 250-year-life paper

MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

 

It has been about thirty years since I wrote most of this work, as a doctoral dissertation in Philosophy in the Boston University Graduate School (available from University Microfilms as 64-389). Its current subtitle is its original title. It seems appropriate to call the book Healing Hypotheses, since it presents hypotheses that at once may be (1) about the nature of healing, (2) intended to promote healing, and (3) undergoing healing, in the sense of improvement of the hypotheses.

The title Healing Hypotheses avoids the possible implication of narrowness of focus. Although my central focus is Dresser's life and thought in relation to New Thought, I give considerable attention to others, including Dods, Quimby, and Evans; and in appendices I even present some of my own views. In addition, the tentativeness suggested by hypothesis is appropriate to the empirical approach emphasized by Dresser and by most of New Thought. That philosophical-religious movement scorns creeds and, at its best, looks for ever fuller understanding while practically applying the insights already at hand.

Over the years the dissertation was copied many times and it gained some recognition as it stood. When Gordon Melton recently recommended that it be published and Garland Publishing, Inc. concurred, I agreed to it, although I did not have much opportunity to amplify the work as I had assumed that I should do if I were to seek its publication. But the prime purpose is to make the work more readily available in essentially its original form; hence, there is no point in modifying it so much that a serious student of its areas of concern might be obliged to

v

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Healing Hypotheses

turn to both the original and the published versions. So, for better or worse, it appears largely as it has been for three decades, except for some slight improvements in wording, omission of the autobiography and author's photograph, a few additions (generally in brackets) in the main text, supplementary bibliographical information, appendices following Appendix H, and this preface. I have not shifted the viewpoint ahead thirty years, so, for example, the publication of Braden's 1963 book on New Thought remains in the future, as far as the main text is concerned. In the course of writing the dissertation, I eliminated much material on Quimby and Evans from the main body of the text, but preserved some of it in appendices. This was the first presentation of significant excerpts from Quimby's lecture notes, and in conjunction therewith public recognition of the early influence of Scottish Common Sense Realism on Quimby and his overall philosophical awareness. The lecture notes now are to be found in Phineas Parkhurst Quimby[:] The Complete Writings of Quimby, edited by Ervin Seale and published by DeVorss in 1988.

In Appendix I, I have added some fascinating material about Quimby and his most famous patient, excluded from The Complete Writings because, I believe, of its not being written by or to Quimby, and of its possibly controversial nature. By including that writing, I continue one of the work's purposes, to make more readily available previously-unpublished or long out-of-print writings of people who were involved with the immediate Quimby circle.

In rereading some of the writing by others included in this book, I have been struck again by how extremely valuable it is (regardless of whether one may judge it correct or incorrect), and how privileged I have been to bring it together. I feel as if the book were only in a small degree my own. Mostly it belongs to people whom I did not know in person (I missed Dresser by about a year, since I discovered his writing in 1955, very shortly after

Healing Hypotheses 

 vii

I learned of New Thought). So, without any great pride of authorship, I am happy to help to send this compilation and distillation on its way in a new package.

I have relegated to new appendices the essence of much of what I might have included in an expansion of the study, may develop at greater length in another volume, and already have dealt with briefly in some of my other writings. Most of the present book is devoted to the past, but my appended writings deal largely with what I believe that the future metaphysics of New Thought should be.

Some of the new appendices give--without always meaning to imply direct influence--outlines of some ancient and modern roots of New Thought. In doing this it distinguishes (1) conventional New Thought, which takes for granted a traditional substance orientation, from (2) Process New Thought, which incorporates a newer understanding of the creative process, centering on the process-relational thought of Alfred North Whitehead and his followers, augmented by the spirit, if not all the details, of the personalistic vision that made Boston University famous. Portions of the writings of Quimby, Evans, and Dresser point toward such a Process New Thought. It is mainly with the uniting of New Thought practice and personalistic process-relational thought that I have been concerned in my research and writing in recent years.

In addition to the gratitude expressed in the original Acknowledgements section, I now add thanks to Gordon Melton for his appreciation of my work and for his proposing publication; to Garland Publishing Inc., especially to my editor, Claudia Hirsch; to Director Howard Gotlieb and his associates at the Special Collections of Boston University's Mugar Memorial Library; to Deb Whitehouse for much invaluable advice and word processing aid; to Curry College for its assistance in my scholarly endeavors for the past 25 years-especially now to Maryann Gallant for indispensable help

viii  

Healing Hypotheses

in the mysterious process of electronically transmogrifying the work from typed pages to disk to laser-printed pages. I am indebted in my thinking and otherwise to so many people, in and out of the academic and New Thought worlds, and to members of my family, including my son, Eric Anderson, and my parents, the late Carl and Helen Anderson, that I shall not attempt a full listing of them. However, it may be appropriate to add that working with the Quimby, Evans, and Dresser materials, and families, has been an extremely inspiring experience, from multiple standpoints of the worth of the writings, the warmth of descendants of these men, and the outstanding quality of the people who have shared in Quimby work over the years, especially Herman Aaftink, Igor Sikorsky, Jr., the late Dimas Avila, and the late Ervin Seale, as well as the late Erroll Collie, with whom I had less contact. Ervin Seale, whom I first contacted in, I believe, 1957, enabled me to find the Quimby material then still in Maine and much later to participate in the project that resulted in the publication of The Complete Writings. Among those whose work within the academic side of New Thought has been encouraging are Dell deChant, Larry Morris, and Robert Winterhalter. Through contact with them and others who are helping New Thought to grow ever newer I have been enriched far beyond any expression of it that I could put onto paper. To all whose lives have touched mine (and in a process perspective that includes everyone), I say a simple and sincere thank you.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
1963

In emerging from the rather impersonal writing of the following pages, it seems appropriate to offer some contrasting words. They rightly come first, for they express what is most important. They say a simple thank you to all who have helped to make this work possible. Perhaps it would be best to leave it at that, for no verbiage can exercise sufficiently the privilege of offering thanks. But the opportunity is so welcome that it is difficult to refrain from attempting a somewhat fuller expression, although it must be largely a confession of inability to convey very much.

Even a little reflection on anyone's indebtedness reveals such a complex network of causes for gratitude that the naming of everyone meriting thanks is impossible. In addition, the mere listing of names is inadequate, and the full indication of feeling--especially in relation to the invaluable contributions of human loved ones and the Source of all--is too personal for inclusion. So references here will be limited largely to more or less formal groupings of people.

An outstanding aspect of the study reflected in this writing has been the occurrence of many occasions for discovering some of the most helpful, generous people imaginable, as well as for continuing to enjoy the support of others who also fall within that description. Despite the differing views of New Thoughters, New Churchmen, Christian Scientists, and others, they have been united in their hospitality and good wishes.

The names of many to whom thanks are due will be found below, including footnotes and appendices. Two of the most important are written above [in the original dissertation: doctoral dissertation First Reader Peter A. Bertocci (1910-1989) and Second Reader John H. Lavely]; their signing of the approval page [was] only the culmination of a long series of most helpful acts of

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Healing Hypotheses

permanent value. The assistance of other teachers and those filling various positions in Boston University and in the other facilities for formal and informal education encountered earlier in life deserves to be remembered appreciatively.

The sources of information immediately relating to this study have been indispensable. The generosity and thoroughly delightful reception extended by the members of the Dresser family have been outstanding, and incidentally a tribute to the character of their forebears. The Evans and Quimby families, which have been subjected to less bother by this undertaking and hence have had less opportunity for response, also have been of great assistance. Important written and oral information, as well as exceptional courtesies and encouragement, have been found in, among others [some of the people have died and some of the institutions have had name changes or have become inactive or nonexistent], Boston University, the Library of Congress, Boston Public Library, Harvard University, Unity School of Christianity, New Church Theological School [Swedenborg School of Religion], Massachusetts New Church Union, First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn, New York, Carpenter Foundation, Society of Pragmatic Mysticism, Metaphysical Club of Boston, High Watch Fellowship, Church of the Truth [Ervin Seale], Boston Home of Truth, Erroll S. Collie, and Harold W. Lund.

To state a point so obvious that it may be in danger of being overlooked, a basic debt is to Quimby, Evans, and Dresser, as well as lesser and more remotely related lights. Taking note of this serves as a reminder that, with regard to both such people and those seen daily, much of one's debt--happily not viewed as such by one's benefactors--can be repaid only indirectly by helping others. Perhaps this is the most meaningful way of expressing gratitude. In spreading the fruits of past assistance that aid is given a continuing significance, and many who do not know of each other are united--a growing community of kindness. I hope that this volume will play a part in such a process.

CONTENTS

Page
PREFACE 1992 .............................................. v
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 1963 ........................... ix
Chapter

I.

INTRODUCTION
1.   The Problem of the Study ........................... 3
2.   Definition ................................................... 4
3.   Limitations ................................................ 4
4.   Previous Research in the Field .................... 5
5.   The Methodology of the Study ..................... 6

II.

THE INTELLECTUAL SETTING OF NEW  
THOUGHT IN AMERICA
1.   Heritage of Early American Philosophy ........ 9
2.   Nineteenth Century Utopianism ................... 11
3.   Transcendentalism ..................................... 13
4.   Oriental Thought ........................................ 17
5.   Naturalism ................................................. 21

III.

FOUNDATIONS OF NEW THOUGHT
1.   Western Religious Healing

before New Thought ....................................

23
2.   Magnetism and Mesmerism
      i.    Introduction ......................................... 27
      ii.   John Bovee Dods ................................. 30
3.   Phineas Parkhurst Quimby ......................... 38
4.   Warren Felt Evans
      i.    Introduction ......................................... 41
      ii.   Swedenborgian Background .................. 42

xi

xii 

Healing Hypotheses

  

      iii.   Development of the Evans

Philosophy ..........................................

46
5.   Summary .................................................. 63

IV.

HORATIO WILLIS DRESSER
1.   His Parents
      i.   Their Early Lives, in Association with  
           Quimby ................................................ 65
      ii.   Their Later Lives ................................... 92
2.   His Life
      i.    Early Years ......................................... 95
      ii.   Recollections of People Who Knew
            Dresser ............................................... 101
      iii.   Middle and Later Years ........................ 105
      iv.   Summarizing Characterizations of
            Dresser ............................................... 111
      v.    Dresser's Swedenborgian
            Activities ............................................. 120
      vi.   Summary ............................................ 122
3.   His Constructive Idealism
       i.    Dresser's Approach to Philosophy 123
       ii.   Dresser's Extrasensory Perception . 123
       iii.  Dresser's Acknowledgment of Influence
            of Philosophers on Him ........................ 125
       iv.  Dresser's Emphasis on Reason as
            Well as Experience
            (1)   In General .................................... 126
            (2)   In Regard to Mysticism .................. 130
            (3)   In Regard to Reason's Place
                   in the World ................................. 131
            (4)   In Regard to Truth ......................... 135
       v.   Dresser's View of the World
            (1)   His Philosophy of the Spirit . 140
            (2)   His Views on Pantheism and its 
                   Ethical Implication's ...................... 148
       vi.  Summary ............................................ 157
4.    His Thought in Relation to New Thought
       i.   Dresser's Independence ........................ 158

Healing Hypotheses

xiii

 

      ii.   Dresser's Relation to New Thought in
            the Light of its Nature ........................... 160
            (1)   New Thought's Development 
                   in General .................................... 160
            (2)   Unity ............................................ 169 
            (3)   Varying Views of New Thought
                    ................................................... 182
            (4)   Alliance Founding and Statements
                   of New Thought ............................. 189
            (5)   Dresser Within New Thought........... 192
      iii.   Summary ............................................ 203

V.

SUMMARY--CONCLUSIONS ............................ 205

APPENDIX A:   

QUIMBY'S EARLY KNOWLEDGE OF
MESMERISM AND PHILOSOPHY..................... 211

APPENDIX B:   

H.   W.   DRESSER,   "QUIMBY'S
TECHNIQUE" .................................................. 279

APPENDIX C:   

EVANS BIOGRAPHICAL
MATERIAL ...................................................... 305

APPENDIX D:  

DRESSER'S EARLY BIOGRAPHICAL
DATA ............................................................. 337

APPENDIX E:   

DRESSER'S   LETTER   TO   EL
ON CHRISTIAN SCIENCE................................. 341

APPENDIX F:   

DRESSER'S   LETTER   TO   MRS.
BROWNE ON EXTRASENSORY
PERCEPTION ................................................. 345

APPENDIX G:   

PARALLEL   QUOTATIONS   FROM
BOTH EDITIONS OF DRESSER'S THE
POWER OF SILENCE ..................................... 355

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Healing Hypotheses

  

APPENDIX H:   

SOME PERIODICALS RELATED TO
NEW THOUGHT .............................................. 361

APPENDIX I:   

LETTERS OF QUIMBY'S WIDOW. 365

APPENDIX J:   

"THE HEALING IDEALISM OF P. P.
QUIMBY, W. F. EVANS, AND THE
NEW THOUGHT MOVEMENT" ......................... 371

APPENDIX K:   

THE MARCH OF METAPHYSICS...................... 385

APPENDIX L:   

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE IMMEDIATE
BACKGROUND AND NATURE
OF PROCESS NEW THOUGHT ....................... 389

APPENDIX M:   

ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL
ANTECEDENTS
OF NEW THOUGHT ........................................ 401

APPENDIX N:   

MODERN   WORLD   AND   NEW
THOUGHT ....................................................... 407

APPENDIX O:   

PRACTICAL PROCESS
PHILOSOPHY ................................................. 413

APPENDIX P:   

SOME PATHS TO BOTH FORMS OF
NEW THOUGHT .............................................. 419

APPENDIX Q:   

THEMES AND THINKERS
CONTRIBUTING TO
NEW THOUGHT .............................................. 423

APPENDIX R:   

COMPARISON OF SOME OLD AND
NEW VIEWS................................................... 425

APPENDIX S:   

QUIMBY, "THE DIFFICULTY OF
INTRODUCING MY IDEAS" .............................. 429

BIBLIOGRAPHY   

....................................................................... 433

Healing Hypotheses

xv

 

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTES ........................... 469
ABSTRACT.................................................................................. 473 

Picture  

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
Given by his granddaughter,
the late Elizabeth Pineo

Picture

Warren Felt Evans
Photograph at the start of the Leonard series of articles
in Sept.-Oct. 1905 Practical Ideals

  Picture  

Julius A. Dresser
Lent by Dorothea Reeves
Photograph by J. H. Kent, 24 State Street, Rochester, NY

  Picture  

Annetta G. Seabury Dresser
Lent by Dorothea Reves
Photograph by James Notman Studio, 270 Boylston
Street, Boston

  Picture

Horatio W. Dresser and his children, Dorothea and
Malcolm

Lent by Dorothea Reeves

  Picture

Alice M. Reed Dresser and Horatio W. Dresser
Lent by Dorothea Reeves
Photograph stamped "Macy's" and dated by hand 7-9-35

Healing Hypotheses

 

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[Republished here through the courtesy of Anderson-Whitehouse Process New Thought.]

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