by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
Dr. Quimby claims to teach the Science of Happiness. It may be denied that there can be such a science; let me attempt [to] prove that there can be, and is.
That happiness is what men have long sought for but never found, all will admit. Why has it never been found? Because obstacles that cannot be overcome are constantly in the way. If the obstacles can be removed and the path shown plainly, is not the end demonstrated? And is not a demonstration scientific?
But it will now be urged, that obstacles never can be removed; they are one of the inevitable conditions of our finite existence. Mysteries surround us which it is impossible to unravel as well as presumptuous to attempt. In short we are told that evil always has existed and always will exist and that therefore perfect happiness is an impossibility.
It will not I suppose be denied that perfect wisdom would bring perfect happiness. It is equally evident that as we acquire wisdom, happiness follows. All who admit the existence of a superior intelligence admit its power to annihilate evil; who is to limit the development of man’s intelligence? Are we not made in the image of God, and as we increase in wisdom and goodness, do we not become like him? Therefore with the same wisdom would not the same happiness follow?
Let us now look into those obstacles which we are told can never be overcome. I. The belief in death is one great source of terror and misery. II. To offset this belief we are told that although the body dies, the soul still lives, and if redeemed it leaves this world of sin and sorrow to take its flight to realms of bliss where innocence and beauty reign. This idea, which at best can be only vague and uncertain is the fruitful source of excitement, and illness consuming, the physician takes the case, and this brings us to the third great obstacle to happiness. III. Perhaps no one evil is more extensively spread, and yields a more immediate and apparent harvest of suffering, than disease. There are almost as many kinds of diseases as there are patients, and physician’s principles, like all other lies, are capable of being adapted to the demand. But death, religion and disease are not the only evils that bar the path to happiness. Out of the same material of which these are composed are formed ideas of lesser magnitude, which though not so conspicuous and leading in their character, yet, like a venomous insect, are capable of inflicting extreme torture and are perhaps quite as dangerous from not being so easily apprehended. IV. These ideas are such as spring from social intercourse when human nature is not understood. They are to be seen in the relations of members of families to each other, in friendship, in business and in politics, in love and marriage, in short, in all the relations in which human beings stand to one another. And is it to be said that all these evils are never to be removed? It can do no harm to believe that they can be removed and this theory proves that it can be done intelligently.
Dr. Quimby asserts that there is no such thing as death. We are taught that the brain is the seat of the intellect, that the organs possess life, and that the body contains within itself the principle of life. Thus we locate the man in the body and believe him to be a part of it. The body is matter formed according to a certain belief, and as such is liable to death. When, therefore, the body dies it is plain that the soul dies also. The doctrine that he survives as a soul is an opinion only, and like every other opinion may be questioned.
Dr. Quimby divides man into the natural and the scientific man. The natural man dies and the scientific man is found never to die. The natural man is matter; the scientific man is wisdom. The natural man argues by opinions, the scientific man reasons scientifically; that is he proves his points. The natural man is of ignorance and error, which are liable to death; the scientific man is truth which is everlasting. When, therefore, a man is “born again” he can never die. He then uses matter as a medium and makes himself manifest through it. Thus death is annihilated and remembered as an opinion only, which man was too ignorant to see beyond.
The other world, to which we are taught that we shall go, is a belief. The soul is also a belief and as this is something that cannot be seen with our eyes, we are told that it is a spirit. These ideas, which are acknowledged to be mysteries, make people nervous and they give rise to religious excitement, the evil of which cannot be exaggerated. As a weapon with which to enforce obedience to moral laws, people are taught that there is a place of torture to which the wicked shall go, and thus every man is at the mercy of whoever is shrewder than himself. The belief in another world constitutes the basis of religion as represented by creed and is used, sometimes ignorantly and sometimes not, as a means of torment to the ignorant.
Dr. Q. does not accept opinions as truths, for he says that from that false step spring all our troubles. He does not teach the existence of a heaven independent of ourselves, and place to which we exile our friends as dead under the assumption that happiness is there to be found. He teaches that heaven is the happiness which flows from a good act and that therefore we have heaven always within our reach. And the God who rules all things is wisdom which is always in the world, though, in our ignorance we know it not. In like manner hell is the misery which follows a bad act; therefore hell is to be avoided and heaven to be gained by the possession of truth. This truth Jesus came to impart and from this truth were to flow health and happiness.
Disease comes within the senses of all, for there are few who have not experienced it and none who are not liable to it. We are taught that the body may become diseased from material causes, and that when the disease arrives at a certain point, the patient will die. This Dr. Quimby regards as an opinion, and asserts on the contrary that the disease does not lie in the body, but in the mind; that the causes of disease, far from being material, are to be sought for in the world of thought, and furthermore that the chemical change we call death is not brought about by any condition of the body.
Dr. Q. does not deny any phenomenon of the body but he does deny any explanation that is given of it. He does not for an instance dispute that a person may suffer and feel sick, but he does deny that the cause of this suffering is to be found in the body. If a person goes to a physician and describes his symptoms, he is told that he has a certain disease, for instance, consumption. Let the same person go to Dr. Quimby. Instead of the patient telling the Dr. how he feels, the Dr. himself takes the patient’s feelings and tells him what they are. The Dr. then reasons thus: before I sat by this man I had no such feelings as I have now. I was then well and consumption cannot have taken hold of me so quickly as this. It is proved therefore that one person may have the symptoms without having the disease. Why may not another? Since then the physician’s explanation is disproved, viz: that certain symptoms prove the existence of a certain disease, Dr. Q. proceeds to give his own which is as follows.
It will be necessary first to define some words to which a variety of meanings are attached. By mind Dr. Q. means whatever of our natures may be changed, thoughts, opinions, ideas, etc. This he calls spiritual matter, matter because it can be changed, spiritual because it cannot be seen. By intelligence he refers to truth or wisdom, all of these terms which he uses synonymously. As it is necessary for us to have a name for everything that exists, he calls this substance or a solid. Matter he defines as the raw material in which there is no life nor action. He sometimes calls ignorance matter; they are the same in this sense, that to perfect wisdom both are nothing.
All sensation is in the mind. Everything goes to prove this, while the contrary position is a pure assumption. If a man’s arm is cut off does the arm ache? On the contrary is it not often the case that after a limb is amputated the same sensation exists as before the amputation? Thus proving that sensation is not in the body. But it is now urged that even if sensation be in the mind, the body can become diseased and the mind affected even to its destruction.
Dr. Q. admits the existence of a supreme intelligence and in reasoning he never ignores the fact that this intelligence is supreme. If then this wisdom is all powerful, can it be affected by matter beyond its own will? Can the weaker control the stronger? An intelligence that is supreme must control matter and in it all things must live, move and have their being. If then these premises are true which all Christendom admits, it follows that the fountain of life and action lies in intelligence. Every phenomenon in the natural world takes its rise in the spiritual world, and is a shadow, so to speak, of that which we cannot see. The causes of disease then, far from being in the body, which is mere inanimate matter, are to be sought for in the mind, which is the machinery by which intelligence moulds matter for its own use.
If then the causes of disease lie “in the mind,” the disease itself must also be there. Does not the fountain contain the river? The seed, the tree? Is not every answer involved in its question and does not every cause contain its effect? Furthermore can matter, which is nothing, contain disease which is something?
Since disease and its causes are in the mind, it is plain that remedies must be applied to the mind, and not to the body, which merely, as it were, illustrates the mind. If a picture which illustrates an author’s idea be destroyed, no one would claim that the idea which gave birth to the picture was destroyed. The cause, on the contrary still exists, and with material another picture can be made similar to the first. So is disease. If that phenomenon apparent in the body which physicians call disease be removed, the patient does not necessarily recover. The true disease still exists and seeks another way in which to show itself.
In curing a person it is often necessary to explain how the disease is produced. Dr. Q’s explanation is this.
In searching after wisdom man gives birth to and meets with ideas which represent either errors or truths. A U. S. one dollar bill for ex. represents so much value: this value we call a truth. A wrong idea may be compared to a counterfeit bill. These ideas to which I refer affect us according to their own character to our belief in them. For instance: If we have a $1 U. S. bill and believe it good and act upon that belief all is right, while on the contrary, if we have a counterfeit bill which we believe good and attempt to pass it we find ourselves in trouble. A currency represents our food and drink in the natural world, so ideas represent our spiritual food and drink, and that both should be genuine is evidently desirable. Society is full of ideas on the subject of disease. Every tree must be known by its fruits and the fruit of the prevailing ideas of disease are apparently in almost every person we meet. A perfectly healthy person is scarcely to be found, and disease is increasing with alarming rapidity. Yet physicians have always had undisputed sway.
But I shall be asked to prove that ideas do affect us. If one hears of the death of a friend, is not the system affected according to one’s grief? Is not the frame convulsed and do not tears flow? Or perhaps a rigid stupor seizes the body and every effort to break the spell is unavailing. Who will deny that this is an effect of an emotion of the mind? “Oh but,” it is urged, “that is a different case from sickness. We all know that a person by exposure is liable to suffer and be sick.” Dr. Q. admits that this is the fact, and that a person usually does pay the penalty of such exposure; but that the cause of his illness lies in the smallest degree in that to which he exposes himself, the Dr. denies. The Dr. says that the cause of his disease is in his own belief. If for instance a person believes that he is liable to take cold on exposure, that belief produces fear. Fear contracts the muscles, and that waste of the system, which in a relaxed and healthy state of the person, passes off naturally, now remains. This must be got rid of in some way and perhaps coughing is the means that nature provides. But a cough, says the physician, indicates disease or a liability to it; and he at once proceeds to put restrictions on the person. These serve to increase the patient’s fear and fill his mind with a thousand speculations all based upon the belief that disease is something independent of himself which he cannot control. A person in this state is ripe for any disease a physician may select. When that person began to cough, if the truth could have been explained to him, viz: that an excitement had been produced on his system which was passing off by means of a cough, no fears would have been created, but a quiet condition often would have been maintained and the excitement would have passed harmlessly away. Some may say that this person is made sick by imagination. Were there real trouble it could not be so easily removed. When a case baffles the physician’s skill, it is a favorite explanation of his to say that the patient has no disease. Imagination is the only cause of the trouble, and the patient is abandoned with this consoling reflection that his illness is his own fault and he might get well if he chose. This is the charity and liberality of the Science of Medicine. That its mission is of the earth. Earthly, is in no way more plainly proved than by such bigotry.
It would require a volume to take up all the ideas which affect disease and which in curing Dr. Q. is often obliged to explain. This is the reason why he so often talks upon subjects that seem to the patient to have no connection with the disease.
All ideas affect us according to the direction given. Their influence may come within our senses or may not. That we are not conscious of it is no proof that we are not affected. It is the hidden and unseen influences with which Dr. Q. mostly deals and to bring these to light and explain them is the object of his practice.
[Editor's Note: This is one of thirty-seven articles written by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby that I recently rediscovered, personally transcribed from the original handwritten documents, and published for the very first time in Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond. This article is not found in any previously published "collected works" of Quimby's writings.]
This month's issue of Science of Wisdom is devoted to an introduction for a book Phineas Parkhurst Quimby was working on shortly before his transition. The date of May, 1865 is significant in that it coincides with the timeframe that P. P. Quimby closed his healing practice in Portland, Maine, and returned to his home in Belfast, Maine, for the purpose of editing his writings for publication.
In a newspaper announcement of Phineas Quimby's departure from Portland the writer states: "He goes from us to have a summer vacation at his home in Belfast, and with the intention of publishing his ideas at some future time, and also with the idea of treating disease publicly, when he feels that the people are ready for such a course."
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In Wisdom, Love and Light,