by Horatio W. Dresser
[Continued from last week.]
Here, then was a highly important discovery. Quimby found that with his great powers of concentration he had great success in arresting the attention of his subject. This in brief was his control over him. But if certain results follow from arrested attention in the case of a person in the mesmeric sleep, why may not self-induced results follow upon attention in the case of any one of us? Does this not explain many of the ancient mysteries, and the self-induced states of Apollonius of Tyana, Mahomet and Swedenborg?
At this point Quimby’s lecture-notes come to a sudden end, and we are left to infer that having reached these significant conclusions he was not interested to lecture upon them any further, but might better turn his results to practical account in healing the sick. For these notes show that here too he had reached the same conclusion which we noted in the foregoing, namely, that the results produced by physicians in treating the sick depend upon securing the attention of the patient in favor of a certain diagnosis and the proper medicine to be taken for the supposed disease. In fact he says, convincingly, that “all medical remedies affect the body only through the mind.” The one who takes medicine must believe in medicine and anticipate the desired result. The result is then created by the believer.
Here, then, were interests enough to follow for a life-time. The human mind is plastic to ideas and imagery, and these take form according to belief. What enlists the attention long enough to produce a distinct impression, has power to affect the body, and an idea accepted as truth is as good as reality in its influence upon the person believing it. Thus a person may be made to feel heat or cold, to be frightened by the mental picture of a lion, or be dispossessed of a desire to eat lemons. There is an endless range of possibilities. Belief in magnetism on the part of an audience tends to the production of anticipated magnetic phenomena, but the results change when the hypothesis of a magnetic or electric “fluid” is dismissed. Spirits can be summoned up from the vasty deep, or precisely the same results may be created without their aid. A patient will proceed to create a disease according to a doctor’s description of what he is likely to feel, or this process can be checked by diverting the attention in favor of some other idea.
Again, man has great power over his own states, and need not depend either on a mesmerist, a spiritist, physician or any other person. For strength of will proves to be, not the power of a fluid or current, but concentration upon an interest or object that has engaged the attention. There is nothing occult or uncanny in such power. There is no reason for yielding our minds to control, or for controlling the minds of others. Since a person may perceive the feelings of another by simply sitting nearby and rendering himself receptive, it is not necessary to put the mind into any special state, hitherto deemed a mystery. The great question is, What is that part of us which has power to penetrate beneath all errors and illusions, and learn what is true? What is truth in contrast with beliefs?
Quimby’s mind was of the type that leads to science as opposed to mere belief. He had come in contact with facts at last, and learned how the human mind works under the influence of suggestion. He sought one consistent explanation which could be followed through to the end and proved by practical experience. He took no interest in results following upon mere theories, such as those proposed by mesmerists and spiritists. There must be a deeper science than socalled medical science. Moreover, he was beginning to see that religious creeds were not much better. “What we believe, that we create.” What then shall we create that is worth while?
We might expect him to raise the world-old problem concerning the reality of matter, especially as he had heard something about Berkeley’s views. But he never mentions Berkeley again, after these notes of the period from 1843 to 1847. We might expect continued interest in such men as Swedenborg, but there is no reference to Swedenborg save this one, when it is a question of self-induced inner states. Quimby’s brief studies when in quest of light on mesmerism apparently convinced him that there was little of value for him in books, and that he must explore for himself. Moreover, spiritualism came upon the scene to take the place of mesmerism in public interest, he was concerned to follow this to the end, too; and he must make his way alone by following experience. To the end of his life, so far as his notes and manuscripts can tell us, he remained sceptical concerning spiritistic phenomena, and confined himself to a study of the experiences taking place within the human personality in this world. This did not prevent him from acquiring a new view of death and of the relationship of the human spirit to God. But after 1847 we find his eyes definitely turned in the direction which led to the development of his “Science of Health:”
With reference to the rumor current in his later years that his views were unchanged, Quimby writes in 1862, “As I used to mesmerise, some think my mode of treatment is mesmeric. But my mode is not in the least like those who claim to be mesmerised, or to be spiritual mediums.” Adding that he knows all about mesmeric treatment, after “twenty years” since he began the experiments which enabled him to see through it, he says that if he “had no other aim than dollars and cents,” he would close his eyes, go into a trance, tell the patient how he felt and call some Indian to prescribe by making out the patient “sick of scrofula or of cancerous humor or some other foolish disease,” and impress upon the patient the necessity of having medicine ordered by the spirits of his “own getting up.” That is, he sees through the whole game played by mesmerists and mediums who mislead the people and take their money. “If I should do this, I should do what I know to be wrong.” Instead, he tells his readers that he asks “no aid from any source but Wisdom. . . . Wisdom never acts in that way.”
Again, in October, 1861, Quimby writes: “It is twenty years since I first embarked in what was one of the greatest humbugs of the age, mesmerism. At that time the people were as superstitious about it as they were two hundred years ago in regard to witchcraft.”
What was the prime result of his investigations? That the human mind is amenable to suggestion, as we now say; that there are subjects capable of being put into a state which we now call hypnosis; and that the alleged magnetic, electrical or mesmeric effects are not mysterious at all, but are the results of the action of mind on mind. The alleged humbug was reduced to the operation of a principle to which we are all subject, the influence of thought. The supposed wonders of the clairvoyant state are capital instances of the activity of an intuition which we all possess. There is no such process as “mesmerism,” therefore. There is no “magnetic healing.” There is power of one mind to control another, to be sure, and this was surely remarkable in the case of Quimby and Lucius. But the clairvoyant or intuitive powers of Lucius were not generated in Lucius by Quimby these are latent powers of the human soul, and all minds have access to things, persons and events at a distance. All healing said to take place by mesmeric, spiritistic or magnetic influences occurs according to one principle: the only principle of healing in every instance whatever, natural and Divine, according to resident energies and unchanging laws. There could be no mesmeric or magnetic science of healing, any more than there exists a medical science: the one true science is spiritual. No one who sees this could ever be content to practise upon the credulity of the people, instilling suggestions into their minds under the guise of a “trance” or by the aid of hypnosis. Hence Quimby’s work from this time on was to expose what he called the deception practised by physicians, just as he exposed priestcraft, the humbuggery of mediumship, and the fallacies of every sort of imposition turning upon the acceptance of opinion for truth.
[This is the third installment of a four part series originally written and published as Chapter V. THE PRINCIPLES DISCOVERED, of The Quimby Manuscripts by Horatio W. Dresser. THOMAS Y. CROWELL COMPANY, 1921.—editor.]
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Today, we are moving forward in the next phase of Phineas Quimby’s personal development, with the third installment of The Principles Discovered, as outlined in chapter 5 of The Quimby Manuscripts, by Horatio W. Dresser in 1921.
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Horatio Willis Dresser, the first child of Julius Alphonso Dresser and Annetta Gertrude (Seabury) Dresser, was born on January 15, 1866, or the day before Quimby died. His parents first met, fell in love and then married while they were each patients of Dr. Quimby during the years of his healing practice in Portland, Maine.
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