The Quimby Manuscripts
Phineas Parker Quimby

(Edited H. W. Dresser, 1921)

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby


It is noticeable that Dr. Quimby holds very steadily to a few great ideas, those that yield a vision of the spiritual life in contrast with worldly matters. Thus we find him contrasting Science with opinion, the spiritual with the natural man, and the spiritual senses with bodily sensibility. He dwells without limit upon the superstitions to which the race has been subjected by priests and the bondages which are traceable to medical opinion. With endless repetition he classifies disease as an "error of mind" or "invention of man," showing how sensations or pains of minor import have been misinterpreted so as to generate such maladies as cancer and consumption. He is always tracing a patient's trouble to the particular beliefs, religious, social, medical, which have been accepted in place of realities. Thus his main interest seems to be to disclose the power of adverse suggestion, fear, error, ill-founded belief. His thought therefore seems to lack scope. He seldom takes his readers into the larger world of social problems. He draws few illustrations from history. Even when describing the inner life he passes by such subjects as poise, composure, serenity, spontaneity, and interior self-control; he does not analyze faith, inward guidance or receptivity.

Yet amidst this apparent narrowness he emphasizes certain characteristics which he believes to be universally verifiable, and it is for the reader to see their scope. Having learned, for example, the power of words or names, when associated with painful sensations and supported by medical authority, he passes to a study of the nature and origin of language; and in lengthy articles which we have not had space for he contrasts truth and error so as to show the difference between language as a human invention and that tongue which the spirit speaks, "the language of sympathy" understood by those who know the meaning of the "still, small voice." Having seen that the sick are slaves to those who pretend to heal them, he turns to African slavery and discourses at length on the Civil War, then in full progress, taking Lincoln and Jefferson Davis as types of men prominent in the struggle. So too he writes at length concerning aristocracy and democracy, and discovers in all human society the same typical forces which he finds in the inner life. Again, his knowledge of the inner life leads him to write on government, the standard of law, the origin of political parties, and the nature of patriotism. History is to him an enlargement of the conflict taking place within. Society becomes intelligible when we understand the forces operating upon man.

There are but few references to nature as the subject of study of the special sciences, although chemistry and mechanics sometimes figure by way of illustration. Physical substances are usually referred to from the point of view of the effects which people produce upon themselves through adverse suggestion, as in the case of medicines and poisons, or food associated with trouble-making opinion. But this is for the sake of acquainting man with the fact, never adequately recognized till Quimby's time, that because of the dominance of beliefs man is often more influenced by suggestion than by the actual qualities of foods, drugs and poisons. Quimby aims to show that through acceptance of prevalent beliefs man often lives in realms of shadows, subject to his own fancies, literally creating what he believes in. Before we can see things as they arc, as God meant them to be, we must learn what it is we think we see. The natural world is beset by appearances. The natural man knows nothing as he ought to know. What we need is a wholly different point of view. Then, in possession of true Science, we should be able to found the special sciences on Divine wisdom.

Matter is a term which Quimby uses in so many ways that some of his statements are scarcely intelligible. Matter is what appears before us in the physical world, without intelligence, inanimate; it can be condensed into a solid by mind-action, undergoes changes as the result of mental changes and responses in "the fluids" of the system; it is the natural man's mind, the stuff which ideas are made of, "an idea used like language to convey some wisdom to another," "the shadow of our wisdom," in which are all our beliefs, opinions, emotions; and so as "spiritual matter" or substance it is "an idea seen or not, just as

it is called out," and is compared to a belief or casket. "Matter which is seen is the condensation of the matter not seen, and the unseen matter is mind." "God, not being matter, has matter only as an idea." "God is not matter, and matter is only an idea that fills no space in Wisdom."

What is meant by this apparent confusion is that we should disengage our thought from matter altogether at times, in order to look upon life with the spiritual eye. If by the term "mind" you mean a vague, airy something without influence on the body, then Quimby shows that it is indeed substantial, that thoughts are things which take shape or condense and come forth in bodily manifestation. If by the word "spirit" you mean anything as indefinite as spiritists believe in, he points out that spirit too is substantial, is alive, not "dead." But when you realize what he means by "substance" your thought has travelled far from material things to the thought of God, in whom is no matter at all, who manifests Himself through matter as a mere vehicle or language. "There is no such thing as reality with God except Himself. He is all Wisdom and nothing else." "All will admit that God is not matter, for God sees all things. His sight penetrates the darkest places, and not a thing can be hidden from His sight." You must see the true Substance or "invisible Wisdom that can never be seen by the eye of opinion" before you can look forth upon the panorama of the world, beholding forms taking shape, coming and going at the behest of spiritual powers, The mind is the medium in which ideas are sown. Ideas, as distinct from one another as different kinds of seeds, grow like seeds, take to themselves character, and become known by their fruits. When the mind is disturbed, the disturbance is shown in the body as a result of sub-conscious processes and "chemical changes." Mind in relation to body is "spiritual matter" because it can be changed, is excited through fears, is always in process even when we sleep, is not intelligence but subject to it, and because it receives thought-seeds as the earth receives plant-seeds.

Sensation contains no intelligence in itself, but is a mere disturbance of the spiritual matter called "agitation," ready to respond to any direction given it by our suggestion. So pain is "in the mind," not in the hip, for example, not in any organ. It contains no intelligence, but might be wisely interpreted. Disease is due to the misconstruing of sensation or pain, it is due to a wrong direction of mind. Hence it is not an evil but an "error." It is not inflicted on us by God: God created man to be well, happy, free. The reflection or shadow on the body is what the doctors call disease. Our senses or life become imprisoned in the false direction of mind, as a result of "false reasoning." Dr. Quimby says that he sees both the reflection on the body, the symptoms diagnosed, and the original which casts the shadow, that is, the inward disturbance which might have been wisely interpreted. To cure disease is to (1) see its mental causes, (2) understand the false directions of mind or reasonings, (3) see the truth concerning health as a Divine ideal, (4) realize the great truth that the spirit is not sick; hence (5) to separate the true or "scientific" man from the man of opinion or error. This means undoing the "false reasoning" and learning what would have been the right interpretation of the first sensation or pain.

The senses give us a "knowledge of sensation, with or without Science." They have their spiritual counterparts, the true or "real" senses, not in and of matter. These are "light," "life," and are "in light," in contrast with the wisdom of this world (in darkness). The true senses constitute the real man or spirit, the child of God. They are larger than the natural man or body. Hence they are not "in" the body. They include our higher consciousness, clairvoyance or intuition, with the inner impressions coming to us independently of the brain. Thus we have discernment of objects at a distance, we behold spiritual events, conditions, states; we detect "odors" or mental atmospheres at a distance. Through these senses we have immediate access to Divine wisdom and love. They include the feminine side of our nature, the receptivity or higher love. In brief, they yield Science or "the Christ within." Through this priceless possession man is able to make Divine wisdom manifest in spiritual healing.

Science or Truth is fundamental knowledge of this our real nature, with its inner states and possibilities. It is light in contrast with the wisdom of the world. It is harmony in contrast with disease or discord. It corrects all errors, holds no doubts, proves all things, explains causes and effects. It is Divine

wisdom "reduced to self-evident propositions." It is the basis of all special branches of knowledge - when those other sciences are rightly founded. It is Christ, the wisdom of Jesus. It is in all, accessible to all. We all become parts of it in so far as we discern real truth. In fact, Quimby often says the real man "is" Science. In contrast with it, the body is only a "tenement for man to occupy when he pleases."

Jesus was the man who brought the true light or Christ to light. Christ was His religion, the God in Him. It is the sympathy "which annihilates space." It separates Truth from error, Wisdom from opinion. "Christ is that unseen principle in man of which he is conscious, but which he has never considered as intelligence." It is in reality the basis of all true intelligence. It is Wisdom reduced to practice so that it is made tangible or visible in the concrete things of life. More than that, it is the real man in us all, the spiritual self or ego. To be a disciple of Jesus is not only to realize the Christ within as an individual possession, but to put this wisdom into practice in daily life. The New Testament, rightly understood, is the great book of life. We might read the Bible, as indeed we might read the human heart, if we began with the Christ, if we had overcome bondage to the wisdom of the world. To overcome this servitude is to become spiritually free.

God is an eternal and everlasting Essence without matter or visible form. This eternal Wisdom spoke the idea "matter" into existence and everything else that man calls life. The original language was not then the invention of man but was God, sympathy, going forth into expression in the human heart and the world. Man invented language to some extent, but because he had lost the original and was not content to live by Divine guidance: he invented language to "explain his own wisdom." But language might be used to undeceive. Even now the language of sympathy is the language of the sick. What we need is intuition to read that language, according to Divine guidance. Quimby is a great believer in the guidance of the moment, the inward light which shows where a patient stands, what the needs are, what wisdom is needed to clear away the errors. He emphasizes guidance as wisdom, rather than "power." He claims no special "power" and maintains that any one can learn to read the original language.

This language discloses man's true identity or inner consciousness. Man, to be sure, has as many identities as he has directions of mind. But these are transitory. We "attach our senses" to that which we take to be real for the time being, we are imprisoned in certain directions of mind through our "false constructions" or errors. The great point is to observe the central contrast within the, self, between (1) the mind of opinions, man's natural mind, subject to suggestion, changeable like plastic substance, amenable to falsities "the mind of the flesh;" and, (2) the mind of the scientific man, accessible to Divine truth, possessing an intelligence which does not change, "the Christ within." There is need of the most clear-cut distinction between the two. Divine truth can accomplish great results in us, far more than the mere "power of thought." A fundamental change can be wrought by making this incisive distinction, through intuition or "clairvoyance," by direct openness to Divine wisdom. Then error or darkness will be dispelled.

Again, there is a great contrast between the natural and spiritual worlds. For the moment, in some of Quimby's critiques on religion, the "other world" seems to have disappeared, and there is apparently nothing left but a collection of beliefs. But this is because Quimby is chiefly concerned with man's religious belief in a supposed other world as a place of punishment or mere beatitude; because he is convinced that Jesus did not refer to the same sort of "world" which the Jews believed in. Man must first see that his theological heaven or hell is an region created for him by his religious creed, peopled by his own fancies or made vivid by his own fears. The two worlds thus far are in man's mind and nowhere else. Jesus came to destroy both the world of opinion and the "other world" of theology, that He might reveal the Christ within. But once aware that our "other world" is non-existent, we are ready for the profound truth that all phenomena appearing in the natural world are manifestations of the spiritual world, or world of causes. To attain this vision is no small accomplishment, for it means total victory over all conventional ideas of death, with all its terrors, its supposed decisiveness for salvation and everything else which theology has invented.

The Bible, strange as it may seem, "has nothing to do with theology." It is a scientific explanation of cause and effect, showing how man must act and think for his happiness. It is a study of contrasted elements, such as Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Moses and Aaron, Saul and Paul, Law and Gospel, tares and wheat. It was never intended as a religious book according to the opinion of the world. As a book it "contains no intelligence of itself," but Intelligence is in it. That is to say, it contains what Swedenborg called "the Word." Had Quimby been acquainted with Swedenborg's "Arcana Coelestia," he would have found a completely worked out science of spiritual correspondences which he would have been inclined to accept at once in principle, although his teachings concerning Jesus are not those of Swedenborg concerning the Lord. His writings contain long articles based on his endeavors to interpret the Scriptures spiritually to his patients. Further than that his exegesis did not go. But he went far enough to set the example followed by Christian Scientists and New-Thought devotees to the present time. He had at least the ideal of a spiritual Science which should be its own evidence, which any one might verify by seeking out the Word.

Religion in the true sense was to Quimby a Science which can be applied for the happiness and health of man here and now. To be religious is to be "more than the natural man." It yields that wisdom which can say to the sick and palsied man, Stretch forth thine hand, and I will apply the Christ or Science and restore it. Naturally enough, Quimby is not interested in the question of sin, and he hardly ever uses the word "evil." For him it is all a question of ignorance or error. There is neither ignorance nor error in Science, hence no sin or evil. The problem of evil differs in no way from that of disease. Therefore Quimby says nothing about repentance and regeneration. Man already is good in reality. He is Science. He becomes "a part of God" by accepting Divine wisdom as his guide. Quimby does not mean this in the sense of pantheistic submergence of individuality, but in the sense of intimate relationship with that "invisible Wisdom which never can be seen by the eye of opinion."

If, however, Quimby's spiritual exegesis might have been fulfilled in Swedenborg's science of correspondences, we find nothing in his writings pertaining to the realms of evil spirits and angels, and nothing that tells us what for him was the content of the spiritual world. He is not at all interested in psychical experiences except so far as they imply belief in the spiritism of the day, and he opposes this because he finds it fundamentally misleading. He does not raise the question whether there is anything real behind the phenomena, for his interest is to direct attention to the world of Science or "the Christ within." He is clairvoyant in high degree, but not as "mediums" are, not through self-surrender, but through openness to Divine guidance and intuition.

In one of his critiques of spiritualism, for example, Quimby puts to the typical spiritist the direct questions: "When I speak is it I or my spirit? If it is I, do I think also, and if I think when do I cease thinking? If I lose my organs of speech, etc. belonging to the body, where am I? Am I anything? If I am a spirit, when was I not one? How came I to be flesh and blood and then a spirit? I am either a spirit all the time or I am not, and if I am one what is the change called death, and what dies?" He goes on to say that if the spirit is not "dead" it cannot give an account of what is supposed to have happened, and if it does not "die" there is apparently no way to account for communications purporting to come from the "dead."

He protests, therefore, against the whole notion that the spirit is the mere thing a seance would make it out to be. Our real existence or selfhood does not change. True memory persists, for it is eternal, while memory attached to this existence "belongs to the idea, matter." Our real life is composed of light and wisdom, while matter is employed to work out our problems. We are spirits now even while in the flesh. In the spirit we do our real thinking, real living. Hence our real "future life" will have, continuity with this life according to the persistence of our most interior identity.

To realize what the spirit is now we should lift our thoughts into spiritual light, bringing together the various items of inner experience to make vivid our conception of the self with all its real or spiritual senses. We do not need to "die" to apprehend these apart from matter, for there never was any matter in them. They are from God or Wisdom. They are what give us visions of objects at a distance, disclosing the inner states of the sick, acquainting us with interior thoughts, revealing "odors" or atmospheres, in short, the whole sphere of the inner life.

A mesmerisers or spiritist medium has, in Quimby's description, but one identity; while he, Quimby, when clairvoyant has two. To have but one is to yield one's selfhood to a mysterious power or "spirit" without awareness of what is taking place. But if one has learned, as Quimby knew from long experience, that the real identity, self or spirit possesses these inner powers as a completely equipped being of intelligence, made in the Divine image and likeness, endowed with Divine wisdom as guidance, then one also has a secondary consciousness or identity which is aware of what is going on in the natural world and in man's natural mind.

So acute was Quimby's own intuition that in two of his descriptive articles he tells what he saw as if beholding reality itself, when sitting by patients who thought they were dying, and who visualized death by peopling the supposed future world according to their own belief. So vivid was his experience in one instance that he refers to evil spirits almost as if he were afraid of them, though speaking of them as mere creations in the world of opinion. That is, he saw the alleged future life with the eyes of his patient, knew that it was an alleged world simply, and that the patient's real world was still an unknown quantity to the patient himself. So he was in the habit of entering the thought-world of all his patients, to see how the situation appeared to the patient. He was able to do this with remarkable sympathy. But thereupon he would make the sharpest sort of distinction between this world of seeming reality and the true spiritual world of the Divine wisdom. A spiritist's world may be as full of error as a theologian's future state. Each world sends off its "atmosphere" which the intuitive can discern. We are not free until we make the same discrimination, noting the difference between the world we have been taught to create through error or belief and the world we might know through the inner disclosures of Wisdom.

The spirits most of us believe in are the shadows of our own imagination as surely as the ghosts supposed to haunt graveyards at night. Man should know that he lives in the world of his beliefs. "The whole error on which spiritualism is based is a belief in a world separate and apart from the living." We should learn that "belief separates, Wisdom unites." We should begin by learning, therefore, what the true basis of union is even here and now while we live with the flesh, when we communicate with the living. For the real world of the living is the same for all, whereas the world of mere belief is purely relative. Not until we have begun to grow in first-hand acquaintance with spiritual truth, not until we enter the world of Science do we know the one true spiritual world which exists for all. We might go on generating phenomena to the end of time, each in his particular world of Protestantism or Catholicism, Mormonism, reincarnationism and the like, and never arrive anywhere. The only way to arrive is to put a stop to the whole procedure, right about face and ask ourselves what we actually know, what the facts are, what that truth is which can be demonstrated like mathematics.

Dr. Quimby's great conviction is that there is a spiritual Science, superior even to the most exact of the natural sciences, which is the basis of all true knowledge and the source of all true wisdom. He is willing to be misunderstood, charged with putting down religion, making himself equal to Christ, classified as a mere mesmerist or in any other way if only he can make it clear that there is a straight pathway to this Science. So he frequently speaks of himself as a lawyer pleading the case of the sick in "the court of Science." In some of his longest articles he introduces the patient first, questioning her to show how little the patient really knows, then he summons the typical doctor, afterwards a typical minister, till the whole case is perfectly clear so far as the wisdom of the world is concerned. He speaks with entire fearlessness when exposing hypocrisy and sordidness. He proves that the sufferer has been victimized. Then when error has not a vestige of reality to stand upon he bespeaks "the Christ within" as manifesting real justice, true health and freedom.

It is impressively significant that Quimby never judges a case by affirming abstract perfection. The patient would not be free if he did not understand his own case, its causes and illusions. The doctor's verdict or the minister's diagnosis in terms of sin is as real to the victim as a spiritist's world to a believer in spiritism or the political world to a demagogue. We are all victims of some sort of demagogue, and must know this for a fact. Why then should we deny what we must understand in order to overcome our servitude? The patient realizes that he is entering an entirely new world when he finds his great healer so sympathetic that the healer puts himself absolutely in the patient's place, taking upon himself the burdens which doctors and priests have created. This wins the patient's confidence. Then he is astonished to find that the whole burden dissipates when the power of Quimby's Science is brought upon it.

This is the picture Quimby would have us bear away with our study of his writings. God or Wisdom is so very real that external forms are mere semblances put on to objectify His truth. We are not to think of the universe as the home of matter, as that in which God dwells; instead all things are in God as intimately as ideas are in the mind, all things are meant for good, all things are guided by Wisdom. This Wisdom is in us, we live in this Wisdom, and when we identify ourselves with His image and likeness the new birth will begin, we shall begin in very truth to live and think from Him. This Life within us will accomplish the work, as shadows disappear before the morning sun. This Wisdom will create the same true world in us all.

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