The Philosophy of P. P. Quimby

Chapter 2 — EXTRACTS FROM THE PRESS, 1857-65.

IT may now be of interest to the reader, before considering a more detailed account of Dr. Quimby's philosophy and practice, to learn what was said of him by those who made the first attempts to describe his work among the sick. The selections are made from a series of newspaper articles, dating from 1842, many of which are testimonials of the wonderful cures wrought among people of all classes, and including disease in its worst forms, such as lameness, deafness, blindness, etc. It is not to be expected that such articles would do justice to Dr. Quimby's teaching, nor that the writers had more than a faint glimmering of the scope and value of his work, Yet they are interesting as showing the high opinion of him held by those whom he had restored to health, and who were eager to put his ideas before the world.


A gentleman of Belfast, Maine, Dr. Phineas P. Quimby, who was remarkably successful as an experimenter in mesmerism some sixteen years ago, and has continued his investigations in psychology, has discovered, and in his daily practice carries out, a new principle in the treatment of diseases.

All medical treatment of previous schools deals with the effect, and not the cause, —treats the disordered body, and not the mind which is the active agent of that disorder. It is universally acknowledged that the mind is often the cause of the disease, but it has never before been supposed to have an equal power in overcoming it.

His theory is that the mind gives immediate form to the animal spirits, and that the animal spirit gives form to the body, as soon as the less plastic elements of the body are able to assume that form. Therefore, his first course in the treatment of a patient is to sit down beside him, and put himself en rapport with him, which he does without producing the mesmeric sleep.

He says that in every disease the animal spirit, or spiritual form, is somewhat disconnected from the body, and that, when he comes en rapport with a patient, he sees that spirit form standing beside the body, that it imparts to him all its grief and the cause of it, which may have been mental trouble or shock to the body, as over-fatigue, excessive cold or heat, etc. This, of course, impresses the mind with anxiety; and the mind, reacting upon the body, produces disease.

In the case of a young child, one might say, "Surely, here the mind can have nothing to do with the disease." But not so. If a child coughs, its mind is cognizant of it, and dreads it, as he would dread the fire that has just burned him; and that dread increases the tendency to cough, and thus the disease is produced.

With this spirit form Dr. Quimby converses, and endeavors to win it away from its grief; and, when he has succeeded in doing so, it disappears, and reunites with the body. Thus is commenced the first step towards recovery.

This union frequently lasts but a short time, when the spirit again appears, exhibiting some new phase of its troubles. With this he again persuades and contends until he overcomes it, when it disappears as before. Thus two shades of trouble have disappeared from the mind, and consequently from the animal spirit; and the body has already commenced its efforts to come into a state in accordance with them.

Dr. Quimby says that there is no danger from disease when the mind is armed against it. That he will treat a person who has the most malignant disorder without danger to himself, though his sympathy with the patient is so strong that he feels in his' own person every symptom of the disease; but he dissipates from his mind the idea of it, and induces in its place an idea of health.

He says the mind—the thinking principle—is what it thinks it is, and that, if it contends against the thought of disease, and creates for itself an ideal form of health, that form impresses itself upon the animal spirit, and through that upon the body, that his understanding is a positive power, and aids the spirit, which is not strong enough in itself to contend against the idea of disease.

Of course, I have given but the barest outline of this theory, which opens a new field full of interest and beauty to the lover of psychology. To many minds it would seem speculative and fantastic, were it not substantiated by cures so remarkable as to seem almost miraculous.

Indeed, Dr. Quimby asserts that he believes nothing but what he sees,—that he is unaided by any powers of reasoning.

He practises in a comparatively narrow sphere with rare simplicity, and has done nothing to call the attention of the public to his system; but it seems to me to be founded upon true philosophical principles, and to be deserving of a wide acceptance.

Bangor (Me.) Jeffersonian, 1857.

The following was written by a lady whom Dr. Quimby had cured during the first year of his practice in Portland, and who had become very much interested in his ideas:—


Of all subjects affecting the happiness of mankind, health stands foremost in importance; for without it little can be enjoyed and nothing effected, Why, in the design of an overruling Providence, so many are innocently condemned to be miserable invalids, to annihilate their existence is useful beings, and yield up their lives to disease, are questions continually recurring to the sick, rendering life more a mystery to them even than to the well. Notwithstanding the advancement that has been in the science which is intended to lessen suffering and prolong life, still the signs of the times would indicate that the wave of disease will swell with the increasing tide of new generations. Every person's experience teaches him the value of health, so that its consideration occupies a large share of individual attention; and each person has a standard of his own by which he endeavors to preserve it.

Theories, rules, and opinions are just as good as their effects show. If we can keep our health good by applying our own rules, well and good. If not, we need help. Every theory admitting evil as an element cannot annihilate it. If disease is ever driven out of existence, it must be by a theory and practice entirely at variance with what we now put our trust in.

There are those who indulge in the belief that humanity contains the principles of self-perfection, and that there is in every person a power superior to reason or education, by which sciences are discovered and miracles effected. This principle is not recognized as a natural capacity in man; but its appearance is generally considered as an exclusive gift, and its possessors are geniuses and sorcerers. Both are judged by their works to have a power not allotted to the masses, and their explanation places them in one of the above classes.

In every age there have appeared individuals possessing the power of healing the sick and foretelling events, Their theory or explanation veils this power in superstition and ignorance, so that the world is not enlightened in regard to where it comes from or how it operates. We only know the effects. Spiritualists, mesmerists, and clairvoyants, making due allowance for imposition, in later times have proved that this power is still in existence,

Like this in the vague impression of its character, but infinitely beyond any demonstrations of the same intelligence and skill, is the practice of a physician who has been among us a year, and to whose treatment some helpless invalids owe their recovered health. I refer to Dr. P. P. Quimby. With no reputation except for honesty, which he carries in his face, and the faint rumor of his cures, he has established himself in our city, and by his success merits public attention. Regarded by many as a harmless humbug, by others as belonging to the genus mystery, he stands among his patients as a reformer, originating an entirely new theory in regard to disease, and practising it with a skill and ease which only come from knowledge and experience. His success in reaching all kinds of diseases, from chronic cases of years' standing to acute diseases, shows that he must be practising upon a principle different from what has ever before been taught.

His position as an irregular practitioner has confined him principally to the patronage of the sedulous and the desperate; and the most of his uses have been those which have not yielded to ordinary treatment. Those only who have been fortunate enough to receive benefit from him can have any appreciation of the interest which the originality of his ideas excite, and of the benefit, when understood, which they will be to society.

To attempt to describe his mode of treatment to the well would be like offering money to an already wealthy man; while the sick person, who is like one cast into prison for an unjust debt, can feel the force of his system. With a sympathy which the sick alone call forth, and a knowledge which he proves alone to hem, he leads an invalid along the path to health. His power over disease arises from his subtle knowledge of mind and its relation to the natural world, to which subject his attention was turned some twenty years ago by mesmerism.

His investigation in this region, hitherto unsatisfactorily explored, has developed in him a clairvoyant faculty, which he exercises with his reason and natural senses, and has yielded to him facts which he explains upon a principle admitted, but little understood, educing there from a theory of universal application by which he cures diseases.


Portland (Me.) Advertiser, February, 1860.

From an article in the Lebanon (N.H.) Free Press of Dec. 3, 1860, we quote the following : -

... It is here Dr, Quimby stands, his explanations and his cures go hand in hand. While his senses are penetrating the dark mystery of the experience of the sick, he is in complete possession of his consciousness as a man. Not fearing to investigate the operation of the mind, he penetrated the region where but few have dared to venture; and, going far beyond others in his experiments, he arrived at the knowledge of the principle regulating happiness.

Therefore, his curing disease is perfectly intelligent, and is in itself a new philosophy of life. The foundation of his theory, regarded simply as a belief, is that disease is not self-existent, nor created by God, but is purely an invention of man, Yet it is so firmly established in our belief, and substantiated by so much wisdom, that its existence as an independent identity is never questioned. In his treatment he makes a complete separation between the sufferer and the sickness. For the latter he has no respect ; and, while he is battling and destroying the faith or belief of which it is made, he respects the intelligence of the patient, which he leaves free and unchained.

The following article was written by a young lady whose mother had been restored to health after being given up as incurable by the doctors, and having been unable to use her voice for three years. The young lady had also recovered her health under Dr. Quimby's care :


One of the noticeable characteristics of the present time is a growing distrust in the virtue of medicine as in itself able to cure disease; and this state of the public mind, this demand for some better mode of treating the sick, has either created, or finds ready, an army of new-school practitioners of every possible kind, some sincerely desirous of doing good, and firmly believing what they profess, while others are only too willing to impose upon credulity, and benefit themselves thereby. Under such circumstances it would be extremely difficult for a true reformer, who not only sees the errors of the past and present, but dares to take entirely different views even of the origin of disease, to acquire for himself a reputation distinct from the many who also profess to have advanced far in the new paths they have chosen, though, in reality, having started from the same point that all others have in times past, they will in the end arrive at nearly the same conclusions. Even great success in the practice of his theory might for a time be insufficient to establish public confidence, and prevent his being ranked with all the innovators of the day.

Many people who have lost faith in the ancient school are at the same time startled by such reasoning as Dr. Quimby uses with regard to disease. It is so contrary to the commonly received opinions, they hardly dare believe there can be any truth in it. They hear of remarkable success in his practice, but are then still more incredulous, and say, "The age of miracles has passed away, and this is too much to believe." But "seeing is believing," the proverb says ; and, after having an opportunity to see some of the remarkable effects which Dr. Quimby has had upon obstinate cases of long-standing disease, they are compelled to yield, though it may be reluctantly, that there is living truth in his principles, that he has cast off the shackles of opinion which would narrowly enclose the limits of investigation, and, studying the mysterious workings of the mind, discovered there the true explanation of that which has so long been misunderstood and unsatisfactorily accounted for. They came to him suspicious, almost unwilling to believe what they saw, ignorant of his theory, which, even after it was explained, they found difficult to understand, and therefore had to go through with this process of gradual conviction before they would receive its truths. So it may be said that he has to contend with those who would be his friends as well as his enemies.

The following outline of his theory was written after having passed through similar change of feeling, and may give some general idea-though very imperfect one-of the principles which are a effective in opposing disease:

According to this new theory, disease is the invention of man. It is caused by a disturbance of the mind,-which is spiritual matter,-and therefore originates there.

We can call to mind instances where disease as been produced instantly by excitement, anger, fear, or joy. Is it not the more rational conclusion that disease is always caused by influences upon the mind rather than that it has an identity, comes to us, and attacks us ?

Living in a world full of error in this respect, and educated to believe that disease is something we cannot escape, it is not strange that what we fear comes upon us. We take the opinions of men, which have no knowledge in them, for truth. So we all agree to arbitrary rules with regard to our mode of life, and suffer the penalties attached to any disobedience of the same. These diseases or penalties are real to us through the result of belief.

It is reasonable to infer from these statements hat the only way to approach and eradicate disease must be through the mind, to trace the cause of this misery, and hold up to it the light of reason or disbelief in the existence of disease independent of the mind. Then the cloud which shadows us vanishes, as error always will when overpowered by the light of truth.

Dr. Quimby proves the truth of his belief by its daily works. The marvellous cures he is effecting are undeniable evidence of his superior knowledge and skill in applying it for the benefit of suffering humanity. He does not use medicine or any material agency, nor call to his aid mesmerism or any spiritual influence whatever, but works on scientific principles, the philosophy of which may be understood by the patient. Therefore, he is not only rid of the present trouble, but also to the liability to disease in the future.

Accepting this new theory, man rises superior to circumstances, Easily adapting himself to any necessity, free from all fear of disease, he lives a more simple, natural, and happy life. He is enabled to control the body, and make it subservient to his will instead of his being a slave completely at its mercy, which he will be if he allows that it is subject to disease. This truth is capable of extensive practical application in all the exigencies of life, and we learn to make constant use of it as we advance in knowledge. It helps us to place a just estimate upon everything, the value of life is enhanced; and, as we have more of this true knowledge in ourselves, we shall love and worship God, who is the source of all wisdom, more sincerely and intelligently.


Portland Advertiser, 1862.

The next article was also written by a lady whom Dr. Quimby had cured, and was published in the Portland Advertiser of March 22, 1862 :-


It is an ancient and time-honored custom for the educated classes to oppose every new thing that they cannot comprehend and account for. Being themselves the standard of intelligence, they deny every fact that does not come from the development of their own knowledge, and oppose en masse the possibility of intelligence coming from any other source than their researches, So when a question comes before the people, originating outside of their education, it meets every species of opposition, is misrepresented and abused in every possible shape before it reaches a successful stand. Therefore, to obtain a candid hearing for a subject not understood nor admitted by the world is impossible. Its first appearance will be mistrusted, and considered as an absurdity.

The experience of Dr, Quimby has not been an exception in this respect. Curing disease without medicine is looked upon as a humbug, and its advocates considered as visionary fanatics. Yet it comes forth again, claiming public respect and attention, He is misunderstood and mistrusted by many, because they class him among things which hold no respectable position in the world ; and the opposition which they, feel towards him arises from the mistaken character of their opinions. Some persons think he cures by power from the devil, and consequently have no respect for him, From their acquaintance with the aforesaid personage, they conclude that the doctor must be as wicked and powerful as he is ; and so they consider him a questionable character. This judgment is the basis of the prejudice that exists in the community against him. There are others, however, who are willing to allow him a hearing in explaining his way of curing.

Dr. Quimby claims that he cures disease under the guidance of a principle which, being understood, must set free the sick. Consequently, his system, as far as he carries it, is an intelligible one, and his position in regard to disease entirely new and original, Instead of treating the body as an intelligent organization with independent life, he finds the life and intelligence in the man who occupies it. His process reverses their relation to each other, making the visible form the shadow, while the everlasting substance is not seen in the natural world. His theory separates them, and brings to light the pure intelligence of man, letting it work in the world of matter as master, and not slave. From this standpoint he advocates the cause of the sick against the whole world; for everybody believes that the body is diseased, and the mind, or real man, is not affected, He says the voice of the sick is not heard in the world. It is what the well say about them that gets the public ear; while they, passive and helpless, are completely controlled by the influences coming from the knowledge of those whose duty it is to cure them. He also says the well know nothing of themselves about the sick, and consequently their judgment is uncharitable and fallible.  It is his duty to get the sick free from the charges made against them ; and this he does by a full knowledge of their feelings, which he takes upon himself. These feelings, which are the evidences against them, he explains in a way that destroys what they prove to the world.

Statements made by him to the sick have a strange sound, and need an explanation to render them intelligible; for he often tells a person he as no real disease, when nothing is plainer than that he has. Here comes in his peculiar belief, which to him is knowledge. He does not trace disease to a hidden or mysterious source, or no source at all, neither does he pay any respect to it s though it came from God. He refers it directly to man himself, under the dominion of errors invented by man, believed in as true, and of independent origin ; and to cure it intelligently and in the most beneficial way to mankind is to destroy the error on which it is based. Then he lifts disease from its pretended basis of truth, and places it on its proper basis of error. Consequently, in his reasoning, disease is not the ruling power; and he does not admit it except as a deception. In demonstrating this position, he comes in contact with prejudices which are as strong as our existence, and in many cases meets with opposition from the strong and bitter religious prejudices which are so common in the community. He cannot admit a disease and then cure it any more than a court can pronounce judgment on a criminal without trying the case.

Dr. Quimby gives the sick the same chance for their health as an indicted supposed criminal has for his life; and, if he, by analyzing his symptoms, can destroy the evidence of disease, then the patient is cured. In this he follows no track before trodden by man, and ventures into a field entirely unknown to regular physicians ; and hence he cannot be ranked with any association of practitioners.

He does not place disease upon the presumption that it is imagination, and, if a person would only think he was well, he would be so, The anguish of the body is as real as anything ; but it is not intelligent of itself, and is dependent on the construction of those who never felt it to receive a name and character determining the condition of the organs and the danger of the patient's life. He says the body does not act of itself, but is acted upon by its owner or some other outward influences; and it is the development of his principles to detect those influences and correct them when wrong.

With the sick the reverse is true in common belief. The body is sick, suffers, and dies ; and very little is known of the owner. To them the body is a cruel tyrant, the organs all conspiring, together or singly, to kill them. The lungs say he shall not have any air, the stomach refuses to give him food in peace, and there is a general confusion of threats and compromise. The body haggles and encroaches, man becomes cowardly, and is finally overcome, and gives up to whatever the body agrees upon; and disease gains the victory. And where is man? Where are his ambition, his self-respect, his power of taking care of himself? He has become a weak, complaining being that he would despise in the day of his health.  This is the being that Dr. Quimby cures; and, according as he restores to him a sense of his lost rights, and makes him feel that he is and ought to be master, just so the body ceases to be a tyrant, and becomes a servant, subject to his direction. Then, when it is asked by what power Dr. Quimby cures disease, it is answered, By the knowledge of the wisdom that gives man the control of his body, and the understanding of which produces health and happiness. Just according as man walks in the knowledge of this truth, he is wise and happy; but any deviation from it, admitting matter superior to man, creates an error, which really imprisons him.

Ages of education have condensed these errors into living facts, and now nothing is plainer to those who still are young than the inevitable approach of many sorrows and trials. To free the burden of life of one of its greatest evils, and prepare the way for greater works of the same plan, is the effect of the establishment of Dr. Quimby's system. In a brief communication like this it is impossible to do justice to a subject like this. Time will prove that his cures are wrought under a principle that must work out the redemption of mankind from disease; and his system will be found based on eternal principles, and as capable of being explained and understood as the science of astronomy and music.




Mr. Editor,- As you have given me the privilege of answering an article in your paper of the 11th inst., where you classed me with Spiritualists, mesmerizers, clairvoyants, etc., I take this occasion to state where I differ from all classes of doctors, from the allopathic physician to the healing medium.

All these admit disease as an independent enemy of mankind, but the mode of getting rid of it divides them in their practice. The old school admit that medicines contain certain curative properties, and that certain medicines will produce certain effects. This is their honest belief. The homoeopathic physicians believe their infinitesimals produce certain effects. This is also honest. But I believe all their medicine is of infinitely less importance than the opinions that accompany it.

I never make war with medicine, but opinions. I never try to convince a patient that his trouble arises from calomel or any other poison, but the poison of the doctor's opinion in admitting a disease.

But another class, under cover of Spiritualism and mesmerism, claim power from another world; and to these my remarks are addressed. I was one of the first mesmerizers in the state who gave public experiments, and had a subject who was considered the best then known. He examined and prescribed for diseases just as this class do now. And I know just how much reliance can be placed on a medium; for, when in this state, they are governed by the superstition and beliefs of the person they are in communication with, and read their thoughts and feelings in regard to their disease, whether the patient is aware of them or not.

The capacity of thought-reading is the common extent of mesmerism. Clairvoyance is very rare, and can be easily tested by blindfolding the subject and giving him a book to read. If he can read without seeing, that is conclusive evidence that he has independent sight. This state is of very short duration. They then come into that state where they are governed by surrounding minds.  All the mediums of this day reason about medicine as much as the regular physician. They believe in disease and recommend medicine.

When I mesmerized my subject, be would prescribe some little simple herb that would do no harm or good of itself. In some cases this would cure the patient. I also found that any medicine could cure certain cases if he ordered it. This led me to investigate the matter, and arrive at the stand I now take: that the cure is not in the medicine, but in the confidence of the doctor or medium.  A clairvoyant never reasons nor alters his opinion ; but, if in the first state of thought-reading he prescribes medicine, he must be posted by some mind interested in it, and also must derive his knowledge from the same source the doctors do.

The subject I had left me, and was employed by _____, who employed him in examining diseases in the mesmeric sleep, and taught him to recommend such medicines as he got up himself in Latin; and, as the boy did not know Latin, it looked very mysterious. Soon afterwards he was at home again, and I put him to sleep to examine lady, expecting that he would go on in his old way; but instead of that he wrote a long prescription in Latin. I awoke him, that he might read it; but he could not. So I took it to the apothecary's, who said he had the articles, and that they would cost twenty dollars. This was impossible for the lady to pay. So I returned, and put him asleep again; and he gave his usual prescription of some little herb, and she got well.

This, with the fact that all the mediums admit disease, and derive their knowledge from the common allopathic belief, convinces me that, if it were not for the superstition of the people, believing that these subjects, merely because they have heir eyes shut, know more than the apothecaries, they could make few cures. Let any medium open his eyes, and let the patient describe his disease, then the medicine would do about as much good as brown bread pills. But let the eyes be shut, and then comes the mystery. It is true they will tell the feelings, but that is all the difference.

Now, I deny disease as a truth, but admit it as a deception, started like all other stories without any foundation, and handed down from generation to generation till the people believe it, and it has become a part of their lives. So they live a lie, and their senses are in it.

To illustrate this, suppose I tell a person he has the diphtheria; and he is perfectly ignorant of what I mean. So I describe the feelings, and tell the danger of the disease, and how fatal it is in many places. This makes the person nervous, and I finally convince him of the disease. I have now made one; and he attaches himself to it, and really understands it, and he is in it soul and body. Now he goes to work to make it, and in a short time it makes its appearance.

My way of curing convinces him that he has been deceived; and, if I succeed, the patient is cured. As it is necessary that he should feel I know more than he does, I tell his feelings. This he cannot do to me, for I have no fears of diphtheria.

My mode is entirely original. I know what I say; and they do not, if their word is to be taken. Just so long as this humbug of inventing disease continues, just so long the people will be sick and be deceived by the above-named crafts.


Portland Advertiser, Feb. 13, 1862.

The following is one of the last public notices of Dr. Quimby's work previous to his departure from Portland:-

It is with feelings of surprise and regret that many of your readers receive the announcement, given in your advertising columns, that Dr. P. P. Quimby has determined to leave Portland, The doctor has been in this city for nearly seven years, and by his unobtrusive manners and sincerity of practice has won the respect of all who knew him. To those especially who have been fortunate enough to receive benefit at his hands,-and they are many,-his departure will be viewed as a public loss. That he has manifested wonderful power in healing the sick among us, no well-informed and unprejudiced person can deny. Indeed, for more than twenty years the doctor has devoted himself to this one object; namely, to cure the sick, and to discover through his practice the origin and nature of disease.

By a method entirely novel and at first sight quite unintelligible, he has been slowly developing what he calls the "Science of Health" ; that is, as he defines it, a science founded on principles that can be taught and practised, like that of mathematics, and not on opinion or experiments of any kind whatsoever.

Hitherto he has confined his efforts to individual cases only, seeking to discover in them what disease is, how it arises, and whether it may not, with the progress of truth, be entirely eradicated. The results of his practice have been such as to convince him that disease, that great enemy of our happiness, may be destroyed, and that, too, on grounds and by a method purely rational; and he goes from us not to abandon the cause, we are rejoiced to learn, but to enter a broader field of usefulness, wherein he hopes not only to cure, but, as far as he can, to prevent disease.

The path he treads is a new one and full of difficulties; but, with the evidence he has already given, in numberless instances, of his extraordinary ability in detecting the hidden sources of suffering, we are led to hope he may yet accomplish something for the permanent good of mankind. An object so pure and a method so unselfish must, when understood, claim the favorable attention of us all.  We bid him God-speed.


Portland (Me.) Advertiser, 1865.