Sign-up for our free weekly newsletter
Science of Wisdom

your name:
your email address:

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond

Buy it Here!

Healing Hypotheses

CHAPTER III
FOUNDATIONS OF NEW THOUGHT

1. Western Religious Healing before New Thought

"Nothing in the evolution of human thought appears more inevitable than the idea of supernatural intervention in producing and curing disease."1 One finds

power over disease claimed in Egypt by the priests of Osiris and Isis, in Assyria by the priests of Gibil, in Greece by the priests of Aesculapius, and in Judea by the priests and prophets of Jahveh.2 The physicians were priests, or rather the priests were physicians, for the religious aspect did not preclude the use of drugs, medicinal springs, diet, and even surgery.3

The concern here is with the distinctively religious modes of healing.

____________________________________________________________

1 Andrew D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1896), II, 1.

2 Ibid.

3 Paul Tillich, "The Relation of Religion and Health: Historical Considerations and Theoretical Questions," The Review of Religion, X (May, 1946), 358.

24   

Healing Hypotheses

There is no doubt that Christianity began with an emphasis on faith healing. Jesus healed many, and told them that their faith had made them whole. When people had no faith, He was limited in His healing activities. His cures were not miraculous in the pagan sense, however. He always connected the patient's faith with God, and bade those, whom He cured, to give thanks to the Father for His love and mercy towards them.1

However, "in the first three centuries of our era the Church increasingly lost the gift of spiritual healing.. . ."2 As more people became converted, or partly converted, to Christianity, the original faith became modified, as far as many understood it. "In many ways, the Church itself was captured by the paganism which it had attempted to destroy. . . ."3 Magic crept into the Church's healing, and superstition took the place of symbolism in the interpretation of Church practices.4

____________________________________________________________

1 George Gordon Dawson, Healing: Pagan and Christian (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1935), p. 159.

2 Leslie D. Weatherhead, Psychology, Religion and Healing (rev. ed.; New York: Abingdon Press, 1952), p. 79.

3 Dawson, op. cit. p. 162.

4 lbid.

Healing Hypotheses   

25

Obviously, much has to be omitted from this account. After 300, "spiritual healing languished for 1500 years."1 However, it was not lost completely.

Saints like St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), Martin Luther (1483-1546), St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552), George Fox (16241691), John Wesley (1703-1791), Father Matthew (1790-1856), Pastor Blumhardt (1805-1880) and Father John of Cronstadt (1829-1908) were all healers .2

As this list shows, healing has not been confined to the Roman Catholic Church. "Healings have taken place in connection with almost every Protestant community."3 Some of the most outstanding healings were those associated with an Irish Protestant, Valentine Greatrakes (1628-1683); his healings of such conditions as "grievous sores" and "cancerous knots" were authenticated by "the scientist and astronomer Flamsteed, the moralist Cudworth, and Bishops Patrick and Wilkins."4 Greatrakes is interesting not only as a layman in religious healing, but as a commoner. Before him,

for generations the healing touch was regarded as the property of kings. . . . The practice of the

____________________________________________________________

1 Walter W. Dwyer, (ed. Florence M. Hehmeyer), The Churches' Handbook for Spiritual Healing (4th ed.; New York: Ascension Press, 1960), p. 2.

2 Weatherhead, op. cit., p. 86.

3 Dawson, op. cit., p. 260.

4 Ibid., p. 261.

26  

Healing Hypotheses

king's touch faded with the removal of the Stuart line from the British throne. . . .1

After Greatrakes, "psychotherapy . . . could be dispensed by physicians and laymen as well as by kings and priests."2

It has been said that

in this transposition of faith from sovereign to subject, was a nodal point in the development of faith-healing. It was a visible phase in the investment of the psychotherapist with powers accepted almost universally as the attributes of divinity.3

In America, where there were less fixed lines of division of occupation and status, it may have been natural for healing to develop without much regard for the classification of those associated with it. Among religious groups with some relatively early American healing were the Shakers,, Mormons, and Perfectionists.4 However, it was outside of organized religion that the modern religious healing movement began, or at least was given an impetus that had waned within religion, as

____________________________________________________________

1 Bromberg, op. cit., p. 36.

2 Ibid., p. 37.

3 lbid., p. 37.

4 Georgine Milmine, The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science (New YorkDoubleday, Page & Company, 1909), Appendix C, and Charles Nordhoff, The Communistic Societies of the United States (New York: Hillary House Publishers, Ltd., 1961, originally 1875), pp. 289-99.

Healing Hypotheses

27

normally recognized. It was from mesmerism that there came the stimulus that led to the religious healing.

2. Magnetism and Mesmerism

i. Introduction

Since New Thought originated in the United States, it seems unnecessary to trace the long European history of its antecedent mesmerism in detail. However, a bit of this history may be helpful.

From at least the time of Thales, in the sixth century, B.C., there was speculation on the connection of magnetism and life. It came to be believed that there was a subtle magnetic fluid uniting all people with one another and with the heavenly bodies. It was maintained that one's life could be controlled through this field.

The most famous figure in the field that came to have his name was Franz or Friedrich Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). He made mesmerism fashionable and secured the attention of a French scientific committee. This group rejected the claims of a magnetic fluid, and attributed mesmeric phenomena to imagination. The importance of the production of physical effects by imagination was generally overlooked then. However, there was set up the question of fluid or imagination as the explanation of mesmerism. As the alternative name, animal magnetism, indicates, the nature of the subject was in doubt. Some upheld materialistic theories and others more idealistic ones. Recently discoveries regarding the importance of magnetism in relation to living systems and the recognition of nonmaterial fields as real in the realm of physics may leave the question unresolved, although in the

28  

Healing Hypotheses

twentieth century the fluid theory generally has been regarded as a thing of the past.1

Mesmerism reached the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century. This was before it received much medical recognition under the name of hypnotism. Some curative value was attributed to mesmerism, but this aspect of it was of less interest to many than the so-called higher phenomena of mesmerism; these were various parapsychological happenings brought about in connection with some mesmerized subjects. These phenomena included, it was reported, mind reading, sharing in the sensations of other people, seeing distant places or seeing through opaque materials wherever located, and, as part of this, diagnosing illnesses and prescribing remedies for them.

When Charles Poyen St. Sauveur came from France to the United States in the 1830's and spread the knowledge of mesmerism,2 various people took up the practice of mesmerism and speculated on its nature. Perhaps because philosophical idealism had not recovered from the Enlightenment and because most mesmerizers probably had no very great knowledge of philosophy of any sort, the theory that a fluid was sent between operator and subject was the most popular view. Most speculation seemed to be a matter of variation on this theme. Perhaps because Franklin's electrical experimentation had gained

____________________________________________________________

1 See the recent issue of Main Currents in Modern Thought consisting of various articles relating to possible electrodynamic or psychodynamic fields, XIX Sept.-Oct. 1962), 3-28, and collection of articles, "The Magnetic Family," Saturday Review XIV (Feb. 3, 1962) 39-47.

2 His account of himself may be found in introductory remarks in Charles Poyen, Progress of Animal Magnetism in New England (Boston: Weeks, Jordan & Co., 1837).

Healing Hypotheses   

29

widespread recognition, little-understood electricity was offered as a characterization of the nature of the fluid. Poyen was one who turned to electricity as this fluid after a consideration of mesmerism or animal magnetism. In his defense of the fluid, finding no "loss of any sensible matter"1 from the body when one sometimes becomes weakened, he suggests that there has been a loss of a

substance, extremely subtile and nice, a fluid, running over all his body intimately and deeply connected with his organs--a fluid that can be accumulated or lost through peculiar circumstances.2

After considering animals that are known to generate electricity, he concludes "that the nervous agent is of the same nature as the electric fluid."3

____________________________________________________________

1 Charles Poyen introduction to Report on the Magnetical Experiments made by the Commission of the Royal Academy of Medicine, of Paris, read in the Meetings of June 21 and 28, 1831, by Mr. [Henri Marie is written in a Boston Public Library copy] Husson, the reporter, translated from the French, and preceded with an introduction, by Charles Poyen St. Sauver (Boston: D. K. Hitchcock, 1836), p. xxxi.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid., p. xxv.

30

Healing Hypotheses

ii. John Bovee Dods

A man who followed in this train of thought was John Bovee Dods (originally Beaufils) (1795-1872).1 Probably he did not exert any significant influence on the development of New Thought, but Quimby knew of him and Dresser took note of his views.2 His importance in this study is found in his concluding that there is an intermediate something between mind and matter; this something he called electricity. The reason for its importance here is its impressing Dresser as reasonable. While Dods produced a system that was essentially materialistic, it struck Dresser favorably because of its emphasis on the importance of mind, as conceived by Dods, in the scheme. This reaction of Dresser shows his commonsensical attitude, which finally could not accept the identity of thought and existence, which became the position of Evans, who is to be considered after taking note of Quimby.

The fundamental observation of the Dods philosophy is that not all things are self-moving. Matter without the power of self-motion is on all sides. The explanation of movement is ultimately to be found in something called mind or spirit, which by definition is

____________________________________________________________

1 H. W. Schneider and Ruth Redfield, "John Bovee Dods," Dictionary of American Biography V, 353-54.

2 Horatio W. Dresser, Health and the Inner Life (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1906), pp. 21-22. See also Horatio W. Dresser note in Julius A. Dresser, The True History of Mental Science (rev. ed.; New York: The Alliance Publishing Co., 1899), p. 6 n. See also H. W. Dresser, Voices of Freedom New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1899), pp. 68-69, and H. W. Dresser, "A Forerunner of the Mental Cure," The Journal of Practical Metaphysics, (May, 1897), 226-29.

Healing Hypotheses

31

self-moving. This seems to be dualism. However, he rejects "the immateriality of the spirit, because that which is positively and absolutely immaterial"1 cannot have form and occupy space, an inconceivable situation for Dods, who maintains that

to talk of a thing having existence, which, at the same time has no form, nor occupies space, is the most consummate nonsense. Hence an immateriality is a nonentity--a blank nothing."2

Yet form seems to have some sort of reality for Dods apart from its embodiment; he regards mind as "living and embodied form."3

Dods calls electricity an "emanation of God,"and also says that it is "co-eternal with spirit or mind,"4 and "slumbered in the deep bosom of chaos."5

The existence of God is argued on the basis of "motion and the absolute perfection of the chain of elementary substances."6 Each progressively lighter sort of matter is "nearer motion than its grosser neighbor."7

____________________________________________________________

1 John Bovee Dods, The Philosophy of Electrical Psychology (New York: Samuel R. Wells, 1870, originally 1850), p. 102.

2 Ibid.

3 lbid., p. 103, omitting italics.

4 Dods, The Philosophy of Electrical Psychology, p. 54.

5 Ibid., p. 51.

6 Ibid., p. 103, omitting italics.

7 Ibid., p. 106.

32

Healing Hypotheses

Electricity is simply the something that is so rarified that it can be moved by mind. If mind is material, electricity is just the second highest form of matter. Both mind and electricity are imponderable, invisible, and coeternal.1 However, electricity provides such valuable clues to the nature of God and the problems of evil and freedom that it may deserve special stress.

If mind make use of electricity as its agent, then it must possess the voluntary and involuntary powers to meet the positive and negative forces in electricity. If this be not so, then the Infinite Mind cannot be the Creator and Governor of the universe; because it is by his voluntary power that he creates a universe, but it is by his involuntary power that he sustains and governs it.2 If the voluntary power of the Creator governed the universe, then no possible contingencies could happen--and nothing once commenced could ever perish prematurely.3

____________________________________________________________

1 Ibid., p. 108.

2 Ibid., p. 111. [Cf. the Troward-Holmes view of law, as in the Holmes definition of law: "The invisible mechanics of the universe pertaining to Mind, to Spirit or to physics. The Law of Mind in action used in mental treatment is intelligent but not volitional. The Law of Mind in action is a mechanical but intelligent reaction to the consciousness which sets it in motion." Ernest Holmes, New Thought Terms and their Meanings, (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1942), pp. 74-75.]

3 Ibid.

Healing Hypotheses   

33

Dods calls electricity "primeval and eternal matter."1 He also says that

substances, in their infinite variety, pay a visit to time, assume visible forms, so as to manifest their intrinsic beauties for a moment to the eye of the beholder, and then step back into eternity, and resume their native invisibility in their own immortality.2

However, his eternity apparently is not timelessness, for, without reference to Kant, he says:

There must be something eternal. God, duration, and space exist of philosophical necessity, and . . space was eternally filled with primeval matter. When I say that they exist of necessity, I mean that the contrary of space and duration cannot possibly be conceived.3

Matter would not be if it had not always been.4

Electricity

is the body of God. All other bodies are therefore emanations from his body, and all other spirits are emanations from his spirit. Hence all things are of

____________________________________________________________

1 Ibid., p. 123.

2 Ibid., p. 146.

3 Ibid., p. 123.

4 Ibid., p. 124.

34

Healing Hypotheses

God. He has poured himself throughout all his works.1

But "gross, inert matter cannot be transmuted into mind--cannot possibly secrete mind."2

Creation   out   of   nothing   is   impossible.3   The Hebrew word translated as create means "to gather together by concretion, or to form by consolidation."4

The Eternal Mind is not absolutely omnipresent, while his electrical body is because it pervades immensity of space.5

Although made of electricity, the world differs from it. "Electricity, being the untreated substance, is the positive force, and the globe, being the created substance, is the negative force."6

The body of man is but an outshoot or manifestation of his mind. If I may be indulged the expression, it is the ultimate of his mind. Hence every creature in existence has a body which is the shape of its mind, admitting that the physical laws of the

____________________________________________________________

1 Ibid.

2 Ibid., p. 145.

3 Ibid., p. 121.

4 Ibid., pp. 122-23.

5 Ibid., p. 125.

6 Ibid., p. 130.

Healing Hypotheses   

35

system were not interrupted in producing the natural form of the body from mind.1

"All feeling is in the mind."2 The corresponding spiritual limb is the seat of the feeling experienced in relation to an amputated physical limb.

Mind resides in the brain, not all through the body; otherwise we should lose part of it with amputations, which seems inconsistent with the explanation just offered for feelings of amputated limbs; also separate parts of the body would think.3 It is through the medulla oblongata that sensation comes, and it is there that "the royal monarch sits enthroned."4 The cerebrum and cerebellum are "two distinct brains,"5 dealing, respectively, with voluntary and involuntary nerves and powers. Half of the body's electricity (or nervous fluid or galvanism, for he means the same by them)6 operates through the arteries and voluntary nerves and half operates through the veins and involuntary nerves.7   The circulation of blood is magnetic, rather than hydraulic.8

____________________________________________________________

1 Ibid., p. 125.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid., p. 58.

4 Ibid., p. 179.

5 Ibid., p. 170.

6 Ibid., p. 60.

7 Ibid., pp. 65, 66, 78, 84.

8 Ibid., p. 68.

36

Healing Hypotheses

"The one grand proximate cause of disease [is] the disturbing of the nervous fluid, or throwing the electricity of the system out of balance."1 This throwing out of balance can be done by either physical or mental impressions.2

Here enters the great value of Electrical Psychology, which is "the doctrine of mental and physical impressions to cure the sick."3 Dods distinguishes it from mesmerism by saying that although they use the same nervous fluid,4 mesmerism is the doctrine of sympathy, in which magnetizer and subject are brought into such perfect sympathy that they see, hear, and feel what the magnetizer sees, hears, and feels, and there is somnambulism, which he identifies with mesmerism, whereas in the electro-psychological state one retains his senses and will and remembers what happens.5

Whatever the cause of a disease, "mind can, by its impressions, cause the nervous fluid to cure it, or at least to produce upon it a salutary influence,"6 provided there be no organic destruction.7

____________________________________________________________

1 Ibid., p. 71.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid., p. 188.

4 Ibid., p. 31.

5 Ibid., pp. 30-31.

6 Ibid., p. 84. 

7 Ibid., p. 85.

Healing Hypotheses

37

"Medicine produces a physical impression on the system, but never heals a disease."1

The sanative power is in the individual, and not in the medicine. Medicines and mental impressions only call that sanative principle to the right spot in the system so as to enable it to do its work.2

The electro-nervous fluid is able to heal for the following reason: "If all things were made out of electricity then it is certain that electricity contains all the healing properties of all things in being."3

Dods seems to want the best of all methods, and to be less than fully concerned with consistency of opposing means. He proposes to combine all healing methods into a grand Curopathy.4

Dods does indeed point toward later developments that constitute New Thought. He and it are alike in emphasizing the power of mind and in rejecting unconscious hypnotic influence, in favor of conscious redirection of thought. However, New Thought, to the extent that one can generalize about a broad group of writers, and Dods part company where he maintains a dualism of spirit and matter, or even a position of making spirit a form of matter, although his position on this seems unclear. His emphasis on the details by which operations of the body are carried on also is foreign to New Thought. His attempt to reason out the existence of God is

____________________________________________________________

1 Ibid.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid., p. 169.

4 Ibid., pp. 185, 188.

38

Healing Hypotheses

uncommon to New Thought, in which this is a point normally taken for granted.

Dresser's having written the article referred to in a recent footnote on Dods as a forerunner of the mental cure may be an indication that Dods was not well known to New Thought. This seems entirely possible. One cannot establish that he did have influence on the movement. But it has been seen that his ideas were available, and were in some degree symptomatic of the time in which he operated and out of which New Thought arose. Also, Dresser took note of him. Dresser's reaction will be mentioned in connection with Dresser's relation to New Thought.

While Dods may have been tending toward New Thought, the man to be considered next was the one whose career inspired the development of New Thought and whose insights pointed the way.

3. Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

Phineas Parkhurst ("Park") Quimby was born on February 16, 1802, in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and died on January 16, 1866, in Belfast, Maine. He lived practically all his life in Maine. Quimby received practically no formal education, but was intelligent and inventive.

Until becoming a mesmerist, as a result of visits of passing mesmerists, he was a clockmaker. In the early 1840's he gave mesmeric lectures and demonstrations. His writings show him to have been acquainted with some philosophy and a considerable amount of mesmeric writing.1

He discovered a youth, Lucius Burkmar, who had remarkable extrasensory abilities when mesmerized. Quimby used him in diagnosing illness and prescribing

____________________________________________________________

1 See Appendix A.

Healing Hypotheses 

39

remedies. However, Quimby came to believe that the boy was reading minds, rather than doing more helpful work in healing, so he abandoned use of Lucius and somehow developed his own conscious extrasensory perception.

When thus equipped Quimby practiced a form of healing in which one's mind was not subjected to another human mind, as in mesmerism, but was allowed to attain its fullest freedom in relation to whatever divine dimension of reality there may be.1

The exact theory that underlay Quimby's practice is something that cannot be determined here, for the consideration of his large body of writing would be a task requiring a major study in its own right. However, for the purposes of considering Dresser and New Thought, it is not necessary to know with certainty what Quimby believed; what is most important here is that which will be seen in regard to Dresser's understanding of what he meant, and what Evans produced after becoming acquainted with Quimby. In one of his writings on Quimby, Dresser summarized Quimby's views as follows:

Had Dr. [as he was called] Quimby systematized [his] writings, the development of his thought would have been somewhat as follows:--

(1) The omnipresent Wisdom, the warm, loving, tender Father of us all, Creator of all the universe, whose works are good, whose substance is an invisible reality.

____________________________________________________________

1 See Appendix B, Horatio W. Dresser (ed.) The Quimby Manuscripts (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company; two editions published in 1921, the later one republished in 1961 by The Julian Press Inc., New York), and Ervin Seale (ed.) Phineas Parkhurst Quimby[:] The Complete   Writings, 3 vols. (Marina del Rey, Calif: DeVorss & Company, Publishers, 1988).

40

Healing Hypotheses

(2) The real man, whose life is eternal in the invisible kingdom of God, whose senses are spiritual and function independently of matter.

(3) The visible world, which Dr. Quimby once characterized as "the shadow of Wisdom's amusements"; that is, nature is only the outward projection or manifestation of an inward activity far more real and enduring.

(4) Spiritual matter, or fine interpenetrating substance, directly responsive to thought and subconsciously embodying in the flesh the fears, beliefs, hopes, errors, and joys of the mind.

(5) Disease is due to false reasoning in regard to sensations, which man unwittingly develops by impressing wrong thoughts and mental pictures upon the subconscious spiritual matter.

(6) As disease is due to false reasoning, so health is due to knowledge of the truth. To remove disease permanently, it is necessary to know the cause, the error which led to it. "The explanation is the cure."

(7) To know the truth about life is therefore the sovereign remedy for all ills. This truth Jesus came to declare. Jesus knew how he cured and Dr. Quimby, without taking any credit to himself as a discoverer, believed that he understood and practiced the same great truth or science.1

____________________________________________________________

1 Unsigned but almost certainly Horatio W. Dresser, in whose publication it appeared, "A New Text-Book," review of The Builder and the Plan by Ursula N. Gestefeld, in The Higher Law, III (June, 1901), 148-149. See also Annetta G. Dresser, The Philosophy of P. P. Quimby (Boston: George H. Ellis, 1895), chapter IV, and Dresser, Health and the Inner Life, passim.

Healing Hypotheses   

41

Quimby did not live to publish a book containing his views. But they served as an inspiration for writings of some who went to him as patients. The first one to publish was Warren Felt Evans.

4. Warren Felt Evans

i. Introduction

Evans (December 23, 1817-September 4, 1889)1 was a Methodist minister who found in the writings of Swedenborg a message that he unsuccessfully sought to share with his congregation. He became a Swedenborgian and did some missionary work for the Swedenborgian New Church. But he turned to spiritual healing and writing about it as his full-time occupation.

Evans is of interest as a person with considerable knowledge of philosophy who worked into his system views of traditional philosophers, Quimby, Swedenborg, and others, eventually reaching a position that came to be known as New Thought. This is in contrast with Dresser's mature views relative to New Thought. Apparently Evans was not greatly concerned with reasoning out carefully the grounds for his outlook. He seems to have been satisfied to accept views of others that he intuitively took to be consistent with his own insights. However, he did seek to draw out of the philosophy that he accepted the practical consequences relating to healing.

____________________________________________________________

1 For biographical details see Appendix C.

42

Healing Hypotheses

ii. Swedenborgian Background

At the time of his going to Quimby, probably in 1863, Evans held Swedenborgian views. There can be no reasonable doubt of this, judging by the frequent references to Swedenborg in books by Evans and from the evaluation of him by Dresser as "an average exponent of Swedenborg's teachings"1 whose "chief interest was to spread knowledge of Swedenborg's doctrines"2 before he turned to healing.

While a full presentation of Swedenborgianism is beyond the scope of this study, some of the major aspects of it deserve mention. They show both the fertile ground that Quimby's thought found in Evans and also the perspective away from which Evans moved in later years. Swedenborg adhered to a theism that he expressed in his own terms. He believed in a personal God of Love and Wisdom who created the universe. Creation is separated from God by a discontinuity known as discrete degrees. Pantheism thus is avoided. However, there is a relationship of correspondence of everything spiritual and material. In addition, God sustains the universe, his providential care being known as divine "influx." Thus Swedenborg has sharply separated realms, which nevertheless are in a state of correspondence and linked by influx of the divine into the natural world.

It may seem strange that with Swedenborg's views of close connection of the divine and the natural, the New Church did not promptly come to the fore in healing. However, it did not. But it did not wholly overlook the topic. One of its men wrote that the

____________________________________________________________

1 Dresser, A History of the New Thought Movement, p. 72.

2 Ibid., p. 73.

Healing Hypotheses

43

mind-cure part of [its] doctrines [could] be summed up in this one sentence: All diseases are from the Spiritual world under the law of correspondences, and if their spiritual causes are removed, the diseases will disappear."1

In recent years that church's interest in healing has increased. A Dresser niece, Gwynne Dresser Mack, has contributed significantly to this present concern among Swedenborgians.2

After remarking that Evans "possessed the ability to grasp fundamental principles and think them out for himself," Dresser says:

He had all the essentials, so far as spiritual principles were concerned; for the devotee of Swedenborg has a direct clue to the application of spiritual philosophy to life. What Mr. Evans lacked was the new impetus, to put two and two together. He lacked the method by which to apply his idealism and his theology to health. Mr. Quimby gave him this impetus. He [Quimby] possessed the method.3

____________________________________________________________

1 Charles H. Mann, Healing through the Soul formerly called Psychiasis: Healing through the Soul (Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, 1900, copyright date), pp. 127-28.

2 For example, see Gwynne Dresser Mack, Talking with God: The Healing Power of Prayer (Pound Ridge, NY: New-Church Prayer Fellowship, 1960.

3 Dresser, A History of the New Thought Movement, p. 72.

44

Healing Hypotheses

In his pre-Quimby writing Evans showed that he did have an outlook that was leading him in the direction of the Quimby thought, which made one's physical condition dependent on one's nonphysical state. However, Evans showed that he had not yet reached the view of Quimby. Evans at this time placed so much emphasis on the separation side of Swedenborgian closeness yet separation of physical and nonphysical worlds that the influence of mental states was decidedly limited:

Our mental states here affect the appearance of the external world, and tend, in some degree, to adjust the outward universe in harmony, both in appearance and reality, with our spiritual condition. This important law of our spiritual nature operates but imperfectly in this world. In the next it will act without obstruction, so that the heaven in which we are placed, in its outward arrangements, will be the exact representative and correspondence of our interior state of mind and heart, or wisdom and love. The outward world will be in correspondence with the world within, and will be the creation, as it were, of our spiritual state, just as the features of the face shape themselves in harmony with the varying emotions of the soul.1

He believes that "the earth is made of too gross a substance, too coarse a stuff, to express the spiritual and

____________________________________________________________

1 W. F. Evans, The Celestial Dawn; or Connection of Earth and Heaven (Boston: T. H. Carter and Company, 1864), p. 195.

Healing Hypotheses

45

celestial,"1 although "outward nature is the shadow of heavenly realities":2

The things in the natural world not only represent the realities of the celestial realms as words express ideas, but they exist from the spiritual world just as the body derives its life from the soul. The material universe is the region of effects; spirit is the only causal agent. Matter is dead and passive; all life in it is the result of an influx from the realm of spirit, which is the seat of causation. Thus the earth is conjoined to the heavens, as an effect is connected with the producing cause and made one with it. Before anything can exist in the natural world, it must first exist in the world of mind or the spiritual world, just as before an architect can construct an edifice, the plan or idea of it must pre-exist in his mind. The edifice when completed is the outward embodiment of the interior conception.3

Thus it is seen that while Evans must have found himself not immediately in agreement with Quimby, he was not so fundamentally out of agreement as to make appreciation difficult. Had Evans had no philosophy but that of Swedenborg at his disposal, perhaps he would have done as most Swedenborgians did fail to incorporate the insights of Quimby into his own outlook. But Evans was interested in other philosophy also; this now is to be considered in connection with the development of the philosophy of Evans.

____________________________________________________________

1 Ibid., p. 196-97.

2 Ibid., p. 203.

3 Ibid., pp. 203-204.

46

Healing Hypotheses

iii. Development of the Evans Philosophy

In the midst of an essentially Swedenborgian book of 1864 Evans gives a clue to the extra-Swedenborgian metaphysical content of his relatively early philosophy. He refers to the division of philosophy into forms of Sensualism, Idealism, Mysticism, and Skepticism by Victor Cousin in his "profound work on the History of Modern Philosophy."1

Presumably the work referred to is the three-volumes-in-two translation, constituting the second series of lectures, of the noted eclectic philosopher, who knew Hegel, Schelling, and Jacobi.2 The fourth lecture of the second volume, "Classification of Philosophical Systems," especially seems to be referred to by Evans. Beyond this, it is worth noting that Cousin devotes the next two lectures to Indian philosophy and, as does Evans, pays his respects to the ancient Egyptians.3 Numerous references to Oriental thought are scattered through the work. He also voices the belief that "nothing goes back-everything advances!"4 Evans must have welcomed Cousin's brief, but friendly, reference to Swedenborg.5 Perhaps the most important fact about Cousin's history, in

____________________________________________________________

1 Evans, The New Age and its Messenger (Boston: T. H. Carter and Company, 1864), p. 81.

2 Victor Cousin, Course of the History of Modern Philosophy, trans. 0. W. Wight (2 vols.; New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1852).

3 Ibid., I, 366.

4 lbid., I, 46.

5 Ibid., II, 117.

Healing Hypotheses

47

relation to Evans, is that while he devotes his last eleven lectures to Locke, he says little about Berkeley, referring one to his first series of lectures, not contained in this history.1

Obviously this is no proof that Evans was poorly grounded in the idealism of Berkeley when he took note of Cousin. However, it is an interesting bit of information to add to other indications that Evans gradually grew into idealism. In his early Swedenborgian period Evans says that "the Spiritual world is entirely distinct from the natural world,being known by different properties and governed by other laws."2 "The two realms have nothing in common as to their properties, yet they are not wholly disjoined and communication between the two is not closed."3 By way of contrast, in his last published book, in which he still frequently refers to Swedenborg, Evans says that "thought and existence are absolutely identical and inseparable."4

Perhaps the simplest characterization of his later view is that given in his statement that "the highest development of religious thought and feeling is that of a Christian Pantheism, not the cold, intellectual system of Spinoza, but one nearer to that of the warm and loving Fichte, who exhibited the blessedness of a life in God."5

____________________________________________________________

1 Ibid., 11, 105.

2 Evans, The Celestial Dawn, p. 67.

3 Ibid., p. 69.

4 W. F. Evans, Esoteric Christianity and Mental Therapeutics (Boston: H. H. Carter & Karrick, Publishers, 1886), p. 37.

5 W. F. Evans, The Divine Law of Cure (Boston: H. H. Carter & Co., Publishers, 1881), p. 15.

48

Healing Hypotheses

Obviously, when pantheism is used in such a way it does not mean the reduction of God to the totality of the universe as it is discoverable by means open to public verification, but includes all of that and all other realms of being, together called God.

It is on the issue of pantheism that New Thought was to follow Evans, and Dresser was to dissent. So this chapter and the next, on Dresser, are by no means mutually exclusive; they are divided chiefly in relation to emphasis on the thought of Evans and his predecessors in one and on Dresser in the other. Neither is to be considered in isolation from the other.

It was in his writings on healing that the philosophy of Evans assumed its final form, developing gradually over his years of writing on this subject. With regard to the first such book, The Mental-Cure, 1869, Dresser observes that this was "the first volume issued in our country on this subject,"1 one that soon was read widely in this country and Europe, where it was translated into several languages.2   He adds that in this work while

____________________________________________________________

1 Dresser, A History of the New Thought Movement, p.75.

2 Ibid. In a January 26, 1915, letter to Rev. John Whitehead, H. H. Carter mentions that the next book, Mental Medicine, was published in five different languages. This letter is attached to a copy of the Leonard pamphlet in the library of the New Church Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In part 3, p. 23, of the article on Evans, Leonard says that the fifth book of Evans, The Primitive Mind-Cure, which "reached the public early in the year 1885," was "perhaps, the most widely read work at the present day of the entire series. It was a popular treatise from the first. An English publisher issued it under the title of 'Healing by Faith.' This was due to the interest

Healing Hypotheses

49

Evans "branches out freely and expounds Swedenborg's views in his own fashion, he is still largely dependent on the teachings of the Swedish seer."1

This observation seems justified in light of an examination of The Mental-Cure. In this book Evans considers various possibilities with regard to what life may be.

Before turning to Evans in relation to Swedenborg in that volume, it is of interest to see with regard to Dods that Evans takes very brief note of the possibility that

____________________________________________________________

taken in the book by an English truth-seeker, G. B. Finch, who was in America when it appeared and read it with delight." In the fall of 1962 Ervin Seale, minister of The Church of the Truth, in New York, offered a course called "Primitive Mind Cure," using this book as the text. The course had five sessions and was duplicated on Monday afternoons and Wednesday evenings. It was part of a three year series "arranged to cover such fields and areas of study as The Bible, The Science of Health by P. P. Quimby, Transcendentalism of Emerson and others, The Mental Science of Hudson, Troward, Evans, Modern Psychology and Techniques of Practice and Application." (Autumn 1962-3 Announcements of the church, which on October 7, 1962, moved its Sunday services from Carnegie Hall to the newly opened Philharmonic Hall of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.)

William J. Leonard, "Warren Felt Evans, M.D.," part 3, Practical Ideals, X (December, 1905), 25, quotes English author Frances Lord in an unspecified 1888 book as saying of the Evans works, "In England these are the chief books which so far have attracted attention."

____________________________________________________________

1 Dresser, A History of the New Thought Movement, p. 75.

50

Healing Hypotheses

vital phenomena may be attributable to electricity.1 However, he rejects this view; he believes that this would require the addition to one's stock of electricity from an electro-magnetic battery.2 He remarks that there has been no demonstration of the existence of a nervous fluid.3

Turning to what Evans does believe life to be, he quotes Swedenborg as saying that "love is the life of man."4   Apparently this assertion is its own proof for Evans. He says that it is "like the creative fiat, 'Let there be light."'5 For Evans it was light that needed no argument for support. He saw love as "the inmost life of the soul."6 This being so, the rest of a human being, including thought, is the development of love.

Accepting a Swedenborgian dualism at this time, he assumed that there are "two distinct substances in the universe,"7 mind or spirit and matter.   After accepting this problem from Swedenborg, it is easy enough to accept the Swedenborgian solution of a divine influx to connect the two. Apparently not realizing that he could start with the view that love is both ultimate and the inherent property of the human being, Evans locates love in God and sees love as requiring transmission to human beings.

____________________________________________________________

1 W. F. Evans, (The Mental-Cure (Boston: H. H. & T. W. Carter, 1869), p. 199.

2 Ibid., pp. 199-200.

3 Ibid., p. 200.

4 Ibid. p. 202.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid., p. 27.

Healing Hypotheses 

 51

It is thought to be necessary for "our hearts to receive the influx of the divine and heavenly love."1

While maintaining a dualism at this time, he asserted that there is "only one Life, from which all in heaven and earth receive their being, but each in a different degree."2 The differing degrees probably are the crux of the problem. He must have been too firmly embedded in Swedenborgianism to discard its dualism. Differing degrees of clarity of expression of divine life apparently suggested an essential difference between the human and the divine.

However, he managed to apply Quimby's healing technique within the bounds of Swedenborgian dualism. It was clear to Evans that whatever separation there might be between the material and the nonmaterial, the material was subject to the control of the nonmaterial.

He explained this on the basis of what he offered as a "general law--that influx is always into forms that are correspondences."3 The divine life-love will be expressed in one in accordance with the sort of receptacle that he or she forms out of himself or herself. Since the nonintellectual side of one is basic in this view, the problem of providing the receptacle most appropriate to advancing the health and happiness of oneself becomes a matter of adopting the proper emotional attitude. This will provide the way for, or properly direct, the divine influx, allowing it to be expressed in the fullest, most healthful way possible. In short, it is for us to set out sails in such manner as to catch the divine wind.4 This is not

____________________________________________________________

1 Ibid.

2 lbid., pp. 76-77.

3 Ibid., p. 226, omitting italics of original.

4 Ibid., p. 230.

52

Healing Hypotheses

to say that one would be deprived of the divine influx in any case; however, the most fortunate relationship of human and divine is that of cooperation.

This is a religious outlook, much to the liking of Dresser. Dresser believed that Evans began his writing on healing at the peak of his spiritual insight and gradually declined. Dresser maintained that in The Mental-Cure Evans had a more spiritual view, including both cognitive and affectional aspects of human beings, emphasizing the importance of unselfish love in the pursuit of health, than was the case in later Evans writings.1 As Evans further developed his thought, he gave increased emphasis to thought.

As Evans puts it, his next book, Mental Medicine, 1872, "is, in some degree, supplementary to the previous volume of the author on the mental aspect of disease and the psychological method of treatment."2   In it he gives less evidence of traditional philosophical thought than of delving into medicine, mesmerism, and poetry. As in all his publications after finding Swedenborg, that thinker and seer occupies a place of importance. But the following Evans observation on Plato may indicate some turning away from Swedenborg.

In The Mental-Cure Evans refers to the futility of studying human nature from the standpoint of how it "was designed to be,"3 as this yields only "an ideal model, like Plato's perfect man."4   However, in Mental Medicine al-

____________________________________________________________

1 Dresser, A History of the New Thought Movement, p. 93.

2 W. F. Evans, Mental Medicine (Boston: Carter & Pettee, 1873), p. 3.

3 Evans, The Mental Cure, p. 25.

4 lbid.

Healing Hypotheses

53

though there is not a fully adequate basis of comparison with regard to his views on Plato, Evans shows appreciation of Plato's ideal forms. He observes that while Swedenborg is clearer than Plato, there is close resemblance between Plato's theory of Ideas and Swedenborg's doctrine of correspondence.1 In both there is some unseen pattern that is the model of that which is apparent to us.

In the next book of Evans, Soul and Body, he continues with his view of spiritual supremacy, but still with matter as something having a reality of its own, at least in part of the book. He calls the matter that constitutes the body "passive and inert, having no life except that which is imparted to it by the all-pervading and animating spirit."2 He does not make body a mode of apprehension of spirit, but says that the universe is a "crystallization or ultimation of spirit,"3 and body the product of soul, with soul giving life to it by influx.4 But he goes on to call body "only a reflection, a shadow, an outside boundary of the spirit."5 He seems to waver here about what sort of reality he means to attribute to body. He has been referring to Swedenborg at this point.

However, he also turns to Berkeley and says that Berkeley brought to notice prominently the view that

____________________________________________________________

1 Evans, Mental Medicine, pp. I48-49.

2 W. F. Evans, Soul and Body (Boston: H. H. Carter and Company, 1876), p. 9.

3 Ibid., p. 40.

4 lbid.

5 Ibid.

54

Healing Hypotheses

matter's properties are "only sensations."1 This follows the assertion by Evans that "the underlying reality in what we call matter is nothing but spirit. Material things, as they are only effects, can have no independent existence."2

Fortunately, it is not necessary to obtain a final view from Soul and Body. It may be taken as introductory to the next Evans book, The Divine Law of Cure, 1881.

In this work Evans returns to Berkeley and says that more than two score years before, he was converted to idealism by the attempt of Reid to refute Berkeley.3   He adds that Berkeley's reasoning is logically impregnable. This dating places the start of his adherence to idealism as early as his college days or the start of his ministry, before his discovery of Swedenborg. It appears that for years after turning to Swedenborg that seer's writings tended to take the place of other thinkers. But by the time of this book Evans is well back into the reading of standard philosophers. This is not to say that he abandons Swedenborg; he thinks that Swedenborg's views will help to strengthen the growth of idealist influence, which he found then prevailing.4

In introducing The Divine Law of Cure, Evans lumps Berkeley, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel together and says that in his philosophy, based on theirs, the "fundamental doctrine is that to think and to exist are one and the same, and that every disease is the translation into bodily expression of a fixed idea of the mind and a morbid way

____________________________________________________________

1 Ibid., p. 67.

2 Ibid., omitting italics of original.

3 W. F. Evans, The Divine Law of Cure (Boston: H. H. Carter & Co., Publishers, 1.881), p. 154.

4 Ibid., p. 9.

Healing Hypotheses

 55

of thinking."1 He goes on to claim no originality except in the application of idealism to healing.

Although Evans here has indicated his stress on thinking, in contrast to his earlier emphasis on one's affectional nature, he proceeds to consider the nature of religion and to make it clear that religion is not merely intellectual, but calls for reunion of one's soul with God.2 He would attempt not to prove God's existence, but to experience it.3

It is not always clear on the basis of what thought, or inspiration, Evans is writing, but sometimes he specifically says, as in the reference to Berkeley and in his statement that "Kant has clearly proved that space and time are not real entities, but subjective states, and the necessary conditions under which we conceive the existence of things external to ourselves."4 Sometimes his references are so general as to make it uncertain whether he is writing from knowledge obtained from original or from secondary sources, but there are enough page references to works, especially of Fichte, Berkeley, and Hegel to make it almost certain that he must have read in their works to a considerable extent. Since his writing is more or less popular, or at least has the practical end of healing largely in view, he does not seem greatly concerned with presenting a philosophical system as such. Probably he is more concerned with offering such encouraging conclusions as the following, with an abundance of not very helpful general references:

____________________________________________________________

1 Ibid.

2 Ibid., p. 14.

3 Ibid., p. 22.

4 Ibid., p. 164.

56  

Healing Hypotheses

There is truth in the old theory of an Animus Mundi, or Soul of the World, for God sustains to the material universe a relation analogous to that of mind and body in man. All of nature's action is God's action, and the uniform mode of the Divine activity and procedure is what we call a law of nature. All theological systems, and all religious philosophies, meet here and embrace,--Spinoza and Cudworth, Hegel and Schleiermacher, Berkeley and Locke, Renan and Neander, Fichte and Tholuch, Parker and Channing. They all believe, however cautiously they may express it, that nature is an apparition of the Deity,--God in a mask. This gives to this great truth, that God is the only Reality of nature, the character of an intuition, or inspiration, which means the same.1

In The Divine Law of Cure, Evans presents a fascinating chapter title in "The Creative Power of Thought, or Hegel's Philosophy as a Medicine." Here Evans gives his opinion that Hegel has expressed the gospel message of John in a philosophical statement, the essence of which is that "whatever is is thought."2 He equates this with Berkeley's philosophy.3 Evans seems not to be interested in reasoning out the position, but simply sets forth a view that can be applied practically.

In applying the philosophy to healing, Evans says that what is not in thought is not experienced, so cannot trouble one. This is basic to his healing method. He asserts that one can change the direction of his thinking.

____________________________________________________________

1 Ibid., p. 48.

2 Ibid., p. 249.

3 lbid.

Healing Hypotheses

57

To switch one's attention from a difficulty is to provide relief for the time that the attention is switched. However, this is not a cure in itself. What is required is not simply to turn one's thought away from the trouble, but to turn to the height of thought that unites one with the divine healing power. This "divinely-intelligent force,"1 which is found everywhere, is at work in healing and is given an easier job by one's conscious reception of it.

This is not essentially different from the practice advocated in the first Evans book on healing. However, there is more emphasis on thought in the present work and more emphasis on the nonintellectual side of man in the first book. Dresser in 1906 believed that all the books of Evans on healing were consistent with what Quimby would have said if he had possessed sufficient education.2 However, by 1919 Dresser had become more familiar with Swedenborgianism and took a disapproving view of the later Evans views, which tended to depart from the Swedenborgian emphasis on divine life-love. Dresser now considered Quimby and the earlier Evans closer to each other. For Dresser, the later Evans view placed too much weight on thought, rather than on what Dresser considered more thoroughgoing reorientation of one's whole constitution. He recognized that for Evans thought was not superficial, but Dresser considered the later Evans message inadequate for guiding others into the most meaningful understanding of the divine nature of the healing process.3 As will be seen in the next chapter, as Dresser progressed, he became increasingly dualistic, so it

____________________________________________________________

1 Ibid., p. 261.

2 Dresser, Health and the Inner Life, p. 119.

3 Dresser, A History of the New Thought Movement, pp. 89-96.

58

Healing Hypotheses

was natural that he should find the Evans movement toward monism disheartening.

It is to the last two books of Evans that one should turn to see the fullest development of his outlook, which largely coincided with what would be called New Thought. Curiously, Dresser does not take note of these two books in his account of Evans in A History of the New Thought Movement.

These books were The Primitive Mind Cure, 1884, and Esoteric Christianity, 1886. In them one finds a rich mixture of Eastern and Western thought. They represent a movement away from standard philosophy into more occult pronouncements, essentially pantheistic

Evans believed that in this pantheism he found not only non-Christian Oriental thought, but also the essence of primitive Christianity. As indicated in Chapter II, Eastern thought was rather widely available in the United States late in the nineteenth century, so the extent to which Evans was responsible for its inclusion in New Thought is open to question. However, it may well be that especially before the 1890's the later writings of Evans were important sources of this sort of thought, at least for people primarily concerned with healing.

It scarcely can be doubted that Evans considered his last two books important. In The Primitive Mind-Cure he says that it "is intended to take the reader up where the last volume of the author, 'The Divine Law of Cure,' leaves him, and conduct him still further along the same path of inquiry."1 Although the last two books published were "written in the interest of self-healing,"2 they are

____________________________________________________________

1 W. F. Evans, The Primitive Mind-Cure (Boston: H. H. Carter & Co., Publishers, 1885), p. iii.

2 W. F. Evans, Esoteric Christianity and Mental Therapeutics (Boston: H. H. Carter & Karrick, Publishers, 1886), p. 5.

Healing Hypotheses 

59

essential to the appreciation of his completed philosophy. It is not strange that the theoretical and the practical should be found in the same works, for in his view they were one. In his final books Evans brings together all the strains that influenced him. He believed that they were united in original Christianity.

He says that the developing movement of mental healing was not new but simply the

reappearance under the mask of another name of one of the fundamental principles of Christianity, the doctrine of salvation by faith, using the word faith in its primitive Christian and Platonic sense of higher form of knowledge,"1

He goes on to observe that the cure of disease is really a matter of conversion. Obviously, this involves an act of will, but Evans adopts as adequate for bringing this about a Socratic identification of knowledge and virtue:

It was a tenet of the Platonic philosophy, that no one ever desires or chooses evil as evil, but only under the mistaken conception of it as a good. According to the laws of the mind, evil viewed as such cannot be an object of desire. All deviation from right living is the result of an error of the understanding,--a sin,--and this must be corrected. It is to be also remarked, that to correct an error in ourselves is to come into the opposite truth. If it be an error, an illusion, that I, the immortal Ego and real self, am sick, if the error be removed, I must believe the opposite, that I am well. If my malady

____________________________________________________________

1 Ibid., pp. 132-33.

60

Healing Hypotheses

is not my real self, it must be an unreal thing, a delusive appearance.1

In the primitive Christian system, sin and disease are the same. Sin is the mental, and disease the physical, side of the same thing. To cure disease and to forgive sin, in the fulness of meaning given to that expression by Jesus, are Identical.2

Here is a religious outlook that might have pleased Dresser, but for the pantheism with which it is associated. Evans also provides justification for his emphasis on thought in his later philosophy. It is seen to be not simply a pedestrian process of thinking, for "pure thought is the summit of our being."3   It is spirit and governs us. It is the point of our appearance out of the unknown. Since thought and existence are one, any change of thought changes our conditions. To think a change in the condition of one's body, rather than just to think about it, will bring about the change.4   Here Evans sums up the full depth of one's being in the name of thought. To be sure, this is no proof of what is claimed, but at least it is a possibility that Evans presumably believed that his healing practice confirmed. However, he humbly confessed that he had found no method of healing always successful.5

Evans continues to recognize something beyond the ordinary. While he speaks of it now in terms of intellect,

____________________________________________________________

1 Ibid., p. 148.

2 Ibid., p. 145.

3 Evans, The Primitive Mind Cure, p. 13.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid., p. 86.

Healing Hypotheses

61

rather than love, his meaning apparently remains essentially the same as it had been from his first writing on healing. Now using Platonic terminology, he writes of the necessity of receiving what he might have spoken of as divine influx:

When we turn the receptive and passive intellect towards the realm of light, the "intelligible world," the light of truth will flow in according to our degree of receptivity. . . . This turning the receptive side of our mental nature towards the world of light is, in reality, the highest and most effectual form of prayer. The passive soul, with voiceless longing and in tranquil waiting, stands in silence as flowers turn toward the sun to receive its vivifying light and heat.1

He identifies this receptive nature with Plato's receptacle.2 Of the references in the last book, none is of greater interest than those showing that he had discovered "that remarkable book, The Perfect Way."3 Since he does not refer to its authors, it is probable that he did not know their identity. The book was issued anonymously in 1881. Later it appeared under the names of Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, with the preface dated Christmas, 1886, which was after the publication of Esoteric Christianity and Mental Therapeutics. The Evans references to The Perfect Way link the English seeress and eclectic thinker, Anna Kingsford, with New Thought [not only through Evans, but perhaps through Malinda E. Cramer, recent

____________________________________________________________

1 Evans, Esoteric Christianity and Mental Therapeutics, p. 11.

2 Ibid., pp. 12-13.

3 Ibid., p. 43.

62 

Healing Hypotheses

research suggests, and more recently through Mildred Mann], and also show that Evans was exposed to some criticism of Swedenborg, especially if the edition read by Evans contained a footnote, to a Maitland paragraph, containing the following:

[Swedenborg's] faculty . . . extraordinary as it was, was allied to a temperament too cold and unsympathetic to generate the enthusiasm by which alone the topmost heights of perception can be attained. Nevertheless, despite his limitations, Swedenborg was beyond question the foremost herald and initiator of the new era opening the spiritual life of Christendom, and no student of religion can dispense with a knowledge of him. Only, he must be read with much discrimination and patience.1

Since Evans was more concerned with offering a practical approach to healing than with developing a philosophical system, he left no fully worked out philosophy. Perhaps his later outlook is summarized best simply by saying that he believed it to be both Christian, in the sense of primitive Christianity, and pantheistic.2  He

____________________________________________________________

1 Anna Bonus Kingsford and Edward Maitland, The Perfect Way, or the Finding of Christ (5th ed.; London: John M. Watkins, 1923), p. 261 n.

2 Evans, The Divine Law of Cure, p. 15. [Had Evans known the term panentheism, it is likely that he would have adopted it, but since it is not yet very well known, probably it was even less commonly used in the nineteenth century. It is attributed to Karl Christian Friedrich Krause, 1781-1832. When Evans says, as quoted above, "God sustains to the material universe a relation analogous to that of mind and body in man" he

Healing Hypotheses

 63

moved from a Swedenborgian dualism to a view maintaining that thought and existence are one, and that thought, hence existence, is one with spirit. Thus, through thinking, one inevitably exerts some force in the only reality. Whatever its effects may be, and Evans confessed failure to apply his theory with full success, here he believed was at least the general formulation of the reason why there could be spiritual healing.

Others also encountered what they believed to be experiences to be accounted for on some rational basis. In the writings of Evans they found a possible explanation. As will be seen in the next chapter, the basic principles of Evans were given the name of New Thought. To what extent they were found in the writings of any other authors is a matter that is beyond the present inquiry. Clearly Evans was of great importance in the field, to say the very least. More significantly here, his development stands in contrast to that of the man to be considered next, Horatio W. Dresser--who moved from pantheism to dualism. [Perhaps it should be added that the dualism referred to in connection with all people associated with New Thought refers degrees of emphasis within idealistic outlooks; in none of them does it suggest a denial of dependence of both mind and matter on God.]

5. Summary

There is an ancient tradition of religious healing common to perhaps all people. One cannot well say how important this was in inspiring people to formulate what came to be known as New Thought, but it may have served at least as a general source of encouragement. A more immediately important part of the foundation for New

____________________________________________________________

certainly appears to be a panenthcist.]

64

Healing Hypotheses

Thought was provided by mesmerism. In this, both now usual hypnotic effects and "higher phenomena" of extrasensory perception were found. In seeking to explain mesmeric phenomena, the old magnetic and astrological theory of an invisible fluid linking people was employed. This hypothetical fluid came to be identified with electricity, which also was thought to be a fluid.

In the "electrical psychology" of John Bovee Dods (1795-1872) electricity is held to be the connecting medium between mind and matter. All three, connected and connector, are considered matter of varying densities by Dods.

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866), the healer who inspired New Thought, similarly suggested a "spiritual matter" between mind and matter. However, his view is considered an idealism by Dresser, whereas the Dods outlook was materialistic.

Warren Felt Evans (1817-1889), after a career in the ministry and after study of Swedenborg, turned to Quimby and to healing. He developed Quimby's insights into an idealistic philosophy. This philosophy was largely a collection of conclusions of idealistic philosophers, rather than a direct expression of the thought of Evans himself.

The Evans philosophy, as shown in his selection of views adopted as his own, went through a process of development. He began with Swedenborgian dualism, emphasizing the affectional side of life, but moved to a view that identified thought and existence. Thought is the nature of God; God is all. Hence thought has creative power for good or ill. This view came to be known as New Thought after the death of Evans. He considered his conclusions consistent with Christianity, a "Christian Pantheism."

Back | Contents | Next

 

Site Map:     Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond

About the Resource Center
  An Invitation (Video)

P. P. Quimby's Writings
   Alphabetically
   Chronologically
   Internet Concordance
   Search the Web Site
   His Writings and Beyond

On-Line Reading Archives
   Biographical Information
   Books
   Historical Class Notes
   Articles & Brochures
   Newspaper Articles

Original Resources

Resource Center Newsletter

Lectures About P. P. Quimby

Photographic Gallery (Video)

Links on the Internet

Follow Us:   Follow us on Facebook!  Follow us on Twitter!  Follow us on YouTube!