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Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond

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Language [I]

Language is the invention of man to convey some idea of a material substance, that can be seen or described. It never entered the mind of the author of language to describe another's thoughts, so that to describe to a person (his own feelings by language) which was never intended for that purpose, necessarily confuses the learned. Everyone knows that as man is developed, he becomes more sensitive to impressions. This makes him superior to the beasts. If man is ignorant of all the influences that act upon him, he is nothing but a subdued brute, but if his higher intellect is developed, it needs a language to explain it. Sickness is the result of the animal or natural man binding burdens on the higher intelligence or scientific mind. The burdens are the opinions of the so-called wise, and language is for their benefit. So the groans and griefs of the sick are heard by the well only as a murmur or unknown tongue.

Having given my attention to their lamentations, I know that they have a language not known by the learned or well, and this language I have been trying to develop that I may bring before the wise the grievances of the sick. So I am forced to use words that will convey the most correct idea of their feelings. This is difficult; some words convey life and yet do not mean anything. For instance, take the word mind. The ordinary definition of that word covers all the wisdom of the natural man. The word death means the annihilation of life. But as man developed himself, he discovered that there was something in him that never had been brought out, and this something gave rise to speculative ideas. When phenomena occurred, the wise were confused. So superstition and reason were introduced to explain the phenomena. They must be explained by the language of the wise and that made confusion. This theory explains all these ideas by applying words to sensations that will convey to the sick that I take their feelings. When I tell them how they feel, I tell them it is in their mind. This of course they do not believe. So to make myself understood, I am obliged to illustrate by parables. Here is one of my parables:

Parable

When sitting by a sick person who had a pain in the left side which I felt and described to the patient, I said, You think you have consumption. The patient acknowledged it, saying that her doctor had examined her lungs and found the left one very much affected. This she believed and when I told her that her disease was in her mind, it was as much as to say she imagined what was not the case. I told her she did not understand what I meant by the word mind. Then taking up a glass of water I said, Suppose you should be told that this water contained a poisonous substance that works in the system and sometimes produces consumption. If you really believe it, every time you drink the idea of poison enters your mind. Presently you begin to hack and cough a little. Would your fears then grow less that the water was poison? I think not. Finally you are given over by your doctor and friends and call on me. I sit down by you and tell you that you are nervous and have been deceived by your doctor and friends. You ask how? You have been told what is false, that the water you drink contains a slow poison, and now your cure hangs on the testimony in the case. If I show that there is no poison in the water, then the water did not poison you. What did? It was the doctor's opinion put in the water by your mind. As the mind is something that can receive an impression, it can be changed. This change was wrought by the doctor's opinion; so calling mind something, it is easy to show that it can be changed by a wisdom superior to an opinion. This wisdom that acts upon the mind is something that never has been described by language, but it is admitted by the wise and looked upon as a superior power. This power gives rise to all religious opinions. Man has tried to condense it into a being called God, and he worships it. My theory is based on this something that man is ignorant of and develops from it a language as comprehensible as any language. It contains no words but speaks from impressions which cannot be mistaken if man knows himself. This language is the feelings of the sick, and to convey these feelings to the well, so that they may have some idea of the misery of the sick and its causes, has been my study for twenty years. I feel now that my labors have not been in vain. Arranging words to convey this truth to the well is a task very few would like to go through. But I think now that I have succeeded so that any person of ordinary talent can see that it is the key to unlock the mysteries of the spiritual world.

Aug. 5, 1861

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