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Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond

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Language—Part I

One great error that man has to contend with is language. To repeat language is a mere effort of memory and to tell the meaning of words is the same. Now language was invented to convey some idea and not to be used without any meaning. Every word contains either something or nothing and goes to help make up an idea or form or belief in something. There are words used that convey the true idea. The word nothing conveys an empty space and no person expects to see or feel any effect from the word. But there are other words that convey to our senses matter in some form. Yet, when analyzed, they contain not one particle of matter or substance any more than the word nothing. Now I shall show that there are a class of persons who pretend to know all about the original language, yet they use words and give the definition of them so that they have no meaning at all.

All persons will agree on what there is no chance to differ. If I show that words are used as empty of matter as the word nothing, then it will be seen that there is a chance for improvement. Every word that is spoken conveys to a person the idea of something, but the same word may convey to another, nothing. For instance, I say to a child, Did you ever see a bear? Now the word to me contains the matter to make the bear, yet to the child, it is an empty sound. If I do not impart something from the idea to the child, he is profited nothing. If I persist in impressing the child's matter with the idea till the senses become cognizant of the fact, then the child is wiser. But if I do not, the talk is an empty sound. Therefore words, although to me they may contain something, still, if I have not the power of imparting the substance to another, they are as nothing.

Every word is filled with something in the form of matter. This something is thrown out by the person who uses the word and this affects another mind in the form of a sensation. Now if the sensation is not recognized by the person that receives it, then it excites their curiosity to learn the cause. I will suppose a case, for sensation contains no wisdom to the person receiving it till he is made acquainted with the substance of the thing spoken. If a Frenchman should ask a person (in French), Have you ever seen a cat? If the person addressed was ignorant of French, to him the word would contain no wisdom, although the Frenchman had wisdom. But the wisdom was in him and not in the words. While they are talking a cat comes into the room, and the Frenchman says, Voila un chat. Now he has imparted his meaning and both have wisdom in regard to the animal, but the wisdom is in them and not in the cat. Now here is the trinity in the principles of reason. The word is the name of the Father, the cat or matter, the Son or theory and the application of the word to the animal was the Holy Ghost or explanation of the union of the Father and Son. The word God is the word for that substance called the father, Jesus or the matter, the son; the explanation of the union of wisdom and matter is the Holy Ghost or science.

Now here is the introduction of the devil or false reason. A sensation is made that contains no wisdom. The wisdom is in the explanation of the person that feels it and wishes to convey it to another. This is done in two ways: one by sympathy without language, the other by sympathy in the language or using the language to convey the sympathy. One is wisdom and the other is power. In the case of the woman who had the issue of blood, the sympathy of Jesus was given to the woman, not accompanied by any explanation, only a mere word from Jesus to convince her that he knew that he had imparted something to someone in need and he knew the woman was the one. Now to the woman, here was a cure by power; but when he cured by the power of the Holy Ghost, then he explained the fact, or it was no more than any other cure. So the Holy Ghost is the science or language that conveys the idea to the sick or associates the word with the thing. This was heaven and happiness. I will illustrate. I call on the sick; I sit down and receive from the patient their thoughts, not their language but their feelings. These to me are wisdom for I can tell what the cause is or what makes them, for sensation contains the substance of the idea. I know the idea by the sensation just as a person knows an orange by the odor.

When I smell an orange to me it contains wisdom, but if I had never seen or smelled one, the smell would be a sensation without wisdom. This is science: to teach to every person the principles of association (or of attaching the word to the object). For instance, take the word neuralgia. To all who have never heard the word, it only produces a slight shock. As truth is light and error darkness, the word to some is light and to others is darkness. Then the word is in the darkness and the darkness cannot comprehend it. So to darkness or error, it is a sensation. This makes error nervous or excites curiosity to know what it is, and here is introduced false reasoning. Error, taking the word for truth, commences explaining what it is, so he imparts to ignorance his version or someone's else. The patient receives the word with joy, not thinking that it contains the seeds of misery. At last the matter springs up and the patient finds himself nervous and fussy. Fed by this poisonous substance, he goes to the doctor to hear him give it a name. The doctor, being an anti-Christ, says it is neuralgia, so he unites the word to the thing the patient has made and they two become as one twain. This is the false Christ that Jesus told the people to beware of. Now if I have shown how language is used by these two elements or by science and error, then you will see that it is easy to tell the false Christ from the true one, although they both use the same language, for language is only the echo of our thoughts. Our thoughts make the wisdom but our language directs it. So if our wisdom is not of truth, it will show itself by uniting the word to the thing spoken of so that there can be no doubt. But if it is from opinion, it is evil. I will now make an application with this remark first.

Every idea spoken of that cannot be seen, only as an opinion, is to be doubted until some evidence is given to show that it exists outside of man. What state of the world do you imagine would be struck out of existence if the human race should cease to breathe at this instant. The world would exist and everything on it and men's bodies would be lying around and in fact everything that could be seen by the natural eye while living. I am now supposing that man is gone so far as his intelligence goes. All is annihilated. Do you suppose that disease would be prowling round? Would spooks and ghosts be haunting the tombs and dwellings? Would religion be preached by angels? Would heaven be anywhere or hell be in existence? I think I hear someone say this would be the end of all things. Now just suppose that the Great Cause of all things should cause a deep sleep to pass over the frames and there should be a shaking among the dry bones. The flesh should return to the bodies and they should stand up and exhibit signs of life, but no wisdom. All former ideas of everything known was lost: no language, except the original language of sympathy. Do you suppose if a person felt a sensation in the brain, he would call it neuralgia or anything? Now he wants to communicate to his friend how he feels. This he cannot do by language for like those who built the tower of Babel, their language had become corrupt. So that when they called for bricks, they brought them mortar. Therefore, there was a time when language ceased to convey any true idea of sensation.

Now suppose it should enter some one's mind to invent words to explain a sensation. For instance, if a person felt a sensation from an animal running towards him, he might say, “Scared.” Now the one who heard the word would have no idea of the sound except as a sensation. So they set themselves to work to give the sensation a name, and as it was in sympathy with both, they called it “Scare.” To modify it, it might be called fear or some other word. Now they knew the sensation and applied it to the thing; to them it was wisdom or true. But those that heard the sound and forgot the sensation would attach the word to the sound. And when they heard a sound, it would convey the idea of some horrid thing that frightened them. So you see the very instant man commences using language to convey an idea of sensation, he introduces a false mode of reasoning that leads to all sorts of error and deception. People would become superstitious and false ideas of disease would spring up.

Therefore, all the evils that flesh is heir to are the invention of man. Man has invented every invisible thing that haunts the mind of man. He has created and formed it in this invisible world and these things are as much in existence as the creation of anything in the natural world. As man creates and forms things from the invisible word, so he creates and forms things in the form of diseases and teaches the young and old how to make them. So man forges the fetters or disease that torments him. Man must be taught that he is the author of his own misery. And until that time comes, man will be tormented by his own belief and that of others. This is hard to understand, yet it is true.

Now separate false ideas from the true and then language ceases to have such a sway over the world. But now it is in the hands of the most desperate set of demagogues that ever existed. I am now speaking of that class of words applied to the health and happiness of man. The language of mechanics does no harm, for it means just what it says and so does the language of all science. But when you come to the medical faculty, the clergy and the politician, then language is like that of Babel, a confusion of tongues. It has no application to anything, only the superstition of the world and such superstitious ideas as witchcraft, disease and devils, ghosts and spirits that never have any existence, only in the invisible part of man's being. All of which science will destroy.

These being admitted and man being an inventive being as well as a creative one and his mind being matter, he can create out of his own body or matter any image that his wisdom can be made to understand. So as disease is the greatest evil that troubles him, he creates the image of his own belief and sets it up in his body. And the doctor comes and names it after some invisible thing called disease and says he has caught it or it has got hold of him. So man torments himself by his own folly. I will give a case to illustrate what I have said. Take a man that is in the habit of drinking. He is exciting his system or mind till he gets it into a complete state of working matter, like the potter's clay. Now he is ready to produce any kind of living creature. No one will doubt but he does create the things he sees for they are as real as anything that ever had an existence, but the life of these things depends upon the person. So the whole world is as much a hypochondriac on disease as the drunkard is in regard to his blue devils.

Excitement from study under a false direction brings about a state of mind to create all these devils that the medical faculty produce. So the medical faculty and the priests stand to the people as the rum shop stands to the intemperate: workshops for all sorts of evil spirits in the form of disease, insanity and every kind of misery of the wholesale or retail. Science is opposed to both and to all sorts of false reasoning that leads to misery. My mode of reasoning separates the true from the false. Truth never creates any false images but destroys them all. It never comes to make peace but war, for error is always making trouble. Therefore, science comes to destroy it. Its work is to set one error against another and let error destroy itself. And then peace and happiness will reign and out of the destruction of error comes happiness.

The question may be asked what is wisdom? I will try to give you an illustration. Suppose you invent some new machine for guiding a vessel. Now in illustrating a truth, you must suppose yourself ignorant of navigation, so you apply yourself to the study to learn it thoroughly. You enter a ship as an apprentice for the sake of learning. The word navigation is a word that is applied to a certain kind of wisdom not reduced to practice. The theory is learned and then your senses attach the word navigation to the theory and this is called knowledge, for it admits a doubt whether you know it or not. To know a thing is to put it into practice and know how you do it, while to teach it to others is another branch. Therefore in all this there is no true wisdom. Suppose you take a voyage with me and try to put your wisdom into practice and you fail. Then where do you stand? Your wisdom is not wisdom but a belief based on what you have no proof of. You believed a person could navigate a vessel.

Now I want to put your theory or name in sympathy with the matter or elements or practice of seamanship. So I make the winds and currents and tides and cross seas and every obstacle that a ship master has to encounter, so that you see all this as you see your theory. Now both are separate; each has its identity separate and apart from the other. One is matter, while the other is spirit. Now to unite the two is wisdom. So when I teach you how to apply your theory to your practice so that the two become one, the wedding is called wisdom. Before it was a theory or belief, not wisdom. So now you being one, when you are asked if you believe you can navigate a vessel, you will say I have no belief, I know I can. This is known to you. So knowledge is a belief in wisdom. But when you put your knowledge or belief into practice or apply it to something and it is right, then the two bring forth the element called wisdom. Now as wisdom creates, it cannot act against itself, for the beginning and end is the present. It speaks and it is finished, but belief speaks and then applies itself and when it finds the answer, it becomes wisdom. Now here is the difference. When man speaks, he either speaks the truth or he lies. For instance, when I say I believe that there is such a place as London, do I tell the truth or give my opinion? If I ever was in London and should say I know there is such a place as London, I lie for I cannot see it, and it may be destroyed by fire or in some other way. But if I should say I knew there was such a city called London a year ago for I was there, that is wisdom. But to say I know there is a place called London now may be true and may be false, for it admits a doubt; and if these differences are not made, man gets into trouble. For instance, you feel a little out of sorts and sick and you call a physician. You say I am sick and want you to help me. The physician says, How do you feel? Now apply the wisdom here. Say to him, Tell me how I feel and then you will convince me that you have some wisdom, for his knowledge of your case depends entirely upon the application. If his knowledge depends upon your telling him, then there is no wisdom. But when you apply your wisdom to the thing spoken of, this is knowledge and it becomes wisdom, for all doubts are gone and there is no belief or opinion.

The difference between myself and the medical faculty is in the application of what we know. What they know is just nothing, and what I know is what I feel and my wisdom is in the knowledge of applying my senses to the thing that produced the sensation. I enter a room that is hot; I feel the heat and it affects me; you do the same and both are affected. I know that heat is the cause. Now this knowledge of heat and the knowledge of my feeling produces the state called wisdom. But your knowledge of heat is not sufficient to put you in possession of the fact that your feeling is the effect of heat. So your knowledge is based on a belief and this belief, not being wisdom, makes you nervous, for you want wisdom or harmony. So you call a physician and his wisdom like yours is opinion and he tries to find the cause, so he admits a cause.

Experiments are now tried on you, for in his ignorance he believes it must originate in you. So in the confusion he and you get up another effect which is the reaction of your acts, and you give it a name. He being blind, leading the blind, you both fall into the ditch.

Now I think I have carried you along through this voyage and have now once more landed you on the shore of investigation. Now I ask if you can tell me what it is to get wisdom. I think I hear you say it is applying the name of what you do not know to the thing spoken of. Illustrate. I will. I ask you if you ever heard of a dwarf and you say, Yes. Can you tell me what it is and how it looks. You say, No. I do not know what the word means. So I say, Come with me and I will apply the word to the thing. So I lead you up to Commodore Mutt and say, This is a little dwarf. Now as your senses are attached to the word before you see the matter or thing, when I feel your senses or mind in communication with the matter, out comes another element called wisdom.

So true wisdom cannot be changed and to get wisdom requires the application of science, for science is wisdom put into practice. Now do you think I understand? I will answer in the words of Jesus, Oh, Israel, the Lord thy God is our God, and to love the Lord thy God with all thy might, etc., and thy neighbor as thyself. And the Scribe said, Thou hast answered truly, for there is but one God and to love him is more than all burnt offerings. Then Jesus said to him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of heaven. This God was to put this wisdom into practice and to know that was more than all the offerings of the priests and wisdom of the wise. To know it is heaven and the wisdom gives the happiness.

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