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Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond

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To the Sick: The Conflicting Elements in Man

A sick person is two beings: one of which is opinions and the other Science. The senses or life is attached to both so that man is not seen at all, but the result or idea is seen by the idea matter. Wisdom is what is called progression; opinions are aristocracy. These two powers are acting in opposition to each other. All they agree in is an identity called themselves or a kind of marriage or co-partnership, like man and wife. The idea body is called man, but each claims the right to act through it in their own peculiar way, like a telegraph company. It is the medium of both unless in times of war when the strongest power controls the company. Now a man sick is a deceived man, for wisdom never deceives anyone, while error is always in trouble. So after man is once set in motion, he is then like a ship ready to receive the master. Every state of mind is under the control of these two elements: one is caution and the other is recklessness. The regulator is wisdom or science. This never acts except when the other two get into a quarrel. Then it acts by harmonizing the two, not by compromise but by convincing recklessness of its error and caution of its fear or ignorance.

I will try and illustrate. Take a person with the hip disease. He is a man of opinions called hip disease. This is one person; science is the judge; progression or recklessness is the other person. Progression wants to go ahead; opinion is afraid of the danger; it reasons according to its evidence. When the man was well, he was neither one nor the other but a natural progression. When started or excited these two characters are at war and each wants its way. I will take this combination of individual and suppose him one man at first, well or in harmony with himself, that is, having no opinions or ambitions. At last something starts him. Progression wants to get rid of the enemy; opinions want to stop and argue. While in this quandary, another man of opinions comes along and asks the trouble. Opinion states that there is trouble in the leg. Opinion wants to reason. Progression does not want to reason but to go on, let what will come. They halt. The man of opinions or doctor looks very wise and asks all kinds of questions of ignorance until he gets the entire story and sees that the opinions of the sick man are based on ignorance or no opinions at all.

Then he gives his wisdom based on the opinion of ignorance that the sciatic nerve is affected and the inflammation may spread and reach the hip joint, which would cause disease. In that event, amputation and possibly death may follow. Ignorance receives this as true and now the man is made of opinions and ambition, although the latter is ignorance as long as it is held in check by opinions. Now ambition wants to walk, but opinion says, “Don't step; it will injure the limb.” So these two are at war till someone wiser comes to help. The wisdom of the man listens to the arguments of the two. I will take the lame man, as he is seen, and myself talking to him. I say to him, Won't you try to walk? This is addressed to the man of opinions or the natural man. He makes an effort and then says, “I can't. My hip pains me and I can't step at all.” Now I know there is no pain in the hip, so I say, The pain is not in the hip, it is in the mind. This sometimes makes the patient angry, for he thinks it is in his hip. I commence to reason; this makes him nervous and he says his hip pains him. I then ask him what idea he has of the hip. He says the doctors have examined it and have pronounced it hip disease, accompanied by an infection of the sciatic nerve.

I then say this name is the cause of all your trouble. He says “Oh, no! I felt the pain long before I saw a doctor.” Well, suppose you did, is there any intelligence in the pain? (P) Yes. (D) What? (P) Why, when I have a pain I know it. (D) Who knows it? (P) I myself. (D) Then you yourself exist when you have a pain? (P) I suppose I do, I know my hip aches. (D) Would your hip ache if you did not know it? (P) Yes. (D) Does your other hip ache? (P) No. (D) How do you know? (P) Because I do not feel it ache. (D) Then because you do not feel it ache, it does not ache? (P) Yes. (D) Then if you do not feel the lame one ache, does it ache? (P) I do not care anything about your reasoning. I know my hip aches and that is all I can say and if you can stop it, that is all I want. (D) You get nervous? (P) Well, you make me so nervous, you make my leg ache. (D) I have not touched your hip, have I? (P) No, but your talk makes it ache. (D) I know that and that is just what I want to convince you of. (P) Well, if that is what you want to do, you have succeeded. (D) Now I want to show you how your hip became as it is.

In the first place, God never made any intelligent ache or pain. The intelligence is attached to the intelligence of man. I will give you an illustration. Suppose you should have a lead pipe leading from a well to your house and that you should drink the water. You admit that the water in the well is good, but if it runs through a lead pipe it is poisoned; the one who tells you that story disturbs your mind, but the disturbance contains no intelligence. Yet, as you reason his belief into you, you become poisoned and you put your belief into the water, so that according to your belief, you poison yourself. You now become diseased with your own belief or the doctor's. You said my talk made you nervous, so it did, and so did the doctor's and my controversy is with the doctor's belief or poison. So you listen to my controversy with the doctor or your disease and I address myself to the disease as a person independent of yourself, as a man of health. In this way, I say to your disease, it has deprived your life or senses by its opinions and disease denies it and asks for proof. I say you have told him his hip is diseased. Disease will ask him if his hip is not lame. Of course, he will say, Yes, for he believes it true.

September 1861

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