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Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond

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As the public exhibition of the effects of mesmeric sleep is now waking up the community in this vicinity, I thought a few brief remarks on its nature, would not be uninteresting to your readers, especially to those who have not witnessed any of its wonderful phenomena. If mesmerism be true, it is the cause of benevolence and mercy—of righteousness and philosophy, and should command the respect and admiration of every man of science and talents, us well as the people at large. It is now embraced by men of the first order of mind, both in Europe and America; and if it is what they say it is, it will open new and delightful fields of thought to the human soul, by which the mysterious and wonderful powers of the living and God—like mind can be seen and felt. It ought not to be scoffed at and discarded because its operations are mysterious, for all nature is but a mystery. All the operations of nature going on around us, are strange and mysterious, and the only reason we have caused to wonder is, because we have grown up with them, and they seem natural or common. Nature has given us the power of moving from one place to another, called locomotion. The power of locomotion is under volition or will. The will only intimates its pleasure, the muscles instantaneously contract to execute the decree, to stretch the arm or close the hand—to furrow the brow with frowns, or dimple the cheek with smiles.

We walk, we run, we throw our extremities into an infinite variety of attitudes; yet utterly unable to say which nerve should act, which muscle contract, or which tendon approximate. The mind touches every locomotive muscle, in the human body, though it knows nothing at all, concerning the nature of its implements or process of its operations. The efficient cause of these we know nothing of, as is the case of all other first causes. But most undoubtedly it is the spirit of animalion which pervades all organized bodies. The whole universe may be said to consist of two essences or substances—one of which is spirit, the other matter—the first is the cause of all motion, the second can receive and communicate it. Every thing under heaven has incomprehensibles interwoven with it. Let this subject then be thoroughly investigated—let its truths be treasured and its errors thrown away. Pathetism, spiritualism, sympathy, or whatever else we may call it, is the direct impulse of mind upon the minds and bodies of others. It is the science of mind and its powers, and is the highest and most sublime of sciences, if true, in the whole universe of God. It supposes that the nerves are charged with a certain quantity of the spirit of animation. Now a person may lack the natural or proper quantity of this energetic spirit in his nerves or brain. The process of magnetising is thus preformed. Let a person whose brain is healthily and fully charged with this spirit of animation come in contact with one whose brain is greatly wanting of it, and let the person possessing the full brain, gently, constantly, and unchangeably hold his mind upon the other, and by the incessant action of his volition or will, the animal spirit will pass from the full brain to the other, until the equilebrium between the spirits of the two brains is attained. The spirit in the full brain will become uncombined, free and radiant like caloric, and will pass into the other till both possess an equal share, or till the latter becomes surcharged, and the subject, in a certain sense, is made superhuman, angelic, clairvoyant! It is supposed that this spirit of animation is the only agent by which the will contracts the muscles. Hence the conclusion is made, that by the concentration of the mind upon an individual, and by the action of the will, this spirit of animation can be thrown upon another person, till his nervous system is fully charged. This is what is meant by mesmerism. The philosophy of magnetism, spiritualism, or mesmerism, or whatever name it may be called, takes a bold and lofty stand on the very pinacle of the universe and denies in direct terms, that there is any power or motion whatever, in the whole of God's immensity, except it originates in finite or infinite will. It supposes that there is an energy and a power in the human spirit, proportionate to its greatness and that a finite spirit by putting forth a finite will, can produce a finite result. It supposes that the spirit of animation is the natural atmosphere or substance emanating from God, which proceeding forth, from Him, does not therefore exist independent of him, but is matter itself. It says that thought, reason, understanding, are not mind but the effects of mind—that mind is a substance whose nature is motion, and the result of that motion is thought—that it occupies space, which has inate or living energy; and that the result of that energy, is thought, reason, understanding—and therefore power. There is one circumstance more than any other which makes the effects of this power sublime, grand, etherial! It is the clairvoyant state. In this state the subject is made to see in a manner different from the ordinary mode of vision. His mind is one radiant point whose centre is the brain and whose light is every where. It is said that the subject can then see out of his temple, out of the top or back part of his head, and also through opaque and infinite distances. Or in other words, the whole brain is, as it were, metomorphosed into a retina, and the image of the whole universe is in a certain sense brought to his view! It opens the slumbering eyes of his soul! This clairvoyance or clear sighted ness is philosophically explained in the following manner:

It is supposed that seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling, belong exclusively to the mind. The power of sight being in the mind, we never see any thing out of our own natural eyes—we never can see matter, but only its shadow. When we look into a [illegible]* .... puts through the skull, by the spirit of animation. It is said that when the brain is surcharged or suffocated with more than its natural quantity of this spirit it renders us etherial and super—human, that is clairvoyant. It is then the spirit of animation passes in right lines from the mind, as a common centre, and in every direction through the pores of the skull, and renders it transparent as glass, and our vision becomes celestial and all-seeing!

In regard to mesmerism, I know not what to believe. It cannot be met by philosophy, sound argument, or common sense. It is a subject I do not understand, and consequently offer no opinion. I cannot renounce or uphold its doctrines. There seems to be a strange phenomenea in its operations—strange and wonderful indeed! That a patient may be so entranced or thrown into a mesmeric coma, so as, during the severe surgical operation of 10 or 12 minutes, to give not the least sign of sensibility, or movements of limbs or features—no change in the respiration or voice—no emotion even in the pulse, and still be conversing all the time with the operator, is a wonderful phenomenon. But it is not so much so, as that of clairvoyance, in which the mesmeriser only wills, and he takes the mesmerized wherever he pleases. He may transport him one mile or ten thousand in an instant, with the same facility—he sets him down at pleasare,—he asks him what he sees—the mesmerised describes the place sometimes with wonderful minuteness, and gives the intelligence to the mesmeriser. He asks questions of any one who may be present in this foreign place, and obtains definite answers, and gives forthwith the result of his mission to the mesmeriser or one who may be in communication with him, through the medium of his own natural speaking voice. The mesmerised is thus made on instantaueous herald, to bring from far and near—from Boston, New York, New Orleans, Paris, or London [illegible]*...all that as seen and all that is going on there! If these things are real, they are the greatest paradoxes in the limits of the visible creation, and even philosophy itself must bow before them, and humbly acknowledge that their solution comes not within the province either of its own eye or arm; and the greatest man on earth gazing on, may esteem himself only a child playing with trifles and toys on the shore of knowledge, while the great ocean of invisible things lie stretched beyond him! Is mesmerism a substance or a shadow? Is it delusion or a glimmering from the world of spirits? Is it one of the links that connects us to the spiritual world, or is it a spell produced by Nature's wild magic? Shall we believe or shall we not believe it? I have a few more observations to make, and then I shall close. It is said by men of science and medical knowledge, who have experience in this strange subject, that mesmerism produces no phenomenon that does not occur in nervous affections, without mesmerism—that any strict observer, acquainted with the most remarkable nervous diseases, and with the phenomena of mesmerism, well knows that a person may be asleep and snore, and yet hear and talk; and that touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing, my each be suspended or active, while the others are, one or more, of all, active or suspended. It is said that the mesmeric coma produces all the most wonderful phenomena of all affections of every portion of the nervous system; and that the torper or somnambulism or sleep—waking, which it produces is that which occurs in trances, as the deepest form of singular sleep, with very moderate central activity at one extreme, and that of persons in extatic delirium at the other, in which most of the faculties are very active, many perhaps far more active than when in the natural state, and only some faculties torpid, and these perhaps but partially torpid, so that, while the patient may be very talkative, clear and factious, he may be divested of his usual proper reserve, and even all sense of proprlety and really be in a new waking state. In somnambulism persons sometimes walk, talk, write and work even in the dark, nay they may do some things better than when awake, though the sleep continues, and they be insensible to mechanical inquiry, and snore; and in most instances, nothing is afterwards remembered, and the period passed in this sleep—waking state as a separate existence. This is said to be only a mesmeric state; and if disease produce a mesmeric state, why not produce one artificially? If there be cases of spontaneous or natural mesmerism; and the records of medicine supply a sufficient number, it is possible and very probably, they may be produced by art. The following circumstances in addition to what has already been adduced may be urged in favor of mesmerism:

1. It has been ascertained by experience, that patients can be rendered comatose through mesmerism, and unconscious of surgical operations.

2. It is a subject of great importance, in a benevolent point of view, and should not be treated with ridicule, nor at once rejected, because it is startling and mysterious.

3. We have no reason to suppose that all the persons of different ages and countries, who exhibit mesmeric phenomena, are imposters.

4. That a doctrine is entitled to some respect, that has been embraced by such men as Hufeland, Jeussieu, Cuvier, Ampere, La Place, and many distinguished minds in this country.

5. That the testimony in favor of the truth of mesmerism, coming with such uniformity from enlightened men of many nations who have no interest to deceive, and possess no possible means of collusion, is such that, applying to it the common strength of human evidence, can we withhold our assent to what is so strongly supported?

1844.

[* It appears this article was folded and worn prior to being affixed into the scrapbook. Consequently, there are two places where a line or two are illegible.—RH]
[“Norridgewock” is handwritten above and below this article. It is my current opinion that this is the lecture written and delivered by Quimby before the committee at Norridgewock.—RH]

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