April 13, 2014


    Chapter XVI of The Quimby Manuscripts by Horatio W. Dresser

Dr. Quimby is so greatly interested in calling attention to the power of human beliefs in relation to all man’s troubles that he does not give much space to a description of the natural world, does not state his idea of matter very definitely, and often leaves the reader wondering how he distinguishes between matter and “spiritual matter” or the mind of opinions. He is especially interested to point out that matter can be “condensed into a solid by mind action,” that it undergoes a “chemical change” as a result of mental changes. He sometimes speaks of it as an “error” or shadow, as “an idea seen or not, just as it is called out.” Whatever its objective reality in the Divine purpose, matter in itself is inanimate, there is no intelligence in it. His view of matter is idealistic, therefore, and in considering his theory of disease and its cure we need to bear in mind that matter for him is plastic to thought. The ordinary or external mind which is “spiritual matter” is the intermediate term. Above this mind is the real man with his spiritual senses, his clairvoyant and intuitive powers. The final term is Wisdom, making known its truths in so far as there is responsiveness and intelligence on man’s part. This is said to possess a real “identity.” To find himself as an “identity” in every truth, man should know himself as the “scientific man,” able through Wisdom’s help to banish all errors from the world.” ~Horatio W. Dresser

[Continued from last week.—editor.]


What is disease? It is false reasoning. True scientific wisdom is health and happiness. False reasoning is sickness and death; and on these two modes of reasoning hang all of our happiness and misery. The question is, how can we know how to separate the one from the other? The truth cannot be changed; the false is always changing. The one is science, and the other is error, and our senses are attached to the one or the other. One is the natural development of matter or mind, and disease is one of the natural inventions of error. To show how disease is not what it is supposed to be, by those who use the word, I must show the absurdity of error’s reasoning, for error is the father of disease.

1 Published in part in “The Philosophy of P. P. Quimby,” 1895.

We are all taught by this error to call disease something that is independent of man. To make it more plain and show where the two modes of reasoning act, I will suppose a case and take that of a young man who feeling a little disturbed calls on a physician. The physician sounds his lungs, examines his heart, and tells the patient he is very liable to have the heart-disease. The patient asks him how he got it, and is told that he is liable to catch disease and have it and to catch it is to admit that it exists independent of himself. Though the patient were dead it would exist the same and others would be liable to get it. At last the patient really has the heart-disease, which his physician described to him.

And has he created it himself, or has the doctor created it for him? Now I propose to show that he has made what the world calls heart-disease without any one’s help. To show how a building is raised is to frame one and then take it down again, so I will take down this building heart-disease which this man has raised, and then you can see how ideas are made or raised. I will say to the patient, “You have built the disease yourself, in your sleep of ignorance.” This he cannot understand. So I will tell him how he has worked in his sleep and made this very edifice, heart-disease. So I begin to tell his dream by telling how he feels, in which he admits I am correct. Now when he was asleep, or ignorant of the feelings that disturbed him, behold a spirit in the form of a doctor sat by him. And to and behold, he called up from the dead a person with the heart-disease, as he calls it. “And he handled you, and your sleep departed from you, and your limbs became cold and clammy, and your pulse quickened. This excited your brain, and at last a figure of a person arose like unto the one you saw in your dream, and then you were afraid, and you awoke in a fright. At last the image became more terrible, till at length it overshadowed you and became a part of yourself, so that when you awoke you looked, and lo! and behold the dream had become a reality, and you had the heart-disease. Now whose dream was it, the doctor’s or yours? Did you catch the doctor’s or did you create it yourself, by your own reasoning in your sleep or ignorance, according to the pattern set you by the doctor?

“I say you made it yourself. Now to cure you, or take down the building, is to show you that all the feeling you had at the commencement arose from a trifling cause, and that when I can make you understand it I have performed the cure.” Instead of giving medicines or going to work by guess to destroy the building, I commence by showing the patient how he framed it by his own hand. So I reason in this way: “You listened to the doctor to try and understand what caused heart-disease. He explained every variety of feeling or symptom, and you listened until you understood it. Now without knowing it you created in your mind the disease, as much as you would if an artist or mechanic had taught you how to draught a building, and you should carry in your mind the building and in your sleep create it. The only difference would be that one would please you, for it would contain wisdom, while the other would bind you, for it would contain fear and would threaten to destroy your life. Your trouble is the material with which to build the building. A chemical change in the fluids of your system takes place, governed by your belief, and you condense the changes into a phenomenon corresponding with your plan. Your ingenuity in manufacturing the disease has been the destruction of your happiness. To destroy the disease I convince you that what the doctor said was an idea gotten up by error, not knowing how to account for some little disturbance, which in itself amounted to nothing, but by the doctor’s mode of reasoning about what he knew nothing, you were led astray into the darkness of heathen superstition where all kinds of evil spirits and disease dwell in the brain of man. Superstition always shows itself through the ignorance of man’s reasoning, assuming as many names and forms as the father of all lies, the devil or the error of mankind.”


The question is often asked, what is disease? It could be very easily answered by a physician of the old school by simply pointing out a person coughing and saying that person has consumption. Now instead of calling that phenomenon by a name, explain how it came. This the doctor does not do, except by another phenomenon as much in the dark as the former. So you may chase him from one lie to another until you are tired and only find out at last that it is a mystery. Where do I stand as far as disease goes? I know that the bottom of these phenomena is a lie in the beginning and started by a liar till it was received as true; then the phenomenon is called disease.

Every idea is the embodiment of an opinion resolved into an idea. This idea has life or a chemical change, for it is the offspring of a man’s wisdom and his senses are attached to it. For instance, you see something you would like. You attach your senses to the idea and then the value is in the idea in the shape of love or worth. If it is love, it is not in the idea but in the essence or author of the idea. I will try to make it plain. You see a person, at first sight you are affected, and you attach your senses to the idea in the form of love. You may, or may not be deceived. Passion or excitement is matter governed by error subject to love. Love is wisdom, passion is error acting upon ignorance. Science is to keep the two separate or in subjection to Wisdom. When two persons meet we think that the first impression comes from the idea or person, but this is not the case: the atmosphere around the idea is what is affected and this is not known to us, so we reason from a false basis, not knowing ourselves.

To give you a clearer idea of what I wish to convey, I must take myself as one person and my patient as another. When I sit down I am one person, that is, I am quiet, perfectly at ease, not afraid of any impression from my patient. My wisdom is my strength. My opponent’s wisdom is in his error, for if he knew the truth he would not want me. So there are two persons in one body, or two mentalities acting through one medium, and as error is a coward it assumes a sort of courage. I do not know how to describe true courage, for wisdom needs no such word. I never knew that God showed any courage. It seems to be a sort of braggadocio element. If a dog shows courage it is based on the assumption that he is not afraid, for when overpowered his courage fails, so it shows that what is called courage in us is an element not perfectly understood. Take away the fear of danger, then man has courage. Some men see danger where others do not and so no two men reason alike, so no two men’s courage is alike. I know no way of giving you a test of courage as well as to take myself.

When I first commenced my practice I thought I had courage as much as my neighbors, but as I found I was liable to be affected by another’s feelings my courage failed. So I used some sort of strategem to get the advantage of my patients and being rather reckless I ran risks which the world would call courageous. For instance, I was not afraid of an insane man if I could get his eye. To the world this looked like courage, but to me it was wisdom. I had no fear for I saw no harm. I have been trying to get wisdom in regard to the disease of mankind, for disease is like all other evils that come within our senses. When I first took the feelings of patients, it took courage to keep from taking the disease. I knew this kind of courage, it was fear lest I should be called a coward, so I would assume courage. But if I had known what I know now I should not have been in any more danger than a person would be in a boat where the water was not over three feet deep. But my courage admitted water twenty feet deep, rough at that, and myself in a leaky craft. As I began to touch bottom or get wisdom, I found that the depth of the water or the danger was in my patient’s mind and I believed his story without looking for myself, and the patient seemed two men to me. Thus I found out the trouble his fears were one man and his ignorance another. To make courage out of fear was to make him believe there was no danger; then his courage would come, and to destroy both was to let him know the truth.

I know that disease is the invention of man, therefore it requires no courage to say so, for there is no danger. Danger is that which calls out fear and courage is the element to face it; so just as a man loses fear he gains courage. Some men never see danger, so their courage is not courage, but a sort of artificial pride which makes them wish to be praised for what they know not, for their ignorance destroys their fear. This was the case with myself. My ignorance made me bold, for I knew no danger, but as soon as I found I was liable to be affected by the sick my fears came. Then just as I saw danger my fears increased and my courage failed; but I would feel the same reckless propensity to kill disease, so I would be more cautious and more careful till I found my enemy had the same fears that I had. At last it became a sort of warfare between myself and a patient. I found that my courage was my protection and that error was an element or odor, while ignorance and fear was what arose from that. So I came to the conclusion; that ignorance begets error, error begets fear, fear begets courage, and Wisdom destroys them all. So as man grows wise he grows strong and his wisdom makes him happy and good, for goodness is wisdom, and Wisdom is the religion of Jesus.

The [conventional] religion is the opposite of that. One is the invention of man, the other is the wisdom of God which Jesus illustrated by taking a little child. I will do the same, to show that goodness is a science and also that all religion based on man’s opinions must fall. One can be proved, the other cannot. I will illustrate the two by the child. Every one will acknowledge that the child’s character somewhat depends upon its bringing up. If this is admitted it shows that if the parents could see what was best for the child’s happiness much of its misery might be avoided; this fact is evident to all. It is a fact like all others in science; sometimes it works well, sometimes ill, but when it works ill we see how it might be avoided, showing that if we had more knowledge we might do better. This shows that Science is Wisdom reduced to practice, so as goodness is the result of our training, it is certain that to be good is a science, and as goodness is religion, that is a science. It is all summed up in this, that the world is made of ignorance, disease, religion and error, hyprocrisy and all sorts of evil; and to be a follower of Jesus and believe in the Christ is to separate yourself from the world and stand alone in your wisdom. Thus you will learn that man without wisdom is of all things the most miserable; he is liable to get into trouble by every act of his life.

[This is the seventh installment of a twelve–part series originally written and published as Chapter XVI. DISEASE AND HEALING, of The Quimby Manuscripts by Horatio W. Dresser. THOMAS Y. CROWELL COMPANY, 1921.—editor.]

Quotation by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

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Editor’s Corner

Today we are continuing a twelve–part serial review of Chapter 16, DISEASE AND HEALING, of the 1921 publication, of The Quimby Manuscripts by Horatio W. Dresser.

In Wisdom, Love, and Light,
Ron Hughes

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