by Horatio W. Dresser
Turning for the time being from the direct line of development of Mr. Quimby’s views, we find interesting confirmations of his experiments in newspaper clippings and letters of the period, 1840-47. The first of these are from Quimby's home town, Belfast. One of these writers says, in part:
“Before we proceed to describe the experiments, we will say that Mr. Quimby is a gentleman, in size rather smaller than the medium of men, with a well-proportioned and wellbalanced phrenological head, and with the power of concentration surpassing anything we have ever witnessed. His eyes are black and very piercing, with rather a pleasant expression, and he possesses the power of looking at one object even without winking, for a length of time.”
Newspaper writers were fair on the whole in what they said of him, while there were public-spirited citizens who were ready to write testimonials to physicians and other citizens of prominence in neighboring towns, that Mr. Quimby might be well received. In these testimonials and letters one finds the terms “mesmerism,” “magnetism” and “animal magnetism” used interchangeably without much idea of what they stood for. Plainly such words equalled “x,” as symbols for a power little short of a mystery, although Quimby was credited with entire honesty in performing his experiments. Apparently, it was still assumed that by making passes over a man’s head he could be put to sleep by means of some “fluid.” Hence interest centered about material facts, and there was no recognition of the fact, now a commonplace, that the human mind is amenable to suggestion, and that supposed magnetic effects are mere products of one mind on another. The mesmeric sleep was not understood, and so it was an easy matter to speak of the subject as “magnetised.” The chief value, therefore, of these contemporary references is found in their testimony to the facts, the authenticity of the public exhibitions and the results coming from examinations made by Lucius. Letters of recommendation were still necessary in those days.
Writing from Belfast, Nov. 18, 1843, and addressing himself to Hon. David Sears, Mr. James W. Webster makes the following statement:
“The bearer, Mr. Phineas P. Quimby, visits your city for the purpose of exhibiting the astonishing mesmeric powers of his subject, Master Lucius Burkmar. Mr. Quimby, as also the young man, are native citizens of this place, and sustain in the community unblemished moral characters.
“Mr. Quimby is not an educated man, nor is he pretending or obtrusive; but I think if you should take occasion to converse with him you will discern many traces of deep thought and reflection, particularly upon the subject above mentioned.
“His boy will I think demonstrate in an extraordinary manner the phenomena of magnetic influence, more especially in that department usually termed clairvoyance; and should you take an opportunity to be put in communication with him, I doubt not you will be gratified with the results. Time and distance with him are annihilated, and he travels with the rapidity of thought. I think he will describe to you the appearance of any edifice, tower or temple, and even that of any person either, in Europe or America, upon which or upon whom your imagination may rest. I say this much from the fact that I have been in communication with him [mentally] myself and do know that he describes remote places and even the appearance of persons at great distances which he never before could have heard or thought of. . . .”
Writing to Dr. Jacob Bigelow, apparently a physician of prominence, Dr. Albert T Wheelock writes from Belfast under date of Nov. 10, 1843, and describes an experiment in “animal magnetism” under mesmeric conditions in the case of an operation for the removal of a polypus from the nose. With a physician’s care in describing symptoms, the writer gives an account of the patient’s general condition and mentions her desire to be “magnetised.” Dr. Wheelock then goes on as follows:
“As she was entirely unacquainted in the town, at her request I procured the attendance of a gentleman who had the reputation of being a good magnetiser (Mr. P. P. Quimby), although entirely faithless on my own part, as I told her at that time . . . I am quite confident that the lady and Mr. Quimby had never met before and that there was nothing previously concerted. I am also confident that she took no drug to induce stupor. In ten minutes after commencing, she was put into a state of apparent natural sleep, breathing and pulse natural, color of countenance unchanged. Mr. Q. asked her if she felt well. ‘Yes.’ I immediately, in the presence of several noted citizens who were called in at their request, began to remove the polypus, and did it thoroughly. . . . I was operating perhaps 4 or 5 minutes at least. During the whole time she evinced not the slightest symptom of pain, either by any groaning, sighing or motion whatever, but was in all these respects like a dead body. I felt convinced that I [could] have amputated her arm. In about ten minutes after she was waked up, but said she was unconscious that anything had been done, complained of no pain, and found that she could now breathe freely through her nose, that previously had been entirely closed up, for several months. . . . Mr. Quimby . . . is an intelligent gentleman and worthy of the utmost confidence.”
Another communication, addressed to Nathan Hale, Dr. Jacob Bigelow, and Dr. John Ware, of Boston, dated Belfast, Nov. 6, 1843, has been deprived of its signature through much handling. It is intended to show the authenticity of the experiments performed by Quimby and his subject. The writer, who is careful in stating facts, says that the subject told him even his own thoughts which the writer kept to himself, also words that he simply visualized. Lucius when blindfolded told minute facts concerning things at a distance of half a mile which no one in the room knew, facts which he could not know by “any means within the limit of common experience.” The writer says:
“I have good reason to believe that he can discern the internal structure of an animal body, and if there be anything morbid or defective therein detect and explain it. The important advantage of this to surgery and medicine is obvious enough. He, that is, his intellect, can be in two places at the same time. He can go from one point to another, no matter how remote, without passing through the intermediate space. I have ascertained from irrefragible experiments that he takes ideas first directly from the mind of the person in communication with him, and, second, without reference to such mind, directly from the object or thing to which his attention is directed; and in both instances without any aid from his five bodily senses. He can perceive without using either of the common organs of perception. His mind when he is mesmerised seems to have no relation to body, distance, place, time or motion. He passes from Belfast to Washington, or from the earth to the moon, not as horses, steam engines or light, but swifter than light, by a single act of volition.
“In a word, he strides far beyond the reach of philosophy. He demonstrates, as I think, better than all physical, metaphysical or moral science, the immateriality of the human soul, and that its severance from the body involves not its own destruction. At least he proves this of himself. And I suppose other souls are like his. . . . Mesmerism as manifested by this boy lets in more light than any other window that has been opened for 1800 years. This may look like gross extravagance, but if you have the same luck I have you will find it is not so.”
[This is the first installment of a four part series originally written and published as Chapter IV. THE MESMERIC PERIOD, of The Quimby Manuscripts by Horatio W. Dresser. THOMAS Y. CROWELL COMPANY, 1921.—editor.]
An Invitation. The text for this invitation was extracted from the article: Cause of Disease, written by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby in 1863. This article is published in: Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond, by the Phineas Parkhurst Quimby Resource Center. Narration by Ronald A. Hughes. Running time 2:18
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For the next four weeks, we will be examining Phineas Quimby’s mesmeric period as outlined by Horatio W. Dresser in his 1921 publication of The Quimby Manuscripts. Quimby’s path to becoming an astonishing spiritual healer included traversing the popular mind sciences of his own timeframe. Follow along with us as we trace his footsteps!
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