by Horatio W. Dresser
Rightly interpreted, this explanation leads beyond “animal magnetism” by showing that it is not a question of a supposed “fluid” or of electricity, but of mental influences which no mesmeric theory could account for. But Lucius has no inkling of this. He does note, however, that Mr. Quimby is himself beginning to cure in a remarkable way. He writes, “Mr. Quimby has performed a miracle here. He took a man that had a lame shoulder. It was partially out of joint. He worked upon it, and the man said there was no pain in it. This astonished them. This afternoon the man went about his work as well as ever. . . . [Mr. Quimby] took a man out of the audience (a perfect stranger to him) and effected a cure on his arm. The man bad not ben able to raise it up for two years and in a few minutes he was able to raise his arm up to his head, and moved it round free from pain.” (2)
(2) These preliminary cases must have taught Mr. Quimby much in regard to the re-establishing of confidence, for later we find him beginning as soon as possible to encourage patients to make an effort to walk or raise their arms, in instances where this power had been lost.
So far as Lucius is able to follow, such cases merely show Mr. Quimby’s power to exert “magnetic influence,” whatever that was supposed to be. He speaks, for example, of a patient to whom Quimby was taken by a Dr. Richardson. “The case was that of a woman who fell down and injured the elbow joint so that she couldn’t move it without excruciating pain. He magnetised her and made her move her arm about just as he pleased without any pain.”
Turning to Mr. Quimby’s own account of his experiments, we find once more that what Quimby was interested in was not the alleged “magnetism,” but the activities which resulted when a subject or patient accepted a certain idea and responded to it. For example, in an article dated 1863, Mr. Quimby states that he found his mesmeric subject possessing a psychical sense of smell such that Lucius could not only detect any odor at a distance, but “describe the flower or person that threw the odor.” Noticing Lucius’s responsiveness to what he had perceived, or at other times merely thought he perceived, Mr. Quimby resolved to try an experiment of another sort, namely, to prove that similar consequences would follow when there was no real object at all, but merely an idea.
“I said,” writes Mr. Quimby, that “I could create objects that my subject could see. So, of course I could create things that would frighten him, and I could create all kinds of fruit which he would eat and be affected by. For instance, when awake he was very fond of lemons, and was always eating them. I thought I would break him of it. So when I had him asleep I would create mentally a lemon, and he would see it. Then I would make him eat it till he would be so sick that he would vomit. Then he would beg me not to make him eat any more lemons. I never mentioned the conversation to him in his waking state. After trying the experiment two or three times, it destroyed his taste for lemons, and he had no desire for them and could not even bear the taste of them.”
From this experiment Mr. Quimby infers that “ideas that cannot be seen are as as real as those which can be seen ... Then man can account for his troubles as easily as he can account for injuries caused by an accident. . . . Some ideas contain no intelligence because the author puts none in them.” If a subject or a patient can be unpleasantly affected by a mere suggestion, one can utilize this power by directing the mind with intelligence, and so disabuse it of its errors. Since minds are reached directly in any event by mere “opinions,” working mischief, we all have it in our power to reach minds wisely, and no “subject” is required. Thus it becomes a question of developing that “wisdom,” as Quimby later called it, which should free people from adverse suggestions.
Mr. Quimby further saw that even when a subject is clairvoyant this state is of short duration, and the subject readily lapses into the mere mind-reading of those present. So the diagnosis of a disease, as well as the opinion that a certain remedy will be effective, may be in part mere mind-reading. In an article addressed to the editor of a Portland paper, February, 1862, protesting against being classed with spiritists, mesmerists, and clairvoyants, Mr. Quimby says,
“I was one of the first mesmerisers in the state who gave public experiments, and I had a subject who was considered the best then known. He examined and prescribed for diseases just as this class do now. . . . The capacity of thoughtreading is the common extent of mesmerism. Clairvoyance is very rare. . . .
“When I mesmerised my subject, he would prescribe some little simple herb that would do no harm or good of itself. In some cases this would cure the patient. I also found that any medicine would cure if he ordered it. This led me to investigate the matter, and arrive at the stand I now take that the cure is not in the medicine, but in the confidence of the doctor or medium. A clairvoyant never reasons nor alters his opinion; but, if in the first state of thought-reading he prescribes medicine, he must be posted by some mind interested in it, and must also derive his knowledge from the same source from which the doctors derive theirs.
“The subject I had left me, and was employed by _______, [John Bovee Dods] who employed him in examining diseases in the mesmeric sleep, and taught him to recommend such medicines as he got up himself in Latin; and, as the boy did not know Latin, it looked very mysterious. Soon afterwards he was at home again, and I put him to sleep to examine a lady, expecting that he would go on in his old way; but instead of that he wrote a long prescription in Latin. I awoke him, that he might read it; but he could not. So I took it to the apothecary who said he had the articles, and that they would cost twenty dollars. This was impossible for the lady to pay. So I returned and put him to sleep again; and he gave me his usual prescription of some little herb, and [the patient] got well.”
This result convinced Mr. Quimby that if mediums and subjects had not acquired their alleged knowledge from the “common allopathic belief,” and if it were not for “the superstition of the people,” very few cures would be wrought. The fact that the medium's eyes are closed, for example, adds to the mystery. The people as readily responded to the suggestions of doctors who helped them create their diseases, in the first place, as to the supposed wisdom of the medium in the second. It is all a matter of suggestion any way. But real service to the sick would consist in showing them how they had been deceived. Mr. Quimby’s experience with mesmerism had taught him the real secret of humbuggery in the case of both mediums and of mesmerists or supposed “magnetic healers.” He had to pursue his investigations far enough to be thoroughly convinced, and to come into possession of the true principle. Moreover it was necessary for him to experiment with Lucius long enough to make the highly important discovery that he, Quimby, was clairvoyant, too, without the aid of mesmerism, and without any of the psychical manifestions through which the spiritists influenced people.
[This is the fourth and final 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.]
Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond is the ultimate reference source for historically accurate information of this nineteenth-century clockmaker turned metaphysical teacher and healer. Including the Missing Works of P. P. Quimby; based on new and independent research by the editor, the present volume surpasses all previously published "complete" compilations of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby's writings in size, scope and historical accuracy. Published by the Phineas Parkhurst Quimby Resource Center.
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Today, we are concluding our examination of 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.
Beginning next week, we will move forward to the next chapter of Quimby’s personal development, with the first installment of The Principles Discovered, as outlined in chapter 5 of The Quimby Manuscripts.
Follow along with us as we trace his footsteps!
Horatio Willis Dresser, the first child of Julius Alphonso Dresser and Annetta Gertrude (Seabury) Dresser, was born on January 15, 1866, or the day before Quimby died. His parents first met, fell in love and then married while they were each patients of Dr. Quimby during the years of his healing practice in Portland, Maine.
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