by Horatio W. Dresser
To note how radical was the change through which Mr. Quimby passed as he turned from the mesmeric point of view, we need to revert for the moment to his first experiments. In one of his descriptive articles he tells us that the first time he sat down to try to mesmerise another man he took a chair by him and the two, joining hands with a young man as subject, tried to will the latter to sleep. Their hypothesis was that electricity would pass from their organisms into that of the subject. So by “puffing and willing,” they tried to convey their electricity until at last the subject fell asleep. Having the young man in their power the two men then tried to determine which one had the greater influence.
“So we sat the subject in the chair, the gentleman stood in front of him and I behind him, and the gentleman tried to draw him out of the chair; but he could not start him. Then we reversed positions, and I drew the subject out of the chair This showed that I had the greater power or will. This ended the first experiment.”
Later, Mr. Quimby, experimenting alone, put the subject asleep in five minutes. But as he was new at that sort of thing he did not know what to do next. So procuring books he learned what one is supposed to do. He did not then realize that the results obtained depended upon the theory one adopts and the phenomena one accordingly anticipates. But later he became convinced that acceptance of the theory of magnetism and the mesmeric sleep predisposed his mind to produce the results, and that if had never heard of a book on the subject the results would have been very different. Furthermore, he concluded that however absurd the ideas acquired by the operator, the operator will prove them “true” by his experiments, since, as he tells us, “beliefs make us act, and our acts are directed by our beliefs.” Mr. Quimby had to be credulous in the beginning in order to find out that he had merely proved a belief and was far from truth.
At the outset, then, the hypothesis was that the subject responded merely because the operator contained more electricity and had the stronger will, and will-power itself seemed to be little more than magnetism, so-called. But as matter of fact the books simply told a person how to become an operator without explaining anything that he did: there was no science of the thing at all. Even the conditions to be complied with were hypothetical. Thus Mr. Quimby found that if he had any steel about him it affected the subject, and so he had to keep all steel away as long as he believed that steel had anything to do with his failures. Again, if a sceptic sat too near, he failed. Stumbling along at first, he found himself as ignorant of the phenomena as when he began, so long as he held to the hypothesis of a magnetic current and the notion that precise material conditions were essential. The resource was to drop the prevailing views and set out in quest of another explanation.
In this early period of investigation, Mr. Quimby was entirely sceptical in regard to clairvoyance and kindred phenomena, also sceptical of any experiment where the subject had any foreknowledge of what was to be done. To avoid any possible error or ground for doubt, he therefore adopted the rule, and held steadily to it during the four years of his association with Lucius, never to let the subject know what was expected of him save mentally. Even if he merely wished Lucius to give him his hand, he would ask him mentally, never audibly. During the entire four years there was no evidence that Lucius knew in his waking state what he did when in the mesmeric sleep. There was a great advantage in favor of this rule, for Quimby could be absolutely sure of his results.
By depending solely upon his mental communications with Lucius, Mr. Quimby was able to attain a high degree of success, and to learn in due course that the whole process was mental, that neither the state of the weather, the presence of metals, nor the passing of an alleged current from one organism to the other had anything to do with the actual result.
That Lucius received no impression from any source save Quimby’s thought, during an experiment with this end in view, was also clear from the fact that Mr. Quimby could in imagination call up the picture of a wild animal, and by concentrating upon this picture and making it as vivid as possible frighten Lucius by means of it. If the operator told his subject during the experiment that the animal was merely imaginary, this qualification made no difference; for Lucius was completely subject to the mental picture, and was unable to draw upon his own reason or entertain an explanation of the experiment. This result led Mr. Quimby to believe that “man has the power of creation,” and that ideas take form. Then the question arose, What are ideas composed of? “They must be something, or else they could not be seen by the spiritual eyes.” This led Quimby to inquire whether Lucius could see anything if he merely thought of something abstract, such as a general principle. “I found that if I thought of principles, he had no way of describing them, for there was nothing to see; but if I thought of anything that had form I could make him see it.”
Sight, then, was equivalent to reality for Lucius. Yet in the operator’s mind there might be merely a visual image. But if the supposed object had no existence outside of the mind of the operator and the subject’s perception of it, why might not an alleged “spirit” in the case of spiritistic phenomena be a mere idea in the mind of people in the audience? An experiment convinced Mr. Quimby that this could be the case. Requesting any one to give him a name written on a bit of paper, Mr. Quimby passed the slip of paper to Lucius, who was sitting blindfolded by the committee. Lucius read the name aloud. Quimby then told Lucius to find the person. His account of this experiment continues as follows:
“My mode was to make him ask questions so that the audience could lead him along. So I said, ‘Who is he, a man or a boy?’ He said, ‘A man.’ ‘Is he married?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Well, tell me if he has children, and how many.’ He answered, ‘His wife has three children.’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘find him.’ Lucius said, ‘He left town between two days’ ‘Well find him.’ He traced him to Boston, and by inquiring followed him to the interior of New York and found him in a cooper’s shop. Now all this was literally true, and I suppose some one in the audience knew the facts, although neither the subject nor I knew anything about the man. I asked what became of the man. Lucius said the man was dead. ‘Well,’ said I, ‘find him and bring him here!’ ‘Well,’ said he, ‘he is here, can’t you see him?’ Said I, ‘Give a description.’ So he went on and gave a general description. But these general descriptions amount to nothing, for every one will make the description fit his case. So I said, ‘I don’t want that; if there is anything peculiar about the man, describe it.’ ‘Well,’ said he, ‘there is one thing. He has a hair lip.’ I asked the question so that if there was anything peculiar the audience would create it.”
What was the explanation of such an experiment? Mr. Quimby concluded that those in the audience who were predisposed to believe in spirits would infer that Lucius actually brought the man’s spirit there. The proof was found in the fact that Lucius accurately described the man's peculiar appearance. But those who believed in thought-reading would conclude that Lucius had read from the minds of the audience his description of the man’s appearance, and that the rest of the experiment was to be explained on the basis of clairvoyance. Once in touch with the personality of the man in question, as known by people present, Lucius could have read the rest, or discerned the mental pictures successively appearing as Lucius gained point after point essential to the description. Mr. Quimby’s conclusion was that the mental image of the man was as real to Lucius as though the man himself or his spirit had been present. He became the more convinced that “man has the power to create ideas and make them so dense that they can be seen by a subject who is mesmerised.” If an imagined person, or the mere memory image of a person was as real to the subject as an actual “spirit,” why should one infer that a spirit was there?
[This is the first installment of a four part series originally written and published as Chapter V. THE PRINCIPLES DISCOVERED, 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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Beginning today, we are moving forward to the next phase of Phineas Quimby’s personal development, with the first installment of The Principles Discovered, as outlined in chapter 5 of The Quimby Manuscripts, by Horatio W. Dresser in 1921.
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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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