by Horatio W. Dresser
His great love for truth, his desire to prove all things for himself, is then the most prominent characteristic of his early manhood. Apparently, those who knew him well in the early years of his life in Belfast saw nothing peculiar or exceptional in him. Hence there is nothing recorded that gives us any clue until, putting aside conventional standards of thought, we seek the man’s inner type, the sources of his insight in the Divine purpose. Yet there is an advantage in being known by one’s fellow townsmen as honest, upright, dedicated to practical pursuits, and by no means peculiar. For when Quimby took up a study that was unpopular, he was a prophet with honor in his own country. From his home town he went forth to engage in public experiments, well recommended. And in his own town he began the practice of spiritual healing, winning there the reputation which led him to move to Portland, in 1859, and enlarge his work.
Was he a religious man? In one of his articles he says, “I have been trying all my life, ever since I was old enough to listen, to understand the religious opinions of the world, and see if people understand what they profess to believe.” Not finding spiritual wisdom, he was inclined to be sceptical, and later spent much time setting his patients free from religious beliefs. George Quimby tells us emphatically that his father was not religious in the sense in which one might understand the term religion as applied to organizations, churches and authorized text-books. We shall see reasons for this distinction as we proceed. But if to believe profoundly in the indwelling presence of God as love and wisdom, if to live by this Presence so as to realize its reality vividly in the practice of spiritual healing, is to be religious, then indeed few men have been more truly religious than he. Those of us who have known his chief followers have felt from them a spiritual impetus coming from his work which surpasses what we have elsewhere met in actual practice.
After he ceased to experiment with mesmerism, and began to study the sick intuitively, he took his starting-point in religious matters from the state in which he found his patients. He found many of them victims of what we now call the old theology. The priests and ministers of that theology were to him blind guides. Hence, as he tells us, he made war on all religious opinions and on all priestcraft. Jesus was to him a reformer who had overcome all his religion before beginning to establish “the Truth or Christ.” Quimby was very radical in opposing doctrinal conceptions of Christ. He uniformly called Jesus “a man like ourselves,” that he might win for the Master new recognition as the founder of spiritual science. To him “the Science of the Christ” was greater than a religion.
Did he allow his own personality to become a centre of interest and admiration? Not at all. He realized of course that his patients would look up to him as to any physician who had restored them to health when there was apparently no hope. So he sometimes freely spoke of his “power or influence.” But this was to divert attention from doctors and medicines. He then disclosed the way to his great truth, and kept his “science” steadily before his patient’s mind. His manuscripts contain scarcely a reference to himself save to show what be learned from early investigations, why he is not a spiritualist, humbug or quack, and why he believed man possesses “spiritual senses” in touch with Divine wisdom. Thus he often speaks of himself in the third person as “P. P. Q.” not “the natural man,” but the one who has seen a great truth which all might understand.
In his constructive period in Portland, Quimby had around him, not ardent disciples who compared him with the great philosophers or with Jesus, but a small group who defended him against misrepresentation, and regarded him as he wished to be regarded, as a lover of truth. His patients became his special friends, and it was to those most interested that he gave forth his ideas most freely. The Misses Ware, who did most of the copying of the manuscripts and made changes in them according to his suggestions when he heard them read, were especially fitted for this service, since they brought forward no opinions of their own and were devoted to this part of the work. So, too, Mr. Julius A. Dresser, who spent his time after his own recovery, in June, 1860, conversing with new patients and inquirers, explaining Quimby’s theory and methods, was particularly adapted to aid the great cause to which his life was dedicated. A few followers wrote brief articles for the press, but none had the confidence to undertake any elaborate exposition, hoping as they did that the manuscripts would soon be given to the world and that these would disclose the new truth in its fullness.
It has been supposed that Quimby did no teaching, and this is true so far as organized instruction is concerned. But he did the same kind of teaching that all original men engage in, he conversed with his followers, speaking out of the fullness of experience and with the force of native insight. Thus he began the educational part of his treatment as soon as his patients were in a state of mind to listen responsively. Then he explained his “Truth” more at length as responsiveness grew and interest was awakened. Coming out of his office filled with insights from his latest sitting, he would share his views with interested groups. Sometimes, too, his essays would be read and the contents discussed. His writings were loaned to patients and followers who were especially interested, and after February, 1862, copies of his “Questions and Answers” were kept in circulation among patients. The Misses Ware and Mr. Dresser had freer access to the writings and were in a position to make supplementary explanations. In a way, this is the best sort of instruction in the world, this teaching by the conversational method when the works and evidences in question are immediately accessible to those interested to follow the implied principles and learn all they can.
This was the way in which the author of “Science and Health” received her instruction. Mrs. Eddy, then Mrs. Patterson, had the full benefit of these exceptional opportunities. Soon after she had sufficiently recovered from her invalidism to give attention to the principles of which she had witnessed such an impressive demonstration in her own case, she manifested great interest in the new truths. Mr. Dresser, who understood Quimby’s ideas and methods particularly well, talked at length with her, and later loaned her Vol. I of the manuscripts, printed in Chap. XIV. We learn from George Quimby who, as his father’s secretary, was always present, that she talked at length with Dr. Quimby, in his office, at the close of the silent sittings. She was present in the groups of interested listeners above referred to. She heard essays read and discussed. Submitting some of her first attempts at expressing the new ideas in her own way, she also had the benefit of Dr. Quimby’s criticism. Then too she had opportunity to copy “Questions and Answers,” on which she was later to base her teachings. We have direct testimony on all these points from those in regular association with Dr. Quimby, and from those who knew Mrs. Eddy when she was noting down remembered sayings and modifying manuscripts preparatory to teaching. Here, in brief, was the origin of Mrs. Eddy’s type of Christian Science as she later gave it forth in successive editions of “Science and Health.” Her indebtedness was that of the student to the teacher with an original mind. Our interest is to note Quimby’s power of quickening such responsiveness by sharing his insights, contributing his peculiar terms, and explaining his methods.
[This is the second installment of a four part series originally written and published as Chapter I. BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH, of The Quimby Manuscripts by Horatio W. Dresser. THOMAS Y. CROWELL COMPANY, 1921.—editor.]
Who is Phineas Parkhurst Quimby?
This month, we are re-introducing Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866), by exploring the first chapter of The Quimby Manuscripts edited by Horatio W. Dresser, and published in 1921.
The Quimby Manuscripts is historically important, as it stood as the authoritative source of the Quimby writings for sixty-seven years.
Born January 15, 1866, or the day before Quimby’s passing, Dresser was the oldest son of two of Dr. Quimby’s patients, Julius Alphonso Dresser, and Annetta Gertrude (Seabury) Dresser.
Julius and Annetta Dresser first met in Portland, Maine, when they were both patients of Dr. Quimby in the early 1860s. They fell in love and married in September 1863.
Both Julius and Annetta Dresser credited the efforts of Quimby for their individual healings.
If you missed last week’s first installment, you may read it here.
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