by Horatio W. Dresser
No ideas of value spring into fullness of being from the human brain. If we realize that in all discoveries there are periods of groping, followed by times of readjustment or assimilation, and then a constructive period, we shall expect the same in the case of Dr. Quimby. He needed his mechanical interests and his love of invention as incentives to progress of sufficient power to carry him beyond allegiance to medical science. Then his interest in mesmerism, awaking with the beginnings of that subject in 1838, becoming more active in 1840, and leading to his public exhibitions, 1843-47, afforded opportunity for a yet greater reaction against prevailing points of view and yielded problems enough for many a year. Next came his intermediate period, 1847-59, with its gradual assimilation of new truths, the development of a new method of treating the sick, and the first expressions of his “Science of Health.” Finally, came the constructive period, coincident with the years of his greater work among the sick, in Portland, 1859-65, and continuing to the time of his death, in Belfast, January 16, 1866. He was a public experimenter for four years only. He was a mental and spiritual healer from 1847 through the long period when he was acquiring his original views about life and health. Thus we have before us an inner history from small beginnings, in place of an alleged “revelation.”
It will be necessary to give some attention to the mesmeric period, 1843-47, for two reasons. First, because it put Mr. Quimby in possession of those clues which he was to follow until he rejected the hypotheses of mesmerism and animal magnetism, and developed a theory and method of his own; second, because the assertion has been made that he never passed out of this period, but remained until his death a mere mesmerist and magnetic healer (whatever that may be). The fact that there was a long intermediate period, 1847-59, will be a surprise to those who have supposed that one could suddenly acquire ideas and methods of greatest value. The fact of a gradual mental and spiritual development will be to some the conclusive evidence that they are learning the full “true history” of the discovery of Christian Science.
The “Quimby writings” are now published because they are unquestionably the most important contributions to the subject, because they show how the modern theory and practice of spiritual healing came into being. From the point of mere arguments in the light of history these writings were surpassed by the works of Rev. W. F. Evans, who acquired Quimby’s ideas when a patient under his care in Portland, in 1863. The underlying theory has been greatly elaborated since his time. The same ideas and methods have been applied in fields which he did not enter. Quimby was, if you please, a pioneer and specialist, devoted to truth as his own insight led to it, without regard to prior teachings save those of the New Testament. But it still remains impressively significant that entirely alone in an unfriendly age, he acquired ideas and discovered methods which gave him title to fame. His writings therefore have a special value of their own.
We have incorporated some of Quimby’s letters in the volume because they prepare the way for the articles and essays by showing Quimby’s great love for facts. In these letters Quimby shows himself a friend of the sick. He tells his patients precisely where they stand in such a way as to encourage true faith and well-grounded hope. He writes about symptoms in some detail because his patients must first know that they are getting well physically, because they need tangible evidence, and do not yet understand how he can diagnose their cases intuitively and heal them at a distance. He shows that he wishes those only as patients who will take him in entire good faith, responding willingly to his efforts. Hence he returns money when patients seem to be purchasing his skill as healer. He aims above all to point the way to his Truth or Science.
Disciples of mental healing who have taken their clues from Divine Science or Mrs. Eddy’s version will think they are hearing about an inferior theory, because matters of fact are made prominent in Quimby’s writings instead of the anticipated idealism and the affirmations or denials to which they are accustomed. But they are likely to be unmindful of the unfriendly age in which Quimby worked, if not neglectful of a larger truth. Quimby, with far-reaching insight, grasped the whole situation, and looked through existing conditions to the ideal. This is a much more courageous venture than the denial of actuality in fondness for the abstract. Quimby’s standard calls for a Science that can be demonstrated, can prove itself thoroughly Christian in thought, life, interpretation of Scripture, and all. It will send us back to the Gospel anew to ask why the process of coming to judgment is essential to spiritual rebirth, why we must adopt life as given in its fullness in order to entertain as ideal “the Christ.” We will then see why Quimby never denied the existence of the natural world, although sometimes referring to it as a mere shadow, and contending that matter contains no intelligence. We will also note that he assigns “mind” to a very subordinate position in contrast with spirit, since his investigations had shown him that the average mind is subject to opinions, it is indeed a “mind of opinions,” later called by Mrs. Eddy “mortal mind.” Then we shall find him turning to that Wisdom: which sees through all opinions or errors, dissipating them in favor of Science. The truth he sought to establish was a concretely verifiable truth, written in the human heart and in the Word which Jesus taught. Consequently, what was needed was not mere affirmation but real understanding, like workable knowledge of mathematics.
To read deeply in these writings is to see that the best use one can make of them is to cultivate the mode of life they call for, a life which looks forward to health and freedom, productivity and an old age that is never old. Quimby laid down his life in over-sacrifice to those needing to be led into this life of the Spirit. His work quickened a deeply spiritual impetus in those followers who spread his ideas in the world. It is primarily a question of this spiritual impetus, if we would understand the discovery of spiritual healing. His teachings are true if they do indeed contain a Science which inculcates creative humility.
Those who have supposed that Quimby borrowed from Berkeley or Swedenborg will see why this could not have been the case. Quimby was not a reader of philosophy or theology. He was not in any sense a borrower, after he took up the theory of mesmerism and found how meagre was the supposed science, and branched out into the field of his own investigations. His experience in practising the silent method of spiritual healing, after 1847, led the way to his idea of God as indwelling Wisdom, as we find it expressed in his best essays.
This same practice led to his view of matter and the natural world in general as a subordinate expression of Spirit, in contrast with the eternal inner life of man. His conversations with patients tended to awaken faith in the same great Wisdom which to him was the source of all guidance and all true knowledge. The prime result, he believed, would be a “Science of Life and Happiness” which could be taught even to children, and which will banish all error from the world.
[This is the fourth and final 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.]
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Jesus' Healing Power was written by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. This article was published for the first time in: Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond, by the Phineas Parkhurst Quimby Resource Center. Narration by Ronald A. Hughes. Running time 2:34
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