September, 2012


    by Horatio W. Dresser

Referring to Mr. Quimby's lecture-notes, used during the period of his public exhibitions with Lucius, we find that he very gradually came to these conclusions when he saw that no other explanation would suffice. He not only read all the books on mesmerism he could find but familiarised himself with various theories of matter, such as Berkeley's, and with different hypotheses in explanation of the mesmeric sleep. Convinced that there was no "mesmeric influence" as such, no "fluid" passing from body to body but simply the direct action of mind on mind without any medium, he had also to become convinced that the states perceived by the subject were not due to imagination. He found, for example, that by creating a state in his own mind and vividly feeling it, Lucius felt the same and exhibited signs of its effect in the body. "Real cold" was felt by Lucius in response to certain suggestions. If imaginary, the subject would not have acted upon the ideas in question. Thus when Mr. Quimby handed Lucius a six-inch rule and pictured it in his own mind as a twelve-inch rule, Lucius would proceed to count out the twelve inches, and to him it was literally a twelve-inch rule. That is to say, the impressions received by the subject were real, not "imaginary," as real as would have been the actual things in question. An impression might indeed be produced on a subject's mind from a false cause, but the cause would then be real.

Nor was the state called clairvoyance imaginary. Mr. Quimby described it in this period of his thought as a "high degree of excitement which gives the mind freedom of action, placing it in close contact with everything, including past, present and future." If it were a merely fancied state the subject would not be able to visit distant places, describing people and things correctly. Nor would it be possible to see actual events in process and predict their results, as in the case of a captain located on board a ship bound for New York and then located in port later, the second time Lucius was asked to find that particular man.

There was every reason to accept these disclosures as real, for interested persons took pains to acquaint themselves with the facts. For instance, in the case of the ship above mentioned we have the evidence published in a newspaper at the time, reading in part as follows: "During Mr. Quimby's exhibition in this town on Wednesday evening, (14th inst.) his intelligent Clairvoyant was in communication with F. Clark, Esq., a respectable merchant of this place. The Clairvoyant described to the audience a Barque . . . called the Casilda then on her passage from Cuba to New York, minutely from `clew to carving,' as seamen say. He then informed the company how far said Barque was from her destined port, and gave the name of vessel and port the distance we think was about 70 miles.

"On the next evening, he visited (in his somnambulism) the same vessel and said she had arrived off the Hook at New York, where she then was. On the Tuesday following this exhibition the merchants received a letter informing them of the arrival of this Barque (see our Marine Report) at the precise time stated by the Clairvoyant, who it will be recollected is Lucius Bickford [Burkmar], a young man 19 years of age.

"This was but one of several exhibitions of his visiting absent vessels of which he could have had no information, and describing even the master and people on board. We profess no knowledge of this wonderful science, but deem it a duty we owe to the public to publish every fact that may aid the progress of human knowledge."

It is interesting to note that this fair-minded newspaper writer, while heading his contribution "Animal Electricity," according to the popular notion prevailing at the time, 1844, expresses his opinion that "there is no more mystery in all this than there is in repeating a lesson committed." That is to say, he thinks these facts at a distance are discerned by "the mind's eye." He was probably convinced, therefore, by Quimby's argument in his lectures to the effect that there was no "fluid" passing between, no "magnetism," but mind operating on mind to put Lucius in possession of the clue he was to follow when locating a ship at a distance or describing her captain and crew.

Quimby tells us in one of his later articles that very early in his experiments with mesmerism he became convinced that Lucius could "see through matter." That is, a person in a clairvoyant state, with all his physical senses quiescent, can discern in another person every state or condition ordinarily coming within the range of the five bodily senses. He was compelled to believe this, for the descriptions which Lucius gave proved it. He therefore adopted this as his point of view, namely, that the human spirit can intuitively see through matter.

His next interest, he tells us, in an article written in 1861, was to become a clairvoyant himself, that is, without mesmerism. For, having become convinced that "matter was only a medium for our wisdom to act through," he saw how matter could be transformed by attaching one's interest to higher ideas. This meant ridding the mind of all beliefs and opinions tending to create miseries and troubles, and dedicating the clairvoyant or intuitive powers to the welfare of the sick. Through his natural state, he tells us, as a being of flesh and blood, he could still feel as a patient felt. But in his higher selfhood or intuitive state he was governed by the spiritual ideal, "the scientific man." As this spiritual state can be attained by cultivating "the spiritual senses," which function independently of matter and see through matter, it is not of course necessary to make the body quiescent through the use of mesmerism.

Turning again to the period of his lectures, we find Quimby also stating his conviction that Lucius took his clue directly from the minds of others, by thought-reading followed by clairvoyance, and never from his own fancies. For Quimby found that the results attained through Lucius varied with his own progress. Thus the fears and notions which Quimby entertained as long as he believed in magnetism passed with his change of view. Instead of working himself up to the point of transferring fancied electricity to Lucius, he put all his efforts into creating a mental picture for Lucius to see in his mind. In either case it was plain that Lucius saw or did what was commanded when he gained the attention of his subject. Until the subject gave his full attention, nothing resulted. So in the case of clairvoyance, the subject would see any object to which his attention was called. If a failure occurred, the fault was the operator's not that of the subject.

Here, then was a highly important discovery. Quimby found that with his great powers of concentration he had great success in arresting the attention of his subject. This in brief was his control over him. But if certain results follow from arrested attention in the case of a person in the mesmeric sleep, why may not self-induced results follow upon attention in the case of any one of us? Does this not explain many of the ancient mysteries, and the self-induced states of Apollonius of Tyana, Mahomet and Swedenborg?

At this point Quimby's lecture-notes come to a sudden end, and we are left to infer that having reached these significant conclusions he was not interested to lecture upon them any further, but might better turn his results to practical account in healing the sick. For these notes show that here too he had reached the same conclusion which we noted in the foregoing, namely, that the results produced by physicians in treating the sick depend upon securing the attention of the patient in favor of a certain diagnosis and the proper medicine to be taken for the supposed disease. In fact he says, convincingly, that "all medical remedies affect the body only through the mind." The one who takes medicine must believe in medicine and anticipate the desired result. The result is then created by the believer.

Here, then, were interests enough to follow for a life-time. The human mind is plastic to ideas and imagery, and these take form according to belief. What enlists the attention long enough to produce a distinct impression, has power to affect the body, and an idea accepted as truth is as good as reality in its influence upon the person believing it. Thus a person may be made to feel heat or cold, to be frightened by the mental picture of a lion, or be dispossessed of a desire to eat lemons. There is an endless range of possibilities. Belief in magnetism on the part of an audience tends to the production of anticipated magnetic phenomena, but the results change when the hypothesis of a magnetic or electric "fluid" is dismissed. Spirits can be summoned up from the vasty deep, or precisely the same results may be created without their aid. A patient will proceed to create a disease according to a doctor's description of what he is likely to feel, or this process can be checked by diverting the attention in favor of some other idea.

Again, man has great power over his own states, and need not depend either on a mesmerist, a spiritist, physician or any other person. For strength of will proves to be, not the power of a fluid or current, but concentration upon an interest or object that has engaged the attention. There is nothing occult or uncanny in such power. There is no reason for yielding our minds to control, or for controlling the minds of others. Since a person may perceive the feelings of another by simply sitting nearby and rendering himself receptive, it is not necessary to put the mind into any special state, hitherto deemed a mystery. The great question is, What is that part of us which has power to penetrate beneath all errors and illusions, and learn what is true? What is truth in contrast with beliefs?

Quimby's mind was of the type that leads to science as opposed to mere belief. He had come in contact with facts at last, and learned how the human mind works under the influence of suggestion. He sought one consistent explanation which could be followed through to the end and proved by practical experience. He took no interest in results following upon mere theories, such as those proposed by mesmerists and spiritists. There must be a deeper science than so­called medical science. Moreover, he was beginning to see that religious creeds were not much better. "What we believe, that we create." What then shall we create that is worth while?

We might expect him to raise the world-old problem concerning the reality of matter, especially as he had heard something about Berkeley's views. But he never mentions Berkeley again, after these notes of the period from 1843 to 1847. We might expect continued interest in such men as Swedenborg, but there is no reference to Swedenborg save this one, when it is a question of self-induced inner states. Quimby's brief studies when in quest of light on mesmerism apparently convinced him that there was little of value for him in books, and that he must explore for himself. Moreover, spiritualism came upon the scene to take the place of mesmerism in public interest, he was concerned to follow this to the end, too; and he must make his way alone by following experience. To the end of his life, so far as his notes and manuscripts can tell us, he remained sceptical concerning spiritistic phenomena, and confined himself to a study of the experiences taking place within the human personality in this world. This did not prevent him from acquiring a new view of death and of the relationship of the human spirit to God. But after 1847 we find his eyes definitely turned in the direction which led to the development of his "Science of Health:"

[This is the second installment of a three 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.]

About the Dead and Spiritualism

[Originally untitled.]

    by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

The idea that any physical demonstration comes from the dead is to me totally absurd. The dead, as we call them, are just like the living. Some leave our sight very ignorant and others enlightened on all sciences. As the science of life is the only one that has agitated the living, its progression is shown by the development of certain phenomena as in all other sciences. The fact that development goes on does not prove that the dead know anything about it, but the superstition of the living attributes all of such to the dead. This is because they want to believe what they cannot understand. Now what cannot be understood and yet is admitted is to the wise a stumbling block and to the conceited and ignorant, foolishness; but to the scientific it is a phenomenon to be accounted for in some law or wisdom not yet understood.

I have devoted my life to the development of all phenomena seemingly mysterious and, having a good share of the evil common to all men, I found it hard to divest myself of my old belief. Therefore, I have charity for others in the depths of their superstitions. My education never carried me into classical lore so I have never penetrated the early ages of superstition nor learned the ancient mythology. Yet what has come to us through tradition and learning has bowed down the human race with a yoke of untold power, so that man now reels and totters with burdens as though they were the works of the everlasting God, when really they are the works of superstition. All spiritual phenomena have been investigated by the learned whose prejudices are based on heathen mythology, admitting phenomena that they could not explain, so people have been deceived. Now after a silence of two-hundred years, this same old error that played the Salem witchcraft game makes its appearance asking to be heard as touching the dead. The mediums set themselves up as oracles to call up a spirit of the dead. Tests are given satisfactory for the skeptic's brain becomes the machine of his new superstition and they all become believers.

September 1862

You can watch a video of this article below. (Full screen HD is available for high-speed Internet connections.)

Originally untitled, About the Dead and Spiritualism was written by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby in September 1862. 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 3:32

Editor's Corner

The images used in the above video, were taken on location at Grove Cemetery, in Belfast, Maine. On this particular morning, the fog rolled in off Belfast Bay and shrouded everything in an eerie cloud.

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In Wisdom, Love and Light,
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