But what is disease? If it is true that it is a thing of itself - did anyone ever see it?
~  Phineas P. Quimby
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Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

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Dr. Phineas P. Quimby
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What is Disease?

May 1860

What is disease? The theory of the doctors and other leaders of the people (if there is any theory to it) is that it is a “certain something” (I would not attempt to describe their views) that comes in various shapes and on various accounts or causes and attacks people in various parts of the body and with various results. Indefiniteness and uncertainty characterize all their ideas about it, and their ideas go no further than a belief. They believe it to be a something; they can't tell what.

When a doctor speaks of the case of a sick person, he gives his opinions. It may be founded upon what is, to him, very much evidence, including much experience. Still, in all cases it is, after all, an opinion which he gives; and this cannot be infallible and sure - and therefore, good for nothing. There is an old saying that when two doctors disagree or have different opinions about the same thing both cannot be right. The same uncertainty about disease is allowed and winked at in the practice.

But what is disease? If it is true that it is a thing of itself - did anyone ever see it? In all the postmortem examinations and dissections of bodies, has the thing - disease - ever been found in the body? A tumor, or any disarrangement of the system, is an effect; called by Dr. Quimby, a phenomenon or the result of some cause. The question is - what is the cause? This determines the disease.

To each of these questions you answer, “No.”

Then I say, “You know, yourself, that if it is not a material thing of itself, it must be a property depending upon another thing. It must be either a live thing, like a fox - and twice as cunning, in order to come of itself and attack us! And furthermore, it must have intelligence; or else it is a dependent characteristic of some other thing. And if the latter - what is that?

We hear the name "animal life” given to something in the body. We are told also that the body is under the control of the mind, and we see daily illustrations of the fact. What then is the use of the second power called animal life? Did anybody ever see that? Is that a thing of itself - or does it belong to something else?

"Oh, one cannot tell. That is something that no one can fathom,” is the answer invariably to this. “How did they find that out?”

But this life is of the body, I suppose. Now if the body is matter - has matter life? Again, did you ever see the body of any kind of an animal move, without displaying intelligence? You know there is intelligence with every man and every animal, and that intelligence guides each man and animal in all his movements. This intelligence needs no proof - but that animal life spoken of can neither be proved nor defined.

On the other hand, take away from a man or animal all knowledge, intelligence or instinct, and conceive, if you can, of any movement that he would make. What could there be a movement for? Nothing! There could be no object. The thought shows inconsistency. Watch the very lowest brutes or the very smallest insect, and you will see intelligence displayed in their movements. And again, watch yourself, and you will see no act or movement that is contrary to your will; but every stir or slightest motion is the result of your direct volition.

What then can be the use of the animal life? If the mind has the control of the body, as I would have the control of a hammer in my hand - which would be no more a tool than the body is to the mind - of what use would be that second indefinable, indescribable opinion of a thing or power called animal life? And if it is a thing of itself, why is it never seen nor found, and how can it go out of existence? But if it is not a separate thing of itself, but a property of another thing - how can it, being a live or active quality , be a property of a dead or inanimate thing, such as we see matter be?

You may say, “That is its life.”

How can it die, then? If life dies, then it is not life. Again, if disease is not a thing of itself, it must be a property of some other thing that has life and animation and intelligence of itself; else it would produce no action or bad result. What then does it belong to? If to the body, it could manifestly continue its operations after the spirit left the body. But we have not and cannot prove that the body has any life or animation or intelligence of its own, independent of the mind. The evidence is all the other way.

Then we have only the mind left to which to ascribe the disease as a property - so how may it exist in the mind? I answer, “In the form of a belief.” And the body, being under the control of the mind, a subject of its influences, is molded and affected just in proportion to the state of mind in its belief.

A person is, to himself, just what he thinks he is - and he is, in his belief, sick. If this were not so - if it was not true that all disease is in the mind - not one of the hundreds of cures that have been made by Dr. Quimby, and are constantly being made, could have been accomplished by him. And the old-time administers of pills, calomel and error would still have undisputed possession of the field of the sick and wounded.

Again, take it another way. You complain of a pain in your side - is it you that complains or your side? You, perhaps, answer that is is your side complaining through your mind. "But," I ask, “Has your side knowledge? And can it notify your mind, that it may speak for it? Is not the knowledge in your mind - and is it not your mind that complains? How much pain would you have, if you did not know it? How much pain is there in a dead body? Why doesn't pain continue after the soul (or mind) leaves the body? It is known by all persons that the state of mind (or belief) influences a person's health. Why is it so? How far does it go?”

You see that there can be no action (or motion) without an intelligence behind it - and you know that your body has no intelligence. There is nothing animate in the body, so when the body is injured by what we call disease, it is by an error of the mind; the body being subject to the mind. So when mind is corrected of its error, the truth is established, which is health.


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