Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
Popular Definitions of the Word Mind ConfusedAug. 16, 1861
Why do people differ so much in regard to the word mind? Every person uses the word, and still there is a difference in their meaning of it; although it might seem as though there was no difference of opinion about it. Yet upon analysis, it is found that its meaning is so broad that it gives great scope to the imagination and in reality does not mean anything. Words ought to express what those who use them mean, but such is not the case. Ask persons what the word mind means, and they will all differ. Some will say it is the thinking principle. Ask what that is, and they will fly off to what a man knows.
Ask if man knows he is alive; the answer is, “Yes.”
“What is your mind (or opinion) about it?”
“I have no opinion (or mind) about it. I know it, if I know anything.”
Here he makes a distinction between his wisdom and his mind, and yet he calls his wisdom “mind.” This - and hundreds of similar cases - all go to prove that the word mind does not apply to intelligence above man's opinions. The inventor of the word either meant to apply it to matter, or he never had an idea of any wisdom superior to the natural man - for it does not apply to science. Mind is applied to something that is admitted to have life and dies. This is all that mind can cover; so that when you apply the word mind to that something that proves all things by a standard which all will admit - it fails to apply.
The wisdom of man is matter (or mind), but the science of life eternal is not mind, but science; so that all men are a phenomenon of both. Mind is the something; I will call it a medium (or matter) in which ideas are sown. Each idea is matter of another combination from mind. I will try to illustrate my idea. Suppose we call mind the soil (or medium) to receive the seed (or idea) (or thought). The body is the earth (or man). Now every seed has its own body, and every body its own mind. So that when a seed (or thought) is sown in the mind, it springs up like a tree (or plant), and its roots embed themselves in the soil of the earth. As the seed grows, it becomes an idea. So as the idea grows, it branches out like a tree, and its roots spread in the mind.
Ideas, growing like trees, take to themselves a character and are known by their fruits; and also are detected by the wisdom of the wise. The wisdom of the fruit is like the child's - it contains no knowledge. The beast or natural man eats of the fruit, according to his fancy (or taste). But the scientific man judges of the tree by its fruits. So of course, the natural man, like the beast, eats of the fruit and learns what he likes by experiment; but he is guided by his senses, which are attached to his taste or sight.
The idea (or tree) (or science) is a different combination, and its qualities embrace a wisdom of all the rest of the ideas. To eat of this tree is to open the eyes of the blind, and see the difference between light and darkness. So it is called a “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” But there is one more tree that man must eat of at some future time - and that is the Tree of Life. This would make a man live forever.
These figures, to explain them literally, mean this. If man could content himself to live like a brute, there is plenty for him to live on, if he chooses to stay where it grows. But man is so constructed that he won't keep still, and the restlessness of his mind is the natural effect if his ideas. So man's combination varies, like the varieties of the earth; for all the varieties of the earth are the natural result of wisdom superior to the earth (or mind).
Ideas, like trees, bear fruit; each idea has its mind (or soil) to sow other thoughts in - like grafting one idea into another. Every idea containing misery or pain is in the fruit, as sweet or sour is in an apple. But the peculiar flavor cannot be detected by looks, but by taste - and ideas are the same. You see or hear of a certain kind of fruit. You cannot judge of its flavor till you have tasted it, and then you are affected by it, just according to your own sense of taste. So with disease. Some diseases are not looked upon as catching, and therefore we are not affected by them, anymore than a person is affected by anything that is out of sight and hearing. But bring it within your sight, and it affects you. There are certain diseases that are at a distance from us; these do not affect us, except as they come nearer.
Our beliefs are another element, which has more to do with man than anyone thinks. Our belief is our senses, and according as our life is attached to it, it goes to make up that idea called man. So man is a compound of opinions, belief, wisdom, science and ignorance - all arranged into a temple; not made of wood or stone, but of ideas - and the world judges of the architect by the finish and workmanship. So if the ideas are so well-arranged that harmony is the result, all is well.
I will make one further illustration. All believe water is matter, but with wisdom, it is not anything; for there is no solid to wisdom, neither is there any space. Opinions are darkness called matter. Wisdom is in darkness (or matter), and it knows it not; as the seed is in the soil, and the soil knows it not. Here, you see, I make mind something - and yet it is nothing but an idea (or the invention of man).
Man is the offspring of wisdom, for wisdom's own happiness; for happiness is not wisdom, but the satisfaction of gaining our own ends. Now man, being made in the image of God (or wisdom) - his happiness, like that of God, is to create something that will add to his happiness; so he becomes an inventive being. But as his wisdom is not of God (or science), he does not pattern after the true and living wisdom that acts by science.
Here is the difference between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of man. Every man is a part of each, and our senses are attached to both. So when a man speaks of himself as a man, he is in matter; but when he speaks a scientific truth, he is out of matter and so far equal to God. So man's investigations are but an imitation of wisdom's experiments for his own happiness. And man, not wanting to be outdone by his father, tries to imitate what he sees and hears. This makes man a kind of progressive being.
Man invents language from the fact hat he cannot be satisfied to let God (or wisdom) dictate his acts; so he invents language to explain his wisdom. It has been said that language was invented to deceive others. In some cases, I have no doubt but the world thinks it does - but wisdom gives it another direction. For language acts to undeceive, and it often exposes our ignorance. It is said if a man had held his tongue, people would not have found out he was a fool. By language man destroys himself; for the life of the man of opinions is in his belief, and his belief is darkness; but this eternal life is in his science (or wisdom).
As man's identity is a knowledge of himself, it is not dependent on a belief. So when man's life is attached to a belief, it does not affect his life, except to make it happy or miserable. His life is in his wisdom or in his belief; it does not alter - but his belief is all the time changing. A belief is darkness, and opinions are in the darkness. Everyone knows that if you frighten a person in the dark, it is very easy to make him see anything you please.
So matter (or darkness) is our belief; opinions (or ideas) are also matter (or beliefs). So when we are in the dark, these enemies (or devils) come up and can be seen. Now as the light springs up, the shadows disappear. This is the new birth. Religion is in this darkness, and all the belief is of darkness (or matter). So when the lamp (or wisdom) is lit up in science - religion, superstition, ignorance and ten thousand bugbears disappear, and the true light of science takes its place. So our life is in both, but when we are in science, we are dead to error.
A body without soul is a man of opinions without science.
Man is made of opinions and therefore is matter.
Wisdom reduced to practice is the spiritual man (or Christ).
Life is self-evident; not matter (or mind).
The senses are a knowledge of sensation - with or without science.
Science is a wisdom superior to opinions. It is not seen or known by opinions; it is harmony.