Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
To the Reader I1863
In introducing this work to the reader, my motive is to correct the false ideas that are in the world (or man's mind) in regard to his health and happiness. I take the ground which the wisest men who have written have made the basis of their reasoning. They have searched into the hidden mysteries of the mind to find what it is, and in their researches, they have found themselves, at last, in despair - and some have ended their lives by their own hand. Others have been made insane, all because they could not solve this one idea - mind; for the word “mind” is applied to all the intelligence of man and embraces soul and life.
My object has been, ever since I commenced investigation, to see if it was possible to find out how far the wisest philosophies had penetrated the dark recesses of this unknown science. One of my first objects was to ascertain what mind is; for if the mind dies with the body, then all the fuss and trouble of living and using our minds to be of importance, hereafter, would be of no value. So I made it my first object of inquiry. Of course I took for my basis the old scriptures and found that the mind was ourselves, and at death, there was the end of man. Then I found a soul spoken of - but when I looked for that, I could not find that any person had ever seen it or heard it.
So I went back to the heathen philosophers. I found they were in the same dilemma in regard to the soul, as they were to the mind; and both, according to their own philosophy, ended at death. For death was admitted by both Christians and Pagans, to the soul and body; for how often do you hear this passage quoted by professors of religion, “Fear not those that can kill the body, etc., but rather fear those that can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Now then, if the soul can be destroyed, I came to the conclusion that Paul did. If there was not anything based on a more solid foundation than the opinions of certain men, then I, for one, would not believe anything. So at one sweep, I discarded the Bible and all sorts of religion as the invention of man, and came to the conclusion that man, like a clock, was made to run about so long, more or less, and then run down. As I never could find anything of man independent of the machine, I, of course, like the rest of mankind, by my belief, took it for granted that when the machine ran down, it had finished its work and must be laid away.
Yet, there was a sort of nervous restlessness in my mind that if there were not a first cause, why should he not have someone to keep these machines running? I knew that I could make a clock, and if I sold it to another, I put him in possession of wisdom enough to keep it wound up; even if he could not repair it when it got out of order. But as I never saw anyone that seemed to repair man when he got out of order - but rather increased his misery, I came to the conclusion that Job did when he said, "Mine eyes hath seen all this; mine ear hath heard and understood it. What ye know, the same do I know, also; I am not inferior unto you; surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God - but ye are forgers of lies; ye are all physicians of no value. O, that ye would altogether hold your peace! And it should be your wisdom." Job 13: 1-5.
I had come to the same conclusion with the wisdom of man, in regard to man's happiness - that all his wisdom only went to make man more miserable. So I launched my barque out into the ocean of thought, trying to baffle the winds and waves of the wisdom of this world, till death should settle up all my accounts. A disbeliever in everything, as far as a future existence went, I lived a stranger in a strange land, till the waters of public opinion were stirred in regard to mesmerism. I floated around, not moored to any person's opinion in regard to creeds or religion, but still a believer in the medical science; for I never employed a quack nor took a particle of quack medicine in my life. Neither had my family. So I was clear from that “sin,” as it was called.
When mesmerism first started, I, of course, being independent of all prejudices, went to see some experiments. I shall never forget seeing a boy thrown into a state, perfectly unconscious to all surrounding objects - cold, lifeless, and still - at the mercy of the operator. Here was the first rock that my barque struck. This gave me a sort of shiver, and a cold chill passed over my whole frame. Twelve minutes before, I had seen him walk on the platform; now cold and insensible to pain and yet under the control of another. This set me to thinking, and being very fond of investigating every new phenomenon, I tried the experiment and succeeded in getting a person under my control. This was called “mesmerism” - but being ignorant upon the so-called science, I commenced to read upon the subject, to inform myself. I obtained the best works at the time and read them to find out what it was.
I learned that it was electricity, etc., so all my experiments went to prove it was governed by the laws of electricity. When it rained, I could not produce any experiment. This was according to my belief, and my belief was based on someone's opinion that knew just as much as I did. They had more experiments, but no more wisdom; for I found, after a while, that the more I thought I knew, the less I really knew. For at one time, when it rained as hard as it could pour, I - being ignorant of it - had some of the best experiments I ever had in all my practice.
So I came to this conclusion, in regard to mesmerism - that man had begun to philosophize before he understood anything about the subject he was trying to teach others. So I put my barque out to sea again, determined not to run onto the rock of the science of mesmerism, for I had found that all this wisdom was of man - and they called it wisdom (or a science), not understood. So I found that it was knowledge, not wisdom. Then I made up my mind that if there was anything in mesmerism, I would know it; but I would not be led by man's opinion. So I became an infidel to their religion (or opinions) - not in the phenomenon.
I found a young lad, some fifteen years of age, that I put into a mesmeric state; and when with him, I found that all I had learned, I had to relinquish - for it was the effect of my own ignorance. Among the things I had to lighten my craft of was phrenology. This is one of the humbugs of the day. I shall show that there is no foundation in truth for it. You can judge after reading my experiments.
Lightening my craft, I made sail for what was uppermost in my mind - to see whether there was any wisdom outside of what we call “man.” My first experiment was made, before I knew what I wanted to prove. For when I put my subject to sleep, after trying a few experiments, I thought I would leave. Instantly, the boy jumped up, went to the table and brought my hat. This was unexpected, but it was just what I wanted to know - if he could read my thoughts. At first I was all aback, but after recovering myself, I said to myself, “If you will replace my hat on the table, I will stop a little longer.” Without saying a word, he sprang up, took my hat and returned it to the table. Here was another fact I had gotten - not an opinion, but a truth.