Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
The Senses: SightSeptember 1864
When we see an object, do we see it or do we not see it - or is it only the shadow of the object we see? We often say we know a thing and find we are mistaken. This kind of reasoning comes within the comprehension of every person. There are things that cannot be seen by the natural eye, and yet which are seen by some persons and believed to have an existence, as much as the seen. The distinction of things seen and things not seen causes all the controversy of the world; for what all agree to, there is no controversy about.
To make it clear, I will illustrate. The things that are natural are attributed to God, and man, being one of the many natural objects of God's work - he reasons in his own element, which is matter. Yet God knows that every living thing is nothing but his own creation; and wisdom is the author. Wisdom speaks into existence certain ideas - and man is one of them. To wisdom, they are all as dross (or shadows), and man, like all the rest, reasons that his natural life is his real existence.
Everything that God has made comes within the sphere of man, and this makes man's material world. Yet to wisdom it is nothing but the shadows of ideas; and every idea having the power to create other shadows. Therefore, the idea “earth” is the foundation of man's reasoning. Now out of this reasoning comes a more perfect man, invisible to the earthly man; for the reason of the latter is the foundation (or earth) for the higher development of man.
Now the invisible man begins his foundation on the highest development of the natural man. In this world, every idea that has formed in the natural world is conceived or shadowed forth in the natural world; so that everything that is manufactured, or shows the hand of man, is attributed to some “being” or “animal.”
Now as God has made fish in the sea, so man has made ideas that lie out of sight of the natural world; and yet they are believed to have an existence, as much as the fish or wild beast of the forest - and man is as liable to be devoured by them. I will name some of the evils (or enemies) that man has to contend with. The things that God has made are all harmless, unless they are interfered with - and then they defend themselves, according to the law of their lives. For matter is all for man's good - but if we wish to confine or direct it, we must do it intelligently, or bad results will follow. So with the brutes. All can be controlled by a higher power (or wisdom), for man's happiness.
Now to govern and control them, man is endowed with a higher development, called “genius” - or an inventive power; so that he can create, by his wisdom, ways and means to subject the wild. This makes man an inventive being. Here he steps out of the brutal element to a higher state. There is some sagacity in the animal creation that mingles with the human, as the vegetable does with the mineral. The mineral is the foundation for the vegetable; and the brutal for the animal; and the animal for the intellectual; and the intellectual for the scientific kingdom. This last will rule, till all the others are subject to science. Then will this science give up its kingdom (or authority) to wisdom, and wisdom will answer all things.
Now as science is the kingdom that will break in pieces all others, it would be well to understand where we, as individuals of the lower kingdom, will stand. Now man is the embodiment of all the kingdoms of the world and must be subdued by a wisdom higher than that of the natural man. Therefore, every act must be weighed by science; for science is the axe that will hew down every error.
The kingdom of darkness is the natural world; the kingdom of light is the scientific world. All mankind are in darkness, trying to get to the light. So darkness is a state called “death,” and our senses - which are no part of man - are attached to the idea “man” in the darkness (or ignorance), and they are brought to the light (or life). Then he is in life. So that life and death are conditions and have nothing to do with the real man, except as a state of happiness.
Death is the state that man dreads, and every condition of mind that embraces error, embraces death. So disease is a condition of death and truth (or health), the condition of life. To be alive, therefore, is to be wise and happy.
Ignorance of wisdom is a state - not of happiness, but of brutal satisfaction, or a passive state. It can't be happiness, for there is nothing earned - and happiness is a reward for something. It is riches that are gained by toil or labor, for the benefit of mankind. It is the reward of knowing that someone is benefited by us. The knowledge is happiness (or heaven), the wisdom of which is our senses. Life (or light) is to know it; then we are in the life (or light). This is happiness.
Now our senses cannot be seen, for there is nothing back of them. They are the beginning and ending of all things. They embrace all that ever can be or ever has been. They are the real man. They can create and can destroy. They speak into existence everything. Wisdom is the father of our senses, and man is the embodiment of just as much wisdom as he is wise; and the embodiment of the wisdom of mankind is God. Thus God and man are the embodiment of wisdom, so far as wisdom is understood. So man - like God - is a creation, subject to wisdom. God's wisdom is not man's wisdom. Man gives to God all the wisdom that creates all things; but it does not give God the creation of man's invention.
Do we see the real object - or its shadow? It admits a superior wisdom that acts upon man. God creates in heaven (or himself) every thing that has form and then forms it - or condenses his idea to form. And to every form, he gives life - but not the same life. Now as man's identity is one of the forms (and life is in the form), it is like a shadow that depends upon the light for its existence. So he attaches a part of his own self (or senses) to it.
As a rose imparts to every living creature its odor; so man becomes impregnated with wisdom, assumes an identity, and sets up for himself. As a child, when forced from its parent, becomes a man; so wisdom develops itself and sets up on its own account and becomes a God (or creative being). Then it wishes to imitate its father; so to stimulate it to action, wisdom holds out rewards in the shape of happiness for every act that is for the benefit of man.
Now there must, of necessity, be a correspondence (or opposite) to everything - a right and a wrong. So goodness, with wisdom, is right; money, with the shadow, is riches. With wisdom, to do good is happiness; and with the opposite, to get money is happiness. The real must destroy the shadow. The working of the shadow introduces the light and destroys itself.
But as I said, money is error's God, and wisdom is science's God. Error is more active; for its life is its own destruction. So it invents all sorts of ideas by which to explain itself to others. But the ideas - like habits - are handed down as having an existence. These are explained to error, till error can create them by its own power. When error believes them, he creates them; and when he creates them, he sees them - and he believes that they had their existence at the beginning of the world, when in fact they only existed in a story or a name.
So the evils that torment man are the invention of error, spurred on by the love of gain; for the happiness of evil is in what it gains. The natural man thinks his happiness and misery is in the idea “man.” For instance, if a person has a “white swelling,” as it is called, he thinks the pain and all he suffers is in the knee; and so it is. Yet the knee is one thing, and the man is another. Call the knee “darkness,” and he is in the dark. Now the darkness is one thing, and the senses another - so they are in the dark. But the trouble of being in the dark is in the senses - not in the dark. So the knee is the darkness, and the senses, being in the knee or attached to it - it gives this pain or that condition of mind called “pain.”
Now to cure the man is to detach the senses from the idea “white swelling.” This is the cure. So the science is to detach the senses from the idea of what troubles the man - and this is the cure. To make it plain, suppose you are sitting in a room. You cannot see a mountain with your natural eyes, for the walls of the room prevent your attaching your senses to the mountain. Now close your eyes and think of the mountain. Then the walls are gone, and the senses are free to look; but open your eyes, and your senses are obstructed by the walls. This is the condition of a person that is afraid of being blind. Their fears are the walls of their prison, and to see through the walls is what they are trying to do. I tear down the prison (or belief) by the weapons of wisdom. This sets fire to their error and burns up their prison - and their senses are set free.
I will give one more illustration of the senses. Suppose you think of a meeting house in some village that, to one standing in front of it, hides the sight of some object. Every time you stand and look at the meeting house, the object is lost. Now you cannot think of this scene, but what you must change your position, in order to see the object. Suppose someone comes and tells you that there has been a fire that burned up the meeting house, giving a minute description how the fire commenced; how it burned first the belfry and windows, till you see nothing but the bare frame - and that, all in a blaze. Now the building becomes transformed and, without changing your position, you can see through the flames and see the object that was hidden before.
So disease is an obstacle in the mind that darkens the prospect of happiness and health; and it must be destroyed by the fire of truth. And when the error is destroyed, the senses are relieved from their trouble and are once more free from error and in the light of health. The natural man's reason is the obstacle that wisdom has to overcome, and the senses are liable to be attached to these evils. This is disease.
see the obstacles in the way of your seeing what you would like to
see. Now shut your eyes and rise in your wisdom into the light (or
air) - far above the object of the invention of man. Then you - like
the dove - can soar aloft and look down on the errors that imprison
your senses. This flight is the scientific man that has labored to
rid himself of the errors of the natural man and risen from the
darkness of superstition and death to the light of life; there to
tell of what is real and what is not - and how the things that seem
real are nothing but the shadows of what cannot be seen.