Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
To the Sick: Conflicting Elements in ManSeptember 1861
A sick person is two beings - one is opinions and the other, science. The senses (or life) is attached to both, so that man is not seen at all; but the visible (or idea) is seen by the idea “matter.” Wisdom is what is called “progression,” and opinions are aristocracy. These two powers are acting in opposition to each other. All they agree on is the identity of a being called “themselves,” or a kind of marriage or co-partnership, like man and wife.
The idea “body” is called “man,” but each claims the right to act through it, in their own peculiar way, like a telegraph company. It is the medium of both; unless in times of war, when the strongest power controls the company.
Now a man sick is a deceived man; for wisdom never deceives anyone; while error is always in trouble. So after man is once set in motion, he is then like a ship, ready to receive the master.
Every state of mind is under the control of these two elements - one is caution, and the other is recklessness. The regulator is wisdom (or science). This never acts, except when the other two get into a quarrel. Then it acts by harmonizing the two - not by compromise, but by science; convincing recklessness of its error and caution of its fear (or ignorance).
I will take a case to illustrate. Take a person with the hip disease. He is a man of opinions, called “hip disease.” This is one person. Science is the judge. Progression (or recklessness) is the other person. Progression wants to go ahead. Opinion is afraid of the danger. It reasons according to its evidence. When the man was well, he was neither one, nor the other - but a natural progression. When started (or excited), these two characters are at war. Each wants its way.
I will take this combination of individuals and suppose him one man - at first, well (or in harmony with himself); that is, he has no opinions or ambition. At last, something starts him. Progression wants to get rid of the enemy. Opinions (or reason) wants to stop and argue. While in this quandary, another man of opinions comes along and asks the trouble. Reason states the case - that there is trouble in the leg. Progression wants to go ahead. Opinions wants to reason. Ambition (or progression) does not want to reason, but to go on - let what will come. They halt. The man of opinions (or doctor) looks very wise and asks all sorts of questions of ignorance, till it has got all the story and sees that the opinions of the sick man are based on ignorance or no opinion at all.
Then he gives his wisdom, based on the opinions of ignorance, that the sciatic nerve is affected, and the inflammation may spread and reach the hip joint, which would cause disease. And in that event, amputation - and possibly death - may follow. Ignorance receives this as true, and now the man is made of opinions and ambition; although ambition is ignorance, so long as it is held in check by opinion.
Now ambition wants to walk, but opinion says, “Don't. Stop. It will injure the limb.” So these two are at war, till someone wiser comes to help. The wisdom of the man sits and listens to the arguments of the two. I will take the lame man, as he is seen, and myself, talking to him. I say to him, “Won't you try to walk?” This is addressed to the man of opinions (or the natural man).
He makes an effort and then says, “I can't - my hip pains me so that I can't step at all.”
Now I know that there is no pain in his hip, so I say, “The pain is not in the hip - it is in the mind.” This sometimes makes the patient angry, for he thinks it is in his hip. So I commence to reason. This makes him nervous, and he says his hip pains him. I then ask him what idea he has of the hip. He says the doctors have examined it and pronounced it hip disease, accompanied with an affection of the sciatic nerve.
Then I say, “This name is the cause of your trouble.”
He says, “Oh no, I felt the pain long before I ever saw a doctor.”
“Well suppose you did - is there any intelligence in pain?”
“Why, when I have a pain - I know it.”
“Who knows it?”
“Then you, yourself, exist, when you have a pain.”
“I suppose so. I know my hip aches.”
“Would your hip ache, if you did not know it?'
“Does your other hip ache?”
“How do you know?”
“Because I do not feel it ache.”
“Then, because you do not feel it ache - it does not ache?”
“Then if you do not feel the lame one ache - does it ache?”
“I do not see anything about your reason. I know my hip aches, and that is all I care about - and if you can stop it, that is all I want.”
“Do you get nervous?”
“Well - you make me so nervous, you make my hip ache.”
“I have not touched your hip, have I?”
“No, but your talk makes it ache.”
“I know that - and that is just what I want to convince you of.”
“Well, if that is what you want to do - you have succeeded.”
“Now I want to show you how your hip became as it is. In the first place, God never made any intelligent ache or pain. The intelligence is attached to the invention of man. I will give you an illustration. Suppose you should have a lead pipe leading from a well to your house,and that you should use the water for all purposes; for eating and drinking and cooking. Now you will admit that the water in the well is good; but if it runs through the lead pipe, it is poisoned. The one who tells this story to you, disturbs your mind; but the disturbance contains no intelligence. Yet, as you reason his belief into you, you become poisoned, and you put your belief into the water; so that according to your belief, you poison yourself. You now become diseased with your own belief (or the doctor's).
You said my talk made you nervous. So it did, and so did the doctor's; and my controversy is with the doctor's belief (or poison). So you listen to my controversy with the doctor (or your disease), and I address myself to the disease, as a person independent of yourself, as a man of health. In this way, I say to your disease, it has deceived your life (or senses) by its opinions.
Disease denies it, and asks for proof. I say, “You have told him his hip is diseased.” Disease will ask him if his hip is not lame. Of course, he will say, “Yes,” for he believes it true.