Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
The Immortality of the Soul1864
(Question) Do you believe in the immortality of the soul?
(Answer) I don't know what you mean by soul.
(Q) I mean that part of man that exists after death.
(A) What proof have you that man exists after death?
(Q) The Bible.
(A) Is not all you say a belief? Have you any positive proof of it?
(Q) The Bible is proof enough for me.
(A) Well, it is no proof to me.
(Q) Do you believe man has a soul?
(A) I never saw one, did you?
(Q) No, but I have seen a body with a soul attached to it.
(A) That is only your belief about it.
(Q) I know it - but do you deny that man has a soul?
(A) Never having seen one, I have no belief about it.
(Q) Do you believe in the death of the body?
(A) Do you mean to include anything in the body that existed before the body had form?
(A) Well, I am willing to admit that the body you spoke of may dissolve, and if this is death, I know it and have no belief about it - but we were not arguing this point. Can you separate the soul from the body, senses and life?
(Q) I don't know as I can.
(A) Well, I believe that life, death, senses and soul all belong to the body and are of this world and have nothing to do with the real man; only as a medium.
(Q) Then all beliefs in the Bible, to you, are false?
(A) I have said no such thing - but I do say there is no wisdom in any of these beliefs, which can be shown.
(Q) Have you any belief in regard to death and what is called the “future state?”
(A) None at all, as we are taught to believe.
(Exit Mr. Question and enter Mr. Atheist.)
(Ath.) Please state your ideas in regard to man's future state, as you understand it, according to your theory.
(Answer) Well, I will reason with you with regard to my theory, and if you wish to ask questions, do so. I know that I am here and that I can exist without the aid of my senses.
(Ath.) If you had never had any senses, would you have known this fact?
(A) I cannot say that I should, but would that prove that I did not exist?
(Ath.) No, it would not prove anything.
(A) Well, you must admit that there are certain truths that exist and are known to some persons but which have never come within your senses.
(A) Then it is not the senses which makes the truth - but the truth which is shown through the senses.
(A) You will admit that your natural parents existed before you.
(A) But can you say that they are any older to perfect wisdom than you, except by what you know through your natural senses?
(A) Then if wisdom is the first cause, and matter is subject to it - the body must have been spoken into existence by wisdom.
Now, if wisdom gives the body motion and keeps it in motion, it becomes the child of wisdom. Parents are the father and mother of their child, and they give it an identity, though it is really a part of the parents' identity; and their identity belongs to wisdom, and their ages are merely the difference in their development. For instance, if I tell you a truth that has not been developed through your senses, it is no younger by your not knowing it - but when you do know it, you give it birth, and it is born to the senses. The child of error takes its identity at its birth, the same as any other idea, and dates its birth from that time. So does any belief. But when wisdom comes, it separates the truth from the error and shows that all truths are eternal and that the words “life,” “death,” “old” and “young” cannot be applied to it.
Take your own existence, and remember back as far as you can, and you will find your parents can remember back further than you - showing that you existed before you can date your identity, yourself. That fact shows that memory is in the mind and is a part of the senses. Not that the principle remembers; for the events may be forgotten, and when they are forgotten, it is, to the senses, as if these events had never been. This makes man doubt his existence. But when you understand that life and death are conditions of mind, like memory, then you will see that, as long as you can remember anything, to you, it exists - but when forgotten, it is dead to you.
And I will show why I do not believe in the idea “death” as it is taught. Every new development of truth which comes to the senses, scientifically, is a new birth, and its life is dated from that time, although it had existed forever. Man's senses, to the mind, are like science, to the wisdom - to explain whatever comes up within its reach. And truth uses the same senses to prove its existence; and thus man, as we say, is the medium of truth and error.
Every truth that comes to the senses existed before, while every lie or opinion dates its existence only back to its author. The existence of a lie or opinion, being begotten in the mind and afterwards developed through the bodily senses, lives just as long as it is believed to be a truth. But when the real truth comes and destroys the lie, it dies, and that is the death of the body. The separation of the bodily senses from the wisdom is not an easy task, for one has to prove what cannot be seen but yet exists; and I know it, as well as I know that I have any senses. But to prove it to another is one of the hardest problems to solve - and yet, although thousands have known this fact, they have never been able to demonstrate it, so it has taken a stand of itself.
The body of truth has its natural senses and faculties, but you cannot exist in the natural senses at the same time; for you might as well say that light and darkness can occupy the same place at the same time. I know that this higher sphere of existence is the habitation of every living person, yet the natural man does not know it; so he lives and dies according to his belief - and always will, until wisdom burns up his errors by the fire of truth (or science).
He crawls on the earth, a poor worm of the dust, till his body, mind and soul all return to their original elements. Sometimes it is called “fever,” and revolutions take place - till the truth will spring out of the senses by the agitation of the mind, and the light will burst in and resume its authority over the natural man's senses.
All religion is confined to the natural senses, and although all religious beliefs admit an overruling power, they cannot bring one particle of proof of it, so as to convince another; therefore their belief is of no use to mankind. Now man is sick and oppressed and bound down with “disease,” as it is called, and yet knows not the cause; and his sufferings are more than he can bear, as there is no eye but that of the natural senses - and that can only see the effect on the body. As all diseases are made manifest through the body, they are treated as though they had their origin in the body. Disease, like all errors, must be destroyed by some wisdom superior to that which belongs to the natural man's senses; for the senses may be deceived, but the truth cannot, and the wisdom that can show this fact is above the natural senses.
To establish this truth and benefit the world is my great object - but how to bring it about is the question. It may be asked, what advantage would it be to man? It is man, himself - and to know it is to know himself and to be able to keep clear of the evils which affect his senses. The teaching of this truth, to apply it to man's trouble, is the same as we apply the science of Christianity to correct and enlighten the world in science.