Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
Spiritualism & Mesmerism II
Thinking that my experience in mesmerism may give some light on the phenomena of spiritualism, I will state my experience for twenty-five years. It was about that time I first gave my attention to the subject of mesmerism, and I have followed it up to the present time and have seen the workings of the phenomena in all its phases, from putting a person into an unconscious state to the experiment called “spiritualism.”
It is true that there is a class of persons who try to show that spiritualism is not mesmerism, but to me they only show their ignorance of mesmerism. For mesmerism is not confined to one set of experiments, but is the working of the mind under various influences. And as I have given my whole time to the investigation of the subject, I will relate some of my experiments and leave the candid reader to decide which is the most reasonable.
My first experiment was to put a person into an unconscious state, called “mesmeric,” and my ideas about it were these - that I contained more electricity than the subject, and by the power of my will, I charged him so full that he came completely under my will. Now I had no idea that my belief had anything to do with my subject and myself. But experience proved to me that all my experiments were governed by a belief, and not by wisdom at all.
I knew that if I sat down and took hold of the hand of certain persons, they would pass into this state, but the whys and wherefores, I knew not. So to make myself acquainted with the phenomena, I consulted every author I could hear of, to know what to do. There was a work written by a Doctor Townshend, of Europe, and I read it, but had no idea that what I read had anything to do with my experiments. But time showed me that all I ever read or heard gave direction to my experiments.
I will here state what was the common belief at the time and show how the experiments went to prove it. There were certain conditions that must be complied with, and if they were not complied with, the experiments would fail. But the failure was never attributed to spirits, but unbelief, etc. Among the conditions influencing the experiments was metal. If I had any steel about me, it affected the subject. This was my belief; and if it rained, my experiments would fail. This was also according to the belief in electricity.
So there were a great many conditions of weather and persons necessary. If a skeptic was too near, it affected the patient. So I went on, like all mesmerizers, getting into trouble and out. And after some three years, I found I had produced a great many phenomena; but I was as ignorant as when I began, and I have never seen the person that has, as yet, gotten out of the darkness.
Yet old mesmerizers are as ignorant about the phenomena of their days as the new converts - and will always remain so, till they investigate the subject with different ideas from what have ever been advanced. As I never had read any writing upon the subject before I commenced, I only had to get rid of what I got from reading after I commenced.
It would take me a long time to give a birds-eye view of what I have experienced for the last twenty-five years, but I wish to lead the reader along, so that he will be prepared to understand me when I come to the phase of the phenomena called “spiritualism.” Now I was prepared for the experiments of spiritualism - though not exactly the way they came. But I was prepared to see matter moved by the power of man's will; for I had experimented on this idea for months all alone, trying to move an object suspended by a thread.
So when I heard of the Rochester rappings, I was, myself, trying the experiment. Now why did I try the experiment? I will tell you. I was trying some experiments with my subject, and they were never better, and I experimented till past twelve o'clock and never failed. When I closed, I went to the door and found it was raining very fast. It had clouded up while I was experimenting, and if I had known the fact, I could not have had one experiment. They would all have failed.
To me this was a complete stunner. I retired and lay and thought it all over, and came to the conclusion that it was all my fault. The experiments were in accordance with my belief. I then determined not to read any more, nor take any opinion - but launch my barque on the ocean of thought and be governed by no one's opinion, but by the sensations made on me by my subject. And I have kept my vows, and now I will give my own ideas - not my opinion, but my experiments.
I had arrived at that degree that the subject could read the thoughts of persons and could travel and explain what the person knew; and also see and describe what the person - not anyone else in the room - knew. I say I had arrived at that point. But I was just as ignorant as I was at the first experiment I had, so far as knowing the whys and wherefores.
To show the similarity between the experiments then and now, under the so-called “spiritualism,” I will relate one or two of the many I used to show. My mode was first to put my subject into what I called a “clairvoyant state,” and then request one of the company to give me the name of some individual, and the boy would find him - I did not care, whether dead or alive. So a name was handed me. I can't remember what it was, but I will call it John Brown, for I think it was that. I passed the name to the boy, who was sitting blindfolded by the committee. He read the name aloud. I told him to bring the person. My mode was to make him ask questions, so that the audience would lead him along. So I said, “Enquire who he is, a man or boy?”
He said, “A man.”
“Is he married?”
“Will you tell me if he has any children and how many?”
He said, “He had a wife and three children.”
“Well, find him.”
He said, “He left town between two days.”
“Well, find him.”
So he traced him to Boston, and by enquiring, he followed him to the interior of New York and found him in a cooper's shop. Now all this was literally true, and I suppose the audience knew the fact, but the boy, nor myself, knew nothing of it.
“Well, what became of the man?”
He said he was dead.
“Well,” said I, “find him, and bring him along.”
“Well,” said he, “he is here - can't you see him?”
I then reminded him that he was mesmerized, for in that state everything was as real as in the waking state.
So I said, “Give a description.”
He then went on to give a general description. Now these general descriptions amount to nothing, for everyone will make it fit their case. So I said, “I don't want that - if there is anything peculiar about the man, describe it.”
“There is one thing peculiar. He has a hare-lip.”
This was the fact. Now I asked that question, so that if there was anything peculiar, the audience would create it. Now what was the conclusion they came to? Those who believed it was the spirit of the man, believed he came. Those who believed it was clairvoyance or thought-reading, continued to believe so. Some said that I had hired the committee to give the name. So they all left with their minds, just as I had found them.
Now these experiments convinced me that man has the power of creating ideas and making them so dense, that they could be seen by a subject that was mesmerized. So I used to create objects and make him describe them. At last I could take persons, to all appearance in the waking state, and make them see anything I chose. I found that I could stop persons while walking. This led me to the fact that I could act on living matter, without contact. I could hold people down, so that they could not rise and could keep them from rising. This showed me that man has an unconscious power that is not admitted, which governs his acts. This is not recognized by his natural senses, and this is the mystery that hangs over the world.
I must say a word or two about this mystery. Words are used to convey some idea of something that can be seen, but if a word is spoken that should wound another's feelings, there is no language to explain the peculiar sensation. Now my experiments and investigations have educated me up to this state that I feel this peculiar sensation that is made on persons, and I feel and know how they feel and convince them of the fact. Now this is the state that embraces all the phenomena of spiritualism, disease, religion and everything that affects the mind. So every person's belief affects them.
Now there are persons who are sensitive to this state and are acted upon by the influences of different beliefs. As there is a certain class of persons who believe that spirits come back, as it is called - to them they do come back, just as the man I spoke of. Some persons believe it is the works of the devil, and it is, to them, the works of Satan; and as good spirits and bad are believed in, so the experiments go to prove their belief.
Now I know that all of what I have said is true, but it is all the natural working of man's belief. Convince man that every act (or belief) that he embraces has an effect on his body, and just as he measures out to another, it will be measured back to him, and there is no escape - he will be cautious what he says.
Now I have seen the experiments in spiritualism, and I know that they are the workings of man's own belief, and I have proved it to the medium. I knew a very excitable medium, who was very susceptible to impressions. I tried some experiments with her. I told her I would convince her it was her own belief that governed the raps. So when the spirits came, I asked certain questions that I knew she did not agree with me upon, nor indeed any of the company; such as, if I could be in two places at the same time and whether I could make myself known to certain individuals, without their knowledge. All this the spirits denied and said I could not. I then said I would not trouble the spirits any more.
Then I went on to explain how I could do these things, and I knew I changed their minds. So I said I would come again and convince them that I was right. So in the course of three or four days, I called and found the same company and said, “I will now convince you that I was right.” They all laughed, and I sat down by the table, and the raps came, and the question was asked if the spirits were present, and it rapped, “Yes.” I then repeated what I said, and it rapped. I was right in every one of my questions. When I asked them what made them give such answers, they said they were mistaken.
Now this is the state of the case. As people become educated, the ideas change. This keeps the mind all the time excited. In a short time, the superstition (or fear) will change, and all the phenomena of today will cease, and some new phase will spring up, just according to the wisdom of the world. And this sort of superstition will keep up, till man finds that true happiness is in true wisdom; and wisdom reduced to a scientific mode of reasoning will place man where he never was placed before.
To be happy, he must do something. For that happiness that comes from a belief (or ignorance) may be blissful - but if the happiness of that man who labors to make others happy is of no more value than the happiness of one that sits and folds his hands and says, “All I want in this world is to be let alone, so don't disturb me. Let me be happy,” then I agree with the one who said of this sort, “If ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise.”