Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
There is much excitement on the subject of spiritualism, and those who have undertaken to write against it do not seem to throw any light upon the subject but rather fan the flame by calling it a humbug and a deception. Now to call it a humbug is to call all those deceivers who, from honest opinion, are bound to believe certain facts which come within their own senses. And if persons must give up their opinions, from facts which come within their own knowledge, to persons who cannot give any reason - only that it happens to be contrary to their own opinion - then man is not a free agent, but must have someone to tell him when or what to believe.
This setting up a standard for others to fall and bow down to - I, for one, cannot do it. The Bible says, “Try the spirits and see if they are right.” If so, embrace them; if false discard them - but treat your opponent like a human being, whom you think is in the wrong. I am very far from believing that it has anything to do with the dead, but I think that a large proportion of its converts are honest, but are misled, for the want of some better proof.
To explain to them the truth that they have witnessed, if this can be done in such a way as to come within their senses, they are bound to believe it; but if it cannot, the fault is not in them - it is in the person who undertook to lead them. Now if my explanation does not convince those who may chance to read it, the fault is in me and not in them; for I believe if any person knows a fact, he can make it understood - if he has the patience to reason with his opponent. But we often give our opinions and think others must believe them, whether they are right or wrong. This is asking more of others than we are willing to give ourselves. I ask no more of my opponents than they may ask of me.
I have been investigating the subject of the mind for the last sixteen years, and after careful investigation, have come to the following conclusion, which I shall give as follows. We are all acted upon by early impressions, which prevent us from investigating subjects of this kind, without being biased by those early impressions. A large majority of mankind are taught to believe in a superior being, and also in some religious creed. These creeds all teach the locality of two places - heaven and hell. It is true that some believe the locality of the latter to exist in the heart or mind of man; yet the fruits of the latter belief is left unexplained. If the idea ever was believed in the locality of a hell and that the wicked were doomed to that - then it would not be strange for persons to believe in evil spirits. This same is true of the former place.
Therefore, good and bad spirits are believed to have an identity in this world. Now with such a belief, it is not strange that any development of the mind should disturb mankind. This belief was what Christ had to contend with. It was not his belief, but it was the common belief of the people of his day, and he condemned it in all his sayings and doings. These ideas were believed by the Jews and other nations; only differing in some little variation.
Most all believed in a resurrection of the dead, but it was at the end of the world. This idea Christ opposed by correcting Martha, when she said to him, "If thou hadst been here, our brother would not have died."
Christ answered her by saying, “Thy brother shall rise again.”
She replied that she knew he would rise again at the last day - at the resurrection; showing that she believed in a resurrection at the end of the world. But did Christ sanction this belief? No. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me shall never die.”
Now where did Christ's belief differ from the rest of the people? In this - he knew what the people's belief was, concerning a resurrection. They believed that the dead would rise again. He knew that there was no such state as death, but man continues along and is just what he makes himself. Now here was a difference of opinion. Their opinion embraced all of the errors of the Egyptian darkness. It embraced a belief in a located heaven and hell. It also embraced a devil and evil spirits, which were let loose in the world to torment man. It also embraced the belief in disease and all its bad effects. Besides these exist hundreds of other beliefs, which affect the people.
This was the state of the world when Christ commenced his reform, and this was what he had to contend with. These beliefs were called “yokes,” and the priests and rulers would not lift their finger to lighten their burdens. Therefore Christ said to the people, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Now what was Christ's yoke? It was his belief, and the burden was truth - and truth condemned all these errors. Therefore, to take his yoke upon them, the burden would be in proportion to the yoke. Therefore, if they believed in Christ, they would throw off the Egyptian yoke (or burden) and all. Now the burden borne by the yoke (or belief) was their opinions in regard to a located heaven or hell. This belief Christ opposed and tried to convince the people that these places were states of the mind and that there was no such a being as a devil, independent of the person affected.
Take mankind as they are, believing - some in good, some in bad spirits and some in none at all - and it is not strange that any excitement produced by the development of the mind should disturb mankind. If the people would settle down on some belief on which they could agree, in a short time, they would not be tossed about by every wind of doctrine. But I shall take the world as it is and show that all of these developments are the effect of the mind and have nothing to do with the dead.
I will admit all that is claimed by the spiritualists but must differ with them in their explanation of the facts. Where does the idea arise that it is the spirits of the dead, from what is said while in this trance? The medium, when aroused from the trance, remembers nothing of what he has been saying. When asked by someone of the company if he was conscious of what he had been doing, his answer is “No.” The company are then left to argue the subject and then adopt a belief. This arouses all their prejudices in regard to spirits of the dead, and at last, they leave the scene, just about as their former beliefs were.
This is the same in regard to mesmeric experiments. The medium's belief is founded on his friend's opinion, and his friend's opinion is founded on what he said in an unconscious state. This state is produced in various ways. The Oracle of Delphi is an example. The shepherds, while watching their sheep, discovered that they would go to a certain place and hold their heads over a chasm in a rock, from whence issued forth a sort of vapor. This would make them spring, jump and cut all manner of capers.
This fact was made known to the priests, who took advantage of it and erected a house over the chasm, and also placed a stool perforated with holes over the chasm, on which the medium was placed. The vapor would rise, and the medium would be convulsed and at last fall into an unconscious state, and then foretell future events. This was believed, by the people, to come from the spiritual world.
All persons know that there are certain people affected by religious excitement and will go into a trance, but very few believe that they get any knowledge from the spiritual world. Therefore, it is no proof, because some persons can go into that state, themselves. Nor is it the result of some spirit. See how many ways a trance can be produced by mesmerism. I can produce it in a great many ways - by taking the patient by the hand, and also by giving them a piece of money or some other substance, and also by sending them a handkerchief or glove. I have produced it on a patient at a distance, without their knowing anything of my design of affecting them.
I have, for the last ten years, produced a state of mind in a person, who to all appearances appeared to be wide awake. It does not follow that persons in a mesmeric state must have their eyes closed. Some have their eyes open, some hear; others do not. Some cannot say a word, while others can talk. Some can throw themselves into a trance; others cannot. You can teach nearly all to, if you please. Therefore, the getting into this trance is no proof of its being brought on by the spirits of the dead.
Then where is the difference? I am at a loss to say where they differ; only in the opinion of the people. I will now compare some of my experiments with those claimed by the spiritualists. I profess to be a medium, myself, and am admitted to be so by the spiritualists, themselves. Therefore, before I give my explanation, I will relate one little circumstance to show what confidence they have in their early impressions, when they are not aware of the fact.
I was talking with a friend one day upon the subject of spiritualism. He was a strong believer in the doctrine. We differed in regard to the explanation of the phenomenon. He contended it was from the dead; I, that it was confined to the living. At last I said, “Will you admit that I am a medium?”
He said, "Yes!"
“And a seeing medium?”
“Well, can you see the spirits?” said I.
"No," said he.
“Then you admit I can see the spirits and talk with them, and you cannot.”
"I do," said he.
“Then,” said I, "I tell you they don't come from the dead."
"Oh, you are mistaken," said he.
Therefore, you see he denied what he had admitted. But this I laid to his early impressions; and reasoning from false basis, his conclusions must be false. You cannot reason with persons, from the fact that the whole of their theory is founded on some idea that never had an existence; only in the mind. Destroy the idea of the spirits of the dead, and you destroy their theory.
Where is the proof of the spirits of the dead? I find none - but can bring sufficient proof that the spirits of the living are with us. I will now explain what I mean by the “spirits of the living.”
The animal spirit is living matter, acted upon by another power, which does not depend on an identity for its existence; which cannot be seen, even by spiritual eyes, but is admitted. This power I shall not undertake to explain, but in all I say, I acknowledge its existence. Now as man is animal matter, for some wise purpose he is left to develop himself. Like everything else, matter cannot develop itself, unless there is some chemical action. So it is with man.
Man, when excited, develops some new principle which could never have been brought about in any other way. Jesus was a medium, and through him - that is, his natural body - some laws were developed to man that never had been before. Franklin and Napoleon were mediums, far above the errors of the age. So it is with all others who show some knowledge superior to the errors of their own time.
The development of man is to correct some error that exists in the natural man, for if he did not develop himself, he would be but little above the brute. But the undeveloped man is full of error, superstition and ignorance. Now to develop oneself is to unlearn that which superstition and ignorance have bequeathed to him. Now as this is spurring man forward to develop himself for some wise purpose, the ignorant oppose it, like all other science, calling it by various names. Some oppose it as the works of the devil; others as proving their old theory of spirits, etc. Each of these classes only act as a clog to prevent investigation.
I will now try to explain where the error lies. Those mediums who undertake to explain lose their own consciousness, so how can they then be responsible for what they say, while in this state? Their opinions are founded on the opinions of others. As for myself, I have no opinion. What I see I know. If I cannot believe my own senses, I cannot believe others.
One great fault in mankind is this. There are certain ideas admitted to be true, which exist only in the mind - among them the idea of a located hell. Now to admit the idea, independent of man's mind, is to admit its inhabitants. Admit this, and I see no reason for opposing anything they can bring forward. Their foundation and arguments are good - but I, for one, cannot see their reason. I admit the fact - and will show that they can be brought about by the living.
When I first commenced mesmerizing, I often saw experiments that I was not able to account for in any other way than to believe it came from the dead. But since I have become a medium, I have changed my opinion. I can see where I was deceived by my early education. I was not aware that man had this power to create ideas, so that they could be seen by another. I had no idea of what was called “imagination,” but I found that the word imagination could not cause all the phenomena. Therefore I was left to find some other way to account for all I would see; and on investigation, I found that ideas were something.
The next thing, then, was to find out what they were. This I did and found that ideas, when condensed into a form, contained a portion of our own natural body. It is the heat that arises from the fluids of the body, under a nervous excitement. For instance, a lady came to see me who was sick. She appeared like a person who had the dropsy. I took her by the hand. Her mind then left the body (as it appeared to me), and I followed it; although it seemed as though I was in two places at the same time, for I was still sitting in my office, and at the same time, I could see a scene, which I will now describe.
I seemed to follow her some distance over the water; the wind blew a gale; the water seemed very much disturbed; the sun looked as though it was near 11 o'clock A.M. At last I saw a brig under full sail. My attention was then fixed on that. I saw a man on the bowsprit, dressed in an oil cloth suit. At last he fell overboard; the vessel hove to - but the man sunk. This seemed as plain to me, as though I had seen it with my natural eyes.
I have asked spiritualists to explain this. They all say it is the spirits of the dead. My explanation is this. The lady lost her husband five years before. He was in a brig off the Bahamas and lost, as I described. On hearing of the death of her husband, it produced a nervous shock, producing a chemical action upon her system, which threw off this heat; and in this heat, as vapor, she created the cause of her trouble. This was, to her, the remembrance of some trouble which she could not be reconciled to.
This heat is the secret of all the phenomenon that has, heretofore, been a mystery to mankind. It shows itself in a thousand ways. It is the foundation of all superstition and ignorance. Out of this, men form images that frighten them. Persons in fevers create all the scenes that trouble them. It is the material used to create all the ideas and forms of all our false ideas. This is taken for the spirits of the dead. This the spiritualists jump over.
I shall give some examples of various kinds to show that the mind can produce almost any phenomena that can be imagined. I will here show how disease is created. Take for instance, the heart disease. I take this, because there are a great many who think that they are laboring under this disease, and as I am a skeptic in regard to disease independent of the mind, I will show how this heat is used to bring about this disease.
Ignorance, as well as truth, has its identity; and when an idea is admitted - whether true or false - it will have its effects upon mankind. Now the idea of disease, independent of the mind, is like the idea of hell, believed by almost every person. Therefore, admit disease independent of the mind, and you keep man in ignorance of himself; all his life subject to bondage.
Now disease, like evil spirits, is admitted. Therefore, the priests warn the people to have nothing to do with the devil, and the doctors endeavor to keep the people clear of disease. Christ denounced both as error and proved it by his works. He showed that evil spirits and disease were one and the same - and that both existed in ourselves; for when he cast out devils, he cast out disease, also; and when he cast out disease, he cast out error.
It may be asked, "Where is disease?"
“In the mind.”
I will show how it is in the mind. I spoke of disease of the heart; that idea is admitted, and all the symptoms accompanying it. The fluids of the body are excited, and the mind creates an identity corresponding to its feelings and differing from its healthy body. In this respect, it sees itself - that is, its spirit - with its heart disease, just as it thinks it is. This, to itself, is as real as any idea can be. This keeps up a constant excitement, till the natural body becomes changed, so as to be called “disease.”
Now destroy the idea of disease, independent of the mind - and evil spirits also; and it will teach man to look within himself for the evil that troubles him, instead of any other source. The ideas are both founded on error and cause nine-tenths of the misery of the human family. It is the stepping stone to insanity; for man deceives himself into a belief that evil spirits are around him, talking to him, spurring him on to commit some evil deed, which he would not do, if he properly understood where the author of these thoughts reside.
I shall now give some illustrations to show how people deceive themselves. I was called to see a lady who had become insane by this false idea of spirits of the dead. The lady had been with friends, and as usual, the subject of spiritualism came up; and as there was a medium in the room, she was requested to try some experiments. After various experiments were tried, the spirits wrote that Mrs. 'C' was a writing medium. It is a trick of the trade. It has this effect on the person whom the spirits select - it makes them nervous and brings their nervous system into a state to be affected by their own thought.
This is the same in mesmerism. I always found that, if my subject pretended that anyone could be mesmerized, I could most always produce the sleep. It is a tendency to excite - and as persons are more-or-less disturbed by their early impressions, they cannot help being affected. This was the case with the lady in question. She had lost her husband some twelve months before. This would naturally excite her, and when she returned home, she thought she would try the experiment. Her father and mother were present. She sat down by the table and took her pen in hand and waited the movement of the spirits. In a short time, the hand began to shake. This, of course, would excite her, and she ventured to ask if there were any spirits present.
She asked if it was various persons.
At last she asked if it was her husband.
“Are you happy?”
By this time she became much excited. More questions were asked, but no answers were received but, "Yes" and "No."
At last she asked, “When will you be happy?
“When God takes you to heaven.”
"When will that be?"
The father then interfered and broke up the sitting. The lady went to her room and retired. This was about nine o'clock. About ten, she got up, came downstairs, and asked her mother where the matches were.
"Are you sick?" asked her mother.
"Yes, and going to die."
This frightened the parents, and they arose. She seemed in great distress, and her father went for one of the neighbors. When they returned, she was running around perfectly insane. She said if they would leave her alone for a few moments, God would take her to heaven. She pleaded so hard that they went out, but looked through the window. She went to her husband's chest and got a large knife. They rushed in, just in time to prevent her from taking her own life. She then became a raving maniac. A physician was called, but to no purpose. She continued in this way for more than a week, when I was called to see her. After some time, I quieted her mind, explained to her the cause of her trouble, and she became sane and has had no more trouble from the spirits. She is satisfied that she, herself, was the cause of all her trouble.
I went to see a lady who had cut her throat, under the direction of the spirits. She had become insane and was told to kill two of her children. She resisted and left them and went to a neighbor's house to stay. She retired to bed, but the spirits kept telling her to go and kill the children. She arose and tried to find a rope to hang herself, but could not. She then went to the room where the man and his wife were and entreated them to protect her and keep her from killing herself and the children. They rose, telling her to lie down there in their own room. She saw a pair of scissors, took them, and placed them under her apron. She then laid down with her clothes on, and covering her head, cut her jugular vein. Her friends thought she had gone to sleep.
After a short time, she threw off the clothes with her arms and asked where she was. They went to her bed and found her covered with blood. She asked if she was dead. When told, “No,” she asked what she had been doing. The artery had closed, so that the blood had stopped. A doctor was sent for and the artery taken up, but the mind was completely deranged. I was called to her, about a week after the deed was done. She was then laboring under a strange delusion; feared she would be carried to the insane hospital and thought I came to kill her. I succeeded in restoring her to her reason and satisfied her that what she saw and heard was the effect of her own mind. She understood it, and her understanding was the cure.
Now can any person believe that spirits from the dead came to her, persuading her to take the lives of her children? If there is, it is an error of the mind, which should be corrected; founded on some false idea. Some persons would explain these two cases upon imagination, but that is not the fact. The things seen and heard are as real as anything that comes within our senses. Ideas are formed by the mind and as often destroyed, before they are put in force or ever developed to our senses.