Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
What is Spiritualism?May 1862
Spiritualism is the name of a belief in the immortality of the soul. Its believers rank it among the sciences. I will analyze this claim by asking the spiritualists a few questions, being myself the skeptic. When I speak, is it I or my spirit? If it is I, do I think also - and if I think, when do I sense thinking? If I lose my organs of speech, etc., belonging to the body, where am I? Am I anything?
If I am a spirit - when was I not one? How came I flesh and blood, and then a spirit? I am either a spirit all the time, or else I am not - and if I am one, what becomes of flesh and blood? When is the change called “death?” What dies? If the spirit is not dead, how can it give an account of what never happened; and if it does not - what do you make of these communications given and purporting to come from the dead?
These questions are in the dark and can only be answered by a person's belief about a hereafter; and that is founded on the fact that they want to have it true. But being ignorant of what they pretend to believe, they deceive themselves and others. I will state my belief and bring proof to substantiate it as true.
Spirit is only matter in a rarefied form; and thought, reason and knowledge, are the same. To wisdom, all these are only shadows of wisdom. Memory is the same. Our existence does not change. That is a self-evident fact. Memory is attached to this existence; it is not eternal but belongs to the idea “matter.”
Life is composed of light and wisdom. Everything having form contains an odor, and life and wisdom give it quality (or body), as it pleases; and to every idea, its own peculiar body (or odor). Man, as we see him, is composed of these odors, just according to his knowledge. The wisdom that keeps the body together is not seen, nor admitted - but is an identity of itself. All mankind is one body of wisdom, each having a self-existence in this wisdom. Matter is the medium, and error is the material that is employed to work out the problem.
I will make an illustration. Freedom from error is the great problem of man's destiny; so he ventures on investigation, with fear. Fear is darkness of the truth; but truth is in the fear. Error is only a state of mind that is not really anything but commotion.
Man is two beings. God is one, and man or God is in his works; and he, being ignorant of his God, leaves him, in ignorance of himself; so he reasons, as though his body had life. This error makes him two; yet he is but one. And when he learns that matter is nothing but error that he has to get rid of or have it at his will - then he will begin to understand what he is and how he stands in relation to others.
As I have said, freedom is science; slavery error. Each acts outside of what is called “matter,” by error. So error tries to control the truth and make it subservient to its will. It therefore establishes its science by authority; not science. This error makes a sort of atmosphere that fills the whole earth, like the air, and at times, it gets so condensed that it darkens the heavens (or wisdom), so that the light of truth seems to have gone out. But truth, like lightning, flashes through this darkness; and like a thunderstorm, destroys the cloud of error. Then the light of freedom once more shines out and lights up the heavens with its wisdom of freedom, and science takes one more step towards perfection.
Every living being is affected by this change. It is the outpouring of error, striving for the ascendancy; and its life is in its own destruction. Property, character, bodies - and every destructible thing - must be changed; and the owners lose their place in the world and give way to a higher class of mind. But their identity is not lost, except as a power, and they take their places where ruined politicians and demagogues stand. This is illustrated by the present rebellion.
error (or secession element) - North and South - will be driven from
this land of freedom and will mingle with the vilest class of minds.
Their memories will be held in contempt, and they will be called
liars and traitors.