Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
The Word “Life” & Its Common ApplicationNovember 1862
The word “life” in all its applications is attached to matter. It begins, grows to maturity, then decays, and at last dies. This makes life matter, of itself; for anything that grows to a certain stage and then decays is matter.
The expression is often used, “Life has its bounds which it cannot pass,” and “Man's life is considered three-score-and-ten,” and the exception proves the rule. The wisdom which teaches my theory teaches that life has no matter, except as it exists in our belief. As matter is deposited into various forms - for example, into a tree - man calls the process a “growth” and applies the word “life” to the growth. After it has reached a certain state, it commences to react and decompose, and this process is called “death.” Then the dust returns to the dust, as it were, and the life to man, who placed it in the tree. Still this life is not known; for man cannot believe in life, independent of matter.
Man reasons in this way about the body. A child commences to grow, and he calls the growth of the child “life.” When it has reached a certain maturity, it begins to decompose and die, like the tree. Then the dust returns to dust, and the life of the body to the belief of the living. No such ideas as these come from wisdom; for wisdom puts life in the senses, and they - having no matter - contain neither life nor death. As life is in the senses, if we attach these to wisdom, our life is in our wisdom; and as that never dies, our life does not die.
Happiness is contentment - not life, nor death. Misery is discord - not wisdom, but error and belief. If then, you attach your life to an error - like putting life in the body - your life is unhappy, according to the loss (or disturbance). I will explain more clearly. Life comprehends all that man thinks of, and his happiness is in his life; and that, being attached to ideas called “matter,” he puts life (or value) in the matter.
For instance, if he should lose his watch, he grieves just the amount of the value it contains to him, while the value is really in himself; for he does not grieve as though he had lost a friend. A slave holder owns a slave who is worth to him one-thousand dollars. He feels the loss of the black, but owing to his education, he cannot see that the slave is different from any other piece of property of the same value. He also has a son who, instead of being an income, is an expense to him; but should he lose him - the value being in his love for the child - it is not measured by dollars and cents. The love is in him and not in the boy.
slave has life, and so has the son; and just as the father deals out
to each, so shall it be dealt back to him. If the father considers
the slave mere property and the son a loving being, capable of
enjoyment - then his happiness is the son's and the son's the
father's; but the slave, receiving no such sympathy, of course,
cannot return the same - so discord springs up in the slave, and the
sin of the father is visited upon the son. Correct this error; the
slave becomes a servant and is contented. It is the same with
disease. Drive the sin out of the father, and a more healthy
atmosphere surrounds him. Truth corrects the evil - for it is an