Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Is it a New Thought or just Ancient Wisdom in modern clothing - Part Four

The Pioneer
He had a very inventive mind, and was always interested in mechanics, philosophy and scientific subjects. During his middle life, he invented several devices on which he obtained letters patent. He was very argumentative, and always wanted proof of anything, rather than an accepted opinion. Anything which could be demonstrated he was ready to accept; but he would combat what could not be proved with all his energy, rather than admit it as a truth.[1]

In order to study Dr. Quimby[2], considered either the father or founder of New Thought[3], we first must review a bit of the history of his prominent influence – Franz Mesmer.
Born in 1734, Mesmer was an Austrian physician practicing in Paris. He believed that when the ebb and flow of the fluid within a human organism was disturbed through being out of harmony with the universal rhythm, a mental or nervous illness could result.[4] Using conventional methods along with the placing of magnets and lodestones onto the affected area of the patient’s body, Mesmer was able to effect remarkable symptomatic relief. He called it magnetism.[5] He later discovered that the same effect occurred when using any other object during the sessions, changing his views and calling it “animal magnetism,” a force that comes from the healer[6]. For many years, he continued curing patients to fame and fortune and quite a bit of ire from the more orthodox medical practitioners.
In 1777, during his military adventures in the U. S. Revolutionary War, The Marquis de Lafayette,[7] one of Mesmer’s fans, mentioned this healing method to George Washington. In 1784 Louis XVI established a committee of some the most famous doctors and naturalists of the time, including Antoine Lavoisier[8] and Benjamin Franklin, to investigate the feasibility of magnetic phenomena. Despite the fact that the committee conducted its research with a disciple of Mesmer’s, and not Mesmer himself, they reached the conclusion that the magnetic rays were nonexistent and any beneficial results from such treatment was due to self-suggestion. They also concluded that magnetic treatment was especially dangerous for women since it might destroy their inhibitions. With his reputation destroyed, Mesmer left Paris for London to start up his practice again. Failing there too, he moved to Switzerland, where he died in obscurity in 1815.
Returning to early 19th century America, we find the young Phineas Parkhurst Quimby had cured his own pulmonary tuberculosis by filling his days with intense excitement that “took possession of my senses” and outdoor physical activity, such as carriage rides and running. This event prompted his interest in the mind’s ability to affect the body.
Though not schooled formally, Quimby was a successful watch- and clock-maker, and holder of several mechanical patents. An avid reader with an extraordinarily inquisitive, perceptive, and inventive mind, this interest in self-healing led him, years later in 1836, to a public demonstration of mesmerism by Charles Poyen St. Sauveur, a French disciple of Mesmer. According to Quimby’s son, it is not strange that … Quimby should feel deeply interested in the subject. Here was a new, to him at least, phenomenon; and he at once began to investigate the subject; and on every occasion when he could find a person who would allow him to try, he would endeavor to put him into a mesmeric sleep.”[9] Soon the future philosopher and Healing Physician began studying mesmerism, reading everything he could. While experimenting with two of his friends, Quimby discovered he too, could mesmerize. Of this first experiment he writes:
So we sat the subject in the chair, the gentleman stood in front of him and I behind him, and the gentleman tried to draw him out of the chair; but he could not start him. Then we reversed positions, and I drew the subject out of the chair. This showed that I had the greater power or will. This ended the first experiment.
Particularly receptive to Quimby's mesmeric influence was Lucius Burkmar, an uneducated 19-year-old who was particularly susceptible to being in the mesmeric sleep. In it, he reportedly could clairvoyantly travel through time and space, see objects at a distance, read other minds, and diagnose and prescribe simple herbal remedies for treating diseases. Lucius even diagnosed and cured Quimby of a horrible kidney condition, in two days. However, their work was being called “a deception, a fraud, and a humbug; Mr. Quimby was vilified and frequently threatened with mob violence, as the exhibitions smacked too strongly of witchcraft to suit the people.”[10] They traveled throughout Maine and New Brunswick giving public demonstrations in the early to middle 1840s. It wasn’t long before Quimby discovered that many of the no-nos that he read about mesmerizing, such as not working during a lightning storm or in the vicinity of a woman wearing a silk dress, were “humbug.” In addition, he realized that he too possessed this independent sight Lucius had, and did not need to go into a trance. He felt he no longer needed Lucius nor the limitations of mesmerism, and that there was a deeper spiritual science at work.
He was absorbed in developing his theory, or “the Truth” as he termed it, so that all could understand and practice it. He told his son: “Wait till I get my theory reduced to a science, so that I can teach the Truth to others, and then I can make money fast enough.”[11] Over the next almost two decades, while ridiculed by the whole medical profession, each step in opposition to all the established ideas of the day, he experimented with his healing ideas. “In the sick and suffering he always found staunch friends, who loved him and believed in him, and stood by him; but they were but a handful compared with those on the other side.”[12] He soon concluded that disease is what follows the disturbance of the mind or spiritual matter, what follows an incorrect opinion or when mind was diverted by error. He realized that Truth is the destruction of this opinion whether the disease is something made by belief or forced upon us by our parents or public opinion. And finally, he knew what he had was a science because he could teach it.
Quimby never claimed to be the founder of this science of healing; that he credited to “Jesus Christ.” Though he used that name, he also distinguished between Jesus and the Christ: “Jesus was as any other man, but Christ was the Science which Jesus tried to teach.” He also saidChrist is the God in us all,”[13] and that “Man’s belief is his heaven and hell.”[14] Those identifications led Quimby to coin the term “Christian Science” in an article:
The leaders of the medical schools, through the hypocrisy of their profession, deceive the people into submission to their opinions, while democracy forges the fetters which are to bind them to disease. Science, which would destroy this bondage, is looked upon as blasphemy when it dares oppose the faculty, and religion has no place in medical science. So in the church the religion of Jesus’ Science is never heard; for it would drive aristocracy out of the pulpit, and scatter seeds of freedom among the people. Nevertheless, the religion of Christ is shown in the progress of Christian Science, while the religion of society decays as the liberal principles are developed.[15]
Though an avid Bible reader and with “a deeply religious nature,”[16] he wasn’t too keen on religion or conventional men of medicine: “It is necessary to say that I have no religious belief. My religion is my life, and my life is the life of any wisdom that I have. The two most dangerous to the happiness of man are those of the medical science and priests.”[17]
Working in person or through letters, he described his method of treatment in this way:
A patient comes to see Dr. Quimby. He renders himself absent to everything but the impression of the person’s feelings. These are quickly daguerreotyped on him. They contain no intelligence, but shadow forth a reflection of themselves which he looks at. This [mental picture] contains the disease as it appears to the patient. Being confident that it is the shadow of a false idea, he is not afraid of it. Then his feelings in regard to health and strength, are daguerreotyped on the receptive plate of the patient … The patient sees … the disease in a new light, gains confidence. This change is daguerreotyped on the doctor again … and he sees the change and continues … the shadow changes and grows dim, and finally disappears, the light takes its place, and there is nothing left of the disease.[18]
From 1847 until his passing in 1866, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby devoted his life to healing the sick, treating over 12,000 patients during those years. Most notable of his patients were Warren Felt Evans, a practitioner and author of mental healing;[19] Julius and Annetta (Seabury) Dresser,[20] early organizers of New Thought; and Mary M. Patterson (Mary Baker Eddy), founder of Christian Science.
The last five years of his life were exceptionally hard. He was overcrowded with patients, greatly overworked, and could not seem to find an opportunity for relaxation. At last, nature could no longer bear up under the strain; completely tired out, he took to his bed, from which he never rose again. While strong, he had always been able to ward off any disease that would have affected another person; but, when tired and weak, he no longer had the strength of will or the reasoning powers to combat the sickness that terminated his life.
It is clear that, although his practice was originally based in mesmerism, his final methods came from the teachings and example of Jesus of Nazareth, and through intuition versus through academia. An hour before he breathed his last, he said to his son:
I am more than ever convinced of the truth of my theory. I am perfectly willing for the change myself, but I know you all will feel badly, and think I am dead; but I know that I shall be right here with you, just as I always have been. I do not dread the change any more than if I were going on a trip to Philadelphia.[21]
His death occurred January 16, 1866, at his residence in Belfast. He was sixty-four. George Quimby felt his father’s epitaph should have been:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. For if ever a man did lay down his life for others - that man was Phineas Parkhurst Quimby.

[1] George Quimby (Dr. Quimby’s youngest son and later his assistant), from New England Magazine
[2] Not an academically trained or licensed physician, his patients called him this.
[3] Many scholars regard him as the “Father of the New Thought Movement” because of his connecting the powers of the mind and physical healing. Braden, in Spirits in Rebellion, called him the “Founder.”
[4] Successful Hypnotherapy Diploma Course, Copyright © 1984-2009 International Association of Pure Hypnoanalysts (IAPH).
[5] In 1766 his thesis, “De influxu planetarum in corpus humanum,” revived (possibly plagiarized) the Newtonian idea that the planets exude invisible rays that affect the human body and disease. He had earned two doctorates: medicine and philosophy.
[6] It was later described as a mental suggestion. In the later 19th century, Scottish surgeon James Braid coined the term “hypnosis” or “sleep of the nerves,” to avoid the stigma of Mesmer’s reputation.
[7] Marie-Jean Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, 1757 – 1834, a French aristocrat and military officer who famously befriended and served under George Washington during the American Revolution.
[8] 18th century French chemist, called the father of modern chemistry, found and named oxygen (1778) and hydrogen (1783), who helped construct the metric system and put together the first extensive list of elements.
[9] George Quimby, New England Magazine, 1888
[10] George Quimby, New England Magazine, 1888
[11] Ibid
[12] Ibid
[13] The Quimby Manuscripts. “The World of the Senses”
[14] The Quimby Manuscripts. “God and Man”
[15] P.P. Quimby. “Aristocracy and Democracy,” February 1863
[16] George Quimby, New England Magazine, 1888
[17] The Quimby Manuscripts: God and Man
[18] George Quimby, New England Magazine, 1888
[19] Wrote six books, two of which, The Mental Cure and Mental Medicine, came out before Mrs. Eddy’s Science and Health.
[20] Their son, Horatio, wrote extensively on Quimby and edited and compiled his manuscripts and journals.
[21] George Quimby, New England Magazine, 1888

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