New Thought Library is an online public library with free eBook and audio downloads.
Links to downloads for Spiritual Health and Healing by Horatio Dresser are at the bottom of this web page
Blessings abound for the spiritually aware.
Help connect like minded seekers with the Spiritual Resources
produced by the NewThought.NET/work
Chapter Two - The Priceless Possession
WHEN a man of ability and influence in the world has been
misrepresented, a golden opportunity is put before us. Once in touch with
his spirit, we may have the good fortune to catch his vision, see the marvels
he might have achieved had he lived until our day, his genius recognized,
his truth made our own. It will not then be necessary to devote much time
to the controversies which have grown up around his name.
Such an opportunity is put before the truth-loving world
in the case of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, gone from among us since January
16, 1866. He was not great as some account greatness. We need not praise
him to do him justice. But he loved his fellowmen, lived and labored, and
laid down his life for them. He was a very genuine lover of truth, and
faithfully stood for a great truth of surpassing value for humanity. Whoever
does this is worthy of our endeavors to put his work in its real light.
Because he was persistently misrepresented, the world demands to know the
full truth about him, and in knowing it may come into surer possession
of his gift to humanity.
Because Dr. Quimby, as he was called by his patients and
friends, has been put in a false light for many years, he is given opportunity
to speak for himself, in his own words, from his letters, manuscripts and
other documents, preserved precisely as he left them. Time has kept for
our purposes everything needed to make the record complete.
Quimby's writings were not meant for publication, although
their author hoped to revise them for a book, and he had already written
experimental introductions. The lapse of time has brought many changes
of thought, hence notes and explanations are necessary. The therapeutic
movement which grew out of Quimby's Pioneer work has also undergone changes.
Time has shown that the original teachings have come to possess a value
which might not have been theirs had they been published fifty years ago.
Now that the teachings are given to the world, many new estimates will
be made. The majority of us are little accustomed to thinking in terms
of inner experience without the embellishments of literary art or the interpretations
of sects and schools; and some effort will be required to take up the point
of view of a writer who wrote precisely as he thought.
There is little to add to the biographical sketch published
by his son George A. Quimby, in the "New England Magazine," March,
1888, so far as external details are concerned. Quimby was born in Lebanon,
New Hampshire, February 16, 1802. When two years of age his home was moved
to Belfast, Maine, where he spent his boyhood days without noteworthy incident.
The family home remained in Belfast. There Quimby began his first investigations
in mental phenomena. Thither he went far rest and change in the years of
his greatest activities as spiritual healer in Portland, and there his
earthly life came to an end, after more than twenty years devoted to the
type of work which gives him title to fame among original minds.
His education in the schools was so meagre that he did
not learn to spell and punctuate as most writers do. But when he misspelled
he did so uniformly, and his phonetic spellings are convenient means of
identification in his manuscripts. The same is true of his peculiar use
of words. In one of his papers he says, with reference to his education,
that if he has learning enough to convey his ideas to the world that will
suffice. Had he been granted the opportunity as a young man, he would naturally
have sought the best training in the special sciences, as that was the
tendency of his mind. But there are other sorts of education which some
of us value more. If to be educated is to have power to quicken in men
and women knowledge of themselves, love for spiritual truth and love for
God, then indeed he was educated in high degree. The significant fact is
that with only a common-school education, and with but slight acquaintance
with the ages of human thought, Quimby made the best use of his powers
and grappled with the greatest problems with clear insight. To see why
he came to believe as he did is to pass far beyond the external facts of
his biography, and turn to his inner life with its outreachings.
Quimby early manifested ability as an inventor, but his
mechanical interests do not explain him. So, too, in his occupation as
watch and clockmaker there is no hint of his peculiar ability in discerning
the human heart. His power as inventor was limited by his interest in mechanics.
Before the period of his experiments in mental phenomena there is only
one incident of any significance recorded, the recovery of his health in
part without the aid of medicine; but even in this case his meagre account
fails to tell us whether the change was in any sense permanent. It was
not until his investigations were well begun that he wholly regained his
health and began to see that health is a spiritual possession. But in reviewing
this introductory period of his life everything once more depends on what
we call education. Inventive or creative ability, combined with love for
facts, the facts and laws of the special sciences, is a splendid beginning
if one is to devote maturer years to establishing a spiritual science.
Perhaps it was Quimby's love for natural facts which kept him from ignoring
the existence and reality of the natural world, when he became absorbed
in the study of the mind.
Quimby's mind was scientific in the good sense of the
term. He did not stop many years in the domain of mechanics. He was not
content with letters patent as signs of his ability. Nor was he satisfied
with studies in mesmerism, spiritism and kindred phenomena. The impressive
fact is that he continued his researches until he laid the basis for a
new structure in the world of thought. During the period of his preliminary
investigations he read books on the sciences to some extent. But with the
beginning of his life-work he branched out in a new direction, working
entirely alone, amidst opposition and with no books to help him. His more
productive years should therefore be judged by his high ideal of a spiritual
His great love for truth, his desire to prove all things
for himself, is then the most prominent characteristic of his early manhood.
Apparently, those who knew him well in the early years of his life in Belfast
saw nothing peculiar or exceptional in him. Hence there is nothing recorded
that gives us any clue until, putting aside conventional standards of thought,
we seek the man's inner type, the sources of his insight in the Divine
purpose. Yet there is an advantage in being known by one's fellow townsmen
as honest, upright, dedicated to practical pursuits, and by no means peculiar.
For when Quimby took up a study that was unpopular he was a prophet with
honor in his own country. From his home town he went forth to engage in
public experiments, well recommended. And in his own town he began the
practice of spiritual healing, winning there the reputation which led him
to move to Portland, in 1859, and enlarge his work.
Was he a religious man? In one of his articles he says,
"I have been trying all my life, ever since I was old enough to listen,
to understand the religious opinions of the world, and see if people understand
what they profess to believe." Not finding spiritual wisdom, he was
inclined to be sceptical, and later spent much time setting his patients
free from religious beliefs. George Quimby tells us emphatically that his
father was not religious in the sense in which one might understand the
term religion as applied to organizations, churches and authorized text-books.
We shall see reasons for this distinction as we proceed. But if to believe
profoundly in the indwelling presence of God as love and wisdom, if to
live by this Presence so as to realize its reality vividly in the practice
of spiritual healing, is to be religious, then indeed few men have been
more truly religious than he. Those of us who have known his chief followers
have felt from them a spiritual impetus coming from his work which surpasses
what we have elsewhere met in actual practice.
After he ceased to experiment with mesmerism, and began
to study the sick intuitively, he took his starting-point in religious
matters from the state in which he found his patients. He found many of
them victims of what we now call the old theology. The priests and ministers
of that theology were to him blind guides. Hence, as he tells us, he made
war on all religious opinions and on all priestcraft. Jesus was to him
a reformer who had overcome all his religion before beginning to establish
"the Truth or Christ." Quimby was very radical in opposing doctrinal
conceptions of Christ. He uniformly called Jesus "a man like ourselves,"
that he might win for the Master new recognition as the founder of spiritual
science. To him "the Science of the Christ" was greater than
Did he allow his own personality to become a centre of
interest and admiration? Not at all. He realized of course that his patients
would look up to him as to any physician who had restored them to health
when there was apparently no hope. So he sometimes freely spoke of his
"power or influence." But this was to divert attention from doctors
and medicines. He then disclosed the way to his great truth, and kept his
"science" steadily before his patient's mind. His manuscripts
contain scarcely a reference to himself save to show what he learned from
early investigations, why he is not a spiritualist, humbug or quack, and
why he believed man possesses "spiritual senses" in touch with
Divine wisdom. Thus he often speaks of himself in the third person as "P.
P. Q." not "the natural man," but the one who has seen a,
great truth which all might understand.
In his constructive period in Portland, Quimby had around
him, not ardent disciples who compared him with the great philosophers
or with Jesus, but a small group who defended him against misrepresentation,
and regarded him as he wished to be regarded, as a lover of truth. His
patients became his special friends, and it was to those most interested
that he gave forth his ideas most freely. The Misses Ware, who did most
of the copying of the manuscripts and made changes in them according to
his suggestions when he heard them read, were especially fitted for this
service, since they brought forward no opinions of their own and were devoted
to this part of the work. So, too, Mr. Julius A. Dresser, who spent his
time after his own recovery, in June, 1860, conversing with new patients
and inquirers, explaining Quimby's theory and methods, was particularly
adapted to aid the great cause to which his life was dedicated. A few followers
wrote brief articles for the press, but none had the confidence to undertake
any elaborate exposition, hoping as they did that the manuscripts would
soon be given to the world and that these would disclose the new truth
in its fulness.
It has been supposed that Quimby did no teaching, and
this is true so far as organized instruction is concerned. But he did the
same kind of teaching that all original men engage in, he conversed with
his followers, speaking out of the fulness of experience and with the force
of native insight. Thus he began the educational part of his treatment
as soon as his patients were in a state of mind to listen responsively.
Then he explained his "Truth" more at length as responsiveness
grew and interest was awakened. Coming out of his office filled with insights
from his latest sitting, he would share his views with interested groups.
Sometimes, too, his essays would be read and the contents discussed. His
writings were loaned to patients and followers who were especially interested,
and after February, 1862, copies of his ''Questions and Answers" were
kept in circulation among patients. The Misses Ware and Mr. Dresser had
freer access to the writings and were in a position to make supplementary
explanations. In a way, this is the best sort of instruction in the world,
this teaching by the conversational method when the works and evidences
in question are immediately accessible to those interested to follow the
implied principles and learn all they can.
This was the way in which the author of "Science
and Health" received her instruction. Mrs. Eddy, then Mrs. Patterson,
had the full benefit of these exceptional opportunities. Soon after she
had sufficiently recovered from her invalidism to give attention to the
principles of which she had witnessed such an impressive demonstration
in her own case, she manifested great interest in the new truths. Mr. Dresser,
who understood Quimby's ideas and methods particularly well, talked at
length with her, and later loaned her Vol. I of the manuscripts, printed
in Chapter 14. We learn from George Quimby who, as his father's secretary,
was always present, that she talked at length with Dr. Quimby, in his office,
at the close of the silent sittings. She was present in the groups of interested
listeners above referred to. She heard essays read and discussed. Submitting
some of her first attempts at expressing the new ideas in her own way,
she also had the benefit of Dr. Quimby's criticism. Then too she had opportunity
to copy Questions and Answers," on which she was later to base her
teachings. We have direct testimony on all these points from those in regular
association with Dr. Quimby, and from those who knew Mrs. Eddy when she
was noting down remembered sayings and modifying manuscripts preparatory
to teaching. Here, in brief, was the origin of Mrs. Eddy's type of Christian
Science as she later gave it forth in successive editions of "Science
and Health." Her indebtedness was that of the student to the teacher
with an original mind. Our interest is to note Quimby's power of quickening
such responsiveness by sharing his insights, contributing his peculiar
terms, and explaining his methods.
The only member of the little group not formerly a patient
was Quimby's son, George. Dr. Quimby hoped that his son would devote himself
to "the Truth," for George had exceptional opportunities as his
father's secretary during the Portland period to see the fruits of the
new Science. Fortunately for us, George had an exceptional memory for all
important details, he was conscientious to the limit in preserving the
manuscripts until the time should come to fulfil all conditions and publish
them, and his keen sense of humor was oftentimes the saving grace of the
long-drawn-out controversy which began in 1883. He had as intimate knowledge
of his father's teachings and methods as one could have who had not himself
demonstrated them by healing or being healed, or by teaching. His correspondence
with inquirers 'discloses little interest in the spiritual side of his
father's teachings, and so he dwells rather on the mental theory of the
origin of disease and its cure. But he well knew that what he calls the
"religious" part of Mrs. Eddy's book and church were her own,
not his father's, as greatly indebted as she was for the ideas and methods
without which her work could never have come to be.
Quimby's followers were remarkably free from hero-worship.
Hence they did not put down wise sayings to any extent, did not make note
of impressive incidents, and have not handed down material for the elaborate
biography which some have hoped the editor of this book would write. All
this is in perfect keeping with the truth which Quimby taught. It is disappointing
to those who care little except for human anecdotes. It is taken as a matter
of course by those who love truth above its prophets.
His patients tell us that Quimby had remarkable insight
into the character of the sick. He judged character, not by external signs,
not through reasoning from facts to conclusions, but by silent impressions
gained as he rendered his mind open to discern the real life and "see-it
whole." The quest for facts and the inventive ability of his earlier
years became the love for truth regarding his patients and the creative
insight of his constructive period. He was in the habit of telling the
truth as he saw it, even if it aroused momentary resentment in the mind
of his patients. If a patient was in bondage to medical or priestly opinion,
he disclosed this servitude with startling directness. He addressed himself
to the real or "scientific" man, summoning the true self into
One of his patients has said, "P. P. Quimby's perceptive
powers were remarkable. He always told his patient at the first sitting
what the latter thought was his disease; and, as he was able to do this,
he never allowed the patient to tell him anything about his case. Quimby
would also continue and tell the patient what the circumstances were which
first caused the trouble, and then explain to him how he fell into his
error, and then from this basis he would prove . . . that his state of
suffering was purely an error of mind, and not what he thought it was.
Thus his system of treating diseases was really and truly a science, which
proved itself. . . . He taught his patients to understand . . . and [they
were] instructed in the truth as well as restored to health." *
* J. A. Dresser,
in "The True History of Mental Science," revised edition, p.
That is to say, Quimby's work, emulating that of Jesus,
was fundamental and central. It began with bodily and mental healing, when
this was called for first, as it was in nearly every instance. It became
spiritual and regenerative if a person desired. For he could not compel
a person to be born anew. He could but disclose the way persuasively. That
his way was indeed persuasive was seen in the case of followers who came
to him as a last resort, deeming him some sort of irregular practitioner,
his method a "humbug," and went away deeply touched by his spirit
and the power of the great truths he had to give.
Some effort will be required to discern his inner type,
on the part of those who have heard adverse opinions circulated about during
the long controversial years. It is by no means a mere question of doing
him justice at last. He desired no credit, and there is no reason for
underestimating what others have done in order to win recognition for him.
His work and teachings were both like and unlike the teachings and work
of his later followers. He undoubtedly possessed greater intuition and
greater healing power than the therapeutists who have come after him. He
did not stop with nervous or functional diseases, but more often healed
organic disorders. A closet full of canes and crutches left by patients
in his office in Portland in the last years of his practice testified to
his remarkable power. His followers lacked the requisite confidence to
try to heal as he did, while he was still with them. Later, when his ideas
and methods began to become known outside of Maine and New Hampshire, the
therapeutists who took up the work had to depend upon questioning their
patients, and some of the early writers restated the Quimby philosophy
in a much more abstract way.
The reader will see why the Christian Science of Mrs.
Eddy's type could not have come into being without Quimby's work as healer
and teacher, but will as surely see that what Quimby meant by "Science"
was something greater and nobler. What was most original with Quimby was
his method of silent spiritual healing, with its dependence on the Divine
presence. Without this method neither Mrs. Eddy nor any other follower
could have developed the special variations of the theory known as Divine
or mental science. The present-day disciple of mental healing will recognize
much that is familiar in Quimby's writings and will be deeply interested
to learn how it all came to be; but will also notice that the language
is different, and that far-reaching consequences will follow if this theory
is taken seriously.
No ideas of value spring into fulness of being from the
human brain. If we realize that in all discoveries there are periods of
groping, followed by times of readjustment or assimilation, and then a
constructive period, we shall expect the same in the case of Dr. Quimby.
He needed his mechanical interests and his love of invention as incentives
to progress of sufficient power to carry him beyond allegiance to medical
science. Then his interest in mesmerism, awaking with the beginnings of
that subject in 1838, becoming more active in 1840, and leading to his
public exhibitions, 1843-47, afforded opportunity for a yet greater reaction
against prevailing points of view and yielded problems enough for many
a year. Next came his intermediate period, 1841-59, with its gradual assimilation
of new truths, the development of a new method of treating the sick, and
the first expressions of his "Science of Health." Finally, came
the constructive period, coincident with the years of his greater work among
the sick, in Portland, 1859-65, and continuing to the time of his death,
in Belfast, January 16, 1866. He was a public experimenter for four years
only. He was a mental and spiritual healer from 1841 through the long period
when he was acquiring his original views about life and health. Thus we
have before us an inner history from small beginnings, in place of an alleged
It will be necessary to give some attention to the mesmeric
period, 1843-47, for two reasons. First, because it put Mr. Quimby in possession
of those clues which he was to follow until he rejected the hypotheses
of mesmerism and animal magnetism, and developed a theory and method of
his own; second, because the assertion has been made that be never passed
out of this period, but remained until his death a mere mesmerist and magnetic
healer (whatever that may be). The fact that there was a long intermediate
period, 1847-59, will be a surprise to those who have supposed that one
could suddenly acquire ideas and methods of greatest value. The fact of
a gradual mental and spiritual development will be to some the conclusive
evidence that they are learning the full "true history" of the
discovery of Christian Science.
The "Quimby writings" are now published because
they are unquestionably the most important contributions to the subject,
because they show how the modern theory and practice of spiritual healing
came into being. From the point of mere arguments in the light of history
these writings were surpassed by the works of Rev. W. F. Evans, who acquired
Quimby's ideas when a patient under his care in Portland, in 1863. The
underlying theory has been greatly elaborated since his time. The same
ideas and methods have been applied in fields which he did not enter. Quimby
was, if you please, a pioneer and specialist, devoted to truth as his own
insight led to it, without regard to prior teachings save those of the
New Testament. But it still remains impressively significant that entirely
alone in an unfriendly age, he acquired ideas and discovered methods which
gave him title to fame. His writings therefore have a special value of
We have incorporated some of Quimby's letters in the volume
because they prepare the way for the articles and essays by showing Quimby's
great love for facts. In these letters Quimby shows himself a friend of
the sick. He tells his patients precisely where they stand in such a way
as to encourage true faith and well-grounded hope. He writes about symptoms
in some detail because his patients must first know that they are getting
well physically, because they need tangible evidence, and do not yet understand
how he can diagnose their cases intuitively and heal them at a distance.
He shows that he wishes those only as patients who will take him in entire
good faith, responding willingly to his efforts. Hence he returns money
when patients seem to be purchasing his skill as healer. He aims above
all to point the way to his Truth or Science.
Disciples of mental healing who have taken their clues
from Divine Science or Mrs. Eddy's version will think they are hearing
about an inferior theory, because matters of fact are made prominent in
Quimby's writings instead of the anticipated idealism and the affirmations
or denials to which they are accustomed. But they are likely to be unmindful
of the unfriendly age in which Quimby worked, if not neglectful of a larger
truth. Quimby, with far-reaching insight, grasped the whole situation,
and looked through existing conditions to the ideal. This is a much more
courageous venture than the denial of actuality in fondness for the abstract.
Quimby's standard calls for a Science that can be demonstrated, can prove
itself thoroughly Christian in thought, life, interpretation of Scripture,
and all. It will send us back to the Gospel anew to ask why the process
of coming to judgment is essential to spiritual rebirth, why we must adopt
life as given in its fulness in order to entertain as ideal "the Christ."
We will then see why Quimby never denied the existence of the natural world,
although sometimes referring to it as a mere shadow, and contending that
matter contains no intelligence. We will also note that he assigns "mind"
to a very subordinate position in contrast with spirit, since his investigations
had shown him that the average mind is subject to opinions, it is indeed
a "mind of opinions," later called by Mrs. Eddy "mortal
mind." Then we shall find him turning to that Wisdom which sees through
all opinions or errors, dissipating them in favor of Science. The truth
he sought to establish was a concretely veritable truth, written in the
human heart and in the Word which Jesus taught. Consequently, what was
needed was not mere affirmation but real understanding, like workable
knowledge of mathematics.
To read deeply in these writings is to see that the best
use one can make of them is to cultivate the mode of life they call for,
a life which looks forward to health and freedom, productivity and an old
age that is never old. Quimby laid down his life in over-sacrifice to those
needing to be led into this life of the Spirit. His work quickened a deeply
spiritual impetus in those followers who spread his ideas in the world.
It is primarily a question of this spiritual impetus, if we would understand
the discovery of spiritual healing. His teachings are true if they do indeed
contain a Science which inculcates creative humility.
Those who have supposed that Quimby borrowed from Berkeley or Swedenborg will see why this could not have been the case. Quimby was
not a reader of philosophy or theology. He was not in any sense a borrower,
after he took up the theory of mesmerism and found how meagre was the supposed
science, and branched out into the field of his own investigations. His
experience in practising the silent method of spiritual healing, after
1841, led the way to his idea of God as indwelling Wisdom, as we find it
expressed in his best essays.
This same practice led to his view of matter and the natural
world in general as a subordinate expression of Spirit, in contrast with
the eternal inner life of man. His conversations with patients tended to
awaken faith in the same great Wisdom which to him was the source of all
guidance and all true knowledge. The prime result, he believed, would be
a "Science of Life and Happiness" which could be taught even
to children, and which will banish all error from the world.
Links to Additional Media for Spiritual Health and Healing by Horatio Dresser such as audio and ebooks are located at the bottom of this web page.