Disease is as old as man's existence,
but the causes of it have never been explained. 
~ Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

Dr. Phineas P. Quimby

Disease & Its Cause


Disease is as old as man's existence, but the causes of it have never been explained. Various causes have been given. The ancients admitted disease and then tried to show that it arose from the people's habits of living. The Epicurian philosophers tried to show that man, by his own acts, caused his disease.

Lucretius, one of the pupils of Epicurus, contended that man is the cause of his own misery, by his own belief. (He does not use these words, but I shall show that that was what he meant.) And being misrepresented, his ideas have never found their way into the minds of the Christians of our day, because he showed that the religion of his day was the cause of all the disease and trouble that men suffered.

To show this was his labor in his poem that has never been understood. The reader will see, by going back one-hundred years before Jesus, how the people were excited by the religion of that time. To see what Lucretius had to contend with is to know what the people believed in. The effect of religion on the people, Lucretius showed in his poem. I will give some extracts. He says:

Indeed mankind in wretched bondage held
and lay groveling on the ground,
galled by the yoke of what is called religion.
From the sky, this tyrant showed her head
and with grim looks
hung over us poor mortals here below
until a man of Greece with steady eye
dared look her in the face
and first oppose her power.

Here not the fear of Gods
nor thunderous roar kept back,
nor threatening tumults of the sky,
but still the more they roused the active virtue
of his aspiring soul
as he pressed forward to break through
nature's scanty bounds,
his mind's quick force prevailed.

And so he passed by far
the flaming portals of this world
and wandered with his comprehensive soul
o'er all the mighty space.
From thence returned triumphant,
told us what things may have a being
and what may not
and how a finite power is fixed to each
a bond it cannot break.
And so religion which we feared before,
by him subdued,
we tread upon in turn.
His conquest makes us equal to the Gods.

It is generally believed that the writers of the Epicurian philosophy were men that opposed everything that was good, but they are misrepresented. They opposed the errors and superstitions of their day, and to do this was to show that the heathen mythology was based on nothing but a belief. So he shows the absurdity of their religion.

The Pythagoreans held to the transmigration of souls. A poet who lived about a hundred years before Lucretius affirmed that the "soul of Homer was in his body; but that he might not injure Pluto, he bequeathed to the infernal mansion - not the soul nor the body - but the ghost which the ancients held to be a third nature, of which together with the body and soul, the whole man consisted."

Speaking of this class of philosophers, Lucretius says,

And yet the nature of the soul we know not,

whether formed with the body
or at the birth infused
and then by death cut off,
she perishes as bodies do,
or whether she descends
to the dark caves
and dreadful lakes of hell,
or after death
inspired with heavenly instinct,
she returns into the brutes
as our great Ennius sang,
who first a crown of laurels ever grew
brought down from Helicon,
describes the stately places of Acheron
where neither our souls nor bodies ever come,
but certain spectres strange and wondrous pale.

But then he goes on to say that he shall search into the soul what her nature is and what meets our wakeful eyes and frights the mind, and how by sickness and by sleep oppressed, we think we see or hear the voice of these who died long since; whose moldering bones rot in the cold embrace of the grave.

These terrors of the mind, this darkness,

these not the sun's beams
nor the light ray of day can we dispel,
but nature's light and reason
whose first principles shall be my guide.

This taught him that nothing was by nothing made; therefore could not produce something, and every effect had a cause. Now these strange ghosts and spirits are all the inventions of man - not of God. Yet to man they are something. But ask where they come from and how they got here, then comes the mystery.

Now Lucretius shows that man is matter dissolved, and like all other matter, passed into space - and the matter was seen by those who believed in spirits. Here was where he failed. He proved that every effect had a cause; and as these spirits are nothing - they have no cause or beginning. His theory was that matter, like seeds, dissolves; and each seed retains the elements of the whole lump. This reasoning he carried into man, so that man, like all nature, dissolves and passes into space, and each particle (or seed) contains the whole of man's life.

This was the cause of their “strange spectres” being seen that the people called spirits and ghosts. Their fear produced it by their imagination. This was his theory; and as far as he reasoned, his theory cannot be refuted. His starting point was light and reason. This taught that “nothing cannot produce something,” for if a thing could spring from nothing - what need is there for bodies to grow. And if nothing could produce something, then man might spring up out of the ground; grain from the sea; and fish live on the land. But everything shows that all things have their causes, and all phenomena must come from something.

This shows that imagination is either something or nothing. And if a person imagines a thing, and the thing appears - it shows that it has a cause outside of the thing seen. Now all these things have been seen - and thousands more - and there is proof to show that spirits, ghosts, spectres and strange delusions are matter, moved without the aid of the natural man. And all these phenomena are so well-attested to that it is folly in anyone to deny the last. Among the strange phenomena are diseases; for disease is one of the great proofs that these things are among the things believed.

The ancient philosophers were promulgating certain truths, as they thought, and to live up to them was their religion. They did not have creeds, as the people of our day do, but a sort of philosophy that governed their lives, according to the science of philosophy. The Pythian philosophy consisted of searching into the laws of mathematics. This would teach them causes and effects; so all their acts were governed by their wisdom, and their happiness was the fruit of their religious philosophy.

Plato believed in one great cause and matter in an invisible state, subject to a power. Here he - like all the rest of the philosophers - loses man. Now according to my own experience, matter is a substance to the one that believes it; but to suppose that matter exists independent of wisdom is not in the power of man to prove. So if matter is an idea, it is very easy to see that it is entirely under the control, either of our belief or our wisdom. Now here are the two powers - one wisdom and the other, belief. Now belief admits matter as a substance; wisdom admits it as a belief. Wisdom speaks it into existence, and to belief it is a reality.

I will now show how a belief can create matter, and yet to wisdom it is nothing. To do this, I must assume to know what I am going to do. So if I can make a person believe a thing, I impart to him a sort of wisdom. (I call it wisdom, because it is the highest he has - and he thinks it wisdom, but I know it is not wisdom, but an error). Now to the person, it is wisdom, after I convince him of its truth; so I must prove it to the person to establish the fact.

I will take a person and perform a mesmeric experiment and satisfy the person that it is performed. Now he knows that I have done it. This, to him, is true - but he believes he cannot do it. I tell him he can do the same. So he tries, and I produce the phenomenon myself - but he thinks he does it. In this way, he gets confidence and does it himself. Now he, in his belief, does the very thing I do. Now I am in his belief, and he knows it not and thinks it is himself. So now he uses the wisdom he gets from me to perform his experiments.

Suppose I tell him that the spirits can make him move a table. This he does not believe. By my arguments, I affect his belief till it is sufficient to move the table. Now his belief will not give me the credit, but gives it to the spirits - showing that my wisdom is a spirit to him. Now this wisdom that I impart can see the spirits, and he creates them under this belief - and to him they are spirits. But to me they are the spirits of his own make. Now to him, this is matter; so he can be made to believe that bodies can be moved - but to wisdom it is not matter.

Matter supposes distance between, like our senses - that is, one chair must be not as another chair; so our senses are divided into five. Now with wisdom, there is no division - only as wisdom makes it. Senses are swallowed up in wisdom, and there can be no space. So everything is present. The difference between wisdom and belief is this - wisdom is never deceived; belief is never certain, but always changes.

Man is like a town. The inhabitants are the intelligence, and the identity of the town is the same. The locality is the same always, although the intelligence is always changing. Yet, every person admits the identity of the town. But its inhabitants (or intelligence) are always changing, and improvements are going on, showing the growth of the intelligence - not of the town or the ground on which the town is built.

So God makes the ground (or identity) called “body” and gives it an identity called “man.” This is under the wisdom of man, until it is able to act of itself; when man's body - like a city or town - is governed by the inhabitants (or wisdom) of the town. As a town is made up of different talents, so man is made up of different ideas - and sometimes one set rules and sometimes another.

Man is not a unit, but is governed by a city or nation, and is liable to be deceived by false ideas into a belief that gets up a sort of rebellion. All this is the working of matter. So diseases and revolutions take place, and sometimes the inhabitants flee from their enemies; but this is the working of matter. There seems to be a sort of inconsistency in regard to God. If God knows and rules all things, how could there be another power that seems to be contradictory to what we call God's wisdom?

Now according to my theory - that mind is matter - it looks very plain to me that there should be a conflict going on in man, as in nations. For there is a regular grade of matter, from the mineral to the animal creation. And there is a regular grade of intelligence that corresponds to the matter. Now as the matter of vegetables and animals are connected, it is not strange that every person should partake of the elements of each. Yet we all admit that the mineral and vegetable life acts just as it was intended by God; but when man steps in, he reasons that God is not quite up to the intelligence of man, and we try to reconcile God to man - not man to God. This is as natural as our breath. Man wants to rule his fellow man and even dictate to God what is best for mankind.

Now look at man's mind, partaking of all the elements of knowledge of the lower animal creation acting in man, warring against the higher intelligence of matter (or mind). Then you will see that man is the center (or land) of all the intellect of the brute creation; as the United States is the house of refuge for the scapegoats of all nations. So these elements in man, as well as in nations, are warring against themselves. So as man's body is the bounds of his identity as a man, his knowledge has its bounds as an intellectual man. So when we speak of a man, we embrace his body and his knowledge as one, just as we speak of a city.

For instance, if we speak of Portland, we speak of it as a city of intelligence, according to our ideas of wisdom; so we confound the city with the intelligence. Every citizen of Portland will admit there are parties and sects that come in conflict with each other, and sometimes one party rules and sometimes another. Now the dominant party reasons that it is right and the other, wrong. Then perhaps the next season the tables are turned - the “outs" are in and the “ins" are out. So no person will deny but there is a difference in regard to the intelligence of parties; yet everyone will say that his party is right.

Now there are certain facts admitted by every person that can't be disputed that shows there is a difference between what is called intelligence. For instance, the brute is not blamed for being a brute; nor is God blamed, because he made man superior to the brute in this - that the man, when developed, can produce what the brute cannot. Not that man, in his original state, is above the brute; but man, like the earth, is capable of being cultivated beyond the brute; but the wisdom that develops man is not of man.

But the earth brought forth all living things that hath life, but wisdom (or science) never came from the earthly man. So as life is out of the earth (or animal matter), there is a natural grade; so that every person can tell his place in society, if he only has the wit to acknowledge it - and if he won't, the intelligence of the world will place him where he belongs. I will illustrate what I have said, to show that there is a standard to test the plane of man's intellect.

No person will call two dogs fighting with each other equal to two human beings - yet they don't find fault with God, but look upon the dogs as a lower development of matter (or mind). Now suppose a being, in the shape of a man, should be found fighting with a dog - would any person place him on the same grade with a man of higher intelligence? Would not such a person place him with the dog; and if he is on a level with the dog, then God is not to blame for his acts, any more than he is for the dog.

But the higher intelligence ought to look upon him as a being that makes a link between the dog and a higher development. So if you trace the working of the mind in man, you will find that man is now largely identified with the brute and is not to be condemned for his brutal feeling. Once admitted as such, you don't keep a dog that growls at you and even would like to bite you - but you don't expect anything better.

Now that intellect which is nearly on a level with the brute shows itself opposing everything that goes to restrain its acts; but at the same time shows its brutal instinct by fighting down everything that will not bow to its own will - showing no wisdom of doing to another as you would have another do to you. This is the point where the man ceases - or breaks the link between the brute and the human species. This step taken opens the door for reason - which the brutal man never does. His reason is all on one side; that he is the lord, and his will is law - and if he can't have his own way, he goes for destroying them. With man and beast, it is rule or ruin. Now this is all as God intended - and man, as I said, is like a new country unexplored; full of every kind of idea that is embraced in the world.





Dr. Phineas Parkhurst Quimby



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