Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
The Identity of God or Wisdom:
Ignorance of Man in Regard to the True God
We are told that God is watching all our acts and that he knows all our thoughts. When we ask if he has an identity, the answer is, “No, but he is everywhere. He fills all space, and we pray to him, asking him to listen to our wants, as a child asks a parent.” All this is ignorance of the God we worship. There is no person who has the least rational idea of an intelligence independent of man. Yet, all see and will admit that there is something which we cannot comprehend.
I have been trying all my life, ever since I was old enough to listen, to understand man's reasoning and see if people understood what they professed to believe. After some fifty years of thinking and listening to people's opinions about God, I have come to this conclusion - that ninety-nine hundredths of mankind are listeners to someone telling a story - like the Arabian Nights; in marvelousness, till they get excited, like a mesmerized person, and really create the scenes in their own minds, believe them to be true - and will suffer death, rather than abandon their belief.
This is the state of society, in regard to religion. But as science has progressed, it has explained some of the greatest errors. Still, nine-tenths of every man's wisdom is of that class. I know I was as free from superstition as almost anyone, yet I was full enough of it - and all the while I was not aware that I had a belief of any kind. For the last twenty years, I have been ridding myself of my old superstitions and am now better prepared to see it in others.
I have sat with more than three hundred individuals every year, for ten years. And for the last five years, I have averaged five-hundred yearly - people with all sorts of diseases, in every possible state of mind. Also I have sat with hypochondriacs and have seen insanity brought on by all kinds of ideas that people believe in. I will name some of the beliefs which have caused insanity.
Religion, in its various forms, embraces many cases. Some cases have been occasioned by the idea that they committed the “unpardonable sin.” When asked what it was, no two persons ever answered alike. One had neglected a little child by not sending for the doctor. She, herself, had lost her father and mother, and the doctor had killed two children, and she thought she could cure the third herself; but it grew worse, and then she sent for the doctor. When the doctor came, the child was quiet, but almost gone. He gave it an emetic, which threw it into convulsions - and then it died.
All this affected the mother, who put all her trouble into the idea that she had committed the unpardonable sin by not calling the doctor before. I had to convince her that, if she committed any sin, it was that she sent for him at all. I could prove this, for she acknowledged that she believed the medicine the others had taken had been the cause of their death.
Here is one of the superstitions of our belief - that if a person does not send for a doctor, he commits a very great sin. This is brought about by the doctor's telling the neighbors that, if he had been sent for before, he might have cured the patient. Then the neighbors are down on the mourners, accusing them of being mean and stingy; preferring their friends should die, rather than go to the expense of having a physician. This error, I am glad to say, is dying away, and people are not bound by public opinion to send for a physician to torment the dying, but let them die in peace.
Another error I have tried to correct - that has killed many a person - is to send for a priest to pray with the sick. This is done more than the former. I have seen the bad effect of it, and know how it works.