As the wisdom which constitutes an individual was in existence before it became embodied,
so all rivers existed before they were attached to a bed.

 ~  Phineas Quimby

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

Dr. Phineas P. Quimby

Illustrations of Immortality

May 1863

A river has its bed into which little streams flow to supply it. So man has an intellect which is sustained by various streams from the fountain of wisdom. The banks take the name of the river, as a man's name is affixed to his bodily form. But both man and river existed before they were named. The river has its Christian name given by man and its surname, which comes from its father. For instance, the Penobscot and Kennebec rivers were so named by man - but both existed as rivers before their discovery. So with man. His wisdom exists, and when it is discovered, it is named - and the name is of man. The water of the river is like the mind - both are continually changing, and finally they wear out the body (or earth). The river empties itself into the earth, ready to be drawn out to replenish it, as the mind seeks the heights of wisdom, that it may draw others to it.

Suppose every particle of water to have an identity of intelligence. Its continual motion does not destroy its identity. It is water, like in the stream, the lake, the river and the sea; and when it is taken into the earth to nourish and replenish it, it is still water. So man's intellect has its identity, whether in one condition or another; and the body is to the intellect what the banks of the river are to the water - an identity to signify that water can be condensed into a form.

Wisdom outside of matter is not recognized, but when it is reduced, so that its effect can be seen, it is acknowledged, though not separated from matter. The banks are generally admitted to be the river, and when there is not water in the bed, it is dead. Now the water is as much alive and retains its identity as ever - but man's name is destroyed. In the same way, God in man is not recognized, except in the body; and when man sees the wisdom depart, to him man is dead.

Intellect, like water, is always flowing and cutting new channels; and each new channel is like the birth of a child. It receives a name but retains that of its father. Take the cut-off at Vicksburg on the Mississippi. That is like a child who has a name called the "cut-off" (or something else), yet with the water, it is the same. The difference is in man and not in the water. That, into whatever channel it may flow, has its identity as water.

So the wisdom of man is wisdom, and his identity is as much in existence as the water that enters into the Atlantic is part of all the moving waters on the globe. It is plain that if each particle of water could speak, it would answer my question concerning the Kennebec or Mississippi or any waters on the face of the globe. It is the same with the intellect of man. My wisdom is in existence, as far as I am known, as truly as I am in Portland; and if I was questioned in any quarter of the world where I am known, I - this wisdom - would answer through a medium, although the name that man gives me might not know it.

As the wisdom which constitutes an individual was in existence before it became embodied, so all rivers existed before they were attached to a bed. Let a river have its identity as water, as well as its name; then it will be seen that when the name ceases to exist, its identity as water still remains. But man, in his reasoning, gives life to his own name; and when his idea is destroyed, the life is dead. For instance, if the water of Moosehead Lake should be turned away from the Kennebec Valley, the inhabitants would say that the river had dried up (or had died), and they would look upon the banks and valley as a thing that once had life but which was now dead. Yet the water might say, with the man who knew the facts, that there had been no change in the water; that the destruction (or death) of the river was an opinion of the people; for the water, in its identity as a river and as water, was entirely distinct from the valley and banks.

Man puts wisdom in the matter and not in the principle. So when the matter is destroyed, the principle is dead. Man's wisdom is not of God. God's wisdom is not in matter but outside of it and through it; as the identity of water is distinct from a particular valley. It may be said that this is what all men believe, but actions show that our wisdom is placed in the natural man (or matter) by our very ignorance. Man has no idea of wisdom identified with anything but his own belief. But if God (or Wisdom) is the First Cause, everything that is seen is in a representation of Wisdom, developed into form.

Therefore all identities of man and beasts may exist with the Father, as all the appurtenances of war exist with the government. The contractor of a branch of the war department has all the articles in his wisdom, and they are born into the world as fast as they are needed. When one is seen, the world says it is in existence; but it existed before, and wisdom brought it to man to name. Thus everything exists with God, and man names it; but wisdom has already given it a name which man does not recognize, and by that name it will always exist and know itself. Water is water, and man may recognize it by a name of river or lake, etc., or may contend that it has dried up; it nevertheless exists in a principle of God's wisdom.

I will try to separate the wisdom of God from that of man. My body sits and writes, and all that can be seen is myself, and it is my opinion. But the wisdom that governs my opinion - that knows what I say, as a man - is not an opinion. Wisdom has an identity and opinion, also. Now what is an identity? Is it in the object that we see or in the wisdom that sees it? There cannot be an identity without intelligence. Therefore, man's identity is not in what we see, but in the wisdom that cannot be seen and only shows itself through a medium. Every manufactured article is a symbol of wisdom, but in his reasoning, man puts the wisdom in the matter, instead of in the cause. Look beyond the body for the created being, which is a prior intelligence.





Dr. Phineas Parkhurst Quimby



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