Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
Does Imagination Cure Disease?April 1862
Are men cured by imagination or by some power or virtue in medicine? All men believe in a power that cannot be explained. One person condemns the man who is cured by any mode of practice differing from his own; for instance, the allopathic practice is orthodox, and any dissent from it is quackery. It is the same as in the religious sects. Calvinists believe in future rewards, and all who do not embrace this belief are infidels.
My theory classes all the different modes of cure with the different religious beliefs. Religion and healing are based on a belief that there is some saving power or healing quality independent of the mind of man. There is a shadow of truth in this - but I have seen that it is nothing but mind acting on mind - and mind is only a medium for some wisdom to control.
I will describe a case under allopathic treatment and one under quackery and will ask any skeptic if the difference does not lie wholly in their belief. A person suffering from a severe pain in the stomach, supposed to proceed from inflammation, calls a doctor. The doctor gives medicine, applies blisters, etc., and the patient is no better. He hears of a lady of the same religious belief as his own. She comes and enters upon her course of treatment, which I will give from the patient's own lips:
The lady made a barley cake as large as the patient's hand. After baking it, she took three pieces of a candle, about an inch long, put them upright in the cake and laid the cake on the patient's stomach and lit the candles. She then filled a tumbler with warm milk and water, turned it out and placed the tumbler over the lights, extinguishing them. She then knelt down and prayed. The flesh rose up in the tumbler, the patient's pain was relieved, and he was cured.
Where is the difference in these two modes of treatment? To me they are the same, both being quackery. It is true, cures are made. But the virtue is in the belief, and the people liked to be humbugged - and those who cannot see through their own humbug are duped the more. The Eastern magicians acted upon the people in the same way, and in the days of Jesus, there were some who believed that he also cured in that manner. But from what I know, I am sure this cannot be the case.
How does my theory apply to cases like the above? I know, by sympathy, that they have a pain in their stomach. This is no humbug or power - but sympathy. The patient is nervous, and I know that the doctor, or someone, has made him believe an opinion - which is, perhaps, that his stomach is full of tumors. Then he is made to believe that the blister has some healing virtue in it, and it will cure. Now just as much as he is affected, just so much he believes.
In cases of healing by prayer, either the patient cures himself by his belief or is cured by the combined beliefs of the operator and patient. There is no particle of wisdom in the disease or cure. The patient was made to believe a lie that made him sick; then he was made to believe another - and this changed his mind from disease to health. The wisdom of the physician was ignorance (or a belief in a lie). I convince the patient that he has been deceived. This destroys the deception - and the light of his wisdom is his cure.