Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
We now proceed to
another state of mind,
called by philosophers, "Insanity."
The power of reason
- that is the
faculty by which we compare facts
with each other,
expressions with external things - is said to be lost in Insanity. In
this state of mind, the subject appears to be under the complete
control of some strong and irresistible impression, or train of
successive impressions, real to him, and which he cannot repulse with a
comparison with external objects.
Like a subject in the
mesmeric state, he is not able to discover what impressions flow from
false causes and distinguish them from those which flow from real
causes. The subject himself acts precisely as every man would under the
same real impressions.
Then mind is governed
and controlled by the
laws in this state as in the natural or dreaming state. It acts from
real impressions under a full belief of the real causes of such
impressions. This state is, no doubt, induced by some powerful
upon the mind, which cannot be removed by slight impressions produced
upon the mind, from common and every day objects.
If this state is
removed at all, it must be done by inducing some counteracting
impression, which will lead the mind into a different channel of
thought. This state of mind often exhibits in the individual more
acuteness and intelligence in almost every subject than when in its
natural condition. He will reason correctly, although from unsound
and return answers justifying his conduct, which would display a
thoughtful and premeditating mind.
We have read numerous
individuals whose conduct has been most unreasonable, yet could justify
their acts by giving inducements to such conduct, based upon reasonable
relates the case of a
clergyman in Scotland,
who having displayed many extravagances of conduct, was brought before
a jury to be declared incapable of managing his own affairs, and placed
under the care of trustees. Among the extravagant exhibitions of
conduct was that he had burnt his library.
When the jury requested
to give an account of this part of his conduct, he replied in the
"In the early part of my
life, I had
imbibed a liking
for a most unprofitable study, namely controversial divinity. On
reviewing my library, I found a great part of it to consist of books of
this distinction. I was so anxious that my family should not be led to
follow the same pursuit, that I determined to burn the whole."
answers to other charges brought against him, justifying his conduct,
the jury did not find sufficient grounds for guarding him with
trustees; but in the course of two weeks, he was in a state of decided
Individuals while in
this excited state,
when some leading
impression has control, have really believed themselves to be some
great actor in the world, an emperor or a king, and supposed all the
fair fields about them, and all the inhabitants who live within their
state or nation, are subject to their control.
Others have descended in the scale of their existence and supposed themselves beasts of burden, or mere things. These are all real to the subject. He feels himself just as he believes. This is sometimes called a "deranged" state of mind.It is, however, a disease, as much so as any condition of man. For we contend that disease is nothing - only as it conveys impressions to the mind. That if one should cut his finger, and no sensation should be conveyed through the sense of touch to the mind, it would not give pain to the subject. This position we know by experiments upon individuals both in their waking and mesmeric state.
and remedies may be administered to counteract them. The
treatment of the subject, while insane, has much to do with his
recovery. For the benefit of this class of individuals, hospitals are
erected at the public expense, where the best remedies can be
This disease, among
physicians, is not
to flow from the same sources as what they term those of the body, and
therefore they do not resort to the same remedies. Physicians generally
call Insanity a disease of the mind, while fever and other similar
states are diseases of the body.
I maintain that all
diseases are only
known to exist as they affect the mind of the patient; that is, there
would be no disease which could affect an individual, provided it could
not make a sensation upon his mind. If he did not feel sick, he would
not probably be sick.
In cases of scrofula,
and what is
evil" - diseases said to be incurable - the power of the Seventh
Son to cure them is an effect upon the mind, being conclusive
that some strong impression induced the disease.
And the belief of the
patient, and that also of the seventh son, acting in concert to produce
a counteracting impression, would destroy the old first cause which
brought about this diseased state, and nature then restores herself.
do not believe that the seventh son has any more virtue to heal
patients than any individual; nor do we think the fact of his passing
his hand over the diseased portion of the body could affect anything
towards counteracting the first impression, only so far as an external
motion may assist to more strongly impress the mind.
It is simply the
process of mind acting upon - and in correspondence with - mind.
introduce an experiment here, which goes to show something in proof of
what we are explaining:
An individual fell from
his horse and
dislocated his elbow. The surgeon set it, and his arm was, when I first
saw it, badly swollen and very painful. I commenced operating upon it,
and in a short time reduced the swelling so that the bandages were very
loose, and all the pain subsided. He was then enabled to lift up a
without any pain, but before could not lift a pound, nor even use his
Someone may enquire
whether the dislocation
of the elbow was
a disease of the mind.... We answer, it was - that is, all the pain
was the result of the falling from the horse was in the mind, being the
only part of man susceptible of sensation; that the mere blow or
contusion would not produce any pain unless there was a mind which
could feel the blow, because matter is not supposed to have the power
We might bring many
facts, as we trust we
have in the
former part of this work, to show where the disease is to be remedied,
and where, of course, it must flow from to affect the person, or when
impression is produced, from which follows all the phenomena of
both of body and mind.
But we allude to the
subject here to
our ideas upon Insanity. And by the results we have effected upon
diseases by operating upon the mind, we think the argument is
that all disease - including Insanity - flow from the impressions upon
the mind as their first cause.
The treatment of insane persons therefore should correspond with the great principle of mind acting upon mind and of impressions counteracting impressions.
We give the following experiments illustrating the power of mind over mind in cases of Insanity:
I was called upon, about
two years since,
to visit an insane man who had been chained to prevent him from
extravagant conduct, but who had by some means gotten loose and was
raving about his premises, to the danger of his own family and his
neighbors. I found him in the wildest state of Insanity.
I approached him in
company with another
individual. When he saw us coming, he advanced towards us with a ten
foot pole. My friend could not proceed, and I was left alone to meet
him. I advanced, keeping my eye steadily fixed upon him. He held his
pole and advanced until we came within ten feet of each other. He then
suddenly stopped and told me not to advance another step.
I continued, however, to
walk towards him,
and as I came up he threw down his pole, and looking me in the eye,
asked what I wanted. I requested him to go into the house. He followed
me in, and became as obedient to my commands as a child. I performed
several experiments upon him, showing how easily I could control him.
Another case is of a man
who had become
ravingly insane and was imprisoned in the county jail. He would allow
nothing in his cell, and allow no one to enter. He kept up a constant
hollering so as to be heard all over the village. The keeper of the
prison decided that something must be done.
My situation was such
that I had occasion
to see him. I took another man with me, and going to the door of the
cell, requested him to remain outside and not allow him to know that he
was near. I opened the cell door, holding in my hand a green hide and a
rope. He ordered me not to approach him, holding in his hand a stone
which he had dug out of some part of his cell.
I stood and looked at
him about five
minutes. He began to step back, and I entered. I then ordered him to
come to me and get down on his knees. He obeyed instantly, and I then
thought I would try an experiment. I told him I would not whip or tie
him then - but if he ever made any more noise, or destroyed his
bedding, or anything which might be handed him - I would certainly kill
him, at the same time showing my intention in my countenance.
He seemed to be very
much agitated and
frightened. I produced so strong an impression upon his mind that he
was perfectly quiet and became more rational. In the course of three
weeks, he left the prison and returned home perfectly sane. He has been
sane ever since.
Thus the power of
impressions over the mind
to produce or counteract disease must be acknowledged. And the action
of mind upon mind must be conceded. It is, in Insanity, as in other
diseases, necessary to make an impression more powerful than that which
preceded this diseased state, and thus lead or drive the mind into a
new channel of thought.
So in diseases of every
impression counteracting that which induced the disease must be made,
and nature will restore herself. This impression may be made by
administering powerful medicine, or it may be done upon some patients
by the mind of an operator acting upon the mind of the patient.
In western philosophy, David Hume used the word "impression" as he defines it in "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding