Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
Jesus – His Belief or Wisdom1862
Had Jesus, like other men, a belief? And if so, what was it? To suppose Jesus had a belief is to suppose he was not sure of the truth of his words; but to admit that he knew what he was saying is to believe his words were truth and life; for to know what one says is to know the truth. Therefore, all men will admit that Jesus knew and therefore had no belief - and the only question to settle is, “What did he intend to convey to the people?” It must be something invisible, for Paul, I believe, says, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."
We are told that Jesus was a religious man. If he was, then his religion was in the world before him - for it is said he was baptized of John. If Jesus was merely a converted man, preaching what John had foretold, according to the belief of this world - wherein was his superiority to other preachers, for others also cured the sick and performed miracles? We are told also that Jesus is of God. Then where is the God-principle in Jesus more than in any man who does the works that he did?
To me, these stories are all the inventions of the priests. I will try to place Jesus before the people - not as the world places him but as he places himself - and it will then be seen if he ever taught the doctrines that are attributed to him. In the first place, I deny that Jesus ever intended to teach any doctrine of rewards and punishments or ever hint about a future state, as it is said that he did. If Jesus had no other motive than to tell man of another world - if his words were not applied solely to this life - then his wisdom was a failure. He taught the science of God, which destroyed all religion and introduced a higher wisdom, based on eternal wisdom. The fruits of this wisdom taught by him were in opening the eyes of the blind (or ignorant), in loosing the tongue of the dumb and breaking the chains of those bound by party or priest.
I believe that Jesus was the very man prepared before the creation to receive this great truth when the time came but that he had no knowledge of it, any more than Columbus had that he was the man to discover this continent. (Wisdom acts through matter, and matter must go through a certain process of refinement, before it can become a medium of any science.)
At the time of Jesus, the world was in darkness in regard to man's future state. Society was divided into sects, and priests, by their craft, ruled the masses and kept them in bondage, constantly frightening them with what would come after death. Lucretius, who lived one-hundred and fifty years before Christ, gives a true account of the religion of his day, which could not have varied much from that of the time of Jesus. I will quote an extract from his poem. After describing the horrors of religion, he says:But still I fear your caution
will dispute the maxims I lay down,
who all your life have trembled
at the poets' frightful tales.
Alas! I could even now invent such dreams
as would pervert the strictest rules of reason
and make your fortunes tumble to the bottom.
But if men were once convinced
that death was the sure end of all their pains,
they might with reason resist the force of all religion,
and contemn the threats of poets.
Now we have no sense,
no power to strive against this prejudice,
because we fear a scene of endless torments after death.
To suppose that Jesus taught any such religion as is here referred to is to put him on a level with the priests. Opposition to the popular religion was sure death - and he was forced to come in conflict with it. It is absurd to say he was a come-outer from any sect, for he says, “My kingdom is not of this world, but your kingdom is of this world, and it must fall.”
Let the word “kingdom” represent happiness arising from wisdom or misery arising from a belief, and then it follows that his wisdom was to make men happy or to establish the kingdom of heaven within them; while their belief made the kingdom of darkness, wherein men were sick and wicked. His religion was based on his wisdom, and theirs on their belief. The difference made trouble. He knew that their religion was based on no true foundation and that their future state was a heathen belief; therefore, to them he was an infidel and blasphemer, in the same manner as anyone at the present day who opposes the popular religion is an infidel. If Jesus should appear among men now, he would be an infidel to the religious, the same as he was eighteen-hundred years ago.
It may be asked, what was the religion of Jesus? I answer, “His life, spent in benefiting mankind.” He did not labor to save man from another world but from the evils of this world. He knew that the other world was an evil that the priests had invented to keep man in subjection. But had Jesus no belief? To himself, I think not; but to the world, his wisdom was a belief. To him, his wisdom embraced all things - and he was the medium of it. His religion, if you please to call it religion, was based on an actual truth that could become a practical thing.
If a person wishes to teach a science, he explains it by the best demonstrations (or proofs) he can; for science, like religion, is seen only by its works. Jesus says, "Many shall say, 'Lo, here is Christ,' but by their fruits ye shall know them." As I understand the religion of Jesus, it sweeps away all religious beliefs and opinions and leaves man to act on scientific principles of truth. It takes away belief, and in its place substitutes knowledge of good and evil. He disbelieved in death, in heaven and hell. He believed in endless happiness and misery - and that every idle word should be accounted for at the day of judgment. He believed that, just as a man measured out to his neighbor, so it should be measured out to him - and that if a person commit a sin, knowing it to be such, there is no forgiveness; he must be punished for it. He believed that all manner of sin might be forgiven, but that the “sin against the Holy Ghost” should not be forgiven - in this world, nor in the world to come. Man must be born again in order to enter heaven. He did not believe that it was intended by wisdom that the child should suffer for the sins of its parents, but that it must suffer for its own errors. These are the truths Jesus taught. Although I have used the word “belief” in stating them, I believe them all. Who is there willing to be tested by them?
They are also statements of the belief of the world at the time of Jesus - but to these were added the belief that the priests could pardon their sins. Although the same words express both the belief of the world and the truth of Jesus, the difference was that one was based on an opinion and the other on true wisdom. The priests believed in a heaven, a hell and a devil and also in the doctrine of salvation by works. These were also embraced in the teaching of Jesus; yet he was in conflict with the religion of the priests, and the controversy was upon beliefs. His was a religion of works; theirs of beliefs. One was law - the other was gospel. One was an invention - the other was eternal truth.
The priests believed that, in order to make man pure and holy, it was necessary to believe in their doctrines. Jesus knew that such a system was false and hypocritical, benefiting only the priests. The idea that a belief was connected with man's health, as cause is connected with effect, had never been presented to the world. Jesus knew that all there is of man that can be affected is his belief; that his wisdom is of God and cannot change - while his belief is of man.
Man makes himself - that is his spiritual, moral and mental condition - by his belief; and to destroy that is death to the belief and life to the truth. One religion was applied to man as a belief, while the other was applied to man as a principle. The priests reached no higher intelligence than matter. Therefore, mind and matter composed the whole man, while the soul was an unsettled question. Jesus divided man into three persons: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The Christian church, at the present time, assume to do the same - but there is as much difference between them as between the early heathen beliefs and the wisdom of Jesus.
Jesus did not confirm one article of their belief, nor did he in his parables refer to man's future state. Two separate principles are found in his words - the truth, which came directly from him; and the error, which is the interpretation given by the church. He did not directly attack the mode of worship but brought it in when he exposed the absurdity of their beliefs. Had he lived in these days, he would not have been a religious man, according to the church; and yet he taught every element necessary to make a perfect man - not a religious man but one who would do unto another as he would that another should do unto him.
When Jesus taught this truth, his object must have been different from that of the priest, who merely sustained an old system. The very fact that men have such a blind reverence for the Bible shows that there is concealed within its lids something that cannot be seen. It is this something that affects the people, making some insane and some infidels; while there are others who appreciate and reverence it, without understanding it. They are affected by the truth, though they do not know it.
The Bible cannot speak for itself; therefore all interpretations have equal claims to wisdom - and this is why there is so much skepticism in regard to its true meaning. It is supposed that the learned are best able to explain it, but could they explain it in the days of Jesus? No, for he says his words are foolishness to the Greeks and to the Jews, stumbling blocks. Is it the rich? Jesus says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
When Jesus was on earth, no one understood him, but now all think they know his meaning. I, like others, once believed that Jesus came to save man from eternal damnation and to point out the way to another world; but my practice with the sick has produced an entire change in my mind in regard to that subject. If any of Jesus' truth lingers in the religion of the world, it would be seen in the sick, who are just on the verge of another world, as they believe. Yet I have learned by sitting with them that the religious belief is the worst torment one can have at such a time. Although they may say that they rejoice in Christ and are ready to go, they are really afraid and show as much joy when I tell them they will not die as a condemned criminal feels when, kneeling upon his coffin, he hears the words of pardon.
It requires a long time to bring a person into this insane state, when he wishes to die. Severe sickness and trouble are necessary to make one ready to leave friends and all earthly ties. It is the same with any fear - diseases, for instance. There will be more cases of cholera during a panic than if the presence of the disease was not known. Ghosts are always seen in the dark by those only who fear them.
All these evils are caused by the fear of death, and it is included in religious instructions that they exist in another world; for men are called upon to accept the summons which calls them to God. This other world contains heaven and hell, with their terrors and rewards - and the Bible is introduced to prove them. In the days of Jesus, the priests proved these same evils by the Old Testament, but he exposed the folly of their belief and showed them that they did not understand the scriptures.
His controversy with them makes the New Testament; and the priests of our day will still preach this old belief in another world, which they declare is taught by Jesus; while his whole labor was to destroy it in their belief. He failed to do this, because of their superstition and their prejudice. Yet the truth was in him, and like the good sower, he went forth to sow the seeds of truth in man's mind. Some seeds were choked by superstition and were unfruitful, while others fell upon good soil and came forth. The truth could not grow on religious soil, for that stifles discussion. But it grew outside of the church, in the hearts of men, and shed its light on those who never bowed their knee to the church, but who were a law unto themselves.
The other world taught by the church is out of sight and out of reach to the natural world, but it is said to be the place where all men must go, sooner or later. As it is taught by Jesus, it is a condition corresponding to man's ignorance, containing all the evils of imperfect knowledge but differing in every respect from the other world of the priests. They said it was a part of God's Providence. Jesus declared that it existed only in the errors of their belief. According to the priests, the inhabitants of this world are to be transferred at death to the world beyond, there to be dealt with according as their acts in this life demand. The exact limits of the other world were not defined, and the idea was started that the inhabitants might return to earth again. Thus arose the belief in transmigration and spiritual communications.
Speaking of this belief, Lucretius describes the stately palaces of "Acheron, where nor our souls or bodies ever come, but certain specters, strange and wondrous pale," and how "Homer's ever-celebrated shade appeared," etc. Ennius, a Latin poet who lived a hundred years before Lucretius, held to the transmigration of souls. He affirmed that the soul of Homer was in his body. The ancients held that ghosts were a third of nature, of which - together with body and soul - the whole man consisted. These specters and shadows of the dead appear - or seem to appear - when we are asleep or awake and sick and terrify our minds.
It appears from this that there is but little difference between the ancient belief in a future state and the present religious belief in another world. Religious doctrines were the same in the days of Jesus as they are now. There was the spiritualist then, as in modern days, and it can be shown that every modern creed started from the religion which was before Christ and which Jesus opposed.
Such ideas as those I have quoted are admitted by every reformer but modified as science gained ground. They cannot be explained away, so long as their foundations exist - and they will exist, till a new philosophy leads man through the wilderness of progressive knowledge.
What has the religious belief done to enlighten man in regard to his life or in regard to any science? Nothing. Science, steadily developing, has forced the church from its ground, while the church has claimed the credit of the increasing intelligence. Yet it has been an important instrument in civilization, because it has held the people, till wisdom could spring up in their minds. But it has been a prison - and when science burst its bands and freed the prisoners, each assumed a character outside the church.
The church is as necessary for the mass of the people as state laws, yet there are those who require no laws of church or state to regulate their conduct. Knowing what is for their good, they live by the light of science, and they feel that their religion is their life; and in order to put it in practice, something more than mere profession is necessary. Therefore, they labor to develop some truth that is for the benefit of mankind.
This is the design of wisdom, and Jesus, being the medium of it - I base my faith on the rock on which he stood, which rock is Christ (or the science of God), and no opinion of religion must destroy it. The church, in misrepresenting Jesus, has proved itself his worst enemy. Jesus stands to the church as the law to the criminal. The vicious man hates the law, for he dislikes to live up to its standard. The church ignorantly worships God, because it dislikes the labor of seeking to understand him. All religion is of the law, and therefore it cannot save man from sin; but Christ (or science), coming through Jesus, puts an end to religion and law and introduces a higher principle of wisdom, which shall save all who understand.
Jesus was a priest, not after the old priesthood, but after the order of Melchizedek. This was of wisdom; therefore, unlike the priesthood of Aaron, it requires no prayers or sacrifices, for in such it took no delight. The religion of the Jews commenced with the creation of man, and in applying the principles of wisdom to their religion, Jesus admitted every fact of their belief and interpreted it as a symbol of truth. They started at the garden of Eden; not as a natural garden, but as a figure of innocence, representing man in his infancy. Jesus illustrated the condition of man before he began to investigate by the figure of a child, whose parents were truth and error.
The religious people believe that if Adam had not eaten the forbidden fruit, he would not have died. Jesus showed that if the child had not improved since its birth, it would have continued in a brutal state of bliss and would never have gained happiness. Therefore, the death of Adam represented the introduction of progression. In the wisdom of Jesus, the word “death” means simply the change from brutish ignorance to a higher state of knowledge; but to the religious world, it is a real thing; for the dead never rise.
Jesus represents Adam and Eve, as two opposite principles in man; and his body as a garden, where fruits were the offspring of ideas. True ideas simply nourish the body in innocence, but the food from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil cause death to that state of bliss. The religious world put a false construction on this passage, believing that the act of eating the forbidden fruit was an act of disobedience and that it brought into the world the long train of evils that have followed civilization. Jesus, knowing that this was a false belief, brought a child among them and said, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven, and except ye become as a little child, ye can in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Religion could not enter, for it believed that the kingdom of heaven was in another world, apart from this world, as two countries are separate from each other. Jesus admitted the two worlds - not as places but as conditions of mind. But the people believed that heaven is a place to which the good go at death - and hell, where the bad go. So the illustration of the child was a mystery to them.
With Jesus, the kingdom of heaven is the effect of wisdom, and to enter into it, man must do something that is contained in wisdom. The child is a representative of the earth; and its ideas, like seeds in the earth; and its growth, like a vineyard. The vineyard, Jesus said, is cultivated by stewards, and if the steward is of error, the Lord, when he comes, will put him out and put in the truth. So as error dies, truth lives.
Every man is a representative of the natural and spiritual worlds, as taught in the religion of Jesus and illustrated in his life and death. Jesus spoke not of the natural earth as the natural world. He made man's belief the natural world and the knowledge of truth, the spiritual world. And as opinions and error (the natural world) died, truth and science rose from the dead. The dead opinions did not rise - for God is not the God of the dead, but of the living truth.
As man has borne the image of error, he shall also bear the image of wisdom. Like other men, Jesus bore the image of opinions, but he also bore that of God (or science). To the world, his science was a belief - but as such, it was a mere casket that once contained life. To Christ, a belief contained no life or truth, but like all matter, was liable to perish. So he labored to demonstrate his theory and establish it as a science for the benefit of mankind. Therefore he applied the principles of his wisdom to man's condition. He saw that troubles of every kind originate in belief, and in order to relieve these, he must change his belief. For this purpose he came into the world, as it is called - not into the natural globe but into the errors of man.
Jesus was all that was seen by the religious world. Christ was never seen. Yet Christ was in Jesus, and through him entered the world of opinions, to reconcile the opinions to truth and to establish the kingdom of heaven in man's mind as a science. Hence Jesus preached his truth for the healing of the nations from the errors of their belief. Everyone who believed in a doctrine containing punishment was liable to be punished; therefore he urged repentance towards the wisdom that would explain their errors and forgive their sins.
Reading the New Testament with this chart, you will see that the world to be saved is man's - the vast domain of man's religious understanding, which had been enslaved by the priest; that all men had gone out of the way, and none thought right. To save them from their consequent sick and disheartened condition, Jesus opened their eyes to their religious errors, loosed the bands of opinion and prejudice and set the captive free from the prison of his belief.
When he cured the sick, he saved them from the other world into which the priest was forcing them - for he never entertained any idea of another world as taught by religion, ancient or modern. Christ taught Jesus that man is a progressive being; that his existence is a part of God; that the two worlds were an invention; and death was an error of belief and not a reality of truth. Consequently, life and death, being conditions - if a person believes he will die, the belief does not alter the fact but it keeps a man continually subject to the fear of death.
It also taught that man can, in no wise, avoid the punishment following a wrong act - whether he knew that the act was wrong when he committed it or not; for action and reaction are equal - and this is true both in matter and spirit. A man cannot walk into the fire without being burned, and no amount of prayers to God will prevent it - but he is answerable only to himself for his act, not to an offended God. The knowledge of this will save man from the evils that he, himself, has made and will teach him that the principles of right and wrong are contained in every thought.
If I tell a man a lie, and he believes it - he receives the punishment that follows, and I too get my just reward; for as we measure out to another, so we measure out to ourselves. If I wrong a man, I do not wait for him to repay me; I first wrong myself - for a pure fountain cannot send forth impure water, and neither can an honest man do a dishonest act. He must first become dishonest, in order to injure another. Therefore Jesus says, "First cast out the beam from thine own eye, and then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote from thy brother's eye."
These two brothers represent the two principles of truth and error in one man. They are also introduced in the passage where Paul says, "If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth." Here Paul did not refer to any other but himself. Under this interpretation, the passage means: If meat makes my error (or my belief in dispepsia) to offend, then I will eat no meat, till I explain why I cannot or work myself out of the error. So when he arrives at the truth, the opinion is destroyed, and he has entered the new world where he can eat meat.
Jesus told his disciples that his belief would be destroyed by the religious world but that his science would rise from the destruction. To them this was a mystery, for in regard to life and death, they were in their old religious belief. To believe that their idea Jesus should both live and die was a contradiction. It was impossible. He must be dead or not dead; if dead, then the dead must rise. Jesus denied this in his dispute with the Sadducees when he said, "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." But they did not understand him, because of their religious prejudices.
At another time he said, "Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me and shall not find me, and where I am, thither ye cannot come." These words were also misunderstood by the disciples, from the darkness of their belief. I will explain them, as I understand them. Christ is that unseen principle in man of which he is conscious but which he has never considered as intelligence. It is God in us, and when man arrives at that state that he can recognize an intelligence that transcends belief - then death is swallowed up in wisdom.
All will acknowledge that every scientific discovery might have been known before - that is, the truth existed before we knew it. We, in like manner, have an existence as active, in itself, as man in his opinions, but both cannot be seen at the same time, for as one dies, the other rises. To put man in possession of this truth, it is necessary to destroy the entire religious belief. Jesus endeavored to do this, in order to convince man that his only true, living self was the science of God. He also labored to prove that the sympathy that we feel towards each other is a living being, with all the attributes of intelligence and that it remains when the natural man is destroyed. This was science to him, and its truth said, "I come again," etc.
I believe that Jesus came to convince man of this truth. I believe it and practice it, so far as I understand it. The world (or man's belief) accuses me of making myself equal to Christ, as they accused Jesus of making himself equal to God. One of these accusers can visit the sick, and with a long face, ask God to hear his prayers and raise the sufferer. Then, if the patient recovers, he believes that God blessed the means. But if I attribute my cures to God or Christ, the whole church is against me, and I am accused of making myself equal to Christ. They are not so sensitive about Christ, but it is their own reputation that they fear. They claim to be the ordained instruments of God, and if man is saved - it must be by their means.
Jesus, who opposed priestcraft, met the same difficulty. It was the duty of the priests to care for men's souls; therefore he must not enter upon that ground, else he made himself equal to them, which was blasphemy. Jesus opposed the doctrine of another world and taught that man continued progressing. Therefore, at his crucifixion when the idea “matter” was killed by opinions, the Christ that governed it was forced away. The casket (or idea) was left with the disciples, and this, to them, was death.
To see a form of Jesus was either to see a spirit or a resurrection of the old form. To him, the science was different. He suffered as a man suffers the penalty of the law. The law of religion said he must die, and when they saw the law of their belief fulfilled, this was the end to the law of man. Now it was necessary that the new revelation of Christ should come to pass, and he should show himself to his disciples and others. Therefore, the law did what is done by persons now - it put him into a state of unconsciousness; not that he might die, for his belief was that he would return, and the difference of belief made the controversy.
Jesus, like a clairvoyant, went from the idea on the cross to fulfill his promise to the disciples. Unconscious of change, he believed he had flesh and blood, and when they thought he was a spirit, he said, "Hath a spirit flesh and bones, as ye see me have?" Here he destroyed the belief in death and triumphed over the grave.