Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

Dr. Phineas P. Quimby

Mind Acting Upon Mind

Thus it has been from the days of Esculapius to Harrison and Thompson - and perhaps I should not slight Graham and Alcott who, I must say, give a very economical system of medical practice, which would not be very likely to induce the gout or dyspepsia. The different theories of practice, however, no doubt grew out of the uncertainty of medicine. And the uncertainty of medicine was the necessary result of a want of a knowledge of those laws by which the animal economy of man is sustained.

It all proceeds from the mistaken notion that medicine operates upon the organs which constitute the body, without any reference to the impressions which it conveys to the mind. Medicine, upon the organs of the body, if it were to act upon them alone, would always produce the same results upon the same organizations. It would be a matter of certainty with the physician that if Lobelia or Ipecac be taken into the stomach in measured quantities, proportionate effects will follow. And so of all medicines. If, on a certain occasion, under certain symptoms, a certain medicine restored health - why will it not do so in all cases, when the symptoms and disease are the same?

We have selected from Dr. Abercrombie such remarks as convey our ideas upon the uncertainty of medicine as practiced by physicians.

[Quote from Dr. Abercrombie, Part IV, page 293 (copy the whole chapter).]

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We have in this quotation the whole truth, so far as the uncertainty of medicines is concerned. But even Dr. Abercrombie, we think, has not touched the real cause of all this uncertainty, except where he partly attributes it to the "mental emotions." We hazard the assertion that all these difficulties arise from mental emotions; that whatever results follow the application of medicine are produced by the impressions which the taking and action of this medicine has upon the organs of the body. And the same medicines do not affect different individuals in the same manner, because they, upon being taken, convey to these minds different impressions; and the mind exercises a control over the body and answers to the impressions by a result upon the functions of the body - either good or bad.

Every intelligent physician with whom I have conversed has always acknowledged that mind has much to do with the taking of medicine, if good results follow; that no physician could probably do his patient much good, unless he should possess the confidence of such patient. Intelligent physicians, although they have full faith in medical remedies and believe that these, with the mental emotions of the patient, are the only restoratives of health, yet do not, after all, consider that remedies possess such astonishing powers as is supposed by the quacks.

I believe that there is a virtue in medicine which, when taken by the patient, conveys impressions to the mind; and that these impressions often result in the entire restoration of health. The mind of man is generally taken up with surrounding objects and seldom is attracted to contemplate the body to which it is attached. If however, by any attraction, it should be turned upon the body, a war seems to arise between the body and mind, and the mind appears to be unwilling to abide its confinement. Disease then begins to prey upon the body and continues to increase, until the soul departs and leaves matter to return to its original dust.

We think we have abundant proof of the power of the mind to control the health of the body. Patients are advised to travel in pleasant countries and visit watering places; to bathe in sea water and mineral water; to spend the cold seasons in milder climates; engage more in pleasantries of society - or even do anything by which the mind may be led off from its old habits of warring with the body.

But why should we even enumerate particular methods of restoring the health of a patient, without a dose of medicine? All these methods are medicines for the mind; they leave lasting impressions, and they restore the health. So is every remedy taken into the stomach or externally applied to the body, a medicine for the mind. And it is only so far effectual to the end designed as it impresses the mind.

We do not then, discard the use of medicines, but rather recommend them. But we protest against such use, unless he who prescribes knows the laws by which his remedy is governed. The true design of all medicine is to lead the mind to certain results, and then it - the mind - will restore the body. No matter what this medicine is, if it accomplishes all the physician designs, it will effect a cure - if it produces a healthy state of mind. Thus it is that very small doses, under the direction of the homeopathic practice, effect such astonishing cures. Thus it is that so many drops of pure water, taken under the direction of a skillful physician, will restore health. Thus it is that a change of scenery gives new and pleasant impressions to the mind of a patient and results in a perfect restoration of the bodily health.

We must here indulge in a pleasant anecdote related to me by a friend of mind; the truth of which I would not dare question. He was in bad health of being troubled with the "cramp in his stomach," and the remedy was always one or two of Brandwith's pills. On one occasion he was taken very suddenly, and after taking the pills as usual, served up in a tumbler of cold water he drank - and the next morning found him­self restored to perfect health, as usual in former attacks. He accidentally looked into his tumbler and saw both of the pills - which he had supposed were drunk - in the bottom of his tumbler. He found it must have been the cold water that cured him. He was, however, so much pleased with the idea of his cure that the cramp never returned.

A young physician of my acquaintance, who was rising rapidly in his profession, was called to attend a patient who had been for a long time under the care of an old practitioner, but was fast failing. The old physician had given up all hopes of his patient's recovery and finally told him he could do him no good. At this unfavorable moment, my young friend was called. He examined the patient, ascertained what remedies had been administered, etc., and found that they were just such as he should apply in such a case. Somewhat puzzled for a moment what to order, he became very grave and thoughtful. He found that the mind of the patient was such as to reject the medicine, and he determined to try the venture of a new medicine. He then returned to his office, filled an ounce vial of good pure water and again visited the patient, ordered ten drops to be administered at a time and repeated once in two hours. This was effectual, and the patient was soon restored.

Another physician, who is highly distinguished in his profession, related the following story. Being called to visit a patient that had been under the care of several physicians but was continually growing worse, he ascertained that they had been treating the patient in just such a manner as he should have done under the same circumstances. The patient, however, had no confidence in their treatment, and as a matter of course, continued to grow worse. He examined the patient, and finally placing his hand upon his side, remarked that if he could produce a warm sensation there in five minutes, he could cure him. A warm sensation was felt by the patient, and the physician pronounced his case not dangerous; remarking that he had medicines which would certainly cure him. He then turned 'round and poured out the same kind of medicine as had been given to the patient by the other physicians, and it was taken in full confidence of a restoration to health. The result was that the patient immediately recovered.

We might mention a hundred such instances and then call our own experience to confirm the truth of them. But we have given these, proving that it is really the mind upon which an impression is to be made, and that after all, the medicine has nothing to do in the matter, only so far as it induces a state of feeling antecedent to a restoration. While the physicians have always admitted that the mind of the patient has much to do in the operation of medicine and the restoration of health, yet nothing is ever mentioned of the fact that "mind acts upon mind" - that the mind of the physician has something to do in bringing about such results as restore health.

Here then, we trace a great portion of the difficulty in the uncertainty of medicine. The physician has not been aware of this fact, and therefore proceeds upon wrong principles in administering his medicine. In this respect, the quack may effect more than the intelligent physician, because he has more confidence in the remedies he applies. He, however, believes the great remedy is really in the medicine and has full confidence in administering it to the patient and impresses his mind with the restorative powers of his balsam.

Perhaps the quack might not understand the composition of his medicine, yet he knows the results and is so firm in his belief that he would almost bring about the result if the medicine had by mistake been omitted. The intelligent physician, knowing the properties of his medicine and having seen much practice, does not attribute an almighty charm to his antidote and, therefore, manifests less confidence in his skill. His mind influences directly that of his patient, and he, too, will place but little confidence in the medicine. The result is that the patient becomes worse.

Now had the physician understood - or rather had he brought into his practice the great law that "mind acts upon mind" - he might have remedied the whole evil. He would then have commanded all the influence which his powerful mind could exert over the mind of his patient, and thus with the powerful or gentle action of the medicine, directed a healthful result. In some instances, a powerful medicine taken under the impression of a good influence may do much - and indeed, in some instances, entirely restore the patient. But it acts far more healthfully upon the patient when the mind is rightly directed.

This principle of making deep impressions upon patients by a medicinal or other process seems to have been well understood by Hippocrates, the great father of cures. When the plague broke out at Athens during the second year of the Peloponesian war, it ravaged the whole army and bid defiance to the remedies of the most skillful physicians in that ancient city. At this critical period, the great Hippocrates entered the city and applied his remedies, which soon began to check its ravages. His name only could save his countrymen. He caused fires to be lighted up in the streets and lanes of Athens to purify and clarify the atmosphere; introduced the warm bath to expel the infection by the surface of the skin; and to support their weakness, caused them to drink the rich wines of Naxos - thus employing external agents to impress deeply the mind with the idea of an effectual remedy.

We might enumerate other instances where the great cause of success in a particular treatment of disease was similar in principle to the above; but history is full of such examples, and the daily observation of every student of human nature confirms its records. Every action which results to the benefit or injury of the patient is directed upon the mind, which immediately answers the impression upon the disease of the body. Matter, in itself, is capable of no action, except by chemical process, unless connected with a mind (or spirituality). The health and vigor of the body depends solely upon the condition and action of the mind, because the immaterial part of man governs the material. Matter (or body) connected with mind is under the immediate control of this spirituality.

If then, the mind - by external or internal influences - has received impressions to destroy the health and vigor of the body, and those impressions cannot be removed, then the body follows that state of mind and readily submits. If the mind of a patient does not feel some confidence in the restorative powers of a medicine taken, there is a probable chance that it will do the patient no good. His mind counteracts the impression usually conveyed to the minds of most patients by a strong impression that it could do no good.

There are other reasons why medicines prove so uncertain in the practice of physicians. And perhaps the greatest evil of all we could enumerate is the course which each physician has, in his own judgment, selected to pursue towards his brother competitors. It is a fact worth mentioning to those who have not witnessed it; that no two physicians, who reside in our towns and villages where a direct competition is kept up, can agree to the same treatment of the same disease. If one is successful in his treatment, the other would not adopt the same course, but must have his peculiar method and denounce the other.

It is this constant warring with each other... this constant opposition... this unhallowed wish to rise on the ruins of a brother... this ambitious longing to put down every man of the same profession and assume the confidence, the practice and the distinguished honor which a suffering community can bestow. I protest against this vile slander of your neighbor's medicine (or practice); not so much for the folly exhibited in the individual physician, as the enormous evil entailed upon the suffering community. While physicians labor to destroy what confidence the community have been disposed to place in them, how can they individually expect to reap the advantage of a position which they have been constantly laboring to destroy?

It is an old saying that "two gamesters can never agree," but we find this principle carried out to the very letter in medical practice. The success of my neighbor is not to be endured, while I do not receive the direct emolument. “Let the world perish if I, alone, can't save it,” is the common expression of every physician.

I do not intend to embrace the whole class, without some reserve. There are some honorable exceptions - men in medical science whose position is above the filth and slime of enmity; it is the proud position of a great mind desirous of progress, availing himself with all the assistance which may flow from the smaller sources that surround him. It is a remark in sacred history that the foolish things of this world sometimes confound the wise - and the great mind is ever watchful of the fulfillment of this declaration. It embraces whatever is useful and true and rejects whatever is injurious and false.

We are of the opinion that this entire want of confidence in each other and the medicines administered manifest among common physicians goes far to counteract what practical service any remedy may usually, under a proper condition of things, effect. It must be true that physicians are not aware of the influence which mind exerts upon mind and the results upon the body, or they would desist from such violence. We return to an expression we have before uttered - that we have full confidence in the power of certain medicines to produce healthful results; but further assert that the mind of the patient or physician may so control this power as to produce disastrous results. We protest against this pretended ignorance of the physician upon the causes of the uncertainty of medicine. He should, or ought to know what they result from or the great governing principle by which a failure follows. We exclaim against the daring and lawless courage of a physician who marches up blindfold to the battleground of disease, struggling with nature and often failing in his efforts to effect a reconciliation; raises a war club and strikes at random. If he luckily hits disease, the patient is restored; and if not, the patient dies.

Our remarks thus far go to show that the mind has much to do with the practice of medicine and that results are from impressions conveyed to it by some process. We now proceed to illustrate by experiments what mesmerism has to do with diseases; and shall at the same time show the influence of mind acting upon mind.

By the action of my mind upon my patient in his waking state, I can produce the same results which flow from the taking of medicine. I can produce an emetic or cathartic; a dizziness or pain in the head; relieve pain in any part of the system; and restore patients by acting directly upon their minds. If we succeed in giving such experiments and confirm the above declaration, will anyone doubt the fact that it is the mind which is operated upon and conveys the result to the body? We will not argue this point further, but proceed to give some further remarks and the experiments.

We lay it down as a principle that all medical remedies affect the body only through the mind. The truth of this principle is tested in an experiment which I had upon a lady of intelligence, who was placed under my care. Her health was generally bad and caused a depression of spirits. I could magnetize her easily, but preferred to perform my experiments in her waking moments. If she complained of pain in the head, I could relieve it. If her feet and hands were cold, I could induce a warm sensation. If her head became hot and feverish, I could induce a cool state and drive off the fever. Indeed, almost any state I desired to produce, corresponding with the effect of medicine taken into the stomach, would follow.

This is not a solitary case. I might enumerate hundreds of experiments equally wonderful and interesting; all tending directly to show that mind governs the body, and to affect the body, it must be done through the mind.

An individual, who was an entire stranger to me, called and said he was not a believer in mesmerism - but would become so, if I could relieve the pain under which he was then suffering, from a contusion of the foot. I requested him to sit down, and I would try; that I would first induce a strange feeling upon his foot, and he might tell me the sensation which would follow. In about five minutes he remarked that he felt a prickling sensation, as though his "foot was going to sleep." This was what I designed to do. I then proceeded to relieve the pain, and he described a cool sensation at first, which was soon followed by entire relief. He acknowledged the result and remarked "humbug or no humbug - the pain is gone."

While I was traveling with my subject in 1843, a gentleman who had long been troubled with lameness proceeding from rheumatic influence, hobbled upstairs and entered my room. He requested me to operate upon him and do him all the good I could. I made some enquiries into his case and proceeded to relieve the pain and restore him to health. In less than one hour he was enabled to walk with greater ease (his own declaration) than for the preceding two years. He left me in good spirits, and the following morning rode to a neighboring town and, unfortunately, upset his sleigh. All the violence of the old rheumatic complaint returned.

Two days after, I heard of his misfortune and called on him. His physician was present and writing a prescription for medicines. I enquired of the doctor after his patient, who gave me no favorable account. I directed him to apply his mesmeric power and relieve the pain, without prescription. He smiled and said he had made the attempt; could throw him into a sleeping state, but could not relieve the pain. He gave me permission to try my power. I sat down by him and soon relieved the pain, and before we left he was enabled to walk about the room. The physician tore up his prescription and remarked that he saw no occasion for his services, and we both left in company.

A friend of mine took me to see an Irish gentleman who was in the last stages of consumption. Upon entering his house, we could distinctly hear him breathe. My friend introduced me and related the occasion of our call. The man, with much difficulty, replied that nothing could help him, etc. I commenced acting upon his mind. In a short time, the difficulty of breathing was removed, and the man, raising himself up in bed, exclaimed to my friend, "Why, sir, what does this mean? My, sir - I feel... I feel very much relieved!" After spending an hour with him, we left. I called again the next morning and found him up and dressed and doing well. I left town that day and have not since heard of him.

Dr. H. took me to see one of his patients who was very low in the last stages of consumption. We found her very weak and oppressed with a difficulty of breathing. I commenced operating upon her and removed the difficulty of breathing and induced a strong and healthful feeling. We left her very comfortable, and she declared she was much better. Whether she recovered from her illness, I have not heard.

Another patient in the last stages of consumption, who was entirely given over by all the physicians, sent for me a few days since. I soon relieved much of his pain, enabled him to swallow with less difficulty and entirely threw off his fever, which had returned regularly every day previous for some time. He appears now much better than when I first saw him. But it is too much to suppose that he can be restored from his very debilitated state to health.

I will now introduce another class of experiments. A gentleman residing out of town was seized with an affection of the head, producing severe pain. This continued for the space of two or three months but increasing in severity, until he entirely lost the power of seeing and was blind. He sent for me to visit him. I did so and found him in the state I have described, suffering intensely from the pain in his head and not able to see any object around him. I commenced exercising my powers to throw him into the mesmeric state and was soon successful. I then relieved the pain of his head and proceeded to enable him to see objects around him. I placed my fingers in front of his eyes, and he soon remarked that he saw them and felt an influence proceeding from them, which was cooling. I was trying to 'allay the fever in that portion of the brain connected with his eyes, which was probably the influence he felt.

He could tell when I was near to him or at a distance. I then roused him from his sleeping condition and commenced operating upon his eyes to induce the power of sight. He described the sensations produced like "flakes of clouds passing before his eyes," being sometimes so dark that he could distinguish no light and then followed with light. I continued my operations, until he was enabled to see an object I held up before him, described what it was and read the figures which were printed upon it. His health was so far gone that it would have been almost a miracle to have restored him. I left him, however, in this condition and soon after heard of his death.

A young man came to me not long since who was very pale and emaciated and asked if I could help him. He was much troubled to breathe and felt a bad pain in his side. I commenced experimenting upon him in his waking state, and in a few moments relieved his difficulty of breathing and took away the pain in his side. He is now an active and healthy young man, enabled to attend to his business.

I called on a young man residing upon the Kennebec, whom I found in this condition. He had not spoken or even whispered or walked for the previous eight or nine months and could not get about, only as he managed himself along in his chair. I commenced operating upon him in his waking state, and in the course of one-half hour, I requested him to answer me. He immediately answered me and easily talked. I then enabled him to walk across the floor, and his neighbors came in, and he was able to converse with them and to walk while in their presence. I left him in this condition and called the following day. He was walking his room, and when I spoke to him, he answered me by a nod of his head. I told him I did not understand him. He then answered me readily and was able to talk very well.

This was the condition in which I left him and have no doubt but that he would have fully recovered, had not other counteracting influences been brought to act upon him. These influences were produced upon him by his ignorant physician; who was probably feeling that some glory might be detracted from his great professional distinction if the patient, who had been so long under his immediate and mighty curatives, should recover by so simple a process, which his dull genius had not discovered. Soon after I left, I was informed that this benevolent gentleman was so kind as to inform him that I was an impostor and had only been playing upon his imagination; that he would, in a few days, be worse, etc. Thus by every act of which this little man was capable of exercising, he produced an opposite impression upon his mind; destroying all the good I had accomplished. So much for the kindness, benevolence and philanthropy - or if you please, the ignorance and bigotry of his physician.

We have found but few such in the world, and we desire, so far as our friends and ourselves are concerned, that they may be less frequent than angel's visits. Had he possessed the common feelings of humanity, even though he could not at that time place much confidence in so simple an operation of a stranger - yet for his friend's sake, would it not have been the part of wisdom to have suspended the counteracting influences and rather assisted the mind of his patient and friend to overcome the difficulty? We leave the matter to the patient and his neighbors to say how much benefit such a physician is to mankind.

I was not long since called upon to visit an old lady who was afflicted with the acute rheumatism, sometimes called. I found her in the most extreme pain. I commenced operating upon her in the waking state and soon eased the acute pains. Before I left her, she said she did not feel any pain in her limbs, and she could use them without difficulty. I saw her husband the following day, and he informed me that she slept well during the night and was fast recovering.

I was called upon to visit an old lady, whom I found in ill health and very low and gloomy in her feelings. She had given up all hope of recovering, and even distributed her goods and chattels among her kinsmen. I observed that her temperament was such as to be easily wrought upon and told her I could restore her to perfect health. I operated upon her mind in the waking state and relieved all her suffering pains; but there was one difficulty, she remarked, about her, which, if it was not removed, would be the death of her. It was this. She said her liver was completely caked over and that she could feel it on her side. I examined her side and allowed her to think so, but told her I could remove that feeling and would do so. I then made an effort to regulate her feelings in this particular. She said she felt better, and I left her, promising to call the next day. I did so and found her pretty well, but the cake upon her liver had not entirely dissipated. I, however, corrected the disease, and the woman is entirely restored.

The cases we have just enumerated may appear, at first view, to be nothing but imaginary diseases. This was not the fact. They were all real, and all the impressions which were given by myself were real. I do not suppose that the last case was precisely what the old lady supposed; yet there was some disease or some cause which she attributed to a strong covering to her liver.

We have endeavored to keep up a distinction between imaginary and real cases. And we will simply state here that all the patients were really as we have described them, and none of them were troubled with imaginary evils; that what is real cannot be imaginary; that the moment the reality commences, imagination ceases. I will give one illustration. If I imagine a sharp pain in my finger and continue to keep up the imagination, the pain is not there; it exists only in my imagination - or rather does not exist at all. Now suppose I commence imagining a pain in my finger, and while doing it, a pain should be actually felt, just when I was imagining. Would the pain really felt be real? We think it would - and when this sensation exists there, im­agination ceases to act.

In the cases above, the remedies resorted to are real to the subjects, because they restored them. At least they are as real as the diseases, and the diseases were as real as any disease with which mankind are afflicted. If then, one answers that all these cases are imaginary, we reply then - everything is imaginary and nothing is real.

We proceed to give other cases of a different class and which will more fully prove the distinction between the real and the imaginary. There's a lady residing in this country who had been lame and unable to walk for two years. She had been under the care of physicians, who had resorted to every medicine consistent with the case, within the range of their profession. She had been three months under the care of the celebrated Dr. Hewit of Boston but received no benefit, but continued about the same. This was the condition in which I found her, unable to bear any weight upon her foot. We now ask - was this case real or imaginary, upon the facts as we have stated? Whatever the answer is, she and her friends, who were enabled to feel and see her condition, believed it real.

I was lecturing in town and was sent for to visit her. I complied and commenced operating upon her in her waking state. In less than one-half hour, she rose from her chair and walked across the room and out of her keeping room into the other, astonishing all who beheld her. She continued to walk and grow better and has now nearly recovered. This walking could not have arisen from any excitement under which she labored at the time, because she continued to get better, and her ankle and foot are nearly, or quite, well. Is the recovery of the lady imaginary? If you think it unreal, we will give another!

It is this. A good old farmer residing in town, who took a trip to one of the islands in our bay, was severely bitten by a dog through the wrist. His hand and arm began to perish and had already become much smaller than the other. When I saw him, which was about three months after his misfortune, a sore on the back of his hand had broken out several times, or at stated intervals. I found him in a lawyer's office, stating his case to his attorney, who had commenced a suit against the owner of the dog - and afterwards recovered seven hundred dollars damages. I examined his arm at that time and found it in the condition I have described. In the conversation he remarked that, if I would restore it, he would not spare the greatest expense of which his condition in life would admit.

Before I commenced operating upon him, I asked him to use it and lift up a very small pamphlet which lay on the table. This he was unable to do, and he stated that he had no use of it. I then took him into an adjoining room and operated upon him in his waking state. I soon enabled him to use his hand and arm. He took up the largest volume of the law library, held it in his hand and carried it into the other room. He then took hold of the bottom of a chair, lifted it up and carried it around. He returned to his farm and began to labor, using his hand and arm. In about three months, his arm had assumed its natural size and appeared perfectly well. He complained only of a slight weakness in twisting his wrist. I soon removed that difficulty, and he is now fully restored.

Another case. A man in the country, who had injured his wrist by blasting a rock and had not been able to use it for nine months, called on me. His hand and arm had withered very much and was carried in a sling. It was also cold, although in mid­summer, and he was obliged to keep it wrapped up from the air. I commenced operating upon him, and before I left him, he was enabled to lift a pail of water and other things which were near us. Before he left town, which was on the same day, he could lift with his lame hand and arm a weight of fifty pounds. I have not seen or heard of him since and do not know whether he recovered entirely.

We suppose, after giving our last examples, that no one will attribute their restoration to the imagination. We need not argue the case furthermore as to the reality of the condition of the patients we have named or the facts of their recovery. If any part of the whole transactions were real, then all were real. If any part were imaginary, then all were imaginary. And if these cases were imaginary, then we say that all diseases, all conditions of mind and matter - anything about us and around us - is imaginary; and nothing has any reality.

We might state a great number of cases similar to the above, all showing the same results and proving the same facts, all being real and not imaginary. We have read of cases when persons have been thrown into the mesmeric state and had some of the most dangerous and, in the waking state, painful surgical operation performed, without manifesting the least pain. We do not doubt their authority. We have had only one case when an actual operation was performed of the above class.

A lady residing about ten miles from Belfast came to our village to have a polypus extracted from her nose by one of our surgeons. She called on Dr. N. at his office and requested him to send for me to throw her into the mesmeric state. He was no believer in mesmerism and at first refused - but the lady would not consent to the operation until I was sent for. I found her in the Dr.'s office, and in ten minutes threw her into the mesmeric state and requested the Dr. to commence. He performed the operation, and she did not even move a single muscle during the whole time, and gave no appearance of pain. While the operation was being performed, the blood was observed by someone standing by to run into her mouth, and I was requested to induce her to spit. I did so, and she answered by spitting out the blood. When she awoke, she was not conscious of having suffered any pain. This experiment took place in the presence of some four or five individuals, and it was at that time noticed in the public prints.





Dr. Phineas Parkhurst Quimby



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