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Topic: Quimby Manuscripts
Section: Chapter 05 - The Principles Discovered, part 1 of 2
Table of Contents to this Topic

To note how radical was the change through which Mr. Quimby passed as he turned from the mesmeric point of view, we need to revert for the moment to his first experiments. In one of his descriptive articles he tells us that the first time he sat down to try to mesmerise another man he took a chair by him and the two, joining hands with a young man as subject, tried to will the latter to sleep. Their hypothesis was that electricity would pass from their organisms into that of the subject. So by "puffing and willing," they tried to convey their electricity until at last the subject fell asleep. Having the young man in their power the two men then tried to determine which one had the greater influence.

"So we sat the subject in the chair, the gentleman stood in front of him and I behind him, and the gentleman tried to draw him out of the chair; but he could not start him. Then we reversed positions, and I drew the subject out of the chair This showed that I had the greater power or will. This ended the first experiment."

Later, Mr. Quimby, experimenting alone, put the subject asleep in five minutes. But as he was new at that sort of thing he did not know what to do next. So procuring books he learned what one is supposed to do. He did not then realize that the results obtained depended upon the theory one adopts and the phenomena one accordingly anticipates. But later he became convinced that acceptance of the theory of magnetism and the mesmeric sleep predisposed his mind to produce the results, and that if had never heard of a book on the subject the results would have been very different. Furthermore, he concluded that however absurd the ideas acquired by the operator, the operator will prove them "true" by his experiments, since, as he tells us, "beliefs make us act, and our acts are directed by our beliefs." Mr. Quimby had to be credulous in the beginning in order to find out that he had merely proved a belief and was far from truth.

At the outset, then, the hypothesis was that the subject responded merely because the operator contained more electricity and had the stronger will, and will-power itself seemed to be little more than magnetism, so-called. But as matter of fact the books simply told a person how to become an operator without explaining anything that he did: there was no science of the thing at all. Even the conditions to be complied with were hypothetical. Thus Mr. Quimby found that if he had any steel about him it affected the subject, and so he had to keep all steel away as long as he believed that steel had anything to do with his failures. Again, if a sceptic sat too near, he failed. Stumbling along at first, he found him?self as ignorant of the phenomena as when he began, so long as he held to the hypothesis of a magnetic current and the notion that precise material conditions were essential. The resource was to drop the prevailing views and set out in quest of another explanation.

In this early period of investigation, Mr. Quimby was entirely sceptical in regard to clairvoyance and kindred phenomena, also sceptical of any experiment where the subject had any foreknowledge of what was to be done. To avoid any possible error or ground for doubt, he therefore adopted the rule, and held steadily to it during the four years of his association with Lucius, never to let the subject know what was expected of him save mentally. Even if he merely wished Lucius to give him his hand, he would ask him mentally, never audibly. During the entire four years there was no evidence that Lucius knew in his waking state what he did when in the mesmeric sleep. There was a great advantage in favor of this rule, for Quimby could be absolutely sure of his results.

By depending solely upon his mental communications with Lucius, Mr. Quimby was able to attain a high degree of success, and to learn in due course that the whole process was mental, that neither the state of the weather, the presence of metals, nor the passing of an alleged current from one organism to the other had anything to do with the actual result.

That Lucius received no impression from any source save Quimby's thought, during an experiment with this end in view, was also clear from the fact that Mr. Quimby could in imagination call up the picture of a wild animal, and by concentrating upon this picture and making it as vivid as possible frighten Lucius by means of it. If the operator told his subject during the experiment that the animal was merely imaginary, this qualification made no difference; for Lucius was completely subject to the mental picture, and was unable to draw upon his own reason or entertain an explanation of the experiment. This result led Mr. Quimby to believe that "man has the power of creation," and that ideas take form. Then the question arose, What are ideas composed of? "They must be something, or else they could not be seen by the spiritual eyes." This led Quimby to inquire whether Lucius could see anything if he merely thought of something abstract, such as a general principle. "I found that if I thought of principles, he had no way of describing them, for there was nothing to see; but if I thought of anything that had form I could make him see it."

Sight, then, was equivalent to reality for Lucius. Yet in the operator's mind there might be merely a visual image. But if the supposed object had no existence outside of the mind of the operator and the subject's perception of it, why might not an alleged "spirit" in the case of spiritistic phe?nomena be a mere idea in the mind of people in the audience? An experiment convinced Mr. Quimby that this could be the case. Requesting any one to give him a name written on a bit of paper, Mr. Quimby passed the slip of paper to Lucius, who was sitting blindfolded by the committee. Lucius read the name aloud. Quimby then told Lucius to find the person. His account of this experiment continues as follows:

"My mode was to make him ask questions so that the audience could lead him along. So I said, `Who is he, a man or a boy?' He said, `A man.' `Is he married?' `Yes.' `Well, tell me if he has children, and how many.' He answered, `His wife has three children. `Well,' said I, `find him.' Lucius said, `He left town between two days' `Well find him.' He traced him to Boston, and by inquiring followed him to the interior of New York and found him in a cooper's shop. Now all this was literally true, and I suppose some one in the audience knew the facts, although neither the subject nor I knew anything about the man. I asked what became of the man. Lucius said the man was dead. `Well,' said I, `find him and bring him here.! 'Well,' said he, `he is here, can't you see him?' Said I, `Give a description' So he went on and gave a general description. But these general descriptions amount to nothing, for every one will make the description fit his case. So I said, `I don't want that; if there is anything peculiar about the man, describe it.' `Well,' said he, `there is one thing. He has a hair lip.' I asked the question so that if there was anything peculiar the audience would create it"

What was the explanation of such an experiment? Mr. Quimby concluded that those in the audience who were pre?disposed to believe in spirits would infer that Lucius actually brought the man's spirit there. The proof was found in the fact that Lucius accurately described the man's peculiar appearance. But those who believed in thought-reading would conclude that Lucius had read from the minds of the audience his description of the man's appearance, and that the rest of the experiment was to be explained on the basis of clairvoyance. Once in touch with the personality of the man in question, as known by people present, Lucius could have read the rest, or discerned the mental pictures successively appearing as Lucius gained point after point essential to the description. Mr. Quimby's conclusion was that the mental image of the man was as real to Lucius as though the man himself or his spirit had been present. He became the more convinced that "man has the power to create ideas and make them so dense that they can be seen by a subject who is mesmerised" If an imagined person, or the mere memory image of a person was as real to the subject as an actual "spirit," why should one infer that a spirit was there?

Thus Mr. Quimby was led more and more steadily to the conclusion that all effects produced on Lucius were due to the direct action of mind on mind, and that no other hypothesis was necessary. He found that he could influence Lucius either with or without Lucius's knowledge, and that Lucius was also affected in respects which were not intentional on his part. Again, be found himself able to give a thought to another's mind without mesmerism, for instance, by bidding a person stop when walking. Why, then, should he use either mesmerism or his subject? Why not follow out this discovery that ideas take shape in the mind, according to one's belief, and can be seen by the eye of the spirit? If one mind can influence another by creating a mental picture of an object to be feared, such as a wild animal. why may we not create good objects and benefit the minds of those we seek to influence? And if the same results can be produced by mere suggestion as by medicine taken with firm faith, why use medicine?

Referring to Mr. Quimby's lecture-notes, used during the period of his public exhibitions with Lucius, we find that he very gradually came to these conclusions when he saw that no other explanation would suffice. He not only read all the books on mesmerism he could find but familiarised himself with various theories of matter, such as Berkeley's, and with different hypotheses in explanation of the mesmeric sleep. Convinced that there was no "mesmeric influence" as such, no "fluid" passing from body to body but simply the direct action of mind on mind without any medium, he had also to become convinced that the states perceived by the subject were not due to imagination. He found, for example, that by creating a state in his own mind and vividly feeling it, Lucius felt the same and exhibited signs of its effect in the body. "Real cold" was felt by Lucius in response to certain suggestions. If imaginary, the subject would not have acted upon the ideas in question. Thus when Air. Quimby handed Lucius a six-inch rule and pictured it in his own mind as a twelve-inch rule, Lucius would proceed to count out the twelve inches, and to him it was literally a twelve-inch rule. That is to say, the impressions received by the subject were real, not "imaginary," as real as would have been the actual things in question. An impression might indeed be produced on a subject's mind from a false cause, but the cause would then be real.

Nor was the state called clairvoyance imaginary. Mr. Quimby described it in this period of his thought as a "high degree of excitement which gives the mind freedom of action, placing it in close contact with everything, including past, present and future." If it were a merely fancied state the subject would not be able to visit distant places, describing people and things correctly. Nor would it be possible to see actual events in process and predict their results, as in the case of a captain located on board a ship bound for New York and then located in port later, the second time Lucius was asked to find that particular man.

There was every reason to accept these disclosures as real, for interested persons took pains to acquaint themselves with the facts. For instance, in the case of the ship above mentioned we have the evidence published in a newspaper at the time, reading in part as follows: "During Mr. Quimby's exhibition in this town on Wednesday evening, (14th inst.) his intelligent Clairvoyant was in communication with F. Clark, Esq., a respectable merchant of this place. The Clairvoyant described to the audience a Barque . . . called the Casilda then on her passage from Cuba to New York, minutely from `clew to carving,' as seamen say. He then informed the company how far said Barque was from her destined port, and gave the name of vessel and port the distance we think was about 70 miles.

"On the next evening, he visited (in his somnambulism) the same vessel and said she had arrived off the Hook at New York, where she then was. On the Tuesday following this exhibition the merchants received a letter informing them of the arrival of this Barque (see our Marine Report) at the precise time stated by the Clairvoyant, who it will be recollected is Lucius Bickford [Burkmar], a young man 19 years of age.

"This was but one of several exhibitions of his visiting absent vessels of which he could have had no information, and describing even the master and people on board. We profess no knowledge of this wonderful science, but deem it a duty we owe to the public to publish every fact that may aid the progress of human knowledge."

It is interesting to note that this fair-minded newspaper writer, while heading his contribution "Animal Electricity," according to the popular notion prevailing at the time, 1844, expresses his opinion that "there is no more mystery in all this than there is in repeating a lesson committed." That is to say, he thinks these facts at a distance are discerned by "the mind's eye." He was probably convinced, therefore, by Quimby's argument in his lectures to the effect that there was no "fluid" passing between, no "magnetism," but mind operating on mind to put Lucius in possession of the clue he was to follow when locating a ship at a distance or describing her captain and crew.

Quimby tells us in one of his later articles that very early in his experiments with mesmerism he became convinced that Lucius could "see through matter." That is, a person in a clairvoyant state, with all his physical senses quiescent, can discern in another person every-state or condition ordinarily coming within the range of the five bodily senses. He was compelled to believe this, for the descriptions which Lucius gave proved it. He therefore adopted this as his point of view, namely, that the human spirit can intuitively see through matter.

His next interest, he tells us, in an article written in 1861, was to become a clairvoyant himself, that is, without mesmerism. For, having become convinced that "matter was only a medium for our wisdom to act through," he saw how matter could be transformed by attaching one's interest to higher ideas. This meant ridding the mind of all beliefs and opinions tending to create miseries and troubles, and dedicating the clairvoyant or intuitive powers to the welfare of the sick. Through his natural state, he tells us, as a being of flesh and blood, he could still feel as a patient felt. But in his higher selfhood or intuitive state he was governed by the spiritual ideal, "the scientific man." As this spiritual state can be attained by cultivating "the spiritual senses," which function independently of matter and see through matter, it is not of course necessary to make the body quiescent through the use of mesmerism.

Turning again to the period of his lectures, we find Quimby also stating his conviction that Lucius took his clue directly from the minds of others, by thought-reading followed by clairvoyance, and never from his own fancies. For Quimby found that the results attained through Lucius varied with his own progress. Thus the fears and notions which Quimby entertained as long as he believed in magnetism passed with his change of view. Instead of working himself up to the point of transferring fancied electricity to Lucius, he put all his efforts into creating a mental picture for Lucius to see in his mind. In either case it was plain that Lucius saw or did what was commanded when he gained the attention o f his subject. Until the subject gave his full attention, nothing resulted. So in the case of clairvoyance, the subject would see any object to which his attention was called. If a failure occurred, the fault was the operator's not that of the subject.

Here, then was a highly important discovery. Quimby found that with his great powers of concentration he had great success in arresting the attention of his subject. This in brief was his control over him. But if certain results follow from arrested attention in the case of a person in the mesmeric sleep, why may not self-induced results follow upon attention in the case of any one of us? Does this not explain many of the ancient mysteries, and the self-induced states of Apollonius of Tyana, Mahomet and Swedenborg?
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