New Thought Pioneers: Phineas Quimby

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby 1802-1866

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

Park Quimby was a watch and clockmaker with a scientific, analytical mind who is credited by most as being the “Father of New Thought.” In 1836 Quimby was introduced to mesmerism by a traveling practitioner who traveled through Belfast, Maine. He left his job and traveled with the mesmerist for two years until he became proficient at the trade (“Phineas Quimby”, Wikipedia). Quimby eventually came to work with an uneducated youth named Lucius Burkmar, who exhibited an amazing ability to diagnose disease and to prescribe a remedy by clairvoyant powers when hypnotized by Quimby. Quimby's work with Burkmar led to his conclusions about the cause of all illness, the source of error beliefs and the mental basis for healing.

Error belief as cause of disease and Truth as the cure

Quimby eventually came to understand that the cause of the cure was not the remedy prescribed by Burkmar but rather that Burkmar's remedies were removing erroneous beliefs in the mind of the person being healed. This led Quimby to see that the cause of disease is an erroneous belief. Braden writes (:53) “Man is made up of truth and belief; and if he is deceived into a belief that he has, or is liable to have a disease, the belief is catching and the effect follows it.” The cure for the erroneous beliefs that cause disease is the Truth. Braden (:58) quotes Quimby as saying “Disease is what follows an opinion, it is made up of mind diverted by error, and Truth is the destruction of this opinion.”

Priests and doctors as cause of error beliefs

Quimby condemned priests and doctors for causing these error beliefs. He is quoted (Braden: 60) as saying that they “are the foundation of more misery than all other evils, for they have a strong hold on the minds of the people by their deception and cant. They claim all the virtue and wisdom of the nation, and have so deceived the people that their claims are acknowledged in war and peace.”

Absent treatment

Quimby learned that the mind is not subject to limitations of time or space and, therefore there was a basis for absent treatment. The discovery that healing work could be effective even when the patient and healer were not in the same physical location is one factor that made the healing ministry of Silent Unity possible (Thorpe :28).

Christian Science

Braden devotes fifteen pages (:68-83) to an inconclusive summary of Quimby's spiritual beliefs which seem to be summarized as “there is no Wisdom in matter” (:82). While his manuscripts were not released until many years after New Thought took root, Quimby did treat and teach Mary Baker Eddy, who developed a spiritual basis for healing and may have gotten some of her ideas from Quimby. But Quimby should be viewed as a scientific healer. Braden (:55) writes, “the basis was now laid for mental healing … Quimby had come to his conclusions not from the Bible or from any religious considerations … thus they had been based upon observation, experiment, and reflection. One might conceivably operate as a healer in entire disregard of religion or religious faith … There is a distinct secular mental healing movement which has worked upon the basis of Quimby's theory of disease and cure.”

Phil White on Quimby

Eric Butterworth on Quimby


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