The Difficulty
In Establishing A New Science–Language


April 1862


by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby


The fact that the mode in which I cure disease cannot be understood by the learned may lead some to suppose that I do not understand myself. This is a mistake and arises from the fact that certain demagogues of all classes take upon themselves the responsibility of giving their opinions on every subject however complicated it may be. They always make war whether they see or hear about the thing in question or not and are always opposed as a stumbling block to every new science and invention.

Every science has its shadow based on opinions about the phenomenon as in the invention of steam, for instance. When it was first claimed that it could be applied to the advantage of the world, up sprang this set of demagogues to show off their knowledge. And while the first steamer was crossing the Atlantic, one of the learned quacks, lecturing in New York City, was proving by actual demonstration that the steamer could not carry coal enough to drive her to New York. But for all his wisdom, the steamer kept plowing along unheeding prophetic voice till it arrived safely, thus proving by practice what the theory had contended for. This class of men abound everywhere. They are as superstitious as the people were in the days of the Salem witchcraft, and if it were not for their acquired abilities, would become a laughing stock to all sensible men. They are narrow-minded and place a great reliance on their education, supposing that education is wisdom, while it as often proves the shallowness of knowledge as it does its superiority. Wisdom is not learning; it was before education. Every phenomenon comes without learning or wisdom and the accounting for it brings out genius. This genius looks for causes and traces back the phenomenon to the cause, and then reduces the investigation to physical demonstration. This process is called science; therefore science is wisdom reduced to practice. The class spoken of above never had any genius; they had superstition. So learning is not confined to either class but is common to both. Men demand praise for learning, for that is an invention of men and a thing in common. No one supposes a dictionary has any more wisdom than Cock Robin. The man of genius puts his senses into his wisdom that is known to him in the form of science. The man of letters puts his senses in the shadow of this wisdom, in the form of opinions, and tries all things by his knowledge.

Now there are certain established principles, called law and order, made by the voluntary consent of the people. These arguments are condensed into law and they agree to be governed by the laws of their own make. So as law is arbitrary, it is not based on true wisdom but is the best that the majority can agree to. Therefore it is necessary to have persons who understand what the true construction of the law is. This class is called judges, and it is a very necessary calling and should be filled by those most skilled in learning. They give their attention to their new business if they know it, but if they do not, they become babblers of all sorts of parties and show that they are of the class I have described. This class is found opposing everything that requires physical demonstration. They oppose also all sorts of religion, not that they do not believe in another world, for they are the most zealous believers, but they have no genius. Everything that they cannot understand must be a mystery, and being ignorant, they cannot see the difference between a fact based on an opinion and on science. To them all is science. You hear them talking of the science of mesmerism, the science of phrenology and of many others that have not ever been broached to see what were the causes of the phenomena that are seen and heard, but which these blind guides claim as science. In like manner, you hear of the medical science. Yet there is not one fact reduced to practice by which man is put in possession of any wisdom that gives him superiority over the lowest laboring man who works in the gutters and lives on what he can get and pays no respect to the opinions of these blind guides, yet is the healthiest.

So learning never made a man healthy; wisdom might, but ignorance let alone is bliss. The class who stand in the way of health and offer their opinions for wisdom is what Jesus had to contend with.

Jude describes them when he says, "But these speak evil of those things which they know not but what they know naturally as brute beasts; in those things, they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain and run greedily after the error of Balaam for reward and perished in the gainsaying of Korah!"

Every man who has ever introduced any new invention or discovery has had to contend with this set of babblers. I am not an exception to this rule. My observation of men for the last twenty years has taught me what every man must go through before he can establish a theory that strikes at the root of all superstition; for as no man knows himself, to introduce a mode by which men's thoughts can be weighed is so new and strange to the world that it is looked upon as humbug. My experience in mesmerism gave me a chance to see and hear the views of men upon those things that pertained to health and happiness. The investigation of mesmerism is like introducing any new discovery. You meet with all sorts of minds and all kinds of questions are asked, some for information, some to trip you up or to show you that they are posted up in all the quackery of the day and that they look upon everything with suspicion. So when you go into a place, you are attacked by these babblers in the form of second rate lawyers or students who want to get a hold on public opinion and young physicians who want a chance to show off their knowledge. My practice has given me great advantage over others from the fact that I work on my own responsibility, not being connected with any school of practice. This standing alone has created a sort of nervous excitement among not only the medical faculty but all that class of minds who looked upon everything that cannot be explained to their satisfaction as coming from God or the influence of the spirits of the dead. Then there is another class who have seen the absurdity of the medical profession and are willing to admit that there is something in what is embraced by mesmerism but believe that in time they can be accounted for on some principle not yet understood. This makes up men or society.

The religious persons I class in one scale: those who really believe that the Bible is of divine origin and have no doubts, and another class who have their doubts. The latter, in order to feel sure of their religion, will pay tithes for preaching and make great professions; they never use their influence for the benefit of mankind without a show. They generally pay well when it is for their interest. If they are traders, it is for custom; if they want political office, they pay those societies who will yield the most votes. Thus the world is made up of such material.

There is another class who mind their business. To them the world is merely a mechanical workshop and they allow everyone to follow their bent. This is not a small class, but it does not make any one noise in the world. Now all the above classes and many more besides are liable to be sick. They almost always call a physician, and from these, I have had a chance to learn the causes of most of the ills that flesh is heir to. When I first commenced investigating mesmerism, the phenomena were rare and scarcely any one believed, even in the sleep. It was so mysterious that it roused the minds of the masses to that degree that men took sides with considerable feeling. The first experiments were of that peculiar kind that they confounded the learned as well as the unlearned, and I was looked upon by some as a deceiver and by others as a humbug and by still others as ignorant but honest. Here were the most learned and liberal; but those men of education, among whom were doctors who had just come before the public, found a chance to make a show of their wisdom. So at every exhibition, I have to come in contact with some professor or doctor or minister who wanted to make himself popular at my expense.

I gave no explanation of the manner in which my experiments were done, so the investigation was to see that there was no collusion between the subject and myself. I have noticed how most people who have seen experiments in mesmerism have their opinions and try to make everything correspond with their belief, and as that is nothing more than a child's belief, it can be compared only to a bubble or sensation.

Happiness is the harmonizing of some disturbance. This disturbance is nothing of itself, but language makes its misery; so language excites it and happiness is only the name of rest from the disturbance or misery. We often hear of the evils of intemperance, etc. Now language of itself, like rum and tobacco, is harmless, but a bad use of either makes evil or discord. But of all evils, language is the worst. It is the groundwork of all other evils; it is at the bottom of every one that affects man. Some men live on it; they eat and drink it; deprive them of it, and they are not anything. All they are is language. Ask them for any scientific information and they are as hollow as a bubble. Language to them is like stimulant. It makes them talk about everything that they know nothing of but they get carried away by this false stimulant. (It never was the intention of the inventor of language that a bad use should be made of it, neither was it the intention of any true genius that his invention was to be applied to the destruction of life and happiness.) The discovery of wines and liquor was not to make misery but to elevate man, and the invention of gunpowder was not designed to make war but to defend us from our enemies. So language was invented to communicate sensation from one man to another so as to get him out of trouble. This is the origin of language and it is of no use except to facilitate certain plans. Genius never cares about language; his wisdom is all in the idea he wishes to accomplish. When it is accomplished, he wishes to convey the discovery to the world; and as the inventor is not the language, his invention must be introduced by someone who knows language but may or may not have genius. Genius is known in language only when language is the invention of genius to explain the wisdom of genius. The abuse of language is the root of all evil. You never hear of language itself doing any harm, but see if it is not the bottom of all misery. This rebellion would not have been started by the ignorance of language, for that must be used to corrupt the minds and get the people excited, and then they are ready for anything the leaders propose. Look at disease. If there never had been any language, the ideas advanced called disease would never have been heard.

P. P. Quimby

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