Disease, Love, Courage


June 1861


by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby


The question is often asked, what is disease? It could be very easily answered by a physician of the old school by simply pointing out a person coughing and saying that person has consumption. Now instead of calling that phenomenon by a name, explain how it came. This the doctor does not do, except by another phenomenon as much in the dark as the former. So you may chase him from one lie to another until you are tired and only find out at last that it is a mystery. Where do I stand as far as disease goes? I know that the bottom of these phenomena is a lie in the beginning and started by a liar till it was received as true; then the phenomenon is called disease.

Every idea is the embodiment of an opinion resolved into an idea. This idea has life or a chemical change, for it is the offspring of a man's wisdom and his senses are attached to it. For instance, you see something you would like. You attach your senses to the idea and then the value is in the idea in the shape of love or worth. If it is love, it is not in the idea but in the essence or author of the idea. I will try to make it plain. You see a person, at first sight you are affected, and you attach your senses to the idea in the form of love. You may, or may not be deceived. Passion or excitement is matter governed by error subject to love. Love is wisdom, passion is error acting upon ignorance. Science is to keep the two separate or in subjection to Wisdom. When two persons meet we think that the first impression comes from the idea or person, but this is not the case: the atmosphere around the idea is what is affected and this is not known to us, so we reason from a false basis, not knowing ourselves.

To give you a clearer idea of what I wish to convey, I must take myself as one person and my patient as another, When I sit down I am one person, that is, I am quiet, perfectly at ease, not afraid of any impression from my patient. My wisdom is my strength. My opponent's wisdom is in his error, for if he knew the truth he would not want me. So there are two persons in one body, or two mentalities acting through one medium, and as error is a coward it assumes a sort of courage. I do not know how to describe true courage, for wisdom needs no such word. I never knew that God showed any courage. It seems to be a sort of braggadocio element. If a dog shows courage it is based on the assumption that he is not afraid, for when overpowered his courage fails, so it shows that what is called courage in us is an element not perfectly understood. Take away the fear of danger, then man has courage. Some men see danger where others do not and so no two men reason alike, so no two men's courage is alike. I know no way of giving you a test of courage as well as to take myself.

When I first commenced my practice I thought I had courage as much as my neighbors, but as I found I was liable to be affected by another's feelings my courage failed. So I used some sort of stratagem to get the advantage of my patients and being rather reckless I ran risks which the world would call courageous. For instance, I was not afraid of an insane man if I could get his eye. To the world this looked like courage, but to me it was wisdom. I had no fear for I saw no harm. I have been trying to get wisdom in regard to the disease of mankind, for disease is like all other evils that come within our senses. When I first took the feelings of patients, it took courage to keep from taking the disease. I knew this kind of courage, it was fear lest I should be called a coward, so I would assume courage. But if I had known what I know now I should not have been in any more danger than a person would be in a boat where the water was not over three feet deep. But my courage admitted water twenty feet deep, rough at that, and myself in a leaky craft. As I began to touch bottom or get wisdom, I found that the depth of the water or the danger was in my patient's mind and I believed his story without looking for myself, and the patient seemed two men to me. Thus I found out the trouble his fears were one man and his ignorance another. To make courage out of fear was to make him believe there was no danger; then his courage would come, and to destroy both was to let him know the truth.

I know that disease is the invention of man, therefore it requires no courage to say so, for there is no danger. Danger is that which calls out fear and courage is the element to face it; so just as a man loses fear he gains courage. Some men never see danger, so their courage is not courage, but a sort of artificial pride which makes them wish to be praised for what they know not, for their ignorance destroys their fear. This was the case with myself. My ignorance made me bold, for I knew no danger, but as soon as I found I was liable to be affected by the sick my fears came. Then just as I saw danger my fears increased and my courage failed; but I would feel the same reckless propensity to kill disease, so I would be more cautious and more careful till I found my enemy had the same fears that I had. At last it became a sort of warfare between myself and a patient. I found that my courage was my protection and that error was an element or odor, while ignorance and fear was what arose from that. So I came to the conclusion; that ignorance begets error, error begets fear, fear begets courage, and Wisdom destroys them all. So as man grows wise he grows strong and his wisdom makes him happy and good, for goodness is wisdom, and Wisdom is the religion of Jesus.

The [conventional] religion is the opposite of that. One is the invention of man, the other is the wisdom of God which Jesus illustrated by taking a little child. I will do the same, to show that goodness is a science and also that all religion based on man's opinions must fall. One can be proved, the other cannot. I will illustrate the two by the child. Everyone will acknowledge that the child's character somewhat depends upon its bringing up. If this is admitted it shows that if the parents could see what was best for the child's happiness much of its misery might be avoided; this fact is evident to all. It is a fact like all others in science; sometimes it works well, sometimes ill, but when it works ill we see how it might be avoided, showing that if we had more knowledge we might do better. This shows that Science Wisdom reduced to practice, so as goodness is the result of our training, it is certain that to be good is a science, and as goodness is religion, that is a science. It is all summed up in this, that the world is made of ignorance, disease, religion and error, hypocrisy and all sorts of evil; and to be a follower of Jesus and believe in the Christ is to separate yourself from the world and stand alone in your wisdom. Thus you will learn that man without wisdom is of all things the most miserable; he is liable to get into trouble by every act of his life.

— June, 1861.

P. P. Quimby

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