Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

 

Lecture Notes 1843–1847

 

IMAGINATION

 

Another individual present, who began to ridicule the fact and made some strong remarks against any power I might exercise over him, desired me to make a simple experiment upon his foot and leg. I immediately wrote upon a piece of paper, not letting anyone know the writing, and laid it down upon the table and told him I had written upon that paper what kind of a sensation I would produce upon his foot and leg.

I commenced the operation, and in about two minutes, he said his foot and leg began to prickle and felt as though it was going to sleep. I handed him the paper, and he read just what he had felt.

Some have replied to similar experiments above that they were the results of imagination. We reply that the subject did not know what kind of a sensation we should produce and therefore, could not imagine in the case. To him it was a reality, because he felt the prickling sensation and did not imagine that I was going to produce it.

I have frequently taken persons and endeavored to produce a warm or cold sensation upon their limbs, without their knowledge and have succeeded in bringing about my wishes.

A certain physician, who was a complete skeptic, and perhaps more in a jocose manner than otherwise, invited me to visit one of his patients. I complied, and after looking at the patient and fixing her attention upon me, took the physician outside and told him what sort of a sensation I would produce upon her.

We returned to her, and I commenced impressing her mind with the same feeling I had named to the physician. She immediately complained of being cold and trembling, which was the very feeling I had been trying to produce. The physician, I presume, will recollect the circumstance and vouch for the fact.

We might fill up our pages with hundreds of experiments, similar to those we have given and all performed in the same manner.

Perhaps my readers may, at this point, enquire in what manner all these simple experiments are performed. It is simply this.

I first get the attention of my subject, endeavoring to exclude all other external influences and drawing their mind to myself. I then work up the sensation I wish to produce upon my subject in my own mind, and it is immediately communicated to that of the subject, and a correspondent feeling will be the result.

It is the simple process of mind acting upon mind. It is necessary to draw the attention of the subject to myself, in order to receive the impression, because no one could receive impressions from external objects, unless he should give his attention to them.

The public speaker makes it the first object to gain the attention of his audience and then proceeds to reason out the whole subject; and they are also prepared to go on with the speaker and receiving corresponding emotions with him. So in mesmerizing, some powerful impression must be produced to draw the attention of the subject and exclude other external influences, and then the mind is prepared for further action.

All these simple experiments can be more easily performed if the subject is told what result you desire to effect; yet they can be performed, and I have repeatedly given them, without any knowledge of my desire having been communicated to the subject.

In the town of Skowhegan, on the banks of the Kennebec, I met with a young man, deaf and dumb, but was a very sensitive subject and easily operated upon in his waking moments. I requested him to sit down and place his hand upon the table, and count by raising his hand up and down. I then asked someone to direct me to stop him, when he had made a certain number of counts; naming to me the number.

When he had made the particular counts, I willed him to stop, and he did so. I then impressed his mind with the desire to walk back and forth upon the floor, and he arose and commenced walking. A gentleman asked me to stop him when he arrived at a certain point, and I exercised my power upon his mind, and he stopped instantly at the very point.

I then desired him to speak to me, and he made a noise. I made a stronger impression upon his mind to speak louder, and he made a stronger effort to talk; graduating his effort and raising his voice (or noise), with my thoughts impressing him to speak louder or softer. Someone then asked him in writing if he heard me speak, and he answered that his “mind heard." And so it is.

The mind hears, sees, feels and causes every action of the body. And impressions are conveyed directly upon the mind, when the attention is given to the operator in such a manner as to shut out all other influences. And to produce these impressions and sensations when the mind of the subject is thus prepared, the operator must produce, in himself, the same sensation which he would communicate to the subject.

The experiments last mentioned upon the deaf and dumb young man were performed without the subject knowing, by any of his outward senses, what I could design. I was behind the subject and out of his sight during the most part of the experiments. I took every precaution in this case, as I have done repeatedly, to place the experiments upon such a basis that no one could attribute them to the imagination.

A young lady, who was passing some time at my house during the past season, was sitting in the keeping room, and I was in one of my chambers with my little daughter. I requested my daughter to go down into the keeping room, and tell the young lady I wished her to give her attention to me for a few minutes; that I wished to perform some experiments upon her. I also requested my daughter to remain with her, and see what they were.

I then commenced the operation of my mind, to paralyze one of her limbs. In a few minutes, her foot moved out and became entirely paralyzed. I then willed her to rise and walk, and she immediately obeyed, saying to my daughter, "Your father desires me to walk, and it is impossible for me to resist."

I willed her to come to the chamber door; that I had something to say to her. She then asked my daughter if her father did not speak. Upon her replying that he did not, she said, "He did and wishes to tell me something." She came to my door and asked me if I did not speak to her. I replied that I did - in my mind, but not with my voice. She could not believe that she did not hear my voice.

These experiments were done in the evening, and my wife being absent, I told her that I should will her to ask my wife a question when she returned, but would not tell her what it should be. Wishing to see how far I could carry out this principle of operating upon her mind directly, I willed her to ask my wife if she had turned the cat outdoors. In two hours from that time, my wife came in, and as she came upstairs, she enquired if she had turned the cat outdoors.

Such experiments as I have named above, and others of the same character, I have performed upon subjects in their waking state. I find, however, but few persons who are very susceptible of such impressions; yet I have given them before so many persons that they, by those who witnessed them, cannot be disputed.

During my public exhibitions, I have practiced my subject, after the evening's exhibition is nearly closed, in similar experiments. I have left him and passed into another room and requested someone to tell me which of his arms to paralyze. Having directed me, he would return to my subject and request him to give his attention to me; that I was about to perform an experiment upon one of his limbs, arms or legs, not allowing him to know which. Soon the arm which I was requested to affect would become paralyzed.

Such experiments I have given to the public on many occasions. It is more difficult to influence the mind in the waking state than when mesmerized. Yet these experiments were done when he was awake.

My reader may enquire whether such experiments are not all the influence of the imagination. We reply that they are not imaginary, but real. The impressions received by the subject are real and not imaginary, and the results are also real and not imaginary. The arm or foot does become paralyzed, and there is no imagination about it.

If it were the result of an excited imagination, the sequences could not be real. In the case of my subject, how could he know which arm I intended to operate upon? If he imagined, he could not produce the paralysis; and therefore, no one can attribute it to imagination.

We have given our views more at length upon what we consider the power of imagination in another part of this work and shall not now go into a discussion of the subject so particularly. The distinction, however, is very clear between real and imaginary experiments or states of mind.

If I act from an impression upon my mind, which I believe to be true, there is no imagination about the transaction. If I create an impression in my own mind, which I know to be from a false cause, or if I receive an impression and know it to be the result of my imagination, it could not further affect me.

Suppose I imagined that my arm was paralyzed. Would that state of the mind bring about the real condition, which I imagined? And if to me who imagined it, it should appear real, which circumstance would only be after the continuance of the imagination, would this imaginary condition of mind appear real to an individual who might be standing by?

If it were the result of my imagination, it would not appear real to a disinterested bystander. And if it should appear and really be paralyzed, and hundreds of individuals should witness the fact, I presume that these individuals would not be willing to ascribe it to the powers of imagination.

Indeed, a man might imagine a thousand things, none of which would turn out to be true, because there is no truth in imagination. Men often act from false causes; not, however, false in appearance to them. The impressions they receive, of course, are real; and we cannot ascribe results from such real impressions as flowing from an excited imagination.

These experiments then, are real; flowing from real impressions which are produced by causes which appear real, and are so, to the subject; although the operator may have produced the cause without a real existent object. It is then imaginary to the operator, but reality to the subject.

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