Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

 

Lecture Notes 1843–1847

 

CLAIRVOYANCE

 

Clairvoyance is also an excited state of the mind, which enables the subject to see objects with an independent power of sight, without the use of the bodily eyes. It also implies the capacity to see every object to which the mind's attention is called, whether present or distant.

We have alluded to this state or capacity of mind in many of our experiments, but have not spoken of this power disconnected with other experiments. We recur to the subject again, to assert our belief in such a power, founded on facts which have come under our own observation and which we have been enabled to give to the public.

Thought-reading, itself, is more astounding, perhaps, than seeing independent of the organ of sight. Yet in the present state of the world, men who have witnessed these phenomena all agree that subjects in the mesmeric state will read the thoughts of those who are in communication with them. And by some it is asserted that this is all which constitutes clairvoyance.

We however, rely upon facts, which have not been controverted and cannot be explained on other principles than that the mind does possess the independent power of sight. We shall give a few examples illustrating this part of our subject and then proceed to show why so much reliance cannot be placed in the subject as is desirable, while exercising this faculty.

On a certain occasion, I took my subject to Brunswick, entered the college grounds, passed into the Anatomical Cabinet, and requested him to pass 'round the room and describe to me everything he saw, which arrested his attention. He commenced on the left, as you pass into the room, and described many things which I knew to be there. But there was one curiosity which he named with the rest, of which I had no recollection, and I was quite confident he had made a mistake.

I had occasion to visit Brunswick in a few days, and to satisfy my curiosity, called at the Anatomical Cabinet and found everything in precisely the same order as he had described them. The curiosity, of which I knew nothing, was there; and he must have actually seen it, or he could not have described it. It was not embraced in my thoughts, and the subject was perfectly ignorant of the existence of an Anatomical Cabinet connected with Bowdoin College, and had never been within thirty miles of the town.

On another occasion a friend of mine was in communication with a subject who had been excited (or mesmerized) and directed him to go to such a house, being occupied by a friend of his, and describe to him every particular about its external appearance. He did so, and in this minute description, was particular to speak of a peculiarity about that portion which was not in view of the street. After the experiment was over, my friend stated that he had given a correct description of the house, except the peculiarity of which we have spoken, and remarked that he was mistaken in that.

About a month after this, I met this same friend, and he related to me that my subject was correct in his description of the house; even to the peculiarity. He had visited the house, and upon examination, everything was found to agree with the minute description given by my subject.

During the winter of 1843, I visited Wiscasset with my subject and lectured before an audience and gave experiments illustrating my theory of mesmerism. After putting my subject into the clairvoyant state, a gentleman by the name of Clark was placed in communication with him.

Mr. Clark directed him to find the barque, on board of which was his son. He immediately saw the barque, described the vessel minutely, gave a general description of the Captain and Mate; and his son asked the Captain what time he would arrive in New York and received the answer, which he communicated to Mr. Clark in the presence of the whole audience.

I left Wiscasset on the following day and visited Bath. In a few days, I returned to Wiscasset and gave further experiments. Mr. Clark was again placed in communication with him and directed him to find the same vessel. He did so, and said she was hauling in to the wharf on dock in New York City at that moment, and that she arrived on such a day.

Upon making a calculation about the arrival of the mail, it was found that the news of her arrival would reach Wiscasset on the following day. When the mail came, many persons who had witnessed the experiment were at the post office, anxiously waiting the news and to test the truth of clairvoyance. The news was received of the barque's arrival, corresponding with the information communicated on the evening before, by my subject. This circumstance was related in the newspaper printed at Wiscasset at the time.

On another occasion, I placed my subject in communication with a gentleman who was an entire stranger to me, and he took him to a certain bridge. My subject saw the bridge and described it very particularly. The gentleman gave up the subject and declared to the audience that the description was incorrect, and he could not do anything with my subject at clairvoyance.

On the following day, I met the same gentleman, and he assured me that my subject was correct, according to what he had learned since last evening; that the bridge had been rebuilt since he had seen it and many material alterations made, such as my subject described.

We would remark here that many experiments of a similar character have been set down at the time as a partial failure, but that it was ascertained afterwards that the communicants were in the error and that the subject was correct.

My subject was placed in communication with a lady who directed him to her father's house, which he described with particularity, even noticing the closets and doors and often giving a description of each member of the family, said there was an old lady sitting in the corner with a pair of spectacles over her eyes and that she was knitting.

The lady immediately wrote home and ascertained that, at the time named by my subject, there was such an individual present in the room, answering to the description of my subject, and that she was also knitting.

While in Bangor, a lady was put in communication with my subject and requested him to go with her. He complied and described a certain house and the flower-garden about it; even the shape of the flower beds. While he was going on with the description, he exclaimed at the top of his lungs, "Get out, get out!"

She enquired what he saw, and he replied that there was a great dog digging up one of the beds and destroying the flowers. He also asked the lady if she did not see him; that he should think she might, as the dog had made so large a hole!

This house and garden was situated in Gardiner. The lady immediately wrote to G. and received an answer that my subject was correct; that there was a dog which did actually dig into one of the beds and destroy the flowers. Some time after this, I met one of the ladies of the house at Gardiner, who related to me the same facts.

During a session of the District Court in this village in 1842, some curiosity was exhibited among many distinguished gentlemen present to witness some of my experiments. I called on Judge Allen and found Gov. Anderson, Judge Briggles, the Rev. Mr. Hodgsdon and others present.

Several experiments were performed. The Rev. Mr. Hodgsdon, being placed in communication with my subject, took him to Dexter where his family were then residing. He described the house and family and said there was a small child sick, lying in the cradle; that Mrs. Hodgsdon said the child was getting better, etc.

Mr. Hodgsdon corrected Lucius, and told him that he was mistaken about the cradle; that there was no cradle in the house. Lucius replied that there was and that the child was lying in it; and he would not yield to Mr. Hodgsdon's correction.

The following day, he returned to his family and found that Lucius was correct; that a cradle had been borrowed of one of his neighbors and that the child was lying in it, was getting better, etc., just as had been related by my subject.

While in the city of Boston, Dr. W________ performed an experiment with my subject; took him to his father's house, and he described many things and said they were roasting beef in the kitchen. This was in the evening and seemed rather singular that beef-roasting should be going on at that time.

The Dr. visited his father's the following day, being Thanksgiving, and learned that what my subject had said was true.

A gentleman in this village, who was given a little to skepticism towards clairvoyance, although he was confident of the power of thought-reading, requested me to call at his office with my subject at such an hour. In the meantime, he had been to his house and requested his wife to arrange something in a certain room, different from what it was then, and not let him know what the change was to be.

The gentleman returned to his office, and the room was put in order. My subject was taken to the room and described all the particulars, which the gentleman found to be correct upon his return. I took him to the room, myself, and he asked me if I heard what the lady said. I enquired what it was, and he replied, "She says, 'I wish he would come, if he is coming. I wonder if he is here now.'"

This was found to be the conversation of the lady while in the room at the time my subject was there, directed to her mother, who was also present.

A lady who had been frequently thrown into the mesmeric state by me, desired to be directed to Boston and ascertain when her son, who was residing there, would be home. I mesmerized her and directed her to Boston. She visited her son and asked him when he would be in Belfast. He answered her on such a day, which proved to be correct.

I also, on another occasion, took her to Boston to see her son. She said he had left in the schooner, Comet. I then directed her to find the Comet. She did and said it was just at that time coming out of a certain harbor, giving the name; and that she would arrive in Belfast on such a night, and that he would be home on the following morning, after her arrival. He came, according to her prediction.

These experiments are introduced to prove true clairvoyance; that the subject does actually see objects which do not exist in the mind of the operator and of which the operator could have no knowledge; that there is something in all these facts seen independent of any other power than independent sight.

Every experiment develops something which is found to be true and cannot be explained upon the principle of thought-reading. We say, then, that the mind is capable of such excitement, or of attaining to a state in which it may see without bodily eyes; and also be present with all things at the same instant.

In other words, to the mind, independent of the body, there is no such impediment as time, space, distance and materiality; but that it only requires direction, and all its inherent faculties are in operation, giving its attention to the object to which it has been directed.

The eye, ear, nose, sense of touch or the tongue is nothing, except as they convey, in our natural state, certain sensations to the mind, from which a peculiar state of emotions arise.

The faculty of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch exists in the mind, independent of the organs by which objects are communicated to these faculties. And cut off these organs or appendages, and then mind acts directly, or receives its impressions directly, from external and internal objects.

If then, you institute a peculiar state of the mind called mesmeric, and close up the bodily eyes, the faculty of the mind does not cease to act. It is rather, in part, freeing the soul from its narrow confinement in the sphere of acquiring knowledge through the limited means of the eye, and giving it a range of sight, limited only by the laws of mind, and not the laws of matter.

It returns more like itself, when it shall have been entirely divested of man's materiality and left free, not to roam throughout the ranges of thought, but to be existent, with all its original faculties in full display; with all the creations of the Great First Cause.

We have given experiments to show the position we have taken; experiments which we challenge the world to gainsay and which we cannot explain by any other principles than these we have laid down as governing the mind at all times, under similar circumstances.

We say conclusive proofs are given in these facts of the mind's capacity to see through all space, or to be present with all things in the universe and behold them, independent of the bodily eye and independent of the knowledge of the operator.

The question then arises, “Will the subject, at all times, act and see independent of the operator and state the true condition of the object to which their attention is called?”

I answer, “They will not,” and that experiments of this character often fail. But this does not arise from the inability of the subject to see and relate the facts; but from the controlling influence of the operator over the mind of the subject, which induces the subject to describe the thoughts and ideas of the individual in communication with him, rather than to look to the object or scene, itself, and describe from actual view.

It appears to be an easier task for a subject under the control of an individual to read the thoughts of his controller about certain things, than to describe such things from actual sight.

I will relate an experiment here which I tried when I first began to magnetize.

I had been out during the evening, giving some private experiments, and on returning home, lost my pocket handkerchief. I heard nothing from it for more than a week. I then magnetized my subject and requested him to find it. He told me where I could find it; described the individual who picked it up in the street, and told where it was found.

The next morning, I saw an individual answering to the description and enquired of him if he had found a handkerchief, and he replied that he had and told me when and where; which was precisely as my subject had told me.

Flushed with my success in this experiment, I adopted the rule that my subject would, under all circumstances in the mesmeric state, find anything which might be lost. My faith was unbounded with my new discovery, and I began to dream of hidden treasures and mountain views and diamonds in the desert, when lo! — the very next experiment I made was a total failure!

This drove me back again into the real world, and I was obliged to feel along slowly and cautiously to discover the cause of my disaster. It was in part owing to the influence I exercised over my subject; compelling him to read my thoughts, rather than to give me the real state of things, and partly from the condition of the subject, not having passed into the high clairvoyant state.

We will give a few experiments in thought-reading and show when we are sometimes deceived in our experiments.

I mesmerized my subject in private and resolved to try experiments in thought-reading and satisfy myself as to the power of a subject to describe the thoughts of another. I commenced by bringing before my mind a house, which he immediately saw and described, according to my thought. I then would imagine a cat and a dog, and my subject would answer instantly, as the image was formed in my mind. I then brought before me a whole caravan of animals of various classes and sizes, commencing with a platoon of elephants, then lions, tigers, rhinocerous, camels, monkeys, baboons, etc.

My subject would, without hesitation, describe them as they arose in thought in my mind. I would think of an army of officers and soldiers passing in review, and he would relate all my thoughts. I would imagine a person coming, who was well-known to my subject, and he would call him by name.

And a host of such experiments were performed, which would fill a volume; all going to show with what accuracy and rapidity he would read my thoughts.

In my public exhibitions, I have given experiments of the same character.

On one occasion, a lady requested me to place her in communication with my subject. I gave her a seat on the stage and requested my subject to go to Michigan, where the lady said her husband was, and find the lady's husband. He did so, and gave a very minute description of the gentleman; stated how long he had been there, named his occupation and that he had written a letter to his wife, and told the contents of the letter.

This was done in the presence of a large audience; many of whom were acquainted with the facts and did testify to the truth of his disclosure. The lady, I will state, did not speak while my subject was going on with his description, and she and her husband were entire strangers to me and my subject.

During a session of the Supreme Court in Belfast, Judge Tenney presiding, there was some little excitement upon the subject of mesmerism. Judge Tenney was anxious to witness a few experiments. I called at his room one evening, and I placed my subject, after I had mesmerized him, under his control.

The Judge wrote on a piece of paper, folded it up, and held it in his hand. He then requested my subject to go with him to a certain house and asked him whom he saw. He exclaimed it was a little deformed man and described him, giving his height and appearance.

The Judge then handed me the paper, and upon it was written that he had a brother who was deformed, etc., giving a description very similar to that of my subject.

R. B. Allyn, Esq., of this village, was desirous of satisfying himself as to my subject's power of thought-reading. He named the experiment he was going to try to no one, but carefully wrote a description of a large house he was going to imagine and filed the description in his drawer, not allowing anyone to know its contents.

He described a sign over the door with the word "abandoned" written upon it. He also located the house on his own premises below the village, upon which there is no building. After I had placed him in communication with my subject, he put this question to him. "Will you go with me?" — not stating where. He answered, "Yes."

"Now Lucius, can you tell me what I am looking at?"

He replied, "A large house."

"Be particular, and describe the house and the grounds around it."

Lucius immediately proceeded to give a description of the house, observed the sign over the door, and read off the word "abandoned," and described its location and the appearance of the lands about it. Mr. Allyn then took from his drawer the paper containing the description of the house, corresponding precisely with that given by Lucius; and even to the word “abandoned” written upon the sign.

While in the city of Boston, some young gentlemen of my acquaintance called on me and desired to see some private experiments. I complied and placed my subject, after mesmerizing him, in communication with several of them. One of them, however, did not succeed well in what he designed to bring before my subject. Indeed, a total failure attended every effort he made in this experiment.

I took the young gentleman to one side and requested him to relate to me what experiment he wished Lucius to perform. He complied and said he was trying to bring a gentleman by the name of Lowel, of Ellsworth, before his mind; that Lucius might describe him.

It so happened that I was acquainted with Lowel, and my subject had also seen him. I returned to my subject and imagined the gentleman coming towards me in his peculiar manner of walking. Lucius soon described him and said it was Esq. Lowel, of Ellsworth.

This was true thought-reading; only describing my own ideas.

Individuals have presented a box containing various articles and requested my subject to describe them. This he would do with accuracy, either from reading the thoughts of those who presented it, they knowing what it contained; or from actually seeing the articles themselves, by an independent power of sight.

So in almost all the experiments we have related in thought-reading, the subject may be said to either describe the thoughts of those around him or to actually see and describe the persons and objects, themselves.

Where an explanation may be given in thought-reading or clairvoyance, it is difficult and perhaps impossible to tell from which the subject acts. And perhaps he may be governed in part by one power and in part, by the other. We think this fact will explain much of the difficulty which attends experiments in true clairvoyance.

Another cause of failure and which is in close connection with this part of our subject is that a subject will often be influenced in his description and conduct by an association of ideas, which leads him astray, and to talk often upon some subject entirely foreign to that which was first presented.

I will give one example illustrating my ideas upon this subject, and it will correspond precisely with what I have before remarked in this work, when speaking upon the principles of association.

Two individuals come into my room and see a large book upon my table. Both observe it and thoughts arise; or impressions are received, which give rise to trains of thought. But each has his peculiar train, different from the other, although the same book gave rise to each train.

One will be reminded of a similar book, which he saw in a certain place at such a time, and what transpired in connection with it. The other would, perhaps, be reminded of something very unlike the book itself; perhaps a person, a country, a city, an army or almost any idea of thought different from the other.

So that if you enquire of each about what train of thought arose upon seeing the book, they would name something entirely different. The application of this principle to mesmerized subjects is this.

Subjects sometimes are in such a condition that, upon receiving a first impression, their mind is immediately led off upon such objects or transactions as are associated with this first impression; and if you request them to describe the object which caused this first impression, the rapidity of thought is such that they would be quite as likely to describe some portion of the train of thought which follows, as the object itself.

On this principle, a subject might not describe either the object itself, nor read the thoughts of those around him, but describe minutely an idea of their own creation or association, which follows in the train of thought first set in motion by the object to which one had called the attention of the subject.

As though I beheld a book, and a train of thought commences which leads me to think of some friend, almost at the same instant which I beheld the book. Someone who had called my attention to the book would ask me to describe it, and if I should then proceed to describe my friend about whom I was thinking, by the time the question should be put, instead of the book — this would be a parallel case to a mesmerized mind governed by the same principle.

We have heard of men; indeed, witnessed ourselves the act, who in their natural state, reply to questions without giving the correct answer, but speak of something brought to the mind by the question; although one observing could not discover any relation between the answer given and the question put.

On a certain occasion I magnetized my subject and directed him to go to such a well and measure accurately the depth of the water. He did so, and told to one-fourth of an inch the depth of the water. This was independent sight, because I did not know anything in relation to the well.

Now if I had known how deep the water was and thought it, and the subject had described my thoughts and given the true depth — this would be thought-reading. If, however, I had taken him to the well and he, upon seeing the water or upon being reminded of it, should associate with it the depth of another well he had actually measured in his waking state, and instead of giving the true depth, given that of the well he measured before he was mesmerized — this would be an answer on the principle of association. This is another action of the mind, under different circumstances.

We have, therefore, given examples, proving to a demonstration that there are such states of mind as clairvoyant, thought-reading, and that arising from association. The mind sometimes acts in one of these capacities and sometimes in another, and is also governed at other times by the principle of association.

Now the difficulty in a clairvoyant subject is this. The mesmerized mind is liable to be under the partial control of all these conditions at the same time, and would describe an object; partly from actual independent sight, partly from thought reading, and partly from association — and the result, always, is a total failure in all.

We are not able, in this early stage of our science, to give definite rules by which we can tell how far the subject may be led astray from independent sight by these two other principles. Indeed we have no barometer by which to ascertain how much weight our own thoughts or the associations of the subject, may have over the mesmerized mind.

In the progress of future advancement, this mystery may be solved; and subjects, under proper regulations, may discover to the operator the true action of his mind; whether it be seeing, thought-reading or association.

When mesmerism has attained this height in the march of its discoveries, a new and brighter era in the history of the world will have dawned upon humanity; the ignorance of the past will be entombed in the light of the future; and truth, disrobed of superstition, will govern paramount the universe of immortal thought.

Our remarks have thus far been confined to what we are pleased to call the "development of the metaphysical mysteries" of our subject; mesmerism.

We have sought to select that system which appears to be most consistent with the facts we have offered; that system only by which we can explain satisfactorily the wonderful phenomena of mind. We have thought our course, thus far, justifiable upon the ground that a complete knowledge of the development of mesmerism is necessary to a good understanding of the practical part of our science. We protest against a mere knowledge of results, without cause. We should know rather the cause, and we may then produce or prevent results.

Our course has been to introduce such explanation as appears consistent with all the experiments given; and as far as we had the power, to enlighten the understanding, rather than to mystify what has already been too mysterious. How far we have succeeded, an intelligent community will act as our tribunal, and we shall rest satisfied with their candid decision.

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