Shadow & Substance


November 1860


by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby


I will make one illustration to you to let you know how I get you into heaven in the presence of God or science. You know I told you, you were in a vacuum. I will now explain. When I speak to you, I do not speak to this shadow, but to the substance or your senses. Your senses make the shadow. You see this shadow on the wall. This is a shadow of a substance. But you take the shadow for the substance and attach your senses to it; not knowing that it is a shadow, but believing it to be a living, moving substance. So it is with every substance or idea that has been acknowledged to have a material form. Man, by general consent, has made matter; but God, not being man, has no matter, only as an idea. So matter to God or science is a medium of communication to the natural man in his own language or semblance.

Now all admit that they cannot imagine a thing so divided that it may not be divided again. They cannot see it so small, that it cannot be divided. So it is with wisdom. What comes in contact with your sight or touch is wisdom of this world. Everything that you cannot see and feel is belief, although it may be so near, and the veil so thin, that you would risk your life that it is true; yet there is a mist. In this mist lie all the mixtures of error and ignorance. Ignorance sees no mist, but is blind. Error sees a light, but it is a false one. So science sees error's light and knows it is a false one.

Now error, being superstitious, always sees through this mist and foretells future events. It created all kinds of bugbears on earth; as it does in heaven. The earth is its mother. Its ignorance is belief, so ignorance takes error for its guide. As error is superstitious, it makes to itself a belief, and to that attaches its senses. As it is very fond of instructing the ignorant in all things pertaining to this world of mystery, for its opinions are of no force; it has to prove them by science, it gets up a false standard; and if it can succeed in deceiving itself into a belief that it sees through this fog of its own make, then it has a basis for its belief.

So it has at last succeeded in making itself and the ignorant believe that in this fog or darkness is a land of pure delight, like Pike's Peak. And if man will leave all things here below, and take this chart or belief, they, like the children of Israel, will reach that land where there is no sorrow; where gold is as thick as gravel stones and where they can lie down on beds of down and walk the golden streets, never to get into any more trouble.

These are the arguments of the speculators of endless error. Their lives, like the speculators of the natural world, are constantly displaying their tracts or cards; holding out great inducements to the people to leave their homes of health and go to that land where no trouble ever returns, to bring back even an olive leaf. This is the land for which the prodigal son set out. And when he had spent his substance, he would have given his whole life as a servant to return once more to his father's house or health. But none of the speculators would even give him a husk to keep him from starving.

These speculators excite the people for their own benefit, till they are insane enough to leave house and home and all things dear to them, and like lost sheep, wander away from happiness and friends to be among strangers, where no friend comes ever to give them a cup of cold water to quench their thirst. Then they come to their senses and say, like the rich man, “Go tell my friends at home that I have been deceived; as there is so great a distance between you and me, I cannot go if I would, and I do not want you to come to me into this place of torment.” The speculator says all of this is false. If he had been steady at work, he would have done well. So he refers them to Moses and some others who made money and says, if he had listened to them, he would have succeeded; but as he did not listen to such, he failed.

— Nov., 1860.

P. P. Quimby

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