The Effect Of Religion On Health


June 1860


by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby


I will give my opinion of the inconsistency of our religious beliefs and their effect upon health. I was visiting a patient whose state differed very much from what is called rheumatism and general disability of the nervous system.¹ The doctors had tried their best to relieve her but to no effect; their efforts only made her worse, and at last she sent for me. I found her very nervous, complaining of aches and pains all over. When I told her that it was her mind that was disturbed she replied, "Oh, no, my mind is at rest. I know I am in the hands of a merciful God who will deal with me according to His will. I have full faith in Him." Do you suppose He knows your troubles? I asked. "Yes, He knows all things." Suppose Jesus were here as He was eighteen hundred years ago do you think He could cure you? "Oh, yes. I know He knows all my suffering." Then why does He not cure you? "Because it is His will that I should go through all this suffering to fit me for the kingdom of heaven." Now suppose your daughter should be taken sick away from home in a strange land among strangers and suppose some kind friend should call on her and say, "You seem very low spirited" and she should reply, "Oh, no I know that it is all right." "Suppose your mother were here, would you not get well?" "Yes, she knows all my sufferings, but she knows it is all right to make me better prepared to enjoy her company when I get home." "Do you believe that if she had a mind to cure you she could do so?" "Certainly." "Can you say you love your mother when you admit your life is in her hands and she permits you to suffer so much?" "Oh, she is my mother, and I feel that she knows what is for the best. It gives me comfort to know that I am in the hands of a merciful being." [Despite this reasoning the patient fails to admit a point, and so Dr. Quimby, once more addressing her, says:] Would you like to have me cure you? "Yes, if you can, but not if I must give up my belief in my religion. I should rather go down to the grave with my religion than be cured and lose my belief. If you can cure me of my lameness and not talk to me about my religion I should like to get well, but if you cannot cure me without that I do not know as I will be cured, for I don't think my religion bas anything to do with my disease." Do you not think your belief has something to do with your happiness? "Oh, yes, but it has nothing to do with my disease." What is your disease? "Why, it is rheumatism, the doctors say, and a general prostration of the nervous system." What is that? "Neuralgia, I suppose." What is that? "I do not know." Suppose I should try to explain how you came to be in this condition, would you listen? "Yes, if you do not talk religion." I have no religion to talk. "I know you have not." Have you? "I hope I have." Well, I do not want it if it makes me as sick and unhappy as you. "All the comfort I take while lying here all these long nights is to think that I am in the hands of a merciful God who will do all things right." Would you like to get well? "If it is the will of God, I should be very glad to get well." Do you think I can cure you? "I do not know, but I hope you can; if you can't I shall give up all hopes of ever being well." Then you think your health depends on my science? "Yes." If I should cure you would you give me credit? "Oh, yes." But would it be right to upset the will of God who is keeping you in this misery for His own pleasure? "Oh, if God sees fit to have it I believe it is all right. I know I feel badly and I should like to feel better, but if it is the will of God that I must suffer I will submit for I know it is for the best. God suffered in the flesh to teach us to be better prepared for heaven."

Then you think if you should die you would go to heaven? "I hope so, for I cannot suffer these pains always." Where is heaven? Do you believe it is a place? "Oh, no." Then what is it? "It is a state of mind." Then you are not very near it, I should judge by your own mind. "Well, I do not know as that has anything to do with my pains." What is pain? "I don't know what it is, but I know how it feels." How do you know it? "I know it through my senses." Are your senses affected by your mind? "I suppose so." Then if your mind is disturbed and you put a false construction on the disturbance, won't it produce an unpleasant effect upon the senses? "I suppose so." Suppose this unpleasant effect should be pain, is it not the effect produced on the mind? "I don't know what that has to do with my lameness. I want to get well." Who wants to get well? "I." That is, you, Mrs. H ? "Yes." Is not that all there is of you that has any mind or knowledge? "Yes." You do not expect this flesh and blood to go to heaven? "No." Why not? "Because the Bible says flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom 'of heaven." I thought you just said heaven was a state of mind. "So I did." Well, do you mean that flesh and blood are in the mind? "Oh, you make me so nervous, you will kill me." Why? "Because I don't like to hear you talk so. My mind is all made up and I do not want to be disturbed in this way." Do you mean your flesh and blood are disturbed? "Oh you disturb my mind and body." Then your mind is one thing and your body another. You believe in the soul? "Yes." You believe it goes to heaven when you die? "Yes." I thought you said heaven was a state of mind. "Oh, yes, but we must die." What dies? "This flesh and blood." Well, has it life? "Yes." Has it feeling? "You would think so if you suffered as much as I." Then this that suffers is the flesh and blood? "Yes." Then it is conscious of all these bad feelings? "Yes." Are the feelings its consciousness or has it another consciousness independent of itself? "No." Then at death you mean that all of these aches and pains leave you and you will be happy? "Yes."

Then these aches and pains are the body's identity and belong to the flesh and blood? "Yes." Are you happy when you feel so badly? "No." Then you are not in heaven? "I don't expect to be happy until I get to heaven" Can you get there and have these pains? "No." Then when the pains leave you it will be heaven on earth? "Yes, if that ever takes place."

Now, let us see where you stand. You have admitted enough to show that your mind is in a confused state like a person in trouble. You have not one particle of true knowledge. Your supposed knowledge is the effect of an impression on the senses, due to the opinion of someone who explained some one's ideas according to his own view of truth. This opinion taken for truth makes you nervous and brings about all your suffering. You are afraid of your enemies and you pray to the God whom you admit keeps you in misery. You are taught to believe that God is watching all your actions, that He has laid down certain laws and regulations for you to follow and if you disobey you will be punished. This keeps you in bondage and all your life subject to disease. But to suppose God selects you to be punished above your companions is to believe God is partial. This you cannot believe.

Now look at those who worship God; they have a false idea of the God they worship. God is not in any kind of worship that man has established. God is not an identity as man is, if He were He would be in matter. The ignorance of man cannot see intelligence out of matter, so all prayers are in matter, and all that people are afraid of contains matter. This false idea keeps man in the dark. You never see a man praying to the fire that warms him, nor does he pray to the elements. How is it with steam? Is not the person who knows the most about steam the best one to control it, and does not everyone have more confidence in such a person than in one who is ignorant of it? So it is with the elements. Man differs in one respect from living matter: he has undertaken to control the elements so as to make them subservient to his will. We often hear persons talking about the laws of nature, as though they were the laws of God and they say if we did not disobey them all would go right. Now, here is the mistake. The laws of nature are very simple of themselves and they never trouble man if he does not trouble them. The beasts conform to these laws, for when they are thirsty they find the laws that quench their thirst, if left to themselves, and when hungry the same intelligence dictates the remedy. But man in his eagerness to be lord over the brutes and elements has developed faculties called senses. These are under a superior wisdom which can control the elements and use them for the benefit of the human race. Now, it is not to be expected that every person who happens to think of flying can make a flying machine that will be successful. Nor is it certain that any invention to control the elements will always work so that accidents as they are called will not take place and lives lost and much trouble made before Science is established. So it is with life. Life is a science that is little understood. The brutes have no desire to investigate science. Man is the only one who has undertaken it. Let us see how far he has progressed. It is a fact that man's life is shortened by his own belief, for his belief is his practice and the length of his life is in his theory. Everyone has his theory in regard to the lengthening of life, but all admit it must end, that it is set in motion and may run down sometime. Some think life is a perpetual machine that never was set in motion and can never stop. To solve this life and save it from being lost is the great problem. Theories for the benefit of man are invented to save his life. He is given the knowledge of every danger he is liable to pass through and is warned against them. These call out the science and skill of the world, to put man in possession of a science to save his life as though his life were something independent of himself. This makes competition [and there is no science which teaches that life is eternal and that the discoveries of man go to destroy the happiness of life itself. Life cannot be destroyed but error can keep life in trouble.

A science which established life as an eternal principle is not for itself but for the happiness of mankind. In error there is continual warfare-one party or sect invents all sorts of bugbears to frighten man so as to get a chance to save something called life. So man is told if he does not believe just so, he will lose his life. Another who has made the elements his study and endeavored to control them finds that they are a great enemy to mankind and it is necessary for the preservation of human life that the people should know how to control them. And in order to give man this knowledge it requires that there should be a certain class of people who devote their time to it, who can show by their theory that life is in the knowledge of their practice or science. For instance, they show for one fact that fire will burn you to death and this ends your life according to their belief or theory; but you may be nearly scalded to death and then there is a chance for the science to save your life. This requires all their science. Experiments are tried and facts set down by persons trying them, and when a new phenomenon is produced, that is set down as a scientific fact. Thus the world has been humbugged by these blind guides leading the blind till their theory of opinions, like the locusts of Egypt, are in everything we eat or drink or wear. You cannot do anything but there is a penalty attached. If you go out of doors, you are liable to take cold. In short, all evils called disease are the inventions of man and they are as real as his life for they have complete power over it and we are afraid of them because they can destroy our lives. Now here is the trouble. Error has taken life as a thing that can be destroyed. Truth makes error matter that can be changed into any form or shape, and error is the servant to life or truth but error supposes it is the master and thinks that life or truth is the servant. So when the servant is above the master then error and superstition reign. But when the truth comes, error dies and as truth never makes war, it sits and sees error destroy itself.

I will try to separate these two powers, as far as disease goes, so that you can see to which of these elements you are subject. As matter is under the direction of life, it is its servant, and as life does not act, it is like a lord who has servants and gives his vineyard to man for their happiness. If the overseer gives to the servants false directions, disease is the result and confusion and unhappiness reign. But the disease or result is in the direction and not in the effect. Error puts disease in the result but the lord (of the vineyard) puts it in the direction. Therefore, when he comes to settle with his servants and finds that the overseer is ignorant of what he is about, he turns out that overseer and lets his vineyard to some other who will do better. So it is with our health. Health and happiness are a result of our acts and belief. They are under error or truth and all the misery that follows our belief is the natural consequence of our opinions. To suppose that we could be happy in a belief that puts restrictions on us is an error, for it is impossible for us to feel pain without knowing it. And to know the cause and know that it is from an intelligence that has the power to stop it if He pleases and will not (giving no reason, only what we may conjure up) is to believe that God is worse than we are ourselves. All of these errors arise from a superstitious mind, not daring to think or not having capacity to think, which lives in an error and is all his life subject to disease for the sake of his belief. Now God is not in this belief at all. He is in that truth that destroys this belief. I will make an illustration showing where error is, also where God is. Take the fire. The child is burned and is afraid of the fire and looks upon it as its enemy. Science sees the child's error and that its knowledge is error. The child tries to get rid of its enemy, supposing it will harm it. Its true knowledge will correct the child and then the wisdom of this world becomes subject to truth or science. So it is with all true knowledge. There is no true knowledge in an opinion and, as the most of our knowledge is made up of opinions, we are to ourselves just what we think we are.

Religions and medical opinions are the worst enemies that man has to contend with and they make him nervous. This leads to all sorts of dissipation to drown sorrow.] Our lives are like a journey through a wilderness. We first take the priests' opinion, that is, to trust in God. When we ask an explanation of God we are answered that He knows all things and not a hair of our head falls to the ground without God knows it; if we look to Him, He will deliver us from all danger, and He takes better care of us than a parent does of his child. This is a brief sketch of God's goodness. Now suppose we should not do quite as well as we expect, then what follows? God has made a devil, a something worse that stands ready to catch us if we don't go according to His will or laws. These things are not defined, but like the laws of the United States, every president can construe them according to his belief. The laws of God made by man are arbitrary, though not acknowledged as such. Jesus said "Call no man master but one and that is God." Here you see you have made a God that is full of inconsistencies and cannot stand the test of common reason. Now look at the true scientific answer to all our beliefs and it shows us that they contain no knowledge of God or life, for God is life eternal and this life was in His Son, Jesus, which was Christ or Science. Now to suppose you lose your life is to be cut off from God, for God is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him. Now destroy man's belief and introduce God's truth, then we are set free from this world of error and introduced into the world of light or Science, where there is no death but the living God. This Science will lead us to that happy state where there is no sickness, sorrow, or grief, where all tears are wiped away from our eyes, and there we shall be in the presence of this great Truth that will watch us and hold us in the hollow of its hand and will be to us a light that will open our eyes. We shall not then be deceived by blind guides who say peace, peace, when there is no peace. Then we shall call no one master or leader, for there is but One that leads us and that is God. He puts no restriction upon us, for our lives are in His hands or Science [, but our happiness or misery is in our belief. For our belief is what follows a direction. So if we are misdirected and disease or misery is the result, blame not God, or the result, but blame the cause or false direction. We, through our ignorance, put God into the false direction but not into the effect. But there can be no effect without a cause; therefore God or the cause is in the effect; so is the devil or ignorance in the cause and effect. Now to suppose that God is in the devil or error is to put God on a level with the errors of this world.

I will give an illustration of these two powers. Man has no idea of God but error pretends to know all about Him. Error says that all the hairs of our head are numbered and not one hair falls to the ground unnoticed by Him. Now what would be the most liberal construction that a child would have of God as far as His knowledge over us is concerned? For the Bible says, "Except you become as a little child you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven." Would it not be that God has eyes as the child has and is watching us and if a hair should fall He sees it? We are taught by this same error that God is watching all our acts and if we should happen to do something that is not in accordance with some person's opinion then we have disobeyed His will, are liable to be punished and thank the Lord for it.

Now I will give the scientific man's opinion of God. All laws are a part of God and intelligence is in them so that every act of our lives shows of which power we are the servant. These laws govern the beast and all living creatures and the knowledge is in the law. If the beast wants food, the desire contains the knowledge and direction how to get it and, if no obstruction is put in the way, he will have his prayer answered. So it is with all God's laws. The law of gravitation or attraction contains the cause and effect. So if there is no obstacle in the way, it will come according to those laws. This is God and to suppose God is in the effect of error is not the case. Now you see that to know what will be the result of every act is to see and know its cause and effect. Now as a hair is governed by the law of attraction, which is knowledge, and this knowledge is in the law, when it falls to the ground it must fall with the knowledge of the law which is God. Suppose you let a one pound weight of lead fall to the ground and a piece of cork at the same time. Is not your knowledge of attraction in the cork and lead to know the difference in the time? So it cannot fall without the knowledge of the law that governs it and this is God. But to have a God with eyes and ears and every faculty that man has is to have a being of flesh and blood.

Now] If you can see God in your knowledge you will admit that everything you do intelligently you do under the direction of a power or intelligence superior to yourself. So when you do anything ignorantly and the effect is bad, giving you trouble, you try to correct your errors, thereby showing that you admit a power superior to yourself. This power is called Christ or God and if you have not this power or Christ you are not of Him. To know God is to know ourselves, and to know ourselves is to know the difference between Science and error. Error is of man and truth is of God, and as truth is not in the cause of disease it is not in the effect. Therefore to say we are happy when in disease is to admit we have no disease, for disease is the error and the effect. Now as opinions contain either truth or error (not known) we are affected by the effect when it comes to the light of Science and then the happiness or misery follows. This is called by the doctors disease and they treat the effect, denying the cause or letting it go as of no account. Here is the difference. I put the disease in the direction of mind and then I know what will be the effect.

Our happiness is the result of correcting our impressions when first made. Our error is the ignorance of these impressions. The opinions of the world and ignorance of ourselves are the causes of our trouble. Suppose you were afraid of some person and you dare not stir lest he should kill you, do you think you would be any worse off to know that he was your friend and he felt unhappy to know that you had such an opinion of him? So it is in every act of our lives, knowledge of ourselves never harmed man. Disease is not in knowledge but in ignorance. For instance, the fear of any trouble is the disease.

Go with me back to the time of the persecution of the church and the Salem witchcraft. All the people believed in evil spirits and witches and considered it wrong to have anything to do with them. Here you see was the disease in the people's belief, and their belief was put in practice for the safety of mankind. Therefore every invention of their belief was called out to get rid of an evil that was tormenting man. Here you see the belief was one thing and the evil another, and so it is in everything. The wisdom of this world sees the mind one thing and disease another, and reasons by saying the pain came before I had any thought about it, and I had no mind about it. [Take the man with the wooden leg. When this wooden leg itches, does it itch, or is it in his mind? No one would say that it was the leg that itched.] So it is with rheumatic pains, the state of mind or disease is admitted to have an existence as much as evil spirits and we are affected by our belief. If anything disturbs our happiness we fly to someone for protection and in our trouble create a form of something in the mind to locate it in some place in the body. We suffer ourselves to be tormented to get rid of the enemy or disease, as those who believed themselves bewitched would suffer being whipped to drive out the devils. I could name hundreds of cases where persons have called in physicians and between them both they have made an enemy, the patient suffering himself to be poulticed and blistered almost to death to get rid of the bronchitis or spinal disease or white swelling or some other devil supposed to exist independent of the mind. The doctors who use these means show about as much knowledge as the people in Connecticut did who beat the beer barrel if it worked on Sunday. It is the relic of heathen superstition that wisdom will some time eradicate from the mind by explaining it on scientific principles. Till then the knife, the lance and calomel and such things that are only introduced by a show of truth not much in advance of nailing a horse shoe over the door, or sleeping with the Bible under you to keep off the witches, must govern the people. Jesus knew that all the foregoing belief was founded in ignorance, therefore He was not afraid of these beliefs and said these words: "Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends." [This is the meaning. I know all this is false, that it is in your minds, so I am not afraid to lay down my life or put it in jeopardy for the sick, so I can explain to them or lead them to health.

You may say, “We must have physicians.”

I answer, "Have I not been with you in your trouble and relieved you, without tormenting you?" For twenty years I have never said one word to a patient which, if he believed, would make him worse or cause him one moment's pain or misery. I have never tormented a patient by making a disease by which he would suffer to be burdened with caustic, blistered, and at last lose his limbs, in order to be rid of an evil that I have made.

If the people would serve the doctors, as they did those who accused another of bewitching them, it would put a stop to a great deal of evil. If a doctor tells a patient that he has a disease which, if he believes, he is worse off, punish the doctor, and they would soon learn to keep their tongues from speaking lies and learn to tell the truth or say nothing. I have tried it and have seen the effect and know that the principle is right, never to say to a person anything that will, if believed, make him the least disappointed or grieved. If you cannot leave a happy impression, do not leave a bad one. This cannot be done under the old system, as it kills the practice. Therefore, reform is necessary.]

— June, 1860

P. P. Quimby

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