The Phenomena of Spiritualism


August 1862


by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby


According to man's belief, he cannot give a fair account of the phenomena of spiritualism, from the fact that the experiments are governed by his belief and must be so; but man cannot tell what he believes, till the effect comes. His belief is like his courage, he can judge better after it is tested. To say you believe so-and-so is merely to assent to what someone has said, but to have your belief of any force, it must take form.

For instance, I might say that I believed there never was a spirit seen. Now to test my belief is to place me where I see or hear something that I cannot account for. I have found that, in experiments, everything that rests on a belief is liable to be changed by some other belief, or by science. The whole error on which spiritualism is based is a belief of a world separate or apart from the living, into which, sooner or later, man must enter, and every phenomenon goes to prove the truth of this belief.

Now destroy the error, and what is man? Some say this is atheism. It strikes at the root of all Christianity. Suppose it does. Must we do evil, that good may come? No. Let God be true and man's opinion a lie (or error). I will give my belief of man and his progression, leaving the world to judge of the truth of my story. What I know does not rest on the evidence of my own or any opinion; and my opinion I give as such, liable to be destroyed by science.

Formerly, I believed as all mankind did in regard to death and the state after that change. I believed it was taught by Jesus and that it was all laid down in the Bible. But since I have been engaged in the investigation of man's eternal existence, the truth which I have found has destroyed this belief and has opened to me a light which shows that all my former beliefs were based on superstition. I now stand on the rock of science and prove all things by what I feel and see, and not by what others tell me.

I admit the Bible, so far as it goes to prove this fact, but the explanation, I deny; for I know it is false. My belief is my wisdom; my opinion is my knowledge. Every person may say this, but wisdom is of God, and knowledge is of man; and that, being based on a belief, must fail; while the wisdom of God is eternal.

I will mention the articles of faith in which I differ from all classes of believers. To the world, what I know is an opinion, so I have to speak of it as my belief and give the evidence of this faith in me, for this truth. To make the difference plain, I will draw out the articles of the Christian faith. The Christian confesses as follows:

I believe in God and his son Jesus Christ, the savior of man. I believe that man dies and goes to heaven or hell. I believe in a place, separate and apart from the living; and sometimes I believe that my departed friends can come and communicate with me through a certain medium. I believe that sometimes men go directly to heaven to be with God. When I die, I believe that my soul will once more join them in heaven, to be united in one great family, never to be separated. Sometimes I believe that they never go at all, but that when we die, there is an end of us. Sometimes I believe the Bible is all a lie; and then again, it is all the work of inspiration, and then I sometimes can see some evidence that my friends can communicate through certain mediums and give tests that they live and know what is going on in the world."

This embraces nearly every person's belief about the dead and another world. Now as for my belief, I believe all the above is false, but this is only my belief. I know that we can both sit opposite each other and can each communicate our thoughts to the other. This is wisdom and not knowledge. We both admit it. I know, also, if you have a trouble in your body or mind, that I can get the fact from you, without your knowing it through your senses; and if you know the same, to you it is wisdom; but if you do not know it, it is a belief in what I say, and if you do believe it, it is wisdom.

I know that if you go out of sight of my natural eyes and have a desire that I should come to you, that I can go. To me this is wisdom, but to you it is opinion or knowledge, just according to your belief. I know that I can go to a distance and act upon a person and know that I am there, and I can make an impression on a person so strong that the person will be aware of my presence. This is wisdom.

I will explain the different meanings with which I use the terms “wisdom” and “knowledge.” Knowledge is the word used to define the extent of man's wisdom. Wisdom is what is acknowledged to be true. Now in telling what we know, if this wisdom is based on an opinion and can be changed, then it is knowledge; but if it is based upon science, it is the knowledge of God.

What I believe in regard to man's capacity and progress is based upon what I know and have no opinion about, but upon science. I believe I can tell your thoughts in regard to your trouble. If this is admitted, then you will admit that I have a knowledge of some wisdom superior to a belief or what you know. Now follow me on this obscure path that leads to light and life, in regard to man's capability of progress. If you are cut off from your natural sight and hearing, you have no proof that you can come and communicate with me, from your own belief. Is it the same with me? No. Although the partition (or veil) hides your form from me, yet my spiritual wisdom can commune with you, as much as it would if I were in your presence and you were blind. I should know you, but you could not tell, unless I made myself known to your natural senses. Yet I know it so, from all that I have seen and felt.

I know that man begins, at his birth, to develop this life (or science), and his body, like language, is a medium for him to communicate through, till a higher life (or scientific man) comes forth. Then a new heaven and a new earth is formed, and man lives in both, but does not always know it. To know this, so as to put it into practice is reducing this wisdom to a science. When this is done, man lives by his wisdom and learns that his happiness is in his wisdom, and his wisdom is attached to the things he knows, and not to someone's opinion.

Then his old heaven is destroyed, and the earth is burned up; his life is in his friends, and he becomes a part and parcel of them. Then he will no longer try to drive his dearest friends and relations off to a world made by man, or try to make them want to leave all that is near and dear to them, and launch Egyptian superstition to look for what he never wanted to find. This science teaches that there never was, nor can be, another world, and to separate yourself from your friend is suicide and is as wrong as it would be to turn your child out of your own house, because someone has told you it was right.

Your belief separates; your wisdom unites. Each has its effect. If you believe there is no other world, then you do not drive your friend away. When you lie down at night with a belief that you will rise in the morning, you live and enjoy yourself with your friend, just according to your belief. It will be just as you believe. If you believe that your friends have gone to another world and come and communicate, just so it will be to you; but your belief is yours and not your friends'. Their belief is one thing and yours, another. Each is independent of wisdom; it belongs to the natural man and has nothing to do with the scientific man.

Now you, as a natural man who believes in death and that your friend can communicate with you, carry to the medium all that you believe of your friend. But your friend, through his senses, knows just as much about you going to the medium as you know through the senses, when I come in communication with your spiritual senses. The medium comes in communication with your belief, and the raps and taps come to convince you that your spirits are in sympathy, and this is the language; but outside of yourself and the medium, all is darkness to your friends. I go with you, believing that all this comes from my own mind, and I get this truth, that the medium can read my own thoughts; and if my superstition is strong enough to move the table, then I can see that; but if it is not, then I shall not. And just according to our belief, the effect comes.

P. P. Quimby

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