The Senses and Language
(The Senses I)


December 1860


by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby


Why is it that mankind have settled down on the fact that man has five senses, no more, no less? The wise say the spiritual man has two more, making seven. Now, what is a sense? We often say "such a thing comes within my senses." If "senses" mean what the wise say it does why is man set down above the brute? Let us see how they compare. Man sees, hears, tastes, smells and feels, and so does the brute; neither shows any prominence of wisdom over the other. When you ask where is man's superiority you are told that man reasons and the brute does not. Ask for proof and people can show no difference only as they make their own minds. If you place them together the brute is a little the shrewder.

Now all will admit that there is a vast difference between a wise man and a brute, but the brutal man is as much below the brute as the latter is below the wise man. This wisdom that makes man above the brute is not of this 252brutal world, but comes from some higher source. I have so much confidence in the wisdom of the wise men of old that I have no doubt but they solved that question, and I have so little confidence in the wisdom of this world that I disbelieve every truth founded on man's opinion.

We often hear of the laws of God, but when we ask for wisdom on the subject, the wise fail to give us the information desired by the scientific man. They can give their opinion and as that contains no knowledge the scientific must look for wisdom elsewhere than to the wisdom of this brutal world of five senses. So I will leave man and brute with their five senses and search out some other way to solve the problem of the senses.

I will ask any one if seeing is matter, or is it something independent of matter? For instance, you see a shadow: is the power that sees any part of the shadow? All will say no. Then the shadow comes in contact with something. Now what is that something called sight or one of the senses? Is it matter? The natural man cannot answer that question any more than the brute. He says the eye is the sight. Jesus says the light of the body is the eye. So the natural man and Jesus differ. Settle this question and you have one of the five senses defined so that there can be no dispute between the scientific and natural or brutal man. As the natural man has failed to satisfy the scientific man let the latter try to convince the natural man of his error. The scientific man makes all sensation outside of the idea of matter, so that to him all sensation must be made on something independent of the natural idea of the senses.

All will admit that God knows all things. If you do not own it you must admit it if you are above the brute; else you, admitting that the brute knows nothing about God, put yourself on a level with the brute. So I take it for granted that this question is settled, that God knows all things. So God sees, that is one sense. All will admit that God is equal to man, at least in regard to wisdom. If we can show that man's senses can act independently of his natural body, if it can be shown that man's wisdom is not of matter but of God, we will divide him into as many senses as it is necessary for the scientific world.

What is necessary for the natural man's happiness is to eat, drink and enjoy himself in the easiest way he can. The 253savage is a fair specimen of the natural man and the wild beast the natural specimen of the brute creation. One has no preeminence over the other — "might is right" — each is happy when not disturbed. If never disturbed they would be like the fool without even error. But disturbance brings other senses into action, and as wisdom is developed it gives man a knowledge of himself above the natural man of five senses. Thus the wisdom of the scientific man sees the man with the five senses, a little above the brute, in error trying to free himself from his earthly matter, or ignorance, and arrive at knowledge of phenomena that keep him in a state of sin, disease and death. So I will leave the man of five senses in error and talk to the scientific man about the other senses.

He is not embraced in one idea. A man may be scientific in many sciences, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, all that are acknowledged and admitted by even the natural man, though not understood. But the Science of Happiness is not acknowledged by 'the wisdom of the five senses. It requires more senses to put men in possession of this Science that will teach him happiness. As happiness is what follows a belief it is necessary to know whether our wisdom is of this world of opinion or of the world of Science. This world sees nothing outside of its senses. Wisdom sees nothing of the natural man's senses but ignorance, so that the wisdom of this world is opposed to the Science of Happiness.

Let us see what will be admitted by all. I believe it will not be denied that there is such a phenomenon as mesmerism; if it is denied those who do so may enjoy their own opinions and I will turn to those who admit it. This embraces a large class of the scientific world, so taking it for granted that the phenomenon can be produced, I will show how many senses a person has in a mesmerized state. I once put many persons into this state and none with one exception, had any idea of seeing through their [natural] eyes. There was one who thought he saw through his eyes but all experiments show that it is not so. In fact, a mesmerized subject is all that any person can be in the waking state; at the same time he is another person separate from his earthly identity. He can feel, fly, walk, and pass into the sea and describe things lost. He can find things that be knows not of in another state.

Now where and what was this invisible something that could pass in and out of matter? What is this clairvoyance? 254It is the mystery or power that has troubled the wisdom of this world to solve. Solve this problem and you give a knowledge to man that the world has always admitted but not understood. To understand the phenomenon is to go back to the First Cause and see what man was. We must go back of language to find the cause that prompted man. So let us pass back of language and we see living beings going round like beasts, not seeming to have any way of communicating with each other. Then each acted on his own responsibility, eating and drinking, as it pleased himself. Now, the desire for food prompted the mind, and as food has a sort of odor that arises from it, man, like the beast, was drawn to the odor from a desire to have this sensation gratified, so that the odor attracted the man like the beast, not by sight but by smell. Here is one sensation, but with no name. It is the same in man and beast, each eats and is satisfied. As they eat taste comes. This opens the mind to see what the thing is; this brings sight, or knowledge. So they go on until all the faculties are developed. As the faculty of smell was of more importance than sight it was the one most desired. For it not only attracted the animal to the thing smelt but also warned him of the danger of being destroyed, so that all animals cultivate this sense for their safety. So by experience all animals learned to keep clear of each other by the peculiar faculty of smell. As they associated sight with the odor, then when the odor came in contact with their other senses they would create the thing contained in the odor. If it was an odor from some living thing that they were afraid of they would fly or run until they were free from their enemy. So little by little the wild beast settled down to a basis that gave each a faculty to counteract some other faculty in another. The lion depended on his smell and so did all animals who were inferior to their enemies, so that if the lion imitated some other animal, for instance if quick in his motions he would not be so acute in his smell, so the victim could keep out of the lion's way and still be in his sight. The atmosphere of the lion was certain death to the other animals, so that their fright threw off an odor that did not attract the lion until the object of his prey came in contact with his sight. So all things went on in this way and man was at the mercy of the wild beast, his sense of smell was as acute as that of the animal.

255Now, necessity is the mother of invention, and it became necessary for man to introduce something to counteract the wild beast. Hence it was natural for man to give his fellowman a sign of their danger, for men like all other animals would go together in herds or parties. This state must lead to language, so that language came about for the safety of the race. Now the sense of smell was the foundation of language and as language was made to apply to some sensation, it must take time to introduce it, for the odor must be so defined that a person perceiving a thing named could describe it. . . .

As language was introduced the sense of smell became more blunt till like other instincts it gave way to another standard. As imitation was developed the practice of thinking increased, so that thinking came to be as much of a sense as smelling. The action of forming thought into things or ideas became a sense, the power or sense of imitation brought up the sense of motion so that man's thought when put into an idea would seem to have life. All the above was spiritual and it could not be seen by the natural man or beast. So the spiritual man would imitate his idea in some way so that it could be seen and felt by the natural man. Thus invention in the spiritual world was shadowed forth in the natural world. As this invention was received, the spiritual senses were not relied on for the safety of man. Warfare was kept up till man could invent castles or places to defend himself against the wild beast. At last there must be laws or regulations introduced to feed those who could not fight. The ones who stayed at home would be the weaker portion of the race, including the females, the aged and children. So laws or regulations must be adopted for their support and safety and penalties attached to the disobedience of these laws. The officers of the laws would be taken from the most aspiring and cunning part of the tribes. This placed the leaders above the masses, so competition sprang up, which increased the leaders' perceptive faculties to invent all sorts of stories to keep the people quiet. As language was what they all wanted, those who could teach it would be looked upon as superior to the rest. Phenomena would then as now take place and the wise would be called on to explain; this introduced astrology and priestcraft. Then all sorts of invention would spring up to keep the people in submission when they grumbled at their leaders, 256not as they do now, for we are born slaves, and they were born free. Therefore it required more strict laws and punishments then than now, all sorts of ideas were started, and among others the power of creating objects that could be seen was cultivated for the benefit of the wise. This introduced spiritualism among civilized tribes, at first for the benefit of the leaders. So superstition became the power to worship, and as it was necessary that someone should explain the phenomena persons would be appointed, and so priests and prophets sprang up. These men must be paid and cared for and the people were taxed to support them.

At last the tribes formed themselves into nations and kingdoms and gave the power to the priest, so the priest stood at the head of the nation. As the priesthood was founded on superstition, it was necessary to keep the people superstitious, so all sorts of inventions were created to keep the people in ignorance, and as science was invented or discovered all the discoveries were kept a secret from the people so that any chemical or mechanical effect could be produced and the people would think it came from God. Astronomy was discovered and the priests kept it as a revelation from heaven, and all their astronomical calculations were made, not as a science for the masses, but as a direct revelation from God to bring about some great design. This kept the people in a state of nervous excitement. Whatever the prophets could make the people believe, they would create. So all they had to do was to start a storm of evil spirits, and the peoples' superstition would produce the phenomena wanted. This was proof that evil spirits did exist. Then it was not hard to make people believe evil spirits could get hold of them. At last evil spirits became a matter of fact, so much so that at the time of Saul there were some fifty ways of getting communications from God, and how many ways of getting it from the devil I know not.

— Dec., 1860.

P. P. Quimby

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