What Is a Belief?




by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby


What is a belief? It is that combined substance which throws off an atmosphere capable of chemical action, by which the thing believed can be made and thereby affect the body. If man's life is exposed to the danger of wild beasts inhabiting the wilderness, his fears excite his mind and from his mind-body is thrown off an atmosphere in which is seen the wild animal; therefore his trouble is the effect of his belief. Clearing up the wilderness destroys the danger from wild beasts and clearing away the error of disease rids man of the fear that he may be caught by some of the thousand diseases which attack human life. A story which is believed is nothing, and the result is disease, and people are affected just as they believe themselves liable to be caught.

For instance, a slave and a union man run away from the rebels; the latter is safe when he enters our laws, while the danger to the slave is increased when the law for returning slaves was in force. Repeal the law and convince the black that he also is free and then he is safe. It is the same with disease. Disease is a story which follows some act or excitement. The desire for freedom prompts a slave either black or white to make his escape and the belief that he may be caught and the story of what would follow is the disease, while the pain is in proportion to the danger of the punishment. All this is in the belief. Disease is classed by the world into two kinds: disease of the mind and disease of the body. I believe disease to be all in the mind for I know that mind is the matter affected. The senses are not matter, but man in his ignorance, when reasoning beyond the natural man, makes mind, matter, life and senses synonymous or confounds their meaning. Therefore in explaining the truth that disease is a lie, I have to admit a lie in order to reason it out of existence.

For instance, every disease is admitted as a truth. Knowing it to be a lie, I am obliged to admit it for the sake of proving it a falsehood; consequently I seem to maintain two contradictory statements and I stand to the world which makes disease a truth as a man in error. The ancients embodied the foregoing position as follows. "When I say I lie, do I lie or do I tell the truth? If I tell the truth I lie, and if I lie, I tell the truth." This was never solved from the fact that they did not know what the truth was, their truth being merely an opinion of what truth was, and giving way as science advanced. Consequently, as truth was not known, it was impossible to tell whether a man spoke the truth or a lie. Every development of science proves the world's wisdom to be a lie, for as it advances it opposes, face to face, some popular error that the world believes true and which leads man astray. In early times, men reasoned and had opinions about the heavenly bodies, what they were and what their purpose was, but when the truth was made known through the science of astronomy it conflicted with the popular opinions and proved them to be errors. Science has always been fought by error in every branch of learning, but the field that has been traveled over and plowed up with the most diligence by the learned as well as the uneducated in the hope of discovering the truth is religion. Many have thought that they have found the pearl of great price, but when tested by universal application, it has failed as a truth and only remained as a belief.

To discover a science which will teach man to be master of his own health and happiness is to find a truth by which man's thoughts can be tested and their character analyzed. To do this requires a new revelation of wisdom, for all tests heretofore tried have failed and their foundation has crumbled away. Religion has been undergoing a change ever since the minds of men have been roused by scientific discoveries. Its basis has been undermined by the progress of intelligence and has been swept into the valley of despair where its seeds have been picked up by eagles and carried to the remote parts of the land and there dropped into the soil of man's mind, to spring up in some creed having the ancestral features of its father. The world's religion is constantly decaying and eagles in the form of demagogues of every kind live on it. Jesus says, Where the body is, there shall the eagles be gathered. So when people are ignorant and superstitious, every kind of enemy to science abounds. The effect of science on general intelligence is to destroy the influence of this class of leaders; therefore they hate it and oppose its progress all they can. But science has conquered these enemies in every branch except in this one of man's life, and they have departed to some error which under their husbandry yields minds who return to society as hypocrites and demagogues and sap the very life and virtue of the people.

From the darkest ages of Grecian philosophy, there have been men who have waged war with this class of minds whom I have mentioned. But if they fight on the enemy's ground or admit their principles, they are soon surrounded and disarmed of their weapons or arguments by these corrupt minds and their truth taken from them to make their enemies more specious and more crafty in their error. But having obtained a victory over truth, they commence to quarrel among themselves and in their rash zeal, they expose the rottenness of error so that the truth shines upon their motives and under this light men see for themselves. Then, as they cannot bear the light, they flee into darkness or more dense superstition where the lamp of science has never burned.

There is a solid basis on which the scale of science can balance the body of truth with the carcass of error, and thereby show that error weighed with truth is nothing, merely a lie invented to account for some sensation which has taken place in the mind. I will describe this scale and with it weigh the common ideas of health and happiness. The ground on which I shall base it is this. The medical science from beginning to end is an error, and that it is so is shown by the absurd attempts of the faculty to bolster it up. The religion of today exposes the absurdity of the pagan religion and that derived its little truth from heathen mythology. These two systems of religion do not contain a particle of science. These two errors, religion and medicine, are what truth wants to have weighed to see if they are what people want for their happiness.

For as man's happiness depends in a great measure on his diet, if his food hurts him, he is not happy; so ideas being food for the mind, it is necessary to know the quality and quantity which man needs to make him feel the best. If man eats froth, he soon gets faint for something more substantial; consequently his food ought to be weighed by some standard. (There is a kind of food which grows spontaneously and which feeds large multitudes; it is the food of public opinion. When this is put into the scales with truth, it sometimes outweighs the latter. I will explain how it is done. Public opinion supplies ideas to certain worthless minds, a figure of whom can be found in large cities hanging about eating saloons and eating the soups set for the customers who come to buy the solid. Such vermin are always ready to bark at any reform which comes up and when there is a breach made in the world of intelligence by the advance of new discoveries, this class is always thrown in like mortar to fill up the breach. Their ideas being so offensive and contemptible to truth, truth rather than parley retires and leaves them the field. Eager for anything that will satisfy their craving appetites, these birds of prey feed on the body of truth which is left them. After eating and drinking, they lie down to sleep; when they awake, the light of truth shines upon them and being blind, they cannot bear the light and in the darkness they lead the blind, till they both fall into the ditch. This illustrates truth and error and where error weights the most.) Truth is not science, for a man may tell the truth without knowing it, but if the truth comes from wisdom, the process of getting it is a science.

I will illustrate. I say to you, If you do not go into the house, you will take cold and you do not go into the house and do take cold. This shows to you that I am right, while the fact is, I have only given an opinion based on the belief that the atmosphere contains danger to which I am also subject. Let us weigh this idea in the scale of science and see if it contains any truth. God made the air not for man or beast but for some wise purpose. He placed man and beast on the earth and so constructed them that the air was necessary to them. Therefore the air is to them a great storehouse, containing all that they want to make them enjoy life.

Now to make man afraid of the atmosphere is to do him a great damage and subject him to fear. Science asks the man of error what there is in the atmosphere which God made that should hurt him and why he should be afraid of God's works? The man of error is vexed at this question because he cannot show that his opinion contains any substance; he feels that it is a bubble and as it bursts, it makes a breach in his knowledge. Then comes the mortar of public opinion to fill up the breach saying, "We all know that we take cold in the air." The world being on a level with error, the breach is stopped and science is overpowered. But as wild beasts venture sometimes near the habitations of man and are caught and tamed, so error ventures into the field of science and is overcome, not made wiser, but is like a person who admits what he cannot understand. So error, like the lion, can be led to truth in wisdom by science as the little child. This little child was in Daniel when he was thrown in the lion's den. It makes the lion as docile as the lamb. It cannot be made of error, but as truth destroys error, from its ashes will rise the phoenix of science.

P. P. Quimby

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