What Is a Spirit?


May 1862


by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby


A Spirit is the shadow of a person's belief or imagination. Fear produces a “chemical change,” and out of this fear comes phenomena, and these again produce fear. This fear creates fearful things or Spirits. Perfect Wisdom casts out all fear, and then the Spirits are gone.

Man's belief is the basis of his Spiritual sight. For instance, start a story that ghosts are seen in a certain graveyard. Every person believing in Spirits, good or bad, is just as liable to see a ghost, as he would to be affected by any belief on a religious subject.

When Miller prophesied the end of the world, ninety-nine out of a hundred were affected, to some extent. This was shown by the count taken by the churches. Even the Unitarian Universalists had their evening meetings, and men and women spoke who never spoke before, and probably never will again. But it showed what Man's belief can do.

I have said that fear produced a “chemical change” in man's belief, and as Matter is one element of his belief, this is liable to take form, according to the belief.

It has always been impressed on children that ghosts are seen in the burying grounds. This belief makes an atmosphere over the dead, like a cloud on a mountain. And in a certain state of Mind, certain persons can make a “ghost” as easily as a certain state of the atmosphere will make the Borealis...which always keeps just-so-far from the traveler.

So it is with Spirits. When you get where they are, they are gone, but the atmosphere still remains, and persons may feel it.

I once visited a sick man. It was about eight o'clock in the evening when I visited the room. Immediately upon entering, the atmosphere of the room produced such an effect on me, that I felt as though my hair stood on-end, and it seemed as though the room was full of Spirits.

As I approached the bed, he seemed frightened. I said, “You are frightened to death. Why do you lie here?”

He said he couldn't get up. I said, “You are afraid of these devils. They scare you. And when I came in, they left, and are now standing out among the apple trees.”

He said, “They scared you a little.”

This was a fact.

He then said, “These devils have taken me by the nape of my neck and seat of my pants, and laid me here, but I never told of it before.”

I told him to get up, and I would keep them away.

He did so, and got well.

These “devils” followed me over two miles before they left, and then they parted, and flew to the woods. They seemed like a swarm of bees. They varied in length from six-inches to two-feet. Each seemed to have a separate identity, and all the idea they had was to follow me. So all that was necessary for me was to keep up courage enough. These were Spirits.

The man had become sick from some nervous trouble and was made to believe that he was full of humor. As he philosophized, he contended that the body was made of animal life, and this living humor was eating his very vitals, so the heat that passed off from his body was full of "living devils."

As I came in contact with his belief, the atmosphere I felt was the company or devils that he was with, and in the atmosphere, I saw the “Spirits” or shadow of his belief. And as I took in the atmosphere, I was impregnated with it, but the devils were, to me, shadows of his own make.

So as my system threw off this heat that I inhaled, I could see these “imps,” and I never shall forget how earnest and determined I was to keep up, for it was the passing off of the disease from me.

P. P. Quimby

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