The Word 'Life'
And Its Common Application


November 1862


by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby


The word life in all its applications is attached to matter. It begins, grows to maturity, then decays, and at last dies; this makes life matter of itself, for anything that grows to a certain stage and then decays is matter. The expression is often used, Life has its bounds which it cannot pass, and man's life is considered three score and ten, and the exception proves the rule. The wisdom which teaches my theory, teaches that life has no matter except as it exists in our belief. As matter is deposited into various forms, for example, into a tree, man calls the process a growth and applies the word life to the growth. After it has reached a certain state it commences to react and decompose and this process is called death. Then the dust returns to the dust as it were, and the life to man who placed it in the tree. Still this life is not known, for man cannot believe in life independent of matter. Man reasons in this way about the body. A child commences to grow and he calls the growth of the child life; when it has reached a certain maturity it begins to decompose and die like the tree; then the dust returns to dust and the life of the body to the belief of the living. No such ideas as these come from wisdom, for wisdom puts life in the senses, and they having no matter contain neither life nor death. As life is in the senses if we attach these to wisdom, our life is in our wisdom and as that never dies, our life does not die. Happiness is contentment not life nor death; misery is discord, not wisdom but error and belief. If then you attach your life to an error, like putting life in the body, your life is unhappy according to the loss or disturbance.

I will explain more clearly. Life comprehends all that man thinks of and his happiness is in his life and that being attached to ideas called matter, he puts life or value in the matter. For instance if he should lose his watch, he grieves just the amount of the value it contains to him, while the value is really in himself, for he does not grieve as though he had lost a friend. A slave holder owns a slave who is worth to him one thousand dollars. He feels the loss of the black but owing to his education he cannot see that the slave is different from any other piece of property of the same value. He also has a son, who instead of being an income, is an expense to him, but should he lose him, the value being in his love for the child, it is not measured by dollars and cents. The love is in him and not in the boy. The slave has life and so has the son, and just as the father deals out to each, so shall it be dealt back to him. If the father considers the slave mere property and the son a loving being capable of enjoyment then his happiness is the son's and the son's the father's, but the slave receiving no such sympathy of course cannot return the same, so discord springs up in the slave and the sin of the father is visited upon the son. Correct this error, the slave becomes a servant and is contented. It is the same with disease; drive the sin out of the father and a more healthy atmosphere surrounds him. Truth corrects the evil, for it is an evil.

P. P. Quimby

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