Healing power is in the mind of the patient – the work of Dr P.P. Quimby

I’ve been to many healers in my time, and it seems to me that the techniques they employ say a great deal about the practitioner’s beliefs about what constitutes a human being. This – explicitly or implicitly – is what guides their healing methods. If you think a human body is simply a physical, mechanical thing, as many doctors used to do, you treat it accordingly. If you see it as intelligent, responsive, self-regulating, then your approach is entirely different.

Dr Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, a real groundbreaker of healing, was in no doubt. He saw humans as mind, body and spirit, and showed that our healing power comes primarily from within. Nowadays, few people have heard of him and yet his influence is reflected in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and well known writers such as Louise Hay, Dr Wayne Dyer, Dr Bernie Segal, Byron Katie, and many others.


Quimby was born on February 16, 1802. A clock-maker by trade, he lived most of his life in Belfast, Maine. New England. Although others called him ‘Doctor’ he had little formal education and no medical training, but he had a practical, enquiring mind and unparalleled determination.

As a young man, he contracted tuberculosis. Doctors couldn’t help, so he decided to help himself. Someone suggested horse-riding as the fresh air would do him good, but he was too weak to ride, so he borrowed a horse and cart. One day the horse refused to pull the cart up a hill, so Quimby got down and walked with the horse. When they got to the top, it suddenly started trotting. As Quimby couldn’t get back on the cart he ran down the hill with the horse, which, strictly speaking, he shouldn’t have been able to due to his illness.

Back home, he realised he was breathing freely. The pain had gone (it never returned) – he had experienced a spontaneous healing. In that moment he dedicated himself to understanding what brought this about. He reasoned that there must be something within that can make us well, of which we’re not normally aware.

First he studied the work of the hypnotist Anton Mesmer, who had quite a reputation in Europe. By 1840, Quimby was an expert hypnotist. He worked with a young man called Lucius who, under hypnosis, could apparently diagnose patients’ illnesses and suggest a cure. Later, Quimby realized that Lucius was tuning in to what the patient believed he had, not what he actually had.  So after his early experiments, he gave up hypnotism and instead focussed on curing disease through the mind, getting his patients to see causes for themselves.His approach was evidence-based and rigorously scientific. He trusted no opinions, only knowledge.

He studied the healing methods described in the New Testament. Quimby did not regard the gospel healings as miracles, but as scientific applications of truth as represented by Universal Law.

Ironically he was vehemently anti-religion. He believed that the Church had irresponsibly abandoned any interest in healing and that his purpose was to resurrect it. He studied the New Testament because he wanted to understand and correct the negative thinking of his patients – especially those who believed that ill health was a punishment for some unpardonable sin.

His healing methods were highly unusual. He sat with his patients until he had a mental impression of the problem and its cause. Often he felt every symptom of the disease in his own body. Then he silently challenged the cause in his own mind, addressing his comments to the spirit within which, he argued, could never be sick. Sometimes barely a word was spoken as Quimby’s thoughts somehow impacted on the patient.

He described the cause of disease in his own words:

‘The trouble is in the mind, for the body is only the house for the mind to dwell in. if your mind has been deceived by some invisible enemy into a belief, you have put it into the form of a disease, with or without your knowledge. By my theory or truth I come in contact with your enemy and restore you to health and happiness.

‘This I do partly mentally and partly by talking till I correct the wrong impressions and establish the truth, and the truth is the cure. . . . A sick man is like a criminal cast into prison for disobeying some law that man has set up. I plead his case, and if I get the verdict, the criminal is set at liberty. If I fail, I lose the case. His own judgment is his judge, his feelings are his evidence. If my explanation is satisfactory to the judge, you will give me the verdict. This ends the trial, and the patient is released.’

His son George (who acted as his secretary) described his father’s method of cure as follows (I paraphrase slightly):

‘A patient comes to see Dr Quimby. He renders himself absent to everything but the impression of the person’s feelings. These are quickly imprinted on him. This mental picture contains the disease as it appears to the patient. Being confident that it is the shadow of a false idea, he is not afraid of it. Then his feelings in regard to health and strength are imprinted on the receptive plate of the patient. The patient sees the disease in a new light, gains confidence. This change is imprinted on the doctor again and he sees the change and continues. The shadow grows dim and finally disappears, the light takes its place, and there is nothing left of the disease.’

Quimby knew that one mind can influence another, and believed that most disease is due to false reasoning. To remove disease permanently, it is necessary to know the error in thinking which caused it. ‘The explanation,’ he said, ‘is the cure’.  Half a century before Freud, he explained that many of the harmful beliefs are located in the unconscious mind and must be brought into consciousness before they can be dealt with.

Quimby healed thousands of people of a wide range of illnesses, most of whom had not responded to conventional treatment. In the end, it was his very success that killed him. He died of over-work and self-neglect on January 16, 1866, having seen over 10,000 patients in his last seven years.


Quimby left behind detailed journals, and some of his clients devoted their lives to spreading awareness of his methods. Rev Warren Felt Evans wrote the definitive contemporary account in his book, ‘The Mental Cure’ (1869), but it was not until 1989 that Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: The Complete Writings were published, edited by Dr Ervin Seale, who devoted most of his working life to the task.

Nowadays we have scientific proof that our thoughts and emotions affect our physical health. Placebos illustrate the effectiveness of suggestion as a powerful healer and CBT and NLP have proved their worth in many situations. Perhaps it is also time for Quimby to receive his due credit. If his ideas and methods were investigated anew, who knows how many people could benefit?

© Feeling Good All The Time, 8.10.2018

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The same keys that produce discord will produce harmony too

You may recall the famous sketch in a Morecambe and Wise Show featuring Andre Previn. Eric Morecambe sits down at the piano. The audience is expecting him to play a concerto conducted by Previn, but instead plays a honky-tonk rag.  This happens several times until Previn stops the orchestra and approaches Morecambe.

‘You’re playing the wrong notes!’ he says.

Eric Morecambe grabs him by the collar and says emphatically, ‘I’m playing all the right notes – but not necessarily in the right order.’

Viewers probably thought this was an original idea, but actually it wasn’t. The healer and psychotherapist Phineas Parkhurst Quimby had said in the middle of the 19th Century, ‘Take a piano. The same keys that produce discord will produce harmony.’ Were Morecambe and Wise’s scriptwriters aware of Quimby? We don’t know.

What did he mean? That the same metaphysical laws that can produce discord and misery can also produce harmony and contentment. The difference is, of course, one’s consciousness.

Everything in the universe, including every idea, is underpinned by perfect wisdom, but it can only manifest if we apply our mind-power. Our purpose is to align ourselves with this source of wisdom and perfection. Then miracles can happen.

It’s taken a long time – but at last people are waking up to the incredible contribution made by Quimby. Science still hasn’t caught up – but one day it will.

©David Lawrence Preston, 11.5.2017

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Legacy: Quimby, the Silent Healer

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866) was one of the greatest healers ever but nowadays is hardly known. The healings he carried out in New England in the mid-19th Century were little short of miraculous, although he considered them to have a sound scientific basis. Perhaps surprisingly, since so few people have heard of him, his methods and philosophy were well documented at the time and are still available today.

Quimby had already begun to chronicle his ideas and methods before he died, although hampered by poor spelling and grammar which made some of his writings difficult to decipher. Two patients, the Ware sisters, had edited some of his material and made copies to give to other patients, but he was too busy in his practice to publish his writings. He did, though, leave behind copious notes which explained his philosophy and methods in his unique, quirky language. Where suitable terms did not exist, he invented his own, making some passages difficult to understand.

After his death, his youngest son George, who had acted as his secretary, carefully guarded his manuscripts. But – for reasons that will become apparent – he refused to publish them until after the death of his most famous patient, Mrs Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science movement. However, he died before her, so not until 1921 were edited excerpts first published (by Horatio Dresser, son of Julius). Another sixty-eight years passed before The Complete Writings appeared[1], edited by Dr Ervin Seale, who devoted much of his life to this task.

Around 1860, a few of Quimby’s former patients began committing his ideas to paper, determined to spread his ideas to the world.

The first was Rev Warren Felt Evans, a Methodist Minister, who wrote the definitive contemporaneous account of Quimby in his book, ‘The Mental Cure’ (1869). Rev Evans had been in poor health for many years before Quimby cured him completely of a nervous disorder.

One day he confided his belief to Quimby that he could heal using the same methods, and Quimby encouraged him. His first attempts were so successful that he chose to devote the remainder of his life to healing and writing. In 1867, he established a practice in Claremont, New Hampshire, which he ran until his death in 1889.

In his second book, ‘Mental Medicine,’ (1872) he paid tribute to his teacher and friend. He wrote:

‘Disease being in its root a wrong belief, change that belief and we cure the disease. By faith we are thus made whole. There is a law here the world will sometime understand and use in the cure of the diseases that afflict mankind. The late Dr Quimby, one of the most successful healers of this or any age, embraced this view of the nature of disease, and by a long succession of most remarkable cures proved the truth of the theory and the efficiency of that mode of treatment. Had he lived in a remote age or country, the wonderful facts which occurred in his practice would have been deemed either mythical of miraculous.’

Mrs Eddy became a friend, student and patient of Quimby in 1862 after six years as an invalid and depressive. Shortly after her mentor’s passing, she fell badly on ice and suffered a serious injury. She tried to persuade Julius Dresser to treat her, but he refused. Instead, having carefully observed the late Dr Quimby, she applied what she had learned, and by the end of 1866, had made a full recovery. She dated her ‘discovery’ of ‘Christian Science’ (a term previously used by Quimby and the title of a book written by a Rev William Adams in 1850) to that year. The commonalities between her and Quimby’s work are quite apparent, although Mrs Eddy felt it necessary to integrate her Christian faith into Quimby’s ideas since he was so critical of organised religion.

Then she turned on him. Once an avid admirer, she dismissed him as a mere mesmerist (while acknowledging his remarkable powers as a healer) and claimed his discoveries as her own. She claimed she had made them for herself before she even met him.

Her best known work, ‘Science and Health,’ was published in 1875, remains in print, and is widely read to this day. Eddy ‘disciples’ regard it as second in importance only to the Bible. But her refusal to acknowledge Quimby angered some of those with whom she had studied, because they knew that he had developed mental healing years before Mrs Eddy went to him as a patient.

Chief among these were the Dressers. Julius was close to death before regaining his health with Quimby’s help. He became a healer and teacher. His wife Annetta was also cured by Quimby and wrote, ‘The Philosophy of P.P. Quimby’ (1895). Later, Julius and his son Horatio edited Quimby’s writings in detail.  Horatio was in no doubt that Mrs Eddy had no knowledge of mental healing prior to their first encounter in 1862 and had borrowed heavily from the writings of Quimby and Evans. ‘It is now easy to see just when and just where she ‘discovered Christian Science,’ he wrote.

A century later, a Quimby scholar, the late Dr Ervin Seale, was more charitable to Mrs Eddy, pointing out that Mrs Eddy’s skills as a self-publicist ensured that Quimby’s ideas lived on. ‘If it had not been for P. P. Quimby,’ wrote Dr Seale, ‘there would have been no Mrs. Eddy, and if it had not been for Mrs. Eddy we should never have known of Quimby.’

Indeed, Mrs Eddy gathered around her a group of influential teachers who travelled the length and breadth of North America spreading her message. One of these was the ‘teacher of teachers’, Mrs Emma Curtis Hopkins. Mrs Hopkins was editor of the Christian Science Journal before being sacked by the dictatorial Mrs Eddy and founding her own school in Chicago. One day in 1886, one of her students, Dr E.B. Weeks, delivered a talk on healing in Kansas City, Missouri. In the audience was a 41 year-old schoolteacher, Myrtle Fillmore, suffering from tuberculosis which her doctors had pronounced terminal.

When she emerged from the hall, inspired by Dr Weeks, one thought repeated itself over and over in her mind: ‘I am a child of God and therefore I do not inherit sickness.’ Her belief that she was fragile crumbled, and after nearly two years of dedicated mental effort she was completely cured. The following year, at the age of 44, she gave birth to for the third time.

Mrs Fillmore wrote an account of her healing[2]. The turning point, she said, was when she realised one day that Intelligence as well as Life is needed to make a body. ‘Life has to be guided by Intelligence in making all forms, whether a worm or a human being. Life is simply a form of energy, and has to be guided and directed in man’s body by his intelligence. How do we communicate with Intelligence? By thinking and talking, of course!’ With this realisation, she became attentive to her thoughts and prayed every hour for help from Spirit. She asked for forgiveness for past mistakes and told her muscles and organs that they were drawing on an unlimited Source and were healthy and strong.

After the healing, others asked her for help. She helped a crippled man to walk, cured a woman’s asthma, helped a boy blinded by cataracts to see, cured a boy of tonsillitis and another of croup. She told all who sought her help that it was God’s will that they be healthy and that the healing power of Spirit was within them. She later wrote a book based on her experiences, How to Let God Help You.

Meanwhile, her husband, Charles – like Quimby, a sceptical man with a scientific frame of mind – set about discovering the reason for his wife’s recovery. He came to the reluctant conclusion that there was incontrovertible evidence of a Great Power behind the healings that was somehow capable of being directed by human thought.

Charles and Myrtle applied what they learned and went on to found a prayer and healing ministry, Unity, which continues to this day. She died in 1931, aged 86. Charles lived to be 94.

Myrtle Fillmore, a simple, trusting soul, would have had no idea that in recognising that both life (energy) and intelligence (information) had a role in regulating the body she had anticipated science by more than a century, and that some of the most learned brains on the planet would one day validate her experience.


[1] Dr Ervin Seale (Ed.), Quimby Complete Writings, Vols 1-3, De Vorss and Co., 1989

[2] How I Found Healing, pamphlet published by Unity, Kansas City, Missouri

©Feelinggoodallthetime 29.3.2017

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How to Books, 2007