Chapter 5 – The Beginnings of Christian Science – A History of the New Thought Movement

Chapter 5
Horatio Dresser
A History of the New Thought Movement

IT is important to give brief attention at this point to the origin of Christian Science, since the therapeutic movement as a whole has felt the influence of this the most radical view during the past forty years. Moreover the testimony of Mrs. Eddy to Quimby’s work and teaching is significant. It gives us another interpretation. It puts us in touch with a line of thought which competed with Mr. Evans’s teaching in producing “mental science,” the forerunner of the New Thought. We can hardly follow the later history intelligibly unless we have all the clues in our possession. We undertake this part of our inquiry in the spirit of the truth-seeker, without any desire to enter into a controversy regarding the indebtedness of one leader to another. We may bring forward the chief facts and leave them to speak for themselves.

In The True History of Mental Science, which was originally a lecture delivered in Boston at the request of people who wished to know the relationship of the various phases of the therapeutic movement to one another, Mr. Julius A. Dresser says:

“Among those who were friends as well as patients of Mr. Quimby during the years from 1860 to 1865, and who paid high tributes to his discoveries of truth, and the consequent good to many people and to the world, was one who, for some strange reason, afterward changed and followed a different course, with which you all are more or less familiar. I refer to the author of Science and Health. As she had during several years special opportunities to know the man and to learn truth of him, this record would be incomplete without including her testimony at that time. Fortunately it can be given in her own words; and you can form your own estimate of them.

“When the lady became a patient of Quimby, she at once took an interest in his theory, and imbibed his explanations of truth rapidly. She also took a bold stand, and published an account of her progress in health in a daily paper. The following is an extract from her first article thus published, which appeared in the Portland Evening Courier in 1862:

” ‘When our Shakespeare decided that “there were more things in this world than were dreamed of in your philosophy,” I cannot say of a verity that he had foreknowledge of P. P. Quimby. And when the school Platonic anatomized the soul and divided it into halves, to be reunited by elementary attractions, and heathen philosophers averred that old Chaos in sullen silence brooded o’er the earth until her inimitable form was hatched from the egg of night, I would not at present decide whether the fallacy was found in their premises or conclusions, never having dated my existence before the flood. . . . When from the evidence of the senses my reason takes cognizance of truth, although it may appear in quite a miraculous view, I must acknowledge that as a science which is truth uninvestigated. Hence the following demonstration:

” ‘Three weeks since I quitted my nurse and sick-room en route for Portland. The belief of my recovery had died out of the hearts of those who were most anxious for it. With this mental _ and physical depression I first visited P. P. Quimby, and in less than one week from that time I ascended by a stairway of one hundred and eighty-two steps to the dome of the City Hall, and am improving ad infinitum. To the most subtle reasoning, such a proof, coupled, too, as it is with numberless similar ones, demonstrates his power to heal. Now for a brief analysis of this power.

” ‘Is it spiritualism? Listen to the words of wisdom. “Believe in God; believe also in me; or believe me for the very works’ sake.” Now, then, his works are but the result of superior wisdom, which can demonstrate a science not understood: hence it were a doubtful proceeding not to believe him for the works’ sake. Well, then, he denies that his power to heal the sick is borrowed from spirits of this or another world; and let us take the Scriptures for proof. “A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.” How, then, can he receive the friendly aid of the disenthralled spirit, while he rejects the faith of the solemn mystic who crosses the threshold of the dark unknown to conjure up from the vasty deep the awe-struck spirit of some invisible squaw?

” ‘Again, is it by animal magnetism that he heals the sick? Let us examine. I have employed electro-magnetism and animal magnetism, and for a brief interval have felt relief, from the equilibrium which I fancied was restored to an exhausted system or by a diffusion of concentrated action. But in no instance did I get rid of a return of all my ailments, because I had not been helped out of the error in which opinions involved us. My operator believed in disease independent of the mind; hence, I could not be wiser than my teacher. But now I can see dimly at first, and only as trees walking, the great principle which underlies Dr. Quimby’s faith and works; and, just in proportion to my light, perception, is my recovery. This truth which he opposes to the error of giving intelligence to matter and placing pain where it never placed itself, if received understandingly, changes the currents of the system to their normal action; and the mechanism of the body goes on undisturbed, That this is a science capable of demonstration becomes clear to the minds of those patients who reason upon the process of their cure. The truth which he establishes in the patient cures him (although he may be wholly unconscious thereof); and the body, which is full of light, is no longer in disease. At present I am too much in error to elucidate the truth, and can touch only the key-note for the master-hand to wake the harmony. May it be in essays instead of notes, say I. After all, this is a very spiritual doctrine; but the eternal years of God are with it, and it must stand firm as the rock of ages. And to many a poor sufferer may it be found, as by me, “the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” ‘ ”

Mr. Dresser comments on this article as follows: “It will be observed, by noting the foregoing statements closely that the lady didn’t understand that disease is a state of mind and the truth is its cure until this experience with Quimby took place; and it will be seen how rapidly, during the three weeks’ experience referred to, she had been grasping that truth, and seeing that it was a true science, and that it was curing herself. It is now easy to see just when and just where she ‘discovered Christian Science.’ ”

It is interesting to digress from the above account and look back a little to see how and why Mrs. Eddy, then Mrs. Patterson, came to visit Mr. Quimby. In 1899 I had in my temporary possession a series of letters addressed to Mr. Quimby, which no one except their owner, Mr. George A. Quimby, had seen for more than thirty years until they came into my hands, March 1st of that year, for consultation in the preparation of an article published in The Arena, Boston, May, 1899. I give the summary here in condensed form as printed in that article.

The letters are chiefly of a personal character, and I shall mention them only so far as they concern the public, since it is unnecessary to do more. I shall confine myself to the mere statement of facts, the purpose of this brief statement being to set at rest the question concerning Mrs. Eddy’s loyalty to Mr. Quimby previous to the publication of her book.

The first of these letters is dated Rumney, N. H., October 14, 1861, and is addressed by Dr. D. Patterson to “Dr. Quimby,” soliciting the aid of the latter’s “wonderful power,” for the restoration of his wife, who for a number of years had been an invalid, “unable to sit up.” Then follow fourteen letters signed by Mrs. Patterson, bearing dates beginning May 29, 1862, and ending July 25, 1865; and written from Rumney, and Sanbornton Bridge, N. H., Saco and Warren, Me., and Lynn, Mass. The first is a letter of appeal, expressing “entire confidence” in the “philosophy” of Mr. Quimby, and asking him to come to heal her, since if he does not save her, she must surely die–after six years of severe invalidism. Then follows a letter from a Hill (N. H.) water-cure, where Mrs. Patterson had gone for treatment, as Quimby could not come to her, which expresses the hope that she may yet reach Quimby, as she believes herself sufficiently “excitable,” to live through the journey. This was in August, 1882; for in my father’s journal . . . under date of October 17, 1862, I find mention of her. The next letter, written after her return home, is dated “Jan. 12, ’63,” and refers to the benefit received from a distant mental treatment which removed all her pain in a remarkable way, and speaks of herself as “a living wonder and a living monument of your power,” as a result of which “five or six of my friends are going to visit you.” She hopes soon to accompany her sister, Mrs. Tilton, to Portland to see Quimby. She says of herself, “I eat, drink, and am merry; have no laws to fetter my spirit now, though I am quite as much of an escaped prisoner as my dear husband was.” * The letter expresses firm faith in Quimby’s theory of disease, and reveals a clear understanding of it. She applies terms to disease which appear both in Quimby’s manuscripts, and in Science and Health. She says further, “I mean not again to look mournfully into the past, but wisely to improve the present. . . My explanation of your curative principle surprises people.”

* This reference is to Mrs. Eddy’s second husband, Dr. Patterson.

The following letters relate to slight ailments for which Mrs. Patterson solicits Quimby’s help, express utmost confidence in him, and show that she is spreading his ideas, defending him, defining the difference between his theory and spiritualism, as well as making some effort to apply the healing principle. These letters are also full of gratitude and good wishes, of the love which the student feels for the revered teacher.

In one of these letters, dated “Saco, Sept. 14, ’63,” Mrs. Patterson says, “I would like to have you in your omnipresence visit me [absent mental treatment] at 8 o’cIock, this if convenient.” A later letter is dated Warren, Me., April 10, 1864, and describes a lecture given by Mrs. Patterson, in which she outlined Quimby’s theory, and once more distinguished his teaching from spiritualism. An earnest desire is expressed to engage in a more public work, and applications have already come to her both for treatment and for articles upon the subject. But she declares that she is not yet out of her “pupilage.” The next letter expresses a yet deeper desire to realize the ideal of the higher life, to perfect herself that she may help others, and shows warm appreciation of the spiritual side of Quimby’s teaching. There is a noticeable variation in the handwriting in portions of this letter, and in general the handwriting of these letters reveals a variety of moods. From time to time Mrs. Patterson encloses money in payment for absent treatments.

Again, she speaks of Quimbv’s work as a “science,” which has had as clear a demonstration in her case as any experiments she has “witnessed in clairvoyance.” On one occasion she meets an acquaintance who was formerly editor of The Banner of Light, to whom she explains Quimby’s philosophy. “He thought you a defunct spiritualist; before I quitted him at Berwick, he had endorsed your science.” She quotes from memory, in another letter, the public announcement of her address in Warren, Me., “Mrs. M. M. Patterson will lecture at the Town Hall one week from next Wednesday on P. P. Quimby’s spiritual science [for the] healing [of disease–as opposed to Deism or Rochester Rapping Spiritualism.” In the first letter from Warren, she reports having said to a friend when speaking of Quimby’s power, “Why even the winds and the waves obey him.” Again, “Dear Doctor, what could I do without you?. “I will not bow to wealth for I cannot honor it as I do wisdom.” The following letter closes thus: “May the peace of wisdom which passeth all understanding be and abide with you.–Ever the same in gratitude.” A later letter asks, “Who is wise but you? What is your truth, if it applies only to the evil diseases which show themselves. . . . Doctor, I have a strong feeling of late that I ought to be perfect after the command of science. . . . I can love only a good, honorable, and brave career; no other can suit me.”

Writing from Lynn, Mass., July 8, 1864, Mrs. Patterson speaks of the severe illness of her husband, earnestly wishing that Quimby were there to help, and stating that her husband only laughs when she explains the “truth” to him. She closes by asking, “Can you not prevent my taking it, and lend relief to him?” The last letter is the emotional cry of the mother heart, because of the probably fatal illness of her son George, at Enterprise, Minnesota. The same unquestioning faith in the wonderful power of Mr. Quimby is expressed, with an earnest appeal to him to save her son, for whom she expresses the highest regard. There is not in these letters the least attempt to discredit Quimby’s power as an enlightened healer, not the slightest mention of magnetism or electricity, and no suspicion that his treatment is not regarded as of a high spiritual character. On the contrary, a longing is expressed to attain as high a level, and there is every reason to believe that the temptation to claim the great new truths as her own, came later when the field was free. It is noticeable, however, that the temperament is one of great susceptibility to the pains of others; and there is constant appeal to Quimby to free her from these pains.*

* End of summary from The Arena, May, 1899.

While these letters were in my possession in 1899, I showed them to trustworthy people who certified that they were in Mrs. Eddy’s handwriting, and expressed surprise that one who formerly held Mr. Quimby in such high esteem, should trample upon his reputation, claiming his hard-won laurels as her own, borrowing his ideas, adopting his method of treatment, and even stating in print that his writings may have been “stolen” from her published works!

The day after the publication of the article contributed by Mrs. Eddy to the Evening Courier, in 1862, it was adversely criticized by the Portland Advertiser. Mrs. Patterson replied and among other things said:

“P. P. Quimby stands upon the plane of wisdom with his truth. Christ healed the sick, but not by jugglery or with drugs. As the former speaks as never man before spake, and heals as never man healed since Christ, is he not identified with truth, and is not this the Christ which was in him? We know that in wisdom is life, ‘and the life was the light of man.’ P. P. Quimby rolls away the stone from the sepulcher of error, and health is the resurrection. But we also know that ‘light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.’ ” *

The True History of Mental Science, p. 32

“These excerpts,” says Mr. Dresser, “are in plain language, and they speak for themselves. The statements are made with too evident an understanding of their truth to be doubted or questioned, or afterward reversed in any particular. It should be borne in mind that your speaker was there at the time, and was familiar with all the circumstances she relates and the views expressed. The devoted regard the lady formed for her deliverer, Quimby, and for the truth he taught her, which proved her salvation, was continued to be held by her from this time, (the autumn of 1862) up to a period at least four years later; for in January, 1866, Quimby’s death occurred, and on February 15 she sent to me a copy of a poem she had written to his memory, and accompanied it by a letter commencing in these words: ‘I enclose some lines of mine in memory of our much-loved friend, which, perhaps, you will not think over-wrought in meaning, others must, of course.’ ” *

* Reprinted in The True History of Mental Science, p. 34.

The title of this poem is significant: “Lines on the death of P. P. Quimby, who healed with the truth that Christ taught, in contradistinction to all isms.” People had persistently identified Mr. Quimby with spiritism and other current theories. Mrs. Eddy, then Mrs. Patterson, saw as clearly as anyone that he was misunderstood. She was always eager to defend him. Her defense shows that she rightly traced his references to scriptural teaching to the Bible, and that she accepted his interpretation of the New Testament as containing a “spiritual science,” the name for which she afterwards adopted for her version of his teaching, namely, Christian Science.

One further reference to the letter by Mrs. Patterson in which she enclosed her poem is needed to make our history complete. She naturally supposed that Mr. Dresser would take up Quimby’s practice among the sick, as he had for years been Quimby’s most ardent follower. Consequently she writes, “I am constantly wishing that you would step forward into the place he has vacated. I believe you would do a vast amount of good, and are more capable of occupying his place than any other I know of.” Then Mrs. Patterson gives the immediate reason for wishing that this might come about: “Two weeks ago I fell on the sidewalk, and struck my back on the ice, and was taken up for dead, came to consciousness amid a storm of vapors from cologne, . . . camphor, etc., but to find myself the helpless cripple I was before I saw Dr. Quimby. “The physician attending said I had taken the last step I ever should, but in two days I got out of my bed alone and will walk; but yet 1 confess I am frightened, and out of that nervous heat my friends are forming, spite of me, the terrible spinal affection from which I suffered so long and hopelessly. Now can’t you help me? I believe you can. I write this with this feeling: I think that I could help another in my condition if they had not placed their intelligence in matter. This I have not done, and yet I am slowly failing. Won’t you write to me if you will undertake for me if I can get to you?. . . Respectfully, Mary M. Patterson.” *

* The True History of Mental Science, p. 34.

The answer was that Mr. Dresser did not at that time feel sufficient confidence to succeed Mr. Quimby. Mr. Evans had not then issued his first book and was not yet known as a healer. Apparently there was no one to take up the practice of spiritual healing. Fortunately, perhaps, for her, Mrs. Patterson had to depend on her own resources, for in so doing she probably grew in faith in the method of healing she had learned from Quimby. There is no evidence to show that Mrs. Patterson, who presently became Mrs. Eddy, made any special claims as discoverer before she published Science and Health, 1875.

At the time Miss Milmine was preparing her very careful and wholly accurate series of articles on Mrs. Eddy for McClure’s Magazine, I read manuscript lessons, then in Miss Milmine’s possession, in which Mrs. Eddy, still teaching the ideas and methods which she acquired from Quimby, used a very interesting intermediate phraseology, often verbally like Quimby’s early articles, but also resembling the language of Science and Health. In view of the fact that the first edition of Science and Health has been so far as possible suppressed, there is good reason to believe that its author still gave Mr. Quimby credit for his discoveries, and that she had no thought of making claims for herself as a revelator, as if Quimby had taught her nothing.

What her reasons were for making the change, we need not ask. We are concerned, not with bestowing credit upon Quimby, for he never desired it, and whatever credit is his due no one can take from him; but with the fact that Mrs. Eddy’s claim for herself as a revelator brought a division into the mental-healing camp. This is a historical fact which we cannot neglect, since this division has been an element in the history since 1882.

We are interested as students of the history of this movement merely in the fact that there was a controversy in the Boston papers in 1888 in which Mrs. Eddy indicated her change in attitude toward Quimby and intensified the split in the therapeutic world. In a letter addressed to the Boston Post, dated “No. 569 Columbus Avenue, March 7, 1883,” Mrs. Eddy says:

“In 1862 my name was Patterson, my husband, Dr. Patterson, a distinguished dentist. After our marriage I was confined to my bed with a severe illness, and seldom left bed or room for seven years, when I was taken to Dr. Quimby and partially restored. I returned home happy, but only returned to a new agony to find my husband had eloped. . . . I have a bill of divorce from him, obtained in the county of Essex. . . . We had laid the foundations of mental healing before we ever saw Dr. Quimby; were an homeopathist without a diploma. We made our first experiments in mental healing about 1853, when we were convinced that mind had a science which, if understood, would heal all diseases. . . . Dr. Quimby was somewhat of a remarkable healer, and at the time we knew him was known as a mesmerist *[1]. . . We knew him about twenty years ago, and aimed to help him. We saw he was looking in our direction, and asked him to write his thoughts out. He did so, and then we would take that copy to correct, and sometimes so transform it that he would say it was our composition, which it virtually was; but we always gave him back the copy.” *[2] . . . But lo! after we have founded mental healing, and nearly twenty years have elapsed, during which we have taught some six hundred students, and published five or six thousand volumes on this subject . . . the aforesaid gentleman announces to the public, Dr. Quimby, the founder of mental healing.” *[3]

* [1] Compare this misstatement with Mrs. Eddy’s appreciation of Quimby’s work quoted above. Mr. Quimby had given up mesmerism many years before he moved to Portland in 1859.

[2] It was the Misses Ware and Mr. Quimby’s son who copied his articles for him. No one else aided Quimby in this way. Mrs. Patterson saw none of the articles save the first volume, written in 1859, and loaned to Mrs. Patterson by Mr. J. A. Dresser.

[3] True History of Mental Science, p. 39.

It hardly seems credible that one who had held Quimby in such high esteem and had regarded him as performing works of healing in accordance with the Christian principle, should now make such a statement as the above and the following from the Christian Science Journal, June, 1887: “I never heard him intimate that he healed diseases mentally; and many others will testify that, up to his last sickness, he treated us magnetically–manipulating our heads, and making passes in the air while he stood in front of us. During his treatments I felt like one having hold of an electric battery and standing on an insulating stool. His healing was never considered or called anything but Mesmerism. I tried to think better of it, and to procure him public favor, and it wounded me to have him despised. I believe he was doing good; and, even now, knowing as I do the harm in this practice, I would never revert to it but for this public challenge. I was ignorant of the basis of animal magnetism twenty years ago, but now know it would disgrace and invalidate any mode of medicine.”

It will be noticed that in the article quoted above from the Portland Evening Courier, 1862, Mrs. Eddy, then Mrs. Patterson, distinctly says that she has employed animal magnetism and knows the results of the magnetic treatment. In contrast with such treatment, she finds Mr. Quimby employing a principle which explains the error on the part of those who attribute intelligence to matter and believe in disease as “independent of the mind,” and declares that his doctrine is “very spiritual.” The occasional use of the hands in rubbing a patient’s head after the silent treatment was completed and by way of increasing the patient’s faith, is explained by Mr. Dresser in The True History of Mental Science.

It would be a long story to trace out and tell all the conflicting statements made by Mrs. Eddy’s writers. Two of the latter have admitted to me that they aided in writing such statements purely as matter of business, to substantiate the claims in behalf of the supposed “revelation” in 1866. It was the hypothesis of a “revelation” that caused all the difficulty. The discrepancies in the dates are possibly due in part to the fact that different writers were employed to make them. The failure of the various writers to compare notes would also explain the many misstatements circulated since 1883 concerning Quimby’s manuscripts, in regard to Dr. Ahren’s trial, and the suit brought against The Arena Company for alleged infringement of rights in printing Mrs. Eddy’s portrait.” * Many other matters have been so interpreted as seemingly to discredit those who know the facts. Here we refer to such matters merely to show that to ascertain the historical facts it would be necessary in every instance to pass beyond these statements published for reasons by those who had the reputation of an organization to sustain.

* No action was taken in regard to the subject-matter of the articles in The Arena. These articles have never been disputed.

For example, in the letter addressed to the Boston Post, quoted from above, Mrs. Eddy gives the date of her first experiments in mind-healing as 1853. In her Restrospection and Introspection, page 28, she says, “It was in Massachusetts, in the year 1866, that I discovered the Science of Divine Metaphysical Healing, which I afterward named Christian Science.” Again, on page 51, she says, “In 1867 I introduced the first purely metaphysical system of healing since apostolic days.” This she named “the great discovery” on a “basis so hopelessly original” that she charges others with plagiarisms from “the precious book,” Science and Health, “the only known work containing a correct and complete statement of the Science of Metaphysical Healing, its principles and practice.”

In The Arena, May, 1899, a former student of Christian Science has examined some of the contradictory statements and shown that they are mutually destructive. Since we are now tracing the history of the therapeutic movement in general, we simply call attention to the fact that three of Mr. Evans’s books were before the world when Science and Health was published, and that those works contain “a correct and complete statement of the science of metaphysical healing, its principles and practice,” on the basis of the method acquired from Mr. Quimby and of principles adapted from the writings of Swedenborg and the Bible. When Mrs. Eddy writes that “Dr. Quimby believed in the reality of disease, and its power over life; and he depended on man’s belief in order to heal him, as all mesmerists do,” * we know of course that the statement is for a purpose. It is always difficult to sustain the hypothesis of a “revelation.” Once entered into, the hypothesis is persistently asserted and reasserted in varying terms. The undertaking would be relatively harmless were it not that thousands of people are deceived, innocent people who are unaware that they are perpetuating untruth.

* Christian Science Journal, June, 1887.

All we need say here is that probably Mrs. Eddy had no inkling of mental treatment in any form before she visited Mr. Quimby in 1862, although she had some acquaintance with spiritism and magnetic treatment, and knew enough about mesmerism to know that Quimby’s treatment was not mesmeric and that he was not called a mesmerist save by those critics who did not understand his method. The testimony given in her letters is trustworthy because it antedated the time when the special claims were made in behalf of her own “discovery.” The actual discovery was of course the finding of Mr. Quimby, the acceptance of his method of treatment, his theory of disease and its cure, his idea of man the spiritual being, and the adoption of his “science of health and happiness” with its implied interpretation of the New Testament. The next step was taken with the endeavor to give people the benefit of Quimby’s teaching, and this surely was made in good faith. Then came the fateful fall on the sidewalk in February, 1866, and the realization that she must depend upon her own understanding of the new principle if she was to regain her health. This effort to apply Quimby’s method was the “demonstration” which gave her the conclusive proof. We have a brief reference to this experience in Mrs. Eddy’s own words:

“At Swampscott, Mass., in 1866, we recovered in a moment of time from a severe accident, considered fatal by the regular physicians, and regained the internal action that had stopped and the use of our limbs that were palsied. To us this demonstration was the opening of the new era of Christian Science. We then gained a proof that the principle, or life of man, is a divine intelligence and power which, understood, can heal all diseases, and reveals the basis of man’s immortality.” *

* Letter to the Boston Post above quoted.

So far the statement is correct, since the ability to apply Quimby’s principle was the beginning of a “new era” for Mrs. Eddy. What she here says about this principle is given in the same terms which Quimby employed. But then follow statements calculated to mislead, as if Quimby’s method of healing were a “mystery” to Mr. Dresser to whom she had applied for help after she had proved her power “to work out the problem of mental healing.” The “wonderful discovery” she speaks of was of course her own clearer insight into the principle and the ability to apply it. Mrs. Eddy did not arrive at any new principle. There is no evidence in her published writings that she advanced beyond Quimby in any way. What she did was to develop the therapeutic principles in her own language and then give these the authority of special claims as if the idea of spiritual healing and of “Christian” science had not been known previous to 1866. To try to make these claims good it was necessary to ignore Mr. Evans, whose books began to appear in 1869; to discredit Quimby as an “ignorant mesmerist”; and in many other ways to substitute misstatements for facts.

Turning now to the ideas out of which Mrs. Eddy’s version of the “theory” or “Truth” was developed, we note that Mrs. Eddy employed the same terminology for the most part in declaring disease an “error” of mind, although she was more inclined to employ negative statements or denials. Mr. Quimby denied that there is any intelligence in matter or that the body had any power to produce disease apart from the mind. But his explanations were concrete and affirmative, based on many years of practice with the sick, and he saw no reason for denying natural facts. Mrs. Eddy’s statements were more abstract since she did not enjoy the same advantage of practical experience. She introduced the less intelligible term “mortal mind” in place of Quimby’s teaching that the lower mind consists of spiritual substance or “opinions” which grow like seeds in a fertile soil. But in general the contrast between truth and error remains as in Quimby’s theory.

Mrs. Eddy acquired from Quimby the idea of the spiritual interpretation of Scripture, and made this an important part of her version of Christian Science. Science and Health was put forward after a time as the actual “key” to scriptural interpretation, with an authority claimed for it which was a wide departure from Quimby’s modest claims. Quimby had taught that there is an implied science in the Scriptures, as we have noted above. He had even employed the term “Christian Science.” * But Mrs. Eddy understood this “science” in part only, or she would not have claimed it as her own “revelation.” Mrs. Eddy neglected the larger clues to spiritual interpretation which she might have found by turning from Mr. Evans’s The Mental Cure to Swedenborg’s works, and which she might have based on the Bible itself as the Word, instead of basing such an interpretation on a personal view. If, as reported, Mrs. Eddy allowed her name to be coupled with that of Christ, this of course marks a still wider departure from the spirit exemplified by Mr. Quimby.

*This term was first used, in an entirely different connection, by Abram Cowles, 1840; and by Rev. Wm. Adams, Elements of Christian Science, Philadelphia, 1850.

Mrs. Eddy also tended to introduce speculative terms to some extent, based on a version of Berkeley, with whom she believed herself in agreement. But as in the case of Mr. Evans’s later version of the spiritual healing theory, an analysis of the differences would take us too far afield. I have elsewhere examined this view of Berkeley. * We note this view in order to show why on the whole readers of Science and Health have tended to make light of the natural world. There may have been an advantage in favor of this sort of idealism for those who were working away from a purely naturalistic point of view. As an extreme reaction against a materialistic age, Christian Science may have had a lesson for us. But our thought need not rest in extremes. It is not necessary to deny any of the realities, laws or conditions of the natural world in order to test the truths of mental healing. There is no advantage in denying anything that God has made.

* Man and the Divine Order, p. 301.

Mrs. Eddy’s hypothesis of “malicious animal magnetism” was a departure from Quimby’s teaching; for Quimby did not charge his critics with any effort to work against him, he was not concerned with the “malicious.” This hypothesis seems rather strange, in view of the fact that Mrs. Eddy had declared that “All is good; there is no evil.” It came into vogue in Christian Science circles in connection with some of the early students, some of whom were charged with appropriating Mrs. Eddy’s ideas. Quimby had taught that minds influence one another far more than we realize, and that minds give off an “atmosphere”; but he had nothing to say about “magnetism” since he traced all the adverse influences to which the sick are subject to fear, error, and opinions or beliefs. When Mrs. Eddy explains evil as an illusion due to the errors of “mortal mind,” to the ignorance of our true nature, Quimby would have pointed out that in all consistency one should cleave to this our real nature, to the truth of our real being, not concerning ourselves with so-called “animal magnetism” Quimby would have said that “Good or God never causes evil, or creates aught that can cause evil”; for he held that man’s misery is of man’s own invention, and should not be attributed to God.

When Mrs. Eddy declares that Christ was “the divine manifestation of God, which comes in the flesh, to destroy incarnate error,” and that Jesus was “the human man and Christ is divine,” she is drawing the same distinction which runs through Quimby’s teaching. Quimby also said that “man is God’s idea,” “the spiritual image and likeness of God,” and he too taught that man in this sense of the word does not sin, is not sick, since sin or sickness is explicable by reference to the opinions or beliefs which man entertains in his ignorance. Mrs. Eddy gives further expression to this principle when she says, “The realm of the real is spiritual.” “The spiritual universe, including man, is a compound yet indvidual idea, reflecting the divine Substance of Spirit,” “Spirit is God, and man is the image and likeness; hence man is spiritual and not material.”

When, however, Mrs. Eddy declares that “there is no matter, it is non-existent,” “matter Is another name for mortal mind,” “the body is in fact mortal mind, though it is called matter,” she is only partly stating Quimby’s view. Quimby called the lower mind “spiritual matter,” and he held that man entertains all sorts of opinions concerning the body as if matter contained intelligence; but he did not deny the existence of the body, which is part of nature and which we might all truly understand if we would take our start with the “scientific man,” the “spiritual man” or real self. Mrs. Eddy’s statement, “Mortal mind is not an entity. It is only a false sense of matter,” comes nearer Quimby’s terminology. It was this “false sense of matter” which Quimby sought to dispel by establishing the truth concerning man’s being. Mrs. Eddy speaks of the flesh as “An error of physical belief, a supposition that life, substance and intelligence are in matter . . . a belief that matter has sensation.” She is here drawing the same distinction, save that Quimby would have called attention to the fact that there is a true idea of the flesh: man did not create the body, but has entertained a false idea of it by attributing to it the intelligence which belongs only to mind. The curative principle is stated by Mrs. Eddy when she says that “the healing power of Truth is demonstrated to be an immanent, eternal quality, or principle,” the term “Principle” having been substituted for Quimby’s term “Wisdom.” What Mrs. Eddy aimed to express no doubt was the supremacy of spirit over material circumstance, hence over all errors, opinions and beliefs. To see this truth and express it in one’s own fashion is to adopt the affirmative attitude, and that was Quimby’s aim in establishing “the science of life and happiness,” or “Christian Science.”

Chapter 6

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