Phineas Quimby

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Phineas Quimby
Phineas Parkhurst Quimby.jpg
Born Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
February 16 [O.S. February 4] 1802
Lebanon, New Hampshire, United States
Died January 16, 1866(1866-01-16) (aged 63)
Belfast, Maine, United States
Nationality American
Occupation Mesmerist, clockmaker, inventor
Known for Founder of the New Thought
Home town Belfast, Maine
Part of a series of articles on
New Thought

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (February 16, 1802 – January 16, 1866) was an American spiritual teacher. Quimby was a philosopher, magnetizer, mesmerist, healer, and inventor, who resided in Belfast, Maine, and had an office in Portland, Maine. Quimby's work is widely recognized as leading to the New Thought movement.[1][2]


Born in the small town of Lebanon, New Hampshire, Quimby was one of seven children and the son of a blacksmith. As was customary for his social and monetary status at that time, Quimby received little formal education. He suffered greatly from tuberculosis in his youth and was prescribed calomel by his doctor. Instead of curing his sickness, the calomel began to rot his teeth, and Quimby began experimenting with his own ideas for a cure. He found that intense excitement (such as galloping on his horse) alleviated his pain for brief periods of time, and became interested in the mind's ability to affect the body. It is unclear how he found his ultimate cure, but it was through his own devices, and not from the doctor's medicine.[3]

Phineas Quimby and Lucius Burkmar

When Charles Poyen, a French mesmerist following in the tradition of Puységur, came to Belfast, Maine, on a lecture circuit about mesmerism around 1836, Quimby was intensely curious. Quimby attended one of Poyen's lectures in 1838, and immediately began plying the mesmerist with questions about the nature of animal magnetism and its powers. Poyen admitted that with proper training, anyone could become adept at administering hypnotism. Quimby left his job as watchmaker and followed Poyen's tour of New England for the subsequent two years (1838–1840), until he became proficient at applying mesmeric hypnotism himself.[4] Around this time Quimby encountered Lucius Burkmar, an uneducated youth who was particularly susceptible to hypnosis. Quimby and Lucius began a tour of their own, practicing mesmeric demonstrations in front of large crowds.[5]

Later Quimby and Lucius stopped touring and Quimby began healing people of ailments which doctors could not cure. Quimby explained to his patients that disease was caused by false beliefs, and that the cure was in the explanation of this. Many letters and documents of Quimby were released only after his son's death in 1921.


Quimby was a watch and clockmaker by trade[6] and held several patents for mechanical devices.[7]


Julius and Annetta Dresser were both cured by Quimby, from what sickness it is unclear.[8] Their son, Horatio, wrote extensively on Quimby's theories, collecting many of Quimby's papers in his book Health and the Inner Life: An Analytical and Historical Study of Spiritual Healing and Theories, and also in the book, The Collected Manuscripts of P.P. Quimby.

The scholar of faith healing, Barry Morton, has argued that Quimby's constant tinkering with the mind cure method led him to make important discoveries towards the cure of psychosomatic illnesses. Although Quimby did not publish his findings himself, he did train many others in his methods and hence started a "gnostic" healing tradition. Eventually, his methods were used by John Alexander Dowie--who revolutionized Christian faith healing in the 1880s.[9]

Warren Felt Evans was one of the first individuals who wrote seriously on the teachings of Phineas Quimby.[10]

Mary Baker Eddy[edit]

Main article: Mary Baker Eddy

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, has sometimes been cited as having used Quimby as inspiration for theology. Eddy was a patient of Quimby’s and shared his view that disease is rooted in a mental cause. Because of its theism, Christian Science differs from the teachings of Quimby.[11][12][13][14][15]

In popular culture[edit]

The name Phineas Quimby appears in Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita in a list of names that Humbert Humbert reads in hotel registries during his frantic search for Lolita after she is lost. The listing appears as "Phineas Quimby, Lebanon, New Hampshire".


  • Dresser, Horatio W. (1921). The Quimby Manuscripts, Thomas Y. Crowell Co. ISBN 0-7661-4052-0
  • Clark, M.A. (ed.), The Healing Wisdom of Dr. P.P. Quimby: Selected Notes from the Dresser and Collie Compilations of the Quimby Manuscripts, Frontal Lobe, (Los Altos), 1982. ISBN 0-931400-02-3
  • Quimby, P. (Seale, E., ed.), (1988a). The Complete Writings: Vol 1, Marina Del Rey, CA: DeVorss & Co. ISBN 0-87516-600-8
  • Quimby, P. (Seale, E., ed.), (1988a). The Complete Writings: Vol 2, Marina Del Rey, CA: DeVorss & Co. ISBN 0-87516-601-6
  • Quimby, P. (Seale, E., ed.), (1988a). The Complete Writings: Vol 3, Marina Del Rey, CA: DeVorss & Co. ISBN 0-87516-602-4

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pickren, W.E. and Rutherford, A. (2010) A History of Modern Psychology in Context.John Wiley and Sons. p 93.
  2. ^ Nash, J.F. (2008) Christianity: The One, the Many, Volume 2. Xlibris Corporation. p 174.
  3. ^ Wills, 1994, Certain Trumpets: The nature of Leadership. New York: Simon & Schuster
  4. ^ Fuller, 1982, Mesmerism and the American Cure of Souls. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press
  5. ^ Dresser, A.G. (1899). The Philosophy of P.P. Quimby. Boston: George H. Ellis Co.
  6. ^ Holmes, (1944), p.358; Albanese, (1986), p.497.
  7. ^ His patents included:
    (a) US patent no.5650X, (held jointly with Job White: White & Quimby), dated 12 September 1829, for a "Circular Sawing Machine" (a later patent, lodged by Job White, US patent no.16157, dated 2 December 1856, for a "Method of Applying Steam to and of Cutting Scarfs from Wood" refers to this earlier patent);
    (b) US patent no.9679X, (held by P. Quimby), dated 23 May 1836, for a "Permutation Lock"; and
    (c) US patent no.7197, (held by P.P. Quimby), dated 19 March 1850, for a "Steering Apparatus… a new and useful machine for Steering Ships and Steamboats".
    Apparently, according to Clark (1982, p.104), another patent was issued to Quimby on 3 June 1829 for a "Chain Saw for Timber". Currently there is no record available for a patent on this date from the US Patent Office (and, currently, i.e., as at 21 September 2007, there are no records for any of the patent numbers ranging from X5475 to X5497 inclusive — i.e., from 30 April 1829 to 11 June 1829).
  8. ^ Fuller, 1982, Mesmerism and the American Cure of Souls. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylcania Press.
  9. ^ "John Alexander Dowie and the Invention of Modern Faith Healing, 1882-1889," (2015).
  10. ^ See Teahan (March 1979).
  11. ^ ‘Quimby’s son and defender said categorically, “The religion which [Mrs. Eddy] teaches certainly is hers, for which I cannot be too thankful; for I should be loath to go down to my grave feeling that my father was in any way connected with ‘Christian Science.’...In [Quimby’s method of] curing the sick, religion played no part. There were no prayers, there was no asking assistance from God or any other divinity. He cured by his wisdom.” (Dresser, Horatio W., ed. The Quimby Manuscripts. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company Publishers, 1921. - p436)
  12. ^ "Christian Science is a religious teaching and only incidentally a healing method. Quimbyism was a healing method and only incidentally a religious teaching. If one examines the religious implications or aspects of Quimby’s thought, it is clear that in these terms it has nothing whatever in common with Christian Science.” (Gottschalk, Stephen. The Emergence of Christian Science in American Religious Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973 - p130)"
  13. ^ “[Julius] Dresser sees the healing power [of Quimby] as a kind of clairvoyance, an ability to enter into the sick person’s mind and read his or her thoughts; Dresser makes no suggestion that this type of healing involves tapping into a divine strength, as Mrs. Eddy would later claim for her Christian Science.” (Gill, Gillian. Mary Baker Eddy. Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Books, 1998 - p159).
  14. ^ “That which connected her [Eddy] with Quimby was her conviction that all disease in the last analysis has its roots in the mind, and that healing therefore must be effected through mental influence. But it was her earnest Puritan faith in God that separated her from Quimby from the beginning.” (Karl Holl, German Historian)
  15. ^ A good composite of both Quimby, and the incompatibility of his ideas and practice with those of Eddy, can be found in these sources: Taves, Ann, Fits, Trances, & Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James. Princeton University Press 1999 (pp 212-218); Peel, Robert. Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery. Boston: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966 (chapter, “Portland 1862”); Gill, Gillian. Mary Baker Eddy. Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Books, 1998 (pp 131-146 & 230-233).

Additional reading[edit]

  • Albanese, C.L., "Physic and Metaphysic in Nineteenth-Century America: Medical Sectarians and Religious Healing", Church History, Vol. 55, No. 4. (Dec., 1986), pp. 489–502.
  • Anon, "The Strange Life of Mary Baker Eddy; Her Ability to Gain and Hold the Loyalty of Thousands a Notable Attribute. How She Founded Her Cult; That She Rewrote the Ideas of Phineas Quimby Always Vigorously Denied -- Many Times Attacked" [Obituary], New York Times, (5 December 1910), p. 3.[1]
  • Holmes, S.W., "Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: Scientist of Transcendentalism", The New England Quarterly, Vol.17, No.3, (September 1944), pp. 356–380.
  • Morton, B. "John Alexander Dowie and the Invention of Modern Faith Healing, 1882-1889," paper presented at UNISA, June 2015.
  • Teahan, John F., "Warren Felt Evans and Mental Healing: Romantic Idealism and Practical Mysticism in Nineteenth-Century America", Church History, Vol.48, No.1, (March 1979), pp. 63–80.

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