Phineas Parkhurst

Phineas Parkhurst

Quimby, Phineas Parkhurst, 1802-66, American mental healer, b. Lebanon, N.H. He became interested in mesmerism and gave exhibitions of that art in New England and New Brunswick. He then turned to mental healing and gained a large and important following. Quimby is, however, best known through the controversy that later arose as to the influence of his thought and his doctrines on Mary Baker Eddy and on Christian Science. The problem is unsolved. Quimby's Questions and Answers appeared in 1862. His name and teaching remained influential long after his death.

See biography by A. B. Hawkins (1970).

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (February 16, 1802January 16, 1866), was a New England philosopher, magnetizer, mesmerist, healer, and scientist, who resided in Belfast, Maine, and had an office in Portland, Maine.


The son of blacksmith John Quimby (1765-1827) and Susannah Quimby (1768-1827) née White, Quimby was the sixth of seven children. He was born in Lebanon, New Hampshire, in 1802. His family moved to Belfast in 1804. He married Susannah Burnham Haraden (1808-1875) on 23 December 1827, seven days before his father’s death. Quimby’s older sister, Julia Maria Quimby (1821-1892) became the second wife of Susannah’s younger brother Daniel Haraden (1811-1896) on 29 December 1847. They had four children: John Haraden (1829-1899), William Henry (1831-1857), Susan Augusta (1833-1928) — she married James Woodbury Frederick (1859-1897) circa 1890 — and George Albert (1841-1915).


He was watch and clockmaker by trade.

Among other things, he invented a circular saw, and he was one of the early makers of daguerrotypes. He held several patents for mechanical devices.

New Thought

Quimby's focus of attention was philosophy of mind, on which he held the dualist position. (See also Cartesian dualism).

He approached the mind-body problem by reasoning that mind was "spiritual matter", observing that man "exists outside himself," and that mind and body, although of two different natures, interact with each other.

Mesmerist and magnetist

In 1838, Quimby began studying Mesmerism after attending a lecture by Doctor Collyer and soon began further experimentation with the help of Lucius Burkmar, who could fall into a trance and diagnose illnesses.

From the conclusions of these studies combined with his knowledge of the philosophy and science of the mind, Phineas Quimby developed his theory of mental healing and opened an office in Portland, Maine in 1859.

Quimby claimed that disease is not the cause of illness, but the effect of a conflict existing within the mind; he claimed that all mental and most physical diseases were the result of faulty reasoning. He said "the explanation is the cure."

He treated over 12,000 people in the last 8 years of his life, using his own unique process which he termed "The Quimby System".

He also came to believe that many religious beliefs and opinions were the root cause of a great percentage of all the diseases he treated.


Among the students and patients who joined his studies and helped him to commit his teachings to writing were Warren Felt Evans, Annetta Seabury Dresser and Julius Dresser, the founders of New Thought as a named movement.

Warren Felt Evans was one of the first individuals who wrote seriously on the teachings of Phineas Quimby. Though he did not specifically establish a movement under these teachings he did open a practice in Salisbury, Massachusetts. Although the most important gift that Evans left to New Thought was his written work, Evans also took the important step of integrating the philosophies of Swedenborg and Quimby.

Mary Baker Eddy

Mary Baker Eddy the founder of Christian Science is often cited as having derived her theology from her association with Quimby. Yet, most scholars agree that Christian Science does not reflect the teachings of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. For a time Mary Baker Eddy was a patient of Quimby’s and shared his view that disease is rooted in a mental cause. But as her understanding of Christ Jesus’ approach to healing developed over the years, her concept of life and healing grew further and further away from Quimby’s. Christian Science is vastly different from the teachings of Quimby.

Here are some references on this point:

‘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)

"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)"

“[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).

“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)

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).



  • 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.
  • Holmes, S.W., "Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: Scientist of Transcendentalism", The New England Quarterly, Vol.17, No.3, (September 1944), pp.356-380.
  • 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.

Collections of Quimby's writings

  • Dresser, Horatio W. (1921). The Quimby Manuscripts, Thomas Y. Crowell Co. ISBN 0-766-14052-0
  • 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 0-931-40002-3
  • Quimby, P. (Seale, E., ed.), (1988a). The Complete Writings: Vol 1, Marina Del Rey, CA: DeVorss & Co. ISBN 0-875-16600-8
  • Quimby, P. (Seale, E., ed.), (1988a). The Complete Writings: Vol 2, Marina Del Rey, CA: DeVorss & Co. ISBN 0-875-16601-6
  • Quimby, P. (Seale, E., ed.), (1988a). The Complete Writings: Vol 3, Marina Del Rey, CA: DeVorss & Co. ISBN 0-875-16602-4

See also

External links

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