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Phineas Quimby: Modeling a Healer
Mesmerism, Magnetism & Beliefs Martyn Carruthers 1991

Online Life Coaching, Counseling & Soulwork Training

What good is a belief if it does not benefit your life?

(Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, 1862)

I wrote this article in 1991 when I was researching the history of "belief change".


About the time of the American Revolution, there was in Paris a Swiss physician from Vienna by the name of Dr Anton Mesmer. Dr Mesmer was the sensation and scandal of his day, for he cured all manner of disease by strange and unorthodox methods.

Although later denounced by a team of scientists (that included Benjamin Franklin), Dr Mesmer's teachings and methods drew many students, some of whom presented performances of mesmerism. Around 1830, a clock-maker from Portland, Maine attended such a performance, became a mesmerist and later the most well known mental healer in America. His name was Phineas Parkhurst Quimby.

After developing his science of healing, Phineas Quimby was credited for healing about a thousand people each year for around fifteen years. Phineas Quimby died in 1866, after documenting his opinions, beliefs and techniques, which were published as The Quimby Manuscripts.

The Quimby Connection (1991)

I finally found an old copy of the "The Quimby Manuscripts" in a used bookstore in Quimby's home city - Portland, Maine. I found it to be tedious reading - Quimby did not write clearly. His editor, Horatio Dresser, wrote, "He (Quimby) could not explain his thoughts accurately. One searches his manuscripts in vain for a clear explanation of the silent cure".

Yet Quimby does describe his methodology, and it is powerful. It works. Explore this material, and we can discuss the details. We use, and train people to use, his powerful healing methods.

Background of Mesmerism

Dr Franz Anton Mesmer developed healing methods. An early method was to apply magnets to diseased parts of the body, but Mesmer later decided that the magnets were unnecessary and that he could personally magnetize any object to perform cures. Another method was to concentrate and make passes with his hands; Mesmer believed his own magnetism caused the cures.  Mesmer's patients would usually go to sleep and wake up cured, sometimes having a convulsion before or during the sleep.

Some practitioners of Hermeticism claimed that Mesmer derived his techniques from them. Mary Ann Atwood wrote in her book A Suggestive Enquiry into Hermetic Arts (1918), "There is little doubt that Alchemy is a betrayed science. Magnetic trance leaked out from backsliding disciples and garrulous assistants".  According to her, the Christian laying on of hands is an echo of Hermetic doctrine.

Physicians and other researchers (Dr Esdaile, Dr Gregory, Dr Elliotson et al) used and modified Mesmer's techniques, calling their field of investigation first mesmerism and later animal magnetism. In 1854, Dr James Braid wrote that Mesmer's key to success was the heightened suggestibility during a somnambulistic trance. But neither he nor the later hypnotists could duplicate the dramatic phenomena of Mesmerism. Dr Hudson in The Law of Mental Medicine, 1903, wrote that Braid threw away Mesmerism, leaving science to feed on the dry bones of hypnosis.

Dr Mesmer was persecuted by his profession. A scientific commission "proved" Mesmer's cures to be based on the imagination of his patients. This, together with Mesmer's flamboyant dress and attitudes, caused many physicians to dismiss him and his ideas as unworthy of serious consideration.

Imagination is a faculty of the human mind. What we imagine can become fact.
If Mesmer had done nothing more than prove that our health is deeply influenced
by our imagination, he should be praised and honored as a great physician.

Anton Mesmer retired and disappeared from public sight, but continued to teach his healing techniques. His students demonstrated Mesmer's discoveries all over the world, including Portland, Maine.

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

Phineas Quimby, a Maine watchmaker, attended a demonstration by Charles Poyen, a French mesmerist, and subsequently studied Mesmerism. Quimby gained a reputation and, with an assistant, publicly demonstrated Mesmerism in New England and Canada. Sometimes Quimby assisted physicians, using mesmerism to provide anesthesia, and occasionally made medical diagnoses and prescribed treatments. During an intervention, Quimby decided that he was a healer. He first used Mesmeric principles, but later developed a mental healing that did not require Mesmerism.

During his research, Quimby realized that his beliefs as much as his techniques were the keys to his success as a healer, and that the beliefs of his patients were the keys to their health.

Quimby was uneducated in both medicine and psychology, but described unconscious process in unambiguous terms. By 1859 his stated objectives were to discover what beliefs were, what thought was and what mind was.

He developed ways to change deep limiting beliefs. Mind, said Quimby in 1862, is spiritual matter, because mind can be condensed into a solid and the solid called a tumor, yet the tumor could be made to resolve and disappear with mind. Quimby concluded that people could create their beliefs, and that their beliefs had strong consequences on their lives.

Quimby wondered if the religion of his place and time (strict New England Calvinism) contributed to diseases. Studying the bible for insight, Quimby decided that his science of healing was described there, in metaphor. Quimby wrote that Truth was the healer, saying that knowledge was not enough and that a true healer must free himself of false beliefs. Quimby was thereafter intolerant to religion.

Quimby also attacked the physicians of his time, saying that through diagnosis and prognosis, physicians created false beliefs in their patients, and that their patients manifested these false beliefs as diseases, harming themselves and causing death.

Quimby is described by Dr LD Weatherhead in Psychology, Religion and Healing, 1951, as a pioneer of suggestive therapy and as father of the New Thought Movement of the turn of the century.

Quimby moved to Portland, Maine in 1859 and was attributed with curing 3400 people during 1864/1865. He wrote many articles about his opinions and beliefs, and he died in January 1866. His death was followed by a long, bitter controversy over his manuscripts and teachings.

The Quimby Manuscripts

Between 1862 and 1864 Quimby treated a Mary Patterson, a patient who became Quimby's student. Quimby loaned her his handwritten manuscripts but she would not return them. Mary Patterson later married to become Mary Baker and married again to become Mary Baker Eddy, known as the founder of Christian Science. After a long legal controversy, the loaned manuscripts were reclaimed by Quimby's descendants, and were finally published in 1921.

Quimby's main writing period was 1859 to 1865, but it wasn't until 7 January, 1921, that a complete set of Quimby's documents, manuscripts, publications, articles and letters from 1840 to 1865 were returned from Mary Baker Eddy's family and became available for publication. These were collected and preserved by Quimby's son - George.

Quimby's manuscripts were not written for publication (including letters to and from patients, articles from the press etc) although Quimby said that he hoped to revise them for a book. A collection of Quimby's works was published as The Quimby Manuscripts by Thomas Crowell Co in 1921, and were reprinted in 1961 by Julian Press. (Quimby also wrote other documents not included in this collection, such as a history of the origin of language.)

The Quimby Manuscripts is not easy to read. Quimby wrote many articles and letters etc over many years, and his opinions changed over that time. Also, Quimby wrote in both the first and third person, sometimes recording long dialogues verbatim, and at other times summarizing his treatments.

Quimby decided that religion and medicine were the sources of most beliefs which caused disease, and repeatedly attacked physicians and priests in his writings. In Quimby's science of healing, disease is real, but is caused and sustained by wrong beliefs. If you remove the beliefs, said Quimby, you remove the disease. Support toxic beliefs and people suffer.

After interpreting the bible in the light of his own philosophy, Quimby advocated a Christianity aligned with his presuppositions of a true healing science, and often referred to the Healing Science of Christ.

Christian Science

This brief history of Phineas Quimby must mention Mary Baker Eddy and her religion. Her Christian Science textbook Science and Health, 1875, has many sections that reflect The Quimby Manuscripts. Compare her Recapitulation chapter of early editions of Science and Health with The Quimby Manuscripts.

Quimby often referred to his Science of Health, and he first referred to a Christian Science in February 1863. This is about the time that Mary Patterson (then aged 40) was Quimby's patient; before she became his student. Quimby loaned her his unpublished writings but was unable to get them back. Mary Patterson married to become Mrs. Mary Baker Glover, and later, Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy.

Quimby later said that Volume I of his manuscripts underestimated the reality of the natural world, and that a philosophy built on these manuscripts would reflect this. You can consult a Christian Science reading room to check if this is true.

After Quimby's death in 1866, Mrs. Eddy began teaching Quimby's methods, basing her teachings on her document called Extracts from PP Quimby's Writings. But in 1872, she began claiming Quimby's work as her own and changed the wording of her documents to be less like Quimby's. In 1882 she claimed divine revelation and said that "in the year 1866 I discovered the Christ Science".

In 1884 Mrs. Eddy began claiming that she had trained Quimby and in 1885 she referred to him as a mere mesmerist. The plot continued to sicken but this is all old, sad news.

In 1901 Phineas Quimby's son George Quimby said, "The religion which she teaches is certainly hers, for which I cannot be too thankful; for I should be loathe to go down to my grave feeling that my father was in any way connected to Christian Science."

Mrs. Eddy died in December 1910, aged 89. According to the book Mary Baker Eddy by Lyman Powell, 1931, Mrs. Eddy first described Quimby as "the most progressive magnetic doctor I ever knew, and back of it all there is a science that some day will be discovered".

In 1921, Quimby's descendants obtained the manuscripts loaned by Quimby to Mary Patterson in 1863, and published them. Without the Christian Science controversy, it is unlikely that The Quimby Manuscripts would have been published, so we probably only know about Quimby's work today because of Mary Baker Eddy's success.

Dr Leatherhead in Psychology, Religion and Healing, 1951 wrote that Mrs. Eddy's Christian Science can be described as the financial exploitation of Quimby's ideas.

The Quimby Principle

In his manuscripts, Quimby contended he operated under a Principle which guided him with the sick, and said that following this Principle allowed him to learn facts which he could not obtain elsewhere. Calling it the Principle of Goodness and the Highest Wisdom, Quimby said it always produced harmony and makes man feel both that he has more to learn and that he is progressing.

Quimby was rather succinct on this topic.  But if Quimby's Principle is understood as a non-verbal experience, rather than an idea, then his description makes sense. To duplicate Quimby's experience, consider combining your internal resources to create your own "Principle of Goodness", using the resources mentioned by Quimby: Goodness, Wisdom, Harmony, Learning and (personal) Progress.

In his references to healing, Quimby described how he felt and what resources he had available.  The ingredients were Strength, Good Health, Laughter, Compassion and Light (the latter as an "internal" experience.) In a similar way, you can develop a resource state.

Quimby's Presuppositions
(from Quimby's Manuscripts; Julian Press Edition)

 76    70% of chronic diseases are the effects of wrong impressions (To Quimby impressions were beliefs which are visualized feelings)

128    I never undertake to cure the well, and if a man is satisfied I can't find anything to talk about.

139    The only medicine I ever give is my explanation, and that is the cure.

149    Our beliefs are the cause of our misery.

173    Quimby writes about his low opinion of priests and physicians

179    I found that by the power of my own mind I could change the mind of my patient and produce a chemical change in the body, like dissolving a tumor.

186   True life is health, knowledge and wisdom.  Love fills all space.

186    Disease is a belief. Disease follows the false direction of the mind.  Death is disease, error, misery and pain; all in this belief

189    I abandoned my former beliefs and at last followed the dictates of the impressions made on me by my patients.

279    When I sit by the sick I find them either like a child or a person in a belief.

289    There are those who accept certain beliefs

319    There is no power or in any idea of itself, but only that power that is attributed to it.

335    A healthy person knows nothing of and cannot judge a sick person's feelings.

Beliefs are tangible.  Beliefs are communicated by feelings and can be visualized and changed.

329    Truth is the Wisdom of God and error is the god of opinions.

330    Should a man attach his senses to any opinion, he is bound to it.

Quimby had little respect for traditional religion. Quimby said he worshiped a God who is wisdom and light, free of hypocrisy, making no laws but allowing each man to accomplish his own salvation, through his beliefs and God is the embodiment of man's beliefs and opinions, which form the basis for laws and penalties. Disease is a result of similar beliefs.

334   Mind is spiritual matter, ideas are also matter and can be condensed solid into a disease.
What is disease? There are many possible answers, many possible beliefs. Is disease a punishment from God? Disease is the effect of a wrong direction given to the mind. Unhappiness is its handmaid.

321   To create a disease, produce a shock that causes a disturbance in the body that is apparent to others. Should they comment on it (or worse should a physician make a diagnosis) - the disturbance increases and a belief is formed. Once the belief is formed, the body manifests the belief.

407   That which I put in practice I call Christ acting through the man Quimby.

316   Strength is a mere word with no more meaning than to lead man astray. However Strength is intelligence - embracing all Man's wisdom of God or Science.


318  The sick have given their souls to the priests and their bodies to the physicians

319  Ideas exist in the world of the (human) spirit. Their power is according to the nature attributed to them and the fear they generate. ... Fear is composed of loathsome characteristics - such an idea is disease. Disease was once simple, but when pushed into an identity, grows like a poisonous weed.

Quimby's habit of writing in the third person may indicate his ability to dissociate - and perhaps the ability to better "feel" other peoples feelings, although he does not mention this.


Rapport may be described as a state of mutual trust. It is often described as a warm feeling towards another person. The feeling of rapport can be amplified by increasing the number of things that you have in common with the other person.

Rapport can allow you to experience another persons feelings. With sick or distressed people, this may not be optimal. "Cross-over" mirroring can be used to maintain rapport without being caught up in it.

Having built trust, you can start leading them to a more resourceful posture, more empowering beliefs, a healthy outlook on their future. As a person trusts you more, they are likely to offer their thoughts and beliefs for your comment. This rapport can bond people to you. Respect this and be courteous.

Goals & Goalwork

Having selected an outcome (for example good health), ask your client the following questions.

Rapport assists effective communication.

1. What exactly do they want? (Answers should be stated in the positive, wanted by the client, controllable by the client and achievable).

2. How will they know when they have it?   (Answers must be sensory based: what the client will see, hear, feel and say to yourself when they have it).

E.g. "I will see my family looking happier, hear my physician's congratulations, feel good in the mornings, and tell myself that I can continue to get better".

3. When, where and with whom do they want it?   (Specify exactly when they want it and when they don't want it).

E.g. "I want to be healthier in all parts of my life. There's nowhere I don't want to be healthy, except maybe I really don't like my job."

4. How will having it affect their life?   (Ensure that nothing valuable will be lost.  Adjust the outcome to arrange this).

E.g. "It will make me and my family much happier. I won't be able to read in bed so much, but if I get better I will read more books instead of watching TV".

5.  What stops them from having it RIGHT NOW? (Answers should indicate limits and beliefs, which may or may not be valid).

E.g. "The disease stops me - I know I can't get rid of it that quickly, and perhaps not at all.  Besides, maybe I deserve to suffer for what I've done to others".

6. What would happen if they already had it RIGHT NOW? (Answers should summarize previous answers).

E.g. "That would be wonderful, I could take my children to on vacation, have fun with my spouse and friends and continue my volunteer work".

7. What resources do they need to achieve it RIGHT NOW? (Answers should indicate personal or other resources that can be used).

E.g. "I'm not sure, a magic wand maybe, if I had to guess I'd say that I need my physician to convince me that the disease is getting better. Then I know I'd make more effort."

8. What steps have they already taken towards achieving it? (Answers should summarize what has been done).

E.g. "I am careful about what I eat and I take my prescription regularly. I try to think positively but can't stop thinking about how my family will get along without me".

9. What other ways can they achieve their goals?

E.g. A client says, "I've been reading about people who heal themselves through their religious faith. I wish my beliefs were that strong".

Quimby's Metaprograms and Values

Quimby's congruence was based in part on his training and massive experience with mesmerism.

Quimby most often referred to his feelings, thus his primary representational system may have been kinesthetic.  Yet Quimby often referred to smelling a disease. While this was metaphorical, we can suspect that he was using the part of his brain that processes olfactory information. Note that olfactory nerves bypass the cerebral cortex - thus a smell, real or imagined, can trigger the limbic system!

Quimby often wrote in the third person and referred to having two selves - thus he had CHOICE between dissociating and associating would help Quimby experience the feelings of others.

During healings, Quimby visualized the feelings and changed the images. He never referred to talking to himself. However Quimby loved words, he was an author, he researched the origins of language and often used Socratic questioning (calling it re-education) to cause his patients to suspend or soften their religious beliefs that Quimby perceived to interfere with healing.

Quimby was motivated TOWARDS health, rather than away from disease. (If disease doesn't exist, there's nothing to avoid).

Quimby liked DIFFERENCE with some SAMENESS, in other words evolution, progression.

Quimby usually MATCHED his clients - he avoided the language of denial and typically paced his patients beliefs to lead them towards his own beliefs.

Quimby's Silent Healing Technique

After reading Quimby's presuppositions about health, one may gain the idea that Quimby thought all disease to be caused by beliefs. Quimby said in 1861 that, "About 70% of chronic disease was due to wrong impressions".

(Ask some physicians what percentage of patients may have psycho-somatic origin, or arise from the fulfillment of the patient's own expectations and beliefs. The physician I consulted said at least 50%).

From his manuscripts and reputation, Quimby knew how to heal, but had difficulty explaining his techniques. He often wrote long religious tracts, and only occasionally became specific.  Here are two examples, the first illustrates non-verbal information gathering, and the second is the closest Quimby came to describing his healing process.

Silent Healing 1 (Quimby's Manuscripts p191)

Suppose a patient calls on Dr Quimby for examination. No questions are asked on either side. They sit down together. He (Quimby) has no knowledge of the patient's feelings through his natural senses, till after having placed his mind on them. Then he becomes perfectly passive, and the patients mind being troubled [this] puts him into a clairvoyant state, together with his natural state, thus [he is in] two states at once; when he takes their feelings, accompanied by their state of mind and their thoughts. A history of their troubles is thus learned, together with the name of the disease, he relates this [this] to the patient. This [state] constitutes the disease and the evidences in the body are the effects of the belief. Not being afraid of the belief he is not afraid of the disease.

If I rewrite this paragraph:

A client comes to see Dr Quimby, who builds deep rapport and concentrates on the clients feelings. From these feelings, Quimby creates a visual image of how the disease may appear to the client. Believing the image is false, Quimby laughs at it. Then Quimby's feelings about the disease, which are health and strength, lead the client to feel the same, which changes the original image. The client, seeing a new image of their disease, changes the belief. Quimby feels the change, makes a new image and repeats the process. The client's feelings are again led by Quimby's, the original image changes again and is replaced by light, and nothing is left of the disease.

Quimby makes an image out of his clients feelings, changes the image, feels the change, leads the client to feel the change, and then repeats the cycle until the disease is gone, and the image replaced by light.

As presented, Quimby's technique would require much training and practice. Also, the practitioner risks adopting the client's symptoms. Quimby prevents this by his belief that all disease is false, an ability to laugh at the (sometimes horrific) images, his trust in wisdom and his feelings of health and strength.

Not stated, but implied, is the notion that the energy used to maintain the disease later becomes available; Quimby said that light replaces the disease after the disease disappears.

Now consider that if a disease has a purpose, removing the disease may require that something else be done to achieve that purpose. Identify this "something else" before changing the client's beliefs, unless the client's beliefs prevent alternatives from even being considered.

Quimby's Principles

Knowing the structure of Quimby's healing strategy, Quimby's Principle and Quimby's presuppositions allow you to fine tune the healing strategy to fit most clients. According to Quimby, the client's beliefs must change for any cure to be affected. This implies that there is no need for a Practitioner to experience a client's suffering.

However, with very young or comatose patients, consider using the silent healing technique as described by Quimby. I suggest you practice this with minor issues first and have a coach guide you.

Remember that keys to your healing ability are congruence and flexibility. A major component of our advanced training is the ability to modify any technique to utilize the reactions of the client.

1.    Excellence, Trust, Goalwork
Elicit a state of excellence in yourself, using resources, verbal and non-verbal pacing

2.    What does the Client want?
Most clients will say they want to not-have their disease, some will have found benefits of the disease that they like, and may have conflicts about it and some will want to keep the disease. The latter group may believe they are being punished and that they deserve the punishment.

Explore how a client may get any benefits of the disease - without the disease.

3.    What are the Client's Beliefs about the Disease
The client's beliefs about the disease can often be readily elicited - simply ask why they still have it, what stops them from curing it etc. Pay attention to statements beginning with phrases like "I know this sounds ridiculous, but ...", etc. If the client does not verbalize a belief, that's OK too.

4.    Install resources
The recommended resources (from Quimby's description) are:

  1. a belief that their disease may be an illusion
  2. a number of occasions of feeling laughter
  3. a number of occasions of feeling good health
  4. a number of occasions of feeling strong
  5. an experience of seeing bright inner light

If the client has difficulty accessing these states, help them build the appropriate experiences.

5.  Visualize the disease
Suggest to the client that they imagine what the disease would look like. Ask what the disease reminds them of, or what the disease is like. If possible, ask the client to describe the image to you. (Such images, wrote Quimby, are often fearful.)

6.  Integrate realities
Allow the client to experience the image.  With the client still visualizing the image, suggest that the image will change and trigger anchors (1) to (4) simultaneously for at least a minute.  If possible, ask the client to describe their experience.

(Allowing the image to become more "real" causes the "reality collapse" becomes a profound experience)  In over 80% of my clients, this was enough to change the beliefs about the disease.

7.  Add other resources (if needed)
If the image does not change in a way the client knows is better, ask the client what other resources are needed.  Elicit and anchor the resource(s) and repeat the procedure, adding that resource.

8.  Identify new beliefs
Elicit the new beliefs about the disease. (I tip the scales by asking how the beliefs have changed.)

9.  Lighten up
Have the client visualize their new beliefs and simultaneously trigger all five anchors set in step 4.  (I often suggest that the client will see their beliefs in a new light).

10.  Expectations
I often reorient a client in time to make "future memories".  E.g. "Let's pretend that it's now February 1993 ... and I haven't seen you for a year ..." and I might say "How have things been for you since ... when was it ... that time in February 1992?" ... and what would you say ... as you look back at the past from the future ... when you think about the last year?  I mean ... how well have you been?"

11.  Test
You tested in steps 8, 9 and 10 but doing it again is beneficial. I typically use paradoxes to underscore the change.  E.g.  "Great ... now try, really try to see yourself believing that stuff again ... I mean, can you?  Now try to get that old belief back ... and what automatically happens instead?"

12.  Follow Up: What happened? What didn't happen? What new beliefs are there?

Accept your client's praise but don't believe it.

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I thought you were just another therapist - but you were not just. Not even. Not only.

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Martyn Carruthers All right reserved.

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Have You Suffered Enough?

 Where are you now? Understand your emotions, fixations and enmeshments
What do you hope for? Know your goals and stop sabotaging yourself
Do you feel resourceful? Learn to develop your inner resources
Do emotions block you? Relationship problems and mentor damage
Do your beliefs limit you? Change limiting beliefs and end dependence
Do you feel connected? Resolve identity issues to recover lost resources
Is your partner happy? Build healthy partnership (or separate peacefully)
Are your children healthy? Happy parents better manage family problems
Do you want team success? Team leaders and their teams develop together
Do you have complex goals? Specialty coaching, counseling & therapy

Plagiarism is theft. Copyright Martyn Carruthers 1996-2018  All rights reserved. Soulwork Systemic Coaching was primarily developed by Martyn Carruthers to help people solve emotional problems and relationship conflicts to achieve their goals. These concepts and strategies are for general knowledge only. Consult a physician about medical conditions and before changing medical treatment. Don't steal intellectual property ... get permission to post, publish or teach Martyn's work - email