Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

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Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (courtesy of George A. Quimby).jpg
Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

(1802-02-16)February 16, 1802
Lebanon, New Hampshire, United States
DiedJanuary 16, 1866(1866-01-16) (aged 63)
Belfast, Maine, United States
OccupationMesmerist, clockmaker, inventor
Known forFounder of New Thought
Part of a series of articles on
New Thought

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (February 16, 1802 – January 16, 1866) was an American clockmaker, mentalist and mesmerist. His work is widely recognized as foundational to the New Thought spiritual movement.[1]


Born in the small town of Lebanon, New Hampshire, Quimby was one of seven children and the son of a blacksmith and his wife. As was customary for his social and economic class at that time, Quimby received little formal education. He suffered from tuberculosis in his youth, a disease that then had no cure, and was prescribed calomel by his doctor. The calomel was no cure, and began to rot his teeth.

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 he became interested in the mind's ability to affect the body. He claimed to have cured himself of TB by his methods.[2]


Quimby and Lucius Burkmar

In 1836 Charles Poyen came to Belfast, Maine, from France on an extended lecture tour in New England about mesmerism, also widely known as hypnotism. He was a French mesmerist who followed in the tradition of Armand-Marie-Jacques de Chastenet, Marquis of Puységur. Quimby was intensely curious and attended one of Poyen's lectures in 1838. He questioned Poyen 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 a watchmaker and followed Poyen's tour of New England for the next two years (1838–1840), studying to become proficient himself at applying mesmerism.[3]

Around this time Quimby encountered Lucius Burkmar, an uneducated youth who was particularly susceptible to hypnosis. Finding him useful to work with, Quimby and Burkmar developed a tour of their own. Quimby demonstrated mesmeric practice with Burkmar in front of large crowds.[4]

Later Quimby and Burkmar stopped touring. Quimby claimed to heal people of ailments which doctors could not cure. Quimby told his patients that disease was caused by false beliefs, and that the cure was in the explanation of this.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Quimby married and had a family. One of his sons was a follower and strong defender of him, working to differentiate his work from that of Mary Baker Eddy, a patient who later founded Christian Science. His son worked from his father's writings, which were mostly not released until the 1920s, after the son's death.


By trade Quimby was a watch and clockmaker.[5] He also invented items and held several patents for a variety of unrelated, larger mechanical devices.[6][7]

(d) Phineas P. Quimby is listed as patentee for "US Patent: 8,232X: Sawing timber: Chain saw for sawing timber, wood, metal, marble, etc.", 3 June 1834.[8] As of 21 September 2007, no records have been found for any of the patent numbers ranging from X5475 to X5497 inclusive — i.e., from 30 April 1829 to 11 June 1829).[original research?]

Followers and patients[edit]

Notable followers[edit]

Among the people who claimed to be cured by Quimby were Julius Dresser and his wife Annetta Dresser, from what sickness it is unclear.[9] Their son, Horatio Dresser, wrote extensively on Quimby's theories. He edited and collected many of Quimby's papers in his book Health and the Inner Life: An Analytical and Historical Study of Spiritual Healing and Theories (published before 1923; reissued as 2009 paperback by Forgotten Books). He also edited and published Quimby's papers in the book, The Collected Manuscripts of P.P. Quimby (1921; reprinted in 2008 paperback as The Quimby Manuscripts by Forgotten Books).

Barry Morton, a scholar of faith healing, has said that Quimby's constant practice of his mind cure method led him to make important discoveries related to curing psychosomatic illnesses. Although Quimby did not publish his findings, he trained many others in his methods. In effect, he started a "gnostic" healing tradition. Some of his methods were adopted by John Alexander Dowie, who revolutionized Christian faith healing in the 1880s.[10]

Warren Felt Evans was one of the first individuals who wrote seriously on the teachings of Phineas Quimby.[11]

Notable patients[edit]

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, was a patient of Quimby's for a short time. Later, claims were made that she was at least partially inspired by Quimby in her theology. However, both Quimby's son[12] and Christian Scientists[13] have pointed out major differences between Quimbyism and Christian Science. Biographer Gillian Gill[14] and others[15] agreed, pointing out that because of its theism, Christian Science differs considerably from the teachings of Quimby, who did not base his work in religion.


  • Quimby, Phineas Parkhurst (Seale, Ervin, ed.), (1988). The Complete Writings: Volume 1, Marina Del Rey, CA: DeVorss & Co. ISBN 0-87516-600-8
  • _____ (Seale, Ervin, ed.), (1988). The Complete Writings: Volume 2, Marina Del Rey, CA: DeVorss & Co. ISBN 0-87516-601-6
  • _____ (Seale, Ervin, ed.), (1988). The Complete Writings: Volume 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. ^ Wills, 1994, Certain Trumpets: The Nature of Leadership. New York: Simon & Schuster
  3. ^ Fuller, 1982, Mesmerism and the American Cure of Souls. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press
  4. ^ Dresser, A.G. (1899). The Philosophy of P.P. Quimby. Boston: George H. Ellis Co.
  5. ^ Holmes, (1944), p.358; Albanese, (1986), p.497.
  6. ^ 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".
  7. ^ According to Clark (1982, p.104), a patent was issued to Quimby on 3 June 1829 for a "Chain Saw for Timber". But no record is available for a patent on this date from the US Patent Office.
  8. ^ [, Directory of American Tool and Machinery Patents, access-date=2018. Quote: "Most of the patents prior to 1836 were lost in the Dec. 1836 fire. Only about 2,000 of the almost 10,000 documents were recovered. Little is known about this patent. There are no patent drawings available. This patent is in the database for reference only.",
  9. ^ Fuller, 1982, Mesmerism and the American Cure of Souls. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  10. ^ "John Alexander Dowie and the Invention of Modern Faith Healing, 1882-1889," (2015).
  11. ^ See Teahan (March 1979).
  12. ^ Dresser, Horatio W., ed. The Quimby Manuscripts. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company Publishers, 1921. - p436. According to Quimby's son, Quote: “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.”
  13. ^ Gottschalk, Stephen. The Emergence of Christian Science in American Religious Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973 - p130. Quote: "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.”
  14. ^ Gill, Gillian. Mary Baker Eddy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books, 1998, p159). Quote: “[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.”
  15. ^ Karl Holl, Der Szientismus, reprinted in Gesam-melte Aufsätze Zur Kirchengeschichte, III (1921-1928)
    Quote: "it was [Eddy's] earnest Puritan faith in God that separated her from Quimby from the beginning."
    Beasley, Norman (1952). The Cross and Crown (First ed.). New York: Duell, Sloan and Peace. p. 7.
    Norman Beasley writes that when Eddy had a relapse from Quimby's care, she left him "convinced, as she told him, that if she were to find a healing it would have to be in the Bible."


  • 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, Phineas Parkhurst (Seale, Ervin, ed.), (1988). The Complete Writings: Volume 1, Marina Del Rey, CA: DeVorss & Co. ISBN 0-87516-600-8
  • _____ (Seale, Ervin, ed.), (1988). The Complete Writings: Volume 2, Marina Del Rey, CA: DeVorss & Co. ISBN 0-87516-601-6
  • _____ (Seale, Ervin, ed.), (1988). The Complete Writings: Volume 3, Marina Del Rey, CA: DeVorss & Co. ISBN 0-87516-602-4

Further reading[edit]

  • Taves, Ann, Fits, Trances, & Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James. Princeton University Press 1999 (pp 212–218)
  • 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.
Quimby and Eddy

A good overview of Quimby, and the incompatibility of his ideas and practice with those of Eddy, can be found in the following sources:

  • Beasley, Norman. The Cross and Crown. New York: Duell, Sloan and Peace, 1952 (pp 7 & 139-149)
  • Gill, Gillian. Mary Baker Eddy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books, 1998 (pp 131–146 & 230-233)
  • Peel, Robert. Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery. Boston: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966 (chapter, "Portland 1862")

External links[edit]