Mind Cure
The name loosely applied to various systems of alternative
healing in the late nineteenth century. The name was first applied
to the healing system developed by Phineas Parkhurst
Quimby (1802–66) out of his reflections on mesmerism and
hypnotism. Quimby, a clockmaker who became a professional
mesmerist, observed the power of suggestion on his subjects.
Quimby turned his attention from mesmerist power to focus
on the idea of mind. He posited that illness comes from holding
delusions or false opinions in the mind (such as those put
out by the church or the average physician) and the mind will
reproduce in the body the false idea. His healing work consisted
of presenting wisdom or truth to the patient, who accepted
it and then became well. He operated informally out of Portland,
Maine, through the years of the Civil War. He died in
1866 having never published any of his writings. His work was
carried on by his various pupils.
The most famous of Quimby’s students was Mary Baker
Eddy, who in the months after Quimby’s death pushed his system
in an idealistic direction. She concluded that God was the
only reality and that healing was to be found in accepting that
reality. From that insight, which differed radically from that of
Quimby, she built the Church of Christ, Scientist, the organizational
center of the Christian Science movement. Christian
Science has four fundamental propositions (1) God is all in all;
(2) God is Good. Good is Mind; (3) God, Spirit, being all, nothing
is matter; and (4) Life, God, omnipotent good, deny death,
evil, sin, disease. The new church was a phenomenal success
and controversy swarmed around it and its founder. Two of
Quimby’s students, Julius and Annette Dresser, seemingly unaware
of how Eddy’s system was uniquely her own, challenged
Eddy for not giving Quimby the proper credit for originating
Christian Science.
Meanwhile, another Quimby student, former Methodist
minister turned Swedenborgian, Warren Felt Evans, established
a healing practice in Salisbury, Massachusetts, and developed
his own healing system as an integral part of his Swedenborgian
thought. Ultimately a pantheist, he wrote a number of
books.
As the movement developed, a number of students separated
from Eddy and began to operate as independent Christian
Science healers. One of them, Joseph Addams, began the Mind
Cure Journal in Chicago in the mid 1880s. Other healers with
no connection to Eddy, other than possibly having read her
books, also appeared on the scene. Those students most attached
to Eddy’s thought founded what has been a continuing
independent Christian Science movement, while the more autonomous
thinkers became the founders of what would in the
1890s become known as New Thought. New Thought has been
perpetuated through such organizations as the Unity School of
Christianity, the Divine Science Association, the Church of Religious
Science, and the International New Thought Association.
It produced a number of best-selling authors, such as
Ralph Waldo Trine, Prentice Mulford, Elizabeth Towne, and
Orison Swett Marden.
The term mind cure had largely passed from the scene by the
beginning of the twentieth century, but the basic movements,
Christian Science, independent Christian Science, and New
Thought, have continued. New Thought entered into mainline
Christian thought through the efforts of Norman Vincent Peale
and more recently Robert Schuler, both ministers in the Reformed
Church in America.
Sources
Braden, Charles S. Spirits in Rebellion. Dallas, Tex. Southern
Methodist University Press, 1963.
Judah, J. Stillson. The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical
Movements in America. Philadelphia Westminster Press,
1967.
Melton, J. Gordon. New Thought A Reader. Santa Barbara,
Calif. Institute for the Study of American Religion, 1990.

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