Mr. Evans, who was born in 1817 and died in 1889, was by profession a clergyman until this great change came into his life. He belonged to the New Church, and he appears to have been an average exponent of Swedenborg's teachings, so far as one may judge by his writings, for example, The New Age and its Messenger, 1864, published after he visited Mr. Quimby, but surely written before, since it gives no evidence of any change of view. Mr. Evans was also well acquainted with philosophical idealism. He possessed the ability to grasp fundamental principles and think them out for himself. He had all the essentials, so far as spiritual principles were concerned; for the devotee of Swedenborg has a direct clue to the application of spiritual philosophy to life. What Mr. Evans lacked was the new impetus, to put two and two together. He lacked the method by which to apply his idealism and his theology to health. Mr. Quimby gave him this impetus. He possessed the method. Mr. Evans with ready perception saw the connection and was quick in his discernment of the values of the new practice.
Mr., Evans had given little evidence of originality in his earlier writings, since his chief interest was to spread knowledge of Swedenborg's doctrines. But in his first book on spiritual healing, or "mental science," as he sometimes called it, he branched out in a freer style of thought and undertook to win attention for the new views without at first indicating their origin. In his second book, however, Mental Medicine, Boston, 1872, he ventures to use the phraseology he had acquired from Mr. Quimby and to mention the pioneer therapeutist by name. He Says:
"Disease being in its root a wrong belief, change that belief and we cure the disease. By faith we are thus made whole. There is a law here the world will sometime understand and use in the cure of the diseases that afflict mankind. The late Dr. Quimby, one of the most successful healers of this or any age, embraced this view of the nature of disease, and by a long succession of most remarkable cures proved the truth of the theory and the efficiency of that mode of treatment. Had he lived in a remote age or country, the wonderful facts which occurred in his practice would have been deemed either mythical or miraculous. He seemed to reproduce the wonders of the Gospel history."
Rev. W. J. Leonard, in The Pioneer Apostle of Mental Science, Boston, 1903, says that one who knew Mr. Evans intimately "reiterates this sentiment in a letter to the writer . . . in the following words: 'In his estimation, Dr. Quimby was the highest authority in the science of healing, and a man of noble character and purest aims, which Dr. Evans believed were indispensably necessary to bring one into the perfect peace and the harmony with the Divine Life required to teach or heal the sick and suffering with success.' Not only was Dr. Evans fair enough to honor his master in the science, but, with the humility and modesty of the truly great soul, he made no attempt to claim that the truths he presented were absolutely new."
It is interesting also to read the testimony of one who knew both Mr. Quimby and Dr. Evans, who followed the latter's work with great interest, doing what was possible to make his books known in the world. In The True History of Mental Science, Mr. Julius A. Dresser says: "Dr. Evans obtained this knowledge of Quimby mainly when he visited him as a patient, making two visits for that purpose about the year 1883, an interesting account of which I received from him at East Salisbury in the year 1876. Dr. Evans had been a clergyman up to the year 1863, and was then located in Claremont, N. H. But so readily did he understand the explanations of Quimby, which his Swedenborgian faith enabled him to grasp the more quickly, that he told Quimby at the second interview that he thought he could himself cure in this way."
Mr. Evans' first book, The Mental Cure, Boston, 1869, is important for our purposes for several reasons. It was the first volume issued in our country on this subject. It was soon widely read in this country and Europe, where it was translated into several languages. It gave extensive publicity to the new ideas for the first time. It contains something like a demonstration of the truth of the principles for which it pleads, that is, by reference to facts and sound inferences based on facts; and it is still superior for this reason to most of the New Thought literature of today. More significant still, perhaps, from a historical point of view, is the evidence it gives of a transitional point of view. For while the author branches out freely and expounds Swedenborg's views in his own fashion, he is still largely dependent on the teachings of the Swedish seer and his interpretation is more sound. In Mental Medicine, 1872, and Soul and Body, 1875, all published before Science and Health, by Mrs. Eddy, Evans develops the same views in a supplementary way. But in the volume ordinarily referred to as his best book and the one which had most to do with giving shape to the New Thought, The Divine Law of Cure, 1881, Mr. Evans shows that he has been reading the philosophical idealists, and that he has changed his views to some extent, as we shall presently see.
Turning to The Mental Cure, we find him making liberal use of the teachings of Swedenborg concerning the influx of the divine life into the human soul, the theory of the relationship of mind and body, the correspondence of all things natural with all things spiritual, and the conception of causality as essentially spiritual. He does not draw upon the theological doctrines so much as on those which may be called in general spiritual. Adopting Swedenborg's psychology, he endeavors to verify this in his own way, and to substantiate his argument for spiritual healing by appeal to well-known physical facts and the principles of physiology.
We may summarize Mr. Evans theory as put forth in this volume as follows: The starting-point of all reason is with the idea of God, regarded as the source of all life in the universe and in the soul of man. The true science or philosophy would give us a complete view of things in the light of their causes, their relationship to and dependence on God. Man, created a form recipient of the divine life, is in inmost essence divine, and this divinity within him remains untainted whatever the vicissitudes through which man passes. In short, there is an inextinguishable divine spark which may be fanned into flame, despite all appearances to the contrary.
In actuality, however, man is very far from recognition of this his divine birthright and interior privilege. There is a blinded or disordered activity of the mind in its outward form. There is an antagonism between the inmost essence and the selfhood of man as commonly regarded. Hence the mental and physical unhappiness and misery through which man passes. Hence the need of distinguishing between human nature as it was designed to be, as it ever is in the ideal sense of the word; and human nature in a state of moral, intellectual and physical disorder.
Very much depends, therefore, upon our knowledge of and insight into the human self in relation to God. The starting-point, always should be with the inner man, the spirit or soul. The life of the soul is received by influx from God, the source of all our life. All men are incarnations of the divine. "In all men the Divinity becomes finitely human." The soul receives its form from the divine spirit within. It is in the human form, yet the significance of this form is that it is made in the image and likeness of God. The mind is not then formless and insubstantial, as we sometimes say in our Ignorance; but it consists of real substance, that is, spiritual substance, and is definitely formed according to the divine ideal. Nor is the mind confined to the brain, or limited in form by the brain's substance and activity. The mind pervades and is interfused throughout the body, and is coextensive with the physical organism. It thrills in every nerve and pervades every fibre. In brief, the body corresponds or answers to the spirit, and changes brought about in the spirit manifest themselves in the bodily organism; since mind or spirit is a higher, diviner force "approaching many degrees nearer the Central Life." We also see how this intimate relationship between soul and body is possible when we remember that matter with all its properties is merely a modification of force, and that all causality operating in physical force is spiritual in the last analysis.
Within the spirit itself there are orders and degrees. The spiritual degree, that is, our inmost nature, may and ought to control the natural degree, hence the animal instincts, the bodily activities which foster man's best estate. The spirit is endowed with both will and understanding. The understanding is recipient of the divine wisdom, the will receives the divine love. Thus love in us is central, fundamental. Love is our very life. When we act from love we act from the divine life in us. Love in this the higher or interior sense of the word is the "moving force of soul and body," the "hidden spring that moves life's machinery." The divine love within us may become "our fountain of health." If there is harmony between the will and the understanding, unity in the inner life, there is spiritual health, and if spiritual health then bodily health. Disease, in essence mental, not physical, is due to loss of balance between the understanding and the will, between the intellectual and affectional departments of our nature. In saying all this, Mr. Evans is adapting Swedenborg's psychology so as to find sure place for the truths concerning disease and its cure which he has learned from Mr. Quimby.
Tracing out the discord between the will and the understanding which underlies disease, Mr. Evans further says that disease arises from some false idea which has become too prominent, some feeling that is inordinate or uppermost in such a way that conflict results and the body responds. To restore the balance is to cure the soul, hence the body. As every mental condition records itself in the body, when the state of mind is changed the bodily correspondence manifests it. In developing this view of the relationship of the soul to the body, Mr. Evans makes use of Swedenborg's teaching in regard to the spiritual body, which he interprets as the "seat of all sensation," agreeing with Quimby that the physical body in itself is destitute of feeling and intelligence.
Otherwise stated, sensation belongs, not to the bodily organs in which we seem to feel it, but to our "inner nature." The "inner form is the prior seat of all diseased disturbance in the body." Disease so-called is only an outward or visible effect of the inner disturbance. The symptoms are not the disease. The body is incapable of generating a disease by itself. Nor is disease an entity or force that seizes us from without. We cannot interpret the bodily condition correctly unless we see in it an outward expression of the inner state to which it corresponds.
Mr. Evans finds expression for Quimby's teaching that every one gives off a "mental atmosphere" which discloses the inner condition by adopting Swedenborg's view of "spiritual spheres." "This doctrine of spiritual spheres," he says, "is of great importance in mental philosophy, but has been almost wholly ignored. In the system of Swedenborg it has been given that prominence that belongs to it. Every angel, every spirit, every man, is surrounded by a spiritual sphere of affection and thought, or radiant circles of an emanating force, within which he imparts--often silently and unintentionally--his own feelings and ideas. . . . There are persons who exert a secret but powerful influence over those who come in contact with the sphere of their inner nature. This influence is good or bad, happy or depressing, elevating or degrading, according to the confirmed affectional state or ruling love of him from whom it proceeds. For it is to be borne in mind, that it goes forth primarily from the love which constitutes the soul life. If the mental state be joy or melancholy, gladness or sorrow, contentment or impatience, faith or fear, it affects others with a like feeling, in a degree proportioned to their impressibility. In this way the mind propagates its own prevailing condition, and all our mental states are contagious."
This is an intelligible statement of a point essential to Quimby's theory. If we were to take Quimby's statement that "disease is an error of mind" literally, it would doubtless seem absurd; for obviously we have not consciously thought ourselves into disease. But in Quimby's view we are unaware of the effect of our beliefs because ignorant of our whole deeper nature, that is, our impressibility, the growth of ideas within our minds, the influence of the mind on the body through the intermediate substance, the subtle influence of one mind on another through mental atmospheres, the power of the spirit to see through and master disturbing mental states by realizing the greater reality of man's true nature. If the later devotees of mental healing had taken account of all the factors noted by Quimby and explained so clearly by Evans in this his first statement of it, they would have inquired into the nature of spiritual influx and correspondence and would have adopted an essentially spiritual view of the whole field. Instead of a new "thought," instead of almost exclusive emphasis on suggestion or affirmation, we might have had a new spiritual philosophy embracing the larger truth of the new age.
Mr. Evans develops the idea of a spiritual cure by pointing out that as disease of body is caused by disordered and morbid states of the spiritual life, so by inducing the opposite states disease can be overcome. What is needed in the first place is the power, such as Quimby possessed, "intuitively to detect the morbid state of the mind underlying the disease," and to see how to "convert the patient to a more healthful inner life." All disease in origin is an insanity. Its cure is the attainment of sanity. The problem is to know how to induce any desired mental state. Mr. Evans does not claim that this can be done by the human self alone. He does not put the emphasis on finite thought, or what would now be called "suggestion." The true order of life, he assures us, is that in which our hearts are open to "receive the influx of the divine and heavenly life," with a desire "to impart the good, with which we are blessed, to all who are willing to receive it. Such . . . is the normal state of every soul. It is evident we can never attain to the highest well-being of either soul or body, until we come into the divine order of our existence, and employ the activity with which we are endowed, according to the laws of the celestial life."
The central difficulty with us is that the divine impulse within us is "perverted in its action, our love terminates in self, and we become the centre of our universe." Selfishness then is the primary trouble, "the fruitful root of more moral and physical evil and unhappiness, than any other cause. . . . Disease is only a state of supreme selfishness." Even insanity, especially in the form of melancholia, is selfishness in its origin. Sexual emotion is another cause. In such emotion, when perverted, is the "root of more diseases of body and mind than can be traced to any other source. The sexual and conjugal love is most intimately connected with the inmost life of the spirit, and is the fountain of more unhappiness or misery than originates with any other affection, according as it is properly controlled or left to a disorderly activity and indulgence.
In thus tracing matters to their fountain-source, taking his clue from Swedenborg, Mr. Evans anticipates Freud and his school by more than a generation. Freud has traced many if not most nervous disorders to repressions of the love-nature. Hence he places fundamental emphasis on the sexual instinct. But his view is purely psychological. It is developed out of the cruder facts of the inner life, arrived at through the interpretation of dreams. Mr. Evans gives us the whole context of the love-nature and shows its high origin on the spiritual side. From his point of view there could be no merely mental cure. The true cure would be, as Quimby had shown, in the discovery of our real inner nature as recipient of the divine life.
The theory of an essentially spiritual cure starts with the principle that there is but one source of life, that life emanates from this one living centre, from God, and is communicated to all, is communicable to others through us. The remedy for all our ills is at hand. "Make the heart of something outside your own being to leap for joy. Attune your soul in harmony with the Divine Life. Live to love, and then you will delight to live; and health will glow and thrill in every organic structure. Find someone whose condition is unhappily like your own. Lift up your hand and your heart, and pull down a blessing upon his head. . . . Be, like Jesus, everyone's friend. Seek to make everybody and everything happy. . . . Get well by curing others. Impart life, communicate from your own stock of vital force to others, and life from God. . . ."
Faith is an important element in the cure. It is a "spiritual force that has accomplished wonders. . . . an actual psychological or spiritual force. To believe that we can do a thing, especially if that faith is the result of an understanding of nature's laws, empowers us to do it. To believe that we are well, or that we are going to become so, excites a spiritual force within us that goes far towards making us so. . . . The lack of faith is the loss of one of the essential elements of a sound mental state, which underlies, as a foundation, a healthy bodily condition. In the . . . healer it is a positive mental force, in the patient a receptive mental state." Fear is its opposite, and produces equally striking effects in the generation of diseased conditions of the body. The healer should induce the spiritual state which drives out fear, should establish as a permanent possession the state which is the opposite of that causing the disease. The greatest motive power in this inducing of the desirable spiritual state is love, which sets the spiritual forces within us in operation. "Just as far as any one receives into himself the pure unselfish love of God--a love that in him is an irrepressible desire to communicate good--so far there is in him a power to impart life and health and peace to others."
Agreeing with Quimby, Mr. Evans finds the same method taught in the New Testament. "When," he says, "we assert that life is communicable . . . we occupy undisputed ground. It was in harmony with this recognized law of our being that Jesus cured diseased humanity. He laid down his life for men--an expression that has no reference to his death . . . Jesus healed . . . first the mind, then the body. He removed the spiritual cause of disease, and the physical effect ceased. He carried his sanative influence into both departments of our being, the inner and the outer. This was none by the law of sympathy--a law of the mind that means more than the world has ever understood. By it one mind transmits its states of feeling and modes of thought to another. . . . Jesus thus imparted to the sick and wretched the calm happiness of his own loving and gentle heart. . . . In this way Christ carried his healing power into the realm of spiritual causes. He addressed himself as a spirit to the spirit of the patient."
Here we have the heart of the spiritual method as developed by Mr. Quimby. To address oneself as a spirit to another spirit is far more than merely to transfer thought or feeling to another. The element of feeling is a factor. Hence the strong emphasis which Mr. Evans puts upon sympathy. The intellectual element is also a factor, and Mr. Evans shows that there is a "sanative power in words," for example, in the affirmation, "I am strong," in such statements as, "Go in peace; Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee; Be it unto thee according to thy faith." Here we find the factor which the New Thought people have made so much of since the days of writers like Henry Wood. But Evans always shows the superiority of the love-element, the divine influx into the heart. The right directing of the will seems to him more important than the use of such an affirmation as "I am strong." For he sees clearly that the disease springs from the inner life in general, not from mere belief; hence the cure must touch the whole spirit. To address oneself as a spirit to the spirit of the patient is indeed to rise to our highest privilege as a human being.
In the preface to his Divine Law of Cure, 1881, Mr. Evans gives the clue to this his best known book as follows: "Idealism, which has always had strong hold upon the deepest thinkers of the world from Plato downward, is again coming into prominence . . . The system of Berkeley is undergoing a resurrection, and, in connection with the spiritual philosophy of Swedenborg, will have more influence than ever in shaping the metaphysical systems of the future, and in giving direction to the current of human thought. The present volume of the author is an attempt to construct a theoretical and practical system of phrenopathy, or mental-cure, on the basis of the idealistic philosophy of Berkeley, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. Its fundamental doctrine is that to think and to exist are one and the same, and that every disease is the translation into a bodily expression of a fixed idea of the mind and a morbid way of thinking. if by any therapeutic device you remove the morbid idea, which is the spiritual image after the likeness of which the body is formed, you cure the malady. The work lays no claim to originality except in the practical application of idealism to the cure of the diseases of mind and body. It is the culmination of a life-long study of human nature, and to which the previous volumes of the author may be viewed as introductory."
Mr. Evans plainly believed that this was his chief book. Whatever opinion we may hold concerning the change from his first book to this one, we must chronicle the fact that it was this applied idealism with its proposition that "to think and exist are one and the same" which has had great influence in the mental-healing movement. We here find Mr. Evans saying less about the larger view of man's spiritual nature, with its emphasis on will and the prevailing love or affection, and employing the terms which his later studies in idealism led him to adopt. Probably he did not intend to give up the spiritual in favor of the intellectual view. His practical method was surely as effective as before. By implication the term "thought" as he now uses it is as rich as the former terms, and when he now uses the term "mind" we may doubt whether he has given up the idea of the spirit which was central in the teaching of his first book. But unluckily everybody is influenced by language, and, unless we are extremely explicit, people fail to see that we mean something "spiritual" when we use psychological terms. Hence we note that the terminology of this book has sometimes been more influential than its spirit. This is an important point for our history.
Neglecting his former emphasis on the human spirit as recipient of power and life from the spiritual world, Mr. Evans now says, "Mind is the only active power in the universe . . . Mind is the only causal agent in the realm of matter, and certainly in the human body . . . As the body is the creation of the mind, and is always its ultimation or outward expression, a chronic disease is the fixedness of a thought, the petrifaction of a morbid idea. Thoughts or ideas are the most real things in the universe. They are the interior soul of things, and the underlying reality of all outward and visible objects. . . . The mind is the real man, and its thoughts act on the body as a spiritual poison, or as a mental medicine, for health and disease, in their spiritual essence, may be resolved into modes of thinking. A man is well so long as he thinks, feels. and believes himself so, for to be sick and not know it is all the same as not to be sick."
This is meant to be a profound doctrine, not the superficial one which it sometimes led to on the part of devotees of mental healing not so well-read as Mr. Evans was in the literature of idealism. When he says that "thought is a creative power," he does not intend to take anything from the thought of God as Creator, he is not exalting the finite ego. He has in mind what he elsewhere in this book calls the "preconscious," the term which he prefers to the "unconscious." By this he means "intelligent mental action beyond the range of the external consciousness," our latent thought and intelligence.' He speaks of thought as the "grand characteristic of man," as belonging to the essence of the soul. He does not neglect what he has previously written about love as "the life of man," as Swedenborg affirms; but is more inclined to emphasize thought as "the existence or outward manifestation, of that vital element or principle." He regards the duality of the life of love as dependent on the character of man's thoughts. He interprets the self-determining power which we call free will to be "thought" in its essence. Hence everything depends for him upon man's power to turn his thoughts into another direction. Here Mr. Evans approaches the more recent psychological emphasis on attention as the determining factor in our mental life.
Having restated the entire theory of the origin and nature of disease with the term "thought" as central, Mr. Evans proceeds to a restatement of the mental cure. He bases his proposition that there is a "healing power of thought" on "the Hegelian principle that thought is a creative force." It is a "fundamental idea of Hegel's philosophy," he tells us, "that everything in its last analysis, or when we come to its inmost reality, is only a thought. What we call the external world and the human body, which is a part of it, are the thought of God, and we come to know them only so far as we think of them. They are revealed to us by the same power that creates them. Disease, like every other thing, is created, or, at least has an existence only by thought. In the phrenopathic method of cure, it is a fundamental principle that thought is the ground of all reality."
One might neglect the bodily conditions of disease and almost come to believe that nothing exists save when we are thinking about it, if one were to take too seriously Evans' statement that a "thing, a world, a disease, comes into our consciousness only when we think of it." He seems to forget for the moment that our thinking about it has nothing to do with the existence of the world, that our consciousness is for the most part involuntary, and that nothing ceases to exist when we cease to think about it. If to "bring disease into the realm of unconsciousness" be all that we need do to make it "unreal," it would indeed be a simple matter to banish all disease from the world.
Mr. Evans had offered a really fundamental view of disease in his first book, by tracing it to selfishness and showing that its cure means spiritual regeneration. He does not now speak of healing as the operation of one spirit on another by drawing upon the inflowing life from the spiritual world. He still puts the emphasis on the divine mind, and by this he means the Spirit in all its fulness. But he speaks of the mind of the patient as a "clean slate on which our thoughts may be written," and says that what "we imagine, and believe, and think, will be transferred" to the patient; and so he tends to give prominence to the intellectual factors of the silent treatment. It would be easy for the superficial reader to seize upon "thought" as the dominant factor and overlook the spiritual meanings which Mr. Evans had previously given to the term.
In this volume as in his earlier books, Mr. Evans frequently quotes from Swedenborg, attributing to him the doctrine that "man is so made that he can apply life to himself from the Lord." He says that Swedenborg viewed the external world as the ultimation of the spiritual universe. He also makes use of Swedenborg's teaching in regard to spiritual influx and correspondence. But when he couples the name of Swedenborg with idealism, as he understands it, and says that "all time and space, as Kant and Swedenhorg affirm, are in ourselves--that is, within the enclosure of our spiritual being"; when he attributes our experience of space to "the space-creating power of the soul," Evans is reading subjective idealism into Swedenborg and throwing his readers upon the wrong track. He declares that "all the objects of nature are phenomena or appearances, as Hegel, Fichte, Berkeley, Swedenborg, and all the idealists affirm." He has been reading the idealists so much of late that he forgets his Swedenborg, who surely never taught that "all outward things are but the exteriorization of ideas." Nor did Swedenborg teach that "thought is the primal force and the greatest power in the world." He did not identify existence with thought, but characterized God as the "divine love and the divine wisdom," teaching that there are two powers in man recipient of these, the will and the understanding (the intellect). As thus recipient of life from God, man is primarily a spirit, spirit is substantial, and the body corresponds to the spirit. Swedenborg was not, properly speaking, an idealist, if by the term "idealism" we have in mind the idealism of Fichte and Hegel. Swedenborg's works lead the reader into the objectivism of our true relationship in the spiritual world. They put the emphasis on love, hence on conduct, and avoid over-emphasis on human thought.
The distinction is important. For if, taking seriously Evans's declaration that to think and exist are one and the same, we follow his theory of disease and its cure, we are likely to acquire a psychology without a body, we are apt to think too lightly of the natural world and to make the road to salvation appear easier than it is. To see that for the time being Evans is interested in the theoretical and on the whole impractical idealism of Fichte, is to realize that he is temporarily neglecting the spiritual philosophy of Swedenborg with the clue to Quimby's teaching it gave him in the early years. There was really no reason to "attempt to construct a theoretical and practical system of phrenopathy, or mental-cure, on the basis of the idealistic philosophy." Mr. Evans already possessed a better philosophy. He did not improve either his terminology or his practical method by the change. What he did do was to mark out the way of thinking which devotees of mental healing in the mental-science period followed by emphasizing thought as "creative," as the greatest force in the world. The universe became less substantial for the mental healer as a result. The mental doctrine became the popular one. The profounder view of the spiritual life of Mr. Evans's first book was for the most part neglected. Readers of Mrs. Eddy's Science and Health found a somewhat similar interpretation of the idealism of Berkeley in her writings. Thus in the mental-science period preceding what is now known as the New Thought, both those who began with Evans and those who started with Mrs. Eddy arrived at much the same conclusion; the universe lost for them a part of its reality, and the process of working back to the profounder view was made difficult.
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