Mind Cure and Mental Therapeutics in the Late 19th-Century United States
- David SchmitDavid SchmitSt. Catherine University, Interdisciplinary Studies
Mind cure, or mental healing, was a late 19th-century American healing movement that extolled a metaphysical mind-over-matter approach to the treatment of illness. Emerging in New England in the mid-19th century out of a mix of mesmerism and metaphysical philosophies, due to its effectiveness, by the 1880s it achieved national recognition. Three individuals are credited with creating and popularizing mental (or metaphysical) healing: Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, Warren Felt Evans, and Mary Baker Eddy. Mind cure was appealing because it helped treat ailments for which the medicines of the day were ineffective, especially problems with the “nerves.” Mental healers employed non-invasive mental and spiritual methods to treat ailing people, called mental therapeutics. As a practice and therapeutic philosophy, mind cure is historically noteworthy because it shaped the earliest forms of psychotherapy in the United States, advanced therapeutic work within the realm of mind-body medicine, birthed the influential New Thought movement, and helped set the stage for the beginnings of religious pluralism and the positive reception of Asian meditation teachers in the West.