Articles - Alan > Quimby, Seale, and Whitehead: Mingling Minds Then and Now


Quimby, Seale, and Whitehead: Mingling Minds Then and Now

In 1988, a group of us led by former INTA President Ervin Seale brought about the publication of The Complete Writings of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, "the father of New Thought." In his article in the Spring 2009 issue of New Thought, celebrating the centennial of the birth of Ervin, Herman Aaftink includes a list of Ervin’s numerous other books, including Mingling Minds: Some Commentary on the Philosophy and Practice of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, an introduction to the work of Quimby.

Ervin must have had a good reason for applying those two words, "Mingling Minds," to the whole of Quimby’s work. He saw that the mingling of minds was essential to Quimby’s contention that "mind acts directly on mind," and to explain much else in Quimby’s experimenting and spiritual healing.

I am claiming here that Ervin also realized that the mingling of minds could be applied universally. I know that Ervin had a copy of Alfred North Whitehead’s Process and Reality, which I recommended to him.

The edition of Process and Reality that Ervin had contains an index with four inches of smallish type references to prehending. If that led him to give the topic some special attention, he almost certainly was reminded of Quimby’s mingling of minds. It wouldn’t have taken much to convince him that Whitehead rediscovered the phenomenon that Quimby called mingling of minds, and named it prehension, the name by which the world now knows it.

My two purposes in writing this article are (1) to show that Quimby went far deeper into metaphysics than he is generally given credit for, and (2) that our hero of the year, Ervin Seale, was the first to realize this, as shown by his choice of the title Mingling Minds.

For those of you who are already familiar with Whiteheadian process philosophy and especially its prehension, my story is complete. For those to whom Whiteheadian process philosophy remains a murky mess, I still have space to offer a hint of an introduction. I hope that I’ll make it a bit less murky and messy for you.

My favorite definition of speculative philosophy or metaphysics is offered by Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) in his magnum opus, Process and Reality:

The endeavour to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be interpreted. By this notion of ‘interpretation’ I mean that everything of which we are conscious, as enjoyed, perceived, willed, or thought, shall have the character of a particular instance of the general scheme.

One of those general ideas must be, by some name, the mingling of minds. Thank you, discoverer Quimby and rediscoverer Whitehead.

One fairly adequate characterization of process philosophy is to call it a sophisticated way of maintaining that the working of God and the universe is a mingling of minds. I have been unable to find an introductory statement of what prehension means that is any better than Quimby’s description of minds mingling. Whitehead, who did not call it mingling, wrote in what has been called his "novel intuition", "The many become one and are increased by one" (Process and Reality, p. 32). God is indispensably involved in this .

Charles Hartshorne wrote in "Whitehead’s Novel Intuition" in Charles Hartshorne [:] Whitehead’s Philosophy: Selected Essays, 1935-1970, p. 164:

God is needed because the order of process is unintelligible without his influence. Each unit of process is a partly free act, somewhat transcending its conditions and any mere causal regularities or laws. But sets of data cannot be synthesized at all unless there is a sufficient degree of order them. Process would come to an end if limits were not imposed upon the development of incompatible lines of process . . .

The essence of an actual entity is prehension and choosing from among contrasting prehensions.

The whole of everything is the sum of actual entities and their relationships.

Whitehead writes in Process and Reality, pp. 29-30:

Actual entities involve each other by reason of their prehensions of each other. There are thus real individual facts of the togetherness of actual entities, which are real, individual, and particular, in the same sense in [30] which actual entities and the prehensions are real, individual, and particular. . . . The ultimate facts of immediate actual experience are actual entities, prehensions and [collections of them].
The explanatory purpose of philosophy is . . . to explain the emergence of the more abstract things from the more concrete things. It is a complete mistake to ask how concrete particular fact can be built up out of universals. The answer is ‘In no way’ . . .

Bye-bye, attempts of New Thoughters to begin witha God of abstractions and to derive from such a God the concrete particulars of the world.

We may not want to think deeply about such thoughts, but the first affirmation of the INTA Declaration of Principles, published in each issue of this magazine, takes into account our doing so. See my my "New Thought: Under Construction" at

In reassessing the fame of Quimby and Seale I have at least started to make the case for considering (1) Quimby a forerunner of the discovery of prehension, (2) Seale the great pioneerr in recognizing Quimby as more a deep-thinking philosopher than most of his appreiators have dreamed that he was, and (3) maybe even Herman and me, for stimulating people to lookin a more penetrating way at the endeavors of Ervin and–almost necessarily in connection with him–the profundity of "Park" (and possibly even at this late date some appreciation for our having helped to produce The Complete Writings). I have raised big questions about them; in the future others may carry on the investigation of these possibilities (or I may do it myself) and in the process raise New Thought to a new level of academic excellence, as well as practical indispensability.

In short, we cannot well consider either Quimby or Seale without considering the other, and Seale was the magnificent chronological and theoretical middleman helping us to link Quimby and Whitehead in reassessment of both, in terms of the indispensability of one to the other, especially in relation to New Thought.

P.S. As we are dishing out appreciation, let’s remember Ron Hughes for his marvelous for all the writings of Quimby and much about him (including materials in the appendices (and the rest) of my Healing Hypotheses, on his site.