Research Article

The Therapeutic Gospel: Religious Medicine and the Birth of Pop Psychology, 1850–1910

Eva Moskowitz

In 1857, a bangor, maine, newspaper announced that a man named Phineas P. Quimby was engaged in “investigations in psychology” and that he had “discovered and in his daily practice carries out, a new principle of treatment of diseases.” A few years later, a Portland newspaper reported that Quimby's “new theory of disease” was “so contrary to the commonly received opinions” that people “hardly dare believe there can be any truth in it.” Contemporary observers found both Quimby's theory of Mind Cure and his medical practice to be highly unusual. Apparently, Quimby would “sit down beside him [the patient], and put himself en rapport with him.” He did “not use medicine or any material agency, nor call to his aid mesmerism or any spiritual influence whatever” in his treatment. Rather, observers maintained that “his power over disease arises from his subtle knowledge of the mind”.

Has taught at the College of Staten Island, the University of Virginia, and Vanderbilt University. Her writings include “Feminism as Performance, 1963–1970” (1995) and “Some Spirit in Me” (1993), an historical documentary about gender relations. She currently is working on a book-length study titled: “The Therapeutic Gospel: Personal Problems and Public Debate in Modern America.”