Thursday, May 4, 2017

XIV - James Rogers Newton, the Greatest Magnetic Healer in 19th-Century America

James Rogers Newton was born in Rhode Island in September 1810. He was aware of having unusual powers from early age, but was occupied as a merchant for some twenty years – a prosperous one at that. He took up his magnetic healing work in the later days of his life in a manner somewhat similar to Valentine Greatrakes did in the 17th century. [See earlier blog.]

In the 1850s, Newton visited numerous hospitals and spas while traveling in Europe. He began to exercise healing powers at the age of forty-eight. Those powers he believed due to his personal organism and character, but considered all persons to have the ability to heal to a greater or lesser degree through the hands. Further that nineteen out of twenty persons are injured by taking medicine and a large proportion of surgical operations are useless torture.

Newton did most of his healing in America but also in Great Britain. He typically worked at a residence with people lining up to spend a few moments with him. But, he also did magnetic healing in churches, areas and auditoria.
JR Newton may be considered as a forerunner of Christian magnetic healers of the 20th century. A later blog will discuss some of those modern magnetizers.
The following comes from his lecture delivered in Dodworth's Hall, New York, on Sunday, May 13th, 1866, and gives a fairly clear sense of his work and his belief. The sum of his message and mission are detailed mostly through newspaper articles and testimonials in a book called The Modern Bethesda and published by his brother A.E. Newton in 1879. This book can be found at

My Friends, — I am happy to address you this morning on a subject which is important not only to each and every one of us, but to all mankind. It is in regard to healing the sick by touch, will-power, or the laying on of hands, as it was called by the ancients. There is a latent power of magnetic life in all. Some have it to greater and some to a less extent. The imparting of it depends somewhat on the individual organization. I will endeavor to elucidate this so clearly as to be perceptible, and, I think, practical to those that wish. 

In the first place, the fundamental principles are the same that Christ taught — "Love your neighbor. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." And, as he says, if you believe on me, the works I do shall ye do also. Preachers that teach and practice what they teach are few, or else they would heal the sick, as did Jesus and the Apostles. It seems to me to be the highest calling and duty of the clergy to lay hands on the sick and heal them, and their want of practical faith is the reason they do not do it. 

It was not alone in Christ's time, but for three or four hundred years after, the same mode of cure was generally practised. What was good, and a law, eighteen hundred years ago, is good, and a law, to-day; Jesus came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill. Now if persons desire me to heal them, and come freely, of their own will, I am certain to heal them, if they have a curable disease; but if they are brought, or do not desire to come, I might not perhaps succeed, though I have sometimes done so. A person should come voluntarily. "Ask and ye shall receive; seek and ye shall find." Having a strong willpower, I feel that the power of God is with me. Each one is an emanation from the Divine Father; and knowing this, and that the spirit of God abideth within us, I endeavor to live such a life as to have confidence in myself, and I have the evidence that when I speak to an assembly I carry that magnetic force and principle with the words I speak, so that each one shall feel in the recesses of his individual soul that I practice what I teach. 

I would be ashamed, if I were a speaker or preacher, to address an audience and have some of them go to sleep because of the want of magnetic force. What and whence is the power of the orator and statesman in all ages? It is magnetic force that influences. The man must have faith in himself and his powers to have this controlling influence; and whoever has this faith, real and true faith, can control a nation with their individual forces. This is the power by which Napoleon and other heroes have controlled nations. With this faith in perfection one may say to the mountain, "Be thou removed into the sea!" and it shall obey. Not that it may, but it shall. This magnetic power— if any one has it to a great extent — all present shall feel its influence and effect; not only those present, but the city in which he is, and not the country only, but the universe itself feels the influence and power of one good man or magnetizer. Know ye not that God is within you, and that the internal or soul of man is God manifest in the flesh? 

You may have all the religion in the world, and without good works it is nothing; and you will never be developed in wisdom without a practical religion of good will to all and good works. Feed the hungry and clothe the naked. It will be of greater benefit to either of us to feed one hungry mortal than to spend a lifetime in prayer and fasting, and more acceptable to God; lift up those who are fallen. We who have the position and advantages of intelligence and education, who have enough to eat and drink, and luxuries as comforts, should go among the fallen, unfortunate and debased, and urge them to morality and virtue, and to come up to higher life. 

I heal a great deal by the garments of the sick which are brought to me, by the magnetic influence that attaches to them, and also by the influence of persons coming from their sick friends at a distance. I say I heal, but it is not me; it is the Father that dwelleth in me; and he dwelleth in you just the same as in me. We are one common brotherhood, children of one common Father, and how we ought to love one another! Would we could realize how we are spiritually connected. This magnetism of love passing from one to another is an influence that is felt by susceptible persons. There is not one here present but feels that I have love toward him; there is not one but feels there is in my expression sincerity. And I know that we are ever moulding our faces in expression by our thoughts, deeds and motives. These principles cannot be doubted by either sage or philosopher. 

The process of healing by touch of garment I will try to explain. I will say in the outset that I never receive pay for healing in this way, as it might be a check on the faith ; for the person, and his or her faith in coming, constitutes the medium through which I cure. I sometimes take a garment and say, "There is nothing the matter with this person; that is sent to me for a test;" or "That person is cured from this hour;" "This one was born lame; I can do nothing." 

And then I take another garment in my hands and say, "Do you know this person?" "Yes." "He will be instantly healed." I must feel that the power of God is with me. Where there is good hope and great faith I say, "Your daughter is healed from this time." 

I feel and eliminate a shock, just as real and as powerful as that produced by a galvanic battery. Any person that is sitting here may be a medium through which the higher power operates. I hold that the purer the life the better the healer will be. For instance, I believe I am controlled by guardian and controlling spirits, and that they possess the power to heal through me. And just as I live, in principle and truth, by just such powers shall I be controlled; the better life I live, day after day, the better the angels from the celestial spheres can come and operate to heal the sick. And if we live a debased or low life, low or unprogressed spirits only can control us. You cannot get pure water from a dirty fountain; to get clear water the fountain must first be pure. By throwing the will-force determinedly on the individual through the third person or garment, as a medium, the influence is thus imparted to the patient, though distant, and the sick one is healed. 

I will mention an instance. A child of Mrs. Samuel Hopper, of Columbus, Ohio, said to have water on the brain, apparently unconscious and paralyzed; had lain in this state three months; had to be fed with a tea-spoon; had no power or motion with its limbs. The mother brought a garment of the child; I took the garment and said, "Go home, woman, your child is well." She went home and found the child healed. She afterward brought this child to my rooms, well. 
There are persons present who have been as remarkably cured, whose cases I will presently make known to you. In healing there must be faith on one side or the other. A healer should be a person of great faith, great energy; sympathetic and kind; a man who is true to himself; a muscular man, with a fixed, positive and determined will. A healer possessing a good share of these qualifications will be successful. 

Is Mr. Daniel G. Taylor here? I will state his case. About the same time, Dr. Wilson, an eminent physician of this city, was called to his house, and he told Mrs. Taylor that there was no chance for her husband to live (he had had a bad cough for fifteen years), that he had better make his will. I went to see Mr. Taylor, and told his wife there was but little chance for him. I worked on him for ten minutes, told him to get up and dress, and go out, "Your disease has left you." He rose to his feet, dressed himself, and walked a mile; the next day he walked two miles; he has never had a cough since. He is here present. 
A lady was brought fifty miles on a litter, and few of her neighbors or friends thought she would live to get to my rooms; but the patient, full of faith, was determined to see Dr. Newton. Now, as I have before said, faith must be on one side or the other. I gave her treatment, and in five minutes she was perfectly cured and on her feet. This lady was Mary A. Rumor, Unionville, Pa.; she had been bedridden eleven years. 

These are not isolated cases; their name is legion. I have been instrumental in curing more than one hundred and fifty thousand people. I say this not in egotism, but to prove that the power of God is still with us to heal the sick and suffering, the same as it was eighteen hundred years ago. Healing power is inherent in every one; and if you feel that you have that power, and that the Spirit of God is in you, you can go to work and heal the sick as I do. Should I go on to tell you all the power manifested through me, you would call me a fanatic. Now, my friends, it is the condition that is required to heal — not that the power has been lost. I am frequently asked if I do not feel a loss of power or magnetism, or become weakened by healing so many; on the contrary, I become strengthened; it is like the magnet, from which may be imparted the same properties to an indefinite number of pieces of iron, and yet without loss to the magnet; its power is increased thereby. The more we give the more we receive. 

Now I will speak of the power one individual has over another. Each one of you can sit down and think of a friend or foe, with kind thoughts and good will, and desire to do them good, and you will do them good and make them happy, or by thinking ill of them, make them unhappy. Each one of you has the power to throw off a bad magnetism of anger, hatred or revenge. Do not do this, for whatever you sow that shall you also reap; for these influences will all come back to you again with twofold bitterness. You may make persons almost frantic with grief; but let me warn you not to do it. If you sow to the flesh you shall reap corruption; but sow kindness, love, good will to all the human race; it shall be health and happiness to those that give, as well as those that receive. I would not dare to have a bad thought or feel evil-disposed toward any one. We should believe that all persons do about the best they know how: it is only their spiritual darkness that make men think and do evil. 

If there is any one here that wishes to be a healing medium, let him or her go to the sick and feel a good faith, with a strong, positive will-force, feel that all are your brothers, sisters and children, and they will be healed by the touch; when conditions are right they will be cured. This is the power that Jesus taught; all is subject to your will, all is yours. I can heal any one in this room just as well without touching as with (if it is not an organic disease). Sometimes I must come in contact with the patient, and at others it can be done by will alone. 
If a person comes and says it will take nine operations for you to cure me, it will take nine; but if they say, "I will be cured by the touch of the hem of your garment," it will be so. I have felt the influence pass from me by a simple touch, while the person was cured.  

If, after working on a sick person, I should say, "Don't you feel a little better?" in a mild and negative way, why, I should never cure any one; for asking such a question would imply a negative condition. I produce this shock, and say, "Get up; arise on your feet," in a loud determined manner, which is sometimes startling. 

I cured Mrs. Campbell, in New Haven, Ct. She had not been able to walk for thirty-two years. After working for a few minutes, I told her to arise and stand upon her feet. She said, "I cannot." I said, "How dare you say that? Get up;" and in a few minutes she walked freely, alone — a well woman. She said she thought me the ugliest man she ever saw; but she afterward apologized for it with grateful thanks. It was my positive force that controlled her and her disease. 

I will mention one other case, and it is that of a lady in Rochester, who had not spoken, even in a whisper, for twenty-seven years. She could hear as well as any one. I said, "I can cure you; but you must not expect to be cured instantly, but in a few minutes; speak first in a whisper." Her name was Parkhurst. Said I, "Whisper 'Mary Parkhurst.'" She did so. I said, "That is right. Now speak it louder." She said, "Mary Parkhurst," in a full, loud tone of voice. She afterward (the same day) talked as loud and freely as any one. She said, "Thank God, I can now talk with my children, who have never heard my voice." 

Now I ask any in the room that are in pain to rise — only those who are in acute pain. 

[About twenty rose, and the Doctor threw his arms forcibly forward, and said, "Now your pain is gone." He then requested those whose pains were cured to sit down, and they all sat down.] 

This is all very simple — it is not a miracle. If a leg were to grow where one had been cut off it would be a miracle; but we have no record that it was ever done. I have circulars here, and I want you all to be missionaries to bring the blind and lame and the sick to be healed. I take no money, except from the rich. The poor — God bless them — it is their right to be healed "without money and without price." 

[A gentleman in the room said he felt the influence of the Doctor's magnetism, and that there was a lady present who was sick. Will the Doctor pass his influence? The Doctor did so and she was healed. A child was brought up that had not stepped for six months without its crutches. The Doctor took the crutches away, and bade the child to walk, and he stepped off without them. The Doctor said there was organic disease of the hip and dislocation, which prevented a cure, and illustrated by saying, "If a man's eye is out I cannot give him a new one." He then descended from the platform, and about one-half of the audience came forward to receive the benefit of the process of healing by the laying on of hands, during which one lady touched lightly the skirt of his coat, when he said, "That is right. I feel the influence pass from me. Be healed." And so he "continued for a long time, passing from one to another with rapid touch, saying, "Be healed." During this time one gentleman came to the reporter and stated that his vision was entirely cleared from the false images presented for two years previous. But the confusion was so great that individual cases could not be noted, though one old gentleman operated on stated in the evening that after having hobbled with a cane for a year, he was now able to step off briskly, and jumped from the platform, about two and a half feet high, and then up again. And the Doctor resumed.] 

When I was in Auburn, in this State, a person was brought to me on a bed, and some asked questions, and said it was too bad to bring that poor dying woman there; but still I gathered up my strength and faith, and went to the woman and said, "Disease, depart. Arise and walk." She arose on her feet perfectly cured. I said, "Go out and eat a good beef steak," and she did so. She had been bedridden for three years, and had eaten nothing but gruel from a teaspoon for six months. This was late in the fall, and in the spring I heard that she had passed a comfortable winter, was able to be about her house, and had gained largely in flesh. These things are wonderful, and sometimes I am struck with astonishment at the results, the same as others are. I could give you thousands of examples, but I give you just what happens to come to my mind. 

Dr. Stone, at Portland, Me. (an eminent physician residing in Westbrook), wanted evidence that I did heal the sick that were considered incurable; so he brought a young man that was born decrepit, with his feet turned in so that his toes almost pointed toward each other, and his hands and his mind seemed in keeping with his feet and legs. Dr. Stone had known him from his birth. I said, "Come here," and I put my arm around him and then said, "Bend your knees so," (bending mine at the same time). "Now turn your toes out." And then his feet and hands came out, and he walked off as well and straight as anybody. (A great deal of this power is in the words, with the positive will that I exercise. I have recently practised in Havana, and I find that I have better success where the language is understood.) I took the lad into the other room, where I had patients waiting, and asked him to show the people how he had been, but I found he could not get his feet into the position that they were in when he came to me, and I often afterwards had the pleasure of seeing him, after being cured — a young man as straight and as handsome in address as anyone. 

The religion that Jesus taught was good and glorious, and professing Christians are doing good, and could do a great deal more, if they would only practice what they profess—" clothe the naked," " feed the hungry," "for inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these ye do it unto me." Let us struggle to do good, and when we cross the River of Life we shall not be asked what we believe, but what have we done. If we can show good works, then the angels will say," Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." I believe in the ministration of angels, and that they are ever present to help us, and that not only our works but our thoughts are known to them. This belief will make men lead better lives; and there is a time coming when there will be a power, a controlling will-force, to compel mankind to lead better lives, through mediums, and the Millennium, that I believe is coming, will be in this way.

Angels, or spirits, control us all, more or less. Live right ourselves, and then the bright angels can control in love to good works and faith, which are the controlling principles of all healing, either of body or mind. Then let us go forward from this hour, and improve not only ourselves, but our neighbor, and the best way to improve our neighbor is to reform ourselves. 

I have gone through many persecutions in this cause, and I live to thank God for all the afflictions I have ever had. We must expect persecution in this age, though we take the whole weight of the cross upon our backs. There will arise true men and true women, who will give their houses and their lands for the Christ principle, and so reform and redeem the world. 

I now thank you for your kindness and attention. Go forth with this love that I impart to you, and it is for you to impart it to others. It is the true wisdom from on high; it is the " pearl of great price," and is eternal.

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