New Thought History

The History of New Thought

A Brief Look at the History of New Thought

The topic of New Thought History by all rights must be separated into two very different groups:

  • The History of the New Thought Movement

  • The Origins of the New Thought Principles

Setting the Stage: The principles at the root of the New Thought Movement are nothing new at all, they have been around much longer than even the written word itself in both Asia (i-ching) and ancient Egypt.

Somewhere around 40 bce, the Roman Empire took a certain, vehement disdain for all things Egyptian and proponents of the core concepts themselves began being ostracized and even executed. You see, ideas such as Universal Goodness and equality did not go well in a country so divided and class stratified. So, the concepts themselves were veiled, and forced into secrecy.

This secrecy continued for a very long time, and as it found its way into northern Europe, the principles were labeled, “High Thought”, and notions such as Universal Equality were considered priveledged thought of the High Society, not meant for the lower classes to know about or discuss. It was fairly universal accepted that the lower classes were better off with notions of ‘Divine Justice’, a ‘Vengeful, Wrathful God’ and ‘Reward in the Afterlife’ then such precocious ideas as “A living heaven on earth with a Benevolent God”.

The Late 1700’s: American’s have a delightful manner of taking something traditional and adding the word “New” to it. New York, New Hampshire, New Orlean’s, New Thought, etc…

A piece of the history most often glossed over here is the Masonic role in the birth of the New Thought Movement. You see, the cult of Freemasonry is inarguably the largest and most powerful cult in the world today. What few people understand about it is that it was started nearly 3,500 years ago in ancient Egypt (ever notice the Egyptian symbolism American Money?). The Mason’s are a “Hermetic Society” meaning that their ideological underpinnings are the same Hermetic Teachings which also form the core principles of the modern New Thought Movement.

So, in the late 1700’s, a group of 54 men (yes they were all men) including some 20 of these masons got together and wrote the “Declaration of Independence” and started what has now become called “The united States of America”… The document includes the oft quoted phrase:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Early 1800’s: I think it’s not so difficult to see the philosophical cohesiveness between the Declaration of Independence, and the modern New Thought Declarations of Principles (available in a myriad of forms all over the web)…

But there was a problem. “MEN” You see, the early Romans held the same Hermetic wisdoms very dear to their heart, with one exception “Equality, Human Rights, and Goodness are the province of Free Human beings. Slaves have no human rights.”

It can be argued that America itself was founded on the principle of New Thought, it is clear that the writers and signers of the Declaration of Independence were well versed in these hermetic leanings, but again, just like the Romans they left off one critical point, “Women”…

Equality, freedom, justice, goodness for all people, as long as their men…

But a few very influential men understood the incongruence in the declaration and began to assuage it’s potentially disastrous implications. One such man was Ralph Waldo Emmerson, who taught that every person is an individual-ization of the one and only God. He thought that at the center of our being we are all operated on by the same universal spiritual laws which govern all things in nature, and that these laws are inherently right and good.

Emerson is not always associated with the new thought movement (his work predates the popular term ‘New thought Movement’) although he is sometimes called “the Father of New Thought” because he was instrumental in gathering together a group of intellectuals, writers and philosophers which made accessible these wisdoms to the audience.

The Mid 1800’s: Another man who also shares the title “Father of the new thought Movment” was Phineas Parkhust Quimby (1802-66), an American mental healer whose ideas greatly influenced the New Thought movement. Mr. Quimby was a hypnotist and healer who strongly believed that he could cause healing to occur through the power of the mind. He believed that maladies of the flesh created by erroneous beliefs and disharmony with the elemental forces of divine and nature. His healing methods centered on teaching a person to open themselves to receiving God’s wisdom, after which diseases would commensurately vanish.

Quimby, it is said, made no distinction between the male and female aspects of humanity, teaching that all life can tune into the divine force with equal certainty. He was popular and a somewhat famous figure and his teachings began to take root amongst the common culture (in modern times the power of the mind to affect healing is a well respected fact). One of his students was Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.

The late 1800’s: Enter Emma Curtis Hopkins (1853-1925), born in Connecticut in 1853. She became involved in the New Thought Movement when in 1882 she became serious ill and called on Christian Science Founder Mary Baker Eddy, who facilitated her rapid healing and recovery. Hopkins was so grateful she devoted herself to the Christian Science approach, becoming editor (1884-85) of the Christian Science Journal.

Alas, Emma’s massive spirit could not be confined by the rigors of a staunch dogma and she began to explore other metaphysical writings. In 1887 she moved to Chicago and established the Christian Science Theological Seminary, completely unaffiliated with the Church of Christian Science.

Emma Hopkins was not a shy woman, she was vocal, opinionated, and of a solid character willing to stand up for what she believed in. She is often created with the popularization of the phrase “The New Thought Movement” as her teachings, writings and lectures had rapidly spawned centers in coast to coast including New York, San Francisco, Kansas City, Boston.

Her efforts were twofold, she would empower people with the Core Teachings of the New Thought Movement, and she would make inroads into the Womens equality movement throughout the Americas.

The feminist movement was still quite nascent during her lifetime, but she was a massive leader within it using her centers across the country to facilitate it’s spread and helping to get the Susan B. Anthony Amendment introduced to Congress in 1878 (Universal Voting Rights legislature)… But it was not until over 40 years later, 40 years of hard fighting and perseverance that on August 26, 1920 the bill finally became a law…

Her students were some of the most respected leaders of their days forming organizations today with many millions of members, including:

  • Melinda Cramer and Nona Books, co-founders of Divine Science;

  • Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, who established the Unity School of Christianity.

  • Harriet Emilie Cady, author of Lessons in Truth;

  • Annie Rix Militz, founder of The Home of Truth;

  • Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science.

Because her influence was so pervasive in these New Thought organizations Emma Curtis Hopkins came to be called the “Mother of New Thought.”

Early 1900’s : The Movement takes root. With many millions of people involved now, it was time for the movement to centralize and solidify. In 1903 the first (of what would some years later become annual) “International New Thought Convention” was held in Chicago.

In 1914 the Movement truly catalyzed in the first World New Thought Congress held in London, Enlgand wherein the International New Thought Alliance was formally founded. To this day, The International New Thought Alliance (INTA) is an umbrella organization for New Thought adherents “dedicated to serving the New Thought Movement’s various branches, organizations and individuals”.

It was the INTA which attempted to create the First “New Thought Declaration of Principles” from which the New thought Movment would have the ability to present a common voice. The declaration has been amended many times…

Mid 1900’s: Wracked by a 50 year depression, five major wars, and civil strife, the American New Thought Movement settled down for the bulk of the 1900’s. Many organizations were formed with their own unique declarations of principles, but it wasn’t until 1990’s that the Movement again began to pick up steam.

Late 1900’s: At this point in history, Women’s Rights had become a major force in America as well as Civil rights and racial equality beginning to stabilize as national ideals. The new thought Movement became ready to resurface and face some of the world’s major problems. Led by such vocal personages as Barbara Marx Hubbard and Bernard Beckwith, in 1996 The Association for Global New Thought was formed to centralize and represent the leading edge of the New Thought Movement. With over 700 cross denominational churches and centers worldwide, The Association for Global New Thought unites them all with a deep commitment to bring the principles and practices of cocreation to heal the maladies present in the modern world.

The Association for Global New Thought takes a fresh approach to the principles, stepping over dogmatic lines and addressing the need for global healing through personal transformation, community-building, interfaith, intercultural, and interdisciplinary understanding, and compassionate activism. The term “Spiritual Activism” has been coined by the group and is gaining popularity worldwide to represent the idea that spiritually grounded individuals and organizations must transcend dogmatic barriers and sectarian proprietorship and begin to immediately take action by embracing and embodying the deep changes we as a global culture must accept to ensure the long term prosperity of our civilization.

Fundamental to the modern New Thought Movement is the notion that we can, will, and are part of a magnificent experience encompassing us all. Active in the role of co-creation, it is our right, duty, and privilege to make this world, our lives, and the lives of others as wonderful as possible on every level.

Key in this knowledge is the idea that there is enough for us all, and all we as a people need to do is learn to live in prosperity and abundance with one another…

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