The New Thought Movement
The History of New Thought
The New Thought Movement is the Moniker given to a modern resurgence and integration of ancient Hermetic teachings blended and re-engineered for the modern palate. It has been gaining momentum and popularity as a catch-phrase for
over 150 years now with roots in both Europe and America, and is now a worldwide phenomenon.
In practical terms, The New Thought Movement it is the popularization of philosophical idealism, optimistic mental discipline, and the awareness of an Omnipresent Divine Force in healing and in daily living. The movement is in its essence a marrying of Eastern and Western insights with the commonality of Hermetic underpinnings shared by both.
A proper distinction must be made: In modern parlance Eastern thought categorizes both Hindu and Buddhist knowledge, while Western Thought refers to the Judeo-Christian and Pagan European and North American paradigms. The New Thought Movement is not the same thing as the New Age Movement however, the new Thought Movement is in its very nature inclusive, and therefore merits no actually differentiation from any other movement accept for sake of social observation and reporting. This being the case, new Thought differs from New Age primarily in its orientation (ie: One refers to chronological, the other refers to phsycho-spiritual).
New Thought Movement Origins: It bares repeating that the Movement is distinct from the thoughts themselves. The origins of the thoughts themselves, exhibit evidence of pre-pharonic (in the west) and pre-dynastic (in the east) roots. The Movement then, must be considered an ‘organized resurgence’ of sorts. With this distinction in tow, we can look at the origins of the Movement in isolation from the origins of the paradigm itself…
Many scholars regard, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby as the “Father of the New Thought Movement” because of his insistence of the powers of the mind in regards to physical healing. Of course, in modern times we take it for granted that the mind is instrumental in the healing process, but it wasn’t always so! Quimby was a well regarded mesmerist who gained the attention of many noteworthy figures of the early 1800’s in America, of which Emma Curtis Hopkins who gained the moniker “Mother of the New Thought Movement”, due to her high profile work and the fact that her students founded Unity Church, Divine Science, and Religious Science.
Emmersons impact on new Thought: 1880’s New Thought has been linked heavily with the popular works of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s. Being a movement, The New Thought Movement absorbs and incorporates the teachings of its proponents. This is to say, that while Emerson was not a New Thought teacher or popular advocate, his teachings influenced the very core principles of the movement itself. Many scholars consider the Emersonian influence to represent a bridge between the Eastern and Western ideologies without the strong Hermetic ties commensurate with pre-new thought movement leaders such as Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin.
Note: There is no doubt that Benjamin Franklin was a precursory proponent of the thought paradigm underpinning the New Thought Movement, again here we have an example of the Paradigm predating the movement, and in scholarly circles ‘Poor Richards Almanac’ is not widely considered a New Thought Text, although the principles are clearly evident throughout.
2nd Note: In the early and mid-1800’s there was some residual fear surrounding the Hermetica (they had been outlawed in most monarchies and its teachings punishable by death for almost 2000 years priori). Even Benjamin Franklin took a secret pen name for the dissemination of such learning’s. Although the New Thought Movement is for all intents and purposes ‘The Popularization of Hermetic Teachings’ residual fears surrounding the oppression makes it socially convenient to avoid this fact. As recently as the 1920’s Adolf Hitler had a separate concentration camp for Hermetics and executed 200,000 Adherents (who are still observed on holocaust remembrance day)… Dictatorships and monarchies have no tolerance for teachings of universal goodness and equality… Even more recently, Saddam Hussein made practice of Hermeticism punishable by death, and as of 2009 (as this article is being written) it is still illegal in many middle eastern countries.
Perhaps this better explains the need for the “New Thought Movement” moniker to wrap itself around such ancient lessons… “A rose by any other name, does in fact, still smell as sweet”… and New Thought isn’t punishable by death anywhere yet…
Distinctions within the Movement: The main differences within the various aspects of the movement are the degree to which biblical Christianity is inlaid and predominant. This manifests around the degrees of which the Divine Force is personal or an impersonal force pervading everything. Also of note is the Hindu influences on the movement which also range from impersonal (bramanic), pantheistic, to mono-theism.
All things considered, the Movement is large enough to incorporate this wide spectrum without need to reconcile into a single dogma or belief system. While many leaders have emerged within the movement with “Our version of New Thought is the best version of New Thought”, they have been overwhelmingly shifted to the side or back of the movement and now clear dogma has emerged.
Although many will be irked by the following statement, it is in fact, accurate: “The New Thought Movement is a Polytheistic Monotheistic Pantheistic Aesthetic Religious Dogmatic Philosophical Social Phenomenon wherein Adherents believe in Reincarnation, or Decimation, or Dissipation, or Heaven and Hell afterlife, or immortality, or nihilistic non-existence of duality (no life or afterlife) and or any combination of the aforementioned.”
Process New Thought. The latest emergence in the global phenomena is yet another of the classical Hermetic lessons rising to the forefront of the movement. In this modern understanding, known commonly within the Movement as Process New Thought, existence itself is regarded as a creative process. Strongly influenced by Alfred North Whitehead, Charles Hartshorne, as well as the early 1900’s Quantum Physicists, Process New Thought:
(1) Recognizes that experiences have a congealing property which may be considered units of experience.
(2) Each experience then becomes a changeless part of the past, exerting influence on future experiences.
(3) Each experience is a blending of self with divine hood in the Process of Co-creation
(4) Our bodies are then vast collections of our experiences, existing as an unfolding process building on top of our historical process… ie: an unending process…
The New Thought Movement’s future. The New Thought Movement has so delightful influenced so much of popular religion, success literature, and modern medicine that it is truly one of our planets most influential paradigms. The notion that, we create our realities through our thoughts and efforts, that our mind’s influence our well being are so simple and basic that we now largely take them for granted all the world over. We have almost already forgotten that just a few generations ago we used leeches to suck out illnesses, and ‘Born Poor = Forever poor’.
The New Thought Movement is a perfect example of the Extreme Dictating the Mean as for many people it is still widely regarded as fringe phenomenon, filled with New Agers and Mystics… However, when a fringe phenomenon gains so much inertia as to influence society at large, it certainly merits a smiling glance from all elements…
I laugh to myself as I see the effects it has had in the words of its detractors. Recently I saw a video where a business instructor began his lecture with “This isn’t some new age laws of Attraction mumbo jumbo…” He then went on to perfectly and expertly explain how the arts of creative visualization and determinism will be the underlying factor in any undertaking!
For those of you who didn’t follow that last paragraph: The teacher taught the basic principles of New Thought after explaining that he was going to teach the traditional principles of business…
This example clearly illustrates what the Future of New Thought will be. The Hermetic principles were once called “truths” before they became known as hermetic (the term ‘hermetic was adopted around 1100bce). Now they are called ‘New Thought’ it seems, as the mainstream is more and more taking hold of them, they are again being regarded as truths…
So as long as members of The New Thought Movement continue their endless ‘Re-Declaration of Principles’ and endless formings of new organizations to unify the movement (there are at least five distinct New Thought Organizations seeking to present a common face for the whole group) we will be able to confidently stay on the fringe as the delightful well meaning kooks who can’t even seem to agree on what they believe… More and more the principles themselves will work their way into society, and people will once again realize that the simple truth is, was, and always will be: “there is a pervasive force of goodness within all things, it is our choice to align or oppose that goodness, either way, it is all good.”