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  About New Thought - The philosophy of New Thought and the origins of the new thought movement.



What is New Thought?

New Thought, sometimes known as Higher Thought (not to be confused with 'New Age'), is a spiritual and philosophical movement based on religious and metaphysical concepts, along with the ideas of mental science. The New Thought Movement mainly originated in the United States during the 19th century. But despite its name, New Thought is actually not new; Most of the ideas, principles and core teachings that shaped the New Thought Movement are rooted in ancient wisdom. These ancient teachings can be found in the heart of almost all religious and spiritual traditions throughout the world.

New Thought itself is not considered a religion or denomination in itself, because 'New Thought' is simply ancient wisdom being exressed in a new way, but there are several religious organizations or movements that have New Thought roots. New Thought has been referred to as "The Religion of Healthy-Mindedness" by William James in his classic work, Varieties of Religious Experience. As a spiritual movement, New Thought also helped guide a variety of social changes throughout the 19th, 20th, and into the 21st centuries. New Thought directly influenced the growing movement of "Mental Sciences" of the mid-19th century, which would later become known as the New Thought Movement. The mental-healing movement was a protest against old beliefs and methods, particularly the old-school medical practice and the old theology of the time.


  “The Science of Mind is the study of Life and the nature of the laws of thought; the conception that we live in a spiritual Universe;
that God is in, through, around and for us.”-- Ernest Holmes

The Early Development of the New Thought Movement

The New Thought Movement is a spiritually-focused or philosophical interpretation of New Thought beliefs developed in the 1800's, mainly originating in the United States. The movement also had roots in England where the term Higher Thought was often preferred. The rise of the New Thought Movement came as a result of the reaction of conscious thinking people during the middle of the 19th century who were revolting from the rigid religious doctrine, towards a blending of scientific and philosophical ideals. The New Thought movement is generally considered to have its origins in the mental healing practices of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby and the transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

During its early development, the ideas of the New Thought were mostly presented in books, magazines and leaflets. It was not setup specifically to be any form of an organized religion or religious group. The ideas of the New Thought movement were spread on a world-wide scale mainly through lectures, books and journals. Today, the movement consists of a loosely allied group of religious denominations, authors, philosophers, and individuals who share a set of beliefs concerning metaphysics, positive thinking, the law of attraction, healing, life force, creative visualization, and personal power.

The three major branches and religious denominations within the New Thought movement are Religious Science (or, The Science of Mind), Unity Church (or, Unity Society of Practical Christianity), and the Church of Divine Science. There are also a number of smaller groups, most of which are incorporated in the International New Thought Alliance. New Thought churches are non-judgmental, open congregations, where everyone is made to feel special, welcome and loved.

Although the New Thought Movement is often considered to be a single movement, the thoughts and ideas can be somewhat varied between groups. But there are common beliefs that are present within every group which form the basic ideology of the New Thought Movement in general.

The Foundation of New Thought Philosophy

New Thought, or, the New Thought Movement is often confused with the "New Age", or the New Age Movement. New Thought is actually more of a perennial philosophy **; in essence, it is the thread of truth that is woven through all the world's great spiritual traditions. The spiritual teachings and philosophies that shaped much of New Thought itself has ancient roots that can be traced back for centuries. The principles found within the new thought are universal and can be found throughout various religious traditions and spiritual philosophies throughout the world.

Although New Thought is neither monolithic nor doctrinaire, in general, modern-day adherents of New Thought believe that "God" or "Infinite Intelligence" is "supreme, universal, and everlasting", that divinity dwells within each person, that all people are spiritual beings, that "the highest spiritual principle is loving one another unconditionally, teaching and healing one another, and that our mental states are carried forward into manifestation and become our experience in daily living. New Thought also believes that each person is divinely endowed with the right to happiness and the power of choice, enjoying equal access to the creative potential of spiritual and metaphysical laws.

Principles and Beliefs

New Thought promotes the ideas that Infinite Intelligence, or God, is everywhere, spirit is the totality of real things, true human selfhood is divine, divine thought is a force for good, sickness originates in the mind, and "right thinking" has a healing effect.

  New Thought embraces the idea the God (Spirit, Divine Mind, or however It is termed) is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient; and God is in all and all is in God.

In New Thought, God is regarded as Eternal and the Cause and Source of All. This emphasis on God as absolute Good is common in New Thought, as well as in mainline Christianity. However, in the mainline doctrine, God’s goodness is often contrasted with some independently existing evil (personified as satin or the devil), or in a dualistic context. In the New Thought idea of ultimate oneness, "God is Good and God is all there is," and evil is often regarded as the byproduct of human consciousness, or of separation (separation from God).


The main beliefs embraced by New Thought are:

* Infinite Intelligence or God is omnipotent and omnipresent.
*Spirit is the Ultimate Reality.
*True human self-hood is divine.
*Divinely attuined through is a positive force for good.
*Disease is mental in origin.
*Right thinking has a healing effect.
*There is power in meditation, prayer and positive thinking.

New Thought embraces the idea that God is present within, but infinitely exceeding, the manifest universe. Just as the physical universe can be described by the observed physical laws, the spiritual universe is believed to be organized by metaphysical laws that can be activated through the use of spiritual practices to consciously create life experience. New Thought also focuses on individual 'inner' transformation as the way to achieve transformation in the external world. New Thought teaches that everything begins in the mind, and that events in the "outer" world reflect the atmosphere of the "inner" world; The macrocosm of human collective consciousness is regarded as inseparable from the microcosm of individual thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs. Through a shift in consciousness, conditions can be altered – for the individual, and thus for the collective.

In 1914 the New Thought Alliance was formed. In 1916 the Alliance agreed to a set of codes that would be central to the ideas of most new thougth groups, and in 1917 a “Declaration of Principles” was adopted. These principles were modified in 1919 and remained in use until revised during the 1950's and again in January 2000.

The Shaping of the Early New Thought Teachings

A majority of the early New Thought movement was based on the work and beliefs of Phineas Parker Quimby, a healer and mesmerist in the late 19th century. Quimby's metaphysical healing practices mingled with the Mental Science teachings of Warren Felt Evans, a Swedenborgian minister. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, has often referred to Quimby as an inspiration for her theology. Baker was also a patient of Quimby's and shared his view that diease is rooted in a mental cause; this idea is a common in most new thought belief.

By the beginning of the 20th Century, New Thought was propelled along by a number of spiritual thinkers and philosophers and emerged through a variety of religious denominations and churches, particularly the Unity Church (established in 1888) and Church of Divine Science (established in 1889), followed by Religious Science (established in 1927).

Unlike many other spiritual and religious movements and organizations at the time, many of New Thought's early teachers and students were women; notable among the founders of the movement were Emma Curtis Hopkins, known as the "teacher of teachers", Myrtle Fillmore, Malinda Cramer, and Nona L. Brooks; with many of its churches and community centers led by women, from the 1880s to today.

Before anyone practiced New Thought as a set of beliefs there were a few influential figures whose teachings later contrinuted significantly to the movement. The founder of the 18th century New Church, Emanuel Swedenborg, influenced many of the New Thought author's writings on the Bible. Ralph Waldo Emerson was also influential, as his philosophical movement of transcendentalism is incorporated throughout New Thought. Frank Mesmer's work on mesmerism (hypnosis) inspired the work of Phineas P. Quimby, who is widely recognized as the founder of the early New Thought movement.

The Religious and Philosophical Influences of New Thought

Many New Thought groups have their roots in Christianity, and many of the most influential early leaders of the movement were Christian Americans that did not agree with the institutionalized version of Christianity at that time. The New Thought movement was also influenced by the romanticism and idealism of the 19th century that came as a reaction against the religious skepticism of the previous century. This entire fruitful period saw the birth of not only New Thought, but also Christian Science, Theosophy, Transcendental Meditation, and other related movements. New Thought is related to Christian Science (founded by Mary Baker Eddy) both historically and philosophically, although there are some differences between the two; Christian Science places more of an emphasis on the doctrines and is more organizationally structured, while New Thought adherants do not oppose modern medicine to the extent that Christian Scientists do.

Much of the New Thought's philosophy was largely influenced by the Bible; the Christian bible is the primary text of many New Thought groups, especially Unity and Divine Science. New Thought was also influenced by the philosophical ideas of Plato and Hagel, certain aspects of Swedenborgianism and some elements of oriental or eastern spiritual teachings.

Many of the New Thought writings focus on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the ancient wisdom of many of the great master teachers throughout the ages such as Buddha, Krishna and Mohammad. The principles of New Thought are to be found in Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Zen, Hinduism, and many philosophical and theological works. Rooted in Socrates' notion of universal science, early New Thought leaders shared a Romantic interest between metaphysics and American Christianity. In addition to New Thought, Christian Science, transcendental meditation, theosophy, and other movements were born from similar interests, all in the late 18th and early 19th century.

The Growth and Evolution of New Thought

New Thought is also largely a movement of the printed word. The 1890's and the first decaded of the 20th century saw many New Thought books and magazines published on the topics of self-help, personal and financial succes, self-realization, and developing the mind through the principles of science and spirituality. Popular New Thought authors who furthered the growth of the movement in the written form include: Napoleon Hill, Wallace Wattles, Joseph Perry Green, Frank Channing Haddock, and Thomas Troward, William Walker Atkinson, and Elizabeth Towne.

As humanity gains greater understand of the world, New Thought iself will evolve to assimilate the new knowledge. New Thought can be likened to a process in which each individual--even the New Thought Movement itself--is "new every moment" and will be a continuous revelation, with new insights being received by indiviuals continuously over time.

New Thought publishing and educational activities reach approximately 2.5 million people annually. The largest New Thought-oriented denomination is Seicho-no-Ie. Other prominant groups within the New Thought movement include Jewish Science, Religious Science, Centers for Spiritual Living and Unity. Past denominations have included Psychiana and Father Divine.

Religious Science operates under three main organizations: the United Centers for Spiritual Living; the Affiliated New Thought Network; and Global Religious Science Ministries.

The Influence of New Thought Beliefs

Ernest Holmes, the founder of Religious Science, stated that Religious Science is not based on any "authority" of established beliefs, but rather on "what it can accomplish" for the people who practice it.

There are also many contemporary authors and teachers illustrating the principles of New Thought through their work, including but not limited to: Wayne Dyer, Caroline Myss, Suze Orman, Ram Dass, Michael Bernard Beckwith, Thomas Moore, Iyanla VanZant, Christiane Northrop, Neale Donald Walsh, John Gray, Stephen Covey, Greg Levoy, Colin Tipping, Gabrielle Roth, Gary Zukav, Larry Dossey, Jack Canfield, Bernie Siegel, Julia Cameron, Marianne Williamson, Gregg Braden, Fritjof Capra, Louise Hay, Alan Cohen, Deepak Chopra, Jerry Jampolsky, Don Miguel, Bruce Lipton, Ruiz Elisabet Sahtouris, Barbara Fields, Fred Alan Wolf, Eckart Tolle, Jean Houston Peter Russell,Patrick, Harbula, Raphael Cushnir, Walter Starcke, Anthony Robbins, Peter Drucker, Esther & Jerry Hicks and the teachings of Abraham.

New Thought as a Perennial Philosophy

[**] The Perennial philosophy originates from neo-Platonism and Christianity. In the early 19th century this idea was popularised by the Transcendentalists. Towards the end of the 19th century the Theosophical Society further popularized the concept under the name of "Wisdom-Religion" or "Ancient Wisdom". Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499) argued that there is an underlying unity to the world, the soul or love, which has a counterpart in the realm of ideas. Platonic Philosophy and Christian theology both embody this truth. Ficino was influenced by a variety of philosophers including Aristotelian Scholasticism and various pseudonymous and mystical writings. Ficino saw his thought as part of a long development of philosophical truth, of ancient pre-Platonic philosophers (including Zoroaster, Hermes Trismegistus, Orpheus, Aglaophemus and Pythagoras) who reached their peak in Plato. The Prisca theologia, or venerable and ancient theology, which embodied the truth and could be found in all ages, was a vitally important idea for Ficino.

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–94), a student of Ficino, went further than his teacher by suggesting that truth could be found in many, rather than just two, traditions. This proposed a harmony between the thought of Plato and Aristotle, and saw aspects of the Prisca theologia in Averroes, the Koran, the Cabala among other sources. [Source Wikipedia.org]


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