Norman Vincent Peale
|Norman Vincent Peale|
Norman Vincent Peale
May 31, 1898|
|Died||December 24, 1993
Pawling, New York
|Occupation||Author, Professional speaker, Minister|
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (May 31, 1898 – December 24, 1993) was a minister and author (most notably of The Power of Positive Thinking) and a progenitor of "positive thinking".
- 1 Biography
- 2 Criticism and controversy
- 3 Praise
- 4 Miscellanea
- 5 Cultural references
- 6 Some of Peale's books
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Early life and education
Peale was born in Bowersville, Ohio, the oldest of three sons of Charles and Anna (née Delaney) Peale. He graduated from Bellefontaine High School, Bellefontaine, Ohio. He earned degrees at Ohio Wesleyan University (where he became a brother of the Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta) and Boston University School of Theology.
Raised as a Methodist and ordained as a Methodist minister in 1922, Peale changed his religious affiliation to the Reformed Church in America in 1932 and began a 52-year tenure as pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. During that time the church's membership grew from 600 to over 5000, and he became one of New York City's most famous preachers.
American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry
Peale and Smiley Blanton, a psychoanalyst, established a religio-psychiatric outpatient clinic next door to the church. The two men wrote books together, notably Faith Is the Answer: A Psychiatrist and a Pastor Discuss Your Problems (1940). The book was written in alternating chapters, with Blanton writing one chapter, then Peale, and so on. Blanton espoused no particular religious point of view in his chapters. In 1951 this clinic of psychotherapy and religion grew into the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry, with Peale serving as president and Blanton as executive director. Blanton handled difficult psychiatric cases and Peale, who had no mental health credentials, handled religious issues.
When Peale came under heavy criticism from the mental health community for his controversial book "The Power of Positive Thinking," (1952) Blanton distanced himself from Peale and refused to publicly endorse the book. Blanton did not allow Peale to use his name in "The Power of Positive Thinking" and declined to defend Peale publicly when he came under criticism. As scholar Donald Meyer describes it: "Peale evidently imagined that he marched with Blanton in their joint labors in the Religio-psychiatric Institute. This was not exactly so.":266 Meyer notes that Blanton's own book, "Love or Perish, (1956), "contrasted so distinctly at so many points with the Peale evangel," of "positive thinking" that these works had virtually nothing in common.:273
Radio, television, writing and organizations
Peale started a radio program, "The Art of Living," in 1935, which lasted for 54 years. Under sponsorship of the National Council of Churches he moved into television when the new medium arrived. In the meantime he had begun to edit the magazine Guideposts and to write books. His sermons were mailed monthly.
During the depression Peale teamed with James Cash Penney, founder of J.C. Penney & Co.; Arthur Godfrey, the radio and TV personality; and Thomas J. Watson, President and Founder of IBM to form the first board of 40Plus, an organization that helps unemployed managers and executives.
In 1945, Dr. Peale, his wife, Ruth Stafford Peale, and Raymond Thornburg, a Pawling, New York businessman founded Guideposts magazine, a non-denominational forum for celebrities and ordinary people to relate inspirational stories. For its launch, they raised US$1,200 from Frank Gannett, founder of the Gannett newspaper chain, J. Howard Pew, a Philadelphia industrialist and Branch Rickey, General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Peale was a prolific writer; The Power of Positive Thinking is by far his most widely read work. First published in 1952, it stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 186 consecutive weeks, and according to the publisher, Simon and Schuster, the book has sold around 5 million copies. The fact that the book has sold 5 million copies is printed on the cover of the current edition in both paperback and hard cover, and directly contradicts exaggerated claims that the book has sold more than 20 million copies in 42 languages. The publisher also contradicts the translation claim, saying the book has been translated into only 15 languages (publisher's statement on amazon.com describing several TPOPT books, tapes and other media). Nearly half of the sales of the book (2.1 mil.) occurred before 1958 ("Pitchman in the Pulpit." Fuller, Edmund. Saturday Review, March 19, 1957, pp. 28–30), and the book has sold less than 3 million copies over the past 50 years. Some of his other popular works include The Art of Living, A Guide to Confident Living, The Tough-Minded Optimist, and Inspiring Messages for Daily Living.
In 1947 Peale co-founded (along with educator Kenneth Beebe) The Horatio Alger Association. This organization aims to recognize and honor Americans who have been successful in spite of difficult circumstances.
Other organizations founded by Peale include the Peale Center, the Positive Thinking Foundation and Guideposts Publications, all of which aim to promote Peale's theories about positive thinking.
Peale was politically and personally close to President Richard Nixon's family. In 1968 he officiated at the wedding of Julie Nixon and David Eisenhower. He continued calling at the White House throughout the Watergate crisis, saying "Christ didn't shy away from people in trouble."
He was also the subject of the 1964 film One Man's Way.
President Ronald Reagan awarded Peale, for his contributions to the field of theology, the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor in the United States) on March 26, 1984. He died of stroke on December 24, 1993 at age 95 in Pawling, New York.
Criticism and controversy
Peale's works came under criticism from several mental health experts, one of whom directly said Peale was a con man and a fraud. These critics appeared in the early 1950s after the publication of The Power of Positive Thinking.
Hard to substantiate
One major criticism of The Power of Positive Thinking is that the book is full of anecdotes that are hard to substantiate. Almost all of the experts and many of the testimonials that Peale quotes as supporting his philosophy are unnamed, unknown and unsourced. Examples include a "famous psychologist",:52 a two-page letter from a "practicing physician",:150 another "famous psychologist",:169 a "prominent citizen of New York City",:88 and dozens, if not hundreds, more unverifiable quotations. Similar scientific studies of questionable validity are also cited. As psychiatrist R. C. Murphy exclaimed, "All this advertising is vindicated as it were, by a strict cleaving to the side of part truth," and referred to the work and the quoted material as "implausible and woodenly pious."
A second major accusation of Peale is that he attempted to conceal that his techniques are a well known form of hypnosis, and to that he attempts to persuade his readers to follow his beliefs through a combination of self-hypnosis and false evidence. While his techniques are not debated by psychologists, Dr. Peale said his theological practice and strategy was directed more at self-analysis, forgiveness, character development, and growth much like the Jesuits of the Catholic Church.
Peale asserts that practicing his techniques will give the reader absolute self-confidence and deliverance from suffering. The critics assert that the techniques are a well known form of hypnosis (autosuggestion), disguised by the use of terms which may sound more benign from the reader's point of view ("techniques", "formulas," "methods," "prayers," and "prescriptions."). One author called Peale's book "The Bible of American autohypnotism.":264
Psychiatrist R. C. Murphy writes "Self knowledge, in Mr. Peale's understanding is unequivocally bad: self hypnosis is good." Murphy adds that repeated hypnosis defeats an individual's self-motivation, self-knowledge, unique sense of self, sense of reality, and ability to think critically. Murphy describes Peale's understanding of the mind as inaccurate, "without depth," and his description of the workings of the mind and the unconscious as deceptively simplistic and false: "It is the very shallowness of his concept of 'person' that makes his rules appear easy ... If the unconscious of man ... can be conceptualized as a container for a small number of psychic fragments, then ideas like 'mind-drainage' follow. So does the reliance on self-hypnosis, which is the cornerstone of Mr. Peale's philosophy.'"
Psychologist Albert Ellis, the founder of cognitive therapy and influential psychologist of the 20th century, compared the Peale techniques with those of the hypnotist Emile Coue, and Ellis says that the repeated use of these hypnotic techniques could lead to significant mental health problems. Ellis has documented in several books the many individuals he has treated who suffered mental breakdowns from following Peale's teachings. Ellis' writings repeatedly warn the public not to follow the Peale message. Ellis contends the Peale approach is dangerous, distorted, unrealistic. He compares the black or white view of life that Peale teaches to a psychological disorder (borderline personality disorder), perhaps implying that dangerous mental habits which he sees in the disorder may be brought on by following the teaching. "In the long run [Peale's teachings] lead to failure and disillusionment, and not only boomerang back against people, but often prejudice them against effective therapy."
A third major criticism is that Peale's philosophy is based on exaggerating the fears of his readers and followers, and that this exaggerated fear inevitably leads to aggression and the destruction of those considered "negative." Peale's views are critically reviewed in a 1955 article by psychiatrist R. C. Murphy, published in The Nation, titled "Think Right: Reverend Peale's Panacea."
With saccharine terrorism, Mr. Peale refuses to allow his followers to hear, speak or see any evil. For him real human suffering does not exist; there is no such thing as murderous rage, suicidal despair, cruelty, lust, greed, mass poverty, or illiteracy. All these things he would dismiss as trivial mental processes which will evaporate if thoughts are simply turned into more cheerful channels. This attitude is so unpleasant it bears some search for its real meaning. It is clearly not a genuine denial of evil but rather a horror of it. A person turns his eyes away from human bestiality and the suffering it evokes only if he cannot stand to look at it. By doing so he affirms the evil to be absolute, he looks away only when he feels that nothing can be done about it ... The belief in pure evil, an area of experience beyond the possibility of help or redemption, is automatically a summons to action: 'evil' means 'that which must be attacked ... ' Between races for instance, this belief leads to prejudice. In child-rearing it drives parents into trying to obliterate rather than trying to nurture one or another area of the child's emerging personality ... In international relationships it leads to war. As soon as a religious authority endorses our capacity for hatred, either by refusing to recognize unpleasantness in the style of Mr Peale or in the more classical style of setting up a nice comfortable Satan to hate, it lulls our struggles for growth to a standstill ... Thus Mr Peale's book is not only inadequate for our needs but even undertakes to drown out the fragile inner voice which is the spur to inner growth.
Harvard scholar Donald Meyer would seem to agree with this assessment, presenting similar warnings of a religious nature. In his article "Confidence Man", Meyer writes, "In more classic literature, this sort of pretension to mastery has often been thought to indicate an alliance with a Lower rather than a Higher power." The mastery Peale speaks of is not the mastery of skills or tasks, but the mastery of fleeing and avoiding one's own "negative thoughts." Meyer writes this exaggerated fear inevitably leads to aggression: "Battle it is; Peale, in sublime betrayal of the aggression within his philosophy of peace, talks of 'shooting' prayers at people."
Psychologist Martin Seligman, former APA president and the founder of the branch of psychology known as "positive psychology", says "positive thinking" (bearing no resemblance to his own "positive psychology") is unproven, dangerous. He cautions readers not to confuse the two approaches. "First, positive thinking is an armchair activity. Positive psychology, on the other hand, is tied to a program of empirical and replicable scientific activity ... Where accuracy is tied to potentially catastrophic outcomes (for example, when an airline pilot is deciding whether to de-ice the wings of her airplane) we should all be pessimists ... Positive psychology is a supplement to negative psychology, not a substitute.".
Episcopal theologian (later bishop) John M. Krumm criticized Peale and the "heretical character" of his teaching on positive thinking. Krumm cites "the emphasis upon techniques such as the repetition of confident phrases ... or the manipulation of certain mechanical devices," which he says "gives the impression of a thoroughly depersonalized religion. Very little is said about the sovereign mind and purpose of God; much is made of the things men can say to themselves and can do to bring about their ambitions and purposes." Dr. Krumm cautions that "The predominant use of impersonal symbols for God is a serious and dangerous invitation to regard man as the center of reality and the Divine Reality as an impersonal power, the use and purpose of which is determined by the man who takes hold of it and employs it as he thinks best."
Peale and Adlai Stevenson
Peale is also remembered in politics by the Adlai Stevenson quote: "I find Paul appealing and Peale appalling." The origin of the quote can be traced to the 1952 election, when Stevenson was informed by a reporter that Peale had been attacking him as unfit for the presidency because he was divorced. Later during the 1956 campaign for President against Eisenhower, Stevenson was introduced for a speech with: "Gov. Stevenson, we want to make it clear you are here as a courtesy because Dr. Norman Vincent Peale has instructed us to vote for your opponent." Stevenson stepped to the podium and quipped, "Speaking as a Christian, I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling." In 1960 Stevenson was asked by a reporter for a comment regarding Peale attacking JFK as unfit for the presidency because he was Catholic, to which Stevenson responded: "Yes, you can say that I find Paul appealing and Peale appalling."
Stevenson continued to lampoon Peale on the campaign trail in speeches for JFK. Though Nixon and the Republicans tried to distance themselves from the furor caused by Peale's anti-Catholic stance, Democrats did not let voters forget. President Truman, for one, accused Nixon of tacit approval of the anti-Catholic sentiment, and it remained a hot issue on the campaign trail. Regarding Peale's intrusion into Republican politics, Stevenson said in this transcript of a speech given in San Francisco: "Richard Nixon has tried to step aside in favor of Norman Vincent Peale (APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER) ... We can only surmise that Mr. Nixon has been reading 'The Power of Positive Thinking.' (APPLAUSE). America was not built by wishful thinking. It was built by realists, and it will not be saved by guess work and self-deception. It will only be saved by hard work and facing the facts."
At a later date, according to one report, Stevenson and Peale met, and Stevenson apologized to Peale for any personal pain his comments might have caused Peale, though he never publicly recanted the substance of his statements. There is no record of Peale apologizing to Stevenson for his attacks on Stevenson. It has been argued that even his "positive thinking" message was by implication politically conservative: "The underlying assumption of Peale's teaching was that nearly all basic problems were personal." 
Campaign against Kennedy because of his Catholicism
In 1960 Peale, as spokesman for 150 Protestant clergymen, opposed the election of John F. Kennedy as president. "Faced with the election of a Catholic," Peale declared, "our culture is at stake." In a written manifesto Peale and his group also declared JFK would serve the interests of the Catholic Church before the interests of the United States: "It is inconceivable that a Roman Catholic president would not be under extreme pressure by the hierarchy of his church to accede to its policies with respect to foreign interests," and that the election of a Catholic might even end free speech in America. Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr responded "Dr. Peale and his associates ... show blind prejudice." Protestant Episcopal Bishop James Pike echoed Niebuhr: "Any argument which would rule out a Roman Catholic just because he is Roman Catholic is both bigotry and a violation of the constitutional guarantee of no religious test for public office." The Peale statement was further condemned by President Truman, the Board of Rabbis, and other leading Protestants such as Paul Tillich and John C. Bennett. Peale recanted his statements and was later fired by his own committee. As conservative William F. Buckley succinctly described the fallout: "When ... The Norman Vincent Peale Committee was organized, on the program that a vote for Kennedy was a vote to repeal the First Amendment to the Constitution, the Jesuits fired their Big Bertha, and Dr. Peale fled from the field, mortally wounded." Peale subsequently went into hiding and threatened to resign from his church. The fallout continued as Peale was condemned in a statement by one hundred religious leaders and dropped as a syndicated columnist by a dozen newspapers. After the uproar the pastor backed off from further formal partisan commitments.
The Rev. Billy Graham said at the National Council of Churches on June 12, 1966 that "I don't know of anyone who had done more for the kingdom of God than Norman and Ruth Peale or have meant any more in my life for the encouragement they have given me."
Upon hearing of Dr. Peale's death, U.S. President Bill Clinton had this to say: The name of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale will forever be associated with the wondrously American values of optimism and service. Dr. Peale was an optimist who believed that, whatever the antagonisms and complexities of modern life brought us, anyone could prevail by approaching life with a simple sense of faith. And he served us by instilling that optimism in every Christian and every other person who came in contact with his writings or his hopeful soul. In a productive and giving life that spanned the 20th century, Dr. Peale lifted the spirits of millions and millions of people who were nourished and sustained by his example, his teaching, and his giving. While the Clinton family and all Americans mourn his loss, there is some poetry in his passing on a day when the world celebrates the birth of Christ, an idea that was central to Dr. Peale's message and Dr. Peale's work. He will be missed.
- Dr. Ernest Holmes, founder of the Religious Science movement, was a mentor to Peale.
- Peale took several of Holmes's Foundation classes (New Thought). Tagline of class: "Change your thinking, change your life".
- Modern televangelist and minister Robert H. Schuller was mentored by Peale. Like Peale, Schuller has also written many religious self-help books, including Move Ahead With Possibility Thinking (1973).
- Peale is referred to in the song "The John Birch Society" by the Chad Mitchell Trio ("Norman Vincent Peale may think he's kidding us along...he keeps on preaching brotherhood, but we know what he means ...")
- Peale is sarcastically referred to as a "deep philosopher" in the Tom Lehrer song "It Makes a Fellow Proud to Be a Soldier" (on the album An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer, 1959).
- In the "Treehouse of Horror VI" episode of The Simpsons, a building with the sign "Birthplace of Norman Vincent Peale" is destroyed.
- In POWER OF THE PLUS FACTOR (p. 39) Peale states that one of the most remarkable men he ever met was a native of Lebanon of Palestinian origin, Musa Alami.
- A clip of Peale's radio program is heard briefly in the film Grey Gardens (1975), and Peale himself appears as a character in the musical based on the film (2006).
- A widely reprinted editorial in the Los Angeles Times says that the 2006 book and DVD The Secret both borrow some of Peale's ideas, and that The Secret suffers from some of the same weaknesses as Peale's works.LAtimes.com, accessdate 2007-01-13
- M*A*S*H episode 135 (The Smell of Music) contains a grossly injured soldier (guest star Jordan Clarke) who rejects counsel from Col. Potter (Harry Morgan), stating, "Doc, if there's one thing I don't need right now it's a Norman Vincent Peale sermon ..."
- In the fourth episode ("The Bracelet") of the HBO show "Curb Your Enthusiasm", Larry David calls Richard Lewis "Norman Vincent Lewis" after he says, "Every day is a great day for me."
- In the American film The Assassination of Richard Nixon (2004, directed by Niels Mueller), Manager Jack Jones (Jack Thompson) tries to convince his employee Samuel J. Bicke (Sean Penn), a disillusioned salesman with a history of short-lived jobs, to believe truly in the products he's selling and to follow the concept of positive thinking. Then he asks his son Martin to hand over a couple of books to Bicke, one of them is Norman Vincent Peale's “The Power of Positive Thinking”.
- In the musical Li'l Abner, General Bullmoose is reminded to take his "Norman Vincent Peale pill," and declares he's "not taking those Peale pills anymore. They make me think too positive."
- In the graphic novel Watchmen, Adrian Veidt is described as being "a little Norman Vincent Peale" after a vague explanation of how he achieved success in wealth and fitness.
Some of Peale's books
- The Positive Power of Jesus Christ (1980) ISBN 0-8423-4875-1
- Stay Alive All Your Life (1957)
- Why Some Positive Thinkers Get Powerful Results (1987). ISBN 0-449-21359-5
- The Power of Positive Thinking, Ballantine Books; Reissue edition (August 1, 1996). ISBN 0-449-91147-0
- Guide to Confident Living, Ballantine Books; Reissue edition (September 1, 1996). ISBN 0-449-91192-6
- Six Attitudes for Winners, Tyndale House Publishers; (May 1, 1990). ISBN 0-8423-5906-0
- Positive Thinking Every Day : An Inspiration for Each Day of the Year, Fireside Books; (December 6, 1993). ISBN 0-671-86891-8
- Positive Imaging, Ballantine Books; Reissue edition (September 1, 1996). ISBN 0-449-91164-0
- You Can If You Think You Can, Fireside Books; (August 26, 1987). ISBN 0-671-76591-4
- Thought Conditioners, Foundation for Christian; Reprint edition (December 1, 1989). ISBN 99910-38-92-2
- In God We Trust: A Positive Faith for Troubled Times, Thomas Nelson Inc; Reprint edition (November 1, 1995). ISBN 0-7852-7675-0
- Norman Vincent Peale's Treasury of Courage and Confidence, Doubleday; (June 1970). ISBN 0-385-07062-4
- My Favorite Hymns and the Stories Behind Them, HarperCollins; 1st ed edition (September 1, 1994). ISBN 0-06-066463-0
- The Power of Positive Thinking for Young People, Random House Children's Books (A Division of Random House Group); (December 31, 1955). ISBN 0-437-95110-3
- The Amazing Results of Positive Thinking, Fireside; Fireside edition (March 12, 2003). ISBN 0-7432-3483-9
- Stay Alive All Your Life, Fawcett Books; Reissue edition (August 1, 1996). ISBN 0-449-91204-3
- "You Can Have God's Help with Daily Problems" FCL Copyright 1956–1980 LOC card #7957646
- Faith Is the Answer: A Psychiatrist and a Pastor Discuss Your Problems, Smiley Blanton and Norman Vincent Peale, Kessinger Publishing (March 28, 2007), ISBN 1-4325-7000-5 (10), ISBN 978-1-4325-7000-2 (13)
- Power of the Plus Factor, A Fawcett Crest Book, Published by Ballantine Books, 1987, ISBN 0-449-21600-4
- This Incredible Century, Peale Center for Christian Living, 1991, ISBN 0-8423-4615-5
- Sin, Sex and Self-Control, 1977, ISBN 0-449-23583-1, ISBN 978-0-449-23583-6, Fawcett (December 12, 1977)
- Answers.com, from Britannica Concise Encyclopedia
- Donald Meyer, The Positive Thinkers. Pantheon Books, 1965
- USdreams.com, Norman Vincent Peale: Turning America On To Positive Thinking
- Alexander, Ron (May 31, 1994). "Chronicle". The New York Times. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- from the Des Moines Register website in an article dated October 8, 2008
- from the Los Angeles Times website in an article dated February 8, 2008
- SRMason-SJ.org, Freemasonry and Religion
- Tobias, Ted. In tribute: eulogies of famous people. p. 141. ISBN 0-8108-3537-1.
- Donald Meyer, "Confidence Man", New Republic, July 11, 1955, pp8-10
- Power of Positive Thinking
- Murphy, R.C. "Think Right: Reverend Peale's Panacea." The Nation. May 7, 1955, pp. 398–400
- The Positive Principle Today: How to Renew and Sustain the Power of Positive ... – Page 183 by Norman Vincent Peale – Self-Help – 1976 – 239 pages
- Jesuit Spirituality: Leading Ideas of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius by Henry Vincent Gill – Spiritual retreats – 1935
- Overcoming Resistance: Rational Emotive Therapy With Difficult Clients, New York: Springer Publishing, 1985, p. 147
- Seligman, Martin. Authentic Happiness, Free Press, 2002, pp. 288–299
- Krumm, John M. Modern Heresies, Seabury Press, 1961, p. 35
- Hoekstra, Dave. "A former president's gag order; Ford's symposium examines humor in the Oval Office", Chicago Sun-Times, September 28, 1986, pg. 22. Retrieved from Proquest.UMI.com Newspapers on September 17, 2007.
- "The Religious Issue: Hot and Getting Hotter", Newsweek, September 19, 1960.
- PacificaRadioArchives.org, Transcript of Adlai Stevenson speech in San Francisco, 1960
- Buursma, Bruce. "Religion; Peale's still a positive power", Chicago Tribune, Oct 27, 1984, pg. 8. Retrieved from Proquest.UMI.com, Historical Newspapers — Chicago Tribune (1849–1986), on September 17, 2007.
- Answers.com, from Britannica Concise Encyclopedia starting with In 1960 ...
- "The Power Of Negative Thinking", Time, September 19, 1960.
- William F. Buckley, "We Hold These Truths", National Review, January 28, 1961.
- "Beliefs", New York Times, October 31, 1992.
- Hayes Minnick, BFT Report No. 565 p. 28
- Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents|Date: 1/3/1994
- Sherwood, Timothy H. The Rhetorical Leadership of Fulton J. Sheen, Norman Vincent Peale, and Billy Graham in the Age of Extremes (Lexington Books; 2013) 158 pages
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