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The New Thought movement is a spiritual movement which developed in the United States in the 19th century, following the teachings of Phineas Quimby. The three major organizations within New Thought movement today are Religious Science, Unity Church and the Church of Divine Science, with an estimated number of some 1,500,000 adherents in the United States among them. There are numerous smaller groups, most of which are incorporated in the International New Thought Alliance.
The concept of New Thought (sometimes known as "Higher 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.
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... and teaching and healing one another", and that "our mental states are carried forward into manifestation and become our experience in daily living".
The New Thought movement originated in the early 19th century, and survives to the current day in the form 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.
...for the sake of having a brief designation, I will give the title of the "Mind-cure movement." There are various sects of this "New Thought," to use another of the names by which it calls itself; but their agreements are so profound that their differences may be neglected for my present purpose, and I will treat the movement, without apology, as if it were a simple thing.
It is an optimistic scheme of life, with both a speculative and a practical side. In its gradual development during the last quarter of a century, it has taken up into itself a number of contributory elements, and it must now be reckoned with as a genuine religious power. It has reached the stage, for example, when the demand for its literature is great enough for insincere stuff, mechanically produced for the market, to be to a certain extent supplied by publishers – a phenomenon never observed, I imagine, until a religion has got well past its earliest insecure beginnings.
One of the doctrinal sources of Mind-cure is the four Gospels; another is Emersonianism or New England transcendentalism; another is Berkeleyan idealism; another is spiritism, with its messages of "law" and "progress" and "development"; another the optimistic popular science evolutionism of which I have recently spoken; and, finally, Hinduism has contributed a strain. But the most characteristic feature of the mind-cure movement is an inspiration much more direct. The leaders in this faith have had an intuitive belief in the all-saving power of healthy-minded attitudes as such, in the conquering efficacy of courage, hope, and trust, and a correlative contempt for doubt, fear, worry, and all nervously precautionary states of mind. Their belief has in a general way been corroborated by the practical experience of their disciples; and this experience forms to-day a mass imposing in amount.
The New Thought movement was based on the teachings of Phineas Quimby (1802–66), an American mesmerist and healer. Quimby had developed a belief system which included the tenet that illness originated in the mind as a consequence of erroneous beliefs and that a mind open to God's wisdom could overcome any illness. His basic premise was:
The trouble is in the mind, for the body is only the house for the mind to dwell in [...] Therefore, if your mind had been deceived by some invisible enemy into a belief, you have put it into the form of a disease, with or without your knowledge. By my theory or truth, I come in contact with your enemy, and restore you to health and happiness. This I do partly mentally, and partly by talking till I correct the wrong impression and establish the Truth, and the Truth is the cure.
During the late 19th century, the metaphysical healing practices of Quimby mingled with the "Mental Science" of Warren Felt Evans, a Swedenborgian minister. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, has sometimes been cited as having used Quimby as inspiration for theology. Eddy was a patient of Quimby’s and shared his view that disease is rooted in a mental cause. Because of its theism, Christian Science differs from the teachings of Quimby.
In the late 19th 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 and Church of Divine Science (established in 1888 and 1889, respectively), followed by Religious Science (established in 1927).  Many of its 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.
New Thought is also largely a movement of the printed word. The 1890s and the first decades of the 20th century saw many New Thought books published on the topics of self-help, financial success, and will-training books. New Thought authors such as Napoleon Hill, Wallace Wattles, Perry Joseph Green, Frank Channing Haddock, and Thomas Troward were extremely popular.
In 1906, William Walker Atkinson (1862–1932) wrote and published Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World. Atkinson was the editor of New Thought magazine and the author of more than 100 books on an assortment of religious, spiritual, and occult topics. The following year, Elizabeth Towne, the editor of The Nautilus, published Bruce MacLelland's book Prosperity Through Thought Force, in which he summarized the "Law of Attraction" as a New Thought principle, stating "You are what you think, not what you think you are."
These magazines were used to reach a large audience then, as others are now. Nautilus magazine, for example, had 45,000 subscribers and a total circulation of 150,000. One Unity Church magazine, Wee Wisdom, was the longest-lived children's magazine in the United States, published from 1893 until 1991. Today, New Thought magazines include Daily Word published by Unity and the Religious Science magazine, Science of Mind, published by the Centers for Spiritual Living.
The 1915 International New Thought Alliance (INTA) conference – held in conjunction with the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, a world's fair that took place in San Francisco – featured New Thought speakers from far and wide. The PPIE organizers were so favorably impressed by the INTA convention that they declared a special "New Thought Day" at the fair and struck a commemorative bronze medal for the occasion, which was presented to the INTA delegates, led by Annie Rix Militz. By 1916, the International New Thought Alliance had encompassed many smaller groups around the world, adopting a creed known as the "Declaration of Principles". The Alliance is held together by one central teaching: that people, through the constructive use of their minds, can attain freedom, power, health, prosperity, and all good, molding their bodies as well as the circumstances of their lives. The declaration was revised in 1957, with all references to Christianity removed, and a new statement based on the "inseparable oneness of God and Man".
The chief tenets of New Thought are:
- Infinite Intelligence or God is omnipotent and omnipresent.
- Spirit is the ultimate reality.
- True human self-hood is divine.
- Divinely attuned thought is a positive force for good.
- All disease is mental in origin.
- Right thinking has a healing effect.
Evolution of thought
Adherents also generally believe that as humankind gains greater understanding of the world, New Thought itself will evolve to assimilate new knowledge. Alan Anderson and Deb Whitehouse have described New Thought as a "process" in which each individual and even the New Thought Movement itself is "new every moment". Thomas McFaul has hypothesized "continuous revelation", with new insights being received by individuals continuously over time. Jean Houston has spoken of the "possible human", or what we are capable of becoming.
The Home of Truth has, from its inception as the Pacific Coast Metaphysical Bureau in the 1880s, under the leadership of Annie Rix Militz, disseminated the teachings of the Hindu teacher Swami Vivekananda. It is one of the more outspokenly interfaith of New Thought organizations, stating adherence to "the principle that Truth is Truth where ever it is found and who ever is sharing it".[not in citation given] Joel S. Goldsmith's The Infinite Way incorporates teaching from Christian Science, as well.
Divine Science, Unity Church, and Religious Science are organizations that developed from the New Thought movement. Each teaches that Infinite Intelligence, or God, is the sole reality. New Thought adherents believe that sickness is the result of the failure to realize this truth. In this line of thinking, healing is accomplished by the affirmation of oneness with the Infinite Intelligence or God.
John Bovee Dods (1795–1862), an early practitioner of New Thought, wrote several books on the idea that disease originates in the electrical impulses of the nervous system and is therefore curable by a change of belief. Later New Thought teachers, such as the early 20th century author, editor, and publisher William Walker Atkinson, accepted this premise. He connected his idea of mental states of being with his understanding of the new scientific discoveries in electromagnetism and neural processes.
New Thought publishing and educational activities reach approximately 2.5 million people annually. The largest New Thought-oriented denomination is Seicho-no-Ie. Other belief systems 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. 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. The Science of Mind, authored by Ernest Holmes, while based on a philosophy of being "open at the top", focuses extensively on the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Unity, founded by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, identifies itself as "Christian New Thought", focused on "Christian idealism", with the Bible as one of its main texts, although not interpreted literally. The other core text is Lessons in Truth by H. Emilie Cady.
- Grace Mann Brown
- Christian Science
- Divinization (Christian)
- Iyanla Vanzant
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Emmet Fox
- Charles F. Haanel
- Napoleon Hill
- Law of Attraction
- The Law of One
- Joseph Murphy (author)
- New religious movement
- Prosperity Theology
- Religious Science
- Wallace Wattles
- New "New Thought: The three largest New Thought heirs to Christian Science—Unity Church, Religious Science and Divine Science—count among them about 780 churches and between 130,000 and 150,000 members in the U.S., according to a 1996 almanac of American religions." (adherents.com)
- Melton, J. Gordon, Jerome Clark & Aidan A. Kelly. New Age Almanac; New York: Visible Ink Press (1991); pg. 343. "The International New Thought Alliance, a loose association of New Thought institutions and individuals (approximately 350 institutional members), exists as a voluntary membership organization [to advance New Thought ideals]."
- Conkin, Paul K. American Originals: Homemade Varieties of Christianity, The University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC (1997); pg. 269. "An International New Thought Alliance still exists, with offices in Arizona, a periodical, and around 200 affiliated societies, some of which still use the label 'church'".
- Dresser, Horatio Willis (1919), A History of the New Thought Movement, TY Crowell Co, p. 154,
In England the term Higher Thought was preferred at first, and this name was chosen for the Higher Thought Centre, the first organization of its kind in England. This name did not however represent a change in point of view, and the movement in England has been similar to the therapeutic movement elsewhere.
- Declaration of Principles, International New Thought Alliance, retrieved 2008–09 Check date values in:
- "Statement of beliefs", New Thought info, retrieved 2008–09 Check date values in:
- Lewis, James R; Peterson, Jesper Aagaard (2004), Controversial New Religions, p. 226.
- James, William (1929), The Varieties of Religious Experience, New York: U Virginia, pp. 92–93.
- "Phineas Parkhurt Quimby". MSN Encarta. Archived from the original on 2009-11-01. Retrieved Nov 16, 2007.
- Phineas, Quimby (2008). "Christ or Science". The Quimby Manuscripts. Forgotten Books. p. 183. ISBN 1-60506-915-9. Retrieved 2011-05-08.
- "The Quimby Manuscripts". New Thought Library. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- ‘Quimby’s son and defender said categorically, “The religion which [Mrs. Eddy] teaches certainly is hers, for which I cannot be too thankful; for I should be loath to go down to my grave feeling that my father was in any way connected with ‘Christian Science.’...In [Quimby’s method of] curing the sick, religion played no part. There were no prayers, there was no asking assistance from God or any other divinity. He cured by his wisdom.” (Dresser, Horatio W., ed. The Quimby Manuscripts. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company Publishers, 1921. - p436). "Christian Science is a religious teaching and only incidentally a healing method. Quimbyism was a healing method and only incidentally a religious teaching. If one examines the religious implications or aspects of Quimby’s thought, it is clear that in these terms it has nothing whatever in common with Christian Science.” (Gottschalk, Stephen. The Emergence of Christian Science in American Religious Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973 - p130). A good composite of both Quimby, and the incompatibility of his ideas and practice with those of Eddy, can be found in these sources: Taves, Ann, Fits, Trances, & Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James. Princeton University Press 1999 (pp 212-218); Peel, Robert. Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery. Boston: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966 (chapter, “Portland 1862”); Gill, Gillian. Mary Baker Eddy. Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Books, 1998 (pp 131-146 & 230-233).
- Lewis, James R.; J. Gordon Melton (1992). Perspectives on the New Age. SUNY Press. pp. 16–18. ISBN 0-7914-1213-X.
- Harley, Gail M.; Danny L. Jorgensen (2002). Emma Curtis Hopkins: Forgotten Founder of New Thought. Syracuse University Press. p. 79. ISBN 0-8156-2933-8.
- Bednarowski, Mary Farrell (1999). The Religious Imagination of American Women. Indiana University Press. p. 81. ISBN 0-253-21338-X.
- Moskowitz, Eva S. (2001) In Therapy We Trust, The Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 978-0-8018-6403-2, p. 19.
- William Walker Atkinson. Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction. Advanced Thought Publishing. 1906. Full text public domain version online.
- "William Walter Atkinson", WorldCat. Retrieved June 10, 2011.
- MacLelland, Bruce, Prosperity Through Thought Force, Elizabeth Towne, 1907
- Miller, Timothy (1995) America's Alternative Religions, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0-7914-2397-4, p. 327.
- Dresser, Horatio, History of the New Thought Movement, 1919
- "New Thought". MSN Encarta. Archived from the original on 2009-11-01. Retrieved Nov 16, 2007.
- Houston, Jean. The Possible Human. 1997.
- The Home of Truth, Our History
- Home of Truth home page. Retrieved on 2007-09-20 from http://thehomeoftruth.org/.
- Dumont, Theron, Q. [pseudonym of William Walker Atkinson. Mental Therapeutics, or Just How to Heal Oneself and Others. Advanced Thought Publishing Co. Chicago. 1916.
- Goldberg, P. (2010) American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West. Random House Digital, Inc. p 62.
- "Masaharu Taniguchi." Religious Leaders of America, 2nd ed. Gale Group, 1999. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008.
- Vahle, Neal (1993). Open at the top: The life of Ernest Holmes, Open View Press, 190 pages, p7.
- Holmes, Ernest (1926) The Science of Mind ISBN 0-87477-865-4, pp. 327–346 "What the Mystics Have Taught".
- Albanese, Catherine (2007), A Republic of Mind and Spirit, Yale University Press.
- Anderson, Alan and Deb Whitehouse. New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality. 2003.
- Braden, Charles S. Spirits in Rebellion: The Rise and Development of New Thought, Southern Methodist University Press, 1963.
- Judah, J. Stillson. The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 1967. Review by Neil Duddy.
- McFaul, Thomas R (September–October 2006), "Religion in the Future Global Civilization", The Futurist.
- Mosley, Glenn R (2006), The History and Future New Thought: Ancient Wisdom of the New Thought Movement, Templeton Foundation Press, ISBN 1-59947-089-6
- White, Ronald M (1980), "Abstract", New Thought Influences on Father Divine (Masters Thesis), Oxford, OH: Miami University.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to New Thought.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1920 Encyclopedia Americana article New-Thought.|
- INTA New Thought History Chart, Web site.
- Association For Global New Thought.
- New Thought Unity and Divine Science Writings, Piscean-Aquarian Ministry.
- NewThought.info Global Outreach.
- New Thought Library.
- New Thought at DMOZ
- New Thought History.