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Cults and World Religions

New Thought Movement



Peace, Power, Plenty

We affirm the new thought of God as Universal Love, Life, Truth and Joy, in whom we live, move, and have our being, and by whom we are held together; that His mind is our mind now, that realizing our oneness with Him means love, truth, peace, health, and plenty, not only in our lives but in the giving out of these fruits of the Spirit to others.

Declaration of Principles, 1916
International New Thought Alliance

We saw in the last chapter that Christian Science produced off-spring. One of these is the general movement known as New Thought. While still a force to be reckoned with today, it is not a “religious” movement as such. It is more proper to view New Thought as a bridge between the past and the future. Temporarily making myself a prophet, I personally believe that the flow of history over the past 150 years brings false religions to a focal point in what we call New Age. There are a lot of paths moving toward this center. There are many cults and false religions in the world which remain strong. But the drift of false teaching moves more and more toward the New Age philosophy, a philosophy which has the “benefit” of being changeable and bringing all of the religions under one umbrella.

Along the early path on this movement is the road which leads to Christian Science, New Thought Movement, and the Unity School of Christianity. We will not spend much time on New Thought but we should briefly address its background and philosophy, for it sow the seeds of the modern New Age movement. As Solomon wrote, “And there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc 1:9). Satan just takes the old tricks and repackages them with new, shining outer wrappings.

History

Does this group begin with an out-shoot of Christian Science? Some say yes, others are less emphatic. What is clear is that the roots of New Thought go back to Phineas Quimby, although many actually view Ralph Waldo Emerson as the real spiritual father of New Thought. 67

As we have seen Mary Baker Eddy used the works of Quimby in writing her book, Science and Health. Quimby did, however, publish his works, although there remains a debate over whether or not he was religious, interested in religion, or was just a quack.

“Can a theory be found capable of practice which can separate Truth from Error? I undertake to say there is a method of reasoning which, being understood, can separate one from the other. Man is made up of truth and belief and if he is deceived into a belief that he has or is liable to have a disease, the belief is catching and the effect follows it.” 68

According to Braden, upon Quimby’s death one Warren Felt Evans, a Swedenborgian 69 clergyman who claimed to have been healed by Quimby, took up the banner. Evans wrote two books before Science and Health was published. Both took up positions developed by Quimby. All of this becomes relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of life.

There is no single New Thought organization. The entire movement is just that, a view point shared by many, each with its own flavor, like ice cream with thirty-one different flavors in the store at any given point in time. One New Thought historian writes:

Interest in mental healing gave the disciples of the New Thought a point of view, a way of approaching all questions , a way of looking at life as a whole . . . The devotees were eager to show that New Thought not only stood for a method of healing, but a philosophy, a positive or affirmative idealism, hence, for religions, applied Christianity, the rediscovery of the doctrine of healing. 70

It is in the late 1890s that the movement came together to embrace the concepts of healing, inspiration power, prosperity, and general well-bing. The International New Thought Alliance was formed in 1914. While originally a member of the Alliance, the Unity School of Christianity, by far the largest single New Thought organization, soon withdrew from the Alliance to pursue its own path.

The New Thought movement is fundamentally pantheism – God is all and all is God. The individual is identified with the whole. “In essence, the life of God and the life of man are identically the same, and so are one.” 71 Viewed in this fashion, New Thought becomes a mild dissent from the extreme position of the Christian Scientist. Any difference is merely one of degree. The development of this movement shows that the “theology” came first, then the leaders of the movement, rather than having a leader who developed the theology (unless, of course, one counts Quimby as the leader, a position he never held).

Beliefs of the New Thought Movement

Since New Thought is a series of developed movements and not a single organization, they do not all agree upon the same things. The underlying premise is the immediate availability of God. To quote Braden, this is a “conscious and practical application of spiritual thought force to the solution of human problems; the inevitability that good shall come to every soul.” 72 This doctrinal statement of the New Thought movement shows the appeal such a position would have for many. We saw that pluralism defines salvation of a moral improvement. Here is a finite statement of this type of salvation, good coming to every soul. Braden estimated that as many as 15-20 million people were influenced by the New Thought movement. 73 Today, clearly, the biggest single organization so influenced is Unity, which we shall study next.

The great impact of New Thought comes not from an organization, but from individual publications. Unity, as we shall see, produces huge volumes of materials. Trine’s book In Tune with the Infinite was circulated without any New Thought banner or promoter and by 1949 had sold over a million copies. Emerson’s writings are filled with New Thought. One Emmet Fox filled Carnegie Hall with huge crowds. It is a religion which appeals to the intellect. It is a point of view which helps to sow the seeds of rebellion against Christianity. 74

Compared to Christianity, the doctrinal beliefs of the New Thought movement look like this:

Notice that under this approach, man may actually surpass Jesus, for man may have more of the mind of Christ than Jesus Himself possessed.

New Thought lives on today in such groups as Divine Science, Home of Truth, Church of the Truth, Institute of Religious Science, and the Unity School of Christianity. 77 It is to this last group that we shall next turn.

Footnotes:
67. Charles S. Braden, These Also Believe, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1949, 130.
68. Braden, These Also Believe, 133, quoting International New Thought Alliance, Mind Remakes Your World, New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1944, quoting Quimby, xii.
69. Another cult we will study later.
70. Braden, These Also Believe, 135, quoting Horatio W. Dresser, History of the New Thought Movement, New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell, 1919, 190.
71. John H. Gerstner, The Theology of the Major Sects, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960, 64, quoting Robert W. Trine, In Tune with the Infinite, 13.
72. Braden, These Also Believe, 129.
73. Ibid., 130.
74. We noted earlier that many of the founders of the major cults had roots in New England. The same is true of many of the New Thought leaders. Emerson, Thoreau, Channing, Parker, Bronson Alcott, and others, all rebelled against the strict Calvinism of New England religious thought. They sought innovation and were not afraid of new ideas. Truly this is another gospel.
75. Indeed, Holmes defines the Bible as “The Sacred book or books of any race of people . . . the sacred writings of any religion which is used as authority.” Holmes, 14, quoted by Braden, 141. See next footnote for full citation.
76. Braden, These Also Believe, 140, quoting Ernest Holmes, New Thought Terms and Their Meanings, New York: Dodd, Mead, and Co., 1942, 71.
77. For a link site of listings to current New Thought groups, use http://websyte.com/alan/index.ht

 

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