New Thought

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New Thought, not to be confused with New Age, is a philosophy that is more than a century old. This philosophy is espoused by such groups as Divine Science, Unity, Religious Science (Science of Mind), and others.

The Columbia Encyclopedia offers the following description:

[New Thought:] popular philosophical movement with religious implications; it affirms “the creative power of constructive thinking.” A successor of New England transcendentalism, New Thought grew out of the healing practices of P. P. Quimby and the “mental science” of W. F. Evans, a Swedenborgian minister.

From its initial emphasis on the healing of disease it developed into an intensely individualistic and optimistic philosophy of life and conduct.

The name was adopted in the 1890s to indicate this broader interest. Annual national conventions were held from 1894, and in 1914 the International New Thought Alliance was formed, with branches in England, Australia, and elsewhere.

Composed of many smaller groups, such as Divine Science, Unity (until 1922), and Home of Truth, the alliance is held together by one central teaching, namely, 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 doctrine was widely popularized by such writers as O. S. Marden and Ralph Waldo Trine, especially in the latter’s In Tune with the Infinite (1897). Beyond this unifying principle of the constructive power of the mind and the prevailing optimism of the movement, there are a great variety of diverse and often mutually contradictory ideas in New Thought.

Individual New Thought leaders have employed concepts from every variety of idealistic, spiritualistic, pantheistic, kabbalistic, and theosophical thought, as well as from Christianity.

There are also frequent overtones of the mystical and occult in New Thought literature.
– Source: New Thought, The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press, New York. 2004.

The unofficial but exhaustingly thorough New Though Movement Homepage explains:

Using the title of a famous book by Brother Lawrence, New Thought is “the practice of the presence of God,” but unlike conventional mysticism, which emphasizes contact or union with God for its own sake, New Thought adds to this most important side of mysticism, the practice of the presence of God for practical purposes. To those who object that one should not use God, New Thought replies that there is nothing but God to use, and/or that God wants us to have the best in all aspects of living, that God constantly offers this to us, and that in accepting it we are living as God wants us to live.

Culturally and organizationally, New Thought is a philosophical-spiritual-religious movement begun in the nineteenth century and continuing today. It is the outgrowth of the healing theory and practice of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, whose influence was spread by his former patients, the most prominent of whom were: Warren Felt Evans, who wrote the first books in what would be called New Thought; Mary Baker Eddy, who established Christian Science; and Julius and Annetta Dresser, who, with their son Horatio, spread the word about Quimby. Former Eddy associate Emma Curtis Hopkins taught her own version of healing idealism, indebted indirectly to Quimby and directly to her own explorations and to Eddy. Hopkins, the “teacher of teachers,” taught founders of Divine Science, Unity, and Religious Science. These groups, along with Religious Science-influenced Seich-No-Ie, are the best-known groups in the New Thought movement.

The name New Thought was taken in the 1890s, generally replacing such names as Mind Cure and Mental Science. William James dealt with the movement in Lectures IV and V of The Varieties of Religious Experience under the name “The Religion of Healthy-Mindedness.” (The link to a summary of that book also leads to some other important writings.) Some studies of the New Thought movement by Charles S. Braden, Horatio W. Dresser, Stillson J. Judah, and others are given in the bibliography of the most recent survey of the field, New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality.
– Source: The Practice of the Presence of God for Practical Purposes on the New Though Movement Homepage

Incompatible with Christianity

While most of the groups that are part of New Thought use the Bible as (a) basis of their beliefs, each of these groups is, theologically, a cult of Christianity. That is because each of these groups invididually, and New Thought itself, denies and or changes the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.

Christian Science

Note: Traces of New Thought teachings can be found in Christian Science. However, Christian Science (which – though it considers itself to be in tune with orthodox Christianity – theologically is a cult of Christianity) is not part of the New Thought movement.

New Thought emphasises the power of the human mind. Christian Science teaches that all power is vested in the divine Mind, God.

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