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Chapter Nine - The First Conventions
above, attempts to organize the mental-healing movement when it was known
as "mental science" were made in Boston and other cities. But these efforts
were premature, inasmuch as there was as yet no parent organization which
could be taken as a model for the national movement. Moreover, the subject
of mental healing had not long been before the public, and it was too soon
to expect a general expression of interest.
Meanwhile, the mental-healing
movement had been growing in the far West under the auspices of the name
Divine Science. The first convention was held in San Francisco, 1894, under
the auspices of the International Divine Science Association, organized
May 17, 1892, at Home College. This Association was "founded for the promulgation
of Divine Science, the God idea of perfect unity, harmony and wholeness,
associated together in unity of spirit, for the healing of the nations,
and the general good of humanity." The first congress lasted six days,
the second was held in Chicago, 1895; the third in Kansas City, 1896; and
the fourth in St. Louis, 1897. This convention was said to be "the strongest
Divine Science congress held by the Association, and the most far reaching
in its influence for good to the general public." The general motto of
the first congress was Unity, the subject of the second Truth, of the third
Atonement, and of the fourth, Life.
The subject of the fifth
congress, held in Odd Fellows' Hall, San Francisco, November 14-19, 1899,
was "Truth of Being." The following statement indicates the general point
of view: "Divine Science is unity. Divine Science accurately proves the
unity of God with all living. A like revision and adjustment of thought
is everywhere taking place in the secular, religious and scientific world.
It is being understood that the law of the universe is the nature and goodness
of the Supreme One; the thoughts and ways of all must eventually be adjusted
to accord with this knowledge, and Divine Science be accepted as the basis
of true education. The Science of Being includes every subject pertaining
to Infinite Life and the good of humanity, the well-being of every creature.
Its work is the universal dissemination of a knowledge of the Divine purpose
of the Creator in creation."
The president of the Association
was Mrs. M. E. Cramer, the pioneer leader of that branch of the therapeutic
movement, editor of Harmony, and author of various books on the
general subject, "Divine Science, the Christ Method of Healing." The speakers
included the leading western representatives of the movement, with papers
by the following writers, read by others in their absence: Rev. Helen Van-Anderson,
Horatio W. Dresser, Henry Wood, Oliver C. Sabin, and Francis E. Mason.*
One session was entirely devoted to experiences of healing with accounts
of direct and personal testimony. Mr. R. C. Douglass, then of LaCrosse,
Wis., whose interest in mental healing dates from 1888, made an address
on "Your Own, and How to Obtain it." Mr. Douglass was the only leader present
who has since been connected with all the important New Thought organizations
in the country.
* Mr. Sabin was a pioneer
in "reformed Christian Science" in Washington, D. C., and Mr. Mason a pioneer
in Brooklyn, N. Y.
It was hoped that the Association
would become in truth international. But although its conventions attracted
leaders from all parts of the country, the time had not come for a permanent
organization. Other attempts were made to organize the movement on a large
scale, and during one year there were three so-called international organizations
holding conventions. The movement which began in Boston with the organizing
of the Metaphysical Club did not at once lead to a permanent national society,
but out of its efforts there came in time the first really international
After the Metaphysical Club
had been in existence four years and had won an assured place for itself,
the time seemed to have come to make the beginnings of a national movement.
Accordingly, in 1899, the year of the fifth Divine Science congress, the
Club sent out a call for a convention of advanced thinkers, without regard
to former affiliations, and looking forward to the formation of a national
organization for New Thought propagandism. Delegates were invited to attend
from many states.
This, the first New Thought
convention under that name, was held in Lorimer Hall, Tremont Temple, Boston,
October 24-26, 1899. The program indicated the reason for calling the convention
at that time: "The preliminary notice of this convention has disclosed
such a broad and deep interest in the new movement to establish a world-wide
unity and cooperation along the lines of the so-called 'New Thought,' that
this gathering promises to be one of the most important steps in the history
of this remarkable spiritual evolution."
During the sessions of the
convention a society was organized, and named The International Metaphysical
League. The following officers were elected: C. B. Patterson, president;
Col. Henry S. Tafft, vice-president; Warren A. Rodman, secretary; Harry
Gestefeld, assistant secretary; Wm. E. Uptegrove, treasurer; and an executive
board of twelve representing six states. Among the speakers were C. B.
Patterson, Henry Wood, Ursula N. Gestefeld, Dr. Lewis G. Janes, Sarah J.
Farmer, Bolton Hall, Paul Tyner, Henry S. Tafft, Josephine C. Barton, Egbert
M. Chesley, Rev. R. Heber Newton, J. W. Winkley, Horatio W. Dresser, Miss
Ellen M. Dyer, Ruth B. Bridges, Miss Anita Trueman, and Miss Jane Yarnell.
A paper by Mrs. M. E. Cramer, the pioneer of Divine Science, San Francisco,
was also read. The addresses were afterward gathered into a volume published
by the League. Some of these papers have been republished in The Spirit
of the New Thought.
The International Metaphysical
League held its second convention in Madison Square Garden Concert Hall,
New York City, October 23-26, 1900. The officers of the League were re-elected,
and an executive board drawn from ten States, and vice-presidents from
twenty-five States, from England, Australia, and New Zealand, were elected.
In its revised constitution the following "purposes" were adopted: "The
Purpose of the League is: To establish unity and cooperation of thought
and action among individuals and organizations throughout the world devoted
to the Science of Mind and of Being, and to bring them, so far as possible,
under one name and organization; to promote interest in and the practice
of a true spiritual philosophy of life; to develop the highest self-culture
through right thinking, as a means of bringing one's loftiest ideals into
present realization; to stimulate faith in and the study of the highest
nature of man, in its relation to health, happiness, and progress; to teach
the universal Fatherhood and Motherhood of God and the all-inclusive Brotherhood
of Man; that One Life is immanent in the universe, and is both Centre and
Circumference of all things visible and invisible, and that the Intelligence
is above all and in all; and that from this Infinite Life and Intelligence
proceed all Light, Love and Truth. These simple statements are in their
nature tentative, and imply no limitations or boundaries to future progress
and growth, as larger measures of light and truth shall be revealed.''
These "simple statements"
are rather ambitious, and tend to cover a large territory in the realms
of thought. They lack the incisiveness of earlier and later statements
of the New Thought, but the endeavor of course is to state a widely inclusive
ideal. This statement is, however, referred to by New Thought leaders to
indicate that the above have always been the characteristic purposes of
the New Thought Alliance, which succeeded the League, at all the conventions
of the Alliance, and under its several revisions of constitutions, and
the change in the name of the organization.
The program called attention
to the high character of the speakers, saying "It is a grand tribute to
the beauty and power of this philosophy that it attracts the willing service
of eminent thinkers and truth-seekers." In addition to the names appearing
on the program of the first convention were the following: Professor John
Tyler, Amherst College, John Brooks Leavitt, M. D., B. O. Flower, R. W.
Trine, Rev. Helen Van-Anderson, Swami Abhedananda, lecturer on the Vedanta
philosophy, Annie Rix Militz, Miss G. I. S. Andrews, and Aaron M. Crane.
No conventions were held
in 1901, 1902. In 1903 an "International New Thought Convention" was held
in Chicago, under the auspices of the New Thought Federation of Chicago,
in Music Hall, Fine Arts Building. T. G. Northrup was chairman, Agnes Chester
See, vice-chairman, F. D. Wetmore, secretary, and Anna C. Waterloo, treasurer.
The fourth annual convention was held in St. Louis, under the auspices
of the New Thought Federation of St. Louis, October 25-28, 1904. Rev. R.
Heber Newton was elected president; Ursula N. Gestefeld, vice-president;
Eugene Del Mar, secretary; John D. Perrin, assistant secretary; H. Bradley
Jeffrey, treasurer, and Bolton Hall, auditor.
The fifth annual convention
was held in Nevada, Mo., under the auspices of the Weltmer School of Healing,
September 26-29, 1905. The officers elected were: Henry Harrison Brown,
president; D. L. Sullivan, vice-president; Ernest Weltmer, secretary; Charles
Edgar Prather, assistant secretary; Dr. J. W. Winkley, treasurer, and Carl
Gleeser, auditor. At this convention the constitution was revised. The
name was changed to The World New Thought Federation. Officers were elected
for a convention to be held in Chicago, in October, 1908, a convention
which was not held. The last three conventions had been less successful,
inasmuch as it was not always easy to find common ground among representatives
of individualism in the West and middle West.
In order to make a new beginning
on a more secure basis, a conference was held at the rooms of the Metaphysical
Club, in Boston, April 26, 1906. This meeting was called by C. B. Patterson,
Dr. J. W. Winkley and other leaders, the object being to organize a society
with the best interests of the New Thought in view; in order to promote
the original purposes and plans of the International Metaphysical League,
special reference being made to the federation of the many New Thought
Centres existing throughout the country. The general desire was to put
the work in the country as a whole on a more efficient basis.
A reorganization was effected,
a constitution adopted, and the following were elected officers: Rev. R.
Heber Newton, president; Dr. J. W. Winkley, vice-president; Rev. W. J.
Leonard, secretary; R. C. Douglass, assistant secretary; C. B. Patterson,
treasurer; M. Woodbury Sawyer, auditor. The board of officers was composed
of those named above, also Ralph Waldo Trine, Mrs. Harriet A. Sawyer, Mrs.
Josephine Verlage, Rev. M. K. Schermerhorn, Mrs. Sarah F. Meader, Mrs.
Louise Randall, Miss Anita Trueman, Rev. Helen Van-Anderson, Rev. T. Van
Doren, and Rev. Henry Frank. The constitution also provided for the formation
of an advisory committee, to share in the general management, to consist
of a large number of representative members in New Thought societies in
different parts of the country. From this reorganization and readjustment
the society entered on a new career of successful propagandism and prosperity.
The seventh annual New Thought
convention, that is, the second meeting under the auspices of the reorganized
society, was held in Chickering Hall, Boston, April 21-23, 1907. Tile officers
were Rev. R. Heber Newton, president; Dr. J. W. Winkley, vice-president;
Rev. Alfred H. Brown, secretary; and C. B. Patterson, treasurer. At the
first session Prof. Josiah Royce and Dr. R. C. Cabot gave addresses. On
the afternoon of the second day all clergymen in Boston and vicinity were
personally invited to attend. The subject was "The Relation of the Parochial
Ministry to Spiritual Healing." The chairman was Rev. Albert B. Shields,
an Episcopal clergyman greatly interested in the subject of healing.
The third convention of the
reorganized society was held in Boston, April 12-14, 1908. The officers
were, Rev. R. Heber Newton, president; Dr. J. W. Winkley, first vice-president;
Rev, A. B. Shields, second vice-president; Rev. Alfred H. Brown, secretary;
R. C. Douglass, assistant secretary; Dr. Julia Seton Sears, associate secretary;
Miss Amelia H. Ames, treasurer; and Rev. DeWitt T. Van Doren, auditor.
The election of clergymen not actively connected with the New Thought movement
but interested in healing was still customary at these conventions. It
seemed desirable at that time to have officers of prominence in public
life. The work of the society was of course mainly carried on by the assistant
At this convention the constitution
was revised, and the name of the organization changed, to indicate its
scope. This new name, The National New Thought Alliance, was retained until,
with its work abroad in 1914, it became The International New Thought Alliance.
The fourth convention, now
styled The National New Thought Alliance, was held in Chickering Hall,
Boston, May 7-9, 1909. The list of officers, as chosen in the previous
convention is as follows: Rev. Henry Frank, president; James A. Edgerton,
vice-president; R. C. Douglass, secretary; Dr. Julia Seton Sears, associate
secretary; Amelia H. Ames, treasurer; and Rev. De Witt T. Van Doren, auditor.
At this convention James A. Edgerton was elected president, an office which
he has held in the succeeding years, including the year of incorporation,
1917. Rev. Stephen H. Roblin was elected first vice-president; Rev. De
Witt T. Van Doren, 2nd vice-president; Dr. J. W. Winkley, 3rd vice-president;
C. B. Patterson, 4th vice-president; R. C. Douglass, secretary; Amelia
H. Ames, treasurer; and J. W. Pryde, auditor.
A summer convention at the
New Thought Chautauqua and Rest Home, at Oscawana, N. Y., was held August
6-8, 1909. This convention combined the pleasures of a summer outing with
the discussion of subjects pertaining to the New Thought. It was hoped
that Oscawana would come to take the place of the New Thought conferences
begun at Greenacre, Eliot, Maine. Oscawana lacked the prestige and atmosphere,
however, of Greenacre, and the expectations were not realized.
The tenth annual convention,
the fifth since the reorganization, was held in Carnegie Lyceum, New York
City, May 13-15, 1910. The same officers were elected, with the addition
of Dr. Ellis B. Guild, who was elected associate secretary. Shortly after
this convention another was held in Cincinnati, May 29-31, in association
with the New Thought Temple, at the request of that society. Mr. Harry
Gaze was chairman. The speakers were: Harry Gaze, Rev. Henry Frank, Dr.
Julia Seton Sears, Dr. Anna B. Davis, Dr. A. J. McIvor Tindall, R. C. Douglass,
C. B. Patterson, Mrs. Mildred Gaze, Dr. C. O. Sahler, Rev. Paul Castle,
A. P. Barton, and Ernest Weltmer. This convention brought together, besides
people interested in the New Thought in that vicinity, representatives
of the movement from the Middle West.
The eleventh annual convention,
the sixth since the reorganization, was held during eight days at Omaha,
Nebraska, beginning June 18, 1911. Among the speakers were: Mr. Alfred
Tomson, local secretary; A. P. Barton, John Milton Scott, Annie Rix Militz,
Grace M. Brown, Rev. Henry Franlk, R. C. Douglass, J. A. Edgerton, and
Mrs. C. E. C. Norris. At this convention there was added a new feature,
The Convention School. There were eight classes teaching some phase of
the New Thought, the subjects and speakers being as follows: "God in Man,"
J. A. Edgerton; "Practical Metaphysics," Grace M. Brown; "Psychical Secrets,"
Rev. Henry Frank; "The Way Unto the Perfect," Annie Rix Militz; "The Evolution
of Christ in Consciousness," R. C. Douglass; "Masters of Yourself and Your
World," Mrs. C. E. C. Norris; "Symbol Psychology," John Milton Scott; "Unfolding
Individuality," A. P. Barton.
The convention of 1912 was
held in Los Angeles. Mr. Douglass, in sending out the call for this convention,
stated that all New Thought societies were cordially invited to send delegates,
pointing out that the invitation applied to all bodies holding similar
views, "though they may not adopt the same name. . . . This is the first
time that the East and the West come together in a mutual understanding
and fellowship, for a larger and more aggressive propagandism; and marked
results are looked for."
The meetings of the convention
began June 25 and continued until June 30. The subjects for the chief sessions
were, The Divine Man, The Resurrecting Power, Unity, Joy and Beauty, Peace;
and the speakers included Myra G. Frenyear, William Farwell, Harriet Hale
Rix, Alfred Tomson, Harry Gaze, Clinton A. Billig, Henry Frank, Mrs. M.
E. T. Chapin, C. Josephine Barton, Anna. W. Mills, James Porter Mills,
A. P. Barton, and Henry Victor Morgan. There were also six-day courses
of lessons known as the "Convention at School," conducted by Mrs. Militz,
Harriet Hale Rix, Dr. F. Homer Curtiss, Perry Joseph Green, Ida B. Ellioo,
Jennie M.Croft, Harry Gaze, Sarah J. Watkins, L. A. Fealy, and others.
Mrs. Militz has said of this convention, "All exploitation of personalities
and special centres was kept out as much as possible. Self- advertisement
was not encouraged and the commercial spirit kept wholly in abeyance, yet
opportunity was given to acquaint the strangers with the persons and places,
the literature and the methods that could help them into the light. . .
. No greater refutation of the accusation of some ignorant church people
that the New Thought is anti-Christ could have been recorded than the addresses
of almost all the speakers of this convention. I cannot think of one who
did not somewhere along in his address speak lovingly, reverently and deeply
of the Blessed One. There was no cant, no mere lip-phrasing of hackneyed
sentences, but such speech as His early lovers might have phrased, before
a priest-ridden church had formulated a creed and a ceremonial in His name."
The eighth annual convention
was held in Detroit, Mich., June 15-22, 1913. The ninth congress, held
in New York City, June 7, 8, 1914, was a preliminary conference, looking
forward to the first international convention in Great Britain, held in
London, June 21-28, under the auspices of the Higher Thought Centre, and
the National New Thought Alliance. At the convention in London the speakers
from America included such leaders as Miss Harriet Hale Rix, Miss Emma
C. Poore, Mrs. Chapin, Mrs. Annie Rix Militz, Mr. J. A. Edgerton and Mr.
Harry Gaze. M. F. A. Mann represented the Ligue Internationale de la Nouvelle
Pensee, and Miss Helen Boulnois, La Societe Unitive, Paris. The British
representatives included J. Bruce Wallace, Judge T. Troward, vice-president
for the British Isles, Charles Spencer, J. Macbeth Bain, Miss Louise Stacey,
and Miss Dorothy Kerin. At a session dedicated to "the promotion of peace,"
plans for the International New Thought congress for 1915, to be held at
the The Panama Pacific Exposition, San Francisco, were brought before the
convention. The speaker was Miss Grace Wilson, delegate of California 1915
Congress Committee. The National New Thought Alliance now became "international"
in actuality, and entered upon its larger career under the best auspices.
The convention as a whole was highly successful and its success marked
an important milestone in the history of the Alliance. Delegates were present
from Australia, South Africa, France, Scotland, and a considerable number
from the United States. Mrs. Militz preceded the congress by a tour around
the world, speaking for the Alliance on the way and arousing interest in
it. The congress in London was followed by a conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.
With the sessions in New York, London, and Edinburgh, then, the Alliance
realized the ideals of the various societies in the mental-healing world
which had been international only in name.*
*The work of reorganizing
the conventions and developing the New Thought Alliance, in 1903, was largely
accomplished by Eugene Del Mar, chairman of the Committee on Organization,
and active leader in the St. Louis convention.
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