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Chapter Fourteen - Kindred Movements
effort has thus far been made to put the New Thought in intelligible relation
with other types of thought. Christian Science has been abundantly criticized,
and it has been duly recognized by makers of dictionaries and encyclopedias;
but ordinarily it is defined or explained as if it were the only phase
of the mental-healing movement. The clergy gave early recognition to the
movement, but usually without recognizing that it possessed any particular
value. Rev. C. A. Bartol, a prominent Unitarian clergyman, preached a sermon
on it in Boston, May 4, 1884. Adverse criticisms appeared in the Andover
Review, March, 1887, in an article by Rev. Dr. Denison of Williams
College; and in The Century July, 1887, in an article by Rev. Dr.
Buckley. Other criticisms have appeared from time to time, including Spiritual
Healing, by Rev. W. F. Cobb, London, 1914, and The Psychological
Phenomena of Christianity, by Rev. Dr. Cutten. But such studies have
nearly always been based on an outsider's observation, not on actual experience
with the phenomena described. Hence these studies have led to no definite
In an article entitled "New
Thought" in the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, H, A. Youtz has given
a fairly intelligible account of some phases of the New Thought. But this
writer has erroneously attributed the New Thought entirely to Christian
Science. He does not mention Quimby or Evans, and seems entirely unaware
that there was a long period of development of mental healing in America
prior to the interest which separated off from Christian Science and joined
mental science. The bibliography is of slight value. It contains the titles
of only a few of the leading books on the subject.
The article on the New Thought
in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Volume IX, is by A.
B. Allen, a New Thought writer, and it is excellent as a general statement
of the movement and what it stands for. But in the bibliography Mr. Allen
mentions those books only which are most in line with his own interpretation.
He does not mention the early or more important books at all. He refers
neither to Quimby nor to Evens, and seems unaware that the New Thought
has had a history. The bibliography is not representative.
In his American Thought
from Puritanism to Pragmatism., New York, 1915, Dr. Woodbridge Riley
devotes a section to "Benjamin Rush and Mental Healing," in which he discusses
Dr. Rush's Influence of Physical Causes upon the Moral Faculty.
He also mentions Rush's Diseases of the Mind, 1812, under the head
of materialism. That is to say, this type of mental healing was not "mental"
at all as the term is understood by disciples of the New Thought. Dr. Riley
then goes on to speak of Charles Poyen, author of Progress of Animal Magnetism
in New England, 1837, and of the "whole tribe of Yankee magnetic healers,"
with the remark that "this is not the place to show how this exaggerated
materialism was turned into a propaganda among the pious. It would lead
to a long digression to explain the incredible mixture of religion and
medicine which has been noted by foreign observers. . . . Nor have we time
to more than suggest the direction of the other line of development of
By "the incredible mixture"
Dr. Riley probably means Christian Science. But why should he not give
attention to what he calls "the other line of development," since it has
become a characteristic form of "American thought"? He does indeed touch
upon its resemblance to transcendentalism, and he refers to Emerson's doctrine
of self-reliance. But he thinks it would have been better if mental healing
had followed the development of scientific therapy in France, or had returned
to the materialism of Dr. Rush. He seems unmindful of the fact that one
of the investigators who reacted against "the Yankee magnetic healers,"
Mr. Quimby, developed in a direction far removed from materialism, and
led the way to a whole line of literature, beginning with the works of
Rev. Mr. Evans. To him the New Thought would probably seem in some respects
an "incredible mixture." Hence materialism would be preferable. But it
is hardly the province of the historian to indulge in pronounced preferences.
It is matter of history that the New Thought is a typical expression of
American thought on its practical side. The "mixture" is no more incredible
than Christianity itself. The original gospel included both piety and healing.
The difficulty usually is
that writers who judge mental healing from the outside start with the presupposition
that all genuine mental healing is "scientific," meaning by "science" the
kind of physiological psychology which is solely concerned with facts,
the facts of the dependence of the mind's states on the brain. Munsterberg's Psychotherapy is an extreme instance of this kind of psychology,
a disguised materialism "made in Germany." H. Addington Bruce's Scientific
Mental Healing is a step in advance of this, but still looks toward
"science" in the narrower sense, hence it overlooks the values of the New
Thought. So, too, books like Lawrence's Primitive Psychotherapy and
Quackery, Boston, 1910; and Cutten's Three Thousand Years of Mental
Healing, New York, 1911; or Dr. T. S. Clouston's Mind-cures from
a Scientific Point of View, are chiefly interesting from the point
of view either of general curiosity or of an external study of the subject.
Cobb's Spiritual Healing, London, 1914, comes much nearer the inner
point of view, and is of value as a spiritual history of healing prior
to the nineteenth century. But what one misses is an interpretation of
healing from the inside, as experienced by the individual. Even Hudson,
in his Law of Mental Medicine, Chicago, 1903, fails to give us this
interior interpretation. Hudson is best known for his exaggerated emphasis
of the difference between the so-called subjective mind and the objective
mind. The disciple of the New Thought who knows the therapeutic experience
from within would speak rather of the different levels or planes of consciousness,
and of the ideals with the highest level or "real self." In contrast with
physiological psychology regarded as "science," the advocate of the New
Thought holds that a higher or spiritual science is implied in what we
know and believe concerning this, the spiritual level of human consciousness.
The time appears to have
come when the New Thought should be judged dispassionately. It is not a
mere question of science, or of any special phase of the New Thought advocated
by this or that leader as a commercial enterprise. No list of books prepared
to enlighten the public can be complete without including at least one
volume by Mr. Evans; one or two of the period from 1894 to 1900, when the
organizations were taking shape; and several of the more popular books,
such as Miss Cady's, or those by Mrs. Militz, which have given shape to
the movement in the West. The side-lines and allied teachings have developed
without number. Thus there is a whole literature of books on success, such
as those by Dr. Marden, whose work began with books like Pushing to the
Front. But what is needed in the first place, if the New Thought shall
be recognized as distinctive, is an understanding of the central principles
as they have been developed out of the therapeutic experience. For it is
this experience which led the way to the psychology deemed so baffling
by the partisan of the special sciences.
While most of the New Thought
periodicals have represented certain phases of the movement only, some
have given impartial expression to its manifold tendencies. Dr. Winkley's
magazine, Practical Ideals, was of that type. The Metaphysical
Magazine, March, 1901, contained an article by Eliza Calvert Hall entitled
"The Evolution of Mental Science," which was a thoughtful contribution.
In Mind, biographical studies of mental-healing leaders were published
from time to time, most of them accurate. Mr. Paul Tyner contributed to
the American Review of Reviews, 1902, an article entitled "The Metaphysical
Movement," containing studies of New Thought leaders, such as Henry Wood,
Helen Wilmans, C. C. Post, Fannie James, Mrs. Cramer, R. W. Trine, and
C. B. Patterson, based on sketches written by the leaders themselves. Mr.
Tyner's exposition of the movement as a whole was impartial. The difficulty
thus far has been that people interested in the movement have not brought
together such material as might be deemed impartial for the sake of estimating
the human equation in relation to the movement and giving each tendency
its proper place. No one who has undertaken to expound the movement for
the sake of fostering interest in a particular phase of it has adequately
treated its other phases. The effort would be worth while, for there might
be less reason for the existence of so many variations.
It would be profitable, for
example, to consider just what elements Christian Science contributed to
the movement, and how these might be stated so as to assimilate their practical
values without "metaphysics," that is, the abstract principles brought
over by the pioneers of Divine Science and other variations. The term Christian
Science was freely used for a time, as if there were no differences. Thus
Dr. Holcombe, for example, for the most part a follower of Swedenborg,
but who identified the teachings of Mrs. Eddy and those of Swedenborg in
a way that did not please the devotees of either, used the term in his Condensed Thoughts on Christian Science, 1889, in which he calls
attention to the "immense power of thought" and points out that "evil or
false thought repeats or pictures itself organically in the diseased tissues
of the body." Such pamphlets would not be classified under the head of
Christian Science today. The history of the movement shows that this term
has become more distinct. It is no longer a synonym for mental-healing
in general. This gives the greater reason for making the New Thought more
distinctive, so that in dictionaries and encyclopedias as well as in libraries
it shall be properly classified.*
*The general term now
used in some of the large libraries is 'psychological medicine." This term
is too widely inclusive.
Looking back over the history
of tile movement we note that there has been a long struggle to avoid confusion
and misunderstandings. Spiritism or spiritualism was the first movement
to be confused with mental healing, after Mr. Quimby gave up mesmerism
and began to practise healing. This confusion of mind was natural inasmuch
as spiritism in its popular form was before the public. From the beginning
of his practice to the end, it was necessary for Mr. Quimby to show that
he did not perform his cures by the aid of spirits or mediums. Later, in
the mental- science period, when mental healing attracted wider attention,
a different kind of relationship came into being. Spiritualists began to
manifest interest in mental healing and to practise it in their own way.
Then a prominent spiritualistic healer, Miss Susie C. Clark, became associated
with the New Thought, and took part in the first New Thought convention
in Boston. Thus the hypothesis that some diseases are due to obsessing
spirits came somewhat into vogue. There are of course points of resemblance
between the philosophy of spiritism, known as spiritualism, and the New
Thought. There is every reason to acknowledge these points of contact.
The New Thought healer, however, would point out that mental or spiritual
healing as practised since the days of the discovery of the silent method
by Mr. Quimby is not carried on by the aid of spirits and is not due to
mediumship. On the other hand, a spiritist might accept all the teachings
of the mental healers and assimilate these in his own fashion.
The next movement to be somewhat
connected with mental healing was the theosophical movement, for example,
in the writings of Miss Barnet, mentioned above. Again, there are points
of resemblance, and these would be especially interesting to anyone concerned
to trace out ancient ideas of mental healing in the sacred books of India,
the sources of theosophy. A theosophist might assimilate the New Thought
and practise mental healing in the same way as the healers. The writings
of Annie Besant and others make clear the power of thought. The theosophists
have much to say about "planes" and "auras," and other subjects of interest
to devotees of the New Thought. But there are many theosophical tenets
that are very distinctive and these should be judged in connection with
theosophy, not confused with or identified with the New Thought. The inculcation
of the theory of reincarnation is, for example, a distinct propagandism
among theosophists. The question would be, as I have queried elsewhere,
"whether the doctrine of reincarnation affords the best plan for the emancipation
of the individual. Theosophy is surely right in its firm emphasis on the
law of action and reaction. Here it harmonizes with the New Thought. But
some of us are led to look at the question of salvation at very close range,
instead of holding that we are loaded with the accumulated deeds (Karma)
of past existences, or accepting the theosophical motive for avoiding rebirths.
Practically speaking, we may be very sure that we are building up a future
which will correspond with the prevailing love of the soul." *
*Handbook of the New
Thought, p. 73.
Followers of the New Thought
manifested great interest in the Emmanuel movement when it was first organized.
For it was the first movement within the Church looking forward to an assimilation
of the therapeutic principles. But it soon became clear that this movement
was a compromise. Its leaders were wholly acceptable clergymen. They were
well trained in modern psychology. They understood the phenomena of suggestion,
as their leading book shows, Religion and Medicine, by Dr. Ellwood
Worcester and others. But patients were accepted only in case regular physicians
pronounced their cases eligible for psychotherapeutic treatment. This meant
reliance on the old-time methods of diagnosis. It limited and defined the
practice of suggestion, whereas the followers of the New Thought acknowledge
no such limits. Hence the Emmanuel workers have come to occupy a distinctive
place, and to advocate principles which they would defend on a scientific
basis. By contrast they would classify the New Thought as "unscientific,"
while acknowledging that there are practical ideas in New Thought books.
I have traced out this contrast more at length elsewhere.*
*A Physician to the Soul,
p. 94; A Message to the Well, p. 78; Handbook of the New Thought, p. 5.
Again, mental healing has
sometimes been confused with hypnotism. This confusion is as old as the
movement, since it was difficult for one who had not received his treatment
to understand why Mr. Quimby's method was radically different from hypnotism,
then called mesmerism. Mrs. Eddy, then Mrs. Patterson, understood the difference
and did what she could to clear up the confusion. But then, unluckily,
she brought forward the gratuitous hypothesis of "malicious animal magnetism,"
and weak minds acquired a new fear, lest it were possible for a supposed
enemy to employ evil suggestions.
The movement known as "suggestive
therapeutics" sprang up after the mental-science period, when mental healing
became more popular, and there were several periodicals, notably Hypnotic
Magazine and Suggestion, devoted to the subject. Naturally,
the new therapeutists claimed that all the results attained by mental healers
could be accomplished through hypnotic therapeutics. Devotees of the New
Thought of course object that they do not put their Patients into the hypnotic
sleep, and that they do not try to control the mind but to benefit it by
offering suggestions which may be freely accepted or as freely rejected.
They would take radical exception to a book like Hypnotic Therapeutics, by Dr. J. D. Quackenbos. On the other hand a writer who began with Christian
Science, passed through mental science, and then studied physiological
psychology, Charles M. Barrows, shows in Suggestion Instead of Medicine that suggestion may be practised on a scientific basis without hypnotism.
Psycho-analysis as practised
by Freud and his school is nearer the New Thought than suggestive therapeutics
or hypnotic therapeutics, for the psycho-analysts do not practise hypnotism
or mere suggestionism, their efforts being to understand the hidden motive
or mental cause of disease. The New Thought healers do not employ the Freudian
technique, they do not analyze dreams or specialize in nervous disorders
traceable to sexual suppression. But they might well assimilate some of
the results of Freudian psychology. That psychology is profound. It throws
light on the nature of desire, the will, and the love-nature. The mental-healing
movement, since the days of one of its best books, The Mental Cure, by
W. F. Evans, has almost forgotten the will. It has given almost exclusive
attention to thought as the "greatest power in the world." Freud leads
the discussion back to its deeper basis. To rediscover the will might be
to rediscover Mr. Evans's first book, and a really profound psychology
of the will on a spiritual basis. Devotees of the New Thought would rightly
object that the Freudian psychology is not spiritual. They could throw
light on other phases of man's nature not discussed by Freud.
It would take us too far
afield to trace out the connection between the New Thought and recent religious
literature bearing on mental healing. From the days of Mr. Evans until
the present time many variations of mental science and the New Thought
have been formulated by ministers. Christian Pneumatopathy, by Rev.
William I. Gill, Boston, 1887, was one of the first of these. Such books
have been more numerous since the Emmanuel movement came into being. For
example, Mind, Religion, and Health, by Rev. R. MacDonald, 1908; Health and Happiness, by Bishop Fellows, 1909; Mental Medicine, by Rev. Oliver Huckel, 1909. These books belong for the most part to a
later generation than mental science. Mr. Huckel apparently did not know
that he was taking the title of a much better book than his own by Mr.
Evans, published 1872. Most of these books fail to claim as much for mental
healing as devotees of the New Thought could claim for it. They are welcomed,
however, as indicating the growing acknowledgment of the therapeutic power
of Christianity. With the New Thought, they emphasize "suggestion" as the
central factor in mental healing.
There is less in common between
socialism and the New Thought. Followers of the latter have, to be sure,
shown great interest in social questions, and these matters were often
discussed by Mr. Pennock, Mr. Sprague, and others in the Metaphysical Club,
Boston, in the early days. But the New Thought emphasis is upon the inner
life as "attracting" the conditions which correspond with the state of
the soul, not with the outward conditions which, according to most socialists,
must first be changed before there can be freedom. For the most part, socialism
and the New Thought are sharply contrasted. With Christian socialism, however,
there are points of contact. In a work like Miss Scudder's Socialism
and Character, devotees of the New Thought would find much to accept.
The movement for the emancipation
of woman has won the attention of New Thought leaders from the start. The
mental-science period was a time when men took the lead for the most part.
The Metaphysical Club was organized by men as the original promoters. But
women began to take a more prominent part, until in time that organization
became and has remained essentially a woman's club. In the Middle West
and far West, many of the pioneer workers were women. Mrs. Van-Anderson
organized the first New Thought church. Many other leaders among women
have done pioneer work. After 1890, there were probably more leaders among
women than among men. The New Thought became in fact one of the signs that
"this is woman's day." Mr. Quimby set the example from the beginning by
placing fundamental emphasis on the power in which woman excels, intuition,
and on love as the highest quality of the inner life. Strictly speaking,
it has not been a question of man or woman, but, as among the Quakers,
of those who have "leadings" to speak or heal.
The New Thought has also
been identified in part with the movement in behalf of peace. This was
plain from the start at the Greenacre conferences, where advocates of peace
and disciples of the New Thought met on the large constructive basis pleaded
for by Miss Farmer. Naturally, the advocate of mental healing places first
emphasis on the inner life, and so looks forward to a campaign of education
in behalf of peace. Then, too, the more spiritually minded regard the therapeutic
movement as a revival of Christianity, the Gospel of Peace. It does not
appear, however, that any of the New Thought people went so far as to become
pacifists in the objectionable sense, that is, the sort who blocked proceedings
making for the success of the Allies. At the rally which brought the convention
of September, 1918, to a close the following resolution, representing the
New Thought movement the wide world over, was unanimously adopted:
"Resolved, That the International
New Thought Alliance in convention assembled in historic Faneuil Hall,
Boston, September 22, 1918, place on record our unbounded loyalty to America
and her Allies in this new and greater struggle for justice and freedom,
pledge both in spirit and in service our whole-hearted support to the prosecution
of the war to a victorious and speedy end, and express our unwavering faith
in the final triumph of democracy and truth; furthermore, we recommend
to all our centres and members in the United States the promotion of the
Fourth Liberty Loan and the active observance of October 12th as Liberty
Day in accordance with the proclamation of President Wilson."
The relationship of the New
Thought to the Church involves the whole history of the movement from the
time Mr. Quimby reacted against the old theology, and was followed by Mr.
J. A. Dresser, Rev. W. F. Evans, originally a Methodist minister and later
a New Churchman; and the Unitarians, Dr. Winkley, Mr. Rodman, Mr. Chesley,
and others active in founding the Metaphysical Club. In its bulletin for
August 1, 1918, the International New Thought Alliance says, speaking of
the New Thought, "Its fundamental principles are constructive thinking,
healing, prospering in the Truth, and creating as nearly as many by a practical,
common-sense way, the Kingdom of Heaven here and now--in a word, the application
of the essential teachings of the Christ. It is not a church, but in it
are members of almost all churches. It believes in the dependence on the
Divine in every thought we think and every act we do, since we are one
with the Divine and our good is always with us. The New Thought is the
religion of democracy and all in it are free in the freedom of Truth."
*Mr. Edgerton's purpose
as president of the Alliance is to show that it is "wholly a spiritual
confederation and not an institution in the ordinary sense. At the same
time it seems to be developing a definite purpose in making the New Thought
movement an avenue of expression of the Christ teachings to this age.''
The New Thought has doubtless
played a part in emancipating people from the old theology. The connection
between the New Thought and religious liberalism has been more pronounced
since 1895. The first people to leave the Church and espouse mental healing
were formerly orthodox, But more Unitarians and other religious liberals
changed over after a time. The implied theology of the New Thought has
always been liberal. The correspondence between religious liberalism is
so close at many points that some of the New Thought leaders have believed
that the best way to give New Thought its proper setting is to identify
it with religious liberalism in general, unmindful of the fact that it
is its therapeutism which makes the New Thought distinctive.
Thus in a book entitled New
Thought, Its History and Principles, W. W. Atkinson devotes much space
to matters which have little connection with the New Thought. One sentence
only is devoted to the pioneers of the movement, other leaders being
referred to as "forgotten." Due credit is given Mrs. Eddy, to be sure,
as the one "who did more than any other person to make popular the healing
of the body by metaphysical methods"; but nothing is said to indicate the
sources of Mrs. Eddy's methods and ideas. Mr. Atkinson summarizes the New
Thought under three general heads, and then says that in these principles
"we find a fundamental truth of idealistic philosophy, as old as the history
of philosophic thought. There is nothing new about this truth. The
same thing has been said by the ancient philosophers of India, five thousand
years ago; by the philosophers of Greece, twenty-five hundred years ago;
by Berkeley, Hegel and Kant, and their followers."
The objection to this effort
to give the New Thought such a long history is that a statement so general
as "an infinite and eternal spiritual Principle of Being," has never led
to any definite practical result. The New Thought differs from the idealisms
of the past just because it disregards them and starts on a practical basis.
Luckily, its pioneers were uninformed in these ancient systems. The resemblances
to the metaphysical systems of the past were not traced out until Mr. Evans
set the example in his Divine Law of Cure.
It was customary in the early
conventions to formulate statements as general as those quoted above, for
example, "Divine Science accurately proves the unity of God with all living."
This custom was in line with the tendency to invite ministers and leaders
of thought to speak in the conventions and hold office. But it was realized
after a time that a scattering of forces was the result. Some of the leaders
of the movement withdrew from active connection with the conventions because
the meetings had become so general. Statements like the above gave the
outsider the impression that the New Thought was as general as the vaguest
kind of mysticism or pantheism, whereas the ideas which gave the movement
its life and being were practical, clear-cut and specific.
Fortunately, there was a
reaction against this vagueness in the later conventions, and prominence
was given to the actual leaders of the movement, in contrast with people
only partly in sympathy. It would be an endless undertaking to trace the
resemblances between the vaguer formulations of the New Thought and past
and present mysticisms. The New Thought lost power whenever it became general.
This was clearly seen in the Metaphysical Club of Boston, during a period
when a wide diversity of speakers were invited and the distinctive interests
were temporarily obscured. The International New Thought Alliance has been
more successful than the earlier organizations, not merely because its
statements have been more definite but because it has overcome the individualism
which once made it difficult to organize a successful convention really
devoted to the subject.
Meanwhile, the kindred movements
have been indeed specific. Each has come to occupy its distinctive place
and to be so classified, as in the case of the Emmanuel movement. The "average
reader" has become enlightened. It has been less necessary to show wherein
theosophy or spiritism differ from the New Thought, for example; since
everybody has come to understand the differences for the most part. The
result has been a gain for the New Thought.
The same tendency toward
unity and directness is seen in the case of names, terms, and the periodicals
representing the movement. The term New Thought has taken the place of
nearly all its forerunners. There is now just one international society
representing the whole mental-healing world outside of Christian Science.
Of the sixty or more miscellaneous publications standing for various phases
of the movement only a very few remain. Meanwhile, some of the leading
publications, such as Unity, Nautilus, and Master Mind, have
grown in circulation and have taken the place of dozens of magazines which
once existed. There is no periodical at present of the type of Practical
Ideals, Mind, or The Metaphysical Magazine. But the oft-repeated
ideas which have made the movement popular are well represented in the
It can hardly be said that
the same improvement has been made in the books. There were formerly too
many in circulation. The inquirer was confused by such a diversity of opinions.
But some of the earlier books were the best. Later leaders have of course
wished to increase their following, and so have issued books containing
variations of the current ideas without number. But few writers have undertaken
to establish or prove what they said as did Mr. Evans in The Mental
Cure and other volumes. The tendency has been to neglect some of the
profounder views and to state those only which are calculated to guarantee
the instant healing of all ills and the bringing of all kinds of success
and prosperity. The more dignified New Thought of Henry Wood's time was
surely very different from this.
What is needed, if the movement
is to grow, is an effort to collect the main facts in typical instances
of mental or spiritual healing; to undertake the exposition or description
of these typical instances and then their interpretation in terms of spiritual
psychology. Very little headway has in fact been made on the scientific
side of the therapeutic movement. There has been so much interest in a
speculative science in imitation of Christian Science, that the spiritual
science for which Quimby pleaded has been forgotten. Thus we have had Divine
Science, the Science of Being, Mr. Whipple's metaphysics, and any number
of variations, modeled after Mrs. Eddy's theory. There has been little
interest in facts and their interpretation.
There is need of return to
the Gospels to discover there the higher science for which Mr. Quimby pleaded.
What Quimby did was to throw out a suggestion in that direction, or state
an ideal. It remains for lovers of truth who care more for spiritual truth
in itself than for any formulation of their own to seek out the universal
spiritual science, the interpretation of the Bible which shall be demonstrable
in itself. Then we shall pass beyond the individualistic interpretations
which differ so widely and are intelligible only to those who hold the
particular theory in question. There will then be no need of so-called
Christian Science, Divine or mental science, or Christian metaphysics;
for the particular theories will have been assimilated, in so far as true,
in the larger, universal spiritual science. It will no longer be a question
of mine or thine but of the divine truth of the Living Word.
To return to Quimby and Evans
in this larger quest for truth would be to raise the question, what is
the relationship of Swedenborg and his writings to the New Thought movement?
Some have supposed that Mr. Quimby derived his teachings in part from Swedenborg.
But there is no direct evidence in support of this assumption. Mr. Quimby
may have discussed the teachings of Swedenborg with the New-Church minister
in Portland, but there is no indication of any influence coming from that
quarter in Quimby's writings. The most we can say is that Quimby belonged
to the new age whose coming Swedenborg foretold. Quimby's teaching coincided
with Swedenborg's at certain points, but it remained for Mr. Evans to detect
the resemblance and to look to Swedenborg's writings to find the fundamental
basis for Quimby's theory of spiritual healing.
After Mr. Evans's day, Dr.
Holcombe was the first reader of Swedenborg to expound mental healing.
Rev. C. H. Mann has given an admirable exposition of some of Swedenborg's
teachings in relation to mental healing in his little book entitled Psychiasis,
and Rev. Clyde Broomell has quoted at length from Swedenborg's writings
in his pamphlet, Divine Healing. The question of the relationship
between the two lines of teaching would turn on the difference between
mental and spiritual healing. We note, for example in a pamphlet entitled Religion and Health, by Rev. Julian K. Smyth of the New Church,
the statement concerning the Emmanuel movement that " it is singularly
silent on the deepest, the most spiritual side of its would-be mission.
. . . I am bound to confess that I have searched this book Religion
and Medicine which speaks for this movement--I have searched it in
vain for any distinctively spiritual principles. It has a great deal to
say about the conscious and subconscious minds; about suggestion, auto-suggestion,
hypnotism. The therapeutic value of faith and prayer is emphasized. Many
of the causes of nervousness are pointed out. Physical disorders having
mental origin are explained. But in what way is this really a return to
Jesus Christ, beyond the fact that they who do it confess His name?"
Doubtless the more spiritually
minded disciples of the New Thought would raise the same question. The
question is, What shall become of the greater problems remaining unsolved
when suggestion has been employed to the full, those problems which pertain
to our deeper spiritual nature? Such problems are surely held over by the
partisans of suggestion, whether in the Emmanuel movement or any branch
of the New Thought. The question is whether we do not at some point in
our development reach the parting of the ways where not even the vigorous
denials of Christian Science any longer aid us.
Mr. Smyth raises this question
when he says, "Suppose, under influence, I impart to myself a suggestion
which is not in the highest sense true. Thus, I have seen the following
offered as ideal suggestions:
- " 'I am pure.'
- " 'I am one with God.'
- " 'I am in perfect harmony with
"I am told that if I will
hold these suggestions fixedly and in a sort of half-waking state, great
benefits will result. A sense of quiet will be induced. Perhaps some nervous
condition, or pain of body will disappear. But for me, at least, these
suggestions, although they seem highly religious, in fact are not true.
I am not pure; but need, rather to cry out, 'God be merciful to me a sinner!'
I am not one with God:--He is divine, I am human, and, in my self-centered
life, I too often emphasize my separateness from Him. I am not in perfect
harmony with all; for, if I am a man struggling for the good of all, I
am well aware of contending evils which are as foes of my own mental household.
Of what avail can it be to bring about some contented, quiet state of mind
on a fictitious principle? Who is authorized to take the responsibility
of imparting to our subconscious self, when we have laid ourselves open
to the power of suggestion, the true principle for us?"
The devotee of Christian
Science and the partisans of the New Thought patterning their views after
Christian Science would of course maintain that the above-quoted ideal
suggestions are true now of man's real self, and that one can cure oneself
of any ill by holding to such affirmations and denying the reality of the
illnesses. Mr. Rawson, as quoted above in Chapter XII, gives the gist of
this method in a very clear way when he counsels a person in need to "turn
in thought to God," denying the reality of any material condition. This
has been the prevailingly successful method. But the crucial question is,
Does it contain the whole truth? What then becomes of material conditions?
How did they originate? Why do even Christian Scientists and the partisans
of the New Thought emulating them depart from the position after a while,
in quest of further truth? How long can therapeutists maintain the fiction
of "malicious animal magnetism" or the hypothesis of a "revelation" which
has to be so strictly guarded that no member of the Christian Science church
is allowed to read any books or magazines on the New Thought? If the history
of the New Thought teaches anything during the past twenty-five years it
is this, that the abstract principles have been dropped for the concrete
till now there is a disposition to look at things as they are with eyes
We have only to recall the
state of mind our country was in before the great war to note how radically
we have changed. We had theoretical lovers of peace without limit who deplored
war and ignored the forces that had been so long gathering in Germany,
to disrupt the world. These idealists affirmed peace and denied the possibility
of war. They expected to be triumphant by virtue of their mere programs
for peace. But they were greatly excelled by the most successful imitators
of Christian Scientists--the Kaiser and the war-party in Germany, who,
during the war, carried on the most effective psychological propagandism
the world has seen: every defeat was affirmed to be a success; every threatening
fact on the side of the Allies was denied; "inspired news" was given to
the press to pacify the people; air-raids were indulged in for mental effect;
in short, affirmation was made the victorious tool of the super-man.
What happened? Steadily the
American world was shaken out of its pacifist slumbers. We were compelled
to face the facts, and we did so with tremendous execution. After a certain
day in 1918 it was no longer possible to keep the truth from the people
In Germany. With the discovery of the truth, the Teutonic morale immediately
weakened, the psychological war came to an end, and Germany went to pieces:
the greatest instance of failure of mere affirmationism the world has seen.
What lessons does the war
teach in this respect? That there is a stronger philosophy in the Christian
faith which does not have to be bolstered up, a more true, courageous affirmation
which counsels man to look straight through the facts to the end, ignoring nothing, denying nothing, but learning the great spiritual lessons
of the ages. In the long run it is the truth that sets men free. As Mr.
Quimby put it, "the explanation is the cure." To explain we must look at
things fairly and squarely, just as the war compelled us to look straight
at the enemy and analyze the conflict down to its foundation, in the motives
from which it sprang. Then to triumph we must beat the enemy at his own
game, even if we have to employ his own fiendish devices. We succeed in
the end because the right is on our side, because we fight with the moral
law. The great lesson of the war is spiritual. It shows the true road to
salvation--if we care to walk in it, the straight and narrow way of the
Gospel, which many see but few find attractive, inasmuch as we do not like
to face ourselves. To walk in the way is to "live the life" in its fulness,
to realize that there is no shortcut or royal road, however many the psychological
devices by which we camouflage its scenery.
To what extent does this
widespread use of applied psychology represent the New Thought? In so far
as it expresses what has been called "The Victorious Faith," the well-grounded
faith that wins. Mere affirmation without truth or righteousness to support
it leads to no good result. The New Thought aims to be constructive. From
the days of Quimby the pioneer it has reacted against all bondages, particularly
against servitude to priests and doctors. It has vigorously reacted against
materialism. But it has tried to make these protests effective in behalf
of the inner life. Its methods are not discounted by the fact that affirmations
can be used with evil intentions, as in the case of the war-party in Germany.
In short, the New Thought
is an "influence," not an institution. Its influence has been felt on the
stage, for example, in dramas which express the power of thought in contrast
with the power of mere things. It has found expression in recent fiction
to some extent. It has fostered the type of optimism for which America
stands. It has helped in productive enterprises, in stimulating the constructive
attitude. Its influence is seen in what may be called "the psychology of
success," wherever the value of expectant suggestion is seen.
It is a new point of view
or consciousness. Its leaders do not try to persuade people to leave their
occupations, their social surroundings, their churches; but to show them
how every element in their daily life and in their environment may be bettered
or uplifted if regarded in a different spirit. Its leaders call attention
to that other environment with which most of us are little acquainted,
that is, our inner or mental environment. They direct attention to the
soul. They show the power of the spirit over circumstance, over the flesh,
over adversity. Thus the clue which originally was found through a study
of health and disease regarded from within, has been extended in all directions
until for its devotees it has become universal.
The New Thought stands for
the affirmative attitude in all things. This attitude is not new in the
world. It has always been implied in successful undertakings. But the New
Thought has developed and supplied its psychology, given the reasons for
it. Those reasons it has expressed in terms of a direct appeal to the individual
to look to himself, change his own thoughts, remedy his attitude, cease
to find fault and to condemn, before looking to the world. Not all its
disciples have made this change in the same way. But the fact that its
methods have appealed to all classes of people is evidence of its widespread
influence. What its leaders ask is that people shall judge by the best
the New Thought has to offer, the best teachings which its history discloses
during the fifty years since the publication of the first book on the subject.
Everything will depend in
its further application and influence in the world upon the type of "science"
from which its activities spring. Shall it be the science of this or that
leader who has imitated Mrs. Eddy, a science more or less sharply cut off
from the realities, the law, order and system of the world? Or shall it
be a science, not in the speculative or assertive sense, but in accord
with the larger spirit of Christianity in its original form, the spiritual
science of the Christ regarded universally? If the latter, then it should
pass beyond individual vagaries and fanciful interpretations. If the latter,
then it need ignore nothing, need not deny anything existent in God's universe.
It may overcome all fear and look with open eye upon the world, learning
the lessons of sorrow and suffering as well as those which easily inspire
optimism. If the latter, then it need not be a science of the subjective
alone, it need not be limited to the inner life, but may come out into
the open, into the full light of the new age.
Doubtless there was a meaning
in the relative isolation with which Mr. Quimby lived and worked during
the twenty-five years in which he was developing the silent method, learning
the influence of suggestion, the power of mental atmospheres and the other
elements of our inmost attitudes. By a vigorous act of faith we may perhaps
see meaning, too, in the fact that it was Mrs. Eddy's "science," not Mr.
Evans's books, which first caught the world and became influential. For
that "science," like the self-assertiveness of the war-party in Germany,
was radical enough to arouse a dormant world. But it is not a question
either of origins or of developments along the way but of the results or
fruits. Mr. Quimby pointed back to Christianity, he did not take credit
to himself. He saw that for hundreds of years the world had been deprived
of an important portion of the gospel of Christ. Hence the teachings which
have grown out of Quimby's pioneer work have been said to be nothing less
than "a new revelation of Christianity."
This statement is surely
true of the new age in which we live. The New Thought is at least one of
several contributing activities, however we may interpret the new age in
its fulness. We live in the social century, now. We have passed out of
the subjectivism and the mere idealism of the nineteenth century. We have
discovered the inner life anew. The central question is, What use shall
we make of our discoveries? Shall we analyze matters to the foundation
and learn the whole cause of human misery, dissatisfaction and the social
unrest which is besetting the classes, acknowledging whatever is before
us, seeing life whole? Shall we pass beyond all psychological devices needed
to support our courage for the moment? Shall we acquire a philosophy greater
than idealism and realism? Shall we pass beyond both pessimism and optimism?
Whatever else the new age
asks of us, it surely demands that we shall live by what we believe, proving
for ourselves, verifying the everlasting realities of religion. As an expression
of the essentially practical spirit of America, the New Thought has been
doing its part to direct attention to this the central consideration. Ideals
and affirmations are aids along the way. Eventually we hope to arrive where
the larger truth which shall be in our power will bring spiritual freedom
as its great consequence. Life according to the divine law will then be
the test of our spirituality. We will be doing much more than simply to
strive against our errors, our sins or diseases; we will be living a life
that makes for truth, righteousness and health such that it will no longer
be necessary to think of their opposites. Good health should become a habit
founded in a life of integrity. We ought then to be able to labor and to
serve as if mankind had never by its ignorance and its waywardness brought
suffering upon the world. That, in brief, is the ideal of the New Thought:
to abolish suffering altogether, to bring man to his true estate as a spirit
living even now in the spiritual world.
Quimby's radical proposition
was that disease was "the invention of man," a sheer "error" in contrast
with divine truth; whereas the old theology had taught that suffering was
"an infliction of wise providence" to be patiently indulged. Quimby maintained
that it was the right of man to be well, and that by profound searching
man could press through his errors to "the explanation" which should be
"the cure." The New Thought has taken up this radical proposition and Quimby's
method and endeavored to prove them both. It has encouraged every man to
be his own physician and seek his own health by spiritual wisdom. This
constructive effort is its special contribution. This much attained, the
New Thought is ready to join with other activities which are meeting the
great social issues of our time, in a far larger program than that with
which it began. For in very truth the new age is a return to the original
gospel, whose mission was to make man every whit whole, to bring society
into the fulness of life. Or, shall we say, that ours is the age which
is coming to understand Christianity for the first time? Christianity was
thought to be for the sake of individual piety, a scheme of salvation through
right doctrine. Our age teaches the inseparability of the individual and
society. The war has made the races and nations intimately akin. We do
not want the mere "healing of the nations." We want cooperation and brotherhood.
We want true service and social justice. It is the love which Christ taught
which will overcome the class hatreds which have organized themselves to
bar the way. All our problems are inseparably connected. All activities
making for social betterment must be seen as intimately one. What we are
witnessing in our day is a fruition of that power of the Holy Spirit which
went forth into the world at the time of the incarnation to bring all men
unto the Christ.
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