What is New Thought?
This is a great question. At this point in time, I may have 100 New Thought books in my house and there are dozens of answers to this question, largely because there IS no real definitive answer to this question. But I wanted to start offering responses to this question here so that people who are becoming interested in the roots of Southwestern College can see what we are talking about, and can see that we are truly identified with a lineage of great breadth and influence….
OK, let’s start with Abel Leighton Allen, who wrote The Message of New Thought in 1914…
“New Thought is not, as many believe, a name or expression employed to define any fixed system of thought, philosophy or religion, but is a term used to convey the idea of growing or developing thought. In considering this subject, the word “new” should be duly and freely emphasized, because the expression “New Thought” relates only to what is new and progressive…New Thought is the result or creation of perpetually advancing mind.”
“Hence New Thought is a synonym for growth, for development, for eternal progress. It recognizes the superior and excellent in man– it deals not with limitations; it sets no bounds to the soul’s progress, for it sees in each soul transcendental faculties, as limitless as infinity itself. ..New Thought may be said to possess one fixed creed–that of an eternal search for truth.”
OK, first, Charles Braden, from Spirits in Rebellion: The Rise and Development of New Thought, 1963:
The purpose of New Thought Groups: “To promote interest in and the practice of a true philosophy of life and happiness; to show that through right thinking, one’s loftiest ideals may be brought into present realization; and to advance intelligent and systematic treatment of disease by spiritual and mental methods.”
“New Thought insists that the truth regarding life and its laws is to be found in man’s inner consciousness rather than in the study of phenomena.”
“First, as to what it is not: it is not a name of any fixed system of thought, philosophy, or religion, for when molded into a system, it ceases to be New thought. But some things can be said of it. It practices in the twentieth century what Jesus taught in the first. He taught healing, it practices healing. He said “Judge not”; it sees the good in others. He said “Take no anxious thought for tomorrow”; it practices divine supply. He taught love and brotherhood; it is demonstrating unity and cooperation. The New Thought is the Christ thought made new by being applied and proved in every day affairs. New Thought is positive, constructive, a philosophy of optimism, the recognition, realization and manifestation of God in Man.”
And here is one more voice: William James comments on New Thought:
In Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), William James traces the thought of Emerson and Thoreau through the intellectual movements of the nineteenth century. Transcendentalism flowers at the core of the late nineteenth century into New Thought. He described New Thought as “the religion of healthy-mindedness”, and considered it America’s “only decidedly original contribution to the systematic philosophy of life.”
Southwestern College was founded as “Quimby College”, and Phineas Parkhurst Quimby is recognized widely as the Father of New Thought in the United States….