New Thought - Brief Overview
New Thought is a mind-healing movement that originated in the 19th-century United States. It has no one creed, but its fundamental teaching is that spirit is more real and more powerful than matter and that the mind has the power to heal the body.
Major groups within the New Thought movement include the Unity Church, Church of Religious Science, and Divine Science.
The primary text of most New Thought groups is the Christian Bible. "The Bible is Unity’s basic textbook. Scripture comes alive when it is understood as a clear and helpful guide for today’s experiences." "Divine Science's main textbook is the Bible, and it relates its lessons to your life and everyday experiences.
The two most commonly-held and fundamental beliefs in New Thought are: (1) the Divine is in all things and (2) the mind is much more real and powerful than matter.
The Metaphysical Club of Boston, founded in 1895 as one of the first distinct New Thought organizations, wrote that the purpose of New Thought is 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.
In 1916, the International New Thought Alliance agreed upon this purpose statement:
To teach the Infinitude of the Supreme One; the Divinity of Man and his Infinite Possibilities through the creative power of constructive thinking and obedience to the voice of the indwelling Presence which is our source of Inspiration, Power, Health and Prosperity.
The Unity Church describes its basic teachings as follows:
- God is the source and creator of all. There is no other enduring power. God is good and present everywhere.
- We are spiritual beings, created in God’s image. The spirit of God lives within each person; therefore, all people are inherently good.
- We create our life experiences through our way of thinking.
- There is power in affirmative prayer, which we believe increases
our connection to God.
- Knowledge of these spiritual principles is not enough. We must live them. Divine Science adheres to this "Statement of Being":
God is all, both visible and invisible.One Presence, One Mind, One Power is all.This One that is all is perfect life, perfect love, and perfect substance.I am the individualized expression of God and ever one with this perfect life, perfect love, and perfect substance.
The beliefs of New Thought are based in a variety of religious and philosophical sources, including Platonism (with its emphasis on the realm of Ideas), Swedenborgianism (biblical interpretation based on the view that the material realm has spiritual causes and divine purposes), Hegelianism (a philosophy identifying the nervous organism as the meeting ground of the body and the mind); spiritual teachings of Eastern religions like Hinduism, and especially the Transcendentalism of the 19th-century American philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Most New Thought groups identify themselves with Christianity, but not all do. Quimby regarded Jesus as a man who fully understood the workings of the body and mind, and was to be exemplified. The Unity movement describes itself as "positive, practical Christianity" that teaches "the effective, daily application of the principles of Truth taught and exemplified by Jesus Christ."
Both Unity and Divine Science affirm the divinity of Jesus, but also the divinity of all human beings. According to Divine Science, "Jesus expressed His divine potential and sought to show us how to express ours as well. Salvation is then the expanding understanding of one's innate divinity and perfectibility through living the life demonstrated by Jesus."
New Thoughters view sin as a "separation from God, the Good, in consciousness" (Unity). Salvation is something that can be attained in this life rather than the next, and is the overcoming of physicial and spiritual sickness and negative behavior. Heaven and hell are not places, but states of consciousness. Divine Science affirms the existence of eternal life, but adds that it begins in this life and that this life is the focus.